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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

No, embassy closings do not prove that massive NSA data collection is necessary

Electronic wiretap equipment
As US embassies and consulates close in the middle east and Africa, surveillance hawks are using the news to promote their favorite spy program.

CBS News: Lawmakers used the government’s early warning of a terrorist threat to defend the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance programs on Sunday, saying the threat — which some have described as among the most serious since 9/11 — might not have been detected without the government’s aggressive intelligence-gathering tools.

Sources tell CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that intelligence officials learned about the threat, in part, as a result of “intercepts" of terrorist chatter that indicate that the operation is in “the final stages" and “it could be big."


For [supporters of NSA data-mining], the plot is proof-positive of the need to preserve the embattled surveillance programs. “The NSA program is proving its worth yet again," declared Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on CNN. The hawkish Republican said that al Qaeda is “on the rise" across the Middle East and North Africa, warning that America risks another 9/11 by disengaging.
OK, so here’s the problem: the NSA data collection that Edward Snowden blew the whistle on is data from the US to foreign sources of vice versa. That’s what everyone’s all worked up about and I can say without hesitation that this data collection had jack-all to do with the embassy closures. According to the Telegraph, “US intelligence picked up on messages in which Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, ordered Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of its Yemen branch, to carry out an attack."

Yemen in not in the United States and if Ayman al-Zawahiri were here, I’d hope we’d be doing one helluva lot more than tapping his phone at the Motel 6. So the NSA program that Graham is praising didn’t bring the intel on the threat to embassies in the Muslim world. It couldn’t possibly have. He’s just cynically and dishonestly trying to shore up public opinion for the program by appealing to people’s fears. And he’s not the only one; Rep. Peter King and Sen. Saxby Chambliss joined in, as well as Democrats Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Unfortunately, that’s what we’ve come to expect from security hawks; fearmongering and propagandizing, rather than making a legitimate logical argument for their position. That’s the neocon way, after all, and it shows the weakness of their argument. If your position is good, you don’t need to lie about it.

[photo via misterphisch]

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