NSA Whistleblower: Government Failed to Stop Boston Bombing Because It Was Overwhelmed with Data from Mass Surveillance On Americans

Cross-Posted from Washington’s Blog.

We’ve extensively documented that mass surveillance does NOT help prevent terror attacks.

Top experts have said that treating everyone like a potential terrorist WEAKENS our ability to protect America.

The former head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operations – William Binney – says that the current spying program not only violates Americans’ privacy, but sucks up so much data that it INTERFERES with the government’s ability to catch bad guys.

Binney told Washington’s Blog:

The zone of suspects was for us limited to two degrees (hops). Beyond that increases the problem exponentially. So, three hops is going much too far.

(Explanation of degrees and hops).

In the following brief excerpt from an interview by PBS NewsHour, Binney explains that over-the-top spying actually interfered with the government’s ability to stop the Boston bombing:

Judy Woodruff: You know the government says that it is only doing this to keep us safe. This is the only way we can have that information at our fingertips when we then have a reason to believe that someone would do this country or its people harm.

Binney: That in my mind has been nonsense from the beginning. Because we had zero problem tracking all of these terrorists all along. We had no difficulty doing that.

And I left those principles in place at the NSA when I retired there. One was to use the 2 degree principle for zones of suspicion. That is, if a terrorist called someone in the U.S., that was the first degree from the terrorist. And the second degree was who that terrorist called inside the United States.

So far, all of the testimony I’ve been listening to by people down in D.C. about this program – and they refer to different cases they’ve been talking about, in terms of terrorists – everyone one fit into that zone of suspicion. None of them were outside it.

The rest of it means they’re collecting more data, making the haystack so much bigger so that’s making it more difficult to find the needles. That’s why they’re missing people, like the bombers in Boston.

Similarly, Israeli-American terrorism expert Barry Rubins points out:

What is most important to understand about the revelations of massive message interception by the U.S. government is this:

In counterterrorist terms, it is a farce. Basically the NSA, as one of my readers suggested, is the digital equivalent of the TSA strip-searching an 80 year-old Minnesota grandmothers rather than profiling and focusing on the likely terrorists.

There is a fallacy behind the current intelligence strategy of the United States, the collection of massive amounts of phone calls, emails, and even credit card expenditures, up to 3 billion phone calls a day alone, not to mention the government spying on the mass media. It is this:

The more quantity of intelligence, the better it is for preventing terrorism.

In the real, practical world this is—though it might seem counterintuitive—untrue.


And isn’t it absurd that the United States can’t finish a simple border fence to keep out potential terrorists, can’t stop a would-be terrorist in the U.S. army who gives a power point presentation on why he is about to shoot people (Major Nadal Hassan), can’t follow up on Russian intelligence warnings about Chechen terrorist contacts (the Boston bombing), or a dozen similar incidents must now collect every telephone call in the country?


It is not the quantity of material that counts but the need to locate and correctly understand the most vital material.


If one looks at the great intelligence failures of the past, these two points quickly become obvious. Take for example the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. U.S. naval intelligence had broken Japanese codes. They had the information needed to conclude the attack would take place. Yet a focus on the key to the problem was not achieved. The important messages were not read and interpreted; the strategic mindset of the leadership was not in place.


So what needs to be in place, again, is to focus on the highest priority material, to analyze correctly what is available, to have leaders accept it, and to act.


If, however, the material is almost limitless, that actually weakens a focus on the most needed intelligence regarding the most likely terrorist threats. Imagine, for example, going through billions of telephone calls even with high-speed computers rather than, say, following up a tip from Russian intelligence on a young Chechen man in Boston who is in contact with terrorists or, for instance, the communications between a Yemeni al-Qaida leader and a U.S. army major who is assigned as a psychiatrist to Fort Hood.

That is why the old system of getting warrants, focusing on individual email addresses, or sites, or telephones makes sense, at least if it is only used properly. Then those people who are communicating with known terrorists can be traced further. There are no technological magic spells.

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander… http://www.washingtonsblog.com


  1. Colinjames

    Or, those were false flag attacks and/or allowed to happen, continuing the strategy of tension developed during operation gladio, and the spying isn’t meant to catch terrorists, its meant to keep tabs on the American people to prevent and/or quash anti-war, anti-wall st, anti-corporate and environmental movements before they get too large to contain. People fear the govt and the police more than terrorists, and the govt- or rather, the tiny elite that controls the govt.- fears the people more than anything.

    1. anon y'mouse


      makes one wish they were born into a saner time and place, instead of penal colony USA.

      1. psychohistorian

        Wait until you hear the excuses that will be made when Fukushima blows up and the puppets of the plutocrats point fingers at each other and say:


        A shameful and sick society controlled by global plutocrats.

        1. gepay

          fukushima has blown up. Threee cores melted down and the containments breached early. If the wind had blown differently Tokyo would have had to be have been evacuated. They still don’t know where the cores are. We were not told this for the longest time even though it is now clear they (Tepco) knew during the first week – the cores had melted at three reactors – When did you first find out?
          The possibilities of worst case scenarios still exist such as TEPCO screwing up the movement of the fuel rods from the storage pools. Or #4 building collapsing. or the Pacific dying for a quite a while or…

    2. JGordon

      One of the major problems with the fact that Obama and NSA lies constantly about everything is that someone could say that these guys eat children every morning for breakfast and it’d at least sound plausible.

      Then if Obama et al go and make the mistake of denying that, of course everyone would assume that it’s true, you know, since everything these guys say is a lie.

      1. Nathanael

        Indeed. Now that Obama, Holder, Clapper, and Alexander have reputations as liars, it becomes impossible to trust anything they say.

        That’s a problem with developing a reputation as a liar. “Boy who Cried Wolf” and all that.

    3. Andrea

      Oh yes. As anybody who wanted to hunt for ‘terrorists’ could do so even with quite limited means, old style, as pointed out in the article, and be more effective.

      Or, if the concern is say plane safety, to make the smarter move, and put aside profiling, personal information, tracking individuals by, for ex. examining how bombs are put in planes (and it is not in people’s underwear).

      The last safety test at Zurich airport – a few smart guys are hired and given ‘fake’ bombs, i.e. objects that have the proper characteristics and should be picked up but can’t explode – showed that 3 or 4 bombs made it onto planes. The test was reported in the press and only one location was divulged: in a food cart. The ‘bomb’ went from SKYfood (fictitious name) straight onto the plane with no checks whatsoever. Of course this was reported either through some loose mouth or leak and/or because that avenue has now been fixed. A group of teens somewhat familiar with air travel can come up with many ideas…

      No links sorry take it as a personal anecdote to illustrate my point.

    4. JerseyJeffersonian

      @Colin James,

      My first thought exactly. The idea that such massive surveillance of the domestic population is geared toward stopping international terrorism is risible. Rather, it is directed toward keeping that domestic population under the thumb of the Elite so that nothing will impede the looting and the massive transfer of wealth upward. No other explanation makes any sense to me.

  2. cripes

    Precisely. Because the purpose is not to “catch” or prevent te**ists, it’s to create a global panopticon where every citizen, er, consumer, is watched at all times in his cell performing the most mundane and personal of tasks, sleeping, working, farting, telling on his neighbor… It teaches the populace, as with airpost screening and Times Square Desert Storm Twoopers, to submit to any indignity willingly, and encourage them to carp on others who won’t for holding up the line. “oh, thearch my toddler’s panties? Why thertainly, thir.”

    Remember in grade school there was the teacher who’d say, “Because johnny violated (whatever) rule, now we all have to suffer in detention” or something. That’s our entire civilization in a nutshell, with actual violence thrown in when that doesn’t work 100%, which it usually does.

  3. anon y'mouse

    it is even worse than the two previous posters examine.

    they are using all of this as data for behavioral profiling. much like computer cookies track for marketing research, this is meant to make a psychological snapshot of each and every one of us in order to place the most “at risk” on a smaller list of potential sh!t-starters.

    the biggest problem is linking this up with on-the-ground facts such as involvement in various real life advocacy and protest groups.

    it will be like that poor gentleman who played the spy on The Lives of Others. when he went to see his Stasi records, he found out that even his wife and fellow acting troupe members were providing intel on him. they won’t have to have your wife spy on you, but they will know whether you’re involved in XYZ Against GMOs, and probably link that up with a profile on its members generally, and then go out and do targeted real life intel gathering, AKA infiltration.

    Cointel PRo never died.

    1. indio007

      You mean profiling like this?
      Romantic Partnerships and the Dispersion of Social Ties: A Network Analysis of Relationship Status on Facebook, http://www.arxiv-web3.library.cornell.edu/abs/1310.6753v1

      “The authors found that with their special tool in analyzing linked structures, they can figure out how to identify your romantic partner or best friend from among your connections. The two researchers were able to show that the shape of a person’s social network is a powerful signal for identifying one’s spouse or romantic partner. Their approach reportedly can even spot if a relationship is likely to break up.”

    2. Andrea

      Yes, that is more or less the confused aim. Total Information Awareness of a kind.

      Built on the conventional models of individual ‘risk’ say in the medical field, e.g. for cancer (smoker, ABC gene, parents died of cancer, etc. – models that are very flawed, but that is a different topic) as well as models or schemas used in propaganda and/or advertising: such-and-such interests, habits, information consumption, spending habits, ‘race’, place of residence (and on and on) provide profiles of ppl who may be inclined to buy extravagantly expensive cotton socks or join some organization like PETA (or whatever.)

      ‘Risk‘ models (for life events) and ‘buying profiles‘ join hands to give clues about future behavior.

      So as to root out potential dissidents before they even know they are such!

      So the Panopticon requires Google and Yahoo etc. to join with the NSA. Which is exactly what has happened, though quarrels abound.

    3. Nathanael

      They are quite incapable of identifying potential dissidents.

      They didn’t even spot *Snowden*, for Chrissakes.

      The entire NSA operation is a fantasyland operation. The most likely result, like the result of the TSA, is that they (NSA) will harass a lot of people and make a lot of people very annoyed, while completely overlooking the people who are actually making successful plans to destroy them.

      The only things that the NSA dragnet spying is actually *useful* for are (1) blackmailing public officials, and (2) obtaining corporate espionage to sell to competing corporations. Whether or not these were the initial reasons why the unconstitutional NSA dragnet spying was started, you can be *sure* that enterprising NSA officials are doing both of these.

      For these criminal purposes, the dragnet spying serves a purpose: it helps disguise the actual targets of the spying from other NSA officials.

    1. John Mc

      I know, I know…. While we are at why not send the boomerangers back to college at the same time as well.

      And we can create a natural experiment in Social Darwinism with the Millennial Generation by forcing higher debt levels at the precise time the economy blows up and college tuition prices triple over two decades. The finger prints of decreased state funding trends all over the corporate takeover universities across the country.

      We must not forget that the ‘cradle to grave’ desire to gain young children as current and permanent customers like some sick form of abuse. In fact, why not surveil them in their environment to see what funny, wacky ways we can mimic their behavior to sell them more sugar, Ken/Barbie stereotypes as well as highly sexualized products.

      Oh… I left out the trends of massive unemployment, middle-class wage growth suppression, and the frequent fearful reminders by billionaires that our government is going bankrupt so we should eliminate entitlements.

      I think Lambert said this much more efficiently, but this is a sick, sick society.

    2. Nathanael

      Tsarnaev reportedly changed the spelling of his name and promptly disappeared from the database.

      With this sort of “Big Data” database, it is *remarkably* easy to spoof information. This isn’t really an issue for marketing, but for NSA spies, it renders most of the data useless (since arbitrarily large amounts of it are fake).

  4. Hugh

    I agree with the sentiments expressed. This is not about keeping us safe but under control. It has been said many, many times but virtually all the terrorists arrested in this country were caught by means of traditional police work. So it is beyond lame that we are told that the government must spend tens of billions of dollars a year to construct this enormous surveillance apparatus which just happens to be aimed at us in order to capture the terrorists, even though said apparatus has a zero success rate in capturing terrorists.

    1. Optimader

      It’s for your safety, think of the children…. Burp

      Believe what we tell you, not your lying eyes.
      A historical note of irony , during the coldwar the strategy was to bury the soviets in a flurry of disinformation (on technology). The objective being to overload thier ability to gleen accurate fact from the fiction. Aerospace Week (Leak) in Review was trade publication case in point.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Yes, the post misses the essential premise. It’s not that NSA, DHS, CIA are doing their job poorly. It’s that their stated purpose is not their real mission at all. NSA dragnet surveillance was always about totalitarian political and economic control, and raising the fear level while looting the public purse. Snowden and Greenwald get this.

      1. Nathanael

        All true. What really gets me about it is that the unconstitutional dragnet surveillance will not actually work for the totalitarian control purposes for which it is intended. It will, rather, backfire spectacularly. The backfiring is already starting!

  5. ian

    I’ve said it before and will say it again – this massive surveillance has nothing, repeat nothing to do with keeping us safe. What it does have something to do with is huge budgets and bureaucratic empires consisting of thousands of well paid civil servants.
    Its taken on a life of its own and if you dare ask how your money has been spent – how many bona fide terrorist plots have been thwarted – you are met with “it’s classified”.

    1. sue

      Not really, Ian-half U.S. “intel” collected today is by “privatized” sources. Follow the $$$$. (think Raytheon, Boeing, for example)

      Think about it-need a profit margin? Our intel says threat level is heightened.

      1. sue

        Want documentation? Look here:


        BBC video 3 hours of historical documentation by Adam Curtis. (note-has been removed from youtube, after several years of reference, on “copyright grounds.”)

        Also note “Century of self” (video documentation of U.S. propaganda, early 1900’s), and “The Trap” (video documentation of U.S. propaganda conflating “freedom”) is quite available on youtube:





        Yet, the

      2. ian

        Perhaps I expressed myself badly – we’re not in disagreement at all. There is tons of money being made off this – in addition to the intelligence community empires. In the end, it has nothing to do with keeping us safe.

    2. Mcmike

      Exactly. Obviously they need to hire another couple hundred thousand private contractor analysts.

      Of course, that’s the problem: you can outsource number crunching as a commodity. Actual gumshoe work takes thought, experience, institutional memory, intuition, risk taking, dedication, and effort wasted on dead ends. Real work by real people in stable institutions – the opposite of privatized services performed by mcjob cogs.

  6. sue

    In other words, “Your secrets are safe with us” (we’re doing it all FOR you) but you are a criminal if you plumb our secrets. (even when demonstrably true, AND when already appearing in written text, defining-demonstrating non-classified status.

  7. cripes

    If by “caught” you mean executed without trial, rendered, etc.; if by “traditional” you mean set-up inept patsies and supplied plans and materials for staged “attaçks” then sure, that’s good police work.

  8. Skeptic

    “The rest of it means they’re collecting more data, making the haystack so much bigger so that’s making it more difficult to find the needles.”

    This is the exact approach that should be taken against companies like MOTHER GOOGLE, make the Haystack bigger and falser so that their data is useless and worthless. Useless data means less revenue. Tank their stock price and maybe then they will change their spying behaviour and assault on privacy.

    Still waiting for simple software that will either run in background or when the computer is idle that will start filling up these commercial spying operations with garbage and lots and lots of it. Seems to be a distinct lack of creativity by the Nerd Class.

    1. Banger

      This is one the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time and very doable! These are just the sort of ideas we need more of to revitalize the moribund left.

    2. anon y'mouse

      in a former life, having known a lot of the ‘nerd class’ they are uniquely naïve to the dangers of what they create.

      only one wise old goat had sense to never purchase cigarettes or alcohol with anything but cash, and this was back in the early 90s. he said flat out—all purchases are recorded. eventually my credit card co. (bank, etc.) will want to share this data with my health insurance co. and then i’ll get denied for health coverage when it is really needed.

      all of the ones that I knew were much in love with their own creation, like the sculpter in Pygmalion. when that Kurzweil book came out, I thought “well, here’s a guy who at least admits his sexual fetish for the machine.”

    3. TarheelDem

      Are you arguing that commercial spam, the repetitive accesses resulting from poor telecommunication performance and lost connections, and NSA own overloading of the internet are not sufficient?

    4. Andrea

      Absolutely, building a bigger hay stack.

      Decades ago the one shared computer churned on all day with searches for HELLO KIITY BAGS and chemical composition of water, Napoleon’s life, bus routes, and perhaps targeted or tracked sites…. and that could be run automatically somehow…random sites logged into all day..

      Of course, if the person is a *specified target*, analysts can figure it out, but only with costly time, effort.

      Protest moves?

      Why not sent out one day, or during one week, whatever, a bunch of messages, with all the ‘semantic triggers’ that are supposed to lead to more analysis?

      For example, err. No I shouldn’t post an example here. Some made-up story about a dream that includes cousin Dan, the sexy renegade guy, and love auntie May, she’s great and makes delicious apple pie, and his friend who has another belief system and it was real scary and there were ….mention devices of a certain kind, big buildings, other ppl, not named but alluded under weird, crack-pot, pseudonyms. All made up in a dream world with no links to the real world. And then I woke up.. and Marcie called! She wants to date! She really likes me! ;)

      And then do it again next week!

      Millions, or more, of messages of that type would explode parts of the system.

      One could get more creative ….heh…

    5. hunkerdown

      If you really want to flail around like a fussy baby to impress your friends, create an application that generates fuzz and release it to the community so that the NSA can characterize it, catalogue it and reduce it to “concerned but naïve citizen, no threat to power”.

      If you really want to make their lives harder, use crypto and secure your endpoints.

  9. Network Schools

    Your argument is logical and thoughtful… but FEAR will out and what is likely to happen next is some NSA administrator will testify in congress that what is needed is more manpower so they can search the bigger haystack… scaling back on our “safety” is unlikely any time soon…

  10. Sleeper

    The tidbit about the Navy reading the Japanese code is at best disingenuous – While the code breakers may have read the message the actual intent and capability of the Japanese forces was unknown.

    Think of poker – if the cards could be read would that mean that the players will atually bet those cards ?

    And it is good to see that some questions are raised about the Boston Marathon bomber.

    It is interesting that in both the Boston case and the Times Square case similar materials were used.
    Both cases involved foriegn travel to parts of the world in turmoil, both cases seem to include intelegence and law enforcement willfully ignoring direct warnings from close associates (relative and parents)of the bombers.

    Ergo these case are almost certainly false flag operations.

  11. Banger

    Interesting that some people here at least accept the possibility that all was not kosher with this bombing. It certainly smells funny.

    Any large organization becomes very much like an organism in an eco-system and it is important to understand that. NSA/CIA and the whole national security establishment have an agenda the first item on that agenda is to thrive just like any organism. It would be irrational to expect these organizations to be primarily interested in their missions as described by Congress or any Administration. Sometimes organizations that come from a unified country do put very high on the agenda a sense of common purpose as in WWII but in our deeply fragmented society with endless cable channels and the internet such a sense of common purpose is just not possible. Thus the NSA, in this case, has its own life and agenda that have very little to do with you or me except to the extent we are data.

    One of the tragedies of my life is to have largely given up on the left because, even on the radical Chomsky left, there is a refusal to face the reality of the “deep state” which is nothing more than what I describe above–organizations that have their own agendas and make their own alliances with other institutions (Wall Street, MIC, Big Media and so on) when its convenient. The evidence of various major historical events lies, often, in the contrary direction from the official story and all those who sign on to the official story are, in my view, complicit in maintaining a fictional view of history.

    NSA collects data to collect data–but there is also a long-term goal that was articulated at various stages of this enterprise–that is to create a panopticon and what they see as a rational controlled environment for the future of mankind. There is, as indicated by this article, no practical reason for collecting all data on everybody in the world–but for the organism called the NSA it is the ticket to complete world domination. Sorry to bring in comic book scenarios but that IS the agenda of the national security state–of course all for our own good.

    1. anon y'mouse

      that video linked above, Binney was saying this. “our intention was to get it all. we just used to throw away the part that contained anything relevant to U.S. citizens.”

      i think that the reason the left is against viewing such things or discussing them is because this is the left’s equivalent of admitting that you don’t believe in the common story told of evolution, or you have some doubts about it. that could be wrong, but it touches heavily on that third-rail of “conspiracy nut” that most lefties are trying to avoid with their desire to balance out the -religious fairy tale nuts- (just a shorthand. believe what you like, as long as it doesn’t cause you to go around hurting/killing people!) and be the voice of rational wisdom in the political room.

      i long ago gave up worrying about whether people thought i was crazy (isn’t it obvious?) and will not put anything past anyone, especially those who have nearly infinite power relative to us common citizens. the only thing i worry about is veracity—can stuff be verified. i hate to say that i have not been able to verify my niggling suspicion, present on the day and at the time of watching the Trade Center collapse, that the story we were being told was incomplete and too pat.

      still, like a secret belief in the tooth fairy i don’t go sharing this with everyone i meet. they might really start to think about imposing some drug regimen or something to cure the insanity or repress the voices i don’t hear, or something.

    2. Gaianne

      One thing that smelled funny immediately:

      Remember those pictures that appeared right after the event? They were horrible, yes, but it is how they were horrible that is the point. Runners with their legs cut off by the blast at mid-thigh, with no obvious upper body injury.

      You can’t do that with a pressure-cooker.

      Okay, so obviously a shaped charge. This is not a secret technology, and maybe you could build one in your basement. The bombing did not have to have been done by trained government agents: Many people in and out of government would have been able to do it.

      But the powers that be and the media chose to go with an obvious, clumsy lie. They thought it preferable to the truth.

      Basically, it think they are testing us, seeing how much they can get away with. As to who actually did it, all I know is that our leaders exploit an opportunity when they see one, whether they created it themselves or no.


    3. Nathanael

      “it is important to understand that. NSA/CIA and the whole national security establishment have an agenda the first item on that agenda is to thrive just like any organism.”

      Yep. Completely irrational behavior.

      The NSA/CIA organization is actually risking their own survival because they are expanding like a cancer, and eventually their host will decide they need to be cut out. Alternatively, eventually they will kill their host and then die.

      But that’s what most organisms *do* — expand uncontrollably and then die off entirely. Only relatively few organisms are evolved to the more long-term strategy of slow, careful, symbiotic growth.

  12. Howard Beale IV

    Finding a needle in a haystack is actually easy-use a magnet.

    What we have here is finding a toothpick in a haystack.

    1. anon y'mouse

      a haystack the size of a football stadium, you mean? like, never in your life will you have the probability of finding that particular toothpick. perhaps the stadium is really full of toothpicks?

    2. TarheelDem

      The reason that NSA wants the largest haystack possible is that they think they have developed technology equivalent to a magnet.

      1. Nathanael

        Indeed, they think they have developed such technology.

        They have not. They are deluding themselves.

        One thing we know: the NSA, when building “social network” graphs, had to exclude all the links to telemarketers, pizza shops, etc. etc. etc., because they completely swamped meaningful social connections.

        What do actual conspirators do? Work out of telemarketing offices, meet at pizza shops, etc. etc. etc….

  13. PQS

    The idea that collecting massive amounts of data makes “perfect sense” just shows how totally bought off and disconnected from Reality and how things really work both the media and the people in power are….as anyone who has had to clean out an email inbox knows, more data just slows production and results in total inefficiency in actually getting things done.

    I think this is also a case of tons of bureaucrats and contractors trying to convince themselves that what they’re doing is “sexy” and valuable….between General Alexander’s “Star Trek” set/office and the constant justifications of what they’re doing, none of them want to admit that all their toys are ultimately a waste of money, since regular old police work/gumshoeing is what “catches terrorists.”

    1. hunkerdown

      Collecting massive amounts of data makes perfect sense in some endeavors, especially in cryptanalysis. The BULLRUN/EDGEHILL/Cheesy Name operations, for instance, appear to glean crypto keys from all network traffic and pair public keys with their probable secret complements. Some cryptosystems also leak very tiny amounts of data about the key or data which, given large enough numbers of ciphertexts encrypted with that key, can be assembled and extracted with operationally useful probability.

      It also makes sense if their actual adversaries are a classified superset of their stated adversaries, or if they are working in partnership with other intelligence agencies or consortia.

      Finally, consider economies of scale: there is a break-even point at which mass surveillance with a good indexing system makes more operational and budgetary sense than targeted surveillance.

      1. Nathanael

        The reason this fails is that there is no good indexing system.

        And there never will be.

        Data cataloging is HARD. There are gross errors in the Library of Congress catalog, and that was meticulously prepared by very careful people.

  14. jfleni

    “Take for example the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. U.S. naval intelligence had broken Japanese codes. They had the information needed to conclude the attack would take place. Yet a focus on the key to the problem was not achieved. The important messages were not read and interpreted; the strategic mindset of the leadership was not in place”.

    The most important message was the radar picture of massive incoming fleets of planes. but since radar was new and of uncertain utility, (“mindset” problems or in the language of that day “cockpit trouble”)they just did not believe it, Bubba!

  15. fosforos

    Why was no warning given of the foreseeable/foreseen attack on Pearl Harbor? The answer is to be found in the memoirs of Henry Stimson (US Secretary of War)from the previous summer when the oil embargo was put into effect–“The Japs must be seen to have attacked us.”

    1. anon y'mouse

      don’t share that with anyone raised on WWII propaganda, unless you want to be cruel.

      I floated that theory with my grandmother, and she very nearly sat down & cried.


  16. Lyle

    Unless you were listening to content, or getting detail records on credit card transactions, it is not clear that any amount of spying could have found the folks in Boston. You might have found that the brothers called each other, but that would not arouse suspicion.
    For operations like the Boston or the LAX incident yesterday, there is probably no way to detect them short of bringing the putting a full stasi where 1/3 of the population spies on the other 2/3 (see the German Democratic Republic).
    Of course folks forget that from 1928 till 1967 wiretapping was perfectly legal as the courts had said there was no expectation of privacy. (this was due to a case based on a prohibition violation).
    In fact that is the whole standard, and since the collection has been revealed, the courts might now say there is no expectation of privacy on the metadata any more, so its ok.
    Interestingly the old postal first class letter gives the best privacy, since you could omit a return address. So yes they would see that a letter was recieved by the recipient. One could deposit the mail a ways from where one lived in addition. The post office has the best expectaion of privacy since the letter has been around the longest and the slow grinding of the legal mills has proceesed the issues.

    1. Nathanael

      “Unless you were listening to content, or getting detail records on credit card transactions, ”

      They were recording both. But of course the data was useless because it was lost in a morass of other data.

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