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And it's true that we use computers to sort through data
by using keywords. . . . That's right, my continental friends,
we have spied on you because you bribe. Your companies'
products are often more costly, less technically advanced, or
both, than your American competitors'. As a result you bribe
a lot. So complicit are your governments that in several
European countries bribes still are tax-deductible.
When we have caught you at it, you might be interested
[to know], we haven't said a word to the U.S. companies in
the competition. Instead we go to the government you're
bribing and tell its officials that we don't take kindly to such
corruption. They often respond by giving the most
meritorious bid (sometimes American, sometimes not) all or
part of the contract. This upsets you, and sometimes creates
recriminations between your bribers and the other country's
bribees, and this occasionally becomes a public scandal. We
love it.



356
As mentioned earlier, during the 1990s NSA also became more
aggressive in providing intelligence during key international trade
conferences. Fifty years ago to the day after NSA's predecessor the Signal
Security Agency eavesdropped on the San Francisco conference that led
to the United Nations, American signals intelligence specialists were
preparing to bug another conference. This time, in June 1995, the
participants were the United States and Japan, and the subject Japanese
luxury car imports to the United States. As before, American negotiators
tried to have the conference entirely on U.S. soil, where eavesdropping
would be much easier: the Japanese wanted to meet on their own home
turf. But a compromise was reached: the talks were to be held partly in
Geneva, Switzerland, and partly in Washington.
The dispute was over a $5.9 million punitive tariff on fourteen
Japanese luxury cars, scheduled to take effect on June 28. On Sunday
night, June 25, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor arrived in
Geneva for the start of the latest round of talks aimed at averting the
rapidly approaching deadline. The next morning, at the Intercontinental
Hotel near Lake Geneva, in the shadow of the Swiss Alps, Kantor held a
press conference. President Clinton, he said, "has directed me to come
here and make our best efforts to see if there is any way to open
Japanese markets and expand trade as we have been trying to do."
To help Kantor's negotiating team make those "best efforts," an NSA
team had been flown in weeks earlier and was housed nearby. They were
there to supply the team with intercepted conversations among auto
executives from Toyota and Nissan, who were pressuring their
government for a settlement. Fortunately for the eavesdroppers, the
Japanese negotiators frequently bypassed secure, encrypted phones
because insecure hotel telephones were more readily available and easier
to use.
But while NSA looks for bribery and eavesdrops on trade missions,
there is no evidence that it is a handmaiden to corporate America. Nor,
apparently, does GCHQ engage in industrial espionage. In 1984 Jock
Kane, a former supervisory intercept operator with thirty years'
experience at GCHQ, wrote a blistering manuscript accusing the agency
of mismanagement and sloppy security. Before it was published,
however, the manuscript was seized by the British government under the
Official Secrets Act and never saw the light of day. Publication, said the
order, "would be a breach of duty of confidentiality owed to the Crown,
and contrary to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act."
In a copy of the manuscript obtained by the author before the seizure,
Kane discusses what is clearly the Echelon system, although he does not
use the codename. Of industrial espionage, he points out:




357
Much of the targeting is ILC”International Licensed
Carriers. . . . Thousands of messages are processed every
week from these links, on every possible subject, from
diplomacy to business, oil supplies, crop failures in any part
of the world, down to ordinary domestic telegrams.
From these intercepts pours a wealth of industrial
intelligence information into the memory cells of GCHQ's
vast computer complex, information that would have been a
tremendous asset to British industrialists, but British
industry has never had access to this information because
GCHQ chiefs, not the Cabinet, took the decision that British
industry, which to a large extent finances this vast
bureaucracy, should not be one of their "customers."


