NSA whistleblower reveals routine spying on American media
January 23, 2009 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russell Tice, an analyst with the National Security Agency (NSA) until 2005, was among several inside sources who in 2005 helped The New York Times reveal NSA’s warrantless spying program. A few months earlier, Tice had been fired by the NSA after he started to investigate a suspicious communications-monitoring program he was involved in. The last time Mr. Tice spoke publicly about his experience at the NSA was in 2006. He then waited until the Bush Administration was out of the White House before he made any more revelations. Hours after Barack Obama’s inauguration, Tice surfaced again, this time giving an interview to MSNBC’s Keith Olberman. In his interview, Mr. Tice first explained that the NSA has access to “all communications” of Americans, and not just foreign communications, which is what the Agency is supposed to be monitoring. He then proceeded to reveal that he was involved in a sub-project that systematically monitored the communications of American journalists and news agencies. The official purpose of the sub-project was to “weed out” these groups, so that they were not monitored by NSA’s main warrantless spying program. However, Tice became suspicious after discovering “the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and […] 365 days a year”, which in his mind “made no sense”. It was right after he began investigating the purpose of this sub-project that the NSA “came after me to fire me”, he says. Based on his own investigation, Tice has now concluded that the official purpose of the project –i.e. the “weeding out”– was in fact “an internal cover story” for the its real purpose, which was to spy on American journalists and news agencies. He also pointed out he was certain the supposedly “weeded out” information was in fact “digitized and put on a database somewhere”. The former NSA analyst went on to reveal that NSA briefings given to the US media and Congressional oversight committees were “often […] deceptive, and routinely “tailor[ed to deceive] a Congressional committee or someone whom they really didn’t want to know exactly what was going on”. Mr. Tice also described a simple bureaucratic method of completely barring certain programs from Congressional oversight: Department of Defense and intelligence caveats are appended to these programs. When Congressional Defense oversight committees attempt to examine these programs, they are told they cannot because these programs contain “intelligence caveats” and are therefore subject to review by Congressional Intelligence committees. When the latter try to examine the programs, they are told they cannot because the programs in question contain “Department of Defense caveats”, and are therefore subject to review by Congressional Defense oversight committees. Finally, Mr. Tice revealed he knows all his communications are tapped –“my phones, my computer, and I’ve […] had the FBI on me sort of like flies on you know what”. Thomas Tamm, another whistleblower of NSA’s warrantless spying program, has been forced to resign from his job, has had his house raided and his family, friends and associates questioned by the FBI, and has been “living under a pall, never sure if or when federal agents might arrest him”. He is now batting depression and is more than $30,000 in debt as a result of losing his job. “I didn’t think through what this could do to my family” he told Newsweek magazine, who published his story last December.