America’s Surveillance State 5

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TIME CODE : 00:00 _05:09

Narration:

The National Security Agency was set up to keep America safe.

-“People you know from within our organization can also cause harm. This threat, is called the ‘Insider Threat’. An insider is a trusted member of our organization such as an employee or a contractor that intentionally causes harm.”

Narration:

It now seems obsessed with keeping itself safe.

Continue video :

“if you see the following behavior, you should report it immediately to your supervisor or our security team.”

Narration:

Among the threats NSA and other government agencies are now facing are not the ones they first expected or prepared for: Insider threats. The NSA estimates that as many as 4,000 employees may not be trustworthy.

Russ Tice :

I was considered a rising star in my office. It wasn’t like I was, you know, the disgruntled employee.

Narration:

Former NSA staffer Russ Tice says that after 911, the agency slowly turned on itself.

Russ Tice:

Matter of fact, when all this happened, my supervisor didn’t even know what was going on. So, when they yanked me out of my office, my supervisor was shocked and had no clue what was going on. So, it was… this insider thing that they’re talking about, having basically employees snoop on other employees, that environment did not exist then.

Danny Schechter :

But yet you must have been shocked to be singled out this way and be investigated.

Russ Tice :

I was.

Russ Tice :

they called me in for an emergency psych eval, and they bring this thing up and they said that I’m crazy because I think there could be a spy in the intelligence business, Lord forbid.

Narration:

Here at their headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland, the NSA mothership is well-guarded in a cocoon of security against danger. Now, like other intelligence agencies, they are increasingly uptight, forcing employees to spy on each other. Here’s an advisory from the U.S. Navy--- NSA is run by a Navy Admiral:

Navy Insider Threat :

“This is a unclassified brief on the Insider Threat. What is an Insider Threat? An insider who uses his or her access to harm national security interests or national security through unauthorized disclosure data modification, espionage, or actions resulting in loss or degradation of resources or capabilities.”

Narration:

Here’s another video, a dramatization produced for Homeland Security:

Homeland Security Insider Threat:

“Would you recognize these situations as potential threats if they happen to you? Ted has been employed at his firm for 6 years, his firms approaching a major security upgrade that has kept him working late into the evening, so he uses his lunch break to run a few errands close by the office. As he talks on his cell and walks back to his office, Ted notices a co-worker Doug Redman--Doug appears to have just handed a bulky folder to a man and then walked away.”

Narration:

This is a call for vigilance: “if you see something, say something” is its mantra. One unintended by-product is that alarmist messages like this can intimidate employees into silence:

Homeland Security Insider Threat :

“An unusual or alarming confluence of these situations may indicate a threat. You have the power to protect your workplace. If you see something suspicious from one of your co-workers, say something to your supervisor, human resources department or your security officer.”

Narration:

Another insider who became a whistleblower said he was “tagged” when he began raising questions about spying on Americans. Former NSA Executive Thomas Drake was threatened with prison.

Thomas Drake :

…I was tagged early on as, as a problem, because I was raising the gravest of concerns about NSA conduct shortly after 9/11. When I had that extraordinary encounter with the lead attorney officer in office of General Council, he said some very dark things in terms of what I was asking him. I said, why are we in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that's criminal sanctions. He said, you don't understand, all the laws have looked at it, the White House has approved it and then he said the following, which threw me back to the Nixon Administration. And as soon as he said, it's all legal, the hair was standing up on the back of my neck because this is precisely what Nixon said, and Nixon separated himself from the special oath that he took, which is to preserve, protect and defend the constitution.

TIME CODE : 05:09_10:10

Narration:

Both Drake and Tice tried to bring their concerns to the agency’s attention but got nowhere.

Danny Schechter :

…there’s been a lot of buzz from some pundits on television saying well “Snowden should have gone inside and shared his concerns instead of going to the public with these secret documents”.

Russ :

Those avenues don’t exist. That chain of command, the D.O.D. and the NSA’s IG is totally in bed with the security office and the front office at Fort Meade and NSA. That’s why I didn’t even go to them. Matter of fact, back then I was friends with the deputy director of NSA, and I went to him, and you know he kind of acted like he didn’t know what was going on when I talked to him very quietly in private. So, I went to the D.O.D. I.G. and got nowhere. I went to the Merit System Protection Board only because I was a military veteran. If I wasn’t a military veteran, they would’ve blown me off for that because the Intelligence Service is exempt from the laws. The whistleblower protection act… they’re exempt! And that’s something you don’t hear from these pundits when they’re talking. They don't even bring that up. I don’t even know if they know it themselves but the Whistleblower Protection Act does not protect someone in the Intelligence community.

Narration:

What About Thomas Drake?

