Elliot Rodger, a college student who posted videos that documented his rage against women, killed six people and wounded 13 others last week.
He stabbed three men to death in his apartment and shot the others as he opened fire on bystanders on the crowded streets of Isla Vista, California. Rodger then killed himself. Three semi automatic handguns, along with 41 loaded ten-round magazines— all bought at local gun stores— were found in his car. There could have been many more dead.
So where was the NSA?
For the year since Edward Snowden revealed in detail the comprehensive spying on every aspect of American lives, we have been assured by the president and the NSA that every single one of those intrusions into our life was necessary to protect us. The now-former NSA chief said he knows of no better way his agency can help protect the U.S. than with spy programs that collect billions of phone and Internet records. “How do we connect the dots?” he said, referring to often-hidden links between people, events and what they do online. “There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots. Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do.”
So where was the NSA?
Elliot Rodger posted on his social media, presumably monitored by the NSA, about suicide and killing people. His family asked police to visit Rodger’s residence. But when they showed up, Rodger simply told deputies it was a misunderstanding and that he was not going to hurt anyone or himself. No search was conducted.
Barely 24 hours before the killing spree, Rodger posted a video on YouTube, presumably monitored by the NSA, in which he sat behind the steering wheel of his black BMW and for seven minutes announced his plans for violence. The video has been leaked– see it here.
So where was the NSA in Boston?
In the case of the Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the NSA failed to notice the Boston bomber’s visits to al Qaeda’s online magazine or his “terrorist” YouTube videos. The online magazine gave Tsarnaev the details he needed to build his bombs. The NSA also failed to note the online communications Tsarnaev had with a known extremist in Dagestan, who reportedly listed Tsarnaev among his cyber friends.
Even after the bombing, the NSA, Justice Department, and Homeland Security failed to identify the suspects from close-up pictures, and had to ask the public for help, even though photos of both brothers were scattered across social media, presumably monitored by the NSA.
What was law enforcement doing in Boston in the time period leading up to the bombings? Monitoring Occupy and others, including tracking the Facebook pages and websites of protesters and writing reports on the potential impact on “commercial and financial sector assets” in downtown areas.
The monitoring of legitimate protest groups was not limited to Boston. The FBI monitored Occupy Wall Street from its earliest days and treated the nonviolent movement as a potential terrorist threat. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities.