” On the specific orders of former President George W. Bush, the National Security Agency has been collecting the domestic phone call records from tens of millions of Americans since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This is not a great secret but there is a good deal more to this iceberg than what we have seen. Let’s look at this and see where it goes.
Pursuant to Bush’s specific order, the NSA’s domestic spying program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.. In furtherance of Bush’s policies, the NSA representatives approached the nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, alleging, falsely that American national security was at risk, and the NSA needed their active assistance to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.
The agency told the companies that it wanted them to turn over all of their “call-detail records,” a complete listing of the calling histories of their millions of customers. In addition, the NSA wanted the carriers to provide updates, which would enable the agency to keep tabs on the nation’s calling habits.
The classified reports show that the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation. AT&T, which at the time was headed by C. Michael Armstrong, agreed to help the NSA. So did BellSouth, headed by F. Duane Ackerman; SBC, headed by Ed Whitacre; and Verizon, headed by Ivan Seidenberg.
With that, the NSA’s secret domestic surveillance program began in earnest.
When SBC Communications Inc. dropped its old name in favor of the AT&T corporate name , officials said the 120-year-old brand was simply too revered to pass up.
However, the once well-respected AT&T brand became tarnished as the public learns more about allegations that the company voluntarily assisted the National Security Agency wiretap an enormous number of their customers.
AT&T, as noted, merged with SBC and kept the AT&T name. Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T are the nation’s three biggest telecommunications companies; they provide local and wireless phone service to more than 200 million customers.
The three carriers control vast networks with the latest communications technologies. They provide an array of services: local and long-distance calling, wireless and high-speed broadband, including video. Their direct access to millions of homes and businesses has them uniquely positioned to effectively cooperate, illegally, with the NSA to implement Bush’s specific orders to spy on his perceived current opponents but also on his potential future opponents.
When this issue was raised by members of the media,. Bush said that the government “does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval.”
He added that congressional leaders have been briefed on the surveillance, which is not turn out they were not, and he said that the privacy of Americans is being protected.
“We’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans,” Bush said in his statement to the press. “Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates.”
Bush then assailed the leak about the NSA data collection, saying that it hurts the government’s ability to defeat the enemy.
The inescapable fact is that this secret, ongoing NSA program covers nearly every American, not just those suspected of a crime or a link to terrorism,.
In the past, the Bush White House reluctantly did acknowledge approving surveillance of phone calls between the United States and foreign locations to target suspected terrorist activity; however, there was no acknowledgement by the Bush aides of approval for domestic spying by the NSA.
Currently, the NSA has the largest database ever assembled in the world. The NSA presidential -ordered goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders.
For the trusting subscribers of these subverted companies, it means that the government has detailed records of every call or email they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
The three telecommunications companies are, to the present day, working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at “identifying and tracking suspected terrorists”, they said, but its actual purpose has been to “locate and identify elements felt to be hostile to the American governmental agencies and the office of the President….”
The patently illegal domestic spying program was supervised by Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden oversaw the agency’s domestic call-tracking program.
The NSA’s domestic program is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Bush initially said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — solely on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists, when only one party to the communication was in the United States. Warrants have never been used in the NSA’s efforts to create its all-inclusive national telephone and email database.
In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. “In other words,” Bush explained, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”
Of course, this statement is totally incorrect, the NSA having a Presidential mandate to “investigate, locate and monitor any telephone or email communication emanating from any person, or persons, who have been designated as actual or potential enemies of the state.”
As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were erroneously and deliberately stated by Bush to be “absolutely private.”
Newly-released declassified secret documents show clearly that such was clearly not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications of millions of Americans. Customers’ names, street addresses and other personal information are being handed over as part of NSA’s “inclusive domestic surveillance program.” And the phone numbers the NSA collects have easily been cross-checked with other Federal and other collection-gathering entities such as the major credit reporting agencies (among which are: Equifax, TRW, Experian, ACI, AMB, Dun & Bradstreet, AMEX, Bank of America, and others,) databases to quickly and automatically obtain information.
The Bush White House always refused to discuss the domestic call-tracking program when queried by the press. “There is no domestic surveillance without court approval,” said Dana Perino, deputy press secretary, referring to actual eavesdropping. She lied.
She added that all national intelligence activities undertaken by the federal government “are lawful, necessary and required for the pursuit of al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists.” All government-sponsored intelligence activities “are carefully reviewed and monitored,” Perino said. She also noted that “all appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on the intelligence efforts of the United States.” This is a deliberately misleading statement as nothing was ‘carefully reviewed and monitored” and Congress, as we are now discovering, was certainly not briefed on the degree and extent of this massive presidential monitoring program.
The National Security Agency (NSA) was created by President Truman in 1952, during the Korean War. The NSA is charged with ‘protecting the United States from foreign security threats.’
In 1975, a congressional investigation revealed that the NSA had been intercepting, without warrants, international communications for more than 20 years at the behest of the CIA and other agencies. The spy campaign, code-named “Shamrock,” led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was designed to protect Americans from illegal eavesdropping.
Enacted in 1978, FISA lays out procedures that the U.S. government must follow to conduct electronic surveillance and physical searches of people believed to be engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States. A special court, which has 11 members, is responsible for adjudicating requests under FISA.
Over the years, NSA code-cracking techniques have continued to improve along with technology. The agency today is considered expert in the practice of “data mining” — sifting through reams of information in search of patterns. Data mining is just one of many tools NSA analysts and mathematicians use to crack codes and track international communications.