Thomas Drake :

I became a whistleblower and what I did in those weeks, months and the next few years after 9/11 was use every available channel in the government to blow the whistle and that included inside the NSA, that included the Office of the General Council, that included the Inspector General's office, that included obviously my supervisory chain, that included Congress, Department of Defence and and a number of others.

Danny Schechter :

But you did what you were supposed to do: go through channels.And Snowden didn't and they criticized Snowden because of it, for now going through channels.

Thomas Drake :

Well he actually did go through channels, Uh, he has actually elaborated more on that in terms of details, it's just that it never got anywhere.

Narration:

Since our interview with Drake, Snowden spoke with NBC and revealed that he also tried to communicate with the NSA.

Edward Snowden:

“Now I have raised these complaints not just officially, in writing through email to these offices and individuals, but to my supervisors, to my colleagues, in more than office. I did it in Ft. Meade, I did it in Hawaii.”

Narration:

The NSA downplayed Snowden’s charges, insisting they could only find one email of his. Later, NBC challenged that response and confirmed Snowden’s story.

Thomas Drake :

Look, the lawyer that I confronted in the Office of General Council, he warned me. He said: don't ask any more questions, you don't want to go there. And I chose to fight from within. Look, I was now eyewitness to the subversion of the Constitution. I was literally, my oath is on the line. I was not going to violate that oath. I was going to keep faith and allegiance to the oath. That oath ‘to supported and defend the constitution’, it is the idea of how to govern ourselves, with all its faults and foibles, historically it is the basis...

Danny Schechter :

But you were warned Tom, you were warned

Thomas Drake :

Yes I was, but I was not going to stand silent and look away because I would be complicit.

Narration:

Unlike Drake and earlier whistleblowers, Snowden released secret NSA documents. He decided that the only way to challenge them was to show the public what NSA was doing in it’s own words.

Snowden didn’t just dump secret documents to get them out, he sought out responsible journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and tried to put them in context. He asked them to protect the names of agents.

At first, Greenwald was too busy to encrypt his communications with Snowden and almost didn’t get his big scoop:

Glenn Greenwald:

“The lesson of that story, you know, and the reason why I’ve proudly told it is 2 parts: One is that here was somebody who in retrospect for very good reasons was afraid to talk to me as a source coming to a journalist because he knew unlike me at the time, the vast reach of the surveillance system. And so, he would not talk to me or tell me anything about who he was or what he had until I installed encryption. And that’s the broader point, we talk a lot about the threat to privacy from the surveillance state, but how do you have a free press and engage in a healthy news gathering process when the government is monitoring people’s communications and even collecting lists of everyone with whom we’re communicating, and it sort of underscores the difficulty of doing journalism and speaking freely in an unencrypted environment.”

Narration:

Ironically, the NSA had, for years, lobbied to block encryption on the Internet so they could more easily collect information. This very lack of protection later made it easier for Snowden to download their files-- what is estimated at over a million documents, maybe more. Only Snowden knows for sure.

TIME CODE : 10:10 _15:00

Mike German:

you know, the NSA was engaged in things like as dumbing down encryption, making sure that encryption wasn’t as strong as it could be so they can break it. And then they complained that there’s a cyber-security issue out there -- well, of course there’s a cyber-security issue because they created a cyber-security issue -- building back doors into all these software programs.


Narration:

The government was soon cracking down. Here’s what happened to Thomas Drake after an article appeared exposing the NSA.

Thomas Drake:

And as I found out later, then Vice President Cheney, had simply issued the call “find and fry the perpetrator. I don’t care who it is, make an object lesson out of them.”

Danny Schechter :

Find and fry?

Thomas Drake :

Find and fry. So it’s 2005, the article comes out, they launch this massive leak investigations. I knew when the article came out, there was no doubt there would be an investigation. When the investigation was launched, I get caught up in it. Why? Very few people knew about the secret surveillance programs.

Danny Schechter :

So what happens to you one morning at your house?

Thomas Drake :

Well it’s now almost 2 years later and I am getting ready to go to work, it’s November 28th, it’s shortly after 7 am, I look out the window and I see all these FBI agents streaming across the front yard, and of course, my heart is in my throat. The nightmare had begun.

Thomas Drake :

… I was facing thirty-five years in prison. 5 counts for espionage, one for obstruction of justice, 4 for making false statements to FBI agents. And now my name is splashed all over mainstream media and the alternative media.

Danny Schechter :

Guilty?

Thomas Drake :

Guilty in the court of public opinion at that time because it was so rare to have an American be charged with espionage.

Narration:

In the end, Drake was allowed to plead to a minor infraction and the charges were dropped. Russ Tice, who also challenged surveillance, was under surveillance.

Russ Tice :

I had the FBI following me around. At first it was the black Sedans, you know. It got to a point where almost every black Sedan I saw I thought “that’s probably an FBI guy”. I realized I had to get out of that mentality too because they’re there, but not everybody out there is one of them. So, and I learned how to spot them.

And now, you know, the shining knight in armor is Ed Snowden because what he was willing to do that the rest of us were not, was he was willing to fall on his own sword to do it, and we were not, mainly with the documentation that he’s provided, because he’s provided the proof. Their documentation, he’s provided, which proves all the rest of this to be correct. And they cannot refute it now. They cannot.

Danny Schechter :

So, that took a lot of guts, and he was asked “what do you think is going to happen to you” and he said “N.G”, standing for “not good”. He seems to be aware of the dangerous position he’s in.

Russ Tice :

Well, yeah, especially if you look at what happened to Mr. Drake. Anytime you put documents out there, and I find this interesting because I’ve been on TV shows from way back and they look at me and say “you can say that but where’s your proof”. I said, okay, if I were to pull out the documentation right now and had a bunch of classified files and I could prove it with the documentation right here at this table, do you think I’d make it out of this building without being shackled?

Narration:

Motivated employees join institutions because they believe in their mission--but often, when exposed to abuses, they turn on their agencies and become “Insider Threats.”

How do they keep all these people in intelligence in-line? We asked intelligence analyst Brad Sumrall, who like Ed Snowden was a online Network Administrator, but in the military, cleared for top-secret information. What did he think drove Snowden to rebel?

Brad Sumrall :

Something got to him, you know? Well, he was working in the NSA office where he also saw a lot of those things happen. Just like in the Marine Corps, you end up in the field, out in--you know, where you see other things happen. You know, some things get to you, some things don’t. Um, I’d imagine he had seen enough material, that for whatever reason, he felt it was upon himself that he was gonna do what he was gonna do.

Danny Schechter :

To share it with the American people, in some way….

Brad Sumrall :

Ehh, to jump ship at the same time? (laughs).

Danny Schechter :

But I guess it was a challenging, and kind of gutsy or crazy thing to do…

Brad Sumrall : Ehh, definitely (laughs).

TIME CODE : 15:00 _19:58

Danny Schechter :

But when people are in the inside--a lot of the people who are actually doing the technical jobs, don't necessarily believe in the mission--in terms of, you know, that what they’re doing is really protecting the American people sometimes--they begin to question it, let’s say.

Brad Sumrall :

depending on the situation you’re in, you might begin to question yourself. Everybody found it a little bit curious that he did it with his position--he was taken care of very well. I know there was a lot of other people working for the government that didn’t get nearly that, and would have certainly never have done it, at the same time. I just think he felt he was removed in some way, that’s about the only thing I can imagine--um, just the disconnect….

Danny Schechter :

Right now, they have going on what they call “insider threat” program. Where they’re terrified--thousands, four thousand people on the list of potential insider threats. Seems to be a lot of paranoia inside that world…

Brad Sumrall :

Yeah. A lot...a lot of big checks were written in 2000, 2002.

Danny Schechter :

Big checks?…

Brad Sumrall :

Meaning money. You gave a lot of people a lot of jobs, and when you give somebody a job to do, they’re going to do their job! They overstaffed, a lot--over technology, over everything...so you just got all this money thrown in one direction and everybody has to justify their cost.

Narration:

Has all this money resulted in enhanced security? You would think so—but the former director of NSA, General Alexander says that the US is more at risk today than ever, perhaps because they over-expanded with inexperienced and overpaid people. He told an Australian newspaper, quote:

“…we’re at greater risk. I can’t measure it. You can’t say, well, is that enough to get through? I don’t know.”

If he doesn’t know, who does?—His solution: MORE SPYING. With so many people on the payroll, it’s hard to control everyone. Staff members are not encouraged to think independently. The NSA has to keep track of them as well as the people they are spying on.

Compounding the problem: NSA has outsourced, in effect, privatized, so many of its programs, reports James Bamford who writes about NSA:

Quote “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies.”

In any other country, the spying issue would be relegated to politics and the law. But in America, it has been embraced by popular culture turning Snowden into a celebrity—with his face on buses, comic books, and now action figures. Already, there are two Hollywood movies planned about his escapades.

More ominous than the risks whistleblowers face are what’s happened to the many victims of covert US foreign policies whose fate has often been buried in secret documents that no one ever sees. That’s why this National Security Archive exists—a not for profit library of formerly secret documents that details the hidden history of U.S. covert policies.

Archive Director Tom Blanton showed us around their facility at George Washington University, just a few miles from the offices of the officials who initially kept these documents from being seen.

We sat down in a room packed with boxes of formerly secret files.

Thomas Blanton :

We’ve been doing this for almost 30 years and these are the documents that are still in paper form. Now, almost everything we get, we either, we get it digitally or we convert it to digital as soon as it comes in the door.

Danny Schechter :

So, this is the real underlying documentation of scandals that most Americans don’t even remember?

Thomas Blanton :

Well, every few years, you know, the meteor hits the Yucatan, or a window pops open of scandal, and then people are “Wow, really? That’s what you see back there?” That’s what’s happening right now with Edward Snowden. It’s sort of like the curtain came up. “Really, is that what’s going on back there?”

Danny Schechter :

…Snowden’s courage in releasing these documents has introduced maybe a whole new generation, perhaps through the mass media, the American people once again what their government is doing in their name.

Thomas Blanton :

I think the real impact of the Snowden revelations was to show a series of lies by the government. I mean, if you went through the Church Committee investigations or Iran-Contra, you’re used to the fact that the government can routinely lie. But I think on the surveillance stuff, to have the head of National Intelligence look into the camera and say “No, sir. We’re not collecting data of millions of Americans”, 2 months later turns out he’s lying through his teeth. …

TIME CODE : 19:58 _ 25:38

Danny Schechter :

if the American people really knew and understood what was going on, they wouldn’t support it?

Thomas Blanton :

That’s an open question. Because, the main thing the American people seem not to support, of all the surveillance, was just the hoovering up of all the phone calls, the big metadata collection system, where every phone call for the last 5 to 8 years sits to-from, date, time, length, sits on a set of computers at Fort Meade, Maryland. The other parts of the surveillance state though, it seems like the American people do support or would support if it’s targeted directly at keeping them safe. And I think that was the objection to the phone call program that Snowden revealed, ‘cause not only was it scooping up everything, it had no connection at all to really fighting terrorists.

DS Danny Schechter :

You know, at the same time we’ve lived in a society, and incidents like 9/11 of course have contributed to this, that’s very fearful. That’s kept on the edge of, you know, paranoia……

Thomas Blanton :

Well, I think Americans gotta keep asking the question “Are we safer in the dark?” And about these surveillance programs, we were not safer in the dark. In fact, we weren’t being protected from terrorism, and the government was rapidly expanding its power and collecting everything it could.

Narration:

We were also shown documents the Archive now has online. They receive tens of thousand of requests from researchers and the public for documents and reports. They have had up to three million independent views.

Thomas Blanton :

So we had been collecting all these documents published by anybody from the Edward Snowden leaks, so Washington Post, uh, the Guardian, everybody, Glenn Greenwald, all the folks publishing, putting them together with the historical documents, all the controversies, about the previous debates and then publishing them so we have done the first collection:

Narration:

We can now add the National Security Archive to the other Insider Threats the government faces. As investigative reporters, they were once outsiders, but now they have moved inside—inside a prestigious University to ensure that the revelations of whistleblowers become a legitimate part of history, and not so easy to whitewash or forget.

Today in America, nearly 5 million people have security clearances. Nearly a million have access to top-secret documents. It’s a big industry that seems to be getting bigger every day. And yet, parts of that industry are pushing back:

Thomas Blanton :

They're already pressing the government to disclose way more about how many times the government asked them for data, how much data they have to give over, what are the restrictions on them. We know a ton more about those transactions today after Snowden. Not because Snowden leaked them, but because the companies are pushing back against the government….

Narration:

The Insider threat is not new or likely to disappear. Edward Snowden was not the first, nor will he be the last. And there is more to come from the documents Snowden made off with including the names of people NSA has spied on.

Even as some establishment journalists turn on Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, former Whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg, the onetime Vietnam military officer who leaked the Pentagon Papers rushed to their defense.

Daniel Ellsberg:

“I think he did a great benefit to this country by letting us know what the National Security Agency, the NSA is doing for the president under both Administrations--namely intervening in the privacy of every communication of every American who has an electronic device. It’s very hard to imagine a democracy really surviving long with the government having that kind of ability to blackmail any given person.”

Narration:

Ellsberg also embraced the case of military whistleblower, Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning who released secret documents and this video on alleged war crimes in Iraq.

Daniel Ellsberg:

“He’s a credit to human beings as a matter of fact for being concerned not only about American lives in American security, but about what we were doing to foreigners, to Iraqis.”

Narration:

Now, Ellsberg and other whistleblowers have joined hands to encourage more whistleblowing, through a website called EXPOSEFACTS.org that can securely receive anonymous leaks---precisely what the government fears could lead to even more insider threats.

That’s one look into the future. Coming up next. We will have other forecasts, including Edward Snowden’s, in the final episode of our documentary series, America’s Surveillance State.

   

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