Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, October 09, 2008

  Whistleblowers expose truth of illegal NSA eavesdropping on Americans

Today ABC reports that the NSA warrantless surveillance program is every bit as far-reaching as critics have always predicted it would turn out to be. Independently of each other, two whistleblowers from the military assigned to help with the spying since 2001 have described it as obnoxious in the extreme. The revelations will be detailed in Jim Bamford's latest book on the NSA, The Shadow Factory, to be published next week. The whistleblowers say that telephone calls back home of Americans living or serving in the Middle East are listened to and recorded willy nilly - without any regard for their content or whether the victims of the spying present any sort of threat of terrorism. Among the victims of spying were military personnel stationed in Iraq, journalists, and humanitarian workers. Even intimate calls to spouses were recorded (and passed around among those monitoring them, who treated the program as if it were a lark).

When the illegal spy program was exposed, George Bush and members of his administration, including the former head of NSA Michael Hayden (now CIA Director), denied that it involved calls made by Americans overseas. Bush declared on May 11, 2006:

I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.

In other words, if al Qaeda or their associates are making calls into the United States or out of the United States, we want to know what they're saying.

...the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates.

Unsurprisingly that turns out to be false. It's worth emphasizing that the Bush administration's denials turned out to be false right across the board: that the NSA eavesdrops upon purely domestic calls; that the NSA uses a "driftnet" rather than targeting a narrow group of suspected terrorists; that the NSA was storing vast amounts of data from domestic surveillance and poring through it with data-mining programs in the manner of the prohibited Total Information Awareness.

Say hello to Big Brother.

Here's part of the ABC report, which should be read in full:

"These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

Big Brother is in full denial...while reading over your shoulder:

A spokesman for General Hayden, Mark Mansfield, said: "At NSA, the law was followed assiduously. The notion that General Hayden sanctioned or tolerated illegalities of any sort is ridiculous on its face."

The director of the NSA, Lt. General Keith B. Alexander, declined to directly answer any of the allegations made by the whistleblowers.

Congress should do more than demand answers from Michael Hayden. It should ensure that he is put on trial for perjuring himself in testimony before Congress in May of 2006 in which he insisted the surveillance program was legal; said the NSA abided by the standard of "probable cause" when determining whether to intercept calls, while employing a standard of "reasonableness" (this was of course a nonsensical contradiction); and denied that it intercepted calls by Americans abroad or was anything other than "narrowly focused" on al Qaeda and terrorist organizations.

But, then, Congress also should have impeached George Bush when the illegal spying became public knowledge. This is not the first time an NSA whistleblower has told the Senate that the NSA is conducting illegal surveillance.

Unfortunately, the spineless Senator Jay Rockefeller is in charge of investigating these latest revelations of illegal activity. Rockefeller led the charge earlier this year to grant telecoms retroactive immunity for helping the Bush administration with the illegal spying, thus ensuring that civil lawsuits against the telecoms would never succeed in exposing the truth of what the surveillance has actually entailed. Craven Democrats in Congress share some of the blame with Republicans for permitting this lawlessness to continue.

crossposted at

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