Given History, It’s Naive to Think NSA Respects Civil Liberties

John Glaser, July 01, 2013


Those defending the NSA’s surveillance activities in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks swear the program is lawful, transparent, and checked by oversight in other branches of government.

Many are even appalled at the suggestion that the NSA could ever overstep its bounds or intentionally violate the privacy of hundreds of millions of Americans. “The notion that we are trolling through everyone’s emails and voyeuristically reading them or listening to everyone’s phone calls is, on its face, absurd,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told NBC.

At best, this is terribly ignorant; at worst, deliberately misleading. A simple glance at America’s very recent history shows we’d be naive to expect the NSA to adhere to their legal and constitutional limits. Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News:

“After World War II, the National Security Agency (NSA) established and directed three programs that deliberately targeted American citizens’ private communications,” wrote Army signals intelligence officer Major Dave Owen in a paper published late last year in an Army intelligence journal.

The three programs were Project SHAMROCK (1945 to 1975), which collected telegraph communications; Project MINARET (1960 to 1973), which functioned as a watch list for terms, names and references of interest; and Drug Watch Lists (1970 to 1973), which focused on communications of individuals and organizations believed to be associated with illegal drug traffic. Information about these programs first became public in the 1970s upon investigation by the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, known as the Church Committee.

Without the Church Committee, we might still have been unaware of the extent of the illegal domestic spying operations that occurred. These abuses were exposed only when the rampant political corruption of the 1970s prompted leaks to the press and an unprecedented Senate investigation aimed at uncovering them and reining them in.

In the latest case, we have a whistleblower, Edward Snowden, and a journalist committed to transparency, Glenn Greenwald. The material that has been leaked to the public about NSA surveillance is clear and straightforward: not only does NSA fail to get individualized warrants, it collects the call data of virtually all Americans in bulk and stores the content of our Internet activities. For officials to go on denying these programs are what the leaked documents reveal them to be is an exercise in futility. They are hoping Americans don’t read the leaked documents and only listen to their official denials (something the mainstream media has been dutifully helping them out with).

In order for Americans to believe the official denials, they either have to not read the leaked documents or be completely ignorant of the NSA’s not-too-distant history in which civil liberties were the last thing on anyone’s mind.

11 Responses to “Given History, It’s Naive to Think NSA Respects Civil Liberties”

  1. So the US is spying on foreigners. It also collects data from billions of phone calls and email. Billions of interactions per day with Trillions of minutes of airtime and Thousands of Trillions of words. They are analyzed for correlation with known terrorists or threats or for clear patterns that indicate possible threats. Do you really think someone is listening to you? It is more likely you local stalker bought a simple device to listen to all your cell phone calls. The Government does not have time for that. If an individual in Government wants to illegally listen to you they may, perhaps, be able to do that without getting fired. But why wouldn't they just hack you? Much simpler and to the point. It is not possible for someone to listen to trillions of minutes of conversation created daily nor is it possible to read Thousands of Trillions of words in text created daily. A police detective with wiretapping skills can do the same thing illegally. Horrors. You may be being watched. It's part of being alive. If you want privacy do not use electronic networks. It is the reality of the medium. People use it. They will hack you. They will listen illegally. The NSA's program doesn't have time to listen to your 900 number calls.

  2. Gee, thanks for explaining that! I feel so much better now!


  3. Hmm, would Bob Pierce happen to be the CAPT Bob Pierce – of the Air Force Intelligence Command (AFIC), Air Force Cryptologic Support Center, Directorate of Securities – mentioned in this publication?

  4. That would explain the attempt at disinformation above. It would also explain why the tone is that of a dickhead.

  5. It's very amusing to think people believe the NSA's Utah data center is just being used to store data. Yes, it's true that there isn't an NSA guy listening to your phone call. But, if you knew the capabilities of what they are really doing, you would wish that were the case!

  6. Bob, your comment is nonsensical.

    "Why wouldn't they just hack you?"
    I don't know whether you have a clue what might be involved in "just hacking" someone (I suspect not), but why would they bother, when all their target's communications have been handed to them on a plate?

    "It is not possible for someone to listen to trillions of minutes/read trillions of words…"
    *Listening to everyone* is not the point. The point is that when *everyone's* communications are intercepted and stored, then *anyone* can be targeted for *any* reason *in secret*, not just by (ostensibly) accountable government but by their tens of thousands of unaccountable private contractors.

    Those nasty green activists using inconvenient facts to give your polluting company a bad name? Come to us; with our security connections and insider access we'll dig up the dirt on their members and shut them up with a tailor-made smear campaign! Government clients welcome!

    Think it wouldn't happen? Have you heard of HBGary Federal?

  7. "The NSA's program doesn't have time to listen to your 900 number calls."

    Even if so, they'll have time to listen to the emails for the next protest for the next war. I'm sorry all you do is place 900 calls though. A sad life really.

  8. [...] Given History, It's Naive to Think NSA Respects Civil Liberties [...]

  9. I will bookmark your website and take the feeds also.

  10. Regarding reading the OPs info I accept this since it is reality so it is good reading from a writer that is stating this for all to review.

  11. [...] demand to know from Clapper extent and benefits of spy programNetwork (blog)all 47 news [...]