Even The AP Is Calling Bull On Government Claims Of PRISM Helping Stop NYC Subway Bomb

from the when-you-can't-even-convince-them... dept

We’ve already explained how some NSA supporters, including Rep. Mike Rogers and Senator Dianne Feinstein, are trying to defend PRISM and other NSA surveillance efforts by saying that it stopped a NYC subway bombing but their claims don’t seem to hold up under scrutiny. Now even the Associated Press is calling out those statements as highly questionable, which is somewhat amazing for the AP, as it normally loves to just present “both sides of the story” and then let you decide what’s real. But the article linked above actually digs in and points out where the claims by the NSA’s defenders don’t seem to add up to anything.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said investigators “found backpacks with bombs.” Really, the bombs hadn’t been completed and the backpacks the FBI found were unrelated to the plot.

Feinstein said the FBI had Zazi under surveillance for six months. Court testimony showed Zazi was watched only for about two weeks before he was arrested.

But there’s a much bigger point that the AP makes. Even if the claim was somehow true that PRISM was useful, nowhere does that claim show how a standard warrant wouldn’t have provided the same information:

That’s because, even before the surveillance laws of 2007 and 2008, the FBI had the authority to – and did, regularly – monitor email accounts linked to terrorists. The only difference was, before the laws changed, the government needed a warrant.

To get a warrant, the law requires that the government show that the target is a suspected member of a terrorist group or foreign government, something that had been well established at that point in the Zazi case.

In other words, even if PRISM was used, there’s no evidence that it was needed, because the NSA could have easily obtained the same information through traditional means — getting a warrant — and without potentially violating the privacy of millions of others.

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Comments on “Even The AP Is Calling Bull On Government Claims Of PRISM Helping Stop NYC Subway Bomb”

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37 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“Now even the Associated Press is calling out those statements as highly questionable, which is somewhat amazing for the AP, as it normally loves to just present “both sides of the story” and then let you decide what’s real.”

I think the AP being targeted might have something to do with it.

The press in general tends to very much not like it when you do things that may infringe on freedom of the press.

Also, being balanced can be a good thing… but when one side is just lying, it’s appropriate to call them on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

considering the positions they hold and what they have to do with USA ‘security’, is it any wonder that they come out with this crap? the amazing thing is that still assume everyone is a complete moron and will believe whatever rubbish they spout! i think it is such a shame that they cant be put on the edge of perhaps, losing their position. i can smell where they have crapped backwards already!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Starting by being transparent and honest.

The US government is in trouble (relatively speaking) not because they spied on Americans, but because they have been doing it in secret and lying about it.

People don’t tend to trust liars and cheats. This opens up the doors for someone else to rise up and proclaim himself the next saviour. And people will trust him because the alternative is…well…the guy that has already lied and cheated.

The end result can only be bloody. And it is the Government’s fault for not upholding the values of Democracy above all else.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The way to stop extremism is not with a technical solution (monitoring or blocking), it needs a social solution.

Truth. Extremism breeds extremism.

In order for a social solution to even gain traction, both “sides” (in quotes, since there’s usually more than 2, and many degrees of nuance between) need to see the other as people with differing views and sometimes legitimate grievances instead of mere objects or as evil.

In the current political climate of the US, we have trouble doing that between two peaceful political parties, and sometimes even within a single party (ie tea party vs. GOP establishment).

Anonymous Coward says:

“because the NSA could have easily obtained the same information through traditional means — getting a warrant — and without potentially violating the privacy of millions of others.”

I’m confused. They found out he was a terrorist by seeing emails. Exactly what “traditional” means could of been used to find out he was building bombs?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: How about these ones?

  1. See suspicious activity.
  2. Present evidence of suspicious activity to judge.
  3. Get warrant.
  4. Using warrant, collect more evidence of suspicious activity.
  5. Upon collecting sufficient evidence to prove harmful intent, make arrest.

    You’ll notice nowhere in there was the step ‘Collect phone, email, and other records of thousands/millions of innocent people without warrant just in case’ needed to catch this person.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They found out he was a terrorist by seeing emails.

They looked at his emails because they already knew he was up to no good. They didn’t discover him by prowling through everyone’s emails.

Since they already had him connected to terrorism, getting a warrant to look at his emails would have been fast and easy. Nothing about this case demonstrates that massive spying on our communications was required.

The Real Michael says:

How many terrorist plots has the government prevented on account of PRISM? Zero. None. Zilch. Their predictable response would be, “That’s a national security secret.” Bull. They’ve prevented nothing, otherwise explain how the Boston bombers managed to pull of their attack despite direct warnings provided by Russian intelligence?

These spy programs aren’t meant to reign in (imaginary) terrorists, they’re meant to spot patterns and manufacture terrorist threats from within. Of course they’ll need to extend and distort the definition of ‘terrorism,’ since Americans aren’t in the habit of committing such acts. I guess that after the CIA created Al Qaeda, they figured that after bombing middle-eastern countries, there’d be thousands of copycat attacks domestically from Muslim extremists, but things didn’t pan out the way they envisioned. So the FBI has resorted to foiling their own fake terrorist plots, using whatever unsuspecting patsy they could find, in order to give the appearance that there’s a threat and they’re ‘the good guys’? looking out for our best interests.

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