Entries in Intelligence (7)


Intelligence Committee Leaders Defend NSA Surveillance

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence committees defended the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs revealed last week, saying that the programs are “within the law” and have been critical in thwarting potential terrorist attacks.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on This Week Sunday that the NSA phone surveillance program revealed in reports last week is limited in scope to viewing phone records, not listening to private conversations, while reiterating that court orders are required for further information.

“The program is essentially walled off within the NSA. There are limited numbers of people who have access to it,” Feinstein said on This Week. “The only thing taken, as has been correctly expressed, is not content of a conversation, but the information that is generally on your telephone bill, which has been held not to be private personal property by the Supreme Court. If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those numbers then can be obtained. If you want to collect content on the American, then a court order is issued.”

“The National Security Agency does not listen to Americans’ phone calls and it is not reading Americans’ e-mails. None of these programs allow that,” added Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Both Feinstein and Rogers said that the phone and internet surveillance programs has been instrumental in stopping terrorist attacks, citing the 2009 terror plot by Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado resident who was arrested in Sept. 2009 after plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Feinstein said the program also helped to track the case of David Headley, a Pakistani-American who traveled to Mumbai to scope the Taj Mahal Hotel for an attack.

“I can tell you, in the Zazi case in New York, it’s exactly the program that was used,” Rogers said, later adding, “I think the Zazi case is so important, because that’s one you can specifically show that this was the key piece that allowed us to stop a bombing in the New York subway system.”

Feinstein said the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still loom in her mind, and that strong intelligence from the type of surveillance conducted by the NSA is needed to prevent future attacks.

“I flew over World Trade Center going to Senator [Frank] Lautenberg’s funeral, and in the distance was the Statue of Liberty. And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building, hitting the canopy,” Feinstein said. “Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe. Human intelligence isn’t going to do it, because you can’t – it’s a different culture. It is a fanaticism that isn’t going to come forward.”

Feinstein said she would be open to public hearings on the surveillance programs, and said that the Senate Intelligence Committee has made information on the programs available to all senators. But she noted the difficulty of being fully public without disclosing classified information.

“The instances where this has produced good – has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks – is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this,” Feinstein said. “So that we can’t actually go in there and, other than the two that have been released, give the public an actual idea of people that have been saved, attacks that have been prevented, that kind of thing.”

“If you tell our adversaries and enemies in the counterterrorism fight exactly how we conduct business, they are not going to do business the same ever again,” Rogers added. “It makes it more difficult.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who has raised warnings about the domestic surveillance methods in recent years, said he hopes the released information will spark debate over the NSA’s methods, and will lead to re-opening the Patriot Act to limit the NSA’s abilities.

“I think it’s an opportunity now to have a discussion about the limits of surveillance, how we create transparency, and above all, how we protect Americans’ privacy,” Udall said this morning on This Week. “My main concern is Americans don’t know the extent to which they are being surveilled… I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security Administration is collecting.”

Udall said he did not believe the right balance is being struck currently between privacy and security.

“We do need to remember, we’re in a war against terrorists, and terrorism remains a real threat, but I also think we have to cue to the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unlawful searches and seizures, ought to be important to us,” Udall said. “It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here. That is what I’m aiming for.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Romney Calls for Special Prosecutor to Investigate Counterterrorism Leaks

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney joined a list of mostly Republican leaders Monday calling for a special independent prosecutor to investigate leaks about U.S. counterterrorism programs, saying sensitive information “should not be leaked in a way that puts American interests and our people in jeopardy.”

“I do think that a special prosecutor should look into them,” Romney told Fox News Channel’s Carl Cameron. “I think we should make every effort to understand how those matters that relate to the safety of our men and women in uniform around the world and to our foreign policy plans.”

The New York Times and Newsweek ran reports revealing a “kill list” of terrorist targets, as well as details about a cyber-warfare campaign against Iran and the U.S. drone program.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has called for an independent investigation, as have other senators including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.

In Monday’s interview, Romney wouldn’t give any hints as to when he may pick a running mate.  And even though Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., joined him on the campaign trail Monday, he would only say, “There are a number of terrific people in our party who could potentially serve as a vice president. We are going through that process now of making that decision, but I got no names for you.”

He wouldn’t confirm or deny reports that he may choose a running mate early, before the Republican convention, just saying it’s something “I’ll be deciding down the road.”

“I don’t know what the history is of all the people who have been selected and when they’ve been nominated or decided upon by the various candidates,” Romney said in Wisconsin. “No timetable for you now, but I’ll decide exactly when it is I’ll name my V.P. It could be at the convention, it could be earlier. Probably not much later than the convention, but I expect it will come when it comes.”

As he did Sunday on CBS News’ Face the Nation, the presumptive GOP nominee twice refused to say whether he would repeal the president’s order on immigration. Cameron asked why he wouldn't say if he would reverse it, as he does consistently with the president’s health care plan, Romney answered he favors a “long-term solution,” without going into detail. He did say it’s an issue he will start working on “as soon as I get elected” so he’s “ready to go immediately.”

