Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #541 Leaks

Recorded Febrary 12, 2006

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Introduction: A major reason for George W. Bush’s decline in public opinion polls is the damage to his reputation done by damaging disclosures about his conduct of the war in Iraq and his pursuit of Al Qaeda. In this broadcast, we examine indications that many of these disclosures have been deliberately leaked in order to retaliate against Bush for having circumvented and, in some cases, abused the intelligence community and the military. Rather like the intelligence community’s disclosures about Nixon that resulted in the Watergate scandal, the revelations concerning Bush’s national security malfeasance and error are doing serious political damage to Dubya. In addition to setting forth many of these damaging disclosures, the program notes that one of the most controversial of Bush’s gaffes—the authorization for the NSA to conduct “warrantless” wiretapping of American citizens—is actually “business as usual” for the NSA. For decades the NSA has successfully circumvented the superficial sanctions against illegal wiretapping by having British intelligence agents do the actual wiretapping at NSA headquarters. Technically, the US citizens are being wiretapped by British—not American—intelligence officers. The NSA performs a reciprocal function for the British. It is Mr. Emory’s contention that the uproar over the NSA program (which is literally business as usual for that agency) is, in fact, intended to damage Bush. Hence the brouhaha. The broadcast concludes with a look at GOP lynchpin Grover Norquist’s protests against the NSA spying program and his role as point man for the Islamist/Muslim Brotherhood milieu in the United States. Norquist’s younger brother David is now the chief financial officer for the Department of Homeland Security.

Program Highlights Include: The national security establishment’s role in leaking the Abu Ghraib atrocities; the intelligence community’s role in forcing investigation of the Valerie Plame case; intelligence community disclosures concerning a botched attempt at short-circuiting Iran’s nuclear program that may actually have aided that country’s attempts at developing a nuclear weapon; the intelligence community’s leaking of the compromising of every CIA ground asset in Iran and the rolling up of those assets; the intelligence community’s continuing disclosures concerning the Bush administration’s deliberate skewing of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD’s; a CIA officer’s revelation that the US command knew that Osama bin Laden was at the battle of Tora Bora and failed to deploy US troops along the Afghan/Pakistani border in order to apprehend him.

1. Introducing the central theme of the program, the discussion opens with the subject of the role of federal intelligence agents in the downfall of Richard Nixon. Informant “Deep Throat” turns out to have been a top FBI official, Mark Felt. (Felt claims he acted as he did out of concern for the Nixon’s administration’s abuse of the federal intelligence agencies, including FBI.) Unmentioned here is the role of the CIA in the deep-sixing of Nixon. There are indications that elements of the intelligence community and the military are responding to President Bush’s abuses of those institutions. The response appears to be taking the form of damaging leaks to the media concerning a number of unsavory acts initiated by Bush.

“In the standard history of Watergate, it was an intrepid press, the courts and Congress that brought down President Richard Nixon. But last year’s revelation that Bob Woodward’s legendary ‘Deep Throat’ source was in fact the deputy director of the FBI offers another interpretation. By Woodward’s own account, Mark Felt was not simply one important source for the Washington Post’s reporting. He had access to every facet of the justice department’s Watergate investigation and, angered over what he saw as White House abuse of his beloved FBI, provided the Post with a roadmap to uncover the crimes. Nixon, it seems, was not so paranoid when he claimed that the Washington establishment—the professional bureaucracy and its supporters—was out to get him. President George W. Bush has his own establishment problem, as reporter James Risen’s new book State of War makes clear. Like Woodward before him, Risen has been on the receiving end of leaks from career national security officials who are deeply unhappy with the current administration. Mr. Bush declared war on the bureaucracy after September 11, 2001 and it is fighting back.”

(“Echoes of Nixon as the Spooks Take Their Revenge” by Edward Alden; Financial Times; 1/9/2006; p. 15.)

2. Among the intelligence community leaks that have damaged Bush’s presidency is the disclosure concerning Bush’s order to begin wiretapping US citizens without a warrant. Although this has cost Bush in the polls, it is business as usual for the NSA, as will be seen at greater length below. So, the question is—why the public flap over something that has literally been standard operating procedure for decades? The available evidence suggests that this “flap” is part of an intelligence community counterattack against Bush’s administration. The surfacing of other stories, such as the torture at Abu Ghraib and the ongoing investigation into the leaking of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity, also appears to have come from elements of the intelligence community.

“Risen and his New York Times colleague Eric Lichtblau revealed last month that Mr. Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to intercept telephone and e-mail communications on US soil, an explosive story that has sparked a national debate over presidential powers. The anonymous sources, who are now the target of a Bush administration leak investigation, were nearly a dozen current and former government officials. They are, like Felt, almost certainly from the organizations that have felt most under siege by the Bush White House—the CIA, the uniformed military and the state and justice departments. The president has paid a high price for alienating those institutions. The mishandling of post-invasion Iraq, which has dogged his presidency ever since, came about largely because state department experts were excluded from post-war planning. It was an army investigation that uncovered the Abu Ghraib abuses and military lawyers who have most aggressively challenged the administration’s mistreatment of detainees. And a career justice department official—James Comey, former deputy attorney general—appointed Patrick Fitzgerald, the bulldog prosecutor who indicted vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff on perjury charges in the CIA leak investigation. Mr. Comey also tried, unsuccessfully, to curb the NSA spying program.”


3. A major impetus for the leaks appears to have been the Bush administration’s corruption of intelligence-gathering about Iraq’s WMD program. As is well known, the administration rejected intelligence that did not fit in with its agenda of war against Iraq. (For more about this, see—among other programs—FTR#502.)

“But the biggest reckoning may come at the hands of the CIA, which has been decimated by defections during the Bush years. ‘No other institution failed in its mission as completely during the Bush years as did the CIA,’ he writes. Instead of defending his professional analysts and agents, Risen argues, former director George Tenet sought to ingratiate himself with the president by providing him with exactly what he wanted—an intelligence pretext for war with Iraq. The professionals have fought back, revealing more and more of how the intelligence was manipulated. Using his sources inside the agency, Risen reveals that agency officials actually made serious attempts to get Iraq right. For instance, the agency tracked down some 30 overseas relatives of Iraqi scientists thought to be involved with weapons of mass destruction. The relatives agreed to go to Iraq and try to have private conversations with those scientists. All came back with the same reports—Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs had been shut down since the end of the first Gulf War. But none of it ever made its way out of the bowels of the agency. Instead, top administration officials chose to believe Iraqi exiles such as the infamous ‘Curveball’ and his claims of mobile bio-weapons labs cruising the Iraqi desert, despite repeated warnings from senior CIA officials that he was almost certainly a fabricator.”


4. The James Risen book highlights other revelations by the intelligence community. Some of these are discussed later in the program.

“The book’s other chapters are filled with similar stories from disgruntled spooks who believe the war on terrorism has been badly mishandled from the outset. Such criticisms will not surprise the agency’s many neo-conservative detractors, who see it as too hidebound by timidity and bureaucratic inertia to operate in a war in which the old rulebooks no longer apply. Risen acknowledges the national security bureaucracy is ‘maddeningly slow, lacks creativity and is risk averse.’ But it has, he writes, one great virtue: ‘It tends to weed out really stupid or dangerous ideas, unethical and even immoral ideas, ideas that could get people killed.’”


5. Much of the program consists of analysis of the reciprocal arrangement between elements of US intelligence and British intelligence to illegally wiretap each other’s citizens. With the illegal wiretapping of British and US citizens being done by operatives of the other country’s intelligence agencies, both countries can claim that they do not illegally wiretap their own citizens. The information is turned over to the agencies by their opposite numbers. The NSA is the primary American agency wiretapping British citizens and the GCHQ does the bulk of the wiretapping of the American citizens. As will be seen below, much of the illegal wiretapping in the US is conducted against Jews, a practice that owes much of its genesis to J. Edgar Hoover.

“According to several of the ‘old spies’ who worked in Communications Intelligence, the NSA headquarters is also the chief British espionage base in the United States. The presence of British wiretappers at the keyboards of American eavesdropping computers is a closely guarded secret, one that very few people in the intelligence community have been aware of, but it is true. An American historian, David Kahn, first stumbled onto a corner of the British connection in 1966, while writing his book The Codebreakers. One indication of just how sensitive this information is considered on both sides of the Atlantic is the fact that Kahn’s publishers in New York and London were put under enormous pressure to censor a great deal of the book. In the main, Kahn simply revealed the existence of the liaison relationship, but when he wrote that the NSA and its British equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, ‘exchange personnel on a temporary basis,’ he had come too close to revealing the truth.”

(The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People; John Loftus and Mark Aarons; Copyright 1994 [SC]; St. Martin’s Press; ISBN 0-312-15648-0; p. 189.)

6. Authors Loftus and Aarons set forth the operational paradigm for the wiretapping:

“The U.S. government told Kahn to hide the existence of British electronic spies from the American public. Kahn eventually agreed to delete a few of the most sensitive paragraphs describing the exchange of codes, techniques, and personnel with the British government. His innocuous few sentences threatened to disclose a larger truth. By the 1960s the ‘temporary’ British personnel at Fort Meade had become a permanent fixture. The British enjoyed continued access to the greatest listening post in the world. The NSA is a giant vacuum cleaner. It sucks in every form of electronic information, from telephone calls to telegrams, across the United States. The presence of British personnel is essential for the American wiretappers to claim plausible deniability. Here is how the game is played. The British liaison officer at Fort Meade types the target list of ‘suspects’ into the American computer. The NSA computer sorts through its wiretaps and gives the British officer the recording of any American citizen he wants. Since it is technically a British target of surveillance, no American search warrant is necessary. The British officer then simply hands the results over to his American liaison officer. [Emphasis added.]”

(Ibid.; pp. 189-190.)

7. The illegal American wiretapping of British citizens follows a similar pattern:

“Of course, the Americans provide the same service to the British in return. All international and domestic telephone calls in Great Britain are run through the NSA’s station in the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at Menwith Hill, which allows the American liaison officer to spy on any British citizen without a warrant. According to our sources, this duplicitous, reciprocal arrangement disguises the most massive, and illegal, domestic espionage apparatus in the world. Not even the Soviets could touch the U.K.-U.S. intercept technology. Through this charade, the intelligence services of each country can claim that they are not targeting their own citizens. The targeting is done by an authorized foreign agent, the intelligence liaison resident in Britain or the United States. Thus, in 1977, during an investigation by the House Government Operations Committee, Admiral Inman could claim, with a straight face, that ‘there are no U.S. Citizens now targeted by the NSA in the United States or abroad, none.’ Since the targeting was done not by NSA but by employees of British GCHQ, he was telling the literal truth. Still, the congressional staff knew enough at the time to characterize Inman’s statement in an unpublished report as ‘misleading.’”

