One of my favorite ironies from the Greg Miller story on the Mullah Omar death — which doesn’t really try to explain why we’re just learning about a death that all sides likely knew about years ago — is that Mullah Omar, not Osama bin Laden, got hospitalized with kidney problems.
Omar was said to be afflicted with illnesses ranging from kidney failure to meningitis.
But I’m most interested in the timing of our confrontation of Pakistan that they were harboring in the kidney ward: early 2011, or around the same time we were planning our raid on Osama bin Laden (according to some accounts, with the involvement of top Pakistani officials).
In early 2011, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta confronted the president of Pakistan with a disturbing piece of intelligence. The spy agency had learned that Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader who had become one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was being treated at a hospital in southern Pakistan.
The American spy chief even identified the facility — the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi — and said the CIA had “some raw intelligence on this” that would soon be shared with its Pakistani counterpart, according to diplomatic files that summarize the exchange.
I just find it odd that, given the Raymond Davis confrontation and our plans — covert or not — to take out Osama bin Laden, we also had this confrontation.
My guess is one day we’ll learn that all these confrontations were of a piece, and that we’ve long known who was and wasn’t alive (including Ayman al-Zawahiri), but that the powers that be had reason to pretend these people weren’t corpses yet.
Until such time as the next terrorist narrative starts and you have to end the previous one.
Heck. This story might even be coming out as the counter-Osama bin Laden narratives did: to pressure the US about the corrupt deals they’ve long been living under.
DOJ’s Inspector General just released a report on how well FBI’s cybersecurity initiative has been going. In general, it finds that the FBI has improved its ability to investigate cyberattacks.
But among the most significant challenges facing the FBI is in two-way information sharing with the private sector.
You might think that the Cyber Information Sharing Act — which after all, aims to increase information sharing between the private sector and those in government who will investigate it — would help that.
On one count it would: private sector entities interviewed by the IG were reluctant to cooperate with the FBI because of FOIA concerns.
During our interviews with private sector individuals, we found that private sector entities are reluctant to share information, such as PII or sensitive or proprietary information, with the government because of concerns about how that information could be used or the possibility that it could be publicly released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).26 One private sector professional told us that he had declined to be interviewed by the OIG due to FOIA concerns.
CISA would include a blanket exception from FOIA — which is not necessarily a good thing, but should placate those who have these concerns.
But other private sector entities expressed concerns about the multiple uses to which shared data would be put. They cited Snowden disclosures showing data might be used for other purposes.
In addition, several private sector individuals discussed with us the challenges in collaborating with the FBI in a “post-Snowden” era. One private sector individual emphasized that Snowden has redefined how the private sector shares information with the United States government. We were told by private industry representatives and the FBI that, following the Snowden disclosures, private sector entities have become more reluctant to share information with the United States government because they are uncertain as to how the information they provide will be used and are concerned about balancing national security and individual privacy interests.
The recent reports on the use of cyber signatures for upstream Section 702 collection show that the NSA and FBI might be able to use signatures to search all traffic (though I suspect FISC has put more limitations on this practice than is currently known).
Just as troubling, however, are the broad permissions under CISA to use the data turned over under the law for prosecutions on a range of crimes. Right now, ECPA has provided tech companies — at least the ones that pushed back on NSLs demanding Internet data — a way to protect their customers from fishing expeditions. CISA is voluntary (though I can imagine many ways pressure would be brought to participate), but it does undermine that system of protections for customers.
When commenting on this, Jim Comey apparently added in proprietary information among the concerns of providers, along with the explicitly described “guard[ing] customer data.
The FBI Director has acknowledged private sector concerns related to proprietary information and the need to guard customer data and stated the FBI will do what it can to protect private sector privacy.27
Given NSA’s voracious use of any information it gets its hands on, and the broad permissions for information sharing in the bill, the protections for trade secrets may not be enough for the private sector, since it’s now clear the government, not just competitors, is exploiting trade secrets.
The IG ends this section urging the FBI to provide “appropriate assurances” about its handing of Personally Identifiable Information.
More generally, efforts to detect, prevent, and mitigate threats are hampered because neither the public nor private sector can see the whole picture.
The FBI Director further explained government lacks visibility into the many private networks maintained by companies in the United States, and the FBI “has information it cannot always share [with the private sector].” Consequently, each can see distinct types of cyber threats, but the information is not always visible to the other. We believe that the FBI should strengthen its outreach efforts to provide appropriate assurances regarding its handling of PII and proprietary information received from the private sector and work to reduce classification, where appropriate, of information in its possession in order to improve sharing and collaboration in both directions consistent with appropriate privacy and other limitations.
It is just my opinion, but I suspect CISA, as written, would further exacerbate concerns.
Finally, Inspector General Michael Horowitz’ statement releasing this report includes something not developed in the report itself, perhaps because it is a more recent concern: security of data shared with the federal government.
And, the FBI continues to face challenges relating to information sharing with private sector entities, in part because of concerns in the private sector about privacy and the security of sensitive information it shares with the government.
I’d be very interested in whether this stems just from trade secret concerns or from the concern that several of the agencies that would automatically get data shared with the government have their own cybersecurity challenges.
Jason Leopold had an important update on the torture report that — because he’s doing rolling updates — hasn’t gotten sufficient attention.
Leopold obtained the contracting documents of the company, Centra, that drove up costs for the report by reviewing every document turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee. But after he posted those documents, the CIA’s story about how much Centra got paid for those specific tasks changed. After 7 months of public claims that the then-unnamed contractor had gotten paid $40 million, the CIA all of a sudden changed its mind.
CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani disputed VICE News’ “interpretation” of the Centra contract.
“A significant portion of the contract cost pertained to services completely distinct from, and wholly unrelated to, the Senate Intelligence Committee review,” Trapani said, backtracking on the agency’s statement last year that the $40 million the agency spent was due entirely to “the committee’s demands of CIA in this investigation.” “In terms of the services performed in support of the committee review, CIA dedicated substantial resources to provide the committee unprecedented access to millions of pages of documents as expeditiously as possible, consistent with the security requirements for such highly classified, sensitive documents.”
That’s troubling because it runs counter to what everyone on SSCI believed, including then Chair Dianne Feinstein, who has been rebutting claims that the committee itself spent the money ever since it became public last year.
The overwhelming majority of the $40 million cost was incurred by the CIA and was caused by the CIA’s own unprecedented demands to keep documents away from the committee. Rather than provide documents for the committee to review in its own secure Senate office—as is standard practice—the CIA insisted on establishing a separate leased facility and a “stand-alone” computer network for committee use.
Which raises the question of where the claim that the entirety of that $40 million was spent on the torture report came from — which Leopold notes in an update came from this footnote in the Republican views on the report (and by association, a 2012 letter from CIA’s then number 3, Sue Bromley).
Not only was Bromley CIA’s number 3 when she wrote the letter, but in the years in question, she cycled through as Deputy Director of the Counterterrorism Center.
V. Sue Bromley, an Agency veteran of 28 years, will become our new Associate Deputy Director. Sue has served as our Chief Financial Officer since June 2009. As a former OMB director, I can attest to her exceptional skill and diligence in managing one of the most complex budgets in government.
Before that, Sue helped lead our analytic effort for two years as Deputy Director for Intelligence. She has made vital contributions to the fight against al-Qa’ida and its violent allies, both as Deputy Director of the Counterterrorism Center and as Chief of the Operations and Management Staff in the National Clandestine Service, where she helped plan, justify, and distribute a large increase in funding for counterterrorism operations after the September 11th attacks.
Now, it’s possible that the Republicans just took her letter out of context and no one on the Democratic side checked their math. There are a lot of references in the minority report (heh) that don’t make sense.
But Bromley is a money gal. She shouldn’t be making mistakes about contracts, and certainly not to the scale that appears to have happened — all in such a way as to serve the pro-torture narrative which in turn serves to protect … the counterterrorism center.
At least according to the story the CIA is currently telling, everyone on the CIA’s oversight committee grossly misunderstood a $40 million expenditure.
Trevor Aaronson has an important piece on one of DOJ’s several “terrorism experts,” Evan Kohlmann. He has long been mocked, to no avail, by defense attorneys working terrorism cases for his lack of credentials and his hack theories about “radicalization;” Aaronson replays some of Kohlmann’s most embarrassing moments on the stand. Even in spite of that, judges keep accepting him as an expert witness. But Aaronson describes how Josh Dratel obtained discovery about another role Kohlmann plays with the FBI.
While representing at trial Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, of the Finsbury Park Mosque in London, New York lawyer Joshua Dratel, who has security clearances, was given classified materials about Kohlmann, a witness in the Mustafa prosecution. “It was the integrity of a prosecutor who learned of [the materials] some way,” Dratel said, crediting a single Justice Department employee for providing a rare full disclosure about Kohlmann.
Dratel has reviewed the classified materials in full, but he is prohibited from discussing their contents publicly. “It’s hard to talk about it without talkingabout it,” he said.
However, the judge in the Mustafa case allowed very limited references to the contents of the classified materials during Dratel’s cross-examination of Kohlmann — providing a clue to what the government is hiding about its star terrorism expert.
“You have done more than consulting for the FBI, correct?” Dratel asked Kohlmann.
“Correct,” Kohlmann said from the witness stand.
“You have done more than act as an expert for the government, correct?” Dratel followed.
“That’s correct, yes,” Kohlmann admitted.
That’s as far as the judge would allow.
Dratel asked Kohlmann whether he had told Tarek Mehanna prosecutors (Carmen Ortiz’ office) of his “precise” relationship with the FBI, but the judge prevented Dratel from obtaining a specific answer.
“In that case, in preparing for that case, or at any time during that case, did you inform the prosecutors in that case of your precise relationship with the FBI?” Dratel continued.
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘precise,’ but the prosecutors in that case I had worked with on a previous case, and they were fully aware of the nature of my work with the FBI,” Kohlmann answered.
“No, the precise nature of your relationship with the FBI,” Dratel said, speaking cryptically due to the classified material and the limits the judge had placed on his questions.
“Objection, your Honor,” the prosecutor interrupted.
“Did you inform them?” Dratel asked Kohlmann
Aaronson doesn’t guess, but I would guess that Kohlmann gets paid by the FBI to troll jihadist forums and identify potential sting targets.
A lot of counterterrorism cases include some evidence about online discussions (sometimes in forums, sometimes on more public sites), which gets turned over as an “unsolicited tip” to FBI officers, who then engage, and — on seemingly thin evidence — obtain a FISA warrant, which then leads to further evidence to support the sting. The judge in the case may never learn the details of this unsolicited tip, particularly if she is never asked to review a FISA warrant.
Defense attorneys never learn the details of those unsolicited tips — that’s part of what the whole FISA process hides — but they would be used in the materials to the FISC.
In other words, I’m guessing that Dratel got evidence that Kohlmann is providing the raw material for FBI’s stings, based on his whackjob theory of radicalization (the reference to Mehanna’s case may mean — and this is purely speculation — Kohlmann took part in some of the same kinds of online discussions that were used to incriminate Mehanna.
If I’m right, though, it would confirm what observers — starting with former FBI Agent Mike German — have long talked about: that the government is funding an echo chamber of “experts” who create the approach to terrorism we use, then reinforce it with their purported expertise.
This insight is crucial to understanding the government’s continuing embrace of radicalization theories. Simply put, the government continues to be the primary sponsor of radicalization studies because they justify counterterrorism policies that maximize its policing powers. As Kundnani has written, “[s]cholarship that associates a particular kind of ‘disposition’, be it ‘cultural,’ ‘psychological’…, with terrorist violence enables intelligence gatherers to use that disposition as a proxy for terrorist risk and to structure their surveillance accordingly.”
