Apparently fearful that NSA employees might face critical comments and displeasure over the work they do from the families and friends when they got together over the Thanksgiving holidays, some higher ups at the NSA thoughtfully provided them with a set of talking points on how to defend working for an organization that has received such a black eye.
Kevin Gosztola has obtained the memo and does a thorough analysis of the claims and finds (surprise!) that it is full of falsehoods, including those that have already been widely debunked. Here’s his analysis of the first talking point.
“NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies,” the document reads. “As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.”
Deputy Director John Inglis admitted in August during a Senate hearing, when pressed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, that US bulk records phone spying had been “critical” in stopping just one terrorist plot. He clarified that the spying on phone records had only “made a contribution” to discovering the 13 plots.
Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall & Martin Heinrich, who filed a brief in support of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit challenging the collection of phone records of all Americans, explained the Executive Branch has defended the program by conflating it with “other foreign intelligence authorities.” The senators highlighted the fact that the collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act had played “little or no role in most of these disruptions.”
“Indeed of the original fifty-four that the government pointed to, officials have only been able to describe two that involved materially useful information obtained through the bulk call-records program,” the senators added. “Even the two supposed success stories involved information that [the senators] believe—after repeated requests to the government for evidence to the contrary—could readily have been obtained without a database of all Americans’ call records.”
At this point, any intelligence agency leader, member of Congress or government official who highlights 54 “thwarted” plots is advancing propaganda to save the NSA from being forced into giving up this power to collect the phone records of all Americans.
I like the phrase ‘homeland nexus’. By that they mean to give the impression of the US but in reality this was revealed to include Canada and Mexico, in order to inflate the domestic threat numbers, and was part of the entire zombie lie about thwarting 54 plots.
When the NSA is so desperate that they cannot even make up new lies to justify its actions, you know they are in trouble, not only from the public but even from its own employees, many of whom are uncomfortable with what they are being tasked to do. As Gosztola concludes:
Sending these kinds of documents home with employees to share with family is emblematic of the insular culture of people who have committed their lives to Top Secret America and have placed themselves above criticism by any person, whether they be in the halls of power, a media organization or a civil society group in this country. And, while the talking points are for employees’ family members, they could also be for employees too.
Snowden told New York Times reporter James Risen, “There’s a lot of dissent—palpable with some, even,” inside the NSA. The NSA uses “fear and a false image of patriotism,” like “obedience to authority,” to keep employees from challenging anything happening internally.
The talking points—as well as another set of agency talking points journalist Jason Leopold obtained in October—represent the best efforts of intelligence community leaders to convince employees to keep deluding themselves with thoughts that what the agency does is all justified, legal and does not unnecessarily jeopardize any US person’s civil liberties.
It is from the ranks of these disaffected people that we can hope for future whistleblowers to emerge.
Christmas is coming. The NSA needs to come up with a better set of talking points for those family gatherings.