The Total Nail Polish Remover Awareness Program, Brought to You by the Democratic Party

tia.pngI wanted to pull together the discussion in Thursday’s PATRIOT Act Hearing regarding the use of authorities within it–particularly Section 215–in existing investigations. DiFi initiates this discussion by referring to the "biggest investigation we’ve had since 9/11" (note, contrary to my earlier post, this reference is only implicitly related to the Zazi arrest.

DiFi (47:00): My concern was that nothing we do here interfere adversely with an investigation that’s going ongoing. I happen to believe that the biggest investigation we’ve had since 9/11 is currently ongoing and do not want to do anything to disturb it. Second, I believe that finally, the intelligence in the transformation or transfiguration of the FBI is now taking hold and that we are developing an intelligence mechanism within the country that is now able to ferret out some of these proposed attacks before they might happen. And I think the arrest of Mr. Zazi is demonstration of that. It is not ended and the investigation continues on. I also believe that we continue to face the very real threat of international terrorism. There are people who would hurt us grievously if they have an opportunity to do so, so again, I think it’s vital that we not take any action, especially at this time that would hinder the government’s ability to detect, investigate, and prosecute those who are intent on killing innocent Americans. 

Note, too, DiFi’s reference to the "transfiguration" of FBI finally in place–is she suggesting that for the first time the FBI has used Total Information Awareness to support  terrorist busts?

Later, during the discussion of Durbin’s attempt to limit the use of 215 to those with some discernible tie to a terrorist suspect, DiFi claims that such changes would end several investigations.

DiFi (101:31): Secondly, the FBI does not support this amendment. And thirdly, in putting forward this higher standard, it would end several classified and critical investigations. This was one of the amendments that I submitted to you and you were gracious enough to accept it. Senator Sessions is correct. These are authorized investigations and it’s a use of the National Security Letter in an authorized investigation. So, as I said, a standard for me is that this not interfere in existing investigations, and in fact it would. 

Understand the implications of that comment. If DiFi is right (Feingold doesn’t buy it), it means there are "several" counterterrorism investigations going on that rely on collecting business records and/or tangible things on people who have no discernible tie to terrorism. They may already have that giant database of people who have recently purchase nail polish remover and other acetone or hydrogen peroxide products.

Now, if it were just DiFi, I’d assume this is a bunch of fear-mongering. But Whitehouse endorses Feinstein’s argument (though Feingold immediately rebuts both their claims). 

Whitehouse (107:36): I just want to associate myself with the remarks of Chairman Feinstein, and to say that as my colleagues have a chance to review the classified materials that support her concern that this amendment would interfere with ongoing programs and also find an explanation as to why an earlier vote on a related subject may have been unanimous that no longer would make sense.

Feingold: On that point, I’m aware of the classified information Senator Feinstein and Senator Whitehouse are discussing and I strongly disagree that this three-part standard would harm national security, would be unworkable or cause the consequences that they’ve indicated. 

I’m going to guess that what happened after Congress’ legalization of Bush’s illegal data mining program last year, Democrats (presumably led by Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan) have become fond of the Total Information Awareness program they rejected when Bush advocated it. The two major differences are the Democrats are establishing this program under the FBI–in spite of FBI’s known abuses of such authorities. And unlike Bush, Democrats are keeping this massive data mining program totally secret from the citizens whose information it uses.

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87 replies
  1. Leen says:

    How does limiting the use of 215 effect investigations or the alleged dismissal of investigations into Congresspeople’s alleged meetings with “foreign agents” and what the F.B.I. referred to as “completed crimes”?

    What ever happened to that Jane ‘waddling” Harman investigation?

    Did Jane “Aipac Waddling” Harmans demand that they turn over all of the tapes/transcripts into the investigation of her meetings with “foreign agents” shut down that investigation? How would the use of or changes to 215 effect that investigation?

    From your post a couple of days ago

    Here is the current Section 215 language on targeting (I’ve used bold and strike-through here to show significant changes).

    (2) shall include— (A) a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, such things being presumptively relevant to an authorized investigation if the applicant shows in the statement of the facts that they pertain to—

    (i) a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;

    (ii) the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or

    (iii) an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation;

    Here’s the language that Pat Leahy had originally proposed.

    (A) a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other things sought–

    ‘(i) are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; and

    ‘(ii)(I) pertain to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;

    ‘(II) are relevant to the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or

    ‘(III) pertain to an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power;

  2. JimWhite says:

    If Brennan is involved, then that changes everything for me.

    It’s gone from “no” to “hell, no!”.

    Pretty disappointing behavior by Whitehouse.

      • kgb999 says:

        Wouldn’t she have to be? Same with Holder. If a technique is being employed operationally, don’t both of those positions (HSS/AG) have to be involved – or completely clueless of how subordinates are accomplishing their duties?

        • emptywheel says:

          Yes. What I meant is that she’s championing this, which is slightly different. When she shut down the satellite surveillance program, she said, “we’re all about info sharing anyway.” (Okay, that’s a paraphrase.) But retrospectively, it seems like an embrace of the fusion approach.

          • bmaz says:

            It is her history too; having served at both the state and national level of prosecutorial office, she was very big on cooperation between the two on border/immigrtion enforcement here.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Leen

    1) There WAS no investigation at the time she made that demand
    2) We have every reason to believe the intercepts were lawful Article III intercepts
    3) The news on that was a smear on Harman, probably launched to keep her quiet about troture (and particular Porter Goss’ role in it)

    So you might want to treat it as one of those subjects that I’d prefer you to post on in a Seminal Diary rather than all of my posts.

    Thanks.

  4. radiofreewill says:

    If the Dems try to keep this completely secret from US, some Gooper Loyalist inside the Government will leak the very first mis-use of DiFi’s Program – to gain political advantage – and it will be Devastating to Obama and the Rest of the Party.

    Imvho, it’s best to keep the outline of the Program in Public, and regularly re-assure the Citizens that there is Proper Oversight, accompanied by thorough Judicial Review – at every step.

    As envisioned – DiFi’s Program is equally capable of saving Our Republic from the ravages of Terrorism, on the one hand, or of Imprisoning US in the ‘Safety’ of Big Brother’s Watchful Eye on the other hand.

  5. cinnamonape says:

    I happen to believe that the biggest investigation we’ve had since 9/11 is currently ongoing and do not want to do anything to disturb it.

    Wait? Are we in an orange alert? If this is the biggest then what were those others based upon? DiFi should have to explain how those Alerts were allowed to occur, costing the United States economy billions…without a single terrorist suspect being picked up, without a single arrest or conviction, or real plot identified.

    Weren’t all these “Patriot Act” tools used in those cases…or should I say abused…to spy on innocent persons to gain…nada????

  6. Mary says:

    These are authorized investigations and it’s a use of the National Security Letter in an authorized investigation.

    Authorized how? By the Constitution? By a guy named Guido? The whole point is to have standards for “authorization” that would track constitutional framework.

    Secondly, the FBI does not support this amendment.

    Uh, so? I’ve heard that the White House also doesn’t support any constraints on Executive Power, telecoms don’t support loss of immunity, war criminals don’t support accountability for war crimes, etc. So the same FBI who misused and lied about NSLs over and over and over and over doesn’t want oversight? What a shocker difi.

    And thirdly, in putting forward this higher standard, it would end several classified and critical investigations.

    Uh huh. Classified and critical investigations that have – – – no existing ties to any kind of terrorist suspect? Where does the “classification” come from, if they are searching databases for info on people about whom there is no probable cause to believe they are engaging in criminal conduct (and meet the standards for normal criminal process) and no probable cause to believe they are or are in contact with “agents of foreign powers” (which now includes a broad terrorism/terrorist category, where a donation to PETA might open the door).

    So our “critical” and “classified” investigations these days have no criminal and no national intel probable cause basis? That’s comforting.

  7. Arbusto says:

    Comments from many of our august Congress on FISA and Patriot act re-authorization indicates a continued abdication of Constitutional norms and due diligence. We’re long past the slippery slope when a cowardly Congress wishes to imbue Law Enforcement and Spy agencies with more, mostly unsupervised power of search and seizure.

  8. chetnolian says:

    It’s good to shine a light in dark places Marcy,so keep it up, but I do wish you wouldn’t imply that someone buying acetone in bulk (or weedkiller and sugar come to that)for no discernable reason is not a matter which ought properly to concern the FBI.

    Trying to stop them targetting people who are not bad people should not mean we pretend that there are not in fact some bad people out there.

    • emptywheel says:

      I do wish you wouldn’t imply that someone buying acetone in bulk

      Can you please explain to me how one purchase of an “acetone product” is bulk? One gallon of hydrogen peroxide product and an 8-oz bottle of acetone? Because that’s what they’re tracking 2 of Zazi’s associates based on.

      You see this is not bulk. This is stuff that a lot of innocent Americans do all the time. For “no discernible reason.” But in this country, we don’t demand that people explain why they’re buying nail polish remover when we don’t otherwise suspect them.

      You’re the one implying something–you’re implying that this wouldn’t sweep up millions of innocent Americans into the FBI’s surveillance databases. And that is–at least legally–plainly false.

      Also, I am not pretending “there are not in fact some bad people out there.” In fact I have repeatedly asked whether there is a better approach (such as instituting a system akin to that protecting Crystal Meth precursors) to both capture those buying this stuff and at least making innocent Americans aware that their otherwise normal purchases will be tracked. But thanks for the straw man.

      • mocha says:

        Because I think you can make a fairly destructive triacetone-triperoxide bomb with an 8 oz bottle of acetone and a half gallon of peroxide. Remember the bomb and its detonator all fits in a backpack, and you saw what that did in London. But you could be buying that amount to take polish off your nails and bleach the sidewalk the birds left leavings all over after eating berries off the berry tree. So somehow they are going to have to figure out how to discern who might be buying this stuff for a bad reason without sweeping up all of us. If they thunk it through, I bet they’d figure it out. Drag netting everything and keeping what you want is easy ( I say Chicken sh!t, requires no law enforcement skill required.) That’s why fishermen like to cast a big net. Cuz it’s easy.

        • bmaz says:

          Let’s be honest here; if you have a middle eastern sounding name, best hire someone to clean your house and paint your cars.

          • mocha says:

            You know, it’s what will happen and it’s just not right. Casting the net only over people with a certain name is CS too. It bugs me that they run all our credit card purchases through their sifter looking for combinations. They should have to show cause. Heck, it bugs me that my Kroger data mines what I buy with their purchase card and targets me for coupons and specials. I guess I should switch to cash and no specials card.

        • robspierre says:

          Nonsense. It isn’t magic. It’s chemistry. To get a decent yield you need plenty of materials. TATP is powerful, but you still need a fair amount of it to do damage to more thah your back pack.

