The Greater US War to Remake the Middle East has been going on so long, it is already re-running its story lines.
Back in 2004, when Dick Cheney was trying to drum up a hot war against Iran, the CIA got dealt a laptop that provided a casus belli all wrapped up in a bow: all aspects of Iran’s nuke program, all conveniently collected on one laptop, somehow falling into intelligence hands. It later showed signs of being a forgery.
Now, as the warmakers are trying to gin up a hot war against ISIS (in seeming co-belligerence with Iran!), that’s whose laptop we find, courtesy of Foreign Policy: a Tunisian named Muhammed whose last name and picture Foreign Policy declined to provide. On the laptop, FP found a 19-page document that explains how to “weaponize” bubonic plague by throwing it on grenades close to air conditioning units.
“Use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers,” the 19-page document on biological weapons advises. “Best to do it next to the air-conditioning. It also can be used during suicide operations.”
Because a college science student only needs 19 pages to accomplish the technical feat of weaponizing the plague.
Remarkably, a lot of people are taking this as a serious discovery, even though FP describes obtaining the laptop this way:
Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. “We took it this year from an ISIS hideout,” he says.
Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. “We found the laptop and the power cord in a room,” he continued, “I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting.”
As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected.
We are supposed to believe that 1) ISIS got routed back in January 2) left their laptop 3) don’t password protect their devices.
More amusingly, we’re supposed to believe that upon capturing devices from an adversary, the “moderate” beheaders in the FSA would not look for intelligence on those devices. Instead, they’d let a computer collect dust over the course of 8 months, never once attempting to so much as turn on a laptop, until such time as it became imperative to foster opposition to ISIS.
Because powering a laptop is apparently too hard for FSA commanders?
Either Abu Ali is lying, or he’s lying. Which means the provenance of this laptop and this story is so suspect it should not be treated seriously. There are plenty of other reasons to doubt the story. But if your source claims never to have turned on a laptop — never to have even tried! — seized from an adversary over the course of 8 months, your source is not telling the truth.
Jim and I have both written a bunch about the dangers of using public health campaigns as cover for spying, as CIA did when it asked Dr. Shakeel Afridi to try to collect DNA from those on Osama bin Laden’s compound under cover of a hepatitis vaccination campaign. If those hostile to US interests suspect such campaigns — and even more pointedly, Polio vaccination campaigns — it can taint important efforts.
Today we learn that Afridi’s not the only case where US spooks have done this. As part of a campaign to have Latin American youths encourage oppositional culture in Cuba, USAID contractor Creative Associates had one contractor use an HIV prevention workshop as cover.
In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called “the perfect excuse” for the program’s political goals — a gambit that could undermine America’s efforts to improve health globally.
“USAID and the Obama administration are committed to supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future,” the agency said in response to written questions from the AP. “USAID works with independent youth groups in Cuba on community service projects, public health, the arts and other opportunities to engage publicly, consistent with democracy programs worldwide.”
In a statement late Sunday, USAID said the HIV workshop had a dual purpose: It “enabled support for Cuban civil society while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desire Cubans expressed for information and training about HIV prevention.”
Page 3 of the included documents show the subcontractor describing the HIV training as the perfect excuse, as that was something authorities would permit.
I repeat what I said earlier: Cuba would open up far more quickly if the US ended its embargoes on Cuba, especially its ban on flights to Cuba.
But instead we have to scheme short-sighted plans to open up Cuba clandestinely.
Update: Here’s a more complete description of the HIV training from the extended story.
If the idea was to hold a series of seminars to recruit new “volunteers,” Murillo needed a theme that would both draw in potential recruits and still be sanctioned by the state.
An HIV-prevention workshop was just the thing.
Months later, in November 2010, the workshop drew 60 people. Pozo also participated — evidence, Murillo said, that his scheme was working.
The workshop was supposed to offer straightforward sex education for HIV prevention, such as the proper way to use a condom.
“Cubans expressed a desire for information and training about HIV prevention, and the workshop helped to address their needs,” USAID said in response to written questions.
But the ulterior motive, documents show, was to use the workshop as a recruiting ground for young people by showing them how to organize themselves.
Reached in San Jose, Costa Rica, Murillo said he could not speak about the details of his Cuba trips because he had signed a nondisclosure agreement. He said he wasn’t trying to do anything beyond teach people how to use condoms properly.
