Whistleblower Summit Provided Powerful Investigative Fare On NSA Snooping

Joseph  Nacchio at NPC

The annual Whistle Blower Summit provided shocking and inspirational material three days last week for anyone concerned about the nation's future.

Highlights on the positive side during the conference beginning July 29 in the nation's capital included an unprecedented commitment by U.S. senators to speak of their commitment to create a Whistleblower Caucus. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley was the leader on that. Additionally, the event saw an outstanding array of courageous and expert speakers share their insights. Details are in our previous columns, to be updated soon.

 Joseph P. Nacchio, former chairman/CEO of Qwest Communications, spoke at a Summit panel denouncing the new USA Freedom Act passed in June as providing merely the illusion of protection for the from illegal electronic surveillance and police state prosecution tactics.

He is shown at right at a related event arranged by the Justice Integrity Project at the National Press Club July 29 on NSA reform. Journalist Mike Smith (seated) of the Newsmakers Committee moderated the event. Photo/Image: Noel St. John.

 Among other speakers in a panel moderated by the Justice Integrity Project were:

•    Abraham Bolden, 80, (speaking via Skype because of his age), was recruited by President John F. Kennedy to become the first African American Secret Service officer guarding a president. In Bolden’s memoir The Echo from Dealey Plaza, he alleged gross Secret Service misconduct. His exposé raises timely concerns whether the public gets the real story about Secret Service presidential protection, whether of JFK, President Obama, or the score of declared 2016 now meeting voters on the campaign trail. Details.

•    Former HealthSouth founder/CEO Richard Scrushy, co-defendant with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in one of the most widely condemned federal prosecutions in recent U.S. history. Scrushy, president/CEO of the consultancy 7venth Power, last year published, When Building A Billion Dollar Company and is motivational speaker who will advise reformers and litigants on coping with the legal hardships that many whistleblowers must endure. His ordeal shares many commonalities with Nacchio’s and thus should alarm anyone who trusts the legal system to provide fair outcomes in political sensitive matters, criminal or civil. Details.  

The Justice Integrity Project for years has published extensively about these men, their cases, and the historical importance. These matters will be treated also in the forthcoming book providing necessary context to the 2016 elections, Presidential Puppetry 2016.

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Related News Coverage



Politico, NSA bulk phone snooping program shuts down, Alex Byers, Nov. 27, 2015. The National Security Agency will no longer be able to collect phone records in bulk starting Nov. 29, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement Friday. The program's closure was required by the USA Freedom Act, signed by President Barack Obama in early June. The program was allowed to continue since then as part of a six-month wind-down period, in which intelligence officials could create and test a new phone records program where the government can only obtain records connected to a specific entity like a person or device that is associated with a foreign power or terrorist group.

Some Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), tried to delay the program's official end this month in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. But despite support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the effort got no traction in Congress.  The NSA has requested that some officials continue to have access to data already collected by the agency for "technical" purposes -- but not intelligence analysis- for another three months, according to ODNI. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is currently reviewing that request, ODNI said. A federal court issued an order earlier this month holding the program unconstitutional and barring the collection of phone metadata pertaining to one California attorney and his law practice. However, after authorities argued that implementing the order would require the early shutdown of the whole program, a federal appeals court stayed the ruling.

Salt Lake Tribune, Ex-Qwest CEO: Likely the NSA snatched emails, calls during Salt Lake Olympics, Thomas Burr, July 29, 2015. Eavesdropping: The feds “would have been crazy” not to monitor emails and texts just months after 9/11, he said. The former head of Qwest Communications says it's likely that the National Security Agency and the FBI monitored all email and text communications in the Salt Lake City area during the 2002 Winter Olympics but says he can't confirm whether his company helped intercept the communications. Joseph Nacchio headed Denver-based Qwest from 1997 to 2002 and later served more than four years in prison on insider-trading convictions involving the telecom giant. He said Wednesday that he couldn't say whether the company worked with the NSA or FBI to capture such information during the Olympics, but that the agencies could have worked with other executives to gain access without his knowledge. "I don't remember being contacted about that, but then I may not have had the need to know," Nacchio said after a speech at the National Press Club on the civil-rights threat of government surveillance. "I would be real surprised in 2002 if it didn't happen," Nacchio added, noting later, "They would have been crazy not to do it." Nacchio said Wednesday if he had been presented with a court order, he probably would have provided records to the NSA at the time.

A top-secret NSA inspector general's report from 2009 — leaked to The Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — detailed an agreement between the spy agency and "Company E," thought to be Qwest Communications, to "provide call detail records ... in support of security for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City." Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that the NSA and FBI monitored communications in the Salt Lake City area "for a period of less than six months" surrounding the Winter Games. The international sporting event was held less than six months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and prompted a higher security level.

Justice Integrity Project, Press, Civil Rights Groups Struggle Against Federal Surveillance, Secrets, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 29, 2015. Free press and other civil rights advocates encountered several recent setbacks during recent days, including a federal appeals court decision that leaves in place continued mass electronic surveillance of the public. Separately, the Associated Press (AP) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sued the FBI Aug. 27 seeking records on FBI impersonation of journalists and warrantless surveillance to locate a bomb threat suspect. Today’s column summarizes the importance of these court battles and the separate recent reverses in the news industry's ability to serve as watchdog over government.


