How Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Put CIA and FBI in NSA’s Databases

I said yesterday that the plan, going as far back as 2002, was to let CIA and FBI tap right into NSA’s data. I base that on this explanation from Keith Alexander, which he included in his declaration accompanying the End to End Report that was submitted sometime after October 30, 2009.

By the fall of 2002, the Intelligence Community had grown increasingly concerned about the potential for further attacks on the United States. For example, during 10 to 24 September 2002, the Government raised the homeland security threat condition to “orange,” indicating a high likelihood of attack. In this context, in October 2002 the Directors of NSA, CIA, and FBI established an Inter-Agency Review Group to examine information sharing [redacted] The group’s top recommendation was that NSA create a common target knowledge database to allow joint research and information exchanges [redacted].

Of course, we now know that the threat level was high in September 2002 because the government was chasing down a bunch of false leads from Abu Zubaydah’s torture.

Abu Zubaida’s revelations triggered a series of alerts and sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms. The interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the man Abu Zubaida identified as heading an effort to explode a radiological “dirty bomb” in an American city. Padilla was held in a naval brig for 3 1/2 years on the allegation but was never charged in any such plot. Every other lead ultimately dissolved into smoke and shadow, according to high-ranking former U.S. officials with access to classified reports.

“We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms,” one former intelligence official said.

In other words, the justification for creating a database where CIA and FBI could directly access much of NSA’s data was a mirage, one created by CIA’s own torture.

All that’s separate from the question of whether CIA and FBI should have access directly to NSA’s data. Perhaps it makes us more responsive. Perhaps it perpetuates this process of chasing ghosts. That’s a debate we should have based on actual results, not the tortured false confessions of a decade past.

But it’s a testament to two things: the way in which torture created the illusion of danger, and the degree to which torture — and threat claims based on it — have secretly served as the basis the Executive uses to demand the FISA Court permit it to extend the dragnet.

Even the current CIA Director has admitted this to be true — though without explicitly laying out the import of it. Isn’t it time we start acknowledging this — and reassessing the civil liberties damage done because of it — rather than keeping it hidden under redactions?

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

3 Responses to How Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Put CIA and FBI in NSA’s Databases

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz RT @Will_Bunch: Pop quiz: Eric Frein killed a cop. Mike Brown was killed by a cop. Which was one was called "an animal" by a newspaper colu…
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @michaelbkiefer Why did Alexander's family get to stay, Rule 39?
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @citizenfour @benwizner I would love to decide. When will you let me see it in Phoenix?
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Roger Goodell and NFL once again try to screw players: "NFL seeks to dismiss former players' painkillers lawsuit" http://t.co/fZzstcjZ1n
5hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @HearingTrees Halloween costume. Ends on Saturday.
5hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pwnallthethings My privacy rights arise from the bureaucratic insurance they will be protected. Laws do that. @PatrickCToomey
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @PhilPerspective @walterwkatz Also, I was disappointed @NBCSN did not have any programming from #COTA in Austin today.
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @PhilPerspective @walterwkatz @NBCSN Nope, but if it is Road to Ferrari, I have seen it.
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz In private papers a more candid Tim Geithner speaks out http://t.co/nNn7RjDkGK Tim Geithner is a liar+fundamentally dishonest public servant
5hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @rahulsagar: NYTimes: Former Navy SEAL Team Member Investigated for Bin Laden Disclosures http://t.co/3JABCASiBu
6hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @ppppolls: We'll have a new #VAsen poll out tomorrow showing Mark Warner with a 9 point lead heading into the final weekend
6hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @PatrickCToomey If you're a Yemeni-American extremist cleric, you may enjoy your own life at his grace. @pwnallthethings
6hreplyretweetfavorite
August 2014
S M T W T F S
« Jul   Sep »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31