Eavesdropping: A little dab'll Dubya

Eavesdropping: A little dab'll Dubya

Summary: A former head of the National Security Agency justifies the warrantless monitoring of telecommunications, acknowledging privacy is being invaded.

TOPICS: Security

General Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency who was in charge when President Bush first authorized wire taps of U.S. telecommunications that might involve terrorists and currently the second-in-command for U.S. intelligence operations said today, according to the Financial Times:

“The trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant, but the intrusion into privacy is also limited.”

That's an admissionWarrantless monitoring is killing our intelligence efforts the same way a company that gets too much IT budget drowns employees in meaningless data. that there is an intrusion on privacy, even as it attempts to justify the intrusion. Unfortunately, General Hayden went on to exaggerate the challenge the United States faces in providing security to its citizens with an outright misrepsentation when he claimed, as reported by CNN: "Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such.

General Hayden neglected to note that the White House had been warned of imminent attacks within the United States by terrorists flying commercial planes and had access to the identities of at least two of the suicide pilots before the 9/11 attack. Nothing prevented the government from getting that information the last time around, but as we know from recent criticisms by the FBI of the leads provided by NSA, the number of spurious, time-wasting leads generated by electronic surveillance is actually lowering the chances we'll recognize and act on significant information before another attack.

As sources told the New York Times last week, "virtually all [of the leads generatged by the NSA] led to dead ends or innocent Americans," which contradicts General Hayden's assertion that only al Qaeda-related calls are monitored.

Yet, the government claims it is harder than ever to keep tabs on threats because of electronic communications technologies that it needs special access to eavesdrop on. We always hear this in the context of "you can trust your government not to abuse this power." 

This is, as I explained the other day, the traditional claim of law enforcement when it senses an opportunity to expand its access to private life. Law enforcement is hard to do, because that modest inconvenience of getting a warrant protects ordinary people from government abuses far more often than it protects them from terrorist attacks.

What the White House refuses to admit is that, by respecting the law and our tradition of strong civil liberties the task of catching bad guys actually gets easier because it forces police and intelligence agencies to act judiciously and to shepherd their time and resources better. The warrantless monitoring of telecommunications is killing our intelligence efforts, just like a company that gets too much IT budget and then drowns employees in meaningless data. Simple data hygeine would help more than wiretaps that the President today said is monitored by "all kinds of lawyers [who] review the process."

So, now that General Hayden has acknowledged there are "intrusion[s] into privacy," the question is how much are justified by the "new circumstances" of the post-9/11 world? It's clear that even when we had information about the 9/11 terrorists, not much happened. It seems to me that retooling law enforcement's expectations of itself would be far more effective than demolishing the civil liberties that make America great.

Topic: Security

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  • The other side knows we're listening

    What's so retarded about all this...a phrase you get used to typing with the current administration...is that intelligence pros know that any unsecured communication medium can be monitored and tracked. That's why operatives don't fax in their daily report over the hotel fax machine.

    If they're going to use an open line they'll be using code phrases. The higher ups know not to use satellite or cell phones. The big prize they're holding up from all this effort is the 3 Stooges guy who was going to try cutting down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch. We could've blocked traffic and let him try and he'd still be there working on it.

    So, pros know not to communicate over unsecured lines and we're burying the FBI and local law enforcement in an avalanche of useless intercepts.

    Like everything we've done for the last 6 years, we're expending a huge amount of money and effort going backwards.
    • do you really think the wiretapping has anything to do with terrorism?

      Are you certain that Islamic terrorists attacked America on 9/11? Do you have any PROOF that the feds have offered to you to back up their hilarious conspiracy theory?
      A question: after the "terrorists" hijacked those airliners over Boston..HOW did they know where to fly to get to New York? ;-) Keep in mind these guys NEVER flew a commercial jet EVER, and has no help whatsoever from flight controllers on the ground (obviously). Could YOU fly a commercial jet from Boston to New York without any assistance???
      Just this ALONE should be enough to make one really think. I'm not saying you're dumb or anything, you seem to be a sharp guy that knows what's up. But you seem to have fallen for the nonsense conspiracy theory peddled by the same group of people that are outing CIA agents, shredding the constitution, waging multiple illegal wars of conquest, etc.
      Another thing to think about: don't you find it rather absurd that people who jumped to their deaths from the towers fell to the ground in about 4-6 seconds time (with their bodies facing ZERO resistance), and yet the towers fell in 8 and 10 seconds time (having to barrel through HUNDREDS OF TONS OF WEIGHT in resistance)??? So here we have 110 story steel buildings taking only 2-4 seconds longer to barrel through a huge amount of resistance vs. another object facing no resistance. Of course this is SCIENTIFICALLY IMPOSSIBLE, and even worse, does not pass the bar of common sense AT ALL!!!
      I have done a lot of research on 9/11. The planes were remote controlled and the towers were loaded with explosives, which is how they were really brought down. The US government attacked its own citizens to trick them into fighting endless wars for the federal government, and also to get rid of the constitution and set up a police state. Think that sounds crazy? Then tell me what is happening to this country right now. Find it coincidental that there are no more attacks now that the US military is entrenched in the middle east? ;-)
      Here is a link in which Larry Silverstein, current owner of the WTC complex (who purchased it a mere 6 weeks before 9/11 and immediately took out a multi-billion dollar insurance policy on it..no motive to destroy the buildings there! ;-)), admits to bringing down WTC 7 with explosives..he "pulled the building"..


      Now watch commercial news footage of bombs being identified in the WTC towers:



      If you wanna check out more, I got these videos from this site:


      If you are interested in a great book exposing the truth behind 9/11, this is the best of many that I've read so far, released in March 2005:

      Jeff Spicoli
      • Osama bin Laden took responsibility...

        ...for the 9/11 attacks:


        "And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America"

        "So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs"

        "And for the record, we had agreed with the Commander-General Muhammad Ataa, Allah have mercy on him, that all the operations should be carried out within 20 minutes, before Bush and his administration notice. "

        These quotes are direct from Al Jazeera itself, a major bastion of Anti-America hate in the Middle East. If you think this is false information, then prove it.

        I won't bother arguing against the rest of your tripe, because it's all just plain uninformed (to put it nicely).
        • Not saying I agree with Jeff butt you have to admit

          it's very ODD that we have yet to capture/kill the guy. We keep
          killing or nearly killing his number 2 guy or is it guys since over
          the years it seems we keep killing #2's and the occasional #3 or
          4. I loose count. All out tech and all our new and improved
          intelligence gathering even without warrants (as if that would
          mean a difference) and STILL no Osama and yet when the Patriot
          Act or the NSA is in question he pops up with a new statement
          that just happens to bolster the current administration. I mean
          it is odd is it not. Osama has been quite for over a year and now
          with the leak of the NSA activity, and the Abramoff scandal and
          all of a sudden Osam is headline after what 14 months?


          Pagan jim
          • I don't consider it odd

            "it's very ODD that we have yet to capture/kill the guy"

            Not really, considering the fact that we've been limited to surgical strikes in the places where he's known to have been. That, plus we've made tactical mistakes that have had me pulling my hair out (quite a few of them thanks to politicians who have interfered a bit too much in the War on Terror, instead of letting their experienced Generals do what they needed to do).
          • Need better name than "War on Terror"

            Terror is a tactic...not an enemy. It's like a "War on Flanking" or a
            "War on Night Attacks" It's poorly defined and to open ended for
            any administration that claims SPECIAL war time powers for the
            executive branch which by it's very nature unbalances the checks
            and balances we have or had in place.

            Pagan jim
          • Not necessarily

            In a sense, this is a war against the tactic of "terror". Obviously, the terrorists themselves are difficult to track down individually, and we may never change some peoples' minds about the US. This is a battle to stop the practice of terrorism. The approach must be to remove their power base - those countriesand organizations that support them. It's a difficult situation that hasn't really ever been attempted before, which is why the "traditional" tactics of war don't work too well. Those who criticize the "war on terror" in terms of conventional warfare need to think in different terms, as do those who think we will be able to "win" this war with conventional tactics.

