As a concerned citizen I'd like to express my sincere gratitude for you having taken the important step of sending a formal letter to the director of the National Security Agency asking him about whether the NSA has spied or is till spying on members of Congress or other American elected officials.
I think your inquiry is both, enormously important, and timely, given the slew of revelations about illegal and unconstitutional activities by the NSA as the result of leaks by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
I sincerely hope you get a prompt and accurate answer to your inquiries, being confident in the fact that you will take the appropriate followup steps as a Senator once you get the information you requested.
However, I would like to respectfully ask you to consider looking into additional aspects related to what appears to be wanton lawbreaking and abuses of power by the NSA.
As you know, and as reported by BloombergBusinessweek, 70% of U.S. intelligence budget goes to private contractors, with Booz Allen Hamilton being one of the major recipients of national security contracts.
In the fiscal year ended in March 2013, Booz Allen Hamilton reported $5.76 billion in revenue, 99 percent of which came from government contracts, and $219 million in net income. Almost a quarter of its revenue—$1.3 billion—was from major U.S. intelligence agencies...As you may also be aware of, many critics of the privatization of highly sensitive national security functions have also pointed out the potential conflict of interests that result from revolving door influence peddling corruption, which unfortunately has become endemic in our system of government.
[The emphasis is mine]
For example, "the Obama administration's chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive," as reported by The New York Times, which also reports that "[t]he official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen."
At a minimum, this situation should raise questions about possible conflicts of interest. It seems to me that the duty of a government official who has pledged an oath to the United States Constitution, tasked with protecting the country (national security), is (or should be) fundamentally different than that of a corporate executive who focuses on meeting quarterly growth expectations by Wall Street.
If a government official, who earns much less than a corporate executive in similar positions in private industry, has an eye on securing a highly-paid position at a corporation once he or she leaves office, would not that be a classic conflict of interest?
In the case of the NSA and Booz Allen and other private contractors, wouldn't those officials have the incentive to help their future employers gain more market share, more revenue, more profit? Could that mean finding ways to collect more data, of increasing the IT infrastructure necessary for the storage of that data? And wouldn't that mean creating the incentives to spy on more and more people?
If that is the case, could one say that in the final analysis the NSA is a profit-driven, corporate-controlled agency? Wouldn't that condition (if true) put us all at risk when it comes to constitutional protections, and the rule of law?
As a concerned citizen, I find that situation in and of itself to be extremely alarming.
And yet, from my perspective, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the threats we are facing as it relates to the military/surveillance industrial complex.
In 2011, now-deceased journalist Michael Hastings published the following article in RollingStone: Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators.
Here's the opening paragraph of the article:
The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.The article goes on to describe highly sophisticated methods of psychological manipulation:
...According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It’s what you learn on day one."As I mentioned, I find the inherent conflict of interest that results from revolving door influence peddling (for profit) alarming enough. But once one looks at that situation, in addition to the total information awareness dossiers that have (surely) been built on every single public official, in combination with the apparent capabilities of military/security organizations to target government officials with highly sophisticated psychological manipulation techniques, then what we are talking about is something much more potentially dangerous to our system of government and our democracy.
According to experts on intelligence policy, asking a psy-ops team to direct its expertise against visiting dignitaries would be like the president asking the CIA to put together background dossiers on congressional opponents. Holmes was even expected to sit in on Caldwell’s meetings with the senators and take notes, without divulging his background. "Putting your propaganda people in a room with senators doesn’t look good," says John Pike, a leading military analyst. "It doesn’t pass the smell test. Any decent propaganda operator would tell you that."
[The emphasis is mine]
One obvious question that comes to mind is this: In this day and age (because of our steady descend into pay-to-play political graft ethos) public officials tend to have lots of associates (donors, supporters) in powerful positions in business and industry, and that could lend itself to a situation where some of those individuals may have crossed lines (or pushed the envelope) when it comes to ethics, or even criminality. What are the implications of allowing a permanent institution (for profit, corporate-controlled national security apparatus) to collect mass amounts of data on every single member of Congress, on every single public official around the country, and on every single one of their associates, their spouses, their children, their family members?
Again, I'm just a concerned citizen with no specialized knowledge about these issues other than what I read from different sources, but as a layperson what comes to mind when I look at this situation is "shadow government."
I understand that some people may take issue with that characterization, but I can't help but think that any entity that for all appearances seems to be acting in total secrecy and whose officials have been caught lying to Congress with total impunity, basically owns the government.
We can't have a situation wherein a permanent entity whose main mission is to generate profit is able to collect that much information on every citizen, including members of Congress, generate very detailed (granular) dossiers, and apparently has the capability of targeting public officials with sophisticated psychological techniques (gleaned from the very dossiers it has collected), and still call ourselves a democracy.
Finally, as a social justice activist one of my concerns is the fact that highly-integrated government-corporate spy networks have illegally spied on activists and social justice groups, as reported by The Los Angeles Times:
Corporations are increasingly spying on nonprofit groups they view as potential threats with little fear of retribution, according to a new report by a corporate watchdog group.I'm also concerned about learning that these corporate spy networks have been employing psychological tactics against social justice groups and activists.
The large companies employ former Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, FBI, military and police officers to monitor and in some cases infiltrate groups that have been critical of them, according to the report by Essential Information, which was founded by Ralph Nader in the 1980s.
"Many different types of nonprofits have been targeted with espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing-home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups," the report said.
[The emphasis is mine]
There seems to be a pattern wherein these entities collect enormous amounts of information on people, and then use all kinds of techniques and strategies against their targets based on the information they have collected.
Is it possible that this is also being done against members of Congress?
If so, then what we have here is a major constitutional crises.
As a citizen, I would like to respectfully ask you to inquire about these issues: Is the NSA spying on members of Congress? Has the NSA (or any other entity) built detailed dossiers (including psychological profiles) on members of Congress? Has the NSA (or any other entity) targeted members of Congress with military psy-ops techniques? Does the NSA (or any other entity) have information on any member of Congress that could be used to blackmail them?
Thanks again for all the great work you are doing. You are a shining example of integrity and honesty in a sea of corruption, self-dealing, and profiteering.
A Resident of the San Francisco Bay Area