Former NSA Analyst, Secret Service Officer Speaks Out

Kenneth W. Ford

A Washington culture of cover-up has paved the way for the Secret Service Hooker-gate in South America -- and even-bigger national security scandals directly affecting the public's privacy and other freedoms.

That's the view of former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and White House Secret Service officer Kenneth W. Ford, Jr., who makes a compelling case also that federal authorities framed him on criminal charges in 2005 for political reasons. Ford, at right, last summer completed a six-year prison sentence on implausible charges that he illegally rolled a truck up to NSA headquarters to remove more than 20 boxes of documents for personal use. His real crime appears to be that he authored an NSA memo in 2003 concluding that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) -- at a time when the Bush-Cheney White House wanted to cite bogus WMD fears to create public support for an invasion of Iraq.

Ford, previously a Secret Service officer stationed at the White House, was my April 19 guest with Scott Draughon on our MTL Washington Update radio show broadcast nationwide at noon (EDT). His imprisonment received almost no coverage by conventional media aside from highly pro-prosecution reporting by the Washington Post. As a preview of his interview, here is Ford's view of the sex scandal now involving President Obama's Secret Service and military advance team. Ford says:

My take on the Secret Service scandal goes back to an old saying of, 'sweeping the dirt under the carpet.' Whenever there is corruption at the executive levels of an organization it tends to affect -- and corrupt -- the subordinates. There is now so much corruption that the ‘carpet’ cannot cover it.

Ford does not claim any inside information about what Secret Service and military personnel preparing in Colombia for a Presidential speech were doing with prostitutes. But he does have first-hand experience in a much greater scandal virtually unknown except to insiders in the national security community. This is a Bush-era effort now carried over into the Obama administration to punish national security personnel -- such as former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, left -- who fail to shape their reports to fit the agendas of political leaders.

Joseph Wilson

The implications for traditional American freedoms are huge. Federal authorities already have granted immunity to telecom companies who cooperated with government efforts to intercept, store -- and retrieve on demand for possible citizen punishment later -- billions of personal emails and phone calls by U.S. citizens without a warrant. President Obama has won also the right to order the execution of anyone, including U.S. citizens, without warning or any hearing. In legislation this year, he won also the right to detain forever without trial anyone he or his successors deem a danger.

Just this week (as indicated in an appendix below on these matters), Obama's administration seeks an expanded power to order deadly drone attacks even for targets where our government does not know the identity of the targets -- and even in nations where the United States is not "at war" with, except in the Orwellian sense of a never-ending war on "terror" without any definition of victory or geography.

To listen, click here to learn Ford's take on such matters now that he is free to discuss them -- unlike many of his former colleagues and news reporters in fear for their jobs and freedom. The entire, full-hour program here is on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) radio network. Listener questions: Call (866) 685-7469 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mac users need “Parallels.”

See below also for a description of Ford's case, including an exclusive seven-page chronology that he delivered at a lecture for investigative reporters in Washington convened by the McClendon Group. That group, chaired by longtime Washington civic leader and Justice Integrity Project Director John Edward Hurley, has met at the National Press Club for a quarter of a century to present speakers such as Ford, former Ambassador Wilson and others who have important stories neglected by an increasingly timid conventional media. Hurley's diverse interests include commanding the Press Club's American Legion Post. Also, he formerly directed the Confederate Memorial, a defunct Civil War museum. Hurley arranged its closing following what he regarded as improper efforts by bigots, arms dealers, war-mongers and their allies two decades ago to gain control of the museum's relics for political purposes. 

Our Justice Integrity Project summarized the Justice Department's prosecution of Ford here. The synopsis identified a number of irregularities in the case supervised in significant part by Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, a Bush appointee whom Obama retained in office.

In essence, authorities said they received a tip from a woman Ford briefly dated saying that he was planning to deliver documents to a spy. A score of arresting officers descended on Ford at his home, seized what they called boxes of evidences. He was convicted after a brief trial that received scant coverage and served nearly all of his six-year-sentence, with time off for good behavior. Investigative reporter and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen covered the trial, however. He blogged about irregularities, unlike Post reporters.

Madsen, himself a former NSA analyst, did not think the prosecutin claim credible, for example, that Ford could simply load up a truck with NSA confidential documents upon resignation -- and have the heist occur precisely on the day that a NSA's security camera system supposedly did not work. Further, his reports noted that the government's "girlfriend"-tipster met Ford through a dating service and had an extensive felony record. Further, authorities never identified an actual foreign agent or country with whom Ford was supposed to be working.