          • mocha says:

            The payload plus the detonator have to fit in the backpack. I don’t know what you mean by yield. It is my understanding in this reaction, the liquid chemicals are mixed, the result is a liquid. If you mixed everything under proper conditions you get more tri-mer than di-mer. There isn’t a separation,extraction, precipitation or drying process to net a yield. How much tri-mer you get in your solution depends on how well you control the temperature. Richard Reid had 8 ounces in his shoe.

            • robspierre says:

              My understanding is that you make TATP with excess acetone, which keeps you from being blown up. Then you carefully dry it to concentrate the explosive polymers and remove the inert acetone solvent. The TATP is not a liquid, but a crystalline substance.

              You keep coming back to the backpack, from which I conclude that you expect the volume occupied by the explosive to be roughly similar to the volume of the ingredients. It won’t be.

              For one thing, the acid is a catalyst, not an ingredient. When all is done, you will still have the amount of acid you started with left in the bowl.

              Some of the ingredients–the peroxide and the acetone–will be used up. But not all of them, and the volume of those that react will not necessarilly be proportional to the starting volumes. In the presence of the catalyst, the peroxide and the acetone undergoe a chemical reaction and become a completely new chemical substance, TATP, with its own density and other properties.

              As with any chemical reaction, “yield” means the ratio between the amount of product that the reaction makes and the amount of ingredients that you had to use. It is never one-to-one. If you are good at your chemistry and use high-quality ingredients, you can get more from a given amount of material. But you still only get so much. I’ve never tried it, but I doubt that you could get enough to do anything with a little bottle of peroxide and a bottle of nail-polish remover, even if the impurities in the latter weren’t a problem.

              I am not an experienced mad bomber, but, to do real damage in a relatively open space like a public place or even a subway car, you are talking a pound or two I should think. That might be the size of a pound or two of butter or flour–it would easily fit in a back pack. But the ingredients needed to make that charge would NOT fit in a backpack. To yield a pound of explosive, you’d need a LOT of peroxide, acetone, and acid–probably bathtubs-full. If you use only 5-15% peroxide, you won’t be able to get a useful reaction, either. You’ll need 30% or better. Some say this can be achieved by carefully boiling hundreds of little bottles of peroxide together, but I am skeptical. Moreover, you need a fair bit of infrastrucutre to support your bomb factory. You need to be able to keep these large volumes of liquid surrounded by ice. You need to be able to supply and surreptitiously dispose of large amounts of waste material–highly corrosive acid and the excess acetone. If, by the way, the acid comes in contact with bleach–in a drain or laundry tub–you will be sickened or killed by phosgene gas.

              So a quart bottle of drugstore peroxide or nail polish remover will not get you far and doing it in outside of a properly arranged lab–in a house or hotel room–would be very risky.

              The detonator is not a problem and need not takeup anhy room in the backpack at all. A detonator is a sensitive explosive that sets off the main charge, like a blasting cap or Primacord. With TATP, the charge IS the detonator. It is so sensitive that punching the backpack (or tripping on a step) can set it off.

              As you point out, the shoe bomb was small. This was a special case. The bomber was on a pressurized plane, so he only needed enough explosive to punch a modest hole in the fuselage. After that, decompression and structural loads would tear the plane apart. The Lockerbie plane was destroyed by few ounces of military Semtex detonated in contact with the outer fuselage. But making the shoe bomber’s little charge probably took more than a little amount of ingredients.

        • ondelette says:

          The London bombers didn’t use off the beauty parlor shelf hydrogen peroxide. You need to get the good stuff by pretending to be a quack medicine cancer paranoiac and buying it on the internet. BTW, there’s a third precursor, did it show up? Were they buying car batteries or something, too?

          • mocha says:

            I think Zazi had muriatic acid when arrested. Whether they had info on him purchasing it, I don’t know. I had read the bomb makers were starting to use other acids besides sulfuric because of the fumes/ odor generated. Still, just everyday household chemicals with perfectly normal uses. I don’t recall reading he had detonator materials, or if that information was released. I think they found a number of small backpacks either in Denver or New York.

            • Mason says:

              There has been some discussion that 215 would let FBI get medical records, too.

              Sounds like another basis to exclude coverage for a preexisting condition that cannot be challenged because it’ll be a state secret.

            • ondelette says:

              Naw, the whole thing was a scandal in its own right. Some quack doctor started pushing the idea, on the internet, that drinking concentrated hydrogen peroxide would prevent colon cancer. So all of a sudden, there were people selling concentrated hydrogen peroxide on the internet. Which made it harder to trace, since people were buying it for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention that the CDC had to put up big announcements about how bad concentrated hydrogen peroxide is for you when you drink it, etc., etc.

              But the point is, the bombers in London were using chemicals that are traced because they aren’t the run of the mill, off the shelf versions, they’re industrial strength. And the process requires titrating with an acid (usually sulfuric) which is also not really much of a beauty product. And it’s somewhat tricky, and needs to be kept cold, and all that.

              What I was trying to ask mocha, was whether there were serious indications of something out of the ordinary. Buying a gallon of peroxide is a bit strange, but if it’s just ordinary strength wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary. Nail polish remover has thousands of uses, I’ve used it as glue before. And I went through a large amount of peroxide one time because I cut my finger and needed it to clean on a daily basis. But battery acid isn’t something that’s around everybody’s medicine cabinet.

              As for the agent of a foreign power stuff, they changed all that around when they changed the FISA, so it doesn’t require being related to a foreign state anymore. And they changed being a terrorist, and the definition of WMD, and the definition of an MCI, and a lot of other things.

              As for medical records, they aren’t as private as people think. The law everybody cites, HIPAA, protects insured people from their insurance companies, and from their employers if the employers buy the insurance. It doesn’t cover the medicine I do, whatsoever (I’m bound by a stricter set of regulations it just so happens).

          • robspierre says:

            To be clear, there were two sets of London bombers.

            I have read that the first set were led by a degree chemist and used lab-grade peroxide and acid with hexamine (camping stove tablets). They killed a bunch of people.

            The second set killed nobody and ended up covered in wet flour or being rescued from a burning car. The thing was a complete farce. They thought that wetting flour with drugstore peroxide would give them an explosive and that a can of gasoline and a propane bottle would level a hospital.

            The latter case has been conflated with the former–both in th press and in the legal system–so often that I have to suspect this is deliberate disinformation. We are being told that nincompoops armed with foodstuffs and cosmetics are as dangerous as trained professionals equipped with industrial chemicals, when that is clearly not the case.

            We need to dust off the old chemistry books and be knowledgeable about threats. Nincompoops are easy to trap, as we have often seen of late, but trapping them does nothing for our security. Worse, the measures needed to trap and punish nincompoops–measures like this TIA thing–erode our liberties and make the arbitrary exercise of police power an ever greater threat.

            If we fall for this gag yet again, one day soon, we’ll wake up and find Agents of the State at the foot of our own beds. Then who will be the nincompoop?

      • JLML says:

        Americans love to buy in bulk. That’s the premise of Sam’s Club. What I don’t understand is why buy incriminating nail polish remover in Denver for an act of terrorism in New York.

        • mocha says:

          To practice making your triacetone triperoxide in a less terrorist-conscious venue. You probably want to make some go boom to make sure you got the recipe right. Harder time doing that in Queens. And he can experiment and still go to his job in Denver every day.

    • robspierre says:

      Buying acetone is hardly a good criterion. It is a very, very commonly used material. I certainly don’t buy it everyday nowadays. But then, I’m now a writer and computer programmer. I probably bought at least a couple of gallons back in my days as a handiman. There are lots of handimen, painters, and autopainters in this country.

      If the FBI spends its time tracking the purchase of innocent materials, it will thus do nothing else. It will also catch very few criminals/terrorists.

      Which is the scary part. Historically, the FBI has resorted to provocation and entrapment when it has found itself unable to meet political demands for results. Already, unconnected bits of information and the general hysteria are being used to justify shortcuts that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. When you know, just KNOW, that a guy is wrong and you are under pressure, helping to do now what he is going to do eventually is obviously OK, isn’t it?

      Of course it isn’t.

      We need to remember that having chemicals is not a crime. Hating America is not either. It only becomes a crime at the moment that the chemicals get used to make a bomb. Any number of things can keep that from every happening, even if a person really wants to do it–conscience, a sick kid, a wedding. So this idea of “preventing” crimes is nonsense. You cannot predict the future–unless you manufacture it. Given the kinds of powers that we are giving law enforcement and intelligence agencies and given the current absence of meaningful oversight, such manufacturing is almost inevitable.

      Several recent terrorist cases look an awful lot like manufactured conspiracies. In fact, almost all of them do. The 9/11 hijackers were all single, male, Saudi nationals or residents who entered this country specifically for the 9/11 operation and worked on nothing else. All were heavily subsidized, apparently by Saudi officials or private persons close to the Saudi Government. But now, the supposed conspirators are all bus drivers and small business owners, either US nationals or emigrants to this country. They have families and very little money. While the 9/11 plot was cafrefully planned and executed, these plots are all outlandish or inept. To me, this does not indicate that the Forces of Order have achieved a previously unheard of level of brilliance–it indicates bumbling of a whole new order, if not outright dishonesty.

  9. chetnolian says:

    I do understand what you say. I said I did. All I was trying to point out, and I still think, is that there is a need for nuance. I am sure you know that, but I hope you can see why I was concerned. Actually the problem is that you do not in fact need all that much so I was wrong to refer to bulk. That’s also why I mentioned weedkiller and sugar, for long the Provisional IRA explosive of choice till they got access to better stuff.

    • emptywheel says:

      Right, so your approach was to claim I hadn’t included any nuance and instead use inaccurate parallels to claim you were.

      Yes, this is a difficult problem. I acknowledge that. But using this case–where you CAN make a case for hunting down those with ties to Zazi who have been buying TATP precursors, but where you ALSO would sweep up huge numbers of innocent people–is a better case than pretending it is bulk or as limited (to a degree) as using huge amounts of fertilizer.

      I don’t know what the answer is. But the answer is not to eliminate the Fourth Amendment in legislative secrecy.

      • powwow says:

        I don’t know what the answer is. But the answer is not to eliminate the Fourth Amendment in legislative secrecy.

        Damn straight.

        In that vein, as an FYI aside, probably having nothing to do with the spying authorities under discussion, I noted an interesting amendment that Russ Feingold has offered on the Senate’s FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill (which I think may be voted on Tuesday):

        SA 2589. Mr. FEINGOLD submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 3326, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

        On page 245, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following:

        Sec. 8104. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or any other Act may be used for the program described on page two of Annex II to the Classified Annex to S. 1494 (111th Congress, agreed to in the Senate on September 16, 2009) prior to the date that the staff of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate is provided access to such program, as described in such Classified Annex.

        [S. 1494 is the Senate’s FY 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act.]

        And here’s a step in the right direction, that’s long overdue; good for Feingold:

        SA 2604. Mr. FEINGOLD submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 3326, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

        On page 245, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following:

        Sec. 8104. (a) In collaboration with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State shall develop a plan for replacing private security contractors with United States Government personnel within one year after the date of the enactment of this Act at United States missions in war zones where the United States Armed Forces are engaged in combat operations.

