It seems getting an 8 pm “escape” from friends and family this Thanksgiving to rush into the nearby World Wrestling Federation Walmart may have been a welcome reprieve for some. Those some in question being NSA agents, and just in case their friends and family got a little too pesky, boisterous or simply inquisitive, all the employees of the National Security Agency and the Central Security Services received a prepared memo with preauthorized talking points designed to “guide” conversations over the Thanksgiving dinner table. Plastered at the head of the 2-page propaganda is a Douglas Adams-like (or was that Isaac Asimov) in its simplicity bullet point: “(1) NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation.” How was it that “defenders” of the fatherland during the Third Reich were being brainwashed again? But we digress.
Some of the other brainwashing encouraged talking points: “(2) NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy; (3) NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world; (4) The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish; (5) NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers.”
There are numerous sub-bullet point to each of these humorous propaganda headers, however the gist is clear. Firedoglake has done some further analysis even if the commentary is largely trivial:
A Misleading Statistic on Disrupting Terrorism the NSA Won’t Stop Promoting
“NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies,” the document reads. “As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.”
Deputy Director John Inglis admitted in August during a Senate hearing, when pressed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, that US bulk records phone spying had been “critical” in stopping just one terrorist plot. He clarified that the spying on phone records had only “made a contribution” to discovering the 13 plots.
Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall & Martin Heinrich, who filed a brief in support of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit challenging the collection of phone records of all Americans, explained the Executive Branch has defended the program by conflating it with “other foreign intelligence authorities.” The senators highlighted the fact that the collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act had played “little or no role in most of these disruptions.”
“Indeed of the original fifty-four that the government pointed to, officials have only been able to describe two that involved materially useful information obtained through the bulk call-records program,” the senators added. “Even the two supposed success stories involved information that [the senators] believe—after repeated requests to the government for evidence to the contrary—could readily have been obtained without a database of all Americans’ call records.”
At this point, any intelligence agency leader, member of Congress or government official who highlights 54 “thwarted” plots is advancing propaganda to save the NSA from being forced into giving up this power to collect the phone records of all Americans.
FISA Court Opinions Show the NSA Has Not Performed Its Mission in Lawful and Compliant Manner
The claim that NSA “performs its mission” in a manner that is “lawful, compliant, and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy” is demonstrably false.
A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge ruled, when reviewing a program that was collecting records of Internet communications” that the agency had committed “longstanding and pervasive violations” of prior orders by the court. It found that government officials knew or had reason to know that “portions” of collection constituted “unauthorized electronic surveillance.” This unauthorized and illegal surveillance “included information concerning the identity of the parties and the existence of communications to or from persons in the United States.”
FISC Judge John Bates stated that the government had a “history of material misstatements”—otherwise known by Director for National Intelligence James Clapper as “least untruthful” answers and known among non-members of the national security state as lies. The government had a “poor track record” of exceeding the implementation constraints or going beyond purported privacy safeguards represented to the court.
Another ruling by the FISA Court in 2009 found, the NSA “frequently and systematically violated” the agency’s “minimization procedures,” intended to protect Americans’ privacy, “that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall [business records] regime has never functioned effectively.”
As Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute recently recounted, “For the first three years of the call records program’s current incarnation, the FISC was misinformed about how it really worked. As a result, software tools routinely accessed the data without the required approvals: Of the 17,835 phone numbers searched by one automated alert list from 2006 to 2009, only 1,935 had been vetted for “reasonable suspicion.” Query results were also improperly shared with the CIA and FBI.”
In fact, journalist Marcy Wheeler, who has written in extensive detail on all the released NSA documents so far, has demonstrated through multiple posts that the NSA has continued an illegal wiretapping program that has grown in size since it was first exposed under President George W. Bush.
Targeting a US Person’s Porn Viewing Without Probable Cause
The agency claims the “NSA does not target US citizens or permanent resident aliens unless that targeting is premised on a finding of probable cause to believe that the person is a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power.” But journalists Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher and Ryan Grim recently published parts of a document for a story at Huffington Post that showed NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander had sought to discredit radical Muslims by spying on their porn-viewing habits. One of the six targets discussed in the document was a US person.
None of these people targeted were believed by the NSA to be involved in any terrorist plots. The NSA wanted to embarrass them because they had a history of espousing views that the agency considered dangerous to the United States. There was no “probable cause” to suggest the persons targeted with this COINTELPRO-style spying tactic had committed any criminal acts of violence.
And so on. Full propaganda below: