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Eavesdropping Didn't Help Uncover Terrorist Plot 290

Posted by kdawson
from the on-second-thought dept.
crymeph0 writes "Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell asserted that the 'Protect America Act,' which frees the intelligence community from pesky things like judicial oversight while they eavesdrop on international conversations, was used to good effect in exposing the recently foiled terrorist plot to bomb US military facilities in Germany. Not so, according to other, anonymous, intelligence community officials. McConnell was forced to admit his errors in a phone call to Sen. Joe Lieberman. Turns out the military got wise to the bad guys months before the law was passed, simply due to alert military guards noticing odd behavior by some passers-by, a.k.a. good old fashioned police work."
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Eavesdropping Didn't Help Uncover Terrorist Plot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @08:47AM (#20586195)
    If you honestly believe that McConnell didn't know he was full of shit when he made that statement, I have several bridges to sell you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Exactly. This is a case of open mouth, insert foot. McConnell was lying deliberately because TPTB want this law badly, and they'd like it to permanent, thank-you-very-much. McConnell lied in his statement towards that end, without knowing that public statements had already been made, according to TFA, by American and German intelligence working the case. Once he was told, "uhhh, sir, but they already said they used old-fashioned police work!" he had to back-pedal.

      They'll say anything to try to garner the
      • by will_die (586523) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:37AM (#20586791) Homepage
        What lie??
        According to the dictionary "A lie is a statement made by someone who believes or suspects it to be false, in the expectation that the hearers may believe it." This is not the progessive definition where a lie is saying something and then later it proves to be wrong.
        Actually reading the full report, requires multiple source since the MSNBC does not contain it, shows he said it, he was then corrected, he then informed Congress and the press(since the comment was made in a public forum) that he had made a mistake and what the correct response should of been. All in a timly manner without any method of tring to hide it.
        • Oh, come on. You're telling me that you believe that the Director of National Intelligence, who has been on record has vehemently defending the unwarranted wire taps, didn't know how a long-term intelligence operation conducted in Germany with the help of the German government went down?

          I live in Florida. I've got acres and acres of swamp land down South of me that I'd like to sell you.
        • by Jeek Elemental (976426) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @11:43AM (#20588957)
          the point is, if he didnt know how the operation went, how could he comment on its details?

          he either:

          1. lied about knowing the operation specifics
          2. lied knowing the operation specifics
          3. thought he knew the specifics but misinterpreted the report (which in his job may be the worst)
          4. didnt lie, but the wiretaps are illegal in germany and would be ..inconvenient at the trial
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Chris Burke (6130)
          According to the dictionary "A lie is a statement made by someone who believes or suspects it to be false, in the expectation that the hearers may believe it."

          Yes, and since the actual information regarding the case is clear that unwarranted surveillance had nothing to do with it, this means that either:

          1) he was aware of the actual circumstances of the case, yet still claimed surveillance was the key or

          2) he was (inexplicably for a man in his position) completely ignorant of the circumstances of the case,
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Excerpt from "101 Things To Do 'Til The Revolution" [billstclair.com]:

        Don't write to your congresscritter Put down that pen! Close that word processing program! Forget all that happy crap you learned in civics class about sharing your views with your "representative." You don't have a representative any more. You merely have someone who thinks he or she is your "leader," unfettered by either your opinions or the Constitution.

        Marx was wrong: religion isn't the opiate of the masses, in modern America, the drug that keeps

    • I hope you realize that by selling bridges, you authorize buyers to destroy them (they can destroy their property, right)?
      Therefore, offering bridges that you do not own is supporting terrorism.
    • If you honestly believe that McConnell didn't know he was full of shit when he made that statement, I have several bridges to sell you.
      Well, there's suspecting someone is full of shit and then there's seeing that person peel off their skin on live television to reveal the shit golem lurking inside. There's suspecting and then there's knowing.
  • I said "yeah, suuure" the first time I read his statement that eavesdropping foiled a terrorist plot. Did any news outlets actually regurgitate his message without checking out the facts? Are those same news outlets now conveying the truth?
  • by OSPolicy (1154923) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @08:51AM (#20586229) Homepage
    This seems like as good a time as any to remind ourselves about EFF's http://stopthespying.org/ [stopthespying.org] web site. McConnell did not just lie to the press. He had to call Senator Lieberman to "clarify" his testimony because he lied to Congress. It hardly needs to be restated to this audience that we can tell when these guys are lying because their lips are moving, but it is worth remembering that there's something that we can and should be doing right now, which is backing up the EFF efforts.
  • by denissmith (31123) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @08:52AM (#20586239)
    This government (and not just this administration) has gotten very good at gaming the news cycle to mislead the citizenry into supporting some pretty vile stuff. The frustrating thing is that none of the things we have been led to do (warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding and Guantanamo) have been the least bit effective at actually solving crimes, preventing terrorist attacks or bringing the a guilty to justice. Every expert knows this, anybody who reads the experts knows this and a large segment of the population, the majority of the GOP presidential candidates, as well as Congressmen of both parties and 10% of the Slashdot community, won't believe the truth. The most effective solutions to the problem were already in place before 9-11. The failures were HUMAN failures, we already knew all the parts, we didn't connect the dots. Keeping a man in sensory deprivation for a month will break a man - it won't connect the dots. Filtering the internet traffic for keywords makes more dots, but it doesn't connect any. Over the last 6 years we haven't made ourselves any safer - only more depraved.
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:08AM (#20586401)
      I suspect the intention of these laws was NEVER actually to fight terrorism, but to restore presidential power that the Republicans were forced to concede during the Ford administration, in wake of the Nixon and Pentagon Papers revelations. I think this has been something Republicans in general, and neocons in particular, have wanted for a long time.
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:41AM (#20586881)
        There's more to that. When you look at the development of domestic spying of governments on its people, you can trace a very sharp rise in the whole plot right after the riots in Paris. That's pretty much what it's about, governments (and people in power in general) are scared of its own people. Especially the have-nots who become more and more by the day, and are pushed more and more into ghetto areas. These riots (and others in other towns in Europe) have been a wakeup call that there are those that are the big losers of the current social and economic development, and that sooner or later they will explode violently. Especially since the gap between rich and poor grows, and the number of the people on the poor side is on the rise.

        In the past century, we shipped poverty to some backwater country in Africa or Asia. If people wanna riot there, who cares? We got cheap coffee, tea, metal, and everyone was happy here. The problem is that we now have to pay the price. Because of course jobs there are cheaper as well. And more and more jobs are shipped there now too, reimporting poverty.

        I don't want to say that we're on the verge of a revolution not unlike the one in France of 1789, but I have a gut feeling that this won't go on that way much longer.

        And that's where the total surveillance comes in. It does keep unrest manageable. For reference, see the GDR and its Stasi. You could tell by 1960 that the GDR is only held afloat by the suppression of its people. It managed to survive another 30 years until even the last person didn't care anymore whether he was imprisoned for being against the government.

        And once this point is reached, when nobody cares anymore whether he's going to jail, a government has lost. You can't sustain a country only by your military and police. In other words, the whole surveillance crap will tide you over for a few years, when people actually still fear being seen doing something "illegal".

        And that's what it's all about.
    • The frustrating thing is that none of the things we have been led to do (warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding and Guantanamo) have been the least bit effective at actually solving crimes

      This is the Bush administration we're talking about here, results are not relevant. The people implementing the things that didn't work got promoted! ROFL! I'm surprised 'ol Brownie didn't get promoted to replace Chertoff.

      The right wing in this country is sick. Conservatives have abandoned their values.

    • by techpawn (969834)
      Whenever someone says things about waterboarding I'm reminded of a line from Reservoir Dogs:

      If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!
  • ...we will have to fight them at home" is a lie too?

