5 Surprising Facts About Spying in America

Washington’s Blog

Here are 5 surprising facts about spying in America.  We understand if some of this sounds far-fetched. But take a look for yourself, and see if you can disprove these claims.
1: Cheney and Rumsfeld Pushed for Warrantless Wiretaps in the ’70s
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumfseld and other government officials who held high positions in the George W. Bush administration pushed for wiretaps without approval by a judge … in the 1970s.
2: Massive Spying on Americans Began Before 9/11
You know about the government’s massive program of spying on Americans which has been justified as a necessary response to 9/11?
Whistleblowers from major telecommunications companies have testified that the program began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here).

3: U.S. and Allied Intelligence Heard the 9/11 Hijackers Plans from Their Own Mouths
The 9/11 hijackers were largely unknown prior to that horrible event, right?
Actually, U.S. and allied intelligence services heard a lot from the hijackers’ own mouths prior to 9/11:
  • An FBI informant hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000. Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New York Times notes:

    Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence ….

    The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

  • The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told the lead hijacker “tomorrow is zero hour” and gave final approval for the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was likely also monitoring the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” U.S. officials later told CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother.
  • And according to CBS News, at 9:53 a.m on 9/11, just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, “the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia”, and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on9/11, that implies that it did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)
4: The Spying Program Has Not Been Narrowly Tailored to Keeping Americans Safe
We would all hope that the spying program has been tightly focused on protecting Americans from terrorists.
However, as I noted in 2008:

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