I wrote on Kos last week that the Boston Marathon bombing was a failure of the "surveillance state," and was pretty roundly flamed for it. As it turns out, not only was there a massive failure of the surveillance state, but the entire national security apparatus. The latest news reports reveal a stunning number of intelligence community mistakes:
The CIA pushed to have one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers placed on a U.S. counterterrorism watch list more than a year before the attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday . . .The number of U.S. government agencies who received warnings about Tsarnaev just keeps growing. Also from WaPo:
The CIA’s request came months after the FBI had closed a preliminary inquiry into Tsarnaev after getting a similar warning from Russian state security . . .
In congressional testimony Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said U.S. authorities had flagged Tsarnaev’s departure, but not his return. “The system pinged when he was leaving the United States,” Napolitano said at a Senate hearing. “By the time he returned, all investigations had been closed.” Napolitano was referring to the FBI’s decision in July 2011 to close its inquiry into Tsarnaev after concluding he was not a threat. U.S. officials have said that FBI decision meant that his name might have come off the database employed by U.S. Customs agents a year later — just days before his reentry into the United States.Since 9/11, Americans have contributed billions of dollars (even with reductions theintelligence budget request for FY 2014 is still over $40 billion), and scarified far too much of our individual liberty and privacy. In return, we got a bloated surveillance industrial complex that spends and spends and spends (and puts money in the pockets of contractors), but still makes the same elementary mistakes that the 9/11 Commission warned about: stove-piping, failure to share information, not connecting the dots, and not having fail safes in place for things like misspellings.
Agencies are now in duck and cover mode, all working hard to make sure they don't catch the blame for the bombing.
The intelligence failures are more maddening when we consider who the intelligence community actually has spent resources investigating: anti-war protesters, hacktivists, whistleblowers, journalists, and countless innocent Muslim-Americans. The government has had little qualms about labeling people "enemies of the state" (NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake) or "traitors" (me), but despite the efforts to flag at least older Tsarnaev brother as a possible threat,
The elder Tsarnaev “did not come anywhere close to being a selectee” for the U.S. no-fly list, a U.S. intelligence official said.Cat Stevens and Ted Kennedy make the no-fly list, I was on the "selectee" portion of the list, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras is harassed and searched at the border every time she returns to the US, but someone who the Russian government warns is a violent threat "doesn't even come close" to making the list and isn't detected re-entering the country.
Even the Washington Post editorial board is asking if the FBI is "focused enough on the real bad guys," when the Bureau ignores Tsarnaev while FBI agents are busy infiltrating Mosques - and alienating the American-Muslim community in the process - and doing everything but detonating the bomb in so-called "sting" operations:
The FBI had concluded that the elder Tsarnaev posed no threat. . . . Meanwhile, the FBI has devoted considerable resources to sting operations against people it judges to be terror suspects, sometimes on what look like dubious grounds.After 9/11, one NSA official brazenly declared about the tragedy:
It's still two years before 2015, but the days of "milking" tragedies to feed an already out-of-control surveillance industrial complex need to end, not just to protect our civil liberties, but because the national security state is not adding any security.