September 25, 2015

Barack Obama has released the 20th 9/11 hijacker from Guantanamo Bay. I have no words for this.

(Via Instapundit.)

Believe nothing this woman says, ever

July 30, 2015

Despite reports to the contrary, Hillary Clinton is adamant that she never sent classified information over her illegal private server:

“I am confident I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” Clinton said. “What I think you’re seeing is a very typical kind of discussion to some extent, disagreement among various parts of the government over what should or what should not be publicly released.”

This story directly contradicts the Inspector General, who said the emails “were classified when they were sent and are classified now.

But now it gets worse:

Classified emails stored on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server contained information from multiple intelligence agencies in addition to data connected to the 2012 Benghazi attack, a source familiar with the investigation told Fox News.

The information came from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National-Geospatial Agency, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency, the source said.

It got so bad the intelligence community started cutting the State Department out of the loop:

The official responsible for overseeing the government’s security classification system, John Fitzpatrick, told McClatchy Newspapers that while reviewing four years of Clinton’s emails, intelligence agencies grew concerned that State Department officials were not guarding classified information in screening documents for public release.

The State Department actually posted one classified email in its entirety on a public website.

(Previous post.)

Why do bad things happen to good bureaucrats?

June 23, 2015

The director of the OPM says no one is responsible for the catastrophic OPM hack:

“Fox News has learned that the number of victims of a pair of massive cyberattacks on U.S. government personnel files has soared to at least 18 million — but the head of the hacked Office of Personnel Management refuses to blame anyone in her agency.

“I don’t believe anyone is personally responsible,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said Tuesday. . .

Grilled on whether anyone takes responsibility, Archuleta said only the perpetrators should be blamed. . .

Only the perpetrators should be blamed; the government has no responsibility to secure its data!

One good person to blame would be whoever thought it would be a good idea to give root access to the Chinese, but Archuleta’s remarks prove that the idiocy started at the top. Take a look at the White House announcement of her appointment. It contains not one word on any actual qualification that Archuleta had for the job. Let’s go through each paragraph:

  1. (The title) First Latina appointment
  2. First latina appointment; diversity and inclusion
  3. Workforce that reflects the population
  4. Diversity
  5. Political connections
  6. Political connections
  7. Trite meaningless praise, plus diversity

It’s clear what happened here: It’s only the Office of Personnel Management; what difference does it make who the director is? It’s the perfect place to appoint a minority with political connections.

Except that it did matter. Oops.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that the title isn’t really fair to bureaucrats. A typical bureaucrat at least has experience with bureaucracy, but there’s no evidence Archuleta even had that. A little slavish devotion to procedure might actually have helped here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Charlie Martin writes about how this kind of disaster goes about happening.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Archuleta’s complete lack of any qualifications for the job.

US now okay with negotiating with terrorists

June 23, 2015

It’s an official change in US government policy:

In a softening of longstanding policy, the Obama administration will tell families of Americans held by terror groups that they can communicate with captors and even pay ransom without fear of prosecution — part of a broad review of U.S. hostage guidelines that will be released Wednesday. . .

Two people familiar with the review said there will be no formal change to the law, which explicitly makes it a crime to provide money or other material support to terror organizations. However, the administration will make clear that the Justice Department has never prosecuted anyone for paying ransom and that that will continue to be the case.

POSTSCRIPT: And, of course, note how this was done; no change in the law, just an official announcement that the law will be ignored.


July 3, 2014

A White House panel appointed to approve President Obama’s domestic spying program has approved President Obama’s domestic spying program.

Obamacare malware

February 4, 2014

Just when you thought Obamacare’s woes couldn’t get any worse:

U.S. intelligence agencies last week urged the Obama administration to check its new health care network for malicious software after learning that developers linked to the Belarus government helped produce the website, raising fresh concerns that private data posted by millions of Americans will be compromised. . .

Specifically, officials warned that programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, were suspected of inserting malicious code that could be used for cyber attacks, according to U.S. officials familiar with the concerns.

It seems astonishing that they would have hired Belarusian developers to build the Obamacare exchanges, until you remember that Obamacare’s developers were chosen specifically for their ability to refuse a Congressional subpoena. Then it doesn’t seem so astonishing after all.

On some level it even seems appropriate, since Obamacare is basically a malware attack on the US health care system.

(Previous post.)

World of spycraft

December 21, 2013

The NSA has been spying on World of Warcraft:

The National Security Agency (NSA) and UK sister agency GCHQ sought to infiltrate the massive virtual worlds in online video games such as “World of Warcraft” and interactive environments like “Second Life,” according to the latest secret documents stolen by Edward Snowden and jointly released by the Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica.

According to a document titled “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments,” the secretive spy agencies were concerned by potential terrorist use of such games and felt an immediate need to begin analyzing in-game communications as early as 2007.

Why were they so concerned? Get this:

“[Certain] games offer realistic weapons training (what weapon to use against what target, what ranges can be achieved, even aiming and firing), military operations and tactics, photorealistic land navigation and terrain familiarization, and leadership skills,” the document notes.

Fortunately, this is just bad reporting. The NSA wasn’t really making a connection between World of Warcraft and realistic weapons training; they were talking about games like America’s Army. But then why the concern over a game in which the most realistic weapon is a Gnomish blunderbuss? I wonder if this was just an excuse to play games on company time.


August 28, 2013

Nearly a year before the Fort Hood massacre, in which Nidal Hasan murdered over a dozen soldiers at Ford Hood, Hasan corresponded with Anwar al-Awlaki, asking the Muslim cleric to sanction attacks on his fellow soldiers. The correspondence was known to the FBI at the time, but the FBI took no action.

Question: why do we even bother with surveillance, if we’re not going to act on it?

White House lied about Congressional briefing?

August 13, 2013

The Washington Post reports:

A white paper released by the White House on Friday argues that Congress knew exactly what it was approving [viz a viz NSA collection of telephone records] when it reauthorized the Patriot Act in 2011.

“Information concerning the use of Section 215 to . . . collect telephony metadata in bulk was made available to all Members of Congress,” the paper says. “Congress reauthorized Section 215 without change after this information was provided.”

But a leading administration critic has disputed that claim. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said he never saw a 2011 letter to Congress disclosing the existence of the phone records program. And neither did dozens of his colleagues.

The Justice Department sent the letter to the top Republican and the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. . . But in a Sunday Facebook post, Amash charged that “the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress.”

If that isn’t true, it should be easy for the White House to refute.

Clapper chosen to investigate Clapper

August 13, 2013

To investigate the NSA’s spying on Americans, President Obama appointed the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Clapper, of course, is best known for heading the intelligence apparatus as its misconduct was ongoing, and for lying about it to Congress. More precisely, Clapper was directed to name the investigating panel’s members, who would then report to him.

Perhaps seeing how absurd it is for Clapper to head the investigation of himself, the White House has already reversed itself. (See update here.) They now say the White House will name the members, and the panel will not report to Clapper, both of which are changes from the original mandate:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I am directing you to establish a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies … Within 60 days of its establishment, the Review Group will brief their interim findings to me through the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the Review Group will provide a final report and recommendations to me through the DNI no later than December 15, 2013.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)

Clapper was warned of question, still lied

July 12, 2013

People have tried to defend Obama administration intelligence chief James Clapper for lying to Congress, saying that Ron Wyden’s question on classified operations in an unclassified setting put him in an awkward situation. That seems to make some sense, until you learn that Clapper was warned of the question in advance. He also failed to avail himself of the opportunity to correct his statement after the fact.

In short, he lied, not because he wanted to keep the operation secret from the world, but because he wanted to keep it secret from Congress.

(Previous post.)

TSA reconsiders sensible policy

June 6, 2013

A few months ago, the TSA — perhaps by accident — proposed a sensible change in policy whereby small knives (think Swiss Army Knives) could be carried on planes. This makes good sense because (1) being able to hijack a plane using small knives required an extraordinary degree of passivity on the part of the passengers and crew, which won’t be the case post-9/11, and (2) actual terrorists and criminals will have no difficulty smuggling knives through security anyway.

Naturally, the TSA is reversing itself:

The Transportation Security Administration has abandoned a plan to let passengers carry small knives on planes, following a steady outcry from lawmakers and industry advocates.

Security theater.

UPDATE (7/13): Asiana flight 214 shows the potential cost of the no-knives policy. It’s not just a matter of convenience.

Security breaches are no big deal any more

June 6, 2013

Remember the Plame-Novak-Armitage affair, in which our media pretended they were outraged (outraged!) that someone might leak the name of a (nominally covert) intelligence employee to the press? Metric tons of ink were spent, there was a special prosecutor, there was even a movie.

What made that so hard to take was the rampant hypocrisy of the leftist media pretending they thought that exposing intelligence workers was a bad thing, when in fact they love to expose covert operations.

Now that the Bush administration is out of office, the media is back to not caring (or actively supporting) intelligence leaks. Thus, you won’t see much ink, a special prosecutor, or a movie on either of these stories:

It was the Obama administration that sealed the fate of the Pakistani doctor jailed for helping nail Usama Bin Laden, by divulging key details after the fact and dooming any chance Shakil Afridi’s cover story could win his freedom, according to a confidential Pakistani report.

When former Secretary of Defense and ex-CIA Director Leon Panetta publicly acknowledged Afridi’s role in the ruse which helped the CIA pinpoint Bin Laden’s presence in an Abbottabad compound, any chance that Pakistani authorities could help him get out of the country vanished, according to what some have called Pakistan’s version of the 9/11 Commission, a 357-page report from an independent body set up to probe the aftermath of the 2011 raid by Navy SEALs in which the Al Qaeda leader was killed.


Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.

Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight. . .

The leaked version of the report does not address whether Panetta knew Boal was present at the ceremony, held under a tent at the CIA complex on June 24, 2011. “Approximately 1,300” people from the military and the intelligence community were on hand for the event, according to a CIA press release issued the following week.

(Previous post.)

Keystone cops

May 21, 2013

This is just swell:

The U.S. Marshals Service lost two former participants in the federal Witness Security Program “identified as known or suspected terrorists,” according to the public summary of an interim Justice Department Inspector General’s report obtained by CNN.

Our own government is hiding terrorists among the American people, and they don’t even keep track of them?

But wait, there’s more:

The government allowed “a small but significant number” of terrorists into America’s witness protection program and then failed to provide the names of some of them for a watch list that’s used to keep dangerous people off airline flights, the Justice Department’s inspector general says.

Oh sure, let them fly. What could go wrong?

(Via Hot Air.)

Gov’t grievance with AP may not have been over public safety

May 17, 2013

The White House says it needed to spy on the Associated Press, because it needed to find out the source of a damaging leak. But the Washington Post looked at the affair and found that the leak wasn’t actually damaging, at least not to national security.

It turns out the AP agreed to hold its story until the danger had passed. What upset the administration so much is the AP refused to hold its story until after the White House had had a chance to brag about the bust:

For five days, reporters at the Associated Press had been sitting on a big scoop about a foiled al-Qaeda plot at the request of CIA officials. Then, in a hastily scheduled Monday morning meeting, the journalists were asked by agency officials to hold off on publishing the story for just one more day.

The CIA officials, who had initially cited national security concerns in an attempt to delay publication, no longer had those worries, according to individuals familiar with the exchange. Instead, the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.

AP balked and proceeded to publish that Monday afternoon.

(Emphasis mine.) The details are quite astonishing. After the AP had sat on the story for five days (and was asked to sit on it for a sixth day), the White House wouldn’t agree to let them have an exclusive for even one hour. The White House would let them have the exclusive for at most five minutes. Understandably, the AP told them to hell with that.

In light of that, the Justice Department’s action doesn’t sound at all like they were investigating a leak that put the public at risk. It sounds much more like retaliation for refusing to play ball.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)

Obama administration spied on AP

May 15, 2013

I have to say, I’m laughing my butt off over this:

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

After years of doing their level best to obscure and/or justify the misconduct of the Obama administration, the Associated Press got the Chicago Way treatment themselves. They’re horrified that the Obama administration could do such a thing. It’s almost enough to make one believe in karma.

As in every one of the administration’s dozen scandals, we’re told that no one in a position of authority knew anything about this. Clearly, the word has gone out throughout the administration that you can do anything you want (ship guns to drug cartels, persecute the Tea Party and pro-Israel organizations, manufacture propaganda at government expense, spy on reporters, etc.) provided you just don’t tell your superiors.

The administration says that its investigation of a leak regarding a foiled terrorist plot is important, because it directly compromised national security. Oh my goodness! A leak that compromised national security! It’s hard to imagine something so terrible could ever happen!

In fact, during the Bush administration there was a never-ending war of leaks against the administration, many of them extremely damaging. (Perhaps the worst was in 2006 when the New York Times and others exposed the details of the Treasury Department’s program to track terrorist finances, thereby making it possible for terrorists to move money undetected.) But did the Bush administration ever resort to this kind of spying on the press? Of course not.

Mugged by reality

July 16, 2012

Remember in 2007 when the Democrats tried to get to the right of Republicans on national security by demanding that all cargo entering the United States be scanned?

Lawmakers agreed Thursday to a goal of scanning all cargo-containing ships before they leave foreign ports as Congress neared a deal on a major security bill to carry out the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. In House-Senate negotiations on the bill, House and Senate Democrats pushed through a provision allowing a five-year window for radiation scanning technology to be put in place and giving the Homeland Security secretary authority to make exceptions. . .

The measure was part of the House bill that passed in January, but it was not included in the Senate version and is strongly opposed by the Bush administration, which said it was technically and economically unfeasible.

It was a worthy goal, but unfortunately an infeasible one. Still, that didn’t dissuade the Democrats; liberals are always reluctant to acknowledge the limitations of reality. Plus, it was great demagoguery.

Execution of the mandate fell to the Obama administration and the five-year deadline is about to expire. What happened? Well, well, well:

The Obama administration has failed to meet a legal deadline for scanning all shipping containers for radioactive material before they reach the United States, a requirement aimed at strengthening maritime security and preventing terrorists from smuggling a nuclear device into any of the nation’s 300 sea and river ports. . . The department’s secretary, Janet Napolitano, informed Congress in May that she was extending a two-year blanket exemption to foreign ports because the screening is proving too costly and cumbersome.

Too costly and cumbersome? Sounds a lot like “technically and economically unfeasible” to me.

Border Patrol directed to “run and hide”

July 15, 2012

Border enforcement has gone completely off the rails:

It’s one thing to tell civilian employees to cower under a desk if a gunman starts spraying fire in a confined area, say members of Tucson Local 2544/National Border Patrol Council, but to give armed law enforcement professionals the same advice is downright insulting. The instructions from DHS come in the form of pamphlets and a mandatory computer tutorial.

“We are now taught in an ‘Active Shooter’ course that if we encounter a shooter in a public place we are to ‘run away’ and ‘hide’” union leader Brandon Judd wrote on the website of 3,300-member union local. “If we are cornered by such a shooter we are to (only as a last resort) become ‘aggressive’ and ‘throw things’ at him or her. We are then advised to ‘call law enforcement’ and wait for their arrival (presumably, while more innocent victims are slaughtered).”


June 26, 2012

The Obama administration is getting serious about the leak investigation:

Officials at the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies will be given expanded polygraph tests under a new Obama administration directive aimed at stamping out national-security leaks.

Except it’s not, if this story is complete. There’s no indication here that White House officials will be getting the polygraph tests. Since we already know that the leaks are coming from the White House, this whole thing is a charade.


June 8, 2012

President Obama says it’s offensive to suggest that his administration is leaking classified information for political purposes.

To be sure, we have no evidence that the administration is behind the series of leaks. Just because there’s been a never-ending series of leaks that cast the administration in a good light doesn’t mean that the administration is necessarily responsible for them.

But, is it really so outrageous to speculate? This is an administration that allowed the ATF to traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to promote its domestic gun-control agenda. (Or, at least, that has never offered any alternative explanation.) It is not hard to believe that the same people might leak classified information for political purposes.

UPDATE: Alexander Kazam points out that the NYT story on Stuxnet includes a first-hand account from the White House situation room:

The culprit may not be a “White House official,” but the leaks came out of a White House meeting — directly from the president’s top national-security advisers. This is not some guy in the bowels of the State Department passing e-mails to Julian Assange; it is one degree removed from the president.

Perhaps not a White House official per se, but certainly a high administration official.

UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy points out that the same is true for other leaks:

The whole thing is a farce. . . TheTimes tells you who its sources are. At the very beginning of the 6300-word kill-list epic, it says: “In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of [Obama’s] current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.” The account goes on to quote, for example, former White House chief-of-staff Bill Daley, who not only confirms the existence of a kill-list but describes the considerations behind adding names to it. Current and former national security officials are quoted, in many instances by name (e.g., national security adviser Thomas Donilon and former national intelligence director Dennis Blair). And when names are not given, the Times quotes, for example, “one participant” in the approximately weekly meetings — videoconferences run by the Pentagon but involving national security officials across the administration — who describes some of the criteria for adding or removing terrorists from the kill-list.

The NYT told us everything except the leakers’ actual names. All of them are high-ranking administration figures. Moreover, Michael Ledeen adds that you can nearly always find the leaker:

“We always found the leaker(s),” he said, “but then nothing happened.”  Why?  “Because most of the time the leaker was so high-ranking that there was no desire to prosecute or punish.”

Bottom line: if no one is punished (for the leak itself — Ledeen also adds that a scapegoat is often picked who committed some ancillary offense), we know that the President either authorized the leak or chose to let it slide.

Loose lips sink ships

June 6, 2012

Democrats are upset about the latest leak of sensitive classified information:

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blasted leaks to the press about a cyberattack against Iran and warned the disclosure of President Obama’s order could put the United States at risk of a retaliatory strike. . .

Feinstein and Kerry, however, rejected charges from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that the leaks were made deliberately in an attempt to boost President Obama’s reelection bid. . . The White House has denied that it was an authorized leak.

I don’t know if it was an “authorized leak”, but this keeps happening. We blow the identity of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped us identify Osama bin Laden, and he goes to prison for 33 years. We leak the fact that we’ve infiltrated al Qaeda, and it blows the agent’s cover. (Plus, it turned out that the leak, to the extent that it credited US intelligence, wasn’t even accurate!)

I’m tired of debating each time whether the White House authorized the leak, or whether the leak — which cast the administration in a good light — was a lone wolf. It doesn’t matter. The White House’s acquiescence sends the message that this is acceptable. They need to make a very public effort to get to the bottom of it.

Compare the full-court press when the Valerie Plame’s identity was leaked to the press. That information was not closely held, and its leak wasn’t damaging, and the White House still launched an investigation that dogged it for years. Here we have a series of leaks that are actually damaging, and aside from a few remarks from Senate Democrats, it’s crickets.

UPDATE: The White House says it takes the leaks “very seriously”, but they won’t authorize a special prosecutor, or — as far as they are willing to say — any action at all. Well then.

(Previous post.)

Breaking news: terrorism is not a threat any more

April 20, 2012

The FBI has abruptly ceased sharing intelligence with state and local officials. I can’t fathom why they would do such a thing.

Homeland Security is complete!

December 26, 2011

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission spends homeland security money on sno-cone machines. I guess that means the homeland must be fully secure now.

(Via Instapundit.)

DHS adviser allegedly leaked information for political purposes

October 30, 2011

A member of the Homeland Security Department’s advisory council allegedly leaked sensitive information to the press in hopes of damaging Texas governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. A look at the guy, named Mohamed Elibiary, shows him to be exactly the sort of guy you might expect to do such a thing:

Elibiary’s history includes an appearance at a conference honoring Ayatollah Khomeini; condemning the Justice Department’s successful prosecution of a Hamas-financing conspiracy designed by the Muslim Brotherhood (the Holy Land Foundation case); praise for Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb; and an aggressive email exchange with [journalist] Rod Dreher . . . [in which he  warned Dreher]: “Treat people as inferiors and you can expect someone to put a banana in your exhaust pipe or something.”

This guy should never have been given access to sensitive information in the first place.

POSTSCRIPT: We’ll see whether the legacy media hyperventilates over this case they way they did over the allegation (ultimately proven false) that the Bush administration leaked a CIA agent’s name to punish her husband. Ha ha. Just kidding.

FBI: preppers are potential terrorists

August 15, 2011

I saw a FEMA billboard today, urging us to prepare for natural disasters. I didn’t get a picture, but it seems to be part of the same ad campaign as this.

It’s good advice. But, if you do it, you will mark yourself as a potential terrorist according to the FBI. According to an FBI bulletin, purchasing any of the following is “suspicious” and a “potential indicator[] of terrorist activities”: MREs (meals, ready to eat), weatherproofed ammunition or matches, flashlights, or full-capacity magazines.

Is the real terrorist threat gone, so that we can waste resources on imaginary ones now?

(Via Instapundit.)

Body scanners everywhere

March 25, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security is looking at using its hated body scanners outside the airport:

Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) on Wednesday published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies that EPIC believes raise serious privacy concerns. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports. . .

One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. In another program, the researchers were asked to develop a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet.

TSA responded to the Forbes story saying that they have no plans to test body scanners in mass transit environments, but that doesn’t explain why they are funding studies to do exactly that. (Forbes has the documents.) The answer might come from a loophole in TSA’s carefully worded denial: “TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.” This leaves open that a slightly different technology might be used.

But never mind that, it pales in comparison to the other part of the story: roving body-scanning vans. DHS vans would prowl the streets searching everyone, no warrants, no notification, no fuss.

Another great idea from the civil libertarians in the Obama administration.

Homeland Security punishes whistleblower

December 24, 2010

An airline pilot has been punished by the TSA for pointing out flaws in airport security:

The YouTube videos, posted Nov. 28, show what the pilot calls the irony of flight crews being forced to go through TSA screening while ground crew who service the aircraft are able to access secure areas simply by swiping a card.

