Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Devil's Advocate

in the comments to this sibel post, miguel writes:
"I love playing Devil's Advocate, so I will. The other thing we know from Sibel's case is that the FBI translation program, besides being penetrated by the ATC, was also rife with incompetence. Is it possible that Turkish translators just were not a priority, and there was a revolving door?

But I guess the wider point is: why were the targets of investigation talking so freely on the phone? And one point you're missing is that many of these targets had diplomatic passports. And when you have a diplomatic passport, there is zero chance you will be sent to jail. The most you risk is being kicked out of the country. So you may suspect your phone is being tapped- but then again, you might not worry all that much about it. In fact, knowing you have a "get out of jail free" card, you might get quite careless.

What do you think of that hypothesis?"
i love miguel's Devil's Advocate-ness. without that 'brake' we'd all be even crazier than we already are.

miguel says:
"The other thing we know from Sibel's case is that the FBI translation program, besides being penetrated by the ATC, was also rife with incompetence."
fwiw, i'm not sure that we can separate the two.

miguel:
"But I guess the wider point is: why were the targets of investigation talking so freely on the phone? And one point you're missing is that many of these targets had diplomatic passports. And when you have a diplomatic passport, there is zero chance you will be sent to jail. "
we start to get into circular logic here. xymphora has made the same point. why did they feel free talking on the phone? there are only 3 explanations - 1) they were stupid 2) they didnt think they could get caught 3) they didnt think it would matter either way.

i dont know much about the spying game - but if i was working in an embassy, i'd assume that the embassy, and my house, was bugged (see deliso). which only leaves 1) stupidity or 3) they didnt care. i presume that we can rule out stupidity (if only cos they have been caught so far) which only leaves the fact that it didnt matter whether anyone was listening. and (afaik) the only scenario where it might not matter is if they owned the people who were listening.

miguel argues, reasonably, that even if the diplomats got caught, they werent likely to get prosecuted - but personal liability is only one issue. the entire enterprise might be put in jeopardy.

i dont really understand how - but sibel appears to have an exclusive window into the 1999 investigation of hastert et al. i'm not sure how she knows that, nor how she is the only person to disclose it. at a minimum, we've never seen anyone counter her claim to that effect.

5 comments:

Miguel said...

"i dont really understand how - but sibel appears to have an exclusive window into the 1999 investigation of hastert et al. i'm not sure how she knows that"

Simple answer: the case file on Hastert was still open while Sibel first entered the FBI. Many of her re-translations would have been for that case file. I assume the Agents must let the translators know what cases their translations are for- otherwise, how would a translator know what is pertinent? I picture Sibel and that agent, Dennis [forgot his last name] having extensive discussion over the case files.

Maybe I'm wrong- maybe translators don't have a high enough security clearance to see the actual case file- but I imagine that they do.

Miguel said...

"why did they feel free talking on the phone..."

I think to help answer this, it would help to consult an intelligence professional, or someone who reports on intelligence issues. Obviously, embassy phones get tapped all the time. Were the Turks anymore loose with their tongues then other targets of investigation? I couldn't really tell you but someone who's been in the business might be able to.

Keep this in mind though- Paul Castellano, John Gotti's predecessor as New York crime boss-had his home phone tapped by the FBI and never realized it. If I remember correctly, the FBI got most of its evidence against him from the conversations he had over his private line.

So it may seem stupid, but even smart crooks get careless.

damien said...

Just a side note from the WP. The 9/11 Kean Commission was so disturbed by evidence provided to it by NORAD and other officials that it debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. (link)

"We to this day don't know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It's one of those loose ends that never got tied."

In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments.

So exactly which of the three versions of 9/11 that NORAD gave was the real one? (link)

damien said...

There's also a Vanity Fair article about the NORAD responses. (link)

lukery said...

miguel: "Simple answer"

correct. thanks.

miguel: "it would help to consult an intelligence professional, or someone who reports on intelligence issues. "
i linked to deliso/giraldi - giraldi said that he knew his house was bugged and he didnt talk about work at home.

i find it difficult that embassy folk didnt presume that their phones were bugged - but maybe you are correct.