Empire of Secrets
Wiretaps without warrants. Surveillance of everyone. Who's in charge and who's watching the watchers? Will anything change? And does this massive spending actually make America more secure? In the next hour we'll venture into a world of dark secrets and dirty wars, and reveal the ultimate secret of secrets in a democracy forced to choose between rights and security.
In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that America's National Security Agency was listening in on, well, everybody. Everyone was shocked, deeply shocked. In 1971 America was in the midst of the war in Vietnam. The Pentagon Papers revealed that presidents from four administrations, the generals and intelligence services had all been lying about the Vietnam War. Everyone was deeply shocked.
More stories about the CIA and FBI spilled out of Watergate. Three separate investigations were launched. They discovered FBI agents in the Post Office steaming open letters without warrants, infiltrating civil rights and antiwar groups, destructing them using blackmail. The women's movement became the target of political surveillance. The United States army had used more than 1,000 personnel to engage in domestic spying in the United States.
The CIA was also very active, operating inside the country, which was not permitted, going around the world conspiring to assassinate foreign leaders, and even enlisting the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro. The NSA was running Operation SHAMROCK, listening in on every electronic communication into and out of the United States without warrants and had been doing so for 30 years.
Many Americans who were not even suspected of crimes were not only spied upon, but they were harassed, they were discredited, and at times, endangered. Every day they'd get a whole computer disc, carry that down, physically down, to the NSA and they would listen to it and check out all the calls.
The NSA said they'd shut SHAMROCK down, but they hadn't. Not really. In 1988, Duncan Campbell revealed that the NSA listening force had risen into the sky. They were now satellite-based, and they had a new name, ECHELON. Before anyone could get too shocked, 9/11 happened, and that prompt the president stepped forward to tell America, "I vow to do everything in my power to prevent another attack on our nation."
The Bush administration seized the opportunity to reject all restraints and let slip the dogs of snooping. The head of the pack himself promised that, "Everything that NSA does is lawful and very carefully done." For carefully, read secretly. No courts, no warrants, nothing to slow down the action. Anything's lawful if no one knows about it. ECHELON was given a new lease of life and a new name, SOLAR WIND.
The Bush administration decided unilaterally it could engage in whatever electronic surveillance it wanted to. In 2007, Bush's Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, claimed the program had been discontinued. People might not have really believed him, but it didn't seem to matter because the next year America elected a new President with a completely "different" attitude to his predecessor.