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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial


The Post-9/11 Normalization of Domestic and International Spying

The gathering 'intelligence information' has long been a function of the U.S. intelligence agencies. However evidence from whistleblowers and overt language in legislation such as the nicknamed telecom immunity bill of 2008 indicate that the boundaries on spying that existed before 9/11 were severely eroded afterward.

The 2008 Telecom Immunity Bill

The FISA Amendments Act, signed into law in February of 2008, retroactively legalizes a massive electronic spying operation on the personal telephone and online communications of millions of Americans. The act further allows physical searches of Americans' homes without a search warrant or any proof that the target is suspected of any crime. Senator Dodd said, after passage of the bill:

Whistle-blower Mark Klein, a former AT&T engineer, had provided a detailed account of how the company cooperated with the National Security Agency (NSA) by setting up a special facility for illegally spying on its customers. 2  

In January of 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation had sued AT&T in a class action charging that the company had illegally cooperated with the NSA's secret eavsdropping program. 3   Beyond AT&T, it remains unclear which telecom companies cooperated with the NSA domestic spying operation. 4  

The Secret 2002 Order

In late 2005, The New York Times and Washington Post revealed that President Bush had signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite of legal prohibitions against such spying. 5   6   Apparently, the New York Times was aware of the secret order before the 2004 presidential election, but delayed publishing the story for more than a year. 7  

In one example of one Americans being spied on by another, former military intelligence seargant turned whistleblower Adrienne Kinne recalls her eavesdropping on an American who thought he was protected by USSID 18 -- an NSA directive that supposedly prohibited such invasions of privacy.

AMY GOODMAN: I also, Adrienne Kinne, wanted to go back to this point of eavesdropping on international aid organizations, on NGOs. Can you explicitly say what you heard and why you were listening to these conversations?

ADRIENNE KINNE: Definitely. During that one conversation between a British aid worker and the American aid worker that I was talking about previously, the British aid worker basically told the American, “Be careful what you say, because the Americans are listening to us.” And they weren’t talking about anything that would have warranted their concern. There was—it was just kind of mundane office goings-on. And so, the American actually responded and said, “They can’t listen to me. I’m an American citizen. I’m protected by USSID 18.” And USSID 18 is basically a directive which is given out to military intelligence which bars the collection on American citizens, to include allies of other countries who we’ve signed binding agreements with. And when I heard that transmission and that conversation, I—kind of it caused me to raise my eyebrow, because here we were, we were listening to Americans, and we were collecting on them.

And so, I brought that particular intercept to the attention of my officer in charge. And actually, rather than be concerned that we were actually spying on Americans and violating the law and the Constitution, he was actually outraged that an American would reference USSID 18 to a non-American, and as if this American was somehow betraying some classified information that Americans have a right not to be spied upon.

And it was shortly thereafter that we were given a verbal waiver that we could listen to Americans and other ally citizens of allied countries for whatever—from whatever organizations, humanitarian aid organizations, journalists, NGOs,

... 8  


1. FISA Amendments Act News Roundup, EFF.org, [cached]
2. Wiretap Whistle-Blower's Account, wired.com, [cached]
3. AT&T sued over NSA spy program, cnet.com, [cached]
4. Some companies helped the NSA, but which?, [cached]
5. Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts, 12/16/2005 [cached]
6. Bush Authorized Domestic Spying, 12/16/2005 [cached]
7. Critics Question Timing of Surveillance Story, Los Angeles Times, 12/20/2005 [cached]
8. Fmr. Military Intelligence Sgt. Reveals US Listed Palestine Hotel in Baghdad as Target Prior to Killing of Two Journalists in 2003, DemocracyNow.org, [cached]

page last modified: 2008-09-04