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DNI McConnell: Not Fighting Them Over There, So We Can Wiretap You Here

This is our Director of National Intelligence, talking about the threat of Al Qaeda growing stronger in an area nominally controlled by our ally Pakistan:

After the 31st of May we were in extremis becausenow we have significantly less capability. And meantime, the community,before I came back, had been working on a National IntelligenceEstimate on terrorist threat to the homeland. And the key elements ofthe terrorist threat to the homeland, there were four key elements, aresilient determined adversary with senior leadership willing to diefor the cause, requiring a place to train and develop, think of it assafe haven, they had discovered that in the border area betweenPakistan and Afghanistan. Now the Pakistani government is pushing andpressing and attempting to do something about it, but by and large theyhave areas of safe haven. So leadership that can adapt, safe haven,intermediate leadership, these are think of them as trainers,facilitators, operational control guys. And the fourth part isrecruits. They have them, they’ve taken them. This area is referred toas the FATA, federally administered tribal areas, they have therecruits and now the objective is to get them into the United Statesfor mass casualties to conduct terrorist operations to achieve masscasualties. All of those four parts have been carried out except thefourth. They have em, but they haven’t been successful. One of themajor tools for us to keep them out is the FISA program, a significanttool and we’re going the wrong direction. [my emphasis]

This is the urgent new reason McConnell gave to Congress for refusing to allow the FISC to oversee the minimization procedures on wiretapping done in the United States.

Now, first of all, Al Qaeda didn’t just "now" "discover" the tribal lands, though we may have when we let Bin Laden escape to them. Al Qaeda and the Taliban knew and used it, well before they retreated to it as their primary safe haven … over five years ago.

More importantly, is anyone as concerned as I am that our Director of National Intelligence says, "one of the major tools for us to keep them out is the FISA program"? After all, this is a guy who oversees all aspects of intelligence, including human intelligence, satellite sigint (after all, there are oh so many fiber optic cables laid in the tribal lands), and covert operations. Not to mention data collection from international air travel, military intelligence, and financial operations. But DNI McConnell is relying on needle-in-a-haystack wiretapping to keep us safe?

And, while it’s not McConnell’s fault (it’s Dick Cheney’s), tell me how it makes you feel that our DNI is saying, of an ostensible ally, that, "Now the Pakistani government is pushing andpressing and attempting to do something about it, but by and large theyhave areas of safe haven." Because I sure have a vague memory of saying over and over that our first task in the war on terror is to get Pakistan right. Heck, the non-serious left and people like Richard Clarke have been saying, for even longer, that Pakistan and Afghanistan should have taken precedence over Iraq. But here our DNI is, telling us about this urgent everything-old-is-new-again threat in Pakistan, pinpointing the source of any terrorist threat to our country.

And he basically shrugs it off.

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