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.”
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.”
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.