September 27, 2013
Newly declassified documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) reveal that the spy network was tapping phone calls of critics of the Vietnam War. This included Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker that served in the same time frame.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had their own surveillance operation on King that attempted to publically discredit him because he was deemed a threat to the federal government.
Journalists Art Buchwald and Tom Wicker were watched because of their media platform. Even Jane Fonda makes the list of persons of interest.
Under the NSA Minaret program launched in the late 1960s to conduct surveillance on those who caused then President Lyndon Johnson to believe that they were involved with foreign governments.
An estimated 1,600 people were on the NSA “watch list” and monitored under Minaret.
According to the document: “The watch list eventually contained over 1,600 names and included such personages as [Washington Post] columnist Art Buchwald, [New York Times] journalist Tom Wicker, civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Whitney Young, the boxer Muhammad Ali, and even politicians such as Frank Church and Howard Baker. Virtually all the names were provided by government organizations. However, NSA did add thirteen names, all but two of them Agency employees who were acknowledged spies . . .”
In 1973 the program was shut down and called “disreputable if not outright illegal” by those that worked on the project.
Matthew Aid, former visiting fellow at the NSA and editor of the documents released, said: “Why was Tom Wicker of the New York Times on there? Or Art Buchwald? The worst that could be said about Art Buchwald was that he wrote good, biting, satirical columns. As far as I can tell, none of the seven individuals mentioned in that one paragraph had ever been accused formally or informally of being a threat to national security.”
With current revelations about the NSA brought forth by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Aid expressed that he is concerned about how many potential Americans that are being monitored without knowing.
Aid said: “We’ve learned now that a number of people have been convicted on terrorism charges based, in part, on NSA intercepts, but what about the hundreds if not thousands of others who never got indicted or convicted?”
Through a response to Senator Chuck Grassley from the inspector general for the NSA, it was revealed that “a civilian intelligence employee assigned overseas was found to have used the NSA’s signals intelligence collection system to listen to the phone conversations on nine phone numbers belonging to foreign women from 1998 to 2003 without any valid reason.”
Indeed, one “case began because a woman, a foreign national employed by the U.S. government, told another employee she suspected the man with whom she was in a sexual relationship was listening to her calls.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) announced plans to create a bill that would control aspects of the NSA surveillance programs.
Both James Clapper, director of National Intelligence (NI) and Army General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA were in attendance at the SSCI meeting.
Feinstein spoke to the SSCI, explaining that this proposal would limit NSA access to:
• Cell phone usage
• Set legal standards for obtaining metadata
• Force NSA to reveal purpose of data collected under the USA Patriot Act (USAPA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
• Annual reports on database searches be submitted to the SSCI
Feinstein said: “The leaks of classified programs and the way that those leaks have been portrayed in the media . . . has led to an unfortunate but very real amount of public skepticism and distrust of the intelligence community.”
Pointing to the 2008 amendment to the presidential executive order 12333, Feinstein explained that she has “initiated a review of all intelligence programs – beyond FISA – that have the potential of capturing information about American citizens and other people inside the United States.”