I just got through reading a very nice post by Glenn Greenwald about the use of surveillance in foiling the British airline bombing plot and just had to quickly write about it (linked to from Dispatches).
His major point, and it is a very good one, is that all surveillance in this operation, on both sides of the Altantic, was done entirely inside and in full compliance with relevant British and American law. The Brits got warrants, the Yanks got warrants, folks got surveilled, the plot was foiled. Everything was above board, completely legal, and worked very well.
His point is that our system of routing out terrorists appears to work just fine under the current FISA law, and attempts to make it appear otherwise are outright lies. And in addition, any claim that ‘Democrats’ oppose surveillance is absolutely false. Critics of the good GWB oppose his claim that he does not need to obey the law, and we oppose him in this because it is unnecessary; FISA is flexible enough as written and will work just fine in times of peace and ‘war’.
Mr. Greenwald also makes a very nice point about the Administration’s claim that exposing the NSA domestic spying program compromised their operations. First, there’s the obvious point that no terrorist with an iota of brains would assume that governments were not listening in on their calls and monitoring their bank accounts. Second,
… here was a major plot foiled because the terrorist plotters were using telephones to communicate about their plans — and using banking systems to wire money — all of which law enforcement could track within the law. This whole episode potently illustrates just how inane are the claims that the Times‘ NSA story (and its SWIFT disclosures) would endanger national security. Terrorists already knew full well that we monitor their telephone conversations and banking transactions, and they knew that before the New York Times “told” them so. But in order to plan terrorist attacks, terrorists must communicate with one another and send money to each other [my emphasis]. Somehow, the Times’ story did not prevent us from eavesdropping on all of these conversations. That’s because the Times stories — as has been evident from the beginning — told terrorists nothing which they could use to avoid detection.
Lovely. GW, use your head. You’re mad at the Times because they caught you. You know it, we know, and they know it. Quit trying to pretend this is some kind of security issue because the American people (at least some of us) are not that stupid.