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View Diary: How NSA employees are prepped for awkward holiday dinners (118 comments)

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  •  Not Quite (2+ / 0-)
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    Gottlieb, waterstreet2013

    I agree with most everything you said, except that the NSA's system would have stopped 9/11. In 1998 Binladen was using a satellite phone. The CIA disagreed with the rest of the Pentagon, each that the other should kill him with a drone guided to that phone. The disagreement story could be a lie, but it's implausible that they all lied about the satellite phone interception, because without it the rest of the lie is unnecessary.

    It's also unlikely that Binladen's 1998 phone was the only time he used telecom in his operations. In fact the Qaeda is known for using the Internet, including Websites and messaging, for communications.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Wed Dec 25, 2013 at 07:33:36 PM PST

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    •  Cell phones did not have GPS in 1998. (0+ / 0-)

      And homing in on a mobile phone signal requires a lock-on for the duration of the flight going in. Not feasible under those condittions.

      Otherwise, that's an interesting tale.

      In truth, Taliban arrested Binladen twice for the African embassy bombings. He was held at the same house in Kandahar. Everybody knew where he was.

      Before Obama took up the task, nobody outside of Special Forces and the CIA's equivalent units took killing that SOB seriously.

      •  Satellite Phone (1+ / 0-)
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        Calamity Jean

        Not a cellphone, but - as I said about 1998 - a satellite phone. Which can be tracked without GPS.

        Binladen was also targeted in Tora Bora in 2001 by locating him on the phone.

        He escaped both times (and maybe other times), but that was the failure of the rest of the Pentagon/CIA. The NSA systems are signals intelligence, and the source for that certainly existed. Both before 9/11/2001 and after. NSA systems were sufficient to find the phones, and to tap them, long before (as far as we know) they were spying on every American and so many foreigners/officials with unlimited power and budget.

        Arguing the NSA should be completely revamped on the basis that their systems aren't useful counterterror measures is a losing argument. The correct argument is that the problems are the limits on using those systems, that their use in highly limited ways is sufficient to their mission. Indeed their utility but mismanagement is the argument to remove them from the Pentagon and assign them to the Justice Department. Actually complying with the 4th Amendment and other rules of evidence and due process would protect us from these agencies and their legitimate targets.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 06:49:22 AM PST

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        •  Welcome to begging the question. (0+ / 0-)


          "Arguing the NSA should be completely revamped on the basis that their systems aren't useful counterterror measures is a losing argument."
          NSA has been unable to identify a single terror plot that was prevented using the information that these massive electronic burglaries have produced.

          That means, based on the evidence, that the NSA systems have proved useless, except plausibly as a deterrent to seeing Al Q and others such as the old Abu Nidal network have the convenience of more open use of telephone services.

          That's the evidence. It speaks for itself.

          Of course if you don't like evidence, there's always begging the question. Assume a result contrary to evidence and go forth issuing There Can Be No Doubt certainties.

          That's how Dick Cheney introduced the world to the NeoCon fantasy that Saddam Hussein was sitting in his palace over there in Baghdad, ready to hit the world with nuclear weapons.

          •  Welcome to QED (1+ / 0-)
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            You said:

            But none of this would have stopped 9/11. Not one part of NSA's system would have done a dxmn thing.

            Al Qaeda used personal messengers and disguised other communications as normal business activity. Western intel never grabbed a thing, except by investigating known Al Q followers -- and that effort was delayed by years when the torture team in Pakistan "forgot" to follow up on Morocco's boxes of written intel reports.

            What you said was factually incorrect. In 1998 and in 2001 NSA systems located Binladen in the field. Which is very much "have done a dxmn thing".

            The NSA's systems are signals intelligence, for assocations, for content, for locations, for patterns of movement. Those systems worked. The failure to kill or capture Binladen once located is not within the NSA's systems.

            Rebutting your argument that is based on false facts is not begging the question. It is winning the argument. Let's not spoil our majority of agreement on your post to which I replied with you snarkily claiming I don't like evidence, when your argument is the one that requires ignoring it.

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 05:54:14 PM PST

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            •  You proved my argument. (0+ / 0-)

              Grabbing off sigint accomplished nothing.

              All it did, in the final analysis, was to distract analysts and policy makers from real-world personnel moves and real-world human warnings and real-world discovery by the Minnesota FBI office that Al Qaeda had teams in-country to carry out an airliner suicide-hijacking modeled on the 1994 Air France 8969 suicide-hijacking.

              Sigint is a distraction.

              Sigint, by itself, has never been effective against organizations that set up their comm to disguise their messages.

              Going against unsuspecting Russian generals in the 1950s ??? Going against Merkel at a G20 ? Yeah, sure thing.

              •  NSA Is Sigint (0+ / 0-)

                No, grabbing off sigint accomplished locating Binladen. That was the mission, its completely legitimate mission.

                The failure to use that info was not a failure of the NSA systems. You are conflating the two.

                Sigint is not exclusive of humint, nor even superior to it. It is however effective within its scope, which is an essential scope - even when just corroborating humint with all humint's own shortcomings. Without sigint it is extremely difficult and usually impossible to precisely target people of interest in realtime, or to get actual samples of their actual actions unfiltered by people in between. While it is not sufficient, sigint is often necessary and even more often extremely valuable.

                Physically or virtually targeting active enemies of the USA is not a distraction from anything. Expecting the location to complete the policy, such as killing, is a distraction from the failure of the Pentagon to use the appropriate and effective NSA system.

                "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                by DocGonzo on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 12:44:08 PM PST

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                •  Simple fact: NSA sigint never got anything (1+ / 0-)
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                  useful from its primary bulk signal intercept on Al Qaeda.


                  Triangulating a phone signal from 300 miles distance is what DoD got on Binladen at Tora Bora. And that's not sigint. Technically, it's not because the content of the phone message is irrelevant.

                  Every item of the intel that mattered for primary data on Al Q came from human sources. And that came out of Morocco and the Arab countries.

                  Then the special ops people set up traces on specific individuals. They set up surveillance on specific sites, mostly inside Pakistan.

                  NSA's worldwide operations missed everything about 9/11 both before and after. They scored a zero, except for tracking off-the-books money.

                  •  Useful (0+ / 0-)

                    Of course triangulating the phone signal is sigint. Metadata is intelligence, and triangulated location is metadata is intelligence is sigint.

                    Of course it was useful. Even though they didn't use it effectively, NSA's sigint gave the rest of the Pentagon Binladen's location. Twice, at least, that has been explicitly confirmed.

                    And more often beyond that, since the Pentagon said that Binladen's satellite phone use decreased after some event in 2001. Which means it continued, and continued to be monitored. Which means there was intel about Binladen.

                    You're not making a valid argument when you deny that a phone's triangulated location is signals intelligence. I don't know why you think you'd convince me of anything that way, and so I don't know why you bother trying it.

                    Just because we don't need the NSA we have, and its bulk collection is entirely wrong, along with probably all its domestic surveillance, doesn't mean the US has no value from signals intelligence. We need to monitor some telecom for national security, and perhaps even some domestically - when there is an actual compelling state interest as weighed by a legitimate court against people's right to privacy and protection from unreasonable searches or seizures in due process. To argue that a spade is not a spade just undermines the my interest in agreeing with you on the rest that you're reasonable about.

                    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                    by DocGonzo on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 04:28:18 PM PST

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