Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights

The National Security Agency (NSA) operates largely without accountability to other government branches or the public, according several former high-ranking NSA executives speaking July 25 at a forum at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

They said the NSA tries to collect as much phone, email, and social media data as possible from the world's population, including U.S. citizens, for storage and potential retrieval later. The process represents a massive loss of the political freedom and privacy that Americans have enjoyed through history until recent years, according to panelists convened by the Government Accountability Project (GAP).

GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards, right, opened the forum by describing the pivotal role of whistleblowers in helping the public understand when authorities overstep legal bounds. She praised fugitive NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for providing a vital service last month by risking his freedom to release documents showing massive government abuses. She rejected claims by his opponents in the media and government that he should have deferred to others of greater rank to decide whether the Executive Branch agencies such as the NSA comply with Constitutional, statutory, and secret law.

"No one in power is making decisions in the public interest on this front," Edwards said. "No one is even consulting the public to determine what that interest is."

She continued:

Quite the opposite, in fact. The public is being deceived. Consider the first document disclosed by Mr. Snowden: a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court order directing Verizon to continue supplying metadata to the NSA on domestic phonecalls.The court order revealed a crucial fact of life in 21st century America: Our government lies to us about decisions that really matter. Not only is domestic surveillance pervasive and real, but the government lied about it – to Congress and to the public.

Her comments and those by prominent former NSA executives directly challenged the veracity of NSA Director and Cyber Command Chief Keith Alexander, left, and other top Obama administration and congressional officials. Defenders of the super-secret NSA (which is much larger than the better-known CIA) claim that NSA conducts domestic surveillance of modest scope within the law, and strives also to protect freedoms by confining electronic surveillance to potential terrorists, primarily overseas.

Not true, according to Thomas Drake, a former NSA senior executive who reported to NSA's third-ranking official under Director Michael Hayden. Hayden ran the agency during the first years of the Bush administration, and now holds many posts, including as a high-level government contractor. Drake objected via internal procedures during Hayden's tenure to vast waste of money and to warrantless spying on innocent Americans in violation of the law.

"The government itself," Drake said during the press club panel, "has become a criminal enterprise."

Similarly, former NSA Technical Director William Binney and former NSA Senior Analyst Kirk Wiebe said they resigned from NSA along with several others when they realized the agency was violating its mandate by a leadership guided by bad motives.

"Tears came to my eyes," Wiebe said, after he reflected in late 2001 that 3,000 people had died during 9/11 from what he regarded as needless intelligence failures. Each of the three told the panel audience that he had sought to correct NSA problems internally, but each learned that authorities at the highest levels wanted to use the complaint process to identify -- and punish -- those who raised questions.  

The forum convened national security journalists as well as whistleblowers. New York Times reporter James Risen and syndicated columnist David Sirota moderated the two panels. Risen, ordered by a federal appeals court July 20 to testify against a CIA source, led a discussion whereby whistleblowers described their experiences, some disastrous, with prominent reporters.

Updates:

FireDogLake, Man That Misled Congress On Spying To Setup Obama’s Intelligence Review Panel, DSWright, Aug. 3, 2013. In response to the information released by Edward Snowden and the resulting public outrage, President Obama has decided to set up an intelligence review panel to assuage fears that the government is abusing its surveillance authority. Unfortunately, Obama has chosen General James Clapper, who misled Congress under oath about the NSA, to set up the panel. The group of intelligence experts is supposed to be independent, but how independent can a group be that Clapper selects? The panel will be chosen by, and report to, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper famously answered “no sir” when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked whether the NSA collects information about millions of Americans. Clapper has since conceded that this answer was “clearly erroneous.”  And there are other signs that the group won’t turn out quite the way the president described it on Friday. Friday’s speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view. The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper. No one was expecting Obama to embrace radical transparency, but this is basically a joke. A ham-handed slight of hand that could only fool the most casual of observers. The Obama Administration decided to investigate itself and put one of its most loyal apparatchiks in charge of the effort.

Politico, Obama defends NSA surveillance, Edward-Isaac Doverre, Aug. 6, 2013. Obama chats with Leno -- and middle America.  Pressed by Jay Leno about the surveillance operations revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama expressed frustration that the programs had gone public, but said he has every confidence that they are being used properly. “We don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack,” Obama told Leno on Tuesday night.

On July 28, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald told ABC-TV that he is developing a story that will prove that NSA has the ability to retrieve content from trillions of messages and that its defenders are lying when they deny that ability. A clip of Greenwald's comments is below, with a blog here: Greenwald: NSA Analysts Have Access to ‘Powerful and Invasive’ Search Tools.

In the days after the forum,  the Washington Post published a feature story, front page news story, and editorial underscoring the excesses of the surveillance programs and the harsh reprisals against whistleblowers. For the most part, the newspaper has often downplayed or even ignored the revelations of the whistleblowers, especially in intelligence areas. When authorities fire and threaten those raising sensitive issues news organizations find it much easier to defer to the authorities with whom they work day in, day out.

Yet the columns below suggest that a rare moment has come when, as in the late 1970s, the public is sufficiently aroused so that even establishment news organizations respond. Drake is shown at right in a recent photo by Noel St. John during an eloquent speech at the National Press Club, described here Mr. Drake Goes To Washington, that received little coverage from the mainstream media in March.

