Top National Security Experts: Spying Program Doesn’t Make Us Safer, and Spying Leaks Don’t Harm America

Cross-Posted from Washington’s Blog.

America’s top national security experts say that the NSA’s mass surveillance program doesn’t make us safer … and that whistleblowers revealing the nature and extent of the program don’t harm America.

The top counter-terrorism czar under Presidents Clinton and Bush – Richard Clarke – notes:

The just-revealed surveillance stretches the law to its breaking point and opens the door to future potential abuses


I am troubled by the precedent of stretching a law on domestic surveillance almost to the breaking point. On issues so fundamental to our civil liberties, elected leaders should not be so needlessly secretive.

The argument that this sweeping search must be kept secret from the terrorists is laughable. Terrorists already assume this sort of thing is being done. Only law-abiding American citizens were blissfully ignorant of what their government was doing.


If the government wanted a particular set of records, it could tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court why — and then be granted permission to access those records directly from specially maintained company servers. The telephone companies would not have to know what data were being accessed. There are no technical disadvantages to doing it that way, although it might be more expensive.

Would we, as a nation, be willing to pay a little more for a program designed this way, to avoid a situation in which the government keeps on its own computers a record of every time anyone picks up a telephone? That is a question that should have been openly asked and answered in Congress.

The author of the Patriot Act and chairman on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner – says:

  • Lawmakers’ and the executive branch’s excuses about recent revelations of NSA activity are “a bunch of bunk”
  • The government has gone far beyond what the Patriot Act intended, and that section 215 of the act “was originally drafted to prevent data mining” on the scale that’s occurred
  • Whistleblower Edward Snowden is not a traitor, and Sensenbrenner would not have known the extent of abuse by the NSA and the FISA court without Snowden’s disclosures
  • The Patriot Act needs to be amended to protect Americans’ privacy

The former head of the NSA’s global digital data gathering program, William Binney:

  • Says that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information. He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.  Binney’s statements have been confirmed by other NSA whistleblowers

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente confirmed Snowden’s allegations, and told  CNN:

  • “Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not”
  • “No digital communication is secure”

Senator Jon Tester – a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Approrpriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security – says Snowden didn’t harm national security, and that his leaks were helpful:

The information that they wrote about was just the fact that NSA was doing broad sweeps of foreign and domestic phone records, metadata. [T]he fact of the matter is is I don’t see how that compromises the security of this country whatsoever.

And quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee.

And Thomas Drake – a former senior NSA executive and a decorated Air Force and Navy veteranwrites:

What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.

Like me, he became discomforted by [the NSA’s] direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution.

The NSAprograms that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as  Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA’s lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:

“The White House has approved the program; it’s all legal. NSA is the executive agent.”

It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. “You don’t understand,” I was told. “We just need the data.”

In the first week of October 2001, President Bush had signed an extraordinary order authorizing blanket dragnet electronic surveillance: Stellar Wind was a highly secret program that, without warrant or any approval from the Fisa court, gave the NSA access to all phone records from the major telephone companies, including US-to-US calls. It correlates precisely with the Verizon order revealed by Snowden; and based on what we know, you have to assume that there are standing orders for the other major telephone companies.


The supposed oversight, combined with enabling legislation – the Fisa court, the congressional committees – is all a kabuki dance, predicated on the national security claim that we need to find a threat. The reality is, they just want it all, period.

So I was there at the very nascent stages, when the government – wilfully and in deepest secrecy – subverted the constitution. All you need to know about so-called oversight is that the NSA was already in violation of the Patriot Act by the time it was signed into law.


To the US government today, however, we are all foreigners.

I became an expert on East Germany, which was then the ultimate surveillance state. Their secret police were monstrously efficient: they had a huge paper-based system that held information on virtually everyone in the country – a population of about 16-17 million. The Stasi’s motto was “to know everything”.


So none of this is new to me. The difference between what the Bush administration was doing in 2001, right after 9/11, and what the Obama administration is doing today is that the system is now under the cover and color of law. Yet, what Snowden has revealed is still the tip of the iceberg. [Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez – a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and the Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities confirms this]

General Michael Hayden, who was head of the NSA when I worked there, and then director of the CIA, said, “We need to own the net.” [Background] And that is what they’re implementing here. They have this extraordinary system: in effect, a 24/7 panopticon on a vast scale that it is gazing at you with an all-seeing eye.


My concern [while working for the NSA] was that we were more than an accessory; this was a crime and we were subverting the constitution.

I differed as a whistleblower to Snowden only in this respect: in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I took my concerns up within the chain of command, to the very highest levels at the NSA, and then to Congress and the Department of Defense. I understand why Snowden has taken his course of action, because he’s been following this for years: he’s seen what’s happened to other whistleblowers like me.

By following protocol, you get flagged – just for raising issues. You’re identified as someone they don’t like, someone not to be trusted. [Indeed, Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined. And the government threw in jail the one telecom executive to refuse government orders to hand over mass surveillance records on its customers.] I was exposed early on because I was a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations. In closed testimony, I told them everything I knew ….

But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.

I reached a point in early 2006 when I decided I would contact a reporter. I had the same level of security clearance as Snowden. If you look at the indictment from 2010, you can see that I was accused of causing “exceptionally grave damage to US national security“. Despite allegations that I had tippy-top-secret documents, In fact, I had no classified information in my possession, and I disclosed none to the Baltimore Sun journalist during 2006 and 2007. But I got hammered: in November 2007, I was raided by a dozen armed FBI agents, when I was served with a search warrant. The nightmare had only just begun, including extensive physical and electronic surveillance.

In April 2008, in a secret meeting with the FBI, the chief prosecutor from the Department of Justice assigned to lead the prosecution said, “How would you like to spend the rest of your life in jail, Mr Drake?” – unless I co-operated with their multi-year, multimillion-dollar criminal leak investigation, launched in 2005 after the explosive New York Times article revealing for the first time the warrantless wiretapping operation. Two years later, they finally charged me with a ten felony count indictment, including five counts under the Espionage Act. I faced upwards of 35 years in prison.

In July 2011, after the government’s case had collapsed under the weight of truth, I plead to a minor misdemeanor for “exceeding authorized use of a computer” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – in exchange for the DOJ dropping all ten felony counts. I received as a sentence one year’s probation and 240 hours of community service: I interviewed almost 50 veterans for the Library of Congress veterans history project. This was a rare, almost unprecedented, case of a government prosecution of a whistleblower ending in total defeat and failure.

So, the stakes for whistleblowers are incredibly high. The government has got its knives out: there’s a massive manhunt for Snowden. They will use all their resources to hunt him down and every detail of his life will be turned inside out. They’ll do everything they can to “bring him to justice” – already there are calls for the “traitor” to be “put away for life”.


Since the government unchained itself from the constitution after 9/11, it has been eating our democracy alive from the inside out. There’s no room in a democracy for this kind of secrecy: it’s anathema to our form of a constitutional republic, which was born out of the struggle to free ourselves from the abuse of such powers, which led to the American revolution.

That is what’s at stake here: to an NSA with these unwarranted powers, we’re all potentially guilty; we’re all potential suspects until we prove otherwise. That is what happens when the government has all the data.


We are seeing an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and truth-tellers: it’s now criminal to expose the crimes of the state.

Drake also tweets:

[People] must get clear & present danger of authoritarian totalitarianism via the Leviathan [National Security] state & surveillance


Snowden chose 2 free darkside NatSec info as magnificent act of selfless civil disobedience 2 protect our liberty.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post on by .

About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. tulsatime

    Most excellent GW, I’m reassured to a small degree. I’m always amazed at what the government will rationalize to itself, bank bailouts, massive spying, illegal wars, blatant interference in the sovereign affairs of allied countries, the list goes on and on and on. Us amuricans really is exceptional.

  2. JGordon

    Well, it might not hurt security but it certainly does hurt the reputation of certain elites, and even more damningly it reveals to the persona no grata peasants (who ostensibly still get to “vote” in “elections”) the righteous criminality of the regime. And we simply can’t be having that now. An informed peasantry is certainly not in the interest of anyone (who matters).

    You George Washington are saying some very unkind things about the Obama regime and the police state he runs, and that, somehow or another, probably sort of might aid the bad-guys on some indeterminate future date. You should be very sorry about that.

    Anyway, I for one welcome our new Fascist overlords and the police state apparatus they operate. Let it not be said that I have anything against the criminal regime.

  3. Doug Terpstra

    Clarke: “The just-revealed surveillance stretches the law to its breaking point …”

    But according to Thomas Drake it’s beyond the breaking point: it is “industrial-scale systematic surveillance that is scooping up vast amounts of information not only around the world but in the United States, in direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution“.

    And as Edward Snowden said in his interview, “they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”

    So it’s not just metadata as Obama knowingly claims; it’s everything — voice, emails, blogs and texts — available in perpetuity for whenever the next House Un-American Activities Committee conjures a pretext to use it. And successive revelations by Greenwald et al are sure to reconfirm that. Bloggers’ pseudonyms won’t be a barrier either, so watch what you say about Big Bro’ in the big house. As Hedges says, this is the death knell of participatory democracy.

    Indeed, it’s not at all about making us safer; it’s about control, totalitarian power. It has nothing to do with preventing terrorism; they want more of it. This unaccountable elite — Wall Street, war profiteers and their politicians and media whores — will break any law and kill any number of people anywhere to protect its own undeserved privilege and perquisites at the expense of the majority of Americans and humanity. Information is power, and TIA, total information awareness on US and world citizens is absolute power.

    Thomas Drake again:

    Since the government unchained itself from the constitution after 9/11, it has been eating our democracy alive from the inside out. There’s no room in a democracy for this kind of secrecy: it’s anathema to our form of a constitutional republic, which was born out of the struggle to free ourselves from the abuse of such powers, which led to the American revolution.

    That is what’s at stake here: to an NSA with these unwarranted powers, we’re all potentially guilty; we’re all potential suspects until we prove otherwise. That is what happens when the government has all the data.
    The NSA is wiring the world; they want to own internet. I didn’t want to be part of the dark blanket that covers the world, and Edward Snowden didn’t either.

    1. from Mexico

      I thought General Alexander’s response was telling:

      “It is dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent,” Alexander said of the Section 215 program and another that collects information on foreign computer use.

      He would not discuss specific disrupted plots, saying they were classified, but he told Leahy that the two programs together played a role in helping to stop a planned attack on the New York subway system.

      Have we heard such circular and perverse logic since the Salem Witch Trials?

      These folks like Alexander, Obama, Feinstein and the reactionary right-wing cohort they march in lockstep with — King, Chambliss, Bolton, Graham, Rogers, etc. — have no shame. No shame whatsoever.

      1. diptherio

        “Ok, we lied to you about not spying on everybody, but you can believe us when we tell you that if we weren’t, we’d all be living in a veritable war zone. We can’t tell you the details, but trust us, it would be really bad.”

        And if someone doubts the veracity of that statement…

        “What, you don’t think we would just lie about something this important do you? We are are shocked by the suggestion, sir, simply shocked. We are respectable people; upright citizens and patriots and frankly, we resent the implication.”

        1. nonclassical

          the dilemna-anti government fundamentalists who CREATED these “programs” are now USING such to posture “anti-government”…

      2. Doug Terpstra

        Right, a catch-22: if the accused witch sinks and drowns, alas, she was innocent after all and assuredly goes to her eternal rest; if she floats, she’s to be burned at the stake. General Alexander is the new keeper of such divine divination. Mere mortals need only submit.

        The stark fact is the vast “intelligence” apparatus failed to prevent the only two successful domestic attacks, 911 and Boston, even though both were served up to them on platinum platters (memo to Bush: “bin Laden determined to attack in US”, and Tsarnaev on multiple Russian watch warnings). In fact, the only attacks prevented that we know of were those stooge-staged by the FBI itself. Conspiracy theorists have ample circumstantial foundation for malicious intent by the burgeoning police state.

        From Margaret Kimberly of the Black Agenda Report:

        The normally cool Obama and his top staffers are a bit off stride and noticeably panicking. In his increasingly annoying and halting monotone he assured us that [he] wasn’t listening to our phone calls. And just in case that less than comforting statement didn’t work for you he also claims that the spying program has thwarted terror plots on our behalf. It wasn’t clear if these were the plots invented by the FBI and their informants, but I digress. Raising the specter of terror has become the last refuge of scoundrels.

      1. sufferinsuccotash, stupor mundi

        Smiling, hell. OBL is laughing his ass off over the number he pulled on this country. One of the most serious threats to the (re)emergence of racial, ethnic and/or religiously-motivated barbarism would have been the example set by a tolerant, peaceable and prosperous nation. A nation not unlike, say, the United States of America on its better days. Luckily for the likes of Bin Laden there’s no danger of that happening anytime soon.

      2. Nathanael

        Remember, this sort of massive infringment of Americans’ rights is what Osama bin Laden wanted the US to do. He said so explicitly.

        This means that Clapper, Holder, Obama, the lot of them are actually giving aid and comfort to the enemy. They are guilty of treason. They need to be executed by a court of law, if we have any of those left.

  4. pdooley

    Any information placed on the Internet or *any* computer network is, prima facie, no longer secret, and should be automatically declassified by law. If it is so secret that it truly represents an “existential” threat to the State, it should be maintained only in hard copy and under physical security (and even then, see — available by Googling “Sandy Berger pants”).

  5. LifelongLib

    Most people would be creeped out by the thought of someone following them 24/7, writing down every place they went and everyone they talked to. But many are OK with the same thing being done electronically.

    1. Expat

      The government and corporations are stalking you! I’ll bet most people are uncomfortable with spying regardless of what they told pollsters (and how was the question phrased?). Unless you have specialized training, you don’t realize the straightforward techniques that allow government types to follow persons of interest without impinging on the rights of others. We’ve gone from 2 degrees (known terrorists and their associates)(and all that was needed to stop the 9/ll terrorists) to 6 degrees (everyone)(with a string of failures and no demonstrable success).

      C-SPAN’s Book TV is replaying a James Bamford interview on his book, “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America,” which reveals just how disfunctional this agency has been since before 9/11.

      Bamford outlines how the NSA failed to stop 9/11 even though it had the information and the tools to do so, how it used 9/11 to do an end run around regulations and (of course) the Constitution, how it had massively privatized its operations to extract ever greater sums from taxpayers for ever more dubious practices and so on.

      Of course, none of this is of the slightest interest to our elected officials, since they are either knaves, fools or spineless. These are the same characters who continued to run for office on the crime platform long after the crime rate had plummeted for demographic reasons. And left us with millions of innocents in prisons that must be filled to fulfill private contracts — and a deservedly tarred international reputation.

      1. from Mexico

        Expat said:

        We’ve gone from 2 degrees (known terrorists and their associates)(and all that was needed to stop the 9/ll terrorists) to 6 degrees (everyone)(with a string of failures and no demonstrable success).

        The Grand Canyon would fit between the myth and the reality of the national security state. And I define the national security state broadly. It includes not only the state’s instruments of violence — the police and the military — but also the private finance, energy and security/defense sectors which are its biggest boosters and lone beneficiaries.

        Andrew Bacevich in The New American Militarism, The Limits of Power and elsewhere speaks at great length of the vast chasm that exists between the myth and the reality of the national security state. Here’s a rundown:

        The Reality of the US Military

        Its Purpose : Keynesian mechanism to transfer public wealth to private industry

        As Bacevich explains:

        The ideology of national security persists not because it expresses empirically demonstrable truths but because it serves the interests of those who created the national security state and those who still benefit from its continued existence – the very people who are most responsible for the increasingly maladroit character of U.S. policy.

        Bacevich is a conservative, but more centrist and left-leaning thinkers have made the same point he does, such as in this video featuring Philip Agee, Noam Chomsky, Nancy Snow and John Stockwell:

        Its Capabilities: Very Limited

        Speaking of full spectrum dominance, Bacevich alleges:

        That was fraud. That was fraudulent.

        To claim that the United States military could demonstrate that kind of dominance flew in the face of all of history and in many respects, set us up for how the Bush Administration was going to respond to 9/11. Because if you believed that United States military was utterly unstoppable, then it became kind of plausible to imagine that the appropriate response to 9/11 was to embark upon this global war to transform the greater Middle East.

        Then Bacevich goes on to elaborate:

        [T]he National Security State doesn’t work. The National Security State was not able to identify the 9/11 conspiracy. Was not able to deflect the attackers on 9/11. The National Security State was not able to plan intelligently for the Iraq War. Even if you think that the Iraq War was necessary. They were not able to put together an intelligent workable plan for that war….

        The Iraq War was, from start to finish, maybe not from start to finish, the first two weeks maybe looked brilliant, the remaining 8.9 years were a disaster. An expensive disaster, an unnecessary disaster. And as people, we need to take that on board. We need to acknowledge that in order to avoid replicating those kinds of errors….

        The best case [in Afghanistan] is that we’re going to be able to extricate ourselves. Ourselves, we and our NATO allies, without the place immediately falling into chaos….

        [T]he failure of President Bush’s Freedom Agenda and the Great Recession that we’re still dealing with, together signify that the post-war period of American dominion has ended. And the question that the contributors to the book are invited to answer is, well, if the American century is over, what was the American century all about? What can we learn from it?

        Instead of a bigger army, Bacevich counsels, we need a smaller more modest foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capability. “Modesty,” Bacevich writes, “requires giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and then 9/11 gave rise. It also means reining in the imperial presidents who expect the army to make good on those illusions.”

        Its Soldiers: The Imperial Soldier

        Bacevich describes the reality of the present-day soldier as follows:

        No matter how great the disaster – in relation to Iraq alone, consider the flawed intelligence used to justify the invasion, the bungled occupation, and the billions of “reconstruction” dollars squandered or stolen as a result of incompetence or blatant corruption – senior officials operate on the implicit assumption that they are immunized from accountability. In May 2007, in a stinging critique of post-9/11 military leadership, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote in Armed Forces Journal that “a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.” Yingling is correct – and one could easily broaden his indictment to include high-ranking civilians. A Pentagon file clerk who misplaces a classified document faces stiffer penalties than a defense secretary whose arrogant recklessness consumes thousands of lives.

        Failure does not yield apology or contrition or even acknowledgment of responsibility. Instead, it creates opportunities for yet more obfuscating explanations; in short, the chance to write a self-exculpatory memoir. “Look, not everything went right,” Secretary of State Condolezza Rice explained in shrugging off Iraq. “This is a very difficult circumstance. There were some things that went right and some things that went wrong. And you know what? We will have a chance to look at that in history. And I will have a chance to reflect on that when I have a chance to write my book.”

        Faced with a choice of acknowledging an uncomfortable truth or finding some way to conceal, spin, or deny that truth, those who preside over the institutions of the national security state invariably choose the latter…

        Although nominally serving the public the institutions making up this apparatus go to great lengths to evade public scrutiny, performing their duties shielded behind multiple layers of secrecy. Ostensibly, this cult of secrecy exists to deny information to America’s enemies. Its actual purpose is to control the information provided to the American people, releasing only what a particular agency or administration is eager to make known, while withholding (or providing in a sanitized form) information that might embarrass the government or call into question its policies. In 1961, the social critic Lewis Mumford described the already expansive national security state’s modus operandi this way: “one-way communication, the priestly monopoly of secret knowledge, the multiplication of secret agencies, the suppression of open discussion, and even the insulation of error against public criticism and exposure…which in practice nullifies public reaction and makes rational dissent the equivalent of patriotic disaffection, if not treason.” Events since have affirmed Mumford’s view many times over.

        1. from Mexico

          I might add that the private finance, energy and security/defense sectors which are the biggest boosters and lone beneficiaries of the US security state are dominated by transnational corporations which have no loyalties to the United States or its people. None whatsoever.

      2. from Mexico

        The Myth of the US Military

        Its Purpose: To perpetuate the empire of consumption

        “The unspoken assumption has been that profligate spending on what politicians euphemistically refer to as ‘defense’ can sustain profligate domestic consumption of energy and imported manufactures,” Bacevich writes. “Unprecedented military might could defer the day of reckoning indefinitely – so at least the hope went.”

        But even the crudest of self-serving, imperialist ambitions needs a mission, and in the US’s case it is the propagation of the one true faith: American exceptionalism combined with free-market fundamentalism.

        Its Capabilities: Full Spectrum Dominance

        As Bacevich explains:

        The end of the Cold War coincided almost precisely with the first Persian Gulf War of 1990, 1991, Operation Desert Storm. Operation Desert Storm was perceived to be this great, historic, never before seen victory…

        [T]he war itself was advertised as this great success, demonstrating that a new American way of war had been developed, and that this new American way of war held the promise of enabling the United States to exercise military dominion on a global basis in ways that the world had never seen.

        The people in the Pentagon had developed a phrase to describe this. They called it, ‘full spectrum dominance.’ Meaning, that the United States was going to exercise dominance, not just capability, dominance across the full spectrum of warfare. And this became the center of the way that the military advertised its capabilities in the 1990s.

        Its Soldiers: The Imperial Soldier

        Bacevich describes the perception of the professional soldier by the larger society, as well as the soldier’s own self-image, as follows:

        Since the end of the Cold War, opinion polls surveying public attitudes toward national institutions have regularly ranked the armed services first. While confidence in the executive branch, the Congress, the media, and even organized religion is diminishing, confidence in the military continues to climb. Otherwise acutely wary of having their pockets picked, Americans count on men and women in uniform to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. Americans fearful that the rest of society may be teetering on the brink of moral collapse console themselves with the thought that the armed services remain a repository of traditional values and old-fashioned virtue. With Americans becoming ever “more individualistic, more self-absorbed, more whiney, in a sense, more of a crybaby nation,” the columnist George Will told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, it is all the more important for the military to serve as a model for the rest of society, preserving values that others might deem “anachronistic.” According to Will, “it is a function of the military to be exemplars.”

        Confidence in the military has found further expression in a tendency to elevate the soldier to the status of national icon, the apotheosis of all that is great and good about contemporary America. The men and women of the armed services, gushed Newsweek in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, “looked like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. They were young, confident, and hardworking, and they went about their business with poise and élan.” A writer for Rolling Stone reported after a more recent and extended immersion in military life that “the Army was not the awful thing that my [anti-military] father had imagined”; it was instead “the sort of America he always pictured when he explained…his best hopes for the country.” According to the old post-Vietnam-era political correctness, the armed services had been a refuge for louts and mediocrities who probably couldn’t make it in the real world. By the turn of the twenty-first century a different view had taken hold. Now the United States military was “a place where everyone tried their hardest. A place where everybody…looked out for each other. A place where people – intelligent, talented people – said honestly that money wasn’t what drove them. A place where people spoke openly about their feelings.” Soldiers, it turned out, were not only more virtuous than the rest of us, but also more sensitive and even happier. Contemplating the GIs advancing on Baghdad in March 2003, the classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson saw something more than soldiers in battle. He ascertained “transcendence at work.” According to Hanson, the armed services had “somehow distilled from the rest of s an elite cohort” in which virtues cherished by earlier generations of Americans continued to flourish.

        Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, “two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve…. Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality.” Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that “the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve,” retired admiral Stanley Arthus has expressed concern that “more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve.” Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are “not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy.”

        In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgiveable sin is to be found guilty of failing to “support the troops.” In the realm of partisan politics, the political Right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military Left.

        In fact, the Democratic mainstream – if only to save itself from extinction – has long since purged itself of any dovish inclinations….

        Even among Left-liberal activists, the reflexive anti-militarism of the 1960s has given way to a more nuanced view….

        Likewise, liberals have grown comfortable with seeing the military establishment itself not as an obstacle to social change but as a venue in which to promote it, pointing the way for the rest of society on matters such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Advanced thinking on the Left calls not for bashing Colonel Blimp or General Halftrack as a retrograde warmonger but for enlisting his assistance (willing or not) on behalf of progressive causes.

      3. nonclassical

        I fear people missed Bamford’s expsose on cheney-bushit-“Rendon Group” propaganda, and extent of, surrounding Iraq invasion:

        Rendon’s involvement in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein began seven months later, in July 1990. Rendon had taken time out for a vacation — a long train ride across Scotland — when he received an urgent call. “Soldiers are massing at the border outside of Kuwait,” he was told. At the airport, he watched the beginning of the Iraqi invasion on television. Winging toward Washington in the first-class cabin of a Pan Am 747, Rendon spent the entire flight scratching an outline of his ideas in longhand on a yellow legal pad.
        “I wrote a memo about what the Kuwaitis were going to face, and I based it on our experience in Panama and the experience of the Free French operation in World War II,” Rendon says. “This was something that they needed to see and hear, and that was my whole intent. Go over, tell the Kuwaitis, ‘Here’s what you’ve got — here’s some observations, here’s some recommendations, live long and prosper.'”

        Back in Washington, Rendon immediately called Hamilton Jordan, the former chief of staff to President Carter and an old friend from his Democratic Party days. “He put me in touch with the Saudis, the Saudis put me in touch with the Kuwaitis and then I went over and had a meeting with the Kuwaitis,” Rendon recalls. “And by the time I landed back in the United States, I got a phone call saying, ‘Can you come back? We want you to do what’s in the memo.'”

        What the Kuwaitis wanted was help in selling a war of liberation to the American government — and the American public. Rendon proposed a massive “perception management” campaign designed to convince the world of the need to join forces to rescue Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government in exile agreed to pay Rendon $100,000 a month for his assistance.

        To coordinate the operation, Rendon opened an office in London. Once the Gulf War began, he remained extremely busy trying to prevent the American press from reporting on the dark side of the Kuwaiti government, an autocratic oil-tocracy ruled by a family of wealthy sheiks. When newspapers began reporting that many Kuwaitis were actually living it up in nightclubs in Cairo as Americans were dying in the Kuwaiti sand, the Rendon Group quickly counterattacked. Almost instantly, a wave of articles began appearing telling the story of grateful Kuwaitis mailing 20,000 personally signed valentines to American troops on the front lines, all arranged by Rendon.

        Rendon also set up an elaborate television and radio network, and developed programming that was beamed into Kuwait from Taif, Saudi Arabia. “It was important that the Kuwaitis in occupied Kuwait understood that the rest of the world was doing something,” he says. Each night, Rendon’s troops in London produced a script and sent it via microwave to Taif, ensuring that the “news” beamed into Kuwait reflected a sufficiently pro-American line.

        When it comes to staging a war, few things are left to chance. After Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, it was Rendon’s responsibility to make the victory march look like the flag-waving liberation of France after World War II. “Did you ever stop to wonder,” he later remarked, “how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American — and, for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?” After a pause, he added, “Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then.”

        Although his work is highly secret, Rendon insists he deals only in “timely, truthful and accurate information.” His job, he says, is to counter false perceptions that the news media perpetuate because they consider it “more important to be first than to be right.” In modern warfare, he believes, the outcome depends largely on the public’s perception of the war — whether it is winnable, whether it is worth the cost. “We are being haunted and stalked by the difference between perception and reality,” he says. “Because the lines are divergent, this difference between perception and reality is one of the greatest strategic communications challenges of war.”

        By the time the Gulf War came to a close in 1991, the Rendon Group was firmly established as Washington’s leading salesman for regime change. But Rendon’s new assignment went beyond simply manipulating the media. After the war ended, the Top Secret order signed by President Bush to oust Hussein included a rare “lethal finding” — meaning deadly action could be taken if necessary. Under contract to the CIA, Rendon was charged with helping to create a dissident force with the avowed purpose of violently overthrowing the entire Iraqi government. It is an undertaking that Rendon still considers too classified to discuss. “That’s where we’re wandering into places I’m not going to talk about,” he says. “If you take an oath, it should mean something.”

        Thomas Twetten, the CIA’s former deputy of operations, credits Rendon with virtually creating the INC. “The INC was clueless,” he once observed. “They needed a lot of help and didn’t know where to start. That is why Rendon was brought in.” Acting as the group’s senior adviser and aided by truckloads of CIA dollars, Rendon pulled together a wide spectrum of Iraqi dissidents and sponsored a conference in Vienna to organize them into an umbrella organization, which he dubbed the Iraqi National Congress. Then, as in Panama, his assignment was to help oust a brutal dictator and replace him with someone chosen by the CIA. “The reason they got the contract was because of what they had done in Panama — so they were known,” recalls Whitley Bruner, former chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad. This time the target was Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the agency’s successor of choice was Ahmad Chalabi, a crafty, avuncular Iraqi exile beloved by Washington’s neoconservatives.

        The key element of Rendon’s INC operation was a worldwide media blitz designed to turn Hussein, a once dangerous but now contained regional leader, into the greatest threat to world peace. Each month, $326,000 was passed from the CIA to the Rendon Group and the INC via various front organizations. Rendon profited handsomely, receiving a “management fee” of ten percent above what it spent on the project. According to some reports, the company made nearly $100 million on the contract during the five years following the Gulf War.

        Rendon made considerable headway with the INC, but following the group’s failed coup attempt against Saddam in 1996, the CIA lost confidence in Chalabi and cut off his monthly paycheck. But Chalabi and Rendon simply switched sides, moving over to the Pentagon, and the money continued to flow. “The Rendon Group is not in great odor in Langley these days,” notes Bruner. “Their contracts are much more with the Defense Department.”

        Rendon’s influence rose considerably in Washington after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. In a single stroke, Osama bin Laden altered the world’s perception of reality — and in an age of nonstop information, whoever controls perception wins. What Bush needed to fight the War on Terror was a skilled information warrior — and Rendon was widely acknowledged as the best. “The events of 11 September 2001 changed everything, not least of which was the administration’s outlook concerning strategic influence,” notes one Army report. “Faced with direct evidence that many people around the world actively hated the United States, Bush began taking action to more effectively explain U.S. policy overseas. Initially the White House and DoD turned to the Rendon Group.”

        Three weeks after the September 11th attacks, according to documents obtained from defense sources, the Pentagon awarded a large contract to the Rendon Group. Around the same time, Pentagon officials also set up a highly secret organization called the Office of Strategic Influence. Part of the OSI’s mission was to conduct covert disinformation and deception operations — planting false news items in the media and hiding their origins. “It’s sometimes valuable from a military standpoint to be able to engage in deception with respect to future anticipated plans,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in explaining the operation. Even the military’s top brass found the clandestine unit unnerving. “When I get their briefings, it’s scary,” a senior official said at the time.

        In February 2002, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon had hired Rendon “to help the new office,” a charge Rendon denies. “We had nothing to do with that,” he says. “We were not in their reporting chain. We were reporting directly to the J-3” — the head of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following the leak, Rumsfeld was forced to shut down the organization. But much of the office’s operations were apparently shifted to another unit, deeper in the Pentagon’s bureaucracy, called the Information Operations Task Force, and Rendon was closely connected to this group. “Greg Newbold was the J-3 at the time, and we reported to him through the IOTF,” Rendon says.

        According to the Pentagon documents, the Rendon Group played a major role in the IOTF. The company was charged with creating an “Information War Room” to monitor worldwide news reports at lightning speed and respond almost instantly with counterpropaganda. A key weapon, according to the documents, was Rendon’s “proprietary state-of-the-art news-wire collection system called ‘Livewire,’ which takes real-time news-wire reports, as they are filed, before they are on the Internet, before CNN can read them on the air and twenty-four hours before they appear in the morning newspapers, and sorts them by keyword. The system provides the most current real-time access to news and information available to private or public organizations.”

  6. Goin' South

    Binney and his business partner and fellow former NSA-er, Kirk Wiebe, are appearing on everything from Democracy Now to Hannity. Watching them praise Snowden and dis’ the NSA on Dobbs and Hannity is quite remarkable. Fox viewers must be suffering from intense cognitive dissonance. That Roger Ailes is putting them at all on says to me that a portion of the Establishment Republican Party is considering going the Paul route rather than stick with the neocons. Meanwhile, MSDNC is sticking with Obama. Very foolish.

    1. JTFaraday

      “Fox viewers must be suffering from intense cognitive dissonance.”

      Possibly they were softened up by the IRS scandal, what with the government persecuting the real Americans and true patriots of this great country.

      1. jrs

        True dat. conservative: But what if the government starts going after political enemies (like tea baggers). real leftist: The government going after political enemies could happen? Really? You don’t say ..

    2. jrs

      I don’t think I encounter the right type of Republicans because most of those I encounter are quite alarmed by this (yes even if they are only using it to bash Obama which for some is simpley no doubt the case!). Whereas the Dems I encounter are just non-stop apologizing for the totalitarian state and backing it’s full force against Snowden. Now I have no doubt that authoritarian Republicans exist, since the history of that party is plenty authoritarian, so if I went seeking them out … ugh why should I do such thing, the Dem Stalinists are already driving me crazy.

