Michael Leiter Went Skiing … And All We Got Were Vast Expansions of Data-Sharing and No T-Shirt

In its short summary of the new NCTC data sharing guidelines, Lawfare said this:

The White House has passed new ”Guidelines for Access, Retention, Use, and Dissemination. . . of Information in Datasets Containing Non-Terrorism Information.” Read the new guidelines here. The Times tells us that the National Counterterrorism Center can now ”retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism” for 5 years, instead of the previous 6 months. You can thank Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for that. The Wall Street Journal and the Post also have the story. [my emphasis]

Actually, no.

I guess you can’t blame Michael Leiter for going skiing right after the UndieBomber attack. But when the report on the 14 failures that led us to miss the attack was released, it was pretty clear the National Counterterrorism Center–Leiter’s unit–deserved most of the blame.

Leiter wasn’t fired. He served over a year longer.

We didn’t do the most basic thing we could have done in response to the UndieBomber attack–hold those who failed accountable.

Instead, we’re now rolling back Americans’ privacy yet again, because those in charge would prefer to trade citizens’ civil liberties for actual accountability for failure.

It’s easy for folks like Lawfare to blame all this on the terrorist and none of it on the people who failed to defend against terrorism. And ultimately, that means the rest of us pay because Michael Leither chose to ski instead of ensuring we found terrorists.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    the curse of harvard law school strikes the nation yet again!

    michael leiter is another harvard law school grad – mcl no less:

    “… He then earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2000 and was the 113th President of the Harvard Law Review.[7] Leiter also served as a Harvard Law School human rights fellow with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague…” – wikipedia

    look at the demented, bright-eyed, shit-eating grin in the accompanying photo, and tell me that this 40-yr old should have control over any aspect of american governmental policy:


    read the entire miss wiki article. what a fabulous resume; what a skilled climber.

    when will this nation’s governmental elite stop appointing to positions of power competent test takers who are otherwise functionally incompetent?

    well, not any time soon, as long as many of the entrenched appointment-makers are themselves competent test takers who are otherwise functionally incompetent.

  2. person1597 says:

    Are there no functionally competent members of government left?

    Expect not. Want not. Although, a Feingold or two would help put things in perspective. I miss the constitutional freedoms we once had.

    Thanks Dick. Hope your new heart is up to snuff. Were pullin’ for ya just the same. LIFE’S JUST TOO GOOD TO MISS, BRO!

  3. jerryy says:

    They have to keep the info that long because they are trying to figure out which plots are actually being carried out by their own agents, it seems to be too hard for them to keep track of who is who; such as the Fast and Furious suspects were actually FBI agents:


    After al the chumming and trolling (a fishing term) these administration whizzes have done, the best they have come up with is a small gang of folks that would have serious problems starting a campfire if you gave them a stack of gasoline soaked logs, a flaming torch and instructions saying ‘put torch on logs’.

    Who are these info keepers wanting to sell the info to?

  4. pdaly says:

    We can’t we just outsource the job of connecting the dots to the Chinese?

    They’ve probably already worked out the kinks to the unlinked databases, anyway.

  5. karenjj2 says:

    thanks for the precise summary, ew.
    i appreciate the comments, too.

    my tho’t when reading the nyt article was: just what we need –add more hay to the stack!

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