Monday, July 30, 2007

Strange Epilogue

Remember the Able Danger uproar from a couple of years back? The revelation that the then-Clintagon had had a secret counter-terrorism data-mining operation that successfully identified - aka "connected the dots" on - the 9/11 plot more than a year before the attacks? It was also apparently secret from the Clinton White House itself, which shut the program down the instant they learned of it. Why? Because it ran afoul of the "Gorelick wall" between the CIA and Pentagon on one side and the FBI regarding intelligence-sharing. This, in turn, allowed al Qaeda to carry out the most devastating attack on US soil in our history, and put the blood of three thousand dead Americans on Bill Clinton's hands.

It was always puzzling to me and many others why the Bush Administration was so eager, almost frantic, to shut up the three Able Danger operatives who came forward to testify about it. Recall that the 9/11 Commission's public hearings the year before had been hijacked by its Democrat contingent and turned into a Bush-bashing festival right smack in the middle of the President's 2004 re-election campaign, smearing him as "negligent" for his (at the time) eight months' watch and giving Sick Willie a pass for his eight years of ignoring the gathering jihadi storm and turning down three separate offers of bin Laden's head on a platter. Now here was red-handed evidence that the Clinton administration could have disrupted the 9/11 plot, stopped it cold, saved all of those lives - and did nothing. And the Bushies wanted no part of it. I mean, my God, I know the two clans have become chummy, and the extreme psychosis known as "the New Tone" is legendary, but come on. What about justice? What about accountability? And what about defending the common-sense Bush approach to fighting as war as, well, a war, by showing what happens when we refuse to fight it at all?

Who knew - until now - that the reason the current White House wanted to shush the Able Danger guys was because they had their own secret counter-terror ops and wanted to avoid a burgeoning, publicity-attracting turf war:

A fierce dispute within the Bush administration in early 2004 over a National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program was related to concerns about the NSA's searches of huge computer databases, the New York Times reported today.

The agency's data mining was also linked to a dramatic chain of events in March 2004, including threats of resignation from senior Justice Department officials and an unusual nighttime visit by White House aides to the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, the Times reported, citing current and former officials briefed on the program.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, one of the aides who went to the hospital, was questioned closely about that episode during a contentious Senate hearing on Tuesday. Gonzales characterized the internal debate as centering on "other intelligence activities" than the NSA's warrantless surveillance program, whose existence President Bush confirmed in December 2005.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III contradicted Gonzales, his boss, two days later, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee that the disagreement involved "an NSA program that has been much discussed." ...

The report of a data mining component to the dispute suggests that Gonzales's testimony could be correct. A group of Senate Democrats, including two who have been privy to classified briefings about the NSA program, called last week for a special prosecutor to consider perjury charges against Gonzales.

The report also provides further evidence that the NSA surveillance operation was far more extensive than has been acknowledged by the Bush Administration, which has consistently sought to describe the program in narrow terms and to emphasize that the effort was legal.

Able Danger was data-mining whilst the NSA terrorist surveillance program was data-gathering via intercepted out-of-country communications. If Able Danger or something like it was revived and running in tandem with the TSP, whether under the NSA or the Pentagon, that could very well be the "other intelligence activities" that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was referring to in his Senate testimony last week. Testimony in which he indicated perfect willingness to provide those details in private session in order to protect classified information, and which offer Judiciary Donks refused, so slaveringly eager were they to string him up as Scooter Libby's cellmate.

DoJ/FBI - DoD/NSA territoriality would also explain why Gonzales was, er, "bugging" an ailing John Ashcroft to help settle said dispute.

Another decidedly odd couple - Ed Morrissey and Glen Greenwald - believe that, in what has to qualify as the irony of ironies, the ordinarily leak-proof Bush Administration itself leaked the Able Danger (or successor)-TSP connection in order to debunk the Dems' outrageous perjury slander against Speedy and whack them back on their PR heels. If so, I gotta say it's the first politically savvy thing the Bushies have done in a long, long time. It takes the klieg lights off of Gonzales and puts them on arguably the only strength the White House has left - its success in preventing another 9/11. Setting the Donks off down that rake-infested rabbit trail again can't be anything but good, good, good for the Administration and the GOP by revisiting why the Democrats should not be allowed within a megaparsec of power on any level or any branch of government in their current collectiv(ist) mindset ever again.

Unless, of course, the same RINO saboteurs provide cover by fleeing to the tall grass again.

But at least something has been salvaged from the NSA TSP's treasonous airing. Hopefully, it won't be the last.