GAP National Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, to the right of center in the photo below right, her panel, said Risen and two of his Times colleagues were trustworthy in her experience, but certain others at his paper were not. Also, she criticized a former Newsweek investigative reporter. She said the reporter promised her confidentiality when she worked at the Justice Department as a career ethics officer, but then permitted his magazine editors to publish one of her emails showing her name.

Radack, an award-winning employee at DOJ following an outstanding record at Yale Law School, had objected internally to Justice Department plans to lie to a federal judge about the facts of a high-profile national security prosecution, as she has described in her book, Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban."

Furious with her, Justice Department officials pressured her to resign and hounded her for more than a decade afterward. The DOJ pressured private sector employers to fire her, placed her on a "No-Fly List" that prevented her travel, and threatened her with criminal prosecution and disbarment. She told the panel audience that the DOJ's effort to revoke her law license ended only last month.

Babak Pasdar, who alerted Congress in 2008 to a major surveillance scandal, said he was hurt as well by a reporter who disclosed more information than expected about a system feature Pasdar discovered whereby a major  wireless carrier was allowing a government agency illegal access to customer traffic.

Pasdar, a native of Iran, was a high-tech, civilian specialist for the carrier. He said he achieved U.S. citizenship 20 years after his arrival and felt a moral obligation, as a new citizen, to report to his supervisor suspected law-breaking. But Pasdar was told by his supervisor to keep quiet about his discovery, and he suffered career reprisals.

Surveillance became a national issue after Risen's book. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democrats led protests in congress and elsewhere against privacy invasions under the Bush administration. Also, Sen. Barack Obama reversed his campaign position on surveillance once he prevailed over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Obama voted with other Democrats and Republicans to immunize telecom carriers from any citizen lawsuits that would discover details of illegal spying on Americans.

Risen is at the center of another journalistic issue. For years, he and the New York Times have withstood years of expensive litigation to pressure his testimony against a CIA source. Risen's statement after the court's adverse decision last week was reported as: NYT Reporter James Risen: "I Will Always Protect My Sources.

Cato Institute Research Fellow Julian Sanchez raised a different issue about reporters than their ethics and willingness to protect sources. A reporter must have the technical capability to protect a source, said Sanchez, an expert on technology. He said a reporter needs the know-how to encrypt or otherwise secure communications on sensitive stories if, as many fear, the government is secretly spying on news sources. 

Sirota, a Denver-based columnist and former staff aide in the House of Representatives, drew from the opening panelists their opinions on the scope and legality of the government's spying on Americans.

The three former NSA employees maintained that the agency and its apologists are playing word games with the public when NSA defenders argue that surveillance is limited to "metadata" (as opposed to content of messages). Also, the panelists derided those who emphasize that intercepted data does not include names of targets. They said NSA can retrieve data when it desires, and can match IP addresses to names.

Drake said, for example, that all of the nation's electronic metadata could be stored "with room to spare" in the press club's conference room, which measures 39 by 47 feet. Drake said that the huge NSA complexes around the nation storing data show that their operations are vastly greater than metadata storage. He cited the size of the Utah Data Center, code-named Bumblehive, right, scheduled to open this fall.

Binney gave an extensive video interview last year (linked below) on the show Pacifica Network show Democracy Now! describing the large scope of the data collection effort and his objections to it on Constitutional grounds.

All three said they had sought with colleagues to pursue objections via official procedures but learned the main result was that they were targeted for reprisal.

Binney said authorities threatened him and his wife at gunpoint during a massive raid at their home, and that the Justice Department  drafted criminal indictment against him and several colleagues who shared concerns about the legality of the program. They were not indicted.

However, the Obama administration indicted Drake on spy charges in 2010 for talking to a Baltimore Sun reporter about non-classified material that the government later classified. GAP represented Drake via Radack, who helped persuaded New Yorker writer Jane Mayer to probe the case. After publication of her story and Drake's interview on the CBS 60 Minutes show, the Justice Department backed off, in part because the presiding judge pressured the government also. The Justice Department reduce the charges to the misdemeanor of using a computer improperly, resulting in a $100 fine.

The former NSA employees said their experiences as well as that of other whistleblowers -- including Army Private Bradley Manning -- show that Snowden had to flee the United States to alert the public to government wrongdoing. They Snowden, if he had made his disclosures in the United States, would have been harshly prosecuted and imprisoned, perhaps for the rest of his life.

They said that NSA was especially worried about any employee conveying information to Congress outside official channels because Senators and House members theoretically have the power to ask questions, curtail budgets, and otherwise interfere with NSA's spy program. Radack noted that the House this week came within 12 votes of limiting NSA program in an annual budget vote after all the controversies about Snowden.

However, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern raised from the audience the issue of surveillance as a blackmail tool to intimidate Congress. That explosive question is rarely mentioned in the United States even though "hacking" as a tool to obtain surveillance data from politicians and celebrities is a major issue in the United Kingdom. UK authorities have indicted several top executives of Rupert Murdoch's news empire.

McGovern, a peace activist after a long CIA career in which his duties included preparing the daily briefing for presidents on national security, asked the panel whether Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein, among others, thwarted effective oversight of the intelligence services because the agencies have surveillance evidence that against them.

McGovern did not specify any vulnerability. But our Project, among others, has reported that Feinstein's husband is a major federal contractor. Former NSA analyst Russell Tice, a whistleblower in the audience, recently described in a Boiling Frogs radio interview how NSA spied upon elected officials, including Sen. Barack Obama before his presidential campaign.

Sirota drew on his House experience as a staffer to say that almost every member of Congress, like almost anyone else, has done something that could prove embarrassing if exposed in the wrong light. Therefore, Sirota said, members of Congress live under an implied threat from the agencies of exposure that need never be stated directly.

Similarly, the reporting for my new book, Presidential Puppetry, documents how intelligence agencies, other law enforcers, and their political leaders compile evidence of scandal that can be used for political purposes against members of Congress or Executive Branch leaders who have offended someone in government sufficiently important to unleash a career-ending scandal.

Edwards, the GAP director, sought to frame the role of the whistleblower in Washington.

"Someone is cooking the history books," she said. "There is no regulator, no advocate for the truth – or even for reality. So some brave soul blows a whistle – and then, given the current climate in the United States, God help him."

The first thing corrupt institutions and officials do when they’re threatened by the truth is distract attention from the message by shooting the messenger. This is easy. With enough information about each of us, any one of us can be discredited by some past indiscretion: the nastiness exposed in a divorce or a custody battle. There may be a foreclosure in your past, a bankruptcy, a trip to rehab, an embarrassing relative. Think of how every mistake you ever made could look and sound on CNN’s Situation Room.

Edwards is responsible for GAP's actions defending whistleblowers through the Congress, the media and the courts. She has thirty years experience working on labor issues, anti-corruption measures and public service reforms in international and national settings.

She noted that civic groups tend to provide the greatest honors to whistleblowers after they are vindicated, not during their frightening, lonely efforts when they must fear financial ruin or imprisonment.

"But we’re here today at a different point in a different story: Edward Snowden vs. the National Security Agency. Snowden (right) is still marooned, stateless, in the Moscow airport, not yet vindicated. We’re still in the middle of his story about State Surveillance, and for that reason, it is important that we support him now. She said she wanted to respond to two of the basic attacks on Snowden, especially because they are, in some ways, "attacks on all whistleblowers and the journalists they speak to."

First, she said, many in government and in academe ask, “Who is this one man to make a decision about what should be public information? What gives him the authority to do this, when the whole of the US government has determined that these practices – this surveillance – should be secret?”

At GAP. we’ve protected and defended whistleblowers for over 35 years, and I can tell you this is exactly where nearly every whistleblower case starts. The same charges of grandiosity are leveled. The same unseemly details about someone’s personal life are publicized.  In the beginning, the whistleblower is always one person who takes this one step at tremendous personal cost, and changes the world for the rest of us forever.

"Secondly," she said, "the op-editorialists are arguing, 'if Snowden can do this without penalty, anyone can reveal anything. Where do you draw the line?'”

This seems to be is a reasonable question, she continued.

"But, in fact, the premise is false. The question assumes that there is a 'You' – a fair-minded, third party monitoring government and drawing lines about what’s constitutional and what isn’t. In fact, though, there is no 'You.' There is no such party. THAT is precisely what Snowden exposed.  Right now, no one is drawing a line – anywhere."

 

Contact the author Andrew Kreig
 
 

 

Editor's Recommendations

Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman Interviews former NSA Technical Director William Binney, July 2012.

Government Accountability Project, NSA Whistleblowers William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe. William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe are GAP clients and NSA whistleblowers who worked at the agency for decades. A mathematician, Binney worked for the NSA for almost forty years, where he and analyst Wiebe, who worked at NSA in excess of 30 years, developed a revolutionary information processing system called ThinThread that they believe could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But NSA officials ignored ThinThread in favor of Trailblazer – a much more expensive program that not only ended in total failure, but cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Worried about the nation’s ability to protect itself, they blew the whistle on the clear mismanagement surrounding the Trailblazer fiasco, using appropriate channels to share their concerns with Congress and the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG). Despite their efforts, no one was held accountable at NSA for one of the worst intelligence failures in history. Little did they know at the time, Binney and Wiebe would face harsh retaliation from NSA for their efforts to make the truth known.After the failure of U.S. intelligence to prevent the events of 9/11, the NSA wrongfully applied a component of the ThinThread system to illegally spy on the private communications of U.S. citizens. Unable to stay at the NSA any longer in good conscience, Binney and Wiebe retired in October 2001. After retiring, Binney and Wiebe continued to blow the whistle from outside the agency. GAP provided Binney and Wiebe with legal advice on whistleblowing matters and assisted them with media and public advocacy. Since that time, Binney and Wiebe have made several key disclosures crucial to the ongoing public debate about America's national security state, such as the first public description of NSA’s massive domestic spying program, Stellar Wind, which intercepts domestic communications without protections for US citizens. Binney revealed that NSA has been given access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted between 15 and 20 trillion communications. Binney further disclosed that Stellar Wind was grouped under the patriotic-sounding “Terrorist Surveillance Program” in order to give cover to its constitutionally-questionable nature.

Updates

Guardian, XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet,' Glenn Greenwald, July 31, 2013. Training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed. XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA's "widest reaching" system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata. Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity. Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a 'US person', though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

Agonist, We are the enemy Manning and Snowden aided, Michael Collins, July 31, 2013. What do Manning and Snowden have in common? I asked that question and came up nothing at first.  Manning gave specific information on the content of U.S. intelligence.  Edward Snowden exposed the structure and targets of a massive spying operation without exposing specific content.   However, there is a common element to both cases – aiding the enemy.  And, who are the enemies?  The enemies are we the people, the citizens of the United States. Since our allies are partners in the NSA spying programs, the fact we spied on them should have been no big surprise. The citizens of the United States, however, were not aware of the vast array of information collected concerning their communication patterns.  Snowden, like Manning, had a main target for their whistleblowing — the citizens of the United States.

AP via Washington Post, Snowden has left Moscow airport, his lawyer says, Staff report, Aug 1, 2013. A Russian lawyer says documents were granted that allowed the former NSA contractor to enter Russia. Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons, he adds. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden left transit zone of a Moscow airport and entered Russia after authorities granted him temporary asylum, his lawyer said Thursday. Anatoly Kucherena said that Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons. The former NSA systems analyst was stuck at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but President Vladimir Putin dismissed the request. Putin had said that Snowden could receive asylum in Russia on condition he stops leaking U.S. secrets. Kucherena has said Snowden accepted the condition. The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday published a new report on U.S. intelligence-gathering based on information from Snowden, but Kucherena said the material was provided before Snowden promised to stop leaking.

Washington Post, NSA chief asks a reluctant crowd  of hackers to help agency do its job, Robert O’Harrow Jr., July 31, 2013. It doesn’t get much stranger than this, even in Vegas. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, stood in front of a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday, selling the idea of government surveillance programs. His audience? More than 3,000 cybersecurity specialists, including some of the world’s best hackers, an unruly community known for its support of civil liberties and skepticism of the government’s three-letter agencies.  Alexander praised the group as one of the brightest collections of technical minds in the world. He asked them to help the NSA fulfill its mission of protecting the country, while also protecting privacy.  “We stand for freedom,” Alexander told the crowd in a vast ballroom at Caesars Palace. “Help us to defend the country and develop a better solution.”  Some in the crowd weren’t buying, and one hacker hurled an expletive back at him.   “I’m saying I don’t trust you!” a voice shouted. This is Black Hat, the annual hacker conference. For a few days every year, it takes center stage in the topsy-turvy worlds of cyberspace, network computing and digital security. The conference serves as a platform for hacking seminars, partying and — more and more — policy discussions about what the government and corporate worlds ought to be doing to confront problems like cyber-espionage and cyberattacks, growing threats with no clear-cut remedies.

Washington, Government unveils secret order to Verizon, Sari Horwitz, July 31, 2013. The Obama administration on Wednesday made public a previously classified order that directed Verizon Communications to turn over a vast number of Americans’ phone records, senior U.S. officials said. The formerly secret order was unveiled along with other documents by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. as top Obama administration officials were preparing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). A statement issued by Clapper’s office said he “has determined that the release of these documents is in the public interest.”

Washington Post, Effort to get NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s father to Moscow collapses, Jerry Markon, July 30, 2013. The FBI tried to enlist the father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to fly to Moscow to try to persuade his son to return to the United States, but the effort collapsed when agents could not establish a way for the two to speak once he arrived, Snowden’s father said Tuesday. “I said, ‘I want to be able to speak with my son. . . . Can you set up communications?’ And it was, ‘Well, we’re not sure,’ ” Lon Snowden told The Washington Post. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.’ ”  In a wide-ranging interview, the elder Snowden offered a vehement defense of the young man some have labeled a traitor. He said that Edward, who is holed up at an airport in Moscow, grew up in a patriotic family in suburban Maryland, filled with federal agents and police officers, and that he “loves this nation.’’

FireDogLake, Judge Issues Verdict in Bradley Manning’s Trial (Live Updates), Kevin Gosztola, July 30, 2013. Today Colonel Denise Lind issues her ruling. NOT GUILTY of “aiding the enemy,” NOT GUILTY of violating the Espionage Act by releasing the Garani video. GUILTY of other offenses. The full verdict will be posted online by this evening. FireDogLake staff have launched v1.1 of our Manning Coverage hub, with the addition of our collections of trial exhibits, stipulated testimonies, trial transcripts, a Media page and a (pre-verdict) Manning FAQ Explainer. The press is going over the judge’s verdict again with a legal matter expert. He reads through and confirms that Manning faces 136 years maximum punishment.

Huffington Post, Glenn Greenwald: NSA Analysts Have Access To 'Powerful and Invasive' Search Tools, Sabrina Siddiqui, July 28, 2013. Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who broke the news of the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs, said Sunday he will soon disclose new information about the access low-level contractors have to Americans' phone and email communications. "The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years," Greenwald said on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "What these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things ... It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future."

Washington Post, Life after the whistle, Emily Wax, July 28, 2013. The former high-ranking National Security Agency analyst now sells iPhones. The top intelligence officer at the CIA lives in a motor home outside Yellowstone National Park and spends his days fly-fishing for trout. The FBI translator fled Washington for the West Coast.  This is what life looks like for some after revealing government secrets. Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing, according to those who did it. Jeopardizing national security, according to the government. Heroes. Scofflaws. They’re all people who had to get on with their lives. Editor's note: Those featured in the article include the former Justice Department ethics officer Jesselyn Radack, at left, former NSA executive Thomas Drake, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, and former State Department Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren, both at right.

