Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ralph Nader is the problem!







Speaking of sour grapes . . .

Senator Dick Durbin:  I was on the intelligence community right at the time of 9-11. I saw what happened immediately afterwards.  There was a dramatic investment in intelligence resources for our nation, to keep us safe, a a dramatic investment in the personnel to execute the plan to keep us safe. I trusted, and I still do, that we were hiring the very best  -- trusting them to not only give us their best in terms of knowledge but also their loyalty to the country.  I'd like to ask you about one of those employees who is now in a Hong Kong hotel and what is as follows: He was a high school drop out, he was a community college drop out, he had a GED degree, he was injured in training for the US Army and had to leave as a result of that and he took a job as a security guard for the NSA in Maryland.  Shortly thereafter, he took a job for the CIA in what is characterized in the Guardian piece that was published.  At age 23, he was stationed in an undercover manner overseas for the CIA and was given clearance and access to a wide varray -- a wide array of classified documents.  At age 25, he went to work for a private contractor and most recently worked for Booz Allen, another private contractor, working for the government.  I'm trying to look at this resume and background.  It says he ended up earning somewhere between $122,000 and $200,00 a year.  [Fun facts: While 29-year-old Ed Snowden may have made $200,000 a year, 68-year-old Dick Durbin makes $174,000 a year as a senator.  Durbin hails from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his law degree from Georgetown University Law.] I'm trying to look at the resume background for this individual who had access to the highly classified material at such a young age with a limited educational and work experience, part of it as a security guard and ask if you were troubled that he was given that kind of opportunity to be so close to information that was critical to our security?

Well at least Dickie didn't cry in public, right?  That's a step up.  He was speaking at this afternoon's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing -- and maybe he's angling for a pay raise for senators?    Your pay is based on a skill set.  Director of National Security General Keith B. Alexander made that point. I'm not surprised by that at all.

Alexander, Homeland Security's Rand Beers ("acting deputy"), NIST Director Patrick Gallagher and Richard McFeely (Executive Assistant Director of Criminal, Cyber, Reponse, and Services Branch- FBI) appeared before the full Committee which Senator Barbara Mikulski is Chair of.  Ava will be addressing Mikulski tonight at Trina's site (and may grab Dianne Fienstein as well).  Wally will cover a topic -- possibly Mike Johanns but he and Ava are discussing that right now. Wally will be writing at Rebecca's site tonight.  Kat's going to do an overview which will include Feinstein.   By the way, Ava's going to let it rip including a phrase I don't say in my personal life but I do applaud her for it and agree with her and felt that way last week when we encountered Mikulski as a Chair for the first time last week.  And Wally's saying that he's covering Jeff Merkley instead and will also be noting the Committee Chair.

What we'll note here is Dianne Feinstein isn't the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Commitee but acted as though she were.  There was no reason for her to be at the hearing, she heard from the witness yesterday and will again tomorrow.  It's not as though she added a damn thing of value to the hearing.  She was there to run interference.  She broke into others questioning.  At a certain point, it stops looking DiFi's protecting the law breakers and it becomes more obvious that she's trying to prevent the public from grasping that DiFi is also responsible for the spying. 

In addition to that, we'll note this exchange.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  [. . .]  I've had a lot of concern about section 215 of The PATRIOT Act.  Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance [Act] -- FISA.  We've had a number of common sense proposals in the Judiciary Committee to improve these provisions but the intelligence community has told us that, really, we obviously don't have the ability as simple senators, to know anything as well as you do and so they don't need changes, we're told they're critical to our counterterrorism efforts, Congress shouldn't 'tinker,' we should simply trust you to use in the right way and they should be made permanent.  Now I don't think that's wise.  I think that there should be sunset [automatic expiration] provisions and we should look at them periodically.  We should actually debate them in a free and open society.  Now we have information recently declassified by the Director of National Intelligence -- and I'm not going into questions on whether he contradicted himself on a couple of answers -- but taking what he's recently declassified, it appears that Section 702 said was critical to upsetting the Zazhi case in New York City.  But it's not clear if data collected pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act was similarly critical or crucial.  So, Gen Alexander, let me ask you this, has the intelligence community kept track of how many times phone records obtained through Section 215 of the Patriot Act were critical to the discovery and disruption of terrorist threats?  

Gen Keith Alexander: I don't have those figures today.  I --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Are those -- are those figures available?

Gen Keith Alexander:  We're going to make those figures available.  We promise --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  How soon?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Over the next week, it would be our intent to get those figures out.  I talked to the Intell Committee [Senate Intelligence Committee] on that yesterday.  I think it's important to know --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Wait a minute, wait a minute.  You talked to the Intell Community about this yesterday but you didn't have the figures yesterday?

Gen Keith Alexander:  I gave an approximate number to them --

Senator Patrick Leahy:   Okay, what's the approximate --

Gen Keith Alexander:  It's classified.  But it's dozens of terrorists events that these have helped prevent.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay, so dozens.  Now we collect millions and millions and millions of records to, uh, 215, but dozens have proved crucial -- critical -- is that right?  Dozens?

Gen Keith Alexander:  For both here and abroad.  In disrupting or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Of all those millions, dozens have been critical? 

Gen Keith Alexander:  That's correct.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Would you give me the specific -- even if that's classified -- the specific cases we're talking about?

Gen Keith Alexander:  We will.  But we're going through the Intell Committee to do this.  Tomorrow, I'll give as clear as we've vetted precisely what we've done on each of those.  And the reason I want to get this exactly right, Senator, is because I want the American people to know that we're being transparent in here. 

Senator Patrick Leahy:  No, no,  no, you're not giving it to the American people.  You're giving it classified to specific members of Congress.  Is that correct?

Gen Keith Alexander:   Well there's two parts.  We can give the classified.  That's easy.  But I think also for this debate, what you are asking -- and perhaps I misunderstood this -- but I thought you were also asking what we could put out unclassified.  So the intent would be to do both. 

Senator Patrick Leahy:  You can do that in a week?

Gen Keith Alexander:  That is our intent.  I am pushing for that and --

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay.

Gen Keith Alexander:  -- perhaps faster. If I don't get any kicks from behind me.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  If you don't get any what?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Kicks from the people behind me who are doing the work because we do want to get this right.  And it has to be vetted across the community so that what we give you, you know is accurate, and we have everybody here, especially between the FBI and the rest of the intell community can say this is exactly correct.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Okay.  DNI [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper said that Section 702 collection is critical to the discovery and disruption of the plot to bomb the New York City subway system -- the Zazi case -- is that correct?

Gen Keith Alexander:   Uhm, that is correct. In fact, not just critical, it is the one that developed the lead on it so I would say -- I would say it was the one that allowed us to know it was happening.

Senator Patrick Leahy:   But that is different than Section 215.

Gen Keith Alexander:  That is different than Section 215.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  215,  Phone records.  702 --

Gen Keith Alexander:  If I could, I could explain this.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Go ahead.

Gen Keith Alexander:  Uhm, because I do think it's important that we get this right.  And, uh, I want the American people to know that we're trying to be transparent here, protect civil liberties and privacy but also the security of this country.  On the New York City one, the [Najibullah] Zazi case, it started with a 702 set of information based on operatives overseas.  We saw connections to a person in Colorado.  That was passed to the FBI.  The FBI determined who that person was and phone numbers that went to that.  The phone numbers on Zazi were the things that then allowed us to use the business records, uh, FISA, to go and find out connections from Zazi to other players, uh, to other players throughout the community in New York City.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  Was 215 critical?

Gen Keith Alexander:   That's how -- I think 215 is corroborating and to helping us understand --

Senator Patrick Leahy:   Was it critical in Zazi?

Gen Keith Alexander:  Not to  Zazi.  Because the first part in Zazi went to the 702.

Senator Patrick Leahy:  And, and [David] Headly, was either 702 or 215 critical?

Gen Keith Alexander:  702 on Headley and some on the business records FISA for corroboarting.  And I think it's important to understand because this is an issue that I think we'll be important to the debate.  And I put on there, Senator, obviously, the Boston.  I think we need to walk through that so that what we have on the business records, FISA, what we have on 702, what you debate, the facts that we can give you, what we do with that, how we take that to the FBI,  if we took that away what we could not do and is that something when we look at this from a security perspective --

Senator Patrick Leahy:    In Boston, you're talking about the marathon.  What the FBI could have done was to pass on the information to the Boston authorities who said they did not.  That might have been helpful too.  But my time is up.  I mention this only because before it's brought up in the Judiciary Committee, we're going to be asking some very, very specific questions.

Gen Keith Alexander:  So if I could, Senator, I'd just want to make sure we're clear on what we're talking about here is that these authorities compliment each other in helping us identify different terrorist actions and help disrupt them.

On the spying scandals, Penny Lee (US News and World Reports) wonders if there are 2016 implications:

Now, recent revelations of National Security Agency surveillance and the PRISM program have renewed outrage within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over security matters – expressions of contempt for those who voted to authorize these broad uses of power and profound disappointment in the president over his administration's expansion of what he vigorously opposed as a candidate. The liberal base is now demanding a vote in Congress for a full repeal of the Patriot Act. 
In 2016, the Patriot Act could very well be the new "Iraq War Vote" litmus test for the Democratic field as it speaks to a core principal for the left – the need for fierce protection of personal liberties. Two potential candidates, Clinton and Biden, are in the awkward positions of having to both defend their past votes authorizing the original Patriot Act, and their implicit support for the expansion of the program while serving in the Obama Administration.

We'll come back to Congress later in the snapshot.    Spencer Ackerman has a report for the Guardian on the hearing (I haven't read it yet, a friend asked that we link to it). Turning to the topic of Iraq, Good is a US site which insists it's "A community of people who give a damn." Pity it's not a community of people who have a clue.  Adele Peters makes that very clear in her bad post about a library in Iraq.

Did Iraq get a new library?  Not yet.  But being "Good" apparently means applauding lip service.  Now there have been so many promised projects that have never materialized in post-2003 invasion Iraq but knowing that might make "people who give a damn" educated and they'd never hop on their high horses if they were smart enough to realize how harmed they could be in a fall. 

Here's another little clue for Good and Peters, buildings don't make libraries: Information does.  Considering some of the squabbling currently going on about the national museum in Iraq (it's not been made public yet so Good and Peters are forgiven for not knowing about it) and what qualifies as "art" -- a debate built not around artistic merit but on fundamentalist religious grounds -- I'd be really hesitant about applauding any proposed library in Iraq before it opens.  What will be on the shelves?

"People who give a damn" might try to also become "People who are factual."  Peters writes, "The roof is filled with skylights to illuminate the reading rooms, and solar panels to power the building.  It's scheduled to be built later this year." Until it's built, grasp this, there is no roof -- not one filled with skylights or one empty of skylights.

Peters has written an extremely idiotic post that's also highly misleading as it features photos -- of what?  What are these buildings?  Are these projections of what the library will look like?  When you run photos, if these are not photos, you need to say so.  The photo credit takes you to another site.  (At that site, click on "projects" and then select Baghdad library.)  There, via a 'ghosting' of people in one photo (you can see through the people) you realize these are not images that were captured of a building that is built but images that have been manipulated digitally.  You also find out that Good is cheering a project that they know will be open by the end of the year. My calendar says it's 2013.  The project was started in 2011 and is listed as "ongoing" for its current status.  I'm not so sure it's going to be finished this year -- especially with a pesky fact like the increased violence in Iraq the last two months.

At that site, you will find the claim, "This will be an accessible library for all ages with access to a collection of over three million books along with rare manuscripts, periodicals."  You'd think that -- and not building plans -- would be the focus of someone excited about a library.

But you'd think someone excited about a library, looking at these digital images would be concerned with access and quickly note that security's not a concern for the library and then quickly realize that this isn't in Baghdad.  Not Baghdad that Iraqis access.  This is a library that will be in the heavily fortified Green Zone that most Iraqis are prevented from entering.

I have no idea why anyone would go with "Good" as the name of a group or post -- to indicate others are "bad"?  Or why they'd proclaim that they were "a community of people who give a damn."   Are they unaware of Robert Burns' "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough"?  "The best laid schemes of mice and men/ Often go awry."  Or of the saying, thought to have originated with St Bernard of Clairvaux, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Maybe instead of writing about a library, next time Good might try first visiting one.

While there, Peters can ask a reference librarian about books on attribution.  She's using  a long quote from a de zeen magazine article published yesterday and failed to attribute it to de zeen which, don't mean to upset "the people who give a damn" here, is also known as plagiarism. 

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Packs of stray dogs roam Wasit Province"
"The State Dept's drug and sex scandal"
"Shut up, Senator Barbara Mikulski"
"Maybe it's time to get a gag order on Daniel Ellsberg?"
"Another sex scandal for Hillary"
"Mikulski loves the sound of her own voice (Wally)"
"When they need real help, they want Bill Clinton"
"Senator Susan Collins Eats The Young"
"Paul Street's an idiot"
"The uni-polar menace"
"The trashing of Ed Snowden"
"Couldn't get much worse"

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