The Good, the Bad and the NSA Surveillance Program

When I first heard of Edward Snowden’s leaking of intelligence regarding the surveillance state in America, one of my first thoughts was, you mean people really didn’t already suspect this?

Almost right out of the gate, the term ‘traitor’ showed up…and it has continued to show up.  Mild consternation on my part soon became a ‘considering the possibility’ that Snowden’s actions were not those of a patriot.  Perhaps simply because this seed was planted, I now am more than just considering this view.  Every time I look at this guy, I don’t like the vibe that I am getting.  And I know that, legally, a gut feeling or an impression wouldn’t stand in court.  But for this writer, the jury is already back…

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Debates are proliferating on the rightness and the Constitutionality of this particular NSA surveillance program.  Immediate outcry was heard across the land.  Outrage, or at least righteous indignation made its voice clearly and repeatedly heard.

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My purpose in writing this post is not so much to lay out evidence & opinion, but to point out a particular behavior that seems patriotic but may only muddy the waters.  And result in more damage.  I am not referring just to the actions Edward Snowden took, or the motives that may have led up to it.  I am referring more so to some of our own reactions to the surveillance programs he exposed.

Not only in this case but in so many others, I have often found myself holding back from jumping on everybody’s bandwagon, accusing, declaring vociferously, etc., etc.  Even organizations and journalists/leaders/speakers I support don’t always get my support! A niggling suspicion causes pause.  I wait.  Sometimes I let the issue pass, because I just am not sure.  I don’t know enough.  There is too much to know, in order to know enough.

But some just start shootin’.

During a discussion about the support of the American public for these surveillance programs, General Michael Hayden (former NSA and CIA Director), spoke of an American  tendency “…to rush the story to the darkest corner of the room” , in reporting these kinds of matters.   My thought is, aren’t we always doing this?  Not just in national security & privacy concerns, but in everyday situations as well?   Aren’t we so easily jumping to the worst case scenario, so quick to blame and point fingers?  We, the media, We, the bloggers, We the People!  Maybe not 100% of us, but enough of us to potentially thwart truth.

General Hayden then went into some basic specifics & differences concerning data collection that shined a flashlight into that dark corner.  Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Mike Rogers, both Intelligence Committee Chairs who approved the

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss on Capitol Hill, address NSA collection of Verizon phone records

program, also shed some very rational light on it (‘This Week with George Stephanopoulos’)  

Mention has been made several times of the efficacy of this program in preventing attacks on our homeland.  One in particular has been declassified and is public knowledge: Najibullah Zazi, who plotted and prepared with a number of others to blow up a New York subway, but was surveilled & arrested by the FBI instead.  He pled guilty and is now in federal prison.  “…this was the key piece that allowed us to stop a bombing in the New York Subway system”, points out Congressman Rogers.

Lest someone say, ‘yeah, well that’s just one instance’, it should be known that almost all other instances of plots disrupted & attacks prevented remain classified. The American public has no idea how much good this program has achieved, according to Senator Feinstein.

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Any thinking individual should easily enough see the connection between our national security versus revealing certain intelligence information. Let me underscore that here -

“…if you tell our adversaries and enemies in the counterterrorism fight exactly how we conduct business, they are not going to {conduct} business the same ever again. It makes it more difficult.”  (Congressman Mike Rogers)

“…you give up operational capacity the more these programs are known…what I fear Al Qaeda learns about this program is not what we’re allowed to do, but they learn what we’re not allowed to do… they learn the limits of the program.”  (General Michael Hayden)

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…so I guess my continuing question & thought is, given that we often don’t have all the facts (and may not intend to search any of them out), why the rush to the dark side, wherein blame, accusation & ignorance may flourish?

