Saturday, July 11, 2009

Much ado about (almost) Nothing!

Today's IHT had this interesting piece.

It really all boils down to the following:

Most intelligence officials interviewed “had difficulty citing specific instances” when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said.

So the Bush Administration's "absolutely vital" program could not be readily credited with any specific results!

A later article said that the scope of the Bush programs was far more extensive than just the wiretapping, and was subject to little or no oversight. In fact, many parts of the whole program were so secret that many FBI and CIA personnel were never privy to the information gathered. So who was using this information to protect us?

Well, it seems that David Addington "could personally decide who in the administration was ''read into'' -- allowed access to -- the classified program", so we can be certain that it was routed to the people most likely to protect us from whatever it was that we were being protected from. Of course, still no real specifics as to what we were being protected from and how the programs protected us from the unspecified things it was protecting us from.

Isn't hard to imagine why the intelligence officials interviewed couldn't offer up a laundry list of national security accomplishments resulting from all this surveillance.

If I recall my adolescence correctly, we kids did a better job of "Cops and Robbers" than all those high paid Bushies!

One wonders if the eight years of Bush were scripted by Monty Python.



  1. Unless you bring up the "Killer Joke" or "How to find someone hiding behind a bush", Monty Python never ( realisticly anyway ) killed anyone.

    I'd betcha that much of it was to dig up political dirt on folk, like the fired US Attorneys affair Turdblossom Rove had to testify about recently.


  2. Bingo!

    Yes, isn't it all about setting up a police state?

    Contractors + lots of ca$h as in Bu$h + secret illegal programs + admitting it wasn't really about dealing with "terrorism" + Addington deciding who to cut in, in the poison gas of the Cheney bunker (probably the "scariest" part)?

    THIS is what happened from the Newspaper of Record?

    So besides Al, who's saying anything?

  3. There's been rumors floating around the computer industry for some time about this story. None are confirmed and I suspect that none are confirmable with the resources we have at hand.

    I'll give you a brief rundown on them, just remember that these are ALL rumors and nothing more. They may contain a grain of truth or they may be totally phony.

    A rumor from 2003 stated that all of the major US telecoms were approached with a do-or-die order from the US government to allow the government to wire up the major US connections to the world internet (there are only four according to the rumor, I personally have no knowledge) to provide a complete transcript of all messages passing through them. These message are reviewed by computers looking for patterns of words and meanings which are booted up to humans for further review. The only telecom that initally resisted was Qwest and they eventually caved as well.

    Another rumor from 2006 says that as of that year over 30,000 people had been investigated in one way or another as a result the programs.

    A rumor surfaced last year that suggested both the McCain and Obama campaigns were under serious electronic surveilance from the US government.

    One of the big problems with the Bushies was that they assumed that, as in spy novels, the truth will always be protected by a bodyguard of lies and will never come to the surface.

    Obviously they never read much history, some version of the truth always floats to the surface and usually much more quickly than liars expect.

    Fabius Maximus is always asking we, the citizens of the United States, still have the will to rule ourselves. If even one of these rumors is proven to be substantially true we will have the answer to that question in short order.


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  6. Like basilbeast and seydlitz, what could this have been other than internal dirt-gathering?

    "Always look on the bright, side, of life, da dum, da dum . . ."

  7. And the story continue to unfold:

    The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.


  8. P.S.

    Shall we now begin referring to Mr Chaney as "Biggus Dickus"?


  9. Lisa-

    Agree as to political dirt . . . and we have a perfect example of that with what that idiot Bolton was doing within the State Department . . .

    [URL=]Steve Clemons on Bolton & NSA Intercepts[/URL]

    I don't expect any action on any of this. First due to the money and who was behind it. Congress rushed to the rescue of the Telecoms when it looked like they might get in trouble. Overall our political elite doesn't seem bothered with the idea of a police state.

    That and they're all scared shizless that once they started poking around in the Cheney bunker what they would find . . . remember how the Anthrax case was quickly "solved" about a year ago? A government scientist who had been awarded the civilian equivalent of a DSM was hounded to suicide and tarred as the "lone gunman"? "Nothing to see here, just move along"? And the targets there had been two US Senators (D), with Americans being killed . . . Case closed.

  10. Seydlitz89,

    I've followed the anthrax case since 2001 and, based on the evidence, there's a pretty good chance that the guy who committed the suicide also committed the crime.

    Last year's announcement was the result of 7 years of really hard slogging in the scientific trenches using (and continually validating) new scientific procedures that looked like science fiction in 2001. Nova recently did a show on the case and the new techniques, the science sounded pretty good to this well-educated layman.

    The big unresolved question that still leaves reasonable doubt as to whether the FBI really did finger the right guy is motive, none was ever really found.

    I'll agree with you that the Bolton affair is highly unlikely to prosecuted in a reasonable fashion but for a considerably more cynical reason than you expect; I think the D's want to preserve the precedent so they can play with national security the same way the R's did.

    The feeling I get from Washington these days is both parties are storing up semi-legal and small but outright illegal precedents that they can pull out of their hat as needed.

    The spirit (if not the exact law) of representational government seems to be dead in our nation's capitol with both parties arming themselves for the legal battle as to who and what is going be on top when the dust settles.

    That's not a happy thought no matter how you slice it.

    I'm sticking with Darth Cheney instead of Biggus Dickus. I appreciate the laugh but I fear underestimating the man again.

    The damage he did in his eight years of power is appalling and I look forward to spitting on his grave when he kicks the bucket.

    Robert McNamara was a big brain trapped by a tiny soul who at least saw the light at the very end of his career and publicly admitted it (admittedly FAR too late for his many critics, who make very many good points).

    Cheney is far worse, he is the misguided paladin who attempted to right the wrongs he thought he saw when he worked for the Nixon administration and instead caused catastrophic damage.

    But Cheney's perceptions are so twisted that he'll never be able to see the light and won't ever be able to stop trying to make the situation "better." At least McNamara stopped harming the patient when he stepped down as SecDef, Cheney keeps prescribing cyanide to treat the common cold.

  11. I'm not an intel weenie, so my ability to comment cogently on the technical details of this sweet little bit of snooping and pooping is limited to my military experience and native wit.

    My NCO instructors hammered home to me the maxim "Who defends everything defends nothing". This program seems like a poster child for the old bit of military advice. The Bushies and their CIA/NSA technocrats seem to be reading too much Tom Clancy, where the gee-whiz technical stuff works perfectly and always catches the eeeeevil terrorist in the act. But my experience is that when you get this much raw intel analysis of real value is almost impossible at worst and too late at best. If it was as advertized, this seems to me to have been a poorly-organized, badly designed fishing expedition, the sort of thing that is expressly forbidden by 800 years of legal precedent.

    But...if it was, to large measure, just what most of the commentors here are suggesting - a maskirove for a series of dirt-gathering schemes targeted at people like domestic and foreign opponents, "troublemakers", potentially useful tools to be turned with blackmail...THEN I could see the value of it for an unscrupulous politician, which pretty much defines Darth Cheney and the rest of the OVP gang.

    Fabius Maximus loves to talk about how the inability of the American people to rein in this sort of abuse is amenable to an uprising of popular will. I think he's insanely optimistic and grossly underestimates the effect of 40 years of poor education, increasing social stratification, the loss of financial independance among 95% of the public and the saturation of celebrity culture, about whicc I've been thinking and want to post about.

  12. Chief-

    I do agree with your final paragraph. The dumbing down of America is a sight to behold. Frank Rich addresses it somewhat in this OpEd about Sarah Palin, whom he describes as standing "for a genuine movement: a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind." That her supporters do not see through her is testament to how intellectually challenged major segments of our population really are.


  13. Pluto-

    Call me unconvinced. Far too convenient and the case was very weak from what I remember . . . seemingly only growing weaker with time. It seems to be the best thing that could happen for the FBI. Suspect commits suicide (does a "Dr. David Kelly"?), he's declared the sole criminal involved and is essentially portrayed as a nut. So a highly regarded scientist, a highly commended civil servant, a religious man, considered a bit high strung who had devoted his life to finding vacines for diseases like Anthrax, on his own (not his area at all) develops the most advanced weaponized form of Anthrax yet found and launches it against the US? Right after 9/11?

    Most of the expert opinion thinks that what was used in the attacks came out of a biowarfare weapons lab, which aren't even suppose to exist, since we signed the Biological Warfare Convention back in the 1970s. Ivins as lone madman gets everyone off the hook.

    Glenn Greenwald's update from March 2009, US Rep Rush Holt's proposed legislation is still up btw. .

    Interesting WSJ oppiece about how Ivins couldn't have done what the FBI said he did . . .

    A piece from Microbe Magazine of the continuing questions . . .

  14. Seydlitz - I concur on the anthrax killer. But it makes you wonder if there is something else going on with the investigation under the radar? Even Pluto agrees no motive could be found. Without a motive why would they close the case?

    FDChief - Your application of that maxim of your old NCO (from Frederick the Great???) to intel weenies is apropos. Back in the day, intel analysts trying to make sense of the volume of raw data coming in called it "...trying to drink from the fire hose.". This was a problem before nine-eleven, I can only imagine how much worse it must be today. Even with a Cray supercomputer or hundreds of them as filters - remember a human or more likely a committee of bureaucrats sets the filters. Nine-eleven did not happen because of a lack of intel, we had the intel, it happened because it was discredited and ignored in the White House.

    Al and Pluto - Call him what you will, he will always be Elmer Fudd to me. A poisonous and loathsome one perhaps, but still an Elmer. You do him too much credit. He is out there today on a speaking tour to the faithful Fudds calling the rest of us wascally wabbits.


  15. PS - Alas Ranger, I didn't get to read your deleted post. I hape you gave someone hell. You are in good company.


  16. oops!! hope of course, not mountain sickness

  17. almosted draftedJuly 13, 2009 at 8:15 AM

    Consider that the perpetrator of the antrax attacks (I think it was Kelly) actually did the US a great favor. The attack was a way of "inoculating" this country against further attacks.

    The result certainly led to upgraded defenses, e.g., in mail and package handling. ISTM that such an inoculation was much more likely to have been engineered by someone who was very familiar with anthrax itself and the danger of anthrax as a bioweapon.

    A person who did such a thing -- no matter his reasons or the success of his actual goal -- would be a pariah and a murderer when caught. So I find the idea of his suicide plausible as well.



  18. Hmm...wiretapping, eavesdropping, electronic surveillance on all things American and psuedo American...and they still found...nada?


    So...if they found nada, it begs the answer of one of two possible outcomes...

    1) our technology isn't as great as we thought it was, and thus, we missed something...somewhere.


    2) our technology is topline, it is as great as we think it is, but there was no "there" for our spookies to spook out.

    Which now begs the question...if they found nothing, and nothing was unearthed over all this what purpose was all that information gathering put too?

    Considering that the aforementioned individuals have a "history" of putting party and their business patrons before countrymen and G-d, it seems rational then that the information gathered was used for internal political purposes to ensure future political entrenchement.

  19. Seydlitz -

    On the Anthrax attacks. All I know about the FBI's investigation I learned on Nova. They made a convincing story that they'd managed to track down the anthrax used in the second attacks to a particular lab sample that only Ivins had access to according to the chain of custody records for the laboratory. The show went to great lengths to try to persuade the watchers that it would be basically impossible to mess with the records. I wouldn't know from personal experience and I'll leave that to the experts.

    The FBI claimed to find equipment at Ivin's home that could have been (or was, I'm not sure which) used to finish "weaponizing" the anthrax and delivering it in envelopes.

    The question of "why" was never adequately addressed in the Nova episode.

    Is it possible that the FBI hounded a dedicated and emotionally fragile scientist to death for a crime he didn't commit? Of course.

    The FBI has a history of messing up high profile investigations in ways that ensure that the truth will never be known (look at the JFK assassination, it's likely that the FBI got it right but you could never prove it because the FBI made so many elementary mistakes during the investigation).

    Back to the main thread of secret government programs that nobody knows about...

    Sheera, there's one additional question that MUST be answered about these types of programs. What happens to the data when they are wound down?

    If the government erases the data then everything is good. But if the government keeps it, sells it, or loses it to groups that have their own agenda (especially if the groups exist within the US government) then we are ALL in a lot of trouble.