(Ibid.; p. 190.)

8. “Whether Inman had personal knowledge of the British wiretapping may never be resolved. None of our sources claims to be present on any occasion when Admiral Inman met with the British liaison officers. It should be noted, however, that before Inman started his career with Naval Intelligence, he was assigned as an aide to London. The British connection may explain not only Inman’s meteoric rise to become the youngest director of the NSA, but also why President Reagan later selected him to be- come William Casey’s deputy at the CIA. The move surprised many who knew of Inman’s reputation as a reformer and do-gooder. In fact, it was Admiral Inman who pulled the plug on the NSA’s infamous ‘Task Force 157’ while he was at CIA. It is entirely possible that Inman may have been an innocent man, whose public reputation for integrity was used for window dressing. Inman’s supporters in the NSA, of whom he has many, suggest that the blame for the British wiretap connection rests entirely with the FBI and that the NSA’s job was only to carry out a targeting policy instituted by J. Edgar Hoover. That begs the question of whether Inman knew about the British targeting when he gave his misleading statement to Congress.”


9. “Whether Inman had personal knowledge of the origins or extent of British domestic espionage or not, the ‘old spies,’ several of whom served at Fort Meade, say that his denial of domestic targeting by the NSA is all ‘semantic bullshit.’ It is well known, even among low-ranking NSA employees, that the foreign liaison officers exchange all the targeting information anyway, including the names on the British target lists. Admiral Inman did not provide that information to Congress, although it was clearly relevant to its inquiries. According to a former special agent of the FBI, the you-spy-on-mine, I’ll-spy-on-yours deal has been extended to the other Western partners, particularly Canada and Australia. The British, with the help of sophisticated NSA computers, can bug just about anyone anywhere. The electronic search for subversives continues, particularly in the United States. The NSA conceded precisely that point when the U.S. Justice Department investigated its wiretapping of American protesters during the Vietnam War. The NSA assured the Justice Department that the information was acquired only incidentally as part of a British GCHQ collection program. The ‘incidental’ British exception has become the rule. As discussed later in this chapter, illegal electronic surveillance, particularly against American Jews, continued past the McCarthy era, all through the Cold War, and past the collapse of the Soviet Union. In modern times, commercial interests in the Middle East rather than security considerations have been the driving force behind the domestic bugging.”

(Ibid.; pp. 190-191.)

10. Much of the illegal surveillance against Jews stems from the British and American concern over oil, which is controlled largely by Arabs. Although the US is officially supportive of Israel, in fact the US/British spying apparatus spies on behalf of the Arabs. As mentioned above, J. Edgar Hoover had much to do with the genesis of illegal surveillance of American Jews.

“Where oil is concerned, the British and American wiretappers use their anti-Jewish intelligence as an under-the-table bargaining chip to appease the Arabs. Publicly, our nations are allied with Israel. Privately, we give secret intelligence to Israel’s enemies in time of war. As we discuss in Chapter 12, on the Liberty incident, Congress does not have a clue how the British-American wiretap war works. For that matter, U.S. supervision of American wiretapping has been minimal. During the 1975 Senate (Church Committee) investigations, the NSA was forced to concede that ‘there is not any statute that prohibits . . . interception of domestic communications.’ In short, the wiretappers were outside the reach of any existing law. Technology had outstripped the legal protections of privacy. While insisting that its efforts were mainly directed at overseas communications, the NSA also admitted that it was ‘technically possible’ to monitor domestic conversations within the United States, ‘if some person with malintent desired to do so.’ Some person like J. Edgar Hoover, for example. Hoover was one of the biggest customers of wiretap information from its inception. In fact, the FBI made no bones about its right to listen in to domestic conversations without a warrant. It wasn’t until a 1975 court case that the FBI was finally told that they had no legal right to wiretap individuals or organizations without a warrant, unless there was a proven ‘agency relationship’ with a foreign power. In fact, until the stricter 1975 standards, the FBI could wiretap or place surveillance on any Jew who gave money to any Jewish organization that supported Israel. Here is an example of the type of innocuous information that was forwarded to the FBI as a result of their obsessive surveillance of American Jews: EMMA LAZARUS FOUNDATION OF JEWISH WOMENS CLUBS AMONG LARGER DONORS CONTRIBUTING $500 DURING A FUND RAISING DINNER HELD BY THE EMERGENCY CIVIL LIBERTIES COMMITTEE . . . [ON] DEC 15 1962 AT THE AMERICANA HOTEL NYC IN CELEBRATION OF THE 171ST ANNIVERSARY OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS. Apparently, Jews who celebrated the Bill of Rights were considered potential, if not actual, subversives. That remains FBI policy to this day. The FBI refused to accept the restrictions from an adverse 1975 court ruling and leaked its view to the media in a 1977 memo. The FBI still defended its right to spy on persons who ‘might’ be supporters of a foreign power, or even anyone in the country who ‘might’ be influenced by a foreign power.”

Ibid.; pp. 191-192.)

11.In 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed by Congress. It is this statute that is violated by the Bush order to the NSA to illegally wiretap American citizens.

“In light of the trivial intelligence haul from most of the surveillance, it was little wonder that over the years, Hoover had gone to great lengths to keep his surveillance of American Jews a secret, particularly from the Kennedy administration. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy made almost no effort to hide his desire to force Hoover out, and rumors spread that a Jew might actually step into his august shoes. Hoover and many in the upper echelons of the Bureau were absolutely outraged, and before long an ultimately successful campaign was under way to save the master wiretapper of U.S. intelligence. The electronic surveillance of Jews picked up during the Nixon administration but quieted down a bit after Watergate. In 1978 Congress finally passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) Act, a feeble attempt to stamp out some of the worst excesses of domestic espionage. In another bit of lawyerly legerdemain, the FIS act was restricted only to targeting by American agencies, leaving the British liaison officer with a major loophole. The restrictive language added to the FIS act left unchanged the arrangement under which the British wiretapped American suspects and then passed on the information to the NSA. Inman, it should be noted, was not in the NSA during 1975-76 when the language of the British loophole was contrived, although he was its director in 1978 when the act finally became law. To this day Congress does not realize that the British liaison officers at the NSA are still free to use American equipment to spy on American citizens. And, in fact, they are doing just that. Congress has been kept in the dark deliberately. This is a fact, not a matter of conjecture or a conclusion based on anonymous sources.”

(Ibid.; p. 192.)

12. Note how sensitive the NSA/GCHQ liaison is:

“In the early 1980s, during the Reagan administration, one of the authors of this book submitted to the intelligence community a draft of a manuscript that briefly described the wiretap shell game and mentioned that the secrecy provisions concerning British liaison relationships with the NSA have escaped congressional knowledge. The result was an uproar. The intelligence community insisted that all passages explaining the British wiretap program had to be censored and provided a list of specific deletions. Even the simple mention of the existence of a secret agreement of which Congress was unaware was banned as classified information. In 1985, when the author was called to testify about Nazis working for U.S. intelligence before a congressional subcommittee, he asked permission to discuss certain items pertaining to electronic surveillance in executive session. Permission was denied. So much for congressional oversight.”

(Ibid.; p. 193.)

13. Note also how the Clinton administration lifted the prohibition on writing about the NSA/GCHQ liaison. This should provide some perspective for those who claim that there’s no difference between the Republicans and Democrats.

“Shortly after the Clinton administration took office, the intelligence community withdrew its previous objections to publication. In fact, many of the pieces of the jigsaw already had passed into the public domain. In 1982 James Bamford published his seminal history of the NSA, The Puzzle Palace, which disclosed some of the main points of the NSA-GCHQ liaison. The National Archives had been given dozens of declassified FBI documents citing British intelligence as the source of its information on Jews in the United States. And finally, in 1991, a pair of British authors confirmed a portion of the espionage on American Jews: ‘Sometime in 1945 or 1946 a special unit, even more secret than the rest of the code-breaking agency, was set up to monitor the activities of Israeli agents and their sympathizers in the U.S. and elsewhere. The men who ran this organization held the view that because of the use made by the Israelis of sympathizers from the Jewish community, no Jew, however apparently loyal a U.S. citizen, should be permitted to work in the special unit or even be told of its existence. All reports from the unit carried the code name ‘Gold,’ signifying that they were not to be shown to anyone of Jewish origin. ‘We had them cold,’ recalls one former intelligence official who was cleared to see the Gold reports. ‘We knew who was shipping the arms, who was paying for them, who was being paid in this country, every illegal thing that was going on in this country. Because of politics, very little was ever done with [this intelligence]. But so far as I know the [National Security Agency] still has a group like that, buried somewhere deep. It does indeed. Its nickname is the ‘Jew room.’ Inside the National Security Agency is an intelligence center from which all American Jews are banned, regardless of their proven loyalty or devotion to country, just as the U.S. Navy banned Jews from electronic surveillance ships, such as the USS Liberty. The ‘Jew room’ is where the United States and Britain spy on Israel and on anyone who supports Israel. Its name is a misnomer, as the intelligence center has more than one room in more than one agency. As we shall see in the following chapters, it is, and has been, the heart of the secret war against the Jews. . . .”

(Ibid.; pp. 193-194.)

14. Among the leaks discussed in the aforementioned James Risen book is the story of a bungled attempt at sabotaging the Iranian nuclear program. This gaffe may have actually accelerated the Iranian nuclear research.

“In a clumsy effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, the CIA in 2004 intentionally handed Tehran some top-secret bomb designs laced with a hidden flaw that U.S. officials hoped would doom any weapon made from them, according to a new book about the U.S. intelligence agency. But the Iranians were tipped to the scheme by the Russian defector hired by the CIA to deliver the plans and may have gleaned scientific information useful for designing a bomb, writes New York Times reporter James Risen in State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. The clandestine CIA effort was just one of many alleged intelligence failures during the Bush administration according to the book.”

(“CIA Gave Iran Bomb Plans, Book Says” by Josh Meyer; Los Angeles Times; 1/4/2006; p. A3.)

15. Risen also presents other intelligence failures that were, again, leaked to him by disgruntled members of the intelligence community.

“Risen also cites intelligence gaffes that fueled the Bush administration’s case for war against Saddam Hussein, spawned a culture of torture throughout the U.S. military and encouraged the rise of heroin cultivation and trafficking in postwar Afghanistan. Even before the book’s release Tuesday, its main revelation—that President Bush authorized a secret effort by another intelligence outfit, the National Security Agency, to eavesdrop on unsuspecting Americans without court-approved warrants—had created a storm of controversy when it was reported last month in the New York Times in an article co-authored by Risen. In the book, Risen says he based his accounts on interviews with dozens of intelligence officials who, while unnamed, had proved reliable in the past. . . . The New York Times delayed for a year publication of its article on the NSA’s domestic spying, in part because of personal requests from the president. Critics have questioned whether the paper could have published the information before last year’s presidential election if it had decided against a delay. Newspaper officials have refused to comment on reasons for the delay or on the exact timing. . . .”


16. Yet another intelligence failure described by Risen concerns the “blowing” of the cover of CIA operatives in Iran.

“ . . . According to the book, the CIA effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear effort came on the heels of another massive intelligence failure, in which a CIA officer mistakenly sent an Iranian agent a trove of information that could help identify nearly every one of the spy agency’s undercover operatives in Iran. The Iranian was a double agent, who turned over the data to Iranian authorities. They used it to dismantle the CIA’s spy network inside the country and arrest or possibly kill and unknown number of U.S. agents, the book said.”


17. C.I.A. veteran Paul R. Pillar is another of the disgruntled intelligence officers to come forward with damaging leaks about the Bush administrations distortions concerning intelligence estimates of Iraqi WMD programs.

“A C.I.A. veteran who oversaw intelligence assessments about the Middle East from 2000 to 2005 on Friday accused the Bush administration of ignoring or distorting the prewar evidence on a broad range off issues related to Iraq in its effort to justify the American invasion of 2003. The views of Paul R. Pillar, who retired in October as national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, echoed previous criticism from Democrats and from some administration officials, including Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism czar, and Paul H. O’Neill, the former treasury secretary. But Mr. Pillar is the first high-level C.I.A. insider to speak out by name on the use of prewar intelligence. His article for the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs, which charges the administration with the selective use of intelligence about Iraq’s unconventional weapons and the chances of postwar chaos in Iraq, was posted on the journal’s Web site after it was reported in The Washington Post. . . .”

(“Ex-C.I.A. Official Says Iraq Data Was Distorted” by Scott Shane; The New York Times; 2/11/2006.)

18. In addition to the leaks mentioned above, CIA officer Gary Berntsen has written of the failure of the US military command to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora. This became an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign when John Kerry accused the Bush administration of failing to deploy enough US troops at the Pakistani/Afghan border in order to trap bin Laden. General Tommy Franks denied that there was any concrete intelligence that bin Laden was at Tora Bora. According to Berntsen, Franks was lying.

“US military commanders were told that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in early December of 2001 but failed to send troops to block his escape, according to a new account by the CIA officer who ran the agency’s operations in the country. Gary Berntsen, a CIA veteran who handed a paramilitary team called ‘Jawbreaker’ during the Afghan war, said in a book published last week that one of his Arabic-speaking operatives found a radio on a dead al-Qaeda fighter during the Tora Bora battle and heard the terrorist leader try to rally his troops. ‘After the Spectre [gunship aircraft] cleared the area, Bilal heard a voice he recognized from dozens of tape recordings,’ Mr. Berntsen wrote, using a pseudonym for an Arab-American former Marine who was part of the CIA team. ‘It was Osama bin Laden telling his troops to keep fighting.’”

(“Ex-CIA Agent Says US Missed bin Laden in Afghan Battle” by Peter Spiegel; Financial Times; 1/4/2006; p. 2.)

19. Berntsen’s request for the deployment of an Army Ranger battalion was denied.

“Later, on the same captured radio, ‘Bilal’ and a second CIA agent, another American of Middle Eastern origin, reported hearing Mr. bin Laden apologizing for getting his men trapped in the mountains and killed in large numbers by American bombing Mr. Berntsen wrote. The book, titled Jawbreaker, was heavily edited by CIA censors. Mr. Berntsen also wrote that on the recommendation of a former special forces officer who was part of his team as a CIA contractor, he made a formal request for 800 US army Rangers to be deployed along the Pakistan border to prevent Mr. bin Laden’s escape, a request that was never granted. . . . .”


20. Among the critics of the NSA spying program is GOP bigwig Grover Norquist. As we saw in—among other programs—FTR#’s 435, 454, 467, 515, Norquist has served as a lobbyist and front man for the Islamofascist milieu implicated in 9/11. His Islamic Institute is a Muslim Brotherhood beachhead in the Republican Party. One cannot help but wonder if Norquist’s distaste for the NSA spying program is rooted in fear that his collaboration with the terrorist milieu implicated in 9/11 might be revealed to a greater extent than it already has been.

“Larry Diamond, a Democrat and a Hoover Institution senior fellow, went to Baghdad in 2004 as a consultant for the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority, believing strongly in the Bush administration’s goal of building a democracy there. While critical of many aspects of the Iraq war, he has, he says, wholeheartedly supported President Bush’s aggressive approach to the war on terror. Grover Norquist is one of the most influential conservative Republicans in Washington. His weekly ‘Wednesday Meeting’ at his L Street office is a must for conservative strategists, and he has been called the ‘managing director of the hard-core right’ by the liberal Nation magazine. Perhaps the country’s leading anti-tax enthusiast, he is, like Diamond, a hawk in the war on terror. Despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, they agree on one other major issue, that the Bush administration’s program of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency without obtaining court warrants has less to do with the war on terror than with threats to the nation’s civil liberties. . . .”

(“Political Opposites Aligned Against Bush Wiretaps” by James Sterngold; San Francisco Chronicle; 1/26/2006; p. A1.)

21. The program concludes by highlighting the appointment of Norquist’s younger brother David to be the chief financial officer of the Department of Homeland Security. Having the younger brother of the point man for the Islamists in America in charge of DHS finances is unlikely to make the country safer. With DHS chief Michael Chertoff having been the attorney for apparent Al Qaeda financier Dr. Magdy el-Amir, the appointment of David Norquist to head DHS finances bodes poorly for the country’s future. (For more about Chertoff, his role in covering up the terrorist money trail and his relationship with Dr. Magdy el-Amir, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 462, 464, 495, 500.)

“ . . . With a tip of the War Room helmet to Josh Marshall, we note word that the president plans to name David L. Norquist as the new CFO for DHS. As UPI reports, Norquist is the younger brother of Grover Norquist, the antitax crusader who would like to see the federal government shrunk down so small you could drown it in a bathtub, just as soon as he and Abramoff are done profiting from it. . . .”

(“The ‘Best Person’ He Could Find?” by Tim Grieve; Salon.com; 1/19/2006.)


4 comments for “FTR #541 Leaks”

  1. And Americans once again get to learn that there might be long-term consequences for aggressively cheerleading the passage of a massive expansion of the national security state under the guidance of blatant nut jobs. It might warp the government for decades to come. Shocker!

    Atrios asked the question “…conceptually just what do we imagine 20,000 NSA employees do all day?” That’s a good question! Unfortunately, trying to answer that question would require us to peer into a particularly opaque black box a particularly opaque black box. I’d have to imagine that many Americans imagined that the NSA was doing something like this, but with computers and when we find out that the negative consequences to creating a massive surveillance state to catch the “bad guys” doesn’t exclusively impact the “bad guys” we get upset (Magical thinking has a bad long-run track record).

    But part of what makes the timing of this latest flood of mass-spying disclosures so interesting is the fact that Obama’s presumed pick to replace Mueller as the head of the FBI, James Comey, has a personal history that was guaranteed to make warrantless-wiretapping by the Bush administration a major “theme” for his confirmation hearings. And while Comey has received much praise for his 2004 showdown with Dick Cheney and David Addington in John Ashcroft’s hospital room over the approval of an NSA warrantless wiretapping program. But Comey’s history with mass-surrveillance and other War on Terror tactics haven’t been quite as clear as that 2004 incident would suggest. So while it would be nice to find out that these latest disclosures were rooted in a strong desire by someone in the government or intelligence community to force a long-overdue public debate to come to grips with the realities of mass surveillance you also have to wonder if shaping the narrative around the looming Comey confirmation fight wasn’t significant part of the motive for the recent leaks.

    It’ll also be interesting to see the Heritage Foundation’s response to these new disclosures.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 6, 2013, 9:57 pm
  2. So is the now notorious PRISM mass-surrveillance program being run by Peter Thiel’s Palantir Technologies? If true, then it wasn’t just the NSA spying on us. It was Facebook’s far-right crazy uncle money-bags:

    TPM Editor’s blog
    Is This Who Runs Prism?
    Josh Marshall June 7, 2013, 7:57 AM

    I want to stress this is a reader email, not TPM reporting. But I’m sharing it because after reading it through and doing some googling of my own there’s little doubt that Palantir is doing stuff like what the government is doing with those tech companies, even if they’re not part of ‘prism’ itself. Give this a read.

    From an anonymous reader …

    I don’t see anyone out there with this theory, and TPM is my favorite news source, so here goes:

    “PRISM” is the government’s name for a program that uses technology from Palantir. Palantir is a Silicon Valley start-up that’s now valued at well over $1B, that focuses on data analysis for the government. Here’s how Palantir describes themselves:

    “We build software that allows organizations to make sense of massive amounts of disparate data. We solve the technical problems, so they can solve the human ones. Combating terrorism. Prosecuting crimes. Fighting fraud. Eliminating waste. From Silicon Valley to your doorstep, we deploy our data fusion platforms against the hardest problems we can find, wherever we are needed most.” http://www.palantir.com/what-we-do/

    They’re generally not public about who their clients are, but their first client was famously the CIA, who is also an early investor.

    With my theory in mind, re-read the denials from the tech companies in the WSJ (emphasis mine):
    Apple: “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers…”
    Google: “… does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data…”
    Facebook: “… not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers…”
    Yahoo: “We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network…”

    These denials could all still be technically true if the government is accessing the data through a government contractor, such as Palantir, rather than having direct access.

    I just did a quick Google search of “Palantir PRISM” to see if anyone else had this theory, and the top results were these pages:

    Apparently, Palantir has a software package called “Prism”: “Prism is a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir.” That sounds like exactly the tool you’d want if you were trying to find patterns in data from multiple companies.

    So the obvious follow-up questions are of the “am I right?” variety, but if I am, here’s what I really want to know: which Palantir clients have access to this data? Just CIA & NSA? FBI? What about municipalities, such as the NYC police department? What about the governments of other countries?

    What do you think?

    FWIW, I know a guy who works at Palantir. I asked him what he/they did once, and he was more secretive than my friends at Apple.

    PS, please don’t use my name if you decide to publish any of this — it’s a small town/industry. Let them Prism me instead.

    Late Update: Another reader notes that Bridgewater Associates LLP, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, is also a major client of Palantir, which appears to be confirmed by many press reports.

    Note that the presumed future head of the FBI, James Comey, turned down an earlier offer to lead the FBI back in 2011. He was Bridgewater Associates’s general counsel at the time. So it’s looking more and more like the Comey nomination fight, if it happens, could get REALLY interesting…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 7, 2013, 6:47 am
  3. Et tu Britain? Oh yeah, of course et tu Britain:

    The Washington Post
    U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program
    By Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, Published: June 6 | Updated: Friday, June 7, 9:51 AM

    The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

    The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.

    Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

    London’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday that GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA.

    According to documents obtained by The Guardian, PRISM would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.

    PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

    Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

    The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.

    In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to certify periodically that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant.

    In a statement issue late Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats. The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

    Clapper added that there were numerous inaccuracies in reports about PRISM by The Post and the Guardian newspaper, but he did not specify any.

    Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “I would just push back on the idea that the court has signed off on it, so why worry? This is a court that meets in secret, allows only the government to appear before it, and publishes almost none of its opinions. It has never been an effective check on government.”

    “As it is written, there is nothing to prohibit the intelligence community from searching through a pile of communications, which may have been incidentally or accidentally been collected without a warrant, to deliberately search for the phone calls or e-mails of specific Americans,” Udall said.

    Wyden repeatedly asked the NSA to estimate the number of Americans whose communications had been incidentally collected, and the agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, insisted there was no way to find out. Eventually Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III wrote Wyden a letter stating that it would violate the privacy of Americans in NSA data banks to try to estimate their number.

    Roots in the ’70s

    PRISM is an heir, in one sense, to a history of intelligence alliances with as many as 100 trusted U.S. companies since the 1970s. The NSA calls these Special Source Operations, and PRISM falls under that rubric.

    The Silicon Valley operation works alongside a parallel program, code-named BLARNEY, that gathers up “metadata” — technical information about communications traffic and network devices — as it streams past choke points along the backbone of the Internet. BLARNEY’s top-secret program summary, set down in the slides alongside a cartoon insignia of a shamrock and a leprechaun hat, describes it as “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

    But the PRISM program appears to more nearly resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over exponential growth in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques.

    The Obama administration points to ongoing safeguards in the form of “extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.”

    And it is true that the PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

    Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to make quarterly reports of any accidental collection of U.S. content, but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”

    Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially. The same math explains the aphorism, from the John Guare play, that no one is more than “six degrees of separation” from any other person.

    A ‘directive’

    In exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies such as Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA. In 2008, Congress gave the Justice Department authority for a secret order from the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to compel a reluctant company “to comply.”

    Like market researchers, but with far more privileged access, collection managers in the NSA’s Special Source Operations group, which oversees the PRISM program, are drawn to the wealth of information about their subjects in online accounts. For much the same reason, civil libertarians and some ordinary users may be troubled by the menu available to analysts who hold the required clearances to “task” the PRISM system.

    There has been “continued exponential growth in tasking to Facebook and Skype,” according to the PRISM slides. With a few clicks and an affirmation that the subject is believed to be engaged in terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation, an analyst obtains full access to Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities against the variety of online social networking services.”

    According to a separate “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection,” that service can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of “audio, video, chat, and file transfers” when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.

    Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 7, 2013, 9:29 am
  4. Is it ‘bye bye’ time for Brennan? It’s looking like it:

    The New York Times
    Inquiry by C.I.A. Affirms It Spied on Senate Panel


    WASHINGTON — An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program.

    The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information, according to a summary of findings made public on Thursday. One official with knowledge of the report’s conclusions said the investigation also discovered that the officers created a false online identity to gain access on more than one occasion to computers used by the committee staff.

    The inspector general’s account of how the C.I.A. secretly monitored a congressional committee charged with supervising its activities touched off angry criticism from members of the Senate and amounted to vindication for Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s Democratic chairwoman, who excoriated the C.I.A. in March when the agency’s monitoring of committee investigators became public.

    A statement issued Thursday morning by a C.I.A. spokesman said that John O. Brennan, the agency’s director, had apologized to Ms. Feinstein and the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and would set up an internal accountability board to review the issue. The statement said that the board, which will be led by a former Democratic senator, Evan Bayh of Indiana, could recommend “potential disciplinary measures” and “steps to address systemic issues.”

