As the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial pauses for the Marathon and the attack anniversary (and, ostensibly, to give the defense time to line up their witnesses), some competing sides have aired their views about the story not being told at the trial.
An odd piece from BoGlo’s Kevin Cullen quotes a cop asking why the FBI Agents who interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 did not recognize him from surveillance videos.
“Who were the FBI agents who interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev after the Russians raised questions about him two years before the bombings, and why didn’t they recognize Tamerlan from the photos the FBI released?” he asked.
That’s actually a great question. But then Cullen goes onto make some assertions that — if true — should themselves elicit questions, questions he doesn’t ask. He marvels at the video analysis after the event, but doesn’t mention that the FBI claims the facial recognition software it has spent decades developing didn’t work to identify the brothers. He lauds the FBI for finding Dzhokhar’s backpack in a dumpster, but far overstates the value of the evidence found inside (remember, among other things found on a thumb drive in it was a rental application for Tamerlan’s wife). Cullen also overstates the FBI’s evidence that the bombs were made in Tamerlan’s Cambridge apartment, and so sees that as a question about why Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine, wasn’t charged (forgetting, I guess, that she was routinely gone from the apartment 70 hours a week), rather than a question about all the holes in FBI’s pressure cooker story: Why did Tamerlan pay cash for pressure cookers — as FBI suggests he did — all while carrying a mobile GPS device that he brought with him when trying to make his escape? Where did the other two pressure cookers (the third pressure cooker used as a bomb, and the one found at the apartment) come from?
Masha Gessen — who just wrote a book about the case that I have not yet read — asks some of the same questions in a NYT op-ed in a piece that also highlights the government’s flawed claims about radicalization at the core of this case.
Even worse, two critical questions have not been answered. Where were the bombs built? Investigators have testified that they were not built at the older brother’s apartment or in the younger brother’s dorm room. Were they built in someone else’s apartment, house or garage? If so, who, and was he a knowing accomplice? Did he help in any other way?
The other big question is: Why did the F.B.I. fail to identify Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, who had been fingered as a potential terrorist risk two years before the bombing and interviewed by field agents? Within 24 hours of the bombing, on April 15, 2013, investigators focused on images of the brothers in surveillance tapes recovered from the scene. Yet they had no names — and more than two days later they released the photos to the public, asking for help with identifying the suspects. How is it possible that someone who had been interviewed by a member of the local Joint Terrorism Task Force could not be identified from the pictures?
Note, I think Gessen overstates how strongly the government has said the bombs weren’t made at the Cambridge apartment, but it is consistent with the evidence presented that they weren’t.
Compare these decent questions with Janet Napolitano’s take — not so much on the trial, but on Gessen’s book.
Before I get into the key graph of her review, consider Napolitano’s role here. Her agency — especially Customs and Border Patrol — came in for some criticism in the Joint IG Report on the attack, because they may not have alerted the FBI to Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s travel to and from Russia in 2012, because they treated Tamerlan as a low priority and therefore didn’t question him on his border crossings (the trial record may indicate Tamerlan had Inspire on his computer when he traveled to Russia), and because the CBP record on Tamerlan went into a less visible status while he was out of the country, meaning he evaded secondary inspection on the way back into the country as well. Yet she mentions none of those crucial details about DHS’s role in missing Tamerlan’s travel and increasing extremism in her review.
Rather, she describes her agency as a valiant part of the combined effort to hunt down the attackers.
As secretary of homeland security, I immediately mobilized the department to assist Boston emergency responders and to work with the F.B.I. to identify the perpetrators. Because the Boston Marathon is an iconic American event, we suspected terrorism, but no group stepped forward to claim credit. Massive law enforcement resources — local, state and federal — had to be organized and deployed so that, within just a few days, we had narrowed the inquiry from the thousands of spectators who had come to cheer on the runners to two, who had come to plant bombs.
Only much later in her review does Napolitano makes a defense of the government failure to prevent this attack, though once again she makes no mention of her own agency’s role in failing to stop the attack. As Napolitano tells it, this is about the FBI and it’s just “armchair quaterbacking.”
In the course of armchair quarterbacking that followed the bombing, it was revealed that the Russian Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., had notified the F.B.I. in 2011 about Tamerlan’s presence in the United States. Although criticized for inadequate follow-up, the F.B.I. actually interviewed Tamerlan and other household members at least three times in 2011. Further requests to the F.S.B. for details went unanswered. Other than putting Tamerlan under 24-hour surveillance, it is difficult to ascertain what more the F.B.I. could have done — according to Gessen, Russia routinely presumes all young urban Muslim men to be radical.
Much of the rest of Napolitano’s review focuses on the government’s theory of radicalization and the Tsarnaev family’s collective failure to achieve the American Dream (which, I guess, is what Gessen was debunking in her op-ed the next day), returning the story insistently to one about radicalization. Except then, having emphasized how many times the FBI had contact with Tamerlan in 2011, she scoffs at the questions that might raise and Gessen’s reliance on evidence the government itself has introduced into the public record.
In the final chapters, however, the book becomes curiouser and curiouser; Gessen seems to become a conspiracy theorist. She postulates that the F.B.I. recruited Tamerlan as an informant during their visits to the Tsarnaev home in 2011. She then surmises that Tamerlan went rogue and participated in the killing of three friends with whom he dealt marijuana. She goes further, and suggests that after the bombings, the F.B.I. delayed telling Boston law enforcement about Tamerlan’s identity because they wanted to reach him first, kill him and hide his presence as an informant. Gessen likens this alleged behavior to the F.B.I.’s use of sting operations, and she implies that the bureau has been entrapping defendants as opposed to finding real terrorists. And, finally, relying on the words of “several” unnamed explosives experts, she asserts that the Tsarnaevs must have had help constructing the bombs, despite the presence of explicit instructions on the Internet and in Inspire, a jihadist magazine.
How is Gessen a conspiracy theorist because she “surmises that Tamerlan … participated” in the 2011 Waltham killings? That claim came from the FBI itself! The FBI says Ibragim Todashev was confessing to that fact when they killed him. And how is suggesting the bombs used at the Marathon (as distinct from those thrown in Watertown) could not have come directly from Inspire be a conspiracy theory when that is the testimony the defense elicited from FBI’s own bomb expert on cross examination?
Effectively, Janet Napolitano, whose agency rightly or wrongly received some of the criticism for failing to prevent this attack, completely ignores the questions about prevention and then dismisses questions that arise out of the government’s failure to prevent the attack as a conspiracy theory.
Napolitano’s choice to write (and NYT’s choice to publish) a critical review of a book pointing out problems with the narrative of the attack she herself has been pitching actually got me thinking: Imagine Robert Mueller writing such a review? Had he done so, the inappropriateness of it, the absurdity of deeming claims made by the FBI a conspiracy theory, and his own agency’s role in failing to prevent the attack would have been heightened. Not to mention, he likely would have had a hard time dismissing the real questions about the provenance of the bombs, given that his former agency claims not to know the answers to them. And that made me realize that having Napolitano write this review worked similarly to the way the prosecution’s parade of witnesses who hadn’t done the primary analysis on the evidence in the case did. It gave official voice to the chosen narrative, without ever exposing those who might be able to answer the still outstanding questions to question.
For what it’s worth, I have a few more questions about the attack that — like Cullen and Gessen — I regret will likely go unanswered. Or rather, perhaps another theory about the government’s implausible claim not to have IDed the brothers until they got DNA from Tamerlan on April 19th.
As I mentioned, no one wants to talk about why facial recognition didn’t work which — if true — ought to have led to congressional hearings and the defunding of the technology. The FBI wants you to believe that they couldn’t ID a guy they had had in a terrorist watchlist and extended immigration records on and Congress wants you to believe that would be acceptable performance for an expensive surveillance system.
I’ve also tracked the government’s odd use of GPS data in the trial. They used cell tower information based off the brothers’ known handsets (which they only got in smashed condition days later) to track their movement at the race. They used a series of GPS devices to track the purchases of the materials used in the attack and to track the brothers in the stolen Mercedes (though their claims about how they tracked the Mercedes still don’t add up). There’s something missing from this story, and I increasingly wonder whether it’s the use of a Stingray or similar device, which we know even local authorities use in the case of public events like protests or sporting events, which might have been able to pinpoint calls made between phones using the same “cell” at the race, and with it, pinpoint the phones we know were registered under the brothers’ real names.
So here’s my conspiracy theory, Janet Napolitano: Not only do I think claims Tamerlan was an informant ought to be at least assessed seriously (though I also think the Russians clearly are not telling us what they believed him to be, either), which might be one explanation for FBI’s dubious claims not to have IDed the brothers for over 3 days. But I also think the government pursued this case with an eye towards what intelligence they were willing to admit at trial — and we know they refuse to admit how sophisticated their use of Stingrays is, and we should assume they refuse to admit how well facial recognition technology works, either.
That is, in addition to the other real questions and possible explanations for the delay, I think it possible that the FBI had to create a manhunt so as to hide the tools that IDed the brothers far earlier than they let on.
Update: I meant to add that I think the timing of the recent Stingray releases to be curious. Basically, the dam holding back disclosures of the FBI’s secrecy on Stingrays burst on Wednesday, April 8, as the ACLU, Baltimore, and two other jurisdictions got Non-Disclosure Agreements on the same day, after the Tsarnaev case had gone to the jury. That’s as conveniently timed, it seems, as the April 3 release of the After Action report, which Massachusetts had held since December. Also remember that the government doesn’t have to disclose PRTT data to defendants unless it uses that evidence at trial (and has suggested it has PRTT data on other terrorist defendants that it doesn’t have to turn over). So if they did use a Stingray to ID the brothers at all, they would claim they didn’t have to disclose it, but wouldn’t want to make the capability too obvious until after the defense lost any opportunity to make a constitutional claim.
Univision’s Adriana Vargas just interviewed President Obama. After three questions about the immigration bill, she asked whether Obama would consider Ray Kelly to run Department of Homeland Security.
Obama, of course, was effusive about the idea of appointing Mr. Stop & Frisk to be in charge of the immigration system.
Vargas: Mr. President, New York Commissioner Ray Kelly has been floated for the next DHS Secretary. What is your take on it?
Obama: Well, Ray Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York and the federal government partners a lot with New York. Because obviously our concerns about terrorism oftentimes are focused on big city targets. And I think Ray Kelly is one of the best there is. So he’s been an outstanding leader in New York. We’ve had an outstanding leader in Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a tough job. It’s one of the toughest jobs in Washington. She’s done an extraordinary job. We’re sorry to see her go. But you know, we’re going to have a bunch of strong candidates. Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is. But if he’s not I’d want to know about it. ‘Cause you know, obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job.
Janet Napolitano? Outstanding leader.
Ray Kelly? Outstanding leader, according to Obama.
So Vargas then asked about a core DHS failure: Hurricane Sandy Recovery, where just a quarter of families have gotten FEMA relief (about half of the relief funding remains unallocated).
Obama boasts about spending a quarter of the disaster relief funds, then shifts the subject to Shawn Donovan.
AV: I have one last question regarding our geographical area of course and it’s regarding the efforts of recovery after Sandy. Only a quarter of the families have received FEMA resources. What would be your message to those families among them obviously a lot of Latino families?
PBO: Well, you know, we’ve distributed over $4 billion dollars since Sandy happened. $1.4 billion of that has been directly to families through FEMA. And we are continuing to not only try to get resources out. But also I’ve got a team headed up by Shaun Donovan, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to try to design a rebuilding process that strengthens these communities post-Sandy, so that if there are tragedies in the future they’re in a stronger position than they were. But, you know, individual families it’s always tough. Some may qualify for some assistance, but don’t feel like they’ve gotten everything that they need. You know, we’re doing as much as we can with the resources that we’ve been given from Congress. And we’re in close communication with Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo and all the local municipalities to do everything we can to help businesses and families get back on their feet. And we’re not going to stop until we get it done.
Obama’s “outstanding” head of Homeland Security, of course, is ultimately responsible for Sandy recovery.
And that’s apparently what he sees in Ray Kelly, too.
Janet Napolitano is testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, purportedly on the budget. Not surprisingly, she’s getting a ton of questions about the Boston Marathon attack and immigration.
But in a smart series of questions that will undoubtedly be controversial, Claire McCaskill challenged Napolitano to explain why we so quickly called Boston a terrorist attack, but wouldn’t call Sandy Hook a terrorist attack. Noting that we still don’t know the motive behind either attack, McCaskill asked (these are my immediate transcriptions),
Other than weapon, is there any difference between Sandy Hook and Boston?
We are so quick to call Boston terror, why aren’t we calling man w/high capacity magazine a terrorist?
As I look at it w/eyes of prosecutor, I find it troubling that one is treated to cause so much more fear than other.
It’s possible both had same motive, just one chose military weapon, the other chose homemade explosive.
It’s a provocative, but necessary question. The crime of terrorism relies on having a political motive. In both these attacks, we don’t know motive. But two days after Boston, we’re treating it as terrorism, while the attack that killed 20 children in their school still isn’t called such.
My inclination would be to call neither terrorism. McCaskill is right that the term just serves to generate fear.
But I’m glad she asked the question.
This Marc Lynch post on America’s Saudi problem is worth reading for its discussion of how our uncritical support for Saudi Arabia undermines our efforts in the Middle East.
America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia remains the greatest contradiction inherent in its attempt to align itself with popular aspirations for change in the region. A Saudi exception certainly makes things such as coordinating the containment of Iran easier for diplomats on a daily basis. But it sustains and perpetuates a regional order which over the long term is costly to sustain and clearly at odds with American normative preferences.
It’s also notable because it remains one of the few commentaries I’ve seen to mention Mohammed bin Nayef’s trip to DC from 10 days ago.
For instance, the symbolism of President Obama’s unusual meeting with new Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, which looked to many Saudis like an endorsement of someone they identify with the most repressive and anti-democratic trends in the kingdom, was unfortunate.
As this release from the Saudi embassy lays out in detail, MbN was in DC from January 14 through 16. There were a few explicit orders of business. Hillary Clinton and MbN renewed the Technical Cooperation Agreement (which would have expired in May) providing US support to protect Saudi critical infrastructure, especially its oil facilities. MbN signed Memoranda of Understanding with Janet Napolitano on cybersecurity and a trusted traveler program. As Lynch noted, he was granted a private meeting with President Obama, which resulted in the following readout.
Today, President Obama met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, in the Oval Office. They affirmed the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and discussed security and regional issues of mutual interest. The President congratulated Prince Mohammed bin Nayef on his appointment to Minister of Interior and asked him to convey his best wishes to King Abdullah bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud.
But in addition to that, MbN had a series of meetings with almost every major major player in our security establishment.
Prince Mohammad also met with a number of senior U.S. officials throughout his visit, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Robert Clapper, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Robert Mueller, and Director of the National Security Agency General Keith B. Alexander.
This leaves out only DOD and CIA (though even before he was nominated to be CIA Director, we could assume former Riyadh station chief John Brennan heavily influenced Saudi ties to CIA).
Given such a high profile visit, I have been expecting someone to discuss what merited the full coming out party (aside from MbN’s November appointment to be Minister of Interior, but MbN has been serving as our counterterrorism liaison for years). But I’ve seen little reporting to explain the trip.
And there are a few more reasons why I would really like to know what MbN discussed with almost the entire national security establishment.
There’s Turki al-Faisal’s call for “sophisticated, high-level weapons” to be sent to Syria (not to mention the recent release of a purported April 2012 Saudi directive releasing Saudi death row prisoners to fight jihad against Bashar al-Assad).
Then there’s the escalation of drone strikes in Yemen since MbN’s visit, attacking targets that have no apparent tie to America’s stated targeting criteria there–a threat to American interests. Yemen-based journalist Adam Baron has observed that the drone strikes–as opposed to overflights–have been unusually concentrated in northern provinces.
interestingly, drone uptick has been concentrated in northern provinces: 2013 has yet to see one reported in shabwa/abyan/hadramawt.
Add in a bit of confusion over the reported scope of the new drone rulebook. The WaPo’s report describes that only Pakistan is exempted from the rulebook, yet some have suggested that the CIA’s drone program in Yemen, too will be exempted.
Then there’s the role that MbN has played in the past. In addition to being the key player on the roll-out of the TCA (more on that below), he created Saudi Arabia’s deradicalization program, which this March 2009 WikiLeaks cable ties closely to the TCA renewed on the trip. At least two former Gitmo detainees who went through the program ended up serving as infiltrators into AQAP. This Saudi-US Relations Information Service release actually points to the toner cartridge plot revealed by deradicalization graduate Jabir al-Fayfi along with the recent UndieBomb 2.0 plot–which was created by a third infiltrator directed by the Saudis–in its coverage of MbN’s visit, suggesting he may have had a role there, too. Should we expect similar operations in the near future? Note, while he is understood to have been a genuine recidivist, another graduate of Gitmo and then MbN’s deradicalization program, AQAP’s number 2, Said al-Shirhi, was reported on Thursday to have died from wounds suffered in a November counterterrorism strike.
