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September 22, 2007


As I read it, the practical implications of this are unreviewable and uncontestable executive branch power to collect any information from any online private computer, without warrant, follow whoever logs in to any computer or Internet site, gather data on any subsidiary links or social networks, all at will. Coupled with the evisceration of habeas corpus, we now have a state the Stasi could only dream of, whereby any citizen can be disappeared at will by the executive branch based on whatever standard the executive branch chooses to apply.

And it seems like a backchannel way of getting the NSA the ability to spy domestically. First it was going to be child predators, now it's hacking.

Oh, and one more thing. SAIC had the contract to the predecessor to Turbulence. They don't say who's got the contract for this. So you've got off-books budgeting, presumably contracted, and who knows what kind of oversight.

EW - maybe this is related to the sudden net neutrality flip flop and effort to quash?

Pach - I have been saying for a long time that the ultimate aim of "Teh Program" was to collect up everything, on everyone, everywhere, on every device, all the time. I never thought they really abolished the Total Information Awareness effort; clearly they didn't and have, in fact, been hiding it and pumping it full of steroids. Maybe this will be enough to wake up some of the fold like a tortilla Democrats on the spy power issues at stake right now. If history is any guide, I doubt it. It is truly time to force and demand any Presidential candidate to take firm and clear stands on these Constitutional privacy issues.

Did I miss something or is this the reason for the need to immunize the telcos?


I should say I'm always better served being skeptical of Isikoff's reporting. From what I've heard there are some inaccuracies in it about the floppiness of Dems.

Nevertheless, I think it's only partly related. This effort may not need as much assistance from the telecoms as the warrantless wiretap program. Though it'd be interesting to see if these are intersecting projects. When your project is being run out of NSA, and you're deliberately hiding budget and therefore oversight, anything's possible.

"interesting to see if these are intersecting projects". Precisely. For starters, the telcoms are likely the biggest winners (biggest may not be a big enough word here) if net neutrality is struck down. Now the Administration is suddenly going to bat against net neutrality. Perhaps that is one of the elements of the bargain the Telcos have made with the Administration in order to assist in "Teh Program".

I assume BushCo is not exempted from the government's prying eyes and ears once it is out of office?

We know BushCo likes to spy on US citizens, but for an administration allergic to oversight when it is doing the Public's business, this current push for total information awareness about private (that includes 'Republican', you Republicans!) business is odd--assuming they are planning to return to the private sector after losing the controls of power in the next presidential election.

What gives? What is the end game for this anti-constitutional government? The planned destruction of America? (as opposed to merely effecting its demise by stupidity?), an attempt at the unification of the Americas into a supercontinent? (North, Central and South). Run by multinational corporations? Why? Beats me.

You are all a bunch of paranoids.
They just want to help us to collect our $25 million when we forward money to widows of Nigerian Government Officials.

I hate to pee in the soup, but the NSA has had at least a passing involvement in critical infrastructure protection that predates 9/11 by years. Ten years ago, largely because I was in the right place at the right time, I had a consulting gig from a major defense contractor and thence through several government agencies and ultimately to an ad hoc operation called the President's Council for Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP). One of those agencies was the NSA. My little piece involved the monitoring and control infrastructure of electric utilities, but the PCCIP's scope covered the whole gamut of critical infrastructure besides electric utilities: gas; telecommunications; railroads; highways; water & sewer; and of course the internet. This last was unquestionably a major element of their concern and in fact that was the primary involvement of the defense contractor I was reporting to, as well as the guy from the NSA. I've lost touch with what's going on in that area during the five plus years of my semi-retirement, but I doubt that the NSA has walked very far away from it.

One thing I do know, however, is that power industry system operations has become more exposed to attack from the internet than it was back then. The culprit is deregulation. Prior to the mid-1990s the monitoring, control and modeling computers in the Control Center (this is the NASA-like room with computers on desks and animated wall displays that make the TV news whenever there's a wide-spread power outage) were almost never connected in real time to the company's business computer systems. But with deregulation and the resultant restructuring of the industry and the companies within it, real-time operational data became a critical element for running many aspects of the business. Hence, the energy management systems, as they're called, have to be hooked in to the corporate networks. They also have to be connected to the EMSs of other, neighboring utilities, the new layer of "independent system operators", and external data providers such as weather services (for load forecasting). Sure there are firewalls and other safeguards in place, but as we all know there's a never ending cat and mouse game between the good guys and the bad ones.

In one sense that PCCIP gig was a joke. By the time all the paperwork had cleared the bureaucratic hurdles within the organizations of the contractors and agencies up the food chain, the final report had already been drafted.

Since its practical inception 60 or so years ago, US Intelligence has firmly come down on the side of "technical means" vs "people power" (or Humint for the cognescenti). The reason behind this is simple: it's the expertise we have.

The money the US has poured down this "technical means" rathole dwarfs by many thousands of times that which funds Humint. And any new trick "technical means" pony that shows up, gets a ride at the rodeo.

Which brings me to my main point wrt to Marcy's fine post detailing such "technical means" cuties as Turbulence.

Marcy mentions one aspect of Turbulence and its conjoined sub-programs as "mapping social networks". Ya'll might of heard mention recently wrt to FISA stuff, how NSA and the other Intel Topguns are besides themselves to go after "community of interests" linkages. That is just another way of saying "mapping social networks".

Just what do these folks mean by "community of interests" linkages? Here's a tracking example:

Pakistani "Target"--->Target's phone calls--->Taxicab driver in Islamabad--->Taxicab driver's phone calls--->Taxicab driver's Aunt Suli in Peshawar--->Aunt Suli's phone calls--->Aunt Suli's podiatrist in Peshawar--->Podiatrist's phone calls--->Podiatrist's brother in Detroit--->Brother's Falafel cafe in Dearborn--->Falafel cafe's phone calls--->Sister Mary of St. Vitus' Dance Parish in Hamtramck--->Sister Mary's order for a dozen falafels to go, but easy on the garlic.

As you can see, this "community of interests" mapping thingee has more than a few...ahemmm..."difficulties"...ahemmm in it's execution.

And after the NSA spends a few kazillion dollars on all that neato computer hardware and "slick as shite" software, what the poor friggin' NSA human analyst who has to look at the result finds at the end of the day, is a feckin' spaghetti factory.

The moral of the story? That the NSA is a con-artist's wet dream.

Everything, but every-feckin'-thing in the universe is connected. You know, kinda like 6 degrees of separation ad absurdum.

And one can tie the string between number of the points, but no matter how much reducio you might be doing, a finding of a causal relationship may be just chance. And small chance at that!

And as last we knew, Mary of St. Vitus' Dance Parish in Hamtramck was under full 24x7 elint, comint and humint surveillance by alternating "Go Teams" of FBI, ATF, HomeSec and the Texas Rangers (huh?).

The falafels, by the way, were...ahemmm...dynamite!

A delicious well cooked falafel does not need to be explosive , thank you . It's all in the end product .

Falafel? Was Bill O'Reilly involved in this?

The timeframe a decade ago, whitepapers were still warning that the IP paradigm might be incapable of sustaining so many nodes. In our time, electricCos are finally arriving at their vision of rolling out internet over 20kV wires, ?or? is is simply lastMile? ElectricCos want to actualize that internet plan. There is a natural affinity among utils and the government worldwide; dereg happens in the name of egalitarian democracy and colloidally dissociated but mutually interactive nodes, if you will; then the fantasy goes the way of all toothless gremlins and expires only to the chagrin of voters and legislators who see somehow southernBell became ATT who bought all the european IBM datanets when those became obsolete and you have two customer service numbers on your bill both ATT but one actually Ameritech or PacTelesis, I am glad I am out of that business; fun, it was. But in the early 2006 copa jostling over the waning 109th congress' desire for a politically charged issue, I regarded the polemics as all "convergent" in the metadata parsing machines. And useful tools for many things. Sara Taylor discovered that in her prescient way early, and received the reward of a Rove protege employment. Congress is going to chafe about ad ware but members will need it to help their mailers target just the perfect constituency. Yet, before Google admitted after a court action it had relinquished searchStrings, other major providers did, and admitted they had. I am of the impression still that that opinion which was a part win for Google, pretty much provided a roadmap of where the bench feels is the judicious zone to draw the bounds. It is true, though, that probably it would take as many minders, algorithm readers and writers, as their are communities of interest to sift the seine fine. It provides challenges to those in that specialized kind of work.

After further consideration, I wanted to apologize to Marcy and any other reader for my "cynical humor" style in commenting about what is a very serious step beyond the pale by this Administration into "1984".

Yes, the US Government does at times go way, way overboard with Rube Goldberg technologies.

And yes, NSA may find some meaningful relationships with their efforts at "community of interests" linking.

But it is also true that the US Government has more than a tendency to find a lot of "false positives".

Richard Jewel of the Atlanta Olympic Bombing is just but one example. Another might be that poor defense attorney in the Pacific Northwest who got incarcerated incommunicado as a terrorism suspect because the FBI screwed up on a fingerprint identification. It was only coincidence that he was involved in defending some Islamic folks and their issues.

I'm guessing that Mikey McConnell et al can and will make the point that there must be some goodies in that ocean of data they want to collect and massage.

I can even sympathize with the Intel grunts doing the heavy lifting that it is probably true that some goodies do exist in there.

But that does not and I should hope, will not, ever justify a replacement of our constitutional rights in order to catch the bad folks.

The pipe-dream of a breed of intellectually-challenged law enforcement types has always been: "If we could only listen in to every conversation...if we could only watch every movement...if we could only read every mind, we could stop all crime."

That fantasy cannot become the American public's reality. I hope our Congresscritters have the common sense to understand this, and shoot it down with the disdain it deserves.

Given the spineless kowtowing we recently seen in Congress, I'm not hopeful, and even a bit more than fearful.

In my layman's opinion, the Baltimore Sun article would read with much more Zing if the program were changed from "Turbulence" to "Flatulence".

Before you write that my idea stinks, go back and read the article again, with my suggested substitution. I maintain that it is actually a far better label for a silent, secretive, but possibly deadly (SBD) program that is inducing headaches, and, to quote Emptywheel, represents a "backchannel way of getting the NSA the ability to spy domestically".

Well, well, well, this is fascinating. The Baltimore Sun is the NSA's hometown newspaper. The major source for this story is a "senior intelligence official". Three things are directly attributed to him alone:

1. Two thousand people could be assigned to the program initially.

2. The program will require a revision of the agency's charter.

3. The program builds on Turbulence which had a troubled start.

Things that probably came from him and confirmed by others are:

1. NSA is drawing up the plan.

2. McConnell is coordinating and DHS is leading the effort.

What conclusions should we draw from this? There is an NSA insider who is upset with what's happening at his agency. He's making an indirect accusation that McConnell is allowing the NSA to break its prime directive (don't spy on Americans inside the country). Not to mention that they are using the notoriously corrupt and incompetent DHS as a front. He's practically begging Congress to investigate. Revising the NSA charter requires legislation. Bringing up Turbulence suggests there are funding irregularities needing Congressional oversight. Two thousand people from multiple agencies says lots of committees have jurisdiction. Mentioning McConnell says Congress should wonder if what they know about this stuff is as reliable as the other things McConnell has been saying lately.

I said: The pipe-dream of a breed of intellectually-challenged law enforcement types has always been: "If we could only listen in to every conversation...if we could only watch every movement...if we could only read every mind, we could stop all crime."

And then was reading a comment about this very post of Marcy's over at FDL, and voila! Wouldn't you know good ol' Mikey Chertoff is smokin' that self-same pipe:

From the WaPo in the article "Collecting of Details on Travelers Documented" at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/21/AR2007092102347.html?hpid=topnews

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in August 2006 said that "if we learned anything from Sept. 11, 2001, it is that we need to be better at connecting the dots of terrorist-related information. After Sept. 11, we used credit-card and telephone records to identify those linked with the hijackers. But wouldn't it be better to identify such connections before a hijacker boards a plane?"

Jeebus Mikey! You must be readin' my mind!

