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

Lis­ten: MP3  Side 1  Side 2


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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