Maybe this explain Obama’s war on the tea party, gun owners, taxpayers and those who dare to utter the “wrong” things on social media.
While the importance of metadata to American counterterrorism will continue to be a hot-button topic, the disastrous effect of the Snowden affair and its political aftershocks on our intelligence agencies is not up for debate. Neither is the fact, as attested to by several Western intelligence chiefs, that Snowden’s leaks have made terrorists more careful in their communications, and therefore more difficult to intercept. Just as bad, several top secret NSA programs, beyond metadata, that assisted counterterrorism have been downscaled since 2013 out of fears they may “look bad” if leaked.
“Before Snowden we had a definite bias for action,” explained a senior NSA official with extensive experience in counterterrorism. “But now we all wonder how the White House will react if this winds up in the newspapers.” “It’s all legal,” the official added, “the lawyers have approved, and boy do we have lots of lawyers – but will Obama throw us under the bus again?”
That concern is widespread in American counterterrorism circles, where the Obama administration’s worries about appearing “Islamophobic” are well known. This White House early on warned intelligence personnel about using the term “Islamic terrorism” even in classified reports that would never be released to the public. “Since 2009 we’ve opened investigations of groups we knew to be harmless,” explained a Pentagon counterterrorism official, “they weren’t Muslims, and we needed some ‘balance’ in case the White House asked if we were ‘profiling’ potential terrorists.”
This explains why war was declared on regular Americans instead of those who want to kill us.
One of the worst side-effects of the Snowden affair is the entirely false image it created of NSA as an all-listening and all-seeing agency that spies on everyone, everywhere without respite. The truth is more mundane – or worrisome, depending on your viewpoint. While 21st century SIGINT, thanks to advanced filtering technologies, can collect and process unprecedented amounts of information for analysis – phone calls, text messages, emails, online chats, and whatnot – that has in no way kept up with the global IT revolution. There is much more information out there that might be of interest to counterterrorism officials but which will never be examined closely by any NSA analyst, much less passed to the FBI for action
Investigation has revealed that Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were radicalized long before they embarked on their mass murder spree. Both had engaged in online radicalism for years and it’s evident that a devotion to violent hatred brought the couple together; speculation in counterintelligence circles that Malik was actually the prime mover of the couple’s jihadism – and may even have been a provocateur – are plausible but not yet substantiated.
What is known, however, is that Malik, a Pakistani national who had lived for years in Saudi Arabia, had written extensively on her public social media accounts about her ardent desire to wage jihad and seek martyrdom in the name of radical Islam. Americans who are accustomed to having their social media accounts examined whenever they apply for a job have questions here, and rightly so.
Her allegedly extensive 2014-15 examination by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, subsequent to her marriage to Syed Farook, made no effort to look at Tashfeen Malik’s social media writings, even though they could have been easily found. She passed cursory ICE security screening, which now must be judged useless. Malik was granted her green card in July 2015 despite the fact that her public writings offered a clear indication of violent extremism.
This was not a failure of the system, this is how our system works today. The Obama administration, through the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security, explicitly banned looks at the social media of immigration applicants. Tashfeen Malik got less scrutiny immigrating to the United States than average Americans receive when applying for almost any job or college.
As Ted Cruz said in Tuesday’s GOP debate, political correctness is killing us, literally.