Authorities issued a press release saying that his arrest and conviction thwarted a serious security breach. But the defendant's parents wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, without any response so far, arguing that their son did nothing wrong. They said he was set up by the confidential informant. Her close involvement with authorities, the parents said, was improperly hidden from jurors. In imposing sentence in 2006, U.S. District Judge Judge Peter Messitte ordered six years of imprisonment on the first count of unauthorized removal of classified information. Also, the judge ordered three years (to be served coKen Fordncurrently) for making a false statement on a government security clearance form for a classified job with Lockheed Martin. Ford filled out the form nine months after his arrest. Ford stated on the form that his arrest was wrongful, which authorities described as a false statement deserving of prison time.

Ford's parents are Kenneth and Gloria Ford, Sr. of Clinton, MD. They have provided in their letter to Holder an archive of attachments. They include a statement from their son describing his arrest at his home with 25 agents, his fears during a 7 1/2 investigation there before a signing an incriminating statement, his belief that a confidential FBI informant he dated planted the materials, and his reiteration that he never took any classified documents from NSA. The parents, showing the photo at right of their son receiving his master's degere, said also:

Kenneth Wayne Ford, Jr., is now 38 years old. He is the cream of the crop of young American citizens....Mr. Ford served 4 years in the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service, where he received two cash awards in consecutive years for outstanding service.....Later, Mr. Ford enrolled in the Master's program at Strayer University, earning in 2004, a Master of Science information technology degree....It was disclosed in the trial by a State Department officer that Mr. Ford had security clearances that less than 150 people in the entire country hold....He would never do anything to jeopardize his life or his accomplishments [emphasis in original].

I have heard other former NSA workers express strong doubts regarding the prosecution and a culture of reprisals against those who seek to prepare honest intelligence reports, or prevent vast waste in contractor fraud or protect the longstanding NSA tradition of not spying on Americans.

Rod Rosenstein

It is for these reasons that the Ford prosecution remains important -- and must also be regarded in the context of others that are recent at NSA, CIA and the Justice Department -- and likely forthcoming in increasing numbers as the government ratchets up its initiatives and secrecy with scant meaningful oversight by Congress, the courts or the news media.

Our Justice Integrity Project analyzJames Bamforded a Washington Post news article that extolled the fairness of Rosenstein, left, without even mentioning his prosecutions of Ford and the notorious prosecution that ended last year of fellow NSA analyst, Thomas Drake. Listed below is our column, Post Puff Piece on Maryland Prosecutor Raises Questions, extolling the fairness prosecutor's fairness. The story had no hint that anyone might disagree with the reporter's opinion.

Listed below also is an appendix of important recent books on national security. These range from such favorable commentaries as the republished guide of former CIA Director Allen Dulles and Vice President Cheney's memoirs to more critical works, such as the path-breaking reporting of James Bamford, right. The former ABC-TV investigative reporter is the author of a classic series of best-sellers books beginning with The Puzzle Palace in 1982. It revealed the importance of the NSA, which is larger than the better-known CIA.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden cooperated with Bamford in an attempt to share the NSA's positive qualities. But the deep scope of Bamford's reporting reveals many disturbing trends and secrets through the years, including evidence that former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio was prosecuted and imprisoned for insider trading as reprisal for his refusal in February 2001 at the beginning of the Bush administration to cooperate in NSA's massive illegal wiretapping of Qwest customers without a warrant. All other former Bell CEOs cooperated with the spying without alerting their customers. Congress gave the companies immunity in the summer of 2008. Obama initially opposed immunity during his campaign for the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton. But he voted for immunity in the Senate after she halted her campaign.

Valerie Plame Wilson

One of the best-known of these books was Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House in 2007 by Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, at left. Her first-person account describes how the Bush-Cheney administration punished her, her family and her CIA colleagues by illegally disclosing her secret identity as a CIA agent to conservative columnist Robert Novak. Outing her CIA status jeopardized her family's safety and that of other secret CIA assets, and also sent a message throughout national security circles to comply with perceived goals of the White House, or else.Her husband had been Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq before Desert Storm, and was later named ambassador to three African nations.

However, the unusual stature of the Wilsons as targets, their resilience and public opposition to the Iraq War prompted a prosecution. Pro-war New York Times reporter Judith Miller was temporarily jailed for failure to reveal her sources to authorities for swhat proved to be false information in her stories justifying the war. Ultimately, Cheney's aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 30 months in prison. President Bush commuted Libby's prison sentence.

The books by the Wilsons each protested the oversight process. They argued that intelligence findings based on the hopes of poitical leaders can cause long-term for United States foreign policy. They then left Washington for a safer environment.

Little-known to the public, the Obama administration is similarly ratcheting up pressures on career analysts at the CIA and NSA. The Obama Justice Department has brought criminal charges against a half dozen NSA, CIA and DOJ whistleblowers. Most recently, they charged former CIA analyst John Kiriakou, 47, an ABC-TV analyst and author who opposed waterboarding in Iraq as torture. The charges could imprison him for 45 years.