“I never said to a Cuban that he had to do something against the government. If that was the mission of others, I don’t know,” Murillo said. “I never told a Cuban what he had to do.”
Nevertheless, Murillo’s six-page report back to Creative Associates mentioned HIV only once, to note that it was “the perfect excuse for the treatment of the underlying theme.” Elsewhere, the report revealed another objective: “to generate a network of volunteers for social transformation.”
Update: Jim (who’s prepping his daughter to go off to be-a-lawyer school) reminds me of how USAID fluffs the numbers on its health-related programs to make them look like successes.
The CIA spied on Congress! The headlines yesterday read.
By the end of the day, the CIA shared the unclassified summary of Inspector General David Buckley’s conclusions.
But the conclusions are a muddle:
Agency Access to Files on the SSCI RDINet:
Five Agency employees, two attorneys and three information technology (IT) staff members, improperly accessed or caused access to the SSCI Majority staff shared drives on the RDINet.
Agency Crimes Report on Alleged Misconduct by SSCI Staff:
The Agency filed a crimes report with the DOJ, as required by Executive Order 12333 and the 1995 Crimes Reporting Memorandum between the DOJ and the Intelligence Community, reporting that SSCI staff members may have improperly accessed Agency information on the RDINet. However, the factual basis for the referral was not supported, as the author of the referral had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based. After review, the DOJ declined to open a criminal investigation of the matter alleged in the crimes report.
Office of Security Review of SSCI Staff Activity:
Subsequent to directive by the D/CIA to halt the Agency review of SSCI staff access to the RDINet, and unaware of the D/CIA’s direction, the Office of Security conducted a limited investigation of SSCI activities on the RDINet. That effort included a keyword search of all and a review of some of the emails of SSCI Majority staff members on the RDINet system.
Lack of Candor:
The three IT staff members demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities during interviews by the OIG.
Compare the suggested chronology of these bullets with some of the details Dianne Feinstein provided in March.
[O]n January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.
According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.
Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers.
Days after the meeting with Director Brennan, the CIA inspector general, David Buckley, learned of the CIA search and began an investigation into CIA’s activities. I have been informed that Mr. Buckley has referred the matter to the Department of Justice given the possibility of a criminal violation by CIA personnel.
Weeks later, I was also told that after the inspector general referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the acting general counsel of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions.
According to DiFi, CIA had already accessed the servers by January 15. Buckley says that at least some of the searches — the ones by the Office of Security — happened after that point, after Brennan ordered them to stop.
This limited hangout is not just an admission that CIA spied on SSCI, but that they spied and continued spying.
Buckley also appears to be saying that what DiFi described as his own referral (though he doesn’t refer to it as such) — made sometime before March — was based off erroneous information. The implication is DOJ didn’t pursue charges because they were told the original allegations — which Buckley passed on, according to DiFi — were incorrect.
That’s all very fishy, particularly when you recall this story, about the CIA spying on its own whistleblower in the matter.
The CIA obtained a confidential email to Congress about alleged whistleblower retaliation related to the Senate’s classified report on the agency’s harsh interrogation program, triggering fears that the CIA has been intercepting the communications of officials who handle whistleblower cases.
Buckley obtained the email, which was written by Daniel Meyer, the intelligence community’s top official for whistleblower cases, to the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a leading whistleblower-protection advocate. The Senate Intelligence Committee also learned of the matter, said the knowledgeable people.
After obtaining the email, Buckley approached Meyer’s boss, I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the 17-agency U.S. intelligence community, in what may have constituted a violation of the confidentiality of the whistleblowing process, they said.
Meyer’s email concerned allegations that Buckley failed to thoroughly investigate a whistleblower retaliation claim, McClatchy has learned. The retaliation allegedly involved delays by the CIA in paying the legal fees of CIA officials who cooperated with the Senate committee. An indemnification agreement required the agency to cover those costs – which it eventually did – as long as the officers weren’t found to have committed any wrongdoing.
We know David Buckley has been treating whistleblowers inappropriately. Yet he’s the guy who apparently reneged on his claims that CIA illegally spied. Even though they spied after the time John Brennan told them (heh) to stop.
Because of Buck McKeon and Mike Rogers’ retirement this year, the Chairmanships of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee will be up for grabs early next year.
