Top Ten Things that don’t Make Sense about NSA Surveillance, Drones and al-Qaeda

In a Reuters Exclusive, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke reveal that the National Security Agency shares information it gleans from warrantless surveillance of Americans with the Special Operation Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which then uses the metadata to develop cases against US citizens. The DEA then routinely lies to the judge and defense attorneys during discovery about how its agents initially came by their suspicions of wrongdoing. But you could imagine a situation where a young woman repeatedly called a boyfriend who was secretly known to the DEA to be a drug dealer, but whose crimes were unknown to her. And you could imagine law enforcement entrapping her into making a small drug buy. And then you could imagine their secretly basing their case against her in part on her phone calls to a known dealer. But this latter information would be denied to her defense attorney and the judge, making it harder to discern the entrapment.

All these stories about the government’s quest for Total Information Awareness about the phone calls, email, internet searches, etc. of 312 million ordinary Americans raise some questions in my mind. There are so many things about these stories that don’t make sense.

1. The government says that they need everyone’s phone records because they want to see who calls known overseas terrorists from the US. But if the NSA had a telephone number of a terrorist abroad and wanted to see if it was called from the US, why couldn’t it just ask the telephone company for the record of everyone who called it? It isn’t true that it would take too much time. It would be instant. Obviously, the government wants the telephone records of millions of Americans for some other reason.

2. If the real reason they are getting our phone records from the phone companies is to check for drug sales and other petty crime inside the US not related to terrorism, and if they are lying to judges about how they initially came to know of these crimes, aren’t the NSA, DEA and other government officials violating the Constitutional guarantee of due process? Are they focusing on drug buys because law enforcement can confiscate the property of drug dealers, whereas busting other kinds of crime actually costs time and money? And, hasn’t their dishonesty and its revelation just put in danger thousands of drug convictions?

3. If the NSA and FBI have all the phone records, bank account information and credit card transactions of everyone, why haven’t they been able to find any bankers or financiers who engaged in illegal activity while they were plunging ordinary Americans into poverty and homelessness with the Depression of 2008-2009? After all, they seem to have been able to discover illegal activity by former New York governor Elliott Spitzer, by illegally spying on his bank accounts. Was Spitzer, who was trying to crack down on Wall Street, the only prominent figure in New York engaged in such activities? Maybe some Masters of the Universe on Wall Street were, too? Surely there are telephone, bank and credit card records showing the guilt of the latter?

4. If the NSA and ATF have the telephone, credit card and internet records of all Americans, why don’t they stop mass shootings? After all, you can’t order numerous guns and massive amounts of ammunition and also Batman costumes on line without generating searchable records? Maybe they aren’t paying attention to people who suddenly develop an interest in having lots of very large drum magazines for semi-automatic weapons.

5. Isn’t there a constitutional crisis if the NSA is spying on phone records of people in Colorado where that state legalized the sale of marijuana, and uses its STASI tactics to finger Coloradans legally buying pot and then hauls those people off to federal prison? Where in the constitution does it say that the Federal government can overrule a state about internal state commerce? Where does it say that the Federal government can subvert the state’s legislative intention by secretly spying on state residents without a warrant and in contravention of state law?

6. Can Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) be impeached for denying other representatives in congress basic information about the NSA domestic spying programs and then misrepresenting the decision as a joint one of the Intelligence Committee, and then insisting that the decision is classified from other members of Congress? Can President Obama be impeached for lying to the American people and saying that all members of Congress have been extensively briefed on the NSA spying?

7. The government has charged Edward Snowden with espionage because it says his revelations about how the US government is spying on the American public without a warrant will harm our ability to fight terrorism. But if the NSA could overhear al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahir telling his lieutenant in Yemen to carry out a terrorist strike on US embassies, then how could it be that Edward Snowden harmed their ability to monitor such communications?

8. If the US drone strikes on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen are working, why is AQAP after all these years able to make us close 19 African and Middle Eastern embassies for a week?

9. Does the FBI actually have the authority to order internet companies to let them install “eavesdropping technology [port readers] deep inside companies’ internal networks to facilitate surveillance efforts”?

10. Why doesn’t one of the telecoms adopt a policy of destroying the records of where its customers have been, and who they called, immediately after each call– keeping only a record of how much the call cost? The government can’t demand information that a company doesn’t have. Wouldn’t millions of consumers immediately switch to that carrier? Would the government allow the company to do this? If not, what happened to our Free Enterprise system? Ronald Reagan used to warn that if we gave the government too much power, one day we might suddenly wake up in the Soviet Union of America. Did we, this morning?

68 Responses

  1. Hannah Arendt told us about the banality of evil, yet even beyond that, reading History teaches us about the silliness of evil, the complacency of evil, the bureaucratic ass-covering mindless routine of evil.

    They can get phone metadata, so they do. They can get all your Google searches, so they do. There is no plan, there is no strategy, there are no tactics, capability is the only consideration.

    It’s likely that they aren’t even looking for American citizens making low level drug deals, any more than they’re looking for financiers arranging insider tips or buyouts of Congress-critters, it’s just that they have the capability, so they suck up all the data, and then the DEA finds out they have it, and they ask for it, and the NSA says “sure, why not?” And it all stays classified and Congressman Rogers lies about it because it’s just so much cleaner and neater that way.

    No real volition exists at any point, yet bureaucratic inertia is a force more powerful than a bulldozer.

  2. -
    while it is true that I am a bit paranoid,
    I am more afraid of the DEA than of al-Qaeda.
    DEA poses a much bigger threat to my life and my liberty.
    -
    Professor Cole,
    you got DEA all wrong.
    If they had compromising information on a young woman, they are far more likely to use it to coerce her into unwanted sexual liaisons than to use it for law enforcement purposes.
    -

  3. The professor asks ten intelligent and well thought out questions, but apart from us, to whom in government does he think these questions should be addressed? Unless there is someone in government or elsewhere who has the power to bring about change, these question will fall on deaf ears except of course, we who read these columns and are already converted.

  4. Stunning distillation of many of my own thoughts and questions. There is just SO MUCH that makes no sense unless the “cui bono” solvent is applied. Then the obfuscations begin to dissolve

    Thanks for your good work.

  5. ‘Yet the terrorist “chatter” level was on the rise again. Electronic intercepts from tapped phones and spy satellites suggested that Al Qaeda operatives around the world were planning something’

    What I can’t work out is how levels of chatter tell of an impending attack. If you know terrorists are making more phone calls I can see the reasoning -but if we know terrorists are making calls, then surely we know exactly where the terrorists are and are already monitoring their calls.

    So why are billions of other communicatiuns eavesdropped on?

  6. I agree with everything except #10. Anyone who has ever gotten a large phone bill they weren’t expecting wants the phone company to be able to tell them who they called to make it that high. Trusting the phone company to have it right and just accepting their word on it works only until there is a question on a bill. Maybe better would be keeping the information just until the bill is paid. I wouldn’t switch to a company that couldn’t give me an itemized bill.

    • Excellent points, Jane! My guess is, if companies “eliminated” their billing metadata, cramming would go way up…

  7. “8. If the US drone strikes on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen are working, why is AQAP after all these years able to make us close 19 African and Middle Eastern embassies for a week?”

    The question you pose in point No. 8, cited above, requires a two-part answer. First, AQAP did not “make us” close 19 African and Middle Eastern Embassies for a week. There were highly specific communications that were intercepted from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to AQAP’s chief in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, ordering a major attack against US and/or Western interests. And the evidence suggested that those who would carry out the attacks were in Yemen, presumably preparing for the attack, at the time the communications were intercepted. The reason for the widespread Embassy closures and other precautions taken was that the specific target or targets were not identified. It is thus prudent to take such precautions when the information on the planning of the attack is specific but the target is not. This, by the way, demonstrates the value of NSA’s communications intercept programs, particularly as applied abroad.

    Second, the drone strikes in Yemen obviously have been working, as we know some major AQAP leaders and operatives have been taken out as a result. That there remain in Yemen some AQAP leaders and operatives capable of mounting planned attacks against the US and its interests demonstrates the need to continue the drone strikes against them as the opportunity arises. Terrorism will never be completely eradicated, but Al-Qaeda and AQAP have been degraded. That they are still operationally capable of planning attacks simply demonstrates the need for our continued counter-terrorism programs.

    • And you can make these unsupported assertions about the content of that supposed “highly specific communications,” about “threats” to non-specific targets all over the place, and of course those patented statements about the drone killings in Yemen “obviously working” but not good enough yet and needing to go on forever because terrorism is forever, on the basis of what specific knowledge? You who excoriate others for unsupported statements and positions?

      Not so long ago, there was an exchange here about how phrases like “everyone knows,” and “it’s well established,” and your choice, “obviously,” are usually markers of much the opposite. And of course we have the usual appearance of that “against the US and its interests,” once again still undefined except that “everyone knows” that just means protecting the flow of wealth to the very few, and facilitating the attempts of our oligarchy to smear the peanut butter of its Power Projection all the way to the edges of the entire globe. Obviously.

      “Prudent?” In this context, of patent idiocy in furtherance of imperial ambitions, at the cost of destruction of that “Constitution-based village” that lives only in jyth? What is “prudent” supposed to mean?

      • Since you have not challenged anything I wrote with substantive facts, there is nothing for me to respond to.

        • It seems to me. Bill, that JTMcPhee asked you questions. Does there have to be a substantive challenge in order for you to answer a question? Or is it that you just don’t have the requisite answers?

    • Shorter Bill: I agree with most of the stuff the Athenians said in Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue.

      • Read Thucydides’s “The Peloponnesian War” carefully. You may learn something.

    • thank you, Congressman Rogers, for making your case to this audience.
      Now go try to sell that story to your colleagues.
      -

    • “There were highly specific communications that were intercepted from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to AQAP’s chief in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, ordering a major attack against US and/or Western interests.”

      “Second, the drone strikes in Yemen obviously have been working, as we know some major AQAP leaders and operatives have been taken out as a result.”

      We’ve been told so many similar LIES by the government about the “dozens” of terror plots that illegal surveillance “prevented”, that I wouldn’t believe ANY of these claims without proof.

      They’re trying to make us believe that slavery is freedom.

      I don’t buy it.

    • Bill, we have only your word about who forced whom to do what, the nature of the calls, and the specificity of the information gathered. Given that the agencies in question have consistently lied to Congress and the American public, why should anyone believe you, who claim no access or representation at all?

      Really, Mr. Cole makes a much more convincing case for his suppositions based on the holes in government statements and testimonies than you do with your hinted to access to the entire phone base of the world and the workings of US agencies.

      It would be easier to believe you if you just said “take my word for it . . . (sucker).”

      • You have much more than my word, Eric. And I did not “hint” that I had “access to the entire phone base of the world and the workings of US agencies. (That is a figment of your imagination.)

        The Obama Administration has released information about the threat. I based my points on the Administration’s assessments. Should we take your word that the Obama Administration is lying? Upon what do you base your claim that the Administration is lying about this threat?

        • “The Obama Administration has released information about the threat. I based my points on the Administration’s assessments. Should we take your word that the Obama Administration is lying? Upon what do you base your claim that the Administration is lying about this threat?”

          “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” ― Christopher Hitchens

    • Dear Bill,

      Only JT gets to make wholly unsupported assertions without a shred of evidence. As your moral superior, he gets all sorts of benefits.

      • One of the (self-proclaimed) perquisites of being JTMcPhee is you not only get to claim moral superiority, you get to shout slogans instead of engaging in reasoned arguments.

  8. Excellent points, thanks. Hope members of Congress read and address your points.

  9. Wouldn’t the answer to #7 be that Snowden’s revelations would be the reason some terrorists cease communication by phone, hence making it more difficult for the US to monitor terrorists?

    • Oh Jeebus! A whole new area of opportunity for techies with degrees, student loans and no hope of actual gainful employment to gnaw at, until not a f__t can be passed but that the Matrix will know !

      Matthew 10:

      …28″Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29″Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30″But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.…

      So obviously, the NSAEnhanced is just doing G_D’s work and will! I GET it!

      Get pencil and paper, kiddies, and next will come the Secret Code to set your Decoder Rings to, to decipher this week’s Important Traffic:

      National Security Agency — Where Intelligence Goes to Work

      Intelligence. It’s the ability to think abstractly. Challenge the unknown. Solve the impossible. And at NSA, it’s about protecting the Nation. A career at NSA offers the opportunity to work with the best, shape the course of the world, and secure your own future. Isn’t it time to put your intelligence to work?

      link to nsa.gov

    • The US government has made dual claims on that. They claimed some years back (2006, 2008? just google it) that AQ new about our tracking their phones and moved on to other means.

      It is a matter of public record.

  10. Will the ACLU or a similar organization file a lawsuit to challenge the NSA spying on the grounds that it violates the 4th amendment?

  11. Good points, Juan. The War on Drugs is the most paternalistic, destructive war in the last 100 years. The fact that Afghanistan’s poppy trade has either stayed constant or actually increased under American occupation tells you the effectiveness of this war, and/or the corruption that reigns inside our government.

    Americans need to understand that the people in their community that use certain banned drugs deserve to have their rights too. There’s nothing in the Constitution saying you cannot experiment with your own consciousness.

    • Cocomaan,
      -
      if you think tha Afghan war has been a failure,
      you get too much of your news from US sources like Fox and CNN.
      -
      That war has been extremely successful at advancing certain goals that you may not have considered:
      *** shoring up the respectability of the Mercenary profession.
      *** strengthening supply chain management concerning products derived from the poppy.
      *** consolidating the hold that the top 10 or so USAID Contractors (Dr. Shah calls them “implementing partners”) have on top-level decision-making in the Agency.
      *** building a consensus around TAPI.
      *** positioning al-Qaeda as a bogeyman threat into the next decade, to rationalize, if not justify, staggering increases in domestic surveillance, legal arms trafficking, and “law enforcement.”

      Thanks, GW Bush. Thanks, Dick Chaney. Thanks, Barack Obama.

  12. I’m baffled. Last I heard, Ayman al-Zawahri was not giving orders in Yemen or the rest of North Africa — he considered part of the failed “old guard” who had brought disaster and disrepute on the most radical “Islamist” elements (the ones who kept escalating the number of type of Muslim it was okay to slaughter until they managed to critically alienate the general population).

    Ayman al-Zawahri was like an out-of-touch Madam DeFarge issuing marching orders and to-do list to an army that was a shadow of its former self (not unlike Bin Laden before his death).

    Unrealistic demands, easy to ignore. I wonder what has changed, if anything, but Ayman al-Zawahri has been issuing orders and fatwas for over a decade, much much longer … bizarre.

    • Last you heard, where?

      There have certainly been people insisting that there is no real connection between al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Since several “old guard,” core al Qaeda figures have been killed in Yemen, including one killed in the strike that hit Anwar al-Awlaki, this claim has never been terribly reality-based.

      Two years before 9/11, Yemeni al Qaeda operatives blew a hole in the U.S.S. Cole. This line that al Qaeda isn’t al Qaeda if it’s in Yemen has never bee plausible.

  13. If the NSA and FBI have all the phone records, bank account information and credit card transactions of everyone, why haven’t they been able to find any drug kingpins for years?

    • Because they would cut into Bank of America’s profits
      if they did.

  14. ALL Americans need to be aware of this. I like your take on it (number 10). I suppose the ‘machine’ has thought of this and who has the courage to buck the system?

  15. al-Qaeda “leaked” that information to demonstrate to the world that they have the power to cause the most powerful nation in the world to do things the empire would not ordinarily do.

    Just like the RNC will demonstrate to potential donors their “power” in order to secure more financing.

    To think the NSA freaks actually “uncovered” this really gives them way too much “power”.

  16. thank you about writing these points. I still cannot understand how the attack on BenGhazi occurred and we were told it was because of a movie! where was NSA?

  17. Another excellent article and observations by Professor Cole. I wonder when Americans of all political persuasions begin to realize that both political parties are subservient to an autocratic military who are in reality, much like the Soviet Union’s military at it’s zenith, the real political “party” in charge of not only administrating war but everything else that depends on it for it’s life’s blood – FBI, DEA, “Private Security”, Prison Systems, Banking System, the list is endless and we are just now waking up to a new morning, though not quite the one Reagan in his wonderfully idiotic and naive way thought it would be. If the Snowden documents haven’t demonstrated that fact, I don’t know will.

    • Kurt,
      if your meaning is that the US military, in the persons of the likes of Marty Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs, are running the country, I respectfully disagree.
      -
      But maybe you are referring to the heads of the Intel Community, in cahoots with the financial oligarchs, as coordinated by the power brokers who run the two major political parties ?
      If that’s your meaning, then I think your labeling them as an “autocratic military” doesn’t exaactly capture that.

  18. As an aside to Ayman al-Zawahir in #7, one would think a guy that’s been a professional jihadist for over 30 years would know any phone conversations he had would be recorded, traced and acted on, including drone strikes. Could it be he baited the hook and the US bit? How much is it costing the US in business and prestige to close so many embassies.

  19. re: 5. Where in the constitution does it say that the Federal government can overrule a state about internal state commerce?

    It’s under the Interstate Commerce Clause as interpretted in Wickard v. Fillburn and reaffirmed in Raich v. Gonzales.

    The reasoning goes, by buying or manufacturing marijuana solely inside the state, you are NOT participating in the interstate market for Marijuana. As such, your non-participation affects the interstate market (supply and demand). And that affect is sufficient to provide a constitutional hook for the Fed gov’t to regulate and it is this legal reasoning upon which the entire federal drug regime resides.

    Which makes SCOTUS’s decision in Obamacare even more ridiculous. They stuck that down on commerce clause grounds but upheld under the gov’t taxing authority. Just absurd.

  20. Please note the innate and deeply corrupt symbiotic relationship between “Terrorists” and the “Security” industry. Want to tie the U.S. in economic and political knots? Send some nobodies out with explosive shoes or underwear. (Who benefits? The “Security” industry.) Want to watch the U.S. foreswear its Constitutional guarantees? Put up some glib “chatter” in the cellphoniverse — say, involving pressure cookers and backpacks. (Who benefits? The “Security” industry.) Want to create more “Terrorists” and thereby prove the urgent need for increased “Security” measures? Send in a few drones to a few obscure villages. (Who benefits? Guess who.)

  21. Juan, where are your “facts” or “proof” that “The DEA then routinely lies to the judge and defense attorneys during discovery about how its agents initially came by their suspicions of wrongdoing.” Anyone can write this statement, and furthermore since you write that it is “routine,” then there should be many, many court documents out there to prove your statement. Do you have any? Or are you just slinging mud and hopes it sticks?

    • Check out this Reuters article that came out three hours ago by John Shiffman and David Ingram that is somewhat on point about how the DEA instructs the IRS to create a false investigative trail for information that circulates between agencies to make it appear legally obtained:

      news.yahoo.com/exclusive-irs-manual-detailed-deas-hidden-intel-evidence-005747393.html

  22. Why aren’t you running this country Juan? Really. You ask such great questions, and I ask myself, why aren’t the people in charge asking these questions. Question 7 needs to be put to the NSA this week. It is brilliant.

