Two Sets of Leaks from the NSA

Speaking of the NSA, here are links to two stories about the NSA.

There's stuff in the Wayne Masden article that seems all too plausible. And, as is so often the case, there's also some seriously tinfoily stuff in Madsen's report, notably the allegation that,

NSA has recorded tactical communications intelligence—overheard on a speaker system in the NSOC—that demonstrates that United Flight 93 was shot down by U.S. fighter planes over Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, and the Bush administration concocted a phony “patriotic” cover story about the passengers and crew deliberately crashing the plane into the ground.

I am very dubious. I just don't think they could keep something that big under wraps so long. Consider how quickly the tissue of lies about the 'friendly fire' killing of Pat Tilman began to unravel. I suppose you could argue that if it took a year for the whole story to come out on a minor thing like that, a really major cover up would last longer. But surely someone would have talked?

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13 Responses to Two Sets of Leaks from the NSA

  1. I’ve got a wardrobe full of tinfoil, but I don’t find this that outrageous. It frankly seems far more plausible than other possibilities, and I suspect it’s less a matter of a mass cover-up and more a collective psychosis. I can imagine that, given the potential harm to the families and the lack of a clear benefit in blowing the whistle (it is difficult to criticize the decision to bring down the plane), few would risk their jobs to bring it to the fore.

    Which is harder to believe: that the US pays people to torture prisoners held indefinitely in cages or that the fourth of four hijacked aircraft, three of which had already killed thousands, was preemptively destroyed by the armed aircraft trailing them over rural farmland. Sure, we have more evidence of the former, but in terms of being false on its face, I’m still willing to accept the latter as well.

  2. Willing to accept the possibility of the latter, I should say.

  3. Brian Boru says:

    That flight 93 was shot down is the ONLY explanation consistent with eyewitness accounts and the debris pattern.

  4. Bricklayer says:

    Why would it be necessary to cover this up? The majority of this country is filled with enough people of common sense to realize that shooting it down in self defense was a necessary evil. What political gain is there to be had by hiding it? Many people would be all the more outraged at the terrorists if it were true that an American pilot was put in that position, as well as his commanders.

    Perhaps if there was a cover up, there could be some strategical thinking behind it. If terrorists know we will shoot down our own planes, does that help us or hurt us? Seems to me its better if they don’t know exactly how our defenses function. During WWII and the Cold war all sorts of irrelevant facts were hidden from the public for legitimate strategical purposes.

    Why do things like this get the left so excited? Why do they salivate over the chance to second guess an Airforce pilot and his commanders in this situation? Is there no limit to the Bush-bashing? Oh, of course its just fanciful speculation about the thrilling cloak-and-dagger world of cover intelligence….sure it is.

    I agree that you are dubious.

  5. michael says:

    The idea the US government would take upon itself to give our armed forces the authority to kill US citizens anywhere in the world — much less in the US — should give anyone serious pause. (That it would do so before the last moment of exigency might also be disturbing.) I have not investigated, but I’m not aware of any statute authorizing such conduct. Are you? Would it be constitutional to, in effect, execute citizens without trial in this manner? I have my doubts, although I could imagine arguments based on war powers that might make it possible in the case of foreign attack — which at the time no one knew this to be.

    There’s also the minor point that even if there is such a statute or a direct constitutional power, the Air Force has consistently claimed that only the President has the authority to order a shoot-down of a civilian plane. Yet the chronology of the day makes it pretty clear that Bush never gave such an order — the order given appears to have been given by the Veep acting on his own authority. And everyone agrees that the Veep lacks the legal authority to give any orders to the armed forces while the President is healthy. The 9/11 commission chose to pretend Cheney was relaying an order from Bush, but the evidence it set out very strongly undercuts its finding (see the linked Post article). If a shoot-down were ever proved, it might create some substantial liability exposure as many official immunity doctrines don’t apply to objectively illegal conduct.

    I don’t know when it became ‘left-wing’ to care about the Rule of Law, even in the discussion of hypothetical circumstances. Once upon a time conservatives such as Barry Goldwater could be counted on to care about such things.

  6. pike says:

    Here we go again. For Bricklayer, if it makes Bush look bad and it’s false, we must protest. If it makes Bush look bad and it’s true, we must protest all the harder. Now we see that “if it were true it would make Bush look bad, but I find it incredible on its face,” that is bashing Bush all the same. Anything but unabashed praise is harsh and unjustified criticism, apparently.

  7. michael says:

    Law students get stressed at exam time. We have to make allowances.

  8. Bricklayer says:

    “but I’m not aware of any statute authorizing such conduct. Are you?” Oh please. The president (and his agents) may pass gass, as well as a whole host of other actions without a statute authorizing him to do so. Perhaps some of your readers are duped by your intentional avoidance of the common law (and sense), but hopefully not all. You say “Air Force has consistently claimed …” Who cares what they claim? They may have a procedure, but they don’t have the final say on what the legality of its disregard in this situation would be. They have no more final say than the IRS, the EEOC, the EPA or OSHA. Don’t you teach admin law? Jeez.

    What are you saying? If it was shot down, it was the wrong decision? If it was the right decision, how can you argue for its criminalization? Do you really believe that Air Force pilots are itching to blow us all up? What policy rationale can you possibly argue applies? Would you have the Air Force general brought up on charges? The president? On what crime? On what civil theory could the “victims” proceed under?

    Your argument hits a brick wall when it hits “necessity”, “justification”, “excuse”…take your pick. You characterize it as an “execution”, when you know very well that the law distinguishes the legality of behavior based upon the attendant circumstances. All sorts of grotesque legal arguments could be made, if you insisted upon it. The executive has all sorts of power to sacrifice lives in the extremest of circumstances. There comes a point when the coast guard calls of rescue missions of sailors lost at sea. You saw that yourself during the hurricanes, where police refused to go after idiots who went surfing. Were those executions? Was their power to refuse to render aid codified in statute, or common sense? In order to preserve police lives (even worse under your logic, non-civilian life), and to conserve police resources to aid other hurricane victims who aren’t surfing, the police chief makes a tough call. And you’d have him brought up on murder charges?

    “The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience”–Holmes. How can you possibly envision the rule of law unraveling on the basis of the extreme facts of this incident?

    This is the constant mantra of liberals seeking to use the law for their own ends. They argue for but one interpretation of the law, and accuse anyone who disagrees with their interpretation as not standing for the rule of law. That’s utter nonsense. Your argument here is nothing more than veiled Bush-bashing, not some glorified attempt to rescue the republic from chaos.

    Pike-If any of you would open your eyes, you’d see that there are plenty of republicans who disagree with some of his policies and actions. There is a world of difference between rational political criticism and irrational demonization. The insanity surrounding the downing of the airliner is irrational demonization. You guys hate Bush, and it shows.

  9. pike says:

    Irrational demonization?

    You have a funny way of looking at things. You seem to be saying shooting down the airliner would have been a good thing to do, but that it would now be a bad thing to examine whether the administration authorized that to happen. I don’t believe it happened that way, michael doesn’t believe it happened that way, but somehow michael saying he doesn’t believe it happened that way is “irrational demonization” of Bush?

    Then, to suggest that the hypothetical order to down the plane would be illegal is also considered an attack. Puzzling. Under what authority does the president or any other person order an airliner shot down? Well you don’t answer that one, though you do make a vague reference to the necessity defense, which presumes that you too think it would be a crime to do so. So is it a crime, a good thing, or both? The executive can sacrifice lives in extreme circumstances? Now, maybe you’d want to get into whether mercury emissions from power plants are worth sacrificing lives over . . . no wait that would be a Bricklayerian distraction, so let’s not. Instead, let’s ask, presuming the incredible was in fact how things occurred: is it conceivably a crime to order the destruction of an airliner in the name of national security (a crime to which a defense might be asserted) or is the inherent power of the executive such that the action could never constitute a crime?

  10. Bricklayer says:

    Your first paragraph is worthy of response. I have no problem with speculation, the question is in what spirit is it being done? Is it being done in the spirit of a parlour game, trying to figure out the plans and strategies of our classified national security agencies, or is it being done to imply that Bush or someone in his administration should be brought up on criminal charges? I think it is disingenious to assume michael intends anything but the latter.

    Your last paragraph is too hard to follow, and in the end the result is the same. If the flight was shot down, it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. There is a legitimate concept in criminal law, its called prosecutorial discretion. The idea is you don’t waste the taxpayer’s money and besmirch a good citizen’s name on a rediculous case, even if technically it could survive summary judgment. The concept is implicit in some of michael’s past posts on material witness issues and prisoner detentions. Yet for some reason, he doesn’t apply the same doctrine to Bush. I wonder why.

  11. Mojo says:

    I have to come down on the tin-foil hat side of the Madsen article. There are places where I know for a fact that he’s wrong and that leads me to discount the areas where I’d have to believe something on just his word. That doesn’t mean that one or more of his many claims might not turn out to be correct; just that this article doesn’t help determine their truth or falsehood.

  12. Hey, did we all forget Don Rumsfield’s slip of the tongue?

    I’m just sayin’…

    [adjusts tinfoil to jaunty angle]

  13. pike says:

    I’ll try to make things easier for you to follow, Bricklayer.

    So, again, you assume the act was both right and criminal, but being right, not worthy of prosecution. We can assume that, arguendo. Isn’t the nature of a republic ruled by laws and not by men such that we should have the facts here so that we can decide whether prosecutorial discretion or a necessity defense is appropriate? No, you seem to be saying, the inquiry would be a hateful attack on our leader, so if the facts might not play into the fortunes of the party, keep the facts at bay. I’d prefer to live in a republic where the leader would tell us, “I did this, right or wrong, to protect the interests of the nation.” Think Jefferson and the Louisiana purchase.

    Now, bear with me, because to date I believe that the plane was crashed by the terrorists themselves, but what about the story of the downing by a military jet at the order of the president or V.P? Assuming I’m wrong, and assuming that no prosecution is to be had for whatever legal reason, what about civil liability? Is there not available a wrongful death action for each family of a passenger or crew member of an airliner shot down for national defense purposes? Perhaps there would be no liability, but we won’t know that until the courts sort that out, now would we? I seem to recall that the president is not entitled to hold off civil lawsuits while in office–they don’t distract from the job of the office, the court opined. We have a process in place to determine what the facts may be (discovery) and to resolve disputes over those facts and their legal consequences. Is there a reason the civil suit shouldn’t proceed? Assume that there’s enough evidence to survive a summary judgment, and assume we don’t have reason to think it’s a paranoid fantasy.

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