Monday, September 30, 2013

What did I tell you?

Chertoff's Gut Terror Alert System. By James Joyner, July 2007.
What I told you, at the beginning of August, was that if reports of a "conference call" or whatever among senior Al-Qa'eda officials planning some kind of massive strike on an unnamed US embassy were true, it was not necessarily true that they were planning
a strike, but more likely that they were testing the Snowden revelations to find out if the US really had the power to monitor all their communications. And that the NSA, by going all Chertoff and posting public warnings everywhere, would be falling into their trap, giving them their answer:
Of course in this case, ironically, the NSA will have done itself considerably more harm than Snowden did. But that's intelligence for you. Wonder why they call it that?
You can read the whole thing, it's got some good sentences in it.

So today we find out from the New York Times:
As the nation’s spy agencies assess the fallout from disclosures about their surveillance programs, some government analysts and senior officials have made a startling finding: the impact of a leaked terrorist plot by Al Qaeda in August has caused more immediate damage to American counterterrorism efforts than the thousands of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.
Since news reports in early August revealed that the United States intercepted messages between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, analysts have detected a sharp drop in the terrorists’ use of a major communications channel that the authorities were monitoring. 
It now seems entirely clear that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in his anxiety to prove to the world that the NSA surveillance methods really work, has once again compromised them much more effectively than poor Snowden did. I'm not saying he should be arrested for espionage, because I think that's a dumb way to deal with malefactors who are not in fact spies, but he really does need to find a new job, or retire.

And secrecy begins at home, if you know what I mean. Let's see a little more seriousness about the agencies keeping their own, and a little less about citizens being citizens. I mean stop public relations campaigns designed to prove to the world how important and successful they are; do the damn job and be successful. And free Chelsea Manning!

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