Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A story that's got everything: FBI monitors Moslem sites for radiation leaks

Why do I say this story's got everything? Well, let's see: (1) anonymous and totally unidentified sources as the conduit for all the information, check; (2) accusations of religious profiling, check; (3) vociferous Council on American-Islamic Relations protests, check; (4) spilling of the beans (by those anonymous sources) on a classified program designed to protect us from terrorists, check.

The story about radiation monitoring by the FBI originated in the US News and World Report of December 22. Let's look at the first paragraph of the original article:

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

As you can see, the sources--which are never identified any further--are referred to as "those with knowledge of the program," but are not characterized in any other way: not just their names are absent, but also exactly how many of them there actually are (the article seems to be saying two, as best I can tell), or what positions they hold. Likewise, the people allegedly threatened with the loss of their jobs are never identified (are they, perhaps, the same people as those informants?). This story is only the latest, of course, in a long line of security leaks that seem motivated in good part by the desire to embarrass the Bush administration.

Does anyone honestly think a story like this--which, in its present form, hardly rises above the level of a gossip column, and yet has the promise of playing fast and loose with our lives--is actually needed by the American public? That the leak and the printing thereof does us all some sort of service? Does anyone (other than the ever-victimized CAIR) really think this information, if true, represents a terrible intrusion into citizens' lives, Moslem or otherwise? Does anyone think it's really unreasonable? Does anyone think that the right of someone to not have a radiation monitor on their property (note, the article doesn't even say the devices were placed within buildings, it says "parking lots and driveways") trumps the public's right to protect itself from possible nuclear weaponry in terrorist hands?

The only even remotely disturbing part of the story (if true), IMHO, is the allegations of threats to people's jobs for refusing to cooperate because they think it might be illegal to do so. But it turns out the information about job threats seems to come from one unnamed source somewhere within the program:

One source close to the program said that participants "were tasked on a daily and nightly basis," and that FBI and Energy Department officials held regular meetings to update the monitoring list. "The targets were almost all U.S. citizens," says the source. "A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal."

So, one disgruntled employee is saying this. There's no mention of independent corroboration. And, plenty of people think it's perfectly legal to do this (see the comments section of the link, in particular), whereas the article only quotes one legal scholar who says it's illegal.

So, let's see: according to a single informant, people were asked to do something that is probably legal, and some (not all, mind you, but some) who complained nearly lost their jobs.

Nearly?? What does that mean? Does it mean somebody yelled at them? So not a single person (not to mention one named person, willing to go on the record) actually lost a job as a result of this?

And who were these people asked to do the monitoring? Were they FBI agents? And is this activity on their part something new? Well, tune into the last paragraph of the article--although I wonder how many people actually got that far:

Most staff for the monitoring came from NEST, which draws from nearly 1,000 nuclear scientists and technicians based largely at the country's national laboratories. For 30 years, NEST undercover teams have combed suspected sites looking for radioactive material, using high-tech detection gear fitted onto various aircraft, vehicles, and even backpacks and attaché cases. No dirty bombs or nuclear devices have ever been found - and that includes the post-9/11 program. "There were a lot of false positives, and one or two were alarming," says one source. "But in the end we found nothing."

Okay--so they were employees of NEST, an acronym for the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team. Interestingly enough, the quote reveals that this group has been looking for such radioactive material for thirty years. And yet somehow we've survived this egregious assault on our civil rights by successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat. After all, Geiger counters (or whatever high-tech machine they use nowadays) are so very self-incriminating and invasive, aren't they?

So, now that we know that this has been going on for thirty years, where's the beef? In the present case, is the terrible crime of the Bush administration the fact that Moslem buildings such as mosques were being monitored, post-9/11? Quelle horror!

What would critics have the NEST team and the administration do? Not monitor anyone, and let the nuclear chips fall where they may (and then, if and when they do fall, criticize and investigate Bush for not protecting us? )

Or should they monitor everyone instead, in order to be perfectly PC? And ignore the fact that modern-day post-9/11 terrorists tend to be overwhelmingly Moslem, and that it's cost-effective and reasonable to monitor them more closely?

This is serious stuff, monitoring for nuclear weapons; not a game. Should it be sacrificed on the altar of refusal to do profiling, even if it's warranted? Do we need to avoid racial profiling at all costs? I certainly don't think so.

But--does this case even actually involve profiling? Just because some mosques were monitored, does this mean mosques were profiled? Officials deny it:

Officials also reject any notion that the program specifically has targeted Muslims. "We categorically do not target places of worship or entities solely based on ethnicity or religious affiliation," says one. "Our investigations are intelligence driven and based on a criminal predicate."

So according to "officials" (and surely, we shouldn't believe them; best to believe the anonymous tipster or tipsters), every mosque monitored (and I have no doubt that some were) was targeted because of specific intelligence about that site.

So, what are we to do if there's a tip that there's a dirty bomb or some other type of nuclear material hidden in a mosque? Not put some radioactive-detecting information on the street or driveway near it, for fear of the taint of profiling?

I don't know about you, but sometimes, lately, I feel I've fallen through the looking glass into bizarro world. Or maybe the MSM has.

[NOTE: Fausta has some thoughts on the subject, and a roundup of discussions around the blogosphere on the general topic of recent security leaks that affect the WOT. Likewise Michelle Malkin (scroll down for the portion of her post about the radiation monitoring story). And Shrinkwrapped has some reflections on the possible role of a self-destructive impulse in the leakers and their supporters.]


At 2:33 PM, December 27, 2005, Blogger hikingguy said...

One hesitates to throw the term around, as it has been abused by loons (mostly on the right) for a very long time, but it seems to me that the organizations engaged in this publishing of legitimately classified information are engaged in treason, defined as giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. That would make the writers and editors involved, h'mmm, maybe traitors? I know, I know. But, damn it, these preening morons are likely to get some of us killed.

At 2:35 PM, December 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember watching these guys on Nightline a few months ago and wondering why they were at a football game instead of a Saudi Mosque. If a minority of catholic lambs decided to declare all out war on the unrightious I doubt anyone would care if we checked in on a few churchs.

At 2:39 PM, December 27, 2005, Blogger goesh said...

- practice for when Iran has its nukes, that's all, and practice our security forces had better do because nobody seems willing to take any action against Iran.

At 6:14 PM, December 27, 2005, Blogger roman said...

The MSM is so desperate for the next great scandal (a la Woodward & Bernstein) to expose that they are willing to stoop to such low (or non-existant)levels of journalistic integrity. Where are the responsible editors to keep these overly-zealous news hounds in check? Freedom of the press does not mean freedom from any kind of responsibility.

At 6:20 PM, December 27, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Amazing how the Islamics know the language of their enemies so well that they can come up with "CAIR", to make sure that everyone understands their sincerity and the fact that they really really care, really they do.

Or maybe they just hired a decadent western literature mercenary with blood guilt, either way.

One of the problems in spying and counter-spying is counter-counter-intel, counter-intel, and double agents. The reason why spies have twisted minds is just the reality and perhaps unreality of the facts.

You can have so called double agents like the one working for the Allies, giving the Germans information, in order to convince Hitler that the Normandy Invasion was in a place that it really wasn't.

It takes only one jump farther to imagine what would occur if the double agent, is turned by the Germans back into a triple agent, so that the Germans would take the good information, avoid the disinformation, and burn their contact in return for countering the enemy's grand strategy. I.e. Normandy.

Counter Intel, thus, is just as much about converting enemy agents into double agents, as to find out about those agents. A spy you know is a lot more useful than a spy you don't know, and thus spying isn't to catch the other side doing something (the infamous gotcha game of politics) but to know what they are doing.

Since America didn't have many agents or human resources in Islam, Islam thus didn't have many chances to counter-penetrate our intel branches and feed us either disinformation or acquire double agents. Agents reporting to both sides.

This meant that they really had no inside information on our security and operational programs. We didn't have information on them either, so in a guerrila war, with both of us operating blind, the Al Qaedas had an advantage and the initiative. As we saw in 2003. But then when we got the Iraqi forces online, the Iraqis began to use their intel sources to ferret out terroists. But this also meant counter-penetration, thus many terroists were informed by their double agents or agents inside the Iraqi intel services, of hunter operations and thus they escaped before Coalition forces could entrap them.

Now we come to the bizzaro situation of the American press. It would seem most apparent and defacto true that Al Qaeda need not penetrate the FBI, CIA, the Pentagon, the NSA, or any other intel services of the US to gather information on us. Rather, the information they get, they get from a spy network called the "press". While terroists don't believe in a free press, after all they find it so easy to manipulate all press so they don't find them very respectful, they will cooperate with the press to produce propaganda.

