Jan 03 2010

Apparently J. Brennan & E. Holder Turned Down The Sensitivity Of Our National Security Network

One thing to know about our national security data collection and distribution systems is they are always on. The only way to stop dots from connecting is to filter what is distributed (can’t stop what is collected).

Prior to 9-11 the big filter (or blockade) was a FISA policy that no NSA generated lead could be used as evidence in probable cause for a warrant to the FIS Court to initiate surveillance of any kind in the US. It was this bizarre wall that President Bush demolished post 9-11, which a lot of ignorant liberals (Glenn Greenwald comes to mind) cluelessly raged against for years.

After the Bush change was in made, the NSA was allowed to tell the FBI it detected a US Army Major communicating with a radical Islamist cleric in Yemen, and then the FBI could begin investigating the US Army Major under the auspices of Joint Terrorism Task Forces. This is how US Army Major Nidal Hasan was detected communicating with the al Qaeda supporting Yemeni cleric al-Aulaqi in the waning days of the Bush administration.

My how things have changed since the liberal Obama administration has come to town.

I was watching the latest Obama Administration apologist (John Brennan) come out on the Sunday talk shows to address our abysmal failure in detecting and stopping the Flight 253 Christmas Day bomber, and I found myself doubting this man’s credibility. Don’t ask how, I just felt the man was blurting out bogus spin. I think what really triggered it was when Brennan made the following incoherent claims:

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Sunday that he has worked for five administrations and that Obama is as determined as anyone to keep the nation safe.

Brennan calls Cheney’s comments disappointing and says they do not speak well of the former vice president.

It was quite clear Brennan did not respect or like the former Vice President. He was quite agitated on Meet The Press, claiming Cheney was either misrepresenting the facts or clueless. He seemed to be a very defensive and it was clearly personal with him. Instead of dealing with the concerns shared by many and expressed by the former VP, Brennan took a low brow swipe. Apparently he feels threatened.

And after some digging I understand why.

Brennan not only worked for 5 administrations – he was a key advisor to the Obama campaign. That was not conveyed by the news media or by Mr. Brennan. He is clearly partisan and was clearly trying to hide the fact he was. I was impressed how General Michael Hayden and Secretary Michael Chertoff came to his defense on Meet The Press. So much so I almost stopped digging.

But I do not think Hayden and Chertoff – who are out of office and out of the loop on the details – are aware of what Brennan may have done to our national security trip wires. Another concern about Brennan hit me when I noticed Brennan was standing behind the arrest (and subsequent lawyering up) of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:

Top Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan says the Justice Department made the decision to handle the case of Detroit terror bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal justice system.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Brennan was asked why the Obama administration did not choose to treat Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant. “He was arrested on U.S. soil,” Brennan answered. “The Department of Justice makes that determination about what is the best tool to use.”

Pressed about reports Abdulmutallab stopped talking to investigators after he was given a lawyer and read his Miranda rights, Brennan said, “We have an array of tools that we will use” in the case. “[Abdulmutallab] was in fact talking to people who were detaining him…Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process doesn’t mean we don’t have other opportunities to get information from him.”

Brennan conceded that Abdulmutallab “doesn’t have to” give any information to FBI interrogators. But he said the administration still has some leverage over him. “He knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that,” Brennan said. He did not elaborate on what those things “on the table” are.

The man was willing to die to ensure nearly 300 innocent Americans would die a horrible death. Brennan is a naive fool if he thinks he has any carrots or sticks he can get past Abdulmutallab’s lawyers that will move him to stop other attacks.

The man was in the heart of al Qaeda’s nest in Yemen and yet we are not treating him as an enemy combatant and using all means necessary to locate and stop this center of death and destruction. It is probably too late now, al Qaeda moved their people to new hidey holes already. But he should never have been given the right to remain silent.

So why do I think John Brennan and Eric Holder have been working to reduce the sensitivity of our national security sensor network and dot connecting efforts? We know Holder is a big opponent of the FISA-NSA changes made by Bush. On the other hand I initially thought Brennan was a huge supporter of the FISA changes, given all the wailing from the liberals like Greenwald.

But then I tripped across this interview from the 2008 presidential campaign days:

Q: You know that one big debate about FISA is the question of balancing security and privacy and civil liberties. Speaking as someone who has spent your life in counterterrorism, what do the terms “privacy” and “civil liberties” mean to you, and what is that balance?

To me, I think the government does have the right and the obligation to ensure the security and safety of its citizens. If there is probable cause, reasonable suspicion, about the involvement of a U.S. person in something, the government needs to have the ability to understand what the nature of that involvement is. The threshold for that type of government access can be high or can be low, and it [the probable cause threshold] needs to be somewhere in the middle.

You don’t want to just troll and with a large net just pull up everything. There are technologies available to pulse the data set and pull back only that which has some type of correlation to your predicate  [the probable cause threshold].

I would argue the government needs to have access to only those nuggets of information that have some kind of predicate. That way the government can touch it and pull back only that which is related. It’s like a magnet, set to a certain calibration. That’s what I think we need to go to.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the threshold, quite frankly, was low, because we didn’t know the nature of the threat we faced here in the U.S.

I have been wondering for weeks why the terrorism task force investigations into Major Nidal were suspiciously closed down (allowing him to continue on to his jihadist massacre) and why so many dots went unconnected in systems which were clearly more sensitive since 9-11. Now I have my answer, Team Obama raised the bar. They adjusted the threshold which would trigger alarm bells. They filtered the data based on some crazy assumption that some leads are not worthy.

What happens when the sensors are set to trip easily? We saw a lot of people checked and cleared. We have known this for years. It is not a problem except in requires more people to chase down the leads. But it means we let very little through.

This is how Brennan completed his thought during that faithful interview:

[Post 9-11] Every effort was made by the government to try to get as much understanding and visibility into what else might be out there that’s going to hurt us again. Now that a number of years have passed, we need to make sure the calibration is important.

I would say we have found, if not the reason, one of the main reasons why our security detection systems have been failing so much in 2009. Holder and Brennan were very opposed to the Bush administration’s hair trigger concern over terrorist attacks (of course 3,000 murdered Americans can adjust your focus). They wanted to dial us back to more of a pre 9-11 position.

This correlates well with the latest National Intelligence Strategy, which was polluted with things like Global Warming and H1N1. It explains this comment from a career State Department source:

This employee says that despite statements from the Obama Administration, such information was flagged and given higher priority during the Bush Administration, but that since the changeover “we are encouraged to not create the appearance that we are profiling or targeting Muslims. I think career employees were uncomfortable with the Bush procedures and policies and were relieved to not have to live under them any longer.”

It correlates well with all the other drastic changes to our security system that was doing what it took to protect America by identifying and acting on threats. It correlates well to why the system failed so badly on Christmas Day, and before then.

We need to know what these people changed when they came in office, and when they changed them. But it is safe to say they turned down the sensitivity on our security networks, which would explain why dots failed to get connected. And it would explain why Brennan was out on the shows trying to do so much damage control. If he fails I suspect our young President will throw him and others to the wolves.

Update: BTW, Brennan was also the guy briefed at the White House in October on the type of bomb used on Flight 253. He seems to be at the nexus of the missed dots.

37 responses so far

37 Responses to “Apparently J. Brennan & E. Holder Turned Down The Sensitivity Of Our National Security Network”

  1. aerawls says:

    AJ: Did you see that the Afghanistan bomber was a known al Qaeda terror-blogger? Suggests a possible fit with these other Obama policy changes you have been piecing together.

    Shades of Nidal Hasan, whose emailed expressions of desire to slaughter his fellow soldiers was not followed up on grounds that it was constitutionally protected speech, i.e. that the speech itself was not a crime. (Set aside the fact that Hasan’s speech might well have been a crime, treason being the only crime defined in the Constitution). If the CIA knew about al-Balawi’s terror-blogging, it seems crazy to think that they could have ignored this self-expression of jihadist intent on the grounds that holding his not in itself criminal speech against him would violate his speech rights. But crazy as it sounds, this is EXACTLY what they did in the Hasan case, where even more died. (Accounting his free speech would supposedly be what Obama calls a “failure to live up to our ideals,” as he distorts and perverts our ideals.)

    The only difference between the two cases is that the CIA would have been imperiling itself instead of the Army, which would go against basic self-preservation, but all it would take is one Obamaton (an Obombaton?) to make the crazy call.

    Surely the question has to be raised, since we know they did it in the Hasan case: did some Obama political appointee declare that Balawi’s terror-blogging should not be taken into account when assessing how he was likely to behave?

    My far-from-certain guess is yes. Insane as it would be, we KNOW from the Hasan case that this was in fact a newly instituted Obama policy, not just an incident, a policy.

    According to the 2008 Brennan interview that you (A.J.) dug up, the policy idea was to only connect dots or act on dots that indicate “probable cause” of criminal conspiracy. The Hasan case proves that in this scheme they decided that speech that is not in itself criminal did not constitute such probable cause.

    Such a policy–which we already know has been in place–explains what otherwise is pretty inexplicable: “Yahoo, we turned Osama bin Laden! He wants us all to meet. Just everyone please be respectful of his burka.”

    If you think it is WRONG to distrust a Muslim, just because he happens to embrace jihad ideology (the known standard from the Hasan case), then you say, “sure, I look forward to respecting his burka.”

  2. aerawls says:

    P.S. It isn’t clear how widely known al-Balawi’s blogging authorship was known, or even for certain that he was the top al Qaeda blogger in question, but there were similar things he published under his own name:

    in a lengthy interview he gave to a Taliban magazine known as Vanguard of Khorasan last September, Abu Dujinah “essentially announced he was going to fight jihad in Afghanistan.”

  3. AJStrata says:

    Aerawls,

    Interesting. I will keep an eye on this. At a minimum they got someone through – which will happen. It seems someone let their guard down in the hopes of bagging the big fish. That sadly also happens.

    The only problem I have with theory is that blogging on al Qaeda site is huge risk to a double agent. He did a lot damage (image and personnel) in the bombing, so why risk the NSA backtracking posts?

  4. aerawls says:

    Hasan did the same thing. He was in a position to carry out a devastating attack and he put it all at risk by lecturing his colleagues on how god wanted to pour boiling oil down their severed necks.

    These people just are what they are. The problem is that we keep overlooking the obvious.

    Maybe Balawi was as brassy as Hasan. Maybe he was marginally more subtle, figuring he could laugh up his sleeve about the blogging: “Aren’t I a good agent, blogging the part of the rabid jihadist so al Qaeda won’t suspect me of betraying them?”

    At the least, Balawi was a flashing red light. As for how that light could be missed, the possibility that the CIA blinded itself as a matter of policy jumps out, when we know this happened with Hasan.

  5. AJ,

    Powerline just found a UK Telegraph piece that confirmed your supposition.

    It also seems to have happened exactly at the same time as Major Hasan started his Death to America Yemani e-mails.

    See:

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/01/025312.php

    and

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/6933707/MI5-told-US-about-Detroit-bombers-terror-links-a-year-ago.html

  6. AJStrata says:

    Thanks Trent – was just about to post on that!

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