Category Archives: homeland security

Do You Feel Safe Yet?

DHSA few days after the deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris, the Obama Administration vigorously defended its refugee screening process as “rigorous and safe.”

Nothing like this could happen here in the United States, right?

Until it did.

Not even a month later, two terrorists went on a shooting spree in San Bernardino. At the time (and now as well) we blogged that the attack was likely a case of premature detonation – that a bigger attack was planned, and that the two Islamists went on an early shooting spree after the male lost his temper at an office party.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if a bigger attack was planned, although if we were correct, we were lucky in that we avoided a lot more carnage, because Syed Farook couldn’t keep his temper in check. But what does matter is that the Administration’s assertions about its refugee screening process being “rigorous and safe” is apparently nonsense.

On December 16 – a couple of weeks after the San Bernardino attack – the Hill ran a column by a retired Department of Homeland Security explained how that same screening process failed the San Bernardino victims and failed America.

Philip Haney was a targeter at DHS who worked to identify terrorist networks and “connect the dots” between lesser known groups and individuals moving about and operating freely in the United States. He and his colleagues focused on individuals, mosques, Islamic Centers and schools involved in radicalization efforts – mosques such as the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah Mosque in San Bernardino where Farook worshiped and was well-known to the congregation and leadership. And probably mosques such as the infamous Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, located just a couple of miles from my house, where the thankfully droned into oblivion Anwar al-Awlaki spewed his poison.

Haney had these types of groups in his sights, including the Islamist group al-Huda.

Another focus of my investigation was the Pakistani women’s Islamist group al-Huda, which counted Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, as a student. While the al-Huda International Welfare Foundation distanced themselves from the actions of their former pupil, Malik’s classmates told the Daily Mail she changed significantly while studying at al-Huda, gradually becoming “more serious and strict.” More ominously, the group’s presence in the U.S. and Canada is not without its other ties to ISIS and terrorism. In 2014, three recent former students at al-Huda’s affiliate school in Canada, aged 15 to 18, left their homes to join the Islamic State in Syria.

Haney says between Farook’s involvement with the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah Mosque in San Bernardino and Malik’s involvement with al-Huda, the dots would have been connected, and additional scrutiny would have at the very least been indicated; maybe it would have led to a denial of Malik’s K-1 visa, or even gotten Farook placed on the No Fly list, perhaps in time to stop the attack, but that was not to be.

DHS shut down the investigation at the request of the Department of State and DHS’ own Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division. They claimed that since the Islamist groups in question were not Specially Designated Terrorist Organizations (SDTOs) tracking individuals related to these groups was a violation of the travelers’ civil liberties.

Islamist groups, who need to be thoroughly investigated before being placed on the list, were barred from investigation because they’re not on the list. Well, that makes all the sense in the world.

Do you feel safe yet?

Worse yet, DHS went back and deleted all the records of Haney’s investigation, and after the latter brought his concern to the Inspector General, as well as several members of Congress, he was subjected to adverse actions and investigations, even though his work was exemplary, as detailed in this letter of commendation he received in June 2012. Thankfully, none of retaliatory investigations found any wrongdoing, and Haney was allowed to honorably retire from government service.

But the story doesn’t end there. Or rather, it doesn’t start there.

Remember the Crotch Bomber? Right before the unhinged jihadist tried to blow up a plane with an explosive packed in his panties, but instead set his own genitals on fire prior to being captured, DHS went on a record and research scrubbing spree.

Just before that Christmas Day attack, in early November 2009, I was ordered by my superiors at the Department of Homeland Security to delete or modify several hundred records of individuals tied to designated Islamist terror groups like Hamas from the important federal database, the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS). These types of records are the basis for any ability to “connect dots.” Every day, DHS Customs and Border Protection officers watch entering and exiting many individuals associated with known terrorist affiliations, then look for patterns. Enforcing a political scrubbing of records of Muslims greatly affected our ability to do that. Even worse, going forward, my colleagues and I were prohibited from entering pertinent information into the database.

A few weeks later, in my office at the Port of Atlanta, the television hummed with the inevitable Congressional hearings that follow any terrorist attack. While members of Congress grilled Obama administration officials, demanding why their subordinates were still failing to understand the intelligence they had gathered, I was being forced to delete and scrub the records. And I was well aware that, as a result, it was going to be vastly more difficult to “connect the dots” in the future—especially before an attack occurs.

