Much of the surveillance of American citizens and legal residents, known as “U.S. persons” in the NSA eavesdropping lexicon, is now being conducted under the aegis of the U.S. Cyber Command. NSA director General Keith Alexander doubles as the commander of the Cyber Command. Both agencies’ headquarters are located at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Warrantless wiretapping began during the George W. Bush administration in the wake of 9/11. The program was authorized by Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief counsel David Addington and was never known as the so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” or “TSP.” The Terrorist Surveillance Program moniker was a cover story developed by NSA, Justice Department, and White House officials to mask the true targets of the warrantless eavesdropping operation: U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. Primary targets include journalists, their government sources, and political office holders and other government officials. The latter includes members of Congress, state governors, senior military officers, U.S. diplomats, and Cabinet officers. Some of the intercepted communications of Americans was entered into an NSA database known as PINWALE.
WMR has learned that although NSA’s acting general counsel Vito Potenza and NSA Inspector General Joel Brenner claimed they were not given access to “The Program’s” key implementing documents, both individuals had worked with Addington and other members of the Bush White House, including chief of staff Andrew Card, to implement massive NSA spying on U.S. citizens. The two NSA lawyers worked closely with Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo to craft the illegal program. Yoo’s actions were approved by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
At NSA, the warrantless eavesdropping program is simply known as “The Program.” The classified code word for “The Program” was STELLAR WIND before the code phrase was leaked to the media. The Bush administration used “The Program” to gain intelligence on its political enemies and friends, alike. The Obama administration maintains “The Program” to similarly engage in political surveillance within the United States.
“The Program” was largely the brainchild of then-NSA director Michael Hayden, who was later promoted to the first Deputy Director of National Intelligence and, subsequently, to Central Intelligence Agency director.
Warrantless wiretapping was also instituted to ensure that critical intelligence possessed by NSA about the planned 9/11 attacks was withheld from the Congress and the public after what became known as the “second Pearl Harbor.” In the aftermath of 9/11, several NSA employees knew that the agency was in possession of actionable intelligence that could have prevented the attacks. As a result, many career and military NSA personnel suffered physical ailments and severe mental stress amid a climate of absolute enforced silence about what NSA knew beforehand. As a result, a number of NSA personnel were either prevented from testifying or not invited to testify before the 9/11 Commission.
However, NSA’s director of signals intelligence, Maureen Baginski, termed 9/11 as a “gift” to NSA. Hayden ensured that NSA craftily hid behind the FBI and CIA to avoid any blame for the 9/11 attacks and stay “clean.”
In an unprecedented manner, the Obama administration is using the 1917 Espionage Act, with its 1950 amendment, known as the McCarran Internal Security Act—passed during the espionage scandal involving State Department official Alger Hiss and the “Pumpkin Papers” affair—to indict government officials who leak information to the press. The Obama administration has also stepped up NSA and other surveillance of journalists in an effort to discover their sources.
The doctrine being followed by the Obama administration comes from a 2010 book, titled Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law, authored by the neocon Hudson Institute’s senior fellow Gabe Schoenfeld. In the book, Schoenfeld called for the government to prosecute reporters and editors, particularly those at The New York Times, for revealing details of the warrantless wiretapping program. Schoenfeld is a former senior editor of the Jewish Zionist publication Commentary. He has also written for the neocon Weekly Standard and New York Sun. NSA sources have told WMR that the Obama administration has “taken a page from Schoenfeld’s book” in continuing the NSA warrantless surveillance program.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department continues to use prosecutor William M. Welch II, the former chief of the Public Integrity Section at Main Justice, to investigate government whistleblowers and journalists. However, in a serendipitous development, WMR has learned of four run-ins with the law that Welch had in his native Massachusetts. Covered up by the Justice Department, these infractions of the law call into question Welch’s suitability to hold down a job as a Justice Department prosecutor. WMR is pursuing leads in the Welch matter....