Sunday, January 01, 2006

They just hate the President

Connecting Dots Alarms The Washington Post

In the second non-scandal today, the Washington Post runs a Walter Pincus revelation that the NSA intercerpts from Bush's program have been shared with law-enforcement agencies and other intelligence services in order to track people deemed threatening to the security of the US. Once again, we have another would-be exposé that fails to include even a general allegation of any wrongdoing, instead relying on the readers to supply their paranoia to what amounts to a success story for American defense in the war on terror:

Information captured by the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping on communications between the United States and overseas has been passed on to other government agencies, which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases, current and former administration officials said.

The NSA has turned such information over to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and to other government entities, said three current and former senior administration officials, although it could not be determined which agencies received what types of information. Information from intercepts -- which typically includes records of telephone or e-mail communications -- would be made available by request to agencies that are allowed to have it, including the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security, one former official said.

At least one of those organizations, the DIA, has used NSA information as the basis for carrying out surveillance of people in the country suspected of posing a threat, according to two sources. A DIA spokesman said the agency does not conduct such domestic surveillance but would not comment further. Spokesmen for the FBI, the CIA and the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, declined to comment on the use of NSA data.

Does Pincus give us any indication that this data has been abused, or that the agencies involved have either used it illegally or conducted wholesale invasions of privacy with it? No. Instead, Pincus reminds people that forty years ago, the Johnson and Nixon administrations spied on domestic political opponents in a complete non-sequitur:

Since the revelation last month that President Bush had authorized the NSA to intercept communications inside the United States, public concern has focused primarily on the legality of the NSA eavesdropping. Less attention has been paid to, and little is known about, how the NSA's information may have been used by other government agencies to investigate American citizens or to cross-check with other databases. In the 1960s and 1970s, the military used NSA intercepts to maintain files on U.S. peace activists, revelations of which prompted Congress to restrict the NSA from intercepting communications of Americans.

Pincus refers to "today's controversy over domestic NSA intercepts" in one part of the story, even though the supposed scandal involves the international intercepts performed without warrants. Domestic intercepts have been performed with FISA warrants, according to the Times reporting. Pincus tries again in that paragraph to tie the NSA program to the abuses from forty years ago, but again provides not one single case to prove his point.

Instead, it only demonstrates that the Bush administration learned from the 9/11 disaster. It has made sure that its alphabet-soup of law enforcement and intelligence agencies have learned to share data and to work together on investigations and analysis. This meets the demand made by Congress and the 9/11 Commission. This story actually confirms that the NSA intercept program authorized by Bush has developed good intel on terrorist assets within the US, and that the program has allowed the FBI and other agencies to shadow them and develop even more information on their threat profile and domestic contacts.

No wonder, then, that Bush's polling numbers go up every time the Post and the NYT attempt to smear him with baseless charges of imperialism and Orwellian behavior. The only point they keep making is that Bush has worked within the law to ensure that everything possible has been done to keep us safe. The Pincuses, Lichtblaus, and Risens of the Exempt Media have done a wonderful job proving that four years of terror-attack-free life has been no fluke, no coincidence at all.