Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oops, Sorry: FBI E-Mail Snooping "A Technical Glitch"

Today's New York Times reports that the FBI's Engineering Research Facility (ERF) gained access to e-mail messages from an entire computer network rather than the single e-mail address approved by the secretive FISA court.

Under color of a "national security investigation" the incident was described as "a technical glitch" and "apparent miscommunication" with an unnamed internet provider.

Doubtless the guilty party is one of the telecom giants seeking retroactive immunity via BushCo's "Protect America Act" -- an onerous piece of corporatist flotsam solely designed to alleviate industry anxieties that outraged citizens would actually defend their rights through the courts.

Claiming that Bureau spies noticed a "surge" in the e-mail activity they were monitoring, the FBI alleges the provider "had mistakenly set its filtering equipment to trap far more data than a judge had actually authorized."

Times' reporter Eric Lichtblau avers,

The episode is an unusual example of what has become a regular if little-noticed occurrence, as American officials have expanded their technological tools: government officials, or the private companies they rely on for surveillance operations, sometimes foul up their instructions about what they can and cannot collect.

The problem has received no discussion as part of the fierce debate in Congress about whether to expand the government's wiretapping authorities and give legal immunity to private telecommunications companies that have helped in those operations.

Nor would we expect there to be any "discussion," let alone a "fierce debate" in Congress when it comes to protecting Americans' fourth amendment rights. Treated as mere "technical glitches" best left to "experts," our masters demand we change the channel and move along.

But we will not "move along" as we reflect here on earlier examples of FBI "technical glitches" -- or worse -- that led directly to the 9/11 attacks; the alleged trigger for the imposition of the Bush crime family's police state agenda and the "retroactive immunity" granted their Saudi and capitalist paramours:

From the Center for Cooperative Research's Complete 9/11 Timeline:

January 15-Early February 2000: Suspected Advance Man Helps 9/11 Hijackers Settle in San Diego
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar arrive in Los Angeles and stay there for two weeks. Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected al-Qaeda advance man and possible Saudi agent, arrives in Los Angeles and visits the Saudi Consulate there. According to Newsweek, "Law-enforcement officials believe al-Bayoumi may [have] a closed-door meeting with Fahad al Thumairy, a member of the consulate's Islamic and Culture Affairs Section." [NEWSWEEK, 7/28/2003] (In March 2003, al Thumairy is stripped of his diplomatic visa and barred from entry to the US, reportedly because of suspected links to terrorism. [WASHINGTON POST, 11/23/2003]

The FBI's "best source" in San Diego says that al-Bayoumi "must be an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power." A former top FBI official working on the al-Bayoumi investigation claims: "We firmly believed that he had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them that day was more than coincidence." [NEWSWEEK, 7/28/2003]

Former senator Bob Graham (D-FL), whose Congressional investigation was blocked by the Bush regime and the FBI to protect "ally" Saudi Arabia, informs us:

The FBI did not even canvass its own counterterrorism sources, among whom was the informant in San Diego who knew both of the men [Alhazmi and Almihdhar] and had housed one of them. Had the Bureau simply sent a directive to all its field offices, telling them to check the two names with their sources, it is quite possible they would have come across vital information and been able to interdict the attack. Thus was lost the twelfth such opportunity. (Intelligence Matters, New York: Random House, 2004, p. 75) [emphasis added]

Was an electronic "driftnet" necessary prior to 9/11? After all, a Bureau mole had penetrated the plot and yet, the FBI failed to act. Why?

Investigative journalists Greg Palast and David Pallister writing in The Guardian tell us:

FBI and military intelligence officials in Washington say they were prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family in the US before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

FBI documents shown on BBC Newsnight last night and obtained by the Guardian show that they had earlier sought to investigate two of Osama bin Laden's relatives in Washington and a Muslim organisation, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), with which they were linked.

The FBI file, marked Secret and coded 199, which means a case involving national security, records that Abdullah bin Laden, who lived in Washington, had originally had a file opened on him "because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth -- a suspected terrorist organisation".

But the FBI files were closed in 1996 apparently before any conclusions could be reached on either the Bin Laden brothers or the organisation itself. High-placed intelligence sources in Washington told the Guardian this week: "There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis".

They said the restrictions became worse after the Bush administration took over this year. The intelligence agencies had been told to "back off" from investigations involving other members of the Bin Laden family, the Saudi royals, and possible Saudi links to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan.

"There were particular investigations that were effectively killed." ("FBI claims Bin Laden inquiry was frustrated. Officials told to 'back off' Saudis before September 11," The Guardian, November 7, 2001)

I could continue with this line of inquiry but I think my point is clear. There were political reasons why pre-9/11 investigations were halted at the highest levels and they had nothing to do with preparing the ground for any alleged "inside job."

For reasons of state (read: unlimited profits for the oil multinationals and preparations for the coming invasion of Iraq) the gangsters occupying the White House could care less whether or not the Afghan-Arab database al-Qaeda would attack the American people. Why would they?

Before 9/11, the U.S. and NATO were utilizing their intelligence assets in the Balkans, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Bosnian al-Mujahid Brigade, as well as criminal syndicates and dodgy charities funded by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- allied with al-Qaeda and international drug trafficking networks -- for offensive action against neighboring Macedonia.

Is it any different today? The national security state's "Protect America Act" is an oxymoronic exercise in deceit and mendacity by propaganda specialists well-schooled in the black arts of deception. Commenting on the "unintentional" error on the part of its internet spies, FBI spokesman Michael Kortan told The New York Times, "The system worked exactly the way it's designed."

I couldn't agree more.

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