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NSA Spies On US Journalists

This piece does not require a tinfoil hat, just a thinking cap.

Eleven days before Andrea Mitchell asked author and NYT reporter James Risen whether he had any knowledge that the NSA had been spying on CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, Wayne Madsen wrote: NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, journalists, and members of Congress

The list of journalists targeted by the NSA include: James Banford, James Risen, Vernon Loeb, Seymour Hersh, Bill Gertz, John C.K. Daly, and Wayne Madsen.

Risen Targeted by NSA

According to NSA sources, the targeted journalists included:

  • Author James Bamford, author of "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency";  
  • New York Times' James Risen, author of "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration";
  • Washington Post's Vernon Loeb
  • New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, (Hersh calls the Bush White House the most secretive administration he's ever encountered.  The Bush Adiministration was especially concerned that the American public was getting its pre-war intelligence from the likes of Hersh in an article he wrote in March of 2002 called: "The Debate Within" -- The objective is clear--topple Saddam. But how?)
  • Washington Times' Bill Gertz
  • UPI's John C. K. Daly
  • Wayne Madsen, who has written about NSA for The Village Voice, CAQ, Intelligence Online, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
(source: WayneMadsenReport)

Considering this list we might now ask, along with Andrea Mitchell, "Was The NSA Spying on CNN Reporter Christiane Amanpour?"  And if not, why not?  More on that question below.

Firstfruits: The Journalist Surveillance Program

The journalist surveillance program, code named "Firstfruits," was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004 and was authorized by then-DCI Porter Goss. Firstfruits was authorized as part of a DCI "Countering Denial and Deception" program responsible to an entity known as the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC). Since the intelligence community's reorganization, the DCI has been replaced by the Director of National Intelligence headed by John Negroponte and his deputy, former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comCHENEY:  The Post-Watergate Era Limited The Spying Powers Of The Executive: So We Break The Law

The Bush Administration has been playing Constitutional poker in a room of mirrors.  As much as they have tried to play it "close to the vest" the sloppiest player is George Bush, who admitted violating the law in warrantless NSA domestic spying.  According to John W. Dean this is the first time a President has admitted to an impeachable offense.  Attorney General Gonzales flaunts the law by saying, "We didn't seek warrants because we wouldn't have got them."  But Cheney dropped an ace on December 21 in remarks made to reporters on his return from a trip to the Middle East.

Cheney Defends Domestic Spying

Cheney says Bush's decision to sidestep the courts and allow surveillance was an organized effort to regain presidential powers lost in the 1970s.

By Maura Reynolds
Times Staff Writer
From the Los Angeles Times
December 21, 2005

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's decision to bypass court review and authorize domestic wiretapping by executive order was part of a concerted effort to rebuild presidential powers weakened in the 1970s as a result of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday.

Returning from a trip to the Middle East, Cheney said that threats facing the country required that the president's authority under the Constitution be "unimpaired."

"Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the 1970s, served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," Cheney told reporters traveling with him on Air Force Two. "Especially in the day and age we live in ... the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy."


This is from a 1997 oped in the Houston Chronicle by Richard Ben-Viniste, written on the 25th anniversary of Watergate.

This is just a partial list of crimes by RMN:
the break-in at a psychiatrist's office looking for information that could be used to smear Daniel Ellsberg, who had exposed the secret government history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers; the misuse of the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies to punish those on the president's "enemies list"; the illegal wiretapping of journalists and members of Nixon's own administration; the deliberate falsification of government documents to enhance Nixon's political agenda; the proposed fire-bombing of the Brookings Institution as a diversion for the theft of records; the surreptitious surveillance of political opponents; and the willingness to use thugs to brutalize political protesters. Shadows of Nixon by Richard Ben-Viniste; Houston Chronicle, 1997

Well, that was then, and this is now.

When the NSA was established, in 1952, there were few legal limits on its power to spy within the U.S.

Then came the intelligence-gathering abuses of the Nixon years, when the NSA as well as the FBI were used by the White House to spy on civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists. In 1978 Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (fisa), which required the NSA to obtain a warrant any time it sought to monitor communications within the U.S.

