Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Reason To Watch the Watchers...

Some ace reporting from Ryan Singel--reminding us exactly why we need oversight of ANY agency investigating US persons:

For the second time in five months, a jury has deadlocked over charges against an inept group of Miami cultists, a massive setback for the Justice Department who accuses the group of plotting to topple the Sears Tower in Chicago.

The Justice Department built the case using paid informants and numerous wiretaps, but the six men on trial (one was acquitted) say they only pretended to want to wage jihad in order to swindle $50,000 from a government informant. The supposed ring-leader of the so-called Liberty City 7 Narseal Batiste was known for roaming Miami streets in his bathrobe to find recruits.

When the indictments were announced in 2006, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole described the arrests as "yet another important victory in the war on terrorism" and a "grim reminder of the persistent threat environment that exists here at home and underscores the need for continued vigilance and cooperation."

THREAT LEVEL is reminded of a snippet from FBI wiretapping documents that trumpeted the surveillance of the group, saying the wiretaps led to other leads and more than 50 intelligence reports.

We provided continuing support for a FBI Miami counterterrorism case which during this time period [October 2005 through September 2006] has intercepted in excess of 1800 telephone calls. Intercepted communications and call data records provided by the system that HAT [High-Capacity Access Team] installed, operates and maintains allowed for the identification of a previously unknown terror organization and individuals operating in the United States. This information has supplied the probable cause for additional case and FISA initiations at other FBI divisions. The derived intelligence has been disseminated to the intelligence community, via approximately 50 IIRS [Intelligence Information Reports], as well to allies of the United States.

One can only imagine the contents of the 50 intelligence reports about a group whose idea of secrecy was to station a guy in a military uniform with a mask on outside their warehouse when having 'meetings.'

You know, if we had a functioning system of overseeing what the FBI is doing and what our intelligence agencies as a whole are doing when they look at US persons, someone would have been able to step in and put a quick end to this ridiculous incident. The FISA provisions worked the way the wingnuts claim that they don't--no one was "denied" anything in this case. They SHOULD have been able to cut this off and have the local police deal with these idiots. If anything, this case proves there should be stringent oversight of the value of the intelligence, not just the process of giving permission to eavesdrop. These were clearly not "international terrorists." These were "wannabe badasses" who could have been arrested and charged locally for being stupid with firearms.

Oversight means more than just blessing off on whatever a G-man or a DIA analyst wants to do for months on end--oversight should function as a gatekeeper of sorts, ensuring that we are directing our resources at real threats and real targets, and not wasting our time on shambling, bath-robe wearing idiots. These particular idiots were more of a danger to themselves than they were to the public. You could, literally, make the case that they should have been committed to a mental health facility and treated, instead of being brought up on shaky Federal charges. Sure would have been a better use of resources and money.

This used to be a pretty badass country. If someone like this popped up on the radar back in the day, they were rounded up and dealt with accordingly, you know, with real courts and judges and the rule of law and Habeas Corpus and all that. Quaint, yes. But effective.

I mean, how many Michigan militia are running around right now?

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