Are Guardian’s Sources Responding to a New Use of Surveillance, Post-Boston?
Update: The Guardian source, Edward Snowden, has revealed himself. Stunning.
Little mentioned as we talk about the massive amounts of spying Obama’s Administration undertakes is this passage from the President’s recent speech on counterterrorism.
That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent abuse. [my emphasis]
As massive as the surveillance collection currently is, Obama recently called to expand it.
Most people have assumed that’s a reference to FBI’s persistent call for CALEA II, newly proposed to be a law imposing fines on companies that don’t comply with “wiretap” orders.
The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, has argued that the bureau’s ability to carry out court-approved eavesdropping on suspects is “going dark” as communications technology evolves, and since 2010 has pushed for a legal mandate requiring companies like Facebook and Google to build into their instant-messaging and other such systems a capacity to comply with wiretap orders. That proposal, however, bogged down amid concerns by other agencies, like the Commerce Department, about quashing Silicon Valley innovation.
While the F.B.I.’s original proposal would have required Internet communications services to each build in a wiretapping capacity, the revised one, which must now be reviewed by the White House, focuses on fining companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. The difference, officials say, means that start-ups with a small number of users would have fewer worries about wiretapping issues unless the companies became popular enough to come to the Justice Department’s attention.
That is certainly at least part of what Obama’s seeking (though the ill-considered plan presents as many security issues as it does privacy ones).
But I note that Mike Rogers said this on ABC this morning.
And so each one of these programs — and I think the Zazi case is so important, because that’s one you can specifically show that this was the key piece that allowed us to stop a bombing in the New York Subway system.
But these programs, that authorized by the court by the way, only focused on non-United States persons overseas, that gets lost in this debate, are pieces of the puzzle. And you have to have all of the pieces of the puzzle to try to put it together. That’s what we found went wrong in 9/11.
And we didn’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle, we found out subsequently, to the Boston bombings, either. And so had we had more pieces of the puzzle you can stop these things before they happen. [my emphasis]
Mike Rogers asserted, with no evidence given, that had we had more information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, we might have been able to prevent the Boston attack.
Rogers has, in the past, suggested that if we had gotten the texts between Tsarnaev’s mother and a relative in Russia discussing Tamerlan’s interest in fighting jihad. But it’s not clear that anything prevented us from collecting the relative’s communications, and if the discussion of fighting is as obvious as reporting claims (I suspect it is not), there would have been adequate probable cause to ID the mother.
In fact, one of the Guardian’s other scoops makes it clear that we don’t collect all that much SIGINT from Russia in the first place, so the fact we missed the text may say more about our intelligence focus than the technologies available to us.
Nevertheless, Rogers at least suggests that we might have been able to prevent the attack had we had more data.
In part of an interview with Andrea Mitchell that has not yet (AFAIK) been shown, James Clapper whined that the intelligence community was accused of not being intrusive enough following the Boston attack.
DNI Clapper @TodayShow: I find it a little ironic that after the Boston bombings we were accused of not being intrusive enough
Which makes me wonder whether Obama is calling for more than just CALEA II, but has floated using all this data in new ways because two guys were able to conduct a very low-tech attack together.
Glenn Greenwald said somewhere (I haven’t been able to find it) that he had been working on the PRISM story for around 2 months. If so, that would put it close to the Boston attack (though if it were two full months, it’d make it before the attack).
Given that timing, I’m wondering if the final straw that motivated this presumably high level NSA person to start leaking was a proposed new use of all this data hoovered up. Clapper et al insist that the FISA Court does not currently allow the NSA to data mine the data collected in its dragnet.
But have then been thinking about changing that?
How do we know the leak isn’t planned, a limited hang out, to get the appearance of a debate going that can then be manipulated to create space for CALEA II or similar to pass?
Or is this too paranoid?
Actually, that is a LIE. You, Clapper and your storm trooper friends could not be more intrusive. You Clapper, were actually accused of another False Flag Op. Since, Graham Fuller, mastermind of Iran-Contra, was also running False Flag Ops all over the world. And Fuller and Ruslan and Misha are co-conspirators. And then Todashev…and so it goes.
I am not willing to accept at face value any evidence or assurances that come directly from those involved in or excusing (feinstein, rogers, et al) electronic spying on americans.
for starters, what reliable info do we have that nsa evesdropping directly impacted the zazi effort to bomb the nyc subway?
How did the info on zazi become available?
was the nsa’s “every u.s. man, woman, and child” collection program directly involved in revealing the plot?
Who collected that data that was used to prevent the bombing?
Was nsa directly involved?
I can’t believe that only nsa collects phone/e-mail on foreigners.
What if the debate shifted focus to what the government in fact DOES with the data it collects? Specifically, what if such data were — by statute explicitly saying so — inadmissible in the prosecution of any person entitled to the protections of the Constitution? If nothing else, the response by the national security apparatus to the proposition would definitively establish whether it was operating in good faith about the data collection’s true intention.
@GKJames: Problem is much can be had without resort to the criminal justice system. See, e.g., Petraus affair. Blackmail, by definition, operates outside the law.
@GKJames: Somehow I don’t think the government is all that concerned about whether something is “admissible in evidence at a trial” any more. And since it’s now argued to be OK for an American citizen to be executed without that little nicety formerly known as “due process”, it’s pretty clear that “admissible in evidence at a trial” has its limits as a standard restricting government action against citizens. Aye, there’s the rub. Perhaps it kind of points back in the direction of not letting the government just take all the information in the first place, I would say.
Wikipedia provides this info on how zazi was intercepted by the fbi and nyc police:
“… Return to U.S. 
On January 15, 2009, Zazi returned to the U.S. Within days of his return, he moved to Aurora, Colorado, to live with his aunt and uncle. He worked as a driver for a company named “Big Sky”, and then for ABC Airport Shuttle, driving a 15-person airport shuttle van between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver. Zazi filed for bankruptcy in New York State on March 26, 2009, with $51,000 in debts, and his bankruptcy was discharged on August 17, 2009.
He lived with his aunt and uncle until July 2009, when his uncle kicked him out for not paying rent. His parents moved to Aurora from New York, and the three took a residence together.
Beginning around June 2009, he accessed his bomb-making notes, and began researching where to find ingredients for the explosives. He also conducted several internet searches for hydrochloric acid. He then used his bomb-making notes to construct an explosive for the detonators. The explosive was acetone peroxide. He took trips to New York, meeting with others to discuss the plan, the attack’s timing, and where to make the explosives.
Over the course of several months, the FBI listened to Zazi’s phone conversations. In August 2009, the FBI overheard him speaking about mixing chemical substances. It learned that in July and August 2009 he and his three associates were buying large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone products from beauty supply stores around Denver, Colorado. Security videos from a beauty shop showed Zazi pushing a cart full of hydrogen peroxide…”
how was the nsa (and specifically it’s usa hoover program) involved in this matter, if at all?
What would/could “only metadata” have contributed?
So, if an attack (even if imaginary or set up by the FBI) does not succeed, then that’s evidence that the system needs the tools that it is already using. But if an attack does succeed (even if we had what we needed in order to stop it), then that’s evidence that they need more tools. Cool.
Let me try this for myself:
“Honey, if you like the new moves that I’ve been trying during sweaty snugglebunnies, then you must forgive my affairs. But if you don’t like said new moves, then you need to let me have more affairs to learn something fun.”
Yeah, that’ll work.
Gets me thinking. This president is pretty well known for codifying existing illegal or unconstitutional activities, no? A Nixon goes to China president, only a D pres. could get certain things done type of thing. Instead of discontinuing Bush/Cheney practices, he’s the fixer president who retroactively makes them legal.
So we know that all of this has been happening since Bush/Cheney. The fixer/Nixon goes to China president now has the job of passing some laws to make it legal (but not necessarily constitutional).
And/or: Is is possible that the govt. got wind of the fact that there was an NSA whistleblower and Obama decided to try to preempt all these leaks with that passage from the Orwell speech, breaking the news gently to the country that all of our communications will be hoovered up (even though that’s already been happening). Only a D president could get laws passed that would allow such a thing. If an R president did it the left would rise up.
Or, as you suggest, there are new things that they want to do. I’ve seen it mentioned that they can only search the Big Brother Data Base (BBDB) if there is a 51% chance that US persons won’t get scooped up. I might have the details wrong on that, but another possibility is that they want to get rid of that 51% constraint.
Well, there’s your answer. The whistleblower comes forward: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance
We are going to need a bigger boat, to fit all the whistleblowers. And to get away from the NSA goons. Will Edward Snowden be sent to the Gulag, or tried in a civilian kangaroo court or a military kangaroo court. And we will need more crowd sourced reporters. The embedded reporters are worthless.
Yo’ve captured the jist of it.
I thinks it’s good, for the overall debate, to have a human face for the leaker.
The Guardian arrangement of the series of leaks was very well done, for impact.
That guy is either extremely brave or incredibly stupid.
If Obama wanted a debate I think this opens it up for sure. If they go after this guy they’re going to look real, real bad.
Feinstein and Rogers made it pretty clear this morning they want scalps. Their attitude seems to be comparable to lynching first, prosecution later.
Via Digby, there is this. General James Clapper lied about Irak and Syria and Weapons of Mass Destruction, in order to continue an illegal war. He falsified “Intelligence”. He is guilty of treason as well as being a serial liar. Another corrupt General profits from treason.
