Arlington VA June 18, 2013
In a morning hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, General Keith Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency, and the Commander, US CYBER Command, together with representatives of the Justice Department and the FBI explained further PRISM and the rest of the eavesdropping program at NSA.
The hearing was a fantastic insight into the working of the intelligence community, and the examples provided on the use of the Section 215, and Section 704 data collected under the Patriot Act, should have greatly dispelled the notions of a 'big brother' overhearing our every word -- to all, that is, except the ardent conspiracy theorists.
General Alexander is a very believable witness; credible, and, I believe, honest to a fault. Where the conversations tended toward classified data, he offered to respond in other modes. Perhaps the most telling comment was that, in his, view, September 11th 2001 might have been averted with these systems in place. I agree, for what that is worth.
I wish i could be more positive about the Justice Department and the FBI. Deputy Attorney General Cole did a good job of explaining the law -- his boss Hoilder should have been at the hearing himself. With regard to the FBI Deputy Joyce, it is really hard to accept anything from that agency these days.
My one outstanding question, and one I wish had been answered directly, instead of in circumspect, by the FBI, was, with regard to the Boston bombings, why the FBI did not actively pursue use of these tools to know about the bombers. The Russian Government gave them the information through diplomatic channels. The FBI did a cursory review, but not a formal investigation, where PRISM and other tools could have uncovered the connections between the two bombers, their friends, and others in Chechnya, as the Russians told them they would. Instead, we had a major terrorist act committed, which, in my view, could have been avoided. Someone needs to ask hard questions of the FBI, and get more thant the insulting testimony provided a week ago by Director Mueller.
Let's hope that this latest 'scandal' gets behind us. A lot of it could have been avoided by simply stating the ctruth up front, and not denying the existence of perfectly valid investigatory and intelligence-gathering tools, which, from where I sit, only do damage to those who try to damage us.