5 Surprising Facts About Spying In America

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Washington’s Blog

Here are 5 surprising facts about spying in America.

We understand if some of this sounds far-fetched. But take a look for yourself, and see if you can disprove these claims.


1: Cheney and Rumsfeld Pushed for Warrantless Wiretaps in the '70s

Cheney, Donald Rumseld and other government officials who held high
positions in the George W. Bush administration pushed for wiretaps
without approval by a judge ... in the 1970s.

2: Massive Spying on Americans Began Before 9/11

You know about the government's massive program of spying on Americans which has been justified as a necessary response to 9/11?

Whistleblowers from major telecommunications companies have testified that the program began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here).

3: U.S. and Allied Intelligence Heard the 9/11 Hijackers Plans from Their Own Mouths

The 9/11 hijackers were largely unknown prior to that horrible event, right?

Actually, U.S. and allied intelligence services heard a lot from the hijackers' own mouths prior to 9/11:

  • An
    FBI informant hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000.
    Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered
    that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two
    hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the
    informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown
    location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking
    maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New
    York Times notes:

    Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the
    Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of
    covering up evidence . . ..

    The accusation stems from the
    Federal Bureau of Investigation's refusal to allow investigators for a
    Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to
    interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

  • The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the mastermind's phone calls
  • According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told
    the lead hijacker "tomorrow is zero hour" and gave final approval for
    the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was
    likely also monitoring the mastermind's phone calls
  • According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her "In two days, you're going to hear big news and you're not going to hear from me for a while.” U.S. officials later told CNN
    that “in recent years they've been able to monitor some of bin Laden's
    telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time
    was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and
    sometimes recorded." Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors,
    NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking
    to his stepmother.
  • And according to CBS News,
    at 9:53 a.m on 9/11, just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit
    the Pentagon, "the National Security Agency, which monitors
    communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin
    Laden's operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former
    Soviet Republic of Georgia", and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned
    about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on 9/11, that implies that it did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)

4: The Spying Program Has Not Been Narrowly Tailored to Keeping Americans Safe

We would all hope that the spying program has been tightly focused on protecting Americans from terrorists.

However, as I noted in 2008:

As one writer puts it:

we know of illegal administration spying on journalists and other
non-suspects, and we know of pre-9/11 surveillance, then we for all
intents and purposes know that these are not programs designed to fight
some foreign terrorists threat."

the government and its contractors seem to have spent most of their
time spying on antiwar protesters, environmentalists and other
non-dangerous people. See this and this.

course, the fact that the spying program began before 9/11, and that
9/11 wasn't stopped even though intelligence heard from the hijackers
themselves, is also instructive. And see below).

5: The Spying Program Isn't Just Used for Listening ... It Also Is Used to Track Americans and Predict Behavior

As I noted in 2008, it's not just spying, but also tracking and predicting what American citizens will do:

As a new article
by investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham reveals, a governmental
unit operating in secret and with no oversight whatsoever is gathering
massive amounts of data on every American
and running artificial intelligence software to predict each
American's behavior, including "what the target will do, where the
target will go, who it will turn to for help".

The same governmental unit is responsible for suspending
the Constitution and implementing martial law in the event that
anything is deemed by the White House in its sole discretion to
constitute a threat to the United States
. (this is formally known as implementing "Continuity of Government" plans).

Ketcham's article makes clear, these same folks and their predecessors
have been been busy dreaming up plans to imprison countless
"trouble-making" Americans without trial in case of any real or imagined
emergency. What kind of Americans? Ketcham describes it this way:

"dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protestors, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people."

we want the same small group of folks who have the power to suspend
the Constitution, implement martial law, and imprison normal citizens
to also be gathering
information on all Americans and running AI programs to be able to
predict where American citizens will go for help and what they will do
in case of an emergency? Don't we want the government to -- um, I
don't know -- help us in case of an emergency?

Bear in mind that the Pentagon is also running an AI program to see how people will react to propaganda and to government-inflicted terror. The program is called Sentient World Simulation:

"U.S defense, intel and homeland security officials are constructing a
parallel world, on a computer, which the agencies will use to test propaganda messages and military strategies.

the Sentient World Simulation, the program uses AI routines based upon
the psychological theories of Marty Seligman, among others. (Seligman
introduced the theory of 'learned helplessness' in the 1960s, after
shocking beagles until they cowered, urinating, on the bottom of their

Yank a country's water supply. Stage a military coup. SWS will tell you what happens next.

The sim will feature an AR avatar for each person in the real world, based upon data collected about us from government records and the internet."

continuity of government folks' AI program and the Pentagon's AI
program may or may not be linked, but they both indicate massive spying
and artificial intelligence in order to manipulate the American public,
to concentrate power, to take away the liberties and freedoms of
average Americans, and -- worst of all -- to induce chaos in order to achieve these ends.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said that web-based artificial intelligence can predict where people will go. See this and this.

ABC News Fast Company, Gizmodo and many other sources report that computer programs are being used to "predict" who will commit a crime.

Indeed, as noted by Boston University's Journal of Science and Technology Law, Fox News, the Daily Telegraph
and other sources, the Department of Homeland Security is developing an
airport scanner to be able to read people's minds and predict
terrorist behavior.

Neuroscientists at UCLA say
they can predict - using brain scanning - people's behavior better
than the people themselves can. And Northwestern University announced in July that scientists can read people's brain waves to detect terrorism. See also this and this.

I am all for stopping real terrorists. But given that protest is now considered "low-level terrorism" (see this, this, this and this), this could be used for very repressive purposes.

In other words, spying may gradually be morphing into the Orwellian concept of "pre-crime".