By David Swanson
On Thursday, ABC News reported a big new break in the story of illegal and unconstitutional spying that our government has engaged in for years now, except that there was nothing new in the story and the important parts were left out.
The ABC News announcer began the video report thus:
“This is the first time any of the actual intercept operators, the people who listen in and record phone calls on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies, the first time any of them has come forward.”
But this would have been revealed as blatant nonsense by simply googling the names of the two operators, Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk. I reported Kinne’s story on July 1, 2007, on a website that is read by hundreds of thousands of people every month, including quite a few Congressional staffers. The very popular radio show, Democracy Now!, reported on one aspect of Kinne’s story on May 13, 2008.
I first reported Faulk’s story on May 19, 2008. He contacted me because he had read the story I’d written about Kinne. That point is of interest because the report posted online by ABC News on October 9, 2008, reads:
“The accounts of the two former intercept operators, who have never met and did not know of the other’s allegations, provide the first inside look at the day to day operations of the huge and controversial US terrorist surveillance program.”
This is absolute nonsense, since Faulk learned of Kinne’s story by reading it on my website in May.
Not only has ABC News announced as an “Exclusive!” a story that is over a year old, but dozens of major corporate media outlets have now parroted ABC News on this, cited ABC News as their source, and failed to so much as google the names of the people involved or to admit what they found when they did so.
Now, ABC News credits as its source the author James Bamford, whose new book I have not yet seen. Bamford tells me he left the phone-sex angle out of it. He probably included in it some of the more important information that ABC News excluded in favor of phone-sex titillation. But Bamford must also have contributed to the pretense that there was something new here that had not been reported before.
When I reported on Kinne over a year ago, I reported that Senator Patrick Leahy was ignoring her requests. Now, in response to ABC News picking up the story, Leahy is pretending to be interested in the matter.
Kinne, like Leahy, lives in Vermont. She had, even before I spoke with her, traveled all over Vermont giving speeches, though not focused on the revelations I reported. She was taking part in a tour promoting the impeachment of the president. Kinne is an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. I learned of her story when I heard her speak at a public event as part of the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Ga., after which I interviewed her. None of that background would ever be suitable information for the Disney Corporation (ABC News), but I think it played a big role in Kinne’s decision to become a whistleblower, in her awareness that she had something to blow a whistle on, in her confidence to speak out. And her speaking out was a major factor in Faulk’s decision to speak out. When Kinne spoke to me, she was not yet at the point where she would have been willing to go on ABC News if asked. But they didn’t ask, and neither did any other corporate media outlet, and when ABC finally reported this story, it buried and distorted any account of how these two people had found the courage to speak up, thus reducing the benefit of the story for encouraging other whistleblowers.
But even a year and a half ago, Kinne was eager to speak to Congress, and Congress wanted nothing to do with her. Leahy and gang only became interested in putting on a show of being interested when ABC News reported the story. I’m glad they did. And I’m glad that Bamford persuaded them to. But they left most of the story out. It’s a story of war lies and war crimes. It’s not primarily a story about privacy, much less sex. Here are my original reports:
New NSA Whistleblower Speaks
July 1, 2007
By David Swanson
A former member of U.S. military intelligence has decided to reveal what she knows about warrantless spying on Americans and about the fixing of intelligence in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Adrienne Kinne describes an incident just prior to the invasion of Iraq in which a fax came into her office at Fort Gordon in Georgia that purported to provide information on the location of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The fax came from the Iraqi National Congress, a group opposed to Saddam Hussein and favoring an invasion. The fax contained types of information that required that it be translated and transmitted to President Bush within 15 minutes. But Kinne had been eavesdropping on two nongovernmental aid workers driving in Iraq who were panicked and trying to find safety before the bombs dropped. She focused on trying to protect them, and was reprimanded for the delay in translating the fax. She then challenged her officer in charge, Warrant Officer John Berry, on the credibility of the fax, and he told her that it was not her place or his to challenge such things. None of the other 20 or so people in the unit questioned anything, Kinne said.
Kinne dates this incident to the period just before the official invasion of Iraq or possibly just after. She says that because the US engaged in so much bombing prior to the official invasion, she cannot recall for sure.
Prior to September 11, 2001, Kinne says, it was unacceptable to listen in on or collect information on Americans. The practice was barred by United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18. Kinne recalls an incident in 1997 in which an American’s name was mentioned, and she and her colleagues deleted every related record because they took very seriously the ban on collecting information on Americans. Kinne was serving from 1994-1998 on active duty as an Arabic linguist for military intelligence at Fort Gordon in Georgia, sending reports to and collaborating with the NSA. She served at the same station after 9-11 when she was activated as a reservist.
Kinne says that post-9-11 she and others routinely collected information on people even after identifying them as aid workers for non-governmental organizations. A common rationale was that the phones of such organizations could conceivably be seized by terrorists. She recalled one case in which she was listening to an American talk to his British colleague in an international aid organization. The Brit expressed concern about the American military eavesdropping, and the American replied that they couldn’t possibly be doing that because of USSID 18. Kinne recalls that her colleagues got quite excited and behaved as if the American had divulged secrets by mentioning that directive. They continued eavesdropping on the man although they were unclear at that point whether they were permitted to spy on Americans.
Shortly after this incident, however, in mid-2002, they were given a waiver to spy on Americans. This waiver was communicated to Kinne and her colleagues orally, and she assumed that it had come from the President or someone very high up. The waiver, she says, also permitted spying on Canadian, French, German, Australian, and British citizens without probable cause.
Many of the people, including Americans, whom Kinne spied on were journalists. These included journalists staying at a hotel in Baghdad that later showed up on a list of targets. Again, Kinne says, she expressed concerns to her officer in charge, letting him know that the military should be informed or the journalists should be warned to move to another location. Kinne says Berry brushed her off. He was, she says, “completely behind the invasion of Iraq. He told us repeatedly that we needed to bomb those barbarians back to kingdom come.”
Berry was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer. Kinne left, went back to school, and took a job at the Veterans Administration helping some of the victims of the fixing of intelligence that she had witnessed. And early this year she joined a tour of Vermont with activists Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, Dan DeWalt, and veterans of the war, a tour promoting the passage of impeachment resolutions in Vermont towns, a tour that helped effect the passage of those resolutions in over 40 towns up and down the state. Kinne found the experience “life-changing”, and she’s now decided to tell everything she knows, and to encourage others still in the government to speak out and release documentation.
“I wish that I had said something back then, but I don’t think people would have listened,” Kinne said.
Kinne, who now works for the VA at White River Junction, Vermont, said that she has written to Senator Patrick Leahy, who has not replied to her. Kinne has become active in Iraq Veterans Against the War. She said that the news of the current escalation of the war also helped move her to act. “That’s the only reason why I am choosing to break whatever rules I may have just broken by telling you about it,” Kinne said. “Because I think that this all needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. And the only way it’s going to stop is if people start speaking out.”
New NSA Whistleblower Tells of Faulty WMD Evidence
May 19, 2008
By David Swanson
David Murfee Faulk was a translator in the Navy, working in Arabic and Iraqi dialect. In April 2004 he began working for the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Gordon outside Augusta, Georgia. (He now writes, under the name Murfee Faulk, for the Metro Spirit newspaper in Augusta, but he has never written about what he did for the NSA.)
Faulk says that in May 2004 he found an extremely large text file containing grid coordinates for alleged chemical weapons sites in Iraq. Faulk showed it to his supervisor, who was surprised. But he was not surprised that the file existed, only that it had not been deleted. The supervisor said he had believed all such files had been deleted, and that there had been a great many of them. In fact, according to this supervisor, U.S. Special Forces had gone to the locations and found nothing.
That’s what usually happens, Faulk’s supervisor told him, when you get something from the Israelis. “Four out of five times it’s complete and total bullshit.”
I asked veteran Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Ray McGovern what he made of this, and he said that there is “no such thing as a ‘friendly’ intelligence service. Reporting from liaison services always needs to be taken with utmost reserve. That goes in spades for what comes from the Israelis, the more so since they have unique, yes unique, access to the White House and Pentagon, and are thus able to circumvent the intelligence bureaucracy set up to vet and evaluate raw intelligence and prevent unverified and/or tendentious ‘intelligence’ from reaching senior officials, lest they be misled.”
With regard to other pieces of Israeli “intelligence” on Iraq’s mythical weapons of “mass destruction,” McGovern said: “Yes, most of the Israeli ‘intelligence’ on things like chemical weapons in Iraq was of little or no value. Worse still, data like coordinates for suspected chemical weapons-related sites could not be dispassionately evaluated by objective intelligence analysts because the key function of imagery analysis was ceded by the CIA to the Pentagon in 1996. What sergeant was going to tell Rumsfeld that Israeli sources and the ‘intelligence’ from the Israelis or the likes of [Ahmed] Chalabi were certainly not worth what Rumsfeld was paying for. At the same time, if truth was not the objective, but rather reports alleging this or that WMD-related sites, well, the Israelis were performing a useful service for the likes of Doug Feith, who would bundle them up and give them to the ‘Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal’ for passing to the president. Woof! Proof!”
McGovern seemed to find it perfectly possible that “evidence” of the sort that Faulk stumbled upon was voluminous: “The neuralgic search for WMD pointed up the problem. US chief WMD-searcher, David Kay, has told lurid stories of being awakened in Iraq at all hours by people working in the office of the Vice President: ‘Hey we got new coordinates; check them out!'”
McGovern recalled one instance of someone speaking openly about the quality of Israeli “intelligence.” When John Negroponte was Director of National Intelligence, National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel asked him to explain why the Israelis have suggested a much shorter timeline for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. “I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do [is] give you the worst-case assessment,” Negroponte said.
Faulk is not the first former NSA employee from Fort Gordon to speak about things he saw there. In fact, Faulk contacted me after reading an article I wrote last July ( http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/24183 ) when Adrienne Kinne decided that she would stay silent no longer. (She also told her story on “Democracy Now” this month: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/13/fmr_military_intelligence_officer ). Kinne described the priority that was given to less than credible WMD claims that came in from Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. She also described how the NSA’s policies with regard to spying on Americans changed completely on September 11, 2001. Prior to that date, she said, it was unacceptable to listen in on or collect information on Americans. The practice was barred by United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18. Kinne recalled an incident in 1997 in which an American’s name was mentioned, and she and her colleagues deleted every related record because they took very seriously the ban on collecting information on Americans. After September 2001, she said, it was acceptable to spy on Americans even after identifying them as aid workers for non-governmental organizations. Faulk confirmed that this was the policy when he worked there as well.
It’s a shame that we have to learn what our government is up to, after the fact, from former employees daring to speak out, but if more of them would do so the risk to them would be lessened, our knowledge increased, and our government’s worst abuses reined in.