Trust Us, We’re The Government: The Administration Multiplies Claim of “One Plot” To “Dozens” Foiled By The Warrantless Surveillance Programs

220px-Keith_B._Alexander_official_portraitIt appears that, as opposition grows to the surveillance programs, the Administration is increasing the claimed successes under the programs. The wonderful thing about secret massive databanks is that its use is . . . well . . . secret. After the surveillance programs involving all calls from citizens and hundreds of millions of emails were disclosed, congressional allies came forward to claim that “a possible plot” was foiled by the program. Of course, they could not tell anyone about the plot even after other members of the Senate said that they doubted that claim. National Security Agency director Army Gen. Keith Alexander, however, has decided that just one potential plot is not enough. So he testified this week that “dozens” of potential plots have been foiled in an effort to get citizens to redefine privacy in a more surveillance friendly image.

For many civil libertarians, the Administration and Congress will have to forgive the feeling that this is like asking “who are you going to believe a court or the people who were secretly spying on you?” What makes this particularly fascinating is the small problem of the past false testimony on surveillance given by intelligence officials in congressional hearings — testimony known to be false by the Senators in attendance. This is also the same Administration that only in February blocked a major effort to seek judicial review dismissed in the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote because any confirmation of such programs would endanger American lives.

Yet, now we are told to simply accept on faith that dozens of “potential” plots were stopped. Putting aside the past exaggeration of intelligence claims, this testimony (and the hearing itself) seemed designed to (as with the prior torture program under Bush) to get the public to forget about privacy and constitutional protections by keeping fear alive.

Much like Putin’s defense of the American surveillance programs, Alexander insisted that this is the new normal. Alexander repeated the position of the White House that “We do not see a tradeoff between security and liberty. We are trying to protect Americans.” That is a fascinating — and chilling — statement. It suggests that there is no balancing needed if you “are trying to protect Americans.” Of course, everything the government does in the area (as with criminal non-terrorism cases) is to protect the public.

Moreover, despite Obama’s suggestion that there is a balancing, there is no evidence of it. All of the steps like reading content of emails referenced by Obama is not some concession made by his Administration: it is a power that he does not possess. Those concessions are in fact prohibitions. Obama went all the way up to (in my view, over) the line of maximum power. It is like saying to a police officer that you balanced you desire to get to your location by speeding but not moving into approaching traffic. That really is no more a concession for a driver than it is to say that you are not reading mail without a warrant for a president.

Now back to Alexander. In a repeat of what occurred after the disclosure of the torture program, the Democratic senators structured the hearing to avoid the broad questions of legality and privacy. Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski reminded everyone that they would not address such questions being discussed “in the news.” Instead, they wanted the focus to be on the benefits of the massive surveillance system and of course attacking Snowden.

Yet, no one asked Alexander what constitutes a “potential” plot. We have not seen dozens of prosecutions. What happened to them? Likewise, no one asked for details on the plots. After all, he just said the programs uncovered the plots and presumably the plotters know that they were found out. So why not lay the facts bare for the American public?

Then there is the assumed proposition that if “a plot” or “dozens of plots” were uncovered, it would excuse a massive surveillance of the population and the creation of a fishbowl society.

By the way, various lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots have said that they do not believe the program played a significant role. The two cases cited by allies of the White House involve the arrests and convictions of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009 and David Headley who received a 35-year prison sentence for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. However, court documents in the US and UK show an array of more important sources, including informants and conventional surveillance.

However, I am still struck by the spectacle of these hearings after the disclosure of false testimony by people like James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence. Clapper has recently said that his testimony was “the least untrue” statement that he could make. Yet, of course that would still make it an untrue statement — which most people call a lie and lawyers call perjury. Indeed, when Roger Clemens was prosecuted for untrue statements before Congress, he was not told of the option to tell the least untrue statement on steroid use.

Yet, it is important to note that Senators have come forward to admit that they knew of the massive surveillance program. So, when Clapper was given untrue testimony, these Senators sat quietly and allowed the public to be lied to. They are now holding hearings that assure the public that it can trust them that these programs have foiled “dozens” of plots. It is asking rather a lot from any citizen, but it may be the last measure of devotion demanded by this President.

88 thoughts on “Trust Us, We’re The Government: The Administration Multiplies Claim of “One Plot” To “Dozens” Foiled By The Warrantless Surveillance Programs”

  1. Mr.Prison,
    Ah yes, all the better to find you with my dear. What was that address? Who saw me fill THAT out? And how I dotted my eyes and crossed my tees inside? NOBODY! That’s who.

    Try to do that via e-mail. They know time sent who to where you sent it from down to the seat you sat in when writing it. USPS, I cos have written it last week month year. The NAA is clueless of the contents. Heck, I could postal drop it across the Nation… Who’s the wiser, then?

  2. michael murry:

    “a shipmate had a pet Anaconda that he kept in a long wooden ammunition crate.”

    how long was it? did he catch it?

  3. Going Postal ?
    According to a recent article, the merry mailman makes a copy of the front and back of every piece of first class mail.. and what are those little bar code type things on the bottom of many envelopes for ? So they know where to find you in case there may be any postage due ?

  4. Gene H. 1, June 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    If I didn’t have friends in the D.C, area I care about, I’d swear that that the best thing for this country might be for a moderately sized rock from space to fall right square on top of Congress while it was in full session.

    I think you are talking about Cosmik Debris:

  5. An ode for the democrats, and republicans, who support the Obama administration’s continuation and/or enhancement of military spying on Americans.

    An olde spiritual:

  6. At noonish today, Gene H. posted some excerpts from John Cusacks article entitled “The Snowden Principle”. I read the excerpt and then punched the tab and went to the whole article on Huffington Post. This is a great article and Cusack (sp) discusses his organization formed this year on behalf of the free press and the First Amendment. Cusack quoted JT several times. It seems that Cusack gets some space on Huffington Post on a regular basis.

    This topic is not going away. These skunks in Congress and in the mainstream media are exposing themselves as the Rats which they are. To call Snowden a traitor is like some Brit in 1776 calling Ben Franklin a traitor.
    Perjury in Congress on issues of national security is traitor speak. Clapper is a liar whose pants are on fire. Thank you Gene H. for posting that material this afternoon. I was just able to get on the Dogalogue Machine and catch up. I read the Huffington Post every day but it is a busy blog with lots of commercials and pop ups.

    Cusack’s organization is to promote the First Amendment and our free press rights. I would point out here that often the capitalist media outlets will put themselves on a pedestal when the “Free Press” clause of the First Amendment is invoked or discussed. They wish that only “true journalists” are protected and only newspapers and perhaps television and radio is protected. I say that this blog is an organ of the Free Press and our discussions and publications here are protected under that Prong of the First Amendment. We also have a right to assemble here and a right to speak freely and a right to petition our government for redress of grievances.
    Yesterday I posted some blurb from a First Amendment organization which set forth the five prongs of the First Amendment. What these jerks in government are doing with their metadata assault on our privacy violates all of our rights under the First as well as our rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. That statute which the jerkoffs in government rely upon authorizes the inspection of foreign persons and entities not Americans.

  7. leejcaroll,
    You beat me to it. 🙂

    Dear Congressman Grayson,
    I can’t say this enough… WELCOME HOME!!!!!
    I’ve been asking, and thank you for asking too, since when do American Citizens fall under the purview of the FOREIGN Intel Courts?

  8. During my fourteen months spent languishing at “Solid Anchor” — a remote US Navy ATSB deep in the Mekong Delta — a shipmate had a pet Anaconda that he kept in a long wooden ammunition crate. Every Sunday, he would take it out for a feeding, which event usually passed for the highlight of our dreary existence for the week. A bunch of bored, bearded, half-dressed sailors would form a ring into the center of which someone would throw a live duck. Then the Anaconda would slowly slither over to the petrified fowl and then take an hour or so enveloping, crushing, and swallowing it. I still have pictures. As I recall, the guy who owned the pet Anaconda had stenciled on the side of its wooden-crate home, in all-caps military-style lettering:

    SNAKE, BIG ****-ING

    In Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club, no one can even begin to communicate without using that **** word — as noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. Readjusting to the “outside” world with its pompous pretensions and pious prevaricating took a long time and in my case, obviously, never entirely succeeded.

  9. As for official government statements — especially those made by the U.S. military — I learned long ago to disregard them as self-serving careerism run amok. Given the opportunity to tell the truth, with no adverse consequences either way, our officials will lie, just to keep in practice; just so they won’t forget how. One has to wonder, however, why our current crop of official liars hasn’t gotten any better at their prevarication, given all the practice they insist on having at our expense.

  10. Larry asked:
    Would your rock falling on Congress be considered a terrorist rock?”


    Yes, but only if sufficiently amped.

  11. MM,

    I’m of the Carlin school in that “[t]here are no bad words, bad thoughts, bad intentions, and wooooords.” However, I don’t make the rules here and that policy was instituted after a group of drive by trolls spent a few days doing little else but spewing profanity simply for the sake of disruption. You don’t have to go full edit either. F**k is perfectly acceptable and gets the image (and the sound) across.

  12. James Bamford on NSA Secrets, Keith Alexander’s Influence &Massive Growth of Surveillance, Cyberwar

    Published on Jun 14, 2013 – As the U.S. vows to take “all necessary steps” to pursue whistleblower Edward Snowden, James Bamford joins us to discuss the National Security Agency’s secret expansion of government surveillance and cyberwarfare. In his latest reporting for Wired Magazine, Bamford profiles NSA Director General Keith Alexander and connects the dots on PRISM, phone surveillance, and the NSA’s massive spy center in Bluffdale, Utah. Says Bamford of Alexander: “Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy.” The author of “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America,” Bamford has covered the National Security Agency for the last three decades after helping expose its existence in the 1980s.


    Hey! How’s it going? I’m all right.

    My job is so chitty I wish I could overthrow my boss. It’s like this oppressive regime where only true believers in his management techniques will stay around. I work marathon-length hours and he’s made all these changes that have made it the worst architecture firm to work at in Manhattan. Like he moved the office to the Financial District and fired my assistant. She was the only one who knew where the blueprints were! I need access to those blueprints to complete my job! F my life, right? And he keeps trying to start all these new initiatives to boost revenue, but seriously we just need to stick to what we do best. There’s only one true profit center. I seriously feel ready to go on strike at any second.

    I just read this article about how these free radical particles can cause the downfall of good health and accelerate aging. These could actually cause death to millions of Americans. If these particles are flying around undetected everywhere, does that mean we’re all radicalized?

    Have you seen the second season of Breaking Bad? I just finished it. I couldn’t believe that episode where they poison the guy with ricin! That was the bomb! I won’t say any more because I don’t want to reveal the earth-shattering events to come.

    Oh! So I’ve been planning a big trip for the summer. I’m thinking of visiting all of the most famous suspension bridges in the United States. So probably like the Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I’m gonna bring my younger brother and I know he’ll want to go to bars, so I’m thinking of getting him a fake drivers license, but I hope that doesn’t blow up in my face.

    Okay, I gotta run! I’m late for flight school. I missed the last class where we learn how to land, so I really can’t miss another one. Talk to you later!

  14. Gene H.,

    I figured as much. Thanks but no thanks. “We’re fornicated” just doesn’t work for an ex-sailor like me. Think I’ll just revisit George Carlin’s classic stand-up routine “Seven Dirty Words” (1977) for inspiration. Since you’ve only got four taboo noises, though, I suppose one could call that “progress” of a sort. That the language-police software has no problem with the obscene word “kill,” on the other hand, clearly indicates a failure to recognize the truly “dirty” when confronted by it on a daily basis.

  15. Old Soviet saying:
    In AmerryKa, you don’t vatch internet… It vatches YOU!

  16. bigfatmike
    1, June 14, 2013

    I have an old saying:
    “Half truths are told to hide whole lies.”

    “The least untruth” = half truth to hide a bigger sin/lie/illegality.

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