NSA Insiders Reveal What Went Wrong

In a memo to President Obama, former National Security Agency insiders explain how NSA leaders botched intelligence collection and analysis before 9/11, covered up the mistakes, and violated the constitutional rights of the American people, all while wasting billions of dollars and misleading the public.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Official Washington – from Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein to NSA Director Keith Alexander to former Vice President Dick Cheney to former FBI Director Robert Mueller – has been speaking from the same set of NSA talking points acquired recently via a Freedom of Information request. It is an artful list, much of it designed to mislead. Take this one, for example:

NSA AND ITS PARTNERS MUST MAKE SURE WE CONNECT THE DOTS SO THAT THE NATION IS NEVER ATTACKED AGAIN LIKE IT WAS ON 9/11

At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 2, Senator Feinstein showed her hand when she said: “I will do everything I can to prevent this [NSA’s bulk] program from being canceled.” Declaring that 9/11 “can never be allowed to happen in the United States of America again,” Feinstein claimed that intelligence officials did not have enough information to prevent the terrorist attacks.

Mr. President, we trust you are aware that the lack-of-enough-intelligence argument is dead wrong. Feinstein’s next dubious premise – that bulk collection is needed to prevent another 9/11 – is unproven and highly unlikely (not to mention its implications for the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment).

Given the closed circle surrounding you, we are allowing for the possibility that the smell from these rotting red herrings has not yet reached you – even though your own Review Group has found, for example, that NSA’s bulk collection has thwarted exactly zero terrorist plots.

The sadder reality, Mr. President, is that NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA. We know; we were there. We were witness to the many bureaucratic indignities that made NSA at least as culpable for pre-9/11 failures as are other U.S. intelligence agencies.

We prepared this Memorandum in an effort to ensure that you have a fuller picture as you grapple with what to do about NSA. What follows is just the tip of an iceberg of essential background information – much of it hidden until now – that goes to the core of serious issues now front and center.

The drafting process sparked lively discussion of the relative merits of your Review Group’s recommendations. We have developed very specific comments on those recommendations. We look forward to an opportunity to bring them to your attention.

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Obama Urged to Fire DNI Clapper

Last March – before Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s sweeping collection of phone and other data – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said no such operation existed. Now, a group of ex-national security officials urge President Obama to fire Clapper.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Fire James Clapper

We wish to endorse the call by Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Committee on the Judiciary, that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be removed and prosecuted for lying to Congress. “Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview with The Hill. “The only way laws are effective is if they’re enforced.”

Sensenbrenner added, “If it’s a criminal offense – and I believe Mr. Clapper has committed a criminal offense – then the Justice Department ought to do its job.

This brief Memorandum is to inform you that we agree that no intelligence director should be able to deceive Congress and suffer no consequences. No democracy that condones such deceit at the hands of powerful, secretive intelligence directors can long endure.

It seems clear that you can expect no help from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to which Clapper has apologized for giving “clearly erroneous” testimony, and who, at the height of the controversy over his credibility, defended him as a “direct and honest” person.

You must be well aware that few amendments to the U.S. Constitution are as clear as the fourth:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

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Time for Proof on Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

World attention has moved to the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, but the evidence on the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus remains hidden and in dispute, causing a group of former U.S. intelligence professionals to ask Moscow and Washington to present what they have.

Memorandum to: Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

We applaud your moves toward a peaceful resolution of the Syria crisis that will lead to the destruction of all chemical stockpiles possessed by the Syrian Government.

At the same time, we strongly believe the world has the right to know the truth about the chemical attack near Damascus. We note that both sides continue to claim possession of compelling evidence regarding the true perpetrators of this crime.

We therefore call upon Russia and the United States to release all the intelligence and corroborative information related to the 21 August chemical attack so that the international community can make a judgment regarding what is actually known and not known.

We the undersigned — former intelligence, military and federal law enforcement officers who have collectively dedicated, cumulatively, hundreds of years to making the American people more secure — hereby register our dismay at the continued withholding of this vital evidence.

The issue is one of great importance, as the United States has within recent memory gone to war based on allegations of a threat that proved to be groundless. The indictment of Syria on possibly unsubstantiated claims of war crimes could easily lead to another unnecessary armed conflict that would produce disastrous results for the entire region, and indeed the entire world.

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Veteran Intelligence Professionals Warn Obama on Syrian Intel

Despite the Obama administration’s supposedly “high confidence” regarding Syrian government guilt over the Aug. 21 chemical attack near Damascus, a dozen former U.S. military and intelligence officials are telling President Obama that they are picking up information that undercuts the Official Story.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Is Syria a Trap?
Precedence: IMMEDIATE

We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed because your advisers decided to afford you the opportunity for what is commonly known as “plausible denial.”

We have been down this road before – with President George W. Bush, to whom we addressed our first VIPS memorandum immediately after Colin Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 U.N. speech, in which he peddled fraudulent “intelligence” to support attacking Iraq. Then, also, we chose to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised.

The fraudulent nature of Powell’s speech was a no-brainer. And so, that very afternoon we strongly urged your predecessor to “widen the discussion beyond … the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” We offer you the same advice today.

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