Photo by Steve Rhodes
I: WATCH LISTS, BLACK LISTS, ENEMIES LISTS.....HIT LISTS?
With the long overdue departure of the Bush administration from the White House it is the hope many that the myriad of transgressions against the Constitution and the people of America will begin to seep out into the public domain. It took a remarkably short time. The day after the helicopter hauled ole George away like so much rubbish a major story broke. In an astonishing shot across the bow directed at the shadow government the first significant whistleblower has already come out with a story (once again ignored by the corporate media) and delivered a devastating blow to the premise that the massive illegal domestic spying programs of the Bush administration were undertaken in order to protect America from terrorism in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001.
Former NSA analyst Russell Tice during two recent interviews on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann (pt 1, pt 2)confirmed that the Bush-Cheney-Rove phony war on terror was as people like myself have always strongly suspected in actuality a war on America itself. According to the patriotic Mr. Tice the targets of the domestic spying included news organizations and journalists and that the surveillance for specific targets was not limited to professional matters alone, they were spied on 24/7.
"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications," he said. "Faxes, phone calls and their computer communications. ... They monitored all communications."
Tice said the NSA analyzed metadata to determine which communication would be collected. Offering a hypothetical example, he said if the agency determined that terrorists communicate in brief, two-minute phone calls, the NSA might program its systems to record all such calls, invading the privacy of anyone prone to telephonic succinctness.
Tice was involved in only a small part of the project, that involved trying to "harpoon fish from an airplane."
He said he was told to monitor certain groups in order to eliminate them as suspects for more intense targeting. Those groups, he said, were U.S. journalists and news agencies. But rather than excluding the news organizations from monitoring, he discovered that the NSA was collecting the organizations' communications 24 hours a day year round.
"It made no sense," he said.
Tice did not identify the reporters or organizations allegedly targeted.
Olbermann asked if this means there's a file somewhere containing every e-mail and phone conversation these reporters ever had with sources, editors and family members.
"If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything, yes." Tice answered.
(Excerpted from Wired's Kim Zetter's blog)
The Tice interviews followed another former insider speaking out on the gross illegality of the Bush administration programs, a former DOJ employee named Thomas Tamm was featured in a Newsweek magazine cover story by Michael Isikoff entitled The Fed Who Blew the Whistle from which I excerpt the following:
In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance. When Tamm started asking questions, his supervisors told him to drop the subject. He says one volunteered that "the program" (as it was commonly called within the office) was "probably illegal."
The name of the program was Stellar Wind and please pay particular attention to this next excerpted piece from Isikoff's story:
The NSA, with the secret cooperation of U.S. telecommunications companies, had begun collecting vast amounts of information about the phone and e-mail records of American citizens. Separately, the NSA was also able to access, for the first time, massive volumes of personal financial records—such as credit-card transactions, wire transfers and bank withdrawals—that were being reported to the Treasury Department by financial institutions. These included millions of "suspicious-activity reports," or SARS, according to two former Treasury officials who declined to be identified talking about sensitive programs. (It was one such report that tipped FBI agents to former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's use of prostitutes.) These records were fed into NSA supercomputers for the purpose of "data mining"—looking for links or patterns that might (or might not) suggest terrorist activity.