Friday, April 20, 2012

WMR: NSA spying operation targeting journalists

National Security Agency (NSA) sources have reported the following to WMR:

The NSA has conducted a targeted but massive surveillance operation against certain journalists who have routinely exposed NSA's illegal domestic communication surveillance program, code named STELLAR WIND.

NSA has, for some time, kept tabs on journalists who wrote about the communication spying agency. In its embryonic stage, the journalist surveillance system, originally code-named FIRSTFRUITS, was basically a clipping service that provided NSA and CIA analysts with copies of newspaper, magazine, and Internet articles that mentioned one or both of the two agencies.

Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney's legal counsel, David Addington, visited NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland with a list of individuals he wanted NSA to spy on and provide Cheney's office with transcripts of phone calls and e-mails. 

From that visit, STELLAR WIND was developed as an illegal surveillance system targeting journalists, members of Congress, and other "persons of interest" for the White House.

In March 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft ruled STELLAR WIND illegal but the next day he became critically ill with pancreatitis. When White House chief of staff Andrew Card and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales visited Ashcroft in his hospital room to demand he sign off on the program, Ashcroft deferred to his deputy James Comey and FBI director Robert Mueller who both refused to authorize the program. 

George W. Bush overruled Ashcroft, Comey, and Mueller and continued to authorize STELLAR WIND. President Obama has continued to authorize STELLAR WIND, according to NSA sources.

Although STELLAR WIND continues to generally target journalists who write about intelligence and national security matters, NSA has cncentrated its efforts on three journalists, in particular.

They are New York Times' reporter and author of State of War James Risen, journalist and author of The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets James Bamford, and WMR editor Wayne Madsen
Risen continues to fight a grand jury subpoena to testify about his sources on Operation Merlin, a CIA program to deliver flawed nuclear design technology to Iran. 

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been indicted and charged under the Espionage Act for revealing details of the program. 

Risen's subpoena was quashed by Judge Louise Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, but the Obama administration has appealed the decision to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia and oral arguments in the case are scheduled for next month.

NSA sources report: Wayne Madsen's e-mails and phone conversations back to 2002 are in the possession of the NSA. 

The phone calls range from those with his mother to those with government sources. All passwords to social networking websites, banks, phone companies, credit card companies, and his website, WayneMadsenReport, are held by the NSA. 

The data includes the list of his subscribers to WayneMadsenReport, as well.

The same level of detailed data is maintained on Risen and Bamford.

Personal observation: It is very clear that a number of individuals who contacted this editor over the past several years to pass on information were stymied at the last minute from maintaining contact. 

These individuals were willing to provide information on: 

  1. the movement and temporary "loss" of nuclear weapons from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in 2007 coupled with the murder of Air Force special operation Captain John Frueh in Washington state
  2.  documents proving Canadian military involvement in torture of detainees in Afghanistan
  3.  information on the 2000 attack on theUSS Cole in Aden harbor being a "false flag" attack
  4.  evidence that there were no human remains found at the crash shite of United flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
  5. evidence showing that Harvard virologist Dr. Don Wiley, who was investigating the initial anthrax attacks, was murdered in Memphis in November 2001.

In all these cases, individuals who contacted this editor and were willing to provide information ceased contact after their initial phone calls, letters, and email.

NSA also maintains mail covers on addresses of certain individuals in the event that contact is made via the U.S. Postal Service or private companies such as FedEx or DHL.

FIRSTFRUITS, which is now known by a different cover name, contains, in addition to articles, complete transcripts of phone calls, e-mails, faxes, and letters, in addition to the numbers and names of all individuals who have been in contact with targeted journalists. 

In addition to the three high priority targets -- Risen, Bamford, and Madsen -- other journalists who are a subject of the NSA warrantless surveillance include Bill Gertz of The Washington Times, Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane of The New York Times, Siobhan Gorman, formerly ofThe Baltimore Sun and now with The Wall Street Journal, and Seymour Hersh with The New Yorker.

So far, the Obama administration has brought Espionage Act charges against six individuals for contact with the media. They are charged with providing classified information to journalists and "aiding the enemy."

However, the Justice Department may take an even more draconian turn. 

This editor has heard from NSA insiders that there is a willingness by some quarters to charge two of the three key targeted journalists under the Espionage Act. 

Since Bamford and Madsen both once worked at NSA and both signed non-disclosure agreements -- Bamford in the 1960s and Madsen in the mid-1980s -- there has been talk of indicting them also for violations of the Espionage Act, along with their sources in the intelligence community.

source: Wayne Madsen Report Exclusive

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