Dick Cheney's Crystal Ball Says That NSA Surveillance Could Have Stopped 9/11

from the but-not-the-boston-bombing dept

We already commented on FBI director Robert Mueller arguing that the NSA’s mass surveillance techniques would have prevented 9/11, and now it appears that Dick Cheney is agreeing with this fictional scenario in which his crystal ball says what might have happened:

“As everybody who’s been associated with the program’s said, if we had had this before 9/11, when there were two terrorists in San Diego — two hijackers — had been able to use that program, that capability, against that target, we might well have been able to prevent 9/11,” Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

That’s speculation based on nothing, frankly. As has been widely covered, there were a number of reasons why the government failed to stop 9/11, just as there were plenty of reasons it failed to stop the Boston bombings back in April. The idea that this program would have stopped one (while it clearly missed the other) isn’t particularly convincing.

Of course, none of that gets to the bigger question of whether or not it’s worth it. In theory, we could stop all sorts of crimes by putting military personnel and equipment in the streets, with the power to invade any home and do a full search. But we don’t allow that. Because that’s a violation of our privacy. And, yes, the loss of life from a terrorist attack is tragic and horrifying — but many more people are killed in car accidents, and we don’t freak out about that and take away everyone’s cars. Giving up our basic principles of freedom on the off chance it might possibly stop a terrorist attack (while still missing other terrorist attacks) doesn’t really seem like living up to the basic ideals of this country.

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Comments on “Dick Cheney's Crystal Ball Says That NSA Surveillance Could Have Stopped 9/11”

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Zakida Paul (profile) says:

This is nothing more than political posturing designed to get people behind mass surveillance by exploiting a massive tragedy. It is completely immoral, in my opinion.

There is no way that we can say either way whether or not 9/11 could have been stopped had this surveillance been in place. Although, I suspect that it would not have been stopped.

Anonymous Coward says:

You really are a broken record with this NSA stuff, Mikey. When are you going to get down from your soapbox and actually discuss any of it on the merits? Oh yeah, never.

Time to bring out the cows. Mikey’s got milk fever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F85cuRuQjLE

Get those clicks, Mikey! Clicks! Clicks! Clicks! Yeah, that’s what an ivy league education is for. It’s for impressing silverscarat and his brethren!! Good for you!

RD says:

Re: Re:

Posting in EVERY article “milk it! milk it! coward! pirate! bawk!” is considered having a conversation now? Lets be clear: you arent interested in having any kind of meaningful discussion. At all. You prove it with every post. You dont get to then turn around and try to take Mike and the site to task for something you yourself are unwilling to do.

Nick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And yet they were only caught because they robbed a store, which got reported, stole a car, in which the owner escaped their custody, and the survivor hid out in a boat, in which a vigilant CIVILIAN alerted the police to traces of blood.

So not only did a city-wide police crack down not catch these guys, but the NSA surveillance net didn’t stop this (which was in place for 6 years) nor did it help in finding them before they were caught on their own.

But I feel safer already! Keep taking away my freedoms, government!

Anonymous Coward says:

That’s speculation based on nothing, frankly.

That’s your specialty, Mikey!!! Still waiting for you explain exactly how the telephone metadata collection violates the Fourth Amendment. I mean, you weren’t just speculating based on nothing, right? LOL! Of course you were. And, of course, you will never ever admit it. Why? Because you are not an honest person.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think he haven’t read the Amendment at all. Allow me to help him:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So we have two problems here. They do not have the right to know exactly who you talk with and when you talk to that person be it some hooker or your grandma (this would require in the distant past that the police followed and spied you). And it’s not particularly describing because the data was collected in bulks.

Satisfied? Go away now, please.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here’ I’ll explain how the metadata collection violates the 4th Amendment, pretty simple, even a moron like you can understand. here it is:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. “

My phone calls, internet searches, surfing habits, metadata, etc. are my “effects” and as such, in order for the government to have access to them they need a warrant. Pretty simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, kinda. Obviously the phone company has access to them.

