Spying on America

"The American tradition of free speech is under attack across the country, as law enforcement agencies -- under the guise of the war on terror -- intimidate ordinary citizens into silence. The 1950s McCarthy era, when random witch hunts by Sen. Joe McCarthy ruined decent people's lives on false or flimsy accusations that they had spoken favorably of communism, or knew people who had. Whatever their politics, Americans today should be appalled that law enforcement agencies are -- at the Bush administration's urging -- creating files on people simply for expressing their views."[1]

"Ever since the 1970s, when Army intel agents were caught snooping on antiwar protesters, military intel agencies have operated under tight restrictions inside the United States.""[2] "Congressional committees, led by U.S. Sen. Frank Church and U.S. Rep. Otis Pike, found that government agencies, including the NSA, had eavesdropped on actress Jane Fonda, Dr. Benjamin Spock and other anti-Vietnam War activists. As a result, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a procedural structure with a special court for considering and approving certain surveillance activities that occur in the United States and involve rights guaranteed by the Constitution such as the ban on unreasonable search and seizure. The House and Senate also established intelligence oversight committees, and then-President Gerald Ford issued an executive order establishing a formal system of intelligence oversight by the executive branch."[3]

"Compared with other institutions of the federal government, intelligence agencies do pose unique difficulties when it comes to providing accountability. They cannot disclose their activities to the public without disclosing them to their targets at the same time. As a result, intelligence agencies are not subject to the same rigors of public or congressional debate or the same scrutiny by the media as other government agencies. Their budgets are secret; their operations are secret; their assessments are secret."[4]

One department affected is the National Security Agency or NSA. "The nation's electronic intelligence agency warned President Bush in 2001 that monitoring U.S. adversaries would require a "permanent presence" on networks that also carry Americans' messages that are protected from government eavesdropping. The warning was contained in a National Security Agency report entitled "Transition 2001," sent to Bush shortly after he took office and reflects the agency's major concerns at the time. The report was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, a private security watchdog group at George Washington University that made the document public [11 March 2005]. [The document] raised questions about how new global communications technologies were challenging the Constitution's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The document also said the global nature of technology leaves government and private networks more vulnerable to penetration by enemies. It says the agency is "prepared organizationally, intellectually and - with sufficient investment - technologically to exploit in an unprecedented way the explosion of global communications.""[5]

"The National Security Agency eavesdrops on literally billions of communications worldwide on behalf of the U.S. government, garnering the secrets of other countries but raising fears that the agency may be abusing its power. Privacy advocates fear that the awesome power of the NSA's technology and its secrecy does not have enough outside oversight to prevent abuse of its tools and information.

"In certain cases, the NSA can look into the activities of U.S. citizens or residents if it believes they are acting as agents for another country. The agency must first get the permission of a special court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and then get the U.S. attorney general's consent. [NSA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden] said the burden of proof is on the NSA when seeking such authorization. He declined to say whether the agency had ever been turned down."[6]

"The National Security Agency is not supposed to target Americans; when a U.S. citizen's name comes up in an NSA "intercept," the agency routinely minimizes dissemination of the info by masking the name before it distributes the report to other U.S. agencies. But it's now clear the agency disseminates thousands of U.S. names. Evidence is emerging that NSA regularly supplies uncensored intercepts, including named Americans, to other agencies far more often than even many top intel officials knew."[7]

"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruled [in November 2002] that the Justice Department could expand its powers to spy on U.S. citizens. The decision overturns a decision earlier [that] year by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s bid for broader spying authorities. The Open Society Institute joined five other groups in expressing “deep disappointment” with the decision."[8]

"Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., [said an] anti-terrorism law giving the government access to Americans' private lives reminded her of the illegal measures federal authorities took in the 1960s to discredit leaders of the civil rights movement. That campaign, since exposed and discredited, was part of a counterintelligence program known as Cointelpro aimed at disrupting political dissidence. "It was illegal back then when they were doing it, but now you've got the USA Patriot Act, and some of the more objectionable features of the Cointelpro program are now legal," said McKinney."[9]

"A new provision, approved in closed session [in May 2004] by the Senate Intelligence Committee, [goes further by eliminating the need to] comply with the Privacy Act, a Watergate-era law that requires government officials seeking information from a resident to disclose who they are and what they want the information for. The CIA always has been exempt — although by law it isn't supposed to operate inside the United States. The new provision would now extend the same exemption to Pentagon agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency — so they can help track terrorists. A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the provision would allow military intel agents to "approach potential sources and collect personal information from them" without disclosing they work for the government. The justification: "Current counterterrorism operations," the report explains, which require "greater latitude ... both overseas and within the United States." DIA officials say they mainly want the provision so they can more easily question American businessmen and college students who travel abroad. But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman concedes the provision will also be helpful in investigating suspected terrorist threats to military bases and contractors inside the United States. "It's a new world we live in," he says. "We have to do what is necessary for force protection." Among those pushing for the provision, sources say, were officials at northcom, the new Colorado-based command set up by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to oversee "homeland defense."

"Pentagon lawyers insist agents will still be legally barred from domestic "law enforcement." But watchdog groups see a potentially alarming "mission creep." "This... is giving them the authority to spy on Americans," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a group frequently critical of the war on terror." And it's all been done with no public discussion, in the dark of night.""[10]

"A secretive government commission recently scrutinized the CIA for expanding its spy activities inside the United States and for failing to share key intelligence with the FBI, the New York Daily News has learned. CIA spying on Americans is strictly limited by law, yet the agency wants a greater role spying on foreigners and potential terrorists inside the United States, sources said. That worries experts, who fear Americans' civil liberties may be violated. Giving the CIA a free hand in the United States is dangerous because it lacks the FBI's system of constitutional restraint, and oversight by Congress is also harder, said Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies. "The CIA breaks the laws of the countries they operate in," Martin said. "The FBI doesn't break the law anywhere.""[11]


What laws are left to be broken when it comes to spying on Americans? Certainly, any ruling that would stand in the way of stopping potential "terrorists" will be revised as needed, gradually stripping citizens of their Constitional rights and putting us further down the treacherous path toward a totalitarian police state.

Historically, demonstrators have been targetted -- whether they are anti-war activists or civil rights crusaders. "The videotaping by Melbourne [Florida] police of 36 demonstrators outside City Hall protesting President Bush's inauguration is just one more in a series of such intolerable incidents nationwide. Similar surveillance has been reported in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and in small and large cities across America."[12] Why were the demonstrators filmed? For ""protesting in an anti-government assembly," says sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Andrew Walters."[13]

Let's look back to Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger for a minute, two great women in American history:

"For nearly thirty years, Goldman taunted mainstream America with her outspoken attacks on government, big business and war. Goldman condemned capitalism, denounced marriage, and crusaded for birth control. The newspapers called her a "modern Joan of Arc." A heretic. A woman possessed of an uncompromising single-mindedness. Just twenty-four, Goldman was already recognized as a professional agitator. Her talk of insurrection...of doing without government...of encouraging the unemployed to take matters into their own hands...of thousands of workers going door to door demanding food was terrifying to authorities. She was arrested and charged with "inciting to riot.""[14]

"Sanger fought to end the Comstock Laws that made it illegal to talk about birth control. In 1917 Sanger was arrested for distributing contraceptives at [a] health clinic in New York."[15]

Today, it appears that little has changed, and lately what change that has occured has been for the worse for civil liberties. We are still demonized for finding fault with our nation. Recently, Illinois prohibited activity that monitors its government.[16] A simple act like videotaping police officers beating someone is now a crime there "because they did not obtain consent from the people they were taping."[17]

Watchdog groups that keep track of government activities are a crucial part of a true democracy. But American leaders are creating an atmosphere where criticizing the government is a criminal act. Like the McCarthy witchhunts, being labled an enemy of the state for being proactive is an American way of life. If the government says you're wrong, you must be wrong. Who's to question the authority of the United States of America?

[1] http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0323-32.htm

[2] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5197014/site/newsweek/

[3] http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/nsa/stories/privacy/

[4] http://www.access.gpo.gov/int/int018.html

[5] http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_6387.shtml

[6] http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/nsa/stories/privacy/

[7] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7614681/site/newsweek/

[8] http://www.soros.org/initiatives/washington/news/secretcourt_20021118

[9] http://coxnews.com/cox/news/National/story/4057

[10] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5197014/site/newsweek/

[11] http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/politics/11190588.htm

[12] http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0323-32.htm

[13] http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0323-32.htm

[14] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldman/filmmore/pt.html

[15] http://history.hanover.edu/reference/336sanger2.htm

[16] http://yourpinews.blogspot.com/2005/03/its-illegal-to-observe-government.html

[17] http://www.belleville.com/mld/belleville/news/politics/9861186.htm

For more information, visit CIA Tradecraft at groups.yahoo.com/group/cia_tradecraft/