Files reveal names of Americans targeted by NSA during Vietnam War

The names of several prominent Americans, who were targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, have been revealed in declassified documents. The controversial communications interception operation, known as Project MINARET, was publicly acknowledged in the mind-1970s, during Congressional inquiries into the Watergate affair. We know that MINARET was conducted by the NSA between 1967 and 1973, and that it targeted over a thousand American citizens. Many believe that MINARET was in violation of the Agency’s charter, which expressly prevents it from spying on Americans. But despite the media attention MINARET received during the Watergate investigations, the names of those targeted under the program were kept secret until Wednesday, when the project’s target list was declassified by the US government. The declassification decision was sparked by a Freedom of Information Request filed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The two Archive researchers who filed the declassification request, William Burr and Matthew Aid, said MINARET appears to have targeted many prominent Americans who openly criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The reason for the surveillance was that US President Lyndon Johnson, who authorized the operation, was convinced that antiwar protests were promoted and/or supported by elements outside the US. The newly declassified documents show that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a major surveillance target of the government. This is not surprising, considering that the civil rights leader was heavily targeted by several Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance programs at the time. But the files declassified this week also show that the NSA tracked two prominent journalists: Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald, and Tom Wicker of The New York Times. The documents also show that the Agency intercepted the telephone calls of at least two US Senators: Republican Howard baker and Democrat Frank Chuch —both of whom were vocal critics of the Vietnam War. Project MINARET was eventually terminated by US Attorney General Elliot Richardson in 1973, amidst the sensational revelations of the Watergate affair.

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