        (b) Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit the plan developed under subsection (a) to the congressional defense committees and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.

  10. flyarm616 says:

    Ya Know as a lifelong Democrat I am so sickened by all of the crap that is going on with the Democratic Majority and a Democrat in the White House.I see myself having a darn hard time going to vote any more..or working to elect any Democrat. I feel so sick about this..I fought hard and did public speaking to dems and other groups about Poindexter and his very dangerous Total Information Awareness program..and Darpa’s role in it.

    The possibility of this creating a Totalitarian state is real, and is a terrible threat to Civil Liberties and privacy.

    Why, I ask myself, did I donate so much money and so much of my time and efforts to elect Dems..only to see them abuse the the Consitution and even expand the abuse , worse than the Bush regime.

    Rarely a day goes by anymore that I am not filled with total disgust. It doesn’t matter what the subject, national security lies or lies about the Healthcare reform..which is really Health Insurance Corporation welfare. I can barely stand to look anymore at all of the abuses that are being now propagated by Democrats.

    None of them will ever get another dime from me..but they don’t need to ,because they are getting their coffers filled by the same corrupt Corporate whore mongers that the republicans got their $$$ from!

    I am so fed up, and honestly furious.

    • skdadl says:

      I think this is a serious problem. Some of us really are tipping in the direction of being so fed up with the boys (and girls — DiFi) who have been crying wolf over what turn out, again and again, to be absurdly inflated cases or even criminal injustices committed by the state that certain expressions — “national security,” “damage to international relations” — just automatically make us think that we’re looking at yet another scam.

      I haven’t spent a gazillionth of the time worrying about actual national security that I have worrying about the survival of civil liberties in my wee little country and in yours, and I think I have more reason for my worries than my comic-opera national-security people do for theirs.

      On two scores — competence and principle — our political elites are failing us badly, very badly, and anyone who is paying attention can see it.

      • flyarm616 says:

        National Security has been a great worry for me, as I was a flight crew in NY for one of the airlines involved on 9/11, in fact I was Flight Attendant of the year for the NY base for my Airline in 2001 ( and am now retired) , but I also worry about Civil Liberties and privacy, there must be a balance and I believe it can be done within the parameters of our constitution. But I no longer believe in either Party uholding our constitutinal rights, nor our civil liberties.And that disgusts me.

  11. Loo Hoo. says:

    I’m finishing up the gallon bottle of acetone I purchased ten years ago because it’s about 20 times less expensive to buy it in bulk. Do I dare buy another? Guess I’ll pay cash.

    • emptywheel says:

      They’ll get you on the video surveillance camera in any case. It’s not just business records, remember, it’s also a “tangible thing” like film.

    • PJEvans says:

      Not much of a problem: the couple of airlines that will still be flying in the US will be too expensive for us to use.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Always pay cash, until they make it illegal or until those little metal filaments in bills are able to track a bill’s progress. Otherwise, you’re just feeding the database, which isn’t “one” but an industry of them.

    In effect, it’s rather like that fiery maw on Star Trek that led to William Windom/Commodore Decker’s, demise. Instead of calling it the Planet Killer, we could call it the Privacy and Citizen’s Rights Killer. Pritzker for short.

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah, I buy certain books with cash now. I don’t order them on line, I don’t check them out of the library, I buy them in cash and I pray there’s no video.

      Pity I can’t even buy political dissent literature without feeling like a criminal.

      And I guess when it comes time to refinish either furniture or my hardwood floors, instead of any chemical stripper I’ll either buy one helluva lot of sandpaper or I’ll contract it out to a company which specializes in stripping and let them worry about the feds monitoring their work supplies.

    • robspierre says:

      Or, paradoxically, have name that is common enough to get you on the no-fly list. At that point, there are so many of “you” in plain sight and so many wildly inaccurate synthetic “yous” in the datamining output that you effectively disappear. And once a database your record gets crossed with someone else’s, they are never getting sorted out again–the aggregators will have already propagated and sold the error so wildly that the folks correcting the first database (if there are any) will already be buying and adding the “new” data when they start.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The data collection and analysis industry is a virus that will emaciate or mutate its host. It hides unseen, but propagates freely, owing to constant feeding by the secret black Congressional appropriations process, the mother’s milk of all stealth weapons.

    TIA copies the digital world and assumes that what it finds is genuine. Its accuracy filters, if any, may be so porous that any number of factual pathogens slip through unimpeded. The correct and inaccurate would mix, like facts and fancy in the babble of the tortured, into a kind of indigestible information soup. Even if the soup were accurate and edible, any freshman class instructor might observe that facts are not “meaning”.

    Like Pandora’s Box and J. Edgar Hoover’s dirt files, TIA creates an irresistible urge to open or use it. The first thing that’s lost is respect for citizens’ daily lives. Once that’s lost, everything else is easy.

  14. WTFOver says:

    How could librarian Peter Chase ever forget. In 2005, Mr. Chase, the director of the Plainville, Conn., public library and then-vice president of a consortium of 26 Connecticut libraries, received an FBI demand for library patron records via a National Security Letter authorized under the Patriot Act. The FBI also imposed a gag order prohibiting him from speaking to anyone about the demand – including Congress, when the Patriot Act was up for reauthorization in 2005.

