Monday, August 5, 2013

Embassies Close Due to Conveniently Timed Intelligence (Updated)

As you probably know, the U.S. has issued travel advisories to U.S. nationals traveling abroad, as well as closing U.S. embassies throughout the Middle-East. However, it seems awfully convenient that the intelligence supporting the current threat is from the same types of intelligence gathering that is currently under close scrutiny by the public and media. The Fox News article linked to above notes:

Capitol Hill lawmakers, including top-ranking members of intelligence committees, on Sunday described the terror threat that closed 22 U.S. embassies and consulates across the Muslim region as the most serious one since before the 9/11 attacks and related to a specific act or plot.
Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that U.S. intelligence agents detected a “very specific” threat and suggested they have known about it for at least several weeks.
He was among several congressional lawmakers Sunday who said the threat was gleaned from so-called “chatter” from phone lines, computer outlets, websites and other communication outlets.

... Rooney's comments followed Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press" that the threats are "very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11."
He also described the threats as “the most serious … I've seen in a number of years.”
Sources confirmed with Fox News the chatter was picked up over the past two weeks and exceeds anything in the past decade. They also said the extraordinary volume of chatter was preceded by months of “absolute quietness.”
(Underline mine). Coincidence?

Angelo Codevilla is less suspicious than I am--he merely suggests that U.S. intelligence agencies are being manipulated by terrorist organizations. He writes:

The embassy shutdowns and the traveler warnings resulted from intercepts of terrorist communications devices – phones and computer links that the terrorists surely knew are being monitored. That knowledge long predates the recent publicity – revelation is the wrong term – about NSA’s reach into the electronic spectrum.
The shutdown and warnings, then, proceed from the assumption either that the terrorists “chatter” amongst themselves blissfully ignorant of what anyone who cares to look knows about NSA’s reach, or that they willfully warn us. That assumption flies in the face of experience. The terrorists who have bitten us have not chattered, while those who chatter do not bite. The terrorists who brought mortars and grenade launchers to destroy US facilities in Benghazi and kill our people did not chatter. The US government is up against serious people. Unfortunately, it gives proof of unseriousness.
The US government’s assertion that the “threats” emanating from this “chatter” were somehow “specific” belies itself because it is contrary to common sense. Any specificity would focus attention on specific people and places rather than eliciting meaningless general measures and warnings. That attention’s effectiveness would depend on secret preparations for counter strokes, not on public displays of fear.
This leads reasonable persons to conclude that some enemies of the United States, well knowing that NSA is listening, decided to give it an earful, with a few names and places thrown in by way of example, but not enough to remove the impression they sought to give of general mayhem. And so they ‘chattered.” They had sound reason to believe that US intelligence executives would trigger equally incompetent policy makers, fearful of being blamed for an attack on their watch preceded by such “chatter.”
The lesson to be taken from all this is that the NSA’s well-known (because of the nature of modern technology) capacity to intrude and manipulate electronic communications – but only those that are not thoughtfully guarded – combined with lack of quality control, leaves it at the mercy of any of its targets that wishes to feed it disinformation and then to watch the US government’s self-discrediting reactions.
So, we come down to the common question these days--is our Administration attempting to undermine the rights of American citizens or merely incompetent?

While you mull over that, just a few other articles for your reading pleasure:

--From Reuters:

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
More information here, including this:

But three other law-enforcement sources explained how the DEA uses the terrorism-oriented task forces to help police agencies initiate local drug cases through the use of 'pre-textual investigative stops,' a police tactic that involves contriving reasons to stop vehicles that the DEA believes are involved in drug activity.

 --USA Today reports that the FBI gave permission to its informants to break the law at least 5,658 times in 2011; and that doesn't include all the times those same informants broke the law without obtaining official approval, nor does it include informants for other federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies.

--The FBI can remotely activate your phone to listen to conversations. The ability to do this isn't new--the same techniques were used against drug cartels in Columbia in the 1990s--but the possible scale is mind boggling.

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