WorldNetDaily quotes radio host Michael Savage as saying, “The NSA surveillance scandal is the biggest story of your lifetime,” that “whistleblower” Edward Snowden is “a patriot, not a traitor,” and that “They obviously weren’t spying on Muslims, or people known to have associated with terrorists.” Otherwise, he said, the authorities would have prevented the Boston Marathon bombing.
The latter is an argument for more, not less, surveillance from the NSA. But that doesn’t seem to be the case when right-wingers like Savage jump into bed with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other radicals who also object to NSA surveillance programs. We don’t know what, if anything, the NSA found in the Boston bombing case, but the “surveillance state” did in fact help catch the Boston bombers after the fact, with cameras which had caught them moving through the crowd before the detonations and which led to their apprehension.
Edward Snowden and his handler, Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, certainly haven’t been arguing for more surveillance of American Muslims or leftists. They want us to believe that ordinary Americans are the targets of the NSA. It is apparent they are following the lead of the leftists who in the 1970s worked overtime to hinder the ability of the FBI and CIA to monitor America’s enemies within. It was this assault on our intelligence and law enforcement capabilities which enabled people like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to emerge from the terrorist underground and lead “respectable” lives, arguing that they were simply idealistic anti-Vietnam War protesters unfairly targeted by America’s intelligence agencies, with their “civil rights” violated. It was a myth the media embraced. Incredibly, they turned the tables on those trying to apprehend them and expose their connections to foreign Communist regimes in Moscow, Havana, and Hanoi. FBI officials actually went on trial for pursuing the Weather Underground.
Larry Grathwohl, in his book, Bringing Down America, which has been updated, describes how sophisticated of an enemy the Weather Underground was. The terrorists and their foreign contacts used code names to coordinate activities. Grathwohl, who infiltrated the group for the FBI, says a Weather Underground member could go to a Cuban Embassy in Canada and simply tell them that they were (the first name didn’t matter) Delgado, which was a codename to be used to re-establish contact with rest of the organization. The Cubans also funneled money to the terrorists and taught them how to make bombs.
America’s enemies have always done this, making it essential that we understand how they communicate.
That is why the NSA, which targets enemy communications, is so essential.
In the current media-generated “scandal” over the NSA, we are seeing potential candidates for surveillance raising hell, in an effort to prevent any serious effort to monitor America’s enemies before they strike and do damage on Americans soil.
It turns out that CAIR was actually part of a press conference on Capitol Hill, where it joined with a “who’s who” of the far-left to protest the NSA and the FBI. Other groups included Code Pink, the Bradley Manning Support Network, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Manning is the Army analyst on trial for espionage for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.
CAIR is a Muslim Brotherhood front, linked to foreign organizations that want to transform America into a Sharia-friendly state. Code Pink facilitated CIA defector and Soviet/Cuban agent Philip Agee’s activities. The IPS is a notorious Marxist front with a long record of serving Communist regimes. And the ACLU has worked so closely with Communists that Frank Donner, its late director of the American Civil Liberties Union Project on Political Surveillance, turned out to be a member of the Communist Party intent on concealing his secret activities from official scrutiny.
On the other hand, conservative critics of the NSA have emerged, some of them in prominent positions of authority and influence. Some have attacked the NSA program or hailed Snowden as a public servant, hero, or patriot. They include Michael Savage, Joseph Farah, Glenn Beck, Peggy Noonan, and Mark Levin. On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Rand Paul has announced a lawsuit against the spy agency over its surveillance activities. His father, Ron Paul, has suggested that Snowden, who contributed money to his presidential campaign, is a hero who could be killed in a drone strike. Ron Paul called Julian Assange and Bradley Manning patriots or heroes, too.
But what if Snowden is operating as an enemy combatant? Is it beyond the pale to consider that Snowden was recruited by al Qaeda or other enemies of the United States?
