International Forecaster Weekly

The NSA Has Its Cake And Eats It Too

The even bigger lie that is being propounded now is that the national conversation and the court cases are still revolving around the false notion that NSA phone spying is somehow limited to metadata, as if all the NSA is collecting are lists of phone numbers and call durations

James Corbett | January 8, 2014

One of the less-remembered parts of the Osama bin Laden fairytale was that the NSA had a hard time keeping track of his communications with his Al CIAda operatives. Why? Because, as General Michael Hayden told CBS News back in early 2001, bin Laden used standard encryption and off-the-shelf American telecommunication products.

Sound unbelievable? That's because it is. As they go on to admit in that very same report, they were tracking bin Laden's satellite phone after all, and as James Bamford and others have described in exhaustive detail, the NSA was monitoring Al Qaeda's “communications hub” in Yemen for years prior to 9/11, and purposefully withholding most of that information from the CIA bin Laden unit. But the idea that the NSA just wasn't able to track bin Laden because of his dastardly technology was a key meme for the NSA to implant in the immediate wake of 9/11. That's why the Hayden interview was replayed on CBS less than 48 hours after the attacks, and that's why, as recently declassified documents show, the NSA used 9/11 as an official talking point to justify their illegal surveillance of Americans.

Now, over a decade later, that meme is paying off. Just two weeks after a federal district court judge ruled the NSA's collection of telephone metadata unconstitutional, a different district court judge ruled it constitutional. In his particularly florid ruling, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley wrote:

“The September 11th terrorist attacks revealed, in the starkest terms, just how dangerous and interconnected the world is. While Americans depended on technology for the conveniences of modernity, al-Qaeda plotted in a seventh-century milieu to use that technology against us. It was a bold jujitsu. And it succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaeda.”

No matter if it bears any resemblence to reality. The meme has been planted and the courts are willing to go along with it. It is now official lore that the NSA needs to spy on everyone's phone metadata to prevent the next 9/11 from taking place.

Of course, that's not the only lie in this story. The even bigger lie that is being propounded now is that the national conversation and the court cases are still revolving around the false notion that NSA phone spying is somehow limited to metadata, as if all the NSA is collecting are lists of phone numbers and call durations. We have suspected for years that phone calls were being recorded and stored wholesale, but that was actually confirmed by Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who casually let it slip on Erin Burnett's CNN program in May that US intelligence agencies have access to complete phone conversations whenever they want in the name of “national security.”

Although this caused a buzz at the time and was picked up by numerous publications, it was soon covered over by the Snowden story, which once again focused people's attention on metadata. One person who did not gloss over it, however, was Russ Tice. He was a former NSA employee who became a whistleblower almost a decade ago, as one of the sources for the initial New York Times story exposing the illegal NSA wiretapping program. When he heard Clemente's interview he immediately contacted his ex-NSA friends and discussed whether the NSA was already recording every phone conversation they could intercept and storing them at their new Utah data center.

The ex-NSA gathering's consensus: this was exactly what the NSA was doing. As a result, Tice decided to go further than ever before about what he knew regarding illegal NSA activities. In a series of interviews on, The Corbett Report, and other media venues, Tice revealed that during his time as an NSA employee he had personally handled the eavesdropping orders to monitor the communications of high-ranking judges, congressman and military officials, presumably for the purposes of blackmail.

And once again these shocking revelations are being spun away into theory and hearsay. This time it's Senator Bernie Sanders lobbing the softball at the NSA as he sends them a letters politely asking whether the NSA is spying on Congress. It doesn't matter that we already have the information on this from an NSA whistleblower; that has been effectively memory holed. Instead, the NSA is now given a chance to come out and deny that any such thing is taking place, and the whole conversation can turn back to telephone metadata.

The entire NSA fiasco is stage-managed theatrics from start to finish, a carefully choreographed stage show with full cooperation from the corporate media that is only too willing to play along and misdirect the national conversation to areas of little or no importance. Meanwhile, in reality, the only question worth discussing is how to abolish the NSA entirely. Since this is not a question that is on the table politically, it is up to the public to find alternative ways of shutting down the NSA. Luckily, there is at least one innovative project happening that proposes to do just that. Those who are interested in finding out how they can help turn the taps off on the NSA (literally) are encouraged to explore the #NullifyNSA hashtag on twitter and explore the campaign website at