    Or does Germany not count because it's not US soil?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arthurpaliden (939626)
      Had you not invaded Iraq,and it is plan now that the rest of the world was right and there was no reason to, you would not be fighting terorists there now.
  • by sco08y (615665) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:00AM (#20586309)
    "which frees the intelligence community from pesky things like judicial oversight while they eavesdrop on international conversations,"

    The core of the Patriot act is not intelligence gathering but sharing. This was prompted because different agencies had information about 9/11 which, had they been able to share that information, they would have been far more likely to prevent the attack. There were situations where one person down the corridor from another couldn't share their notes.

    Lacking hard evidence to go by, let's give privacy advocates the benefit of the doubt and say that in principle Patriot overreaches. The fact remains that the core of it is reform of our intelligence operations that was prompted by a very real attack and any reforms need to preserve the codification of that hard won lesson.
    • by BVis (267028) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:22AM (#20586587)
      So if I understand you correctly, you're saying the USA PATRIOT act isn't all bad, that there are some babies in it that shouldn't be thrown out with the collective bathwater?

      If that's the case, then I agree with you in principle. Information sharing in this case is most likely a good thing, provided that the information was gathered ethically and legally in the first place. Sadly, while the current gang of idiots is running things, that cannot be assured, and therefore IMHO the whole thing should be scrapped in favor of a new act that explicitly defines what kinds of information can be shared and how said information should be acquired.

      What needs to be remembered here is that with every erosion of our civil rights, those who would seek to destroy our way of life through acts of terror realize a victory without ever 'firing a shot', so to speak. Privacy, while perhaps not explicitly laid out in the Constitution (and that's debatable under some interpretations of the Fourth Amendment) should be protected in the name of Americans who have fought, bled, and died to ensure our rights (not to mention the civilians caught in the crossfire, both domestically and abroad).
    • This particular issue isn't about the Patriot Act, it's the "Protect America" act. And it's not about intelligence sharing between agencies. Actually the U.S. military shared intelligence pretty well with German authorities, not even a domestic agency, in this case. This issue is about the government overreaching its constitutional limits in eavesdropping on private conversations.

      I actually do agree with you that our agencies need to share more intelligence more efficiently. After all, if the CIA sees J.
  • Sources. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dausha (546002) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:02AM (#20586319) Homepage
    "McConnell was forced to admit his errors in a phone call to Sen. Joe Lieberman."

    Thus say anonymous intelligence community sources who were eavesdropping on the phone conversation. It has been confirmed that eavesdropping doesn't work.
  • Told You So (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:12AM (#20586459) Homepage Journal
    I told you [slashdot.org] so:

    Those German wiretaps didn't need to go around the FISA law that protected us from them without warrants. They didn't need the FISA law weakened last month by Congress the way Bush wanted. McConnel is lying [rawstory.com], and the NY Times knows it, though it didn't report that.

    Now I want to know why, though the NY Times knew McConnell was lying, it didn't report that in that important original story.

    And what will Lieberman, the Republican pretending to be a Democrat, do to a lying spook like McConnell? There's got to be a punishment for being a bad liar, even if we expect spooks like McConnell to lie. We expect them to do it competently. This clown is just another Bush chump who can't even lie straight.
    • ...but:

      The issue at hand, which is commonly misunderstood, is that:

      - Monitoring for foreign communications does not require, should not require, and will never require, a warrant, which brings us to:

      - Monitoring of foreign communications where both ends are outside of the United States, but where the passage of the traffic through equipment within the United States is incidental should not require a warrant;

      - Monitoring of communications where the target of said monitoring is (reasonably* believed to be) ou
      • You Love Lies (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @02:28PM (#20592009) Homepage Journal
        "Imagine" the opposing viewpoint to my own? I've been watching it ravage my liberties, and my neighbors', for at least 6 long years. Don't try to pretend that you're starting out this conflict of rights vs liberty in you long attempts to frame the debate the way you'd like everyone to see it.

        There are two issues here, not just the one you'd like to compartmentalize into.

        One is indeed whether the government can wiretap people. There is a very clear law, that has been regularly updated to keep pace with both technology and threats, the FISA. It is already an exception to the Constitutional requirement for any wiretap to be allowed by a warrant after evaluation by a judge under Congress' laws, to ensure the Executive doesn't just wiretap whoever it wants. Any wiretap without a warrant is by definition not reasonable. The FISA makes an exception to the usual requirement that the evidence on which the warrant is based be subject to argument, making the court hearing it and the proceedings secret.Then it makes another exception, a really extraordinary one, that allows warrants to be obtained even after the wiretap, for 72 hours. In other words, legalizing warrantless wiretaps to accommodate emergencies, after which the wiretappers can get a warrant on evidence they already had, or, if they really took a gamble without evidence but on a "hunch" that proved correct, with the contents of the 72 hours of the tap. The Executive even gets to assign the secret members of the FISA court, and its chief judge.

        That court issued something like 18,000 authorizations, and rejected something like 20, in the year before Bush started ignoring it. But there weren't really 18,000 emergency terrorist threats, or anywhere near the number of wiretaps the FISA court has issued in its 30 years of operation. It's easy to convince that court. Too easy already, given that its procedures are unconstitutional, but there are emergencies and we tend to err on the side of caution when "national security" is invoked. At least the FISA is a way to track the circumventions of the Constitution - and therefore, the abuse of our rights by our government we create to protect them. So we can try for overall oversight down the road, even if "a few eggs are broken to make the omlet" along the way.

        Of course, there's a bigger issue: these rights are inalienable, not given by the Constitution or any other feature of being American (or just living here). So violating those rights abroad, for US citizens or foreigners, also violates the rights that are America's basic ideology. But we make the exception to protect ourselves more easily, quickly and cheaply, rationalized on the grounds that we create our government here to protect our rights; foreigners can create their own governments to protect their rights if they want. But of course the accumulated rights abuses abroad have made it that much easier for our enemies to recruit allies and attack us. The tradeoff is probably a losing one, when our greatest threats are terrorists, and we're alienating even our allies.

        The undeniable issue here is that Bush has ignored even the easy FISA court. So there's no oversight. Instead, there's lawbreaking by the Executive, as has been found even after due process in binding Federal court with proper jurisdiction. Violating the Constitution, and then breaking the FISA. Even the 4th Amendment that's being broken is itself an extra statement of what's already implicit in the Constitution, just like the rest of the Bill of Rights. That's how important our right to privacy is. And how likely is an abusive ruler to violate it.

        The other issue is that Bush cannot be trusted with this power. The FBI, for example, lied to Congress when reporting that there were no reported examples of their abusing the Patriot Acts, but there were indeed hundreds. The guy running these wiretaps, Alberto Gonzales, led a career of lying to Congress, hounded out j
        • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @03:21PM (#20592913)
          ...and don't automatically dismiss anything that disagrees with my own personal opinion or points of view as "lies".

          But it's humorous that you seem to.

          One is indeed whether the government can wiretap people.

          Replace "people" with "American citizens, permanent residents, and/or persons with a legal status within the United States", because they're two very, very different things, and you seem to conflate the two.

          There is a very clear law, that has been regularly updated to keep pace with both technology and threats, the FISA. It is already an exception to the Constitutional requirement for any wiretap to be allowed by a warrant after evaluation by a judge under Congress' laws, to ensure the Executive doesn't just wiretap whoever it wants. Any wiretap without a warrant is by definition not reasonable. The FISA makes an exception to the usual requirement that the evidence on which the warrant is based be subject to argument, making the court hearing it and the proceedings secret.Then it makes another exception, a really extraordinary one, that allows warrants to be obtained even after the wiretap, for 72 hours. In other words, legalizing warrantless wiretaps to accommodate emergencies, after which the wiretappers can get a warrant on evidence they already had, or, if they really took a gamble without evidence but on a "hunch" that proved correct, with the contents of the 72 hours of the tap. The Executive even gets to assign the secret members of the FISA court, and its chief judge.