    But anger among lawmakers grew throughout the day. Leaving a nearly three-hour briefing about the report in a Senate conference room, members of both parties called for the C.I.A. officers to be held accountable, and some said they had lost confidence in Mr. Brennan’s leadership. “This is a serious situation and there are serious violations,” said Mr. Chambliss, generally a staunch ally of the intelligence community. He called for the C.I.A. employees to be “dealt with very harshly.”

    Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado and another member of the Intelligence Committee, demanded Mr. Brennan’s resignation. “The C.I.A. unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers,” he said in a written statement. “This grave misconduct not only is illegal but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers.

    “These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the C.I.A., demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences,” he added.

    Committee Democrats have spent more than five years working on a report about the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program during the Bush administration, which employed brutal interrogation methods like waterboarding. Parts of that report, which concluded that the techniques yielded little valuable information and that C.I.A. officials consistently misled the White House and Congress about the efficacy of the techniques, are expected to be made public some time this month. Committee Republicans withdrew from the investigation, saying that it was a partisan smear and without credibility because it was based solely on documents and that there were no plans to interview C.I.A. officers who ran the program.

    According to David B. Buckley, the C.I.A. inspector general, three of the agency’s information technology officers and two of its lawyers “improperly accessed or caused access” to a computer network designated for members of the committee’s staff working on the report to sift through millions of documents at a C.I.A. site in Northern Virginia. The names of those involved are unavailable because the full report has not yet been made public.

    The C.I.A. officials penetrated the computer network when they came to suspect that the committee’s staff had gained unauthorized access to an internal C.I.A. review of the detention program that the spy agency never intended to give to Congress. A C.I.A. lawyer then referred the agency’s suspicions to the Justice Department to determine whether the committee staff broke the law when it obtained that document. The inspector general report said that there was no “factual basis” for this referral, which the Justice Department has declined to investigate, because the lawyer had been provided inaccurate information. The report said that the three information technology officers “demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities” during interviews with the inspector general.

    The dispute brought relations between the spy agency and lawmakers to a new low, as the two sides traded a host of accusations — from computer hacking to violating constitutional principles of separation of powers.

    Regarding the new lows in relations between the CIA and lawmakes, Charles Johnson makes an important point on this topic:

    There’s one detail that is being generally ignored in most of the reports so far: the CIA actually supplied the computers and operated the network the Senate Intelligence Committee was using, so suggesting this involved “hacking” is completely off-base.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that it was still an egregious violation of the Senate’s privacy.

    The ‘hacking’ took place on a shared network set up and managed by the CIA for the purpose of the sharing the documents with the Senate. So it doesn’t sound like it was a case of the CIA ‘hacking’ into the computers in the Senate staff’s offices, but was instead an egregious sysadmin abuse of the Senate’s portion of a classified network set up and managed by the CIA:

    CIA director reverses himself on Senate spying

    AP Intelligence Writer
    Aug 1, 3:38 AM EDT

    WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, CIA Director John Brennan stood firm in his insistence that the CIA had little to be ashamed of after searching the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee. His defiant posture quickly collapsed after a devastating report by his own inspector general sided against the CIA on each key point of the dispute with the Senate.

    According to an unclassified summary of the report released Thursday, five agency employees – two lawyers and three computer specialists- improperly accessed Intelligence Committee computers earlier this year during a disagreement over interrogation documents. Then, despite Brennan ordering a halt to that operation, the CIA’s office of security began an unauthorized investigation that led it to review the emails of Senate staffers and search them for key words.

    At issue was a January search by agency officers of Senate computers for information gathered in the course of a Senate investigation into the CIA’s interrogation techniques. The search involved a penetration of the Senate portion of a shared, classified computer network at a Northern Virginia facility that was being used to provide Senate aides access to millions of CIA documents.

    The fruits of the Senate’s yearslong inquiry – a summary of a classified report on post-9/11 detentions and interrogations that accuses the CIA of misconduct – is expected to be made public soon.

    The CIA conducted the search after it began to suspect that Senate aides had obtained a draft internal review that the CIA believed the Senate was not entitled to see. The review included comments from CIA officers describing misgivings about the treatment of al-Qaida detainees.

    As it turned out, the Senate staffers got the review thanks to a glitch in the CIA’s firewall, several officials said.

    The findings of the investigation by the CIA’s inspector general were shared with the Justice Department, which declined to pursue criminal charges against the CIA employees, officials said.

    The inspector general concluded “that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” about the shared computer network, Boyd said.

    Boyd said there was no malicious intent behind the actions of CIA officers. He said they were trying to determine how privileged agency documents ended up on the Senate side of the CIA network and whether there was a security breach.

    The CIA is generally forbidden from conducting operations on U.S. soil. One reason no criminal charges were filed, said a Senate aide who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, is that the Senate computers were on a CIA network subject to agency monitoring. But the CIA violated its agreement not to scrutinize the Senate side of the network.

    The summary of the inspector general’s report does not say who ordered the CIA search of Senate computers or who conducted it. The Senate staff used the system to communicate about their investigation into what some call torture by CIA officers.

    Part of the CIA’s computer surveillance, officials on both sides said, involved creating a fake Senate account to review what documents Senate staffers could access.

    “As it turned out, the Senate staffers got the review thanks to a glitch in the CIA’s firewall, several officials said.” A firewall glitch on a CIA-run network holding classified information? Well, there should be at least one entity pleased by this news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 1, 2014, 6:06 pm

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