30 Jul 2007

Technology and Politics Hamper US Counter Terrorism Surveillance Program

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While Congressional democrats are playing “He said; she said” games on the subject of Counter-Terrorism data-mining in order to bring down Alberto Gonzalez, Newsweek is reporting that US Intelligence Agencies are having difficult keeping up with changes in technology and that all the political games the left and the MSM have played with the Echelon program have also had a real impact, significantly diminishing the program’s effectiveness.

Six years after 9/11 , U.S. intel officials are complaining about the emergence of a major “gap” in their ability to secretly eavesdrop on suspected terrorist plotters. In a series of increasingly anxious pleas to Congress, intel “czar” Mike McConnell has argued that the nation’s spook community is “missing a significant portion of what we should be getting” from electronic eavesdropping on possible terror plots. Rep. Heather Wilson, a GOP member of the House intelligence community, told Newsweek she has learned of “specific cases where U.S. lives have been put at risk” as a result. Intel agency spokespeople declined to elaborate.

The intel gap results partly from rapid changes in the technology carrying much of the world’s message traffic (principally telephone calls and e-mails). The National Security Agency is falling so far behind in upgrading its infrastructure to cope with the digital age that the agency has had problems with its electricity supply, forcing some offices to temporarily shut down. The gap is also partly a result of administration fumbling over legal authorization for eavesdropping by U.S. agencies. …

According to both administration and congressional officials (anonymous when discussing such issues), the White House and intelligence czar’s office are now urgently trying to negotiate a legal fix with Congress that would make it easier for NSA to eavesdrop on e-mails and phone calls where all parties are located outside the U.S., even if at some point the message signal crosses into U.S. territory.

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