            Now, that being said, I tend to agree with you that it is poorly defined and too open-ended. But remember shortly after 9/11, when Bush stated that it would be a long, drawn-out struggle. He knew then that it wouldn't be easy, and he could probably foresee the American public's unwillingness to commit to the long haul. That's readily apparent, and it's that short attention span that certain groups are counting on to erode America's resolve. Nobody ever claimed that the terrorists are stupid; they can learn from history as well as we should be able to do. Nothing defeats an enemy, especially a powerful one, like erosion from within.

            And in the same vein, I also agree with you that traditional "war powers" don't necessarily apply to this situation, either. The Administration should at least have followed the warrant rules.

            Carl Rapson
          • Steal a million!

            The cops will NEVER stop looking until you are found! Despite that
            you could buy a lot more friends and go to many more places than
            any terrorist.
          • Hi Tech vs Stone age

            Everyone expects to catch these Militants with hi Tech intel. Im speaking from experience when hi tech doesnt work against stone age terrorists. Think about how these video and Audio Tapes are getting to the media: a network of couriers. in 1986 the Afgan fighters were using courier birds to relay messages. Now granted I doubt birds would work contacting terror cells around the globe but, who is to say the same network of couriers carrying tapes arent going International. In closing Our failure to catch Osama is the Lack of HUMINT or human Intel. We cant seem to get anyone into the inner circle. And for those who are pissed about the NSA listening in on calls.. Think back to World War 2 and what the US and GB did to take down spy rings in their countries. We need to win this War I served in the US Navy In intellegence and Im aware of what can be done and what needs to be done and screw the ACLU
          • Problem is that sooner or later you will give up too much

            to the WRONG people. it's gambling and me I don't like to
            gamble, at least not with my freedom. The more you give, the
            more likely you will loose it all. Give and inche and they will try
            and take a mile. The Civil War and WWII lasted several years and
            as it turns out had good, decent leaders who would not take
            advantage of a limited suspension of liberties. This has not
            been billedd as that kind of a war. In fact it has been billed as a
            "generational" conflict in the end perhaps it will NEVER cease to
            be and that would leave one branch of our well balanced
            government too powerfull and that means dissaster sooner or

            Pagan jim
          • insight is key

            Then maybe its time to get serious and take the gloves off and fight this like our lives depend on it. I lost my little sister on 9/11 she worked at the Pentagon. I will be damned if I let those losses be negated because of Politics and some Liberal is calling foul. Your oppion would change when you have to burry one of your own. I served MY Coutry "USA" for 6 years in Naval Intelligence and I know the caliber of people doing the job. I trust them more than anything or anyone.
          • Thank you kgrantz...

            ...for your service. My prayers are with you and your family. My own sister was minutes from being killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers (she just barely got away from the towers and found shelter before they collapsed).

            I suppose that would explain why I also have so little tolerance for the young kids here who absolutely insist that 9/11 was orchestrated by our government, despite all the proof and logic to the contrary.
          • Sorry but you are wrong.....

            I am not scared of terrorists now would burying my own change my
            mind. What makes people think that freedom is safe? If anything it
            is the exact opposite, and from the begining of my 43 years I have
            known and excepted that. The price of freedom is often
            blood....such is a fact.

            Pagan jim
          • Laff, please

            [i]The Civil War and WWII lasted several years and
            as it turns out had good, decent leaders who would not take advantage of a limited suspension of liberties.[/i]

            Wow! Guess you haven't heard about the rounding up of american citizens during WWII for example? Yes, Roosevelt would never round up american citizens and put them in a camp would he? Was there a good reason for doing so? Maybe, but seems outrageouis to many people, yet has generally been accepted as necessary.

            Lincoln (one of my favorites) had countless executive orders that many have argued were illegal, or not in his authority.

            Trivia question: What president ordered General McArthur to use US troops to force the vets out of Wash DC during their protest for back-pay?

            Many other presidents have seemingly exceeded their powers during trouble times. Why can't your above statement equally apply to Bush?