An explanation for the NSA's reluctance to seek court approval may be that wiretaps of individual conversations are just one part of what the spy agency can do. It also has the technology to perform data mining, combing by computer through billions of phone calls and Internet messages and looking for patterns that may point to terrorist activity. That requires sifting through a mountain of individual communications to find the one that might lead to something. Under fisa, the NSA would have to obtain a warrant for each suspect phone number. Authorities argue that the fisa process is too slow to cover a situation in which a known terrorist calls a number in the U.S. not already covered by a fisa warrant.

Has Bush Gone Too Far?; TIME; January 1, 2006


From Tom in NYC at AmericaBlogspot

Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.
This is quite big. Note exactly what NBC said.

  • NBC did not say it pulled the references to Bush spying on Amanpour because it was inappropriate conjecture about something which Andrea Mitchell had no evidence.

  • No, NBC said it pulled the references because it was still investigating the accusation and didn't want to scoop itself before it was finished investigating. And make no mistake, NBC is "continuing their inquiry."

  • UPDATE: One more point. NBC did NOT delete the part of the interview preceding the Amanpour question - where Mitchell asks if any reporters are being spied on. They only deleted the follow-up question about whether Amanpour was being spied on. Thus, their premature release of info regarding an "ongoing inquiry" wasn't about reporters generally - or they'd have deleted that part of the interview as well - they only deleted the Amanpour follow-up, suggesting that it's the question of whether Bush spied on Amanpour that they have been, and are still, investigating.

That's incredibly big news.

NBC has acknowledged that they have information to suggest that Bush may have spied (be spying) on CNN's Christiane Amanpour and that NBC is currently investigating that very possibility. This isn't just conjecture anymore, NBC has confirmed it.

From Talking Points Memo:

Talking Points Memo
January 05, 2006

Despite the fact that it's framed as a question, Mitchell inevitably becomes in some sense a fact witness for the underlying claim. She legitimizes the question and strongly suggests she has at least some evidence that it is true.

Okay, so someone at NBC screwed up. Mistakes happen. But the bell can't be unrung.

In their response NBC confirms that they not only were but are in fact continuing to investigate whether Amanpour was in fact a target of one of these 'wiretaps'.

Now, that really puts this into altogether different territory.

You wouldn't just pull this Amanpour story out of your hat . To be even remotely credible, a claim like that would have to come from within the government.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: "CNN Intimidated By Bush Administration"

CNN War Reporting Intimidated by FOX and Bush Administration
September 14, 2003

CNN's top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, says that the press muzzled itself during the Iraq war. And, she says CNN "was intimidated" by the Bush administration and Fox News, which "put a climate of fear and self-censorship."

As criticism of the war and its aftermath intensifies, Amanpour joins a chorus of journalists and pundits who charge that the media largely toed the Bush administrationline in covering the war and, by doing so, failed to aggressively question the motives behind the invasion.

Said Amanpour: "I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."

"...All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels.

In response to Amanpour's statements:

Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti said of Amanpour's comments: "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."

I think that just about sums up the question on Christiane Amanpour.  She said that her efforts to report on the war in Iraq were intimidated by the Bush Administration and by FOX News, and Fox News  called Amanpour a "spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."


Just thought you might like a glance at Nixon's resignation letter:

"Proceedings on the Impeachment of Richard Nixon"
Barbara Jordan's Opening Statement to the House Judiciary Committee
July 25, 1974

"Today I am an inquisitor. I believe hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."

"Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?" (Federalist, no. 65).

Congresswoman Barbara Jordan: Proceedings on the Impeachment of Richard Nixon

Illustration of Nixon by: Laura Hendricks

Originally posted to suskind on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:12 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yuppers... (4.00)
    I think that's a wrap.

    I mean really... you gotta say that the above sum-up of what probly happened and what should come to light...

    is pretty likely.

    Even with all the psycho intimidation that Bush has got to be laying down... I see this as the end of these freakazoids.

    How far will he go... how many liberal 'Al Qaeda' spokespeople will have to die to let Bush ride out his 8 years?

    That I'm sure is a calculation the crack White House insurance team is calculating as we speak... the Blue Gene is probly getting a workout.

    U.S. blue collar vs. CEO income in 1992 was 1:80; in 1999 it was 1:475.

    by Lode Runner on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:19:15 PM PST

  •  Worse than Watergate. (4.00)
    John Dean is right.

    It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently. Jack Abramoff in 1983

    by Caldonia on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:21:57 PM PST

    •  And Wayne Madsen doesn't count. n/t (4.00)

      No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.

      by Page van der Linden on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:56:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yep (none)
        I'm a staunch tin-foiler and even I need more than this Madsen character.  Please unrecommend this diary people.
        •  Say it ain't so (none)
          I saw it on the internet with my own two eyes!  The webpage even looked all official 'n stuff.
        •  tin-foil person here as well (none)
          I learned the hard way about avoiding his stuff. He does interesting work, but it is very tin-foil and should be taken with a VERY LARGE grain of salt. It's part of the reasons I don't invade other diary's, I try to start my own diary on the subject in order to know what is try, and the reason why I will pull my own diary if I post information that is bad. I will also never claim things as facts because it is so easy to be lead into the wrong direction if you aren't careful. I'm not going to recommend this diary only because of bad experiences. It isn't to say the person might not be onto something, but instead to take whatever he writes with a very large grain of salt. This political junkie is not going to wear a tin foil hat for this one.
        •  Okay, Un-R'd (none)
          As I was reading this, I thought to myself "let's slow down.  Let's gather the pertinent information and try this guy for the crimes.  Then we can jump to any conclusion you want."

          You can't just invoke RMN and be done with it, this is way more serious than all that.  It would be like thinking invoking the memory of Andrew Johnson would be sufficient to impeach Nixon.  That is not the way it happened.

          Due diligence, people.

  •  Wayne Madsen ... (none)
    ... is anything but a reliable source, contrary to what 99% of dailyKos members think.

    Just sayin'.

    p.s.  Didn't you used to be "Apian" here at dKos?  You look familiar...

    No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.

    by Page van der Linden on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:53:36 PM PST

    •  I was wondering about the source, too (none)
      I am usually a very rational person, but everyday I am more inclined to believe the worst.

      absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

      by jbou on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:59:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  please explain (none)
      for those of us who have never heard of wayne madsen

      I re-did my website! See how pretty is now.

      by OrangeClouds115 on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 12:17:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  He's full of shit. (none)
        Don't believe anything he says.

        He is completely unreliable.

        I actually think there may be something to this, but not because Madsen says so.

        "I am not a crook" - The Honorable Richard M. Nixon

        by tricky dick on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 01:23:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  NSA Spying On US Journalists (none)
          Republican Senator Defends Briefings on Domestic Spying
          New York Times
          January 6, 2006
          Also Thursday, 27 House Democrats sent a letter to President Bush asking for information about the National Security Agency eavesdropping program, including whether communications from or to members of Congress and journalists were intercepted.

          J. Edgar Hoover With Supercomputers
          Ray McGovern: Tom Paine; January 5, 2006

          Another concern is that, among the groups of American citizens most likely to be sucked up by the NSA's vacuum cleaner--because of the nature of their work and their international calls/contacts--are members of Congress and journalists.  A key question that raises its ugly head is this:  If hundreds of calls and e-mails involving Americans are being intercepted each and every day, and juicy tidbits are learned about, say, prominent officials or other persons, there will be an almost irresistible temptation to make use of this information.  Former FBI special agent Coleen Rowley, who for many years monitored court-authorized electronic surveillances and wiretaps relating to organized criminal and drug conspiracy groups, recently underscored how much one can learn about someone by listening in on his/her private communications.  She reminds us that the blackmail potential is clear.

          Governor Fears Calls Monitored
          By James W. Brosnan
          Scripps Howard News Service
          April 28, 2005

          Gov. Bill Richardson is concerned that some of his phone calls were monitored by a U.S. spy agency and transcripts of them were given to the president's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

          Richardson called Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, to express his concerns after Dodd revealed that Bolton had on 10 occasions asked the National Security Agency for the intercepts of phone conversations involving Americans.
          An online journalist then speculated that Richardson's conversations with former Secretary of State Colin Powell and another U.S. official about North Korea might have been among Bolton's requests.

          "The governor is upset that his conversations with Secretary Powell would be intercepted since most of them were domestic calls," said Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks. "The governor felt his calls about North Korea were confidential."

          .... Sparks said Richardson's call to Dodd was triggered when he read an online story by Washington journalist Wayne Madsen. The story said intelligence community "insiders" claim the NSA circumvented a ban on domestic surveillance by asserting that the intercepted calls were part of "training missions."