Watched the 12 minute video interview/statement of Mr. Snowden, as linked in The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald site. No Yossarian jokes for me. This is massively important.
Could Sixty Minutes run this, in its entirety, tonight? Then let’s have a debate in this country.
@Ben Franklin: Feinstein and Rogers aren’t running the country.
Tell me how Obama and his DOJ goes after this guy? So far not a single Wall Street thief of the kind that wrecked the world economy has been held responsible. Not a single one of the Bushies who lied the country to war has been held responsible. They’ve prosecuted a couple flunkies in Iraq but not a single member of the brass has been responsible for various war crimes. Now they’re going to go after a guy who proved to all the world that the US government has been lying to its own citizens? If the Democrats let Obama get away with that they’re putting themselves in a hole for years and years to come. Yea, there might be a few who want scalps just as there will be Republicans who want scalps but this is so far reaching that it is unimaginable to me that the public is just going to sit silently by as we are all recorded every day of our lives. As we learn more this is going to get bigger and bigger.
@orionATL: What prevents Australia mining even the content of 100% internal US, UK and Canadian internet traffic? Or any permuntation of these countries, and others? Certainly no law prevents the US from sluicing out the internal internet traffic from any other country.
And once that happens, what prevents say again Australia from sharing its product with the NSA? What internal law of ANY of the countries sluicing other countries’ internal email traffic stops any of them from sharing with ANY other country, including the one that was sluiced?
“I’m wondering if the final straw that motivated this presumably high level NSA person to start leaking . . .?”
Snowden felt sorry for how we got a Swiss banker drunk and took advantage of him. Might we call him a “gentleman”?
“He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.” — http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance?commentpage=3
@mspbwatch: You are not paranoid about this matter.
@What Constitution?: Agreed, but in terms of the debate, it should be more than the American standard, which is two sides ceaselessly asserting their positions. Clapper says he needs the data. He also says that this isn’t about spying on, or using the data against, Americans. For the sake of argument, let’s accept this at face value. If that’s in fact the case, he should have zero objection to a statute that renders inadmissible data that he “unwittingly” (not “voyeuristically” … etched in memory, I’m afraid) harvested. If he does object, it becomes reasonable for the public to conclude that the government has gone too far. (Of course, the most vehement objection is likely to come from salivating US Attorneys looking to use the data — in the same fashion they’ve used the Patriot Act more generally — to target garden-variety criminals with weapon never intended for them. Throw “terror” at a jury and conviction’s guaranteed, which is the ultimate objective for prosecutors aiming for higher political office.)
The goofy part about the entire drama is that, even with the staggering volume of information being collected, our policies around the world continue to be those of the idiotic, the venal and the blind. It’s the addiction to self-inflicted head wounds which is at the core of the rot. The NSA is merely a symptom.
I just don’t know why Snowden didn’t choose Iceland. There’s already a lot of talk about a possible
rope-a-dope with Chinese hackers.
How could they do it? Aaron Scwartz could tell you if he was alive.
There was an insightful Tweet to the effect that it was the architecture of the system that concerned Snowden. And in the interview, Snowden emphasized that given the right information, the President was subject to the same scrutiny through the system. Snowden also emphasized that he had seen more frequent abuses. Now that might mean NSA exceeding its authority, the authority they have exceeding the Constitution, or individual analysts abusing the system for non-authorized searches. The impression one gets is of a system that is J. Edgar Hoover’s private files writ large. And potentially subject to use to blackmail Congress, the President, or the courts.
Now for my tinfoil hat thought: BAH is Carlyle Group, at one time associated with Poppy Bush. Clapper is a former BAH exec. No doubt that fact affected the letting of the contract in some way. If Clapper is forced to resign because of BAH’s failure of security, who benefits? Just thinking out loud. And way over the edge.
You sure about that? What about crying wolf?
Tim De Christopher was interviewed on Bill Moyers a couple weeks ago. He’s the one who in an act of conscience bid on the parcels in Utah that Bush put up for drilling lease, illegally, in the waning days of his presidency. De Christopher bid and won and thus stopped parcels that should never be developed from being sold off. But Obama prosecuted him. De Christopher refused to plea bargain, insisted on a jury trial. But the jury was prohibited from hearing absolutely essential elements and defenses, and they convicted him. So, your point is made. Except. On Moyers, De Christopher talked about the crucial moment in the trial, when it was discovered that potential jurors had been leafleted by FIJA:
Later De Christopher tells Moyers that he’s enrolling at divinity school because that’s where he thinks he can do the most good. And Moyers asks, not law school, with his interest in juries and the law?
People are waking up I think. People are turning and looking at the man behind the curtain. And he’s got nothing. And he’s a monster. But in their people hands they have not just power, but ability and wisdom and potential to do good. Look at Snowden, act of conscience. People are everywhere in the machine. The machine is occupied.
@Ben Franklin: I thought it was funny that he fled to China for protection from US retribution for freedom of speech. That’s saying it plain.
You can pretty much bet on unauthorized searches being done. It’s a problem for hospitals and law-enforcement agencies now, and I really doubt that intelligence agencies are that much different.
@Ben Franklin: “lynching first, prosecution later” – made me think of Mary and the Ox-Bow Incident post of hers. Went back and looked. She wrote it in response to an op-ed by Jack Goldsmith called “A way past the terrorist detention gridlock.” She thought his advice (“he does pretty much advocate that if trials are hard, you just do something else – preferably something that bars any judicial review”) was “awesome[ly bad]” and offered suggestions of her own, and though her list of dysfunctions then is necessarily shorter than she would use today, I think her diagnosis and remedy are still fine:
None of which America does anymore.
@orionATL: They definitely were. There was a FISA tap on him, even roving.
And it may well have been through PRISM. It just didn’t have to be, legally. So they’re justifying PRISM by saying, “we’ve thrown out all the other ways we used to access this stuff, and since this is what’s left and we used it we’ll claim credit.”
I had the impression that the zazi catch was being used in a studiedly obfuscating way (by feinstein and rogers) to justify collecting data (allegedly metadata) from all u.s. residents.
Fisa is required for u.s. citizens only i thought.
Zazi is a u.s. naturalized citizen.
But who did the evesdropping?
Nsa can’t work in the u.s. by law (ha!).
Fbi requests provide illegal (in my opinion) cover for the nsa to operate within the u.s.
But did the nsa actually do the zazi wiretapping (at fbi request or otherwise)? Or did the fbi do its own wiretapping?
Regardless, what has any of this got to do with u.s. persons metadata collection that is at the heart of whatever popular outrage there is at the national security state’s latest powermove?
As an aside, i will suggest that, for the fbi or cia, fu-king up is excellent for business.
In fact, the fbi and cia may have a business model that says: “let’s fail to stop this act of terrorism, e.g., boston, and then demand yet more power on the grounds that our failure was due to our not having enough surveillance power, rather than institutional incompetence.
@orionATL: “But who did the evesdropping? Nsa can’t work in the u.s. by law (ha!).”
Marcy was interviewed (twice) last week on Scott Horton’s radio show:
“But did the nsa actually do the zazi wiretapping (at fbi request or otherwise)? Or did the fbi do its own wiretapping?”
Snowden worked for Booz Allen. The FISA court order was for Verizon. No federal fingerprints, and of course no oversight.
@thatvisionthing: Mary embedded a youtube from Ox-Bow Incident at the end of her post. It’s the part where Henry Fonda reads aloud to the lynchers the lynched man’s last letter to his wife. It’s called the conscience monologue:
All this crap is done in our name, as if it were for us, as if we agreed to it and want it and authorize it. But we never did and never can because we can’t see it or know it. And it will never be constitutional if it can’t be tested in open court and decided on by jurors each one of whom knows they’re there to use their conscience, because that’s where conscience is in the Constitution, not in obedience to unquestionable authority or remote control. Snowden and Manning risked everything to bring some truth to us. I wonder if Feinstein and Obama and all the rest of that mob will know shame now?
Matt Taibbi had something to say about Bradley Manning, but I think it’s true beyond that:
Tx very much.
Superb, thought-provoking comments, thatvisionthing, thank you.
I do, sincerely, wonder what attorneys, especially those here present, and others in the legal profession think (and might dare say) when regarding the judicial behavior which DeChristopher describes as you relate @ 25?
When the conscience of individuals, jurors OR human beings, where ever they might find (or discover) themselves, is officially dispensed with, is subjected to the fear of “official” consequence and reprisal when utilized, then “justice”, “truth”, and “meaning” are simply what the tyranny of the day demands and requires that they be … what they are dictated to “be”.
ANY claim to principle or legitimate “function” (protecting the “security” of a people who are not permitted to act or perceive from conscience, for example) by such clearly unrestrained and brutal tyranny as we, all of us, now face, by a “power” which considers itself to be above and beyond any law, is absurd … and one must ask what of merit or genuine value remains in permitting such power to continue to exist?
Acquiescence under such circumstances is NOT a survival tactic, it is cowardice and self-embraced diminution … especially so if one does one’s “duty”, whatever the result and cost to reason or humanity, and then goes off and “lives” comfortably … and, despite what many may be led to “believe”, such behavior (however “patriotic”) does NOT relieve anyone of responsibility for what is agreed to be done, and the larger “reckoning” (something “good” people every where and every when believe that THEY, personally, will escape) to be exacted for the harm and destruction which following orders, regardless of conscience and humanity, ALWAYS brings about … and which will, ultimately and inevitably, be followed by real, and merciless, consequence.
Ah, well …
Thank you again, tvt.