July 19, 2013
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[Transcribed from the youtube video by Tara Carreon]
Abby Martin talks to Russell Tice, former intelligence analyst and original NSA whistleblower, about how the recent NSA scandal only scratches the surface of a massive surveillance apparatus, citing specific targets the he saw spying orders for including former senators Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.
[Abby Martin] As the ongoing NSA revelations yield more information about the government's secret spying program, the man who leaked the story, Edward Snowden, has been thrust into the spotlight. However, it's important to remember that this is far from the first time someone has come forward to expose the overreach of the NSA.
Before Edward Snowden, it was Thomas Drake, former senior executive. And before him, it was Bill Binney, a former Intelligence official.
But before Binney, the very first person to claim the title of NSA whistleblower, was a man you've probably heard the least about.
His name is Russell Tice, and he served 20 years within various government intelligence agencies, including the NSA.
In 2005, Tice blew the whistle on the NSA engaging in unlawful and unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens.
So here to tell us his story, and why he thinks that Snowden's leaks are just barely scratching the surface,
Russ Tice, thank you so much for coming on.
[Russell Tice] Thanks for having me on.
[Abby Martin] What did you see that made you come out and blow the whistle initially?
[Russell Tice] Well, the first thing I saw was -- I'm a satellite systems specialist. So with the things that I was doing with satellites, I found out, sort of inadvertently, that American citizens were being spied upon by our space capabilities.
So that was my first sort of heads-up into what was going on. And I was just shocked, because NSA was not supposed to do this. It was against regulation. It was against the law. It was against our Constitution.
So it was sort of, a sort of "come to Jesus" moment for me.
[Abby Martin] Sort of a wake-up call there.
You've alleged that NSA abuses go far beyond what people are even talking about right now. How far does it go, Russ?
[Russell Tice] Well, it goes very far. Because initially what I saw was, they were targeting news organizations. They were targeting U.S. companies that did international business. They were looking at financial institutions. But they were also going after the State Department. And Secretary of State Colin Powell at the time. And they were going after high-ranking military generals. And that was just with my space capabilities that I saw.
Now, later, when I got together with colleagues, and we started to put together the terrestrial side, that's the side that's being done with all those nodes all over the country with the fiber optics, and that sort of thing. Then we found out that it got much worse. And this was just the phone that we were looking at. But it was also being done at the email level. But that wasn't the information I was getting. The information I was seeing were phone numbers that were being plugged into a system that was going after people's phone numbers, and associated numbers. And a lot of numbers, I wasn't even sure. They went after law firms, and lawyers. They went after more generals. General Petraeus was one of the guys. It seemed like right about that three-star level. They were going after admirals, and generals. They went after the Supreme Court, of which I held Judge Alito's paperwork in my hand, numbers associated with Judge Alito, that someone had put into the system that NSA used to spy on Judge Alito.
[Abby Martin] Let's just break this down a little bit, because these are explosive allegations right now that I have not heard anyone talk about before. That there are actually orders that you personally saw in your hands to wire tap Judge Alito, high ranking intelligence officers, David Petraeus,
[Russell Tice] Wannabe senator Barack Obama. At that time, he wasn't even a senator. He had won his primary in Illinois, and I think maybe the catalyst, and I'm not sure, was the fact that he had just done a big speech at the Democratic Convention.
Now, I was at that time a life-long Republican, and I didn't even watch the Democratic convention. So at the time, the significance of it really didn't hit me until later. I mean, I did look up, "Who's this guy Barack Obama?" Well, okay, he made a speech, blah blah blah. But then, of course, later things started coming into play that this is our future president of the United States.
[Abby Martin] And you've also said that this is not just in their congressional offices. I mean, we're talking about home surveillance, and personal.
[Russell Tice] Correct. This would be, for a senator or a congressman, it would be personal phone numbers associated. And a lot of times I could not tell, because a lot of the numbers were unlisted. And we would go to try to reverse, to find out where these numbers were.
And we were being very careful about it, because we didn't want too many people to figure out how we were doing that. But we would find that it would be associated with family members, especially wives or spouses, you know, the other direction. But it would be their district office. If it was a congressman for whatever state, they'd have two or three or four district offices back home. So it would be very inclusive.
[Abby Martin] I guess the next question is,
"Who is administering the surveillance?"
[Russell Tice] That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. It looked like the plugging in of these phone numbers was being done in the evenings at NSA. So almost it was like being done on the sly, even so that most NSA employees did not know what was going on.
Now a high level person at NSA told me this was being directed from the vice-president's office.
That would be vice-president Dick Cheney.
Now, I don't know that for sure, but that's what I was told from a very senior person at NSA.
[Abby Martin] So a high level Bush administration official.
I guess the next question is,
"Why? Why was it being done?" I mean, the first thing that comes to my mind is blackmail.
[Russell Tice] I don't know the answer to that, either.
[Abby Martin] What do you think? I mean, based on your experience, Russ? What could the reason be to be wire tapping and spying on people like Obama, Judge Alito, Petraeus?
[Russell Tice] I think you hit the word. I mean, to me I don't know for sure, but that would be a means of control. If you were able to look and listen to everybody's conversations for years on end, for a period of time, you could probably find out perhaps some salacious information that could be used to control that individual. Now, you know, say it's the Intelligence Community. I notice that the Intelligence Community is not being hit with the sequester of the Intelligence budget. Well, how is that possible? Is there some kind of leverage that is being placed on our three branches of government to make sure that the Intelligence Community gets what they want? In other words, is the Intelligence Community running this country, not our government?
[Abby Martin] And I guess that begs the question, "Is there some sort of shadow government at play?" I mean, are we talking about the military-industrial complex here? What do you think? As an insider, and due to all your research and all the people you talked to,
who is running the show here, Russ?
[Russell Tice] Well, remember, I don't know for sure.
I just know that a whole lot of people got wire tapped.
But if I had to guess, I would say it's the upper echelon of the Intelligence Community that is running this show.
[Abby Martin] And it makes me wonder if people like Dick Cheney, are they still working behind the scenes? We know that these people have been working behind the administration, and behind the scenes, for decades. I mean, Kissinger, all of these people, they're kind of -- who knows?
Do you think that they're still vetting people like Obama to get into the positions that he's in?
But you know what, political opponents have been spying on each other for decades. So how is this different now?
[Russell Tice] Well, what's different about this is it's at the Orwellian scale. This is the everything scale. This isn't just Richard Nixon going after a few enemies list. This is everybody, and everything. And now, NSA is literally tapping every communication, every digital communication in this country.
Content. Not just the metadata, the content. And when they're saying, "Well, it's not that far," once again, they are lying. They continue to lie about the full capability.
[Abby Martin] What's your response to Obama consistently saying "We're not doing that."
[Russell Tice] The previous president, in April 2004, you know, condescendingly pointed at a camera and said, "We only do such things with a court order." Now, I did not know at the time that the president was lying, because I did not know how high up that went. But now we know President Bush was lying blatantly to the American people.
So now President Obama is lying to the American people. Is it because he's being controlled? I don't know. But I certainly know that when he was Candidate Obama, even though I was a Republican, I heard that he wanted to stop these things. He was going to make sure we didn't have National Security letters just willy-nilly. And I was for Obama, even though I was a conservative.
[Abby Martin] I can't trust, I mean, all of these political politicians just seem like actors. And I mean, I call D.C. "Hollywood for Ugly People." You can never really tell what these people really think. But I want to go to the Media, because really, why do you think the Media is in a frenzy over Snowden's allegations? Really, you came out 8 years ago and said almost the same thing, except on a smaller scale, Russ. And really, you've been censored. Tell us your story about trying to get this information out as well.
[Russell Tice] Well, as I was trying to get the news out, and with Snowden coming out, I figured now was the time to try and tell the rest of the story. Because I've been holding on to this for a long time. And when I went on the Keith Olbermann show 4-1/2 years ago, I decided I was going to tell the Media that the NSA was going after journalists and news organizations.
And there seemed to be no interest whatsoever from the Media that I was telling that the NSA was going after you. So they either considered me a liar, or they considered me, you know, NSA's, "You know, oh this guy must be crazy." Or there must be some other interest that was making sure the Media was not covering this. Now, I don't know what that is, but I know it was not getting much coverage.
And the difference with Snowden is he has tangible evidence. He has paper. Now, because he has paper, and it has classifications, they are after him; because he has the tangible proof of what I've said in the past.
It's easy to dismiss me when it's my words, and you just say, "Well, that guy is a crazy liar." But now we have the proof that what I've said in the past is true. And they want Snowden bad, because he's now codified the truth of what is going on with the National Security Agency.
[Abby Martin] You said that we are living in a police state right now. Why?
[Russell Tice] Well, I sort of consider this a light police state, because they are hiding the fact that it's a police state. I mean, the fact that they can literally go into all of our communications, all of our digital communications. The fact that it's been disclosed recently that the Post Office is now doing a cover on every tangible letter that goes to the Post Office. They're taking a picture of everything. They are looking at the return address, and they are looking at the main address of who is mailing something. And that is also being digitally stored. So every means of communication in this country, everything, is being watched by the federal government. And that is Orwellian. And that is a trademark of a police state.
[Abby Martin] Thank you so much. We're going to have to wrap it up now. There's a lot more to be said, Russ. I'm glad you're in town. I'll have to get you on again soon. Russ Tice, original NSA whistleblower. Thank you.
[Russell Tice] [Nods his head humbly]