Washington Post, With leak, Wyden can at last name his crusade, David A. Fahrenthold, July 28, 2013. It was one of the strangest personal crusades on Capitol Hill: For years, Sen. Ron Wyden said he was worried that intelligence agencies were violating Americans’ privacy.  But he couldn’t say how. That was a secret. Two years later, they found out. The revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden — detailing vast domestic surveillance programs that vacuumed up data on phone calls, e-mails and other electronic communications — have filled in the details of Wyden’s concerns. So he was right. But that is not the same as winning.

Washington Post, Too much information, Editorial board, July 28, 2013. The NSA’s phone data collection program needs reform.
 

Related News Coverage

Wayne Madsen Report, Exclusive: NSA chief Hayden saw warrantless wiretapping as driving to DC on highway shoulder, Wayne Madsen, July 22, 2013. (Subscription required; excerpted reprinted here by permission). General Michael Hayden, the director of the National Security Agency under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, saw requirements for warrants for the collection of the personal communications of Americans as akin to traffic on the highway that could be bypassed by driving with an emergency light on the shoulder of the road. That interpretation comes from a "For Official use Only" memorandum written by Hayden in the months after the 9/11 attack. WMR has obtained a copy of the undated memorandum. Hayden believed that NSA had an inherent right to eavesdrop on every minute the human species spent of the phone.

The memo provides a rare look inside the decision-making processes of the Bush administration. Hayden's push to violate Fourth Amendment was revealed thanks to the actions of NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, William Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis, Russell Tice, and Edward Snowden, as well as Justice Department whistleblower Thomas Tamm, AT&T engineer Mark Klein, and U.S. House Intelligence Committee staffer Diane Roark. In the 1990s, NSA was working on a program code-named THINTHREAD, which would have provided Fourth Amendment privacy protections for the communications of U.S. persons. However, in the weeks after 9/11, Hayden's zeal to collect every conceivable type of communication resulted in the award of project TRAILBLAZER to his friends at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Editor's Note: Hayden, shown at right, moved from leadership of NSA to running the CIA in the last years of the Bush administration. Then he assumed high-ranking posts in private sector. These included work for the Chertoff Group and advising the 2012 Romney presidential campaign on intelligence issues.

The Huffington Post, Senators Trying To 'Narrow' Definition Of Journalist In Media Shield Law, Jack Mirkinson, Aug. 2, 2013. In the wake of the many different scandals surrounding the government's surveillance of journalists, senators are attempting to craft a new federal shield law that would ramp up some of the protections for reporters. But, as McClatchy reported on Thursday night, the politicians have hit a bit of a snag: they can't agree on who is a journalist and who isn't. McClatchy sat in on a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators argued about who, exactly, they were trying to help: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to "real reporters." The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was against that idea, since there are bloggers and others in the Internet age who don’t necessarily receive salaries.

Washington Post, Stop the NSA intrusions, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, July 26, 2013. End the bulk collection of phone records.

Washington Post, NSA weighs its options, David Ignatius, July 26, 2013. The controversial program the House nearly voted to kill allows the NSA to obtain metadata — basically the numbers of all telephone calls — from all major U.S. telephone providers. The companies are compelled to furnish this information by orders issued in secret by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The call records are held for five years. The reason the NSA wants this vast library of records is to have a complete inventory to check for calls from suspected terrorists overseas. When the agency identifies a suspicious number in, say, Pakistan, analysts want to see who that person called in the United States and who, in turn, might have been contacted by that second person. It’s like having a full deck of cards so that you can match any particular one if you need to. The widespread fear that the NSA is recording the calls themselves is false, the officials say. “It would take 400 million people to listen and read” global traffic, one official estimates — obviously an impossibility. Editor's Note: The "400 million readers" appears to be a stawman argument because ex-NSA experts say that efficient computer software is used for monitoring and retrieval, with human involvement used for only a small port of the operations.  

Washington Post, Idaho mom sues president over government surveillance program, Jerry Markon, July 25, 2013. Anna Smith is a plaintiff in one of six cases over the sweeping collection of telephone and Internet records.  Anna Smith is a mother of two who lives in rural Idaho, works the night shift as a nurse and goes to the gym a lot. She rarely follows the news and knows little about the debate over government surveillance and privacy that has rocked Washington in recent weeks. None of that is stopping her from suing the president of the United States.

New York Review of Books, They Know Much More Than You Think, James Bamford, Aug. 15, 2013. Editor's Note: James Bamford is the author of three authoritative books about the NSA, plus one about the overall intelligence community. Within days of Edward Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984.  Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….” Of course the US is not a totalitarian society, and no equivalent of Big Brother runs it, as the widespread reporting of Snowden’s information shows. We know little about what uses the NSA makes of most information available to it—it claims to have exposed a number of terrorist plots—and it has yet to be shown what effects its activities may have on the lives of most American citizens. Congressional committees and a special federal court are charged with overseeing its work, although they are committed to secrecy, and the court can hear appeals only from the government. Still, the US intelligence agencies also seem to have adopted Orwell’s idea of doublethink—“to be conscious of complete truthfulness,” he wrote, “while telling carefully constructed lies.” For example, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was asked at a Senate hearing in March whether “the NSA collect[s] any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s answer: “No, sir…. Not wittingly.”

NYT Reporter James Risen: "I Will Always Protect My Sources," Sarah Damian, July 23, 2013. On Friday, July 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the First Amendment does not protect New York Times reporter James Risen from revealing the source(s) who provided him with information for a chapter in his 2006 book State of War. The 2-1 decision overturned a lower court ruling that shielded Risen from an obligation to give evidence against a source. Together with The New York Times and the Washington Post, GAP deplores the ruling. When journalists are stripped of their First Amendment rights, they lose the ability to protect the identity of their sources. A free and independent press is the inevitable casualty of this decision, as only officially-approved accounts of government and corporate actions will see the light of day. The ruling represents another phase in the continuing war on whistleblowers. In a public statement, Risen responded to the decision: "Although I am disappointed in the court's decision, I remain as resolved as ever to continue fighting. I will always protect my sources." Risen will be a moderator at GAP's event Thursday, July 25 at the National Press Club: "Whistleblowers, Journalists, and the New War Within."

Huffington Post, Glenn Greenwald: NSA Analysts Have Access To 'Powerful and Invasive' Search Tools, Sabrina Siddiqui, July 28, 2013. Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who broke the news of the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs, said Sunday he will soon disclose new information about the access low-level contractors have to Americans' phone and email communications. "The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years," Greenwald said on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "What these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things ... It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future."

FireDogLake, Former CIA Officer & Whistleblower Sabrina De Sousa & the ‘Proper Channels’ Myth, Kevin Gosztola, July 27, 2013.A commonly recited criticism of whistleblowers is that they need to go through proper channels or else they are not whistleblowers deserving protection. If they don’t go through proper channels, they are arrogant self-serving leakers who appointed themselves as decision-makers for what information should and should not be secret. A major news story by Jonathan Landay of McClatchy features the first public comments from Sabrina De Sousa, a former CIA officer who has revealed details around the kidnapping of radical Islamist cleric Abu Omar in Italy in 2003. According to Landay’s report, De Sousa “tried for years to report what she said was the baseless case for [Omar's] abduction and her shoddy treatment by the CIA and two administrations.”

Washington Post, Breaking down the NSA phone-tracking vote in the House, Ed O'Keefe, July 25, 2013. It’s rare that the most liberal and conservative members of the House find agreement on an issue. Justin Amash almost beat the NSA. Next time, he might do it.  Northern Idaho mom sues president over government surveillance program  But the House voted late Wednesday on an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill that would have restricted the National Security Agency’s telephone-tracking surveillance program — and the vote found several key lawmakers in rare accord.  For example, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a 33-year-old libertarian who often bucks GOP leadership, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), an 84-year old liberal stalwart and the chamber’s second longest-serving member, joined forces as lead sponsors of the proposal. They voted for the plan, but their Wolverine State colleague, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), was one of the amendment’s most vocal opponents. So what was the final vote on the amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill? Here’s a quick breakdown: Final vote: 217 to 205.

Huffington Post, NSA's Keith Alexander Calls Emergency Private Briefing To Lobby Against Justin Amash Amendment Curtailing Its Power, Ryan Grim and Matt Sledge, July 22, 2013. The National Security Agency called for a "top secret" meeting with members of the House on Tuesday to lobby against the first House amendment to challenge the agency's authority to cull broad swaths of communications data, according to an invitation circulated in Congress. The amendment was authored by Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, and cosponsored by former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and liberal Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers. The House ruled the amendment in order on Monday, and it is expected to get a vote sometime this week. NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander scheduled a last-minute, members-only briefing in response to the amendment, according to an invitation distributed to members of Congress this morning and forwarded to HuffPost. "In advance of anticipated action on amendments to the DoD Appropriations bill, Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of the House Intelligence Committee invites your Member to attend a question and answer session with General Keith B. Alexander of the National Security Agency," reads the invitation.

Center for American Progress, Adapting to the Future of Intelligence Gathering, Peter Juhl, July 23, 2013. We must ensure inherently governmental intelligence functions remain in public hands. According to a 2010 investigation by the Washington Post, the U.S. government contracted 1,931 private companies to work on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence programs across the country in that year alone. Of the more than 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, 265,000 were private contractors. One-third of the CIA’s workforce—10,000 positions—is composed of private contractors, while the NSA contracts with at least 484 companies. According to a 2008 study commissioned by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, private contractors made up 29 percent of the intelligence community’s workforce at a cost equivalent to half of the intelligence community’s personnel budget. That is, private-contractor workers cost significantly more than public-sector workers but do not count against the intelligence community’s personnel budgets.

AP via Washington Post, Senate bill authorizes sanctions on Russia or any other country offering Snowden asylum, Staff report, July 25, 2013. U.S. sanctions against any country offering asylum to Edward Snowden, right, advanced in Congress on Wednesday as the 30-year-old National Security Agency leaker remained in a Moscow airport while Russia weighed a request for him to stay permanently. The measure introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., demands the State Department coordinate with lawmakers on setting penalties against nations that seek to help Snowden avoid extradition to the United States, where authorities want him prosecuted for revealing details of the government’s massive surveillance system. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the proposal unanimously by voice vote as an amendment to next year’s $50.6 billion diplomacy and international aid bill.

