Dec 16 2008
Updated: cleaned up the text, added missing links, basically had more time to do a better job! BTW – welcome Real Clear Politics and Powerline readers.
All traitors think they are on the side of right. All enemies of this country, big and small, think they are agents of divine providence. And so it is with the idiot who exposed the new NSA procedures that were changed after 9-11 when we learned internally that we were blind to terrorists within our midst due to arcane rules which did not protect our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but protected the movement and coordination of mass murderers.
This fool actually believed that to “believe in the US Â Constitution” meant he could (and should) break the laws under that constitution based on the flimsiest of evidence and backed by a liberal personal bias against the policies in place. The story Newsweek has out on Thomas Tamm, a modern day Benedict Arnold, is not the story of a hero fighting an evil administration, like the liberal news media wants to portray. It is the story of rogue individual who created fantasies out of thin air and then used those fantasies to expose one of the most important defenses this nation has to terrorist attack – detecting these attacks before they can be executed. Defenses which, when exposed, can still be thwarted if you know what the defense is based on.
This is the story of a petty man who took the law, and our lives, in his own hands and exposed us all to greater risk of terrorist attack, as told by his accomplices in the liberal news media who share the blame for these acts. The public’s judgement on these acts is already in, they are just too blind with self aggrandizing to understand the depth of their crimes. All the facts they claim as proof to support their actions are now law, having been voted on by large bi-partisan majorities multiple times (see here for one example) and with the support of all three branches of government. For something the liberal media seems to think was illegal, they never explain why it has been the law of the land ever since 9-11.
If the fantasy running around these jerks heads was right they would be heroes. But they are just criminals who felt it was their mission to break the law so their vision of America would be the one hoisted on the rest of us. I want to hit some highlights in the story, but I need to set the stage on what happened after 9-11 to our surveillance practices. I have done many posts on this matter since it broke and it was clear the NY Times and their media allies were dead wrong about what was happening. For an extensive review on what happened please go here and here.
But the essence of the changes can be summarized quite simply:
- Both prior and after 9-11 the NSA monitors the electronic communications (email, web forums, phones, etc) of known or suspected terrorists overseas.
- Both prior and after 9-11 the NSA would intercept communications between these terrorists and others who were either located in the US or US citizens (not all people in the US are US Citizens, not all US Citizens are in the US).
- Prior to 9-11, if the intercepted communication included a possible threat to the US, the contents of the communication could be passed onto the FBI for investigation, but not the name, location, etc of those entities inside the US participating in the communication. Â This critical information was literally thrown away. We would know there was a pending an attack, but actually throw away the details that could lead law enforcement to those individuals caught in the act of communicating about the execution of an attack.
- Naturally, after 9-11, the NSA was directed to pass not only the threat onto the FBI, but also the names, locations, phone numbers, etc of the entities within the US borders who participated in the threatening communication so they could investigate further.
All of this seem simply obvious to most as what is required to make sure those talking to known terrorists are harmless or a real threat. The US has always had the ability to investigate suspected threats, but there are limits to what evidence could be gathered to prosecute those caught in the act. And that is where another change was required.
Prior to 9-11 the FIS Court, the now not-so-secret court that hears the government’s requests for warrants and wire taps on terrorists, would not accept any incriminating evidence if it all originated from the NSA picking up a terrorist threat through it surveillance of overseas entities out to kill Americans or attack Americans. Yeah, I know it sounds stupid (it was), but that was The Wall erected between intelligence and law enforcement to avoid any possibility of abuse of power. A weak, culturally embedded, excuse to be blind, but that was the law since the late 70’s, and possibly earlier.
The truth is the system cannot be abused in the way the naive liberals claim – too many people taking, targets not authorized by the President directly, etc. But it was this decades old limitation slapped on by some liberal extremist that blocked the NSA from providing critical information to the FBI prior to 9-11. (Note: if the FBI had a warrant from the FISA court, and directed the NSA to do an intercept, Â then the evidence can be used).
This restriction meant that any evidence that cascaded from an NSA intercept against an individual in the US – no matter how damning and clear – could not be used in court to prosecute the terrorist. Or to get wiretaps from the FIS Court. The obvious answer was to fix this artificial restriction and allow the FIS Court to hear cases for wiretaps and warrants that emanated from an NSA intercept. That was the big change in the FISA-NSA relationship, the court had to respect evidence gathered by the FBI in response to the NSA detecting a threat inside our borders.
The court still will not allow warrants, etc based on the NSA intercept alone – the FBI to this day has to develop additional evidence. But now they know where the threat is and who it surrounds, so they can begin looking immediately into the situation. No more vague references to some individual out of the 300+ million somewhere inside this vast country.Â
And because of these obvious, common sense changes some fool goes off his rocker and exposes our defenses to our enemies, with the help of the clueless and technically challenged liberal media out for Pulitzer glory.
Now Newsweek has named the guy who fed the news media false information because – in the end – he was clueless about the program he exposed. From Newsweek we learn he did not know the details, but was a liberal individual biased by his Bush Derangement Syndrome. Some key elements of the Newsweek reporting that proves this to be the case:
In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at aÂ Justice DepartmentÂ unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spiesâ€”a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classifiedÂ National Security AgencyÂ program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance.Â
Emphasis mine. My analysis of this story has discovered, through other reporting, that these appearances of supposed wrong doing were flat out wrong conclusions. The only way a person in the US (because prior to the NSA-FISA changes any person in the US was treated as a US Citizen) would be monitored would be if they contacted an overseas terrorist suspect. And it was only those communications that would be initially reported to the FBI. In addition, if the FBI determined through their efforts that there was probable cause, these leads would be taken to the FIS Court.
What Tamm did not know, because he was not authorized to know, was that the FIS Court head judge WAS being notified when evidence was being submitted that was initiated by an NSA detected threat. There was no “hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance”. The head FIS Court judge would know when a case was the result of an NSA intercept and not from an FBI directed wiretap. The FIS Court head judge kept this information secret from the other judges so as to not taint their decisions on whether the threat was real or not:
Lamberth, the presiding judge at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Kollar-Kotelly, who took over in May 2002, have repeatedly declined to comment on the program or their efforts to protect the FISA court. A Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment.
Both presiding judges agreed not to disclose the secret program to the 10 other FISA judges, who routinely handled some of the governmentâ€™s most highly classified secrets.
So early in 2002, the wary court and government lawyers developed a compromise. Any case in which the government listened to someoneâ€™s calls without a warrant, and later developed information to seek a FISA warrant for that same suspect, was to be carefully â€œtaggedâ€ as having involved some NSA information. Generally, there were fewer than 10 cases each year, the sources said.
According to government officials familiar with the program, the presiding FISA judges insisted that information obtained through NSA surveillance not form the basis for obtaining a warrant and that, instead, independently gathered information provide the justification for FISA monitoring in such cases. They also insisted that these cases be presented only to the presiding judge.
What this proves is Tamm went off half-cocked and simply fantasized what was happening. He was wrong, and Pulitzers went out for reporting that was completely inaccurate. Â
Newsweek even notes the man’s liberal biases, which clearly clouded his thinking:
Tamm concedes he was also motivated in part by his anger at other Bush-administration policies at the Justice Department, including its aggressive pursuit of death-penalty cases and the legal justifications for “enhanced” interrogation techniques that many believe are tantamount to torture.
So his own personal opposition to completely unrelated matters, such as the death penalty, is somehow a legitimate rational to expose a program he knew nothing about? Hell no, that is not the way it works. And flights of fantasy are not valid reasons to break the law:
Â “I thought this [secret program] was something the other branches of the governmentâ€”and the publicâ€”ought to know about. So they could decide: do they want this massive spying program to be taking place?” Tamm told NEWSWEEK, in one of a series of recent interviews that he granted against the advice of his lawyers. “If somebody were to say, who am I to do that? I would say, ‘I had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.’
It takes a twisted mind to see breaking the law and exposing our national defenses to our enemies as somehow upholding the Constitution, which gives the authority to the President to protect this nation and its Constitution from threat. Â Not the President-in-his-own-mind Tamm. The fact is the other branches of government DID know about the program. And backed the essence, clearly evident by the fact it has been voted and instantiated in our laws many times since.
This is the Portrait of a zealot who broke the laws of this country, put us all at risk, because he did not know the details of what he was concerned about. This is how fanatical political positions, and Bush Derangement Syndrome, created a traitor. Bottom line: Tamm did more for our enemies than he did for America or its Constitution.
I will probably be updating this post and challenging the revisionist history of the liberal news media as I continue to assess this story (busy on my day job). I expect to find a lot more falsehoods as the liberal news media try and salvage their Benedict Arnold. But the rest of us know how the story ends. Tamm was wrong. The changes put in place after 9-11 by President Bush are now the law of the land, and this nation has been free of attack since 9-11 in large part because of these changes.
Look for updates if I get a breather to do more analysis on this whitewash job.