A three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously last week that the bulk collection of data from phone and email communications was not authorized under the Patriot Act. It was illegal.
It served as a shot from the starter’s gun in the race for the microphones by politicians. Some predicted, as expected, the end of western civilization. Others thought it was timely and benign.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) was in the first group. “… there are thousands of young people all over the world who are motivated by this radical brand of Islam, which is our enemy.”
[sharequote align="center"]We are not lacking in information. We are lacking in will.[/sharequote]
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) spoke on the floor of the Senate; “If this program had existed before Sept. 11, it is quite possible that we would have known that the Sept. 11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar was living in San Diego and was making phone calls to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen.”
Rubio said. “… there is a probability that American lives could have been saved.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was more sanguine: “I commend the federal courts for upholding our Constitution and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights. While this is a step in the right direction, it is now up to the Supreme Court to strike down the NSA’s illegal spying program.”
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) actually wrote the Patriot Act and has always said the bulk data collection was not authorized under the act. He has long expressed the view that bulk collection to find a potential terrorist was like gathering more haystacks in hopes that a needle will fall out.
There is a reason why lawyers respond to a request for a document with thousands of documents. They hope you will not be able to find what you are looking for.
The CIA knew actually knew that Khalid al-Mihdhar was taking flying lessons in San Diego and that he was a risk. They did not inform the FBI.
Filipino authorities alerted the FBI in 1995 that Middle Eastern pilots were training at American flight schools and that one suggested hijacking an airliner and crashing it into a federal building.
In July of 2001 an FBI agent in Arizona alerted FBI leadership in Washington, D.C. to the fact that a number of Middle Eastern men were taking flight training in U.S. flight schools.
The “Phoenix Memo” was not taken seriously until after Sept. 11. FBI Director Mueller saw the memo right after the attacks. President George W. Bush learned of its existence eight months later.
When the Tsarnaev brothers set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon they were hardly strangers. The Russian intelligence agency had informed the FBI of questions they had about their family two years earlier.
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After a four-month investigation by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force that included no surveillance, the case was closed. The June 2011 report concluded, “the assessment found no links to terrorism.”
In October 2011 the CIA found a reason to have the older Tsarnaev brother listed on the “Hot List” for travelers that required he be detained and questioned when leaving or entering the United States.
On his trip to Moscow for six months of Jihad training in Dagestan and on his return he was just one of many on the list and was lost in the crowd. He was not detained or questioned.
One of the shooters killed in Garland, Texas at the event showing cartoons of Muhammad had been known to authorities for years.
Elton Simpson of Phoenix began being investigated by the FBI in 2006. In 2009 he was taped saying. “It’s time to go to Somalia, brother … We gonna make it to the battlefield … it’s time to roll.”
In a bench trial in 2011 a judge threw out the terrorism charge for lack of sufficient evidence.
One of the rules of the political process is to never introduce a single page piece of legislation. It will be understood and picked apart.
Instead, introduce bills that are a few thousand pages long and they will never be read. You will recall former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comment on passage of the 2,400 page Obamacare bill: “We had to pass the bill so we could find out what’s in it.”
Too much information guarantees that it will never be analyzed. The bulk collection of data should be ended for that reason alone.
If solid leads that are given to the FBI are not acted upon why do we think that more information will produce results? We are not lacking in information. We are lacking in will. Our attention would more profitably be focused on what we know, not what we might find in your email.
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