The Fourth Eye

The NSA and Me

Various pieces by and with James Bamford

  • James Bamford took 3 years to research and write the Puzzle Palace, published in 1982
  • Important for public and people in government
  • Triggered reclassification of documents that had been made available, reclassified, tried to get them back, refused
  • General Keith Alexander is the most powerful man in intelligence, in charge of the most powerful institution, runs cyber command as well as NSA, cyber command expanded the NSA by one third, 10 new car parks,

14 June 2013 on DN!

  • Basically Bill Binney told Bamford the same things Snowden is saying, the NSA simply denied it
  • The MSM falls in line with the NSA position – you try to tell the public whats going on, the government simply denies it.


  • When I was first writing about the NSA, no one had heard of it, even Senators
  • NSA not secret anymore – as opposed to Never Say Anything to No Such Agency
  • Bamford was in the navy, in Vietnam, won the draft, sent to NSA place in Hawaii and also to Puerto Rico, and when in PR listened to Americans talking to each other on the phone, very surprised, it was the Minaret Program, the US spying on the communication of activists, Fonda. Bamford told the Church Committee about this, in an executive session briefing. Church sent staff down to PR to listening post and the station chief and staff ran! NSA had said they had stopped eavesdropping on Americans 1.5 years ago.
  • Report on Inquiry into CIA related electronic surveillance activities, got it under FOI from the DoJ – a criminal investigation into the NSA – found 20 different areas they could prosecute, on the Intercept. Journalists extracted it, threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act
  • Bamford threatened with prosecution twice – first for the CIA document, and 2 times for the book
  • NSA is 100 buildings 32 miles of road, 37,000 cars
  • Black Chamber 1920, 141 E. 37th – Yardley in post war post censorship in war time, Yardley negotiated relationships with telcos, with Western Union HQ for telegrams, “easier than I imagined” said Yardley. Postal Telgram HQ more nervous, spoke through a lawyer, just like PRISM the company cooperated despite it being secret and illegal
  • 1931 Yardley was the 1st NSA whistleblower – but there were no laws to put him in jail – for the American Black Chamber book, he wrote another book that was suppressed, on Japanese Diplomatic Secrets, Bamford found it
  • British owned most of the cables in the world, the map of 1901 undersea cables, which is how the British eavesdropped on the world
  • The 3 telcos met in 1945 and very definitely refuse to cooperate, it is against the law! They s ay
  • Western Union reluctantly agrees – wanted the AG’s approval, went back to AT&T, you are the only one not cooperating so ITT agree with immunity from the AG, then went to RCA – okay yes, but demanded immunity from the AG too.
  • How did the government get the cables and telegrams? At midnight a van went to the back door o the companies to collect tape jurnals, all the telegrams going in and through the US, would make duplicats and then take the orginals back before the morning shift
  • Put all the content through the Harvest computer to soart against names, words, phrases
  • No judge, no probable cause, no warrant –
  • Shamrock – this went from 1946-1975 – all the telegrams,
  • The companies got no letter in the end but Chief of Staff of Army under Eisenhower sent a letter of appreciation? Telcos still very nervous wanted a guarantee. Forestall, secretary of defence at the time, met with the telcos, DOG keeping them out of jail, but wanted something in WRITING, hand written note of the meeting, initialed by the AG.
  • No one knew about this until the Church Committee
  • Bella Abzug a Senator at the time, she was very angry with the Church Committee for not dealing with the Telco Chiefs, she threatened to hold a hearing, Rumseld was Sec of Defence at the time and Dick Cheyney – did everything they could to stop Bella, they issued an executive privilege against the company usually reserved for government departments. This stopped the companies testifying, but the companies were more afraid of Bella than they were so they testified, gave over the target lists
  • 1978 – 2001 – FISA court, simply a rubber stamp,
  • Stellar Wind – warrantless eavesdropping outside of FISA
  • Inspector general report showed AT&T volunteered before asked by the NSA
  • Bamford writing about the NSA for 30 years but Snowden material, some of it is unbelievable – last year 4 killed in US by terrorism, 24 from dog bites. NSA and telecoms cooperate for really a century, they occasionally get caught but no one prosecuted! After caught, stop for a while and then simply resume
  • What do we need?
    • A truth investigation, a la Church, a 9/11 style commission independent, including privacy advocates
    • Major Bella Abzug style hearings – with companies
    • Criminal investigations
    • Prosecutions!
  • 1999 After 70 years but Yardley on the Cryptology Hall of Fame
  • 2009 The Shadow Factory
  • 1960s-1990s satellite disches International communications transmitted by satellite dishes – then switched to the Internet, undersea fibre optic cables
  • Mark Klein – Former AT&T engineer = blew the whistle on data centre splitting mirroring of cable traffic – in San Fran


9/11 NSA and CIA – James Bamford’s documentary – the Spy Factory


  • Largest collection of mathematicians linguists and computer scientists on the planet are at the NSA
  • In the immediate post cold war era, cut by one third, needed to rebuild technical and intelligence capability to deal
  • NSA never shares raw data, even with other intelligence agencies, so CIA couldn’t get full OBLaden conversations between his phone in Afghanistan and his HQ in Yemen.
  • CIA won’t allow information to go to the FBI about AlQ agents going through Kuala Lumpar on instructions by OBL and had visas to the USA – only FBI could intercept them but.
  • The 9/11 folks get drivers licences in their own names and get wire transfers from Al Hazini and Al Midhar – many calls made from San Diego and the house in Yemen.
  • All calls between Yemen centre and folks in the US were recorded by the NSA and transcribed but didn’t alert other agencies, they had detected a spike in communications
  • Executive Order after 911 – were a licence to listen



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