Roll Call decided to see how this was affecting funding for the contenders to replace McKeon and Rogers.Their results were pretty striking. HASC contenders Mac Thronberry and Randy Forbes and HPSCI contenders Devin Nunes and Mike Pompeo are experiencing significantly bigger hauls from defense contractors than in the past.
Four of the top five candidates for the chairmanships of the House Armed Services and Intelligence panels have raised considerably more money this election cycle than they did at a similar point in 2012. The same four have also raised much more money from the defense industry than before – in some cases, more than doubling their takes.
Most of them, too, have raised more money in the first full quarter since the departures of the incumbent chairmen became official, and donated more to other candidates and GOP party committees than in the last cycle.
Thornberry, Forbes, Nunes and Pompeo each have raised at least 30 percent more through the first six quarters of the 2014 election cycle than they did over same period of 2012. Only King — who was Homeland Security chairman through 2012 — has raised less. Nunes has raised the most overall: $2 million.
Thornberry, Nunes and Pompeo have more than doubled in the current election cycle the amount they got from the defense sector over the same period in the 2012 election cycle, and Forbes has reaped 40 percent more, while King’s dipped. Thornberry has received the most overall — $344,350.
Thornberry, too, saw the biggest leap from the most recent fundraising quarter than ended in June compared with the same quarter in the 2012 cycle, 84 percent. Forbes and Pompeo also saw increases over that period.
Click through to see how McKeon and Rogers’ retirement announcements set off this boondoggle and how the take has allowed the contenders to fund their colleagues as well.
Ah, democracy as our forefathers intended! Where campaign bribery plays a key role in determining who will oversee the National Security State.
Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis is suing the group for defamation, claiming they falsely accused him of being an Iranian front.
The group said it had uncovered a letter proving there was a plan to do business in Iran. It also accused Mr. Restis of using his ships in support of Iran’s oil industry.
Mr. Restis said the letter was fraudulent, the illicit Iranian deal never existed, and his ships made only authorized humanitarian shipments. He accused the group of shaking down companies for donations; the group in turn accused him of being a “master criminal.”
The group said it based its accusations on “valid research, credible documents, distinguished relationships, and pre-eminent sourcing.” In court, Mr. Restis demanded that the group disclose those documents and its relationships.
Soon after that demand, Mr. Restis said he was approached by an Israeli businessman, Rami Ungar, with no direct connection to United Against Nuclear Iran.
According to court documents filed by Mr. Restis’s lawyers, Mr. Ungar knew details about the case and said he was “authorized to try to resolve the issues” on behalf of the group’s supporters.
It was not clear who those supporters were. Like many nonprofit groups, its donor list is secret. Mr. Restis’s lawyers said in a letter to the judge in April that they had uncovered information that United Against Nuclear Iran “is being funded by foreign interests.”
DOJ suggested they might claim a law enforcement exception to protect the files, though it has not yet formally claimed such a privilege. That might suggest the files are Treasury files that may soon be used to impose sanctions on Restis. Or perhaps it means they have files that don’t meet Treasury’s standards for imposing sanctions, and UANI exists to shame people where sanctions are unavailable. In any case, Restis wants to know how Ungar got them; I’d like to know precisely what UANI is getting from whom.
Apuzzo lists some of the characters who are behind the group: former Mideast Peace Envoy Dennis Ross, Fran Townsend, and Joe Lieberman. Otto Reich, whose role in Iran-Contra (as opposed to his role in trying to overthrow Hugo Chavez in the 2002 coup) involved illegally funneling taxpayer dollars for the purposes of lobbying, is of particular note. Restis is particularly interested in interviewing UANI advisor Meir Dagan, the long-time head of Mossad; Restis believes Dagan provided the documents to Ungar. In addition, Richard Dearlove, who was in charge of sexing up the British case for war in 2003 when he was MI6, also advises the group.
in other words, it’s a classic case of a quasi-governmental group, one that apparently plays an extra-legal purpose in the campaign to isolate Iran (to be fair, most, though not all, of its advisors have worked hard to stave off war). And Restis’ efforts to get some kind of justice against it may be stymied by US claims they’ve got privileged interests in the case.
The entire episode raises some very good questions about what goes into isolating our adversaries.
