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.
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.