Who knows how many attacks could have been prevented had the DHS been allowed to continue its work?

No one does, because political considerations apparently trump national security in our country.

Look, there’s a very fine line between invasion of privacy and infringements on individual rights. The U.S. national security apparatus and the dedicated, committed people who work in our intelligence community and law enforcement walk that line carefully and diligently every day. An untold amount of work is done by the inter-agency before any individual or entity is sanctioned as a terrorist, or gets placed on the Specially Designated Nationals list. Legal review, leadership review, coordination with other agencies in the government. Placing an individual or entity on the SDN list is no joke, unlike some… other lists we’ve seen.

Intelligence professionals have to go through massive amounts of training. They have to learn how to safeguard personal information, whom they are allowed to collect on, what to report and how to report violations, and other agency-specific training to ensure that the rights of the people are balanced with the need to protect our nation. Their analyses are constantly challenged. Did you consider alternatives? Was your assessment based on a variety of corroborative sources? Were these sources credible? Given the fiasco that ensued after the now infamous Iraq WMD National Intelligence Estimate was published in 2002, and the subsequent Iraq invasion, it is no surprise that the Intelligence Community is much more cautious about its tradecraft.

This is all necessary, there’s no doubt. The rights of the people have to be protected.

But at the same time, ordering law enforcement and the intelligence community to scrub years of investigative research into violent extremists with obvious links to savage jihadists whose goal is to launch attacks against the United States, because they might somehow disturb a political narrative or result in some nebulous alleged “violations” of someone’s rights, is a dangerous policy. Fact is that researching a mosque’s, a group’s, or an individual’s links to terrorist organizations violates no one’s rights. If law enforcement is not allowed to do said research, or if said research is nixed due to political considerations, this nation is in danger.

Grave danger.

9-11-attackThis is not an exaggeration.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, a rigorous review by the 9-11 commission revealed that lack of information sharing was partially responsible for our failure to prevent the attacks, as was not watchlisting future hijackers and not trailing them after they traveled to Bangkok, and not informing the FBI about one future hijacker’s U.S. visa.

But that’s not all the report revealed. The commission’s findings also said we did not discover fraudulent statements made on visa applications and failed to detect fake passports.

The work Haney and his colleagues were doing would likely have been helpful in identifying terrorist links, and if shared with other agencies, would have probably helped prevent future attacks. But instead DHS was ordered by the Administration to toss out its research. It will not be shared with anyone, and that could result in disaster.

Apparently, this administration has learned nothing.

Do you feel safe yet?

Originally posted at The Bull Elephant.

Got Verizon?

Share everything.

Today America woke up to find out that if they are a Verizon customer, their phone records are being collected on a daily basis and indiscriminately sent over to the NSA. They may not have done anything wrong, but that does not matter.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

It is no secret that I wasn’t thrilled with the passage of the Patriot Act under Bush and the government powers it broadened. I fully understand the need to protect this nation, and I am acutely aware of the national security threats we face every day.  But it was one of those monsters very few legislators had the time or the inclination to read. They just wanted to look like they were doing something, and that something ushered in a slow, systematic erosion of our rights. And obscenely, the Bush administration had publicly expressed its opinion that individual rights are to be sacrificed at the altar of “national security.”

The Bush administration made no secret of its hopes that the Patriot Act would be broadly interpreted by the judiciary branch. In a letter to Senators Bob Graham, Orrin Hatch, Patrick Leahy, and Richard Shelby, Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant had the unmitigated goal to state:
The courts have observed that even the use of deadly force is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment if used in self-defense or to protect others… Here, for Fourth Amendment purposes, the right to self-defense is not that of an individual, but that of the nation and its citizens… If the government’s heightened interest in self-defense justifies the use of deadly force, then it certainly would also justify warrantless searches.

The majority of the Patriot Act was vaguely innocuous. It provided for more resources for our intelligence community, promoted information sharing, etc. But a few of the sections of this act were odious in nature, and were a precursor to what we are seeing today.

