Obama’s Big Fat Intel Scandal

September 30, 2014

Obama at last threw the wrong people under the bus: people who know things and who know how to leak effectively. The president evidently takes a very cavalier attitude toward national security, and now those “chickens are coming home to roost.”

The XX Committee

The rise of the Islamic State* has engendered a full-blown foreign policy crisis in Washington, DC. After more than three years of an extended “Mission Accomplished” victory lap following the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011, the Obama White House has hit the wall with the sudden appearance of the decapitating jihadists of the Islamic State, who now control substantial chunks of both Syria and Iraq and a lot of oil to boot.

The September 2012 disaster at Benghazi ought to have been a wake-up call that Salafi jihadism was down but not out, and still bent on killing Americans, but wasn’t. Now the administration is confronted with a major problem that it’s not exactly been quick to deal with; I’ve explained how the Islamic State can be defeated, but the White House doesn’t seem to be in any big…

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The Snowden Operation Falls Apart

June 5, 2014

20 Committee asks a damned fine question: If Snowden really is a “whistleblower,” why doesn’t he produce the letters of complaint to superiors he surely has? If he’s telling the truth, that is.

The XX Committee

Edward Snowden had his Big Interview on NBC this week, and it was something of a pace-setter for poor TV journalism, since Brian Williams (who was previously denounced by Glenn Greenwald for being a servile boot-licker of the surveillance state), decided to soft-ball the questions and not follow up many weird, disingenuous statements by Ed. His almost-year in Russia under FSB care has not promoted clear thinking, while Ed’s body language indicated serious deception to the trained eye. NSA’s IT contractor on permanent vacation in Russia gave his usual platitudes about how he’s really a patriot and “had” to steal all those classified IC and DoD documents. He’s almost thirty-one years old but apparently he had no agency in any of this. We’ve heard it all before.

But The Narrative has begun to fall apart in a manner not even the MSM can avoid noticing (though the failure…

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#NSA Interesting observation about the Edward Snowden timeline

June 13, 2013

Neo-Neocon notes the date Edward Snowden left his job at NSA-contractor Booz-Allen, combines that with the assertion that he had been working for them for less than three months, and has an interesting possibility come to mind:

That means that if you count backwards, he had to have started work for Booz no earlier than February 20 and probably significantly later. So, if he was already speaking to [journalist Glenn] Greenwald in February, does this mean he took the Booz job with the purpose of gaining access to the documents and leaking them?

If that’s true, does that change anything in the equation?

I’d say it likely does. I speculated earlier on the possibility (faint, I’ll grant) that Snowden was being used by China or was flat-out their agent. The timing Neo noticed makes it look like there was premeditation involved, even though, as I understand it, Snowden didn’t learn of the NSA data-mining project until he started working on the project for Booz-Allen, which was after he began talking to reporters.

As the great Artie Johnson would have said, “verrrryyyy interesting.”

via Jim Geraghty

PS: Regardless of whether one thinks Snowden is a hero or a villain or a bit of both for what he did, it’s clear to me laws may well have been broken. I think he should face trial and let a jury decide whether he’s guilty of a crime or not.


History lesson: The crucial differences between Bush and Obama’s NSA phone surveillance programs

June 6, 2013

Excellent column by Michelle Malkin on the differences between the Bush-era warrantless wiretap program and the Obama administration’s tracking of *all* domestic calls on the Verizon network. This should be read by everyone, especially knee-jerk civil liberties absolutists on the Left and reactionary Libertarians on the Right. I only differ with her in being a little more open to the idea that the Obama effort *may* be legal/justified/needed, etc., but we need much more information in order to judge. Also, she makes an excellent point about the administration’s loss of credibility with the public on national security and constitutional issues, compared to the wide public support for the Bush-era program.


#BostonBombing: Did the Saudis warn us ahead of time in writing? UPDATE: Saudi denial?

May 1, 2013

UPDATE: I’m sticking this at the top because the story’s important enough to warrant it.  Now we have a “Saudi official” saying there was a letter, and their embassy in Washington saying no, there wasn’t. So, who’s lying, and why? (via Toby Harnden)

The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. today denied its government warned the U.S. about accused Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

According to a highly placed source who spoke to MailOnline, the Saudis sent a written warning about Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. That was long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds.

The official told MailOnline about a written warning from the Saudi government to the Department of Homeland Security, and said he had direct knowledge of that document.

But the Middle Eastern nation’s embassy in Washington denied that account on Wednesday.

It issued a statement which read: ‘The Saudi government had no prior information about the Boston bombers. Therefore, it is not true that any information, written or otherwise, was passed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or any other US agency in this regard,’ an embassy statement statement claimed.

‘The Saudi government also does not have any record of any application by Tamerlan Tsarnaev for any visa to Saudi Arabia.’

Original article follows.

If this is true, our intelligence services and the White House have a boatload of explaining to do:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds, according to a senior Saudi government official with direct knowledge of the document.

The Saudi warning, the official told MailOnline, was separate from the multiple red flags raised by Russian intelligence in 2011, and was based on human intelligence developed independently in Yemen.

Citing security concerns, the Saudi government also denied an entry visa to the elder Tsarnaev brother in December 2011, when he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the source said. Tsarnaev’s plans to visit Saudi Arabia have not been previously disclosed.

The Saudis’ warning to the U.S. government was also shared with the British government. ‘It was very specific’ and warned that ‘something was going to happen in a major U.S. city,’ the Saudi official said during an extensive interview.

It ‘did name Tamerlan specifically,’ he added. The ‘government-to-government’ letter, which he said was sent to the Department of Homeland Security at the highest level, did not name Boston or suggest a date for his planned attack.

If true, the account will produce added pressure on the Homeland Security department and the White House to explain their collective inaction after similar warnings were offered about Tsarnaev by the Russian government.

DHS pretty much denies the whole thing, but the article reports two meetings between high-ranking Saudi and US officials: the first between Obama and the Saudi Interior Minister in January, while the second was an unscheduled meeting between Obama and the Saudi Foreign Minister two days after the marathon bombing. One almost gets the impression of Saudi officials pleading “Look do we have to draw you guys a picture? We’ve been telling you to look out for this crazy Chechen!”

But… let’s not jump the gun, here. This story comes from a single Saudi source, and there are reasons both to believe and not believe it.

In favor: While not best friends, the Saudis have been a close ally against jihad terrorism, having experienced it themselves and given that al Qaeda has declared open season on the government. They’ve also provided reliable information in the past: the article mentions the “printer cartridge plot” and Richard Reid, the “shoe-bomber” as examples. And while the Yemen connection seems out of left field, it has come up in connection with the Tsarnaevs before (h/t Hot Air), and the Saudis are deeply involved in Yemen. Warning us, besides being the decent thing to do, would also be in the Kingdom’s best interests to curry favor with D.C.

On the other hand: The Saudi government may not be a state sponsor of terrorism against the West, but it provides support to Salafi and jihad groups around the world, prominent wealthy Saudis donate directly to jihad groups, and high-ranking religious figures in the Kingdom urge their young men (of whom they have way too many to gainfully employ) to go wage jihad against the infidel. (1) It’s a open dirty secret of this modern age. And so it could be very tempting for the Saudis to claim “We tried to tell you,” hoping to earn some credit from the many Americans upset with the Obama administration and divert attention (again) from their own involvement with jihad.

For now, I lean toward this being true, at least to some degree: the Saudis may have warned us, but perhaps the information wasn’t nearly as cut and dried as they make it out to be. And I find it hard to imagine they’d claim “We told the British, too,” knowing the UK could falsify their claim at the drop of a hat. On top of that, it looks like we may have been making some of the same kind of mistakes we made before 9/11 with overly compartmentalized information that isn’t shared in a timely manner with all concerned parties. Shades of the “Gorelick Wall.”

And if this is true, even to a limited degree, it looks like another example of fatally stupid incompetence on the part of an administration that just wishes terrorism would go away.

Newsflash: It won’t.

Footnote:
(1)You might recall there were regular reports of young Saudi men being urged to go fight us in Iraq. Basically, they’re happy to send these nuts anywhere to get killed, as long as they’re out of Saudi Arabia.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama Treasury Dept. to open bank records to US intelligence agencies?

March 13, 2013
"Watching you"

“Watching you”

Under things that make me a bit uncomfortable, we find:

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The FBI already has access to FinCEN, and intelligence agencies can make requests to get access on a case-by-case basis. There’s no doubt this kind of information is useful in our war with Islamic terrorists: they need money to carry out their operations, and suspicious transactions can be an early warning that something’s afoot, as well as revealing how they’re getting their funds. In fact, the US and its allies have had great success disrupting terrorist finance since 9/11 by data mining international bank records, at least until the operation was exposed by the press in 2006. (Don’t worry. The revelation came under a Republican president, so the press was only doing its duty.)

And the fact is we are still at war against an enemy who’d dearly love to give us another 9/11; in such times, the boundaries between liberty and security shift a bit toward security. Trust me, I’m a national security conservative, not a doctrinaire “Big L” libertarian on this issue. I remember how the failure to share information was one of the big weaknesses that let al-Qaeda’s plan work.

BUT…

More than 25,000 financial firms – including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies – routinely file “suspicious activity reports” to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.

