The even bigger lie that is being propounded now is that the national conversation and the court cases are still revolving around the false notion that NSA phone spying is somehow limited to metadata, as if all the NSA is collecting are lists of phone numbers and call durations
One of the less-remembered parts of the Osama bin Laden fairytale was that the NSA had a hard time keeping track of his communications with his Al CIAda operatives. Why? Because, as General Michael Hayden told CBS News back in early 2001, bin Laden used standard encryption and off-the-shelf American telecommunication products.
Now, over a decade later, that meme is paying off. Just two weeks after a federal district court judge ruled the NSA's collection of telephone metadata unconstitutional, a different district court judge ruled it constitutional. In his particularly florid ruling, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley wrote:
“The September 11th terrorist attacks revealed, in the starkest terms, just how dangerous and interconnected the world is. While Americans depended on technology for the conveniences of modernity, al-Qaeda plotted in a seventh-century milieu to use that technology against us. It was a bold jujitsu. And it succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaeda.”
No matter if it bears any resemblence to reality. The meme has been planted and the courts are willing to go along with it. It is now official lore that the NSA needs to spy on everyone's phone metadata to prevent the next 9/11 from taking place.
Of course, that's not the only lie in this story. The even bigger lie that is being propounded now is that the national conversation and the court cases are still revolving around the false notion that NSA phone spying is somehow limited to metadata, as if all the NSA is collecting are lists of phone numbers and call durations. We have suspected for years that phone calls were being recorded and stored wholesale, but that was actually confirmed by Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who casually let it slip on Erin Burnett's CNN program in May that US intelligence agencies have access to complete phone conversations whenever they want in the name of “national security.”
Although this caused a buzz at the time and was picked up by numerous publications, it was soon covered over by the Snowden story, which once again focused people's attention on metadata. One person who did not gloss over it, however, was Russ Tice. He was a former NSA employee who became a whistleblower almost a decade ago, as one of the sources for the initial New York Times story exposing the illegal NSA wiretapping program. When he heard Clemente's interview he immediately contacted his ex-NSA friends and discussed whether the NSA was already recording every phone conversation they could intercept and storing them at their new Utah data center.
The ex-NSA gathering's consensus: this was exactly what the NSA was doing. As a result, Tice decided to go further than ever before about what he knew regarding illegal NSA activities. In a series of interviews on BoilingFrogsPost.com, The Corbett Report, and other media venues, Tice revealed that during his time as an NSA employee he had personally handled the eavesdropping orders to monitor the communications of high-ranking judges, congressman and military officials, presumably for the purposes of blackmail.
And once again these shocking revelations are being spun away into theory and hearsay. This time it's Senator Bernie Sanders lobbing the softball at the NSA as he sends them a letters politely asking whether the NSA is spying on Congress. It doesn't matter that we already have the information on this from an NSA whistleblower; that has been effectively memory holed. Instead, the NSA is now given a chance to come out and deny that any such thing is taking place, and the whole conversation can turn back to telephone metadata.