The issue for Europe is not whether UKUSA's Echelon system is
stealing trade secrets from foreign businesses and passing them on to
competitors; it is not. The real issue is far more important: it is whether
Echelon is doing away with individual privacy”a basic human right.
Disembodied snippets of conversations are snatched from the ether,
perhaps out of context, and may be misinterpreted by an analyst who
then secretly transmits them to spy agencies and law enforcement offices
around the world.
The misleading information is then placed in NSA's near-bottomless
computer storage system, a system capable of storing 5 trillion pages of
text, a stack of paper 150 miles high. Unlike information on U.S.
persons, which cannot be kept longer than a year, information on foreign
citizens can be held eternally. As permanent as India ink, the mark may
remain with the person forever. He will never be told how he was placed
on a customs blacklist, who put him there, why he lost a contract”or
worse.
One snippet of NSA or CIA information concerned an Egyptian
immigrant, Nasser Ahmed, who was seeking asylum in the United States.
The secret information led to his arrest; he was denied bail and held for
more than three years in solitary confinement pending his deportation.
Despite years of efforts by his attorney, Abdeen Jabara, once a subject of
illegal NSA surveillance himself, he was never told what the "secret
evidence" consisted of, where it came from, or how the United States
obtained it. In this Kafkaesque world, he could not fight the charges
because he was not told what they were: they were secret. It was only
after considerable pressure from the Arab-American community that the
Justice Department finally ordered some of the information released.
Ahmed was then able to successfully challenge it and win his freedom.
"With a better understanding of the government's case," wrote the judge



358
in August 1999, the secret evidence "can no longer be viewed as
sufficiently reliable to support a finding that [Mr. Ahmed] is a danger." At
the time, more than two dozen other people around the country were
being held on such "secret evidence." A few months later, another federal
judge ruled that to hold someone, whether or not a U.S. citizen, on the
basis of "secret evidence" was unconstitutional.
Unchecked, UKUSA's worldwide eavesdropping network could become
a sort of cyber secret police, without courts, juries, or the right to a
defense.


Whether NSA spies on American citizens has long been a troubling
question. Its past record is shameful, not only for what the agency did
but for how it went about it. In the late 1960s NSA was an agency
unrestrained by laws or legislative charter and led by a man obsessed
with secrecy and power. By then Louis Tordella had been deputy director
for a decade, during which he had taken the agency from a sleepy
backwater to the largest and most secret intelligence organization in
American history. Never before or since has any one person held so
much power for so long in America's spy world. But where most top
officials are drawn to public recognition like moths to streetlights,
Tordella was drawn to the darkness. So dark was Tordella's world that he
became lost in it, unable anymore to recognize the boundary lines
between U.S. citizens and foreign enemies and between a government of
open laws and one of secret tyranny. All ears and no eyes, Tordella was
leading his agency and his country toward a deep abyss.
Thus in the fall of 1967, when the U.S. Army began requesting
intercepts on American citizens and groups, the agency blindly complied.
At the time, the military was worried about a massive "March on the
Pentagon," organized to protest the war in Vietnam. Army officials
compiled a list of protesters and asked NSA to put their names on its
watch lists. Over the following months, other agencies, including the CIA,
FBI, and DIA, followed suit. The folksinger Joan Baez was considered a
threat and placed on the list, as were the well-known pediatrician
Benjamin Spock, the actress Jane Fonda, and Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. Like weeds in an untended lot, the lists multiplied as more and more
people were added and as people who had dealings with the targets
became targets themselves.
The domestic watch list program took on added importance on July 1,
1969, when it was granted its own charter and codeword: Minaret.
"MINARET information specifically includes communications concerning
individuals or organizations," it said, "involved in civil disturbances,
antiwar movements/demonstrations and Military deserters involved in
the antiwar movements." An equally important aspect of Minaret was



359
keeping NSA's fingerprints off the illegal operation. "Although MINARET
will be handled as Sigint and distributed to Sigint recipients, it will not,"
said the charter, "be identified with the National Security Agency."
Frank Raven, in charge of G Group, which focused on the non-
Communist world, was upset by the sudden switch to domestic
eavesdropping but could do little about it. At one point, after being given
the name of a U.S. citizen to target, he protested. "I tried to object to that
on constitutional grounds as to whether or not it was legal”as to
whether or not we should do it," he said, "and I was told at that time that
you couldn't argue with it”it came from the highest level." Some of the
targets, he said, were downright "asinine." "When J. Edgar Hoover gives
you a requirement for complete surveillance of all Quakers in the United
States," recalled Raven, "when Richard M. Nixon is a Quaker and he's the
president of the United States, it gets pretty funny." Hoover apparently
believed that the religious group was shipping food and supplies to
Southeast Asia.
Since taking office in January 1969, Richard Milhous Nixon had
waged a two-front war, one in Southeast Asia against North Vietnam and
the other at home against a growing army of antiwar activists. Convinced
that foreign interests were financing the antiwar movement, on June 5,
1970, he met in the Oval Office with Vice Admiral Noel Gayler, who was
then the director of NSA, and the chiefs of the CIA, DIA, and FBI. Also
present was Tom Charles Huston, a thirty-year-old Hoosier who had
been on Pat Buchanan's research and speechwriting staff. A lawyer and
recently discharged Army intelligence officer, the young White House
counsel had been appointed the point man on the issue.
"Based on my review of the information which we have been receiving
at the White House," Nixon told his spy chiefs that Friday afternoon, "I
am convinced that we are not currently allocating sufficient resources
within the intelligence community to the collection of intelligence data on
the activities of these revolutionary groups." According to the DIA's
Lieutenant General Donald V. Bennett, "The president chewed our
butts."
At Fort Meade, Tordella regarded the change of policy as "nothing less
than a heaven-sent opportunity for NSA." At last, he would be able to
turn his massive parabolic antennas inward on the unwitting American
public. Following submission of an "Eyes Only" memorandum entitled
"NSA Contribution to Domestic Intelligence" and signed by Gayler,
Huston drew up a proposal for Nixon's signature. It authorized NSA "to
program for coverage the communications of U.S. citizens using
international facilities." No warrant or probable cause would be required;
anyone's international telephone calls or telegrams could be intercepted
and distributed. "The FBI does not have the capability to monitor
international communications," said the document, which became