“When we talk about illegal immigration I think I want to start by saying we got to secure the border, we’ve got to have an employment verification system,” Romney said. “And then with regards to these children who came in here brought by their parents who came here illegally, how we deal with this is something that I think deserves a long-term solution, and I don’t think we go jumping from one solution to the other. I think the president made a mistake by putting out there what he called a stopgap measure. I don’t think that’s the right way to go.”

President Obama announced Friday that illegal immigrants will no longer face the threat of deportation if they were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16, are younger than 30, have no criminal record and have graduated from high school or earned a G.E.D. It could affect 800,000 people in this country.

Romney called the president’s announcement “partly political” and said it wasn’t the role of “a nominee like myself go out and talk about short term answers.”

“I want to put in place a long-term solution to our illegal immigration challenges and make sure those people who have come here illegally understand what their status will be,” Romney said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


McCain Introduces Senate Resolution Calling for Special Counsel to Investigate Leaks

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- Keeping the drumbeat up, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced a resolution in the Senate Tuesday calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the string of recent national security and intelligence leaks.

“I can’t think of any time that I have seen such breaches of ongoing national security programs as has been the case here,” McCain said from the Senate floor Tuesday. “The damage to our national security has been articulated by many both in and outside of the administration, including the most damaging that we have seen, including our director of national intelligence saying that it’s the worst that he’s seen in his 30 years of service.”

The non-binding resolution expresses the Sense of the Senate that Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the unauthorized disclosure of classified and sensitive information by administration officials.

Based on that information, the resolution states the president should assess whether any such unauthorized disclosures of classified and highly sensitive information damaged national security and how such damage can be mitigated.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that not only would this serve the country well but it would serve Attorney General Holder well too.

“We’re setting a precedent,” Graham said of the need to appoint a special prosecutor, “for us to say that we don’t need one here is a precedent that will haunt the country and this body and future White Houses in a way that I think is very disturbing.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says that he’s never been an advocate of the special counsel but he believes that this is a case where it is needed, given the magnitude of some of the leaks added all together.

Holder has assigned two U.S. attorneys to lead investigations of possible unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The White House has been insistent that there is “no need” for a special counsel.

“There is no need for a special counsel.  These things have consistently been investigated when that’s appropriate,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dismissed the call for a special prosecutor as nothing more than a “strictly partisan, insincere attempt to embarrass the president,” and said the appointment of two U.S. attorneys is enough.

“Two of the finest prosecutors we have in the Justice Department are working on this as we speak,” Reid said. “It isn’t anything that anyone wants. Leaks happen. We don’t know where these leaks came from. That’s why taking a look at this is a good idea, and that’s what the attorney general agreed.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Congress Warns Intel Leaks Put ‘Lives at Risk’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Top Democrats and Republicans Thursday demanded an end to leaks of classified intelligence because, they said, the leaks are putting lives at risk and jeopardizing future operations.

Thursday afternoon, the senior Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees joined together with Republicans to denounce a recent flood of national security leaks about U.S. covert actions in counterterrorism and espionage, and to announce their collective effort to investigate the recurring issue of classified information being disclosed in the media.

Earlier this week, the FBI has opened a leak investigation into the disclosures in the New York Times last week that President Obama ordered the intelligence community to speed up cyber attacks against Iran with the Stuxnet worm, according to federal law enforcement officials. In recent weeks, there have also been stories about the president’s “kill list” of al Qaeda drone targets and another about the double agent who helped the U.S. foil the latest attempted al Qaeda attack on a U.S. airline.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called recent leaks “one of the most serious of breaches” that he has seen in 10 years sitting on the committee.

“It puts us at risk. It puts lives at risk,” said Ruppersberger, D-Md. “It hurts us in recruiting assets that give us intelligence information that will allow us to protect our citizens, to work through issues that are so important to the whole issue of peace throughout the world and how we protect our citizens throughout the world.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee, echoed those concerns, warning that “leaks jeopardize American lives,” and have an adverse impact on intelligence employees in the field.

“We are not finger-pointing,” she said. “This has to stop. When people say they don’t want to work with the United States because they can’t trust us to keep a secret, it’s serious.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said there is “a clear need for a formal investigation,” with the investigative power to examine any office or department of the United States government “free of influence from those who conducted or reviewed the programs at issue.”

“It’s not just an isolated incident, and that’s what has brought us together. It seems to be a pattern that is growing worse and more frequent,” Rogers said. “The severity of the leaks are serious.”

Feinstein said that over the next month she will work with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, to change language to the Senate authorization bill to shore up weaknesses exposed by the recent string of classified leaks. The House has already passed an intelligence authorization for financial year 2013, but the California senator said that any changes to the language will be written in close consultation with House intelligence leaders.

Some GOP senators, like Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., believe the leaks are politically motivated to help President Obama’s reelection campaign. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday morning that he is “concerned about the leaks,” but he would not opine on whether he believes the leaks were politically motivated.

“I’m not going apply any motives to this, but when we leak sensitive data, we disclose methods, we disclose activities that put our intelligence officials and our military in a more dangerous position. It should not happen,” Boehner said.

