Washington (CNN) As a new day comes to Washington, the U.S. government now officially finds itself with fewer tools to investigate terrorism.
The Senate entered a debate period late Sunday on the Patriot Act that pushed beyond the midnight deadline. With the debate ongoing, that effectively ends the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program.
President Barack Obama and government officials spent last week warning of serious national security consequences…
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week the United States would face a “serious lapse” in national security.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement on Friday the United States “would lose entirely an important capability that helps us identify potential U.S. based associates of foreign terrorists.”
“Serious national security consequences,” people. And it’s not like James Clapper would ever lie! I’m very concerned, though, that government officials muttering “national security” no longer casts a magic spell that causes everyone to shit themselves and unconditionally agree to lawless violations of the constitution and all manner of un-American fuckery to Keep Us Safe™.
I kid, I kid. As Loyal Readers™ know, none of this shit keeps us safe, and I’m not convinced it was designed to do so. It hasn’t even kept the White House lawn safe from a d00d with a lawn chair strapped to his ass. In fact, if you bother to slog through that CNN article I quoted above, near the bottom you will find this gem:
As it stands, several official review boards — including a presidential review group and a government privacy oversight board — found that the bulk metadata collection program was not essential to thwarting a single terror plot.
I will never, ever miss an opportunity to demonstrate unequivocally to shrieking liars like the president and the citizens who get their “news” from mainstream media and think they’re informed: the surveillance programs do not work for their alleged purposes, and they are being used on targets that have nothing to do with terrorism whatsoever. The following two points should appear in every single piece of serious reporting about U.S. surveillance programs:
Terrorist attacks have indeed been thwarted—not by NSA surveillance, but by ordinary citizens.
- Despite NSA’s massive surveillance operations, Richard Reid, the would-be “Shoe Bomber” managed to get a bomb on board an American Airlines flight to Miami. When he tried to set it off, passengers smelled smoke, subdued him and bound him up. Hello? NSA? Hello?
- Then, with their amazing and vast surveillance powers and a heads up from CIA, US intelligence officials actually let suspected al-Qaeda collaborator Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab board a flight to the US. They were planning to let him into the states, too: they knew he was coming, and refused to let his visa be revoked. Unfortunately, he had a bomb in his underwear on the flight. Passengers subdued him, too. Thanks again, NSA.
- Then there was Faisal Shahzad, the would-be “Times Square Bomber.” A t-shirt vendor noticed smoke coming out of an awkwardly parked SUV and alerted a mounted police officer, who called for assistance. The area was safely cleared and the bomb was defused. Law enforcement investigated over the next few days and narrowed in on Shahzad as the prime suspect. They put his name on the No Fly List (which even a known al-Qaeda collaborator wasn’t put on). Still, Shahzad was nonetheless able to buy a ticket to Dubai with cash at JFK airport, and board the plane. The flight was a few minutes from takeoff before the authorities caught up with him. The plane returned to the gate and he was arrested without incident.
T-shirt vendor: 1. NSA surveillance: 0.
- Even lawn chair copter d00d announced his exact plans a year ago on his blog, then in his hometown newspaper, and in a video posted online by The Tampa Bay Times. And the Secret Service only investigated him because they were tipped off… by a concerned citizen.
The Boston bombing case should have unplugged the entire surveillance state apparatus immediately and permanently. The U.S. government was tipped off twice about Tamerlan Tsarnaev by the Russian Federal Security Bureau. He had been on a terrorist watch list watch for eighteen months before he and his brother set off bombs that killed three people and injured 264 others at the scene. WHERE THE FUCK WAS THE NSA. I’ll tell you where they were—which brings me to point 2.
While NSA is very busy not stopping terrorists, their programs are used for other purposes.
First, it’s important to note than none of this surveillance is limited to the NSA, either. For years NSA, FBI and CIA agents would sit around all day playing World of Warcraft, Second Life and a bunch of mobile app games, based on some cockamamie rationale about their ability to flush out terrorists by playing online video games. This wasn’t just a handful of rogue dudebros, either: there were so many agents playing that they had to set up “deconfliction” groups just to make sure they weren’t accidentally spying on each other. It would be hilarious if only this were all they ever did. But it isn’t.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has access to NSA’s data, intercepts and wiretaps that it uses to tip off local cops to suspected drug activity. The cops, knowing they can never reveal the source of their information, engineer a ruse—like a routine traffic stop—to make the investigation seem otherwise legitimate. Then “they routinely go back and dummy up the paper trail so the court and the suspect never knows where the original ‘tip’ came from.” Worse: “Current and former federal agents said [these] tips aren’t always helpful – one estimated their accuracy at 60 percent.” Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
- American citizens Laura Poitras, David House, Lisa M. Wayne, Pascal Abidor, and Jacob Applebaum have all been detained without warrants at U.S. borders, questioned, and had their possessions searched or confiscated. (Poitras alone has been stopped more than forty times.) None of them have been accused of a crime, much less anything terrorism-related.
- Department of Homeland Security Theatre™ (DHS) analysts had its agents scrutinizing online comments that “reflect adversely” on the U.S. government.
- For a two month period, the Justice Department captured the records of more than 20 phone lines of reporters and editors at The Associated Press, including their personal phones. I guess there must be terrorists at the AP.
- But non-violent Occupy protesters are indeed terrorists, according to the NYPD. (The FBI learned of a plot to kill Occupy activists and remained silent about it: Keeping Us Safe™ FTW.) Counterterrorism tactics have also been used to infiltrate and monitor liberal political groups including anti-war organizations, environmental activists, groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling, supporters of Palestinians and the Israeli divestment campaign, and anti-NAFTA activists. Other law enforcement agencies around the country have spied on anti-death penalty groups, Ron Paul supporters and pro-Muslim lobbyists. Ten peaceful protesters at Halliburton are also serious threats to national security.
To the extent all of this domestic surveillance has ever had anything to do with terrorism, it has been an epic fucking failure. To the extent it doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism, shouldn’t we be talking about that? I’ve written before:
And what possible coherent justification can there be anyway, for laws and powers supposedly targeting only suspected terrorists not to be used against ordinary citizens suspected of minor crimes? That is the very reason to object to unconstitutional surveillance in the first place: because we already know how this movie ends from, you know, all of history—including the recent history of the United States. That is what governments invariably do whenever they can get away with it: entrench their own power and suppress dissent.
Anyway, despite the alarmist headlines today—only moments ago I got a notification from The Washington Post with the chilling title “The NSA’s call logs go dark”—there isn’t even a fucking story here: the Senate is expected to restore the expired Patriot Act authorities in a couple days. Unless we all die from terrorist attacks in the meantime, obviously.
Have a nice day.