We learned on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown last night that the illegal NSA wiretap program was far more widespread than reported, and certainly more widespread than the Bushies admitted to. I’m an ordinary citizen who, by virtue of publicly criticizing Bush, just might have been a target. How do I find that out? I expect few answers.
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
Keith Olbermann’s Countdown broke the story last night, with Russell Tice, former NSA analyst, stating explicitly that the Bush Administration (illegal) wiretap surveillance program was monitoring journalists. DailyKos has a good diary on the subject, but here’s the transcript of the Olbermann show from mediabistro.com:
OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted.
What group or groups can you tell us about?
TICE: Well, there’s sort of two avenues to look at this. What I just mentioned was sort of the low-tech dragnet look at this. The things that I specifically were involved with were more on the high-tech side. And try to envision, you know, the dragnets are out there, collecting all the fish and then ferreting out what they may. And my technical angle was to try to harpoon fish from an airplane kind of thing. So it’s two separate worlds.
But in the world that I was in, as to not harpoon the wrong people in some – in one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations just supposedly so that we would not target them. So that we knew where they were, so as not to have a problem with them.
Now, what I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense. And that’s – I started to investigate that. That’s about the time when they came after me, to fire me. But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.
OLBERMANN: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the “New York Times?” Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?
TICE: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.
OLBERMANN: Do you have a sense of why, as you discovered this? I mean, do you have a sense of what this was, if it was used, to what end?
TICE: I do not know. I do not know what was done with the collection. I’m sure the information – the collection was digitized and put on databases somewhere. I don’t know what was done with it from that point.
OLBERMANN: And this bait-and-switch sort of idea, that this – this is the discard pile, we are not going to look at the media, and then it becomes apparent to you that the discard pile is in fact the save pile.
How did that become apparent to you?
TICE: Well, as I was going for support for this particular organization, it sort of was dropped to me that, you know, this is 24/7. Because I was saying, you know, I need collection at this time, at this point for, you know, for a window of time. And I would say, will we have the capability at this particular point? And positioning assets, and I was ultimately told we don’t have to worry about that, because we’ve got it covered all the time. And that’s when it clicked in my head, this is not something that’s being done on a onesy basis, onesy-twosie. This is something that’s happening all the time.
I don’t normally shill for TV programs, and I rarely get the chance to watch Olbermann, since his show is on during our dinner hour, but he’s got more of an interview with Russell Tice tonight.
The conclusion? The Bush Administration illegal wiretap program targeted journalists. Did it also target those who write blogs? Sure, I know they read this blog, and it is pulbic, so I’ve no problem with that, really. We put it out there to be read, after all. But we’ve been decidedly critical over the last five years in our relentless pursuit of Mr. Bush’s policies. We began using pseuonyms, but it wouldn’t have been hard for the NSA to figure out our identities, and besides, both Richard Blair and myself have been using our own names for a good long while now. So I wonder, have they been monitoring me?
Heck, they’re not going to find much. But there’s those calls I made a couple years ago to my cousins of Lebanese extraction last year on the occasion of my great aunt who died in Florida. We made arrangements to meet. Did they listen in and then watch us, a family gathered for bereavement and her burial in Kentucky. Perhaps they caught me on the phone asking Mom for her recipe for stuffed grape leaves or kibbe. Did they think those were code words or something?
OK, I’ll be serious. I know there’s a strong possibility my phone calls were listened to. Over the years we at ASZ have noticed many people in various areas of government, including the NSA, reading this web site. I do not doubt in the least that someone from the NSA will watch the site today after they pick up some juicy key words in their google sessions. My question is whether they have ever collected information about my phone calls and how I find that out, and I suspect that will take a full-blown investigation to answer. All the more reason for the Senate to confirm Holder soonest, a process the Republicans there are holding up. Could this be why they are dragging their heels, because they know Holder will find illegalities all throughout the Bush Administration? If anyone reading this is surprised at that possibility, then they are naive. Republicans have, after all, shown themselves to have one policy over all others, a desire to protect themselves and their own, and to hell with the rights of Americans.
Obama is rolling back some of those Bush policies that abused the protections we are provided by our constitution. This can’t happen fast enough.