          The main purpose of FISA is to govern the collection of foreign intelligence within the United States, and explicitly restrict and control application of surveillance of US citizens within the United States.

          Foreign intelligence collection where the target, and sometimes indeed both endpoints of a communication, are outside of the United States should not require a warrant.

          Of course, there's a bigger issue: these rights are inalienable, not given by the Constitution or any other feature of being American (or just living here). So violating those rights abroad, for US citizens or foreigners, also violates the rights that are America's basic ideology. But we make the exception to protect ourselves more easily, quickly and cheaply, rationalized on the grounds that we create our government here to protect our rights; foreigners can create their own governments to protect their rights if they want. But of course the accumulated rights abuses abroad have made it that much easier for our enemies to recruit allies and attack us. The tradeoff is probably a losing one, when our greatest threats are terrorists, and we're alienating even our allies.

          That's a philosophical and ideological issue. If you believe we need court oversight and a warrant process for foreign intelligence collection, that's fine. It just runs counter to the very purposes and functions of intelligence, and would put the United States at a distinct disadvantage with respect to how other nations, including adversaries, collect intelligence. Our Constitution and the beliefs within it applies, by definition, to our own citizens and by extension to other persons with a valid legal status within the United States. To argue that it should apply to everyone on earth flies in the face of the current state of affairs of the world and the very notion of nation-states.

          The undeniable issue here is that Bush has ignored even the easy FISA court. So there's no oversight. Instead, there's lawbreaking by the Executive, as has been found even after due process in binding Federal court with proper jurisdiction. Violating the Constitution, and then breaking the FISA. Even the 4th Amendment that's being broken is itself an extra statement of what's already implicit in the Constitution, just like the rest of the Bill of Rights. That's how important our right to privacy is. And how likely is an abusive ruler to violate it.

          Foreign signals intelligence collection should, fundamentally, never require a warra
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:19AM (#20586549)
    In Germany, Schäuble and his accompanying professional paranoiacs saw this as the clear reason that implementing the total surveillance system he has in mind for the net is the key to foiling terrorist plots.

    One reporter dared to be so indiscreet to ask the question whether the fact that that attack was avoided isn't proof that the current ways of dealing with the threat are adequate.

    And there was silence. Next question please?

    It's funny that this avoided terrorist attack proves both, that the (questionable) systems implemented are good for us, and that the (questionable) systems they want to implement are critical because current systems are just not enough. Now, which one is it?
  • His mouth is moving...

    No, really. This is why there is ZERO point listening to what these people say about anything. When they talk, I just think:

    Get out of here! Go on! I don't believe it. You don't say! Really?! Get out of here! Go on. I don't believe it. You don't say? Get out of here! I told you that bitch crazy!!!

  • From the prior thread: "I don't believe a single damned thing these guys say anymore."

    http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=294029&threshold=-1&commentsort=0&mode=thread&cid=20554673 [slashdot.org]
  • The NJ terror plot to go in guns blazing was spoiled by a video store clerk, despite them trying to claim they used their new powers to good effect. This is a constant broken record from this criminally ran White House.

    And with statements to the effect of being "One Bomb away from those pesky courts" It wouldnt shock me in the least if in the next 2 years they got their way through a "missed opportunity."

    • by Rayonic (462789)

      The NJ terror plot to go in guns blazing was spoiled by a video store clerk, despite them trying to claim they used their new powers to good effect.

      Perhaps that one guy would have been ignored under the old system. Ever think of that?

      As a matter of fact, similar warnings were lost and ignored prior to 9/11. It takes reforms to be more responsive to these kinds of tips, while at the same time filtering out the false leads.
  • Locals, FBI, CIA ... field personnel (the pack-Mules & worker-Bees) provided content of interest well prior of 911 attack+disaster, but management (the source of all/most government employee urban-legends) failed to be functionally capable leaders and proved themselves to be ineffective managers.

    The front line folks doing the job are not politicians or career managers, and they don't get promoted for doing a great job.
    I remember on fed-manager saying "We can't promote her, we need someone that can do th

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