NSA HQ in Fort Meade aerial view

The headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade in Maryland is shown in an aerial photograph

New York Times, AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet Traffic, Files Reveal, Julia Angwin, Charlie Savage, Jeff Larson, Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras and James Risen, Aug. 16, 2015. The NSA’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the N.S.A. access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.  Newly disclosed documents show that the National Security Agency gained access to billions of emails through a “highly collaborative” relationship with AT&T.

OpEdNews, Whistleblower Reveals AT&T/NSA Unholy Alliance, Joan Brunwasser, Aug. 25, 2015. Interview with noted AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein (shown in Klein family photo) on warrantless surveillance of AT&T customers.

Mark Klein (Klein family photo courtesy of DRM)Brunwasser: What you've just said raises so many questions; where shall I start? How did NSA go from their illegal domestic spying in the '70s to this? I don't get it. Wasn't what was once illegal still illegal?

Klein: There's two facets to the change from the '70s, one political and the other technological. Technologically, there has been a giant qualitative leap in surveillance capability because of the development of really fast computers, coupled with fiber optic cables that can carry huge amounts of data in just a few seconds, and the internet which reaches into every home. Couple that with the leap in storage technology, and you have the makings of a police state. Back in the '60s, for instance, when the FBI wanted to do surveillance on someone (e.g., Martin Luther King), it was very slow and labor intensive--you had to assign agents to tap into phone lines and record with old-fashioned tape recorders. It took a lot of time and effort, and so perhaps only a few hundred people could be spied on at once. Now, with the internet, it's all been automated with computers, which can sweep up the communications of millions of people automatically, and then the data can be searched by an agent using a keyboard.

National Press Club, Nacchio, at NPC Newsmaker, warns of NSA overreach on phone records, Mike Smith, Aug. 2, 2015. Joseph P. Nacchio, the former chairman and CEO of Qwest Communications International and convicted felon on insider trading who spent 72 months in federal prison (and forfeited $62 million), warned that the newly passed USA Freedom Act doesn't go far enough to rein in National Security Agency scrutiny of Americans’ digital and phone records. At a July 29 National Press Club Newsmaker, Nacchio, the Brooklyn-born son of a longshoreman who earned an MBA from New York University and a master’s in engineering from MIT, charged that the USA Freedom Act does not adequately reform the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was ruled unlawful by an Appeals Court in May, 2015. On June 2, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act just hours before all surveillance authority was stripped from NSA and other intelligence-gathering agencies. The new law provides limits on bulk collection of phone records.

Justice Integrity Project, Feds Crushed Telecom CEO Who Protected Customer Data from NSA Snoops…But He’s Back, Protesting New Reform Law, Andrew Kreig, July 26, 2015. Long before 9/11 in 2001 or the reformist surveillance law signed last month, one of the nation’s top telecom executives reminded federal officials they needed court approval before his company could hand over en masse private customer data to the National Security Agency (NSA). Qwest Chairman and CEO Joseph P. Nacchio, chair of two national telecom advisory councils under the then-new Bush administration, thus followed traditional business and legal principles regarding government requests for electronic data. But Nacchio then endured a long nightmare of reprisal that is relevant to the supposed protections of the USA Freedom Act signed last month.

American Conservative, Deep State America, Philip Giraldi, July 30, 2015. Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Democracy is often subverted by special interests operating behind the scenes.

The concept of “deep state” has recently become fashionable to a certain extent, particularly to explain the persistence of traditional political alignments when confronted by the recent revolutions in parts of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. For those who believe in the existence of the deep state, there are a number of institutional as well as extralegal relationships that might suggest its presence. If all this sounds familiar to an American reader, it should, and given some local idiosyncrasies, it invites the question whether the United States of America has its own deep state.

First of all, one should note that for the deep state to be effective, it must be intimately associated with the development or pre-existence of a national security state. Those requirements certainly prevail in post 9/11 America, and also feed the other essential component of the deep state: that the intervening should work secretly or at least under the radar. Consider for a moment how Washington operates. There is gridlock in Congress and the legislature opposes nearly everything that the White House supports. Nevertheless, certain things happen seemingly without any discussion: Banks are bailed out and corporate interests are protected by law. Huge multi-year defense contracts are approved. Citizens are assassinated by drones, the public is routinely surveilled, people are imprisoned without be charged, military action against “rogue” regimes is authorized, and whistleblowers are punished with prison. The war crimes committed by U.S. troops and contractors on far-flung battlefields, as well as torture and rendition, are rarely investigated and punishment of any kind is rare.

America’s deep state is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards. A bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm, even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell has become a Senior Counselor at Beacon Global Strategies. Both are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system and for providing current access to their replacements in government.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Partners in Crime: NSA, U.S. Justice Department, and Telecom Firms, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 10, 2015. The so-called USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 is a placebo law designed to placate certain ignorant and uninformed quarters in America concerned about the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of "metadata" on individuals. The USA FREEDOM Act, which is a ridiculous-sounding "backronym" that actually stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act," is a ruse designed to continue ad infinitum NSA’s illegal surveillance.

Essentially, the law does nothing as advertised in its backronym. NSA has cleverly transferred the responsibility for bulk collection of telecommunications data to the telecommunications companies that have long been partners in crime for the NSA’s continuing blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the telecommunications companies have become so involved in NSA’s bulk collection programs, they have been given NSA code names. For example, AT&T is known by the cover term FAIRVIEW. Verizon is known as STORMBREW. Other NSA corporate partners have code names like ARTIFICE, LITHIUM, SERENADE, and STEELKNIGHT.

NSA was angling for warrantless eavesdropping even before 9/11. Thanks to courageous NSA whistleblowers like former Chairman and CEO of Qwest Communications Joseph Nacchio, AT&T engineer Mark Klein, former NSA system architect William Binney, NSA senior executive Thomas Drake, and NSA employees Kirk Wiebe, Russell Tice, and Edward Snowden, it is now known that NSA was bent on massive bulk collection of personal data prior to 9/11. The terrorist event merely served as an opportunity for the NSA to turn its foreign intelligence apparatus on the American people.

Tampa Bay Times, Why did the FBI detain Bob Graham?  Lucy Morgan, August 7, 2015. Going to lunch with former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham can be hazardous to retirement. And extremely interesting. He told us Bob Graham with Keys to the Kingdomabout the day in 2011 when he and Adele were heading to the Washington, D.C., area to spend Thanksgiving with one of their daughters. As they stepped off an airplane at Dulles International Airport, two FBI agents approached and asked the Grahams to accompany them to a nearby agency office. Graham had not informed the FBI that he was traveling to the Washington area and to this day does not know how they knew where he planned to spend Thanksgiving or what airplane he would be aboard. A little scary huh? Perhaps his phone is on the NSA's list.

Editor's note: In a photo by the Justice Integrity Project taken at the National Press Club, Graham is shown with his novel Keys to the Kingdom —  which portrays in semi-fictional form his understanding of how entities affiliated with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia funded 9/11 attackers, whose role has been suppressed by authorities. Although Graham was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-authored its 2003 report on the attack he and other elected representatives supposedly providing oversight to the powerful U.S. intelligence community face imprisonment if they tell the public what they know, except in circumstances carefully controlled by the intelligence agencies themselves.

USA Today, Senate approves USA Freedom Act, Erin Kelly, June 2, 2015. The Senate overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to end the National Security Agency's controversial bulk collection of the phone data of millions of Americans who have no ties to terrorism. Senators by a 67 to 32 margin approved the USA Freedom Act, which was passed by the House last month. President Obama signed the bill Tuesday night.

Wayne Madsen Report, The Surveillance State is upon us, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 3, 2015 (Subscription required). When it comes to investigative reporters probing the activities of the rich and powerful, we are the virtual "canaries in the coal mine." And nothing points to the current state of surveillance powers as our current investigation, the details of which will become known to all of our members and readers in due time. So far, there is little doubt that from the National Security Agency and its meta-databases down to small town police departments that have the capability of fusing data from such law enforcement networks as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (NLETS) with private data from credit card companies, telecommunications providers, and social media, a reporter on special assignment cannot remain anonymous for very long.

C-SPAN, Government Surveillance Programs, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) presiding, Jan. 14, 2014. Members of the President Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies testified on their recommendations to modify National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs. They were: Richard A. Clarke. Michael J. Morell. Geoffrey R. Stone. Cass R. Sunstein. Peter Swire. They said that the programs did not have a significant effect on stopping terrorist attacks, and recommended taking certain information from NSA control.

Barack Obama and James Clapper (White House Photo)President Obama is shown in a file photo meeting with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in 2014.

White House, Statement by President Obama on the USA FREEDOM Act, June 02, 2015. For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe.  That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk. After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.



Whisteblower Summit 2015 Tom Drake, Tanya Ward Jordan, Mandy Smithberger, Tom Devine, DeLisa Lay, Larry Criscione

Photo from left to right: Tom Drake, Tanya Ward Jordan, Mandy Smithberger, Tom Devine, DeLisa Lay, Larry Criscione

Government Accountability Project, 2015 Whistleblower Summit Highlights, Shanna Devine, Sept. 1, 2015. During this year’s Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights GAP coalition partners, whistleblowers, and congressional leaders came together in our nation’s capital to commemorate our modern day heroes. The Summit, organized by ACORN 8 and leading civil rights groups for the fourth consecutive year, climaxed on July 30: National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. Highlights included more than a dozen panels, a congressional luncheon, and a book signing that included the Corporate Whistleblower’s Survival Guide. Topics ranged from emerging tactics to silence whistleblowers, to police accountability and taxpayer waste in the growing surveillance state.


Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Reuters via Huffington Post, In Effort To Neutralize ISIS And Protect American-Trained Forces, U.S. To Conduct Airstrikes In Syria, Phil Stewart, Aug. 2, 2015. Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith refused to comment on the rules of engagement, but said the U.S. military's program focuses "first and foremost" on combating Islamic State militants.