and 'How do we oblige our government to control itself?' and other difficult questions
By Winter Patriot on 8/1/2006, 12:00pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Winter Patriot...

Russell Tice is due in court at 1:00 on Wednesday, August 2nd.

From wikipedia:

Russell D. Tice (b. 1961) is a former intelligence analyst for the U.S. Air Force, Office of Naval Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Security Agency (NSA). During his nearly 20 year career with various United States government agencies, he conducted intelligence missions related to the Kosovo War, Afghanistan, the USS Cole bombing in Yemen, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In December, 2005, Tice helped spark a national controversy over claims that the NSA and the DIA were engaged in unlawful and unconstitutional wiretaps on American citizens. He later admitted that he was one of the sources that were used in the New York Times' reporting on the wiretap activity in December 2005.

Tice began to receive national attention as a whistleblower in May, 2005, after speaking publicly about alleged retaliation by government officials for reporting his suspicions that a DIA colleague might be a Chinese spy, and about the need for legislation to protect national security agency whistleblowers.

As we mentioned last week, Tice is being supported by National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), a group founded by Sibel Edmonds in order to help current whistleblowers and encourage new whistleblowers to come forward.

By serving a subpoena on Russ Tice, according to my conversation last week with Ms. Edmonds, the feds are trying to "kill two birds with one stone"; in other words they are trying to silence Tice on the secret illegal spying, while making an example of him to intimidate other potential whistleblowers.

It's August of what will probably be the hottest year ever recorded, but I am so cold!

Below, I will post the entire press release issued Monday by NSWBC. But first I want to highlight some passages from the text, and add some comments of my own. And maybe I'll even take you on an historical journey or two.

Why? Isn't that a bit presumptuous?

No, not really. I don't presume to know more than Sibel Edmonds and/or Russ Tice, but I'm not under a gag order, so I can say things they can only hint at.

Listen:

You may ask how NSA eavesdropping affects you when you have nothing to hide. Let us try to explain why you should worry. Even if, as the government claims, this program is only looking for “terrorist activity,” still all your conversations have to be processed; have to be linked to other calls and sources of “possible” terrorist activity. All it takes is an innocent phone call to a friend, who has placed a call to a friend or relative, who has legitimate business or personal contacts in a foreign country where there may be “suspected terrorists.” You have just become a potential target of government investigation – you may be a terrorist supporter, or even a terrorist. Remember “Six Degrees of Separation” (the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries)? The NSA program can easily mistakenly connect you to a terrorist. Furthermore, since the program is being conducted without judicial oversight and under no recognized process there is nothing to restrict how the information obtained under the program is being used.

And what difference does it make if you are wrongly suspected of being a terrorist, or a terrorist sympathizer? Please remember that the secret and semi-secret legislation passed since 9/11 has emasculated the Bill of Rights. You can now be held indefinitely without charge or trial, without legal representation, without your family being notifiied. The "president" claims he can have anyone killed on his say-so alone. He only has to decide that you're a terrorist --- or some other kind of serious risk to national security --- and that's it! Sayonara to you! Have a nice funeral! That's what difference it makes.

Apparently not enough people look suspicious on airplanes, so the federal air marshalls are working under a quota system. According to this report, you can get your name added to a "watch list" just because the marshall working your flight hasn't reported anyone lately. Imagine what happens if not enough people make suspicious phone calls ... and not enough people visit terrorist websites ...

There are those well-meaning “conservative” Americans who have been led to believe that our nation’s security is somehow damaged when an employee of one of our “security” agencies comes forward to shed light on activities by our government that may be illegal, may be un-constitutional, and may be a danger to the nation’s security. These Americans have accepted too easily the government’s propaganda sold to them shrewdly packaged in a wrapping of fear of terror – that if you expose any government action, however misguided or un-constitutional, then you are jeopardizing our security; you are aiding the terrorists. This quote from Benjamin Franklin sums it up well: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

And then there are those ill-meaning so-called conservatives who have so corrupted the national discourse that now "National Security" is usually used in contexts where it has nothing to do with the safety and security of the nation. Listen: "National Security", in the time of Richard Nixon, meant "keeping the president in his current job", and "keeping the lid on covert illegal activites conducted by his administration". You can hear the phrase all over the Watergate Tapes, being used as a pretext for hiding one unpleasant truth or another --- or all of them! And those were the same tapes Nixon didn't want to hand over, on the grounds that doing so would endanger --- are you way ahead of me here? --- "National Security".

Nowadays, ironically or otherwise, the phrase "National Security" often means almost the same thing, except that the the covert illegal activities are different. Some of these covert illegal activities share the objectives of certain Nixon-era covert illegal activities, such as warrantless spying on innocent American citizens. But in their current form, these covert illegal activities are much more powerful, and therefore much more dangerous.

If you're not convinced of what I've said about what "National Security" means to the current administration and those who carry their poisonous water for them, consider what happened to Sibel Edmonds when she tried to talk about what she had seen while she worked for the FBI:

The following quotes are from an article published by TomFlocco.com in April of 2005:

Edmonds is appealing the Bush administration’s arcane use of "state secrets privilege," invoked last year to throw out her U.S. District Court lawsuit alleging retaliation for telling FBI superiors about shoddy wiretap translations and allegations that wiretap information was passed to the target of an FBI investigation. Given our multiple reports and numerous other interviews, Edmonds heard much more --- but enough to warrant public suppression of criminal evidence by a wholly Republican appeals court panel?

"Tom, I’m telling you that not a single newspaper covered what happened to me on Thursday when I went into court," said the exasperated translator, adding, "[Judge David] Ginsberg kicked everyone out, cut off my lawyer’s arguments and told us: ‘We have questions to ask the government’s attorneys that you cannot hear.’"
...
[T]he volatility of Edmonds’ charges and the high officials it may criminally implicate prompted what looked to be a one-sided hearing, reminiscent of a medieval kangaroo court where rights and precepts of justice are ignored and the outcome is usually known beforehand.

All three judges who removed Edmonds and her attorneys are Republicans: Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle, having been appointed by Ronald Reagan, and Karen LeCraft Henderson who was tapped in 1990 by President George W. Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush.

"Judge Ginsberg said, ‘I am asking the plaintiff and her attorneys to stand outside;’ then they had government officers standing at the door to prevent anyone from listening.

"And after about 25 minutes, they came out and said ‘we have finished questioning the government attorneys and we don’t need you anymore, so you are free to leave,’ " said the crestfallen former translator.

"I cannot be present at my own hearing; and not a single paper was there Thursday to cover the story --- even though all of my allegations were supported by the FBI Inspector General’s report and my case involves 911 and national security," said Edmonds.
...
She said the FBI permitted other targets of the investigation, key people ... foreign nationals based in the U.S. ... to flee the country "right up through January and February, 2002 --- five months after the 9/11 attacks."

Edmonds has said in the past that "I reported some of the suspects’ names higher up as I came across them in our investigation. And you know what? Within two weeks, they had all left the country. Just vanished."
...
"It’s so simple," Edmonds told TomFlocco.com. "Nobody is looking at the Department of Defense aspect of the whole 911 cover-up. The FBI is citing two reasons for my gag order: to protect 'Sensitive Diplomatic Relations' and to protect foreign U.S. business relationships."
...
In October, 2002, former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the court to dismiss Edmonds’ case on grounds 'It would compromise National Security'; and the FBI declined to discuss the specifics of her case on grounds that it would harm National Security.

It seems to me that anyone interested in protecting the true National Security would want to listen to Sibel Edmonds. And the same goes for Russ Tice.

Chilling words, these:

The FBI is citing two reasons for my gag order: to protect ‘sensitive’ diplomatic relations and to protect foreign U.S. business relationships.

Why should such relationships be protected? Why should anyone involved with 9/11 be protected? For that matter, why should anyone not involved be punished? Are we so jaded that we cannot even bother finding out who did it before we start bombing foreign countries?

Please try to keep all this in mind when you read the newest op/ed piece from Sibel Edmonds and William Weaver. They can't speak quite as freely as your humble and nearly frozen blogger, but they manage to make their position very clear.

If you agree with what they are saying, and with what I've been saying, please share this article with your friends.

There's some mighty serious stuff going on, and most of it seems to have very little to do with terrorism.

That's my opinion only, but, as always, you are welcome to share it.

I'll let Sibel Edmonds have the last word:

July 31, 2006

ALL THAT’S GIVEN UP IN THE NAME OF SECURITY

By Sibel Edmonds and William Weaver

Two days ago we made available to the public news that one of our members, Russell Tice, a former NSA Senior Analyst, had been served with a subpoena asking him to appear before a federal grand jury regarding the criminal investigation of recent disclosures which involved NSA warrantless eavesdropping. Our announcement was followed up in both the main and alternative media, and started heated discussions among online activists. We have received e-mails and letters from people who expressed their support and solidarity with Mr. Tice and other patriotic public servants who have chosen to place our nation, its Constitution, its liberty, thus its public’s right to know, above their future security, careers and livelihood.

We have also received e-mails from individuals who argued against the public’s right to know when it comes to issues such as NSA warrantless eavesdropping or mass collection of citizens’ financial and other personal data by various intelligence and defense related agencies. They unite in their argument that any measure to protect us from the terrorists is welcomed and justified. One individual wrote: “so what if they are listening to our conversations. I have nothing to hide, so I don’t mind the government eavesdropping on my phone conversations. Only those engaged in evil deeds would worry about the government placing them under surveillance.” But how far can one let the government go based on this rationale? This issue is well articulated in Federalist, No. 51, “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” How do we oblige our government to control itself?

You may ask how NSA eavesdropping affects you when you have nothing to hide. Let us try to explain why you should worry. Even if, as the government claims, this program is only looking for “terrorist activity,” still all your conversations have to be processed; have to be linked to other calls and sources of “possible” terrorist activity. All it takes is an innocent phone call to a friend, who has placed a call to a friend or relative, who has legitimate business or personal contacts in a foreign country where there may be “suspected terrorists.” You have just become a potential target of government investigation – you may be a terrorist supporter, or even a terrorist. Remember “Six Degrees of Separation” (the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries)? The NSA program can easily mistakenly connect you to a terrorist. Furthermore, since the program is being conducted without judicial oversight and under no recognized process there is nothing to restrict how the information obtained under the program is being used.

But let us take things from the widely shared point of view of the individual quoted above; the view that there is nothing for honest people to fear from warrantless, presidentially-ordered surveillance. What other invasions of rights would such acquiescence to government authority inevitably lead to?

Our government will argue its right to break into your house and search it without warrant based on some tip, intelligence, or information that is considered classified, which you have no right or clearance to know about. It will argue that the search and the secrecy are necessary for reasons of “national security” and within the “inherent powers” of the executive branch, therefore not requiring congressional authorization or judicial oversight.

What is next in the name of national security? Will our government call out to all citizens in particular communities to turn in their weapons to law enforcement agencies? Perhaps it will cite the following reason for such call: “We already know that several Al Qaeda cells reside in the affected communities. Our intelligence agencies have received credible information concerning these cells’ intention to break into Americans’ homes to obtain firearms, since they do not want to risk detection by purchasing firearms from the market.” Would our compliant citizen quoted above be more than happy to give up his right under the Second Amendment for possible security promised to him by his government? When the agents show up at his door asking for his legally registered Colt, what will he do?