The Justice Department is reportedly preparing more charges against national security analysts who have spoken with news reporters over the past decade. Sources say authorities are pressuring government workers, former workers and news reporters to frighten all relevant federal workers and contractors that employees must never disclose information or opinions except when leaders approve. Unlike Judith Miller, who refused to talk in order to protect her powerful sources in the White House, the next round of jailed reporters are likely to be those trying to protect relatively powerless sources within government who sought to warn the public of danger or vast waste.

Meanwhile, financially strapped news organizations seem increasingly less likely to defend reporters with old-time "protect the source" values since legal fees are very expensive in such cases and the public has trouble focusing on the issue because there are few major differences among political leaders. Republicans and Democratics alike pursue largely the same policies of spying on the public, fighting whistleblowers  and expanding war powers.  


Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment



Related News Coverage


Daily Mail, The inside story of the Secret Service rising star who busted agents over Colombian prostitute scandal as investigators probe claim that call girls were underage, Staff Writer, April 21, 2012. Secret ServiceAgents were investigated by 46-year-old Paula Reid, head of Miami office. Six Secret Service agents quit the force over scandal. Congressman predicts most of the others will be forced out too. President personally briefed on state of the investigation. Colombian prostitute at the hear of affair has gone into hiding and claims to fear retaliation by the U.S. government. The female Secret Service officer responsible for disciplining 11 agents caught in a fight with Colombian prostitutes has been revealed as one of the agency's rising stars. Paula Reid, 46, recently became the Secret Service's South American chief after 21 years on the force. Her crucial role in uncovering the scandal came to light as a senior congressman predicted that nearly all the agents implicated in the embarrassing incident would have to leave their jobs.

Wayne Madsen Report, NSA spying operation targeting journalists focused but massive, April 20, 2012. (Subscription required.) National Security Agency (NSA) sources have reported the following to WMR: The NSA has conducted a targeted but massive surveillance operation against certain journalists who have routinely exposed NSA's illegal domestic communication surveillance program, code-named STELLAR WIND.

AlterNet / OpEd News, How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian's Nightmare, Steven Rosenfeld, April 18, 2012. Obama has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration's worst policies. When Barack Obama took office, he was the civil liberties communities’ great hope. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, pledged to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and run a transparent and open government. But he has become a civil libertarian’s nightmare: a supposedly liberal president who instead has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration’s worst policies, lending bipartisan support for a more intrusive and authoritarian federal government.

President Obama now has power that Bush never had. Foremost is he can (and has) order the killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are deemed terrorists. Like Bush, he has asked the Justice Department to draft secret memos authorizing his actions without going before a federal court or disclosing them....Meanwhile, more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, Washington’s wartime posture has trickled down into many areas of domestic activity—even as some foreign policy experts say the world is a much safer place than it was 20 years ago, as measured by the growth in free-market economies and democratic governments. Domestic law enforcement has been militarized—as most visibly seen by the tactics used against the Occupy protests and also against suspected illegal immigrants, who are treated with brute force and have limited access to judicial review before being deported. One of Bush’s biggest civil liberties breaches, spying on virtually all Americans via their telecommunications starting in 2003, also has been expanded. Congress authorized the effort in 2006. Two years later, it granted legal immunity to the telecom firms helping Bush—a bill Obama voted for. The National Security Agency is now building its largest data processing center ever, which’s [James Bamford] reports will go beyond the public Internet to grab data but also reach password-protected networks. The federal government continues to require that computer makers and big Web sites provide access for domestic surveillance purposes. More crucially, the NSA is increasingly relying on private firms to mine data, because, unlike the government, it does not need a search warrant. The Constitution only limits the government searches and seizures.

The government’s endless wartime footing is also seen in its war on whistleblowers. Obama has continued cases brought by Bush, such as going after the "leaker" in the warrantless wiretapping story broken by the New York Times in 2005, as well as the WikiLeaks case, prosecution of Bradley Manning, and others for allegedly mishandling classified materials related to the war on terrorism. Its suppression of war-related information given to journalists extends overseas, where the State Department this month has blocked a visa for a Pakistani critic from speaking in the U.S. The White House also recently pressured Yemen’s leader to jail the reporter who exposed U.S. drone strikes. Meanwhile, the administration has stonewalled Freedom of Information Act requests, particularly the Justice Department, which has issued the secret wartime memos.

How bad is it? Anthony Romero, the ACLU executive director, exclaimed in June 2010 that Obama “disgusted” him. Meanwhile, the most hawkish Bush administration officials have defended and praised Obama.

Last summer, liberal lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald tallied a list of Bush warrior endorsements. Jack Goldsmith, the former DOJ officials who approved the torture and domestic spying efforts, wrote in The New Republic in May 2009 that Obama actually was waging a more effective war on terror than Bush. “The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expended some of it, and has narrowed only a bit,” Goldsmith wrote. “Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol and rhetoric.” Bush’s final CIA director, General Michael Hayden—whose confirmation Obama opposed as a senator—told CNN there was a “powerful continuity between the 43rd and 44th presidents.” And in early 2011 Vice-President Dick Cheney told NBC News, “He’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate.”

“We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national security state,” Jack Balkin, a liberal Yale University Law School professor, told the New Yorker in a 2011 feature about a prominent NSA whistleblower. “The question is not whether we will have a surveillance state in the years to come, but what sort of state we will have,” he wrote in a prescient law review article published early in Obama’s presidency.

The larger dangers, Balkin said, was that the government is creating a “parallel track of preventative law enforcement that bypasses traditional protections in the Bill of Rights.” Moreover, he worries “traditional law enforcement and social services will increasingly resemble the parallel track.” And because the Constitution only restricts government actions, not “private parties, government has increasing incentives to rely on private enterprise to collect and generate information for it.”

FireDogLake, The Ever-Expanding Surveillance State That Has Grown Under Obama, Kevin Gosztola, April 20, 2012. The surveillance state in the United States has only grown in America since the September 11th attacks. It has increasingly been used to spy and intrude on the lives of journalists and activists. And, during a Democracy Now! special, a full hour was spent delving into the National Security Agency’s evolution into an entity that illegally collects and sifts through private emails, cell phone calls and possibly Internet searches and other personal data of Americans. The special also looked closely at the stories of two individuals that have been targeted by the Homeland Security Department—journalist Laura Poitras, who has directed documentaries on the Iraq War and Yemen, and computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, who once served as a stand-in for Julian Assange at a hackers conference. NSA whistleblower William Binney, in his first television interview since he resigned from the NSA, explains that the fact a telecommunications company, AT&T, was now providing approximately 320 million records—long distance data from citizens’ billing records—to the government led him to leave the agency. This was a violation of the Constitution, the pen register law, the Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Privacy Act, the Intelligence Acts of 1947 & 1978 and other federal laws governing telecommunications.  Binney talks about going to the Intelligence Committee to raise concern before he resigned. Porter Goss, who was chairman of the committee at the time, essentially shrugged off an effort to look into what the NSA was doing. He thought any questions should be taken to Michael Hayden, then-head of the NSA. It was the Intelligence Committee’s job to “do the oversight on all this domestic spying.” The Committee was setup to provide “oversight over the intelligence community to make sure they didn’t monitor US citizens.” It was setup in the “fallout of the Church Committee back in the 70s.” But, nothing was really being done about the illegal operations of the NSA. And then, on July 26, 2007, about twelve FBI agents raided his home with their guns drawn. Binney was in the shower. His son answered the door. They pushed past him and, when they found him in the bathroom, pointed a gun at his head to make sure he was “duly intimidated.”

Democracy Now! Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying–U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails, Amy Goodman, April 2012. (Video interview.)  National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion "transactions" — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander’s assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens. This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 1, 2, and 4. [Transcript to come. Check back soon.]  William Binney, served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could "create an Orwellian state."

Associated Press / Huffington Post, Secret Service Agents Out Following Colombia Prostitution Scandal, April 18, 2012. Laurie Kellman, Julie Pace, Ken Thomas and Steve Peoples in Washington and Frank Bajak in Colombia. Moving swiftly, the Secret Service forced out three agents Wednesday in a prostitution scandal that has embarrassed President Barack Obama. A senior congressman welcomed the move to hold people responsible for the tawdry episode but warned "it's not over." The agency announced three agents are leaving the service even as separate U.S. government investigations were under way. The Secret Service did not identify the agents being forced out of the government or eight more it said remain on administrative leave. In a statement, it said one supervisor was allowed to retire and another will be fired for cause. A third employee, who was not a supervisor, has resigned. The agents were implicated in the prostitution scandal in Colombia that also involved about 10 military service members and as many as 20 women. All the Secret Service employees who were involved had their security clearances revoked.

New York Times / Huffington Post, Woman Recounts Quarrel Leading to Agent Scandal, William Neuman and Michael S. Schmidt, April 18, 2012. A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse. “I tell him, ‘Baby, my cash money,’ “ the woman said in her first public comments on a dispute that would soon spiral into a full-blown scandal. The disagreement over her price — he offered $30 for services she thought they had agreed were worth more than 25 times that — set off a tense early morning quarrel in the hallway of the luxury hotel involving the woman, Colombian police officers arguing on the women’s behalf and American federal agents who tried but failed to keep the matter from escalating.