WO- Bingo. And no reason to wonder about McConnell's veracity; he has none.

well this is a dodge if i ever saw one.

you got people complaining about the nsa spying on americans?

the bush admin has a fix for that.

the nsa is not spying. they are insuring the security of our telecommunications "backbone".

which may, of course, necessitate lots of "listening in". but spying is not the intention of the new program.

damn, i feel better already knowing that.

life is really just a matter of how you articulate a problem a problem, isn't it.

and as Minnesota chuck and e'wheel's quote indicate,

there is even historical precedent; we've been doing "network security" for more than a decade.

"the program formerly know as spying" was really just "network security" all along.

what's not to like?

The joy in Ann Arbor must be palpable! Perhaps the news of Lloyd Carr's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Big Blue goes to 2 and 2.

Lately, I swear these posts are a hell of a lot scarier to me than any yellow or red level of terrorism. Every day I come to this site and practically "shite" my pants.

Daily, I shake my head in disbelief. It's so hard to swallow, and yet, the facts are there, that we have sunk into fascism. And it's like we are this mix of pre and post robot stepford wives. Some of know it. Some of us think it might be true. Some of us think it isn't happening and worst yet, some carry the water for the administration believing that "it's all in our own best interest."

I hope we never forget that this is why public education is key. We have to raise up a country smart enough to see it coming. I still don't think enough of us, understand what is happening. I don't think enough people see and understand the big picture. It's a hell of a lot scarier than anything that Bin Laden could do to us.

I'm curious about what Richard Clarke might tell us about all of this. Especially since he has been chatty for some time about fighting terrorism. But we all remember that back in the summer of 01 when everybody was ignoring him he started getting paranoid about cyberterrorism, probably just to blow off steam in his downtime since he seems to have been the only guy anywhere near the White House who was worried bin Laden. And then about 3 or 4 days after 9/11 when they started planning to invade Iraq, they let Clarke take his crazy "work ethic" and look at cyberterrorism for a few months and eventually there was a Frontline documentary spelling out potential disasters, just a little WoTerror digestif. Kind of curious how the timeline for the seemingly wacky TIA and nascent TSP bumps into Clarke's tenure noted above by ew.

Don't know about Clarke, but ex-supposed CIA BinLaden guy Michael Scheuer was on Bill Maher Friday night and man has he jumped the shark and gone off the deep end. I always thought he was a bit goofy, but jeebus.


Yes--I think that is a perfect read of this.


On Scheuer--I think there are people within the intell community who have always distrusted him. Not sure why.

h/t to Michigan for looking more like the Wolverines today!

Imvho, the great thing about life here at TNH Beach on Firedoglake in DirtyFuckingHippyLand is that we get to dust the sand out of our loungers, adjust our umbrellas for shade, bust open some ice cold beverages, and Snark away at Life in the Age of Bush every day.

What theater! What drama! Bush who might just think he is, at once, both Daniel's Sword-bearing Redeemer Messiah of Israel And the Second Coming of Jesus, Vanquisher of the Beast of Pure Evil from Revelation.

Of course, he's too scared to tell anyone this, unless they swear not to laugh at him or criticize him, but he's surrounded by people who ever-so-very-badly want it All to be True, and they treat him like it IS True.

The imminently dupe-able Narcissist Bush may actually believe he is the Savior of All of God's Children (at least those of the First and Second Covenant) - and that Only he is right, and Everyone else is wrong. It shouldn't be taken lightly that he has the uncurious, but cheering, Gooper Neocon Votes in his Pocket and controls the Military of the World's Only Superpower to back those beliefs up, too.

He could Drive the Bus off the Cliff, if that's what he wanted to do, and with Crimes Against Humanity Charges presumably dogging him, he probably doesn't have any interest in stopping long enough to get corraled - he's gonna keep 'failing forward' in evermore grandiose disasters.

Unfortunately for US and everyone else, one of the major indications of Advanced Neocon Gooperism is an Inability to Hear and Consider Alternative Courses of Action, i.e. - We can't tell Bush shit. He's an Ideologue enslaved to his own inflexible Agenda.

So...lounger, shade, beverages and Snark...until we ride-out the plague of Bush's Ideology and the True Believers who Submit to him.

Someone on the House Intelligence Committee has started to really get it, and his questioning of Mike McConnell on Thursday was a joy to behold. His name's Rep. John Tierney of MA, and he gives me hope. I don't know if others had a chance to see that hearing on C-SPAN [this hearing followed Monday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, and immediately preceded a Thursday Senate (Intelligence Committee - I assume - 2:30 p.m. closed) hearing which was apparently not broadcast at all]. C-SPAN-2 aired the House Intelligence Committee hearing for what looks like the third and last time (it also aired at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night and at 2:30 a.m. Friday on C-SPAN1) at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon (it's 2 hours and 45 minutes long) - there seems to be no plan to air it again this weekend, I guess because the NRA conference needs to be repeated six times instead.... The broadcast doesn't seem to be available on C-SPAN's "Recent Programs" list of recorded programs available for playback either. But at any rate, here's some information about it for anyone who didn't get a chance to see it:

Congressman Tierney sliced and diced DNI McConnell, with a focused, principled purpose. He obviously has McConnell's number (parsing, somewhat condescending, parsimonious with facts, etc.) and he didn't give a damn about McConnell's opinion except when McConnell lined up with the Constitution's requirements - Tierney just wanted and got as many facts as he could pry out of McConnell, and Tierney knew exactly where he was going with the information. Independent review and oversight from a separate branch of government, protection of the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans, etc., etc.

