1/29/2006

Booman Tribune ~ What Is Bush Hiding?

Larry Johnson sees at least two possibilities. First, they may be using data mining on domestic targets. An old fashioned "fishing" trip.

Second, the source of the intel tips is tainted. If you are using leads obtained thru torture, then you don't want to tell it to a FISA judge. Why not lie? That's called perjury, and L Scooter Libby showed them how serious perjury can be..

My Take on Domestic Spying ...

by Larry C. Johnson (bio below)

I suppose the average American, one who has never held a security clearance or handled NSA intelligence, is inclined to cut George W. Bush some slack. Only a crazy person would argue that Al Qaeda terrorists have a right of privacy in the United States. But that, my friends, is a canard. The issue is not about giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Instead, does this President, hell, any President, have the right to unilaterally decide what does and does not constitute a threat to national security? We are a Republic founded on the principle that the power of the Federal Government is limited. It does not matter if George W. Bush is sincere or his intentions benign. What matters is whether he has chosen to ignore the Fourth Amendment because he, and he alone, has decided that the end justifies the means.

As one who has had access to NSA material, I am completely puzzled by the refusal of the Bush Administration to seek FISA approval for what amounts to roving wiretaps.

Here is what I know for certain:

NSA can act like a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking in signals/communications from around the globe. NSA has a variety of platforms for collecting this intelligence. Some are in space, some are in the air, and some on the ground. Even with massive computer power, however, the NSA collection effort does not automatically produce usable intelligence. Conversations in Arabic or Chinese have to be translated before they can be used by analysts.

NSA collection is not a one time event. With each passing minute the NSA is gathering a bigger pile of info. If you don't exploit that information it is useless. Don't be surprised to discover that most of the info collected by the NSA is never exploited.

NSA can also do very precise, specific collection. The ideal scenario is to know when a person of interest (aka a target) is going to be talking on a phone, or at a meeting, or on a computer. If you have those details then the act of intercepting a conversation is a piece of cake. Unfortunately the U.S. Government rarely gets such tidbits.

It would also be useful to have the phone numbers and emails used by known bad guys. The President and his spinners have said that this is in fact one of the sources they are using to launch the NSA domestic surveillance activity. But even this explanation does not hold water. Why? Because if you have phone numbers/emails that were used by known terrorists there is not a FISA judge in the history of the program who would deny the Government a chance to find out what the terrorist pen pals were doing.

So what is Bush up to? I see at least two possibilities. First, they may be allowing unfettered data mining on domestic targets without probable cause. An old fashioned "fishing" trip. You cast out a net and pull it in, picking over the contents, and hoping you snared the oyster with the big pearl. This nonsense works in a Tom Clancy novel but not in the real world. Even with the most robust computer power you have no simple way to find "actionable intelligence".

Second, the source of the intel tips is tainted. If you are generating leads from persons being held in secret prisons or if the info is obtained thru torture, then it makes it difficult to make a truthful declaration before a judge. Why not lie to the FISA court? That's called perjury. I suspect this explains the real motive for the refusal of the Bush Administration to go the FISA route.

We are asked to accept on faith that this program is working wonders. Really? Then where is the proof. Where are the arrested terrorist suspects? Has even a single person in the United States been taken into custody because of this info? I believe the answer is no. At a minimum, the heads of the House and Senate intel committees should have been briefed on the successes, if there were any. The White House is silent on this issue for one simple reason--they don't have the goods. And, oh, by the way; Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose.

It is essential, therefore, that President Bush be held accountable by the Congress and the Judiciary. He is not a King. He is not unilaterally empowered to decided what is right and wrong. He is not entitled to use his own best judgment to determine which parts of the Constitution are acceptable or archaic. He is supposed to protect and defend it, not trash it.

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Booman Tribune ~ What Is Bush Hiding?

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