from the confirms-what-they-said dept
The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA's lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:Drake also highlights how he did use the "official" whistleblower channels that many are saying Snowden should have used, and look what happened to him:"The White House has approved the program; it's all legal. NSA is the executive agent."It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. "You don't understand," I was told. "We just need the data.
I differed as a whistleblower to Snowden only in this respect: in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I took my concerns up within the chain of command, to the very highest levels at the NSA, and then to Congress and the Department of Defense. I understand why Snowden has taken his course of action, because he's been following this for years: he's seen what's happened to other whistleblowers like me.The end result was that his whistleblowing didn't do much, but he got arrested because he accidentally kept an almost entirely meaningless document about meeting participants in his home. And, when he was arrested, for just having the list of meeting attendees, he was smeared for causing "exceptionally grave damage to US national security."
By following protocol, you get flagged – just for raising issues. You're identified as someone they don't like, someone not to be trusted. I was exposed early on because I was a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations. In closed testimony, I told them everything I knew – about Stellar Wind, billions of dollars in fraud, waste and abuse, and the critical intelligence, which the NSA had but did not disclose to other agencies, preventing vital action against known threats. If that intelligence had been shared, it may very well have prevented 9/11.
But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.
Separately, former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, who revealed that he helped install NSA equipment directly within AT&T's network is speaking out about how Snowden, rather than the telcos, deserve retroactive immunity. The telcos broke the law and had to have Congress go back and retroactively make what they did -- which clearly broke the law at the time -- legal. Klein points out how his revelations were brushed off and ignored, while Snowden's revelations confirm a lot of what he said:
"It was clear that the NSA was looking at everything," Klein said. "It wasn't limited to foreign communications."
On Tuesday, Klein said that for a number of reasons, Snowden's disclosures sparked more public outrage than his own revelations did more than seven years ago.
For one thing, Klein said, Snowden had direct access to a secret court order and details of the program, while Klein pieced together the government's surveillance through internal AT&T documents and in discussions with colleagues who worked on the project.
"The government painted me as a nobody, a technician who was merely speculating," said Klein, who made his disclosures after he accepted a buyout and retired from AT&T in 2004. "Now we have an actual copy of a FISA court order. There it is in black and white. It's undisputable. They can't deny that."