Top National Security Experts: Spying Program Doesn’t Make Us Safer, and Spying Leaks Don’t Harm America

George Washington's picture

America’s top national security experts say that the NSA’s mass surveillance program doesn’t make us safer … and that whistleblowers revealing the nature and extent of the program don’t harm America.

The top counter-terrorism czar under Presidents Clinton and Bush – Richard Clarke – notes:

The just-revealed surveillance stretches the law to its breaking point and opens the door to future potential abuses




I am troubled by the precedent of stretching a law on domestic surveillance almost to the breaking point. On issues so fundamental to our civil liberties, elected leaders should not be so needlessly secretive.

The argument that this sweeping search must be kept secret from the terrorists is laughable. Terrorists already assume this sort of thing is being done. Only law-abiding American citizens were blissfully ignorant of what their government was doing.




If the government wanted a particular set of records, it could tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court why — and then be granted permission to access those records directly from specially maintained company servers. The telephone companies would not have to know what data were being accessed. There are no technical disadvantages to doing it that way, although it might be more expensive.


Would we, as a nation, be willing to pay a little more for a program designed this way, to avoid a situation in which the government keeps on its own computers a record of every time anyone picks up a telephone? That is a question that should have been openly asked and answered in Congress.

The author of the Patriot Act and chairman on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner – says:

  • Lawmakers’ and the executive branch’s excuses about recent revelations of NSA activity are “a bunch of bunk”
  • The government has gone far beyond what the Patriot Act intended, and that section 215 of the act “was originally drafted to prevent data mining” on the scale that’s occurred
  • Whistleblower Edward Snowden is not a traitor, and Sensenbrenner would not have known the extent of abuse by the NSA and the FISA court without Snowden’s disclosures
  • The Patriot Act needs to be amended to protect Americans’ privacy

The former head of the NSA’s global digital data gathering program, William Binney:

  • Says that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information. He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.  Binney’s statements have been confirmed by other NSA whistleblowers

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente confirmed Snowden’s allegations, and told  CNN:

  • “Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not”
  • “No digital communication is secure”

Senator Jon Tester – a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Approrpriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security – says Snowden didn’t harm national security, and that his leaks were helpful:

The information that they wrote about was just the fact that NSA was doing broad sweeps of foreign and domestic phone records, metadata. [T]he fact of the matter is is I don’t see how that compromises the security of this country whatsoever.


And quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee.

And Thomas Drake – a former senior NSA executive and a decorated Air Force and Navy veteranwrites:

What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.


Like me, he became discomforted by [the NSA's] direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution.


The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as  Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA’s lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:

“The White House has approved the program; it’s all legal. NSA is the executive agent.”

It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. “You don’t understand,” I was told. “We just need the data.”


In the first week of October 2001, President Bush had signed an extraordinary order authorizing blanket dragnet electronic surveillance: Stellar Wind was a highly secret program that, without warrant or any approval from the Fisa court, gave the NSA access to all phone records from the major telephone companies, including US-to-US calls. It correlates precisely with the Verizon order revealed by Snowden; and based on what we know, you have to assume that there are standing orders for the other major telephone companies.




The supposed oversight, combined with enabling legislation – the Fisa court, the congressional committees – is all a kabuki dance, predicated on the national security claim that we need to find a threat. The reality is, they just want it all, period.


So I was there at the very nascent stages, when the government – wilfully and in deepest secrecy – subverted the constitution. All you need to know about so-called oversight is that the NSA was already in violation of the Patriot Act by the time it was signed into law.




To the US government today, however, we are all foreigners.


I became an expert on East Germany, which was then the ultimate surveillance state. Their secret police were monstrously efficient: they had a huge paper-based system that held information on virtually everyone in the country – a population of about 16-17 million. The Stasi’s motto was “to know everything”.



So none of this is new to me. The difference between what the Bush administration was doing in 2001, right after 9/11, and what the Obama administration is doing today is that the system is now under the cover and color of law. Yet, what Snowden has revealed is still the tip of the iceberg. [Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez - a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and the Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities confirms this]


General Michael Hayden, who was head of the NSA when I worked there, and then director of the CIA, said, “We need to own the net.” [Background] And that is what they’re implementing here. They have this extraordinary system: in effect, a 24/7 panopticon on a vast scale that it is gazing at you with an all-seeing eye.




My concern [while working for the NSA] was that we were more than an accessory; this was a crime and we were subverting the constitution.


I differed as a whistleblower to Snowden only in this respect: in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I took my concerns up within the chain of command, to the very highest levels at the NSA, and then to Congress and the Department of Defense. I understand why Snowden has taken his course of action, because he’s been following this for years: he’s seen what’s happened to other whistleblowers like me.


By following protocol, you get flagged – just for raising issues. You’re identified as someone they don’t like, someone not to be trusted. [Indeed, Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined. And the government threw in jail the one telecom executive to refuse government orders to hand over mass surveillance records on its customers.] I was exposed early on because I was a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations. In closed testimony, I told them everything I knew ….


But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.


I reached a point in early 2006 when I decided I would contact a reporter. I had the same level of security clearance as Snowden. If you look at the indictment from 2010, you can see that I was accused of causing “exceptionally grave damage to US national security“. Despite allegations that I had tippy-top-secret documents, In fact, I had no classified information in my possession, and I disclosed none to the Baltimore Sun journalist during 2006 and 2007. But I got hammered: in November 2007, I was raided by a dozen armed FBI agents, when I was served with a search warrant. The nightmare had only just begun, including extensive physical and electronic surveillance.


In April 2008, in a secret meeting with the FBI, the chief prosecutor from the Department of Justice assigned to lead the prosecution said, “How would you like to spend the rest of your life in jail, Mr Drake?” – unless I co-operated with their multi-year, multimillion-dollar criminal leak investigation, launched in 2005 after the explosive New York Times article revealing for the first time the warrantless wiretapping operation. Two years later, they finally charged me with a ten felony count indictment, including five counts under the Espionage Act. I faced upwards of 35 years in prison.


In July 2011, after the government’s case had collapsed under the weight of truth, I plead to a minor misdemeanor for “exceeding authorized use of a computer” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – in exchange for the DOJ dropping all ten felony counts. I received as a sentence one year’s probation and 240 hours of community service: I interviewed almost 50 veterans for the Library of Congress veterans history project. This was a rare, almost unprecedented, case of a government prosecution of a whistleblower ending in total defeat and failure.


So, the stakes for whistleblowers are incredibly high. The government has got its knives out: there’s a massive manhunt for Snowden. They will use all their resources to hunt him down and every detail of his life will be turned inside out. They’ll do everything they can to “bring him to justice” – already there are calls for the “traitor” to be “put away for life”.




Since the government unchained itself from the constitution after 9/11, it has been eating our democracy alive from the inside out. There’s no room in a democracy for this kind of secrecy: it’s anathema to our form of a constitutional republic, which was born out of the struggle to free ourselves from the abuse of such powers, which led to the American revolution.


That is what’s at stake here: to an NSA with these unwarranted powers, we’re all potentially guilty; we’re all potential suspects until we prove otherwise. That is what happens when the government has all the data.




We are seeing an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and truth-tellers: it’s now criminal to expose the crimes of the state.

Drake also tweets:

[People] must get clear & present danger of authoritarian totalitarianism via the Leviathan [National Security] state & surveillance


Snowden chose 2 free darkside NatSec info as magnificent act of selfless civil disobedience 2 protect our liberty.


How Credible Are the Claims that Mass Surveillance Stops Terror Attacks?

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WTFUD's picture

How do those sleazy semi illiterate Lawmakers ( public servants ) sleep at night? Like a baby i bet!
Right bunch of scummy sewage rats. THE FIRM.

The public paying the Cops to crack down on us while the fucking lawbreakers get paid protection money from the bankster mafia who claim it back from the FED via the PUBLIC PURSE. HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT?

It's very very hard to stomach that there is no Public Representation OUT THERE. Even the few lawbreakers with half a conscience should fuck off out of it and NOT TAKE FROM THE PUBLIC PURSE.

musket's picture

Clarke is an idiot...always has been and always will be.  2 real problems:  first what are the Chinese, Russians and Israelis doing with the info they mine from this pile and second what are the chicago democrats doing with this manipulated data.  Devising schemes to prevent Americans from voting?

g'kar's picture

All the Executive Branch departments are gearing everything up for domestic suppression. None of it has the least bit to do with protecting the American people.

mkucstars's picture

I grew up believing I lived in the greatest country on earth.

What a let down.

End the FED.

Cut the government by 2/3.

Long live Ron Paul!

dreadnaught's picture

I agree-these scum liars are hiding something-and they shit their pants when people like Snowden and Assage come along-let in the light! let in the fresh air!-if they have nothing to hide then they have no reason to raise "National Security" concerns


note to yahoos and trailer park mouth breathers-there are some things that should be kept secret-about 10% of what is classified as such

Paveway IV's picture

Snowden said he decided to go public now because the government will soon have the system rigged so that their power to snoop is irrevocable. Congress will probably use this whole affair to make fourth amendment violations so secret that, as a practical matter, even THEY can't do anything about it. 

He didn't go public simply because snooping was so bad and it has been/will be misused. He went public because the three branches of government are all conspiring to rig the system permanently

The whole U.S. government leadership is in a panic because

1) They didn't have enough time to legally weasel out of and cover up a willful violation of the constitution via their creative interpretation of statute (except you won't see that in the heavily-redacted version for peons) and, much, much worse:

2) A FISA judge just told the government to go screw themselves - don't try to claim FISC puts magic seals on anything they give to congress or the justice department because FISA doesn't have that authority. That's from the Presiding Judge of the FISA Court: Reggie Walton. Strange, because he's not exactly a champion of individual rights. Maybe he's just pissed that they threw FISA courts under the bus.

If Obama, Holder and Congress want to dupe the American people into making the Patriot Anal Rape Act irrevocable, they'll have to find some other patsy to blame besides FISA.

This means Obama and the Reichminister of Justice will have to have both Walton and Snowdon whacked to clean up the mess. 

And congress will have to work double-overtime to figure out some new way to rig the current spy laws so you pesky peons will NEVER have a way to change them. Then they can concentrate on awarding the contract for the Constitutional Gas Chambers. 


stant's picture

all this and they are powerless from paper and pencil that will be used to plan the next stuff coming. and just gave more a reason to plan

Hongcha's picture


You are barking up the wrong tree.

Men, this is about the God-damned Eye Are Ess, not the God-damned NSA.

They use the data for revenue scrounging and will sell it to any corporation that wants it.

It's about the money.  tax revenues, levies and fines.  They are going to pluck all the feathers off the responsible working class because there is no where else to go.


MeelionDollerBogus's picture

fiatbux are a means to an end. They are not the 'why'.
This is how you come here, without the 'why'?
The purpose is higher-leveraged slavery, more slaves, more assets to steal, more productivity, and you need to monitor future productivity as well as measuring what citizens intend to hide.
Fiatbux are merely a proxy for work-hours, produced goods, extracted raw materials. It won't be long before the fiatbux are gone but without a revolution the slavery will stay.

onthesquare's picture

Face the facts.

All governments who use, have used, will use these methods veiw all citizens as potential terrorists.  Because of that all citizens will become, in the eyes of government, terrorists.

q music for "Yesterday"

Harbanger's picture

If I have the power and you have money, guess who's going to end up with power and money?

Clashfan's picture

Edit--Edmonds and Phillip Marshall:

From the piece:

CIA Killed Phillip Marshall for Leaking 9/11 Secrets: Dr. Kevin Barrett

Press TV
March 5, 2013

Philip Marshall was killed in a black operation over confessing to having worked with CIA drug smugglers and the potential exposure of 9/11 secrets.

In the background to this, former US National Security Agency Officer Wayne Madsen says the 9/11 investigative author Philip Marshall and his children were killed in a “black ops hit” by the CIA, dismissing the suicide hypothesis. Marshall was afraid of being silenced for his revelations about 9/11, Madsen said, noting that a side door the investigator never used was wide open when his dead body was found. Marshall believed the former US President George Bush had pulled off the 9/11 attack to foment a government coup. In his fourth book, he was supposed to disclose blockbuster information.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Dr. Kevin Barrett, an American author and political expert in Madison, Wisconsin, to further discuss the issue. Barrett is joined by Lee Kaplan, investigative journalist from Berkley. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview with Barrett.


SmittyinLA's picture

Encrypted, unecrypted, everybody is missing the point, "the act" only allows for use of evidence in NSA prosecutions aka "terrorism" which isn't even defined.

They can't legally use the same evidence against corrupt public officials-unless they expand the act to include corruption by public officials.

If they expanded the "Patriot Act" to allow the police state use of evidence collected without a warrant the crimes included should include corruption by public officials as we'll as their staffers, they're a far bigger National Security threat.


Obama and our traitor Senate would be out of business and in jail if they allowed this police state evidence collection to be used.

onthesquare's picture

You better start thinking outside the box.  Following the letter of the law, due process, are all subjective to those who are enforcing the law.  Stalin would be proud.

disabledvet's picture

I do agree the political popularity of...ahem..."spies" Less Than Zero. The same goes for SPYING as well. Public OR Private. Not that the original George Washington didn't make good use of said individuals...all for the larger "strategic purpose" however. imagine if you Army worthy of the name...fighting for...their Oath!

onthesquare's picture

Benedict Arnold - Traitor or Patriach?  He was loyal to the oath he took before God and on the bible.

I suppose Snowden and those like him are made to take an oath of some sort.  It would be hard to keep a straight face.

Clashfan's picture

Oh, and 911 was an inside job to begin with.

When is someone from the inside (besides Sibel Edmonds) going to speak out about the real terrorizers?

Spanky's picture

Come now, such conversation is unseemly. It might arouse the servants.

Pay Day Today's picture

"It might arouse the servants."

French maids, per chance?

Benjamin Glutton's picture

But it may keep you out of prison...


Only One Big Telecom CEO Refused To Cave To The NSA … And He’s Been In Jail For 4 Years

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio is currently serving a six-year sentence after being convicted of insider trading in April 2007 for selling $52 million of stock in the spring of 2001 as the telecommunications carrier appeared to be deteriorating.

During the trial his defense team argued that Nacchio, 63, believed Qwest was about to win secret government contracts that would keep it in the black.

Why Qwest Hung Up On NSA

AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. began sharing records of tens of millions of their customers’ phone calls with the NSA shortly after the 2001 terror attacks, according to USA Today. But when the NSA came calling, former Qwest Communications CEO Joseph Nacchio broke ranks with fellow former Bell companies.

“When he learned that no such authority had been granted and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process, including the Special Court which had been established to handle such matters, Mr. Nacchio concluded that these requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommications Act,” Nacchio’s attorney wrote in a statement.

Former CEO Says U.S. Punished Phone Firm

A former Qwest Communications Internationalexecutive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.4

Bastiat's picture

Let's see, how many years did GW Bush serve for selling out of his Harken Oil position, while head of the audit committee, and just before the stock crashed?  When that shitbird got elected in spite of this, I knew there wasn't much hope.  People just can't evaluate facts and judge character.  But the issue here is: selective application of the law. 

Benjamin Glutton's picture

agreed. the spooks have taken over this nation from top to bottom. I think the BCCI thing really pissed them off.

blindman's picture

monopoly on anything considers competition
savage terrorism and will label it as such every time.
it is a rule of economics, an economic law.

LawsofPhysics's picture

The major problem that I see (and no-one is discussing) is that these 500,000+ "security" nerds are going to have to justify their jobs.  They are going to start doing anything to catch "terrorists".  They will have access to everyones electronic information (bank accounts, e-mails, searches, facebook, college records etc.) and ethics of the current "leadership" (i.e. none).  They will fabricate whatever they need to in order to show that the system is "working".

Interestingly enough, it is still a felony for someone else to look at my paper mail, why should my electronic communications be any different?

g'kar's picture

A few days ago I started transferring money back and forth between my two banks just for fun.

Winston Churchill's picture

You speak like there is still a legal system LoP.

In the United Staes of Chiquita , soon only the law of the jungle will apply.

Free Jon Corzine.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Really more of a rhetorical question.

the grateful unemployed's picture

the victims of terrorism are treated the same as the terrorists, as if government can't tell the difference. (perhaps its the old meme about using racial profiling, which i think is fine. you can profile someone without punishing them. cops profiling blacks always went wrong because the cops forget they're looking for criminals and use the stop for harrassment, just like they're nothing wrong with the IRS profiling Tea Party NP's. its when they hold these groups to a different standard that they go wrong) the government has this crazy idea that we are all the same, and we're not, but that's no reason we don't all have the same rights under the law, which right now we do, but they keep lowering the bar, until they're treating everyone in an unconstitutional manner. and that they think is a good solution. punishing the group for the behaviour of the few. the schoolyard still rules.