Close advisers to President Barack Obama advise him that metadata collection could have prevented the 9/11 attack, as he prepares to deliver a speech on Friday announcing his proposal to changes in the intelligence operations, reports L.A. Times today.
It is the belief within the National Security Agency’s that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could have been prevented had government then possessed the sort of vast records of Americans' telephone records it holds now.
The presidential task force that reviewed surveillance operations concluded last month that the program ‘was not essential’ to preventing terrorist attacks and provided 46 recommendations to the President. This report was reviewed over the holiday break.
The various views of the White House and NSA members around the President suggest that the administration seems likely to modify, but not stop, the gathering of billions of phone call logs.
President Obama has expressed in conversations that security data collection has been helpful and could have been integral in identifying hijackers in the 9/11 time period. He also believes that it is the perception that Americans have towards the NSA as untrustworthy and taking privacy away from American citizens.
The current metadata collection does not record calls according to the NSA but has been a problem of trust in that truth. The President is expected to deal with the issue of trust, suspicion, and privacy on Friday.
Shifting the NSA archive to private control would be ‘tricky,’ said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Judiciary Committee. If the NSA can access the data too easily, Durbin said, ‘there's an assumption that it's partly created or controlled by government, and that doesn't change people's skepticism.’
The ‘big question ‘is’ whether our government is going to spy on Americans,’ said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, has made an argument that after arriving in San Diego in January 2000, Mihdhar, who flew the plane into the Pentagon on 9/11 made several phone calls to an al-Qaida safe house in Yemen. U.S. intelligence was monitoring calls made to the safe house, then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told Congress last summer, but didn't realize the caller was in America.
If the telephone archive had existed at the time, Mueller said, the NSA could have linked the numbers in Yemen and San Diego, identified Mihdhar.
Mihdhar’s name was learned in 1999 in a call that linked him to al-Qaida, but his name was not passed on. Nor that of his friend Nawaf Hazmi, another future hijacker, which came out in the Sept. 11 Commission who was associated with al-Qaida group.
James R. Thompson, a former governor of Illinois who served on the Sept. 11 Commission, said the value of the bulk data collection was ‘a given’ for counter terrorism efforts even if it might not have prevented the 2001 attacks. He also said the concerns about abuse were overblown.
‘We don't have any examples of how the average American citizen's privacy is being harmed by the collection of this data,’ said Thompson.
To date, Snowden's disclosures have produced no evidence to suggest the NSA or other agencies have sought to search details about the personal lives or activities of Americans other than terrorism suspects. How has the 4th Amendment rights been violated?
These facts are part of the conversations in the White House and amongst the advisers with President Obama this week as he finalizes his speech for Friday. Many of the key reforms he’s expected to endorse — including changes to the National Security Agency’s practice of gathering information on telephone calls made to, from or within the U.S. — will require congressional action, reports Josh Gerstein in Politico this afternoon.
Sending it down the street to Congress raises the issue of votes to make it difficult to establish anything.
‘If he punts the ball 16 blocks, all hells liable to break loose on the Hill,’ said former NSA Director Michael Hayden. ‘There will be people who will be voting against it because Obama’s reform plan doesn’t go far enough and people voting against it because it doesn’t defend us enough and other people voting against it because it outsources espionage.’
To view other articles on this subject of NSA metadata, Snowden and Obama on security, please, see below Author's suggestions and the video atop this article with Barack Obama defending the NSA metadata gathering and briefings to Congress on the issue.