Aug 28 2006

Interesting Plea From DHS

Published by at 11:16 pm under All General Discussions,Bin Laden/GWOT

We need to connect the dots to find terrorists and stop them before they can kill. Michael Chertoff has come out in today’s WaPo to explain a new need in the intelligence war (i.e., the non-violent portion) on terror

Imagine that our troops in Afghanistan raided an al-Qaeda safe house and captured a computer containing the cellphone numbers of operatives in Europe. Wouldn’t it be important to know whether one of those cellphone numbers was used to book a transatlantic flight? Unfortunately, today our ability to make that connection remains limited: Information that terrorists readily share with travel agents cannot easily be shared throughout the United States government.

The U.S. government has collected PNR data on travelers aboard international flights to the United States since the early 1990s. This information is of such value that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress mandated its continued collection. But in the past few years European privacy concerns have limited the ability of counterterrorism officials to gain broad access to data of this sort.

For example, under an agreement with the European Union, U.S. Customs and Border Protection receives this information regularly, but it cannot routinely share it with investigators in another DHS component, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or with the FBI — never mind with our allies in London. This information might yet identify associates of those arrested in the plot in Britain, but the rules blind us in routinely searching for that connection.

Protecting personal privacy is a part of responding to the post-Sept. 11 world, but it should not reflexively block us from developing new screening tools. Indeed, more data sharing leads to more precisely targeted screening, which actually improves privacy by reducing questioning and searches of innocent travelers.

Reading this plea for continuing critical information sharing tells me a lot about the leftwing conspiracy nuts. First, we must not be doing a lot of data mining if Chertoff is pleading for this traveller information to continue to flow. Second, we must not be as invasive as the liberals think Bush is being in his takeover of democracy if Chertoff is asking for this small slice of information that exists on each and everyone of us. Finally, if all we have left to rely on after the NSA is told to stop listening in on terrorists (because we may catch some journalist on the phone trying to get a story) is this kind of vague and easily spoofed intel – we are in a world of hurt. I am sure we will hear the ACLU come out soon and denounce the idea of tracking terrorists through flight information.

One response so far

One Response to “Interesting Plea From DHS”

  1. pull says:

    Oh boy.

    Our hands are tied firmly behind our backs.

    We have an incredibly ineffective system. It is like the Germans and the Munich Olympics disaster. So scared were they of appearing fascist… they didn’t even have armed guards. They didn’t have a counter-terrorist unit. They didn’t have effective SWAT. All of the hostages died.

    What do people think of our intelligence agencies? Look at the headlines over the years. Apparently, the CIA murdered major South American leaders, created the crack epidemic, caused the Iranian revolution, and so forth and so on crazy absurdity.

    We had the people out there doing the w0rk. We could have killed or arrested Bin Laden many times before 9/11. We had details on the 9/11 hijackers and did not act because we were told not to.

    The legitimate reason to not be sharing information internally, widely, is because of the proliferation of leakers.

    Seriously, though, in my opinion, the situation is hopeless. What hope can there be when you put guys like Michael Scheuer in charge of finding guys like Bin Laden? If it were the guys on the ground, no big deal… but it is the guys behind the desks. And that is a big deal.