Obama’s WMD Moment: The Administration Increases Claims Of Thwarting “Potential” Attacks and Saving Lives

George-W-Bush_jpegPresident_Barack_ObamaGeorge Bush was rightfully denounced for his Administration’s false statements to both the public and the United Nations on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — the rationale for our invasion of that country. There was little apparent concern from Bush or his aides over the veracity or proof of their assertions as opposed to the desired outcome. The same mentality is in open display with President Obama this month as he and his aides continue to increase the claims of “successes” from the warrantless surveillance programs as public opposition grows. In this case, the increasing claims are being made in a war on privacy, including an effort to redefine privacy in a new surveillance-friendly image. We are now up to over 50 “potential plots” and Obama is sounding distinctly Bush-like in statements today about how these programs “saved lives.” The public, which learned this month that it was openly lied to about the programs in earlier hearings, is expected to accept these assurances on faith alone.


Speaking Wednesday morning during a press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama repeated the new “over 50” claim and said “this is a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people.” Once again, he considers not violating the fourth amendment directly by simply listening to calls is an admirable compromise on his part. He again cited the FISA court in a ludicrous suggestion that the court offers any meaningful review. He then added that putting the entire country under these surveillance programs was beneficial. He insisted that by effectively issuing a national security letter for the entire country, he stopped dozens of attacks and “as a consequence, we’ve saved lives.” Once again, there is very little push back on such claims by the media and even less from Congress.

Before we get into the latest round of claims to justify these programs, it is worth noting again that the success of any program does not excuse its unconstitutionality. While, as previously discussed, the Supreme Court (unwisely) stripped pen register evidence of protections under the fourth amendment, it has never signed off on this type of massive data collection and monitoring of all citizens.

Now to the current count. You will recall that allies of the White House originally claimed one thwarted plot. They then increased that number to two and then to four. As opposition mounted, they started to claim “dozens” of “potential” plots. Now we are up to over 50 according to NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander.

David_Leisure_Joe_Isuzu_ResizedThis is getting to look like those old Joe Isuzu commercials where a spokesman openly inflates claims to sell a car. The problem is that we were just lied to. Not only did the Administration lie about the programs but these very senators eliciting the new claims were the same who remained silent in the face of testimony that they knew was false. James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, to the Senate in March. Clapper said unequivocally that the N.S.A. was not gathering data on millions of Americans. That is obviously false and Senators hearing the testimony knew that the public was being lied to. Senator Wyden asked Clapper: “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded: “No, sir. Not wittingly.”

However, it was done “wittingly” when you demand all of the calls for all citizens, right? Clapper will argue that he simply defines collecting data differently from the vast majority of humanity. However, courts regularly reject such subjective views of the truth. The point of the answer was to assure the public that they have nothing to worry about — the same message being given by members now that the truth has come out. Clapper’s testimony was for the public to hear and believe — even though Senators knew it to be untrue. Keep in mind that we have two surveillance programs now being reported — one collecting all call information and one involving email data.

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.

Now the same Senators are assuring the public that they can now rest assured because the same administration is claiming over 50 successes.

Even if some citizens were willing to give this Administration and these Senators the benefit of the doubt, consider the following questions:

What is a “potential plot”? — The Administration does not define what “potential” means. There is obviously an interest to count every and any possible claimed plot in the face of the exodus of supporters from the White House. IF this were a real plot, were hundreds of people arrested? What steps were taken to avert each of these plots?

Where are all of the prosecutions? — The Justice Department has prosecuted earlier cases on the thinnest connections and associations. Why haven’t we seen dozens of prosecutions for these plots? Indeed, this Administration is not shy about claiming any and all victories over terrorism. Yet, suddenly we hear that there conspiracies on every front and around every corner — thwarted simply by denying privacy to Americans.

What was the other evidence or sources? — Just as the Bush Administration claimed that torture led to saving lives and finding Bin Laden (later discredited), Obama is claiming to have saved lives with these warrantless surveillance programs as if they were the only source of information. That does not make sense. This is the same president who says that he would show some evidence to a secret court before reading the content or listening to calls. The calls themselves could not be the evidence used to intercept the calls, even on the ridiculed FISA court. As with torture, there is always other sources of evidence but the Administration is eager to portray these programs as the reason some Americans (unnamed) are alive today.

Why should we believe them? — With members (and of course the Justice Department) entirely silent concerning the perjury of Clapper, the message is clear: both the White House and Congress will not move against officials who lie to the public to lull them into a sense of security. The fact that these members will not even discuss Clapper’s perjury illustrates the farcical purpose of these hearings. As George Bush once again, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.'” And he knew something about fooling folks.

69 thoughts on “Obama’s WMD Moment: The Administration Increases Claims Of Thwarting “Potential” Attacks and Saving Lives”

  1. How many cases where the government claims whistleblowers have damaged national security are these claims simply made to cover for the mistakes of the agencies or to provide cover for the hidden agendas of the military industrial intelligence complex and establishment? It was Eisenhower that warned of the dangers of an overpowering MIDC…..

    In the 1993 WTC bombing the NYT reported that the agencies had advanced knowledge of the bombing but proposed to use fake powder in
    place of the real explosives instead of immediately stopping the plot….

    …. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/28/nyregion/tapes-depict-proposal-to-thwart-bomb-used-in-trade-center-blast.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

  2. Even IF plots were broken up, I’d bet that they involved records obtained for people who, for one reason or another, were already targeted by the NSA or the FBI.

    No statements by any of these apologists for NSA suggest that they needed the phone records of 145 million Verizon customers to break up these plots.