Treating terrorism as the spread of an ideological infection within a vulnerable community also allows the government to put aside difficult questions about the role U.S. foreign and national security policies play in generating anti-American grievances, which the Defense Department raised in this 2004 report. Studies supporting government radicalization theories rarely mention U.S. military actions in Muslim countries, lethal drone strikes, torture, or theGuantanamo Bay prison as radicalizing influences, though many terrorist reference them in attempting to justify their actions.
The reliance on radicalization theory also provides benefits to those who support the current political, social, and financial status quo, particularly in regard to U.S. foreign policy. The support for these theories comes from a broad array of organizations.
Neo-conservativethink-tanks, private terrorism investigators, and cyber vigilantes that typically support the maintenance of interventionist Middle East policies and aggressive counterterrorism measures also stand to benefit from the government’s reliance on radicalization theory. These self-styled experts have the appearance of independent researchers, but often serve as echo-chambers for government theories of extremist organizations and behavior. As a defense attorney explained to The Nation, “[t]hey all work for the government or they work for government-funded agencies or government-contracted projects… [a]nd so when the government calls them, they are ready sources of government-approved information.”
If Kohlmann is one of the “private terrorism investigators” German mentions — and he certainly fits the bill — then he very likely is dumping garbage of whackjob theory picked targets into the system, and then validating the same whackjob theories on the stand.
I don’t know the precise specifics of what Dratel has been alerted to, but it sure does seem like we’re closer to proving that Kohlmann and his ilk are providing Garbage In Garbage Out that drives the war on terror.
Bloomberg reports that the same people who hacked OPM then went on to target United, which does a lot of business with the government (and, though the story doesn’t say it, a lot of flights to China).
United, the world’s second-largest airline, detected an incursion into its computer systems in May or early June, said several people familiar with the probe. According to three of these people, investigators working with the carrier have linked the attack to a group of China-backed hackers they say are behind several other large heists — including the theft of security-clearance records from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and medical data from health insurer Anthem Inc.
The timing of the United breach also raises questions about whether it’s linked to computer faults that stranded thousands of the airline’s passengers in two incidents over the past couple of months. Two additional people close to the probe, who like the others asked not to be identified when discussing the investigation, say the carrier has found no connection between the hack and a July 8 systems failure that halted flights for two hours. They didn’t rule out a possible, tangential connection to an outage on June 2.
But what I find most interesting is that OPM developed a list of potential victims, including United, and alerted them of the signatures related to the hack.
The China-backed hackers that cybersecurity experts have linked to that attack have embedded the name of targets in web domains, phishing e-mails and other attack infrastructure, according to one of the people familiar with the investigation.
In May, the OPM investigators began drawing up a list of possible victims in the private sector and provided the companies with digital signatures that would indicate their systems had been breached. United Airlines was on that list.
That’s interesting for two reasons. First, OPM alerted United before it alerted even the less exposed OPM victims, those whose personnel data got stolen; OPM has yet to formally alert those whose security clearance data got taken. I get that you might want to alert additional targets before confirming publicly you know about the hack (potentially to learn more about the perpetrators).
But it also shows that data sharing — alleged to be the urgent need calling for CISA — is not a problem.
Jim Comey has been pushing for backdoors, implicitly in iPhones, for months based on the concern that a dastardly criminal might evade investigators by making texts unavailable.
He finally has a dastardly criminal he can point to: Tom Brady.
If only Jim Comey had his back doors Roger Goodell would be able to sneak in by and and find proof that Tom Brady ordered to have his balls deflated.
Update: Ut oh. In his statement the criminal in question undermines my narrative.
First, Brady suggests that the NFL got all the communications of interest from his interlocutors.
Much more interesting, he reveals he had a Samsung phone, and only got an iPhone6 with his new one.
