Thursday, February 16, 2006

NYT: "Justice Department Reviews Role of Its Lawyers in Spying" (Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau)

The ethics office of the Justice Department has begun a review of the department's role in the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, a move that could shed light on internal dissension over the legal status of the secret program.
The review, being conducted by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, is the first formal government inquiry into the surveillance program since its existence was reported by The New York Times in December.
The head of the office, H. Marshall Jarrett, disclosed the inquiry in a Feb. 2 letter to Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, who had joined three other Democrats in calling for an investigation. The letter was received Wednesday because of a delay for routine irradiation of mail sent to Congress, Mr. Hinchey's spokesman said.

The above is from Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau's "Justice Department Reviews Role of Its Lawyers in Spying" in this morning's New York Times.

Let's stay on a similar topic and note James Rosen's "National Security Whistle-Blowers Allege Retaliation" (Sacramento Bee via Common Dreams):

"I became a whistleblower not out of choice, but out of necessity," Shaffer said. "Many of us have a personal commitment to ... going forward to expose the truth and wrongdoing of government officials who - before and after the 9/11 attacks - failed to do their job."
Shaffer contradicted recent statements by Philip Zelikow, former executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, who denied having met with Shaffer and other Able Danger operatives in Afghanistan in October 2003.
"I did meet with him," Shaffer said. "I have the business card he gave me. I find it hard to believe that he could not remember meeting me."
The commission set up by Congress to probe the Sept. 11 attacks didn't mention the Able Danger project on al Qaeda in its final report in July 2004.
When former Able Danger operatives began to talk with reporters and lawmakers about the program last year, the commission's chairman and vice chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, released a statement saying the panel had looked into the work of Able Danger and found it "historically insignificant."
Shafer was to testify today (Wednesday) at a separate House Armed Services subcommittee hearing devoted to Able Danger.
Spc. Samuel Provance, also dressed in Army green, said he was demoted and humiliated after telling a general investigating the Abu Ghraib scandal that senior officers had covered up the full extent of abuse during interrogations of detainees at the U.S. military prison in Iraq.
"Young soldiers were scapegoated while superiors misrepresented what had happened and tried to misdirect attention away from what was really going on," Provance said. "I considered all of this conduct to be dishonorable and inconsistent with the traditions of the Army. I was ashamed and embarrassed to be associated with it."

And you can't talk Able Danger without noting the person that's been on the topic and stayed on it -- Rory O'Connor's "Able Danger Hearings A Go" (Media Is Plural,

As reported here earlier, the Able Danger program was later reconstituted at a top secret Raytheon "black" facility in Garland, Texas. "Raytheon re-hired most of the personnel," Smith recalled, "But not me, since I worked for another company. When I worked on it, we had nothing to do with anything classified. But I suspect that they later intermingled classified with open source in Garland."
Ironically, while Smith was using revolutionary software to "mine" data and uncover links and patterns connecting possible terrorists, the US Army wasn't. "I was using proprietary software, and they were using COTS (commercial off the shelf) because they were under funded and had no budget for software," Smith said. "So every time I had to deliver a report, I had to print out everything on paper and bring over literally boxes of printouts."
Among the materials he delivered was a copy of a photograph of Mohamed Atta. "We had multiple names for him, and for many others," Smith said. "I didn't have time to try to confirm any of them. Any name associated with a picture -- and any spelling variants thereof - were attached to the picture." Few of the pictures had only one name attached, according to Smith. "But our focus wasn't on the names, it was on the pictures. We clicked on a picture, and then all the names and links came up."
After 9/11 took place, Smith saw Atta's picture and thought, "We HAD that guy!" he told me. "I remembered his picture because his face was unique. He had that haunting stare, and his facial structure was unique. I was just happy that we had at least one of the attackers. I assumed US intelligence had all this stuff, and the Atta picture would be enough to get them started. We had all this information and we had turned it over to them."
But that was then, and this is now. As the fifth anniversary of the attacks approaches, Smith says he's increasingly worried that all the data he and others on the Able Danger team found was destroyed and may never be found again. "Let me just note that Mohamed Atta was a Tier Three guy -- not THAT important in the scale of things," he concluded. "Sure, we had his picture -- but we know where he is now - dead and gone. But what about all the Tier Two and Tier One guys we identified? What about all the pictures of the other, more important people we identified? Where are THEY now? To me, that's the real danger."

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