06.28.2013 2

Tice: ‘NSA is copying every domestic communication, word for word, content’

By Robert Romano

There’s a saying that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and with new allegations surfacing that the National Security Agency (NSA) is indeed recording the content of every communication, it looks like the agency is on fire.

It’s a tremendous distinction. Is the agency intercepting and storing just the metadata on phone calls and emails, or also the content of every communication?

“Yes, it’s everything,” said NSA whistleblower Russ Tice in a June 19 interview with Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs site, stating he had received confirmation from his main source at the agency.

Tice was terminated from the agency in 2005 after urging Congress for greater protections for intelligence agency whistleblowers after a 20 year career with the Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Air Force, Office of Naval Intelligence, and the NSA.

According to Tice, his source has confirmed that “NSA is copying every domestic communication, word for word, content. Every phone conversation… every email, everything.”

Tice noted that during his time with the agency this would not have been possible: “They didn’t have the processing capability, they didn’t have literally the electrons, the power of infrastructure at Fort Meade to run that sort of thing and they didn’t have the storage capability to store all that information.”

That appears to have changed in the past eight years.

Tice, along with other agency whistleblowers William Binney, Tom Drake, Edward Snowden, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, former AT&T technician Mark Klein, and also former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente, have all corroborated that domestic communications are being intercepted and stored for later use.

Meanwhile, agency documents that have been published thus far by the Guardian and the Washington Post only so far show that metadata is being collected on domestic communications in the U.S.

One such 2007 document lays out the legal basis for grabbing the metadata, but draws a fine line at the content of communications. It states explicitly that the Fourth Amendment “protects against the unreasonable search and seizure of the contents of a communication in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. We conclude that a person has no such expectation, however, in dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information that does not concern the substance, purport or meaning of communications.”

So, the documents produced have not yet proved Tice, Snowden and others’ claims that everything is being collected. That does not mean that they are not true, but they are also not yet proven.

Either somebody’s lying, or somebody’s being lied to.

Tice noted that the word “collect” has a specific definition. “When they say they don’t collect, in their little twisted thinking, they’re trying to say ‘collect’ means they have an analyst who looks at it.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a similar primer on the agency’s word games, noting, “Under Department of Defense regulations, information is considered to be ‘collected’ only after it has been ‘received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component,’ and ‘data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.’”

Tice also called the idea that these capabilities were not being abused “foolish.” He claimed at one point he had the documents showing that the agency was gathering information on elected officials, judges, and other prominent Americans.

If true, that would be a game changer, calling into question just how far along the road to a pervasive surveillance state we really are. Paraphrasing Lord Acton, Tice said, “Power corrupts, and ultimate power corrupts ultimate. And [the] NSA now has ultimate power.”

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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