Posts tagged NSA
Posts tagged NSA
The Obama administration has declared that the “War on Terror” is officially over, but this move only signifies a change in public terminology, not official U.S. policy.
Many of the war on terror’s secret objectives will be pursued regardless of the new public language that will be deployed by U.S. officials to sell the idea of perpetual warfare to the American people and the rest of the world.
One of the main objectives of the falsely advertised “War on Terror,” was to allow U.S. government agencies and international banks to reap the profits from the global drug trade while appearing noble and lawful. Despite the brand change, the war on terror will still be waged in order to preserve the global drug economy. The continuation of covert CIA and military operations in the heroin fields of Afghanistan is a certainty.
As many experts on reality have noted, a sharp rise in heroin cultivation in Afghanistan occurred when America and NATO invaded the country illegally in 2001. U.S. officials, intelligence officers, and soldiers have been trafficking drugs out of Afghanistan under the radar for the last decade. Journalist Patrick Henningsenreported earlier this month that both the Army and the DEA are trafficking drugs into the United States.
The global trafficking of drugs by the U.S. government is not done to keep the government budget afloat and finance the banks. It is pure corruption. As Catherine Austin Fitts wrote in 2001, “New technology blesses us with the potential tools we can use to radically increase productivity in a way that can “jump the curve” on our narco dollar addiction.”
In the past decade, the National Security State’s crimes such as drug trafficking and arms dealing were committed under the cover of War on Terror, but this label is being dropped in favour of more sophisticated and nuanced language.
The Obama administration is trying to maintain the corrupt status quo by adopting a new vocabulary to cover-up the criminal activities and policies of the U.S. security state and Wall Street/Federal Reserve Banksters.
So, contrary to the claims of the Obama propaganda machine, the evil transnational and secret financial-intelligence-political-security-media Empire has been strengthened and stimulated anew under the Obama administration.
In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration is trying all kinds of tricks to regain popular credibility which it had lost because of its defense of the Wall Street bandits and Bush-era torturers. Whether provoking a race war, falsely declaring the end of U.S. wars abroad, or exploiting the grievances of the poor, the aim is the same: re-elect the puppet Obama.
The “war on terrorism” has inaugurated a new era in the American polity, a sea-change that has not only threatened to overturn traditional limits on government power but also corrupted the political culture – and opened the way to the terminal crisis of the Constitution.
In a revealing series of interviews on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” program, three individuals targeted by the American surveillance state – William Binney, former top NSA official, Jacob Applebaum, an internet security specialist who works with WikiLeaks, and Laura Poitras, an Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker whose work has brought her to the attention of US authorities and led to her harassment by US government agents – give compelling evidence that the answer to the question in the title of this piece is clearly an emphatic no.
Binney resigned his position with the National Security Agency (NSA) after 40 years in protest at the government’s increasingly totalitarian methods of data-collection and retention, without judicial oversight. The government has targeted him: in 2007, his home was invaded by FBI agents after he went to the Senate Intelligence Committee with revelations about illegal NSA spying on American citizens: they pointed guns at him, and warned that he would “not do well” in prison. Applebaum and Poitras have been detained, searched, and interrogated every time they have re-entered the US from abroad – Poitras over 40 times – and had their laptops seized and presumably copied. None of these individuals have been charged with a crime.
The degree to which our constitutionally-protected liberties have been usurped is shockingly described by Binney:
“AMYGOODMAN: Do you believe all emails, the government has copies of, in the United States?
WILLIAMBINNEY: I would think—I believe they have most of them, yes.
GOODMAN: And you’re speaking from a position where you would know, considering your position in the National Security Agency.
BINNEY: Right. All they would have to do is put various Narus devices at various points along the network, at choke points or convergent points, where the network converges, and they could basically take down and have copies of most everything on the network.
While this level of surveillance started during the Bush administration, under President Obama, says Binney:
“The surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: How many?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Twenty trillion.”
