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Hullabaloo


Monday, July 07, 2014

 
You know they're lying when their lips move

by digby


In case you read the New York Times' coverage of Barton Gellman's Snowden story yesterday (instead of the story itself) and came away with the incorrect impression that there was nothing to see there, Emptywheel issues the necessary correction.

(PCLOB = Privacy and civil liberties oversight board)
A communication must be destroyed upon recognition if it’s a US person communication with no intelligence value — PCLOB restates the standard that NYT’s sources claim is used.

But after laying out that standard, PCLOB immediately says meeting that requirement “rarely happens.”

NYT’s sources say it routinely happens. PCLOB says it rarely happens at NSA, and not at all at CIA and FBI.

PCLOB, incidentally, recommends addressing this issue by having FISC review what tasking standards are actually used and then reviewing a subset of the data returned — precisely what the WaPo just did, though we have no way of knowing if WaPo had a representative sample.

But the story here should have been, “Administration’s rebuttal has already been refuted by PCLOB’s independent review.”

PCLOB and WaPo disagree about the tasking — PCLOB sides with past Administration witnesses on the assiduousness of NSA’s targeting.

But PCLOB entirely backs WaPo on how many worthless communications NSA is keeping and documenting.

It's confusing, but worth trying to sort through particularly after the embarrassingly infantile caterwauling about "the greatest violation of privacy in history" from the NSA defenders yesterday. Snowden's release of these intercepts (solely in order to prove such intercepts exist --- a fact which the government has been consistently lying about to the public and to congress) to the Washington Post with strict instructions to seek government input was not irresponsible. Remember, if Snowden wanted to be a traitor or an anarchist he could have sold it to the highest bidder or just thrown it all up on the internet and let the chips fall where they may.

This idiotic Catch-22 isn't even worth debating frankly. This is the Washington fucking Post we're talking about. I swear, if these people had been around during Watergate they would be bitching about Woodward and Bernstein violating Grand Jury secrecy and agreeing with John Mitchell that "Katie Graham had her tit in wringer." This is what newspapers do. Or what they are supposed to do anyway.

I'll bet Dana Priest is glad she didn't reveal the existence of those black prison sites during the Obama administration. She would have had it coming and going from all sides. That, after all, really did reveal secret military programs which embarrassed allies and forced the government to change course in the War on Terror. If these people had their way we'd undoubtedly still be operating them because nobody would know about it. Recall, this is what she revealed right in the middle of the Iraq war, just 3 and a half years after 9/11:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.

The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held. Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.

[...]The secret detention system was conceived in the chaotic and anxious first months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the working assumption was that a second strike was imminent.

Since then, the arrangement has been increasingly debated within the CIA, where considerable concern lingers about the legality, morality and practicality of holding even unrepentant terrorists in such isolation and secrecy, perhaps for the duration of their lives. Mid-level and senior CIA officers began arguing two years ago that the system was unsustainable and diverted the agency from its unique espionage mission.

"We never sat down, as far as I know, and came up with a grand strategy," said one former senior intelligence officer who is familiar with the program but not the location of the prisons. "Everything was very reactive. That's how you get to a situation where you pick people up, send them into a netherworld and don't say, 'What are we going to do with them afterwards?' "

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