Warehouse C
Spying On Ourselves
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NSA Spying On Americans In Defiance Of Legislative Ban


By James Donahue


Even as Congress battles with President George W. Bush over demands for broad and retroactive expansion of government powers to gain access to the telephone and e-mail records of U.S. citizens, which has been going on in defiance of the law, an even darker atrocity has been brought to light.


The Wall Street Journal this week published a detailed and well-documented revelation that the National Security Administration has defied a 2003 congressional ban on a program known as Total Information Awareness, or TIA, and has been using it to secretly spy on everyone’s private records for the past five years and possibly longer.


A response on the American Civil Liberties Union website laments the media’s apparent unwillingness to look closely at government breaches of the law in both the TIA and FISA cases. “The NSA’s domestic spy dragnets should be major, major news,” the story said. “Yet there has been barely any follow-up coverage of the story in the mainstream media.”


The TIA program was a massive Pentagon plan “to tap into as many databases containing personal information about Americans as possible . . . All that information would then be pulled together and scanned for suspicious patterns,” the ACLU report said. “Given the density of the data trails that we all create in our daily lives today and in the future, it was a recipe for the routine surveillance of Americans and their every move.”


Congress would have no part of such a plan and refused to approve it in 2003 amid what the ACLU called “widespread objections to its sweeping Orwellian scope.”


So now investigative reporter Siobhan Gorman has turned over a rock and exposed an extensive spying program that went on anyway. It seems that while Congress denied the TIA plan for Pentagon use, the NSA went ahead and did it anyway. It was as if the Bush Administration was saying: to hell with the U.S. Constitution, the citizen right to privacy, and Congressional authority. It was done in the name of protecting us all from terrorism, something that has never really been a threat to most Americans.


Gorman described the spying as an illegal wiretapping under the name Terrorist Surveillance Program, the Patriot Act’s broadening of FBI power to collect third-party personal information without a subpoena, the Treasury Department’s surveillance of our personal financial transactions, the CIA’s illegitimate access to the SWIFT database to monitor international financial transactions, the collection and monitoring of airline passenger data, the collection and monitoring of customer’s purchases and financial transactions, and accessing private telephone calls and e-mails.


The NSA has always operated under a cloak of secrecy because of the very nature of its work, but Gorman probed into just how it justified so much authority to spy on Americans after Congress publicly placed a ban on such operations. He wrote that a “senior intelligence official” told him former NSA-chief Gen. Michael Hayden expanded the agencies capabilities “under a 1981 executive order.” That means it was an order issued by the late President Ronald Reagan shortly after he took office.


This spokesman for the NSA said another presidential order was issued shortly after the 9-11 attacks, “the text of which is classified” which opened the door for the NSA to expand its domestic spying.


The questions then must be raised . . . just how long has the NSA been keeping personal records on Americans, and how extensive are these records?


In an interview with a reporter for the Daily Kos blog, Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said she felt the information exposed in the Wall Street Journal story is “just the tip of the iceberg. No one outside of the administration knows just how monstrous the berg below the surface is.” 


“To that end, the ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request specifically focused on the program brought to light by the Journal report,” the Daily Kos story said.