Greenwald had openly questioned whether Anwar al-Awlaki, the American al-Qaeda leader killed in a drone strike, was really plotting terrorist attacks on America and whether he was guilty of any terrorist activity. In a speech to an international Communist group, Greenwald described al-Awlaki merely as “someone who the U.S. government hates because he speaks effectively to the Muslim world about the violence that the United States commits regionally, and the responsibility of Muslims to stand up to that violence.” As noted by Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz in an article on Greenwald’s hatred of America, this constitutes nothing less than an apology for actual terrorism.
The Savage Nation website, run by WorldNetDaily, highlights a Fox News article on the likelihood that Snowden is an agent for Communist China, as a “smear” somehow directed by the Council on Foreign Relations. The article is a well-researched analysis of why one well-informed expert believes it is likely Snowden is working for the Chinese and is certainly not a “whistleblower.” His latest leaks are designed to help Russia and hurt the United States.
Continuing with this parade of conservatives embracing Snowden in some fashion, WND editor Joseph Farah says Congress should give Snowden immunity from prosecution because what he says is so valuable. So breaking the law and violating your oath should bestow awards on this NSA leaker?
Glenn Beck tweeted that Snowden was a “hero,” in one of his earliest comments on the controversy, which he should now disavow. Mark Levin insists the NSA program is somehow a violation of the Fourth Amendment, even though Republicans and Democrats have vouched for its constitutional and legal integrity and congressional oversight. Finally, Peggy Noonan, a former Ronald Reagan speechwriter, claimed in a Wall Street Journal column that “the surveillance state,” as articulated by Snowden, makes it harder for people to love America.
The hard left-wing never “loved” America and its hatred of the NSA makes complete sense. These groups hated Senator Joseph McCarthy for his “McCarthyism,” or branding of Americans as Communists or Communist dupes, and yet the NSA vindicated him in 1995. It was in that year that the agency began releasing the Venona transcripts, the code name given to the intercepted and deciphered Soviet spy communications that had been recorded during and after World War II. They were KGB and GRU messages between Moscow and the Soviet espionage network in the United States.
The first release of Venona messages was a compilation of 49 Venona translations which related to Soviet espionage efforts against U.S. atomic bomb research, including messages about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Americans convicted and executed for passing nuclear weapons secrets to the Soviet Union.
As Alan Caruba notes, the publication of Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel’s The Venona Papers: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors, based on the NSA’s disclosures, also revealed that McCarthy’s charges of widespread infiltration of the State Department and even the White House during the Roosevelt and Truman years were true. The National Cryptologic Museum features an exhibit on Venona, highlighting such traitors as State Department official Alger Hiss, Department of Justice official Judith Coplon, and Department of the Treasury official Harry Dexter White.
An NSA report on the project noted the involvement of ordinary Americans in this extraordinary effort:
“The Signal Intelligence Service recruited dozens of language teachers and professors from across the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Miss Gene Grabeel, a young Signal Intelligence Service employee who had been a schoolteacher only weeks earlier, started the project on 1 February 1943. Meredith Gardner, a language instructor at the University of Akron, who spoke numerous languages, worked on the Japanese and German problems during World War II and met with great acclaim. As the war ended, Gardner joined the VENONA effort and spent the next twenty-seven years on the project. As the principal translator and analyst on the VENONA program, he wrote a series of eleven special reports during 1947 and 1948.”
The report goes on:
“The successful decryption of the VENONA messages was a triumph of analysis by a small group of intelligent and dedicated women and men working long hours in their cramped offices at Arlington Hall. (Arlington Hall was the name of the Virginia location of the U.S. Army Signal Security Agency, whose services were merged into a forerunner to the NSA).”
Analysts worked on deciphering the cables from1943 to 1980. In retrospect, it’s tragic these efforts did not continue.
