NSA monitored visits of “Radicalizers” to Chat Rooms, Skin Sites to Discredit Them

Six persons living abroad, one of them a “US person,” were targeted by the National Security Agency for discrediting, according to information leaked by Edward Snowden and reported on by Glenn Greenwald and two colleagues at HuffPo.

The NSA branded the six Muslims “radicalizers” even though it did not tie them to terrorist activity. Their crimes were apparently thought crimes. Their conversations at dating sites and visits to explicit web sites were seen by the NSA as hypocritical and of potential use in discrediting them with their puritanical followers.

That one of the six is a US citizen or resident is especially troubling.

The problem with the NSA scooping up the web history of millions of people indiscriminately is that it becomes judge, jury and executioner. It decides what is radical, and punishes persons who have been charged with no crime. It punishes them by smearing their reputations based on warrantless monitoring of their activities online.

What happens if a member of Greenpeace (viewed by many in the US government as a conspiratorial organization willing to break the law) goes to London for a couple of weeks? While abroad, can that activist be intensively monitored, their emails read, their web history recorded and stored? What about Occupy Wall Street members? Who are the “radicalizers” in the eyes of the government and are they only Muslims? Was a warrant obtained to monitor a “US person”?

Allowing any arm of the government this kind of unchecked power to stifle dissent is a big step toward tyranny. Indeed, with massive surveillance, the government could make itself an unchallengeable tyrant.

This spying on free persons not charged with a crime as they pursued private activities–and this interest in destroying the reputations of people whose views the USG despises is deeply troubling. If the six persons targeted were dangerous, that would be one thing. Apparently, they weren’t violent, only vehement.

It is only a matter of time before the dissent of Americans on American soil is curbed in a major way, if these NSA procedures are allowed to stand.

23 Responses

  1. “That one of the six is a US citizen or resident is especially troubling”

    Why? Would you say the same if it had been a Russian agency trying to discredit Americans? To me it seems a lot more natural that a government has the right to act against its own citizens than that it takes the right to act on a global scale.

    • “…right to act against its own citizens… ”
      ¿Against?
      You ask Why? as if you had an intelligent answer – put yourself in the essay.

      Stop The Immoral and Illegal Wars?

    • Generally we American citizens like our government to be bound by our American Constitution. This is warrantless and intrusive surveillance of and dirty tricks on people who haven’t been charged with a crime much less convicted of one.

      • Juan, I understand you referred to the American constitution and the right it gives, or is supposed to give, US citizens, but that doesn’t apply to anyone else. Try to look it from the perspective of a foreigner, though. The claim you make that it is more serious for your government to kill or spy on citizens than on foreigners may look good from the inside, but it is downright scary seen from the outside. It is especially scary given US history of war and dirty tricks around the globe.

        • I was talking about US law. We can argue about whether the US government has an obligation to uphold constitutional ideals in dealings with non-citizens (I think it does). But that US citizens enjoy those rights is not controversial in US courts.

        • Thomas, the U.S. Constitution DOES have sections and rights for foreigners — it is not only for citizens; in many places it says ‘person’ or ‘persons’ — in those places it means any person, citizen or not.

  2. [Typo/omission at “are the[y] only muslims.”]

    I submit that the fact of the matter is that the dissent of Americans on American soil, and anywhere else has already been curbed in a major way. To dream otherwise is delusional.

    For, as I was going to comment on the Huffington Post story which broke this news last night (until it insisted on a verifiable phone number attached to my name in order for me to be able to do so):

    “What’s amusing about this story is that it’s the embodiment of what an undoubtedly large proportion of regular people have likely thought from the moment the first NSA story was dropped, and probably before.

    What’s not amusing is that nothing will change as a result of this story, except that people will be confirmed in their suspicions, and thus, it will have its intended effect: to shut off even the consideration of real dissent, much less the expression of the same in actionable words.”

  3. “While abroad, can that activist be intensively monitored, their emails read, their web history recorded and stored?”

    Uh, they don’t need to go abroad. Never mind our constitutional protections, the corporate/govt security state has already acted as judge, jury and executioner here.

  4. The case of Scott Ritter the U.S. Marine and U.N. Iraq weapons inspector comes to mind as the sort of discreditation of someone (who has advanced an agenda that goes against the prevailing powers) that could be accomplished through the planting of evidence upon a computer. For the NSA or any other gov’t org to have done so in reality is very disturbing. Would not be the first time evidence was planted.

  5. Excellent speech by Glenn Greenwald at the LA annual meeting of CAIR – Council of American Islamic Relations

    describes the attacks on Muslims in the US and now that he has published by Snowden, that he has been subject to full surveillance which makes him even more aware of what targeted groups face.

    link to youtube.com

  6. You are too narrow on who the NSA might consider a “radicalizer”. How would the NSA view a member of Congress who might want to cut the NSA’s budget? Surely they would need to be targeted. They would be worse than a radicalizer they would be tantamount (love that word) to a terrorist!

    All the NSA needs to do is to look back through the communications of that heinous person. Likely there is some ill-considered email or an embarrassing selfie or worse. Pass that to their political opponent or to the press. Of course this is all top secret and done for the “national interest”.

    An over-big and unrestrained NSA can destroy democracy like no terrorist can.

  7. If some of my online activities were exposed, I would say that yeah I did it. So what? I’m single, it was my own computer, and no one was harmed. At worst it’s a bit venal. It’s nothing like the real obscenities that “respectable” members of the government have routinely committed such as authorizing the use of torture for supposedly necessary reasons of security.

    That is indeed what I would say. But I do wonder how many of my “respectable,” “tolerant” and “liberal” friends and colleagues (I’m a university professor) would quietly drop me.

    • You may discover that our “good Americans” are not that much different from the “good Germans” of an earlier era.

  8. I wonder if there has ever been, anywhere, a secret data collection program that has not been compromised by people with access to it eager to advance their own agendas.

    The problem is that merely by having access to the data, you occupy a position of COVERT power. And even if you start out Simon-pure, you will be corrupted eventually.

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and covert power corrupts undetectably and incurably.

  9. Bush said, “We are Nation of Laws”

    Obama said two days ago “We are Nation of Laws”.

    Then our own administration breaks all the laws, as it is convenient.

    Do you want to bring USA at the same level as Russia?

    • We are a nation of laws, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are a nation where justice prevails. To the contrary, justice is raped on a daily basis by authoritarians with the power to wield those laws as they see fit.

  10. Not ony Muslims, but young men, black men, environmental activists, just normal Mercans trying to live their lives are so often stopped, arrested, harassed, even physically robbed or violated by “law enforcement officers” that living in the Homeland sounds like hell to me, as a person living in Europe and having NEVER been stopped for spurious reasons anywhere. The whole assumption that a person is likely to be a criminal, that any “offence” eg in traffic, allows immediate investigation for drug possession/stolen proerty/with no valid reason explains the position of the USA as a dangerous place to live unless you are one of the privileged few.

  11. I suggest we pervasively convey the message of an NSA capable of planting false evidence, so pervasively convey it that any charges are doubted by the average person- in- the- street.

  12. Ever wonder what happened to Scott Ritter, the former UN arms inspector and critic of the Iraq war? He got caught in a child pornography sting and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in jail.

    The police narrative goes: “one of only five full-time police officers in tiny Barrett Township, Pa., decided to spend some time hunting for sexual predators online.” Wow, what a lucky hunch he had!!!
    link to nytimes.com

    This is exactly the kind of stuff the can happen when the NSA monitors activists.

  13. I’m actually surprised it was only 6 ‘radicalizers’ globally they targeted for discrediting, taken from Sunni extremist communications. Though it is worrisome how far they could take it, such as against any intellectual critic about the US government, which apparently has happened such as with the Professor here and there’s been no accountability.

    While none had direct links to terrorism, the two who were being ‘shamed’ or the reputation tarnished by the NSA for their web activities or habits, one of them had been charged for inciting hatred against non-Muslims, and the other was promoting Al Qaeda propaganda, which I presume is a call to violence in both cases. These would venture into hate crimes rather than mere thought crimes.

    link to bbc.co.uk

  14. Unfortunately, Canada is in on it, and are not only aiding the NSA, such as knowing about the snooping in the G20 summit, may also be betraying Canadian citizens’ privacy rights to the US, as seen with those who are being denied entry by US custom and border agents into the US based on shared Canadian police incidents and even citing private medical history.

    Top spy won’t answer questions about G20 surveillance
    link to cbc.ca

    Woman denied entry to U.S. after border agent cites ‘private’ medical details
    link to metronews.ca

    Canadians with mental illnesses denied U.S. entry – Data entered into national police database accessible to American authorities: WikiLeaks
    link to cbc.ca

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