Archive for National Security

Mission Accomplished

Mission:

The resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson and the launch of a top-to-bottom review of the agency Wednesday are an acknowledgment by President Obama of what he has long denied: that the force charged with protecting him is in deep turmoil and struggling to fulfill its sacred mission. [Sacred?! Vital, yes, paramount even. But sacred? ed.]

In the spring, Pierson was irate at what she considered the excessive security measures her team had planned for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which Obama hosted this summer, demanding that it dismantle extra layers of fencing and reopen closed streets, according to two agency supervisors. Supervisors who had mapped out the security plan said they were taken aback when Pierson, who worked during high school at Walt Disney World as a costumed character and park attendant, said: “We need to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting.”

Accomplished:

An unidentified man posing as a member of Congress made it into a secure area backstage at President Barack Obama’s appearance at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington Sept. 27, according to a White House official.

The man entered the backstage area during or just after Obama’s speech at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as members of Congress gathered there to have their pictures taken with the president, said the official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the incident, which has not previously been made public.

The unidentified man said he was Representative Donald Payne Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, the official said. One member of the White House staff determined that the man wasn’t Payne, and another asked him to leave, the official said. He did so without incident and wasn’t detained.

The Secret Service did its job by screening everyone who attended the dinner, including the man, said Brian Leary, an agency spokesman.

“This guy went through security, fully screened,” he said.

Neither the White House official, nor another administration official aware of the incident, could say how close the man got to the president or First Lady Michelle Obama, who was also in the vicinity. Payne’s chief of staff, LaVerne Alexander, said yesterday that she had not been informed of the incident.

Could White House security be any more Mickey Mouse? Or Goofy? Why did they just let him go?

While this doesn’t reflect well on Obama, is it really his fault? Why would he put his own and his family’s safety at risk?

Political correctness, what else?

“I respect Pierson’s service, but she hasn’t been on a protective mission in two decades,” said one supervisor who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “She doesn’t know anything about security planning in a post-9/11 world.”

Yet it is a post-9/11 world. Nice lady, I’m sure, but what else but PC explains her ascension to the top spot of the most “sacred” Secret Service? Whether Obama made the choice or not, it fits in with an outlook that instructed NASA to reach out to Muslims.

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Who Was President in 1993?

Because whoever he or she was, they got some ‘splainin’ to do:

In a revelation missing from the official investigations of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI placed a human source in direct contact with Osama bin Laden in 1993 and ascertained that the al Qaeda leader was looking to finance terrorist attacks in the United States, according to court testimony in a little-noticed employment dispute case.

The information the FBI gleaned back then was so specific that it helped thwart a terrorist plot against a Masonic lodge in Los Angeles, the court records reviewed by The Washington Times show.

“It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in al Qaeda, directly involved,” Edward J. Curran, a former top official in the FBI’s Los Angeles office, told the court in support of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the bureau by his former agent Bassem Youssef.

Mr. Curran gave the testimony in 2010 to an essentially empty courtroom, and thus it escaped notice from the media or terrorism specialists. The Times was recently alerted to the existence of the testimony while working on a broader report about al Qaeda’s origins.

Members of the Sept. 11 commission, congressional intelligence committees and terrorism analysts told The Times they are floored that the information is just now emerging publicly and that it raises questions about what else Americans might not have been told about the origins of al Qaeda and its early interest in attacking the United States.

“I think it raises a lot of questions about why that information didn’t become public and why the 9/11 Commission or the congressional intelligence committees weren’t told about it,” said former Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, who chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2004 through 2007 when lawmakers dealt with the fallout from the 9/11 Commission’s official report.

“I do not recall the FBI advising us of a direct contact with Osama bin Laden,” Mr. [Lee] Hamilton told The Times in a recent interview.

Like Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Zelikow said he does not recall ever being told by the FBI about the 1993 source and that Mr. Curran’s disclosure appeared to involve “valuable intelligence gathered in 1993 and 1994.”

Okay, we get that the FBI kept mum on bin Laden’s US terrorist aspirations.

But why?

The 9/11 Commission report broadly outlines how, during the early 1990s, bin Laden was seeking to expand al Qaeda globally — an effort that included “building alliances extended into the United States,” and that “the Blind Sheikh, whom Bin Laden admired, was also in the network.”

But the report downplays the notion that bin Laden was actively plotting or seeking to finance any specific attacks inside the United States as far back as 1993 — two pieces of information that, according to Mr. Curran’s testimony and contemporaneous documents, the FBI’s Los Angeles field office corroborated at the time.

It’s one thing to keep the information to yourself at the time: you don’t want to blab to everybody that you have a confidential source placed next to Public Enemy No. 1. But the 9/11 Commission didn’t start its work until ten years later. Wouldn’t bin Laden’s interest in terrorism on US soil (or air) have been relevant to the story?

