posted on Sep, 16 2013 @ 11:32 PM
With all the attention on NSA right now, and the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I thought I'd put together a thread on their specific
activities during this time. I apologize if this was covered previously.
The National Security Agency was conducting massive unconstitutional surveillance efforts before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, according to a
top telecom executive.
Joe Nacchio, the former CEO of the defunct telecom Qwest, made the allegations along with his lawyers in a federal court in Denver in 2007. NSA
officials asked Qwest to participate in a warrantless wiretapping program that the telecom’s lawyers believed was illegal in February 2001, six
months before Sept. 11, court transcripts reveal. The court transcripts were the basis of a Denver Post article published on Oct. 21, 2007.
Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying
The transcripts were of Nacchio’s trial for insider trading, which ended up revealing a lot more. At the trial, Nacchio maintained that the
federal government punished his company for not participating in the surveillance program by not rewarding it secret federal contracts worth hundreds
of millions of dollars. And we now know, as we have reported previously, that federal agencies are now amassing databases that rival even the
Check this out. Although not specific to the September 11th attacks, this timeline presents a uniquely precise and detailed history of NSA activities
from 9/11/2001 to 2013.
What Did NSA Know Prior to September 11?
The following information was reported by Michael Hayden, former NSA director.
So, to the first question: What did NSA know prior to September 11th? Sadly, NSA had no SIGINT suggesting that al-Qa'ida was specifically
targeting New York and Washington, D.C., or even that it was planning an attack on U.S. soil. Indeed, NSA had no knowledge before September 11th that
any of the attackers were in the United States. 9. I have briefed the committees on one area where our performance in retrospect could have been
better. Ms. Hill referred to this in her September 20, 2002 testimony: "Unbeknownst to the CIA, another arm of the intelligence community, the NSA,
had information associating Nawaf al-Hazmi with the Bin Laden network. NSA did not immediately disseminate that information, although it was in NSA's
database." This was not some culturally based "failure to share."
As you know, one of our "value added" activities is sorting through vast quantities of data and sharing that which is relevant, in a usable
format, with appropriate consumers. In this case, we did not disseminate information we received in early 1999 that was unexceptional in its content
except that it associated the name of Nawaf al-Hazmi with al-Qa'ida. This is not to say that we did not know of and report on him and other
individuals. We did. In early 2000, at the time of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, we had the al-Hazmi brothers, Nawaf and Salim, as well as Khalid
al-Mihdhar, in our sight. We knew of their association with al Qa'ida, and we shared this information with the community. I've looked at this
closely. If we had handled all of the above perfectly, the only new fact that we could have contributed at the time of Kuala Lumpur was that Nawaf's
surname (and perhaps that of Salim, who appeared to be Nawaf's brother) was al-Hazmi.
There is one other area in our pre-September 11th performance that has attracted a great deal of public attention. In the hours just prior to the
attacks, NSA did obtain two pieces of information suggesting that individuals with terrorist connections believed something significant would happen
on September 11th . This information did not specifically indicate an attack would take place on that day. It did not contain any details on the time,
place, or nature of what might happen. It also contained no suggestion of airplanes being used as weapons. Because of the processing involved, we were
unable to report the information until September 12th.
In review of this
document, it is clear that NSA and its director believe it
could not have done more in the days, months, or years prior to the 9/11 attacks. The one exception, according to Hayden, was a failure to recruit
linguists and analysts.
Fact-check: The NSA and Sept. 11
In defending the NSA’s sweeping collection of Americans’ phone call records, Obama administration officials have repeatedly pointed out how it
could have helped thwart the 9/11 attacks: If only the surveillance program been in place before Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. authorities would have been able
to identify one of the future hijackers who was living in San Diego.
There seems to be confusion regarding NSA's domestic surveillance.
According to the above web article, NSA was participating in massive domestic spying, while this article reports no domestic surveillance was in
place. Which is it?
It is impossible to know for certain whether screening phone records would have stopped the attacks -- the program didn’t exist at the time.
It’s also not clear whether the program would have given the NSA abilities it didn’t already possess with respect to the case. Details of the
current program and as well as NSA’s role in intelligence gathering around the 9/11 plots remain secret.
Remains secret! Just like Bush and
Cheney's testimony...secret, unsworn, and with no transcripts.
...the Obama administration’s invocation of the Mihdhar case echoes a nearly identical argument made by the Bush administration eight years ago
when it defended the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.
Again, which is it? Was NSA conducting domestic spying or not? Indeed, they were.
The NSA had in early 2000 analyzed communications between a person named “Khaled” and “a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East,”
according to this account. But, crucially, the intelligence community “did not determine the location from which they had been made.” In other
words, the report suggests, the NSA actually picked up the content of the communications between Mihdhar and the “Yemen safe house” but was not
able to figure out who was calling or even the phone number he was calling from.
“[Y]ou should not assume that the NSA was then able to determine, from the contents of communications, the originating phone number or IP
address of an incoming communication to that place in Yemen,” said Philip Zelikow, who was executive director of the 9/11 Commission, in an email to
ProPublica. “It would depend on the technical details of how the signals were being monitored.”
Did NSA not possess the ability to track
Intelligence historian Matthew Aid, who wrote the 2009 NSA history Secret Sentry, says that the agency would have had both the technical ability
and legal authority to determine the San Diego number that Mihdhar was calling from.
This seems to contradict the statement above, right?
“Back in 2001 NSA was routinely tracking the identity of both sides of a telephone call,” he told ProPublica.
The NSA did not respond to
a request for comment.
NSA Fact Check