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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

No, massive data collection did not stop Danish terror plot

Raw Story - Key anecdote to defend NSA data gathering is full of holes
Pro Publica: Defending a vast program to sweep up phone and Internet data under antiterror laws, senior U.S. officials in recent days have cited the case of David Coleman Headley, a key plotter in the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said a data collection program by the National Security Agency helped stop an attack on a Danish newspaper for which Headley did surveillance. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Senate intelligence chairwoman, also called Headley’s capture a success.

But a closer examination of the case, drawn from extensive reporting by ProPublica, shows that the government surveillance only caught up with Headley after the U.S. had been tipped by British intelligence. And even that victory came after seven years in which U.S. intelligence failed to stop Headley as he roamed the globe on missions for Islamic terror networks and Pakistan’s spy agency.

Supporters of the sweeping U.S. surveillance effort say it’s needed to build a haystack of information in which to find a needle that will stop a terrorist. In Headley’s case, however, it appears the U.S. was handed the needle first 2014 and then deployed surveillance that led to the arrest and prosecution of Headley and other plotters.
So basically, US authorities were tipped off that something was up — and then the surveillance began. So pretty much what you think of when you think of ordinary, everyday criminal surveillance. It wasn’t spying or snooping or data-mining, it was police work. You know, the old-fashoned kind law enforcement that supposedly can’t possibly deal with modern terrorist threats, because terrorists are magic or something.

And how few and far between must NSA success stories be that they’d have to exaggerate one like this to justify PRISM? If there were plenty of defeated terrorist plots out there, they wouldn’t have to pad this story to supply one. From a logical standpoint, the lie weakens their case — it doesn’t strengthen it.

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