Still, Feinstein and Ruppersberger were reluctant to suggest that the leaks were politically motivated or could affect the election. Feinstein asked for “a little more time” to consider the merits of assigning a special prosecutor to scrutinize the leaks. She said one of the things she is considering is a possibility of giving inspectors general “more investigatory authority.”

“It’s clear that the security aspects of the existing agencies haven’t really done the job, and we need to find out why,” Feinstein said. “A special prosecutor can take years, we don’t have years. We need to legislate and we need to get some solutions.”

Aboard Air Force One Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said there were no orchestrated leaks by the White House -- and certainly not for political gain.

As Congress works to enact changes to prevent leaks from ever occurring in the first place, Ruppersberger suggested changing the culture of how classified material is shared in order to limit the number of people exposed to intelligence secrets.

“The first thing we have to do is we have to change the culture of anybody who works in the intelligence community, to educate them and let them know how serious these leaks are and the ramifications,” Ruppersberger said. “If you violate that policy, you’re going to be held accountable. That’s important.”

Earlier this week, McCain announced that the Senate Armed Service committee, on which he is the ranking member, will schedule hearings on the leaks sometime soon. McCain also first proposed appointing a special counsel to investigate what happened with each of the specific leaks and to potentially prosecute those responsible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


McCain Calls on White House to Plug Intelligence Leaks

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Describing the string of recent intelligence leaks to news outlets as “disturbing” and “simply unacceptable,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accused the White House of putting the president’s ambitions for another term in the Oval Office ahead of national security.

“A really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the president’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security,” McCain said on the Senate floor late Tuesday.

The Arizona senator was speaking about criticism the Obama administration has received for news reports in which they cite leaked classified or highly sensitive information. McCain suggested the leaks are coordinated and appear to be evidence of a “broader administration effort to paint a portrait of President Obama as a “strong leader” on national security issues.

McCain specifically pointed to the June 1 New York Times article on the president’s secret decision to accelerate cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities with a computer virus, the May 29 New York Times article that divulged classified information regarding U.S. plans to expand the secret drone campaign against terrorists in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, and the article this week on the administration’s so-called “kill list” of counter-terrorism targets.

McCain announced that the Senate Armed Service Committee, on which he is the ranking member, will be holding hearings on the leaks sometime soon. The senator also proposed appointing a special counsel to investigate what happened with each of the specific leaks and potentially prosecute those responsible.

“I call on the president to take immediate and decisive action -- including the appointment of a special counsel to aggressively investigate the leak of any classified information on which the recent stories were based and, where appropriate, to prosecute those responsible.”

McCain said such leaks can undermine similar ongoing or future operations and compromises national security by informing our nation’s enemies.

“For this reason, regardless of how politically useful these leaks may be to the president, they have to stop,” McCain said, “I find that interesting considering that the only conceivable motive for such damaging and compromising leaks of classified information is that it makes the president look good.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Celebrates Intelligence Efforts in OBL Raid 

CIA dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama met Friday with 60 key CIA and intelligence officers involved in the Osama bin Laden mission, including analysts from the counterterrorism Center, the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency during a visit to the CIA.
In remarks after the private meeting, the President stood before the CIA memorial wall with 102 stars honoring each officer killed since the agency was founded in 1947 in the lobby of the original headquarters building in Langley, Va.
“I've returned just to say thank you, on behalf of all Americans and people around the world,” Obama said. “Part of the challenge of intelligence work is: by necessity, your work has to remain secret. I know that carries a heavy burden. You're often the first ones to get the blame when things go wrong, and you're always the last ones to get the credit when things go right.”
The president said that when the intelligence community does right their success ought to be celebrated. The killing of Osama bin Laden is one of those times.
“I wanted every single one of you to know, whether you work at the CIA or across the community, at every step of our effort to take out bin Laden, the work you did and the quality of the intelligence that you provided made the critical difference -- to me, to our team on those helicopters, to our nation.”
Roughly 1000 people from the intelligence agencies were in attendance including FBI Director Mueller, White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and several four star generals. The president’s remarks were broadcast live to all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CIA Official: White House Was Warned About Danger in Egypt

Photo Courtesy - -- A CIA official testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said Thursday that President Barack Obama and his top aides had been warned that instability in Egypt could lead to larger issues for the country of over 80 million.

Stephanie O'Sullivan, the CIA's associate deputy director, said, "We have warned of instability. We didn't know what the triggering mechanism would be for that. And that happened at the end of the last year," referring to the uprisings in Tunisia.

However, the White House refuted those statements. An official told ABC News, “Did we think after the protests in Tunisia started in December that, analytically, there was the potential for unrest in other countries, that it could spread to other regions? Absolutely.” But the official added that almost no one could have predicted protests involving over 100,000 people in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

President Obama has not directly asked Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to resign, but he has asked him to discourage violence amidst the protests. Wednesday and Thursday, there were multiple reports of not just citizen protesters being injured, but journalists being threatened and detained, as well.

Mubarak said in a global exclusive Thursday with ABC News correspondent Christiane Amanpour that he intends to remain in office, saying, "If I resign today there will be chaos."

"I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," Mubarak said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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