So Brady wasn’t using iMessage without backup to hide his dastardly evidence.
In the wake of the OPM hack, Congress is preparing to do something!!! Unfortunately, that “something” will be to pass the Cyber Information Sharing Act, which not only wouldn’t have helped prevent the OPM hack, but comes with its own problems.
To understand why it is such a bad idea to pass CISA just to appear to be doing something in response to OPM, compare this table from this year’s Federal Information Security Management report with the list of agencies that will automatically get the data turned over to the Federal government if CISA passes.
(A) The Department of Commerce.
(B) The Department of Defense.
(C) The Department of Energy.
(D) The Department of Homeland Security.
(E) The Department of Justice.
(F) The Department of the Treasury.
(G) The Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
So not only will information automatically go to DOJ, DHS, and DOD — all of which fulfill the information security measures reviewed by Office of Management and Budget — but it would also go to Department of Energy, which scores just a few points better than OPM, Department of Commerce, which was improving but lost some IT people and so couldn’t be graded last year, and Department of Treasury, which scores worse than OPM.
Which is just one of the reasons why CISA is a stupid idea.
Some folks have put together this really cool tool that will help you fax the Senate (a tool they might understand) so you can explain how dumb passing CISA would be. Try it!
Over at Lawfare, Ben Wittes does some brainstorming about what other databases the Chinese may be hacking after ingesting all its OPM winnings. He thinks they might target:
For each description of why he thinks they might be juicy targets, he ends with this statement:
Fortunately, the [XXX] Department is a highly competent counterintelligence agency with first-rate cybersecurity expertise, whose employees are scrupulous about cybersecurity and never do business on their own email servers. I am sure it is fully competent to protect these records.
As it happens, there’s plenty of support for most of Wittes’ speculative targets, especially if you consult this year’s FISMA report from OMB.
Several of the agencies — especially the State Department, but also especially Commerce — rated very poorly in OMB’s summary of the Inspector Generals reviews from last year.
I’d add two agencies to Wittes’ list: USDA (China has allegedly been stealing seed corn, so why not Ag records?) and Treasury generally (though in some other areas Treasury is pretty good, and it has mostly been “hacked” via old style means — including PII “spillage” — of late).
This list is particularly notable, however, given that the debate over CISA is about to start again. Both Treasury and Commerce are among the agencies that get automatic updates of the data turned over under the law. But their security is, in some ways, even worse than OPM’s.
Update: Paul Rosenzweig takes a shot. He picks CFIUS, NRC, FERC, state license DBs, and university research. There is some correlation with weak agencies there, too.
I Con the Record just announced that the NSA will make the phone dragnet data it has “analytically unavailable” after the new system goes live in November, and unavailable even to techs three months later.
On June 29, 2015, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the Government’s application to resume the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program pursuant to the USA FREEDOM Act’s 180-day transition provision. As part of our effort to transition to the new authority, we have evaluated whether NSA should maintain access to the historical metadata after the conclusion of that 180-day period.
NSA has determined that analytic access to that historical metadata collected under Section 215 (any data collected before November 29, 2015) will cease on November 29, 2015. However, solely for data integrity purposes to verify the records produced under the new targeted production authorized by the USA FREEDOM Act, NSA will allow technical personnel to continue to have access to the historical metadata for an additional three months.
Separately, NSA remains under a continuing legal obligation to preserve its bulk 215 telephony metadata collection until civil litigation regarding the program is resolved, or the relevant courts relieve NSA of such obligations. The telephony metadata preserved solely because of preservation obligations in pending civil litigation will not be used or accessed for any other purpose, and, as soon as possible, NSA will destroy the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata upon expiration of its litigation preservation obligations.
As I understand it, whatever data has been found to be two or three degrees of separation from a baddie will remain in NSA’s maw, but the data that has never returned off a search will not.
I’m pleasantly surprised by this, as I suspect it reflects a decision to accept the Second Circuit verdict in ACLU v. Clapper and to move to shut down other lawsuits.
