J. D. Heyes
June 16, 2013
Tens of millions of Americans are upset over the serial privacy violations committed during the Obama years by the National Security Agency, the CIA, the FBI and other federal spy and law enforcement organizations, and rightfully so. But it’s important to remember that these kinds of violations were occurring long before the junior U.S. senator from Illinois occupied the Oval Office.
In October 2008, less than a month before Election Day, ABC News published a well-timed exclusive report detailing how George W. Bush’s NSA was spying on American citizens – many of them members of the U.S. military:
Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.
‘Just everyday ordinary Americans’
Then-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., called allegations leveled in the report “extremely disturbing,” adding that his committee had begun an investigation into the claims.
“We have requested all relevant information from the Bush Administration,” Rockefeller said at the time. “The Committee will take whatever action is necessary.”
“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” Adrienne Kinne, a U.S. Army Reserves Arab linguist who was assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003, toldABC News.
The linguist said the content of the phone calls consisted of “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”
The whistleblower said the NSA regularly “collected on” American military officers, journalists and aid workers as they placed calls to their homes or offices in the United States/
Another intercept operator, David Murfee Faulk, a former U.S. Navy Arab linguist, told the news network he and co-operators tapped into hundreds of calls made by Americans using phones in Baghdad’s Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.
“Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another,” Faulk said.
ABC News reported further that the two operators with whom the network spoke did not know each other and did not know of the others’ allegations.
In February of 2008, Bush – in a speech – assured Americans that the government was respecting their rights.
“There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect,” he said. Sound familiar?
The problem dates back even earlier, however. In 2006 CNN reported that domestic surveillance programs which grew out of the USA Patriot Act, passed in haste immediately after the 9/11 attacks, was taking place then.
The Senate Intelligence Committee had decided not to look into the program, but the Senate Judiciary Committee had begun a probe.
‘In my world, the Constitution still applies’
“The very independence of this committee is called into question as we are continually prevented from having a full accounting of prewar intelligence on Iraq; the CIA’s detention, interrogation and rendition program; and now, the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and eavesdropping program,” Rockefeller said in February 2006. “If we are prevented from fully understanding and evaluating the NSA program, our committee will continue its slide toward irrelevance.”
Then, as now, the serial violations of the Bill of Rights by the NSA was justified by the powers that be as “necessary to the security of the United States.” But as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has written recently in response to the NSA’s improper eavesdropping under Obama, says:
National security is the federal government’s top priority. We have always balanced liberty with common sense security precautions. There are unquestionably exceptions to every rule.
But those who continue to defend the National Security Agency‘s actions are essentially saying that something that would be controversial even as an exception – blanket phone trolling by the government – is now the new rule. They are saying it’s OK to spy on citizens’ phone data without a warrant, not just one time or a few times, but all the time.
They are saying that suspending the Bill of Rights is now the new normal.
In my world, the Constitution still applies.
Sources for this article include:
This article was posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 6:43 am