NSA Whistleblower to Keith Olbermann: his agency spied on everybody and journalists – collected everything – even credit card records

by on January 22, 2009 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, Media, War and Peace

Keith Olbermann and NSA whistleblower Russel Tice on MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast January 22, 2009.

by David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster / The Raw Story / Jan. 22, 2009

On Wednesday night, when former NSA analyst Russell Tice told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that the Bush administration’s National Security Agency spied on everyone in the United States, specifically targeting journalists, the Countdown host was so flabbergasted that Tice was invited back for a second interview.

On Thursday, he returned to the airwaves with expanded allegations against the NSA, claiming the agency collected Americans’ credit card records, and adding that he believes the massive, warrantless data vacuum to be the remnants of the Total Information Awareness program, shut down by Congress in 2003.

Asked for comment by Olbermann’s staff, the agency responded, “NSA considers the constitutional rights of US citizens to be sacrosanct. The intelligence community faces immense challenges in protecting our nation. No matter the challenges, NSA remains dedicated to performing its mission under the rule of law.”

Olbermann ran the quote under a banner which read, “Non-denial denial.”

“As far as the wiretap information that made it though NSA, there was also data-mining that was involved,” Tice told Olbermann during the pair’s second interview. “At some point, information from credit card records and financial transactions was married in with that information.”

At this point on the audio track, Olbermann can be heard taking a deep breath.

“So, lucky American citizens, tens of thousands of whom are now on digital databases at NSA, who have no idea of this, also have that information included in those digital files that have been warehoused,” said Tice.

“… Do you have any idea what all this stuff was used for?” asked the stunned host.

“The obvious explanation would be, if you did have a potential terrorist, you’d want to know where they’re spending money, whether they purchased an airline ticket, that sort of thing,” said Tice. “But, once again, we’re talking about tens of thousands of innocent US citizens that have been caught up into this trap. They have no clue.

“This thing could sit there for 10 years, then all the sudden it marries up with something else 10 years from now, and 10 years from now they get put on a no-fly list and they of course won’t have a clue why.”

Tice added that “in most cases,” spied-upon Americans didn’t have to do anything suspicious in order to trigger the surveillance.

“This is garnered from algorithms that have been put together to try to just dream up scenarios that might be information that is associated with how a terrorist could operate,” he said.

Ultimately, the technical explanation boils down to this: “If someone just talked about the daily news and mentioned something about the Middle East, they could easily be brought to the forefront of having that little flag put by their name that says potential terrorist,” said Tice.

“Do you know, or do you have an educated guess, as to who authorized this? Who developed this?” asked Olbermann.

“I have a guess, where it was developed,” he replied. “I think it was probably developed out of the Department of Defense, and this is probably the remnants of Total Information Awareness, that came out of DARPA. That’s my guess, I don’t know that for sure.”

Olbermann then asked if Tice knows who had access to the data.

“I started looking into this, and that’s when ultimately they came after me to fire me,” said Tice. “They must have realized that I’d stumbled onto something, and after that point I of course had no ability to find anything else out.”

Tice concluded that he does not know if the program, as he understands it, continues to this day, and he refused to specifically state which media organizations the Bush administration’s NSA had targeted for surveillance.

This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Jan. 22, 2009.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Heffner January 25, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Can you spell “disgruntled fired employee turned into self-seeking publicity hound?”

He makes a speech about how he volunteered his information to the Obama campaign, and rather petulantly observes that they did not “use him” for anything other than stuffing envelopes and such. He then goes on at some length about how he has written a “handwritten letter” to now-President Obama, stressing that it is handwritten because he knows that he is spied upon and wiretapped “24/7” by the NSA. Come on. He could still type a letter on his computer, print it without saving it to disk, and put it in the mail; but he stresses repeatedly that the letter needed to be “handwritten” due to all of the spying to which he was being subjected. He finally makes a speech that reeks of false modesty about having taken an oath to defend the constitution and “just doing his job, really.”

I have been on several juries, and if this guy was a witness for either side I would not believe a single word he said.

The accusations he makes are vague in the extreme, moreover, and the vast majority of what he has to say is hearsay and guesswork. Phrases like “Well the obvious use would be” and “I was told” and “it could happen that” abound in his testimony. I listened to this piece twice and virtually never does he testify to what he actually did or saw done first hand. Perhaps, as an insider, his suppositions bear more weight than those of someone not in the business, but they are still almost en their entirety nothing more than suppositions and guesses.


OB Joe January 26, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Bill, despite all that you say, you did not really address the substance of Tice’s allegations, the meat if you will, that the NSA is electronically spying on ordinary American citizens – even to the extent of obtaining credit card records – without warrants, without their knowledge, and is especially spying on journalists.

Call this vague and guess work if you want, but let’s not get off focus here. If your point is Tice’s credibility, so be it. That’s your response, the messenger is wrong and can’t be trusted. Your critique of Tice is vague and pulled together as in guesswork.


Angel February 6, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Why would someone actually think you can trust the government? Do you even trust your neighbor? America was supposed to have a small federal government. 8 States so far have declared their sovereignty due to the overstepping of the fed. We are turning into a police state.

House Resolution 645 is in congress -Approving and opening the detention centers or oka Fema Camps. For what, I have no idea, but I do know they are preparing for something. Mix that in with the patriot act, homegrown terrorism act, wiretapping, and their plans to remove the right to bear arms from those on the no fly list, things aren’t looking good.


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