    What’s wrong with getting the phone records of just the people that are suspected of wrongdoing?

  3. Meanwhile, in India . . .

    The Indian government, taking cues from American leadership, has implemented an electronic surveillance operation that allows their security organizations to directly tap into phone calls and emails without any court supervision. To do one better than America, they also allow tax officials access. “Security” and “shakedown” all in one tidy package.

    Authoritarianism!

    Coming to every government near you real (post redacted for your security).

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/enterprise-it/security/India-sets-up-nationwide-snooping-programme-to-tap-your-emails-phones/articleshow/20678562.cms

  4. Correction:

    Wee on the People of the United States, in Order to insure domestic Submissivity, provide for the community of Defence Contractors, promote the generals’ Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to just ourselves and our donating Friends, do ordain and establish this Secret interpretation of Constitution for the United States of America.

  5. One last blast while I’m on a potty-mouth roll….

    Wee on the People of the United States, in Order to insure domestic Submissivity, provide for the uncommon defence, promote the generals’ Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to just ourselves and our donating Friends, do ordain and establish this Secret interpretation of Constitution for the United States of America.

  6. Oooooooh! Congress got a dose of the Clap.
    …. as did the Constitution and “We the People”.

  7. At the risk of falling foul of the auto-moderation…

    Testing…..testing….. crap

    Some think that the word ‘crap’ originated from the name of a famous UK plumbing supply company founded by Thomas Crapper (1836-1910).
    He did not in fact invent the flushing toilet, but he did make improvements to it.
    Amongst there was the ballcock ….. which when you break the word into two parts is spot on (as in “what a load of”) for describing Clapper’s performance.

    Wikipedia offers: “The word crap is actually of Middle English origin; and predates its application to bodily waste. Its most likely etymological origin is a combination of two older words, the Dutch krappen: to pluck off, cut off, or separate; and the Old French crappe: siftings, waste or rejected matter (from the medieval Latin crappa, chaff).[8] In English, it was used to refer to chaff, and also to weeds, or other rubbish. Its first application to bodily waste, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, appeared in 1846 under a reference to a crapping ken, or a privy, where ken means a house.”

    In any case “pulled a Clapper” is a good one.

    Now that “giving the least dishonst answer” (i.e. lying to Congress under oath) is outed as standard best practice., a near universal replacement of “crap” by “Clap” seems appropriate.

    Be aware that this sort of low-level civil disobedience will probably be construed as “low-level terrorism”. The Occupy movement was perceived as such by the administration and beyond doubt the full might of the NSA facilities is brought to bear on anyone involved. Definitions are very elastic, so annoying the Clap out of our betters very probaly qualifies people to be data-harvested with a view to a vindictive pushback.
    .

    Hey!
    We’re not privy to what Clapper knows!
    ‘privy’ geddit?

  8. In Den Haag, Amsterdam the pundits have coined a phrase. If you lie to the legislature then you have “Pulled a Clapper.”. The Europeans are really teed off about U.S. surveillance and theft of their internet and phone privacy.

  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvcBKq82f-k

    Abby Martin talks to Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive and whistleblower, and Jesselyn Raddack, National Security Director for the Government Accountability Project, about whistleblower Edward Snowden about the dangerous climate surrounding classified information in the US, how the extent of the NSA spying program has yet to be revealed, and how the mantra ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’, is false.
    .

    Cliff notes of the cliff notes from a 12-minute video:

    “Draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers”

    Shreds “Congressional oversight” Members gagged. Wyden and Udall having to make cryptic statements.
    Clip of Rep Loretta Sanchez “What we learnt in there … is significantly more .. than what is out in the media today. I can’t speak to what we learnt in there…….. I believe that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

    “FISA court” a rubber-stamping secret court.

    Programs ‘fit for’ feeding huge amounts of money to contractors. They won’t give it up.

    Slide – Views on NSA programs a partisan issue. In general. Rep/Dem views shift on change of President.

    On the administrations (unsubstantiated and unverifiable) claims about numbers of plots foiled:
    “This is not informed consent by those who are governed. This is manufactured consent. It’s coerced consent in secret.”
    ‘We know what is best for you. We’re simply going to make these decisions, but we’re not going to tell you what those decisions are. ‘ – That’s not democracy.

    Drake’s answer to “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.” ….

  10. OK. so that was a fail… Didn’t think it would work, but had to try.

    So, let me try this…

    3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-nsa-officials-roundtable/2428809/

    Peter Eisler and Susan Page, USA TODAY
    June 16, 2013

    In a roundtable discussion, a trio of former National Security Agency whistle-blowers tell USA TODAY that Edward Snowden succeeded where they failed.

    When a National Security Agency contractor revealed top-secret details this month on the government’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records, one select group of intelligence veterans breathed a sigh of relief.

    Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way.

    For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.

    To the intelligence community, the trio are villains who compromised what the government classifies as some of its most secret, crucial and successful initiatives. They have been investigated as criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime.

    Today, they feel vindicated.
    (continued w/ video interviews)

  11. So if I’m a physician and I review charts through remote access via my home computer , if I’m being monitored by govt then even my patients medical records that I’m reviewing are being seen by a NSA employee ? isn’t that big reach of patient privacy , on top of everything else ? would you sue the govt . for this disregard for patient’s privacy , mr Turley ?

  12. Carlyle Moulton,

    Local Usage Details, sometimes called CRDs (Call Record Details). Usually obtained from pen registers.

  13. Darren,

    If they had, they’d have been short Ben Franklin. We all know what he’d be doing on the Web. Yeah. That’s right.

    Shopping for kites.

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