Prior to the September 11th attacks, a wiretap order targeted toward a specific person or group was confined to a particular computer or telephone.  This is no longer the case. The new law allows a court to issue an order that is valid anywhere in the U.S.  that is it may “rove” wherever a target goes, including a public library. Additionally, roving wiretaps and pen trap orders to include searches performed on the internet and keywords typed into browsers.

Under Section 216, a law enforcement agent or a government attorney can get a pen register, which records the telephone number of an outgoing call, or trap and trace order, which records the source of an incoming telephone call. To get such an order, the agent must simply certify to a judge that the information to be obtained is “relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.”According to case law, information about who sent an email to whom and when holds no reasonable expectation of privacy  much like the address blocks on a regular envelope or telephone numbers, which are necessarily provided to the telephone companies in order to complete a call. Much like the outside of an envelope, or a telephone number that’s dialed, envelope information on emails isn’t protected by constitutional privacy expectations.

However, this is where the constitutional challenges arise. While the sender of a letter can reasonably expect that the contents of a sealed letter will be private, unless no envelope is provided with the address block on the letter serving as an address device for the post office, and while a caller can reasonably expect that the content of his telephone conversation can be private, unless it’s transmitted over public airwavesbecause the content of email messages is invariably contained on the same “page” as the “envelope information”, the courts could reasonably rule that the content of an email message is not constitutionally protected.

The Patriot Act also allowed law enforcement to share information with the intelligence community (CIA, NSA, etc.), and  there’s no judicial review requirement to share wiretap and grand jury information, which effectively allows these intelligence agencies to keep tabs on ordinary citizens under the guise of “national security.”

So here we are…

These days, the FISA ruling has forced Verizon to hand over telephone records to the NSA, including communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The standard for FISA approval is actually lower than regular courts, which require probable cause to grant a warrant in a criminal matter, and originally FISA warrants were only supposed to be used for those suspected of acting on behalf of a foreign power. Prior to the passage of the Patriot Act, FISA’s lax standards could only be applied if the actual purpose of the surveillance was the gathering of foreign intelligence. But Section 218 of the bill relaxed that standard to apply to a domestic criminal investigation if the gathering of foreign intelligence information merely constitutes a significant purpose of the surveillance. Not so much anymore.

Information is being collected on every Verizon customer in bulk – without reasonable suspicion of any individual or set of individuals and no specific target.

I fully admit there are things we don’t know. Maybe there is a specific target buried in all that data. But to collect intelligence on millions of American citizens looking for a needle in a haystack sounds like an egregious abuse of power to me.

I also doubt NSA employees are sitting around giggling at the phone sex you had with your significant other last night. Frankly, they have bigger things to worry about.

But if the government is capable of forcing a company to hand over your private information, it also has the power to use that information against you. It knows with whom you’re having conversations and for how long. Corrupt government bureaucrats can now not only target you – and any person that opposes their agenda – but also that person’s friends and family. Suspicion by association.

I don’t trust the government to have that information at its disposal. Do you?

ADDING SOME IRONY: George Orwell’s “1984” was published 64 years ago today.

RLC National: Wrong On Immigration

A couple weeks back, I laid out my vision on the immigration issue. No amnesty, border security, one set of rules for everyone. Pretty straightforward stuff, even mostly endorsing a plan put forward by a Republican Liberty Caucus national board member.

Sadly, RLC National has gone ahead and released a plan that panders to Hispanics and apologists for illegals, with a supporting op-ed in the Examiner by RLC National Chairman Dave Nalle. I should point out that this is likely the only significant national issue where I disagree with Dave; however, this issue is very significant. I will urge the RLCVA state board to oppose this plan.

Amnesty now will be like the 1986 amnesty times ten, and there still won’t be any border security. We’ve seen this movie before. Washington will spend more energy coming up with a hundred excuses why they can’t secure the border than it would take to actually do so. No amnesty. If you’re illegal, go home and go to the back of the line, whether you entered illegally or overstayed a visa. No whining, no excuses.

‘Comprehensive’ immigration ‘reform’, reality, and rhetoric

Right now, the President is trying, along with Dianne Feinstein and the other usual suspects, to push legislation that would further abrogate our Second Amendment rights. Most Republicans in Congress are finding their courage, despite the bizarre sideshow that is Piers Morgan, and standing up to this to one degree or another.

But we’re not here to talk about that, at least not this evening. No, the focus is on the subject of the other great push about to be made by (most) Democrats and (some) Republicans, ‘comprehensive immigration reform’, aka AMNESTY. Yes, kids, that’s what it’s called when you reward people for illegal behavior. And make no mistake, when you let people who have entered the United States illegally stay, pay their kids’ college tuition, and make it possible for them to gain citizenship, you are REWARDING that behavior. The President will team up with Democrats and RINOs in Congress like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who tried this in 2006-07 and were shocked when the people rose up and made it clear they weren’t having any of this. Now, the usual suspects say, the political environment is different. Republicans supposedly need to bow down, give up their principles, and pursue the Hispanic vote by offering them special privileges, free stuff, and amnesty, as the “Cafe Con Leche Republicans” insist.

Like hell. As I stated after the election, the LAST thing we need to be doing is rolling over. This will allow the left to import more third-world collectivists who will vote for the nanny state and handouts and strain our health care system and infrastructure even more. These people also may not share our culture. Libertarians might be apoplectic at this idea, and that’s fine. What they’re missing, as Ilana Mercer put it, is the civilizational aspect to libertarianism. In their rush to see who score the highest on libertarian purity tests, they’re missing the place where purist neolibertarian philosophy crumbles when it comes into contact with reality. Immigration is one such area. Aaron Alghawi, a national board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, has come up with what I consider a reasonable starting point for a pro-liberty immigration platform. It’s lacking in two areas. Firstly, we need to secure the border in a serious and sustained fashion. A wall/fence with vehicle barriers and geophones from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. No excuses. Second, everyone here illegally should have to go ‘home’ and get in line behind everyone else and apply for re-entry. Again, no excuses. No one gets treated any better or worse, and no one gets a break because of whom they know. This will meet with opposition from many libertarians, including much of the RLC national leadership. So be it. As the Virginia state chair of the RLC, I’ll fight to see such a platform on this issue adopted at our national convention in a few months.

Purist libertarians will call me racist, classist, nativist, etc. That’s fine. Bring it on. I’m ready. My policy prescriptions here are buttressed by reality. Rhetoric doesn’t scare me, whether it comes from the left, or from libertarians of one stripe or another. As such, I proclaim it is the duty of every patriot to prevent ANY immigration policy from becoming law that gives amnesty, retards enforcement of existing immigration law, or gives out privileges or rewards to those here illegally. And please… stop referring to illegal aliens as ‘undocumented’ and the like. It just makes you look cowardly, and worse, politically correct.

And when terrorists target those sites… (With updated thought)

…and kill innocent civilians who work there, pollute the environs and disrupt the economies of these nations, Julian Assange will claim it wasn’t his fault.

A long list of key facilities around the world that the US describes as vital to its national security has been released by Wikileaks.

In February 2009 the State Department asked all US missions abroad to list all installations whose loss could critically affect US national security.

The list includes pipelines, communication and transport hubs.

Several UK sites are listed, including cable locations, satellite sites and BAE Systems plants.

Burn in hell, Assange. The blood of the people who will be targeted by terrorist scum is on your hands, and I sincerely hope when you go to hell, you take the longest, most painful road possible.

UPDATE: I just had an interesting thought based on the statement of Ben Laurie, a London-based computer security expert who has advised WikiLeaks.

“Julian’s a smart guy and this is an interesting tactic. He will hope it deters anyone from acting against him.”

My thought is that dear Julian has now brought down the psychotic rage of every sociopathic camel fucker onto himself.

Think about it! Assange has warned that if anything happens to him, the key to the encryption of the insurance file will be released, and thousands of unredacted, secret files will hit the Intertubez.  OK.  So how many al Qaida and Taliban assholes out there would give their hairy little nutsacks to see these files, and how many of them wouldn’t hesitate to eviscerate Assange and throw his worthless carcass into a river somewhere just so the encryption can be unlocked and the secrets contained in those files released?

As far as I can see, any enemy of America should now be ready to take Assange out just to see those documents released – documents that could ostensibly help the terrorists harm America.  Is dear Julian ready to be a martyr for the cause?

I hope so.

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