      1. banger

        It’s definitely time for the non-authoritarian left to break with the Democratic Party. This issue has a chance to create an alliance between dissident leftists and those on the right who still believe what they say about freedom.

  7. Chris E.

    Nice run-down of expert opinions on this. I somewhat doubt the motives of Sensenbrenner, given his op-ed on this topic used the words “Obama administration” at least five or six times. But nevertheless, there’s plenty of support building in favor of Snowden.

    Related: The polls are showing basically 30% think Snowden is a patriot, 25% think he’s a traitor, and the rest are still sorting through the propaganda ( )

    1. jrs

      Just a bit more propaganda and they’ll turn. I tend to believe that opinion always turns with enough propaganda being how I saw people turn against OWS seemly based on it. Of course it’s also possible that particular movement, wonderful though they were, just lost the thread of the discussion.

      1. jrs

        Of coures it is said Occupy’s problem was lack of heiracrchy, possibly, but it occurs to me not only would that have put the leaders in danger of course, but it would have attracted all the crazed authoritarians that have almost totally devoured the Dem party like a cancer at this point.

      2. Chris E.

        This is why Greenwald and the vocal pro-Snowden crowd is playing the game properly. This is about propaganda, this is about perception, and it has to be managed. And Greenwald is doing it excellently — dismissal of blind rejection of his stories, mockery of those who spew government talking points in the face of contradictory hard evidence.

        The only way to fight propaganda is with more propaganda. And that means using the truth in combination with effective rhetorical techniques to convince the opposing side. It’s not dishonest, it’s just fighting a fair fight.

    2. nonclassical

      …bushbama has been quite “successful”…attracting bushitter supporters-alienating “the professional left”…

      …how appropriate faux news now postures against the very programs their war criminal leaders created…Orwellian double-think…

  8. Sam Drapper

    After the Patriot Act, what was illegal became legal. It was the mode of operation Banksters/Thrifts did when they launched their jihad against Americans. If I was a Bankster, I would want CACI, Booze, Northrup all of ’em spying on my behalf, to make sure people aren’t so furious they counter our terror with their own. All this spyin’ has nothing to do with our FIRE sector? Bullsh#t.
    Publically of course, we’d pretend it’s about some moslems in strategically important areas ’round the world. It’s too bad the NSA isn’t looked at with the same sense of corruption as the OCC, because there it’s easier to see who owns who.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      I won’t tell you how I learned about this, but in the first week on the job, an in-house corporate lawyer many years ago, expressed the thought that a proposed course of action might be unlawful. Upper management shot back, “If what we plan to do is against the law, we’ll just have to change the law.”

      How times have changed. Now they don’t even bother to change the law, but of course they do whatever they want anyway.

  9. rob

    I have to say, Snowden is playing a great hand.I guess after watching the black hole they threw bradley manning in,with almost nothing from “his point of view”,getting out.Snowden realized he was going to have to walk straight through the fire to escape the flames.Now, like a political dissident;whatever they eventually do to him, will be on a public record of some sort.BRAVO!!!!
    He is an american hero.If for no other reason than that he knew what he was doing was WRONG.That what the gov’t/private contractors are doing is WRONG/illegal.He also had the character to resist the obvious “BRIBE”, of a salary that high for doing nothing but watching screeens.My guess is that these security state companies have a lot of believers in the ranks because they pay well above “the going rate” for people who can’t really do anything else.Like the TSA.
    But Bill Binney has also been a great source of information about these despicable programs.All of these people blowing the whistle, are hero’s.Since america’s war is against everyone,including american citizens.WE are all drafted.

    the surveilence program is just the tip of the iceberg,though.
    the financial crimes of wall st.,the global occupations,the propaganda fronts,etc.We are all under attack by a global elite who see us as their food source.We are all being harvested,from the cradle to the grave
    These surveilence programs didn’t start after 9/11.Back in the 90’s;when I would tell people about programs I was reading about:the fbi had “carnivore” and the like, and the cia, and it’s associated intelligence agencies in the other first world countries were upgrading “the eschelon” program and appuratus……People didn’t even believe me.They said,”the gov’t isn’t allowed to do that stuff”, or “big deal.we already know they spy on everyone”.They also said that even if they were collecting all this info, they couldn’t feasibly LOOK at everything. the technology just wasn’t there yet..
    What the difference now is that the “gov’t”, has collectively decided to wage “false flag attacks”, here, on 9/11, to justify the coming “war on freedom”.that they are waging today.These surveilence tools are just a weapon in this larger attack.
    From a tactical standpoint, these systems won’t deter terrorists.They all know not to use this type of communication.That was a lesson for them from the trial of the first time the trade towers were bombed in 1993.(you know when the fbi informant gave the terrorists “live” explosive,as opposed to “dud” explosive, so that the terrorist network wouldn’t be suspicious.According to the testimony, the informant wanted to use the dud explosive, but the fbi handlers wanted the live stuff used.)
    Even 60 minutes had a program in the late 90’s about the eschelon program, and the super structures being built.The whistle blowers back then, were talking about rediculous instances like:
    A woman who said her son really “bombed” at the school play the night before was being “investigated”.But mostly they were saying that the system was being used for insider trading, corporate espionage and the like.And this was while clinton was in office.
    it is only the technology that is improving.Not the desire to control everything from our “central scrutinizers”

    1. banger

      Indeed. The security services exist to keep the political status-quo. It was why JFK and others were assassinated. These services have a long history that goes back to WWI when the beginnings of the police-state really began with the Creel Committee, the Palmer Raids, the birth of the FBI (which acted as a virtual political secret police) and the FBN which positioned drug laws as a means to oppress dissidents and minorities as well as keep favored gangs and countries (Nationalist China) in power and money.

      Reading the real history of the U.S. through doing your own research is quite a revelation–and it’s very important to focus on both the propaganda agencies (the mainstream media) and the security services to view what has been going on for nearly a century.

    2. nonclassical

      …an opportunity for us all to watch as bushbama’s response defines himself, yet again…socratic truth…

  10. james

    just like this last dirty election the attack on romney?!twisting some truth to make you look bad ,stupid, and well like what’s been going on to turn it on the other you might say.this is very dangerous. in no way can it keep us safer.but it’s just more power that is not needed .it sure didn’t help ft.hood or the bombing in boston now did it… well, did it?

  11. charles sereno

    Great collection, GW. Our protection from unworthy people in power lies in their propensity to stupidly overshoot. They made a big mistake with Thomas Drake, an honest man, and are now paying a price.
    “This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (WS)

    1. from Mexico

      I thought Andrew M. Lobaczewski in Political Ponerology articulated a rather compelling theory to explain what we’re seeing:

      The achievement of absolute domination by pathocrats in the government of a country cannot be permanent since large sectors of the society become disaffected by such rule and eventually find some way of toppling it. This is part of the historical cycle… Such a system of government has nowhere to go but down.


      One of the first discoveries made by a society of normal people is that it is superior to the new rulers in intelligence and practical skills, no matter what geniuses they seek to appear to be. The knots stultifying reason are gradually loosened, and fascination with the new rulership’s non-existent secret knowledge and plan of action begins to diminish, followed by familiarization with the accurate knowledge about this new deviant reality.

      The world of normal people is always superior to the deviant one whenever constructive activity is needed, whether it be the reconstruction of a devastated country, the area of technology, the organization of economic life, or scientific and medical work.


      The army similarly needs people endowed with perspicacity and essential qualifications, especially in the area of modern weapons and warfare. At crucial moments, healthy common sense can override the results of pathocratic drill. In such a state of affairs, many people are forced to adapt, accepting the ruling system as a status quo, but also criticizing it. They fulfill their duties amid doubts and conflicts of conscience, always searching for a more sensible way out which they discuss within trusted circles. In effect, they are always hanging in a limbo between pathocracy and the world of normal people. ..


      The pathological authorities are convinced that the appropriate pedagogical, indoctrinational, propaganda, and terrorist means can teach a person with a normal instinctive substratum, range of feelings, and basic intelligence to think and feel according to their own different fashion. This conviction is only slightly less unrealistic, psychologically speaking, than the belief that people able to see normally can be broken of this habit.


      The entire system of force, terror, and forced indoctrination, or, rather, pathologization, thus proves effectively infeasible, which causes the pathocrats no small measure of surprise. Reality places a question mark on their conviction that such methods can change people in such fundamental ways so that they can eventually recognize this pathocratic kind of government as a “normal state.”

      1. nonclassical

        from Mejico,

        …I love the political ponerology quotes, BUT that’s all well and good, UNTIL the run on grocery stores precedes any further re-stocking of shelves…REAL “control” of the masses…watch, as they “control” themselves…

      2. Doug Terpstra

        This hopeful analysis reminds me of Ronald Wright’s observation:

        “Once nature starts to foreclose . . . the social contact breaks down. People may suffer stoically for a while, but sooner or later the ruler’s relationship with heaven is exposed as a delusion or a lie. Then the temples are looted, the statues thrown down, the barbarians welcomed, and the emperor’s naked rump is last seen fleeing through a palace window.”

  12. banger

    It is interesting what sort of people are flushed out by this issue. I see a new political consensus among a sizable group of people on all sides of the political spectrum. Do we want to live in an authoritarian surveillance state managed by the Secret Police? Or do we want to take a chance on democratizing society with all its attendant risks?

    The alleged risks, in my view, that the security services are “protecting” us from are either exaggerated or just fiction in order to keep the status-quo. This is politics as usual–authoritarian states require “enemies” if they don’t exist you create them either out of whole cloth or by provocations.

    We have a chance to unite under the vague banner of “freedom” a term not easily defined but it is something I believe can be felt and aspired to. This banner can dissolve a lot of the differences between left and right.

    1. nonclassical

      banger-not so much “a new political consensus” as very OLD party political hackery…as those who CREATED the programs they now revile, play “blame game”…

      of course bushbama (continuation of bushit political, military, economic policies) is more of same…

    2. ian

      “The alleged risks, in my view, that the security services are “protecting” us from are either exaggerated or just fiction in order to keep the status-quo”

      Theres a bit of an agency problem here (no pun intended). These security services are staffed with real people whose livelihood depends on ‘imminent’ threats’.

  13. Jackrabbit

    Some interesting info from Kimdotcom: Prism: concerns over government tyranny are legitimate

    …safeguards have limited value. According to congressional reporting, the FISA court received 1,789 applications for authority to conduct electronic surveillance in 2012, but not one application was denied. We cannot debate whether the FISA court is a rubber stamp, because its proceedings are secret. Further, any assurance to US citizens that the NSA will not gather and archive their data is suspect. The “Five Eyes” alliance between the intelligence agencies of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK effectively permits those governments to circumvent the prohibition against gathering data on their own citizens by sharing information across the Five Eyes intelligence community. The UK for example can spy on Americans and make that information available to the US government on its massive spy cloud – one that the NSA operates and the Five Eyes share.

  14. docg

    Thanks for posting this, Yves, it’s helpful. Yesterday I insisted that we needed more information regarding this matter, so as far as I’m concerned Washington’s post is definitely a step in the right direction. I still don’t know what to make of Snowden’s allegation that someone in his position could have easy access to the content of anyone’s phone or email records. That’s been denied from official quarters, but we certainly have reason to be skeptical since these same officials are often guided more by expediency than truth. Thanks to Snowden’s actions we’ll probably have a congressional investigation on this and hopefully then the truth will come out. Obama has too many enemies in congress for this not to happen.

    No, I don’t think we are living in a “police state.” (If we were, Obama’s enemies would be dead or locked up by now.) And no, I don’t think it likely that we will be in the near future — though a sweeping Tea Party victory in the next congressional elections might well bring us close to that point. And no, I don’t think Obama is an evil genius, despite the many questionable decisions he’s come up with. I think he’s simply out of his depth and letting himself be manipulated.

    What appears to be emerging from all the dust kicked up in the last week is what many people suspected long ago: our post 9/11 efforts to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks constitute a huge over-reaction to the point that both our military and our security operations got completely out of control. This may well have been a large part of Bin Laden’s strategy, to hit us with an attack so outrageous as to shake our confidence and induce a very expensive and confused over-reaction that would ultimately be self-destructive. In this sense maybe the “terrorists have won” after all.

    Regardless of what one may think about our need for this level of surveillance, or the dangers it may pose to our civil liberties, it does seem clear that the system has expanded well beyond the point that it can operate either fairly or efficiently. Yesterday I found another of George Washington’s excellent posts, via Zero Hedge, and it confirmed some of my worst suspicions in that regard. It’s filled with sobering comments from well informed sources the administration would do well to heed. I highly recommend it:

  15. clarence swinney

    The next several months, and possible years, will be a gross repeat of the past four years of government inaction on the most important issues to the American people. Republicans promised to focus entirely on jobs then stopped the Presidents American Jobs Program which could have saved/created four million jobs. They spent their time on so called scandals. Their obstructionism won them the distinction of the worst, least effective Congress in history.
    Remember how Clinton with a Democratic Congress got 86% of legislation passed in his first year and 86% in the second. Then, a Republican Congress gave him 27%.. The Republicans lack a coherent agenda to help the economic recovery for the American people.
    Where are their leaders with a passable program? All the phony scandals can be laid at the feet of Republican inepitude and economic malfeasance to hinder the President’s attempt to govern.

    1. Hugh

      The Democrats and Republicans are complementary evils. Obama has never fought for any progressive goal. He never included progressives in his Administration. He never used the vast powers of the imperial Presidency or even its normal powers to any progressive end. This idea that Obama has not realized a progressive agenda because of Republican “obstructionism” is pure fantasy and very tired propaganda.

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    Great article. I found Drake’s comments particularly cogent; among other points, “this [what Snowden has revealed] is the tip of the iceberg.”

    I don’t agree that the timing has been perfect. Snowden might have waited another week to reveal himself so as to keep as much focus for as long as possible on illegal unconstitutional government spying rather than on Snowden himself as hero/whistleblower/leaker/traitor, even if it gave the NSA a chance to do so first. I wish Greewald would come up with another post to put things back on the subject of the greatest civil rights abuses since prior to 1776.

    Let’s face it. Most people drool when the bell is rung, when Blitzer or Prancer or Maddow or Rush say something like, “And now for the latest in the…”, and then go on to deliver the establishment talking points from their secretly licensed and meticulously monitored and choreographed “perspectives”. And the talking points are ALL about the leaker and occasionally about the whistleblower and almost never about the issue; unconstitutional harmful intrusion into the lives of private citizens done in utter secrecy by public officials.

    At worst people and trolls are chattering about traitors who “should be shot” and at best they are expressing their sympathy for an American Hero.

    1. Nathanael

      Obama, Holder, and Clapper are in fact traitors who should be shot, but that’s probablly not what you meant…

  17. Hugh

    It is interesting to see to what lengths the media and “critics” of the NSA have gone to avoid calling Obama, Clapper, and the rest liars, or PRISM and the other spying programs illegal and unconstitutional.

    Re Bacevich’s comments on the sanctity of support for the troops, it is important to realize that such support is propaganda not real. If they supported the troops, they would not send them to fight and die in endless, meaningless imperial wars. They would not send them on multiple deployments. We can see just how much they support the troops by the soaring suicides in the military. Support the troops is a convenient political trope, nothing more. The powers that be don’t give a shit about the troops.

      1. jurisV

        Nonclassical —

        Thanks for that reminder of our good friend Halliburton. And of course their former CEO, Cheney the draft dodger.

        But IMHO a more tragic and poignant example of of our government’s disdain for our troops was the shameful treatment of Pat Tillman’s death for PR purposes; and the stonewalling of Tillman’s family as they tried to get at the truth of what happened to their son.

        Our government’s leaders and the PTB not only do not give a shit about the troops — they never have.

        Fortunately there are lots of people on a WORKING LEVEL in the VA and volunteer groups that do honestly care about the troops and do their best with scandalously insufficient resources.

        Thanks Hugh for your comment. Especially the reminder that: “If they supported the troops, they would not send them to fight and die in endless, meaningless imperial wars.”

  18. nonclassical

    …be very, very careful-I can tell you for absolutely certain, the “web” is about to be controlled…in transition already…quitting “sell-phone SOMA” is a good idea….inherent propaganda involving TRUTH is necessary, as defined….but it will come down to each of us telling it to the other…and really, really good liberal arts education, which is vanishing…(learning HOW to think-TRUTH-Socratic method)…

  19. EmilianoZ

    I thought we would get either “1984” or “Brave new world”. It looks like we’re getting both. The elites are not taking any chances. The forces of control massed against us are just enormous. I can’t see any way out. The sacrifices of people like Snowden or Manning are admirable but there’s something poignantly quixotic about their fight.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      […]there’s something poignantly quixotic about their fight.

      Snowden and Manning, the American versions, in slow motion, of the Monk who set himself ablaze in 1963 during the Vietnam war. That monk was also criminalized or completely misunderstood by the 1963 equivalent of today’s American amateurs of authoritarianism.

      That said, I still have my fingers crossed and in spite of the seemingly senseless and surprisingly cruel suffering already inflicted on Manning and soon to be inflicted on Manning AND Snowden, in appearance – only to be jeered at by fools, both, like the Monk, will have a lasting and deeply positive effect on society for their sacrifice.

      This will not be quickly forgotten.

  20. Brooklin Bridge

    Oh well, at least Elizabeth Warren is using this occasion to sneak in a snippet, “pssst Obama, yea you. Shhh! How about a little transparency on the Trans-Pacific Trade negotiations? Eh? Just asking, no biggie…”

    Ironic she is talking about transparency when she know damn well no one can hear a word she is saying over the noise about the most secretive administration in US history spying on it’s own citizens. But of course she can latter claim that she called Obama out for trying (and almost certainly succeeding) to ram this horrible trans-national corporate wet dream through with no meaningful participation or scrutiny from Congress. A congress made up of traitors who would kiss their own relevance and that of their office, never mind their constituency, good-bye for a postage stamp as long as those great corporate revolving doors keep revolving.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      And in more news about Warren the liberal – she voted against states rights to require GMO labeling,

      Among the surprising votes against the amendment were those of Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reached out to both Senators’ offices for comment, but did not receive responses. Massachusetts is a stronghold of the biotechnology industry, and Wisconsin grows quite a bit of genetically engineered corn and soy.

  21. jfleni

    During the dark days of World War 2, Supreme Court Justice Douglas said “The Constitution is not a Suicide Pact”! Of course he referred to the fact that the government had all necessary legal powers to defend itself and the nation, even to the extent of asking and even requiring some Americans to risk life and limb, which a great many did.

    That is a very different thing from a lot of jumped-up and ignorant yahoos yelling “Security” while they snoop on Granma’s phone calls, and everything else with very little discretion about the difference between the trivial and the menacing.

    I would call that attitude something very close to a “Suicide Pact”.

    1. Tokai Tuni

      Indeed, we’ll have to take a sober look at WW II, a perfect study of the American experience. No no, we can’t get all Ken Burns up in here. From domestic interning of Americans and rampant racism to corporations and banks routinely playing both sides (JP Morgan, Ford, IBM, Standard Oil) the great war is a device entice future generations to swallow the great lie either with their lives or their freedoms. We aren’t Saving Private Manning, we tortured him, put him on suicide watch and built a kangaroo court.

    2. Sufferin' Succotash

      Wasn’t that Justice Robert Jackson who made the remark about the Constitution not being a suicide pact?
      Jest askin’…

      1. jfleni

        I stand corrected; I believe it was Mr. Justice Jackson. They were both close contemporaries. Thus the error.

    3. Tokai Tuni

      Terminiello v. City of Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that a “breach of peace” ordinance of the City of Chicago which banned speech which “stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance” was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

      “Suicide pact” was a device used in Justice Jackson’s dissent.

      Ironically, a similar theme was in Spielberg’s post 9/11 film “War of the Worlds” where Tom Cruise’s character had to beat paranoid shrieker Tim Robbin’s character to death with a shovel to for safety and security purposes.

  22. citizendave

    There is a doctrine in the super secret agencies designed to contain secret information among the fewest possible people: “need to know”. By this doctrine, even people working within the Agency should not have knowledge of a particular surveillance program or technology. A whistleblower would only be able to reveal the narrow slice to which she had access. The full scope of the Agency’s activities is known to only a few.

    How do we know the public narrative is not being managed? To fight a forest fire, a smaller fire that can be controlled more easily is sometimes set, to eliminate fuel in the main fire’s path, thus halting or slowing its advance. A deliberate leak could set the narrative to make the actual scope seem much smaller than it is. Snowden seems genuine, but just to say it, a super secret agency can rather easily hide the majority of its critical assets. A naive, gullible, propagandized, quiescent public all too easily chases a red herring.

    We could eliminate the need for whistle blowers by trying to imagine a worst case scenario, and then build public policy to address it. The goal must surely be Total Information Awareness. Whether or not it would be legal or constitutional does not matter, as long as academic research and development is not proscribed by law. NSA can pursue cutting edge technology without necessarily implementing it. They are on a mission, and that mission is to protect the Constitution and the people of the USA. Sounds cornball, but I know that it’s true. We know that much of the purported threat against US is manufactured in order to fund the big jobs program that is defense. But at the core of it is a legitimate concern — we have seen that the USA has had enemies in the past, and it is at least plausible that we will continue to see threats against us — especially if we continue to act with the hubris that has been evident in our lifetimes. We’ve been sticking our noses in everybody’s business all over the world. Some people are angry. Maybe his baby or his wife or his mother or somebody he loved got droned. And he doesn’t need to look very far to find others who feel the same way. So we do have enemies. NSA wants to detect them if they should have the temerity to give physicality to their thoughts. Until we get the thought police, the only way to keep his intentions secret is to keep his ideas to himself, until he decides to act.

    In the old days, during Vietnam, NSA’s role was to collect signals intelligence. They did some analysis, but mostly their data went to CIA for analysis. The point here is that the conversation should be made broader, to include the entire security apparatus. NSA is not the only player here. Their job is to intercept, collect, store and retrieve, and analyze, and then to report items of interest up the chain for further analysis.

    NSA maintains an R&D and manufacturing campus at or near Fort Meade. James Bamford writes about it in Body of Secrets. They want to push the technology envelope. I’m sure they are working on artificial intelligence, the better to analyze the vast data they collect. If they are not omniscient, it’s not for lack of trying. They want to try to stay ahead of the curve, to anticipate techniques that could be used against us, like spread spectrum broadcasting, for example, or something we haven’t yet dreamed of in our cutting edge science fiction speculation.

    So the question for public policy should be whether or not we want to give up some of our dwindling privacy in exchange for some measure of security against possible threats against us.

    As for people who sort of smugly say “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” I have a disquieting thought for you. The paranoid law-and-order types will look at you and your squeaky clean record and think maybe you are a top foreign agent in a sleeper cell, keeping a low profile to avoid calling attention to yourself. You’d better get yourself busted for pot or something to make them look elsewhere.

    We owe a great debt to the whistle blowers for reigniting the public conversation from time to time. The crisis blows over, the fickle media turns its attention elsewhere, and the beat goes on, until somebody else has the courage and plausibility to call attention to at least part of what is happening at No Such Agency. I hope Mr. Snowden comes through this safely.

    1. Nathanael

      The main threats to the USA right now come FROM the NSA, CIA, DoD, and so forth. We’re watching them right now.

      They can’t “protect and defend the Constitution” by violating the 4th Amendment.

  23. jurisV

    I have to say that I’m flabbergasted at the new addition to our “language” that says (via James Clapper)– I’m not lying. I’m just giving you the LEAST UNTRUE answer. Just effin’ WOW !!

    Our country is not in good hands; and I don’t think a democracy can long survive this level of degraded language.

    1. LucyLulu

      Ah, yes, and the word ‘collection’ in the context of data is redefined.

      In an interview with Andrea Mitchell–

      JAMES CLAPPER: And this has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too– too cute by half. But it is– there are honest differences on the semantics of what– when someone says “collection” to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.

      The article explains:

      Under Department of Defense regulations, information is considered to be “collected” only after it has been “received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component,” and “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”

      In other words, the NSA can intercept and store communications in its database, then have an algorithm search them for key words and analyze the metadata without ever considering the communications “collected.”

      Clapper went on to use the a library full of books on shelves as an analogy. Until the books are taken down and read, they aren’t considered “collected”.

      Thus, Clapper wasn’t ‘lying’ if data if about Americans wasn’t actually analyzed and inspected by a human. However, requests about the numbers of Americans targeted have gone unanswered to date, citing “state secrets” privilege. However, as another EFF article pointed out, it was data from this ‘library’ that led to the uncovering of the emails that prompted Gen. Petraeus’ resignation. If a four-star general/American hero isn’t immune from being taken down by this surveillance, what chance does the ordinary citizen have?a

    1. LucyLulu

      Leave it to the lawyers not to let a serious crisis go to waste………. but it brings up another possible side to this explosion in data monitoring capabilities. Assuming the data continues to be available for use by the government for ‘national security’ purposes with a court order, should the same data be available for other purposes and by other parties, if they also obtain a court order? Perhaps for less controversial purposes, those widely agreed to be desirable, e.g. proving the innocence of a wrongfully convicted death row inmate? What if all involved parties agree to the disclosure?

      Also, what’s to stop private firms from getting into the same business? Google, Facebook, ISP’s, all these companies have EULA’s (user agreements) that allow for the sharing of information with third parties. Typically the information is used to sell the ads that allow the provision of free services to the user. We only rely on their good will not to sell your information to data mining firms who might then sell to angry spouses, suing attorneys, stalkers, etc.

  24. Jackrabbit

    JurisV, Citizen Dave, EmilianoZ, Hugh, and others that have commented here make some great points. Mulling these over, leads one to ask: Is it already too late?

    Note: from here on, I’ll use PRISM to include all programs that together provide pervasive surveillance.

    Isn’t PRISM effectively a social NUKE? Wouldn’t any regime that controlled a fully-operational PRISM-like system a) be able to thwart all effective resistance, and b) refuse to give it up?

    It could explain a lot: Why the IRS scandal? Why the reluctance to send reinforcements to Benghazi if that ‘screw up’ the election? Why the attack on Whistle-blowers? etc. Is it because Obama Administration, and those behind it, want to ensure that they remain in control of these capabilities?

    While the capabilities might not be fully operational, simply the AWARENESS of the power that PRISM will soon provide might be enough to significantly alter political and policy decisions.

    Operating a system like PRISM is inherently dangerous to the free, democratic society that we fancy ourselves to be. Rendering such a system ‘safe’ likely requires much much more than occasional oversight and secret courts, if indeed, it is at all possible to do so.

    To my knowledge, only Kim Dotcom has called for eliminating PRISM altogether. Congress seems to be focused (for the moment) on better understanding the system with an eye toward improving oversight and reducing ‘over-reach’. Most (at this time) seem to accept the premise that PRISM is worthwhile and that the human operators, from the President to IT contractors, can be constrained to act legally and appropriately.

    Thus far, I find the political spin to support Obama’s position (Trust him! Congress was briefed – well some of them) and arguments in favor of PRISM to be flimsy and self-serving:
    – It has contributed to preventing dozens of attacks? But how major were these attacks? and what was the nature of the ‘contribution’?
    – We can help our allies overseas? Can’t we help them with out PRISM? The nature of PRISM is oppressive: is that how we want to help them?
    – Safe-guards and oversight mean it can be operated safely? But this side-steps the (much) more important question of Why do we need it? (except as a tool for oppression?) – and didn’t Banks have safeguards that made the GFC impossible?
    – They don’t have enough staff to read all the emails and listen to the phone calls! Just BS.

    What fundamental principle provides a check on a PRISM-like system? With nukes we had ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’. It was crazy, but it worked. We managed to not to destroy our world. But by what mechanism do we avoid a dystopian future when our government operates a system like PRISM?

    The key to dismantling and eliminating PRISM-like systems, I think, is demonstrating that any additional safety that such a system provides is far outweighed by the risk (a practical, cost-benefit analysis). But I really think we need to hear from historians, humanists, philosophers and clergy about the risks to Democracy and Human Rights as well.

  25. LucyLulu


    In a rare public filing in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Justice Department today urged continued secrecy for a 2011 FISC opinion that found the National Security Agency’s surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act to be unconstitutional. Significantly, the surveillance at issue was carried out under the same controversial legal authority that underlies the NSA’s recently-revealed PRISM program.

  26. Sleeper

    What innocents –

    Governments have broken into communicate circuits for millenia.

    We should cherish and celebrate our wonderful governments technological expertise.

    And since NSA has the phone data, we should ask that NSA use their files to determine who outed Valerie Phlame. After all this was treason wasn’t it ?

    And then NSA should move on to solve the question of whether or not Anynomus did actually prevent that IT company from stealing the last presidential election.

    NSA should use the data it has to make ALL of us safe.

  27. sierra7

    Lots of great comments!
    It’s important to be very careful reading Andrew Bacevich’s views; in my view he is another “gate-keeper” of the US establishment…that “invisible” wall betweent the power of our military industrial complex and the people.
    A careful reading of his writings will include lots of “conditional phraseology” that lets him “slip” between outright power establishment critisism and a soft “by-pass” in order to remain in the good graces of that power establishment…sort of like how the NY Times David Brooks writes….or others who wish to maintain their relationships with power.

    Do not confuse “freedom”, that word that is expelled from so many “patriots”, with true liberty! There is a difference.

    Two words that are thrown about by the national security establishment/captured MSM:
    “Warriors” and “Homeland”
    The MSM no longer refers to those in uniform as “soldiers”, but as “warriors”…….seemingly a descriptive “….above and beyond a mere soldier; one that is almost a “God”…..and reflective on the national security state mentality in protection of the “homeland”……A state descriptive analagous to the defunct,decrepit, criminal state of Apartheid South Africa.

    I completely believe that Mr. Snowden is a good citizen, who like so many in the past have stepped forward in this country to speak citizen (rights) power to the national security state…which is no longer a, “….budding” one, but exists in actuality and has for decades and is just getting more arrogant and sophisticated.

    I write many letters to editors of my local paper and regional one…this is my latest on this subject…

    “The US government has a long, active history of attempting to stifle political dissent. “Uttering” negative speech against the US government was a crime; any “scurrilous” language to “defame” it, a crime.
    Acts by the US government cast a wide and far net against individual citizen, immigrant, main stream opposition political party participants, or other “troublemakers” who opposed entrenched political power.
    The US has used overt and covert programs in place to divert public attention from its black and covert ops by impugning its own citizen dissenters during times of stress.
    June 1798, The “Alien Friends Act”, authorized the president to deport any resident alien considered ‘dangerous’ to the peace and safety of the US”
    July 1798, The “Sedition Act” made it a crime to ‘oppose any measure of the government……or its officials.”
    The famous “Palmer Raids” of 1919, targeting the most vulnerable, immigrants, organized labor activists and other dissenters that were eventually deported.
    Dies Committee of 1938 and its successor, The House Un-American Activities Committee, 1945; Smith Act, 1940; American Legion/FBI scandal (and other citizen groups) 1940-1954; Project Shamrock, 1945; McCarran Act, 1950; 1956, the infamous secret FBI Cointel-Pro program; “Operation Chaos”, (anti-Vietnam dissent) 1967, and many more up to the present Patriot Act and its resultant expansive machinations.
    The April 1976, “Church Committee Report on Domestic Surveillance and Other Illegal Activities by US Intelligence” is an excellent primer on the danger of these programs and the ultimate result, a totalitarian government. Obviously this excellent report has been ignored by presidents and the two major political parties.
    The more severe US foreign policies embrace the perceived inherent right to exploit anyone else’s natural, human and political resources for its own “interests”, the more repressive it will act against its own citizens’ constitutional rights.
    Our Bill or Rights needs “Whistleblowers”.

    Obviously there are more examples that I have not inculed, but letters contents are limited in varying degrees at different papers.

  28. MaroonBulldog

    It’s really just very simple. They propose to protect America by destroying what it stands for. Just like Joe McCarthy in the good old days.

  29. MaroonBulldog

    “It’s now criminal to expose the crimes of the state.”

    My thoughts, exactly. Reminds me of the common-law crime of seditious libel–holding the government up to hate, contempt, and ridicule. Truth was not a defense to a charge of seditious libel. Truthful reports of hateful, contemptible, and riduculous act by the government were the most damaging and dangerous of all.

    Seditious libel law has been unconstitutional for a long time, but what would you be willing to bet that the administration isn’t trying to rethink that one?

    Does anyone remember the name of Wilkes and the inspiration for the fourth amendment? It was the English abuse of search warrants against opposition in Parliament, and the case that introduced punitive damages into English law, as a sanction against government misconduct.

Comments are closed.