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The 'Big Ear' hears everything... and nothing

While conspiracy theorists insist against all the evidence that the third tower at the World Trade Centre was deliberately destroyed by the American government, the real behaviour of the secret state is being exposed by a courageous group of US journalists and whistleblowers from within the military and intelligence agencies.

Investigative journalist James Bamford has researched extensively and interviewed operatives to build up a chilling panorama of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), which he describes as “the Big Ear”. It is a story in which the real terrorists go scot free while vast numbers of innocent people are spied upon and sometimes even killed.

Bamford’s new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, follows two earlier books. His 1982 The Puzzle Palace, nearly landed him in court, when the NSA sought to silence him. In an interview with Democracy Now TV/Radio host Amy Goodman, he provides a detailed picture of the NSA which is many times larger than the CIA and more secret.

“The NSA”, he explains, “specialises in SIGINT, which is signals intelligence… It gets most of its intelligence from eavesdropping on communications, whether it’s telephone calls or email or faxes, computer transfers of information between computers…. It intercepts it. So NSA is the big ear.” Bamford catalogues the incredible ineptitude and bungling by the NSA – described as “humiliating blunders” by Time magazine.

Although the NSA had the names of two of the 9/11 conspirators as early as December 1999, and was monitoring their calls, “they never bothered to check,” Bamford says, "so they both got in without any problem into the United States. They went down and lived in San Diego.” Khalid al-Middhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi’s conversations were being picked up and relayed to the CIA, but the NSA did not tell anyone that they were in the United States! The ultimate irony was that the crew that was about to attack the Pentagon set up their base of operations in Laurel, Maryland, on the other side of the road where the NSA headquarters is located.

Bamford interviewed two FBI agents, Mark Rossini and Doug Miller, who were assigned to a special “Counterterrorism Center” within the CIA. But the officers in charge of the CIA unit would not allow them to send a message warning that “these guys are probably headed towards the United States” to the FBI. “Rossini was very angry that he was never allowed to send that message,” Bamford says. Not too surprisingly, the FBI has just denied Rossini and Miller permission to appear in a television documentary on pre 9/11 rivalries.

Two NSA whistleblowers, army reservist Adrienne Kinne and Navy Linguist David Murfee Faulk have come out to denounce the activities of their bosses in the NSA, risking their careers and possible prosecution by the US government. They have revealed that post-9/11 intercepts involved “more and more numbers that belonged not to any organisations affiliated with terrorism or with military… but with humanitarian aid organisations, non-governmental organisations, who include the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, a whole host of humanitarian aid organisations. And it also included journalists.” They also listened into intimate exchanges between US troops in Iraq and their loved ones back home.

What these inside accounts reveal is the deeply degenerate, bungling nature of the American state, which makes spying on its own people the number one priority under the guise of the “war on terror”. The notion of this crowd organising 9/11 is too laughable for words. The real conspiracy is the ongoing one against the human rights of the American people. Today’s states are nothing to do with democracy and need to be reconstructed along the lines proposed in A World to Win’s new book, Unmasking the State – a rough guide to real democracy.

Corinna Lotz
Secretary, A World to Win
27 October 2008

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