More good news for al Qaeda!

This just in from the WashPost:

The National Security Agency is collecting less than 30 percent of all Americans’ call records because of an inability to keep pace with the explosion in cellphone use, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The disclosure contradicts popular perceptions that the government is sweeping up virtually all domestic phone data. It is also likely to raise questions about the efficacy of a program that is premised on its breadth and depth, on collecting as close to a complete universe of data as possible in order to make sure that clues aren’t missed in counterterrorism investigations….

So… if you’re plotting a terror attack, you now know that in a pinch, it may be safe to use that cell phone you’ve been avoiding. Oh, it would be prudent to avoid it as a regular thing — why take unnecessary chances? — but in an emergency, the odds are in your favor.

You know, that ol’ Edward Snowden is just the gift that keeps on giving — if you’re al Qaeda.

No, this is not a direct disclosure by that individual, but it’s something we’re learning as a result of a train of events triggered by his disclosures.

And like so much that he did disclose, it’s something that’s useful to know. If you’re a terrorist.

2 thoughts on “More good news for al Qaeda!

  1. Phillip

    Of course, all aspects of a democratic society that allow for an open debate about national security and civil liberties issues are going to be “good news for Al Qaeda.” That’s why terrorism (that is, terrorism not practiced internally by the state itself) is not much of an issue in police states, in repressive societies. (Incidentally, as this report is attributed to anonymous “government sources,” could it be possible that this is a deliberate disinformation effort to encourage terrorist operatives to go back to feeling secure about using cellphones?)

    Without tying this back to Snowden and whatever judgment one has on him, good or bad, the fact is we have had a federal judge seriously call the constitutionality of the meta-data gathering into question, an extensive report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and by the President’s own Advisory Panel saying much the same thing and recommending major recalibrations and adjustments in our approach to intelligence gathering. Whether and to what extent we make such adjustments is still up for debate, but how could anybody suppose that the more robust and thorough debate we are having at this juncture is anything but healthy for our democracy? Unless, of course, fear is the emotion that trumps all others and cancels out all hope at such rational debate?

    In the end, a nation motivated by fear to undo its own underpinnings would be the best possible news Al Qaeda could have.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I fail to see how collecting and sifting metadata — the latter-day equivalent of the post office seeing the outsides of envelopes — comes anywhere close to undoing the nation’s “underpinnings.” I just don’t see it, and don’t see what all the fuss was about when we thought it was closer to 100 percent of calls.

      As for whether this is “a deliberate disinformation effort to encourage terrorist operatives to go back to feeling secure about using cellphones.” I wish it were. I’d like to think we were that organized…

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