            And this is a war, no matter how you want to define it, it is a global fight against terrorist tactics and those who support the terrorists.

            Let's face facts, George Bush is a "[i]...good, decent leader who would not take advantage of a limited suspension of liberties...[/i]" :)

            And, quite frankly, no liberties have been suspended. Afterall, I have no doubt that the constitution was never intended to protect those very people who would destroy it.
            Spoon Jabber
          • Did we not pay restitution to the Japenese Americans?

            What ever happened to learning from our mistakes? The Civil
            War was very unique.....we were fighting our own on our own
            soil and they did get very close to winning at one time or
            another. A big difference between then and now. The so called
            "War on Terror" is open ended with no clear enemy and no clear
            terms for victory so it could go on and on and on with no once
            claiming over all victory just the occasional victory small letters
            when politically wise or advantageous to do so. Meaning the
            President and his administration that is in power at the time
            could be over balanced power wise for who knows how long. It
            all stinks of a stituation RIPE for someone or someones to take
            advantage of. Then all of a sudden I hear of spying on
            Americans...huh!?! They explain themselves but only because
            they are forced to and I don't know why I should trust them
            since I do not trust in general and have yet to regret that stance.
            Was it not Regan himself who said "Trust but verify!" Well that
            bit of wisdom still stands. Sure I'll give Bush and Co the benefit
            of the doubt....but that lasts only so long and the more
            stonewalling the worse it gets. It's time to VERIFY as Regan use
            to say.

            Pagan jim
          • That's all I ask

            [i]Sure I'll give Bush and Co the benefit
            of the doubt....[/i]

            I don't no about compensation for the Japanese Americans, but the fact remains that the actions that Bush has taken do have precidents. I can't imagine that any amount of money could compensate me for a humiliation like that. But I do understand the fear that was pervasive at the time. Not to belittle what they went through, but they were treated very decently, and although I'm usually republican, I still back what FDR did.

            Sure, this is a very different kind of war than we are all used to. In that case it just makes plain sense that we also have to use different tactics than we would in a more traditional type of war, but it is still necessary to fight.

            I'm starting to doubt that you are unafraid of anything, seems that you might very well fear the unknown, which is perfectly normal. And I think that you must admit that the "news" these days is not so much about facts as it is about sensationalism.

            I'm naturally skeptical about a great many things, but I can only rely on facts and not speculation, so I find I must also give the benefit of the doubt most times.

            I hope you got to see some of my posts from the other day before we were zapped. I think that it is the religious talk that seems to get us zapped. Political mud slinging though seems to be ok, but don't mention religion or ZAP! (But then again, maybe it is just me) ?
            Spoon Jabber
          • All I need is the verify part.....

            I want to know what happened in those secret camps. I want to
            know why the big fight over torture? Do we indeed torture or
            not? Who get's to decide what is and what is not torture? Now
            that the cat is out of the bag I want to know who was spyed on
            and why? It's not like the terrorists do not know now and if they
            were smart they would have suspected anyway and taken
            preventative actions. They do seem to adjust well in other

            Yes this is an unconventional war but to use another old saying
            since I am old. "You don't throw the baby out with the bath

            I am curious about he unknown...I do prefer knowing than not.
            However I can except not knowing like for instance the whole
            qustion of God. Since to me no one has the "answer" just a
            great many people(s) have a guess or theory. Fine...I can except
            that and I can live with that. The line is just crossed for me
            when someone(S) slaim to know (I instit at that point that since
            they know they share their knowledge) and since they know they
            have the wisdon to give/force their wisdon onto those of us who
            do not know. Yes ZDNET can be squeemish it would seem.

            Pagan jim
          • Curiosity killed the cat

            And that same curiosity can also inform our enemies what we're up to. People are way off base with this "we need to know" business, what we need is to have secrets. Do you really believe that knowing about whether or not we "torture" our enemies will stop it if it is occurring?

            Besides, we have, and will continue to ship enemies to places where they DO torture as a matter of policy. So what does it matter to us? You can come up with a lot of "ifs" but historically we have treated prisoners and enemies alike pretty darned well, especially if we use the rest of the world as a measuring stick.

