Mike Rogers Lies About Bulk Data Collection, Insists It's Necessary, Even As He Introduces Bill He Says Will Kill It
from the say-what-now? dept
As was expected, on Tuesday morning, Rep. Mike Rogers officially introduced his new bill concerning bulk data collection by the NSA. Overnight, it appears that Rogers and his staff realized that the originally proposed name of the bill, the End Bulk Collection Act of 2014, was so bogus that they couldn’t go forward with that. So the official bill is now called the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act. There are significant concerns about how the section on supposedly “ending” bulk collection might actually allow for even greater searches of data.
But the thing that seemed most ridiculous was that, at the same time Rogers gave his press conference in which he claimed he was ending the bulk data collection by the NSA, he was publishing an op-ed in USA Today claiming the program was “necessary” and “vital” and that was why he was calling for it to end. He kicks it off with an already widely debunked bullshit story about how Section 215 could have stopped 9/11:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Khalid al-Mihdhar stepped on to American Airlines Flight 77, the flight he would later crash into the Pentagon. Al-Mihdhar might have been in prison, instead of on that flight, if the government knew he had called an al-Qaeda safehouse in Yemen from inside the U.S. seven times before the attacks. The failure to spot phone calls by al-Mihdhar and others led the Intelligence community to begin collecting large volumes of call data records, specifically the number dialed and the date and duration of the call, to determine whether suspected terrorists had contacts inside the United States.
This is simply not true. The NSA was already intercepting calls to that very safehouse starting at least two years earlier. The CIA had been following al-Mihdhar for years earlier. The FBI was aware of him as well. The problem was that the CIA failed to alert anyone that Mihdhar had a US visa and came to the US. So the problem was never that they didn’t have the information. It was that the NSA, the FBI and the CIA simply didn’t cooperate and share the necessary information. This has nothing to do with the Section 215 bulk data collection.
Since last summer, a great deal has been written about the program’s scope, capabilities and legality —much of it wrong. The fact is that the program is legal. It was authorized by Congress and found constitutional many times over. No review of the program revealed an intentional misuse of its authority.
This is not actually accurate. It is not a “fact” that the program is legal. At least one court has said that it is not legal as has the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), who found the program to be clearly both illegal and unconstitutional. As for the claims that it was “authorized” by Congress and found “constitutional” many times over, neither is particularly accurate. Mike Rogers himself hid the details of the program from Congressional reps who voted on it, and the FISA court never actually explored the constitutionality of the bulk phone records collection until after the Snowden revelations, at which point it had to cover its ass for all the approvals of the program it had given based on a totally different authority.
We recognize that the Intelligence community must have the confidence of the American people to do its life-saving work. Over the past nine months, we have studied ways to reform the program while maintaining its effectiveness.
WHAT EFFECTIVENESS? Everyone who has explored the program has admitted that they were somewhat shocked to learn that there is no evidence anywhere that the program has done anything useful, ever. To argue that we need to “maintain its effectiveness” is a joke.
Most of the rest of the piece is trying to explain why his new bill is a good idea, even after he opened it with a series of outright lies. Then, apparently because he can’t resist, he closes on a misrepresentation as well:
Without NSA counterterrorism tools, Najibullah Zazi might have set off bombs during rush hour in the New York City subway in September 2009.
Except the Zazi case is another one that’s been debunked as well. But that doesn’t stop Rogers from doubling down on his argument:
Some people may say that’s “not enough” when compared to the amount of information the NSA obtains, but we would be shocked if anyone on September 12, 2001, wouldn’t have done everything possible to find hijackers like al-Mihdhar and prevent just one terrorist attack.
Yeah, that’s a great closer. The argument that anything goes because of September 11th should, frankly, disqualify Rep. Rogers from holding office. Doing “everything possible” would mean abandoning the Constitution that Rogers is supposed to be upholding. We’re a nation built on the principle that we don’t abridge basic freedoms to “do everything possible” to stop one crime. Yet, Rogers still doesn’t seem to recognize this.