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Exposed: Massive New Spy Center Built to Track Your Emails and Phone Calls

An investigative reporter reveals that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls.

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GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No, it’s not.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was NSA director, General Keith Alexander, being questioned by Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson. James Bamford, your response?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, you know, the NSA has constantly denied that they’re doing things, and then it turns out they are doing these things. They denied they were doing domestic eavesdropping back in the '70s, and it turned out they had Operation SHAMROCK and Operation MINARET, and they've been reading every single telegram coming in or going out of the country for 30 years at that point, and also eavesdropping on antiwar veterans. That came out during the Church Committee report. More recently, a few years ago, President Bush said before camera that the United States is not eavesdropping on anybody without a warrant, and then it turns out that we had this exposure to all the warrantless eavesdropping in the New York Times article. And so, you have this constant denial and parsing of words in terms of what he’s saying.

So, what I would like to do—I quote from a number of people in the article that are whistleblowers. They worked at NSA. They worked there many years. One of my key whistleblowers was the senior technical person on the largest eavesdropping operation in NSA. He was a very senior NSA official. He was in charge of basically automating the entire world eavesdropping network for NSA. So—and one of the other people is a intercept operator that was actually listening to these calls, listening to journalists calling from overseas and talking to their wives and having intimate conversations. And she tells about how these people were having these conversations, and she felt very guilty listening to them. These people came forward and said, you know, this shouldn’t be happening. Bill Binney, the senior official I interviewed, had been with NSA for 40 years almost, and he left, saying that what they’re doing is unconstitutional.

What I’d like to see is, why don’t we have a panel, for the first time in history, of some of these people and have them before Congress, sitting there telling their story to Congress, instead of to me, and then have NSA respond to them? I mean, this is the American public who we’re talking about whose phone calls we’re talking about, so—and email and data searches and all that. So I think it’s about time that the Congress get involved, instead of asking questions from a newspaper or from a magazine article, and start actually questioning these people on the record in terms of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and to whom they’re doing it—you know, to whom they’re doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to James Bamford, longtime reporter on intelligence activities in this country, has been doing it for more than 30 years, been covering the National Security Agency, a top-secret agency far bigger than the CIA. Jim Bamford, you referred to some of your whistleblowers. And in 2008, I spoke with  retired Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne here on Democracy Now!, who revealed she was personally ordered to eavesdrop on Americans working for news organizations and NGOs in Iraq. Take a listen.

ADRIENNE KINNE: After 9/11, when we were mobilized and given this new mission, it was very—starting something from the bottom up, and it was really striking that in intercepting all these satellite phone communications, the majority of the traffic was not Arabic. It was languages beyond our translation capabilities. We would get Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Tadzhik, a lot of Dari, Persian, Pashto, some minimal Arabic, but really not that much. And so, we would just go through this process of going through and identifying who belonged to what. And as we began to identify different phone numbers which belong to these humanitarian aid organizations and journalists, we actually had the capability to block those phone numbers from being intercepted, but due to guidance given to our officer in charge, we did not do that.