There are those well-meaning “conservative” Americans who have been led to believe that our nation’s security is somehow damaged when an employee of one of our “security” agencies comes forward to shed light on activities by our government that may be illegal, may be un-constitutional, and may be a danger to the nation’s security. These Americans have accepted too easily the government’s propaganda sold to them shrewdly packaged in a wrapping of fear of terror – that if you expose any government action, however misguided or un-constitutional, then you are jeopardizing our security; you are aiding the terrorists. This quote from Benjamin Franklin sums it up well: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

What price our imagined security? If we now would allow the NSA to listen in to our most private conversations without objection, then when next the knock comes on our door, or our door is knocked down, in the interest of “national security” what will we say? Will we say “come on in and search me, my house and my family; after all, it is in the interest of ‘national security’ and we have nothing to hide”? Generations of Americans have fought and died so that we can today enjoy the precious fruits of their struggles – the right to our privacy, the right to our freedom from government intrusion, the right to our freedom of speech, the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the right to simply be left alone. Are we to become the generation that loses those freedoms, not only for ourselves, but for the generations that follow? And will it be us who lets it happen because of some misplaced belief that government “oppression” equals “national security”?

Since when did true conservatives agree to surrender their individual rights under the Constitution for the sake of some imagined temporary security? Since when have we become so afraid of some foreign terrorists that we shiver and hide under a blanket of imagined security offered up by those in power who feed on our fears? Since when have we forgotten the messages of the Founding Fathers, who understood so clearly that the greatest danger to our liberties is an oppressive government, not outside foreign forces? We should never fear those who are brave enough to speak out, but we should fear greatly those who would silence them.

We like to believe our nation is one that prizes individual liberty and freedom from authoritarian restraint, the dictates of hierarchy, or governmental limits. Throughout its history our nation’s soul has been based on anti-authoritarianism and fear of a large, tyrannical government. Our notion of liberty has been built upon a philosophy of limited government with the highest value placed on preservation of individual rights. Our nation’s political thought found its roots in the writings of John Locke, who stressed an insistence on imposing limits on authority, on governmental authority, in order to further individual rights and liberty. No wonder both liberal and republican traditions, although each in its own way and style, pride themselves in their eternal quest for ‘limited government’.

Our entire system of government and its institutions is grounded in an insistence that tyranny be combated and that individual liberty be protected from a potentially tyrannical government. The result is a suspicion of authority and an emphasis on limited government. Samuel Huntington, a well-known conservative Republican, states in American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony: “The distinctive aspect of the American Creed is its antigovernment character. Opposition to power, and suspicion of government as the most dangerous embodiment of power, are the central themes of American political thought.”

After 9/11 our president came out and warned us: “the terrorists are resolved to change the way of our lives. They hate our freedom and our way of life here.” Well Mr. President, we have come a long way since that awful day. Our way of privacy in communicating on the phone and through our computers, our way of detaining and prosecuting people, our way of trusting our records with our librarians, our way of reading and discussing dissent, our way of treating our ally nations, our way of making it from the airport gates to the airplanes…simply, our way of life, has surely changed drastically in five years. But, Mr. President, we don’t have the terrorists to blame for this. We only have you and our three branches of government to blame.



Sibel Edmonds is the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Ms. Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Since that time, court proceedings on her case have been blocked by the assertion of “State Secret Privilege”; the Congress of the United States has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice. Ms. Edmonds is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; and has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University. PEN American Center awarded Ms. Edmonds the 2006 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award.

Professor William Weaver is the senior advisor and a board member of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Mr. Weaver served in U.S. Army signals intelligence for eight years in Berlin and Augsburg, Germany, in the late 1970s and 1980s. He subsequently received his law degree and Ph.D. in politics from the University of Virginia, where he was on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review. He is presently an Associate Professor of political science and an Associate in the Center for Law and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He specializes in executive branch secrecy policy, governmental abuse, and law and bureaucracy. His articles have appeared in American Political Science Review, Political Science Quarterly, Virginia Law Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Organization and other journals. With co-author Robert Pallitto, his book Presidential Secrecy and the Law is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press in the spring of 2007.

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© Copyright 2006, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Information in this release may be freely distributed and published provided that all such distributions make appropriate attribution to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition