Thomas Drake returns to my show to discuss Snowden, NSA, Obama, Benghazi, 911 and more
Whistleblower Former NSA Exec Thomas Drake On Obama's Speech, Benghazi, 911 and more- part 1 transcribed from my January 2014 interview podcast.
R.K.: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey, sponsored by opednews.com. My guest tonight is Thomas Drake. He is a Whistleblower, and in my opinion an American Hero. He is a former senior executive of the US National Security Agency, or the NSA. He is a decorated United States Airforce and US Navy veteran, and he has been brutally abused by the federal government.
In 2010 the government alleged that Drake mishandled documents, one of the few such espionage cases in the US history, where he was tried under the Espionage Act. The fact is that 60 Minutes did a story on him and shortly after, almost every single charge was dropped except for "misuse of a computer", for which Drake paid incredibly dearly. So, we're going to talk about a whole lot of topics about NSA, about the President's new speech today and a whole lot more.
I had a really great opportunity to spend a day with Thomas Drake last Tuesday at a reception then he gave a talk with Bill Binney and then we sat for dinner for almost five hours and learned a real lot and I want to throw it back to him tonight, so welcome to the show, Tom.
T.D.: Thanks for having me.
R.K.: Glad to have you back. So just to get started, you were a senior executive at NSA. What was your highest position and title there and how senior was that?
T.D.: Well, senior executives serve as the super grades, as they used to call it in the government, so at times, I was in roughly seven thousand employees of the government. These are the career employees of the government who manage and lead the various government agencies and departments.
I was actually hired in under a special program led by General Michael V. Hayden the then-director of NSA, responding to significant pressure from stake-holders, primarily Congress. The NSA was increasingly challenged by the demands of the internet and digital age and in order to insure it's relevance, they were strongly urging NSA who were resisting with significant push-back, strongly urging NSA to hire people from the outside, meaning people or as some used to joke about, to stir up the gene pool.
Hire people from the outside who had not grown up at NSA, who had not promoted up through the ranks of NSA, were not career NSA and so in February 2001, NSA actually did what you would do if you were looking for senior executives: they advertised for nine positions at NSA and they went out to Monster.com, the Washington Post, and a number of other outlets across the United States seeking candidates for these positions and I applied for one of those, one of nine as I understood later, there was well over a hundred thirty five people who actually applied for the position that I applied for; and long story short I went through the hiring process like you would normally expect in any major or mid-sized corporation, and ended up as one of two finalists and my hiring manager was the number two or number three person at NSA, the Signals Intelligence Director, Maureen Baginski and then there were several months that went by going background checks and clearances and paperwork and bureaucracy.
I was ultimately offered a position as a senior executive coming in at the upper levels, not the junior levels, and because I was hired by the number three person and I started on August 26 is when I actually entered on duty, went through all of the normal hiring processes and procedures and briefings and, I just want to remind your listeners that this is the fourth time that I took an oath to support and defend the constitution and then my first day on the job was actually 9/11.
R.K.: Okay. And what was your job?
T.D.: I was hired in at the time, ironically enough it was not the job for which I had applied, it was kind of a bait and switch, in fact it was a long story, I'm detailing this in a book I'm writing although I cannot find a publisher for almost two years now but I was not hired for the job I applied. I actually ended up in a position on staff but it was actually a more senior position, I was actually reporting directly to the Signals Intelligence Director and it was a position designated Senior Change Leader.
R.K.: Senior Change Leader?
T.D.: That was actually my title. I mean I was hired in as a member of the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service of which at that time there was probably around two hundred and forty or so at NSA, I mean NSA is a significantly large organization in terms of employees, when you include the military, it's quite significant in all the other, of course it's grown quite a bit in the past years but I was hired in... I'm sorry there's -
R.K.: Go ahead, keep going.
T.D.: And as far as responsibilities for that first day, it started that I would shadow Maureen for approximately a month or so, just to understand the nature of the job and find ways to assist in terms of process, management decision-making, and a whole various slew of other things including communications.
R.K.: So your job was, let me just get this straight. Your job was to learn the whole big picture -
T.D.: No, no, that was,- remember we're talking the Signals Intelligence Directorate which is the largest single organization in NSA, it's the main operations group, it's the group that does collection, it's the group that does analysis, it's the group that has the single biggest footprint at NSA and around the world in terms of NSA's mission.
You have various field sites and so it's quite vast and it was going to take a few weeks for me to get up to speed and I certainly wasn't unfamiliar with NSA, I had been a contractor there for a number of years, but it's quite different actually being an employee, and being dropped in it at a senior level, and having to pick up very quickly on all the various things that were going on, and so the arrangement was that I would just shadow her to learn that and would begin to assume my responsibilities reporting to her and in partnership with my peers, who included by the way Chris Inglis, the outgoing Deputy Director of NSA as we speak.
R.K.: So okay, I am not surprised that it was a kind of bait and switch for the job because you would think that with a top secret agency like NSA they're not going to even let people know
what jobs they're trying to fill. So they're going to try to -
T.D.: Well that's -
R.K.: - lure people in with something then they're going to put you where they really want you. I mean that's probably their normal modus operandi.
T.D.: Well that's actually a larger story. The pressures were so great that General Hayden reluctantly agreed to initiate this hiring program, turns out there was about a dozen of us that came in over a six month period. It was clear right from the get-go and of course I knew this and even was warned by others, they did not like having to hire in people like myself.
And it wasn't me, per se, as just me as a person being hired, it was the fact that we were looked at and it was very clear as we started our jobs we were very much outsiders and they were going to make sure that we did not have any direct authority that it would be very difficult for us to make any difference at all, because they were hiring people, I mean we had a senior systems engineer, we had requirements people, they had policy people, they had individuals actually hired to lead the legislative affairs office from the outside, who had never worked at NSA before, all of these people, some financial management folks who had been brought it, it was a very short duration program because 9/11 happened so we were distributed across NSA, most of us were actually assigned to the Signals Intelligence Directorate.
R.K.: So wait, you're saying there was a lot of pressure on Hayden, where was the pressure coming from?
T.D.: From Congress and other stake-holders but primarily the committees that had oversight responsibilities. They recognized over the course of the nineties and during a number of studies that were made, that NSA was severely challenged and even handicapped by the post-Cold War era. That it was having great difficulty, it was even struggling to make the shift from the analog world to the digital.
It's one of the great ironies of NSA's history, that they did not consider internet to have any secrets worth knowing because it was open, the only secrets worth knowing were the ones that were hidden and the ones that took a lot of technical prowess to figure it out. It was primarily obviously aimed at what was the legacy threat, the Cold War existential threat of Communism as embodied in the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, those were the primary countries, and the Warsaw Pact to include East Germany.
All that appeared after the fall of The Wall, everything kind of crumbled, in ninety two, ninety three, the Soviet Union implodes, something that I would become quite re- familiarized with when I was in Moscow here a few months ago presenting Edward Snowden with the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award, and the ironies in history are not lost on me as I walked across Red Square and looked across Lenin's Tomb being rehabilitated, so yeah it's, here we are twenty plus years later but that post-Cold War era threw NSA into a severe, and I want to emphasis severe identity crisis and it was like, who is the enemy now?
And in fact during this period I can even remember as a contractor, you know people talked to me about the good ole' days of the Soviet Union and the Red Scare when things were a lot more symmetric and you didn't have the kind of messiness of this multi-polar world in what was largely a bi-polar world, so institutionally, it was a very challenging time. Some people joked that NSA was spending most of its days gazing at it's collective navel trying to figure out what it was supposed to be.
Of course the internet and the digital age boomed, it really took off in the nineties, the early to mid-nineties, NSA was playing catch up and it's quite remarkable to me that NSA ultimately answered the challenge. They actually did. But we're now seeing the full flower of how that challenge was met.
So I was brought in, I gave up my career in industry and so I chose to serve my country again for the fourth time after having served my country as Airforce, enlisted Aircrew member during the Cold War and then later for a brief period at the CIA, and then I was an all-source intelligence officer with the United States Navy Reserves, I was assigned to the J-2, the National Military Joint Intelligence Center.
R.K.: What did you do at the CIA and how was that different from NSA?
