A few days ago, former NSA officials associated with the organization Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) produced a scathing review of the NSA and its misdeeds before and since 9/11. They addressed it to President Obama, in the hope that it might make its way through the official ‘filters’ and reach his desk in time for consideration before reforms are made to the US intelligence system. Here are a few extracts.
It comes to us as no surprise that there is strong resistance on the part of the Establishment when it comes to giving us a hearing – a shunning of the very people who know what happened and how to take steps to prevent it from happening again.
. . .
Now, once again the voices of seasoned intelligence professionals are being muted, in favor of a closed group of officials with huge incentive to cover up their failure to keep America safe and their playing fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment.
. . .
“Hiding the worst: In December 2001, Senator Saxby Chambliss, chair of a House Subcommittee on Homeland Security announced a preliminary investigation into 9/11. At a SIGINT Leadership Team meeting in February 2002, SIGINT chief Maureen Baginski directed me to lead a NSA Statement-for-the-Record effort for a closed-door hearing scheduled by Sen. Chambliss for early March to discuss what NSA knew about the 9/11 hijackers and their plotting before 9/11.
“As indicated above, the highly embarrassing answer was that NSA knew a great deal, but had not shared what it knew outside of NSA.
“After a couple of weeks Baginski rejected my draft team Statement for the Record report and removed me from the task. When I asked her why, she said there was a ‘data integrity problem’ (not further explained) with my draft Statement for the Record. I had come upon additional damaging revelations. For example, NSA had the content of telephone calls between AA-77 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar in San Diego, CA, and the known al-Qaeda safe house switchboard in Yemen well before 9/11, and had not disseminated that information beyond NSA.
“In short, when confronted with the prospect of fessing up, NSA chose instead to obstruct the 9/11 congressional investigation, play dumb, and keep the truth buried, including the fact that it knew about all inbound and outbound calls to the safe house switchboard in Yemen. NSA’s senior leaders took me off the task because they realized – belatedly, for some reason – that I would not take part in covering up the truth about how much NSA knew but did not share.
“When the 9/11 Commission hearings began, Director Hayden chortled at executive staff meetings over the fact that the FBI and CIA were feeling the heat for not having prevented 9/11. This was particularly difficult for me to sit through, for I was aware that NSA had been able to cover up its own culpability by keeping investigators, committees, and commissions away from the truth.”
. . .
It should now be clear, for those who can handle the truth, that the problems at NSA run deep – in terms of effectiveness, integrity and respect for the Constitution. By withholding information and exploiting secrecy, NSA’s leaders past and present have pulled off an unparalleled coup in concealing the sad reality that NSA could have prevented 9/11 and didn’t. And Schadenfreude chortling by leaders at the top regarding the demonstrated bureaucratic advantages and success of such dishonesty has a tendency to be heard down through the ranks, corrupting even dedicated workers.
There’s more at the link.
I urge you to read the full document. It’s profoundly important. I’m aware that VIPS is a controversial organization, regarded by some as being more of a political pressure group than what its title would suggest: but that’s besides the point right now. If the allegations contained in this open letter to the President are correct, the entire nation – including our entire legislative branch – has been hornswoggled by the bureaucrats of the NSA. That needs to be investigated, the truth uncovered, and action taken to ensure that the guilty are punished and their misdeeds undone.
A few weeks ago I said of the NSA:
The fox wants to not only guard the henhouse, but draw up its plans and supervise its construction as well, in order to make stealing the chickens that much easier … It’s the hallmark of an agency that considers its mission more important than the constitution and laws of the United States. I can think of only one adequate remedy – complete and total dismantling of the agency. Its important work must be continued, but under new leadership in a radically overhauled structure. All those who’ve not merely acquiesced in, but engineered this utter disregard for the privacy of citizens and their constitutional rights must be dismissed from government service of any kind, and never again permitted to exercise authority over others in any administrative or executive capacity. They’ve fouled their own nest so irretrievably with their catastrophic indifference to law and rights that they’re no longer a national asset, but a liability – an albatross around America’s neck.
I’ve seen nothing since then to make me change my mind – indeed, quite the contrary. Consider these articles, which are well worth reading:
Neither article is unduly alarmist, IMHO. Their assessments are sober and realistic.
Right now, on the basis of its reported behavior, arrogance, and wanton disregard for the constitution and laws of the United States, I’d go so far as to say that the NSA is as much of a danger to our national security as is Al Qaeda – in a different way, to be sure, but no less threatening.