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The NSA Is Watching You

Posted on Apr 25, 2012

By Amy Goodman

Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained—sometimes at gunpoint—and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent.

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The intelligence official: William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. spy agency that dwarfs the CIA. As technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney told me, he was tasked to “see how we could solve collection, analysis and reporting on military and geopolitical issues all around the world, every country in the world.” Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, “After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA,” as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.

Along with several other NSA officials, Binney reported his concerns to Congress and to the Department of Defense. Then, in 2007, as then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was being questioned on Capitol Hill about the very domestic spying to which Binney objected, a dozen FBI agents charged into his house, guns drawn. They forced aside his son and found Binney, a diabetic amputee, in the shower. They pointed their guns at his head, then led him to his back porch and interrogated him.

Three others were raided that morning. Binney called the FBI raid “retribution and intimidation so we didn’t go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and tell them, ‘Well, here’s what Gonzales didn’t tell you, OK.’ ” Binney was never charged with any crime.

The filmmaker: Laura Poitras is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, whose recent films include “My Country, My Country,” about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and “The Oath,” which was filmed in Yemen. Since 2006, Poitras has been detained and questioned at airports at least 40 times. She has had her computer and reporter’s notebooks confiscated and presumably copied, without a warrant. The most recent time, April 5, she took notes during her detention. The agents told her to stop, as they considered her pen a weapon.


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She told me: “I feel like I can’t talk about the work that I do in my home, in my place of work, on my telephone, and sometimes in my country. So the chilling effect is huge. It’s enormous.”

The hacker: Jacob Appelbaum works as a computer security researcher for the nonprofit organization the Tor Project (, which is a free software package that allows people to browse the Internet anonymously, evading government surveillance. Tor was actually created by the U.S. Navy, and is now developed and maintained by Appelbaum and his colleagues. Tor is used by dissidents around the world to communicate over the Internet. Tor also serves as the main way that the controversial WikiLeaks website protects those who release documents to it. Appelbaum has volunteered for WikiLeaks, leading to intense U.S. government surveillance.

Appelbaum spoke in place of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, at a conference called Hackers on Planet Earth, or HOPE, as people feared Assange would be arrested. He started his talk by saying: “Hello to all my friends and fans in domestic and international surveillance. I’m here today because I believe that we can make a better world.” He has been detained at least a dozen times at airports: “I was put into a special room, where they frisked me, put me up against the wall. ... Another one held my wrists. ... They implied that if I didn’t make a deal with them, that I’d be sexually assaulted in prison. ... They took my cellphones, they took my laptop. They wanted, essentially, to ask me questions about the Iraq War, the Afghan War, what I thought politically.”

I asked Binney if he believed the NSA has copies of every email sent in the U.S. He replied, “I believe they have most of them, yes.”

Binney said two senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have expressed concern, but have not spoken out, as, Binney says, they would lose their seats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. Proponents of Internet freedom are fighting the bill, which they say will legalize what the NSA is secretly doing already.

Members of Congress, fond of quoting the country’s founders, should recall these words of Benjamin Franklin before voting on CISPA: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2012 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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Kachtice's avatar

By Kachtice, May 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm Link to this comment

“Why of course the people don’t want war… That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” - Hermann Goering

The problem is with “Big Government” and the “Career Politicians” who are more concerned with stuffing their pockets and getting re-elected then fixing the problems this Country has.  Wasteful spending is the Governments modus operandi, the American people are just the “slaves” who plow their fields and feed their entitled lives.  Until the vast majority wakes up and realizes the American people were supposed to have the power under the Constitution those in charge will continue to erode whatever rights are left until there is no chance in getting them back.

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By JBDN, April 30, 2012 at 10:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Bamford, can you talk about how the NSA picked up the very first clues about the 9/11 attacks well before the 9/11 attacks?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, the very first clue to the 9/11 attack occurred in late December 1999, when the NSA picked up a message from a house in Yemen. The house was being used by bin Laden as his operations center. He didn’t have much capability to operate out of Afghanistan, so all the phone calls, all the messages, email and all that would go to this house in the city of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. NSA had been eavesdropping on that house for a number of years, and in late December 1999, it picked up a particular intercept, picked up a particular phone conversation.

And the phone conversation said that — send Khalid and Nawaf to Kuala Lumpur for a meeting. So, NSA picked that up, and they — first of all, they figured that Nawaf and Khalid had to be very important potential terrorists, because they were being assigned by bin Laden out in Afghanistan to go to a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. That seemed like a terrorist summit meeting. NSA gave that information to the other intelligence agencies, and the CIA set up a surveillance in Kuala Lumpur, and then they lost them in Kuala Lumpur.

After they lost them, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi went to California. They got in without any problem. NSA, even though they had the last name of Nawaf al-Hazmi in their computers, they never bothered to check, so they both got in without any problem into the United States. They went down, and they lived in San Diego. And they began calling back and forth to that house in Yemen, the house that NSA was eavesdropping on. So NSA is picking up their conversations to the house in Yemen, translating them and then sending out the conversations to — or summaries of the conversations to the CIA without ever telling anybody that they were in the United States. And they were in the United States for almost two years. Al-Hazmi was there from January 2000 to September 2001. And again, they’re communicating back and forth; NSA is picking up but not telling anybody that they’re in the US.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain, Jim Bamford —-

JAMES BAMFORD: And it got so bad -—

AMY GOODMAN: You say that they set up their final base of operations almost next door to the NSA headquarters in Laurel, Maryland?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, that’s the ultimate irony, was they eventually travel across country from San Diego, and they set up their final base of operations — these are the — this is the crew that was about to attack the Pentagon — about a month before, they set up their base of operations in Laurel, Maryland, of all places, that happens to be the same city that NSA is headquartered. So they set up their base of operations in this Valencia Motel, and almost across the Baltimore-Washington Parkway is NSA headquarters. The director’s office is on the eighth floor, and, except for some trees, he could almost see the motel where they’re staying. So, NSA is over there trying to find terrorists, and here is the 9/11 terrorists sitting right opposite the NSA on the other side of the parkway making their final plans.

Mohamed Atta flew there for summit meetings. And they had to take three hotels at one point to put all the people there. So, as NSA is looking for them, they’re having their final summit meetings there, and they’re walking around the Safeway, they’re exercising in Gold’s Gym, they’re eating in the restaurants there, they’re mingling with NSA employees. That’s NSA’s company town. It’s just the ultimate irony that here you have the terrorists and the eavesdroppers living side by side in the month before the final attack.

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By Arlene Johnson, April 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is for Jim Yell and anyone else who thinks that the USA has two political parties that differ. Please read It proves that there is no difference, and you’ll learn a piece of history too that the American people have been denied that people in Canada, all of western Europe, and likely Argentina know from their press. George Wallace said it too, “There isn’t a dimes worth of difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.” Thought I’d throw that in here for good measure.

As to Patrick Henry’s comment that the government gets too much of the taxpayers money. Rothschild gets all of the taxpayers money. Research it yourself, and you’ll see that I’m right. You may want to start with this link:

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By Alan MacDonald, April 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

balkus (12:13) thanks for your comments and provoking ideas.

as strange as it may seem after my crude push to address the issue of Empire, I really don’t care so much (am not invested in) whether empire is the cause or an effect—- but only desire that the issue be discussed, as you have cogently done.

I’m really a rather parochial and provincial guy myself, just looking for easy answers or to get other better minds going after them.

as to your question of whether I know the THOUGHT that the “u.s system of rule, structure of society [multilayered] is based on”?  I would also turn to one of the better thinkers I know, Morris Berman, and his “Why America Failed”, who said, “But the ‘hustling’ way of life enshrines
just the opposite: it says that virtue consists of personal success in
an opportunistic environment, and that if you can screw the other guy on
your way to the top, more power to you. “Looking Out for No. 1” is what
really needs to be on the American dollar.”

Best to you and yours,

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By Mekhong Kurt, April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment

Good article, Ms. Goodman, though I imagine your name’s isn’t on “Santa Claus’s” Good-Girl List.

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By balkas, April 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment

Alan Mcdonald,
abut the cause of it all or why the onepercent does what it does?
i think that the Empire is not the cause but an effect of the first cause.
and even bill of rights, u.s constitution, declaration of independence, all u.s laws, regulations,
deregulations are mere effects of the first cause.
and, to me, THE FIRST CAUSE is the right of a person to control or actually own another person.
that’s the holy of holies. and not just in u.s but jus about everywhere. it has to go completely or
at least reduced to a level with which most of us can live with.
so, the solution is not necessarily either no ownership of people or no whatever ownership of
people, but degree of it and never own a person to the degree that u can send himher, say, to
afgh’n, iraq, somalia and slay children, civilians there.
btw, u are the first person who has, as far as i know, mentioned a cause for what happens in u.s.
i also enjoy reading ur posts. you are closer to reality than most posters. on the other hand, td
columnists are usually s’mwhere in the stratosphere.
may i ask? do u know that u.s system of rule, structure of society [multilayered] is based on a
THOUGHT?  and if u know it, what THOUGHT [idea] it might be? thanks

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By SKD, April 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Except as Binney should know, having spent almost 40 years in NSA, THE
electronic spy machine of the world, it’s been documented that we’ve (we
and our allies/partners,) have been doing this at least since 1997, a la

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By msgmi, April 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Capitol Hill so-called leaders of the country are in fact sycophants of hysteria, paranoia and Wall Street. Freedom and Justice for ALL has become lip-service.

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By caped amigo, April 26, 2012 at 10:42 am Link to this comment

This is scary s#*t. I’ve got to update my passport and review my options.

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By St3nci1, April 26, 2012 at 8:17 am Link to this comment

I try to catch “Democracy Now!” every day. It’s the
only honest US news made in the US. The coverage is
interesting and focuses on topics avoided or ignored by
the corporate media. They feature amazing and
inspirational guests, heroic individuals who work to
make this country a better place by reminding us why
it’s called the “land of the free”. Goodman has the
best job in the country, I think.

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By devious joker, April 26, 2012 at 7:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Recently pull a good one (while a friend was taking picture). At Montréal Airport P.E.T.  I went down on my knees, facing eastward (Saudi Arabia) . Bending forward repeatedly face almost touching the floor. My hands placed on both sides of my head seemingly feeling the floor. As some people gather around, a security agent in a Canadian, always-polite manner, said. May I ask the gentleman what is the gentleman doing on the floor. Slowly straitening myself, I explain I was looking for my contact lens and ask Mr. Columbo to please protect the area as I was going to borrow a magnifying glass to help me find those practically invisible lens.  We made a very discreet exit and no we are not going to Youtube.

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By Alan MacDonald, April 26, 2012 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

n yesterday’s “Democracy Now” show (4/25) with Danny Glover, he talks about the Occupy
movement “connecting all the dots” and bringing people together on the
wide variety of problems and issues that inform progressive action, and
of bringing people together in a broad “coalition” addressing these varied

Likewise, talking about “Occupy”, Mumia Abu-Jamal calls the protests
“one of the greatest advances in the democracy movement in our modern
period,” but one that is only in its nascent stages. “They have
something more important to do, and that’s to connect with other
people’s movements and build a kind of resistance that can transform
this country.”

Such heart-felt and consistent comments by Glover and Abu-Jamal about
connecting the dots, bringing people together in solidarity and
resistance to transform the system implies both addressing each group’s
own issues, but also forging an accurate and compelling coalition—-
and a consistent narrative about the cause of all these problems and
issues, which explains and brings the problems together by “connecting
the dots”, and also brings the people together with respect to some
clearly understandable solidifying story.
The only narrative that can ‘connect the dots’, explain the hundreds
of problems, and consolidate a solidarity of people to address an
integrated solution in a ‘coalition’ large enough to solve all these
problems is to understand that Empire is the causal cancer which
actually ‘connects the dots’ of these multiple problems, because Empire
is the actual cause of all these problems.

It provides a compelling, easy to understand, accurate, provable, and
empowering narrative when people from all these groups realize that
Empire, Global Empire, is the proximate cause of all the; vast economic
inequality, increasing foreign imperialist wars, extraction of wealth
and natural resources, inciting of divisive racism, nationalism, and
classism to divide and conquer, destruction of the global environment,
oppression by police-state tactics, spying, torture, and targeted
assassinations, turning of ‘citizens’ into ‘subjects’ of Empire, debt
peonage, institutionalized injustice, the destruction of democracy,
etc., etc., etc.

I have written that Amy’s “Democracy Now” show title should be changed to ““Democracy Now Over Empire”—- and
all guests and discourse should be on the critical topic of what is to
be done immediately with the DGE (Disguised Global Empire) that now
“Occupies” our former country to recover a functional democracy, and
stop all the ‘symptom problems’ that the Empire is directly causing.

Similarly, all articles on td & CD should all be titled with the authors’ title plus—- “caused by the Empire”—- and should address how the individual ‘symptom problems the articles address (as in this case, NSA spying) are caused by and implemented by the Empire.

The content of these meaningful stories could all be covered as they are currently in CD—- but the unifying whole would be the consistent FACT that all these ‘symptom problems’ like; Wall Street looting, foreclosure  unfairness, college tuition and credit scams, wars, spying, torture, drone attacks, environmental destruction, etc., etc., etc. would be tied together and the “dots connected” by educating the CD community that one single, integrated, violent, deceitful, and powerful Empire is the causal connection of all these crimes against humanity, democracy, liberty, freedom, and justice.
Just an idea, eh?

And the real benefit would be in not having to hear me continually harp about the Empire!

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By balkas, April 26, 2012 at 7:18 am Link to this comment

ok, folks, am i wrong [and now for the zillionth time in my 90 yr span—now, don’t
tell me life is not a joke; perped on us by the goddevil] that 98% of americans
now, if that is not democratic, i don’t dare ask or even thing, what is? and my wife
agrees with me!

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By Jim Yell, April 26, 2012 at 6:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is not an example of too much tax money, this is an example of Very Wealthy People and Corporations having so much money that they can buy the government they want, even when the taxpayer citizens say “No”, as we did when we elected candidate Obama. So the question is how did we go from candidate Obama to another Republican Adminsitration that continues to violate every part of our social contract?

If you give goons power they will just act like bigger goons, the arrogance is overwhelmning. Our Democracy is dead.

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By Paul_GA, April 26, 2012 at 5:19 am Link to this comment

Indeed, Vector; even in the old Soviet Union, the Chekists were as much in danger as anyone else was of ending up in the gulag. Certainly, they might’ve had first pick on cushy jobs in the camp administration if an old friend was the camp commandant, but still, the sword of Damocles was over their heads, too.

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By vector56, April 26, 2012 at 4:08 am Link to this comment

“Don’t they (spying Gov. agencies) realize they have just shot themselves and their country in the leg! “

Surfboy; No, they don’t!

To quote Martin Niemöller;

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Those who work at the NSA and AT&T assume that they will never find themselves on that list of undesirables.

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By PatrickHenry, April 26, 2012 at 3:41 am Link to this comment

This is what happens when the Government gets too much of the taxpayers money.

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By vector56, April 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

“Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, “After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA,” as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.”

This is a clear case of “when the came for me(US Citizens) there was no one left to appeal to”.  The fact that for years we as US Citizens have sat back as spectators and watched these Agencies (NSA, CIA…) spy on, overturn and murder human beings who were not US Citizens and did little or nothing to stop them (in some cases cheering them on) assured us that at some point they would use those same tactics on us.

Remember when Bush told us that they were only going to “murder” non-citizens without a trial? Now Obama has moved into killing US Citizens by drone; notice he is careful to kill only “Muslim” citizens at this point.

It’s called Poetic Justice; like most brutal empires America will eat itself!

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By grokker, April 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment

The Dept. of Homeland Security has just contracted to purchase 450 million rounds of .40 cal hollow point ammo from a company called ATK. According to the Geneva Convention, this type of ammo is banned on the battlefield. Now who do you think they plan to use it on? Big city police forces are trying to get funding for drone programs. Seems a civil war is seen as being in the offing. Some of the current pending legislation is a fascists wet dream. Should be an interesting year.

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By donald peacock, April 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

the coverup is far more criminal than Wikileaks

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By Clash, April 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

Congress this week is trying to move to make it easier, the boy’s that run this world of make believe are all for it. So it must be the many to many and then to the NSA, I guess?

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