I would argue, however, that just because 3 people know something doesn’t mean that the government also has a right to know that thing without a warrant. Say I call a friend. I know I made that call, the friend I called knows I made that call, and the phone company knows I made that call. But if you, as a private citizen and customer, ask for my phone records, the phone company is going to deny you that information even if you offer to pay them more than my business with them is worth. Why? Because that information is PRIVATE. Perhaps it is not private to the degree of a medical record, but I think it works on a similar principle. Just because someone else holds a record should not mean that the government has a right to it. And even if somehow I have no interest whatsoever in that record, the PHONE COMPANY has an interest in it. If nothing else, these are the phone company’s papers and effects, and probable cause is STILL needed to get them.

And on top of the Fourth Amendment arguments, there can also be a case made that we SHOULD not do this even if it’s constitutionally permissible. According to the Supreme Court, it’s legal for cities to take houses via eminent domain and sell the land for commercial development. That does not mean that cities SHOULD do this, and I would vote out any local official who proposed it. And congress CAN, according to the Supreme Court, retroactively extend copyright for 20 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Similarly, even if this is legal under the Fourth Amendment, that does not automatically mean that we should be doing it.

But when it comes to whether we should do this, that brings up First Amendment issues. The government is ordering that records be provided and also puts on a gag order, preventing discussion of whether this is something that we should be doing.

And why is there this gag order? So people don’t know they are doing this. And why does that matter? Because people assume that this information will be private. The secrecy is only valuable if people assume that the government is NOT tracking them.

Which brings us full circle. People DO expect that these records are private. And since they have some expectation of privacy in these records, the Fourth Amendment SHOULD apply.

Anonymous Coward says:

“but many more people are killed in car accidents, and we don’t freak out about that and take away everyone’s cars.”

Well don’t forget you’re 8 times more likely to die from a police officer than from a terrorist. Have we started spying on police officers too? If we haven’t, maybe we start?


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

from you are not going to be killed by terrorism
?You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

Better install cameras and alarms in all bedrooms so that action can be taken when people are suffocating. This would save more lives that the surveillance used to stop terrorism. Its for your safety after all.

out_of_the_blue says:

It's NOT "speculation based on nothing," it's LIES.

Am I the only here with a memory that goes back more than two weeks? — Daily briefing in August “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”; the CIA explicitly cleared those two “hijackers” to ICE; the FBI got reports of people wanting to learn how to fly but not land 767s, and Moussaui, the “20th hijacker”, somehow popped into FBI view (okay, MY memory is getting fuzzy on details), I think they tried to get a warrant to look on his computer but were denied from above.

There were PLENTY of clues intercepted, it’s just Cheney LYING that the information wasn’t available, can only claim didn’t put it all together.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: It's NOT "speculation based on nothing," it's LIES.

That. Conspiracy theories say that they knew it was coming and let it happen in order to put the current surveillance system in place. Furthermore there seem to be visual evidence that the Boston bombings were orchestrated by the Govt as well.

I’m not as quick as to swallow everything that’s thrown at me but at least the Boston event has some pretty damning visual evidence that SOMETHING smells fishy.

The sad part is that the cynic in me refuses to dismiss those theories entirely.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: It's NOT "speculation based on nothing," it's LIES.

It seems likely that it wasn’t so much a conspiracy as incompetence, which the military-surveillance-industrial complex jumped on to promote their agenda.

When they actually DO fake terrorism, nothing happens, it’s just some chump being caught in a sting operation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dick Cheney is filth

and past presidents, can’t forget those. Arresting past vice-presidents should be cake comparatively.. pfft.

We can arrest them and call them schnookums. “You are my schnookums and you belong in this box with these other people and they can be your friends and they are my schnookums too.”

Good times.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Hindsight doesn't matter

It doesn’t matter if surveillance would have prevented 9/11. Locking up all the mentally ill may have prevented Sandy Hook, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

Policy can only be determined by looking at the benefits of a policy (reduced terrorist attacks) and the risks/downsides (increased surveillance). Hindsight is useful _only_ for quantifying the benefits and risks.

Jay (profile) says:

Snowden's reply

” Further, it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”

Engral (profile) says:

Am I missing something??

I’m really not even sure why our officials are being given a chance to justify here…..I might be missing something…but, even your everyday drug dealer on the street, and I’m certain those involved in much more sophisticated operations, are using throw away phones, and chips, which…and this is where I may be missing something…makes any conversation connected with those phones, pretty much disconnected from individuals….and I’m pretty sure our ‘Terrorist’ element would be smart enough to use this same tactic…..so, if that’s the case, what iota of information that is helpful to our safety could they get?

Anonymous Coward says:

Coulda, woulda, shouda, doesn’t cut it. The problem is when you gather that much information, you have the needle in the haystack problem of too much information.

I can not help but notice that it did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombing. If it can’t stop a really bombing especially when Russia notifies you ahead of time about the individuals being a problem, then there is no way in hell this floats as a valid reason.

Of course this is coming from Cheney, who claims Snowden is needed to be prosecuted for spilling state secrets, the same Cheney who put the gears in motion to help put all the spying apparatus in place and the same Cheney wanted by The Hague for war crimes. Cheney cancelled his book signing in Canada over fears of being arrested in Canada over these same war crimes. Now that’s a real moral character you can depend on… not.

The whole thing here is the whistle blower program doesn’t work. The recommended going up the chain of command results in it getting buried and the individual threatened. Going to some one like the IG doesn’t help as again the one wanting to reveal the problems is treated as the problem. The final only choice each whistle blower is left with is going to the MSM. Of course as with Snowden, the first thing they do is contact the government over it to see what’s allowed to be in print.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Boston Marathon. Hmm… And they locked down an entire city. Damn good test design and damn good results. Minimal loss of life, man requirements evaluated to suppress blocks and blocks and blocks of people and elimination of a Russian hazard. Brilliant.

Conspiracy theories are brilliant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let me elaborate – if the NSA pulls what we all know they pull and these guys were on ANY, ANY radar, and they missed that then THE PROGRAM IS A FAILURE – FULL punctuation period STOP punctuation period – You’re breaking the laws that founded this land.

It’s one or the other folks. We drive over this cliff or jump. I’d say that you can always find a new ride, it just might be a little rougher because I’m pretty sure that I can’t fly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Be careful MOTH. That’s a mighty big FLAME. Perhaps the plan was not to foil the plan after all. Experience was showing that that was not working out as hoped.

After all, if you don’t really know then you don’t really know do you?

“Trust Us. You’re Safer.”

Uhh… no thanks – I think I’d rather do drugs and fight ’til the death, but thanks.

damien guarniere eaton (user link) says:

911 a conspiracy theory

TRANSCRIPT: On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men armed with boxcutters directed by a man on dialysis in a
cave fortress halfway around the world using a satellite phone and a laptop directed the most sophisticated penetration of
the most heavily-defended airspace in the world, overpowering the passengers and the military combat-trained pilots on 4
commercial aircraft before flying those planes wildly off course for over an hour without being molested by a single
fighter interceptor.
These 19 hijackers, devout religious fundamentalists who liked to drink alcohol, snort cocaine , and live with pink-haired
strippers, managed to knock down 3 buildings with 2 planes in New York, while in Washington a pilot who couldn?t
handle a single engine Cessna was able to fly a 757 in an 8,000 foot descending 270 degree corskscrew turn to come
exactly level with the ground, hitting the Pentagon in the budget analyst office where DoD staffers were working on the
mystery of the 2.3 trillion dollars that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced ?missing? from the Pentagon?s
coffers in a press conference the day before, on September 10, 2001.
Luckily, the news anchors knew who did it within minutes, the pundits knew within hours , the Administration knew within
the day , and the evidence literally fell into the FBI?s lap. But for some reason a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists
demanded an investigation into the greatest attack on American soil in history.
The investigation was delayed , underfunded , set up to fail , a conflict of interest and a cover up from start to finish. It was
based on testimony extracted through torture , the records of which were destroyed. It failed to mention the existence of
WTC7 , Able Danger , Ptech , Sibel Edmonds, OBL and the CIA, and the drills of hijacked aircraft being flown into buildings
that were being simulated at the precise same time that those events were actually happening. It was lied to by the
Pentagon , the CIA, the Bush Administration and as for Bush and Cheney?well, no one knows what they told it because
they testified in secret , off the record , not under oath and behind closed doors . It didn?t bother to look at who funded the
attacks because that question is of ? little practical significance?. Still, the 9/11 Commission did brilliantly, answering all
of the questions the public had (except most of the victims? family members? questions ) and pinned blame on all the
people responsible (although no one so much as lost their job), determining the attacks were ?a failure of imagination?
because ?I don?t think anyone could envision flying airplanes into buildings ? except the Pentagon and FEMA and NORAD
and the NRO.
The DIA destroyed 2.5 TB of data on Able Danger, but that?s OK because it probably wasn?t important.
The SEC destroyed their records on the investigation into the insider trading before the attacks, but that?s OK because
destroying the records of the largest investigation in SEC history is just part of routine record keeping.
NIST has classified the data that they used for their model of WTC7′s collapse, but that?s OK because knowing how they
made their model of that collapse would ? jeopardize public safety?.
The FBI has argued that all material related to their investigation of 9/11 should be kept secret from the public, but that?s
OK because the FBI probably has nothing to hide .
This man never existed, nor is anything he had to say worthy of your attention, and if you say otherwise you are a
paranoid conspiracy theorist and deserve to be shunned by all of humanity. Likewise him , him, him, and her . (and her
and her and him).
Osama Bin Laden lived in a cave fortress in the hills of Afghanistan, but somehow got away. Then he was hiding out in
Tora Bora but somehow got away. Then he lived in Abottabad for years, taunting the most comprehensive intelligence
dragnet employing the most sophisticated technology in the history of the world for 10 years, releasing video after video
with complete impunity (and getting younger and younger as he did so), before finally being found in a daring SEAL team
raid which wasn?t recorded on video , in which he didn?t resist or use his wife as a human shield , and in which these
crack special forces operatives panicked and killed this unarmed man, supposedly the best source of intelligence about
those dastardly terrorists on the planet. Then they dumped his body in the ocean before telling anyone about it. Then a
couple dozen of that team?s members died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
This is the story of 9/11, brought to you by the media which told you the hard truths about JFK and incubator babies and
mobile production facilities and the rescue of Jessica Lynch .
If you have any questions about this story?you are a batshit, paranoid, tinfoil, dog-abusing baby-hater and will be reviled
by everyone. If you love your country and/or freedom, happiness, rainbows, rock and roll, puppy dogs, apple pie and your
grandma, you will never ever express doubts about any part of this story to anyone. Ever.
This has been a public service announcement by: the Friends of the FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA , SEC, MSM, White House , NIST,
and the 9/11 Commission . Because Ignorance is Strength.