            And you're right to a certain degree that we should do as much as possible to make sure we are "geneva-like", but let's NOT give the advantage to our enemies. Your stance, it seems to me, is to wait until we have been attacked, and THEN react. Well, I believe that there were about 3000 that would say NO F'ING WAY!!!!

            The law in this country even says that you DO NOT have to wait for someone to hit you in order to defend yourself or someone else. If they clench a fist, or make threats, or other actions perceived to be a threat, you can strike first. That's pretty much what we did with Iraq, maybe they weren't directly involved with Sept 11th (I believe that they certainly were, at least indirectly), but they certainly fit the clenched fist scenario.

            What kind of "verification" would you need if someone threatened to kill you or your family? Wouldn't the only way to be sure, be when the bullet penetrated your skull? Not me, and I would do the same for you, if someone was threatening you, I would act BEFORE you were struck. (only because I wouldn't want you to have a slow painful one). But if it was a skillful beheading, I would probably ask you if that's what you wanted. :)
            Spoon Jabber
          • But satisfaction brought him back....:)

            Iraq a clenched fist? Perhaps I'm not certain...but even if I give
            you the clenched fist Iraq was a child with a clenched fist and
            me....I seee no honor in beating on a child even an agressive
            one. Just not my thing....sigh.

            Torture. We are either better than ESPECIALLY our enemies or
            we are not. There is no conclusive evidence that torture
            works..in fact there seems to be plenty that is does not. What of
            the innocent who are tortured? I can't stand the thought of
            doing that to a single innocent not too mention several. Do we
            not create terrorists by that alone?

            Freedom is NOT free and yes on occasion it cost lives. Our fore
            farthers knew this and so do I. If I could I would have done most
            anything except become my enemy to save those 3000.
            However there is always a price for freedom and that price is a
            lack of safety, and on occasion blood shed. All in all I can't see a
            better way or a way around it. The more free you are the more
            potential danger I am in cause I simply do not know your mind
            or intensions. However that said since it also allows me to live a
            life free...I am willing to take the risk for the benefits are simply
            to great to ignore.

            Yes we should always strike back when struck at. If it turns out
            our attacker is nothing more than a miss-behaving child give it a
            time out (sanctions and inspectors who seemedd as it turns out
            to be doing a very effective job)

            But by striking out of fear that we MAY be attacked is a form of
            cowardice and worse still one day we will clearly have innocent
            blood on our hands...not our enemies. Again I will not become
            my enemy to win. I'm already afraid we have some of that
            innocent blood on our hands...how many women? Children?
            Infirmed and elderly have we killed? How many innocents have
            we tortured and later said...Oops sorry? How many wedding
            parties have we crashed in a bad way? When is

            Pagan jim
          • One point

            [i](sanctions and inspectors who seemedd as it turns out to be doing a very effective job)[/i]

            I must strongly disagree, read the reports, there are still chemical agents, tons of them, that are unaccounted for. Let's be real, saddam was playing the inspectors like a cheap fiddle (again, read the reports). The inspectors knew before hand a great deal about what saddam did have, and now it is "unaccounted for", do you think it just vanished, was hidden, or was destroyed without any proof of the destruction?

            We accidentally found entire airplanes buried in the desert, do you think it is likely that the unaccounted for stuff could be hidden somewhere also?

            Hey, to each his own, but I think that only a fool would wait for an attack before acting. A simple fact is that noone, no how, no way will be right all of the time, but I would err on my own side and not the enemy's.

            Let's also be fair and stop interjecting "innocents" here, because, as we've already seen, we're not fighting the innocents, and we're doing our best to SAVE the innocent. But the ONLY innocents involved are the dead from sept 11th, the first WTC bombing, the US embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing, and on and on.

            So I say ENOUGH! Standing around and feeling pitty for our enemies, and woorying about what if, will only weaken our country.

            And kind of related would be to mention the innocent unborn, those are absolutely innocent, why not cry out for them? I know that you don't consider them "alive" so you may not see the parallel I was inferring.

            I will leave the last word for you. :)
            Spoon Jabber