Dianne Feinstein: We Need to Collect Data on Every Single American Because We Can’t Control Our Informants

I will have far, far more to say about the claims about the various surveillance programs aired on the Sunday shows today.

But this is absolutely batshit crazy.

FEINSTEIN: Well, of course, balance is a difficult thing to actually identify what it is, but I can tell you this: These programs are within the law. The [Section 215] business records section is reviewed by a federal judge every 90 days. It should be noted that the document that was released that was under seal, which reauthorized the program for another 90 days, came along with a second document that placed and discussed the strictures on the program. That document was not released.

So here’s what happens with that program. The program is essentially walled off within the NSA. There are limited numbers of people who have access to it. The only thing taken, as has been correctly expressed, is not content of a conversation, but the information that is generally on your telephone bill, which has been held not to be private personal property by the Supreme Court.

If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those numbers then can be obtained. If you want to collect content on the American, then a court order is issued.

So, the program has been used. Two cases have been declassified. One of them is the case of David Headley, who went to Mumbai, to the Taj hotel, and scoped it out for the terrorist attack. [my emphasis]

Dianne Feinstein says that one of the two plots where Section 215 prevented an attack was used (the other, about Najibullah Zazi, is equally batshit crazy, but I’ll return to that) is the Mumbai attack.

What’s she referring to is tracking our own informant, David Headley.

And it didn’t prevent any attack. The Mumbai attack was successful.

Our own informant. A successful attack. That’s her celebration of success 215’s use.

So her assertion is we need to collect metadata on every single American because DEA can’t keep control of its informants.

Update: Technically DiFi didn’t say this was a success, just that it had been used. I’ve edited the post accordingly.

New Wikileak: CIA Admits US Exports Terror

Wikileaks has posted a single new document–a CIA Red Cell report contemplating what would (will?) happen if other countries begin to see the US as an exporter of terrorism. The document admits several cases where the US has exported terror–such as the widely known but downplayed fact that David Headley had a role in the Mumbai bombing.

In November 2008, Pakistani-American David Headley conducted surveillance in support of the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba (LT) attack in Mumbai, India that killed more than 160 people. LT induced him to change his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley to facilitate his movement between the US, Pakistan, and India.

More amusing is that CIA classifies as “secret” the fact that Irish-Americans provided the bulk of funding for the IRA.

Some Irish-Americans have long provided financial and material support for violent efforts to compel the United Kingdom to relinquish control of Northern Ireland. In the 1880s, Irish-American members of Clan na Gael dynamited Britain’s Scotland Yard, Parliament, and the Tower of London, and detonated bombs at several stations in the London underground.In the twentieth century, Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support sent to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases. Only after repeated high-level British requests and then London’s support for our bombing of Libya in the 1980s did the US Government crack down on Irish-American support for the IRA. (S//NF)

Note, though, the CIA ignores state-sanctioned terrorism, such as with St. Ronnie’s tampering in Nicaragua.

After acknowledging that Americans may export terrorism overseas, the document envisions what would happen as other countries ask for reciprocity on the US’ sovereignty-infringing counterterrorism policies.

  • Foreign regimes could request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens. US failure to cooperate could result in those governments refusing to allow the US to extract terrorist suspects from their soil, straining alliances and bilateral relations.
  • In extreme cases, US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil. Foreign intelligence operations on US soil to neutralize or even assassinate individuals in the US deemed to be a threat are not without precedent. Before the US entered World War II, British intelligence carried out information operations against prominent US citizens deemed to be isolationists or sympathetic to the Nazis. Some historians who have examined relevant archives even suspect that British intelligence officers assassinated Nazi agents on US soil. (S//NF)


  • If foreign regimes believe the US position on rendition is too one-sided, favoring the US, but not them, they could obstruct US efforts to detain terrorism suspects. For example, in 2005 Italy issued criminal arrest warrants for US agents involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric and his rendition to Egypt. The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge US bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts.
  • If foreign leaders see the US refusing to provide intelligence on American terrorism suspects or to allow witnesses to testify in their courts, they might respond by denying the same to the US. In 2005 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted by a German court because the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify. More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the US or abroad, or result in the release of suspects. (S//NF)

So, to sum up, in this common sense document that passes for the CIA thinking outside of the box, the CIA admits that the US is not all that different from other countries in exporting terrorism, and acknowledges that our hypocrisy on international law and reciprocity might lead to less cooperation on counterterrorism in the future.

Where do I sign up to produce this kind of milquetoast analysis?

Eric Holder Addresses the Constitution Project

I happened to get lost, end up in DC, and show up to cover the Constitution Project’s annual dinner, particularly Attorney General Eric Holder’s keynote (see here for the [!]Breaking [!]News on that front).

Before I get into that, I just wanted to note how gratifying it is to be in a crowd of DC folks who fight for things like defendant rights and rule of law. The two awardees were George Kendall and Thomas Pickering (Alberto Mora introduced Pickering).

As Dahlia Lithwick said in her Emcee gab, these folks are the heros.

Here’s my liveblog of his talk. It sure felt like Holder’s apologia for military commissions to a bunch of civil libertarians. When you come before a bunch of people who believe in civilian trials and spend most of your time trying to push the benefits of both civilian trials and military commissions, it does not bode well.

After thanking the Constitution Project for its support of expanding access to legal services, Holder addresses his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. [here’s his testimony]

Protecting America’s safety, America’s interests, and America’s values by adhering to the rule of law.  We are a nation at war. Go to bed each night thinking about how best to keep our people safe. I am determined to win this war. I know we can. We won’t win by adhering to a rigid ideology or a narrow approach. But we are also a nation that lives under rule of law. Just as on the battlefield, our government must use all the tools we can to win the war.

Scoffs at those who say Obama Administration has continued policy of Bush Admin.

Calls military commissions and civilian trials “weapons against those who choose to do us harm.”

Differences between the two fora.

Proposal by some to do away with civilian courts, not realistic. Without civilian authority, we would lose one of our key weapons, It would deny us means to punish guilty, and it would be disservice to history of civilian justice system. No question that if such a plan advances it would harm our national security.

Just look at what civilian courts have achieved.

Intelligence Undie bomber has provided has been actionable.

Names the successes:

  • Najibullah Zazi
  • Undie Bomber
  • David Headley
  • Aafia Siddiqui

In some cases, military commissions appropriate. Congress has taken extraordinary steps to improve commissions since they were first introduced. MCs reflect realities of battlefield. I have faith in our MCs, which is why I have referred 6 cases. There is no inherent contradiction between referring cases while at the same time prosecuting terrorists in civilian courts.

Commissions only have jurisdiction over AQ and affiliated groups. Not Hamas, not FARC. Not against Americans. MCs can only prosecute some violations of rules of law. Civilian prosecutors can also make other charges: firearms, false statements. Terrorism plots can be disrupted, while still collecting information. Civilian courts can provide just punishment for variety of bad acts.

Our civilian courts have 200 years of precedence. They have a reliability that gives them credibility.

Describes preference of allies to cooperate with civilian trials, says he hopes that as MCs get a better reputation, allies will cooperate on MCs too.

Debate has meant to scare rather than educate.

Holder picks up his defense of prosecutors who serve honorably. They deserve our gratitude and our respect.