Monday, February 20, 2006

Wondering about the Why.


I was wondering about "why" the NSA and other agencies are illegally spying on US Citizens. Then I remembered "Able Danger" and the hearings that are on and off about 9/11 intelligence failures.

Let’s face the facts head on.

Dear Leader has been trumpeting his illegal domestic spying program to the public as necessary to catch those wily terrorists. The Patriot Act must be reauthorized for the same reason, regardless of how much it curtails the “freedom” we are supposedly fighting for. The mantra of 9/11. 9/11, 9/11 is the catch-all for needing a blank check to defeat the wily terrorists by this Administration. And, of course, 9/11 “changed everything.”

It really did change a lot. As investigations into the operation “Able Danger” note:

Through computer scanning of some 2.5 terabytes of classified and unclassified data, the Able Danger team identified five "nodes" of al-Qaeda activity. One was in Brooklyn, N.Y. Another was in the port of Aden in Yemen, where the USS Cole was attacked. Able Danger linked Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers to the Brooklyn cell, said Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who was the liaison between the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Able Danger team.
So, prior to 9/11 we knew about several of the hijackers who would later “change everything” for US democracy. Let’s think about that a little bit. Prior to 9/11, without any of the civil liberty undermining tools of the Patriot Act, without illegal domestic spying, without ignoring the FISA Court, without torture, we knew about some of the hijackers and we had detected a few terrorist cells around the globe that were considered a threat.

At this point, anyone involved could have legally been wiretapped, followed, monitored, and generally focused on by any intelligence service after jumping through some very minor procedural hoops. There is no law, statute, or regulation that protects those who are a “clear and present danger” from observation by the intelligence services and there never has been.
Why then, did this information slip through the cracks? Well, perhaps two reasons: turf wars and poor communications skills.
Colonel Shaffer testified he tried three times to have Able Danger data on the Brooklyn cell presented to the FBI, but that on each occasion Pentagon lawyers forbade the meeting.
In a commentary in the Wall Journal last November, Louis Freeh, who was FBI director at the time, said that if he had been told about what Able Danger had learned, 9/11 likely would have been prevented.
In March, 2000, Mr. Kleinsmith was ordered to stop all work on Able Danger, and, later, to delete all the information collected.
Special Operations Command didn't want to lose the capability, so it transferred Able Danger to a private contractor, Raytheon, at its Garland, Texas, facility.
So, Pentagon lawyers forbade a meeting with the FBI. Then, when all work was to be stopped, the operation was transferred to a Defense Department private contractor. That’s pretty big news. The Pentagon privatized the safety and security from terrorists of the United States to Raytheon.

Now, I notice that Mr. Freeh is very focused with his blame, perhaps wanting to avert his eyes from the FBI’s own failures in communicating with its field offices. However, another thought just leaps to mind, why couldn’t the Pentagon share its data with the CIA and the NSA? While some of the Pentagon’s lawyers may have felt unable to share with the FBI without violating some statute, there is no prohibition and never has been, a prohibition with sharing this information with the CIA and NSA. From the Iraq War’s run up, we have seen that this Administration, at least, is very good at filtering information, say by producing a forged document, processing it, slipping it to the British, and then citing it as “foreign intelligence” in your case for war.

And I just like the last paragraph in the article I cited above:
It's unclear why the Bush Administration is covering up, since the suppression of Able Danger occurred on President Clinton's watch. But it is clear there is a cover-up. One would think a Washington press corps obsessing about a hunting accident in Texas would be more curious about it.
Perhaps, however, it isn’t unclear why the current Administration is covering up. First, if this information had been gathered, what was Dear Leader doing on his watch (cough, cough, nothing)? Second, what information had Raytheon garnered after the program was privatized? What exactly was it looking for and finding? You must notice that all this leaked information abruptly stops at the year 2000. Beyond that, all the information wasn’t deleted as was claimed by the Pentagon. Republican Curt Weldon claims that someone in the Pentagon provided him hundreds of hits on a search of documents relating to Atta, in February of 2006, all generated prior to 2001.

Which brings us back to Dear Leader and his illegal domestic spying program and the Patriot Act To Destroy the Foundations of Our Democracy Reauthorization 2006. Keep in mind, all the above information on those wily terrorists was generated prior to 9/11 using pre-9/11 tools like the abacus, the astrolabe, kites, and a system of ropes and pulleys. There was no Patriot Act when this information was data mined, there was no NSA domestic spying program, there was no rendition treatment, no GITMO.

Since Dear Leader and his Krew are fond of making analogies like mushroom clouds being smoking guns or some such, I thought I would make one:

This Administration’s approach to fighting terrorism is similar to fighting a snake in the grass. Knowing that while the snake is in the grass, rustling through the brush, you will not see it until it prepares to strike. Instead of keeping a watchful eye on the brush, waiting till the snake emerges to “whack” it, this Administration runs into the brush searching out every rustle or stirring in the grass. Wasting time and energy, the Administration finds rabbits, birds, large insects, and small woodland animals. Now immersed in the brush, wildly wandering about from imagined threat to imagined threat, the snake can either escape or strike.

1 comment:

The Cat said...

Wow, saw over at I Diot's Parade, even better that you are branching out a bit. Like that it was more of you and less of the article.

On the post itself, the "why" is a big issue. Why do we need these things when we "had" in our sights Atta, and others, part of different hijack groups? While it would still be bad, if we had stopped one or two of those planes, we would have prevented the loss of countless lives, maybe prevented the entire operation.

Like how you spoke about 'turf wars and communications problems' but there's more to it, I think.