Tierney was not alone in this. Jan Schakowsky of IL ignored the whining of McConnell about how hard it is (in effect) to honor the Fourth Amendment and she made a point of saying that those rights must be honored, and whatever is needed to uphold them must be done - it's "worth the effort" she stated emphatically. Rush Holt also seemed to see through McConnell's bluffing, and strongly emphasized the vital importance of "independence" especially for the Intelligence Community [although, as with the perceptive Artur Davis in Judiciary, Holt still seems to think there's a way to trust or exhort one man to remain "independent" of his boss in the Executive Branch, despite the obvious necessity to employ the existing and inherent separation of powers and thus independence represented by the three branches to enforce that absolutely vital objectivity]. Dutch Ruppersberger - who has the NSA in his district in MD - while overly solicitous of the views of the 'spying class' perhaps, was firm on the need for "clarity" of language in the new FISA (for the benefit of those spies). Dutch also has experience in obtaining court-ordered wiretaps and seems to respect that process and its effectiveness. Wherever disagreements exist between the literal language and Congressional interpretation of the (White House-written) FISA/PAA and the way McConnell, et al, claim it's meant to be interpreted, Dutch and others emphasized that the wording must be changed so that it has absolute clarity, and got McConnell to agree with that goal. [The bloggers who have been focused on FISA's new language deserve a great deal of credit for this new understanding and approach by the House Intelligence Committee members, in my opinion.] One of the Democrats also made clear to McConnell that they would expect the legal opinions from the Executive Branch to be turned over to them to prevent any further legislating in the dark (McConnell said he'd 'recommended' full cooperation but that that matter wasn't his call). Someone also pointedly asked whether McConnell's lawyers had closely worked with David Addington and others in the Vice President's office on the FISA language (McConnell effectively conceded close cooperation with that office without naming names or stating specifics).

Rep. Tierney got some tentative concessions out of McConnell - including having the FISA court review and approve minimization procedures, and having "reasonable" be the post-collection standard of FISC review of the DNI/AG-approved procedures rather than "clearly erroneous" as written and passed - as did someone else, I think, with regard to the use of the "concerning" vs. "directed at" language. Tierney is focused on getting FISC review re-established pre-collection as well, but McConnell was resisting that while pretending that post-collection review is effectively the same thing... McConnell was open to discussing and changing these words, contingent upon their interaction with the rest of the statute. But McConnell's agenda and methods were very much exposed by Tierney's questioning. I think McConnell's credibility has taken a pretty big hit among Members of Congress (thank goodness) because of the early August run-around he helped put Congress through and his subsequent newspaper interview in El Paso, and the backlash that has since ensued.

As to the heart of the discussion at this FISA hearing - I think the conclusions of the commenters here in EW's recent Monica/FISA thread are borne out by the discussions at this hearing. I wasn't able to listen to the whole thing, but caught two rounds of Tierney, who I believe was quoting from a letter from Jim Baker, Counsel in the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at DOJ (or at least from an "expert" who McConnell and Wainstein agreed was an "expert" on this - and I think I heard the name Baker) about the TSP/FISA/ProtectAmericaAct. The author of the letter Tierney was quoting stated clearly that the problem that led to the change in FISA was not primarily, if at all, a hardware-related issue... In other words, the whole "foreign to foreign passing through a U.S. wire" excuse is basically a minor issue or a misreading of the main problem, based on Tierney's discussion of the situation.

What seemed to be under discussion in this hearing was the management of an NSA database of communications content (McConnell used the word "database") - and McConnell himself made clear that there isn't really any generic "foreign to foreign" targeting because no one knows in advance who a foreign target will be communicating with. [When an individual target is selected, machinery is programmed for one specific phone number or account and the data from and to non-targeted individuals who communicate with that target are minimized as need be - no warrant under (pre-August) FISA is required for those non-targeted individuals unless and until they themselves become targets of surveillance and then only if they are located or intercepted inside the U.S.] McConnell pointed out that the target 'changes all the time' - so pre-collection FISC approval is therefore problematic as to certain procedures at issue for some reason - this may be the U.S. wire location part of the problem. "Probable cause" was a FISA threshold they were having to meet but were unable to, in some fashion. It all sounds to me like a clash between software-designed database-building automated overseas-focused collection and the old FISC concept of individualized America-based hardware targets; those individualized targets are now a tiny percentage of the overall available American-generated content in databases that have been pre-collected [or perhaps more likely are monitored in real time and only partially pre-collected based on certain software-implemented criteria] "concerning" something focused overseas, which have swept up tons of data from Americans in the process even though the data is never reviewed or seen by a human being until much later, if ever. Congress desperately needs an experienced software designer/writer with the highest security clearances to assist them in this work, from the sound of it.

Rep. Tierney used (quoting from a document, I think) the words "selection" and "filtering" as he discussed the problem. Meaning that the software criteria that the NSA is using in the process of first collecting and storing and then selecting and using data from this "billions of interactions" database of communication content intelligence is one of the main - if not the only real - issues here, rather than the problem of obtaining individual warrants for targets located in or intercepted in America once they have been identified, post-"selection" and post-"filtering." Rep. Schakowsky asked for specific examples of targets the FISC rulings had prevented the NSA from collecting from before the FISA loosening of standards, in classified form (following on the example of Iraqis communicating with each other in Iraq). And McConnell, in responding to another question from her about the amount of data on Americans that has been 'incidentally' collected during overseas targeting - even if not (yet) viewed by anyone - said he didn't know if there was any easy way to know or ascertain that - again indicating that this data is sitting there in a giant database waiting to be reviewed as conditions warrant. And somehow, presumably, interceptions on American soil of overseas targets which have ended up suddenly entangled in the FISCourt procedures intended to protect Americans have played into this broader issue, and distracted from the bigger, more ominous picture of the wholesale invasion of the privacy of Americans' communications, conveniently or otherwise.

So for the FISA Court, I suppose the main question may have been (and may still be?): Is a FISA warrant to "review" the communication content generated by Americans in America (upon some finding of "probable cause" that is not based upon evidence generated by their communications with an individualized overseas 'known threat' target) basically the same thing as a FISA warrant to target and "collect" that communication content in the first place, or does FISA permission (upon a finding of probable cause) to collect the data of Americans need to precede FISA permission to review the already-collected (but unreviewed) data of Americans (who haven't communicated with known suspects overseas), under the law and the Constitution?

The House (and Senate) leadership and members absolutely ought to put their trust in John Tierney's understanding and competence (and refreshing lack of veneration or fear of 'power players') with regard to the upcoming revisions to FISA - if his counsel is ignored, all Members of the House should beware of the agenda of those ignoring him.

Footnote: Mike McConnell mentioned in passing that when he gave that interview to the El Paso, Texas newspaper, Silvestre Reyes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was sitting right next to him...

re: Department of HomelandSecurity, yesterday there was a chiding report in Politico regarding that still sprawling agency's oversight committee in the House of Representatives; the journalist seems to opine that the fallback for the various jurisdictions is a tendency to resuming each member entity's preDHS configurations. Turbulent times for those in government bureaucracy, as well; new responsibilities; new tools. The article seems encouraging in some of the congress person quotations. Maybe the committee will help DHS refine its mission. Seems like NSA has that part of its self-image farther along, and cohesive; but the shifting legal basis of some programs and various gaps in DoJ likely make NSA's work more difficult, based on the imprecision from leadership. Congress seems to be learning extemporaneously as well, in that milieu; as long as congress never has to learn the Turbulence had ever recorded a community of interest event involving some politician, the intell polymorph is likely to continue such experiments.

There is something inherently wrong about treating all Americans as suspects. Considering that 9/11 could have been prevented by simply reading the Egyptian newspapers, the necessity of this type of action is highly suspect. There is only one reason to authorize warrantless spying activity - cowardice.

Perfect/imperfect security is found in most prisons in America. Is this how Americans want to live, or is this how government plans to abuse its power? I do not need, nor do I expect "perfect" security, nor do I trust the claims that our country needs it.

Over the past couple of decades the leaders have permitted the militarization of law enforcement, the corruption of intelligence agencies changing the FBI, and the total subversion of the intelligence networks that are intended to gather foreign intelligence by any means possible, and turn its methods against the American people. The reason for this is - cowardice.

elephty - There are many different ways to look at what you describe, and many different ways to state it. Yours is a very good one. I would add laziness to it as well. This administration always wants the easy way out, never the hard work. They want to tap and spy on everyone instead of doing the hard and necessary human intelligence work, and confirming and corroborating, as well as dealing with other countries diplomatically. They are lazy. Cowardice and laziness.

I agree with Katie Jensen's sentiments. Scary, because it looks like the front line is moving past the Congress and closer to us, falling to the individual citizen to do something.

But pow wow, you bring good news. Please say that Rep. Tierney has seniority on this committee and that he can steer the oversight towards the problem when others try to do the opposite.

We need the Neocons to disappear the way the Whigs left the political scene over slavery. However I am surprised how 'progressive' Whigs seem by today's standards (what standard? I might add) when watching them react to an unpopular (to them) President Jackson.

From Wikipedia a refresher course:
The Whig party from the 19th century American history

"The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from 1833-34 to 1856,[1] the party was formed to oppose the policies of President Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the Executive Branch and favored a program of modernization and economic development. Their name was chosen to echo the American Whigs of 1776 who fought for independence. The Whig Party counted among its members such national political luminaries as Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, and their preeminent leader, Henry Clay of Kentucky. In addition to Harrison, the Whig Party also counted four war heroes among its ranks, including Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig leader in frontier Illinois."

Here's the part in wikipedia about the "American Whigs of 1776":

"Patriots (also known as Americans, Whigs, Congress-Men or Rebels) were colonists of British Thirteen Colonies who rebelled against the British control during the American Revolution and declared themselves an independent nation, the United States of America in July 1776. Their rebellion was based on the political philosophy of republicanism, as expressed by pamphleteers such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine.

As a group, Patriots comprised men and women representing the full array of social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds. They included college students like Alexander Hamilton, planters like Thomas Jefferson, and plain farmers like Daniel Shays and Joseph Plumb Martin. Their opponents among fellow colonists were the Loyalists or "Tories", who remained loyal to the British Crown. (In addition many people remained neutral or said nothing.)

Many Patriots were active before 1775 in groups such as the Sons of Liberty. The most prominent leaders of the Patriots are referred to today by Americans as the Founding Fathers of the United States."

So names can be confusing, but the sentiment is clear. When Constitutional Democracy is at stake my affinity is strong with Whigs of both 1776 and the 1830s (except for the part about some Whigs supporting slavery).

Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them. - Paul Valery


I think this is the hearing you refer to on C-SPAN about Warrentless Domestic Surveillance.

House Committee Select Intelligence
Last Airing: 09/21/2007
Event Date: 09/20/2007
Length: 2 hours, 44 minutes
Location: Washington, District of Columbia

Here's a little more on the week's activities, courtesy of Spencer Ackerman at TPMmuckraker via a link spotted at FDL:

James Baker actually testified to the House Intelligence Committee this past Wednesday. So Rep. Tierney was probably reading from the transcript or statements from that hearing when he questioned McConnell on Thursday. [And Ackerman indicates that Baker left the DOJ earlier this year - sounds like another set of big shoes left unfilled at DOJ.] Also, Baker's jurisdiction at DOJ was the FISA warrant application process, so his testimony would have certainly been of value to the committee as a contrast to McConnell's. Note also from Spencer Ackerman's reporting that the House Judiciary Committee hearing with McConnell took place last Tuesday (not last Monday as I said above).

Here's how Ackerman describes Jim Baker's Wednesday testimony (I don't know how he sources this unless it's shoe-leather eyewitness work, because this was not a C-SPAN TV broadcast that I'm aware of, and I don't see transcripts or opening statements at the Intelligence Committee's minimalist website):

Baker described FISA as an intelligence tool rather than a hindrance. The process yielded "information that the intelligence community could use to take action to thwart the activities of our adversaries, including terrorist groups." It was never the case that foreign-to-foreign communications, even those that passed through the U.S., were considered under the auspices of the act.


That last sentence sounds like a summary of the text I heard Tierney read from a document sourced to Baker at the next day's hearing - leading to my summary above that hardware per se was not the problem. Rather, as Ackerman references elsewhere, interpretations of what the law and the Constitution allow the NSA to do with the tools they have seems to be a better way of describing the FISA Court-related problem.

Here's the only mention I could find on the Intelligence Committee website about Wednesday's hearing from a post-hearing press release:

“The scope of the so-called ‘Protect America Act’ passed in early August is extremely troubling, and the witnesses before us today voiced strong concerns that it does not protect Americans' civil liberties and could authorize a broad range of warrantless surveillance.

“We also heard concerns that the House Intelligence Committee will not be able to conduct meaningful oversight if the Administration continues to deny access to critical documents about the NSA surveillance program.”

