From 9/11 to the Permanent Surveillance State
[See the Action Alert for instructions on what to do prior to the expected Jan 19th vote on FISA.]
There aren’t many calls to action that rise to this level. Our nation is at a critical juncture regarding the future of our civil liberties, and the responsibility of elected officials and the courts to uphold their oath to protect and preserve the Constitution. Between now and December 15th Congress will be deciding whether to make warrant-less surveillance permanent or allow the provision within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Section 702, to expire as scheduled on Dec. 31. Most people aren’t the least bit aware and we have a small window of time to change that.
Please review this information as background on the NSA’s role in 9/11 and an introduction to legislation which will determine the powers of intelligence agencies to invade our privacy. Another shorter action alert will follow by December 1st. In the meantime, please take the next few days to absorb this message which should adequately inform you.
How Did We Get to Full-blown Surveillance?
Having just co-produced a screening of Oliver Stone’s documentary “A Good American” in New York City which attracted an audience of over 400 people on Nov. 12th, and having interviewed NSA whistle-blower William Binney and House Intelligence Committee whistle-blower, Diane Roark, my preparation led me to stories that no Hollywood espionage thriller has come close to capturing. The film plus interviews and well-researched articles and testimony by NSA whistle-blowers and others document the alarming reality that one of the largest agencies charged with ensuring national security had legitimate surveillance technology called “THINTHREAD” that was designed by Binney and Ed Loomis that was effective, protected civil liberties in alignment with the Constitution, and was relatively inexpensive to implement. Yet the NSA refused to use it. Had they done so, elements of the 9/11 plot would have been detected and the attacks would have been thwarted. Yes, you read that right. Receiving permission to search NSA’s main database a while after 9/11, in less than 36 hours the THINTHREAD component evaluated the entire database and found a large amount of critical al Qaeda information that NSA had overlooked, including the arrival of two of the accused hijackers in San Diego and their actions as described in the 28 pages from the Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11. Most of this was quickly hidden so NSA would not be blamed for failing to stop the attack. The cover up continues to this day. Binney and NSA colleagues, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, and Thomas Drake insist that 9/11 would have been prevented had NSA used THINTHREAD, as does Diane Roark, who plays an integral role in this saga.
The 9/11 attacks occurred despite the myriad of warnings throughout the spring and summer of 2001 known by many sources and whistle-blowing efforts by FBI field agents. Binney and team were horrified. But much more was to come. The NSA leadership considered 9/11 a gift to demand higher budgets and make contractors rich. With the replacement for THINTHREAD, inexplicably the three layers of encryption which protected privacy were removed while the ability to track all uses of the database and thus to record any illegal use of it was also deactivated. This is when the whistle-blowers saw that the NSA’s over-arching agenda was to launch full-blown collection of data on all Americans, not just a few suspicious characters warranting surveillance efforts. Binney, Loomis, and Wiebe decided they could not stay. They had accepted a retirement offer after THINTHREAD was cancelled. When the system was reactivated after 9/11 and perverted to perform domestic surveillance they were moved to take actions to expose what they witnessed at the NSA in relation to 9/11.
In February 2002, Ed Loomis, Binney, and Kirk Wiebe reported to Diane Roark, senior staffer at the House Permanent Select Subcommittee on Intelligence (HPSCI) since 1985, that NSA had directed surveillance capabilities against innocent US citizens. She was charged with oversight of the NSA. Roark, Binney, and Wiebe subsequently met with then Congressman Richard Burr to report the illegal operation. But to no avail – neither Burr, nor the HPSCI did anything to resolve the matter.
Later, in the summer of 2002, Kirk Wiebe led the effort to report the mismanagement of NSA’s modernization effort under then Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden to the Dept. of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG). Hayden destroyed the working and far cheaper THINTHREAD prototype in favor of his favored TRAILBLAZER program which failed completely almost four years later. Senior HPSCI staffer Diane Roark was among the signers of the DoD IG complaint, along with Loomis and Binney.
Ms. Roark states that in her experience prior to 9/11 the NSA had scrupulously protected privacy and considered it a cardinal sin to violate the Fourth Amendment. Then she saw the pendulum swing to the exact opposite posture after 9/11. Believing that she would be protected by the rules of the system, she then attempted to blow the whistle to Porter Goss, Nancy Pelosi, and Richard Burr who were heads of the intelligence agencies. She met twice with NSA Director Michael Hayden, and even attempted to contact Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Her intention was to sound the alarm that the NSA was in violation of law and the Constitution, that there would be a backlash when the public became aware, and that domestic surveillance should be ended or, at absolute minimum, the protections for US persons be restored until there was sufficient evidence to acquire an individual court warrant. She was met with a wall of silence. They were all in on it. Then in her second meeting with Director Michael Hayden she pressed him for an answer to why the NSA was spying on the public without a warrant, to which he reluctantly answered saying “We have the power.” Roark realized that all-pervasive surveillance wasn’t going to be temporary, but was intended to become permanent.
With further attempts by the team of whistle-blowers to expose the NSA’s overreach, the forces of retaliation sprang into action. They took the form of raids, including by armed FBI agents barging into William Binney’s home early one July morning in 2007 at gunpoint. The NSA and FBI went so far as to manufacture false information to attempt to frame them all. They indicted Thomas Drake and used intimidation methods which were chilling for anybody to endure, never mind patriotic veterans of our intelligence community who spent their lives serving our country. When Edward Snowden became aware of the punishment Drake experienced, he knew there was no way he could bring his evidence of illegal spying to his superiors and expect proper treatment. It was obvious to him that whistle-blowers weren’t protected, they were targets. This influenced Snowden’s difficult decision to go public despite the incredible risks.
Back to the surveillance program. After 9/11, the NSA TRAILBLAZER program for digital modernization consumed $3.8 billion, but finally was cancelled by Congress without being deployed. The STELLARWIND program for domestic collection did indeed collect mountains of data, as did massively increased foreign collection. However, the data is so voluminous that failure is basically assured. There have been needles to find, but the size of the haystack was so large it became more like a black hole. The outcome has been — the NSA’s programs have failed to stop anything.
Now we have to question what’s really behind all of this? Why did the NSA intend for its program for full scale, warrant-less and indiscriminate surveillance to be permanent? The “power” Michael Hayden claimed to possess was a breathtakingly broad interpretation of the President’s commander-in-chief powers during war, based on the congressional resolution supporting retaliation against al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks. This took place in the midst of major aspects of the attacks which were documented but ignored such as warnings from 11 foreign sources, warnings from “terrorism czar” Richard Clarke, warnings from FBI field agents, the August 6th PDB, put options on United and American Airlines, numerous “war games” by NORAD which caused an absence of air defense, many of the 19 Arabs reported by the foreign press to be alive, and much more which should raise suspicion in any critique of the official account. Why did Dick Cheney pressure senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy not to investigate? What else don’t we know? Why have so many policy makers failed to ask the hard but necessary questions? Why are they playing along with the agenda to sacrifice civil liberties despite the absence of actual safety?
Now you have the backdrop. Next I’ll explain the simple yet urgent action we need millions of people to take.
At the Crossroad: Which Way Will Congress Vote?
Since Congress is supposed to vote on the renewal of Section 702 of FISA by Dec. 15th, beginning Dec. 1st we need a week of all out public noise making to inform every legislator that (1) the NSA had the data the 9/11 attacks were about to occur, yet nobody has ever been held accountable, (2) the NSA’s indiscriminate spying on all Americans emails and phone calls violate the Fourth Amendment which they took an oath to uphold, and (3) Stellar Wind must be terminated immediately and THINTHREAD must be reinstated.
Next, there are two opposing pieces of legislation to be aware of. Here are some links to check out.
1 – To perpetuate 702 and full-blown indiscriminate surveillance – S. 1297
2 – To limit the NSA’s warrantless spying – The USA Rights Act
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some important coverage on this topic.
The film “A Good American” is available on Netflix. It’s well worth the few dollars to view it.
For more great background on Diane Roark, I recommend this chapter from James Risen’s book on her.
Also, please sign this petition by Defending Rights and Dissent.
Categories and Context
For those who’ve done comprehensive research, no need for dismay that the film and whistle blower testimonies do not reference anything connected with the physical evidence which many 9/11 researchers have focused on. At face value it may appear that citing evidence which appears to incriminate Al Qaeda and Bin Laden for 9/11 is incomplete, as there is much more existing research which is applicable for a more complete understanding of the attacks.
Regardless, there is ample information for anyone to recognize that Binney and team have provided a doorway to reach into and pull out key findings which help to render the official story a bizarre fiction and cause serious questioning on the emergence of the Police State. The NSA whistle blowers provide more evidence to warrant the assertion that we’ve had 16 years of war abroad and repression at home which is arguably based on a highly orchestrated plot designed to (1) realize PNAC’s agenda for full spectrum dominance based on a “new Pearl Harbor” event, (2) launch “wars that won’t last in our lifetime”, according to Dick Cheney, (3) further disempower Congress through the state of siege 9/11 was used to create, (4) legitimize torture, and (5) institutionalize and weaponize the digital profiling of all Americans — all done unnecessarily because the technology existed that would have prevented 9/11 and subsequent terrorist incidents. When the public realizes this, the obvious questions to be asked are, “Could Bin Laden and al Qaeda cause the NSA to allow the 9/11 attacks to happen when the plot could have been prevented? What other explanations could there be? Why has nobody been held accountable?”
In my trip down this rabbit hole it’s becoming apparent that blocking THINTHREAD has been about far more than profiteering by the NSA and contractors like SAIC. The most logical route was to implement THINTHREAD at a fraction of the cost of the programs that followed. To the contrary, there are far too many inexplicable events, obvious solutions, and protocols that were ignored. Also, the programs that followed were deliberately stripped of the encryption which protected privacy in violation of law with no fear of retribution. They Bush administration had 9/11 as a source of fear and there was the executive decision to be at war against terrorism which was normalized due to the “state of emergency” that 9/11 created. Nobody could dare question the agenda which has spawned 16 years of war abroad and what William Binney refers to as a “Stasi-like” surveillance state at home.
Sorry for the length of this message but no doubt you’ve read many long books over the years, so this should have been manageable. I hope this is the main take-away. The courage of Binney, Loomis, Wiebe, Drake, and Roark have set the stage for us. Now let’s put every legislator on notice that a large constituency is watching, demands truth and transparency, knows that actual national security is not the NSA’s objective, and compliance with the laws protecting civil liberties must be upheld or they’ll need to find a different profession. Click on the “Action Alert” tab for instructions.
Towards truth & justice,
With contributions from Diane Roark, Kirk Wiebe, and William Binney