Emphases added. In other words, the financial institutions, to avoid trouble with Washington, shovel all they can at the Feds and tell them to sort it out.

I’m sure we can all imagine the problems arising from that, such as database errors leading to people being misidentified as possible terrorists or their bag-men. We’ve heard enough stories about “no fly” list mistakes to know it’s bound to happen. Imagine waking up one day to find all your accounts frozen while investigators paw through your life. And this is without even considering the broader Fourth Amendment implications inherent in intelligence agencies searching through all the information the financial institutions dump on them, in order to find the worthwhile material.

“Privacy? What’s that?”

So, like I said: “uncomfortable.” This is a case where Congress could very usefully fulfill its investigatory functions by hauling the relevant officials before a couple of committees and letting some skeptics of central government power (Hello, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul!) ask some pointed questions to make sure proper safeguards are in place.

via Bryan Preston

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Benghazi Consulate Massacre: a word of caution about those emails

October 25, 2012

Yesterday I wrote about emails sent from Libya to the State Department and the White House, among others, indicating that an al Qaeda subsidiary, Ansar al Sharia, had taken credit for the assault on our consulate that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans. These emails seemed to confirm what many have suspected all along: that the White House knew quickly the attack had nothing to do with an obscure video, that they knew who had really perpetrated it, and that they were lying to the American people to cover up their incompetence and to protect Obama’s reelection chances.

While I still think that’s largely true, last night Daveed Gartenstein-Ross pointed followers to an article containing an observation by Anthony Zelin that makes the “the White House knew within two hours” narrative much less certain:

However, an examination of the known Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi reveals no such claim of responsibility. Aaron Zelin, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tracks dozens of jihadist websites and archives much of what they say. He told CNN he was unaware of any such claim having been posted on the official Facebook page or Twitter feed of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi.

Zelin, who said his RSS feed sends him any new statement from the group, provided CNN with a copy of that feed. It shows no Facebook update between September 8 and September 12, when a posting late that afternoon first referenced the attack. Zelin notes that the posting referred to a news conference the group had held earlier that day in Benghazi in which it denied any role in the assault on the consulate, while sympathizing with the attackers.

This is an important point: these groups are not shy about claiming credit when they strike at the infidels (that’s us); not only is attacking us an act of religious piety that, in their view, is something to be proud of, but bragging about it also boosts the prestige of their group. Yet they first said nothing, then denied involvement.

The article continues by describing the difficulties of obtaining solid information in a place as chaotic as Libya:

In the hours following such incidents, it is not unusual for “spot reports” from agencies and overseas posts to pour in to the State Department. They typically include intercepts, what’s picked up on social media, witness accounts and what’s being said by local officials. They often contain raw, unfiltered information that is then analyzed for clues, patterns and contradictions.

In the case of the Benghazi attack, there were plenty of contradictions. Such situations are frequently chaotic, with claim and counter-claim by witnesses unsure of what happened when, according to U.S. officials. Building a complete picture without access to first-hand-accounts and little visual evidence can be a major challenge to government experts working from thousands of miles away.

So too have been the attempts to pin down who represents Ansar al-Shariah and their movements on the night of the attack.

Wings of Ansar al-Sharia, which means “partisans” or “supporters of Islamic law,” are based not only in Benghazi but in the Libyan town of Derna, east of Benghazi. The group’s leaders in Derna are thought to include Abu Sufyan bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

A different Ansar al-Sharia is affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, and budding franchises are said to exist in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.

In other words, with groups as decentralized as al Qaeda and its affiliates, the leadership in one place might take false credit, while that in another might deny  it altogether, while a third, wholly unrelated group that happens to have the same name might (or might not) be the real perpetrators. (In fact, there is some indication al Qaeda jihadis from Iraq were part of the attack.) Thus the emails from Tripoli are not necessarily as damning as they may seem.

So, while I’m reasonably certain that this was an organized al Qaeda hit and not just a “flash mob with mortars,” I’m withdrawing my specific contention from yesterday that Obama had to have known within two hours that this was a terrorist hit and who did it — for now, until we get better information.

I am not, however, withdrawing or walking-back or wavering in my belief that the administration knew at some point early on that there was no anti-video demonstration and that this might well have been an al Qaeda attack. The evidence is too strong to believe otherwise (such as from drone surveillance during the fight). It appears much more likely, indeed probable, that they desperately latched onto any rumor that would allow them to claim it was someone else’s fault — an obscure film producer in California, for example. And then they stuck with it and lied to us for weeks afterward.

Forget about exactly when they knew: that they knew at all -and Obama and company had to have known- and continued to blow smoke in our faces in order to avoid responsibility is what we need to remember on Election Day.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)