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FC: Illegal NSA spying? It won't be the first time -- a look at history
From: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 09:27:02 -0500

                     Spies Left Out in the Cold 
                     by Declan McCullagh (declan () wired com)

                     3:00 a.m. 13.Dec.1999 PST 
                     It's enough to spook any spy. Congress
                     plans to hold hearings next year that will,
                     for the first time in a quarter century,
                     investigate whether the National Security
                     Agency is too zealous for our own good. 

                     Much has changed since those hearings
                     in 1975. Instead of being a place so
                     secretive that the Department of Justice
                     once abandoned a key prosecution rather
                     than reveal the National Security
                     Agency's existence in court, "the Fort"
                     has become enmeshed in popular culture. 

                     Techno-thrillers like Enemy of the State,
                     Mercury Rising, Sneakers, and even
                     cut-rate TV series like UPN's 7 Days
                     regularly depict NSA officials -- to their
                     chagrin -- as eavesdrop-happy Nixonites.

                     But one thing has remained the same.
                     The agency is barred from spying inside
                     the United States and is supposed to
                     snoop only on international
                     communications. Through a system
                     reportedly named Echelon, it distributes
                     reports on its findings to the US
                     government and its foreign allies. 

                     Do those findings include intercepted
                     email messages and faxes sent by
                     Americans to Americans? Maybe, and
                     that's what's causing all the fuss. 

                     News articles on Echelon have captured
                     the zeitgeist of the moment, spurred
                     along by PR stunts like "Jam Echelon" day.
                     Newsweek reported this week that the
                     NSA is going to "help the FBI track
                     terrorists and criminals in the United
                     States." (The agency denied it.) A 6
                     December New Yorker article also
                     wondered about the future of Fort George

                     That future could look a lot like the past:
                     congressional action that, in the end,
                     doesn't amount to much. For this article,
                     Wired News reviewed the original
                     documents and transcripts from the
                     Church committee hearings that took
                     place in the Watergate-emboldened
                     Senate in 1975. The Select Committee to
                     Study Governmental Operations with
                     Respect to Intelligence Activities
                     published its final report in April 1976. 

                     It wasn't an easy process. NSA defenders
                     tried their best to kick the public out of
                     the hearing room and hold the sessions
                     behind closed doors. 

                     "I believe the release of communications
                     intelligence information can cause harm
                     to the national security," complained
                     Senator Barry Goldwater, a Republican
                     who voted against disclosing information
                     on illicit NSA surveillance procedures and
                     refused to sign the final report. 

                     "The public's right to know must be
                     responsibly weighed against the impact of
                     release on the public's right to be
                     secure.... Disclosures could severely
                     cripple or even destroy the vital
                     capabilities of this indispensible safeguard
                     to our nation's security," said another

                     But Democratic Senator Frank Church and
                     his allies on the committee prevailed, and
                     disclosed enough information to give any
                     Americans the privacy jitters. Among the

                     Shamrock: In 1945, the NSA's
                     predecessor coerced Western Union, RCA,
                     and ITT Communications to turn over
                     telegraph traffic to the Feds. The project
                     was codenamed Shamrock. "Cooperation
                     may be expected for the complete
                     intercept coverage of this material," an
                     internal agency memo said. 

                     James Earl Ray: When the Feds wanted
                     to find the suspect in the Martin Luther
                     King Jr. assassination, they turned to the
                     NSA. Frank Raven, chief of the G Group,
                     received a direct order in May 1968 to
                     place Ray's name on the watch list. It
                     turned up nothing and Ray was eventually
                     nabbed in London, Raven said when
                     interviewed for the book The Puzzle
                     Palace. At another point the FBI
                     demanded complete NSA surveillance of
                     all Quakers, in the mistaken belief that
                     the group was shipping food to Vietnam. 

                     Huston plan: Tom Charles Huston, an
                     aide to H.R. Haldeman, organized a
                     meeting in June 1970 between Nixon and
                     his agency chiefs, including the FBI, CIA,
                     NSA, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
                     According to the Nixon papers, the
                     president wanted to collected intelligence
                     about "revolutionary activism." The
                     presidential directive that came out of
                     that meeting ordered the NSA to expand
                     its surveillance and evaluate "domestic

                     Peace activists: At the Pentagon's
                     request, the NSA monitored the
                     communications of '60s peace activists.
                     The order came from the military unit
                     responsible for quelling "civil
                     disturbances," which wanted to know if
                     foreign agents were "controlling or
                     attempting to control or influence
                     activities of US 'peace' groups and 'black
                     power' orgs." An internal NSA memo
                     creating the Minaret project said it would
                     focus on people involved in "anti-war


Second half of article available at:

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