October 18, 2008
Now that two whistleblowers have come forward with allegations that the Bush neocons used the NSA to spy on U.S. military officers, American journalists, American aid workers, and others who were calling home from abroad, Democrat Jay Rockefeller is calling for another Church Committee investigation of the NSA.
|Amy Goodman reports on two influential congressional committees opening probes into allegations U.S. intelligence spied on the phone calls of American military personnel, journalists, and aid workers in Iraq.|
Rockefeller, however, and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, were briefed on the NSA snoop program back in 2003 and said nothing about it. Rockefeller did write a two-page letter to Cheney expressing his “concerns” about the surveillance. “But Rockefeller never did anything beyond that, such as contacting a lawyer,” writes Declan McCullagh for CNet News, even though the Senate Intelligence committee is officially charged with “vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
NSA and government surveillance of Americans is hardly limited to overseas phone calls. “The government admits that the warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ international phone calls and emails is only a part of its secret post 9/11 intelligence operations inside the country,” notes Ryan Singel for Wired. Singel points out that the secret snoop program authorized by Bush is so intrusive and egregious it almost led to the resignation of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the head of the FBI Robert Mueller. “One suspects it has something to do with purely domestic communications, which don’t come close to falling into the grey zones of the complicated rules about when the government does and does not need a court order to wiretap.”
In decades past, government agencies have subjected hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Americans to unlawful surveillance, illegal wiretaps and warrantless searches. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., feminists, gay rights leaders, and Catholic priests were spied upon. The FBI used secret files and hidden microphones to blackmail the Kennedy brothers, sway the Supreme Court, and influence presidential elections.
In addition to the NSA and the FBI, military intelligence is in the business of snooping on Americans for their political beliefs. As NBC reported back in 2005, the Pentagon has busied itself with monitoring antiwar groups.
NBC described the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, as a “superpower of data mining within the U.S. national security community.” The CIFA was supposedly “disestablished” on August 4 by the Department of Defense, but as we know the government rarely closes the doors on successful intelligence operations. The DoD simply rolled CIFA into its Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, operated by the Defense Intelligence Agency. CIFA’s stand alone operation was not “disestablished” because it was a threat to the civil liberties of Americans, but rather because it “was mired in cronyism, scandal and corruption,” according to Tom Burghardt.
According to Doug Thompson, it didn’t take long for Michael Hayden to dedicate the CIA to domestic spying in violation of its charter. “Now that he is officially sworn in as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden plans to build a vast domestic spying network that will pry into the lives of most Americans around the clock,” Thompson wrote for Capitol Hill Blue on May 31, 2006.
Can I prove this in a court of law? No. Do I know it is happening? Yes, without a doubt. Enough sources within the CIA, FBI, NSA and Pentagon have come forward in recent days to warn about Hayden’s plans for an expanded, consolidated spy network aimed at Americans, not terrorists, and violating numerous laws that prohibit such activities against citizens of this country….
Hayden, who oversaw the National Security Agency’s questionable monitoring of phone calls and emails of Americas, plans to consolidate much of the country’s domestic spying into a new desk at the CIA, calling it a “domestic terrorism prevention” operation.
The desk will oversee not only NSA’s increased monitoring of electronic communications by Americans but also the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “terrorist information awareness” program that monitors travel and financial activities by Americans by gathering real-time data from banks, airlines, travel agencies and credit card companies.
The CIA operation will also coordinate with the Pentagon’s domestic spying program that monitors activities of anti-war groups, organizations critical of the Bush administrations and others tagged as enemies of the state.
In fact, as early as 2002, the CIA began “increasing its presence at FBI field offices by assigning intelligence officers to domestic anti-terrorism teams,” the Associated Press reported at the time. “They serve as conduits of information, providing the FBI and local police distilled intelligence that the CIA and other services have collected overseas, officials said. At the same time, information gathered by local law enforcement on potential terrorist activities is sent to CIA headquarters.”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Operation CHAOS, Project MERRIMAC, Project RESISTANCE, and Project 2 are domestic “espionage” projects conducted by the CIA in the 1960s. It is only natural to assume they have parallels today, especially considering Michael Hayden is now at the helm of the agency.
Of course, when it comes to snoop programs — and, indeed, sabotage programs — directed against the American people, we are seeing only a small glimmer of the whole picture.
Recall former NSA staffer Russell Tice telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2006: “In my case, there’s no way the programs I want to talk to Congress about should be public ever, unless maybe in 200 years they want to declassify them. You should never learn about it; no one at the Times should ever learn about these things.”
Recent investigative news articles reveal the existence of a huge database tracking the activities of more than eight million Americans. Called Main Core, the system, under the auspices of COG (Continuity of Government), monitors email, web activity, telephone and private financial information of Americans considered “unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.”
Main Core has roots going back at least to the 1980s and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. (See Christopher Ketcham’s The Last Roundup, published in the May/June issue of Radar Magazine.)
It should be frightfully obvious by now that not only did the government not close down its domestic surveillance shop after the revelations of the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, it has in fact increased these operations and multiplied their effectiveness with the latest computer and communications technology.
“A host of publicly disclosed programs, sources say, now supply data to Main Core. Most notable are the NSA domestic surveillance programs, initiated in the wake of 9/11, typically referred to in press reports as ‘warrantless wiretapping,’” writes Ketcham. In short, the government now has an integrated, real-time program for surveilling Americans.
As history demonstrates, such programs are not used to keep track of al-CIA-duh and other government manufactured terror groups, but rather the real enemy — the American people, especially those in political opposition to the government.