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Whistleblower Claims NSA Spied On Everyone, Targeted Media 717

Posted by timothy
from the puzzle-palace dept.
JCWDenton writes "Former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice, who helped expose the NSA's warrantless wiretapping in December 2005, has now come forward with even more startling allegations. Tice told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday that the programs that spied on Americans were not only much broader than previously acknowledged but specifically targeted journalists."
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Whistleblower Claims NSA Spied On Everyone, Targeted Media

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  • First? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:09PM (#26562573)

    Either I am first or the NSA is really on top of things.

  • Keith? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SputnikPanic (927985) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:13PM (#26562635)

    Why Keith Olbermann? Why not a less biased journalist? Any journalist at the Washington Post, Washington Times, etc would have been happy to get this information and run with it. Keith Olbermann's name brings with it a certain amount of partisan baggage.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:02PM (#26563597) Journal

      Would the parent have been modded troll if he made the same observation about going on Bill O'Reilly? To a lot of us, Olbermann is in the same league as him (he just chooses different topics to manufacture outrage over) and it's pretty hard to take him seriously.

      And regardless of what you think of him do try and remember this: Olbermann is not a reporter. He's a commentator. It seems to me like a lot of people have forgotten the difference between the two.

  • Not news.

    I mean, really, who didn't think the liberal media would be singled out? You kids were born too late to remember McCarthy, and Hoover's FBI, apparently.

    • Re:Well, duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Farmer Tim (530755) <[roundfile] [at] [mindless.com]> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:22PM (#26562825) Journal

      You kids were born too late to remember McCarthy, and Hoover's FBI, apparently.

      That's why it is news. Sadly, every generation seems to need to learn first hand that the government that says "trust us and don't ask questions" can't be trusted and should be questioned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Yeah real "liberal" media. You mean the New York Times and Judith Miller's breathless front page exposes on all that WMD in Iraq before the war? Or MSNBC's "Iraq Lowdown" with Lester Holt which was just shameless Bush cheerleading running up to the war?

      Come on, just because one media outlet isnt Fox News, it doesnt make them liberal.

    • Re:Well, duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:14PM (#26563773) Homepage Journal

      You kids were born too late to remember McCarthy, and Hoover's FBI, apparently.

      So how old are you, grandpa? I'm closing in on my sixth decade, but McCarthy happened when I was a toddler. Hoover's FBI was never reported until Hoover was already burning in hell.

      You might have mentioned "I am not a crook" Nixon, I voted for that asshole. he had an "enemies" list (much like many slashdotters), and that list included many journalists.

  • Can I get a Duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:16PM (#26562693)

    The taps that were set up for the NSA were at the backbones, where they had access to all communications, incoming and outgoing. Since it is impossible, even for the NSA, to know with 100% certainty who was at the end of each communication, they would have had to collect everything, as well as store everything. At that point, it is irrelevant what they said they did with the mountains of data they collected.

    Finally, it is also impossible to create a classification system that just happens to ignore american citizens during its training/creation phase. Again, it means that it is guaranteed that the NSA would be able to classify the groups involved in the communication. And again, it is irrelevant that the NSA said "Trust us, we're ignoring all of that."

    The only real news is that the NSA didn't even internally pretend that they were only interested in communications with or between foreign agents. Everything else has been predicted the instant it became apparent that wiretaps were being done without oversight.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:21PM (#26563923)

      Even if they were TRYING to respect the 4th amendment and the traditional NSA distinction between foreign and domestic spying, it wouldn't matter with this type of collection. Such a large fishnet would inevitably yield *way* more "false positives" than actual criminal calls. I would not be surprised if this program didn't even catch a single true terrorist of foreign threat.

      This leads to the inevitable question of whether sussing out foreign threats was even the program's *intention* (rather than just its justification). If the guy in this article is telling the truth, it would seem that it was never about foreign threats to the U.S. at all, but rather about spying on domestic threats to the Bush Administration and plugging leaks (a la Richard Nixon's plumbers [wikipedia.org]).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by huckamania (533052)

        You are almost right. This type of data collection can not be used for real time or predictive analysis. What it can do is allow the NSA to roll back the clock, so to speak.

        Master terrorist A controls terrorists B, C and D who independently control their own teams. Thug Z, who belongs to C's team, gets noticed or caught or commits a terrorist act. The NSA can now look at all of the communication that Z has ever had, which leads them to Z's team members and eventually to C, the team leader. The NSA

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aleph42 (1082389) *

        First, there is specialised hardware to handle that kind of amount of data. Someone in the thread is apparently trying to sell a Narus, and I'm sure there are a ton more.

        Second, you don't need to store or even process all the information; remember when the NSA were saying that listening to every phone call was impossible. Well, they could (and iirc did) simply build a graph where two people were the more connected the more time they spent together on the phone. Then, when someone was suspected of terrorism

  • Credibility (Score:4, Funny)

    by unlametheweak (1102159) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:16PM (#26562711)

    Over the next several months, however, Tice was frustrated in his attempts to testify before Congress, had his credibility attacked by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, and was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in an apparent attempt at intimidation.

    That says it all. If Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly can't believe him, then who else in their right mind would.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:34PM (#26563047)

      That says it all. If Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly can't believe him, then who else in their right mind would.

      I believe, sir, that you have an extraneous "else" in line 1.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:19PM (#26562769) Homepage Journal
    The person bush & co appointed to department of justice screened fifty applicants and more for their political views. people who told even positive stuff towards gay rights, abortion, any liberal issues even on the internet were screened with the help of a 'special software'.

    dont believe me ? well, the woman confessed to all this and more in front of senate committee investigating the issue. 'i have made a mistake' she said. mistake, fifty times.

    it would be utterly stupid for any person with a brain cell to believe that an administration which is capable of doing that would not exploit wiretapping for their own political purposes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by darkmeridian (119044)

      You mean Monica Goodling? [wikipedia.org] She graduated from the Regent University Law School, which was very low tier compared to what the Department of Justice normally hires. The school's sole distinction seems to be its founding by Pat Robertson, and it identifies itself as "America's Pre-eminent Christian University."

      Goodling had blue drapes put over a nude statute of lady Justice. She was then assigned the task of screening candidates, and she made employment recommendations based on political affiliation, and amongs

  • Oh, good (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:21PM (#26562813)
    There's an email from a old friend I accidentally deleted. Maybe I could get a copy from the NSA?
  • by squoozer (730327) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:22PM (#26562817)

    It is a sad state of affairs but if you adopts the view that everything you say and do may be monitored by the government without redress then your view is probably not far from what is happening.

    The problem with this monitoring is that it's almost impossible to stop or control because by it's very nature it's kept very secret.

    I imagine in the future we will end up with a revolution and lots of people will die, that's typically what happens when the ruler is doing something the majority of the populace doesn't agree with. Before you shout that the majority of the population are sheeple and just "think of the children / terrorists" I think the real problem is that they aren't well informed and very time poor and if they knew what was going on and they would disagree strongly.

  • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:29PM (#26562945) Journal

    Political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow [thismodernworld.com] reminds us about

    that oddly specific moment where Andrea Mitchell, in the course of interviewing New York Times reporter James Risen about his reporting on the NSA and government wiretapping, asked if he knew anything about the administration spying on Christiane Amanpour â" a question the network promptly scrubbed from the transcription.

    I'd forgotten about that incident [americablog.com].

    The Bush administration has its own list of scandals, of course. But just as significant a scandal may be the way that our so-called media hid from its audience the true scope of government wrongdoing. Recall that the New York Times sat on the NSA wiretapping scandal for a year before it thought it was time to let us citizens know. If it turns out that the industry that was supposed to be keeping the public informed about things like violations of the Constitution by top elected officials was deliberately concealing that information, it may be time to reconsider whether we have a press in America that's worthy of the name, and what we can do about it.

    Anyway, Tom Tomorrow asks what other revelations about the Bush administration are likely to follow. Anyone have any ideas?

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:32PM (#26562997)

    And, under the current law and the August 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruling, it is explicitly legal.

    The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 [wikipedia.org], passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, allows for foreign intelligence collection on non-US Persons without a warrant, no matter where the collection occurs. The longstanding Smith v. Maryland, 442 US 735 (1979) [findlaw.com], allows for the collection of communications metadata, i.e., "to" and "from" information, without a warrant. The FISC ruling [fas.org] explicitly finds legal such collection under the now-sunset Protect America Act [wikipedia.org] and, thus, the current FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

    In order to determine which traffic content may be collected for foreign intelligence purposes, the traffic metadata must be examined. Even when a target in question is a specific non-US Person of foreign intelligence interest, traffic metadata must first be examined in order to target that person! Because examining traffic metadata was found explicitly legal and Constitutional three decades ago by the United States Supreme Court, doing so in order to target legitimate foreign intelligence collection is allowable under the law.

    The major issues for foreign SIGINT were twofold:

    - A lot of traffic is now digital versus analog, and cannot be targeted by aiming a directional antenna at a particular geographic locale. It is now traveling largely via things like fiber optic cables, intermixed with all manner of other communications. In order to target the collection, it is no longer a case of sitting on a Navy vessel offshore from some area of interest between individuals talking on two-way radios; it's finding that traffic in a sea of global digital communications.

    - Foreign communications of non-US Persons physically outside of the US was increasingly traveling through the US. Previously fair game for foreign intelligence collection throughout the history of such collection in the United States, it suddenly became off-limits without a warrant because it was incidentally routed through locations in the United States. Foreign intelligence collection on non-US Persons outside of the US does not require a warrant, and fundamentally still shouldn't simply because their traffic happens to enter the US.

    This was a case of changing technology necessitating an update to a law. A supermajority of both houses of Congress agreed.

    Unfortunately, this discussion is so mired in politics, personal grinding of axes, confusion about early NSA programs (like the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP, which was not renewed after January 2007), and isolated examples of legitimate abuse or misconduct, that not many seem interested in having any real discussion about how foreign intelligence can be reasonably conducted in the digital age. Instead it is a sea of frantic arm-waving and breathless blogging about how the Constitution is being shredded, when the mechanisms of law and judicial oversight have explicitly established the activities as legal.

    Ironically, Tice's interview is spot-on. He says, "What was done was sort of an ability to look at the metadata ... and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected," and adds, "we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them."

    "Supposedly?"

    That's the whole point. So here's an example of someone explaining more or less what is happening, namely, that traffic metadata is examined to determine whether or not it constitutes a foreign intelligence target, and that measures were undertaken to not intercept the content of communications of entities which are not legitima

  • Naomi Wolf (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rinisari (521266) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:37PM (#26563097) Homepage Journal

    Didn't Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot [tinyurl.com] say that she had significant evidence that she was being bugged and her mail being intercepted? I distinctly recall hearing her say this at the Revolution March in DC on July 12, 2008.

    I think I got it on video--I'll have to find the video tonight and put it on YouTube.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WiiVault (1039946)
      Yeah and the media and "everyman" called her a lefty nut. Just shows how people's ideologies can obfuscate their critical thinking. I mean if Bush had the power to do it, with no checks and balances, why not? (from his POV). I'm just glad that it seems that this wiretapping wasn't done to effect the outcome of the elections. This stuff is scary, really fucking scary.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rinisari (521266)

      I thought about it some more (haven't checked the video yet).

      If I recall correctly, she did say that her daughter was away at a summer camp and called, saying she'd sent several pieces of mail on different days. Wolf didn't receive any of this mail for weeks, and when she did receive it, all of it was visibly opened by a letter opener or other device (i.e. it wasn't mangled by the scanner). A neighbor or friend's daughter was there, too, and that person received her daughter's mail immediately.

  • by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmythe.jwsmythe@com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:44PM (#26563219) Homepage Journal

        Monitoring journalists is actually a smart move, for an organization that wishes to gather intelligence.

        Journalists write about the news. They're sent out on great breaking stories, as well as little crappy ones. They may have one piece of a much bigger story, and never know about it.

        Think about this. A guy steals a car in New York. Not big news, right? But someone is bound to cover it. The police only have so much manpower to investigate things. Now, an investigative reporter finds that it's a little old lady, and wants to make it news. It's a fluff story, but maybe someone will have some sympathy for her.

        The reporter goes to some neighboring houses. They ask "did you see anything." "What can you tell me about the little old lady." Oh, she's nice, tends to her flowers every day, and has 14 cats. Big deal. That is, until you find that one of the neighbors was actually a person of interest.

        The neighbor of interest normally lives in California, but is now in New York. Another person of the same organization had flown into New York (found through the airline reservation systems). Another was stopped crossing the Canadian border because he had a forged passport. Documents in his bag indicate he was going to ... you got it, New York.

        I won't agree that it's nice that they record all my calls, emails, and movements. Their job isn't to be nice. Theirs, for the most part, is to gather intelligence. By monitoring journalists, that would put an extra 50,000 eyes and ears out there (according to ASNE [asne.org]) every day. Add that to the more traditional resources, like other law enforcement agencies and their own agents, and now you get a much clearer picture.

        They can't depend on the news that does make it. Plenty of stories are written and rejected. The journalist trying to make the story about our little old lady, her 14 cats, and stolen car, will probably never see the light of day. It'll be superseded by any more interesting story.

        Do I know that any of this happens? No. But, it would make a lot of sense. I know my own news site is read on a regular basis by just about every intelligence agency there is. I know when I write a story about being flagged as a security risk at the airport, I'm not flagged again. Really, if they monitor everything I do, they're bored out of their minds, but they do know, I'm not a risk. I know if I look through my logs, I get a good glimpse of what they're willing to let me see (the occasional IP from their agency). I know that's not the whole story either. I just think of it as their way of saying "hi".

           

    • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:48PM (#26564425)

          I won't agree that it's nice that they record all my calls, emails, and movements. Their job isn't to be nice. Theirs, for the most part, is to gather intelligence. By monitoring journalists, that would put an extra 50,000 eyes and ears out there

      Nice theory. The only thing you forgot to mention, is that it's ILLEGAL for them to monitor communications starting and terminating in the US. I really don't care if it makes their job easier, or gets them more intelligence...it's ILLEGAL. They've been doing this all along, while saying they weren't. Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and Rumsfeld deliberately ignored the law and instructed NSA to do the same. The communications companies (with one exception) happily assisted in the process.

      You know, we have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution in this country, and we are all supposed to live by the rule of law. No one is above the law. *That's* why this is an issue.

  • "this program" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Danny Rathjens (8471) <slashdot2.rathjens@org> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:50PM (#26563361)
    I always wondered about how when Gonzales, Bush, Hayden, Cheney were defending warrantless wiretaps on americans by saying "this program only eavesdrops on americans domestically if they are one end of a conversation with someone outside the U.S linked to Al Qaeda/terror" whether the "this program" implied that there were other programs that did not have that restriction.
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:21PM (#26563947)

    Many posts on this thread are interesting. The journalist is attacked. The analyst is attacked. The story is attacked.

    But the bottom line is: Nobody really knows anything. And that lack of knowledge is unacceptable. Congress is responsible for this. Congressional oversight of our spy agencies is their damn duty. And CONGRESS has let us down.

    If this analyst's statements are false, we should be hearing assurances of that fact by our representatives and senators. The silence of the congressmen is deafening. They are betraying our trust in them.

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