OpEd News, Obama Justice Department indicts ex-CIA agent for exposing torture, Bill Van Auken, April 9, 2012. Thursday's indictment of John Kiriakou for exposing CIA torture of detainees confirms yet again that the Obama administration is continuing and deepening the crimes carried out by the Bush White House. Kiriakou, a CIA agent for 14 years, is being prosecuted for speaking to two journalists about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. In December 2007, he appeared in an ABC News interview, becoming the first CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of so-called "enemy combatants" and to describe the practice as torture. It is now known that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in the space of one month while being held in a series of CIA "black sites" from Thailand to Poland to Diego Garcia. Zubaydah, severely wounded when he was captured by US and Pakistani intelligence agents, had already been suffering the effects of a shrapnel wound to the head he received during the CIA-backed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under US control, he was beaten, placed in extreme temperatures, and subjected to music played at debilitating volumes, sexual humiliation and sleep deprivation.

Associated Press / Daily Mail (United Kingdom), CIA agent who publicly opposed waterboarding charged with leaking classified secrets to journalists, April 6, 2012. A high profile CIA agent made famous by his public opposition to waterboarding has been indicted by a grand jury for leaking government secrets to reporters. John C. Kiriakou is accused of telling journalists the name of another operative and his role in the capture of 'al-Qaida' financier Abu Zybaydah shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

ABC-TV, Ex-CIA Officer Indicted for Alleged Leaks, False Statements, Jason Ryan, April 6, 2012. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged in a five-count indictment Thursday for allegedly disclosing classified information to journalists and lying to the CIA about information he included in his book, "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror."

Justice Integrity Project, Post Puff Piece on Maryland Prosecutor Raises Questions, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 9, 2011. The Washington Post published Oct. 10 an highly flattering profile of Maryland's U.S. attorney without mentioning two newsworthy national security cases -- one of which resulted in vast embarrassment for the Justice Department last summer. The Post published its page-one Metro-section profile of U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, headlined, A Poster Child for the…Fair-minded.

Ford Prosecution

Wayne Madsen Report, Wrongfully Convicted Ex-NSA Iraq Analyst Ken Ford Support Campaign, Wayne Madsen, April 24, 2008 (Subscription required). Following is a letter from the parents of wrongfully-convicted former NSA intern-analyst Kenneth Ford, the author of a signals intelligence report that questioned Iraqi nuclear WMD components, which ultimately brought down the wrath of the neo-con apparatus in the Bush administration.

Washington Post, Ex-NSA Worker Guilty of Taking Documents, Erich Rich, Dec. 16, 2005. A former National Security Agency employee who packed cardboard boxes with sensitive documents and stored them at his Waldorf home was convicted yesterday on charges of unlawfully possessing classified information and making a false statement to a U.S. government agency. Kenneth W. Ford Jr., 34, was arrested in January 2004 after FBI agents, tipped off by a former girlfriend, found materials containing classified information throughout his house, including in his kitchen and a bedroom closet. Ford worked as a computer specialist at the agency from June 2001 to late 2003. "When government employees are trusted with access to classified documents, they are obligated to protect that information and preserve our national security," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

Wayne Madsen Report, Prosecution and defense closing arguments in the Kenneth W. Ford case, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 14, 2005. The defense and prosecutors presented their closing arguments today to the jury at the US Court House in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the case of former NSA analyst Kenneth W. Ford. The government charged Ford with possessing two boxes of classified material at his Waldorf, Maryland home in January 2004 after a tip was phoned in to NSA Security by a dubious FBI informant with a long criminal record named Tonya Tucker, aka Tonya Stewart, Kayla Walker and 17 other aliases.

Washington Post, Md. Man on Trial Over NSA Documents, Ruben Castaneda, Nov. 30, 2005. A former employee of the National Security Agency packed cardboard boxes with secret national security documents and unlawfully took them to his Waldorf home, where he kept them in his kitchen and in a safe in a bedroom closet, a federal prosecutor said in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt yesterday.


Catching Our Attention on War , Free Speech and Surveillance Issues

USA Today, Misinformation campaign targets USA Today reporter, editor, Gregory Korte, April 19, 2012. A USA Today reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites. Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.

USA Today, U.S. 'info ops' programs dubious, costly, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker, Feb. 29, 2012. As the Pentagon has sought to sell wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations there, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns that military leaders like to call "information operations," the modern equivalent of psychological warfare.

Washington Post, USA Today alleges harassment scheme, Erik Wemple, April 20, 2012. USA Today Washington Enterprise Editor Ray Locker says that the worst thing they said about him was that he “was in bed with the Taliban.” Who would say that about Locker? He doesn’t know. But what he does know is a timeline: He and USA Today Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook were working this year on an investigative project about Pentagon propaganda contractors — purveyors of what the military calls “information operations,” or “info ops.”

New York Times, The Courage of Dieu Cay and Natalya Radzina, Editorial Board, April 19, 2012. The Committee to Protect Journalists has named 12 countries — including Iraq, Russia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mexico — to its annual “impunity index” because they allow deadly violence against the press to go unpunished. The threats to journalists are also highlighted in a welcome, new State Department initiative. From now until World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the department’s Web site will tell the stories of people who have been killed, jailed or otherwise blocked from reporting the news and exercising the fundamental right to free speech.

Jennifer RobinsonGuardian (United Kingdom), Julian Assange's lawyer 'prevented from boarding flight at Heathrow,' April 19, 2012. A lawyer for the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has said she was stopped at Heathrow airport and told she was on a watch list requiring official approval before she could return to her native Australia. Jennifer Robinson, right, said a member of airport security told her she "must have done something controversial" and that they would have to contact the Australian high commission in London before letting her on her flight. The Australian human rights lawyer was later allowed on to a plane bound for Sydney, where she is due to speak at the Commonwealth Law Conference on Friday., More Trouble For Murdoch: U.S. Lawyers Examining Four Potential Hacking Cases, David Lieberman, April 19, 2012. The lawyers emphasized that this may be just the beginning of their U.S. efforts: Lewis says that people continue to contact him alleging that Murdoch journalists have used “untoward dark arts to obtain information that should be private.” Indeed, “people have contacted me saying they’ve had issues with Fox News” — although he says that he has no evidence that proves their claims are valid. Siegel, the former director of the New Yok Civil Liberties Union, says that he’s also receiving calls from people who believe that they’ve been victimized — including about six calls since this past Monday. He adds that in his experience “people come out of the woodwork” once they believe that lawyers are “serious and balanced in (their) approach.” The cases that Siegel is working on with Lewis are separate from ones he’s handling that involve alleged hacking into phones of families of 9/11 victims. The FBI is looking into that matter and its investigation “is ongoing,” Siegel says.

Institute for Political Economy, Unplugging Americans From The Matrix, Paul Craig Roberts, April 19, 2012. China is often a country about which Washington’s moralists get on their high horse. For some time I have had in mind a realistic comparison of the two countries instead of the standard propagandistic comparison, but Ron Unz has beat me to the task (see, China’s Rise, America’s Fall and Chinese Melamine and American Vioxx: A Comparison). Unz provides a chance for an education. Don’t miss it....Americans associate lawlessness with unaccountable governments and view China’s government as unaccountable. However, Unz points out that it is the Bush/Obama Regime that has declared itself to be unaccountable to both US and international law. The demise of the War Powers Act and the Geneva Conventions, and the asserted power of the executive to imprison without trial or charges or to assassinate any American whom the executive thinks might be a “national-security threat” are indicative of a total police state masquerading as an accountable democracy.

Washington Post, CIA seeks new authority to expand Yemen drone campaign, Greg Miller, April 18, 2012. The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who will be killed, U.S. officials said. Securing permission to use "signature strikes" would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaida compounds or unloading explosives.  The practice has been a core element of the CIA's drone program in Pakistan for several years. But Director David Petraeus has requested permission to employ the tactic against the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen, which has emerged as the most pressing terrorism threat to the United States, officials said.  If approved, the change would probably accelerate a campaign of U.S. airstrikes in Yemen that is already on a record pace, with at least eight attacks in the past four months.

Salon, America’s drone sickness, Glenn Greenwald, April 19, 2012. There are many evils in the world, but extinguishing people’s lives with targeted, extra-judicial killings, when you don’t even know their names, based on “patterns” of behavior judged from thousands of miles away, definitely ranks high on the list. Although the Obama White House has not approved of this request from CIA Director David Petraeus, these so-called “signature strikes” that “allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior” are already robustly used in Pakistan — having been started by George Bush in 2008 and aggressively escalated by Barack Obama. There is much to say on this new report, but in order for me to focus on three discrete points, permit me to highly recommend two superb articles that highlight other vital aspects of this policy: (1) this article from my Salon colleague Jefferson Morley this morning on why this form of drone-targeting is pure American Terrorism, and (2) this essay from Chris Floyd about a recently published Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings on Obama’s love of drones and secret wars and how the military’s slang for drone victims — “bug splat” — reflects the sociopathic mindset that drive them. Initially, it’s critical to note how removed all of these questions are from democratic debate or accountability, thanks to the Obama administration’s insistence that even the basic question of whether the CIA has a drone program is too secret to permit it to publicly acknowledge, even though everyone knows it exists — especially in the countries where it routinely kills people.

Washington Post, U.S. says 2014 troop pullout is on track in Afghanistan, Greg Jaffe, April 18, 2012. Senior Obama administration officials, faced with stepped-up enemy attacks in Kabul and war weariness at home, pledged a long-term commitment to Afghanistan on Wednesday and said their strategy to end the U.S. combat role by the end of 2014 remains on track. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took part Wednesday in the last high-level meeting of the NATO allies before a key summit next month in Chicago that administration officials hope will finalize the United States’ and NATO’s relationship with Afghanistan after 2014. A critical part of that partnership is a commitment by Washington and its allies to fund the cash-strapped Afghan government’s security forces.

