Jun 30 2006
It seems our defunct news media cannot resist the need to go blabbing to everyone and anyone details about the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program which the NY Times/Risen inaccurately exposed last December. Recall they originally claimed the NSA was bypassing FISA and spying on Americans, when it turns out the NSA was not bypassing FISA nor spying on Americans. The NSA was monitoring terrorists overseas and they were passing leads they detected concerning possible terrorist cells here in the US who were (at that time) naive enough to contact their overseas masters for direction (and probably money transfers). Being caught in a legal surveillance doesn’t require a warrant for those communications to the target of the surveillance.
The other item the NY Times and Risen screwed up was the idea that the FISA court was being bypassed. It turns out from statements we have seen by FISA Court Judges that just the opposite happened, FISA was getting these leads from the FBI who had been alerted by the NSA from their overseas surveillance that people in the US were in contact with known terrorists overseas. The FISA Court judges complained this ‘tainted’ their process because convention was, prior to 9-11, not to use military leads as part of case for probable cause. Quaint, but stupid. This is why the 9-11 highjackers were safe once they reached our shores. No matter what intel had been gathered when the highjackers were in Germany and at the final planning meeting in Indonesia, once they hit San Diego all of that intel became invisible to the eyes of the court. The FBI had to rebuild any surveillance case from scratch, starting with their actions here in the US. That is why we couldn’t use our leads to stop 9-11.
I set this stage because there is more to the media’s efforts to destroy our defenses against terrorist than just tipping them off. The news media are, ignorantly to the consequences I would guess, establishing conditions to return to the pre 9-11 world where military leads to possible attacks cannot be used by domestic law enforcement (something people like Sen Specter and certain FISA Court judges opine for).
Today USA Today runs a story where big mouthed lawmakers have demonstrated why secret programs are exposed to only a limited number of people in Congress. It seems the administration provided a detailed, classified briefing to Congress, which immediately ran to the media to show off how much they know. In doing so, a small group of these people in Congress (anyone want to bet on how many were from the left side of the aisle?) decided to blab more details which are clearly crippling the program more and more.:
Several lawmakers, briefed in secret by intelligence officials about the program after the story was published, described a call records database that is enormous but incomplete. Most asked that they not be identified by name, and many offered only limited responses to questions, citing national security concerns.
Most members of the intelligence committees wouldn’t discuss which companies cooperated with the NSA. However, several did offer more information about the program’s breadth and scope, confirming some elements of USA TODAY’s report and contradicting others:
Five members of the intelligence committees said they were told by senior intelligence officials that AT&T participated in the NSA domestic calls program.
AT&T, asked to comment, issued a written statement Thursday. “The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that AT&T may neither confirm nor deny AT&T’s participation in the alleged NSA program because doing so would cause ‘exceptionally grave harm to national security’ and would violate both civil and criminal statutes,” it said. “Under these circumstances, AT&T is not able to respond to such allegations.”
Emphasis mine. Again a news organization was clearly warned exposure of this information would damage our defenses against terrorist attack, and again they went ahead and published it anyway. What is clear is this is part of the NSA program that the NY Times crippled in December:
“It was not cross-city calls. It was not mom-and-pop calls,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who receives briefings as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee. “It was long-distance. It was targeted on (geographic) areas of interest, places to which calls were believed to have come from al-Qaeda affiliates and from which calls were made to al-Qaeda affiliates.”
As I pointed out in previous posts, a simple bit of math by USA Today would have alerted them to the fact the database contained a small fraction of total US phone numbers. This would indicate the database was a record of legal information from legal surveillances, not a nation-wide information pool. But one thing is for sure, the news media’s poor math skills suckers them into more conspiracy theories than one would imagine. Shows why people need to do well in math in elementary school, because they become dupes later in life when they cannot detect an obvious scam.
It is time for Congress to stop blabbing to the press behind close doors and as anonymous sources of information for the media to get rich on and Al Qaeda to hone their attack plans with. They should be hauling these reporters up to the Hill in public hearings calling on them to explain themselves and who their sources are. Of course, with Congress and their staff the sources in question, the chances of Congress defending our national defences from further erosion and attack are slim to none.
USA TODAY will continue to report on the contents and scope of the database as part of its ongoing coverage of national security and domestic surveillance.
Yep, they promise to further expose the program details, destroy our only true defenses agains future attack and aid the terrorist in understanding how to best avoid detection. Heaven save us from a media run amok.