Rolling coverage of the ongoing government shutdown has pushed news of the myriad scandals which plagued the Administration of Barack Obama just a month ago from the front page of the American news psyche. But an op-ed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Sunday edition of The Wall Street Journal makes clear that, while the government may be shut down, America’s leaders are intent on justifying the continuance of their transgressions against the American public.
In her piece, Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, set about telling Americans why the publically unpopular National Security Agency data collection efforts revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden are important in protecting the Nation against terror attacks.
Her attempt to justify the massive privacy intrusions carried out by the NSA can be broken down into a few sections which strike at what appear to be her two main points: The world is full of terrorists, and the NSA works.
Here are some key points of Feinstein’s argument in her piece “The NSA’s Watchfulness Protects America: If today’s call-records program had been in place in before 9/11, the terrorist attacks likely would have been prevented.”
My answer: The program—which collects phone numbers and the duration and times of calls, but not the content of any conversations, names or locations—is necessary and must be preserved if we are to prevent terrorist attacks.
Feinstein argues that intrusive government surveillance could have averted the 9/11 terror attacks. She also notes other attacks that the government claims to have thwarted with its data collection efforts in the years since 9/11.
In the summer of 2001, the CIA’s then-director, George Tenet, painted a dire picture for members of the Senate Intelligence Committee when he testified about the terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda. As Mr. Tenet later told the 9/11 Commission, “the system was blinking red” and by late July of that year, it could not “get any worse.”
A similar level of concern emerged in July 2013, when the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed on the al Qaeda threat that led the State Department to close an unprecedented 19 American diplomatic facilities across Africa and the Middle East.
But, as one Gawker writer points out, “Huh. So… the CIA did issue dire warnings prior to 9/11, although the NSA’s program was not in place at that time. This directly contradicts Feinstein’s point about the necessity of the NSA’s phone spying. Paging the editing department.”
The NSA Says The Program Works
Working in combination, the call-records database and other NSA programs have aided efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorism in the U.S. approximately a dozen times in recent years, according to the NSA. This summer, the agency disclosed that 54 terrorist events have been interrupted—including plots stopped and arrests made for support to terrorism. Thirteen events were in the U.S. homeland and nine involved U.S. persons or facilities overseas. Twenty-five were in Europe, five in Africa and 11 in Asia.
These figures show that the NSA programs are a key component of our counterterrorism efforts at home and abroad because they develop intelligence for our allies about terrorists operating within their borders.
In other words, “who’s watching the watchers” doesn’t apply here. The NSA says it works, so it must work.
Oh Yeah, and… Terror!!!
The U.S. must remain vigilant against terrorist attacks against the homeland. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered the world’s most capable and dangerous terrorist organization, is determined to attack the United States. As we have seen since the “underwear bomber” attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, AQAP has developed nonmetallic bombs that can elude airport screeners, and the organization’s expert bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, remains at large.
Evil doers with nonmetallic bombs, therefore spying on all Americans warranted.
A Couple of Things Left Unmentioned in Feinstein’s NSA Defense
- The Boston Marathon Bombing
- The Attacks On the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya