Custom Search

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What size shoe phone do you wear, sir?

Americans love spies.

That's right. We do.

Americans have a love affair with espionage. We love spies. Bauer, Bond, Flint (for those of you old enough to remember him), Ryan, Bourne.

Maxwell Smart.

We watch movies, we watch television, we read books.

Suddenly we're armchair intel and counter intel masters.

We're also armchair quarterbacks for football, armchair managers for baseball teams, armchair coaches for basketball teams, and armchair referees/umpires for all three of the afore mentioned.

That's the problem with too many Americans. The armchair. We sit in them sponging in whatever is on the idiot box and thinking we're better at strategy on the field than Peyton Manning, smarter than the President (um, ok, I might be tempted to give you that one some days), and more cunning than Robin Hood (the Flynn version, Costner was good, but he wasn't as swashbuckling).

I have a point here, and it is this. The average American is woefully inadequate for the field of espionage. We take what we are spoon fed by the dinosaur media every night and think that we are better qualified to interpret policy issues based on biased coverage of what is going on overseas rather than relying on those who make careers out of interpreting data and information.

The following is from an interview with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell.

Transcript: Debate on the foreign intelligence surveillance act
By Chris Roberts / ©El Paso Times
Article Launched: 08/22/2007 01:05:57 AM MDT

The following is the transcript of a question and answer session with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell.
Question: How much has President Bush or members of his administration formed your response to the FISA debate?

Answer: Not at all. When I came back in, remember my previous assignment was director of the NSA, so this was an area I have known a little bit about. So I came back in. I was nominated the first week of January. The administration had made a decision to put the terrorist surveillance program into the FISA court. I think that happened the 7th of Jan. So as I come in the door and I'm prepping for the hearings, this sort of all happened. So the first thing I want to know is what's this program and what's the background and I was pretty surprised at what I learned. First off, the issue was the technology had changed and we had worked ourselves into a position that we were focusing on foreign terrorist communications, and this was a terrorist foreigner in a foreign country. The issue was international communications are on a wire so all of a sudden we were in a position because of the wording in the law that we had to have a warrant to do that. So the most important thing to capture is that it's a foreigner in a foreign country, required to get a warrant. Now if it were wireless, we would not be required to get a warrant. Plus we were limited in what we were doing to terrorism only and the last time I checked we had a mission called foreign
intelligence, which should be construed to mean anything of a foreign intelligence interest, North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, military development and it goes on and on and on. So when I engaged with the administration, I said we've gotten ourselves into a position here where we need to clarify, so the FISA issue had been debated and legislation had been passed in the house in 2006, did not pass the Senate. Two bills were introduced in the Senate, I don't know if it was co-sponsorship or two different bills, but Sen. (Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.) had a bill and Sen. Specter had a bill and it may have been the same bill, I don't know, but the point is a lot of debate, a lot of dialogue. So, it was submitted to the FISA court and the first ruling in the FISA court was what we needed to do we could do with an approval process that was at a summary level and that was OK, we stayed in business and we're doing our mission. Well in the FISA process, you may or may not be aware ...

Q: When you say summary level, do you mean the FISA court?

A: The FISA court. The FISA court ruled presented the program to them and they said the program is what you say it is and it's appropriate and it's legitimate, it's not an issue and was had approval. But the FISA process has a renewal. It comes up every so many days and there are 11 FISA judges. So the second judge looked at the same data and said well wait a minute I interpret the law, which is the FISA law, differently. And it came down to, if it's on a wire and it's foreign in a foreign country, you have to have a warrant and so we found ourselves in a position of actually losing ground because it was the first review was less capability, we got a stay and that took us to the 31st of May. After the 31st of May we were in extremis because now we have significantly less capability. And meantime, the community, before I came back, had been working on a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorist threat to the homeland. And the key elements of the terrorist threat to the homeland, there were four key elements, a resilient determined adversary with senior leadership willing to die for the cause, requiring a place to train and develop, think of it as safe haven, they had discovered that in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now the Pakistani government is pushing and pressing and attempting to do something about it, but by and large they have areas of safe haven. So leadership that can adapt, safe haven, intermediate leadership, these are think of them as trainers, facilitators, operational control guys. And the fourth part is recruits. They have them, they've taken them. This area is referred to as the FATA, federally administered tribal areas, they have the recruits and now the objective is to get them into the United States for mass casualties to conduct terrorist operations to achieve mass casualties. All of those four parts have been carried out except the fourth. They have em, but they haven't been successful. One of the major tools for us to keep them out is the FISA program, a significant tool and we're going the wrong direction. So, for me it was extremis to start talking not only to the administration, but to members of the hill. So from June until the bill was passed, I think I talked to probably 260 members, senators and congressmen. We submitted the bill in April, had an open hearing 1 May, we had a closed hearing in May, I don't remember the exact date. Chairman (U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas) had two hearings and I had a chance to brief the judiciary committee in the house, the intelligence committee in the house and I just mentioned the Senate, did not brief the full judiciary committee in the Senate, but I did meet with Sen. (Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.) and Sen. (Arlen Specter, R-Pa.), and I did have an opportunity on the Senate side, they have a tradition there of every quarter they invite the director of national intelligence in to talk to them update them on topics of interest. And that happened in (June 27). Well what they wanted to hear about was Iraq and Afghanistan and for whatever reason, I'm giving them my review and they ask questions in the order in which they arrive in the room. The second question was on FISA, so it gave me an opportunity to, here I am worrying about this problem and I have 41 senators and I said several things. The current threat is increasing, I'm worried about it. Our capability is decreasing and let me explain the problem.

Q: Can't you get the warrant after the fact?

A: The issue is volume and time. Think about foreign intelligence. What it presented me with an opportunity is to make the case for something current, but what I was really also trying to put a strong emphasis on is the need to do foreign intelligence in any context. My argument was that the intelligence community should not be restricted when we are conducting foreign surveillance against a foreigner in a foreign country, just by dint of the fact that it happened to touch a wire. We haven't done that in wireless for years.

Read the entire article here.

How many of us out there knew even a small percentage of that? I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable in matters of intelligence and what not, and I learned quite a bit in reading that interview.

Think about that, folks, next time the dinosaur media starts telling you what to think in their oh so subtle (not) ways.

Meanwhile, I've gotta run for now.

My shoe phone is ringing...

Once and Always, an American Fighting Man