Whom were they trying to protect? If we could just get to the bottom of who was President of the United States in 1993—who it was who had the future murderer of nearly three thousand Americans in the palm of one hand, and his schlong in the palm of the other—I think we’d be on to something. Any help?

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The Guardian Has Only Published 1% Of Snowden’s Files

Snowden will entertain us for the rest of our lives.

The editor of the Guardian said Tuesday that his newspaper has published just 1 percent of the material it received from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and denied that the paper had placed lives or national security at risk.

Alan Rusbridger was questioned by Parliament’s home affairs committee as part of a session on counterterrorism.

I wonder if Russia will publish the other 99%?

– Aggie

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Manning Acquitted Of Aiding Enemy

Convicted of lesser charges

I bet he spends at least a decade in military prison.

A military judge Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge the Army intelligence analyst faced for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.
Manning was convicted on nearly all of the lesser charges considered by the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, in connection with the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.

The suspense at the court martial session was limited because Manning previously pled guilty to 10 of the 22 counts he faced. Those charges carry a potential sentence of 20 years. The aiding-the-enemy charge can lead result in a sentence of up to life in prison or event to the death penalty, but the military did not seek capital punishment in Manning’s case.

If convicted on all charges apart from aiding the enemy, Manning faced a potential sentence of up to 154 years.
Manning did not dispute the fact that he sent WikiLeaks most of the material that led to the charges against him. However, his defense argued that some of the counts were legally flawed.

The Army intelligence analyst was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq at a forward operating base where he studied threats in a section of Baghdad. He’s been in custody since.

As soon as Wednesday, the court martial is expected to move into a sentencing phase. Prosecutors are expected to call witnesses demonstrating the harm caused by Manning’s disclosures, while the defense will seek to undercut that evidence and argue for leniency.

Lind ruled in January that Manning is entitled to a sentencing credit of nearly four months as a result of what she determined was unnecessarily harsh treatment the intelligence analysts received during his almost nine-month stay at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.

Anyone have an opinion on all of this? Given the Snowden leaks, I’m inclined to go lightly on Manning, because I’m so appalled at some of the monkey business our government engages in – but my husband disagrees with me. What do you think?

– Aggie

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Microsoft Collaborated With NSA

Helped them to read your emails

Microsoft Corp worked closely with US intelligence services to help them intercept users’ communications, including letting the National Security Agency circumvent email encryption, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Citing top-secret documents provided by former US spy contractor Edward Snowden, the UK newspaper said Microsoft worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the NSA to ease access via Prism – an intelligence-gathering program uncovered by the Guardian last month – to cloud storage service SkyDrive.

Microsoft also helped the Prism program collect video and audio of conversations conducted via Skype, Microsoft’s online chat service, the newspaper added.

Microsoft had previously said it did not provide the NSA direct access to users’ information. On Thursday, it repeated that it provides customer data only in response to lawful government requests.

“To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product,” the company said in a statement on its website.

What say you, techies? Where is the outrage?

– Aggie

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What Part of “Shhhh!” Don’t You Get, Punk?

One of my brother’s favorite expressions was “To Err Is Human; To Forgive Is Not Library Policy”.

Remember when librarians were butch?

A librarian who fended off an FBI demand for computer records on patrons said Wednesday that secret anti-terrorism investigations strip away personal freedoms.

“Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free,” said George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area.

In prepared testimony for a Senate panel, Christian said his experience “should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution” about the strain that the government’s pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties.

He said the government uses the USA Patriot Act and other laws to learn, without proper judicial oversight or any after-the-fact review, what citizens are researching in libraries.

A recent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found 48 violations of law or rules in the FBI’s use of national security letters from 2003 through 2005. Some congressional critics want to tighten legal safeguards on the letters.

” ‘Trust us’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to the government’s power to obtain Americans’ sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights.

Isn’t “trust us” the Obama administration’s defense against NSA snoopery?

Yeah, well, that was then. Any of you fetishists out there who fantasize about trysts with repressed librarians deep in the stacks should be warned: now they give it up without being asked.

The nation’s librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law…

Libraries equipped with public computers and Internet access already serve as a bridge across the digital divide, so it made sense to get them involved, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services…

So, Congress passes the Patriot Act—it becomes the law of the land—and the nation’s librarians practice civil disobedience. Congress passes ObamaCare—and it’s Constitutional, bitches—and the nation’s librarians go past obedience to subservience to servility to supinity (supineness, if you prefer).

May I suggest to the friendly librarian down at my local branch that you are full of [bleep]? That you are motivated by politics not principles? That the ALA is as much an organ of the state as Stasi was for East Germany?