FireDogLake, Support for Staying in Afghanistan is Collapsing, Jon Walker, April 18, 2012. A record 60% of Americans want to remove troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible, while just 32% of the country think we should keep troops there until the situation has stabilized, according to a new Pew Research poll. This is a massive drop since last May when the poll found 48% wanted to remove troops and 47% thought we should keep them there.

Forbes, What the Wall Street Journal Missed about False Statements Made to the FBI, Harvey A. Silverglate, April 18, 2012. The dangers posed by the abusive use of vague, overly-broad, and simply too many federal criminal statutes and regulations have been catching much-belated attention in the past couple of years, resulting in articles in the mainstream press and also legislative hearings in Washington. This attention has been bi-partisan – witness the study done jointly by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the liberal National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Among the more hard-hitting exposes of the abuses of power committed under federal statutes and regulation have been those authored over the past year by Wall Street Journal reporters John Emshwiller and Gary Fields. Their front-page series on over-criminalization has featured, among other topics, the massive proliferation of criminal statutes, the effect the explosion of criminal cases has had on civil suits, and, on April 10 of this year, a story on the feds’ use of “false statements” prosecutions to ensnare the seemingly innocent under the infamous law known as “section 1001” (more formally, Title 18, United States code, section 1001). But last week’s story about section 1001 actually understates the potential for abusive uses of the statute, for it omits what is perhaps the most important—and most pernicious—aspect of the feds’ ability to prosecute the unwary for “false statements”: the FBI’s unique ability to construct and define “truth” by the manipulation of something called a “Form 302” report, and thereby to trap almost any unsuspecting witness or targeted defendant.


New York Times, Pentagon Sought to Stop Paper From Using Photos, Brian Stelter, April 18, 2012. The grisly photographs of American soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghan insurgents during a 2010 deployment in Afghanistan were the source of a dispute between The Los Angeles Times and the Pentagon lasting weeks. Two of the 18 photographs given to the paper were published Wednesday by The Times over fierce objections by military officials who said that the photographs could incite violence. The officials had asked The Times not to publish any of the photographs, a fact that the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, reiterated on Wednesday as the images spread across the Internet.

Sonia SotomayorWashington Post, Supreme Court says torture victim law applies only to people, not organizations, Robert Barnes, April 18, 2012. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a federal law that allows torture victims to sue their overseas assailants does not permit suits against corporations or political groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization. The justices said the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 authorized lawsuits only against individuals responsible for torture and killing. [Justice Sonia Sotomayor, right, an Obama nominee, wrote the decision.]

Guardian (United Kingdom),Tim Berners-Lee urges government to stop the snooping bill, Ian Katz, April 18 2012. Exclusive: Extension of surveillance powers 'a destruction of human rights,'The government's controversial plans to allow intelligence agencies to monitor the internet use and digital communications of every person in the UK suffered a fresh blow on Tuesday when the inventor of the world wide web warned that the measures were dangerous and should be dropped. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who serves as an adviser to the government on how to make public data more accessible, says the extension of the state's surveillance powers would be a "destruction of human rights" and would make a huge amount of highly intimate information vulnerable to theft or release by corrupt officials. In an interview with the Guardian, Berners-Lee said: "The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing. "You get to know every detail, you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to because often people will confide in the internet as they find their way through medical websites ? or as an adolescent finds their way through a website about homosexuality, wondering what they are and whether they should talk to people about it."  The British computer engineer, who devised the system that allows the creation of websites and links, said that of all the recent developments on the internet, it was moves by governments to control or spy on the internet that "keep me up most at night."

The government ran into a storm of criticism earlier this month when it emerged that it was planning to allow GCHQ to monitor all communication on social media, Skype calls and email communication as well as logging every site visited by internet users in Britain. Berners-Lee said: "The idea that we should routinely record information about people is obviously very dangerous. It means that there will be information around which could be stolen, which can be acquired through corrupt officials or corrupt operators, and [could be] used, for example, to blackmail people in the government or people in the military. We open ourselves out, if we store this information, to it being abused."

Salon, Attacks on RT and Assange reveal much about the critics, Glenn Greenwald, April 18, 2012. A new news show hosted by Julian Assange debuted yesterday on RT, the global media outlet funded by the Russian government and carried by several of America’s largest cable providers. His first show was devoted to an interview with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has not given a television interview since 2006. The combination of Assange and a Russian-owned TV network has triggered a predictable wave of snide, smug attacks from American media figures, attacks that found their purest expression in this New York Times review yesterday of Assange’s new program by Alessandra Stanley. Much is revealed by these media attacks on Assange and RT — not about Assange or RT but about their media critics. We yet again find, for instance, the revealing paradox that nothing prompts media scorn more than bringing about unauthorized transparency for the U.S. government. As a result, it’s worth examining a few passages from Stanley’s analysis.

EcoWatch, Exclusive: BP Cover-up 'They Knew;' BP Covered Up Blow-out Two Years Prior to Deadly Deepwater Horizon Spill, Greg Palast, April 19, 2012. Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and Congress. This week, located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry. The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.  One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases: the use of a money-saving technique—plugging holes with “quick-dry” cement. By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico—causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. April 20 marks the second anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.  There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness. He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed. His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety. The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, Tighten prosecutors' power on contributions: A guest column by Theodore B. Olson and David Debold, April 6, 2012. [Published also in the Houston Chronicle and Biloxi Sun Herald.] Paul S. Minor, a highly successful lawyer in Biloxi, Miss., is serving an eight-year sentence for doing what the First Amendment scrupulously protects: supporting political candidates with campaign contributions. Minor's case shows how prosecutors can convert participation in the political process into a 20-year corruption conviction when not required to prove an agreement to "exchange" campaign contributions for favorable official acts. If the definition of bribery is open-ended enough to include giving money to a candidate for the purpose of "influencing" unspecified later actions, prosecutors will have unbounded discretion to put politically unpopular contributors in their crosshairs. The federal court of appeals based in Richmond, Va., succinctly identified why this power would be broad beyond compare: "All payments to elected officials are intended to influence their official conduct."

The government's infinitely elastic theory creates a serious threat to constitutional rights in Mississippi, Louisiana and every other state with a history of selecting judges through the electoral process, because the First Amendment's protections also extend to efforts to support those who embody congenial judicial philosophies. The Supreme Court made clear a decade ago, in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, that "if a State chooses to tap the energy and the legitimizing power of the democratic process" by electing judges, it "must accord the participants" in that process "the First Amendment rights that attach to their roles."
By substituting attempted "influence" for the traditional definition of bribery, the government was able to convict Minor with zero evidence of any agreement to "exchange" rulings for contributions. The government got by instead with pointing to positive outcomes for Minor's firm quite some time after the contributions and elections. Minor's crime, in other words, was to back candidates who later made favorable rulings.


Selected Books on National Security

James Bamford Body of Secrets CoverBamford, James. The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret National Security Agency from 9/11 to the Eavesdroopping on America. Anchor / Random House, 2009.
Bamford, James. A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies. Anchor, 2005.
Bamford, James. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. Anchor / Random House, 2002.
Bamford, James.The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization. Penguin, 1983.

Cheney, Dick CheneyDick. In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. Threshold, 2011.

Clarke, Richard A. Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, Free Press, 2004.

Dulles, Allen W. The Craft of Intelligence: America's Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World. Lyons, 2006.

Engelhardt, Tom. The United States of Fear. Haymarket, 2011.

Fein, Bruce. American Empire: Before the Fall. Campaign for Liberty, June 2010.

Klein, Mark. Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine…And Fighting It. Booksurge, 2009.

Lindauer, Susan. Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover-ups of 9/11 and Iraq. Create Space, 2010.

Madsen, Wayne. Jaded Tasks: The Blood Politics of George Bush & Co. Trine Day, 2006.

Madsen, Wayne with John Stanton. America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II. Dandelion, 2003.
Madsen, Wayne. Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy, Saudi Arabia and the Failed Search for bin Laden. Nation Books, 2002.
Madsen, Wayne. Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999. Edwin Mellen, 1999.

Madsen, Wayne. Handbook of Personal Data Protection. Macmillan, 1992.

Parry, Robert. Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & "Project Truth." Media Consortium, 1999.
Parry, Robert.  Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, Media Consortium, 2004.

Perkins, John. The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption. Dutton, 2007.

Polmar, Norman and Allen, Thomas B. Spy Book: the Encyclopedia of Espionage. Random House, 2004.
James Risen

Powell, Colin, with Joseph E Persico. My American Journey, Random House, 1995.

Priest, Dana and William M. Arkin. Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. Little Brown, 2011.

Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World In Our Time. Angriff, 1975.

Radack, Jesselyn A. Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban." Whistleblower, 2012. (Previously published as The Canary in the Coalmine).

Risen, James. State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Roberts, Paul Craig and Stratton, Lawrence M. The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Forum/Prima, 2000.

Silverglate, Harvey A. Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. Encounter Books, 2009.

Unger, David C. The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs, Penguin, 2012.

Van Buren, Peter. We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Metropolitan, 2012.

Waller, Douglas. Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage. Free Press, 2011.

Wilson, Joseph C., IV. The Politics of Truth: A Diplomat's Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity. Carroll & Graf, 2004.

Wilson, Valerie Plame. Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. Simon and Schuster, 2007.