Dianne Feinstein’s Pre-UndieBomb Thinking

A whole bunch of people have pilloried Dianne Feinstein’s defense of the phone dragnet and related programs.

But one bizarre argument I haven’t seen challenged is the underlying logic of this passage.

The U.S. must remain vigilant against terrorist attacks against the homeland. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered the world’s most capable and dangerous terrorist organization, is determined to attack the United States. As we have seen since the “underwear bomber” attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, AQAP has developed nonmetallic bombs that can elude airport screeners, and the organization’s expert bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, remains at large.

Asiri is believed to be behind the October 2010 plot to place bombs disguised as printer cartridges onto cargo planes headed for the U.S. He is also a suspect in the May 2012 suicide-bomber plot against an airliner headed for the U.S. that was foiled when U.S. authorities obtained the planned explosive device through good intelligence work.

Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that in the case of the AQAP threat this summer, there were a number of phone numbers or emails “that emerged from our collection overseas that pointed to the United States.” Fortunately, the NSA call-records program was used to check those leads and determined that there was no domestic aspect to the plotting. [my emphasis]

So here’s the logic.

UndieBomb 1.0 proves AQAP wants to attack the US.

UndieBomb 2.0 is further proof of that, although DiFi doesn’t mention that it was a US-Saudi-Brit sting, meaning the intent came from us.

As part of the Legion of Doom investigation, NSA found phone numbers tied to the US that have, on investigation, proved to be unrelated to the actual alleged plot.

It’s that same theory that 36,000 innocent people must be investigated every time a terrorist plots something to keep us “safe.”

But let’s take a step back. UndieBomb 1.0 … UndieBomb 1.0 …

Yes.

I remember now.

UndieBomb 1.0 was the guy who was allegedly plotting out Jihad with Anwar al-Awlaki — whose communications the FBI had two guys reading — over things like chats and calls. That is, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a guy whose plot the NSA and FBI should have thwarted before he got on a plane. (To say nothing of the CIA and NCTC’s fuck-ups.)

And yet, he got on that plane. His own incompetence and the quick work of passengers prevented that explosion, while a number of needles went unnoticed in the NSA’s most closely watched haystacks.

Nevertheless, the lesson DiFi takes is that we need more haystacks.

Shouldn’t the lessons of UndieBomb 1.0 be just as important to this debate as the partial, distorted, lessons of 9/11?

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 Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, 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 in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
  1. greengiant says:

    More similarities between the Boston bombers and undiebomber 1.0, the unexplained helpers and no passport control.

    From Wiki….Passengers Kurt and Lori Haskell told the Detroit News that prior to boarding the plane they witnessed a “smartly dressed man” possibly of Indian descent, around 50 years old, and who spoke “in an American accent similar to my own” helping a passenger they identified as Abdulmutallab onto the plane without a passport, apparently posed as a Sudanese refugee

  2. P J Evans says:

    I wonder how many of the ‘plots’ since 9/11 have been run by NSA et al, rather than the people they arrested and charged.

  3. Arbusto says:

    Seems the intel community and our elected officials still think more haystacks to examine with more subroutines and more analysts and storing data ’til hell freezes over will 1)cover their collectives asses after the next attack, 2) make us safer if not as free, damn the Constitution, and 3) that political infighting and ineptitude in passing intel to the Administration that might mishandle, use it for political gain or ignore it, wont happen on their watch. Brilliant.

  4. Frank33 says:

    Most of Undie #1 has been put into forbidden history. The Dots were not connected except they were. The testimony of Patrick Kennedy has seemed to have been forgotten. Undie #1 was let onboard by an unnaned government agency. And Haskell says Abdulmutallab was video recorded during this conspiracy theatre.

    the organization’s expert bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, remains at large

    If only we had a trusted double agent who could fool the advanced Al Qaeda counter intelligence. Then Al Qaeda could plot another Undie Bomb attack and Undie #2 would call in Delta Force and catch the notorious underwear terrorist Al-Asiri. But the spymasters missed again by that much. Would you believe THAT MUCH! The Intelligence Community’s Underwear plots are getting old.

    If the Obama Administration was negotiating with AP to take credit for the Undie #2 False Flag Operation, then perhaps Syrian Sarin attacks were also cooked up by NSA.

  5. Frank33 says:

    @John Ellis:
    Hardly mud. Feinstein is getting her “karma” as the kids call it. Feinstein has turned into another senile, wealthy plutocrat who has profited from neverending wars. Feinstein is a disgrace and a joke as are most of our elected representatives, selected by the new world order.

    EW does not sling mud. That is the job of Total Information Awareness.

  6. Renny77 says:

    Please listen to the interview with Kurt Haskell who was on the plane to Detroit with the Underwear bomber. He says: “…it’s not easy when you’re at 20,000 feet, and your plane is on fire, and people are screaming for their lives, and you have to do an emergency landing… let me tell you, it’s not easy… And what happened since is even worse: finding out that your own government did it to you on purpose.”
    http://themindrenewed.com/interviews/2013/240-int-21

  7. Frank33 says:

    Liar, Liar pants on fire. I am talking to you General Alexander. What else are these psycho Military Dictators lying about? Answer, wars, torture, bags of cash, domestic and world-wide repression, and their many false flag ops.

    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Wednesday during a hearing on the continued oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that the administration was pushing incomplete or inaccurate statements about the bulk collection of phone records from communications providers.

    “For example, we’ve heard over and over again that 54 terrorist plots have been thwarted by the use of (this program),” Leahy said. “That’s plainly wrong,” adding: “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all thwarted.”

    Alexander admitted that only 13 of the 54 cases were connected to the United States. He also told the committee that only one or two suspected plots were identified as a result of bulk phone record collection.

  8. What Constitution? says:

    I don’t pay to read WSJ online, so I had to wait to see the unopened copy in an office lobby to read DiFi’s musings about how effective and efficient our NSA data-sleuthing is when one considers the Enormity Of The Scary Terra Threat.

    Oh. If we had more phone taps pre-9/11, our government might have known enough to stop 9/11. Gee, it seems to me if the FBI actually read and shared information like voluntary reports from flight schools about foreigners enrolling to learn how to “fly, but not how to land” airliners; or if the President of the United States would react some other way than “OK, you’ve covered your ass” when presented with a memo describing Al Qaida being determined to strike US with planes, then we might have had a pretty good shot at avoiding the 9/11 attacks. And if you told me we would have that information — but for $52 billion a year we could also develop a capacity to track every phone call in or out of the US and maybe learn something else — well, I probably would have thought that to be an unjustified expense and would have suggested we instead count on our government to act upon the actual intelligence it already had collected. But that’s just me, I’m not a Senator on the Intelligence Committee married to a defense contractor.

    And then there’s the Scary Terraist Bomb-Doer. From the Most Scary Terra Group — AQAP, which didn’t exist on 9/11. He’s the guy whose greatest actually effective bomb plot resulted in — wait for it — the death of his own brother (only) when he wired his own brother up to detonate himself near a “target” (who escaped). Damn, these guys are gooood, and DiFi would spend $52 Billion a year to maybe intercept one of his phone calls. Another bargain at any price, certainly $52 Billion a year to confirm what was otherwise known about a guy who was stopped by fellow passengers when he tried to light his underwear on a plane seems like a prudent expenditure, too.

    DiFi really ought to be ashamed of herself. Terrorism is a bad thing. Pathetic distortions in blind worship of a totalitarian state isn’t necessarily a rational response.

  9. Eileen K. says:

    DiFi and all the rest of those clowns in both the Senate and the House ought to immediately pack their bags and go home, for every one of them are hereby FIRED.

    Next, arrest and prosecution for the majority of these scumbags.

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