          Madsen is the author of "America's Nightmare: the Presidency of George Bush II" and an article that suggested Bush was part of a "Christian blood lust cult" because he supported the death penalty as governor of Texas.

          Ron Suskind is a great writer. I'm not him.

          by suskind on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 02:15:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I used to work for NSA. (none)
            I was a signals intelligence analyst.

            I am not impressed.

            There is literally nothing to see here.

            Move along.

            "I am not a crook" - The Honorable Richard M. Nixon

            by tricky dick on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 03:16:50 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Bush's "Nixonian Administration" (none)
            is hopefully following the same path as his predecessor, with only one difference: the "crash and burn" of BushCo should be more thorough and devastating to the GOP, and the NeoConservative movement, than Nixon's.

            Ideally, this will result in a resurgence of real thought, and a return to a belief and (more importantly) a return to the importance of checks & balances in government, rights and freedoms for the people.

            Just my hope.

  •  Sentence 2: (none)

    I AM paying attention, and I am so fucking outraged I can't see straight. Besides, TORTURE and ILLEGAL SPYING ON AMERICANS are not family values!

    by caseynm on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 12:02:41 AM PST

  •  "WarrEnts"???? (none)
    Hire an EDITOR.  This is embarrassing.  My memory of your other posts is that you always spell "warrant" wrongly.

    I AM paying attention, and I am so fucking outraged I can't see straight. Besides, TORTURE and ILLEGAL SPYING ON AMERICANS are not family values!

    by caseynm on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 12:08:18 AM PST

  •  nothing surprises me anymore (none)
    I just wait for it to come out. That's all. Everything is potentially true and waiting to be exposed.

    Deregulated mining and cut the budget? Check
    Put cronies in FEMA? Check
    Fucked up Iraq? Check
    Spied on reporters? Check

    Next up? Spied on the Kerry campaign? Caused 9/11? I'm not saying that happened. I am just saying nothing surprises me at all anymore.

    I re-did my website! See how pretty is now.

    by OrangeClouds115 on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 12:15:48 AM PST

  •  remove from rec list (none)
    Come on people there are no credible sources cited.  This is rampant speculation pulled out of Wayne Madsen's ass.
    •  Wayne Madsen's new book (none)
      If people read this description and still don't get it, they never will.

      His book (note what I've put in bold):

      Jaded Tasks : Brass Plates, Black Ops & Big Oil-The Blood Politics of George Bush & Co.

      This investigative account details how America's economic and intelligence associations with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan led to the devastating September 11 attacks and illustrates the role that private military companies are playing in George W. Bush's "new world order." Based on personal interviews, never-before-published classified documents, and extensive research, this examination details the criminal forces thought to rule the world today--the Bush cartel, Russian-Ukranian-Israeli mafia, and Wahhabist Saudi terror financiers--revealing links between these groups and disastrous events such as 9/11.

      Um, a 9/11 - "Russian-Ukranian-Israeli mafia" connection?

      What.  The.  Fuck?

      No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.

      by Page van der Linden on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 12:25:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  ugh (none)
    this stinks to high heaven. It's too obvious, easy and laid out for all to see. <tin foil>Could it be that Bush's role is now complete, and the plan is to push him overboard to make room for President Cheney?</tin foil>
  •  Come on. (none)
    I'm willing to believe this, but I need a slightly better evidence-to-assertion ratio.
  •  link (none)
    Thanks for the link to the Christiane Amanpour quote. And for the quote from the FOX news spokesperson calling her a terrorist for criticizing the Bush admin and FOX.  

    Not sure about Madsen's claims, but I can believe the government is spying on outspoken journalists like Hersh.

    •  Sy Hersh (none)
      President Bush is on record (in one of Woodward's books) as calling him a liar. Last year, a Hersh story revealed that Pentagon adviser Richard Perle was simultaneously involved in a company that was attempting to obtain homeland security contracts. Perle responded in a CNN interview by calling Hersh "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist." Perle, who threatened to sue Hersh for libel, resigned from his advisory position instead.

