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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

US and UK urge citizens to flee Yemen as closures used by some to legitimize NSA surveillance

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Madison Ruppert

As the United States and United Kingdom urge citizens and “nonemergency” employees to flee Yemen, some in Washington are using the closures to legitimize increasingly controversial National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.

Meanwhile, critics have stated that there is no evidence indicating that the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of the phone records of Americans is actually providing unique value to US counterterrorism programs.

The moves came after officials in Washington, D.C. stated that the US intercepted electronic communications in which the current head of al Qaeda allegedly ordered al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to carry out an attack, according to The New York Times.

The group was reportedly ordered to “carry out an attack as early as this past Sunday,” according to the Times, though no attack has occurred as of yet.

The Obama administration subsequently closed almost two dozen diplomatic missions, issued a worldwide travel alert and told US citizens living in Yemen to leave immediately.

Authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States would not specific how many employees would be affected by the move to withdraw personnel.

Politicians in Washington have been using this news to support the NSA’s surveillance, though most of those claiming this is evidence of the efficacy of spying have been supportive in the past.

“To the members of Congress who want to reform the NSA program, great. If you want to gut it, you make us much less safe, and you’re putting our nation at risk,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, according to the Guardian.

Graham has made similar claims in the past, saying in early June that he was “glad” the NSA collected Verizon phone records.

“We need to have policies in place that can deal with the threats that exist, and they are real, and they are growing,” he added.

Graham and others made the rounds recently claiming that this latest incident proves all of the critics wrong.

“The NSA program is proving its worth yet again,” Graham said on CNN.

While Graham was happy to claim the discovery of the plot proves the NSA surveillance is working, he also told CBS that the “public acknowledgement of the interception” actually hinder future efforts.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) claimed that the threat serves as a “wake up call.”
“It’s absolutely crazy to say there’s any conspiracy here,” King said on ABC’s “This Week,” according to CBS.

On Monday, Glenn Greenwald suggested just that, in an interview Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

While the US is “in the midst of one the most intense debates and sustain debates that we’ve had in a very long time” over NSA surveillance, the sudden claims seem to be quite conveniently timed, according to Greenwald.

“And within literally an amount of hours, the likes of Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham join with the White House and Democrats in Congress — who, remember, are the leading defenders of the NSA at this point — to exploit that terrorist threat, and to insist that it shows that the NSA and these programs are necessary,” Greenwald said to Goodman.

Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), disputes linking the latest round of terror alerts with the debate surrounding NSA spying.

“The NSA’s choice to publish these threats at this time perpetuates a culture of fear and unquestioning deference to surveillance in the United States,” Stepanovich said to the Guardian.

The timing was indeed quite interesting given that it came as Congress is looking at potentially placing some limits on the NSA’s domestic surveillance authorities.

“The NSA takes in threat information every day. You have to ask, why now? What makes this information different?” Stepanovich asked.

She went on to state that the real question is if the same threats can be uncovered using a method that is less invasive, not if the NSA programs can ever find real threats.

“Too much of what we hear from the government about surveillance is either speculation or sweeping assertions that lack corroboration,” Stepanovich said. “This situation fails to justify the NSA’s unchecked access to our personal information”

Stepanovich’s criticism was bolstered by noted NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said that it wasn’t actually the controversial collection of phone records by the NSA that was responsible for discovering the plot.

“While I can’t go into specific details, the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee noted yesterday that this information was collected using section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, rather than the Patriot Act,” Wyden said to the Guardian.

Wyden went on to cast significant doubt on the claims like those made by King and Graham above.

“I still haven’t seen any evidence that the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records is providing any unique value to American counterterrorism efforts,” Wyden said.

However, Wyden did say that the latest threat was “serious.”
The State Department released a statement warning American citizens of “the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.”

It also called on Americans to “to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately.”

The State Department also “ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks,” according to their August 6 statement.

An anonymous spokesman for the British Foreign Office also told the Times that they closed their embassy in Sana’a and withdrew all staff, though he declined to discuss the specific nature of the threat.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM - 9 PM PT/10 PM - 12 AM ET. Show page link here:http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at

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