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“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”

(Proverbs 25:2)

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This War is not Over Quite Yet…


“This is not a war of Afghan independence from my point of view. This is the center of gravity against the war on terror, radical Islam. It is in our national security interest to make sure the Taliban never come back. If we fail in Afghanistan, they will kill every moderate who tried to help us, and no one in the future will, will step up. It will destabilize Pakistan beyond what exists today. It will be a colossal national security mistakeIf we accelerate withdrawal right now because we’re war weary, we’re going to lose this war.    ( Senator Lindsey Graham, responding to Mitt Romney’s statement concerning the war in Afghanistan {link} )

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Countering Extremism with a Different Kind of Weapon

From my last post:


This past July, I posted “Countering the Narrative in Extremism”,a piece about former Islamic extremist Maajid Nawaz, who today works ceaselessly to, as the title suggests, counter the teachings of radical Islam. For some reason, I pulled up that post a few days ago. As I re-read it, I felt impacted by Maajid’s mission more immediately, more here-and-now than I had when I wrote the post. In it, I quoted Nawaz as saying:


“There are people who are as frustrated as we are with extremism in their own country, in Pakistan. But they’ve never had anyone to articulate that frustration, to organize them and to help them work along those lines…That means work. It means we have to be in it for the long haul. And it means the solution isn’t going to come through bombs or through prison. It has to come through the ideas debate, which is by definition a long strategy.”


“…in it for the long haul”, “…by definition a long strategy.”  These are the phrases that caught my attention, and prompted an Internet search of Nawaz.

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There is no doubt that my growing knowledge of Muslim history, radical Islamic intent, and its actions & very presence in America have had a more than sobering impact. I have become almost immobilized. I’ve been stopped short, assimilating & processing information of a sort that brings with it great threat. During this period, as fate – no, wait, that would be God! – would have it, three months of chronic computer woes have also stalled my normal life efforts. Very little visible progress has been made, in almost anything.


Almost.


The one topic that has claimed and retained my attention is the above-mentioned Maajid Nawaz, so I’m going forward with that -

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We have been hearing alot these days about the ‘moderate’ Muslim. Does he/she even exist? I have watched myself gravitate to a position of doubt on that issue, based on my new-found slight understanding of Quranic doctrine. The awful, eventual implications of ‘no such thing as a moderate Muslim’ can almost not be borne. (Similar to trying to read the ‘curses’ portion of Deuteronomy 28. I am literally unable to read that all the way through. I cannot bear it.)


Intending to get a copy of the Qur’an, so I could see for myself exactly what is taught there, I mentioned that in a comment thread online. A man who had no hesitation in speaking his mind, and didn’t seem the type to back down from anything, warned me against that course of action. He had done so himself, and ended up destroying the volume. His word describing his perception of the evil he sensed emanating from it was ‘palpable’. Assuming his perceptions were accurate, being extremely sensitive in the spirit, I hesitated to follow through with my plan.


Instead, I pulled up some online excerpts. What I read seemed ‘off”. Though it was only a very small segment, there seemed no clarity of focus. I know enough about chapter arrangements in the Qur’an, along with changes/contradictions in instructions along the way, to pretty much table my original goal. In addition to being possibly dangerous for me, I can see it becoming way too confusing & time-consuming…


Now what?


Enter Maajid Nawaz,‘Towards Political Engagement’,  and the Quilliam Foundation

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“My doubts only grew and grew. The more talks I did, trying to ignore them, the more they grew. ” - Maajid Nawaz (link)


Arrested and imprisoned after 9/11, then Islamic extremist leader Maajid Nawaz found himself trying to re-convert cellmates who had fallen away from their former extremist beliefs. In the process of trying to talk others back into radicalism, Nawaz actually talked himself out of it. In the bowels of a Cairo dungeon, a new Maajid Nawaz was born. And leaving that dungeon marked the beginning of his new mission in life as well. Although he still needed to spend some more time sorting it all out, the dye had been cast.


Today, Nawaz holds a BA (Hons) from SOAS in Arabic and Law and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics (LSE), with modules in ‘Religion and Politics’ and ‘Conflict, Violence and Terrorism’. He serves as an ambassador for the global Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM).” He speaks internationally, from universities across Pakistan to addressing the US Senate in Washington DC, and regularly comments on national and international news and newspapers in his counter-extremism mission. He is a co-founder and Executive Director of Quilliam, the world’s first counter-extremism think tank. He has also founded Khudi, an organization and social movement that works to resist radicalism & promote democracy in Pakistan.


Can I get an ‘Amen’?!!

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While a post 9/11 political prisoner, Maajid began to evaluate and study “traditional Islamic sciences.” Over time, he gained a new and unsettling perspective on the beliefs & political stance of the extremist party of which he was a member/leader, Hizbut-Tahrir. He finally realized that “the very scripture and principles used by the Party to make its analysis {resulting in a revolutionary call to a forceful overthrow of all regimes lacking Shari’ah legitimacy} do not actually support its call.” Rather, “the Party’s own principles result in the exact opposite conclusion.”


Oh.


Now, it should be made known that Hizb ut-Tahrir, founded in 1953, is a major player in British-based Islamic extremism. At least it was in 2007, according to a report in Foreign Affairs Journal. Having recently read up on some of their methods and teachings, and having found them to be exactly the same as the other Islamic ideologies I’ve come across, I think it can be concluded that Nawaz’s change of heart, and his reasons for it, would apply to any extremist group, anytime, anywhere. The arguments & explanations he has put forth since his conversion/reversion, countering extremism, should apply across the board.


Nawaz began posting & debating on his blog “Towards Political Engagement” in August 2007. As someone who is not Muslim, nor versed in the Qur’an, my first attempts at reading and understanding those dialogues required some effort! Even so, it was and is clear to me that Nawaz is very well-versed in the same, and amply capable of handling this mission he has taken upon himself. His skill in the details astounds me. As I continue to try to grasp the truths & principles he sets forth, and begin to occasionally succeed, my heart support of his call to re-educate and illuminate Islamic radicals (or any others!) becomes absolute. Gratitude to my God for planting such a man in such a place, at this volatile, crucial time in history, runs deep.

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Martin Bright, of The Jewish Chronicle Online, praises Quilliam for having  “dissected the ideology of Islamism with impressive rigour and taken on its British apologists”, and for providing an intelligent and sober critique.(link)


The appointment of former Libyan jihadi Noman Benotman this past August, as a senior analyst at Quilliam, has “led to six prominent members of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group renouncing violent jihad and the release {of} 600 former activists from prison.” (link)


Quilliam’s co-founder Ed Husain, another ex-Hizb ut-Tahrir member, considers the staff at this amazing think-tank to be the “most intelligent, brave, visionary and patriotic young people working in Britain — to counter the ideas that produce terrorism. ”   The placement of such an organization in Britain is strategically sound, according to Husain, because  “Britain remains vital to the Hizb, for it gives the group access to the global media and provides a fertile recruiting ground at mosques and universities.”  (Husain, Ed, The Islamist, Penguin, 2007, p.272)

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Earlier in this post, I mentioned the ‘moderate Muslim’. I also mentioned my growing suspicions that there may be no such thing. According to some of the following comments made on Nawaz’s ‘early days’ blog, it appears my suspicions were perhaps wrong.




“… admiration for your courage to research, think, and write so succinctly about classical Islamic sources and the Islamist ideological perversion of it.”


“… now I look forward to you refuting the other myths activist groups advocate to destroy our noble religion.”

“My brother, God bless you. You are with the silent majority of Muslims who are bullied by the literalist extremists who fail to understand context – you speak for Muslim masses.” 


“…{you} understand the manipulative (of text and current affairs) mindset of Islamist organisations.”


“Whilst others have gone down the path of using labels, half-cooked arguments, and distorted ‘facts’ (and all that through the mainstream media), you have at the very least adopted the approach of intellectual engagement. On this I commend you.”

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At the outset of this post, I had not realized the Quilliam’s co-founder Ed Husain has, since September 2010, joined the US Council on Foreign Relations, as a Senior Fellow. I will end this post with Mr. Husain’s own words:


“The battle of ideas surges across the world today, and the United States of America is at the forefront of this struggle. The Council on Foreign Relations is ideally placed to help steer American debates, policy initiatives and find solutions to the complex problems of extremism, the prelude to terrorism.’

9/11 Conspiracy?…American Liberty…& Washington’s Spies

UpdateI admit that I acquiesced way too easily to the debunking of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory. I admit that even as I was acquiescing, I knew that…Though the Popular Mechanics article referenced below seemed solid, still, a couple of details didn’t quite seem to mesh. I wanted to, and did, ignore those slightly nagging loose ends. I thought, well, 97% of this makes sense. I’m probably not thinking clearly…surely, I’m no structural engineer…After my last bout with government conspiracy plots, which wrecked me for a couple of weeks! I think that I simply did not want to have to ‘deal with’ another one.

Thing is, instead of feeling sick & overwhelmed, as I had back then – this time, I had the peace that passes all understanding. It was profound and total. Which is why I felt the Lord had led me to this topic.
I feel foolish now, having been so quick to cave.
I didn’t expect to come across a conspiracy-related comment on the CBS.com site a couple days ago. But come across one, I did, and it was too compelling to ignore. I contacted the commenter and acquired more information, links, websites etc. It is with a somber heart that I will embark on this next venture…

“For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested: neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.” (Mark 4:22)

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Recently, events both in the world & in my own life have come together in such a way as to put me back on the counter-terrorism trail, so to speak. My previous endeavors in that area left me depleted & weakened, and I wasn’t planning on returning any time soon…but this struggle in our time is not over, and if I intend to try and be aware of God’s voice and His hand, both in the world & in my own life, then I will need to continue to be aware of our war on terror. And, sometimes, write about it.

It makes me angry that those valiant men & women who risked their all, in the years surrounding 1776, so that future generations, and you & I, could live in freedom, may possibly one day realize that we blew it. I say ‘possibly’. It is not, in my mind, a foregone conclusion that America‘s days are numbered. Yes, I know they COULD be, but to the end of my days, as long as I have a ’say’ in the matter, I will continue to hold out hope and believe for the best. I have only just begun to imbibe deeply of the vision and the documents that frame it, and I do not intend to stop. And for the record, in recent times I believe I have heard from the Lord, and He has shown my heart, in specific words, that He does not want America to fail. Can any of you hear that in your spirit, as well?

Washington & Jefferson are becoming more alive for me than ever! And though I have done almost no research…yet…on John Adams, he also is becoming quickened to me, and beginning to appear within my inner ’theater’.

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Learning of the potential upcoming construction of an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero (comprehension almost completely eludes me as to how such an event could even be thought of, let alone actually considered) prompted the placing of the link at the top of this page. Searching for an appropriate accompanying picture led me to various other links/articles. Which was how, almost 9 years later, I found myself for the first time exposed to detailed accounts of the 9/11 conspiracy theory.

It isn’t that I hadn’t come across a mentions of some of these theories/suspicions here & there. I had. But only mentions. I always immediately & vehemently discounted them. As I read these articles & comments, however, I began to be pulled in…I believe that anything is possible, and what I might automatically repudiate is probably the thing I should take more time to consider, or investigate.

I want to thank blog author Steve @ Careful Thought for providing me with a link to a Popular Mechanics article refuting each conspiracy claim. At least to my satisfaction…and may I say, I want to thank God for this article and for all the engineers, techs, scientists etc. who contributed to it. I feel as if, whew! I dodged a bullet!

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But now my attention has been drawn back to what I would like to not think about. And, for awhile, that was OK…looks like ‘awhile’ is over now…

Looking at so many photographs of the horror of that day and its desolate aftermath left me mourning 9/11 once again. I still cry every time I think about it for more than a few seconds, or speak of it. But those pictures…for her own sake, America must never forget. And I don’t mean this in a stirring-up-vindictiveness way. I’m not even sure how I mean it, but there must remain Americans who do not forget. As a memorial to the many American lives taken away, as Jay Sekulow writes, by brutal and sadistic terrorism, causing thousands of broken hearts and homes and communities…we need to remember. None of those who died in the 9/11 attacks woke up that day knowing their lives would be sacrificed for the American cause, for liberty glorious. We cannot let those sacrifices have been made in vain.

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On Monday, July 19, when the Washington Post released its 2-year long investigative report on America’s intelligence agencies, “Top Secret America“, I had already been primed for it. I’m assuming that at least half of the population is thinking some of my same thoughts here, one of which would be, don’t some aspects of this expose’ of US intelligence activities/locations present security risks? Reassurances that they do not, do NOT truly reassure me. And, to what purpose has this investigation been conducted, exactly? Will good come out of it?
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I’ve only read the first section so far, but doing so has re-ignited my earlier interests in spymaster extraordinaire George Washington, and the Culper spy ring of Revolutionary War days. So, you know what will be coming up soon on ‘God, History & You…!