The BOMB SHELL part of this article comes right at the end, but I urge you to read the whole.
These are excerpts from the interview of James Bamford, author of several books dealing with the NSA, National Security Agency. This agency is secret, and concerns itself with eavesdropping and tapping into worldwide communications, and if necessary breaking codes that protect them.
The full interview can be found here, at DemocracyNow, dateline October 14 2008.
First, an excerpt from the DemocracyNow interview with Ms. Adrienne Kinne, ex-NSA employee:
ADRIENNE KINNE: I was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and I was actually mobilized shortly after 9/11 with a group of reservists who were eventually sent to Fort Gordon to work a mission, that it was actually a brand new mission. It was something not like anything I had done in military intelligence previously. And this new mission involved the intercept of satellite phone communications in Iraq and Afghanistan and basically a huge swath of the region around those two countries.
We started listening to the entire region pretty much immediately. I think this was December of 2001. And I was mobilized from October 2001 through August of 2003. So I was working that mission pretty much from December through August of 2003.
And over the course of my time, as we slowly began to identify phone numbers and who belonged to what, one thing that gave me grave concern was that as we identified phone numbers, we started to find more and more and more numbers that belonged not to any organizations affiliated with terrorism or with military—with militaries of Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, but with humanitarian aid organizations, non-governmental organizations, who include the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, a whole host of humanitarian aid organizations. And it also included journalists.
The allegation is this: the NSA was spying on Americans (and others) who had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, the Taliban, Osama or anything of the sort.
Red Cross, various non-governmental aid organizations, and journalists were the targets.
Now, lets read some excerpts from Mr. James Bamford:
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. One of the things Adrienne Kinne told us was that she was spying on journalists at the Palestine Hotel. She knew they were journalists. She heard what they were saying over time. Here she was in Georgia, but spying on those people, those journalists, in Iraq. And she said she saw a document, she saw an email that put the Palestine Hotel on a—as a bombing target, and she immediately went to her superiors, because she was spying on them, she knew that they were journalists. She said, “But there are journalists in that hotel.” She learned a lot in this spying. Is this illegal?
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, you know, it would have been illegal under the old original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The way they’ve sort of contorted the new amendments to the act, it’s hard to tell what’s legal and what isn’t, because they’ve taken the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court largely out of the mix. And so, much of what is being done is governed by secret rules known as USSID 18, United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which is above top-secret. It’s top-secret code words. So what is legal, what isn’t legal, it’s very hard to tell.
This neocon administration's favorite tactic: muddying the waters, making a clear issue non clear, obfuscating, confusing, stamping 'Top Secret!' on every inane document and things that we have a right to know and so preventing any questions.
Is this legal?
Why are American citizens being spied upon?
Why are journalists (some of them also Americans)?
Don't ask - 'Top Secret!' - Shut your mouth!
The interview continues:
AMY GOODMAN: What other allegations did the Navy linguist David Murfee Faulk make about what he was listening to in Iraq?
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, he confirmed a lot of what Adrienne was saying. And it’s interesting, because they cover such different times there. Adrienne was there from 2001 to August of 2003. David Faulk was there from November of 2003 until November of 2007. So you have this time period covered from 2001 to 2007. And they were both doing similar things. They had never met each other. So these are very independent views of what was going on over there. And so, you have this continuum from 2001 to 2007 of eavesdropping on Americans.
One of the things that David Murfee Faulk brought up was the fact that not only were they eavesdropping on a lot of these conversations, some of which were very intimate, but they would have sort of locker room chats about what they were hearing, and they would post—or they would notify their co-workers that you should listen to this, what they call “cut,” their conversations. You should listen to this conversation or that conversation. They’d laugh about it. And, you know, I don’t really think that’s what the soldiers over there that are fighting really appreciate, the fact that you have Americans back in the state of Georgia laughing over their intimate conversations.
Think about what you have just read.
These are our troops over there - Marines, soldiers, Navy, Air Force.
They miss their families, and sometimes when talking to their spouses talk in very personal and intimate terms.
They talk about their kids.
About their dreams.
About their families.
And about sex.
And all this time, the NSA eavesdroppers listen in, laughing at them.
Peeping toms, paid by the government.
It gets worse.
How does the American military pick targets and recognizes terrorists from the common folks on the street (always the hardest thing in a guerrilla war is to recognize the enemy from a bystander).
So, the other thing that David Murfee Faulk brought up that I thought was very important and really gave a good insight into what—how some of this activity that’s taking place in Iraq comes about, you know, when they’re dropping bombs on houses and neighborhoods and busting down doors and putting people into Abu Ghraib and so forth, how does that come about? Why do they bust down this door or drop a bomb on that house? And the insight he gave, I thought was very interesting. He was saying how it’s these people here that are sitting in this windowless room in the state of Georgia, near Augusta, Georgia, that are listening to these conversations in Iraq, in Baghdad, and they’re making instantaneous decisions on whether somebody is telling the truth or not. So they’re writing out these—they’re doing these transcripts, and then they’re writing these little comments saying this person here, Ali, is saying he’s going to deliver a load of melons to his cousin Mohammed tomorrow. And then you have somebody making a decision: is he telling the truth, or isn’t he? Are these melons, or possibly could they be IEDs? And if a person says, “You know, I don’t think he’s telling the truth,” there’s a good chance that that house could be blown up or that person could be put in Abu Ghraib, or whatever.
Well, that is a splendid way to operate.
Silly me, I thought that it was the people on the ground, the troops who walk the streets and see the locals and talk to them, who would, you know, have a better idea on who the enemy might be, being right there in the middle of it all as opposed to sitting in Georgia and joking about a soldier's sex life?
And now we have the REAL BOMBSHELL in this interview.
And what Mark Klein was talking about, he was a supervisor for twenty-two years over at AT&T, and he discovered this secret room in this facility in San Francisco, this very tall, ten-, twelve-story building out in San Francisco, which is basically the switch, AT&T’s switch for their communications in that part of the country, the sort of western part of the country.
And what happened is that during the 1990s and early in the ’80s and the ’70s, the NSA used to collect information by putting out big dishes and collecting satellite communications that would come down. It was very easy. They put the dishes out; satellite transmits the telephone calls and messages, emails and so forth down to earth; and the satellite picks it up. And then NSA collects it. NSA didn’t have to deal with the telecommunication companies at all, because they could get the information independent of the telecom companies.
Then, in the late ’90s, things began to change, and fiber optics became a big thing for telecommunications. Fiber optics are cables in which the communications are transmitted, not electronically, but by photons, light signals. And that made life very difficult for NSA. It meant the communications, instead of being able to pick them up in a big dish, they were now being transmitted under the ocean in these cables. And the only way to get access to it would be to put a submarine down and try to tap into those cables. But that, from the people I’ve talked to, has not been very successful with fiber-optic cables. So the only other way to really do this is by making some kind of agreement with the telecom companies, so that NSA could actually basically cohabitate some of the telecom companies’ locations. And that’s what happened. NSA began making these agreements with AT&T and other companies, and that in order to get access to the actual cables, they had to build these secret rooms in these buildings.
"So the only other way to really do this is by making some kind of agreement with the telecom companies, so that NSA could actually basically cohabitate some of the telecom companies’ locations. And that’s what happened. NSA began making these agreements with AT&T and other companies, and that in order to get access to the actual cables, they had to build these secret rooms in these buildings."
Here comes the bombshell:
AMY GOODMAN: So you have these companies, AT&T and Verizon, that are secretly working with the NSA and tapping Americans’ phone lines, and these companies actually outsource the actual tapping to some little-known foreign companies?
JAMES BAMFORD: Yeah. There’s two major—or not major, they’re small companies, but they service the two major telecom companies. This company, Narus, which was founded in Israel and has large Israel connections, does the—basically the tapping of the communications on AT&T. And Verizon chose another company, ironically also founded in Israel and largely controlled by and developed by people in Israel called Verint.
"This company, Narus, which was founded in Israel and has large Israel connections, does the—basically the tapping of the communications on AT&T. And Verizon chose another company, ironically also founded in Israel and largely controlled by and developed by people in Israel called Verint."
Did I just hear that Israeli companies are spying on American citizens?
Why, yes. Yes I did. And if you think that these Israeli companies have no ties to the Israeli spy agencies, you are either an idiot or a FOX "news" propagandist... or a member of AIPAC.
What more is there to say?
Can it get any better, any juicier?
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Jim Bamford, take this a step further, because you say the founder and former CEO of one of these companies is now a fugitive from the United States somewhere in Africa?
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, you know, this is a company that the US government is getting all its tapped information from. It’s a company that Verizon uses as its tapping company, its eavesdropping company. And very little is known about these companies. Congress has never looked into any of this. I don’t know—I don’t think they even know that there is—that these companies exist. But the company that Verizon uses, Verint, the founder of the company, the former head of the company, is now a fugitive in—hiding out in Africa in the country of Namibia, because he’s wanted on a number of felony warrants for fraud and other charges. And then, two other top executives of the company, the general counsel and another top official of the parent company, have also pled guilty to these charges.
And these are the type of Israelis who listen in to our phone conversations.
Criminals on the run from the law.
I wonder if this will be shown on any American news programs?
What do you think?