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
JimWhiteGNV @emptywheel Wouldn't it be interesting if it turns out the ship has US arms headed to Yemen?
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Good thing Iran seized a cargo ship today rather than next week when US will have made it terrorism. Remarkable timing.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @thegrugq This surely undercuts his cred w/Congress. If you're not sucking NSA's teat you must be a nobody. @mattblaze
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @thegrugq @mattblaze is the same guy who yesterday didn't know he could bill millions if he said "cyber" in NoVa.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel BC O's embrace of "surveillance reform" is actually even MORE limited than his embrace of drone reform, but people are less skeptical.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Now that folks are discovering what was clear 2 years ago: drone "reform" limited, maybe they can be skeptical abt Obama surveil "reform"?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @OKnox That is the argument, yes. And yet the US is the one pushing the most bilats, no?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @OKnox Sure. But does that mean WTO are not rules that were already written (largely by US)?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @astepanovich @KevinBankston was somehow arguing JDs are better at footnotes than PhDs which seems odd to this PhD @mattblaze @kehldanielle
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @OKnox Don't we already have WTO? Did someone wipe away all those rules?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
August 2014
S M T W T F S
« Jul   Sep »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31