Then-DCI George Tenet, whom Feinstein described as having stridently warned her intelligence committee of upcoming attacks during the summer of 2001, was himself briefed about terrorist suspect Moussaoui in Minnesota as an "Islamic fundamentalist who learns to fly" on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001, yet Tenet could not later easily explain to the 9/11 Commission why he took no action.
By the way, when such relevant intelligence flows so quickly, within a week up to the very top to the DCI responsible for all U.S. intelligence agencies, this would indicate that the problem is not "stove-piping," but rather a failure of senior levels of government to act effectively on crucial information. It's never even been determined if DCI Tenet warned the President or anyone else of this information that he received almost three weeks before 9/11.
So Sen. Feinstein is very wrong when she implies that the 9/11 attacks occurred as a result of not possessing the NSA's current massive surveillance programs. U.S. intelligence officials did not read, share or act upon the key pieces of info they already had. And their excuse then was that they were getting too much data to even be able to read, or intelligently share or act upon this intelligence.
Now that the "firehose" has become more like Niagara Falls can it be any easier for them to "get a sip?" The Boston Marathon bombing and other botched cases documented in a recent ACLU report, "FBI: Unleashed and Unaccountable," would suggest not.
Feinstein's account is wrong and the truth is that this massive government surveillance is making things worse. Adding more hay has made it harder for analysts and agents to find the needle in the haystack. Tellingly, agents and analysts reportedly call the non-relevant data collection "white noise" or "Pizza Hut" (false) leads.
Can it be too much to ask for meaningful congressional oversight? Twelve years after 9/11, it's time to stop using it to justify illegal and counterproductive policies.
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