Uygur: Bush Targetting of Juan Cole proves that NSA can’t be trusted with our Personal Data

Cenk Uygur at Young Turks makes the point that the National Security Agency and other US intelligence (services who are ending up with massive amounts of electronic surveillance information on Americans –whether that is what they were mainly going for or not) keep saying we should trust them with the information. They maintain that they aren’t looking at the information on US citizens on US soil and that strict procedures are in place to forestall abuses. But they admit a few abuses– NSA ex-boyfriends stalking ex-girlfriends and similar minor personal matters.

But there is no reason for us to simply trust the US government with personal information that they should not by the Constitution be having in the first place. The history of government illegally invading privacy and playing dirty tricks on citizens is long and fetid. J. Edgar Hoover menaced senators with his secret files. The the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually proposed to Jack Kennedy in 1962 that they conduct a false flag campaign of terrorism in the US and blame it on Castro, to justify an invasion of Cuba. That is, the highest military commanders of the US armed forces were terrorists willing to hurt innocent citizens for their purposes. You had COINTELPRO in the 1960s and 1970s, when the FBI attempted to smear and disrupt anti-war groups by infiltrating them. Richard M. Nixon attempted to use the CIA politically, and it kept 10,000 files on US citizen activists on US soil at that time. All this would come as no surprise to the Founding Fathers, who knew that government officials are often corrupt and tyrannical and can’t be trusted. That was why they attempted to bind those officials with a constitution, bill of rights, independent courts, and oversight from the legislature.

Their attempts have failed. In late 2001 there was a coup, and a secret shadow government was established at that point that has no checks or balances, and which is completely ruthless. It exploited elementary flaws in the architecture of the internet to spy on the whole world not excluding Americans on American soil (the internet sends US emails, phone calls, etc. all around the globe bouncing off servers, and you can’t scoop up all the fiber optic traffic going to the UK across the Atlantic without scooping up Americans’ information). It doesn’t tell the relevant House and Senate committees or the judiciary what it is really up to, or even, I suspect, the president.

An indication of how these things are actually done surfaced when Glenn Carle, a retired CIA officer, and some others inside the agency, told the New York Times’s James Risen in 2011 that the Bush White House asked the CIA to “get” me (Juan Cole) wanted to find personal information on me with which to discredit me. Carle’s and others’ courageous pushback (he said “hell, no, that’s illegal and might destroy the Agency!”) helped stop this criminal conspiracy of the Neocons in its tracks. But others at the Agency were perfectly willing to go along, and if Carle hadn’t been there, who knows what would have happened? And if the White House could try to use the CIA against an obscure Midwest college professor with a blog, imagine what they were doing to other more important people.

More came out on Democracy Now! that summer.

By the way, Barack Obama’s DOJ is prosecuting the courageous James Risen for his national security journalism, which is despicable. After all, what the White House ordered the CIA to do to me was presumably classified, so he revealed classified information. It is all classified, Mr. President, the wrongdoing along with the things gotten right. You can’t have journalism if you prosecute all leaks.

Cenk Uygur talks about the scandal here:

I should say that I’ve met many US intelligence analysts who were highly professional and did a hard job in which they sometimes risked their lives. Many have performed great services to the US in rolling up core al-Qaeda. I was proud to consult in Washington with a range of USG officials from many agencies about how to do that in the zeroes. But what we’re now learning about the extent of NSA snooping (not to mention earlier revelations about black sites, torture and the whole horror show in Jane Mayers” The Dark Side) underscores that things have gotten out of control and major reform is absolutely necessary. Intelligence shouldn’t be a danger to the values of the republic it purports to serve.

10 Responses

  1. This seems to me very close to absolute power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Although it is not listed under “You might also like:”, NSA shares raw data with Israel.

  2. Professor Cole, I agree with everything in this essay expect one minor point, that is, your description of yourself as “an obscure Midwest college college professor with a blog.” Your blog is providing a valuable service to your readership and the wider general public with your insights that the MSM clearly fails to do.

  3. Congratulations on making the Bush Enemies’ List! Nothing–no academic prize, no award, no medal– could be a higher honor and emblem of scholarship than having that bunch of thugs and crooks decide that you were a “problem”.

  4. The problem is – where does it stop? The sordid story keeps widening and widening. Worse, people who take an oath to uphold the Constitution sometimes express the laws of our country are too weak or bind their hands. Then they disregard these laws but they secured the job. Franklin or Jefferson said it – those who trade freedom for security deserve neither

  5. Given the Bush regime’s destructiveness, I am not surprised that they tried to discredit you, Professor. You are a positive and constructive person, the antithesis of them. I have been wondering when this would be revealed.

  6. I am relieved every day to hear you state such matters cogently and fearlessly, and delighted that you are not induced to back down or overstate.

  7. Professor Cole, I have been a fan of your work, and especially your blog, ever since I took one of your classes at Michigan – “America and Middle Eastern Wars.” I’ve always appreciated your analysis and insight into a part of the world that is so complex, and ultimately so alien to much of the United States.

    Hearing that you were targeted in this way by the Bush Administration left me both shocked and outraged on a personal level. This is a frightening abuse of power. I would have liked to believe that these kinds of abuses were left behind in the days of the Vietnam War and Martin Luther King, but with everything that has been revealed recently that appears to have been a naive notion.

    I feel motivated to do something to fight this new “shadow government”, as you called it – but the problem seems so intractably large that I have no idea where to begin. What would you recommend – writing to congressmen, donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation or some other lobbying group? I’m sure that many of your readers would love to hear how they can help.

  8. I am curious if there is a little listing of people, other than our host, of course, who “the government,” or that part of the monster that’s all about enforcing idiocy and “conformity” and “shut up and eat your dirt-ity” has gone about “getting.”

    Bless Dr. Cole for having his own presence in the Imperial Capital as technical adviser to parts of “the government,” and I hope that was part of the reason the “getting” got exposed, at least, though given the tenacity of bureaucrats in the State Security, you can bet there’s still a “dossier” floating around, waiting for another bite at the apple. Not all the people targeted by our own snowballing Stasi for “get”ting have sufficient presence and cachet to hope for the same treatment. And not all of us, mice and sheep that we mostly are, with imaginations that conjure up, from Serious Historical Events and reading and even experience, all the bad stuff that can be visited upon us and those dear to us, have what it takes to persevere in trying to preserve against all the enormous enormity of all that oligopolaholic Bigness, in trying to preserve some whisper of individual and collective rights, for the “masses.”

    Hang together, if we can, given the inroads the Peeping Toms attracted to “Security Careers” are making in the actual ability to “asssemble and petition for redress of grievances,” or hang separately…

Comments are closed.