360
known as the Huston Plan. "NSA is currently doing so on a restricted
basis and the information it has provided has been most helpful. Much of
this information is particularly useful to the White House." Restrictions
were also lifted on other spy agencies.
But if there was jubilation in Tordella's office, there was outrage at the
FBI. J. Edgar Hoover "went through the ceiling" after reading the report.
Tordella had earlier warned Gayler: on matters relating to domestic
intelligence, no one challenged Hoover. The old lawman saw the move by
NSA and the other intelligence agencies into his territory as a direct
threat to his exclusive domain.
Out of character as a champion for civil liberties, Hoover stormed into
the office of Attorney General John Mitchell and demanded the order be
withdrawn. Mitchell agreed. The illegalities spelled out in the
memorandum, he said, could not be presidential policy. Mitchell
eventually convinced Nixon to drop the program; five days after
authorizing it, the president withdrew his approval.
At NSA, Tordella and Gayler were angry over Hoover's protest and the
cancellation of the Huston Plan. Nevertheless, they had been conducting
domestic intelligence targeting without authorization for many years, and
they saw no reason to stop just because the president had formally
withdrawn his approval. In fact, the watch lists of American names
flowed into NSA faster than ever.
Huston was informed that a new White House aide would be taking
over responsibility for internal security matters and that from now on he
would be on the new aide's staff. He was then introduced to his new
boss, a young lawyer who had worked under Mitchell at the Justice
Department and had been transferred to the White House only a few
days earlier: John Wesley Dean III. Dean tossed the Huston Plan in his
office safe and spun the dial.
Three years later, like a body discovered in the woods, the Huston
Plan came back to haunt Nixon. By then the Watergate scandal had
brought his presidency to disaster and the Oval Office resembled a shell-
torn bunker. Every day, new revelations sent cracks down the cream-
colored walls. Among the most serious problems was the recent defection
of John Dean. He had given the Huston Plan to the prosecution as a
bargaining chip in his plea for immunity. Because few in the White
House recalled the plan's contents, there was a scramble to grasp the
document's importance.
On May 16, 1973, a worried Richard Nixon met in the Oval Office with
his lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, Jr., to discuss the new development. "Well,
what the hell is this?" said Nixon.
"What he has, Mr. President," Buzhardt explained, "there was a plan
for intelligence gathering, primarily in the domestic area."


361
Nixon smelled blackmail. "Oh”it's in the domestic area, so he thinks
that's gonna scare us," he said. "What in the name of God is this? Why
do you think he's played this game?"
"I have no idea, Mr. President," replied Buzhardt. "But we have
managed to identify from his remarks”I have found a copy of this thing,
at NSA”I just talked to Lou Tordella."
That late Wednesday afternoon, Buzhardt was particularly worried
because the document clearly showed that Nixon had ordered NSA to
begin illegally targeting American citizens. But even after more than four
years in the White House, Nixon had no idea even what NSA was”
despite the fact that he had signed the order.
"Now, I'm fairly sure NSA . . . ," Buzhardt began, but then Nixon cut
in. "What is the NSA?" he asked. "What kind of action do they do?"

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