Tuesday, October 29, 2013

James Clapper Speaks the Truth

Surprising, I know.  But you will have to wait awhile to discover this nugget buried under tons of half-truths and parsed statements.

First, a declaration:

The head of the National Security Agency denied Tuesday that the United States collected telephone and e-mail records directly from European citizens, calling reports based on leaks by Edward Snowden "completely false."

Is it OK if I suspect that this is merely the least dishonest answer that they can give at this time?  See, they don’t collect the data directly from European citizens (“Hello, Jean-Claude, this is the NSA calling.  Could you please send us photocopies of all of your telephone bills?”), but only indirectly…you know, from satellites and modems and European telecom providers and all that high-tech stuff.

"To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on European citizens. It represents information that we, and our NATO allies, have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations," Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, told a House committee reviewing the agency's surveillance activities.

He said the NSA legally collected metadata from some phone calls, and the rest of the metadata came from U.S. allies.

Allow me to translate: You see…it is data collected by your military and then shared with us.

The statement by Alexander before the House Intelligence Committee came even as he and others acknowledged changes must be made to the way intelligence is collected.

Wait a minute.  I thought Snowden did irreparable harm.  Why would they want to change things based on the work of someone who harmed the NSA?

The allegations have rocked U.S.-European relations with a number of countries calling for investigations. Germany has threatened to cut off the ability of the United States to track bank transfers associated with terror groups.

But does this mean that Germany will continue to allow the United States to track bank transfers of those not associated with terror groups?

But FISA "must be reformed" to improve transparency about and restore the public's confidence in the United States' intelligence gathering activities, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, said.

"We must improve transparency, privacy protections and thereby restore the public's confidence."

Here with the reform stuff again.  Snowden did irreparable harm – why would they reform anything based on the work of this harmful guy?

"It's important that we not forget that these men and women are doing what we have told them to do -- within the confines of the laws of the United States of America that we passed -- and doing so to keep us safe," [Ruppersberger] said.

… [Clapper] added, the activities themselves have been lawful, and "rigorous oversight" has been effective.

See, they passed laws.  And they are rigorous.  So it is legal and stuff.

Snowden's revelations about U.S. intelligence-gathering activities have been "extremely damaging," Clapper said in his opening remarks.

That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!!!  So why would you reform anything based on these revelations?  Do you want to be legally compelled to make equally damaging revelations in the future?  Listen to Clapper!

Ruppersberger said authorities were considering a proposal to require a declassification review of any FISA Court decision order or opinion "to improve transparency without threatening sources and methods."

NO NO NO!  Don’t do it.  Listen to Clapper – he says this is “extremely damaging.”

The FISA Court grants or refuses surveillance rights requests from U.S. government agencies.

Mostly “grants,” if the rumors are true.

One of the most intriguing, but challenging changes being discussed involves moving away from bulk collection of data toward a system like the one used in criminal prosecutions, where the government subpoenas individual call data records -- phone numbers, not conversations -- to be used for link analysis, [Ruppersberger] said.

What is so challenging about this? Isn’t this how evidence has been gathered for centuries in non-police-state states?  Present evidence about a specific suspect and location, what it is you are searching for, and get a judge’s approval?  Isn’t there someone in the government that has some experience at this?

Clapper defended the surveillance programs as beneficial. "What we do not do is spy unlawfully on Americans or, for that matter, spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country," he said.

One statement, and so loaded: 1) if the programs are beneficial, why are you changing anything based on that traitor Snowden’s work? 2) We already know it is lawful: Congress passed a law, and your own courts interpret it.  How could it not be lawful? 3) We know it isn’t indiscriminate – you don’t discriminate against anyone as you spy on everyone.

NSA Director Alexander said that of the billions of records of personal data collected last year by the agency, just 288 of them were reviewed.

Billions of records of personal data, but don’t worry – it isn’t indiscriminate.

Now for the Europeans:

Citing an unnamed intelligence officer, the German newspaper reported Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama learned about the NSA operation targeting Merkel from agency chief Alexander in 2010 and allowed it to continue -- an assertion that the NSA denied.

"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel," NSA spokeswoman Vanee' Vines told CNN.

Of course Alexander didn’t discuss this with Obama.  Why should he?  Who’s in charge, do you think?

In his testimony Tuesday, Clapper noted that he had ordered the declassification of a series of documents in recent months to inform the public debate on the matter, and would continue to do so.

But Snowden harmed national security – you said so yourself: “extremely damaging” and all that.  Why are you declassifying more stuff that will further damage national security?

Now for what you’ve been waiting for: some truth from Clapper:

In his remarks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that trying to determine the intentions of foreign leaders -- by getting close to them or getting their communications -- is a "fundamental given" among intelligence services, and one of the first things he learned in his 50-year intelligence career.

Asked if he believes U.S. allies conducted espionage activities against U.S. leaders, he said, "Absolutely." Clapper was responding to questions from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

Of course this goes on, and all the feigned indignation of foreign leaders knowingly participate on both sides of the equation – but this doesn’t sell well at home, where the locals must not understand that their leaders are all puppets.

But the best is saved for last:

This year, after Snowden released the cache of classified documents, including court orders detailing the 215 bulk data program, many lawmakers said they were shocked about the extent of the program.

On Tuesday, Clapper said he wasn't buying their reactions. "It reminds me of 'Casablanca,' " Clapper said, referring to the movie from the 1940s.  “My God, there's gambling going on here."

The man speaks at least some truth, and also has a sense of humor.  Jon Stewart could not have delivered this better!

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