Witnesses at today’s hearing:

James X. Dempsey, Policy Director, Center for Democracy and Technology

Lisa Graves, Deputy Director, Center for National Security Studies

James A. Baker, former Counsel, Department of Justice, Office of Intelligence Policy and Review; Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

David B. Rivkin, Partner, Baker Hostetler

Actually and unfortunately, pdaly, John Tierney doesn't appear to be all that senior - he seems to have seven Democrats above him on the seniority scale, but man, the pickings are slim on that committee and anyone who grabs the ball and runs with it the way he did needs to be listened to.

By the way - why isn't Jane Harman listed as a member of the Intelligence Committee? Was she booted off ('rotated off') the committee when she lost the chair?? I hadn't realized that was the effect of that move by Pelosi. I was wondering why I didn't see Harman during the hearing. The top four Democrats on that committee are to groan for, as far as independent, competent, pointed and principled oversight is concerned. The absence of Jane Harman is a waste of a lot of experience and knowledge, at a critical time for Intelligence Committee oversight. It's interesting that Patrick Murphy is the newest Democrat on the committee, and reports were that he was very much opposed to the White House version of FISA 'reform' and wanted Pelosi to stand and fight for the House bill's version - so apparently he was judging the situation with about as much information about the problem as anyone in Congress because of his membership on this committee.

Here's hoping the John Tierneys, Patrick Murphys and Sheldon Whitehouses start being heeded by the political hacks now "steering" our Legislative Branch of government, so they can start bailing to prevent our ship of state from sinking beneath the waves.

Neil @ 1:48 - Super sleuthing, thank you! Yes, that is the Thursday House Intelligence Committee hearing starring John Tierney, and I highly recommend it (in parts at least) to anyone who can view it on-line through Neil's link, and is interested in the background of the FISA fiasco.

I'll give it a look too for the portions of the hearing I missed the first time. Thanks again, Neil - this was a very good hearing on this topic (in a particularly beautiful hearing room too), and I'm very glad to see it's still out there and available for viewing.

With the use of Deep Packet Inspection already in place, I can't imagine what is left (for political purposes) to extract from the internet. So, this is probably about positioning big business to take over the internet...basically, all about money. Turning television news into propaganda is one thing, controlling the internet is another. When hackers start to disappear, we will be in deep, deep trouble.

With the use of Deep Packet Inspection already in place, I can't imagine what is left (for political purposes) to extract from the internet. So, this is probably about positioning big business to take over the internet...basically, all about money. Turning television news into propaganda is one thing, controlling the internet is another. When hackers start to disappear, we will be in deep, deep trouble.

Have we already had a discussion of the book "The Shock Doctrine"? I can't remember or perhaps because I hadn't read it yet, I did not pay attention. But to me, this discussion about the internet and our loss of freedoms validates the author's thesis.

She says we only have a couple years left. She says the crises caused by global warming is "opportunity" to the republicans. (and katrina) And that the repugs use "freedom" and the fear of "losing it" to take it.

Wonder what the great minds on this site think of that book and how it fits into our fall in to fascism. She says we only have a window of about 4-5 years, before we will not be able to turn the tide. I wonder if we can now?

KJ - I don't know. It is a far closer call than most people fathom. The land will be here. It may even be called America. Whether or not we can still retrieve the essence of America that we were brought up to love and trust; I don't know. Failure to initiate an impeachment investigation before the best target, Gonzales, slinked off into ignominy was a tragic mistake. As predicted by myself, EW and many others here, the wind in the sails receded immediately. By the way, I left you a note on the last thread re: Big Red.

wrt to the electric grid, the "independent system operators" that Minnesota Chuck refers to now operate the grid for over half the country. These ISOs are regional operators: one for all of New England; another for all of New York State; one for Mid-Atlantic region (PJM) that picks up parts of Virginia, all of New Jersey, Md, Del. D.C. and Pa, plus parts of Ohio, Indiana and sliver of Mich plus Chicago area served by ComEd; another for rest of the Midwest (MISO), another for the "southwest power pool", but it's really Arkansas, Okla, piece of Texas, part of New Mexico; one for most of californa. The rest of the country's grid is operated by either federal systems (TVA, WAPA, BPA) or private utilities (e.g., Southern Company does most of the South outside Fla.)

The point is that utilities don't operate the grids for more than half the country; the ISOs do. Their internet-based computer systems monitor the status of transmission lines, output from every plant connected to the grid, the EMS/dispatch Chuck mentions, and thousands of other data points that tell them the status/condition of the grid. The gird for the entire Eastern US plus eastern Canada (sans Quebec) is really one interconnect machine that has to be coordinated across each of these sub-regions; an undetected/uncorrected problem in one area can take down huge parts of the country, as happed in 2003; the Western Interconnection is another huge machine; Texas (ERCOT) is separate (historical, to escape federal regulation).

What's vulnerable? the grid operatios for sure. But the more interesting threat I see is not terrorism but commercial spying and hacking into the ISO systems to gain commercial advantage. Every ISO gets confidential price/quantity bids from dozens of generation owners for every hour of the day and uses these to arrange the dispatch for generation on the ISO's portion of the grid. You get dispatched, you get paid; not dispatched = not paid. So it's important to know not only the costs that make up your own bid, but also potentially advantageous/interesting to know the costs affecting your competitors for the dispatch and what they bid. There are 24 hourly auctions every day, plus day-ahead markets for those 24 hours, plus monthly/annual auctions for tranmsission rights plus annual capacity payment auctions -- all administered over the ISO internet systems.

Billions of dollars cycle through the resulting spot markets every month, all coordinated by the ISOs -- so the ISOs have always placed a lot of emphasis on internet and systems security -- keeping the bids confidential, preventing collusion, arranging a least-cost dispatch (selecting from the bids), sending receiving dispatch signals from the ISO to each generator, mitigating market power, setting spot prices, doing settlements/billing. There are some very large generation companies that worry about confidentiality of their own information, and the flow of that information to/from the ISO. The idea that the feds would get involved with this is probably a nightmare for the ISOs and the companies; it's just another eavesdropper whose integrity, independence, motives and security measures you have to worry about.

The security of the grid itself -- MinnesotaC talks about the EMS system e.g., -- is another area that has always been the focus of security concerns -- always. The NSA boys are late arrivals.

One more point about the electric grid operations. The ISOs are a product of a long-run trend towards consolidating system operations into larger and large "power pools." This has occurred simultaneously with "deregulation/restructuring" but the dynamics are largely indepedent of that. The consolidation of regional dispatch is not something that Enron made up; it's the logical result of an increasing interconnected grid whose reliability is more easily coordinated through regional consolidation of system operations, rather than a patchwork of smaller utilities trying to coordinate with each other. Under current technology, that consolidation trend is likely to continue, no matter what happens to "deregulation" in your state.

As what I do for a living might be described as cybersecurity, I have a sense that perhaps this whole NSA effort may be just a budgetary and territorial grab.

Theoretically, these folks in their supersecret listening posts, with their supersecret methods are supposed to find hacking threats which would be used against elements of the critical infrastructure, WHICH are by are large owned by corporations. But then they would have to share the information with those in a position to act on it. This seems almost completely at odds with the NSA DNA. (BTW, the are organizations and whole industries built around doing all this)

The stuff I have seen from DHS is "clipping service" quality, often a day late and a dollar short, often obsessing about threats which are more nuisance.

Another angle on all of this may have something to do with the trending of threats away from nuisance and denial of service, into things which can be monetized, i.e., a lot of what is going on is about finding ways to steal money. Perhaps the NSA is making the case that terrorism is being funded in this manner.

Yet another, but likely improbable angle, is using a super secret agency to "scare straight" companies and agencies who are lagging behind in security implementations. Nothing works quite as well at breaking out the checkbooks as a good threat!

I can see no justification for a hypersecret spy agency to be involved.

KJ and bmaz

That fits with the last couple of paragraphs in Deans latest book - he's quoting a friend who thinks that we have four years left if we get another GOoPer president, maybe eight. And says don't vote for a 'Publican, ever, because they can't govern.

This flyer and empty box have been delivered to your household as part of a public health emergency preparedness test. This is only a test, and there is nothing you need to do.

For this test, this empty box is meant to represent emergency medications that would prevent people from becoming ill in a bioterrorist attack.

In an actual emergency, you should monitor the media for directions from public officials on how to protect yourself or receive help.

In Boston today, our Federal Department of Health and Human Services is running prepardness tests using local postal carriers accompanied by local police to distribute a small empty box representing emergency medicine in the event of a "bioterrorist attack". I did't see any notice of this in the media in advance.

Nevermind that fact they provide no information - in the pamphlet or on the website - regarding the bio-toxins DHHS has identified as potential wweapons and as a result the medicines they've stockpiled to distribute. Is it not reasonable to expect the best information available about potential bio-toxin weapons and more importantly, the efficacy and risks of the medicine we'll be given in an emergency situation?

I understand the value of running tests to test the validity of assumptions and then making adjustments to the plan to make it work. Nonetheless, delivering an empty pill box - which you may recycyle they say - that represents an antidote to a bio-toxin, about which they provide zero information - not the toxin and not the antidote - makes you wonder if they're just completely insensitive or intentionally fucking with us.

Here are the FAQ, and here are 8 things you can do to prepare for an emergency.

powwow at el.,

CSPAN has a new video "archive" website page. They're breaking out their different video recorded programs into seperate RSS feeds, such as Recent Q&A, Recent Campaign, Recent Congressional, Recent Newsmakers, Washington Journal.

If you subscribe with your newsreader, you can review the titles and descriptions of everything they broadcast and also, find it again later.

I'm m still looking for the link to Marcy on BookTV. Does anyone have that?

A couple of years ago, I was speaking with a higher up in Bank of America (who at the time had the title "Chief ...". This person stated that of the big banks, BofA was the only one who did not outsource thier data management (i.e., checking account, savings account, data storage, etc) to India. This person stressed that if the political situation deteriorated, it was possible that India could hold our bank account records hostage, thereby depriving people of their savings, credit, and so on.

Now I am sure that we are so loved in the world, and that India has a secure internet system, that this would never happen. Nevertheless, I keep a few gold coins around the house in case the American brand of Compassionate Conservativism backfires.

Well there's also the NSA Trailblazer program. $billions down the sinkhole to keep the Beltway Bandits in clover.

No wonder the dollar is taking it on the chin.

On football...

Michigan, victory! Patriots up 10 at the half. Amherst victory. Williams defeat.

Greenwald writes today about Democratic senators and congresscritters who vote against progressive opinion on issues like Iraq War and FISA...

In March of last year, I had an e-mail exchange with the spokesperson for a key Democratic Senator on the Intelligence Committee regarding how bloggers and their readers could work more closely with Democratic Senators to highlight the need for the NSA lawbreaking scandal to be investigated and taken more seriously. Ultimately, they made clear that they wanted nothing to do with actual citizens who were eager to bring that situation about, as I was told:

I think there is an opportunity for us to figure out a better way to work together. But, you have to understand, my ultimate goal is to help [the] Senator [] achieve his objective of real oversight on national security matters by the Intelligence Committee.

Even with the best of intentions, I'm not convinced that bloggers can help us meet that goal. In fact, I worry about it hurting our efforts given the increasingly partisan environment.

As Digby said yesterday of Senate Democrats: "it surely seems true that they loathe the Democratic base as much as the Republicans do." Hence, Dianne Feinstein funds Bush's war with no limits while condemning MoveOn. She votes to vest vast new surveillance powers in the President. She defends and vouches for and places blind faith in the whole litany of Bush intelligence officials who have spent the last six years radicalizing this country and breaking the law.

Harman is on the House Homeland Security Committee, linked same as note, above.
That Isikoff article now a month old mentions a home raid of someone who worked in the same OIPRoffice as J.A.Baker, T.Tamm. Though the contents of the computers confiscated in that incident likely were kept secret, there might be a possibility some communications if described to a congressional committee member, could improve accuracy of a theme of questions.
Aziz Huq of the Brennan Center also observed the Tamm raid, writing in a forum I avoid, in his closing paragraph of a faretheewell scrivening on the occasion of Gonzales' exit.

There's one more thing I want to point out about the plan for the NSA to monitor domestic networks. If the government was really interested in protecting domestic networks, they wouldn't use the NSA to monitor those networks, they would transfer technology from the NSA to other agencies. The NSA has no experience operating inside the U.S. (legally that is). Nor do they have expertise in working in the open, something that's necessary to be effective in this task. What they have is pattern recognition and matching technology that could be operated by any effective technology agency (which leaves out DHS).

All that leads me to conclude that the NSA has become addicted to having its hooks into domestic networks and this is an effort to cover their bets in the event that the TSP gets shut down.

I just cracked open a book on this very issue, by none other than hospital-room Jack Goldsmith, called "Who Controls the Internet: Illusions of a Borderless World," written along with Tim Wu, from 2006. I am only on page 10, but I had no idea just how governments have controlled the content of the internet into their countries and how they know exactly what, when and where you are. So, hello, NSA, have a nice day.

Since I have a lazy habit of ordering my groceries on line and having them delivered -- I keep thinking of all those folk down at NSA trying to figure out what I plan to cook this week.

I'll make it easy for them -- New England Boiled Dinner, Steak w/mushroom sauce and Rouladen. In between and out of the freezer, some Lasagna and a chicken breast.

No wonder strong encryption is considered "unpatriotic", it might disturb our government's ability to spy on everyone.

Impeach or be imprisoned

pow wow - those were very interesting summaries - thanks.

James A. Baker, former Counsel, Department of Justice, Office of Intelligence Policy and Review; Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

Does anyone know when Baker left, how he left, etc.? He's always seemed (apologies to the Goldsmith and Comey fans) to be the only credible person and name that ever pops up in the whole mess and some of the earlier stories indicated the FISA Court trusted him (with the implication being it didn't trust certain others). He was also the guy that OPR wanted to talk to about Gonzales in the investigation the President personally shut down. IIRC, he was also the guy who told Dewine at one point that some things Dewine wanted to do in Patriot Act legislation might not be Constitutional (although apparently the DOJ gave NSA the go ahead to do it with no legislations).

And now that all kinds of legislation is being pushed through - he's gone?

Good questions about what led to James Baker's departure from DOJ, Mary - I hope we learn more about that at some point. FYI, C-SPAN has just listed tomorrow's Senate Judiciary Committee FISA hearing on their schedule for C-SPAN 3 - we just might learn a bit about it then because James Baker will be a witness on one of the panels. Here's hoping Senators and staff have done their homework and studied last week's FISA hearing transcripts with care.

Scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, 9/25 (estimated to last two and a half hours):

“Strengthening FISA: Does the Protect America Act Protect Americans' Civil Liberties and Enhance Security?”

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hart Senate Office Building Room 216

9:30 a.m.


The Honorable J. Michael McConnell
Director of National Intelligence

Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Washington, DC


James A. Baker
Lecturer on Law
Harvard Law School
Counsel for Intelligence Policy, Department of Justice
Washington, DC

James X. Dempsey
Policy Director
Center for Democracy and Technology
San Francisco, CA

Suzanne E. Spaulding
Bingham Consulting Group
Washington, DC

Bryan Cunningham
Morgan & Cunningham LLC
Greenwood Village, CO

[hat tip to selise @ FDL for the heads-up on this hearing.]

I just stumbled on the answer to one of your questions, Mary:

But that estimate was at odds with testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 18 by James Baker, former counsel to the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, which oversees the FISA Court. Baker stated that the process could be as quick as minutes in “no-kidding” emergencies.

“It’s done in hours, it’s done in the same day, it’s done as fast as they tell us [they need it],” said Baker, who held that post for seven years until this past January.

From a good summary article in advance of tomorrow's FISA hearing by Helen Fessenden in The Hill:


Thanks Pow Wow. That Selise does good work!

The Muckraker updates with another source saying McConnell was truthy about the soldiers/kidnap scenario.


The Senate source would not specify McConnell's inaccuracy, citing classification restrictions, but according to the source, both Democrats and Republicans are frustrated over McConnell's abridged citation of the insurgent-kidnapping episode. Democrats believe McConnell isn't being truthful, and Republicans want to air the matter further in order to help make the Protect America Act amending FISA permanent. "Both sides are not able to be articulate on this subject," the source says, adding only that the actual event at issue is "complicated

They re-visit the fact that Baker said the warrant should be able to be obtained with one call, while McConnell said it took 12 hours.

And that both will be testifying tomorrow - although not together.

I just have to think something odd is going on with this. Why would no one have heard about soldiers being kidnapped in August? Were they involved in something involving Iran and was some of the delay bc no one wanted to be briefing a FISA judge on the need for a warrant to check on insurgents who captured soldiers doing something like - oh, covert operations over the Iranian border? Or were they doing something Clement had not been briefed in on and that's why the reluctance to call him? Or they didn't want to be calling Abu overseas for authorizations (what with wiretaps and all) that would involve discussions of something that maybe they wouldn't want to discuss excpet on secure lines?

It will be interesting to see if McConnell drops the Mr. Magoo - now where did I leave my wiretap legislation - act for this round.

Thanks again Pow Wow. Until January of this year eh?

Ok - looks like basically Wainstein is Baker's replacement under the restructuring .


So the old position of Counsel to the Attorney General for Intelligence slot, that pretty much ran the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (a position formerly held by Fran Townsend - apparently when she got crosswise with Lamberth and he basically kicked her out of FISA court for being truthy) is now gone. Baker, who seems to have had the FISA Ct trust Townsend didn't, leaves in January with the restructuring that pulls his Office of Intelligence Policy and Review in with the Criminal division's Counterterrorism and counterespionage sections, and has it all under the "National Security Division" umbrella, with Wainstein as Assistant Attorney General in charge.

Wainstein is heading up that front when the August warrant need comes up and is the shepherd when the sheep gets lost for 12 hours.

Ok - following better now.

And now I'm going to have to stay up late for the rerun on Countdown, bc supposedly Jane Harman was on and saying that the August "somethings about to happen" scenario was all hype from a bogus sourcing and that Bush knew it or something like that?

I've not always been a fan, but she's so much sharper than Reyes that I want to see what she says.

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