Ex-CIA Director And Current Surveillance Task Force Member Mike Morell Parrots Talking Points To Defend Bulk Collections

from the death-of-three-thousand-exploited-to-surveil-millions dept

Former no. 2 man at the CIA and current surveillance task force member Mike Morell has made only a few comments since his new appointment, but every one he's made indicates he's a true "company man."

Last month, he astounded his fellow task force members by asserting that the NSA's metadata programs should be expanded, despite other members arriving at the conclusion that there was very limited evidence, if any, that the programs produced useful intel. And that's only what he said when he bothered to show up. Morell skipped the first set of meetings, claiming the review board's very existence threatened to distract Congress from ending the government shutdown and doctors from curing pediatric cancer. (I AM NOT LYING.)

Now, he's decided to offer his opinion again, and he's back to defending bulk record collections using a completely debunked argument.

"If the program were in place before 9/11, I believe it would have prevented 9/11," Mike Morell said earlier today on the CBS television program `Face the Nation.' "And by the program, I mean two things. I mean, NSA's ability to query the database, which would have allowed NSA to find one of the 9/11 hijackers in California, and the part of the program where NSA shares such information with the F.B.I. If both of those pieces had been in place, 9/11 would have been prevented by this program."
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This "theory" that the NSA was hamstrung by its lack of access to millions of irrelevant call records practically debunks itself at this point. The defenders of these programs can't seem to find a better rhetorical device than this one, which has been completely eviscerated by dozens of intelligence experts and the 9/11 Commission itself.

Morell's position on the surveillance review task force seems to be as a "devil's advocate" -- someone placed on the board by the president to ensure no one gets too carried away trying to protect Americans' rights or limit the NSA's power.

Morell also delivered the other company line, this one equally as provably false as the first.
"There have been a handful of cases, literally, a handful where NSA employees have looked into the database inappropriately, looked at boyfriends or girlfriends and every one of those cases, they were dealt with appropriately and I believe, actually, some of them may have been fired. But that's the limited abuse that has taken place. There has been no systematic abuse, there has been no political abuse, it has been minor, very minor."
Just as wrong. Just as stupid. Just as willfully ignorant of the NSA's abuse of its capabilities.

Rather than point out where Morell's wrong, I'd rather link to (and quote) a response by blogger Alex Marthews at Digital Fourth ([p]h/t to Popehat) that puts into very effective words just how sick of the "prevent 9/11" justification we all are:
Its apologists scurry round spreading fear about reforms that would actually make their work more restrained and effective, and in a last, desperate throw of the dice, they are invoking the shadow of 9/11 – the same 9/11 that their bulk surveillance failed to thwart last time around. These days, the only terrorist attacks they seem capable of thwarting are the ones they gin up in advance

These clowns gleefully threw the Constitution on the fire, and gave us NOTHING in return. We’re not safer. We’re certainly not richer. We have lost so much, so that a few people could become extremely rich and powerful, and our corrupt system is now incapable of holding them personally to account. Yet still they yammer on, clamoring for more funding for an NSA that doesn’t work, a TSA that doesn’t work, an FBI that chases imaginary plots instead of focusing on locking up actual criminals. They have played on our fears to make us exchange realistic risk assessment for a meaningless, nightmarish pantomime where we, the American people and indeed the people of the whole world, have to accept the loss of every freedom we hold dear in order to “do whatever it takes” to “catch the bad guys...”

Do you think we’re all scared six-year-olds hiding underneath our stairwells, waiting for Big Daddy NSA to tell us that everything’s OK and we can come out now?

[...]

You’re the six-year-olds here, standing there with the Constitution on a skewer over an open flame and hollering, “9/11 MADE ME DO IT.”
This is all the agency's defenders have to offer in defense of massive, untargeted surveillance, and it's simply not good enough. Even if the "we could have prevented 9/11" claim were true (which is isn't), it still wouldn't be enough to justify what the NSA does under the cover of "national security." The involved agencies couldn't protect us the first time, and now their defenders are claiming that if everything gets left alone, they can ensure an attack-free future. And they expect us to believe that claim, even after their collective minds have been unable to conjure up a scarier prevented terrorist "attack" than a person sending $8,500 to Al Shabab.