The real face of the NSA are the Americans who “serve in silence,” because of the classified nature of what they do, but whose skills are necessary to uncover enemy agents and spies. Edward Snowden was supposed to be one of those Americans, but he chose to go over to the other side, in order to damage America’s ability to collect and analyze the information necessary to protect our people. There is no other word for this but treason.
In the tradition of CIA defector and leftist hero Philip Agee, who became a Cuban and Soviet agent, Snowden claims to possess the “full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station we have, what their missions are and so forth.” He is clearly a traitor who has committed treason and threatens more of it.
The joke is that NSA stands for “No Such Agency” and it’s true that the NSA has been reluctant to tell its own story. I am told that it even resisted creating the National Cryptologic Museum, in order to highlight its successes, such as breaking Japanese and German codes during World War II. But the Museum opened to the public in December 1993 and is now described as “the first and only public museum in the Intelligence Community.” It is located next to NSA headquarters at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland. The museum attracts approximately 50,000 visitors per year.
If Savage, Beck, Farah, Levin, Noonan and other conservative critics of the NSA are troubled that the current NSA programs don’t go far enough and that more groups should be subjected to scrutiny, they should say so. That is the position of those of us who have covered and analyzed U.S. intelligence activities for several decades. However, embracing a former NSA contract employee who has sought the protection of Communist China, and may be given permanent residence in Moscow as a “whistleblower,” does not suggest this is the basis of their criticism. Hence, their positions seem to be indistinguishable from those of the left, and that is troubling as the right joins the left in proposing legislation or lawsuits to restrict or dismantle the activities of the spy agency.
Indeed, law professor Alan Dershowitz notes that the “hard-left conspiracy theories” of Glenn Greenwald, the media mouthpiece for Edward Snowden, “are attractive to far-right talk-show hosts and bloggers who share a common suspicion of liberal government. This suspicion has been nurtured by the recent IRS scandal and the Justice Department’s overzealous pursuit of journalists. The result has been a debate dominated by the extremes, with little patience for nuance, calibration, or balancing.”
Addressing the nature of the NSA programs, Dershowitz says, “There is an enormous difference between listening to the content of people’s phone calls and creating a database of telephone numbers used to make and receive calls and their duration.”
In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Roger Pilon and Richard A. Epstein make a similar point. Pilon, a scholar at the Cato Institute, and Epstein, a law professor at New York University Law School, say that the surveillance involves “some necessary loss of privacy,” but that it is trivial compared to the potential ability to detect and prevent terrorist attacks and save lives.
They say that government officials “might conceivably misuse some of the trillions of bits of metadata they examine using sophisticated algorithms. But one abuse is no pattern of abuses. And even one abuse is not likely to happen given the safeguards in place. The cumulative weight of the evidence attests to the soundness of the program. The critics would be more credible if they could identify a pattern of government abuses. But after 12 years of continuous practice, they can’t cite even a single case. We should be thankful that here, at least, government has done its job and done it well.”
They note that the metadata the government examines in its effort to uncover suspicious patterns “enables it to learn the numbers called, the locations of the parties, and the lengths of the calls. The government does not know—as some have charged—whether you’ve called your psychiatrist, lawyer or lover. The names linked to the phone numbers are not available to the government before a court grants a warrant on proof of probable cause, just as the Fourth Amendment requires. Indeed, once that warrant is granted to examine content, the content can be used only for national security issues, not even ordinary police work.”
None of this constitutes a “police state,” as the critics on the right and left are charging.
Yet, paranoia that we usually find on the political left infects conservative websites. “Our 4th amendment rights are being violated with impunity by the federal government under Obama’s watchful approval” is a typical comment. It is pure nonsense that is being fed by people who should know better, but have lost sight of the real enemy. They had better wake up quickly before their efforts and propaganda contribute to the emasculation of another front-line U.S. intelligence agency.
A good place to start for their re-education is a visit to the National Cryptologic Museum, where they can learn more about how spying on the enemies of this country and their American agents and dupes has been absolutely essential to preserving the United States as a free country.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].