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Visa Waiver Program, Some Known Unknowns
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All the hyped political angst regarding the possible resettling of a few thousand Syrian refugees stands in stark contrast to the relative lack of congressional concern about the equally, if not more inherently problematic Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This long-standing, historically-proven dangerous, but little understood Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-administered program, allowed 21,231,396 foreign visitors from 38 countries to pass through U.S. ports of entry with minimal to no screening according to 2013 official records (the most recent data published). The numbers should give pause, since visitors admitted each year via the VWP are over 2000 times greater than the “up to 10,000” refugees proposed a few months ago by President Obama for eventual resettlement in the U.S. The number of VWP entrants is nearly 20,000 times greater than the 1,300 Syrians previously allowed into the U.S. since the conflict began over four years ago. The VWP program allows 300 times more foreign visitors into the U.S. than refugees from all countries combined.

Of those entering under the VWP: 293,217 came from Belgium; 1,804,035 from France; and 512,299 from Sweden.[1]DHS “2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics” page 76 https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications..._0.pdf
(the most recent publication)
Even before the more recent Charlie Hebdo and November 13th attacks in Paris, it was known that the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Sweden were emerging[2]http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/08/21/all-the-queens-men/ as home bases for Islamic extremists joining ISIL. So do these countries, among others in the waiver program, offer potentially easy access to the United States for some of their increasingly radicalized citizens now supporting known terrorist organizations?

Visa Waiver Program: What we know and don’t know

We suggested last year in the Huffington Post[3]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/georgianne-nienaber/t...0.html that the United States has a gaping hole in its DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) monitoring. There had been little public discussion of the VWP,[4]http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa...m.html a program that thirty-eight countries currently participate in. Participating countries agree to loosen travel restrictions in order to encourage tourism, trade and business travel.

Before traveling to the U.S. by sea or air, VWP participants must fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form online. It costs a modest $14 and assumes that the applicant is telling the truth about previous visa denials and run-ins with the law.

Since November 2014, new information,[5]http://www.dhs.gov/news/2014/11/03/statement-secret...rogram including additional passport data, contact information, and potential names or aliases, is required. Once the applicant has the ESTA application completed, he/she needs no other paperwork other than a valid passport from one of the participating countries.

“Upon landing in the U.S.,” according to the optimistic March 2015 testimony[6]http://docs.house.gov/meetings/HM/HM11/20150317/103...7.pdf) of the Director of the Heritage Foundation Steven P. Bucci, “individuals must provide biographic and biometric information that is checked against additional sets of biometric databases controlled by DHS (Automated Biometric Identification System or IDENT) and the FBI (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System or IAFIS). The individual is once again checked through TECS, the ATS, and the APIS and undergoes additional inspection if necessary. At any point in this process, security officials can prevent an individual from entering the U.S. if they are deemed a security risk or ineligible for travel to the U.S.” Bucci testified before the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Committee on Homeland Security, in the United States House of Representatives.

Bucci’s description makes it sound like a “robust screening process” but what we don’t know, what is critically missing from his rosy prognosis, is how many of the over 1.1 million terrorist suspects that have made it onto key “terrorist watchlists” can be conclusively identified by biometric data alone, as Bucci’s testimony suggests.

Could it be more likely that the only real barrier to entrance to the United States is the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry, who stamps the passport, with or without a few questions, and with little means of verification? Unless a match comes up with someone entered on the Terrorist Watch List or the no-fly list, the VWP traveler is free to enter for up to 90 days or vanish underground. The Heritage Foundation Director’s testimony included the impressively complicated chart below about how the VWP system is supposed to work, but the chart raises as many questions as it answers. It certainly doesn’t answer the most important questions about the actual effectiveness of the watch listing, checking and flagging process.

The ESTA regulations also have gaping enforcement holes. In 2010 (the latest data available), 364,000[7]http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589621.pdf travelers were able to travel under the VWP program without even the minimum verified ESTA approval by airlines, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). No one knows to what extent these passengers presented a security risk or if they left the country after the required 90 day limit on their stays.

Historically, it must be noted that al Qaeda- aligned terrorists have already used the VWP to gain access to soft targets in the U.S. French citizen and later convicted 9-11 participant Zacarias Moussaoui traveled on the VWP before he enrolled in Oklahoma and Minneapolis flight training schools prior to 9-11. Richard Reid, the “Shoebomber,” along with Ahmed Ajaj, also traveled on the VWP. In December 2001 Reid used an Amsterdam-issued British passport to board an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. In a separate incident, border agents caught Ajaj with bomb making materials and a cheat sheet explaining how to lie to border officials. Ajaj was using a Swedish passport on the VWP.

Ramzi Yousef, one of the main perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a co-conspirator in the Bojinka[8]http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1995-05-28/news/19...s-plot (airline bombing) plot to blow up 11 American jumbo jets, used the VWP on a fraudulent British passport.

Yousef had boarded in Peshawar with a fraudulent British passport, presumably with no U.S. visa, and when he arrived at JFK, presented an Iraqi passport in his own name, with no visa. Yousef was sent to secondary inspections where he requested political asylum; he was released on his own recognizance and went on to finish organizing the WTC bombing.

Despite the fact that both Youssef and Ajaj were caught[9]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Ajaj in 1992 with numerous false passports, Youssef was not even detained, but was released in the U.S., and Ajaj was also later released. These egregious examples all occurred before or shortly after “9-11 changed everything.” Some of these problems were likely remedied, but no one knows if the post 9-11 collection and management of “big data” did not create new snafus.

A 2004 OIG evaluation[10]https://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/OIG_SecurityImpV...04.pdf of the VWP still found significant problems and asked for reforms in 14 areas. One reform involved development of a process to check all Lost and Stolen Passport (LASP) data provided by participating VWP governments against entry and exit data in U.S. systems.

A 2014 report[11]http://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL32221.pdf,, prepared for Congress by the Congressional Research Service, says the 2008 reform mandates, which were required because of the 2004 OIG evaluation, are not complete. DHS has completed the pilot programs, but according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “DHS cannot reliably commit to when and how the work will be accomplished to deliver a comprehensive exit solution to its almost 300 ports of entry.”

2012 testimony[12]http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589621.pdf to the GAO by Rebecca Gambler, Acting Director of Homeland Security and Justice, revealed that data is being collected by some VWP countries but not shared by any.

As of January 2011, 18 of the 36 Visa Waiver Program countries had met the PCSC (Preventing Combating Serious Crime) and information-sharing agreement requirement, but the networking modifications and system upgrades required to enable this information sharing to take place have not been completed for any Visa Waiver Program countries.

In July 2015 DHS, in collaboration with DOJ and the Department of State (DOS), completed[13]http://www.dhs.gov/international-engagement-results PCSC Agreements, “or their equivalent with 35 (VWP) countries and two additional countries to share biographic and biometric information about potential terrorists and serious criminals.” The agreements are in place, but information is vague about data sharing. Would complete data sharing make a difference? Or are officials creating an even bigger haystack of unusable data?

More recently, on November 18 Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told F ederal Computer Week[14]https://fcw.com/articles/2015/11/18/warner-visa-waiv...s.aspx that the information travelers supply to the waiver program does not “necessarily include off-the-books travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State group.” Warner added that VWP doesn’t record where passport holders travel beyond their initial destinations.

We don’t know how many European nationals have gone from France or elsewhere to Turkey or where they’ve gone from there, and [they] come here with virtually no screening. Literally 10 million people with German passports last year traveled to Turkey because there’s such an enormous Turkish population in Germany and many travel back to see relatives.

More questions than answers

Far from inspiring confidence, this history and limited available information should raise more questions, including the following:

