Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NSA kept files on Blair's Private Life and Iraqi President's "Pillow Talk"

I'm still amazed by what barely seems to qualify as news in our country. How can this story remain so ignored by the media at large? Seriously, isn't it just a little disturbing that our government not only wiretaps American citizens but also is wiretapping and listening in on the phone calls of our allies?

Let's review what we already knew, and that I reported on this blog: In October, ABC News reported that despite President Bush's promises that the National Security Administration's warrantless wiretapping program was aimed only at terrorists, the NSA frequently listened to and transcribed the private phone calls of Americans abroad. The network's report was based on whistleblower interviews with two former military intercept operators. One of the whistleblowers, former Navy Arab linguist David Murfee Faulk, told ABC News that he and his co-workers listened in on "hundreds of Americans" over the years.

But it wasn't just ordinary Americans. In a new report released two days ago, Faulk told ABC that during his time working for the government, "U.S. intelligence snooped on the private lives of two of America's most important allies in fighting al Qaeda: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Iraq's first interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer." "Faulk told he saw and read a file on Blair's "private life" and heard "pillow talk" phone calls of al-Yawer.

Though "collecting information on foreign leaders is a legal and common practice of intelligence agencies around the world," former intelligence officials told ABC News that the U.S. and Britain have a long-standing agreement "not to collect on each other." "If it is true that we maintained a file on Blair, it would represent a huge breach of the agreement we have with the Brits," said one former CIA official.

So before I wish everyone a happy thanksgiving, let's look at a couple key passages from the ABC report:

The NSA declined to comment on the specifics of Faulk's allegations involving al-Yawer and Blair. In a statement, a spokesman said the agency follows all laws.

The Inspector General for the NSA is reported to be conducting an investigation into the allegations by Faulk and another former military intercept operator, Adrienne Kinne, about listening to calls between American citizens.

The Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees also are investigating the allegations about calls involving American citizens.

So I guess we should all feel better now that we know the NSA says they "follow all laws." Sure they do...

Happy Thanksgiving! And of course, don't say anything "threatening" to our government in your phone conversations over the holidays because someone might be listening.

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