terry_allen (profile) says:

Re: 911 a conspiracy theory

So let’s see if I have this right: we already know that the people who were paid to collect all this NSA data have been absolutely effusive in extolling the wisdom, the farsightedness, of the people that hired them to collect it (well, except for that troublemaker Snowden…obviously not a team player). Through the mechanism of the periodic reports they sent to their managers, those managers know that ‘dozens’ of ‘potential terrorist plots’ were foiled.

And they say government can’t do things the way the private sector can!

I’m guessing that a conversation that was flagged for follow-up — but didn’t lead to anything — would constitute a ‘potential terrorist plot’? After all, if it led to something more significant, it wouldn’t have been ‘potential’, now would it?

So, now that I understand that, I guess I can ask how this massive surveillance program would have prevented Dick Cheney from ordering the interceptors to stand down on 9/11?

And now that that question’s been answered (“It’s because we didn’t have a massive domestic surveillance program in place, you dummy! Pay attention!”), I guess I can hit the snooze button and go back to sleep?

Okay. Thanks.

streetlight (profile) says:

I'm guessing terrorists will find a way around NSA

I’m not sure what technique or technology terrorists will use but they’ll find some way of communication that can make them invisible to the NSA, FBI,CIA, TSA and any other three letter government spy agency. Super encrypted emails, anonymous prepaid cell phones, face to face meetings in a cave, … and lots of other methods I can’t imagine, but they will likely find a way to secretly plot their nefarious schemes.

terry_allen (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You know, I’ve always thought that it just didn’t make sense that Valerie Plame’s husband was the intended target of her outing. I mean, this is Dick Cheney! If he wanted, he could simply arrange to have the guy found in bed, naked, drunk, with an entire Girl Scout troop as his only visible companions. And the only way he can get back at this guy is to intentionally blow his wife’s cover? No, sorry, can’t buy it.

What I can buy, though, is the idea that Valerie Plame herself — who was, after all, working independently to answer that vital question of where the WMDs were in Iraq, or if they existed at all — might have been the real problem for Cheney, and the real target. A CIA agent loses a lot of her effectiveness once everybody in the world knows she’s a CIA agent. All Cheney had to do was figure out a quasi-legal way to get the information to the media.

And there you are, another whistleblower dealt with.

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