  • Are the “Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment” (TIDE) and the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), the main or only “terrorist watch lists” checked for the names and passport identifiers of VWP applicants and/or entrants in order to detect any terrorist suspects seeking to enter? (TIDE[15]http://www.nctc.gov/docs/tidefactsheet_aug12014.pdf is the U.S. Government’s central repository of information on international terrorist identities, but the list has grown to an unwieldy 1.1 million persons.)
  • Does the over-inclusiveness of mostly non-relevant, non-biometrically (and even non-biographically) identified data in the larger “total information awareness” primary U.S. and foreign agency databases, where trillions of pieces of metadata have been vacuumed and stored, help or hinder the accuracy of the complicated winnowing or “nomination” process to compile TIDE/TSDB and the “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists? Before December 25, 2009, the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) did not watchlist the “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Since he was not on the Terrorist Watchlist (TSDB), he was allowed to board a flight to Detroit. The failure was never fully made clear, but getting on the list, it seems, is more art than science as it requires “nomination” from “originator” intelligence and law enforcement agencies possessing “reasonable suspicion” and biographical identifying info for the person nominated.[16]https://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/sharing-and-analy...rorism Of course officials will always tend to err on the side of caution, which means the list of 1.1 million on TIDE ends up containing many false positives, or incorrectly identified “persons.” This is why, after years of complaints, officials had to devise a way for incorrectly listed individuals to challenge the listing and get their names off the “no fly list.” The government counters–probably rightly– that it’s far better to tolerate the problem of “false positive” inaccurate listings than to err by not including a true “needle in the haystack” terrorist suspect. What’s left unsaid is the degree to which the list of 1.1 million persons is still under-inclusive as well as being over-inclusive.
  • We realize that the pre and circa 9-11 examples of egregious failures now should be moot in light of the vast changes initiated in data-collection, data-mining and refining the watch listing processes after 9-11. These failures occurred before “Top Secret America” began vacuuming up trillions of pieces of data on people all over the world, including that done by the NSA’s massive communication interception programs; before TIDE or the no fly list even existed. Congress needs to learn whether any of the recent participants in the Mid-east or the European terrorist attacks could have used the waiver program to enter the U.S.
  • The new $64 million dollar question becomes what is the actual, current track record of the watch listing process? How many, if any, of the dozens of citizens of any of the 38 participating countries who have, in hindsight, been identified as participating in recent terrorist incidents were NOT listed in TIDE or the TSDB so would not have been flagged if they had sought to enter the U.S. through the VWP? How accurate is the actual operation of the tiered nomination process in its attempts to accurately strain the wheat from the chaff, i.e. to get more “needles” and less “hay?”

DHS and NCTC will invariably know the full answers to these important questions while the public must rely on reporters’ limited prying. In all fairness, it’s been reported that brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who shot twelve Charlie Hebdo employees, were on the U.S. terrorist watchlist[17] for years. One of the brothers was known to have traveled to Yemen, possibly for training with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Also on the plus side, Reuters reported[18] that four of the November 13 attackers in Paris were listed in TIDE and at least one of the attackers was also on the U.S. no fly list.

Comparison with the US Refugee Program

Last week the House of Representatives voted to tighten restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian refugees into the United States based on their concerns about national security. With a veto-proof majority, the bill passed 289-137 as Democrats joined Republicans, pointing to the fact that one of the participants in the Friday the 13th Paris attacks was a Syrian who entered Europe with a fake passport while posing as a refugee. The House bill requires that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security devise rigorous background checks on refugees, guaranteeing that they pose no threat. However, the current process of so thoroughly vetting refugees can take years before approval, since it requires repeated interviews, applicants’ furnishing of full biometric data before traveling to the U.S. (in contrast to the VWP), and much more rigorous screening than merely checking terrorist watchlists. Further legislative restrictions would almost invariably prove so onerous as to effectively block almost all Syrian refugees from resettling in the U.S.

In 2013 (DHS) recorded a total of 69,909[19] persons admitted to the United States as refugees. The leading countries of nationality for refugees were Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan. This is almost seven times the number of proposed Syrian refugees, but no one raised an eyebrow about these refugees.

The bigger the haystack, the harder the terrorist is to find

It is counter-intuitive to the “collect it all” mentality, yet whistleblowers, even before Edward Snowden, have been trying to make the public aware of the problems that inherently undercut the meaningfulness of “big data” gathering and analysis.[20]

“The problem with mass surveillance is when you collect everything, you understand nothing,” Snowden said. Data collection, even with biometric identifiers added, will inherently prove far less useful for predicting or preventing terrorism or any crime, than it will be in identifying a perpetrator, i.e. solving a crime, after the crime has been committed. That’s essentially how the FBI’s fingerprint repository works. A fingerprint identified one of the dead Paris attackers AFTER he died in the attack. Yet no one would accuse the fingerprint database of having failed. That is because, unlike the massive data collection undertaken after 9-11, no one ever claimed or justified the fingerprint repository as the ultimate solution that could detect criminals/terrorists and prevent would-be crimes/terrorist attacks before they happen. A similar realistic appreciation of the benefits, difficulties and vulnerabilities of terrorist watch listing based on big data collection, along with honest answers instead of government secrecy is necessary to justify continuation or possible expansion of the VWP.

Update! Given the apparent urgency of plugging holes in the VWP, President Obama just announced on Monday, Nov 30, that he would raise the potential fine for airlines who do not verify their passengers’ identities. But bigger issues such as disallowing those on the “no fly list” to buy guns would have to wait as it would depend upon congressional action.

Georgianne Nienaber is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post as well as regional and international publications. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Independent Reporters and Editors. In May of 2002, the co-writer of this article and former FBI Agent and Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel Coleen Rowley, brought some of the pre 9-11 security lapses to light and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the endemic problems facing the FBI and the intelligence community.

References

[1] DHS “2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics” page 76 https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_yb_2013_0.pdf
(the most recent publication)

[2] http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/08/21/all-the-queens-men/

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/georgianne-nienaber/terror-vwp_b_5745050.html

[4] http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

[5] http://www.dhs.gov/news/2014/11/03/statement-secretary-johnson-security-enhancements-visa-waiver-program

[6] http://docs.house.gov/meetings/HM/HM11/20150317/103101/HHRG-114-HM11-Wstate-BucciS-20150317.pdf)

[7] http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589621.pdf

[8] http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1995-05-28/news/1995148047_1_bojinka-philippines-plot

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Ajaj

[10] https://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/OIG_SecurityImpVisaWaiverProgEval_Apr04.pdf

[11] http://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL32221.pdf,

[12] http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589621.pdf

[13] http://www.dhs.gov/international-engagement-results

[14] https://fcw.com/articles/2015/11/18/warner-visa-waiver-paris.aspx

[15] http://www.nctc.gov/docs/tidefactsheet_aug12014.pdf

[16] https://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/sharing-and-analyzing-information-to-prevent-terrorism

 
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  1. The solution to “total security” is a worldwide police state system of real time surveillance of every human being, via implanted compulsory tracking chips, run outside any public scrutiny, by the United States government.

  2. Rehmat says:

    Since the arrest and conviction of America’s mass-spy, Jonathan Pollard, the 52 pro-Israel Jewish organizations led by AIPAC has been campaigning for allowing Israelis to enter the United States without a visa under the ‘Visa Waiver Program’ is being resisted by American intelligence agencies for the same reason. Why?

    On May 6, 2014, ‘Newsweek’ published an article in which its investigative reporter Jeff Stein claimed that Israel spies on the United States more than any US ally does and these activities have reached a ‘terrifying”\’ level.

    Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly; counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the UK and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”

    http://rehmat1.com/2014/05/08/newsweek-israeli-spying-on-us-terrifying/

  3. A huge concern is the fact that many non-Europeans, read non-White, now hold European passports and the US government foolishly does not racially profile.

    Real Europeans entering without a visa was not a problem. We should learn from Israel and the way they deal with entry into their country.

    • Replies: @Rehmat
    , @Jonathan Revusky
  4. Rehmat says:
    @Avi Marranazo

    Learn from Israel – What?

    That every criminal, as long as he is Jewish, get free pass to occupy a piece of land stolen from Native Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Or that even you’re allowed to enter Israel legally, but you’re Jewish, but African – you’re forced to live the life of an “untouchable Hindu” in Israel???

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/02/09/israeli-jews-hate-black-people/

  5. Max Payne says:

    The only astonishing fact in this article is that there is 1.1 million terrorists suspects. Considering the intelligence community is some 850,000 employees I have to ask myself where did they get these 1.1 million suspects from exactly?

  6. @Max Payne

    I have to ask myself where did they get these 1.1 million suspects from exactly?

    Bah, it’s all bullshit. All these terrorist incidents are either false flags or staged hoaxes. The patsies are dim-witted people who get manipulated and entrapped.

    And, in any case, the article doesn’t make any sense. If they let in all these millions of people with basically no scrutiny and there are no terrorists, so they need to mount these sting operations — this basically tells you that the whole thing is a manufactured, bogus issue.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  7. @Avi Marranazo

    the US government foolishly does not racially profile.

    They don’t? Of course they do. C’mon…

    In any case, the whole issue is bullshit. If they let in jihadists who are then alleged to have carried out whatever terrorist act, it’s because they deliberately let them in so that they could be framed for the crime. These are all staged events and false flags. All of it. Look how any of these events always coincide with some sort of drill. It’s ridiculous.

    • Replies: @Stephen R. Diamond
  8. @Jonathan Revusky

    Look how any of these events always coincide with some sort of drill.

    We’re never told – by debunkers like you – the ordinary frequency of drilling.

    Y’all disrespect coincidence. [For example, the rock band that was playing before the Paris massacre resides in my small town. I’ve wanted to ask my conspirativist friends whether this proves I’m part of it.]

  9. @Stephen R. Diamond

    We’re never told – by debunkers like you – the ordinary frequency of drilling.

    Well, I suppose it depends on the institution in question. Some are running drills more frequently than others, I guess. So the question you’re posing is rather vague and open-ended and cannot be easily answered. What I would ask you is this: if you were playing a high stakes backgammon game and the only way your opponent could win is by throwing three double-sixes in a row, and he proceeded to throw three double-sixes in a row, would you easily accept this as a coincidence? (Moreover, if you end up accepting this as a coincidence, do you think somebody who concludes otherwise must be crazy?)

    The above question focuses the issue more concretely, because we get a sense of your threshold for finally figuring out that something is not a coincidence! What if the person rolled four double-sixes in a row? Five? Suppose you were playing poker and somebody drew at an inside straight and completed the straight in that spot five, six, seven times in a row… At what point would you conclude that you were being cheated?

    Anyway, getting back to the false flag terrorism issue, you see, it is not solely that the real event happens when they are running drills, it’s that the drills tend to have an uncanny resemblance to the event that allegedly happened. For example, a scenario being drilled on the day of 9/11 was multiple plane hijackings. At that point in time, this was a scenario that had never occurred before. In fact, I believe nobody had hijacked even a single airliner in the preceding 20 years in the U.S,, so the scenario of multiple hijackings on the same day would have seemed rather far-fetched, yet it was being drilled on 9/11/2001. And, if the official version of events is to be believed, the terrorists decided, completely independently, to implement this exact scenario for the first time in history on the very day that it was being drilled. It is hard to quantify the likelihood of this like you can with the three double-sixes in a row, but it is surely infinitesimal — in fact, I would say, far lower than the three double-sixes in a row in the backgammon game.

    On the day of the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005, they were running drills of bombings in multiple subway stations. These were the same subway stations that were actually bombed. Now, do yo have an idea how big the London subway system is? What is the likelihood that they would be drilling explosions in the exact subway stations in which the attacks occur. On the very same day! Again, extremely improbable.

    Now, look, of course, they’re not coincidences! In these false flags, the drills coincide with the actual event for a variety of logistical reasons. The preparations for the drill act as a cover for the preparations of the actual event. Usually, I suppose that some of the footage staged and filmed for the drill is then used as footage for the actual event. If something goes wrong and you have to cancel the event with a lot of the preparations in plain sight, the drills provide a convenient explanation.

    Y’all disrespect coincidence

    Fascinating choice of words. “Disrespect….” Somebody who “disrespects” something or somebody he is supposed to respect is, in principle, a bad or unworthy person… I’m trying to parse this…. let’s see…. we owe “respect” to somebody or something and are not providing said “respect”… what we are “disrespecting” is something called “coincidence”…

    [For example, the rock band that was playing before the Paris massacre resides in my small town. I’ve wanted to ask my conspirativist friends whether this proves I’m part of it.]

    Now, here, you just throw out a blatant straw man. As far as I can tell, nobody ever suggested that your being from the same town as the rock band — assuming this is true — is anything other than a coincidence.

    Why are you engaging in such an evident straw man? It’s terribly dishonest. Well, obviously, if you continue to engage in such dishonesty, I will of course just conclude that talking to you is a complete waste of time. And I really ought to warn people that you’re dishonest so that they don’t waste too much energy talking to you.

    Actually, I don’t think it’s pure dishonesty. I guess you’re engaging in all this weird discourse (like “disrespecting” coincidence.. WTF… ) because you have this desperate need to delude yourself about what is going on. It’s really quite self-evident that these things aren’t coincidences.

  10. @Jonathan Revusky

    Let’s be clear. You are asserting that the shooting of people in San Bernardino a few hours ago was the work of the CIA or FBI or Mossad? Right? And that the kiliing of about 130 people in Paris a couple of weeks ago was likewise staged by America, Israel or maybe France?

    Same for the Charlie Hebdo murders? The killings in the kosher supermarket about the same time?

    Don’t bother with the links or supposed evidence. It will be enough to know that your answer to these questions is Yes!

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  11. @Wizard of Oz

    Let’s be clear.

    Yes, let’s be clear, you lying shill bastard. If you want to say something to me, address what I actually said. Don’t start with this crap of “Are you saying X? Right?” and then arguing as if I actually said X. Now, okay, I shouldn’t bother to complain that it’s dishonest, since… look, who I’m talking to… but look, I think it’s ineffective. People see through this. Though I guess you’re kind of a one-trick pony though…

    You are asserting that the shooting of people in San Bernardino a few hours ago was the work of the CIA or FBI or Mossad? Right?

    No, wrong. I never made any such assertion. There is a complete electronic record of everything I have ever said here. You can look through it and see that I never said that.

    I specifically do say that in all these events, when you have a drill taking place at the same time as the actual event, this basically tells you it is something staged. The way these events continually happen when drills are taking place at the same time goes way beyond anything that can be attributed to coincidence.

    But no, I do not know who did this. The only thing I know for absolutely certain is that whatever the mainstream media narrative is — that is most certainly NOT what happened. That much is clear…

    Don’t bother with the links or supposed evidence.

    I don’t know why you say that. Okay, obviously any real facts are wasted on you, but there are plenty of other people who could make use of it. So, here are a couple of links:

    http://thefreethoughtproject.com/breaking-swat-team-drill-turns-real-mass-shooting-scenario-san-bernadino-ca/
    http://www.naturalnews.com/052196_active_shooter_drills_San_Bernardino_shooting_Inland_Regional_Center.html

    I’m sorry that none of the material I linked is available in comic book format for you, Wizard.

    That they were running a drill at the time seems uncontestable. It’s in the LA Times as well:

    http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-san-bernardino-shooting-cellphones-20151202-story.html

    If somebody is willing to believe that all these events just happen when they’re running drills by pure coincidence, well, what can one say finally? The pathetic need of certain people to delude themselves about what is going on here, it seems rather like the desperate compulsion of the passive homosexual to be roughly sodomized. This kind of thing, unfortunately, just seems to be incurable.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  12. @Jonathan Revusky

    I doubt if I or many others will be bothering with your comments unless you appear in future to be calm and sane and temperate in language.

    It is not so much that the word “lie” and its cognates is offensive; the problem is that you sound quite deranged when there is nothing I asserted to which the word “lie” could be applied as a matter of logic and linguistic usage.

    Then there is the absurd pretence that you don’t know that my use of “you are asserting” was a standard rhetorical device whereby I asked about what might be the logical implications of the position you appear to take on what are normally described as terrorist attacks.

    Now you appear to retreat to a minimalist position that there are such a lot of cases of unhappy coincidences that you infer a lot of cases where the US government has committed various homicides in conjunction with “drills” as cover.

    Such a serious allegation of crime needs to be spelled out much more to meet ordinary decent standards. What precisely did these drills consist of.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  13. @Wizard of Oz

    I doubt if I or many others will be bothering with your comments unless you appear in future to be calm and sane and temperate in language.

    When I refer to you as a lying shill bastard and other such things, I am being quite calm and collected. That you find it unpleasant to be called (quite correctly) a lying shill scumbag is, for me, the purpose of it. There is no reason for me to make what you do here pleasant for you.

    Then there is the absurd pretence that you don’t know that my use of “you are asserting” was a standard rhetorical device whereby I asked about what might be the logical implications of the position you appear to take on what are normally described as terrorist attacks.

    Oh, yeah, I remember this, you have this way of trying to bog people down with these tortuous, borderline meaningless sentences.

    Look, it’s completely demonstrable that these “terrorist attacks” occurring in conjunction with drills is not by random coincidence. You can demonstrate this at pretty much an arbitrary level of statistical significance.

    The onus is obviously on you, a defender of the MSM version of reality, to explain why these “terrorist attacks” pretty much always coincide with drills.

    Do you have an explanation for this?

    Such a serious allegation of crime needs to be spelled out much more to meet ordinary decent standards. What precisely did these drills consist of.

    Okay, here you go, back to your one basic trick. People, the basic trick of this kind of disinfo agent scumbag is that this kind of asshole is always trying to turn things around such that you have to demonstrate something to him. He never has to explain or demonstrate anything himself. So he just always asks these stupid questions, like, in this case: “what did the drills consist of?” Like this asshole can’t just get on the internet and research the question himself if he wants to know. So, like, if you want to know what drills were going on on the day of 9/11 you can quickly come to this page:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_government_operations_and_exercises_on_September_11,_2001

    It would be one of the first things you would hit. If you wanted to know… But this asswipe will always ask you for things that he could find out in 10 seconds himself using google, right? But it’s part of his basic schtick. The basic idea is that you always have to demonstrate something to him. He never has to answer a question, like, say…. what is the strongest available evidence that Osama Bin Laden orchestrated the 9/11 attacks? A very basic key question and he won’t answer. Not just this bastard. This Geokat scum, all of them… You ask them a totally pertinent question like that and they just won’t answer.

