Tuesday, January 21, 2014
"Did Obama know he was telling a lie? What he said and did not say about [9/11 hijacker Khalid al] Mihdhar suggests he knew."
http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/21597-two-obama-lies-leave-little-room-for-privacy-rights Weissman writes: "Did Obama know he was telling a lie? What he said and did not say about [9/11 hijacker Khalid al] Mihdhar suggests he knew." U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference, 06/22/12. (photo: Reuters) Two Obama Lies Leave Little Room for Privacy Rights By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News 20 January 14 One of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar – made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen,” said the president in his speech on surveillance. “NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States. The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.” One of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77 that slammed into the Pentagon, Mihdhar personifies the new lie Obama is telling about the most contentious single issue that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden brought to light. Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the electronic wizards at the National Security Agency vacuum up every – or virtually every – phone call made in and from the United States. Mihdhar similarly featured when former FBI director Robert Mueller testified last year in federal court, leading Judge William H. Pauley III to conclude that metadata collection would have allowed the Bureau to prevent 9/11. Pauley then found the dragnet “constitutional,” one of a growing list of judge-made exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, which plainly rejects general search warrants and prohibits searches unless the government shows a court probable cause that a specific person or place is breaking the law. The truth about Mihdhar differs in the details and in what it tells us about the NSA. In 2008, in his best-seller “The Shadow Factory,” journalist James Bamford reported how both the NSA and CIA knew Mihdhar was al-Qaeda, knew he was in San Diego, and repeatedly withheld the intelligence from the FBI. “In the NSA’s Ops 2B building counterterrorism specialists continued reading the cryptic conversations between Mihdhar and the Yemen ops center that had been picked up while targeting the center,” Bamford revealed. “But inexplicably, the fact that the calls from Mihdhar had a U.S. country code and a San Diego area code – something that should have been instantly obvious to the NSA’s signals intelligence experts – was never passed on to the FBI, CIA, or anyone else.” So, contrary to Obama’s telling, the NSA recorded and transcribed at least some of Mihdhar’s calls and would have known he was calling from San Diego. They just did not tell the other intelligence bureaucracies. This proved tragic since – according to Bamford – Mihdhar was living in the home of an FBI informant. Add this to the Bureau’s failure to act on repeated reports from its field offices that young Arabs were attending private flight schools, where they raised suspicions. To be fair, Obama’s account did contain a kernel of truth. Listening to Mihdhar’s calls broke the law, as NSA director Michael Hayden would finally decide, and for reasons that went far beyond legal niceties. With the end of the cold war, the NSA faced drastic downsizing. Members of Congress and the European parliament were attacking the agency for massively invading privacy with Echelon, the Fives Eyes program that coordinates electronic snooping by the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. High on his list of priorities, the ever-cautious Hayden wanted to avoid any repeat of the Church Committee’s revelations in the mid-1970s that the NSA had flagrantly broken the law by spying on American citizens. All this came to a head when Hayden “secretly pulled the plug on intercepting all international communications to and from the U.S., even those involving terrorism.” So a gap in legal authorization did exist, which Section 215 over-corrected, enabling the NSA to use fear of “another 9/11” to take on a new mission, win larger budgets to buy powerful new technology, and stage what is arguably the greatest invasion of privacy ever, both in America and around the world. Did Obama know he was telling a lie? What he said and did not say about Mihdhar suggests he knew. Without question, some of his senior national security advisors would have read Bamford, checked out any details they did not already know, and told Obama what they found. Besides the Mihdhar fable, Obama repeated a second lie. “This program does not involve the content on phone calls, or the names of people making calls,” he claimed. “Instead it provides a record of phone numbers and the time and lengths of calls – metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.” Or, as he promised the American people on June 7 in his initial response to Snowden’s whistleblowing, “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls.” That is simply not true, at least as Snowden tells it. “Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?” asked a Guardian reader in an online session on June 17. “If an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want,” Snowden replied. “Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (MEI), and so on – it’s all the same.” “Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant,” he went on. “They excuse this as ‘incidental collection,’ but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications.” “Do you mean they have a record of it, or the actual content,” asked journalist Glenn Greenwald. “Both,” said Snowden. “All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything.” Sadly, as Snowden’s flood of NSA documents confirms, we can believe him where we cannot believe Obama. The NSA does suck up content, which at least some analysts can access. With all his cosmetic reforms and talk of finding a new place to store the data, Obama is fighting to preserve the invasion of the data-snatchers. We need bulk collection, he repeats the party line, to protect us from any new terrorist attack. No matter that neither the NSA nor any other agency has produced a shred of evidence that collecting metadata – and its accompanying content – has prevented a single terror attack in the United States. Presidents and their intelligence agencies naturally want to have every tool they can to gobble up as much information as they can get away with. Their motives vary. In America’s corporate state, they have supporters who sell goods and services to expanding intelligence bureaucracies, which have their own internal drive to expand their empire and feather their own nests, as the NSA did. They can honestly believe that the latest technological twist will produce results even it hasn’t yet. And they know that they will be the ones the rest of us blame if we suffer another 9/11, and that they will have to show that they did everything they could to prevent it. All good reasons that we – and, in some cases, they – need the plain language of the Fourth Amendment to limit what they are permitted to do. ________________________________________ A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold." Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs