May 06 2010
Welcome Big Government Readers – be sure to follow the links embedded below to previous posts on the timeline of decisions by the Obama administration to curtail surveillance, and if you have the time check out all our posts on the Ft Hood Massacre and the Christmas Day Bomber for how these details unfolded.
Major Update Below!
As I posted yesterday, there was a disturbing blurb in a NY Times article that indicated Faisal Shahzad, the now infamous Times Square Bomber, was under surveillance as a potential terrorist during the Bush administration.
George LaMonica, a 35-year-old computer consultant, said he bought his two-bedroom condominium in Norwalk, Conn., from Mr. Shahzad for $261,000 in May 2004. A few weeks after he moved in, Mr. LaMonica said, investigators from the national Joint Terrorism Task Force [JTTF] interviewed him, asking for details of the transaction and for information about Mr. Shahzad. It struck Mr. LaMonica as unusual, but he said detectives told him they were simply â€œchecking everything out.â€
JTTF’s typically surveillance an individual – especially a US Citizen – under the FIS Court authorization. These authorizations have to be renewed every 90 days or so by the US Attorney General. As has been noted before (seeÂ here,Â here andÂ here for details) the Obama administration began shutting down Bush-era terrorists investigations last year as they debated how to reduce our nation’s surveillance of terrorists threats. The person who killed 14 people at Ft Hood last fall was one such suspect whose JTTF investigation was suspiciously shut down around this time last year.
There is more evidence which seems to point at changes made by the Obama administration in terms of their monitoring Mr. Shahzad. For example, after being on the terrorist watch list for almost a decade, Shahzad was removed from that list sometime after 2008, according to CBS News:
Sources tell CBS News that would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad appeared on a Department of Homeland Security travel lookout list – Traveler Enforcement Compliance System (TECS) – between 1999 and 2008 because he brought approximately $80,000 cash or cash instruments into the United States.
Major Update: Reader thfries notes this next bit is probably satire. I did was not able to get to the source story (still on travel with very narrow posting windows) so from here on I would ignore it. - end update
Now there is another damning tidbit out that confirms that Federal Investigators may have been blinded and hamstrung by the lack of FIS Court authorization to fully monitor this threat:
Taking great pains to explain how Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was able to make it to JFK airport and board an Emirates airliner before being nabbed, authorities today said that they were following Mr. Shahzad, “but only on Twitter.”
A spokesman for the surveillance team following the suspected terrorist said that they were closely monitoring Mr. Shahzad’s tweets, “but he must have figured something out because all of a sudden he blocked us.”
The surveillance team’s revelations come on the heels of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s shocker that it had friended Mr. Shahzad on Facebook weeks ago and had even played the popular online game Farmville with him.
“A few days before the Times Square incident, Mr. Shahzad attempted to blow up one of our sheep,” a Department spokesman said. “In retrospect, that should have been a red flag.”
OK, why is this disturbing? Well Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are probably considered to be in the public domain, since individuals freely volunteer to communicate with others openly. It therefore may not require a FIS Court warrant to monitor. The idea someone could block government monitoring on Twitter using one of its privacy settings is another indication this was not a full up surveillance. The government can get past that little barrier.
The fact is someone was trying to keep and eye on Shahzad, but possibly without the full authority of the JTTF and FIS Court. Someone was trying to monitor this guy. Someone who may have disagreed with the decision to pull back from the Bush era level of concern. - end suspicious reference
I also don’t think this has the smell of a JTTF in progress given all the phone calls from America to Pakistan should have been detected by NSA, and that 5 month training stint Shahzad did in Pakistan. These too should have had a JTTF on the edge of its seat – if it was active.
This might be why the administration was playing catch up with Shahzad, even after the bomb was detected and were only lucky to find a phone number connection to lead them to him.