    So that’s the basic game. Anyway, there is no need for me, at this point, to demonstrate that all of these “terrorist attacks” occur in conjunction with these drills. It’s easily verifiable. The onus is on HIM to tell me WHY this is so.

    And look at this. He (she…it…) starts off with this “Such a serious allegation of crime” blah blah. All I said was that all these dodgy incidents seem to occur in conjunction with a drill. This obviously implies that they are not what they are presented as by the MSM. Why, for example, would some “lone wolf shooter” who is not right in his head show up to a school or wherever and shoot people and there is always a “live shooter drill” going on at the time and place he shows up to. It makes no sense! Any defender of this narrative has a serious problem trying to explain this away.

    But, you see, he starts with this “Such a serious allegation of crime” and now, there’s no onus this asswipe to explain anything. The onus is always on you somehow. Like, I asked this shit-eating scum bastard some while ago what specifically was the proof that Osama Bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks. And he just refused to answer. Par for the course. “Serious allegation of crime”but since it’s the government’s official bullshit story there’s no need for him to tell me what the evidence for it is or anything.

    So, this kind of scumbag is basically a one-trick pony, it’s always trying to turn the tables on you and demand proof. And there’s never any onus on him to provide any evidence of anything. Admittedly that’s the way a lot of people operate who are not actually professional disinfo agents. If they read it in the newspaper or see it on the TV, it’s just true by default…

    Anyway, aside from their basic one trick, they have a backup “trick” (if you can call it that) which is to just revert to accusing you of being crazy and so on.

    But anyway, watch, like keep your eyes on the ball. I ask this troll bastard to explain why the drills are always happening in conjunction with the “terrorist attacks”. You think we’ll ever get an answer from him? No, he’ll just walk away from the question and then somehow try again to turn the tables, like you have to demonstrate something to him. And if he can’t find some weird rhetorical device to try to turn the tables like that, he’ll just revert to calling me crazy.

    No dice.

    The ball’s in your court, shill. Explain why these alleged terrorist incidents always happen when they’re running a drill.

  14. @Max Payne

    Footnote 16 features and FBI official trying to explain how somebody gets put on the list of 1.1 million, or doesn’t (as in the case of the Underwear Bomber Abdulmatulab) https://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/sharing-and-analyzing-information-to-prevent-terrorism There are billions and now even trillions of pieces of data now vacuumed up on everyone inside giant databases in the U.S. and in foreign countries. The TIDE list of 1.1 million persons is an effort to hone down the list to make it more accurate and relevant but it’s undoubtedly over-inclusive and also under-inclusive.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  15. @Coleen Rowley

    Footnote 16 features and FBI official trying to explain how somebody gets put on the list of 1.1 million, or doesn’t (as in the case of the Underwear Bomber Abdulmatulab)

    The case of the underwear bomber looks to be quite dodgy. A couple from Michigan, both attorneys, the Haskells, who were on the plane, wrote extensively on a blog about the subject. Here is an example of one of the blog posts in question:

    haskellfamily.blogspot.com/2011/09/colossal-deceit-known-as-underwear.html

    Anybody can look at this and come to their own conclusions. I personally find the Haskells to be quite credible. Were you aware of this?

    The TIDE list of 1.1 million persons is an effort to hone down the list to make it more accurate and relevant but it’s undoubtedly over-inclusive and also under-inclusive.

    Ms. Rowley, just to focus this question and make it a little more concrete… is there any estimate available as to:

    (a) the total cost of compiling this database of over a million names

    (b) the number of actual, bona fide terrorists that have been intercepted due to their being on this list

    Aside from the cost of the program, I would also wonder about the legal and moral implications of such a wholesale invasion of privacy which this surely entails — for the organs of one nation State to be scooping up all kinds of private data on, well… everybody in the world!

    If it came to your attention that the Russian State or the Chinese State had a similar program to scoop up all of this data on everybody, including U.S. citizens, how would you react to that?

