Richard Burr Just Told ISIS USAF Phone Program Gets Internet Phone Data

Richard Burr has apparently stated publicly that he’s looking into not Marco Rubio’s serial leaking of classified information, but Ted Cruz’s alleged disclosure of classified information at least night’s debate. That’s particularly curious given that Rubio has gotten privileged access to this information on the Senate Intelligence Committee, whereas Cruz has not.

I assume Burr is thinking of this passage, in which Cruz explained how the USA Freedom Act phone program adds to the tools the intelligence community gets.

It strengthened the tools of national security and law enforcement to go after terrorists. It gave us greater tools and we are seeing those tools work right now in San Bernardino.

And in particular, what it did is the prior program only covered a relatively narrow slice of phone calls. When you had a terrorist, you could only search a relatively narrow slice of numbers, primarily land lines.

The USA Freedom Act expands that so now we have cell phones, now we have Internet phones, now we have the phones that terrorists are likely to use and the focus of law enforcement is on targeting the bad guys.

[snip]

And the reason is simple. What he knows is that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100 percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.

Shortly thereafter, Rubio said,

RUBIO: Let me be very careful when answering this, because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information.

Of course, that means Burr — who has the most privileged access to this information — just confirmed for ISIS and anyone else who wants to know (like, say, American citizens) that the IC is targeting “Internet phones” as well as the the more limited set of call records the Section 215 phone dragnet used to incorporate, and in doing so getting closer to 100% of “calls” (which includes texting and messaging) in the US.

I’m not sure why Burr would give OpSec tips to our adversaries, all to score political points against Cruz. Obviously, his tolerance for Rubio’s serial leaks, which effectively confirmed the very same information, shows this isn’t about protecting sources and methods.

Maybe it’s time to boot Burr, in addition to Rubio, from SSCI before he continues to leak classified information?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

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 the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, 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 and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    “Maybe it’s time to boot Burr, in addition to Rubio, from SSCI before he continues to leak classified information?” Or, get them all a six-pack of Pepto-Bismol to stop the general flow of sh*t from the assholes.

  2. orionATL says:

    san bernardino update:
    .

    after all the hysterical media reporting, and all the exploitative political speecifying and terrorizing of ordinary citizens by their political leaders,

    fbi director comey reports, a mere two weeks after the tragedy, that
    .

    [… The married couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2 did not express support for “jihad and martyrdom” on social media — as was previously reported — FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday.

    There was also no evidence Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, were part of an organized cell or had any contact with overseas armed groups, Comey added.

    The couple did, however, express support for a violent ideology in their private communications, Comey said.

    Earlier, Malik was wrongly said to have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on a social media account under a different name…]
    .
    http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/12/16/san-bernardino-shooters-did-not-support-isil-on-social-media.html

    • haarmeyer says:

      WaPo is reporting this slightly differently. What he said was that they didn’t discuss jihad and extremism on social media before the shootings so there would have been nothing to review had it been part of the visa process. She did post an allegiance to al Baghdadi on behalf of both of them on facebook, but not before the event. Apparently, she did it after the Regional Center and before the shootout:

      These messages are distinct from a note Malik posted on Facebook after the shooting pledging her allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the militant group that says it has established a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, according to law enforcement officials. Authorities say that posting was made on behalf of her husband as well.

      • orionATL says:

        i saw that. not sure what to make of it. wapoop is not always to be trusted, but they have been good on this tragedy.

        comey’ words are comey’s words. i guess it depends on how complete any quotes are and how much a reporter and his editors are editorializing in one reclunting or the other.

        • orionATL says:

          i suspect in this case al-jazeera had more of an agenda – defusing anger toward muslims in general. but the main point comey makes is that this was not a terrorist attack, even one like fort hood (communications with awlaki).

          from the wash post article:

          .

          [… FBI: San Bernardino attackers didn’t show public support for jihad on social media…

          By Adam Goldman and Mark Berman December 16 at 5:36 PM….

          NEW YORK — The two attackers who opened fire in San Bernardino, Calif., earlier this month had not posted publicly on social media sites about supporting jihad, FBI Director James B. Comey said Wednesday.

          The husband-and-wife duo were “showing signs in their communication of their joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom” through private messages, rather than publicly visible postings, Comey said.

          “Those communications are direct, private messages,” Comey said during a news conference here. “So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.”

          Comey’s comments about these private messages contradicted a report in the New York Times saying that one of the attackers “talked openly on social media” about violent jihad. His remarks also undermined assertions made during the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night that the government missed warning signs that could have prevented that same attacker from obtaining a visa.

          [Before the final shootout, four mysterious hours in San Bernardino]

          Comey had said earlier this month that Siyed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married couple who killed 14 people at an office holiday gathering, were communicating online in late 2013 “about jihad and martyrdom,” exchanging messages that predated the rise of the Islamic State. This communication also took place before Farook and Malik got engaged, married and then lived together in the United States. Comey declined to identify which social network the…]

          people can make what they want of two lovers talking at a distance over “what’s app” about anything at all, including radical violenent action.

          the other key point is that isil seems to have rebuffed these two as suspicious characters.

          • haarmeyer says:

            Comey most definitely did not say that the attack was not a terrorist attack.

            I know you have very deep feelings about this being a “workplace violence”, and I read that you said that you have trouble bringing yourself to the use of “jihadi”, a term very much misused in the media and elsewhere. But this particular attack isn’t a case of a worker disgruntled by his job, and the term “jihadi” is even used by people who sympathize with Muslim extremists who resort to violence — e.g., this morning’s NYT quotes Zaid Hamid, a Pakistani TV personality given to a few conspiracy theories as saying, “I told you years ago that ISIS is Jewish Israel secret service gangs pretending to be Muslim jihadis.”

            Everyone struggles to use the world to inform their world view, but at some point, if the world and your world view aren’t close anymore, it isn’t the world you should give up on. It’s perfectly possible to be very skeptical about designating things as terrorist attacks, and to be very critical of over-used and misused words in the media, but there comes a point at which that shouldn’t override your understanding of what happened. We know that Rizman Farook and Tashfeen Malik didn’t shoot up a holiday party because someone laughed at his beard. They shot it up because it was an available target when they had decided to commit a very heinous crime in the name of Islam. Just like we know that Robert Dear committed a similar act in the name of Christianity.

            The only injustice I see in all this is that we call ISIS a terrorist organization for advocating lone wolf attacks, and we don’t do the same with Operation Rescue. That can be changed, and it would be wonderful if no Operation Rescue, Focus on the Family, or Army of God people were ever allowed to ride on an airplane again. Especially since that would mean the politicians would have to come to them, and that would be good material for viral videos: “Presidential candidate videoed meeting with terrorist group” makes for a pretty damning headline.

            • orionATL says:

              yours is, i’d guess, a widely held view.

              my interest in the particular terminology used to describe the san b. massacre, or any supposed terrorist event lies in:

              1) correctly describing an event in order to facilitate and focus the analysis of it, and

              2) remaining sceptical and watchful of political leaders who, for time on end, have used a manufactured or exaggerated external threat to the tribe or nation to seize and hold power.

              as for the circumstance when terrorism is a genuine threat to a group, that threat is, ironically, the mirror image of the authoritarian’s use of putative external threat – to undermine existing political power and to seize power from those who hold it.

              the tamil tiger leader velupillai prabhakaran and his organization are a textbook example of terrorism as a political tactic – assasinationns from mayors to prime ministers, siucide bombings from markets to airports. similarly, the palestinian terrorist program some years back in israel in which suicide volunteers would don their backpacks and board israeli buses. market place, police station, city center, airport have been targets in afghanistan and iraq (before and now with isil). the paris attacks were focused on a concert hall, a stadium, a well-known night spot. in mexico drug terrorism affects journalists, students, government officals, candidates, prosecutors, …

              each and every one of these acts of terrorism is an effort to either undermine power, hold on to power, or stop rivals from achiving power.

              • haarmeyer says:

                BTW, Enrique Marquez, Rizwan Farook’s friend, has now been charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, straw buying weapons, and an immigration fraud marriage. His co-conspirator is Rizwan Farook, so I highly doubt that Comey really meant that the massacre wasn’t terrorism.

                • orionATL says:

                  like i said much earlier, this is a benghazi-like situation.

                  certain knowledge now may prove not so certain. new and more accurate info may emerge. director comey is a very experienced bureaucrat; i assume he chooses his words VERY carefully these days. in any event we can count on the republican contingent in congress to go to the max to demonstrate “terrorism for sure”. there can be no cover-up,

                  but, like benghazi, there can be mountains of guessi g, gossip, and irrelevant information.

                  • orionATL says:

                    there are various small details in both the execution of the murders (strange phrase) and the behavior of the two assassins that interst me.

                    one of these has to do with the al-q magazine “inspire”.

                    – i’ve read that the husband, s. farook, accessed “inspire” multiple times (is it still being published or were those only back issues) ?

                    – i’ve also read that individuals who access “inspire” are monitored by u. s. intelligence.

                    if both of these statements are true, how was farook “missed” by u. s. intelligence?

                    i can think up lots of answers, but i’d like to hear from folks who really know the answer.

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