Saturday, January 07, 2006
They just don't get it: Apparently hate-America-first loony liberals are taking their cue from the New York Times editorial page and demanding "proof" that the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program has hurt national security. As I noted earlier this week, the "proof" will likely arrive the next time we fail to stop an attack.
Once again, Powerline has an answer to this foolishness.
These emailers assume that al Qaeda members know about FISA. I think that is extremely unlikely. Very few Americans knew anything about FISA before the current controversy arose. But let's assume that al Qaeda is well enough versed in American law to know that the administration could obtain a warrant under FISA authorizing interception of their communications with people in the U. S. Let's also assume that, like our newspaper editors and reporters, they are not well enough versed in American law to know that federal courts have ruled, at least five times, that the President can order such surveillance without Congressional authorization. In that case, the leaks could be very important to the terrorists, for this reason: If we capture a terrorist with a cell phone or computer, his confederates will continue calling his cell phone and sending him emails until they realize that he has been captured. That is likely to happen within a matter of days, and perhaps hours.
If the terrorists did know about FISA, they probably also knew that it would take days, weeks or months to obtain a FISA order. Thus, while they probably would be smart enough to realize that the cell phones they had used to try to contact their confederate were compromised and should be discarded, they would not realize that we had the ability to begin intercepting messages coming in to the captured cell phone almost immediately, and then begin intercepting messages to and from the phones that were calling the terrorist, also almost immediately. I would guess that a number of terrorists have been captured precisely because they did not realize how quickly we can follow up on the intelligence we gain, and roll up a terrorist cell.
I concur with John Hinderaker's assumption that it is extremely unlikely that terrorists are intimately familiar with FISA, the process for getting warrants in this country, etc.
What the terrorists probably didn't know before the New York Times stupid and arrogant disclosure, is exactly how good the NSA is at connecting the dots with this sort of surveillance. Remember, a big part of the administration's defense in the past few weeks is how the NSA is only listening in on very few phone calls and other sorts of electronic information and how good they are at sifting through the chaff. I'm sure one of the reasons why terrorists believed they could get away with using this sort of communication was the idea that they could "hide in a crowd" of phone calls or e-mails. The Times has revealed to them that the NSA is very good at picking them out of the crowd. By removing that misguided belief of invisibility on the terrorists, it will have made it more difficult to catch them in the future.