NSA Spies On US Journalists

This piece does not require a tinfoil hat, just a thinking cap.

Eleven days before Andrea Mitchell asked author and NYT reporter James Risen whether he had any knowledge that the NSA had been spying on CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, Wayne Madsen wrote: NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, journalists, and members of Congress

Risen Targeted by NSA

According to NSA sources, the targeted journalists included:

  • Author James Bamford, author of “Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency”;  (see BooTrib ad for this book)
  • New York Times’ James Risen, author of “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”;  (see BooTrib ad for this book)
  • Washington Post’s Vernon Loeb
  • New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, (Hersh calls the Bush White House the most secretive administration he’s ever encountered.  The Bush Adiministration was especially concerned that the American public was getting its pre-war intelligence from the likes of Hersh in an article he wrote in March of 2002 called: “The Debate Within” — The objective is clear–topple Saddam. But how?)
  • Washington Times’ Bill Gertz
  • UPI’s John C. K. Daly
  • Wayne Madsen, who has written about NSA for The Village Voice, CAQ, Intelligence Online, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

(source: www.WayneMadsenReport.com)

Considering this list we might now ask, along with Andrea Mitchell, “Was The NSA Spying on CNN Reporter Christiane Amanpour?”  And if not, why not?  More on that question below.

Firstfruits: The Journalist Surveillance Program

The journalist surveillance program, code named “Firstfruits,” was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004 and was authorized by then-DCI Porter Goss. Firstfruits was authorized as part of a DCI “Countering Denial and Deception” program responsible to an entity known as the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC). Since the intelligence community’s reorganization, the DCI has been replaced by the Director of National Intelligence headed by John Negroponte and his deputy, former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden.
(source: www.WayneMadsenReport.com)

Is Wayne Madsen a nut? Michael Froomkin doesn’t think so.

Michael Froomkin of Discourse.net on the reliability of Wayne Madsen:

Here’s the problem. I don’t think Wayne Madsen is a nut. I’ve met Wayne a few times over the years at privacy-oriented events. He’s sometimes rumpled, often a little intense, has a spook-like love for conspiracy theory (forgivable since he is a sometime spook himself). He’s definitely out there on the fringe where left meets right, and we’re not always on the same page politically, but I have found him to be very well informed.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comCHENEY:  The Post-Watergate Era Limited The Spying Powers Of The Executive: So We Have To Break The Law To Expand Them

The Bush Administration has been playing Constitutional poker in a room of mirrors.  As much as they have tried to play it “close to the vest” the sloppiest player is George Bush, who admitted violating the law in warrantless NSA domestic spying.  According to John W. Dean this is the first time a President has admitted to an impeachable offense.  Attorney General Gonzales flaunts the law by saying, “We didn’t seek warrants because we wouldn’t have got them.”  But Cheney dropped an ace on December 21 in remarks made to reporters on his return from a trip to the Middle East.

Cheney Defends Domestic Spying

Cheney says Bush’s decision to sidestep the courts and allow surveillance was an organized effort to regain presidential powers lost in the 1970s.

By Maura Reynolds
Times Staff Writer
From the Los Angeles Times
December 21, 2005

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s decision to bypass court review and authorize domestic wiretapping by executive order was part of a concerted effort to rebuild presidential powers weakened in the 1970s as a result of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday.

Returning from a trip to the Middle East, Cheney said that threats facing the country required that the president’s authority under the Constitution be “unimpaired.”

“Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the 1970s, served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area,” Cheney told reporters traveling with him on Air Force Two. “Especially in the day and age we live in … the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy.”


This is from a 1997 oped in the Houston Chronicle by Richard Ben-Viniste, written on the 25th anniversary of Watergate.

This is just a partial list of crimes by RMN:
the break-in at a psychiatrist’s office looking for information that could be used to smear Daniel Ellsberg, who had exposed the secret government history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers; the misuse of the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies to punish those on the president’s “enemies list”; the illegal wiretapping of journalists and members of Nixon’s own administration; the deliberate falsification of government documents to enhance Nixon’s political agenda; the proposed fire-bombing of the Brookings Institution as a diversion for the theft of records; the surreptitious surveillance of political opponents; and the willingness to use thugs to brutalize political protesters. Shadows of Nixon by Richard Ben-Viniste; Houston Chronicle, 1997

Well, that was then, and this is now.

When the NSA was established, in 1952, there were few legal limits on its power to spy within the U.S.

Then came the intelligence-gathering abuses of the Nixon years, when the NSA as well as the FBI were used by the White House to spy on civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists. In 1978 Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (fisa), which required the NSA to obtain a warrant any time it sought to monitor communications within the U.S.

An explanation for the NSA’s reluctance to seek court approval may be that wiretaps of individual conversations are just one part of what the spy agency can do. It also has the technology to perform data mining, combing by computer through billions of phone calls and Internet messages and looking for patterns that may point to terrorist activity. That requires sifting through a mountain of individual communications to find the one that might lead to something. Under fisa, the NSA would have to obtain a warrant for each suspect phone number. Authorities argue that the fisa process is too slow to cover a situation in which a known terrorist calls a number in the U.S. not already covered by a fisa warrant.

Has Bush Gone Too Far?; TIME; January 1, 2006


William Pitt asks Karen Kwiatkowski what the NSA scandal means:

“It means we are in deep trouble,” said Kwiatkowski, “deeper than most Americans really are willing to think about. The safeguards of mid-1970s were put in place by a mobilized Democratic congress in response to President Richard Nixon’s perceived and actual contempt for rule of law, and the other branches of government. At that time, the idea of a sacred constitution balancing executive power with the legislative power worked to give the Congress both backbone and direction.”

“Today,” continued Kwiatkowski, “we have a President and administration that has out-Nixoned Nixon in every negative way, with none of the Nixon administration’s redeeming attention to detail in domestic and foreign policy. It may indeed mean that the constitution has flat-lined and civil liberties will be only for those who can buy and own a legislator or a political party. We will all need to learn how to spell ‘corporate state,’ which for Mussolini was his favorable definition of fascism.”
Radical Militant Librarians and Other Dire Threats
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 19 December 2005


From Tom in NYC at AmericaBlogspot

NBC’S ENSOR: “Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on ‘NBC Nightly News’ nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.”

This is quite big. Note exactly what NBC said.

  • NBC did not say it pulled the references to Bush spying on Amanpour because it was inappropriate conjecture about something which Andrea Mitchell had no evidence.
  • No, NBC said it pulled the references because it was still investigating the accusation and didn’t want to scoop itself before it was finished investigating. And make no mistake, NBC is “continuing their inquiry.”
  • UPDATE: One more point. NBC did NOT delete the part of the interview preceding the Amanpour question – where Mitchell asks if any reporters are being spied on. They only deleted the follow-up question about whether Amanpour was being spied on. Thus, their premature release of info regarding an “ongoing inquiry” wasn’t about reporters generally – or they’d have deleted that part of the interview as well – they only deleted the Amanpour follow-up, suggesting that it’s the question of whether Bush spied on Amanpour that they have been, and are still, investigating.

That’s incredibly big news.

NBC has acknowledged that they have information to suggest that Bush may have spied (be spying) on CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and that NBC is currently investigating that very possibility. This isn’t just conjecture anymore, NBC has confirmed it.

From Talking Points Memo:

Talking Points Memo
January 05, 2006

Despite the fact that it’s framed as a question, Mitchell inevitably becomes in some sense a fact witness for the underlying claim. She legitimizes the question and strongly suggests she has at least some evidence that it is true.

Okay, so someone at NBC screwed up. Mistakes happen. But the bell can’t be unrung.

In their response NBC confirms that they not only were but are in fact continuing to investigate whether Amanpour was in fact a target of one of these ‘wiretaps’.

Now, that really puts this into altogether different territory.

You wouldn’t just pull this Amanpour story out of your hat . To be even remotely credible, a claim like that would have to come from within the government.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: “CNN Intimidated By Bush Administration”

CNN War Reporting Intimidated by FOX and Bush Administration
September 14, 2003

CNN’s top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, says that the press muzzled itself during the Iraq war. And, she says CNN “was intimidated” by the Bush administration and Fox News, which “put a climate of fear and self-censorship.”

As criticism of the war and its aftermath intensifies, Amanpour joins a chorus of journalists and pundits who charge that the media largely toed the Bush administrationline in covering the war and, by doing so, failed to aggressively question the motives behind the invasion.

Said Amanpour: “I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.”

“…All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it’s the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels.

In response to Amanpour’s statements:

Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti said of Amanpour’s comments: “Given the choice, it’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

I think that just about sums up the question on Christiane Amanpour.  She said that her efforts to report on the war in Iraq were intimidated by the Bush Administration and by FOX News, and Fox News  called Amanpour a “spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”


Just thought you might like a glance at Nixon’s resignation letter:

“Proceedings on the Impeachment of Richard Nixon”
Barbara Jordan’s Opening Statement to the House Judiciary Committee
July 25, 1974

“Today I am an inquisitor. I believe hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”

“Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?” (Federalist, no. 65).

Illustration of Nixon by: Laura Hendricks

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