Intelligence Agency News StoriesExcerpts of Key Intelligence Agency News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of intelligence agency news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
Two years ago, the first story based on the Snowden archive was published in The Guardian, revealing a program of domestic mass surveillance, which, at least in its original form, ended this week. To commemorate that anniversary, Edward Snowden himself reflected in a New York Times op-ed on the “power of an informed public”. The debate provoked by these disclosures [examined] the role journalism ought to play in a democracy and the proper relationship of journalists to those who wield the greatest political and economic power. Of all the revelations over the last two years, one of the most illuminating and stunning has been the reaction of many in the American media to Edward Snowden as a source. There was plenty of journalistic support for the disclosures. But huge numbers of journalists went on the warpath against transparency. The Los Angeles Times ... believes leaking is criminal and those who do it belong in prison. The LA Times itself constantly publishes illegal leaks, though the ones it publishes usually come from top government officials. Have the LA Times editors called for the criminal prosecution of Leon Panetta, and John Brennan, and the endless number of senior officials who leak not (as Snowden did) to inform the public but in order to propagandize them? Of course not, and therein lies the key media lesson from all of this. These journalists are literally agents of political power.
The Navy’s SEAL Team 6 ... best known for killing Osama bin Laden, has been transformed by more than a decade of combat into a global manhunting machine. That role reflects America’s new way of war, in which conflict is distinguished ... by the relentless killing of suspected militants. While fighting grinding wars of attrition in Afghanistan and Iraq, Team 6 ... joined Central Intelligence Agency operatives in an initiative called the Omega Program, which offered greater latitude in hunting adversaries. Team 6 has successfully carried out thousands of dangerous raids that military leaders credit with weakening militant networks, but its activities have also spurred recurring concerns. Afghan villagers and a British commander accused SEALs of indiscriminately killing men in one hamlet; in 2009, team members joined C.I.A. and Afghan paramilitary forces in a raid that left a group of youths dead and inflamed tensions between Afghan and NATO officials. When suspicions have been raised about misconduct, outside oversight has been limited. “This is an area where Congress notoriously doesn’t want to know too much,” said Harold Koh, the State Department’s former top legal adviser. Like the C.I.A.’s campaign of drone strikes, Special Operations missions offer policy makers an alternative to costly wars of occupation. But the bulwark of secrecy around Team 6 makes it impossible to fully assess its record and the consequences of its actions, including civilian casualties or the deep resentment inside the countries where its members operate.
Note: Drone strikes almost always miss their intended targets. Casualties of war whose identities are unknown are frequently mis-reported to be "militants". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about military corruption and high level manipulation of mass media.
FBI Behind Mysterious Surveillance Aircraft Over US Cities
June 2, 2015, ABC News/Associated Press
Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies. The aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and ... technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones. The surveillance equipment is used for ongoing investigations, the FBI says, generally without a judge's approval. The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department ... report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones. "These are not your grandparents' surveillance aircraft," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a "cell-site simulator" [to] trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime. The Obama administration [has] been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices. During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI's fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt intelligence agencies that facilitate the erosion of privacy rights in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The US Central Intelligence Agency used a wider array of sexual abuse and other forms of torture than was disclosed in a Senate report last year, according to a Guantánamo Bay detainee turned government cooperating witness. Majid Khan said interrogators poured ice water on his genitals, twice videotaped him naked and repeatedly touched his “private parts” – none of which was described in the Senate report. Khan’s is the first publicly released account from a high-value al-Qaida detainee who experienced [these] “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The 35-year-old Khan ... is awaiting sentencing after [confessing] to delivering $50,000 to al-Qaida operatives in Indonesia. Khan was captured in Pakistan and held at an unidentified CIA “black site” from 2003 to 2006, according to the Senate report. In the interviews with his lawyers, Khan described a carnival-like atmosphere of abuse when he arrived at the CIA detention facility. He said that he experienced excruciating pain when hung naked from poles and that guards repeatedly held his head under ice water. In a July 2003 session, Khan said, CIA guards hooded and hung him from a metal pole for several days and repeatedly poured ice water on his mouth, nose and genitals. When a doctor arrived to check his condition, Khan begged for help. Instead, Khan said, the doctor instructed the guards to again hang him from the metal bar. After hanging from the pole for 24 hours, Khan was forced to write a “confession” while being videotaped naked.
Note: For more, read about the 10 Craziest Things in the Senate Report on Torture and many other questionable intelligence agency practices.
The CIA can keep secret a nearly 7,000-page Senate report on harsh interrogation methods, as well as an internal agency review. The complete 6,963-page report compiled by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [is] exempt from the dictates of the Freedom of Information Act, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg concluded. The Senate committee report, he reasoned, remained a document under congressional control, and Congress made sure to exempt itself from FOIA. “Congress has undoubted authority to keep its records secret, authority rooted in the Constitution, longstanding practice, and current congressional rules,” Boasberg stated. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, voiced disappointment in the ruling. The Senate committee released a summary of the $40 million report last December, following years of back-and-forth.
Colonel Ian Henderson was a British official dubbed “the Butcher of Bahrain” because of atrocities he repeatedly committed during the 30 years he served as chief security official of that Middle Eastern country. A 2002 Guardian article reported that “during this time his men allegedly detained and tortured thousands of anti-government activists”; his official acts “included the ransacking of villages, sadistic sexual abuse and using power drills to maim prisoners”. Col. Henderson was never punished in any way. For years, human rights groups have fought to obtain ... a 37-year-old diplomatic cable, relating to British responsibility for Henderson’s brutality in Bahrain. Ordinarily, documents more than 30 years old are disclosable. Now, a governmental tribunal ruled ... that most of the diplomatic cable shall remain suppressed. The tribunal’s ruling was at least partially based on “secret evidence ... that the release of such information could jeopardise Britain’s new military base in the country.” This is the core mindset now prevalent in both the U.S. and U.K. for hiding their crimes from their own populations and the rest of the world: disclosure of what we did will embarrass and shame us, cause anger toward us, and thus harm our “national security.” This is exactly the same mentality driving the Obama administration’s years-long effort to suppress photographs showing torture of detainees by the U.S.. Obama insisted that to release the photos “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.”
The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals. The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden ... outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were [using, which included] a method to hack and hijack phone users’ connections to app stores so that they would be able to send malicious “implants” to targeted devices. The implants could then be used to collect data from the phones without their users noticing. The agencies ... were also keen to find ways to hijack [app stores] as a way of sending “selective misinformation to the targets’ handsets” as part of so-called “effects” operations that are used to spread propaganda or confuse adversaries. Moreover, the agencies wanted to gain access to companies’ app store servers so they could secretly use them for “harvesting” information about phone users. The revelations are the latest to highlight tactics adopted by the Five Eyes agencies. Last year, The Intercept reported that the NSA ... was shown to have masqueraded as a Facebook server in order to hack into computers.
1971: A group of ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. What they discovered shocked them. Long before Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance, these activist-burglars exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal surveillance program that involved the intimidation of law-abiding Americans. For forty years the burglars kept their identities secret, but in Johanna Hamilton’s new film 1971, these previously anonymous Americans publicly tell their story for the first time. Hamilton took the time to talk to us about how she approached telling this story: "To me, every aspect of the story was compelling. A group of ordinary people who put everything on the line to protect freedom of speech and hold their government accountable. They were total outsiders who trained themselves for one night of amateur burglary in order to break into an FBI office — on a hunch! They manage to evade capture. The revelations from the break-in helped lead to the Church Committee hearings in Congress, which ended up establishing the first ever set of guidelines governing the FBI’s investigative powers. The Citizens’ Commission risked everything because they suspected the government was conducting illegal surveillance. And they were right. We are in the midst of the same discussion today. Post 9/11 we lost many of the checks and balances that the government normally operates under. Governments should not spy on law-abiding citizens — whether it’s Hoover’s FBI or today’s NSA."
Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is ... widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm. In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA ... ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference, [prompting] him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence. Last month, Steele presented a startling paper at the Libtech conference in New York. Drawing on principles set out in his latest book, The Open-Source Everything Manifesto ... he told the audience that all the major preconditions for revolution – set out in his 1976 graduate thesis – were now present in the United States and Britain. Steele's book ... connects up the increasing corruption, inefficiency and unaccountability of the intelligence system and its political and financial masters with escalating inequalities and environmental crises. But he also offers a comprehensive vision of hope. "Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we ... can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity."
The Twins Plus Go-Go Lounge ... had an unusual distinction: David Polos, an official with the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York City, and Glen Glover, a civilian D.E.A. employee, each had ownership interests and actively participated in its management. That secret connection was revealed when the two men were charged with lying during national security background checks about their ownership interests and their work in the strip club. Mr. Polos, 51, had been with the agency for more than 20 years. He helped supervise the New York Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Strike Force, a multiagency group that targets large narcotics traffickers. Polos ... resigned from the agency last month. Glen Glover, 45, of Lyndhurst, N.J., also a longtime agency employee, worked as a telecommunications specialist. Each man was charged with one count of making false statements. The men had claimed that they had no employment outside the agency, when in fact they had ownership interests in the lounge, and actively managed it while working for the D.E.A.. The two men had worked regular shifts running the club, hiring and firing dancers, bouncers and other employees, arranging for advertising and using a video surveillance system to remotely monitor activities inside the club by smartphone or computer. Mr. Polos used his status as a law enforcement officer to facilitate the club’s operations. At times, he told people in the club that he was working for the F.B.I.
Note: Award-winning journalists have presented powerful evidence of direct DEA and CIA involvement in and support of drug running and drug cartels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
Joseph Rivers ... pulled together $16,000 in seed money to fulfill a lifetime dream of starting a music video company. Last month, Rivers took the first step in that voyage [by] boarding an Amtrak train headed for Los Angeles. He never made it. A DEA agent boarded the train at the Albuquerque Amtrak station and began asking various passengers, including Rivers, where they were going and why. When Rivers replied that he was headed to LA to make a music video, the agent asked to search his bags. Rivers complied. The agent found Rivers's cash, still in a bank envelope. He explained why he had it. The agents didn't believe him. Rivers let them call his mother back home to corroborate the story. They didn't believe her, either. The agents found nothing in Rivers's belongings that indicated that he was involved with the drug trade. They didn't arrest him or charge him with a crime. But they took his cash anyway, every last cent, under the authority of the Justice Department's civil asset forfeiture program. Rivers says he suspects he may have been singled out for a search because he was the only black person on that part of the train. According to a Washington Post investigation last year ... asset forfeiture is lucrative. In fiscal year 2014 Justice Department agencies made a total of $3.9 billion in civil asset seizures, versus only $679 million in criminal asset seizures. Asset forfeitures have more than doubled during President Obama's tenure.
Note: Read a New York Times article on this program which allows law enforcement agencies to seize money with impunity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
Last summer ... I spent three days in Moscow hanging out with Edward Snowden for a Wired cover story. He told me that what finally drove him to leave his country and become a whistleblower was his conviction that the National Security Agency was conducting illegal surveillance on every American. Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ... ruled that the NSA program that secretly intercepts the telephone metadata of every American — who calls whom and when — was illegal. It’s now up to Congress to vote on whether or not to modify the law ... by June 1, when they need to reauthorize the Patriot Act. A PEW survey in March revealed that 52 percent of the public is now concerned about government surveillance, while 46 percent is not. There is now a sort of acceptance of highly intrusive surveillance as the new normal, [while] the American public [remains] unaware of many of the agency’s long list of abuses. It is little wonder that only slightly more than half the public is concerned. For that reason, I agree with Frederick A. O. Schwartz Jr., the former chief counsel of the Church Committee, which conducted a yearlong probe into intelligence abuses in the mid-1970s, that we need a similarly thorough ... investigation today. “Now it is time for a new committee to examine our secret government closely again,” he wrote in a recent Nation magazine article, “particularly for its actions in the post-9/11 period.”
Note: The author of this excellent article is James Bamford, the former ABC News producer who broke the story on Operation Northwoods and has written landmark books on the NSA. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
Four years after the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Navy Seals in Abottabad, Pakistan, a new report ... by journalist Seymour Hersh questions the Obama administration’s account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The report claims that, among the lies, the biggest was the idea that the raid in May 2011 that killed bin Laden was an all-American event. "The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission," the report says. The report also says that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency had been holding bin Laden as a prisoner since 2006, and that the US learned about the Al Qaeda leader’s location through a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who gave the information in return for the reward being offered by American officials. The White House has said bin Laden was found through tracking his couriers. Hersh’s primary US source for his story is "a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad." White House spokesman Josh Earnest ... dismissed the Hersh piece, saying it was "riddled with inaccuracies." Hersh, a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, is an award-winning journalist who has won numerous prizes for his investigative reporting, including the Pulitzer Prize.
Note: There are many big problems with the official story of the killing of bin Laden. For starters, read the review on the London Review of Books website. For more, see this ABC News article, this BBC article and this AP article.
Edward Snowden’s most famous leak has just been vindicated. Since June 2013, when he revealed that the telephone calls of Americans are being logged en masse, his critics have charged that he took it upon himself to expose a lawful secret. They insisted that Congress authorized the phone dragnet when it passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act. A panel of judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the program Snowden exposed was never legal. The Patriot Act does not authorize it, contrary to the claims of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Michael Hayden, Keith Alexander, and James Clapper. “Statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,” Judge Gerard E. Lynch declared. Consider what this means. For many years, the executive branch carried out a hugely consequential policy change that the legislature never approved. Tens of millions of innocent U.S. citizens were thus subject to invasions of privacy that no law authorized. Officials classified the program as a state secret, keeping it out of Article III courts. By doing so, they prevented the judiciary from reviewing the statutory legitimacy of NSA surveillance, subverting a core check in our system of government. The consequence: An illegal program persisted for years. This is a perfect illustration of why secret government programs are an abomination in our democracy.
Edward Snowden is in exile in Moscow. He's still hard at work. Whatever he's working on, the former NSA contractor who exposed controversial US surveillance practices, says it's much tougher than his last gig. "The fact is I was getting paid an extraordinary amount of money for very little work with very little in the way of qualifications. That's changed significantly," Snowden said in an event at Stanford University on Friday, via teleconference from Moscow. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA's massive collection of Americans' phone records is illegal — a victory for Snowden, who revealed the existence of the surveillance program in the documents he leaked to the press. Snowden said in the teleconference that he worked with reporters so that there could be a system of checks and balances, and noted that he did not publish a single document himself. Still, he couldn't leak his secrets anonymously to the reporters because his colleagues' livelihoods would have been at risk as well if the NSA conducted a witch-hunt, Snowden said. "Whistleblowers are elected by circumstance. Nobody self nominates to be a whistleblower because it’s so painful," Snowden said, [and] emphasized that he doesn't see himself as a hero or a traitor, but he had just reached the tipping point where he needed to do something.
The FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas. Internal agency documents show for the first time how FBI agents have been closely monitoring anti-Keystone activists, in violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues. The hugely contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Obama administration, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. It has been strongly opposed for years by a coalition of environmental groups ... who have been monitored by federal law enforcement agencies. Mike German, a former FBI agent ... said [the documents] indicated the agency had opened a category of investigation that is known in agency parlance as an “assessment”. Introduced as part of an expansion of FBI powers after 9/11, assessments allow agents to open intrusive investigations into individuals or groups, even if they have no reason to believe they are breaking the law. German ... said the documents also raised questions over collusion between law enforcement and TransCanada. “These documents suggest the FBI interprets its national security mandate as protecting private industry from political criticism,” he said.