Washington Post, Obama defends sweeping surveillance efforts, Philip Rucker, Sean Sullivan and and Aaron Blake, June 7, 2013. President Obama strongly defended the government’s secret surveillance of people’s phone records and Internet activities Friday, saying there are “a whole bunch of safeguards involved” and that Congress has repeatedly authorized the programs. Commenting on the surveillance for the first time since news organizations revealed the sweeping National Security Agency programs this week, Obama highlighted limits to the programs to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and said the surveillance has helped the government thwart terrorist attacks. “They make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity,” Obama said. He added that the programs are “under very strict supervision by all three branches of government and they do not involve listening to people’s phone calls, do not involve reading the e-mails of U.S. citizens and U.S. residents.”

Reuters via Huffington Post, NSA Leaks Investigation Report Filed, Timothy Gardner and Mark Hosenball, June 8, 2013. A U.S. intelligence agency requested a criminal probe on Saturday into the leak of highly classified information about secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper launched an aggressive defense of a secret government data collection program. Clapper, right, blasted what he called "reckless disclosures" of a highly classified spy agency project code-named PRISM. It was not known how broad a leaks investigation was requested by the super-secret NSA. The report goes to the Justice Department. Prosecutors have brought a series of high-profile leak investigations under President Barack Obama. U.S. officials said the NSA leaks were so astonishing they expected the Justice Department to take the case. In a statement earlier on Saturday, Clapper acknowledged PRISM's existence by name for the first time and said it had been mischaracterized by the media.

Director of National Intelligence, Facts on the Collection of Intelligence Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, James Clapper, June 8, 2013. PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program. It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a). This authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008. Under Section 702 of FISA, the United States Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers. All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider based upon a written directive from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. In short, Section 702 facilitates the targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight. Service providers supply information to the Government when they are lawfully required to do so. The Government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for Section 702 collection unless there is an appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States. We cannot target even foreign persons overseas without a valid foreign intelligence purpose.

OpEd News, Punishment for NSA & DOJ Overclassification in Drake Case, Jesselyn Radack, Aug. 2, 2011. Today's New York Times reports that former classification czar J. William Leonard filed a formal complaint with his former office -- the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) - requesting punishment for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Justice Department officials who improperly classified documents in the Espionage Act case against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake. Leonard articulates the significance of his complaint in the Times: “If you’re talking about throwing someone in jail for years, there absolutely has to be responsibility for decisions about what gets classified.”

Daily Kos, Drake's First Op-Ed Since Sentencing, When The Judge Slammed The Justice Department, Jesselyn Radack, Aug. 1, 2011. The Espionage Act was meant to help the government go after spies, not whistle-blowers. Using it to silence public servants who reveal government malfeasance is chilling at best and tyrannical at worst.  This administration's attack on national-security whistle-blowers expands Bush's secrecy regime and cripples the free press by silencing its most important sources. It's a recipe for the slow poisoning of a democracy.

Washingtonian, William Welch: Obama Administration’s Point Man to Stop Leaks, Shane Harris, July 20, 2011. The prosecutor has been called a tenacious and tough-as-nails lawyer, but also overzealous. On June 10, one of the biggest cases in the Obama administration’s campaign to stanch leaks of sensitive government information to the press collapsed when the Justice Department dropped espionage charges against Thomas Drake, a former senior official at the National Security Agency. But just three days before the trial was scheduled to begin, the lead federal prosecutor, William M. Welch II, told the judge that he couldn’t proceed without revealing details in court about classified systems that NSA uses to eavesdrop on global communications. Welch is now the administration’s point man in its historic anti-leaks campaign. He is prosecuting a former CIA officer, Jeffrey Sterling, and he has subpoenaed James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter, to testify about whether Sterling was the source for the journalist’s book State of War, which revealed that the CIA may have botched classified operations against Iran.

Washington Post, For NSA chief, passion to prevent attacks drives ‘collect it all’ approach, Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, July 14, 2013. Gen. Keith Alexander’s aggressive methods fuel debate over the divide between privacy and security.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, New Telecom Whistleblower Describes Possible Gateway for Massive Surveillance of Wireless Communications, Cindy Cohn and Kurt Opsahl, March 6, 2008. Three powerful House Commerce Committee Chairmen strongly urged their colleagues Thursday to defer acting on requests for retroactive immunity and to demand more information from the White House and the telecommunications companies in the wake of disclosures by another whistleblower that the government apparently has been granted an open gateway to wireless communications by a major telecommunications company. Babak Pasdar, a computer security consultant, has gone public about his discovery of a mysterious "Quantico Circuit" while working for an unnamed major wireless carrier. Pasdar believes that this circuit gives the U.S. government direct, unfettered access to customers voice calls and data packets. These claims echo the disclosures from retired AT&T technician Mark Klein, who has described a "secret room" in an AT&T facility.

Ars Technica, Whistleblower: Cellular carrier giving FBI unfettered access, Ryan Paul, March 6, 2008. Computer security analyst Babak Pasdar says that a major mobile telecommunications carrier has a built-in backdoor that provides an undisclosed third-party with unfettered access to its internal technical infrastructure, including the ability to eavesdrop on all calls through its network. In an affidavit that describes the circumstances and basis for the allegations, Pasdar provides evidence which could indicate that the FBI is on the other side of the secret line, engaging in warrantless surveillance of mobile communications.  Pasdar discovered evidence of the backdoor when he was part of a rapid deployment team that was brought in to facilitate a large-scale network security hardware migration for the mobile carrier. During the migration, Pasdar was instructed not to migrate the traffic for one particular DS-3, which was referred to as the "Quantico Circuit" by consultants who worked closely with the carrier (the FBI Academy is based in Quantico, Virginia). 

Justice Integrity Project, Mr. Drake Goes To Washington, Andrew Kreig, March 21, 2013. Former National Security Agency executive Thomas Drake warned the public March 15 at the National Press Club against the federal government's crackdown on whistleblowers.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Bradley ManningFireDogLake, Defense Gives Closing Argument in Bradley Manning’s Trial (Live Updates), Kevin Gosztola, July 26, 2013. David Coombs delivers the closing arguments for the defense. “The government gave a diatribe yesterday, and a lot of it was not based in fact.” Coombs played three clips from the “Collateral Murder” video and described what Manning would’ve been thinking when he saw 9 civilians killed. The defense’s closing argument focuses on the “child logic” and inconsistencies of the government’s case. David Coombs accuses the government of creating a fictitious story to fit the charges.

Now, as has been typical during the court martial, media access or press freedom became a part of the story. The judge issued an order to have military police in the media center. A checkpoint was set up to screen the reporters to ensure that electronic devices that could be used to record proceedings and personal hotspot devices did not enter the media center. Armed military police officers patrolled the aisles and walked behind reporters trying to cover the trial yesterday. Although the internet was very unreliable and not working for most of the morning and early afternoon, the military police were still leaning over shoulders of reporters to see what was on their screens. I was told by a military police officer to not have Twitter open at all in the morning. That was not a warning to stop sending messages on Twitter. It was a warning to just not have any window up that might make it look like I was considering sending messages on Twitter. Later in the afternoon, I was told by a military police officer not to have any windows open at all. I told him I was not doing anything. In typical police fashion, he said he was not going to discuss it with me here, but if I wanted to have a discussion, we could take this outside. I had nothing to explain. I signed no rules requiring me to not have windows open on my computer. [cont'd]

FireDogLake, Government Declares Bradley Manning Wanted to Become ‘Famous’ & Was ‘Right Insider’ for WikiLeaks, Kevin Gosztola, July 25, 2013. The government began its closing argument in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier being prosecuted for disclosing information revealing details on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and conduct of US diplomats. The argument highlighted why the prosecutors believed Manning knew that the information he provided to WikiLeaks would be accessible to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also featured the prosecutors’ views on why Manning chose to disclose information to WikiLeaks. Maj. Ashden Fein opened the argument by suggesting that Manning deployed to Iraq “fully armed with the stark knowledge” of what would happen if classified information materials were compromised. Within weeks of arriving in Iraq, he began abusing the trust that had been given to him. Manning was said to have “delivered documents” to WikiLeaks for “notoriety.” “The only human Manning ever actually cared about was himself,” Fein declared. The government suggested he was gleeful about disclosing the information and was not a “troubled, anguished, naïve or well-intentioned soldier.” He was “interested in making a name for himself.”

FireDogLake, ‘Aiding the Enemy’: The Unprecedented Prosecution of Bradley Manning, Kevin Gosztola, July 25, 2013. Closing arguments are set to begin in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who remains charged by the United States military with “aiding the enemy” by “knowingly” giving “intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means” after releasing US government information revealing the true nature of US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks. Manning’s defense pushed for the military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, to acquit Manning of the charge, but she found “some evidence” had been presented by the government that he had “aided the enemy” by giving intelligence to enemy groups, such as al Qaeda. Previously, his defense had pushed for the charge to be dismissed. They had argued the charge was “substantially overbroad,” it should be “void for vagueness,” and prosecutors had failed to state an offense in the charge.

Washington Post, Halliburton to admit destroying evidence in spill, Steven Mufson, July 26, 2013. The oil services giant Halliburton agreed Thursday to plead guilty to destroying evidence during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010, admitting to one count of criminal conduct and agreeing to pay the $200,000 maximum statutory fine, according to the Justice Department. In a startling turn in the three-year-old criminal investigation, Halliburton said that on two occasions during the oil spill, it directed employees to destroy or “get rid of” simulations that would have helped clarify how to assign blame for the blowout — and possibly focused more attention on Halliburton’s role. The explosion at BP’s Macondo oil well on April 20, 2010, killed 11 people, destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and ultimately leaked nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Halliburton, which has repeatedly denied responsibility and pointed fingers at BP, will be placed on probation for three years. It also agreed to pay $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation even if the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana does not accept its plea agreement. Editor's Note: The Justice Department, illustrating the subjective decision-making in law enforcement, sometimes insists on imprisoning individuals for lengthy sentences for deleting a document from a computer, and at other times waves enforcement or narrows penalties, as here.
 

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