Morell has no position on a surveillance oversight board. He's skipped meetings and issued talking points, and appears to be wholly uninterested in doing the job he's been tasked with. He's an intel flack whose years of experience at the CIA have given him little more than a greater disregard for Americans' civil liberties.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Wally, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 8:00am

    I must address this clearly...Al-Shabab is a terrorist militant group known to take in young boys at the age of 9 from their families by force and threat of death...if you give them $8,500 US, you are supporting their nasty cause...

    An Al-Shabab regime was responsible for Black Hawk Down...The Al Shabab based government starved Somalia by only letting families have access to their crops if they let their little boys be recruited to the military at random upon penalty of death if denied...

    By shuttering away someone who has given $8,500 US to the Al Shabab movement, you cut away major finances to them because that is a huge some of money in Somolian dollars..

     

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      Wally (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 8:03am

      Re:

      Hey guys...it seems your mobile platform site randomly confuses the e-mail and subject fields...

       

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        Wally (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 8:17am

        Re: Re:

        While the bulk collection of data is inexcusable...Former CIA Director Mike Morell has almost no reason to give that response except that his statement is the standard procedure...The NSA also acts as a National Security Advisor to the other agencies....given that this bulk collection of data is so huge...I wouldn't be surprised if the NSA is trying to abuse such leverage...too bad it's falling apart for other rather useful agencies..

         

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      beech, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 9:16am

      Re:

      Yes. Terrorism bad. They stopped one guy from making one donation, awesome.

      But is it worth the cost?! MILLIONS of dollars funding these programs, for a decade. The loss of privacy on an inconceivable scale. The open flaunting of the constitution. The weakening of worldwide encryption standards. Security in all kinds of hardware and software. Is all that really worth it? To stop one donation?

      I submit that it is not. It is ludicrous to even suggest it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that terrorists made vastly more money exploiting the aforementioned backdoors then that one donation made them. (Wouldn't that be funny, terrorists profiting off the very measures we're trying to use against them. )

       

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      beech, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 9:16am

      Re:

      Yes. Terrorism bad. They stopped one guy from making one donation, awesome.

      But is it worth the cost?! MILLIONS of dollars funding these programs, for a decade. The loss of privacy on an inconceivable scale. The open flaunting of the constitution. The weakening of worldwide encryption standards. Security in all kinds of hardware and software. Is all that really worth it? To stop one donation?

      I submit that it is not. It is ludicrous to even suggest it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that terrorists made vastly more money exploiting the aforementioned backdoors then that one donation made them. (Wouldn't that be funny, terrorists profiting off the very measures we're trying to use against them. )

       

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      Ninja (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      By shuttering away someone who has given $8,500 US to the Al Shabab movement, you cut away major finances to them because that is a huge some of money in Somolian dollars..

      Yeah, with 8.5k they probably would be able to buy nukes in the black market. Not. What you are saying is that the ocean is now safe from becoming a desert because a drop of water fell on it. It is that absurd.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 8:21am

    Pervert 9/11

    When I first read "prevent 9/11" above I thought it said "pervert 9/11". I think my first reading was more correct in that they are trying to pervert 9/11 for their own means.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 8:38am

    It seems their tactics now are "let's add a number of high profile people parroting our debunked points to see if they become the truth"... Except they are burning these said high profile people reputations by now...

    Or is it still that effective in the US?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 8:57am

    "...standing there with the Constitution on a skewer over an open flame and hollering, 9/11 MADE ME DO IT."

    100% this. They're trying to use the actions of terrorists, to punish the vast majority of American People, by forcing them to give up their Constitutional Rights.

    I'm not willing to surrender my freedoms to the terrorists, or the US Government.

    I owe the brave men and women of this country, who fought for hundreds of years protecting the American way of life. We all owe these American Patriots, the honor of continuing their fight for freedom and democracy.

    Better to die free than live under tyranny and repression. I know a lot of people don't feel the same way now-a-days, but a 100 years ago, you could find many brave souls willing to defend their freedoms and rights.

    Maybe times have changed. As the great saying goes, "You don't know what you have, until you've lost it."

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      I'm not willing to surrender my freedoms to the terrorists, or the US Government.

      Other than the budget they have available, and the arsenal they have access to, there's not really any difference these days between those two.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 9:58am

    this continual clutching at straws business makes those trying to defend the indefensible, (there is no defense for doing this! ever!) just make them out to be more ridiculous. of course they are going to say whatever they can to defend the program. their best buddies are up to their arm pits in the shit this has dropped! and serve them bloody right as well!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 10:06am

    Did you expect anything different, you call them company men ,I call them toilets ..they all hold shit.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 12:02pm

    So you want to know why the budget is so out of whack for the country? The realistic estimate of how bad the job situation is, is that for every one job that opens, there are 3 people that want it. Whether it's political fodder bait or not, a report issued yesterday put the estimate of people out of work at a nearer realistic 37.2%, which is hidden as best as possible by fudging the yardstick of measurement. Those having given up looking aren't unemployed.

    Yet we have this poor excuse for a circus funnelling millions upon millions if not higher into the billions in new facilities, new branches of government that never existed before such as the DHS, TSA, and ACA staffing setup. More spending, less people paying taxes, and poorer results for the spending. Plenty for war, nothing to speak of for the infrastructure that keeps this country going.

    To add to the insult of intelligence to the average people, we have agencies such as the NSA, FBI, and DHS, running around trying to convince people they need more funding and more ability to ignore the laws this country is built upon. The guarantees of the Constitutions are but toilet paper to those now running the country. Don't get me wrong here, I love my country but I can not stand what has been done to it from the successive line of pretenders. No one guaranteed you would be safe all your life. No one can protect you from either yourself or from the accidents of life that happen. You don't get out of this life alive, so it's a matter of when not if.

    Those now trying to defend the indefensible are looking just as desperate as they sound. No one really can justify all the money, time, and effort spent.

    While everyone regrets the deaths of 9/11, why am I not hearing this speech about how we have to do something about cancer, traffic fatalities, or the neighborhoods where pollution from past industry operations are still killing people in much larger numbers than what died in 9/11, if safety is the actual driver? It becomes very evident that it isn't safety that is the driving factor but the ability to spy on everyone's lives that is the real concern and any excuse will work to justify it if they can just find the right one everyone will accept.

     

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    Rapnel (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 12:05pm

    It was bullshit yesterday, it's bullshit today and it will be bullshit tomorrow.

    now, I only wish they'd eat it

     

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    Alex Marthews, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 12:21pm

    Al Shabaab

    An "Al Shabaab regime" was not responsible for Black Hawk Down, Wally. Al Shabaab did not exist then.

    Al Shabaab emerged only four years ago, as a violent splinter group of the youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union. The ICU was an association of Islamic jurists, assisted in part by Eritrea, who by the middle of 2006 had brought Somalia its first measure of civil peace for a decade, resulting in the reopening of the country's major airport and port. It was in some ways sympathetic to radical Islam, but then truthfully, so is the Saudi government.

    It was then that the US government decided to intervene. They funded an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, and justified it by arguing that the ICU was too radical. The result was three more miserable years of civil war, over 35,000 deaths, and millions displaced, before a power-sharing agreement allowed some measure of peace to return. Al-Shabaab are the opponents of that peace agreement, and the civil war against them continues. They still hold substantial areas of southern Somalia.

    I do not trivialize al-Shabaab. They are a murderous organization whose conception of Islam is so absurdly extreme that they once banned samosas because, being triangular, their shape recalled the Trinity. Currently they are busy banning the Internet entirely in areas they control. So sending them $8,500 is not trivial. But al-Shabaab would not even exist today, had the United States in 2006 being willing to tolerate an ICU government in Somalia. The US government did much more to create al-Shabaab than the San Diego taxi driver did, but you will see no-one answer for that.

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    I'm not scared of terrorists. What I'm truly scared of is that if another significant terrorist attack happens, whether or not the NSA's powers have been curtailed, DiFi, Rogers, King, Clapper, et all, will cry "See?! That's what happens if we don't have the ability to collect everything!", using the tradedy to drive us even further towards an Orwellian survailance state.

     

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    Zonker, Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 4:10pm

    If the US had treated Pearl Harbor the same as it has 9/11 (arguably comparable surprise attacks on the US) then we would likely still have Japanese Internment Camps today, justified with "you don't want another Pearl Harbor" or "we wouldn't have had Pearl Harbor if we had these camps before the attack".

    Instead, those only lasted about four years (1942-1946) and the US has been allied with Japan since the peace treaty of 1952.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jan 22nd, 2014 @ 4:23pm

      Re:

      arguably comparable surprise attacks on the US


      Arguable, I suppose -- I would argue that they're not comparable. Pearl Harbor was much, much worse.

       

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