  23. Re Spitzer, he was a PEP, a Politically Engaged Person, that is, a politician — an officeholder, party candidate or party official — or a close relative of one. The UN maintains a worldwide list of PEPs and as well as a list of terrorists. By law in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and other countries, a PEP cannot open a bank account without permission of a bank executive and all banking transactions of PEPs are monitored and reported to the government. So that is how Spitzer was caught.

  24. 11. If the government is so efficient in using this technology to track terrorists, why is it that they claim they are completely helpless to stop “Heather from account services” and other illegal robocallers from ringing my phone every damned day? If Heather and Al Qaeda ever team up I guess we’d be doomed.

  25. “Obviously, the government wants the telephone records of millions of Americans for some other reason.”

    Yep.

    Traditionally it has been used for “blackmail” … the hoodlum form of “lobbying” …

    J. Edgar Hoover invented the dynamic and “wrote the book on it” in our country.

    It is so bad and evil it is really not conceivable to the majority of us. Of Americans.

  26. Yes, comrade, we are all Soviets now! More vodka so I can forget about the corruption.

    That’s how it went right up until hyperinflation crashed the party in Russia.

  27. One more question – for 3 days after the Boston Bombing, the FBI had video film of the 2 perpetrators, including excellent shots of both their faces.

    Yet they supposedly had to publicize the pictures and get help from a Chinese graduate student to find and apprehend them.

    The two men were interviewed in Boston, more than once, less than 2 years ago, by Boston office FBI agents. During this time, the FBI received explicit warnings of the possible mens’ terrorist activities.

    And yet the same FBI office doesn’t recognize the men in pictures for 4 days? They have to ask us?

    Why didn’t they go to the suspects’ house the night of the bombing and apprehend them?

    Something stinks here folks. They wanted to put the entire region under martial law. Maybe they left the kid in the boat all day in the hopes that he’d bleed to death.

    Just think for yourself, it’s not difficult to see what’s going on here.

    • That is a point that has been niggling at me for ages now. If the NSA were able to efficiently analyze all this metadata, in addition to which the Russians were giving them a big, old heave-ho in the direction of Tsarnaev, why were they caught with their perennial pants down at the time of the Boston bombings? Does this simple fact, in and of itself, discredit the claimed efficacy of the NSA data-Hoovering?

  28. The NSA collects data on all Americans because it is Easy to do (compared to learning foreign languages and recruiting foreign agents), the NSA budget will grow, advancement will be easy and they can retire to an easy job with a NSA contractor collecting data – two careers, nothing accomplished. Also see: F35 program, F22 program, Air Force tanker program, M1 tank, etc.

  29. It does not surprise me that there is an intelligence-sharing arrangement between the NSA and DEA.

    It has been termed “narcoterrorism”. The theory that terrorism is funded by drug profits and attacking drug-trafficking networks will hit terorists in the pocketbook and drying up their means of financing.

    We now have “fusion centers” at the state government level that are depositories of information for dissemination between intelligence and law enforcement groups – Michigan’s state government website even boasts of the program.

    Almost every major city and most large suburban police departments have intelligence sections that have varying degrees of cooperation with federal agencies. These local police officers can conduct physical surveillance of individuals and pass on the information to the federal government. I have seen situations in Michigan where United Auto Workers picketers had photos taken of them by local police who shared these with management and who knows who else.

    Insurance companies have “special investigations units” composed of mainly retired law enforcement personnel that investigate policyholders under the guise of fraud detection but who often have ties and closely cooperate with law enforcement agencies. They often warn policyholders that they will share investigative information with prosecutorial authorities. This often deters consumers from pressing policy claims. I have seen cases where civil lawsuit discovery has disclosed legally-protected and confidential government LEIN printout records in the hands of an insurer – which is a crime in itself. I have also seen personal medical insurance claim information of a business owner company’s insurance claim turn up in the files of a commercial insurer’s claim by the policyholder – which clearly violated medical privacy laws – as a product of insurers sharing data between themselves. I had one special investigations unit member boast that they had two county sheriff’s deputies convicted of auto insurance fraud in their own county.

    Insurance companies have databases in which they share information regarding policyholders and they can do so legally in certain situations where a fraud defense is asserted.

    Remember the FBI prosecution in Detroit of the first post-9/11 terror cell indictment. While Karim Koubriti had his terror-related convictions vacated due to prosecutorial misconduct, he ended up being convicted of unrelated auto insurance fraud by the federal government before his release from prison.

    Almost all American use telephones or buy insurance so there is a fertile ground for consumer personal information within these companies that the federal government wishes to “tap into” for its own benefit.

    Insurance companies, telephone companies and local police intelligence units have had long cooperative relationships with the U.S. intelligence community.

  30. I don’t think you realize this, but #8 is flat-out right-wing, endless war propaganda.

    Your argument is that the existence of any terror threat shows that al Qaeda has not been beaten down, or beaten down sufficiently, and that only the complete absence of threats would indicate success against them.

    This is exactly the opposite of what someone who wanted this war to come to and end should be saying. John Kerry was right about what victory in this war would mean – not the complete eradication of any terror threat, but its reduction to the level of a “nuisance.”

    You are the last person I would expect to be echoing this pernicious doctrine.

  31. It would appear that the terrorists have won the War on Terror, and the NSA has helped them to win it.

    Think about it: all that a terrorist has to do is to….. pick up the phone to their Terrorist Best Buddy and discuss this all-new odourless, invisible, untouchable, bomb that they are going to use to blow up a US embassy somewhere.

    PANIC!!! PANIC!!! CLOSE ALL THE EMBASSIES!!! DO IT!! DO IT!!

    Terrorists: *snicker* *chortle* *snicker*

    Virtual terrorism – costing nothing more than a local phone call – yet it has the effect of striking terror into the heart of this US Administration.

    From their point of view, can it get any easier than that?

  32. You forgot to add anyone serious about illegal activity is going to have burner phones that are illegally purchased, making all this pointless.

  33. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an inquiring press to delve into these questions?

    Credit where credit is due, so thank you to John Shiffman, Kristina Cooke and Reuters for reporting on the NSA/DEA shenanigans. But this should be the ordinary duty of journalism not the rare, rule-breaking exception.

  34. the Government agencies have the power and right to do whatever they want since 9-11. and blackmail and money are the 2 most important tools involved here. the latest “threat” from Al Qaeda is just like those from the Bush days with our color coded threat levels.

    anyone who believes the Government/NSA etc, will ever lower the threat level, and or allow Americans to return to a pre 9-11 America is living in fantasy land. we are bought, sold and delivered to the NSA military industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about.

    those who think it won’t take a revolution are willfull denying the new reality we live in . we are on the other side of the looking glass now.
    all those wonderful questions/possibilities of having a “sensible” respect for individual rights and respect for our Constitution are part of the problem. while Bush played us for fools, Obama continues to escalate. and who can stop him or the next President. No one can. it’s way too late for a return to safety from the “security” state. this is East Germany on steroids.

    we voted for our own confinement and now we reap the results.

  35. Wow, 53 comments. Given the topic, that should be significant; and for this site it is; however, what relevance does it have in the world we’re discussing?
    Looking around over the last decade; I’d say not much.
    Where’s the action?
    After years of activism; I left. It was the only reasonable option available.
    To those forever posting on blogs I would suggest: Stop talking and do something…

  36. Did anyone else notice the irony of Professor Cole writing, on August 6 no less, that the warning about al Qaeda wanting to strike the US was just the intelligence agencies covering their ass?

  37. The answer to most of the questions beginning “why” is – because access to the content of everyone’s communications is a commercial gold mine. Not just a gold mine, but a diamond mine, platinum mine and titanium mine. Face it, government and big corporations are almost fully merged now. Access to this data for global companies at some point is a forgone conclusion. And they will pay royally for the access.

    It *is* about government control of a captive population. But it’s also about money. Lots and lots and lots of money, extracted from the little people and given to the “big” ones.

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