Our Enemies Strike Again

Further evidence of domestic subversion by our enemies: Moles in the White House killed a (probably) legal NSA data mining project with built-in privacy protections.

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project — not because it failed to work — but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency’s surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program. It remains the backbone of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance efforts, tracking domestic and overseas communications from a vast databank of information, and monitoring selected calls.

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2 Responses to Our Enemies Strike Again

  1. Thomas says:

    The crucial piece of the article:

    Officials say that after the successful tests of ThinThread in 1998, Taylor argued that the NSA should implement the full program. He later told the 9/11 Commission that ThinThread could have identified the hijackers had it been in place before the attacks, according to an intelligence expert close to the commission.

    But at the time, NSA lawyers viewed the program as too aggressive. At that point, the NSA’s authority was limited strictly to overseas communications, with the FBI responsible for analyzing domestic calls. The lawyers feared that expanding NSA data collection to include communications in the United States could violate civil liberties, even with the encryption function.

    Taylor had an intense meeting with Hayden and NSA lawyers. “It was a very emotional debate,” recalled a former intelligence official. “Eventually it was rejected by [NSA] lawyers.”

    After the 2001 attacks, the NSA lawyers who had blocked the program reversed their position and approved the use of the program without the enhanced technology to sift out terrorist communications and without the encryption protections.

    Michael, you agree with what those NSA lawyers during the Clinton years did, don’t you? Even though it cost 3,000 lives. Hey, would you post something about accountability and competence for us? That’d be real appropriate right about now. (After that, you might explain why the described program would be legal, given the positions you’ve taken on other programs.)

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