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/ne…..1278.story

    Now, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Chase has finally won the legal battle and has torn the Bush administration’s tape from his mouth. So he’s speaking out, and this is what he has to say: “The government was telling Congress that it didn’t use the Patriot Act against libraries and that no one’s rights had been violated. I felt that I just could not be part of this fraud being foisted on our nation.”

  15. Mary says:

    I dislike the rhetoric DiFI is using at least as much as the content of her Executive Branch hand offs.

    I also believe that we continue to face the very real threat of international terrorism. There are people who would hurt us grievously if they have an opportunity to do so, so again, I think it’s vital that we not take any action, especially at this time that would hinder the government’s ability to detect, investigate, and prosecute those who are intent on killing innocent Americans

    Um, I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.
    Or not.

    This approach that crops up over and over, that wide-eyeds like DiFi pipe up, as if making some brand new discovery that no one else understands, to say that there are Bad People who will do Bad Things – and so if you are against any absurd, draconian, policy, it’s just bc you don’t understand that bad people do bad things and if you understood that, you’d understand that it is “the answer” to why all the inance and indecent policies have to be enacted.

    “I also believe” taht some men commit rape – so would that be a justificiation for just locking all of them away at puberty? Some women abuse their children – so do we give hysterectomies to all girls at puberty? Or equip a total surveillance room where we imprison every woman with a child to fully monitor every action and interaction. After all, if you just understood that there are “bad women” out there who abuse children, then of course you’d understand why we “have to” have the surveillance rooms that we keep mothers imprisoned in, right?

    It makes me nuts.

    Guess what – the Constitution was established with provision that “would hinder the government’s ability to detect, investigate, and prosecute” And what is DiFi’s response? Well, the founders must have just not figured out that there were bad peopl out there who are intent on doing bad things to “innocent Americans.”

    And on the innoncence front, someone who voted for the mass killings and destructions in Iraq and who has been nothing but supportive of and unapologetic for the treatment of thousands and thousands of people confined in concentrated population camps and GITMO – well, let’s just say innocent isn’t the first word that comes to mind to describe DiFi.

    But let’s say it is. What does she think is appropriate for other countries to do to protect, “innocent Iraqis” or “innocent Afghans” or whatever from people who would do bad things to them – like bomb their civilians or kidnap and disappear them into torture? Or does she maybe think that SOFAs should be respected, even though “some people” do, indeed, do bad things to Iraqis and Afghans?

    When has there EVER been a time when there were NOT bad people ready to do bad things?

    • flyarm616 says:

      Thank You Mary, You are 100% correct when you say this:
      “But let’s say it is. What does she think is appropriate for other countries to do to protect, “innocent Iraqis” or “innocent Afghans” or whatever from people who would do bad things to them – like bomb their civilians or kidnap and disappear them into torture? Or does she maybe think that SOFAs should be respected, even though “some people” do, indeed, do bad things to Iraqis and Afghans?

      When has there EVER been a time when there were NOT bad people ready to do bad things?”

      I have such serious problems with DIFi and her husband and their confict of interests!

    • JimWhite says:

      Um, I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.
      Or not.

      Heh. The sermon title at our hippie church this morning was “I believe in bean burritos”.

      I keep going back and re-reading DiFi’s quote. The “also” part is maddening; it makes me think that this is being applied to more than just international terrorism. Many have mentioned the war on (some) drugs with respect to the wiretapping, but is that the only other front, if there is one on the database analysis?

      • bmaz says:

        No. Remember when I asked Tom Ridge if he supported a War On Gangs the equivalent of the War On Terror? It was not a joke question, there has been precisely such an effort gearing up for years. Extremely analogous with the War On Drugs effort to join together local, state and federal authorities and assets into permanent task forces, databases and enforcement programs. The only reason it is not recognized as much by the general public is that it rarely bleeds over into the upper middle class and affluent locations and segments of society like the drug effort did.

        The problem is, when you have ever larger segments of local law enforcement working hand in hand with the Feds and their databases, capabilities and tactics – and then throw in the national security elements – you have too many opportunities for it to cross pollinate. Regular street cops say hey “Hey, my buddy Frank who is assigned to the task force can pull up some surveillance information on this guy I am looking at for a string of thefts”. And Frank does it. That is a healthy part of the problem with collecting up too much information, on too many people and keeping it forever. Once you start these types of expansion of police powers, they NEVER get reeled back in completely, and rarely curtailed at all. We are headed the wrong direction on civil liberties and privacy at light speed.

    • Leen says:

      such good points.

      but don’t bring up the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people who are dead, injured and millions displaced because of our invasion. Folks do not want to think about that and either does our media.

      Iran is not concerned about what we have done right next door to them

    • bobschacht says:

      I agree with Mary. An ongoing investigation is not more important than protecting and defending the Constitution. What is so holy about an ongoing investigation, especially if some aspects of it are illegal and unConstitutional?

      Bob in AZ

      • fatster says:

        Probably what’s “holy” is whatever it is that they are trying to cover up. And they ain’t telling, either.

  16. Loo Hoo. says:

    Police chiefs endorse iWatch:

    A store clerk’s curiosity about why Najibullah Zazi was buying large quantities of beauty supply products indicated that something about the transaction wasn’t quite right — and it’s an example of the kind of citizen vigilance that can combat terror, a police commander said Saturday.

    Los Angeles police Cmdr. Joan McNamara cited this summer’s incident as police chiefs meeting in Denver adopted a model for a nationwide community watch program that teaches people what behavior is truly suspicious and encourages them to report it to police.

  17. Mary says:

    teaches people what behavior is truly suspicious

    Having your office issue statements that you are hiking the Appalchian trail?

    Standing in front of a crowd and saying with resolute emphasis, “We do not torture”

    Passing legislation granting immunity from violations of other legislation, then saying what we need is other legislation so that we can have oversight over the now immunized?

    Issuing legislation that allows for unbounded and unfettered government search and seizure of information on thousands and thousand and thousand of innocent Amercians, because a Congressional task force decided that there are “bad people” and the Constitution isn’t operative when there are “bad people” because things like probable cause unduly “hinder” all the “authorized investigations” into innocent Americans who have done nothing wrong?

    That sounds pretty suspicious to me. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could report it to the police.

    • bmaz says:

      Making such a report to the police would be suspicious. Just talking about the subject is suspicious. Thinking about suspicion is, in and of itself, suspicious.

      Yer on the list!

  18. behindthefall says:

    I was in Home Depot today, looking for a thinner. A shelf full of acetone there in the painting supplies section, and a shiver went down my back: buy one of those cans, and you’ll wind up in someone’s (uselessly inclusive) database. Is turpentine a component of some explosive? Sure hope not.

    • klynn says:

      You are in bad luck if you are doing some Fall painting and doing a seasonal treatment of your lawn.

      • joanneleon says:

        Well let’s see what’s on our list for October:
        – finish repainting the exterior trim cause it can’t go another winter
        – repaint the fence enclosure for the garbage bins
        – lime, fertilize (hopefully organic isn’t a problem) and reseed the lawn with grass that requires less water

        And my S.O. is a retired research chemist, now consultant.

        And I color my own hair and do my own nails.

        And I use peroxide for cleaning sometimes, and rinsing (but not the concentrated kind).

        Maybe I should just turn myself in.

  19. joanneleon says:

    All this sophisticated stuff that we’ve paid billions (more?) for, tracking what people buy, read, who they talk to, where their car goes and maybe more.

    Yet, it’s been eight years since 9/11 and nobody’s got any clue where this bin Laden guy is — even though he sends us audio messages and videos before every election. Plus, you’d think the Dems would want to find out who really sent them that anthrax. But no news on that either.

    And geez, there’s a critical investigation going on, the most important one since 9/11 and nobody has even helped us prepare for it by calling for duct tape and plastic sheeting.

    I thought TIA was deemed illegal. So now that the FBI has the biggest chunk of this system crafted by cooperating intelligence agencies, we’re supposed to feel more comfortable than if it was the NSA?

    There is so much absurdity in all of this. The executive branch have become the masters of the universe, and market manipulation is only one small part of it now!

    The thing that bothers me the most is that Whitehouse is going along with DiFi. I wish Feingold would find a way to blow a whistle if he’s really on to something. I appreciate his work but it’s getting a little tiring to have this one man standing for the fourth amendment but he can never seem to stop the abuses. Is he part of the theater troupe too?

    Does anyone ever get to ask some simple questions of these senators, like: “Are you going to dismantle these programs you railed about for eight years or not?”

    I keep thinking about that statement GHWB made about if the people knew half the things we did…

    Lastly, I have years of experience with data bases and data is never perfect. There are always problems with data. And trying to track things in great volume and detail gets very crazy. And this data is just going to keep growing and growing. It’s going to change over the years and older data bases have to be retrofitted. And this will lead to mistakes. And those mistakes will lead to innocent people getting swept up. And I haven’t even started about software and the inherent and perennial problems with custom software, systems integration, etc.

  20. tbsa says:

    Why would anything they are doing interfere with the “investigation”? Is the investigation illegal?

  21. Rayne says:

    Damn, I can’t find it — one of the other things we need to keep in mind while looking at DiFi’s answers is that there was a special op which took out an alleged terrorist within days before this Zazi case breaking through media here.

    What was it about the op and the target which might have caused DiFi to be more of a weenie her usual weenieness?

  22. Stephen says:

    Next it will be domestic rendition to protect us from the “bad” people, or is that already happening to some degree?

    • Rayne says:

      Not the ones I was thinking of.

      There were a considerable number killings in Pakistan in early Sept. which were characterized as “extra-judicial”, and at least one target along with team members taken out in Somalia on Sep. 14. Believe Zazi was taken into custody on Sep. 16.

      But on Sep. 14, the FBI conducted raids in Queens; the reporting related to those raids indicated that Zazi had actually been taken into custody once already on Sep. 13 and released; he then traveled to CO and was taken into custody again, this time to be charged and not merely questioned.

      Agree with Cannon there’s been something going on, but he and I saw different things unfolding. Suspect the target date for a cluster of events was the end of Ramadan, but who knows…

      [edit: and now that I’ve finished this comment, I see you’ve noted the NY component of the Zazi story in your next post.]

  23. sporkovat says:

    Democrats … have become fond of the Total Information Awareness program they rejected when Bush advocated it. The two major differences are the Democrats are establishing this program under the FBI–in spite of FBI’s known abuses of such authorities. And unlike Bush, Democrats are keeping this massive data mining program totally secret from the citizens whose information it uses.

    why, it is almost as if:

    The electoral ratchet permits movement only in the rightward direction. The Republican role is fairly clear; the Republicans apply the torque that rotates the thing rightward.
    The Democrats’ role is a little less obvious. The Democrats are the pawl. They don’t resist the rightward movement — they let it happen — but whenever the rightward force slackens momentarily, for whatever reason, the Democrats click into place and keep the machine from rotating back to the left.

    and what do Progressives do as this machine performs its function? they emit a squeaking noise, but routinely and reliably continue to vote (D), no matter what!

    except, the squeaky part does not even get any grease, because Democratic politicians know it will not break off and impair the function of the machine in any serious way, so the squeaks can be ignored.

    if anyone ever does get to ask a (D) politician, off the record, over some musky single malt scotch:

    “Are you going to dismantle these programs you railed about for eight years or not?”

    they might get a blunt candid answer “No. What are you going to do about it, vote 3rd Party? Vote Republican?”

    all their betrayals are consequence free – they may not even see them as betrayals, because they know nobody should believe the campaign rhetoric they spew in even numbered years.