“As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It’s only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here,” the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. “I would say a two-foot crash ax looks a lot more formidable than a box cutter,” the pilot remarked.

Security theater indeed.

UPDATE: What he said:

I don’t know what the point of this is, other than for the TSA to inform all of us that it does not like being shown up by mere airline pilots. . . In a sane world, of course, higher-ups at the TSA, and at the Department of Homeland Security would be forced to answer for the huge security lapses documented in the pilot’s video. But we do not live in a sane world.

The cost of anti-anti-terrorism

November 28, 2010

Take a look at this picture:

This crowd was attending a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Oregon, and it’s likely that every one of them would be dead if the anti-anti-terrorists on the left had had their way.

The event was the target of a bombing plot hatched by Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-born US citizen. After becoming radicalized, Mohamud contacted an Islamic terrorist group in Pakistan. The FBI became aware of their contacts, and contacted him, pretending to be associates of the Pakistani terrorists. The FBI gave him a nonfunctional bomb and arrested him after he tried to detonate it.

We haven’t been told exactly how the FBI became aware of Mohamud’s contacts with the Pakistani terrorists (and it’s good we haven’t), but it seems likely that the government intercepted their messages. Communications such as those, between foreign terrorists and Americans, are the ones we most need to know about. They are also the ones that the left feels strongly we shouldn’t listen to.

No one (well, almost no one) questions the government’s right (indeed responsibility) to capture the communications of foreign terrorists. However, many feel that whenever those terrorists receive a call from the United States, the government should stop listening until it obtains a warrant.

ASIDE: As I understand it, the law provided that the government could listen to communications between foreign powers and US citizens, but a legal gray area arose because Al Qaeda is not a foreign power. The Bush Administration contended that the authorization for military force, which effectively declared war against Al Qaeda, gave the president the authority to use any means against Al Qaeda (including wiretapping) that it would use against a nation-state with whom we are at war.

Fortunately, the terrorist surveillance program survived, albeit on a shorter leash. (Barack Obama voted against it 2007, but voted for it when it was renewed in 2008.) Which brings us to today. If the FBI had not learned of Mohamud’s efforts, it seems very likely he eventually would have made contact with real terrorists and probably would have succeeded in his plot.

Some earnestly feel that listening to conversations between foreign terrorists and persons inside America without a warrant constitutes an unacceptable breach of our civil rights. I can respect that, although I disagree. But let’s be clear about the cost: every one of the people in that photograph. And this is just one incident.

POSTSCRIPT: There’s one additional wrinkle in this story: The city of Portland voted in 2005 not to cooperate with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Portland is now reconsidering that decision, but even now they won’t admit they were wrong. Rather, the mayor says he feels better about it now that Obama is president. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: We’ve now seen the anti-anti-terrorists’ rebuttal. Astonishingly, they are blaming the FBI. They are saying that if the FBI hadn’t interfered, Mohamed Mohamud would have limited himself to writing angry letters to the editor or something.

This is delusional. Common sense should suffice to recognize that, but if not, we could read the actual story:

Mohamud also indicated he intended to become “operational,” meaning he wanted to put an explosion together but needed help. The two met again in August 2010 in a Portland hotel.

“During this meeting, Mohamud explained how he had been thinking of committing some form of violent jihad since the age of 15,” the affidavit says. “Mohamud then told (the FBI operatives) that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 26, 2010.”

The FBI operatives cautioned Mohamud several times about the seriousness of his plan, noting that there would be many people, including children, at the event, and that Mohamud could abandon his plans at any time with no shame.

“You know there’s going to be a lot of children there?” an FBI operative asked Mohamud. “You know there are gonna be a lot of children there?”

Mohamud allegedly responded he was looking for a “huge mass that will … be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.”

To summarize: Mohamud hatched the plot himself, and was only looking for a bomb to set off. The FBI tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined.


November 22, 2010

John Yoo, in commenting on the Ghailani debacle, mentions something I had not known before:

In the middle of a hot war, though, releasing intelligence can be disastrous, because it informs the enemy of our knowledge, capabilities and intentions. That’s what happened when federal prosecutors tried the plotters of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in civilian court. Al Qaeda learned which individuals the U.S. suspected of being in its organization, so it had an enormous intelligence advantage in planning future plots.

Good thinking

November 22, 2010

The TSA chief disregarded advice to “get out ahead” of the controversy over the TSA’s new invasive screening procedures, deciding it would be better to spring them on the public without warning. He explained:

Doing so would have provided a “roadmap or blueprint for terrorists” to avoid detection by using other airports where the new technology wasn’t in place, Pistole said.

Rather than publicize the changes, Pistole said he made a “risk-based” decision to roll it out first and “try to educate the public after we did that.”

Which might have made sense, if their screening were actual security, rather than security theater. If they actually wanted to catch terrorists, they would look at what the Israelis do. Problem is, the Israelis do psychological profiling, and any process with the word “profiling” in it probably won’t pass political correctness.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: More on how the Israelis do security.

(Previous post.)

TSA pat-downs will cost lives

November 21, 2010

The Hill reports:

The recent public ire toward the TSA’s new pat-down and body imaging screening methods is likely to cause more people to drive automobiles and forego airline travel, say two transportation economists who have studied the issue. . .

“Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane,” said Horwitz. “The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: According to a Cornell University study, the TSA’s old inconveniences (far less intrusive than what they’re doing now) resulted in 520 deaths per year of people that chose not to fly. That’s four full 737s.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)

Napolitano defends body scanners

November 19, 2010

In an op-ed for USA Today, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the controversial body scanners:

Rigorous privacy safeguards are also in place to protect the traveling public. All images generated by imaging technology are viewed in a walled-off location not visible to the public. The officer assisting the passenger never sees the image, and the officer viewing the image never interacts with the passenger. The imaging technology that we use cannot store, export, print or transmit images.

(Emphasis mine.) The last part, at least, is not true. In fact, the TSA requires its machines to have the capability to retain and export images. According to the TSA, that capability is used only for training, and is disabled before the machines are delivered to airports.

Should we believe them? Well, there’s good reason for skepticism. The US Marshals Service has admitted that it surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of body scanner images. Frankly, the Marshals Service is a much more professional operation than the TSA. Moreover, the fact that the Secretary is (at least) misleading the public about the capabilities of its technology does not inspire confidence.

All of this might be tolerable if the machines and the pat-downs were stopping terrorists, but there’s no reason to believe that. As Glenn Reynolds puts it, the whole process is security theater, not security.

EU is anti-anti-terror

November 13, 2010

The European Union is working to prevent the United States from using reservation data to screen air travelers for potential terrorists. They are actually making diplomatic efforts to keep third parties (notably Pakistan) from giving the United States the information we need. And they are doing so in violation of a written promise not to do so.

This is an outrage.

Would-be domestic terrorist busted

October 23, 2010

The FBI has busted the man responsible for death threats against South Park writers, and other plots. From the press release:

Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Fairfax County, Va., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady to a three-count criminal information that included charges of communicating threats against the writers of the South Park television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and attempting to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization. . .

According to court documents filed with his plea agreement, Chesser maintained several online profiles dedicated to extremist jihad propaganda. Today, Chesser pleaded guilty to taking repeated steps in April 2010 to encourage violent jihadists to attack the writers of South Park for their depiction of Muhammad, including highlighting their residence and urging online readers to “pay them a visit.” Among the steps he took was posting on multiple occasions speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, which explained the Islamic justification for killing those who insult or defame Muhammad. Al-Awlaki was designated by the United States as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” on July 12, 2010.

Chesser also admitted that in May 2010, he posted to a jihadist website the personal contact information of individuals who had joined the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” group on Facebook, with the prompting that this is, “Just a place to start.”

Chesser also pleaded guilty to soliciting others to desensitize law enforcement by placing suspicious-looking but innocent packages in public places. Chesser explained through a posting online that once law enforcement was desensitized, a real explosive could be used. Chesser ended the posting with the words, “Boom! No more kuffar.” According to court documents, “kuffar” means unbeliever, or disbeliever.

(Via BoingBoing.)

Our administration’s approach to national security

September 30, 2010

Purely political, according to Bob Woodward’s new book:

During a daily intelligence briefing in May 2009, [national intelligence director Dennis] Blair warned the president that radicals with American and European passports were being trained in Pakistan to attack their homelands. [White House chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel afterward chastised him, saying, “You’re just trying to put this on us so it’s not your fault.”

To these guys, It’s not about protecting America. It’s about who the blame lands on.

A modest proposal

September 29, 2010

Scott Johnson has a post on the plight of Molly Norris, who had the idea for “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” and is now in hiding after a fatwa issued by Anwar al-Awlaki, the Al Qaeda imam.