T.D.: Well it was imagery analysis primarily. It was national photograph interpretation center. We analyzed over-head of various types. Non-SIGINT, non-COMINT, non-El-INT per se, it was primarily imagery from various sources, what people referred to as National Technical Means; technical means that it exists in the form of satellite and other specialized vehicles so I was there at the CIA doing imagery and I was actually assigned to the Science and Technology Branch and in the Intelligence Directorate, the DI, the Director of Intelligence, and looking at weapons of mass destruction, particularly radiological, biological and nuclear.
R.K.: And when were you there?
T.D.: The late eighties.
R.K.: Okay. So -
T.D.: I left and became a contractor and then I was with the Navy for five years as a Reserve Intel Officer, and then you accelerate forward and I did a whole lot in between including being
in on the, what I call the go-go nineties period, where I did a lot of work in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
R.K.: So I guess what I am curious about is when we were together having dinner Tuesday night you talked about the culture of the NSA and the decision making process, how there is a kind of institutionalized pathology and dynamics there. Can you talk a little bit about how that works at NSA? What it's like and how it's different from CIA?
T.D.: That would take several hours to "unfold" the culture, you have to remember NSA was born out of the early years of the Cold War and that was nineteen fifty two, although there were predecessor organizations like the ASA, the Security Agency, it was actually formed five years after the National Securities Act by a special directive, a secret directive that remains mostly secret to this day, signed by President Truman, and its primary mission was foreign intelligence and in particular is was to deal with the Communist Threat and I mention the countries that, back then of course, the big big one of course was Communist China that came out in nineteen forty nine but the Soviet Union in particular was considered the moral threat to the United States and so with the rise of technology and communications, Signals Intelligence which is the combination of communications and electronic intelligence and there are other specialized "Ints" as well in that space.
That became the primary mission of NSA but it was formed in extraordinary secrecy, actually far more secret than the National Security Act that created the CIA out of the predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services that came about during WWII.
So this is in the deepest secrecy, no one knew about NSA, per se. Even when I was there as a contractor back in the late eighties you didn't talk about where you worked, it was always euphemistic phrases. If you were a contractor you always referred to NSA as the "Merlin Procurement office".
Typically if you were assigned to NSA as an employee you just said you worked for DOD which technically was true, although NSA also had responsibilities under the Directorate of Central Intelligence before the reorganization took place in the Bush era, what they called Title Fifty, wheras Title 10 was under the Department of Defense.
R.K.: When we had dinner you talked about some kind of institutionalised...
T.D.: Oh, sorry. I want to remind your audience, NSA has always been headed by a military general. It is fundamentally a military organization. It provides support to the war-fighter, it was always considered a technical collection agency, it was never designed as a 'finished' intelligence agency like the CIA. It is important to note that and it was forward intelligence facing. Now having said that, there are many many instances as..., in particular we simply don't learn the lessons of history. We've been here before with the abuse of national instruments of power, particularly secret power against our own country, and never mind some of the foreign follies and shenanigans over the years, and the failures. I am just talking about the domestic front alone.
NSA has this habit, when they can get away with it or under secret authorization, of violating the constitution on a rather significant scale, starting by the way in WWII which in some ways you could justify because of the war but I'll just give this as one example, Operation Shamrock, and the reason I am going to mention it is because of the most recent disclosure based on what Snowden has provided to journalists and reporters, it came out in the Guardian of yesterday.
Operation Shamrock was a multi-decade, it did not end until 1975, a multi-decade bulk copy collection. I am going to emphasize, bulk copy collection of all Telexes in the United States. Transmitting through it in and out and back. Remember there was multiple companies involved, I believe RCA Global, ITT, as well as of course Western Union. There was a special -
R.K.: For our younger listeners, could you tell use what a Telex is, please?
T.D.: (chuckles) A Telex, might remember the days of the telegraph, this is a way in which you can send short messages across physical lines to a designated station and having done, I remember when Western Union actually stopped the last one, you would actually have to go down and you would write out on a piece of paper, they had a special paper with sort of the characters and you would write this out and then they would transmit this to the receiving station and you would go down and pick it up.
But it was sent electronically and the arrangements were with NSA that these companies would provide all of the Telexes that were being transmitted by these entities, by these services.
R.K.: So the point is that NSA has been secretly collecting private messages from American Citizens for decades.
T.D.: Yes! It's not new. This is the point I have been making for years. This is, again this is what I was confronted with, the stark tragic reality as a result of 9/11 when NSA went completely off the range in terms of the Constitution but this was not the first time NSA has had this propensity for looking for ways or under cover of Presidential Order or covert operations
or other various cut-out means, has this propensity historically for violating the Fourth Amendment rights, and related rights in terms of statute and privacy of Americans and this is before the 1970's.
Operation Minaret is yet another one that was the severe abuse of the extraordinary power of NSA. This is the kind of power that you truly do have to contain and constrain and they are always looking for ways to make that box bigger or draw the lines well outside even their secret authority. We speak of NSA as a foreign intelligence agency and that had historically been it's primary mission but it is more than dipped its powers in the domestic waters for sure and so all of this came to a head during that era in the 1970's and compromise solutions were put into place, it's important to note that.
The compromise solution is there were two standing intel committees stood up, both in the House and the Senate and then there was in 1978 again, and it was very controversial at the time because it was essentially congress creating a secret court that did not fall under the requirements of the constitution although the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appointed the judges which were part-time by the way, because back in the early days it required full-
-time judges to oversee or oversee it, but two secret courts, there was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and even then people didn't know this, a second appeals court with both housed within the Department of Justice, a secret appeals court.
This is a secret court but given the nature of the abuses that had all come out and had been incurring since the end of WWII, for example Operation Shamrock, but any number of others and CIA Chaos, Operation Chaos, the FBI's Cointelpro, the dramatic News here just a few days ago, those who actually have broken in and were able to provide and disclose the documents regarding the Cointel Program from the early seventies, they actually came forward which I believe is the result of the Snowden Effect and actually call themselves Whistleblowers, forty plus years later. So there were some reforms put into place that were quite significant and I can speak directly to FISA because I lived under that legal regime from the time I joined the Airforce and was initially trained in Signals Intelligence starting in 1981 when I went through tech school, at Goodfellow Airforce Base outside of San Angelo and then flew as a crypto-linguist on RC 135 mission crew supervisor on electronic warfare platforms later, and then as well as when I was in the government as a contractor that was the legal regime and it was the prime directive.
The prime directive was you do not spy on Americans, US persons as defined as US Citizens, residents, legal aliens, or US Corporations, no matter where they were by the way. It wasn't restricted to domestic physical geography in terms of the boundaries of the United States, it was US persons no matter where they were. You did not spy on a US person without a warrant although there were, there were exclusive means by the way for any US person that was reasonably suspicion based on probable cause standard with an affidavit before the secret court, they would just say up or down, approve disapprove that was all there was.
R.K.: Did they ever disapprove?
T.D.: There was a handful that they disapproved over the intervening twenty three years.
R.K.: Why did they disapprove them?
T.D.: I can't speak to the specifics, I have not, I am not familiar with the ones they didn't.
R.K.: Okay. What I really wanted to get into was that during our dinner you talked about how there is a kind of a pathology there. That there is a mindset, a culture that is really screwed up.
T.D.: Well, you know -
R.K.: Let's hear about that.
T.D.: A pathology doesn't mean that you can't function, there are very high functioning organizations in terms of their institution. The pathology is that the mindset was, and I can speak directly to this, remember I am the first to tell you, there is much about NSA from my own experience that is completely legit.
Assuming that they're following the law, abiding by the constitution and even in terms of foreign intelligence that it has a purpose, you're actually collecting information that pertains to a real threat that might harm Americans or others. The reality is that increasingly as the decades went by, but particularly as we moved in to the latter, the end years of the Cold War and moving in to the nineties, as the idea was it would be totally fair game, and of course part of this was advances in technology, you have to remember it was a huge shift, it was a sea change and most people still do not appreciate this.
Going from what I call the industrial era of telecommunications, the industrial era of radio transmissions, the industrial era literally defined as circuit based switches, meaning push to talk, plain old telephone system we always joked it was hot, right? You pick up the receiver and you actually have to have to do a dial, you literally dialed, there wasn't pulse, you literally had to dial, I still remember and I am not that old as a young kid any time I picked up the phone I had to literally dial a number. I just didn't push buttons. We forget that there was a huge sea change because of technology.
The invention of the integrated circuit, the 8-Bit computer era which I consider the golden era which is the era which I grew up and that's when I had my first computer was an Atari 8-Bit home computer. That's what I learned on. That's what I taught myself Basic, the programming language and became absolutely fascinated with the technology.
It's also the period in which I saw the transitioning having flown on one of the last flights of the analog based RC-135 to the computer assisted RC 135 and it was a dramatic shift in technology. It came later to others but you're going from circuit based switched to packet based switches and that's the difference between analog and digital. Huge sea change!
NSA has developed an entire edifice, an entire legacy infrastructure that was dedicated to the industrial age model or the industrial age of telecommunications. They simply were not ready or prepared; and that mindset was in error by the way, that was far simpler in terms of just keeping track of everything. All of the sudden they're now dealing in the nineties with the extraordinary expansion of the internet and the digital age.
Vast amounts of data on a scale, literally several orders, mathematically at least two to three orders of magnitude more than they ever dealt with before. I mean just extraordinary amounts of information. And so they just could not keep up and this was something NSA actually knew. That's why I said they would analyze their navel. They well understood based on both external and internal studies what the challenge was.
The challenge they had was cultural and that challenge was they continued to rest on the laurels of the industrial age model. Literally and figuratively even in terms of the technology and were simply un-willing to change in a way that would ensure their relevance going into the twenty first century.
Now you combine that with that struggle, where management was not a competency, you're now having to deal with a new world and it's also post Cold War, it was sort of the perfect storm and at the same time they were making leadership decisions in which instead of actually building and inventing and exploring, being imaginative enough, having instead the failure of imagination which is what the 9/11 Commission said of the entire government in terms of not preventing 9/11, which was a bit of a misnomer by the way.
It wasn't so much as a failure of imagination, they just didn't want to imagine it was the "not invented here" syndrome, but ironically enough the solution was let's spend big bucks on big programs and that will solve it because that's the industrial age model. When in doubt, throw a lot of money at it, you'll eventually arrive at a solution. My first exposure to that was actually in the late eighties when I ended up becoming part of what was then the largest single automated data processing program that NSA had ever entered into with a contractor and that was GTE which no longer exists. They used to basically have most of the rural payphones by the way...
R.K.: Wait; we're talking about technology but when we were at dinner today you said that there was an institutionalized pathology, what was that about? What were you talking about there?
T.D.: Well institution pathology is when you're doing intelligence because your job was to ferret it out it didn't matter how you got it, you just took it. You just grabbed it. It was fair game and this is how the organization ultimately was structured and because you were primarily dealing with the Soviet, the communist threat, guess how you ultimately structured your organization? It ends up looking like the very threat you're trying to understand. And so the pathology is in the mind, and it's secret. Remember that this is a secret society. You end up becoming incredibly incestuous with your selves and the evolution of your organization. I mention this because my self and about a dozen others are dropped in to this culture.
T.D.: The last thing is that that kind of culture... they don't want outsiders. NSA was incredibly resistant historically to any, incredibly insular and so the idea, especially headquarters especially what I call the command structure. The civilian command structure at NSA. You always had the military, you had the direct support of military office and all of that, but I am talking about the larger institution of the organization.
Incredibly resistant and yet every indicator said you need to change to remain relevant and the institution just kept digging in because psychologycally it was a direct threat to their identity and when your identity is threatened, when your identity is given by the very institution that feeds you and gives you sustenance and provides all the protection, you want to deal with the threat and so any outsider is usually quarantined.
Any outsider is usually blocked. Any outsider is, they ensure cannot actually effect real change, effect a real difference and that's precisely what happened to us and I saw that front and center, even in spite of 9/11.
R.K.: Now I interviewed Bill Binney Wednesday night and we talked about how it's an incredibly top-down organization where they're trying to control everybody's action and moves. Is that part of the problem?
T.D.: Well for the pathologies you need certainty and the way to have absolute certainty is to control everything from the top. I'll give you an example. NSA seriously considered, this is not passing like well do we or don't we? Seriously considered whether or not they would actually allow the workforce, they always referred to anybody that was there that was an employee of NSA other than the leadership as the workforce, right?
The workforce technically included them but the real work was done by the workforce. They just controlled, they actually had a serious discussion, I am talking serious about whether or not they would grant the workforce the ability to use email. And the reason why is they wouldn't know what they were sending each other. They wouldn't be able to control the messages.
Control here is important and that certainty, always wanting, and this is why it's crucial to understand the culture to understand why they would want to literally know everything by owning the net as we're now seeing on such a vast scale the likes the world has never seen.
The certainty drives this absolute obsession. Obsession, not just to control the information but to own it. And owning it for them means we need to take it and when we take it we store it and when we store it we get the control and when we control it we own it and if anybody wants it we get to say what happens to it and that includes any reporting on it.
R.K.: Wow. Now today Obama said he is talking about taking it away from them. Do you think that's going to happen?
T.D.: Yeah that's pixie dust. It's Presidential Pixie Dust. In his speech I have to give him credit, he's a master and he obviously has speech writers and he's the President, and I am going to use some really strong language and I will have to say he has this ability even though his poll numbers aren't doing very well these days, he has this ability that when you're actually in the reality distortion field, even reporters that should know better are caught up in that distortion and I just shake my head when I have read some of the follow-ons, for example there's one headline that says that the mass collection of phone data will end.
He didn't say it would end! He didn't actually say that, that it would end. In fact, if anything he is going to uphold the National Security Oath, and I put "Oath" in quotes. Now what is that oath? That oath is to preserve, protect, and defend the National Surveillance State. The rest is a mirage of mirrors. His speech I have to say is a presidential pack of spying lies hiding behind the mote of mendacity.
That's precisely so the message is I am going to appease the National Security Establishment, I am going to make it look like, create the space for the distance while I kick the can down the road and let my own executive branch kind of figure out how we transition this and then let congress try to figure it out knowing that's going to take awhile, right? Unless they act in a way that they haven't acted in recent memory and meanwhile I get to continue the bulk surveillance program.
Meanwhile I am using the bulk surveillance programs by the way there are any number of them that exist that have yet to be disclosed including credit card information by the way and vast amounts of email. Not just telephone data but I am going to use the meta-data program as the cloak and cover for the real secrets which involves content collection. As I was saying recently to somebody the Terror Surveillance Program is equal to meta-data but what's the analogy?
The TSP is to meta-data what the PSP is, which is the President's Surveillance Program, is to content. They're desperate to protect the fact that they're not only doing bulk meta-data collection which I actually call and more accurately refer to as meta-content, they're desperate to protect the fact that wherever they have access, the meta-data is simply an index of the content and just a click away.
T.D.: I knew this after 9/11, OK? This is before any enabling act legislation, this is before any of the Kabuki Dance with the chief judge of the secret court without informing the rest of the court, this is the 2004 Ashcroft Bedside crisis that Comey, now FBI Director James Comey was involved with because even then they realized that the data mining, you didn't hear that term by they way, by the way Obama didn't make any reference why did I bring Operation Shamrock?
He made no reference to the more recent disclosures from the Snowden Documents involving the fact that the NSA is bulk copying upwards of two hundred million, I repeat, two hundred million text messages worldwide.
R.K.: That's daily, right?
T.D.: There ain't no meta-data in a text message. That's pure content.
R.K.: So your overall response to Obama's statement today is?
T.D.: Well I thought I captured it, my first blush reaction to all of this.
R.K.: I am looking for something shorter.
T.D.: Okay, first your listening audience needs to understand, he has been kicking and screaming, digging in his heels, he never wanted to give this speech. He has only given this speech because of Snowden. There's no other reason.
And he's having to reluctantly acknowledge that there has been significant pressure put on him by those outside the intelligence establishment about the dangers of this type of activity and remember he is not going to talk about any of the other activities that he himself clearly knows about and either has continued authorizing or has given authorization to, that has yet to be disclosed and those are the activities they're not going to talk about. That includes content collection.
They have others, he has other authorities by the way that have not been revealed either including a number of the NSL, the National Security Letters are actually the mechanism by which they can use the FBI, the FBI's instrument to access bulk copy information on a pretty significant scale. I call it a back-door, it's an end-run. An NSL by definition is a writ of assistance.
It's a warrant-less mechanism that gives them, it's an administrative subpoena that gives the government, the executive branch extraordinary powers without having to establish any kind of suspicion let alone probable cause. We just want it, we're going to get it. If I issue it to you you're compelled to turn it over under penalty but you can't talk about it, you're gagged.
R.K.: Wow. The level of power he has is amazing. So you said that there are bulk surveillance programs that have yet to be discussed. How do you know about them?
T.D.: Well I knew about them when I was at NSA. This is, remember I have waited twelve plus years to testify in front of any committee. I am still waiting for the phone call and although I know that many people, many congressmen and senators in the past twelve years had it brought to their attention, and even in more recent months -
R.K.: Well wait have you ever spoken to a congressman or a senator?
T.D.: Off the record, to one.
R.K.: Can you say who?
T.D.: Senator Wyden.
T.D.: The closest I got, I was able, I know I did not get in front of the committee publicly, but I did provide for the Congressional Record although it's obviously buried, there was a government committee on contracting, government contracting, this goes back a year, goes back to 2012. This was not quite a year and a half ago.
I provided a statement for the record regarding NSA contracting through the filter of Trailblazer and Thin Thread, but in terms of the secret surveillance programs or the extraordinary loss of intelligence, all this means the government pout out like if we had the surveillance programs in place we could have stopped 9/11, well they actually had the technology to stop 9/11 they just chose to ignore it. Never mind -
R.K.: We're going to get to that -
T.D.: Never mind, Rob they had the intelligence about 9/11, of course there's culpability on part of FBI and CIA, NSA actually had smoking gun indications, warning intelligence regarding the Al Qaeda switch board safe house and they simply did not share it.
R.K.: Okay, let me jump ahead then, Obama said quote today , we were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks. How they hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places so we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices and focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack. End quote.
Now, from what you've told me and from what you just said, they already had the technology, they already had the capabilities, right?
T.D.: Yes. Even separate from what could have been. Even in terms of effective efficiency, they actually had it. Remember the pathology? If I have the data and I give it away, that power, information is a currency of power, in this mindset, in this pathology, that takes priority over the value of what the information can actually provide in terms of the fundamental responsibility, of the preamble of the constitution which the government is supposed to provide, one of the two primary responsibilities besides the general welfare, the other being provide for the common defense.
It over-rides even the fundamental mission, to provide for the common defense because you're hoarding information. If I give you what I know then I am giving away power. Why would I want to do that? That's the pathology.
R.K.: Okay, this is-
T.D.: They had it.
R.K.: -the whole mentality where they keep secrets from everybody, as soon as one member of the NSA lets go of his secret, he loses his power.
T.D.: Yes. The secret itself is power but it's a currency of power and because I hold it in secret it's like my secret cash hoard Only I know that it's a hoard! No one else does and I have the power to withhold, keep it from others. I have the power to withhold them even knowing that I have a hoard! Or what's in it.
R.K.: Now we talked on Tuesday night at dinner about 9/11 and we talked about truthers and we talked about the falling buildings and your take on that is, could you just go briefly in how do you respond to truthers and the falling buildings, all three of them?
T.D.: I know you're jumping around here. I have been asked this a number of times because obviously I have become more than a footnote in history in light of the egregious government case, by the way, a slight correction, they dropped all of the felony charges as part of a plea agreement that was ultimately determined on my terms and I pled out to a misdemeanor for exceeding authorized use of a computer just to clarify for the record, okay?
T.D.: With no jail time or fines. That was on my terms. Unfortunately the government has other avenues they could have used to take the wind out of what was at that time white hot media attention as to what was going to happen to me and those single days leading up to the, my scheduled public trial, and they could have, the government, as they exercised in the Jeffrey Sterling case involving Risen when they didn't like the judge's opinion, and kicked it upstairs for interlocutory review where it sat for almost two years before they actually rendered an opinion.
R.K.: From what I have reviewed of your case, the government repeatedly and routinely abused their powers, abused privacy and secrecy rules to manipulate the courts.
T.D.: Right, but remember, and this is important distinction and I know we don't have time to go into it, but it's crucial particularly to parse, you have to actually parse, every single word that Obama said in his speech, you also have to look at the directive and you also have to look at the press secretary's release which was their fact sheet, which is the other phrase to describe that it's a set of talking points.
You actually, those words are not just thrown on a piece of paper. It is extraordinarily influential in terms of how the government not only sees itself but how they're managing expectations for those who actually read the language. You can't just read it as plain language. There is the political speak or the double speak or the new speak in every thing that is released and provided. The present administrations do it in the modern era, some do it better than others.
This particular administration has honed this to an extraordinarily fine art. It doesn't matter what reality is, it doesn't matter. It's only what they think reality is and what they want reality to be, so for them the fact sheet is the truth. Even if it isn't. For them the directive, even if it's full of presidential pixie dust that's sufficient enough because hey, it's a PRESIDENTIAL directive. Hey, I can reinterpret that at will and then you have got what you make available as fodder or feed for the public, and that's his actual speech.
It's really a cautionary note here. I hope people fully appreciate when a president commands the stage as he did today at eleven a.m., those words mean something. Okay? They're not just words and you have to parse them very very carefully because they're doing very very, it's deconstructed framing, it's deconstructed assembling, and if you don't know what the real secrets are or what the mindset is behind the other activities, because all of this is just a reflection. It's part of the mirage of mirrors, frankly.
R.K.: Okay, so Obama said, and I am going to quote, "nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens."
T.D.: He's lying. Okay? He is lying. Because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court itself, from what has been actually declassified completely, contradicts that statement alone. That the NSA willfully and deliberately and on a large scale violated the Law.
We're not talking about the internal administrative stuff, we're talking about how NSA itself was basically in contempt of even the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance orders. They have admitted they couldn't verify, they admitted they couldn't follow up but it's for the record.
That's, to me that's the primary example that the secret court itself stands in contradiction to that in the President's statement. So what is he referring to? Some other legal regime? I mean that denies the very mechanism that was in fact supposed to be the exclusive means, and that exclusive means was saying the NSA was in violation.
R.K.: Alright another quote from Obama. He was discussing Obama and it describes how Snowden's actions resulted in "revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come." Has Snowden revealed operations to our adversaries?
T.D.: No. They'll argue that because they'll argue, see what's happening here, this has been unprecedented, there's no question that NSA has been under withering public attention for seven plus months. It's never happened in their history.
They've have blips here and there. Obviously there was quite a bit of attention after 2005, 2006 with the revelations of Risen and Lichtblau, but even that was just the tip of the iceberg and although there were follow-on articles and investigative journalism, more of that it was a much bigger program.
It was all put back under, in part, a much larger, a much larger secret court box with the passage of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 preceded, by the way, by the Protect America Act of 2007 so as you go into 2008 it's now been legalized, right? Now if there's been no abuse, this is my counter argument. If that's the case then why did you have to pass legislation to make legal what obviously must have been other than legal even by your own definition?
R.K.: Okay. Well, I just want to be clear though. Has Snowden revealed operations to our adversaries?
T.D.: No. But here's the threat. See, if you cannot stand the heat in the kitchen, and there's been a lot of heat, then what happens is they're going to defend their traditional strength, which is foreign intelligence, that somehow that's now under threat because of the abuses of those traditional instruments of national power being used for other than the purpose for which they were created.
Now remember, this works both ways. The mass bulk surveillance is also applied in the foreign intelligence space, there's no difference. That's why I said we're all foreigners now. It doesn't matter whether you're a US person or not. The fact remains that the National Intelligence Establishment knows far more about Americans and who we are and what we do, than we do about Russia for example.
But I recognized, hey, you've got most of the data in your own country so let's go get it because that's where the data is. It's kind of like, what was the guy who said: why do I steal money out of banks? Because that's where the money is! The money is in the banks.
That's the same with data. Incredibly rich depositories exist in the United States by virtue of who we are.
End of Part I
Rob Kall is editor-in-chief, publisher and site architect of OpEdNews.com, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor. He hosts the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, aired in the Metro Philly area on AM 1360, WNJC. Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com
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