As I noted, two weeks ago, the ACLU moved for an injunction against the dragnet, which not only might have led to the Second Circuit ordering the government to purge ACLU’s data right away (and possibly, to stop collecting all data), but also basically teed up the Second Circuit to remind the FISC it is not an appellate court. I worried that would lead the FISC to ask FISCR to review its dragnet decisions under a provision newly provided under the USA F-ReDux.
Shortly after ACLU filed its request for an injunction, the government asked for an extension to … today, which the court granted.
So I assume we’ll shortly see that filing arguing that, since the government has voluntarily set a purge date for all the dragnet data, ACLU should not get its injunction.
That doesn’t necessarily rule out a FISCR fast track request, but I think it makes it less likely.
The other player here, however, is the EFF.
I believe both ACLU and EFF’s phone dragnet client Council on American Islamic Relations, had not only standing as clients of dragnetted companies, but probably got swept up in the two-degree dragnet. But CAIR probably has an even stronger case, because it is public that FISC approved a traditional FISA order against CAIR founder Nihad Awad. Any traditional FISA target has always been approved as a RAS seed to check the dragnet, and NSA almost certainly used that more back when Awad was tapped, which continued until 2008. In other words, CAIR has very good reason to suspect the entire organization has been swept up in the dragnet and subjected to all of NSA’s other analytical toys.
EFF, remember, is the one NGO that has a preservation order, which got extended from its earlier NSA lawsuits (like Jewel) to the current dragnet suit. So when I Con the Record says it can’t destroy all the data yet, it’s talking EFF, and by extension, CAIR. So this announcement — in addition to preparing whatever they’ll file to get the Second Circuit off its back — is likely an effort to moot that lawsuit, which in my opinion poses by far the biggest threat of real fireworks about the dragnet (not least because it would easily be shown to violate a prior SCOTUS decision prohibiting the mapping of organizations).
We’ll see soon enough. For the moment, though, I’m a bit surprised by the cautious approach this seems to represent.
Update: Timeline on data availability fixed.
Update: Here’s the government’s brief submitted today. I’m rather intrigued by how often the brief claims USA F-ReDux was about bulk “telephony” data when it was supposed to be about all bulk collection. But I guess I can return to that point.
Update: They depart from describing USA F-ReDux as a ban bulk collection of telephony when they describe it as a ban on collection of bulk collection under Section 215, also not what the bill says.
Part of the compromise on which Congress settled, which the President supported, was to add an unequivocal ban on bulk collection under Section 215 specifying that “[n]o order issued under” Section 215(b)(2) “may authorize collection of tangible things without the use of a specific selection term that meets the requirements” of that subsection.
Update: This is key language — and slightly different from what they argued before FISC. I will return to it.
Plaintiffs assert that, by not changing the language of Section 215 authorizing the collection of business records during the transition period, Congress implicitly incorporated into the USA FREEDOM Act this Court’s opinion holding that Section 215 did not authorize bulk collection. See Pls.’ Mot. 7- 8. Plaintiffs rely on language providing that the legislation does not “alter or eliminate the authority of the Government to obtain an order under” Section 215 “as in effect prior to the effective date” of the statute. USA FREEDOM Act § 109, 129 Stat. at 276. That language does not advance plaintiffs’ argument, however, because the statute says nothing expressly about what preexisting authority the government had under Section 215 to obtain telephony metadata in bulk. It is implausible that Congress employed the word “authority” to signify that the government lacked authority to conduct the Section 215 bulk telephony-metadata program during the 180-day transition period, contrary to the FISC’s repeated orders and the Executive Branch’s longstanding and continuing interpretation and application of the law, and notwithstanding the active litigation of that question in this Court. That is especially so because language in the USA FREEDOM Act providing for the 180-day transition period has long been a proposed feature of the legislation. It is thus much more plausible that the “authority” Congress was referring to was not the understanding of Section 215 reflected in this Court’s recent interpretation of Section 215, but rather the consistent interpretation of Section 215 by 19 different FISC judges: to permit bulk collection of telephony metadata.
I realized something the other day.
For the purposes of hacking, a theater (or at least any mall it was attached to) might count as critical infrastructure that would deem it a National Security target, just as Sony Pictures was deemed critical infrastructure for sanction and retaliation purposes after it got hacked.
But if a mentally ill misogynist with a public track record of supporting right wing hate shoots up a movie showing, it would not be considered a national security target. Given his death, DOJ won’t be faced with the challenge of naming John Russell Houser’s crime, but they would have even less ability to punish Houser for his motivation and ties to other haters than they had with Dylann Roof.
DOJ had no such problem with Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, who got charged with terrorism (under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act) yesterday because they freed some minks. And a bobcat.
So shooting African Americans worshipping in church is not terrorism, but freeing a bobcat is.
Meanwhile, most of the 204 mass shootings — averaging one a day — that happened this year have passed unremarked.
I laid out some of the problems with the disparity between Muslim terrorism and white supremacist terrorism (to say nothing of bobcat-freeing “terrorism”) the other day.
“This should in no way signify that this particular murder or any federal crime is of any lesser significance.” [than terrorism, Loretta Lynch claimed while announcing the Hate Crime charges against Roof
Except it is, by all appearances.
When asked, Lynch refused to comment on how DOJ is allocating resources, but reporting on the increase in terrorism analysts since 9/11 suggests the FBI has dedicated large amounts of new resources to fighting Islamic terrorism, domestically and abroad. In addition, there are a number of spying tools that are tied solely to international terrorism — but DOJ has managed to define, in secret, domestic terrorism espoused by Muslims in the U.S. as international terrorism. That means FBI has far more tools to dedicate to finding tweets posted by Muslims, and fewer to find the manifesto Roof wrote speaking of having ”the bravery to take it to the real world” against blacks and even Jews.
Perhaps most importantly, because of vastly expanded post-9/11 information sharing, local law enforcement offices have been deputized in the hunt for Muslim terrorists, receiving intelligence obtained through those additional spying tools and sharing tips back up with the FBI. By contrast, as one after another confrontation makes clear — most recently the video of a white Texas trooper escalating a traffic stop with African American woman Sandra Bland that ultimately ended in her death, purportedly by suicide — too many white local cops tend to prey on African Americans themselves rather than the police who target African Americans for their race.
Finally, the FBI has an incentive to call Roof’s attack something different, as it makes a big deal of its success in preventing “terrorist” attacks. If the Charleston attack was terrorism, it means FBI missed a terrorist plotting while tracking a bunch of Muslims who might not have acted without FBI incitement. That would be all the worse as the FBI might have stopped Roof during the background check conducted before he bought the murder weapon, if not for some confusion on a prior charge.
I’m certainly not saying we should expand the already over-broad domestic dragnet to include white supremacists espousing ugly speech (but neither should hateful speech from Muslims be sufficient for a material support for terrorism charge, as it currently is). Yet as one after another white cop kills or leads to the death of unarmed African Americans, we have to ensure that we call like crimes by like names to emphasize the importance of protecting all Americans. DOJ under Eric Holder was superb at policing civil rights violations, and there’s no reason to believe that will change under DOJ’s second African American Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.
But hate crimes brought with the assistance of DOJ’s Civil Rights division (as these were) are not the same as terrorist crimes brought by national security prosecutors, nor are they as easy to prosecute. If our nation can’t keep African Americans worshipping in church safe, than we’re not delivering national security.
But I’d add to that. If we’re discussing mass killings with guns (remember, earlier this year Richard Burr tried to include commission of a violent crime while in possession of a gun among the definitions of terrorism) then it suggests far different solutions than just calling terrorism terrorism.
What if we focused all our energy on interceding before crazy men — of all sorts — shoot up public spaces rather than just one select group?
What if our definitions of national security started with a measure of impact rather than a picture of global threat?