A former NSA analyst, Russell Tice, confirmed to Kieth Olberman what so many "tinfoliers" already believed:
The NSA is listening, watching and reading communications from citizens in the United States posing no security threat, and doing it illegally in staggering volume.
This is without FISA, warrants, or any other Constitutional protections. This isn't even with the BS special situation exemptions the former administration had tried to rationalize.
Mr. Tice, who also had exposed the FISA circumvention, noted journalists as a specific target, but also that regular folk are not immune:
TICE: But the National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And that doesn't -- it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, you know, in the middle of the country, and you never made a communication -- foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.
So much for only being listened to if you were calling someone outside the country, or having phone sex with your wife while on duty in Iraq.
Tice confirmed the NSA was archiving every call, email, website, voicemail, etc of journalists in the United States, and that is just a single example of a "group" of targets. Targets have every piece of communication recorded 24/7/365.
OLBERMANN: 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.
I think it is safe to speculate one of the key reasons for this, especially given the targets are journalists, is political. People are being spied on not only to know what they know and are planning, thinking, doing so they know how to out maneuver the a situation coming their way - but it is also a excellent way to dig up dirt for blackmail. Is Person X secretly abusing drugs, having an affair, in the closet or any number of things someone would be terrified to have to exposed?
Hmmm... what would the Bush admin be able to do with that kind of leverage? I suppose suppression of key investigations or having a channel for propaganda are two handy uses... but Bush? Nahhh. :P
But how would such a devious thing be able to take place under the ever vigilant eye of our Congress - especially given they could be likely targets themselves?
OLBERMANN: Can you explain the maneuver, another sort of bait-and-switch that was worked with the congressional committees that would have had to be asking questions about stuff exactly like this?
TICE: Well, the agency would tailor some of their briefings to try to be deceptive for -- whether it be, you know, a congressional committee or someone they really didn't want to know exactly what was going on. So there would be a lot of bells and whistles in a briefing, and quite often, you know, the meat of the briefing was deceptive.
One of the things that could be done was you could take something that was part of the Department of Defense, make it part of the intelligence community, and put a caveat to that, and make that whatever the intelligence community is doing for support will ultimately be given a different caveat. So when the defense committees on the Hill come calling, you say, you can't look at that because that's an intelligence program.
But when the intelligence program comes calling, you say you can't look at that because it is a Department of Defense program.
So you basically have a little shell game that you are playing back and forth.
Those with even a passing interest in the world of government intel have long known of project Echelon - the NSA's network with the capacity to monitor every communication, at any time, by anyone. The theory of this taking place is not ground breaking, but the fact it is being exposed is a very important event.
In the past, the way the US allegedly spied on its citizens was to simply have a foreign agency do the analysis. For instance, Brits would analyze Americans, Americans would analyze Brits - then share that information with each other.
Apparently Bush thought that loophole in the Constitution was too much of a headache, much like FISA, and decided just to bypass it.
Update: Obligatory rec update... thanks, this is probably the worst, most un-thought out swill I have every published in a diary (past ones deleted, long story), but I was writing fast, I didn't even have a chance to post a comment/TJ - so please forgive me. Video is up as well. MSNBC is blocking direct embeds now (and dK doesn't allow iframes), so I have to link.
I too am not surprised at all be the revelations, but this is a very big bombshell to be dropped by an insider on prime time. Many people thought this type of thing was just lore, but having it confirmed by a whistle blower is a very big thing.
Update 2: Cleanup + Transcripts.
So far, I only see bloggers picking this up. I'm hoping this is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of exposing (and hopefully rectifying) the shady practices we were all subject to during the previous administration.
See this comment for some interpretation of the technical details Tice was refering to: http://www.dailykos.com/...
Update 3: Somehow I missed Deep Harm's diary. It gives even more context to the pervasiveness of the surveillance of your average citizen. It makes me think the NSA revelation is merely standard operating procedure, and we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg here. It's a great firsthand account from a federal employee, but not one you would think would be involved in domestic spying: http://www.dailykos.com/...
News Watch - If you want to keep tabs on if this story is getting legs in the MSM (so far not so much): http://news.google.com/...