With this sort of thing happening all the more often, I have a modest proposal. The US government should create a program to protect individuals who get Islamist death threats as a result of their free speech. This would be a concrete step that our government could take to defend free speech, and defending our rights is a core function of the government.

Our unserious government

September 29, 2010

A Hamas operative was given a tour of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Terror taxonomy

September 20, 2010

An informative breakdown of terrorism in Europe:


July 22, 2010

Strong evidence that someone is plotting a cyber attack on the power grid.

US still has no interrogation capacity

May 12, 2010

Over a year after President Obama disbanded the CIA’s interrogation program, we still have nothing to replace it:

In February 2009, after two wars and years of confusion over the best way to interrogate a terrorist, the U.S. created a special unit called the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) to relearn how to get critical information from suspects in custody.

Fifteen months later and in the wake of the failed car-bombing in Times Square, the question now is: where are they?

The HIG was supposed to bring together all that the U.S. had learned about getting prisoners to talk, the intent being to make the nation’s intelligence sector more effective. Based on a recommendation by a fact-finding intelligence panel, it was to be an interagency group staffed by the best interrogators in government — with broad powers to travel and decide interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis.

More importantly, the HIG was to report directly to the National Security Council — ending a longtime bureaucratic war between the CIA and the FBI over who would control interrogations, a battle that had damaged intelligence operations.

Now, after a rocky start, sources say the secretive unit is almost up and running. But just how functional it is remains a matter of some dispute.

Five months ago, after the Christmas Day arrest in Detroit of the alleged “underwear bomber” Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, intelligence watchers were stunned to learn that the HIG not only didn’t participate in his interrogation, but it was not yet operational. And now, despite reports that the HIG has been involved in the Times Square bombing case, intelligence sources say it is still a work in progress.

(Emphasis mine.)

Marc Thiessen’s book explains how dangerous and inexcusable the administration’s failure is.

Holder proposes revising Miranda

May 9, 2010

I don’t usually play the Imagine-if-a-Republican-had-said-it game, because frankly it’s usually just too obvious. But occasionally something really stands out: Can you imagine the outcry if a Republican had proposed revising Miranda?!

Attorney General Eric Holder said that Congress should “give serious consideration” to updating the Miranda warning which requires law enforcement officials to inform suspects of their rights – including the right to remain silent.

In an interview on “This Week,” Holder said that the U.S. needs to exam whether the current rules regarding Miranda warnings give law enforcement agents the “necessary flexibility” when dealing with terrorism cases.

Holder’s proposal is both right and wrong. I think it’s right to revise Miranda, because it goes much too far. For example, under Miranda, if you fail to read a suspect his rights, it’s assumed he doesn’t know them and any questioning is assumed coercive, even if that suspect is, say, a criminal law professor. That’s just silly.

But that’s an argument for revising Miranda in general. Revising it in the manner that Holder seems to be proposing is a very bad idea. Law enforcement personnel should not be able to set aside constitutional rights (and that’s what we’re assuming Miranda is, if we aren’t willing to revise it in general) in certain sorts of cases. That’s the sort of reasoning we see in the UK, where Parliament has been whittling away citizens’ rights to the point where they have hardly any left.

We can obtain the information we need while protecting the integrity of law enforcement by recognizing that there are two different sorts of agents: law enforcement and intelligence. Law enforcement abides by rules to ensure that the rights of suspects in civilian court are not violated. Intelligence obtains the information we need to protect the country, but that information might not be admissible in civilian court.

When the terrorist in question is a US citizen (such as Shahzad), there are still some problems, to be sure. These are matters that Congress needs to take seriously and try to craft a solution to. One idea would be to establish a “Chinese wall” between intelligence and law enforcement in such cases to prevent the proceeds of interrogation from tainting a prosecution. But we have to concede that we might sometimes have to forgo prosecution in order to protect innocent lives.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration can’t contemplate a course such as this, because they are fully invested in applying the law enforcement paradigm to terror cases. Holder’s own proposal implicitly acknowledges that the law enforcement approach is inappropriate for terror cases, but unfortunately he is compounding the problem by compromising the integrity of law enforcement rather than reversing his fundamental error.

(Via Instapundit.)

Well that explains it

May 5, 2010

Some have wondered Faisal Shahzad managed to board a plane for Dubai after he was placed on the no-fly list. Apparently Emirates never checked the no-fly list.

There need to be some repercussions for Emirates failing to follow the most basic security protocols. I wonder if there will be.