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The Joy of Snooping
Posted on Aug 30, 2007
Scheer: And maybe the third volume could be about secret sites around the world?
Helms: That would be interesting as well, as I’ve told some other people. I think that could be better done by people who are more local to the sites and could know the lay of the land better than I can.
Scheer: Did you ever check out the NSA building in Maryland ...? ... I’m always interested, but I don’t dare park or try to go in. Did you ever try to go into the NSA and take a picture?
Helms: I never tried to go into it, and if you park near it, pretty soon you will find some security guards by there wanting to know what you’re up to—and if you’re having car trouble. And if not, maybe you want to move along. That’s been my most frequent encounter in these places—have not been an actual threat or guns pointed at me, but simply, “Are you having difficulty with your car, sir? And if not, why don’t you move along.” That’s been the sort of encouragement you get. Now the interesting thing about the NSA building is, you remember a few years ago, a certain toy called a Furby. It looked like an owl and it had a speech chip in there that could memorize things it heard and repeat them back. The NSA banned the Furby from the building because they worried it might overhear and repeat classified conversations.
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Helms: It was actually easy to write—once I got a critical mass to research it started taking a coherent form. The thing is when I thought I had it finished I would come across one other site that I had to investigate. So eventually last year I got to the point I was discussing with my publisher and we said, I think we finally got a book here that we can go to press with. Otherwise I will be writing this thing ad infinitum because there’s always something more to find out.
Scheer: Definitely. Do you think that, with the exposing of the secrecies, are you going to go and continue doing that? Are you going to look in at how much we are spending and look at ... failed experiments that are costing the taxpayers lots of money? Do you think you’re going to continue working on that, and try to find out more not just about the top-secret tourism but about how much more we’re spending secretly?
Helms: That’s a really difficult task, because so much of this spending is headed in all-purposed category, miscellaneous, and you’d be surprised at how many government agencies like FEMA and the Department of the Air Force, miscellaneous is the largest single budget item. It’s also hidden under code names; tracking this flow of funds is very, very difficult; in fact in my book when the Budget Office, the National Reconnaissance Office, finally came out of the cold and people knew that there was such a thing, it turns out there was billions of dollars missing from these [inaudible] budget. It wasn’t so much that the budget had been redirected, because it was over $4 billion inside [inaudible] National Reconnaissance Office budget. Well, it turns out the General Accounting Office says that money was not stolen or anything else. Instead, it actually had been redirected to even more covert, more classified activities. So trying to unravel the budget, I doubt if there’s really any single one person when you could put together the entire budget that we’re spending on classified and covert activities. Simply because it’s so fragmented, so compartmentalized, and so hidden under various headings and code names, that I don’t think anyone could put that together. It’d be quite a useful project if possible, but I don’t think I’m up to that task right now.
Scheer: I’m glad for the honesty, though, and I think you should spearhead the project.
Harris: Oh yeah, and I was going to say, I think if anybody is capable it’s you, Harry. And it’s certainly refreshing. Amid all the talk about war and all the negative talk, it’s good to see someone out there doing good old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes work.
Helms: Thank you very much. And like I said, it’s a book that I really want people to take a look at what’s being done in your name, and take ownership of the government. The government is yours, not theirs.
Harris: Be sure to pick up a copy of “Top Secret Tourism: Your Travel Guide to Germ Warfare Laboratories, Clandestine Aircraft Bases, and Other Places in the United States You’re Not Supposed to Know About.” For Josh Scheer, for Harry Helms, this is James Harris and this has been Truthdig.
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