In Salon, I point out something funny about the report released on Tuesday to mark the 10 year anniversary of the release of the 9/11 Commission report. The report says we must fight the “creeping tide of complacency.” But then it says the government has done almost everything the 9/11 Commission said it should do.
There is a “creeping tide of complacency,” the members of the 9/11 Commission warned in a report released on Tuesday, the 10-year anniversary of the release of their original report. That complacency extends not just to terrorism. “On issue after issue — the resurgence and transformation of al Qaeda, Syria, the cyber threat — public awareness lags behind official Washington’s.” To combat that “creeping tide of complacency,” the report argues, the government must explain “the evil that [is] stalking us.”
Meanwhile, the commissioners appear unconcerned about complacency with climate change or economic decline.
All that fear-mongering is odd, given the report’s general assessment of counterterrorism efforts made in the last decade. “The government’s record in counterterrorism is good,” the report judged, and “our capabilities are much improved.”
If the government has done a good job of implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations but the terror threat is an order of magnitude worse now, as the report claims, then those recommendations were not sufficient to addressing the problem. Or perhaps the 13 top security officials whom the Commission interviewed did a slew of other things — like destabilizing Syria and Libya — that have undermined the apparatus of counterterrorism recommended by the original 9/11 Commission?
Which is a polite way of saying the 10-year report is unsatisfying on many fronts, opting for fear-mongering than another measured assessment about what we need to do to protect against terrorism.
Perhaps that’s because, rather than conduct the public hearings with middle-level experts, as it boasted it had done in the original report, it instead privately interviewed just the people who’ve been in charge for the last 10 years, all of whom have a stake in fear and budgets and several of whom now have a stake in profiting off fear-mongering?
Suffice it to say I’m unimpressed with the report.
Which brings me to this really odd detail about it.
The report takes a squishy approach to Edward Snowden’s leaks. It condemns his and Chelsea Manning’s leaks and suggests they may hinder information sharing. It also suggests Snowden’s leaks may be impeding recruiting for cybersecurity positions.
But it also acknowledges that Snowden’s leaks have been important to raising concerns about civil liberties — resulting in President Obama’s decision to impose limits on the Section 215 phone dragnet.
Since 2004, when we issued the report, the public has become markedly more engaged in the debate over the balance between civil liberties and national security. In the mid-2000s, news reports about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs caused only a slight public stir. That changed with last year’s leaks by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who stole 1.7 million pages of classified material. Documents taken by Snowden and given to the media revealed NSA data collection far more widespread than had been popularly understood. Some reports exaggerated the scale of the programs. While the government explained that the NSA’s programs were overseen by Congress and the courts, the scale of the data collection has alarmed the public.
[I]n March, the President announced plans to replace the NSA telephone metadata program with a more limited program of specific court-approved searches of call records held by private carriers. This remains a matter of contention with some intelligence professionals, who expressed to us a fear that these restrictions might hinder U.S. counterterrorism efforts in urgent situations where speedy investigation is critical.
Having just raised the phone dragnet changes, the report goes on to argue “these programs” — which in context would include the phone dragnet — should be preserved.
We believe these programs are worth preserving, albeit with additional oversight. Every current or former senior official with whom we spoke told us that the terrorist and cyber threats to the United States are more dangerous today than they were a few years ago. And senior officials explained to us, in clear terms, what authorities they would need to address those threats. Their case is persuasive, and we encountered general agreement about what needs to be done.
Senior leaders must now make this case to the public. The President must lead the government in an ongoing effort to explain to the American people—in specific terms, not generalities—why these programs are critical to the nation’s security. If the American people hear what we have heard in recent months, about the urgent threat and the ways in which data collection is used to counter it, we believe that they will be supportive. If these programs are as important as we believe they are, it is worth making the effort to build a more solid foundation in public opinion to ensure their preservation.
This discussion directly introduces a bizarre rewriting of the original 9/11 Report.
Given how often the government has falsely claimed that we need the phone dragnet because it closes a gap that let Khalid al-Midhar escape you’d think the 9/11 Commission might use this moment to reiterate the record, which shows that the government had the information it needed to discover the hijacker was in the US.
It does, however, raise a very closely related issue: the FBI’s failure to discover Nawaf al Hazmi’s identity. Continue reading
Hi there Wheelhouse denizens,how ya doing? Jim White and I are both in the air right now on our way home from yet another Netroots wild weekend. We were dropped off at the airport by Marcy, who is on the actual road on her way home to Grand Rapids.
A great time was had by all, and, yes, we are all a little worse for the wear. We had a rocking good time. The picture above is from Marcy’s NSA Surveillance panel yesterday afternoon. Normal content and posting should resume tomorrow, thanks for bearing with us. You are all the greatest, see you soon. Until then, rock on and chat amongst yourselves!
In a piece for Salon today, I note that both in US domestic warrants for Stored Communication and in the law the UK will push through, DRIP, the US and the Brits are asserting they should be able to demand data stored anywhere in the world. Here’s the US part:
The U.S. data grab started back in December, when the Department of Justice applied for a warrant covering an email account Microsoft held in Ireland as part of a drug-trafficking investigation. Microsoft complied with regards to the information it stored in the U.S. (which consisted of subscriber information and address books), but challenged the order for the content of the emails. After Magistrate Judge James Francis sided with the government – arguing, in part, that Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, under which one country asks another for help on a legal investigation, were too burdensome — Microsoft appealed, arguing the government had conscripted it to conduct an extraterritorial search and seizure on its behalf.
As part of that, Microsoft Vice President Rajesh Jha described how, since Snowden’s disclosures, “Microsoft partners and enterprise customers around the world and across all sectors have raised concerns about the United States Government’s access to customer data stored by Microsoft.” Jha explained these concerns went beyond NSA’s practices. “The notion of United States government access to such data — particularly without notice to the customer — is extremely troubling to our partners and enterprise customers located outside of the United States.” Some of those customers even raised Magistrate Francis’ decision specifically.
The government’s response, however, argued U.S. legal process is all that is required. DOJ’s brief scoffed at Microsoft for raising the real business concerns that such big-footing would have on the U.S. industry. “The fact remains that there exists probable cause to believe that evidence of a violation of U.S. criminal law, affecting U.S. residents and implicating U.S. interests, is present in records under Microsoft’s control,” the government laid out. It then suggested U.S. protection for Microsoft’s intellectual property is the tradeoff Microsoft makes for complying with legal process. “Microsoft is a U.S.-based company, enjoying all the rights and privileges of doing business in this country, including in particular the protection of U.S. intellectual property laws.” It ends with the kind of scolding usually reserved for children. “Microsoft should not be heard to complain that doing so might harm its bottom line. ”
Click through to find out why the UK data grab is even worse.
Effectively, both English speaking behemoths are arguing that borders don’t matter, they can have any data in the world. And while we know NSA and GCHQ were doing that for spying purposes, here they’re arguing they can do it for crime prevention.
Breathtaking claims, really.
I’ve long been intrigued by the response to the discovery of CIA spies in Germany, starting last week when seemingly everyone wanted to admit that the alleged spy was CIA’s. Unlike the Pakistani, Mexican, Afghan, and other precedents, the government either didn’t succeed or didn’t care to prevent Americans from learning about our overseas spies.
Now we’ve got competing explanations for why we spy in Germany.
According to Eli Lake source David Albright (whom Jim regularly embarrasses for his Iran propaganda), we spy on Germany because AQ Khan got much of his plans for Pakistan’s nuclear program in Germany. Lake also points to Germany’s close relations with Russia. The CIA has to spy on Germany, then, because Germany is not very good at spying on others, including Russian spies.
And of course, the forerunners to Russia’s modern spy services had plenty of experience operating on German soil. Vladimir Putin famously ran agents for the KGB from 1985 to 1990 out of Dresden, which was then in communist East Germany. His successors are still in the country, albeit on less friendly terms. “There is a huge Russian presence in Germany,” said the senior U.S. intelligence official.
Part of the current concern about Russia’s activities in Germany stems from unease about Berlin’s equivalent of the FBI, known as the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BFV). One former U.S. intelligence officer who worked on European issues said the BFV had a strong reputation for identifying and neutralizing domestic threats inside Germany, but was not very good hunting so-called “moles” – foreign agents burrowed into their spy services. “I can tell you they never watched us very carefully at all,” this official said. “That is almost definitely going to change now.”
Meanwhile, German Die Zeit editor Jochen Bittner relied on CIA’s former German Station Chief Joseph Wippl for explanation; Wippl provided a bizarre suggestion that CIA was accidentally treating Germany like it treats “Third World” countries, and anyway the Germans aren’t willing to do the dirty work to gain full membership in a Five Eyes like relationship.
I asked Joseph T. Wippl, who was the C.I.A.’s Berlin station chief in the early 2000s, why the agency had recruited German sources. “The C.I.A. has developed strongly in the direction of a third world agency, in that its officers work in places where the U.S. has great leverage over others and where there is no rule of law,” he said. “They are not used to or have not been trained to work in countries with similar democratic, constitutional institutions.” At the same time, he went on, the Germans had never seemed interested in the level of cooperation that might obviate this sort of unilateral snooping — the sort of treaty relationship that America has with Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
To suggest that the Germans could be treated as a Sixth Eye is a flattering idea. Yet I doubt the Germans would accept the honor. As is the case with America’s nuclear umbrella, we’re happy to have the protection while being still happier not to have to carry the responsibility. If Germany entered into a real intelligence alliance with America, the government would have to deal with a load of dirty knowledge — and lose the benefit of plausible deniability.
As you read Wippl’s comments, remember his own rather dubious exploits in Germany.
This whole conversation feels a lot like Keith Alexander’s spectacularly successful effort to use a few journalists to cover up his admission that we do spy in Europe, but only for targets – Chinese, Russian, and al Qaeda – that can be deemed not-European.
But it ignores the great deal of spying we do on the European Union, which has long served to strengthen Germany, but the recent collapse of which has eliminated the most viable competing reserve currency in the world.
There has been a tremendous adjustment in the European power base in recent years, which largely stems from the EU, which in turn largely stems from Germany’s successful effort at making the rest of the EU absorb the pain of the financial crisis. I guarantee you we were aggressively spying on that, all in the name of preparing for instability (but surely using that intelligence to preserve the dollar’s competitive advantages).
Meanwhile, all this takes place against the background of negotiations on the TTIP, in which the US would demand concessions from Europe that gut many of the better policies of the EU.
We may be concerned that the Germans have good reason to want closer relations with Russia than we want them to have. But we also have a financially competitive relationship with Germany, and there’s no reason to believe we’re not doing a ton of spying to our advantage. Key details of that spying has not (yet) been fully revealed. But I do wonder if that’s part of the issue here.
The ACLU is suing the Federal Government for the standards it uses in Suspicious Activity Reports, which can record completely innocent actions. A lot of people are citing James Prigoff — an 86-year old photographer and retired business executive, who got tracked to his Sacramento, CA home for taking a picture of a well-known Boston landmark.
But given the denials about the tracking of Muslims in response to the Intercept story on NSA’s surveillance of 5 Muslim leaders, the SAR complaint of of Wiley Gill, a convert to Islam, deserves as much attention.
Gill describes how the cops in Chico, CA, had been tracking him both online and at the local mosque, when they invented the pretense of a domestic violence complaint to search his home without a warrant. They found something on video games loaded on his computer and deemed it a flight simulator.
The SAR was created on or about May 23, 2012, and purports to document an encounter between Mr. Gill and the Chico Police Department (“CPD”) on or about May 20, 2012. The SAR states that a CPD officer was investigating a domestic violence incident and believed the suspect may have fled into Mr. Gill’s residence. The SAR states that this was later discovered to be unfounded. It acknowledges that the CPD officer searched Mr. Gill’s home. The SAR asserts that Mr. Gill’s computer displayed a screen titled something to the effect of “Games that fly under the radar,” which appeared to be a “flight simulator type of game.” The SAR concludes by describing Mr. Gill’s “full conversion to Islam as a young WMA [white, male adult],” “pious demeanor,” and “potential access to flight simulators via the internet” as “worthy of note.”
Admittedly, the bias inherent to Gill’s SAR came from local cops, not the FBI or NSA. But I’d be willing to bet it responded to alerts (FBI and DHS both release them) about white converts to Islam.
The Intercept story, remember, described an internal document referring to targets as “Mohammed Raghead.” NSA has disclaimed any tie to that — even more aggressively than FBI did its own totally racist documents.
And while I presume whatever alerts to local cops led them to track Gill’s non-suspicious behavior said nothing explicitly racist, at some point the system reinforces a system under which Muslims get tracked, and others do not.