What are they doing with all those emails? They’re targeting their enemies, domestic as well as foreign, and combining this information with “meta-data” – i.e. financial records, credit card transactions – to create comprehensive profiles of those on their enemies list. There’s nothing to stop them from “leaking” this information to anyone, for any purpose – because it all takes place in the dark. And if they want to find something on you, they will find it and use it. This, in short, is what it means to say one lives in a police state. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this in a recent column, and he said something very important that we should all focus on:
“So just look at what happens to people in the U.S. if they challenge government actions in any meaningful way — if they engage in any meaningful dissent. We love to tell ourselves that there are robust political freedoms and a thriving free political press in the U.S. because you’re allowe d to have an MSNBC show or blog in order to proclaim every day how awesome and magnanimous the President of the United States is and how terrible his GOP political adversaries are — howbrave,cutting andedgy! — or to go on Fox News and do the opposite. But people who are engaged in actual dissent, outside the tiny and narrow permissible boundaries of pom-pom waving for one of the two political parties — those who are focused on the truly significant acts which the government and its owners are doing in secret — are subjected to this type of intimidation, threats, surveillance, and climate of fear, all without a whiff of illegal conduct.”
All modern dictatorships employ the same method of limited freedom in certain realms, expanding and contracting the parameters of the permissible according to the tactical advantage of the moment, and yet always upholding the first principle of any and all tyrannies: that the government grants such “rights” as “free speech” and “free assembly” at its sole discretion. Which means they can be rescinded at a moment’s notice.
This state of conditional freedom that allows these governments to maintain the official fiction they are “liberal” democracies. With Fox News and MSNBC braying at one another, and the airwaves filled with corporate-funded political ads detailing the dirt on this or that candidate, the illusion of liberality persists. Yet all one has to do is challenge the “national security” prerogatives of an ever-expanding American empire – as Binney, Applebaum, and Poitras did – and suddenly one is transported into the world of It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’s masterful evocation of what a distinctively American dictatorship might look like, Orwell’s 1984, or some other dystopian vision of a totalitarian future. Reading these warnings today, one cannot escape their archaic air: not because the visions projected in these novels turned out to be wrong, but precisely because they have already come true.
Take Orwell’s classic work, which posited a world in a state of perpetual warfare (check!), where constant and universal surveillance is the norm (check!), where “thoughtcrime” is ruthlessly punished, and where most ordinary people (the “proles”) are basically left alone, with totalitarian methods of repression directed almost exclusively against rebellious elites (check!) This last item is the point Greenwald made in his piece, and it bears repeating and elaboration. The idea is to make it possible to exert control without affecting how most people live their lives. If you aren’t a “whistle-blower,” a Julian Assange, or a Bradley Manning: if you don’t reveal closely-guarded government secrets, if you aren’t making documentaries about how the Americans conquered and lorded over the Iraqis, then you have nothing to worry about. There are no political prisons, no gulags – but if you step out of bounds the government has enough information to discredit, destroy, and/or imprison you. Two journalists – Tom Vanden Brook, a writer for USA Today, and Ray Locker, an editor – who were writing about the Pentagon’s use of military contractors to whitewash its sorry record in Iraq and Afghanistan, found that a website and a false Twitter account in their names made a sudden appearance, in what appeared to be a coordinated effortto discredit them and their work.
The contractors deny all involvement, and, yes, this happened under the Obama administration – last week. Barack Obama is an essential element of the developing totalitarian trend in the United States: indeed, I would argue his reelection is theessential factor pushing this process forward. “Lean forward!” barks MSNBC – but forward to what?
This is a question I needn’t ask myself, for the simple reason that I was never a supporter of the President, and am an unlikely candidate for membership in the Obama cult. My political views might be described as somewhat to the “right” of Ayn Rand, when it comes to domestic issues, and far to the “left” of Noam Chomsky when it comes to foreign policy. In short, I’m a libertarian, and so my jaundiced view of the President is not all that surprising. Yet even I am surprised by the deafening silence in the “liberal” community – and the lack of real anger on the left at Obama’s escalation of the war on our civil liberties. Leading “progressives” are apparently indifferent to this administration’s vindictive pursuit of “whistle-blowers” – insiders like Binney who cry foul at government abuses – and the lack of outrage is … outrageous.
In his first television interview since he resigned from the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance program, William Binney discusses the NSA’s massive power to spy on Americans and why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower. Binney was a key source for investigative journalist James Bamford’s recent exposé in Wired Magazine about how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches and other personal data.
Binney served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.” Today marks the first time Binney has spoken on national television about NSA surveillance. This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 2, 3, and 4. [includes rush transcript]
When Tom Cruise had to break into police headquarters in Minority Report, the futuristic crime thriller, he got past the iris scanners with ease: He just swapped out his eyeballs.
CIA agents may find that just a little beyond the call of duty. But meanwhile, they’ve got to come up with something else: The increasing deployment of iris scanners and biometric passports at worldwide airports, hotels and business headquarters, designed to catch terrorists and criminals, are playing havoc with operations that require CIA spies to travel under false identities.
Busy spy crossroads such as Dubai, Jordan, India and many E.U. points of entry are employing iris scanners to link eyeballs irrevocably to a particular name. Likewise, the increasing use of biometric passports, which are embedded with microchips containing a person’s face, sex, fingerprints, date and place of birth, and other personal data, are increasingly replacing the old paper ones. For a clandestine field operative, flying under a false name could be a one-way ticket to a headquarters desk, since they’re irrevocably chained to whatever name and passport they used.
“If you go to one of those countries under an alias, you can’t go again under another name,” explains a career spook, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he remains an agency consultant. ”So it’s a one-time thing — one and done. The biometric data on your passport, and maybe your iris, too, has been linked forever to whatever name was on your passport the first time. You can’t show up again under a different name with the same data.”
The issue is exceedingly sensitive to agency operatives and intelligence officials, past and present. “I think you have finally found a topic I can’t talk about,” said Charles Faddis, a CIA operations officer who retired in 2008.
“I can’t help you with this,” added a former intelligence agency chief. “I do think this is a significant issue with great implications for the safety and security of our people, so I recommend you not publish anything on this. You can do a lot of harm and no good.”
Despite an idealistic vision of the country’s devotion to the Constitution and its Bill of Rights amendments, it may come as a shock to any American who has not been paying attention that the US government has been conducting illegal unconstitutional surveillance on its citizens for much of the last hundred years.
In what may have been the country’s earliest coordinated effort at unconstitutional snooping, a government agency ominously named Black Chamber was in cahoots with Western Union after WWI to retrieve copies of telegrams in violation of the Radio Communications Act of 1912 and the Fourth Amendment.
Once publicly revealed, the operation was shut down only to resurface in 1945 when the Army Signals Security Agency, predecessor to the NSA (National Security Agency) began Operation Shamrock with the interception of millions of international communications from a ‘watch list’ of Americans.
Assured by government promises of legal immunity, RCA, Western Union and ITT Communications had agreed to provide confidential information to the government’s Military Intelligence Division despite a violation of the Communication Act of 1934 and the Fourth Amendment.
James Bamford’s well-researched The Shadow Factory — The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America describes the details of how Shamrock’s existence was revealed in 1975 and that Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), known for her colorful chapeaux and equally colorful personality, opened an investigation as Chair of the House Government Information and Individual Rights subcommittee.
With a bee in her bonnet, subcommittee hearings were scheduled. Bamford goes on to chronicle the rest of the story on Shamrock, claiming that with White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Edward Levi’s encouragement, President Gerald Ford was willing to play hardball to protect the government’s role in spying on Americans. After a series of high level bureaucrats including a personal visit by the Attorney General, failed to convince Abzug to cancel the hearings in the name of ‘national security,’ the three telecom companies, with encouragement from the White House, refused to testify. Upping the stakes, according to Bamford, both Levi and NSA Director Lew Allen also refused to testify.
By the time Abzug’s subcommittee issued subpoenas to the absent CEOs, Rumsfeld had become Secretary of Defense and was replaced by Dick Cheney as WH Chief of Staff. Bamford goes on to examine the role of both Rumsfeld and Cheney as believers in vigorous executive privilege as they urged Ford to resist the subcommittee’s requests while advising the CEOs to not comply with the subpoenas. In addition, Bamford states that “for the first time in American history, the concept of executive privilege was extended to a private corporation,” as if private corporations had the same Constitutional rights as a president.
Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs track people.
One. The National Security Agency (NSA) collects hundreds of millions of emails, texts and phone calls every day and has the ability to collect and sift through billions more. WIRED just reported NSA is building an immense new data center which will intercept, analyze and store even more electronic communications from satellites and cables across the nation and the world. Though NSA is not supposed to focus on US citizens, it does.
Two. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Security Branch Analysis Center (NSAC) has more than 1.5 billion government and private sector records about US citizens collected from commercial databases, government information, and criminal probes.
Three. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times recently reported that cellphones of private individuals in the US are being tracked without warrants by state and local law enforcement all across the country. With more than 300 million cellphones in the US connected to more than 200,000 cell phone towers, cellphone tracking software can pinpoint the location of a phone and document the places the cellphone user visits over the course of a day, week, month or longer.
Four. More than 62 million people in the US have their fingerprints on file with the FBI, state and local governments. This system, called the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), shares information with 43 states and 5 federal agencies. This system conducts more than 168,000 checks each day.
Five. Over 126 million people have their fingerprints, photographs and biographical information accessible on the US Department of Homeland Security Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). This system conducts about 250,000 biometric transactions each day. The goal of this system is to provide information for national security, law enforcement, immigration, intelligence and other Homeland Security Functions.
Six. More than 110 million people have their visas and more than 90 million have their photographs entered into the US Department of State Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). This system grows by adding about 35,000 people a day. This system serves as a gateway to the Department of State Facial Recognition system, IDENT and IAFSIS.
Seven. DNA profiles on more than 10 million people are available in the FBI coordinated Combined DNA index System (CODIS) National DNA Index.
Eight. Information on more than 2 million people is kept in the Intelligence Community Security Clearance Repository, commonly known as Scattered Castles. Most of the people in this database are employees of the Department of Defense (DOD) and other intelligence agencies.
Nine. The DOD also has an automated biometric identification system (ABIS) to support military operations overseas. This database incorporates fingerprint, palm print, face and iris matching on 6 million people and is adding 20,000 more people each day.
Ten. Information on over 740,000 people is included in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) of the National Counterterrorism Center. TIDE is the US government central repository of information on international terrorist identities. The government says that less than 2 percent of the people on file are US citizens or legal permanent residents. They were just given permission to keep their non-terrorism information on US citizens for a period of five years, up from 180 days.
Eleven. Tens of thousands of people are subjects of facial recognition software. The FBI has been working with North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and other state and local law enforcement on facial recognition software in a project called “Face Mask.” For example, the FBI has provided thousands of photos and names to the North Carolina DMV which runs those against their photos of North Carolina drivers. The Maricopa Arizona County Sheriff’s Office alone records 9,000 biometric mug shots a month.
Twelve. The FBI operates the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SAR) that collects and analyzes observations or reports of suspicious activities by local law enforcement. With over 160,000 suspicious activity files, SAR stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime but who are alleged to have acted suspiciously.
Thirteen. The FBI admits it has about 3,000 GPS tracking devices on cars of unsuspecting people in the US right now, even after the US Supreme Court decision authorizing these only after a warrant for probable cause has been issued.
* * *
The technology for tracking and identifying people is exploding as is the government appetite for it.
Soon, police everywhere will be equipped with handheld devices to collect fingerprint, face, iris and even DNA information on the spot and have it instantly sent to national databases for comparison and storage.
Bloomberg News reports the newest surveillance products “can also secretly activate laptop webcams or microphones on mobile devices,” change the contents of written emails mid-transmission, and use voice recognition to scan phone networks.
The advanced technology of the war on terrorism, combined with deferential courts and legislators, have endangered both the right to privacy and the right of people to be free from government snooping and tracking. Only the people can stop this.
By Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye
In May of 2002, one of several meetings was convened at the White House where the CIA sought permission from top Bush administration officials, including then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to torture the agency’s first high-value detainee captured after 9/11: Abu Zubaydah.
The CIA claimed Zubaydah, who at the time was being held at a black site prison in Thailand, was “withholding imminent threat information during the initial interrogation sessions,” according to documents released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in April 2009.
So, “attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel [including the agency’s top lawyer John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S.”
One of the key documents handed out to Bush officials at this meeting, and at Principals Committee sessions chaired by Rice that took place between May and July 2002, was a 37-page instructional manual that contained detailed descriptions of seven of the ten techniques that ended up in the legal opinion widely referred to as the “torture memo,” drafted by Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney John Yoo and signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, three months later. According to Rice, Yoo had attended the Principals Committee meetings and participated in discussions about Zubaydah’s torture.
That instructional manual, referred to as “Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) Operating Instructions,” has just been released by the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The document sheds additional light on the origins of the Bush administration’s torture policy and for the first time describes exactly what methods of torture Bush officials had discussed - and subsequently approved - for Zubaydah in May 2002.
The PREAL manual was prepared by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) courses to teach US military personnel how to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime. The manual states one of the primary goals of the training is “to give students the most reliable mental picture possible of an actual peacetime governmental detention experiences [sic].”
A US counterterrorism official and an aide to one of the Bush officials who participated in Principals Committee meetings in May 2002, however, confirmed to Truthout last week that the PREAL manual was one of several documents the CIA obtained from JPRA that was shared with Rice and other Principals Committee members in May 2002, the same month the CIA officially took over Zubaydah’s interrogation from the FBI. As National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, Rice chaired the meetings.
Rice and Bellinger have denied ever seeing a list of SERE training techniques. But in 2008,they told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducted an investigation into treatment of detainees in custody of the US government, that they recalled being present at White House meetings where SERE training was discussed.
Sarah Farber, a spokeswoman at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Riceteaches political economy, said she would pass on Truthout’s queries about claims that Rice reviewed and discussed the PREAL manual to Rice’s office. But Rice’s office did not respond to our inquiries.
Washington, DC, April 3, 2012 – The State Department today released a February 2006 internal memo from the Department’s then-counselor opposing Justice Department authorization for “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the CIA. All copies of the memo (Document 1), which reflect strong internal disagreement within the George W. Bush administration over the constitutionality of such techniques, were thought to have been destroyed. But the State Department located a copy and declassified it in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive.
Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, 2005-2007
The author of the memo, Philip D. Zelikow, counselor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, described the context of the memo in congressional testimony on May 13, 2009, and in an article he had previously published on foreignpolicy.com site on April 21, 2009.
“At the time, in 2005 [and 2006],” he wrote, “I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn’t entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable.”
OLC refers to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views,” he continued. “They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department’s archives.”
Zelikow attached two other memos to his May 2009 congressional testimony (Document 3) that were publicly released at that time (Document 4 and Document 5), but his February 2006 memo remained classified. In later public statements, Zelikow argued that the latter document should also be released since the OLC memos themselves had already been opened to the public by the Obama administration.
The memo released today, labeled “draft,” concludes that because they violate the Constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” the CIA techniques of “waterboarding, walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement” were “the techniques least likely to be sustained” by the courts. Zelikow also wrote that “corrective techniques, such as slaps” were the “most likely to be sustained.” The last sentence of the memo reads: “[C]ontrol conditions, such as nudity, sleep deprivation, and liquid diets, may also be sustainable, depending on the circumstances and details of how these techniques are used.”
According to Zelikow’s accounts, he authored the memo in an attempt to counter the Bush administration’s dubious claim that CIA could still practice “enhanced interrogation” on enemy combatants despite the president’s December 2005 signing into law of the McCain Amendment, which, in Zelikow’s words, “extended the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment to all conduct worldwide.”
The Zelikow memo becomes the latest addition to The Torture Archive – the National Security Archive’s online institutional memory for issues and documents (including the OLC’s torture memos themselves) relating to rendition, detainees, interrogation, and torture.
Document 1: Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, Draft Memorandum, “The McCain Amendment and U.S. Obligations under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture,” Top Secret, February 15, 2006
Source: Freedom of Information Act request
Written following passage of the so-called McCain Amendment against “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” this memo offers alternative legal argumentation to the opinions that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel continued to put forward into 2006. According to Zelikow, he was told that some officials in the Bush administration sought to gather all copies of his memo and destroy them, but the State Department located this one and released it under the Freedom of Information Act.
Document 2: Stephen G. Bradbury, Justice Department, Office of Legal Counsel, Memorandum for John A. Rizzo, “Re: Application of United States Obligations Under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture to Certain Techniques that May Be Used in the Interrogation of High Value al Qaeda Detainees,” Top Secret, May 30, 2005
Source: The Torture Archive, the National Security Archive
This memo follows up previous OLC opinions on interrogation methods, providing an even more expansive vision of what kinds of “enhanced techniques” would be acceptable against al Qaeda and other detainees. Zelikow specifically refers to this memo in his February 2006 counter-argument.
Document 3: Philip D. Zelikow, Statement before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, Unclassified, May 13, 2009
Source: Federation of American Scientists
After the Obama administration declassified the controversial Office of Legal Counsel opinions on so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Congress weighed in on the question. Here, Zelikow lays out his critique of the OLC position in detail.
Document 4: Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, and Gordon R. England, Deputy Secretary of Defense, “Elements of Possible Initiative,” Sensitive but Unclassified, June 12, 2005
Source: Federation of American Scientists
Zelikow and Gordon England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, put together this draft of a possible presidential initiative on detainee treatment and interrogation. The document was appended to Zelikow’s May 2009 congressional testimony. According to his prepared statement, this memo describes a “big bang” approach to dealing with the larger issues, but after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected its ideas, the National Security Council staff decided to pursue each issue piecemeal.
Document 5: Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, and John B. Bellinger III, State Department Legal Advisor, “Detainees – The Need for a Stronger Legal Framework,” Unclassified, July 2005
Source: Federation of American Scientists
In his May 2009 congressional testimony, Zelikow describes this document as part of an attempt by the State Department to enlist other U.S. government agencies to define legal standards for detainee treatment that were less “technical” and more “durable – politically, legally, and among our key allies.” The memo was appended to his testimony.
Army General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, is having a busy year — hopping around the country, cutting ribbons at secret bases and bringing to life the agency’s greatly expanded eavesdropping network.
In January he dedicated the new $358 million CAPT Joseph J. Rochefort Building at NSA Hawaii, and in March he unveiled the 604,000-square-foot John Whitelaw Building at NSA Georgia.
Designed to house about 4,000 earphone-clad intercept operators, analysts and other specialists, many of them employed by private contractors, it will have a 2,800-square-foot fitness center open 24/7, 47 conference rooms and VTCs, and “22 caves,” according to an NSA brochure from the event. No television news cameras were allowed within two miles of the ceremony.
Overseas, Menwith Hill, the NSA’s giant satellite listening post in Yorkshire, England that sports 33 giant dome-covered eavesdropping dishes, is also undergoing a multi-million-dollar expansion, with $68 million alone being spent on a generator plant to provide power for new supercomputers. And the number of people employed on the base, many of them employees of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, is due to increase from 1,800 to 2,500 in 2015, according to a study done in Britain. Closer to home, in May, Fort Meade will close its 27-hole golf course to make room for a massive $2 billion, 1.8-million-square-foot expansion of the NSA’s headquarters, including a cybercommand complex and a new supercomputer center expected to cost nearly $1 billion.
Maybe you’ve heard of it and maybe you haven’t, but in Bluffdale, Utah alongside one of the largest polygamist sects in America, the NSA is building a one-million-square-foot data collection center — five times the size of the U.S. capital.
Despite immense secrecy, and construction workers with Top Secret clearances, news of the project made it to the pages of Wired last month. Intelligence authority James Bamford wrote that the center is part of President Bush’s “total information awareness” program that was killed by Congress in 2003 in response to public outrage over its potential for invading Americans privacy.
One senior intelligence official formerly involved with the project told Bamford “this is more than just a data center,” that it’s a code breaking megalopolis the likes of which the world has never seen.
Several years ago the NSA made a major leap in breaking complex encryptions used in everything from “financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications.”
The official concluded by saying “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
The story caused such a stir that the NSA’s chief General Keith Alexander was called before Congress last week to testify about the project and categorically denied the facility will be used to spy on American citizens.
“The NSA does not have the ability to do that in the United States,” Alexander told Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson. ”We’re not authorized to do that, nor do we have the equipment in the United States to collect that kind of information.”
NSA public information officer Vanee’ Vines backed up Alexander in an email saying: “What it will be is a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation.”
While it’s impossible to know the specifics of the work to be done in Bluffdale, it’s pretty clear the NSA does have the power to snoop on Americans at will, despite what General Alexander said to Congress.
Former NSA analyst Adrienne J. Kinne told Bamford the NSA has had the ability to listen in on American phone calls in real time since 9/11 when, she said, “basically all the rules were thrown out the window.”
The eavesdropping Kinne was involved in even included listening to U.S. journalists calling home from overseas.
“A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations. It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,”
I was out of the country only nine days, hardly a blink in time, but time enough, as it happened, for another small, airless room to be added to the American national security labyrinth. On March 22nd, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Jr. signed offon new guidelines allowing the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a post-9/11 creation, to hold on to information about Americans in no way known to be connected to terrorism — about you and me, that is — for up to five years. (Its previous outer limit was 180 days.) This, Clapperclaimed, “will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”
Joseph K., that icon of single-lettered anonymity from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, would undoubtedly have felt right at home in Clapper’s Washington. George Orwell would surely have had a few pungent words to say about those anodyne words “practically and effectively,” not to speak of “mission.”
For most Americans, though, it was just life as we’ve known it since September 11, 2001, since we scared ourselves to death and accepted that just about anything goes, as long as it supposedly involves protecting us from terrorists. Basic information or misinformation, possibly about you, is to be stored away for five years — or until some other attorney general and director of national intelligence think it’s even more practical and effective to keep you on file for 10 years, 20 years, or until death do us part — and it hardly made a ripple.
If Americans were to hoist a flag designed for this moment, it might read “Tread on Me” and use that classic illustration of the boa constrictor swallowing an elephant from Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. That, at least, would catch something of the absurdity of what the National Security Complex has decided to swallow of our American world.
Oh, and in those nine days abroad, a new word surfaced on my horizon, one just eerie and ugly enough for our new reality: yottabyte. Thank National Security Agency (NSA) expert James Bamford for that. He wrote a piece for Wired magazine on a super-secret, $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center the NSA is building in Bluffdale, Utah. Focused on data mining and code-breaking and five times the size of the U.S. Capitol, it is expected to house information beyond compare, “including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”
The NSA, adds Bamford, “has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net.”
Which brings us to yottabyte — which is, Bamford assures us, equivalant to septillion bytes, a number “so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.” The Utah center will be capable of storing a yottabyte or more of information (on your tax dollar).
Large as it is, that mega-project in Utah is just one of many sprouting like mushrooms in the sunless forest of the U.S. intelligence world. In cost, for example, it barely tops the $1.7 billion headquarters complex in Virginia that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, with anestimated annual black budget of at least $5 billion, built for its 16,000 employees. Opened in 2011, it’s the third-largest federal building in the Washington area. (And I’ll bet you didn’t even know that your tax dollars paid for such an agency, no less its gleaming new headquarters.) Or what about the 33 post-9/11 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work that were under construction or had already been built when Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin wrote their “Top Secret America” series back in 2010?
In these last years, while so many Americans were foreclosed upon or had their homes go “underwater” and the construction industry went to hell, the intelligence housing bubble just continued to grow. And there’s no sign that any of this seems abidingly strange to most Americans.