NSA: The Ultimate Spy Machine
by Stephen Lendman
On September 9, senior Foreign Policy magazine writer Shane Harris headlined “The Cowboy of the NSA.”
He discussed NSA head General Keith Alexander’s obsession “to build the ultimate spy machine.” He’s ignores core rule of law principles doing it.
On August 1, 2005, he succeeded General Michael Hayden as NSA’s 16th director. The agency was established in 1952.
It’s a lawless global spy machine. It’s Big Brother writ large. It’s one of 16 known US intelligence agencies. Black budgets conceal enormous amounts they spend.
NSA’s headquartered at Fort Meade, MD. It’s operations are top secret. A previous article explained the following:
On December 4, 1981, Executive Order 12333, explained NSA/Central Security Service (CSS) responsibilities and purposes. Head of operations is charged with:
- “Collect(ing, including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions;
- Acting(ing) as the National Manager for National Security Systems as established in law and policy, and in this capacity be responsible to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director, National Intelligence; (and)
- Prescrib(ing) security regulations covering operating practices, including the transmission, handling, and distribution of signals intelligence and communications security material within and among the elements under control of the Director of the National Security Agency, and exercise the necessary supervisory control to ensure compliance with the regulations.”
On July 31, 2008, EO 12333 was amended to:
- “Align (it) with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004;
- Implement additional recommendations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions; (and)
- Further integrate the Intelligence Community and clarify and strengthen the role of DNI as the head of the Community; Maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberties protections.”
By law, NSA’s mission is limited to monitoring, collecting and analyzing foreign communications. Its dual missions include:
- the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). It relates to foreign intelligence gathering, and
- the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). It protects US information systems.
Rule of law principles are ignored. They’re systematically violated. Anything goes is policy. Rogue agencies operate that way.
NSA’s a global monster. It’s a power unto itself. It does whatever it wants. It operates covertly. It spies globally.
It does so with technological ease. No one’s safe anywhere any time. There’s no place to hide.
Harris quoted an unnamed former intelligence official saying:
“Alexander tended to be a bit of a cowboy: ‘Let’s not worry about the law. Let’s just figure out how to get the job done,’ he said. “That caused General Hayden some heartburn.”
“By law,” said Harris, “NSA had to scrub intercepted communications of most references to US citizens. But Alexander wanted the NSA to ‘bend the pipe towards him.”
He wants raw data. He wants meta-data. He wants everything. He wants to “Collect it All.”
According to an unnamed former military intelligence official who served under him at US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM):
“He said at one point that a lot of things aren’t clearly legal, but that doesn’t make them illegal.” Consider that twisted logic.
In November 2001, Alexander’s INSCOM superior said he was authorized to collect and share information on Americans as long as they were “reasonably believed to be engaged” in terrorist activities.
He didn’t elaborate on what he meant. As NSA head, Alexander took full advantage. His mindset is “We have the capability, so let’s use it.”
He bends rules. He does what he pleases. To find needles in the haystack, he needs everything, he claims. He needs the entire haystack.
According to a former Obama administration official who worked with him:
His “strategy is the same as Google’s: I need to get all of the data. If he becomes the repository for all that data, he thinks the resources and authorities will follow.”
He’s NSA longest serving director. “(H)e stands atop a US surveillance empire in which signals intelligence (SIGINT), the agency’s specialty, is the coin of the realm.”
In 2010, he became US Cyber Command’s first head. It’s a cyber hit squad. It’s part of the US Strategic Command. It’s based at Fort Meade, MD.
It conducts cyberwar. It does so extrajudicially. China, Russia and Iran among other nations are prime targets. Strategy is anything goes. It’s far more aggressive than anything done earlier.
Examples include disabling command and control as well as ground radar ahead of conventional strikes.
At the same time, most cyberoperations are presidential prerogatives. Cyber-preemption increases police state power.
US Cyber Command is expanding exponentially. It’s used to advance America’s imperium. It works for unchallenged global dominance. It targets nonbelievers. It does so to eliminate them.
Alexander is the ultimate cyber warrior. Heading NSA and US Cyber Command makes him formidable.
According to Harris:
“The NSA was already a data behemoth when Alexander took over. But under his watch, the breadth, scale, and ambition of its mission have expanded beyond anything ever contemplated by his predecessors.”
Never did a US government agency have such power. Alexander pioneered new meta-storage and retrieval methods.
He built an NSA colossus. His Information Dominance Center reflects it.
It resembles Star Trek’s starship Enterprise bridge. According to Harris:
It’s huge. It’s 10,740 square feet in size. It’s ultramodern. It’s “eye-popping.” It’s “complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed.”
Alexander has “an uninterrupted field of vision to a 22′-0 wide projection screen.”
Its “primary function is to enable 24-hour worldwide visualization, planning, and execution of coordinated information operations for the US Army and other federal agencies.”
“The futuristic, yet distinctly military, setting is further reinforced by the Commander’s console, which gives the illusion that one has boarded a star ship.”
An unnamed former Obama administration official called Alexander “10 times the political general as David Petraeus. He could charm paint off a wall.” He’s “unflappable.”
“My job is to protect the American people,” he says. “And I have to be perfect.” Doing so, he means, unrestricted meta-data mining.
Throughout his military career, he’s been a “techno-spy.” He’s more than a general and agency head. He understands technology. He uses it advantageously.
He bends rules doing so. He does what he wants because who’ll stop him. At the same time, he faces flack. He never did before.
He’s had to justify NSA policies. Snowden’s revelations exposed them. He connected important dots for millions.
Former Alexander associates say he’s blinded by the power of technology. He’s mindless about how it’s abused. He doesn’t understand the importance of transparency.
He believes: “You should trust me, and in exchange, I give you protection.” Polls show two-thirds of Americans believe government listens to their communications.
NSA harasses political opponents. It’s up to no good. Alexander claiming otherwise doesn’t wash.
A former Alexander associate said “I do not sleep well at night knowing these guys can see everything. (Their) trust has been lost.”
Der Spiegal explained more. On September 15, it headlined “Follow the Money: NSA Spies on International Payments,” saying:
NSA “widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL.”
Snowden’s documents revealed a branch called “Follow the Money (FTM).” Information collected flows into NSA’s “Tracfin” financial databank.
In 2011, it contained 180 million records. Credit card transactions comprise 84% of them. NSA’s aim is to “collect, parse, and ingest transactional data for priority credit card associations (like VISA), focusing on priority geographic regions.”
Tracfin contains data from “the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).”
Global banks use it to send transaction information securely. “One of the ways the agency accessed the data included reading ‘SWIFT printer traffic from numerous banks,’ ” said Der Spiegel.
Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) works cooperatively with NSA. Both agencies do the same thing. Doing so intrusively invades privacy.
NSA documents say “bulk data” collected is full of “rich personal information.” Much of it “is not about our targets,” they add.
It bears repeating. NSA’s a rogue agency. It’s a power unto itself. It operates lawlessly. Big Brother is official policy. There’s no place to hide.
At stake are fundamental freedoms. Obama’s waging war to destroy them. They may not survive on his watch. He’s heading America for full-blown tyranny. Stopping him matters most.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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