  24. hackworth1 says:

    The liberal blogosphere should set a day/date for everyone to buy a gallon or two of acetone. Maybe some of the civil liberties types would join in. National Buy acetone day. What other uses doe it have besides nail polish removal? It cleans glue/goop from formica or floors. Cleans bugs off your windshield. Be careful. It can damage delicate finishes. Test it first.

  25. KellyCDenver says:

    What will be next is that WATER will be found to be a suspect material. Water is actually one of most fabulous and weird chemicals on earth.

    At that point everybody who has anything to do with water will be a suspect.

    /snark – or is that snark? I just don’t know anymore.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is another case of the Democrats adopting the GOP meme of divide and conquer. In this case, the aim is to cow the electorate into being afraid of their shadows, and to normalize Gubmint intrusion deeper and deeper into our daily lives. For legislatures, like Sonny Corleone, it’s never personal, it’s always business. In DiFi’s case, she’s probably overreacting to both legitimate national security concerns and the odd constituent whose e-mail makes abundantly clear s/he is disgusted with her tenure as Carlyfornia’s senior senator.

    The reward is no longer the traditional standard of the number of violent crimes solved. The Holy Grail is to prevent them. Someone should screen the last third of Minority Report for the Senate. I don’t think it has the ending DiFi imagines.

  27. Mason says:

    TIA is the equivalent of a sheet the size of a football field all covered up with randomly scattered dots. A bunch of feds suffering from terrorists-on-the-brain syndrome, which cognocenti like DiFi refer to as TOBS, crawl around on their blistered knees pulling little red wagons behind them packed with hundreds of thousands of magic markers of assorted colors. Suddenly, one will stop and frantically begin connecting dots forming a chaotic pattern capable of provoking an AHA moment only in their gnarly peewee brains.

    Meanwhile, DiFi dreams of undetected and shamelessly naked Al Quaida monsters with swords clenched between their teeth swimming across the Atlantic and when they get here and swim up the Potomac, as surely they will, they’re going to sneak into her home and slit her throat as she sleeps.

    Seriously, these people are so freakin nuts they believe their own BS and sooner or later we’re going to have to do something to neutralize them or they’re going to kill us.

    • Hmmm says:

      Might be that the FBI agents on their blistered knees looking at all the Magic Marker dots and seeing illusory Nirvanas in their fevered little heads are actually artificial intelligences… …virtually seeing illusory Nirvanas in their fevered little virtual heads.

      I’m guessing that didn’t help you feel any better about it all, am I right?

    • robspierre says:

      Brilliant description! The only thing is, they don’t have to blister their knees any more. The beauty of computerized datamining is that you can generate nonsense by the petabyte in minutes, without ruining your suit.

  28. Hmmm says:

    …the government’s ability to detect, investigate, and prosecute those who are intent on killing innocent Americans.

    There’s that pre-crime meme again.

    Also, per [email protected], here’s a queer thing in the defeated Leahy language:

    (A) a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other things sought–

    ‘(i) are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; and

    ‘(ii)(I) pertain to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;

    ‘(II) are relevant to the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or

    ‘(III) pertain to an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power;

    Notice the difference between (ii)(II) and (ii)(III) — in II the suspected agent has to be a subject, whereas in III it can be anyone in contact with or even just known to anyone even suspected of being an agent of a foreign power, even if the suspected agent isn’t the subject of such authorized investigation. Does that seem just the teeniest bit broad and prone to abuse to anyone? Why would the usually mostly scrupulous Leahy want to take it there?

  29. Mason says:

    Meanwhile California is broke, state employees are being paid with IOUs, and the public schools have all but ceased to function as DiFi worries herself to death with paranoid fantasies about terrorists blowing us up with nail polish.

  30. pdaly says:

    DiFi:

    There are people who would hurt us grievously if they have an opportunity to do so, so again, I think it’s vital that we not take any action, especially at this time that would hinder the government’s ability to detect, investigate, and prosecute those who are intent on killing innocent Americans.

    [my bold]

    Why does she add the modifier innocent? Doesn’t DiFi imply therefore that guilty Americans deserve to be killed? Isn’t ‘innocent’ redundant when referring to us Americans? /snark

  31. flyarm616 says:

    I think we should start a campaign and have everyone we know ..Call DiFi’s office every time you buy nail polish remover , or acetone, or any chemicals for that matter..lets overwhelm her office.. with our own info, and be sure to tell her phone receptionists why you bought the stuff..do a direct calling thing..

    I bought accetone to get bird crap off my sidewalk..as per state and county laws.

    I bought nail polish today..my nails were pretty crappy.

    I bought bleach to clean the dog scrap off my driveway.( or whatever)

    I bought fertilizer for my lawn…the lawn is looking sad.

    I bought blah blah blah….you get the drift..

    Tell her office you want to make their databasing easier..and want to by pass the Total Information Awareness program by calling directly to report on yourself!

    Just imagine if they got thousands upon thousands of these calls?????????

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