from the because-FEAR! dept
Consider the case of 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was being watched by the CIA while he was in Malaysia. U.S. intelligence agencies failed to connect the dots before the attack to recognize that al-Mihdhar had flown with (future) hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi to Los Angeles in January 2000.First off, as has been explained over and over again, the intelligence community already had certain tools in place to discover such phone calls. The problem wasn't that they didn't have the information -- they did. It was that they failed to "connect the dots." In other words, they had too much information which obscured the important information they needed.
Intelligence officials knew about an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen with ties to al-Mihdhar as well as the safe house's telephone number, but they had no way of knowing if anyone inside the U.S. was in contact with that phone number in Yemen. Only after 9/11 did we learn that al-Mihdhar, while living in San Diego, had called the safe house.
Feinstein goes on to make other claims that have already been debunked:
Working in combination, the call-records database and other NSA programs have aided efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorism in the U.S. approximately a dozen times in recent years, according to the NSA. This summer, the agency disclosed that 54 terrorist events have been interrupted—including plots stopped and arrests made for support to terrorism. Thirteen events were in the U.S. homeland and nine involved U.S. persons or facilities overseas. Twenty-five were in Europe, five in Africa and 11 in Asia.Note the all important "and other NSA programs" language here. Also the use of "terrorist events" not plots. And, remember, those "thirteen events... in the U.S. homeland," have since been whittled down to only one that actually relied on the call records program that she's defending -- and that wasn't a terrorist plot but a cab driver in San Diego sending some cash to a Somali group judged to be a terrorist organization.
Furthermore, the program she's defending involves collecting data on every US phone call. If, as she claims, the program was necessary to catch that phone call to a safe house in Yemen, then they could just get a warrant seeking call information to that number, rather than collecting every single phone call, even those between Americans, which have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.
These figures show that the NSA programs are a key component of our counterterrorism efforts at home and abroad because they develop intelligence for our allies about terrorists operating within their borders.No, actually, they don't. They show that Senator Dianne Feinstein has no problem at all lumping together totally unrelated programs, inflating claims about their effectiveness, ignoring actual history, all to claim that a totally unrelated program, which has not been shown to have prevented any terrorist attacks in the US is somehow necessary. That's called being dishonest.
The NSA call-records program is working and contributing to our safety. It is legal and it is subject to strict oversight and thorough judicial review.Except none of that is true. It has not been shown to have contributed to our safety at all. The "strict oversight" doesn't appear to actually exist -- as the revelations have shown how the NSA has hid its abuses from Congress, how Feinstein and others have helped to hide what the NSA is doing, rather than providing oversight, and how the FISA Court itself admits that it's reliant on the NSA telling them what's happening (and also that the NSA has widely abused its powers repeatedly over the past decade).
But we must also learn the lesson of 9/11. If we end this vital program, we only make our nation more vulnerable to another devastating terrorist attack.It seems to me that the "lesson of 9/11" is that blatantly dishonest politicians will call out to 9/11 when it's been proven that they realize they have no actual argument for supporting the surveillance state and clear violations of the 4th Amendment.
In the meantime, we've asked before, and we'll ask again: Dianne Feinstein insists that there's nothing private about metadata. So why hasn't she released the metadata on all of her home, office and mobile phone calls?