Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

CIA: We Only Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We’re Liars

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | March 7, 2014

Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA’s torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report’s findings — but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report’s findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.

In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers’ fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan’s statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault “the legislative” branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).

In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.

“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.

A further report detailed what he’s talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this… directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.

Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.

They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.

The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.

“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”

The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.

There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there’s an argument that Senate staffers weren’t supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in “wrongdoing” is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. “You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that” is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.

Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers.

Of course, the CIA may still have one advantage on its side: there are still some in Congress who are so supportive of the intelligence community itself that even they will make excuses for the CIA spying on their own staff. At least that seems to be the response from Senate Intelligence vice chair Senator Saxby Chambliss, one of the most ardent defenders of the intelligence community he’s supposed to be watching over. When asked about all of this, he seemed to be a lot more concerned about the staffers supposedly taking “classified” documents than about the CIA spying on those staffers:

“I have no comment. You should talk to those folks that are giving away classified information and get their opinion,” Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said when asked about the alleged intrusions.

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel Still Holds Plenty of U.S. Cards

By NORMAN SOLOMON and ABBA A. SOLOMON | CounterPunch | November 25, 2013

More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.

In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.

While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.

A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).

Netanyahu and many other Israelis — as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics — fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”

This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.

Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.

Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.

The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.

Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.

Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.

Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as “making the desert bloom” and “outpost of democracy.”

As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective — along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.

The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.

This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.

From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel — and its many allies in the United States — to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rep. Alan Grayson: I Learn Much More About The NSA From The Press Than From Intelligence Briefings

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | October 28, 2013

Rep. Alan Grayson has been among the most outspoken members of Congress about the NSA’s surveillance efforts, and his latest is an op-ed in the Guardian, in which he notes that Congressional “oversight” is really Congressional “overlook,” and that he learns much more about the NSA from the press than from the House intelligence briefings:

Despite being a member of Congress possessing security clearance, I’ve learned far more about government spying on me and my fellow citizens from reading media reports than I have from “intelligence” briefings. If the vote on the Amash-Conyers amendment is any indication, my colleagues feel the same way. In fact, one long-serving conservative Republican told me that he doesn’t attend such briefings anymore, because, “they always lie”.

Many of us worry that Congressional Intelligence Committees are more loyal to the “intelligence community” that they are tasked with policing, than to the Constitution. And the House Intelligence Committee isn’t doing anything to assuage our concerns.

We’ve covered in detail how House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers had blocked other Reps. from learning information about the spying program, refusing to answer questions or provide more access to certain Congressional Reps, as well as generally making sure that curious Reps can’t find out the answers to their questions. Grayson goes into more detail:

I’ve requested classified information, and further meetings with NSA officials. The House Intelligence Committee has refused to provide either. Supporters of the NSA’s vast ubiquitous domestic spying operation assure the public that members of Congress can be briefed on these activities whenever they want. Senator Saxby Chambliss says all a member of Congress needs to do is ask for information, and he’ll get it. Well I did ask, and the House Intelligence Committee said “no”, repeatedly. And virtually every other member not on the Intelligence Committee gets the same treatment.

Recently, a member of the House Intelligence Committee was asked at a town hall meeting, by his constituents, why my requests for more information about these programs were being denied. This member argued that I don’t have the necessary level of clearance to obtain access for classified information. That doesn’t make any sense; every member is given the same level of clearance. There is no legal justification for imparting secret knowledge about the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities only to the 20 members of the House Intelligence Committee. Moreover, how can the remaining 415 of us do our job properly, when we’re kept in the dark – or worse, misinformed?

This is even more important than just a few concerned Congressional Reps. Just recently, we wrote about the FISA Court’s defense of its latest renewal on the bulk metadata collection of phone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. A very key piece of that decision had to do with the FISA Court’s belief that Congress was well-informed about the programs when it voted to renew Section 215 — thus, arguing that Congress approves of such things. Grayson’s comments (along with those of many other House Representatives — not to mention the 207 Reps who voted for the Amash Amendment against such bulk collection) suggest that the FISA Court is simply wrong on this, but doesn’t seem to care enough to find out the truth.

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Feinstein’s Senate Committee Defends NSA Phone Surveillance, Pushes Bill to Retain It

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | September 28, 2013
Senator Dianne Feinstein

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee made it clear this week that they see no reason to halt the National Security Agency’s controversial program that collects records of Americans’ phone calls.

Led by the panel’s chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), a majority of the committee indicated during a hearing on Thursday that they want the NSA to keep using the once-secret program, but under certain conditions.

Feinstein and the committee’s top Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, plan to draft new legislation by next week that would require the NSA to file public reports on the calling log database.

The bill would also mandate that the agency reduce the number of years that it stores the database’s contents. Currently, the NSA says that it stores the records for five years.

In addition, Feinstein wants the Senate to have confirmation authority over new NSA directors.

At the same time, the Democratic lawmaker is willing to broaden the agency’s power to wiretap without court approval a foreigner’s cellphone for at least one week when that person travels to the United States.

Another provision would demand that the NSA send lists of the phone numbers it searches, along with explanations for doing so, to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for review.

Critics of the NSA’s domestic surveillance have called for ending the phone-records program altogether. These advocates include two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, who have introduced a tougher reform bill.

But it appears unlikely Wyden’s bill will get past Feinstein’s committee, since Feinstein says the call log program is legal and “necessary for our nation’s security,” according to The New York Times.

To Learn More:

Senators Push to Preserve N.S.A. Phone Surveillance (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)

Feinstein Outlines NSA Changes (by Brendan Sasso and Kate Tummarello, The Hill)

“Independent Experts” Reviewing NSA Spying Have Ties to Intelligence Community (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Left and Right Unite to Sue NSA over Telephone Records Surveillance (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment