Mass Surveillance INTERFERES with Our Ability to Fight Terrorism
Ed Snowden told the SXSW conference yesterday:
We’ve actually had tremendous intelligence failures because we’re monitoring the internet; we’re monitoring, you know, everybody’s communications instead of suspects’ communications. That lack of focus have caused us to miss news we should have had.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Bombers. the Russians have warned us about it. But we didn’t a very poor job investigating, we didn’t have the resources, and we had people working on other things. If we followed the traditional model, we might have caught that.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the underwear bomber, same thing. His father walked into a US Embassy, he went to CIA officer and said my son is dangerous. Don’t let him go to your country. Get him help. We didn’t follow up, we didn’t actually investigate this guy. We didn’t get a dedicated team to figure what was going on because we spent all of this money, we spent all of this time hacking into Google and Facebook to look at their data center.
What did we get out of that? We got nothing. And there are two White House investigations that confirm that.
Top counter-terror and security experts say that mass surveillance does NOT help prevent terror attacks.
Top experts have said that treating everyone like a potential terrorist WEAKENS our ability to protect America.
The former head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operations – William Binney – says that the current spying program not only violates Americans’ privacy, but sucks up so much data that it INTERFERES with the government’s ability to catch bad guys.
They’re collecting more data, making the haystack so much bigger so that’s making it more difficult to find the needles. That’s why they’re missing people, like the bombers in Boston.
Similarly, Israeli-American terrorism expert Barry Rubins points out:
What is most important to understand about the revelations of massive message interception by the U.S. government is this:
In counterterrorist terms, it is a farce. Basically the NSA, as one of my readers suggested, is the digital equivalent of the TSA strip-searching an 80 year-old Minnesota grandmothers rather than profiling and focusing on the likely terrorists.
There is a fallacy behind the current intelligence strategy of the United States, the collection of massive amounts of phone calls, emails, and even credit card expenditures, up to 3 billion phone calls a day alone, not to mention the government spying on the mass media. It is this:
The more quantity of intelligence, the better it is for preventing terrorism.
In the real, practical world this is—though it might seem counterintuitive—untrue.
And isn’t it absurd that the United States can’t finish a simple border fence to keep out potential terrorists, can’t stop a would-be terrorist in the U.S. army who gives a power point presentation on why he is about to shoot people (Major Nadal Hassan), can’t follow up on Russian intelligence warnings about Chechen terrorist contacts (the Boston bombing), or a dozen similar incidents must now collect every telephone call in the country?
It is not the quantity of material that counts but the need to locate and correctly understand the most vital material.
If one looks at the great intelligence failures of the past, these two points quickly become obvious. Take for example the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. U.S. naval intelligence had broken Japanese codes. They had the information needed to conclude the attack would take place. Yet a focus on the key to the problem was not achieved. The important messages were not read and interpreted; the strategic mindset of the leadership was not in place.
So what needs to be in place, again, is to focus on the highest priority material, to analyze correctly what is available, to have leaders accept it, and to act.
If, however, the material is almost limitless, that actually weakens a focus on the most needed intelligence regarding the most likely terrorist threats. Imagine, for example, going through billions of telephone calls even with high-speed computers rather than, say, following up a tip from Russian intelligence on a young Chechen man in Boston who is in contact with terrorists or, for instance, the communications between a Yemeni al-Qaida leader and a U.S. army major who is assigned as a psychiatrist to Fort Hood.
That is why the old system of getting warrants, focusing on individual email addresses, or sites, or telephones makes sense, at least if it is only used properly. Then those people who are communicating with known terrorists can be traced further. There are no technological magic spells.
In that light, we should question the real purpose of the NSA’s mass surveillance on Americans.