      And his run-ins with Rumsfeld:

      On a recent day in his office, Hersh proudly extracts a thick file from under a pile of notebooks: a declassified series of 1975 memos among Rumsfeld, then chief of staff for President Ford, and Vice President Dick Cheney, then a senior aide to the president. In the memos, Rumsfeld, Cheney and others debate whether to seek an indictment against Hersh and the Times for his story about U.S. spy submarines operating inside territorial waters of the Soviet Union. The government eventually allowed the matter to drop.

      On Bush's Secretive Government:

      Hersh makes clear that if he doesn't have an agenda, he has plenty of opinions about the Bush administration. Hersh calls the Bush White House the most secretive administration he's ever encountered. For the first time, Hersh says, he has no highly placed White House source with whom he can check his stories.

      Mr. Hersh Goes to War
          By Tim Madigan
          Knight Ridder Newspapers
          Thursday 22 July 2004

      Ron Suskind is a great writer. I'm not him.

      by suskind on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 01:27:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  while i'm waiting on better sources than madsen (none)
    hersh would be an obvious source to wiretap, both because he broke the abu ghraib story and more importantly because they'd want to ferret out who has been talking to him. it sounds plausible to me, we'll have to wait to see if that's what went down. if they get caught openly wiretapping journalists, they've got huge problems, but only if there's solid evidence of it. mere insinuations will allow them to slither out of our grasp, while benefitting them by intimidating the supine majority of the media.

    crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

    by wu ming on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 01:47:56 AM PST

  •  Wholly Sheep Dip (none)
    Or Holy Dip Shit.. or... whatever...

    How did a diary based on the reporting of Wayne Madsen get on the rec. list?

    Makes me want to give up slaving away on whole, lengthy, original content to post here which get no such love.



    Mitch Gore

    A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

    by Lestatdelc on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 01:53:35 AM PST

  •  This is an administration (none)
    that doesn't use facts. In Clinton's White House there were substansive discussions on how policies would affect the country. The Bush administration does the opposite. It tries to twist the country around its sick vision. In order to understand them and what they might do next, since their next action won't be supported by the "facts", sometimes it might be necessary
    to let the imagination run wild. If these people don't use facts in their analysis of events,
    then "facts" may not be the best way to understand them.

    It's Dick's and George's world. We just have to live in it. Assholes!

    by hoplite9 on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 02:10:35 AM PST

  •  They called us the (none)
    "reality based community." They said they make up their own reality. Sound sane? Not very. Why should we have any rational expectations for this group? Someone who makes his own reality doesn't sound like someone who respects alot of boundries.

    I'm not saying every speculation is true, but I join the other people who have said nothing this administration would do would suprise them.

    It's Dick's and George's world. We just have to live in it. Assholes!

    by hoplite9 on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 02:31:50 AM PST

  •  Discounted at the start (none)
    Wayne Madsen wrote: is an opinion not a source of reporting.  Wayne Madsden writes opinions, he does little actual source verification.

    How would you like to be investigated by the government based on the same standards that Wayne Madsden uses for his "reporting".

    It is likely that NSA spied on journalists; it is even Nixonian.  But no one knows yet.

    Instead of engaging in speculation, we should be pushing for the answer to the question that Andrea Mitchell's statement raised.  Was Christiane Amanpour or any other journalist the target of NSA surveillance?  Was the fact that Christiane Amanpour's husband is Jamie Rubin, who was an advisor to the Kerry campaign for foreign policy a reason why she might have been targeted?  Or are all critical journalists targets of surveillance?

    We need Patrick Fitzgerald-quality prosecutors looking into this.  This is where our efforts need to be focused.  Inundate Congress with individual   unique letters from as many people as possible asking for an honest investigation.  Especially if the Congresscritter is Republican.

  •  Remember all those Bolton intercepts... (none)
    hmmm. No wonder they wanted to get past the hearings...
  •  Is Wayne Madsen A Nut? (none)

    Michael Froomkin of on the reliability of Wayne Madsen:

    Here's the problem. I don't think Wayne Madsen is a nut. I've met Wayne a few times over the years at privacy-oriented events. He's sometimes rumpled, often a little intense, has a spook-like love for conspiracy theory (forgivable since he is a sometime spook himself). He's definitely out there on the fringe where left meets right, and we're not always on the same page politically, but I have found him to be very well informed.

    Ron Suskind is a great writer. I'm not him.

    by suskind on Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 10:35:37 AM PST

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