Sen. Rockefeller: NSA may have spied on me
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Thursday January 22, 2009
Russell Tice has been heard. Loud and Clear.
Following Wednesday's revelation by the former National Security Agency analyst that President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program had spied on everyone, quite contrary to what the administration had claimed, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Thursday that he was "quite prepared to believe" the allegations.
He added: "I think they went after anyone they could get -- including me."
Tice, during an appearance on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann the prior evening, proclaimed, "The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."
"In one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them," Tice told Olbermann. "What I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and 365 days a year -- and it made no sense. ... I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me to fire me."
When Olbermann pressed him for specifics, Tice offered, "An organization that was collected on were US news organizations and reporters and journalists."
The allegation essentially changes America's debate about domestic spying by the government, from one of listening to terrorists, as the Bush administration had framed it, to that of an intelligence operation beyond President Nixon's greatest aspirations, if it's true.
It should also raise new questions about a 2004 revelation in the New York Times that the paper had withheld a story for over a year, at the administration's request, which described scant few, albeit now-known false details of the program.
"While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it said the N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time," the Times wrote, shortly after the 2004 election. "The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands over the past three years, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials."
The paper also notes that additional information was omitted, again at the request of the Bush administration. The allegations at hand would seem to quickly dovetail into, 'Why?'
Make that, Senators too?
On July 9, 2008, the US Senate passed a bill expanding legal authority for electronic wiretaps by spy agencies, handing victory to President George W. Bush after a standoff over anti-terror strategy. Then-Senator Obama, along with newly appointed Secretary of State Clinton, said they would support Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn) in filibustering the GOP effort, specifically when it came to immunity for the private telecom companies which allowed the NSA to conduct warrantless spying.
Obama ultimately "compromised," saying: "The President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people."
Clinton maintained her position, voting against the majority.
"I've never seen contempt for the rule of law such as this," said Sen. Dodd in Dec. 2007.
With this latest round of revelations, perhaps another new question should be, 'Has Obama?'
Tice reappeared on Countdown the following night, bearing new allegations against the NSA.