The usefulness of the NSA’s domestic phone-call database as a counterterrorism tool is totally unproven and there has never been any specific instance of an NSA program resulting in apprehension or prosecution of any individual or group of terrorists,
It should be noted that under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are specifically prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers’ calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered.
The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation’s top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of “violation.” In practice, that means a single “violation” could cover one customer or 1 million.
This vast program of politically-motivated illegal domestic surveillance, ordered by Bush, is only part of an ambitious program brought forward in the first year of the Bush administration by Karl Rove. Rove is the architect of the ‘GOP Rules’ program, the basic premise of which was to secure a permanent control, by the Republican Party, of both branches of Congress, the White House and the leadership of all the agencies of control such as the CIA, later the DHS, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and, most important, the U.S. Army.
Rove, an accomplished student of history, had carefully studied the circumstances that permitted Adolf Hitler to rise to power in 1933. His was not a solid electoral victory but he was only a participant in a coalition government. What brought him to the beginning of absolute power was the Reichstag fire. It was long preached that this incendiary act was the result of Goering’s activities to facilitate an atmosphere of public panic but Fritz Tobias has effectively demolished this shibboleth and in fact, the fire was set by a lunatic young Dutch communist without any assistance from either the Nazis or the Communists.
Nevertheless, in its wake, the fire did create such an atmosphere of national fear that Hitler was able to tighten his control over the legislators and push through the Enabling Act that gave him the power to establish the control he badly needed. And a year later, the old Prussian Secret State Police, the Gestapo, was put into the hands of Heinrich Mueller who eventually set up a national card index with information on every German citizen.
Given the weak origins of Bush’s presidency, Rove contemplated his own Reichstag Fire and when the Israeli Mossad reported to the top Bush administration officials that they had penetrated a group of Saudi terrorists working in Hollywood, Florida and that this group was planning an aerial attack on important American business and government targets, Rove had found his Reichstag Fire.
Bush was informed by the Israeli government at every stage of the pending attack but advised the Israelis that he did not want to interfere with it “until the last possible moment so as to be able to arrest the entire group.”
As the plot progressed and Washington learned that the major targets would be the World Trade Centers in New York, and the Pentagon and the Capitol building in Washington, someone high up in the administration, currently unknown, wanted the Israelis to convince the Saudis to attack the side of the Pentagon that was currently unoccupied due to reconstruction. There was no point, the plotters decided, to kill the useful Secretary of Defense who was a member of their team.
The attack on the Capitol would, they reasoned, fall when Congress was in session ( In 2001, the first session of the 107th Congress was from January 3, 2001 through December 20, 2001 and the House and Senate planned to begin their 10 day Thanksgiving recess, between November 17 and November 27 of that year) and this meant that if a large commercial aircraft, loaded with aviation fuel, slammed at high speed into either wing of the immense building while Congress was in session, it could reasonably be expected that a siginficant number of Federal legislatiors would be killed or incapacitated.
This, coupled with the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC, would give the Bush people the very acceptable excuse for the President to step up, (after he returned from a safe and distant vacation,) and assume ‘special powers” to “protect this nation from new attacks” until Congress could be “satisfactorily reformed” via somewhat distant “special elections” to fill the vacancies created by the Saudi attackers.
Then, it would be quite acceptable, and even demanded, that the Army would establish “law and order” in the country and that other agencies would step forward to “guard this nation against” possible “ongoing terrorist attacks.” ‘Speak not of the morrow for thou knowest not what it might bring forth’ is a Biblical admonition that apparently Bush, Rove and Cheney never considered.
The aircraft designated to slam into the Capitol building and immolate both sides of the aisle, crashed as the very fortunate result of its passenger’s actions and that part of the plan had to be shelved. But not so the formulation of the machinery designed solely to clamp down on any possible dissident voices in the country and ensure a very long term Republican policical control.
The Saudi terrorist attacks went forward as planned, minus the one on the members of Congress and Bush indeed rose to the occasion and promised to protect the American public. A Department of Homeland Security was set up under the incompetent Governor Ridge but as for the rest of the plan for Republic permanence, it began to disintegrate bit by bit, due entirely to the gross incompetence of its leaders. The Bush-Rove-Cheney plan consisted, in the main, of the following:
1. Federal control of all domestic media, the internet, all computerized records, through overview of all domestic fax, mail and telephone conversations,
2 .A national ID card, universal SS cards being mandatory,
3. Seizure and forced deportation of all illegal aliens, including millions of Mexicans and Central Americans, intensive observation and penetration of Asian groups, especially Indonesian and Chinese,
4. A reinstitution of a universal draft (mandatory service at 18 years for all male American youths…based on the German Arbeitsdienst.
5. Closer coordination of administration views and domestic policies with various approved and régime supportive religious groups,
6. An enlargement of the planned “no travel” lists drawn up in the Justice Department that would prevents “subversive” elemetst from flying, (this list to include “peaceniks” and most categories of Muslims)
7. The automatic death penalty for any proven acts of sedition,
8. The forbidding of abortion, any use of medical marijuana,
9. Any public approval of homosexual or lesbian behavior to include magazines, websites, political action groups and soon to be forbidden and punishable.
The attacks succeeded but Rove failed, and out of the carnage, two heroic groups emerged. The first were the passengers who prevented an attack on the Capitol and the second were the top officers of the U.S. Army who flatly refused to cooperate with the Bush plan to take military control of the United States and imprison those deemed to be “potential civil and political enemies’ of someone who has proven to be the worst President in American history.”
For more Voice of the White House see our Inside the White House archive: