In a memo to President Obama, former National Security Agency insiders explain how NSA leaders botched intelligence collection and analysis before 9/11, covered up the mistakes, and violated the constitutional rights of the American people, all while wasting billions of dollars and misleading the public.
The sadder reality, Mr. President, is that NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA. We know; we were there. We were witness to the many bureaucratic indignities that made NSA at least as culpable for pre-9/11 failures as are other U.S. intelligence agencies.
“That’s where I found the pre- and post-9/11 intelligence from NSA monitoring of some of the hijackers as they planned the attacks of 9/11 had not been shared outside NSA. This includes critical pre-9/11 intelligence on al-Qaeda, even though it had been worked on by NSA analysts. I learned, for example, that in early 2001 NSA had produced a critical long-term analytic report unraveling the entire heart of al-Qaeda and associated movements. That report also was not disseminated outside of NSA.
“Make no mistake. That data and the analytic report could have, should have prevented 9/11.
“Top NSA management knew that. They knew that I knew that. I was immediately shut down. In spring 2002, the remnants of THINTHREAD were unceremoniously put on the shelf in NSA’s ‘Indiana Jones’ data warehouse, never to be seen again.
“Against this background, it is difficult to listen to the manufactured claim so frequently heard these days to the effect that, had bulk collection been operational before 9/11, it would have prevented the 9/11 attacks. The mantra is convenient for those defending NSA overreach; it is also bogus.
“It masks the reality that, as indicated above, NSA had already collected highly significant intelligence on the hijackers themselves but did not disseminate it outside of NSA before the attacks. At best, the claim about bulk collection is one part wishful thinking and nine parts red herring.
“Not only does it exaggerate the efficacy of a collection method with zero demonstrated successes to date, but it also blows smoke in the eyes of those genuinely interested in knowing what role NSA played, or failed to play, in the months and weeks before 9/11. Worse still, this specious claim amounts to a cruel hoax on the thousands who died on 9/11, and the hundreds of thousands who died when Bush/Cheney used the attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is widely reported to have been principally responsible for suborning then-NSA Director Michael Hayden into violating what had formerly been the “First Commandment” at NSA – “Thou Shalt Not Eavesdrop on Americans Without a Court Warrant.” So it is no surprise to see Cheney come out of the woodwork and renew his contribution toward giving dishonesty a bad name.
It should now be clear, for those who can handle the truth, that the problems at NSA run deep – in terms of effectiveness, integrity and respect for the Constitution. By withholding information and exploiting secrecy, NSA’s leaders past and present have pulled off an unparalleled coup in concealing the sad reality that NSA could have prevented 9/11 and didn’t. And Schadenfreude chortling by leaders at the top regarding the demonstrated bureaucratic advantages and success of such dishonesty has a tendency to be heard down through the ranks, corrupting even dedicated workers.
Which brings us to Snowden. I'm glad he blew the whistle, but he's no hero. Neither is he a villain except to the powers that be whom he blew the whistle on.
He is smart enough to have ran and hid in more or less plain view of the media while all the info got swirled around and people noticed. If he'da stayed in the U.S. he'da been buried under a jail somewhere along with all the information.
At least the warrantless spying is poking its way out into the open, along with the uselessness and waste of the program.
And we need to lock up all the unicorns so Cheney can't drink their blood and will die.