    • Replies: @Coleen Rowley
  16. @Jonathan Revusky

    You are probably not aware but you’re speaking to the choir. I’ve been a staunch critic of the “Top Secret America” Total Information Awareness” plan from start, and long before Snowden’s disclosures. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/coleen-rowley/how-top-secret-america-mi_b_811049.html I wrote this just a couple days after Snowden’s disclosures: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/11/opinion/rowley-nsa-surveillance/index.html and most recently this in the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/28/bigger-haystack-harder-terrorist-communication-future-attacks

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  17. @Stephen R. Diamond

    Debunkers, funny word. Oh wait, you’re a coincidence theorist. Amazing, even with the wide availability of calculators and computers some people still can’t put two and two together.

    Maybe that’s because they don’t want to.

  18. @Coleen Rowley

    You are probably not aware but you’re speaking to the choir.

    Well, since writing my previous note, I investigated the question a bit more, googling your name for example, and realizing what your public stance on all of this. Of course, I agree with your stand against mass surveillance.

    However, your basic position seems to be something like: “There really is this big terrorist threat but the way we go about countering it is wrong…” I do not agree with that, because it is my considered belief that the terrorist threat is a manufactured hoax.

    To be brutally frank with you, Ms. Rowley, upon looking at your wikipedia page and your various publicly available writings, I see two possibilities. The first is that you are a well meaning but terribly naive individual and the second is that you know more than you let on about all of this but basically maintain a sort of “lies to children” approach, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie-to-children). I don’t honestly know which it is, though I tend toward the latter…

    Concretely, you alluded to the Christmas underwear bomber, Abdulmatulab. I pointed to a link that pointed out basically that there were witnesses — people who were there and have no discernible reason to lie — who claim that Abdulmatulab was basically escorted onto the plane at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. As well as other very strange anomalies… And you declined to address any of this.

    Okay, fine, but if what Mr. Haskell says in his blog is correct, and this is a government staged operation, a psy-op, then surely the logical conclusion is that it does not matter at all whether this Abdulmatulab individual was on whatever no-fly or watch list because the inner network that stages these incidents made absolutely sure that their patsy got on the plane regardless! Quite possibly, he did not even possess a passport, yet still boarded the plane!

    In one of the articles you link, you mention the presumed twentieth hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui. You allude to a “failure to connect the dots” etcetera.

    Now, my understanding of the Moussaoui case is that Moussaoui was indeed one of a group of mentally deficient patsies who were being set up to be framed for the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, unlike the other 19 individuals he was taken into custody by State agents who were not part of the inner cabal that stages these things.

    I have no inside information. I am just somebody who follows events and draws conclusions and that is my understanding of this. (If I am wrong, you have a golden opportunity to present facts and logic that could convince me I am wrong.)

    But if my understanding of things is correct, then Moussaoui being taken into custody on 9/11 was something of a screw-up. The cabal behind these kinds of deep events needs their patsy or patsies NOT to be taken into custody — because, obviously, if they are in custody, they cannot be framed for the crime, right?

    So what it comes down to is that it doesn’t matter. Occasionally they mess up as in the Moussaoui case, but in general, the network behind such events is going to do their utmost to make sure that their patsies are not taken into custody, just as they will make absolutely sure that their underwear bomber gets on the plane, no matter how many watch lists he is on, even if the poor fool does not have his passport, he gets on the plane! So, to me, it seems like, propertly understood, this whole discussion, as you frame it, looks absurd! It doesn’t matter whether you put a million people on a list or ten million! If the narrative involves the given patsy being at the time and place to be framed, guess what, that’s where our patsy will be! (Modulo a few screw-ups now and then…)

    But getting back to Moussaoui, the whole narrative of him and the other hijackers is completely absurd anyway. Surely no real terrorist organization would send their operatives to the target country a year or more before the operation so as to draw all of your attention to them. They would learn the skills needed for the operation (in this case flying the plane) somewhere outside the U.S. and go to U.S. a day before, say, and carry it out. The presence of all these guys a year before the event, drawing attention to themselves, learning how to fly planes in a flight academy in Florida (which apparently has CIA connections) and all this…. the whole thing is ridiculous anyway.

    Anyway, I have since looked into who you are, and I read some of your writings, and, I guess you are a well meaning insider who finds all the mass surveillance appalling. However, your narrative about what is really going on here falls very short of full truthfulness. I guess that is inevitable. This whole story like: “we nearly caught this underwear bomber and these 9/11 hijackers but somehow we failed to connect the dots because of blah blah” — this, to me anyway, is something basically completely laughable.

    Again, if my understanding of this is incorrect, I am a fair-minded person and you have a golden opportunity now to set me straight.

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