Thus it is no longer a spy on spy game, but a game of who has more guilt. The terroists feel no guilt, and therefore operates at an advantage in this war because they allow the guilt on our side to feed them information that they otherwise would have to endanger their operations to find out.

You will never find this context in the news however, Fox News or no Fox News, because intel and counter-intel is a very mysterious and obscure subject nobody really pays much attention to. Spys are not soldiers, beholden to an oath. Thus, making spies hard to understand.

The only even remotely disturbing part of the story (if true), IMHO, is the allegations of threats to people's jobs for refusing to cooperate because they think it might be illegal to do so.

For some reason, I think they were threatened because they said they wanted to get a book deal out of the operation and their bosses didn't like that.

So, now that we know that this has been going on for thirty years, where's the beef? In the present case, is the terrible crime of the Bush administration the fact that Moslem buildings such as mosques were being monitored, post-9/11? Quelle horror!

This looks like a bigger hammer approach. In war, as with propaganda, there are two kinds of techniques. The brute force approach, using the biggest hammer around. Or the tactical approach, favoring the Art of War instead of the Slaughter of War.

Obviously the same applies to propaganda. There's high level propaganda, like Leni Riefenstahl's. Then there's junk thrown at someone just in case they can't duck.

So according to "officials" (and surely, we shouldn't believe them; best to believe the anonymous tipster or tipsters), every mosque monitored (and I have no doubt that some were) was targeted because of specific intelligence about that site.

Not surprising given how much Saudi Wahhabism funding has been funneled into Western Muslim Mousks. Look what happened in France. People had better get a grip on reality or face the terroist riots as the gauche French have, as the British have, as the Dutch have... and so on and so forth.

America's a hardened target, but anyone can be assassinated with enough time and skill.

At 10:25 PM, December 27, 2005, Blogger Promethea said...

Hikingguy spoke for me when he said that publishingclassified information is treason and should be treated as such. It would be interesting to see some leakers (Senator Jay Rockefeller?, the publisher of U.S. News?) indicted for treason--as a lesson to others who think this war is a game.

On the other hand, maybe some facts are leaked for a reason by our own people in order to mess with the terrorists' minds. Wouldn't there be some value in Islamists worrying about using their phones and storing stuff in mosques? If they know we're hunting them down, maybe they'll be forced to behave even more suspiciously and less effectively.

Just a thought.

At 5:08 AM, December 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole thing about secret organisations in the national labs nuclear teams is silly. It's amazed me at the conspiracy theories that come out about the national labs.

When I worked at ORNL it was amusing to find that areas that were cordoned off because of top secret investigations and spy stuff was really just blocked off because it was an old dusty room (allergies), it had contaminated supplies in it (you could see in windows on the opposite the conspirators took pictures, and a whole host of others. Even though you were allowed in almost all of these rooms if you asked (not into the contaminated areas), you then became part of he cover up.

Then there was the story of some great investigative reporter a few year back breaking into some buildings at Los Alamos. Big article about all he had to do was walk accross the desert and climb a few fences. It concluded we were all going to get blown up by the lax security at a national lab. Ended up that area was one of the old Manhattan project areas that was heavily contaminated, they figured no one if thier right minds would ignore the "radioactive" signs on the fences, and if they didn't oh well - especially if they were terrorist. As far as I know the reporter still thinks he did some great deed as last I heard he felt it was "fake, but accurate" (even here at y-12 the real high security areas have bailey's with armored machine gun nests at the corners - you don't "slip" through).

The tip off is when a large group of people that aren't NSA or undercover CIA agents have to keep their mouth sut, especially a group that as a whole leans heavily politically left, you can figure that they took a grain of truth and took it way out of proportion. Probably just did standard remote radiation monitoring and specifically look around places known to have radicals (which includes way more than mosques - no one complains when they profile state militias, that's right and proper).

At 6:44 AM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Epaminondas said...

Would there even be a reaction from the NYT if the EPA was 'sniffing' around a site 'suspected' of toxin release into the air?

They'd be publishing stories asking why it took the govt so long.

DISGUSTING. Times has jumped the shark with this whole episode of stories.

At 8:53 AM, December 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about most terror incidents since 911 being perpetrated by Muslims! Now why shouldn't they be watched ?

At 11:18 AM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Holmes said...

Well, like cocaine-sniffing dogs at airports, I wonder if this even rises to the level of a "search" under the Constitution. Thermal imaging to find marijuana labs was deemed a search, but only because it can also capture other sources of heat besides those used for marijuana. Radiation levels of the kind they would be tracking here would not have any other source (as far as I know). If, for example, a program was put in place to monitor radiation levels in areas around a nuclear power plant, no one would have a problem with that. Ah, but use this same method for national security and suddently it's a witch hunt!

At 11:31 AM, December 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is unfortunate breech of security, but it does have its upside; Americans now know that the Bush Administration is taking concrete steps to protect us. Let the Democrats give us "drug free school zones" I want "radiation free mosque zones"

BTW, it would only be considered treason by the MSM if Rove leaked it to boost Ws polls which this will.

At 11:57 AM, December 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one doesn't believe (or doesn't want to believe) that the United States is under attack (or we are under attack because of Bush's policies so once he's gone we'll be safe), then any infringement on liberty is unwarranted. It's very logical. The only problem is that it starts with a false premise.

At 12:30 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

The Federal Communications Commission has long used radio direction finders to locate unlicensed transmitters. I doubt that they get a warrant to use the RDF..after all, anyone can legally listen to a radio frequency at any time (though obviously they need warrants to actually enter the premises once a transmitter is located).

Why would the gamma ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum have more legal protection than, say, the FM radio band?

At 12:50 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Ed said...

Well, this just put the USN&WR in the comumn of magazines I will never buy or subscribe to. I can get all the news I need without giving my money to a group that has undermined the security of this nation. The egregious lack of judgement they demonstrated in breaching this story calls justifiable doubt on the qulaity of their other reporting. I will simply not use the news they offer.

At 1:12 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Motor 1560 said...

david: You haven't gotten the latest memo. It seems that certain sections of the spectrum now have "protected" status and require both warrants and congressional approval for monitoring.

Shrinkwrapped has a great analysis, in the psychological sense, of the critics of protection.

ymarsakar: The situation of doubling, doubling back and aggressive CI is best illustrated by the situation in Berlin as the Cold War got started. The players were the US, UK, French and Soviets all mining the resource of the low grade ore that was the German population. For the Germans, the incentive was food, money and commodities that could be traded on the Black Market. I've talked to the old guys on the ground in those days and they describe a zoo of information retailers, wholesalers, jobbers and penetration agents all wrapped up in Opa's, Tantes and Oncles who cleaned offices, shoveled coal and repaired phone lines in the other guys facilities. All of this in an economy in which a package of Lucky Strikes qualified as hard currency and a pound of coffee was the equivalent of gold bullion.

Simpler times indeed. But, the skill sets developed in those venues and the similar/different conditions of Vietnam are still in demand.

My take is that the Justice Dept. is looking at these breeches for a test case that will act as a b***h slap to the media. They'll start with a government employee and work their way up the leakers food chain. It will be like turning on the light in a cockroach infested kitchen.

At 5:30 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I would rather they didn't turn on the light (Bush tends not to want to use a bigger hammer as anyone can tell) and just start stomping the kitchen floors.

If you turn on the light, you can't kill as many without spending a lot of time and effort on roach poison.

And I don't like dealing in poisons when there is a bigger hammer approach available.

Simpler times indeed.

I think those agents would have gladly traded a Cold War low intensity conflict world under the fear of nuclear annihilation for the clean hot world that is the 21st century any day of the year. Except if they had to deal with post-Cold War France, then it might be 50/50 on whether they would trade the threat of nuclear holocaust to work in the 21st century if it contained the risk of having to work with the French again.

ymarsakar: The situation of doubling, doubling back and aggressive CI is best illustrated by the situation in Berlin as the Cold War got started. The players were the US, UK, French and Soviets all mining the resource of the low grade ore that was the German population.

I wonder if this situation could be modeled with a matrix... It is certainly complex and variable enough, like Kirchoff's Laws and Troubleshooting Complex Electrical Circuits.

But, the skill sets developed in those venues and the similar/different conditions of Vietnam are still in demand.

I really miss the Phoenix Program. I wish we had an assassination operation in Iraq. It would really really cut down on the chances for an enemy victory there, and save a lot of innocent lives. It would also save a lot of money, but that's a side benefit.

At 6:02 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Motor 1560 said...

ymarsakar: Come on, the comments are no place for a Phoenix Program discussion. It wasn't that simple. I admit door kicking and shoot and scoot is great in vid games, but the PP wasn't just that.

The old Berlin hands didn't have the choice; they had to play the cards they were dealt.

And no multi variate analysis program could handle the shifting POV that was Berlin. When I was there as a 19 year old student in 59, I couldn't figure out why so many people took an interest in me. It was only later that I realized they thought my short hair meant I was a GI and my German signaled that I was a spook. The fact that I knew something about Euro and German politics just confirmed it in their eyes.

I wasn't; yet.

At 6:25 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

No, it wasn't. Because assassinations are not politically feasible precisely because it isn't people kicking in doors, or having a fire fight.

Why would I think and I quote, a program that is aimed at "neutralizing"—through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture—the civilian infrastructure that supported the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. It was a terrifying "final solution" would be a video game?

The old Berlin hands didn't have the choice; they had to play the cards they were dealt.

I was speaking hypothetically, with the assumption that one could transport a person through time from the past to the present.

All in all, it is precisely because the Phoenix Program wasn't about shoot and scooting, about kicking in doors, that I wish we had one in Iraq.

Most of the ground work has been done, the draining away of soft-core loyalists, the creation of an Iraqi spy network using cellular phones and tips, the locating of loyal officers and patriots.

But judging Bush's character, also means that I know he won't implement any program even similar to the Phoenix Program. While that is his choice to make, I cannot help but notice the consequences. Which are a longer insurgency, and the freedom for Iran and Syria to continue to support an insurgency that costs American blood and money to fight.

If the PP was about kicking in doors and killing terroists, then we wouldn't need it in Iraq because that is what we are doing in Iraq. It's clearly not a video game.

At 7:01 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Pliny said...

I object to the electric company coming on my property to monitor my energy usage.

Who can I call?

At 11:01 PM, December 28, 2005, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

What gets me, is that once the Democrats have surrendered our intel gathering secrets to the public for their own political purposes, what then will they do to keep us safe and keep them in office?

I dont understand this.

At 2:57 PM, December 29, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I think the Democrats will blame the Republicans for their "obstruction" which they will then claim to have lead to any attacks.

Presumably if they gain the Presidency, they will blame the Republican House and the Republican Senate for obstruction. Makes sense, it would have been what they would have done, Hell it is what they are doing now.

If they gain the Congress, they will blame the Republican President for another attack, but it won't be as effective however.

The Democrats gain a much more power if they the Executive, with 1/3rd of government power in their propagandist hands.

All in all, if they play the spy game as the "gotcha game", which they do, then it is highlely likely that in the future they will not care who catches the terroists, so long as the Republicans get the blame.

That isn't how you win wars, of course. But it isn't a war the Democrats are fighting here.

At 6:45 PM, December 29, 2005, Blogger leaddog2 said...

Have you seen a duck sailing along smoothly on a calm pond? Underneath the water, the duck's legs are paddling furiously.

I suspect the Justice Department is NOW paddling furiously towards multiple Treason indictments, convictions and EXECUTIONS of so-called "government" personnel beginning in the near future. Hopefully, they will include 20 to 30 cursed "so-called" journalists.

At 11:44 PM, December 29, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

It is highly unlikely that Bush is going to execute traitors in this country when he won't protect patriots in the armed forces from Pentagon legal action or to execute terroists that have been squeezed of all useful information.

One of the things about Bush is that you can count on him being unable to violate the Constitution using lies, propaganda, and military fiat. No exceptions, Bush takes his oaths seriously. Unfortunately since he doesn't believe in flexibility, not a lot of useful actions can be taken as a consequence.

At 2:06 AM, December 31, 2005, Blogger EddieP said...

The fact that CAIR is enraged means it is a good program. I'm delighted my government is watching these cauldrons of hate.

At 8:10 PM, May 13, 2006, Blogger HoorahRachel15 said...

I am A fifteen year old female, Texan, but more imporatntly, a neo-con. Ever since 9/11, a hate has been instilled in my heart, by seeing planes fly into buildings and killing innocent people. I wanna be in the Army, infantry. I am a warrior, a soldier in training, filled with rage. I will fight, and will kill, those who's agenda is to destroy the American way of life. What gives anyone the right, to decide to blow away 3000 mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, or anyone you love? The same hate, that is instilled in me to kill them, before they kill me. I WILL KILL THEM, BEFORE THEY KILL ME. I will NOT pacify their actions as anger, or just a reason to speak out against the Americans.I refuse to. Semper fi, do or DIE gun ho, gun ho, gun ho!!!!!


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