Germany has been spying and eavesdropping on its closest partners in the EU and passing the information to the US for more than a decade, a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin has found, triggering allegations of lying and coverups reaching to the very top of Angela Merkel’s administration. Under a 2002 pact between German intelligence (BND) and the NSA, Berlin used its largest electronic eavesdropping facility in Bavaria to monitor email and telephone traffic at the Élysée Palace, the offices of the French president, and of key EU institutions in Brussels including the European commission. The BND’s biggest listening post at Bad Aibling in Bavaria was abused for years for NSA spying on European states. “The core is the political spying on our European neighbours and EU institutions,” an unnamed source said to be familiar with the evidence told the Süddeutsche. As well as the political intelligence activities, the NSA also got the BND to spy on European aerospace and defence firms. German and American individuals and companies were not monitored. The Bad Aibling complex of listening posts was an NSA facility for years. Under an agreement in 2002, it was handed over to the Germans in 2004. Since then, much of the information gleaned was routinely passed to the Americans. According to the Süddeutsche, the Americans supplied search terms on a weekly basis to the Germans – totalling 690,000 phone numbers and 7.8m IP addresses up until 2013.
Note: Many countries claim they don't spy on their own citizens. What they do is have agreements to spy on each other's citizens so that they can then share the information and still technically claim they are not breaking any laws. This article shows how it works. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that many of those in charge of the CIA’s torture program – the same people whose names were explicitly redacted from the Senate’s torture report in order to avert accountability – “have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks” and now run the CIA drone program. Rather than being fired and prosecuted, they have been rewarded with promotions. The longtime Counterterrorism Center chief who just stepped down, Michael D’Andrea, was previously in charge of the notorious CIA prison known as the Salt Pit, where prisoners were regularly tortured and some died. His replacement, Chris Wood, was also “central to the interrogation program”, according to the Times. The only reason we know D’Andrea and Wood’s names is because the New York Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet commendably decided to publish them. The CIA asked them not to. Adding to the disturbing nature of the CIA’s ability to kill people in complete secrecy, the agency apparently now has a carte blanche to conduct drone strikes on its own. President Obama doesn’t individually approve them anymore – he lets the CIA unilaterally decide to kill people. The Obama administration has promised more transparency around drone strikes, yet at the same time, won’t even acknowledge that the controversial drone strike it’s apologizing for even happened - just because such admission might force courts to hold the government accountable for its actions.
About once a month, staff members of the congressional intelligence committees drive across the Potomac River to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., and watch ... footage of drone strikes. The screenings have provided a veneer of congressional oversight. The C.I.A.’s killing missions are ... unlikely to change significantly despite President Obama’s announcement on Thursday that a drone strike accidentally killed two innocent hostages, an American and an Italian. Michael D’Andrea ... was chief of operations during the birth of the agency’s detention and interrogation program and then, as head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, became an architect of the targeted killing program. He presided over the growth of C.I.A. drone operations and hundreds of strikes. Mr. D’Andrea was a forceful advocate for the drone program. He was particularly effective in winning the support of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who was chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee until January. The confidence Ms. Feinstein and other Democrats express about the drone program ... stands in sharp contrast to the criticism among lawmakers of the now defunct C.I.A. program to capture and interrogate Qaeda suspects in secret prisons. When Ms. Feinstein was asked in a meeting with reporters in 2013 why she was so sure she was getting the truth about the drone program while she accused the C.I.A. of lying to her about torture, she seemed surprised. “That’s a good question, actually.”
Note: The CIA has been aware that drone strikes are ineffective since at least 2009. If drones help terrorists, almost always miss their intended targets, and may be used to target people in the US in the future, what are the real reasons for the US government's drone program?
The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday. The lack of specificity suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring “near certainty that the terrorist target is present”, the US continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, acknowledged that the January deaths of hostages Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto might prompt the tightening of targeting standards. Earnest [confirmed that] the two US civilians killed, longtime English-language propagandist Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq of al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, were not “high-value targets” marked for death. In a May 2013 speech, Obama indicated that drone strikes were only permissible when the administration possessed “near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set”. Human-rights observers see little indication, two years after Obama’s speech, that the US meets its own stated standards. Reprieve, looking at US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, concluded last year that the US killed nearly 1,150 people while targeting 41 individuals.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.