You may love ObamaCare and hate the Patriot Act—you would not be alone—but one was enacted to save Americans from a very real threat to their lives and security, while the other rewrote the doctor-patient relationship to stick a government accountant in between. You can’t cite your purported freedom and independence only when it suits your political fancies. Or you can, but you’re full of [bleep], as noted above.

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Snowden Has Applied For Asylum In Russia

It’s getting desperate

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia, a Russian immigration source close to the matter said on Monday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a Wikileaks activist who is traveling with Snowden handed his application to a Russian consulate in the transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday.

– Aggie

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Ecuador Has A Spine

Won’t be blackmailed by US

Ecuador said Thursday it is renouncing tariff benefits on hundreds of millions of dollars in trade that are up for renewal by the U.S. Congress.

The announcement by Communications Minister Fernando Alvarez comes at a moment when Ecuador faces U.S. pressure to avoid granting asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Alvarez told a news conference that the trade deal had become “a new instrument of blackmail.

“In consequence, Ecuador unilaterally and irrevocably renounces said preferences.”

Alvarez said his country “does not accept threats from anybody, and does not trade in principles, or submit to mercantile interests, as important as they may be.”

Feisty. Even if you believe that Snowden is a traitor, Ecuador is very bold.

– Aggie

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Learning To Tell The Truth

FBI Director, Mueller, acknowledges using drones to watch the US

Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, confirmed to lawmakers that the FBI owns several unmanned aerial vehicles, but has not adopted any strict policies or guidelines yet to govern the use of the controversial aircraft.
“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on US soil?” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Mr Mueller during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Yes,” Mueller responded bluntly, adding that the FBI’s operation of drones is “very seldom.”

Asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) to elaborate, Mueller added, “It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident where you need the capability.” Earlier in the morning, however, Mueller said that the agency was only now working to establish set rules for the drone program.

This country reminds me of one of those old movies where a character is in an imposing room in a large castle, and the portraits on the walls follow him with their eyeballs. Very, very creepy and oddly humorous.

– Aggie

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I Call BS

It’s one thing to say that the NSA has broken up terror operations. I get it and believe it. Unconditionally. That’s their job, and I have no reason to believe they aren’t doing it well.

But what all these claims, however true, of tragedies avoided don’t answer is why the need to download the electronic communications of everyone—everyone, without discrimination—to some super secret site in Utah. Or wherever.

The issue is not the pursuit of the guilty—for which spooks should be given the broadest liberties—but the rounding up of the innocent. Unless and until the NSA and Obama and Congress and the courts can explain how mining my metadata, and yours, and yours, and yours [300 million-plus times] constitutes “probable cause”, they are out of compliance with the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. Period.

But then, this administration is pretty cavalier about the Bill of Rights, playing fast and loose with the 2nd (gun ownership), 1st (IRS targeting of conservative groups), 5th (Lois Lerner’s post-tirade claim of freedom against self-incrimination), and 10th (state’s sovereignty) amendments.

All the amendments in the Bill of Rights were intended to protect individual citizens against the abuses of government. If that’s not grounds for “probable cause” to this regime, I don’t know what is.

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A Republic, If We Can Keep It

When I ever do get around to retiring from running the Grand Duchy of Bloodthirstan, I’ll just hang a sign on the gate: “See Mark Steyn”.

He says it better, earlier, and funnier than I ever could. (But you already knew that.)

[T]he government doesn’t build much of anything these days — except for that vast complex five times the size of the Capitol the NSA is throwing up in Utah to house everybody’s data on everything everyone’s ever done with anyone ever.

A few weeks after 9/11, when government was hastily retooling its 1970s hijacking procedures for the new century, I wrote a column for the National Post of Canada and various other publications that, if you’re so interested, is preserved in my anthology The Face of the Tiger. It began by noting the observation of President Bush’s transportation secretary, Norman Mineta, that if “a 70-year-old white woman from Vero Beach, Florida” and “a Muslim young man” were in line to board a flight, he hoped there would be no difference in the scrutiny to which each would be subjected. The TSA was then barely a twinkle in Norm’s eye, and in that long-ago primitive era it would have seemed absurd to people that one day in America it would be entirely routine for wheelchair-bound nonagenarians to remove leg braces before boarding a plane or for kindergartners to stand patiently as three middle-aged latex-gloved officials poke around their genitals. Back then, the idea that everybody is a suspect still seemed slightly crazy. As I wrote in my column, “I’d love to see Norm get his own cop show:

“Captain Mineta, the witness says the serial rapist’s about 5?10? with a thin mustache and a scar down his right cheek.”

“Okay, Sergeant, I want you to pull everyone in.”

“Pardon me?”

“Everyone. Men, women, children. We’ll start in the Bronx and work our way through to Staten Island. What matters here is that we not appear to be looking for people who appear to look like the appearance of the people we’re looking for. There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and I want to hear all of them.”

A decade on, it would be asking too much for the new Norm to be confined to the airport terminal. There are 300 million stories in the Naked Republic, and the NSA hears all of them, 24/7. Even in the wake of a four-figure death toll, with the burial pit still smoking, the formal, visible state could not be honest about the very particular threat it faced, and so in the shadows the unseen state grew remorselessly, the blades of the harvester whirring endlessly but, don’t worry, only for “metadata.” As I wrote in National Review in November 2001, “The bigger you make the government, the more you entrust to it, the more powers you give it to nose around the citizenry’s bank accounts, and phone calls, and e-mails, and favorite Internet porn sites, the more you’ll enfeeble it with the siren song of the soft target. The Mounties will no longer get their man, they’ll get you instead. Frankly, it’s a lot easier.” As the IRS scandal reminds us, you have to have a touchingly naïve view of government to believe that the 99.9999 percent of “metadata” entirely irrelevant to terrorism will not be put to some use, sooner or later.

I discovered Steyn soon after 9/11, when my disillusion with liberalism was but a green shoot. He was Miracle-Gro for my burgeoning conservative transformation.

First of all, who even remembers Norman Mineta—or can tell him apart from Leon Panetta? Did Panetta just slip into to Mineta’s size 9 1/2 Ferragamos when no one was looking? Does it matter?

All -etas look alike!

If you’ve read even one post of mine you know my anger and despair (and most of the other stages of grief) over our flaccid response to terrorism. We can’t name the enemy—can’t even call him an enemy—though he names us and so calls us daily. That “Muslim young man” of whom Mineta (or do I mean…?) is so enamored is statistically unlikely to be any threat—but he is infinitely more threatening than the “a 70-year-old white woman from Vero Beach, Florida”. So she gets the body cavity search while he gets a pillow and a magazine. (“The latest issue of Inspire? Why, yes we do.”)

Unless and until Aggie and I take up arms (and that’s not how we roll), our “metadata” is irrelevant to national security. Same goes for Buck, Kimmi, Kerri, Norm, Leon, Ted, and Alice. Worse than irrelevant, such searches and seizures are statistical noise, drowning out whispered plots, discreet nods and winks. Worse than irrelevant and counterproductive, they are carried out without probable cause, therefore definitively unconstitutional.

We have suspended the Constitution so as not to give offense. But offense to whom? That “young Muslim man” would presumably like to take off and land safely just like everyone else. No, the people we fear offending are ourselves, at least those who are easily offended. To spin the old sports cliche, the best defense is to give offense.

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Most Transparent Thuggish Administration Evah!

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

And AP couldn’t be more of a cheerleader if you stuck it in a pleated skirt and gave it pom-poms! What the hell…?

Here’s some background:

The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP’s source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”

The plot was significant both because of its seriousness and also because the White House previously had told the public it had “no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”

The AP delayed reporting the story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP disclosed the plot, though the Obama administration continued to request that the story be held until the administration could make an official announcement.

The May 7 story was written by reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman with contributions from reporters Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Alan Fram. They and their editor, Ted Bridis, were among the journalists whose April-May 2012 phone records were seized by the government.

Brennan talked about the AP story and investigation in written testimony to the Senate. “The irresponsible and damaging leak of classified information was made … when someone informed The Associated Press that the U.S. government had intercepted an IED (improvised explosive device) that was supposed to be used in an attack and that the U.S. government currently had that IED in its possession and was analyzing it,” he wrote.

He also defended the White House decision to discuss the plot afterward. “Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al-Qaida plot,” Brennan told senators.

I’m all for not getting blown up by another underwear bomber, but “seizing” phone records? That’s so… Bushian! Actually, while Bush did subpoena a reporter for his sources, I can’t recall anything on the scale of this.

And what are we to make of that aside, highlighted above, that “the White House previously had told the public it had ‘no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden’s death.'”

Were they motivated to intimidate the media because they looked bad? Isn’t that also what motivated them to spin the bogus video cover story after the Benghazi massacre?

One crucial detail about the “seizing”:

News organizations normally are notified in advance that the government wants phone records and then they enter into negotiations over the desired information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption’s wording, might “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”

It is unknown whether a judge or a grand jury signed off on the subpoenas.

Wow.

I was going to combine this story with the latest from the IRS, but this stands alone. Wow.

PS: From Aggie on the road:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

(Then they came for the journalists, and what a glorious day it was!)

– Aggie

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