All this takes place against the background of unrest in Saudi Arabia (which Lynch describes at length). While Lynch disagrees, Bruce Reidel has been warning–and hawking a book–about a possible revolution in Saudi Arabia. To the extent the unrest represents a serious threat, it would put MbN, as Minister of the Interior, at the forefront. Interestingly, as part of the TCA renewed on this trip and led by MbN, the US helped Saudi Arabia develop a 35,000 person strong Facilities Security Force, which includes a paramilitary function, which would be crucial in the Eastern Provinces experiencing the most real unrest (the same day MbN came to the US, King Abdullah put MbN’s older brother in charge of the Eastern Province). When you couple that with the cybersecurity cooperation MbN discussed with Janet Napolitano–remember the fear-mongering around the technically simple but executed by insiders ARAMCO hack–and it suggests the US may be more worried about the Eastern Province than Lynch.
So maybe MbN’s visit represents real concerns about unrest in the Kingdom (which would play into our pressure on Iran), not least because the Saudis blame Iran for the unrest among its Shia population. Or maybe MbN’s visit represents a further expansion of our already significant counterterrorism and other covert operations.
I sure would like to know, though.
A few weeks ago, a nonpartisan group revealed that the Federal government spends more on immigration enforcement than all other law enforcement combined. Altogether it spends $18 billion a year–most of it to keep people out of the country and prosecute and deport those who get in without documentation.
The United States spends more money on immigration enforcement — nearly $18 billion in the 2012 fiscal year — than on its other law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report released Monday from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
That spending went to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and US-Visit, a program that helps states and localities identify undocumented immigrants.
By contrast, the U.S. spent $14.4 billion — combined — on its other prime law enforcement agencies: the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Today, Janet Napolitano basically told Congress to fuck itself and its demand that all shipping containers bound for the US be screened. Apparently, the one time $16 billion price tag is too much to ensure that our trade cargo undergoes the same scrutiny actual people do.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday suggested that her department does not plan on meeting a congressional requirement that all foreign cargo shipped to the United States be scanned for dangerous materials that could be used in a terrorism attack.
Congress in 2007 approved a law that requires all ship cargo bound for the United States be screened for weapon-usable nuclear and radioactive materials and other dangerous substances before the vessels sails away from foreign seaports. After missing an initial deadline last July to come into compliance with the law, the Homeland Security Department now has until July 2014 to meet the mandate.
“I actually looked into this issue very thoroughly,” Napolitano said during a Wilson Center event here.
Last spring, Napolitano told lawmakers it would cost $16 billion to deploy screening technology at all of the approximately 700 international seaports that send cargo to the United States.
“It’s one of those things where as we have grown and become more knowledgeable about how to really manage risk, we have recognized that mandates like that sound very good but in point of fact are extraordinarily expensive and that there are better and more efficient ways to accomplish the same result,” Napolitano said on Thursday.
Mind you, what shipping container screening is being done is largely included in that $18 billion a year figure, which includes Customs and Border Patrol’s budget of $3.5 billion. So fulfilling the Congressional mandate would only inflate the larger number.
Moreover, I’m willing to entertain the notion that it doesn’t make sense to scan each and every shipping container.
You know? In the same way it simply doesn’t make sense to make each and every airplane passenger take off her shoes and go through a backscatter machine?
But the disparity in what DHS is willing to spend to keep people out of the country as compared to what it is willing to spend to keep contraband trade and weapons out is telling.
It makes it clear, first of all, that DHS doesn’t believe it has to fulfill every Congressional mandate, including the one that mandates DHS round up 400,000 people a year to deport. I’m not saying I agree with that; I’m noting that DHS chooses when to follow the requirements Congress sets.
It also makes clear that importers would never be asked to undergo the same inconvenience and cost that actual people do (ultimately, importers should be paying the cost to ensure their shipping containers are safe, not taxpayers).
It appears, then, DHS is far more interested in keeping undocumented people–whether they present a risk to the US or not–out of this country than it is keep contraband trade out.
And while they seem to indicate Jack Lew is likely to replace TurboTaxTimmeh Geithner and Secretary of State will be the subject of active speculation for some time (with intriguing speculation that Howard Berman, who lost to Brad Sherman in CA, might be under consideration), one key role–albeit not of cabinet level–is missing:
After all, Robert Mueller is already 2 years beyond his sell by date; Obama extended his term to get past the election (he said). And regardless of rank, the FBI Director is one of the most important figures in the increasingly powerful surveillance state.
And there have been some very troubling names mentioned in discussions to replace him, including NYPD’s Ray Kelly, who would really be the second incarnation of J Edgar Hoover’s abusive power. There had been speculation that Patrick Fitzgerald wanted the job, but his decision to join Skadden Arps just before the election suggests he knew he wasn’t going to get that job.
Particularly given Eric Holder’s apparent increasing doubt that he’ll stick around, we have the possibility of seeing something worse–all the capitulation we got from Holder in the first term, plus and FBI Director who has none of the claimed measure of Mueller (though I’ve always had my doubts about those claims).
A new FBI Director (which is guaranteed), particularly if it came with a new Attorney General, could either set a dramatic new course or harden in the old course. And I fear it is most likely to be the latter.
But while it meticulously supports its claims about the waste and inefficacy of fusion centers, it seems to miss what all that evidence suggests. That is that there is no need for fusion centers. The report clearly shows we have spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion to build a bunch of data sharing centers in the name of terrorism; yet in spite of the investment, the centers appear to never actually have contributed to finding a terrorist.
Fusion centers are supposed to be about counterterrorism
This is made clear in the way the report meticulously lays out the purported purpose of fusion centers, then measures how they fulfill that purpose.
The report notes two moments in DHS’ history when fusion centers were pointedly not authorized: the initial formation of DHS, the 9/11 Commission report. It notes that under Michael Chertoff, DHS aides were pushing for reasons to sell fusion centers to the Feds.
Mr. Riegle said that he did not believe that access to state and local information was really a principal reason for the federal government to support fusion centers, but it was part of the pitch. “It was a selling point to the Feds,” Mr. Riegle said. “I’ve got to tell them what the benefits are.”
Only in 2007, at a time when there were already 37 fusion centers, many in states not likely to be targeted by foreign terrorism, did Congress specifically authorize fusion centers. At that time, Congress emphasized the fusion centers’ counterterrorism function.
The law also directed DHS to detail intelligence personnel to the centers if the centers met certain criteria, several of which required a center to demonstrate a focus on and commitment to a counterterrorism mission. Among the criteria the law suggested were “whether the fusion center . . . focuses on a broad counterterror approach,” whether the center has sufficient personnel “to support a broad counterterrorism mission,” and whether the center is appropriately funded by non-federal sources “to support its counterterrorism mission.”
Fusion centers have not found any terrorists
And on that basis, fusion centers have failed.
The value of fusion centers to the federal government should be determined by tallying the cost of its investment, and the results obtained. Continue reading
CNN’s Security Clearance blog thinks it has exposed Janet Napolitano as a Luddite.
Napolitano said she does not use email “at all.”
“For a whole host of reasons. So, I don’t have any of my own accounts and that, you know, I’m very secure,” Napolitano noted at a Washington conference about cyber security.
“Some would call me a Luddite but you know. But that’s my own personal choice and I’m very unique in that regard I suspect,” Napolitano added.
Of course, she’s not unique at all and–given her fondness for highly sophisticated data mining–not a Luddite.
CNN might consider two things before they conclude Napolitano doesn’t have email because she eschews technology. First, the graphic above, which Bloomberg put together to show how unresponsive Obama’s Administration is to FOIA requests. Part of the reason why DHS claims so many FOIA exemptions is the sheer number of FOIAs they get. But there have been other examples to show that Napolitano’s agency doesn’t much like transparency.
And then consider why other people who don’t use–or claim not to use–email did so. People like Scooter Libby, whose office also happened to disappear a good number of emails responsive to a criminal investigation. The most logical explanation for someone–particularly someone who avoids transparency in general–to avoid email is because it is FOIAable, it serves as a record of discussions that might be embarrassing.
So my guess is that one of the main reasons why Napolitano doesn’t use email is to avoid getting into trouble with it.
After all, like Scooter Libby, she knows as well as anyone the kinds of things the government and others can find in someone’s email box.
As Marcy appropriately pointed out, there was a LOT of news dumped in the waning moments and bustling milieu of a Friday afternoon; not just pending a holiday weekend, but with a press corps still hung over from, and yammering about, the empty chairs and empty suits at the GOP National Convention. I have some comments on the cowardice of justice by DOJ on Arpaio, but will leave that for another time.
But the declination of prosecution of Joe Arpaio was not the only Arizona based story coming out of the Obama Administration Friday News Dump. Nor, in a way, even the most currently interesting (even if it ultimately more important to the citizens of Maricopa County, where Arpaio roams free to terrorize innocents and political opponents of all stripes and nationalities). No, the more immediately interesting current story in the press is that of Suzanne Barr, DHS and Janet Napolitano. Not to mention how the press has bought into the fraudulent framing by a Bush era zealot to turn a garden variety puffed up EEO complaint into a national scandal on the terms and conditions of the conservative, sex bigoted, right wing noise machine.
And what a convoluted tale this is too. It is NOT what it seems on the surface. The complainant referenced in all the national media, James Hayes, had nothing whatsoever to do with the DHS official, Suzanne Barr, who just resigned. There is a LOT more to the story than is being reported. And there are far more questions generated than answers supplied. What follows is a a more fully fleshed out background, and some of my thoughts and questions.
You may have read about this DHS story already, but here is the common generic setup from the mainstream media, courtesy of the New York Times:
The accusations against Ms. Barr came to light as part of a discrimination lawsuit filed by James T. Hayes Jr., a top federal immigration official in New York, against Ms. Napolitano, contending that he had been pushed out of a senior management position to make room for a less-qualified woman and then was retaliated against when he threatened to sue. The lawsuit also accused Ms. Barr of creating “a frat-house-type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees.”
The resignation — amid a three-day holiday weekend sandwiched between the Republican and Democratic national conventions — came at a time when the public was likely paying little attention to events in Washington. But Representative Peter T. King of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, released a statement in which he vowed to continue to scrutinize the matter when Congress returns from its August break.
“The resignation of Suzanne Barr raises the most serious questions about management practices and personnel policies at the Department of Homeland Security,” Mr. King said, adding that the committee would review “all the facts regarding this case and D.H.S. personnel practices across the board.”
The Complaint of James T. Hayes, Jr: So, Suzanne Barr really must have laid one on this Jimmy Hayes chap, right?? Uh, no. Not really. Not at all. Let’s take a look at the actual complaint as legally pled. These are my thoughts, as a Continue reading
A number of people have pointed to this report showing that the terrorist threat is grossly overblown. Not only does it show that Robert Mueller was overselling the risk of Muslim-American radicalization in the early days of of the War on Terror, and he and Janet Napolitano and Peter King and others continue to do so.
Twenty Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2011, down from 26 the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 193, or just under 20 per year (see Figure 1). This number is not negligible — small numbers of Muslim-Americans continue to radicalize each year and plot violence. However, the rate of radicalization is far less than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11. In early 2003, for example, Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told Congress that “FBI investigations have revealed militant Islamics [sic] in the US. We strongly suspect that several hundred of these extremists are linked to al-Qaeda.”1 Fortunately, we have not seen violence on this scale.
These and similar warnings have braced Americans for a possible upsurge in Muslim-American terrorism, which has not occurred. Instead, terrorist plots have decreased in each of the past two years, since the spike of cases in 2009. Threats remain: violent plots have not dwindled to zero, and revolutionary Islamist organizations overseas continue to call for Muslim-Americans to engage in violence. However, the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls continues to be tiny, when compared with the population of more than 2 million Muslims in the United States5 and when compared with the total level of violence in the United States, which was on track to register 14,000 murders in 2011.6
But, as Kevin Drum emphasized, the number of Muslim-Americans indicted for supporting terrorism–rather than engaging in a plot–has declined steadily over the last decade.
But while discussing how overblown the threat from Muslim-Americans in this country is, we ought to look at another report, too–perhaps this one, bragging about how much the FBI has changed in the last decade. Because along with visualizing how much more the FBI is spending–more than twice as much–it also notes the FBI has increased surveillance 48% over the decade (and that’s separate from the surveillance the NSA and Homeland Security and local law enforcement have put into place).
In other words, it’s not just that Muslim-American support for terrorism has declined. But it has declined even while we’re spending far more resources looking for it, and we’re just not finding it, much.