"BTK" Gonzales: Al Qaeda is really stupid
BIDEN: General, how has this revelation damaged the program?Because that's how stupid al Qaeda is. They kicked our asses on 9/11 because they're so stupid that if we don't tell them that we're tapping their phones, they forget.
I'm almost confused by it but, I mean, it seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaida folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls.
I mean, I'm a little confused. How did it damage this?
GONZALES: Well, Senator, I would first refer to the experts in the Intel Committee who are making that statement, first of all. I'm just the lawyer.
And so, when the director of the CIA says this should really damage our intel capabilities, I would defer to that statement. I think, based on my experience, it is true -- you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance.
But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget.
Luckily, that statement was followed by
(LAUGHTER)I think relatively little of Joe Biden, but he's talking more sense than the Attorney General right there.
BIDEN: Well, I hope you and my distinguished friend from Alabama are right, that they're that stupid and naive because we're much better off if that's the case.
I go the impression from the work I've done in this area that they're pretty darn sophisticated; they pretty well know.
What "Bind, Torture, Kill" Gonzales is advocating here is "security through obscurity." And anyone who knows anything about the topic knows that doesn't work. Publicizing security breaches in software forces companies to fix their problems. If they think they can hide it, they prefer to pretend that computer attackers won't figure out what a white hat could figure out. That's dumb. It leaves you less secure. Better to be open about process, let people review and critique the process, and if you realize there's a problem, fix it promptly.
Our government has been far too slow in responding to criticism of security. The rails are insecure, the ports aren't secured, the 9/11 commission gave the government an F for their failures to take real measures to improve our safety.
Instead of spending time fixing real, honest-to-god problems, the White House, Justice Department, FBI, CIA and NSA have been wasting time reading your emails and listening to you chat with your family in the old country.
Gonzales refused to say how many people, if any, have been arrested as al Qaeda agents because of this surveillance, and like Senator Biden, I'm aware of none. The effectiveness of this program can't just be measured in terms of how many people it caught though. There's the more essential issue of opportunity costs. NSA analysts listening to my calls to Europe could be analysing data gathered from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc. FBI agents wasting time running down the people who the NSA needlessly scooped up could be hunting actual criminals, could be building bridges with the Muslim community and developing leads.
Enough with the wiretapping for the day. Enjoy your moment of Gonzales comedy. It appears that President George Washington electronically surveilled the Whiskey Rebellion.