Able Danger Blog

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Is Karl Rove paying attention?

I know I don't talk about politics much here, but anyone who has visited my personal site knows I am proud to call myself a Democrat. I was even a delegate at the 2004 DNC convention. Which is why it pains me to see the trap that Democratic leaders are walking right into with this New York Times story on FISA and the NSA. I hope they'll realize their mistake before they make complete fools of themselves - but given past experience - I'm not placing any bets.

All it would take is for Karl Rove to notice the hanging curve ball they have just served up for him, and it would be incredibly easy for him to smack this one right out of the park. One short conversation between Bush and Don Rumsfeld on the subject of Able Danger, and suddenly the Pentagon's objections to open hearings on the subject could disappear. The Armed Services and Homeland Security committees in the House both seem interested in public hearings on Able Danger. Arlen Specter's own Senate Judiciary Committee tried, but his request was denied.

What better argument to support keeping tabs on people with links to Al Qaeda - even if they are already here in the US - than the fact that Able Danger was trying to do the same thing before 9/11? Yet, they were prevented from sharing their information with the FBI due to the same paranoid concern about "spying on Americans" we've been hearing about since Thursday. Did Scott Phillpott get a FISA warrant for every person in the United States before mining open source data that included US persons in an effort to identify members of Al Qaeda both here at home and abroad? Clearly, no such warrant could be issued, whether it was legally required or not. I know data mining and wire tapping are very different things, but you see my point? This NSA program also dealt with large numbers of people. How many warrants can you get?

When Condi Rice was on Meet the Press this morning, she talked about a "Gulf" and a "Gap" between intelligence and law enforcement that existed before 9/11. At one point, Russert rephrased the question and referred to it as a "Wall" - which those who have followed the Able Danger story are quite familiar with by now. In fact, the "Wall" is not the real problem here, it's the extraordinary deference given to anyone lucky enough to be a "US person" - even if that "US person" happens to belong to Al Qaeda. You can't even use data on "US persons" to track people who are not, at least according to those who have been so critical of Able Danger, and the NSA. Is it really so hard to believe that an Al Qaeda supporter could get a green card?

I'll say it again, but if anyone over at the RNC connects the dots between this NSA story and Able Danger, the results might not be very pretty for the DNC on this one.

Image the following ABC Nightly News segment:

Military intelligence officials testified today before the House Armed Services committee that their unit known as Able Danger had identified Mohamed Atta as a member of Al Qaeda over a year before 9/11 but they were prevented from sharing this information with the FBI over concerns that the program might be "spying on Americans" by tracking links to Al Qaeda within the US.

Up next, Democratic leaders are angrily demanding Congressional hearings on why the government is monitoring the international phone calls and email messages of people in the United States with links to Al Qaeda. Calling the practice illegal, and unconstitutional, they are calling for an immediate end to the program now that the Patriot Act has expired following a successful Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

Is Karl Rove paying attention?