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The Terrible Toll of Secrecy

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Featured photo - The Terrible Toll of Secrecy President Barack Obama walking out of the Oval Office of the White House. (AP File Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The Intercept’s inaugural exposé, by my colleagues Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, illuminates the deeply flawed interaction between omnipresent electronic surveillance and targeted drone killings –- two of the three new, highly disruptive instruments of national power that President Obama has pursued with unanticipated enthusiasm.

All three (the third being cyberwar) have a lot in common. Despite their staggering implications, Obama has proceeded to establish the rules for them unilaterally, almost entirely in secret, based on dubious legal arguments, largely unchecked by judicial or congressional oversight, and with a seemingly unshakeable yet remarkably unfounded faith in their value.

But one of the many major takeaways from the eight-month-and-counting exploration of the  trove of secret NSA documents Edward Snowden gave journalists is that what may seem like good ideas within the confines of a like-minded military-intelligence establishment look very different when exposed to overdue public scrutiny.

Only then do you find out they don’t work so well. Or that they aren’t really legal, or constitutional. Or that they do more harm than good.  Or that the government relies on them too much, at the expense of things that might actually work.

History has shown time and again that secrecy and bad decisions go hand in hand.

So the fact that two new, secret U.S. government war-making abilities when used in tandem have particularly disastrous consequences for innocent civilians is newsworthy – but unfortunately not that surprising.

Because of the Obama administration’s refusal to disclose its selection or targeting criteria in any detail, it’s impossible to determine with any confidence which or how many of the civilian massacres by drone were the product of an overreliance on SIGINT rather than, say, a HUMINT asset settling a personal score or a government official eliminating possible rivals, or just plain user error.

But it’s probably more than the Obama administration would like you to think. The White House’s record of truth-telling when it comes to drone warfare is appalling. Years of administration arguments that civilian casualties in drone attacks have been inconsequential have proven again and again to be specious. Before Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s March 2013 assurance to Congress that the government wasn’t collecting data on Americans in bulk, the administration’s single biggest whopper might have been White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan’s assertion in June 2011 that over the previous year there had not been a single collateral death from drone strikes.

Exhaustive independent studies by the British Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the New America Foundation and the Long War Journal have documented that civilian casualties are endemic – the latest count is at least 440 since the drone campaigns began, according to the BIJ.

And countless journalistic accounts have described how the strikes are counterproductive, increasing civilians’ sympathy for al Qaeda and its allies in Yemen today as in Pakistan and Afghanstan before, and as in Somalia next.

Obama himself is hardly unaware of the dreadful downside of errant drone strikes. As Daniel Klaidman reported in his book, “Kill or Capture,” Obama authorized his very first drone strike on the third full day of his presidency, after having been assured by then-CIA director Michael Hayden that the targets were high-level al Qaeda and Taliban commanders. The Hellfire missile he sent into a compound in Pakistan instead killed a prominent pro-government tribal elder and four members of his family, including two children.

Klaidman wrote that Obama was “understandably disturbed” when he found out what happened, and insisted on some procedural changes. But civilian casualties continued. And each time, Obama evidently convinced himself that it wouldn’t happen again.

His most recent public assurance came in an October 2013 speech to the United Nations, where he announced that he had “limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.”

Less than two months later, missiles fired by a U.S. drone killed 13 people in a convoy of vehicles headed to a wedding party in Yemen.

How Obama’s faith in his military and intelligence leaders was restored or remained unflagging after all these incidents, despite the skepticism that he so clearly displayed during his first presidential campaign, is surely one of the great mysteries facing his supporters today, and historians tomorrow.

The spirited and informed public debate we need to have over these new ways of war has been stifled by the Obama administration, which has not only made a mockery of its promises of transparency, but has set new records in terms of its hostility toward journalistic leaks.

Congress, meanwhile, has shirked its oversight duties, in an unholy alliance of complicit leaders, happy campaign contributors, Republican ultra-hawks and partisan Democrats who don’t want to attack their president, even when he has enshrined precisely the kind of radical militaristic and anti-civil libertarian policies they convinced themselves during the Bush years were temporary aberrations.

And the elite Washington press corps, not yet recovered from its abdication of adversarial journalism after 9/11, has done an astonishingly poor job of raising and pressing important questions.

Where does that leave us?

Here. In a place and time where the only way to have the debate the country so desperately needs is for whistleblowers to speak up, and for independent journalists to make sure that they are heard.

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  1. Why is there a circle enclosing a silhouette head obscuring the first 5-6 characters in each comment?

    Using a Mac with Opera browser.

  2. The post below was intended to be in response to Don’s post below, posted on
    16 Feb 2014 at 10:31 am . My apologies …

  3. Reasonable minds enjoy crystal clarity on the difference between a genuine need for intelligence services in a free society on the one hand, whose mandate it is to guard against genuine threats, domestic and foreign. And ‘intelligence’ activities, on the other hand, that fail to qualify as described above but that are nevertheless dumped in the “intelligence service bin”, not because they protect the nation against threats, but are dumped there likely as a means to evade exposure, accountability, legal scrutiny and embarrassment, even as the manual on classification of national secrets forbids classifying information for these purposes. Many reasonable minds fully support the former, but not the latter, which often consists of excesses that are often hard to justify on any grounds in a democracy, and have historically been consistently shown to be counterproductive to the national interest , and which it is the RESPONSIBILITY of a free citizenry in a free and democratic society to query. Try reading the emails of Angela Markel of Germany and those of the Brazilian prime minister, both non-terrorist heads of democratic and free nations, and both of whom happen to be our allies. That was – until the revelations – classified intelligence, but one would be hard pressed to use terrorism as a justification for the commission of that monitoring. And this is just for starters…

  4. The last two Presidencies saw major terrorist attacks on US citizens at home and abroad. Under Clinton we lost two entire embassies, the Oklahoma Federal Building was blown up and the WTC was bombed killing six and wounding 1000. Under Bush we had 9/11 (3000 dead), as well as bombings in Bali, London and Madrid that targeted Westerners in general and our allies in particular. Under Obama we have had one largely homegrown terror attack and one embassy annex overrun. The dead and wounded do not even come close to equalling the dead and wounded from the Beirut bombing that occurred during Reagan’s term. They are in a completely different ballpark compared to the attacks we experienced under Clinton and Bush. In other words, Obama has done a good job of protecting our security as Americans. This may in part explain Obama’s adherence to the counter-terrorist policies he has followed thus far. They have worked, so far. Meanwhile, I can count on one hand the number of people jailed in the US for unauthorized disclosure of government secrets. But I walked by a smoking pile of thousands of my fellow citizens every day for three months in 2001 on my way to work. It gave me a lot of time to think about the importance of security. I get the sense from the comments here some people would be happy if the US abolished its intelligence services, or if intelligence and defense officials were put on trial and jailed, or if the US military and intelligence services were governed by an international committee of journalists, activists and disgruntled ex-intelligence officials. If the majority of Americans are not out in the streets screaming for this, do not be surprised.

    • Don, our domestic and foreign policy have been driven during the last 13 years by our fear of another 9/11-type attack. However, in the attack that hijacked our political consciousness, the three towers of the WTC came down symmetrically and the collapse accelerated to the ground at (or very near) free fall speed. Those characteristics are physically impossible for the (supposedly) natural collapses hypothesized by the government. But they are perfectly normal in controlled demolitions. Controlled demolition of the WTC means that an organized threat from terrorists is effectively zero and that our danger as a society emanates from those individuals who most benefited (through investments, political positioning, and personal career growth) from an expansion of the military-intelligence complex. Determining what policies have protected us from “terrorists,” then becomes an exercise in political theater and—understanding that—our confidence in intelligence organizations “protecting” us diminishes proportionately.

    • The ramifications of an ever more secretive government go far beyond the prevention of (comparatively) rare cases of mass killing. Statistically, a police state may provide the highest level of security to its citizens. This does not mean that everybody wants to live in one.

      But I’m making too great a concession on the effectiveness of a police state. The choice is not between security and no security, but between a transparent government that provides security within the framework of Rule of Law, or an unaccountable government that provides secret security. But secrecy often hides and fosters incompetence. Witness how the NSA wastes resources in performing mass surveillance on citizens who pose no threat, its reliance on outside contractors and the lack of proper internal security procedures. If you study the issue, I’m confidant you will find that countries with more freedom are also generally safer. This appears paradoxical; shouldn’t more government power result in greater safety for their citizens? Perhaps, but once citizens have ceded all power to the government, it no longer has an overiding need to provide for their safety. King Lear ceded all his power and found to his surprise that his welfare was not in fact his daughters’ chief concern. That is why it is generally better for citizens to monitor what their government does and control it, rather than vice versa.

      Not that I’d want to disturb your complacency, of course.

    • For sure, every country needs intelligent services; however all these attacks should have also provoked a deep questioning as to WHY….And to NOT take the cliche’s responses that they are just evil men, or that others simply envy our “freedoms and liberties.” You seem to be someone who has a minimal capacity for rational thought and deductive thinking.

  5. What about the bible belt?

    Christianity concedes to nothing but force.

    Only one word is different.

    Every word can make a difference.

    Love and Light from Germany

  6. Good resume of Obama foreign policy so far, if there is one.
    One nitpick, where you said:
    the kind of radical militaristic and anti-civil libertarian policies”
    You probably, actually meant ‘extremist’, not “radical”.

  7. What bothers me a great deal is that everything that Obama does as President, he essentially does in our name. Whether it’s walking guns to drug cartels, wiretapping the entire world, unrighteously prosecuting whistleblowers (previous promised protection), or killing innocent bystanders from the sky, we will reap the consequences and until recently, we didn’t even know, nor could we believe, this was happening.

  8. when money is the driving force behind… well, anything. how can you believe anything.
    dan it is great to see you here.

  9. Stating that Obama has “set new records in terms of its hostility toward journalistic leaks” isn’t that profound of a statement. The only reason he holds the record is because a record number of whistle-blowers have come forward doing his two terms. Presidents of the past didn’t hesitate to prosecute whistle-blowers either, they just didn’t have all that many whistle-blowers to deal with.

  10. During Obama’s inauguration he stated that there would be no torture in his administration, as Bush and Cheeney sat squirming having to endure this insult. He was correct. No need for turture and private prisions when you have drones. No need for representation, lawyers. rights, international laws or anything that resembles civility. Pull the trigger and they are gone and any one who has the misfortune to be near the targets. Women, children or innocent bystanders beware. Obama is now a war criminal like Bush and Cheeney. Who would have ever thought? I was sadly reminded of how Obama has been such a disappointment in the passing of Mandella. Obama could have had the courage to serve the people instead he is just another politician smiling as he serves wall street, big banks, arms manufactures, etc. Obama recently commented on how proficient he was at killing people. Nice legacy.

    • The more likely possibility is that Obama is a helpless figurehead for an utterly out of control war machine.

  11. dan — delighted to see your name on staff here! i have tremendous respect for glenn, jeremy, and laura! the mainstream press, however, seems intent on discounting their reporting, ignoring them, attacking them, and doing anything and everything possible to discredit any information they may present. the gravitas your name brings with it will make it much more difficult to discount this news source for those who wish to continue misleading the american public. for years i have been thanking you for what you do, encouraging you to keep fighting the good fight: yet again! thanks for what you do, dan! keep fighting the good fight!!

  12. My only quibble is with this statement: “…that President Obama has pursued with unanticipated enthusiasm.”

    I really don’t take pleasure with saying “I told you so” but, in this case, those of us who supported Gary Johnson, DID anticipate his ardor for authoritarianism.

    I’m hoping (but not terribly hopeful) that two stakes; one for the Republican Party and the other for the Democratic Party, will finally find there long-awaited resting positions through two most deserving hearts.

    How long will it be before Americans begin to master the art of easy predictions? I’m torn between encouragement and despair.

  13. Great to see details like this published. However please don’t rush to blame Obama here in person. This is a machinery that Obama is currently officially the head of, but inofficially he is just a wheel in the whole business. Pushing too hard on the “Obama carries blame” button creates the false impression that the voters could actually change the situation by voting for another party. It is not a problem of a particular party or president, it is a problem at a much bigger scale that has developed over the past decades. Please no scape goating!

  14. I am so ashamed of President Obama. He could’ve been a great President……,

  15. I am so happy to se Dan here. I have the highest respect for his work. The proof is that he holds Obama as well as Bush accountable. Good luck guys, we are rooting for you!!

  16. I am shocked to find out that Obama took only 3 days to become a child murderer…??

    3 DAYS INTO HIS PRESIDENCY OBAMA MURDERED TWO CHILDREN IN PAKISTAN??!!! ….AND HE GOT THE PEACE PRIZE??!! THE WORLD IS SICK…

    ORWELL WAS JUST 30 YEARS OFF WITH 1984… MORE WARS ARE COMING…. :(

  17. Thank you Dan Froomkin. The debate on secrecy is very much needed. Of course we who actually still think in this country know that the secrecy maintained by Obama and the 16-17 security agencies is meant to keep Americans in the dark. They know that what they do is wrong and illegal and unconstitutional, and that Obama is very much afraid for his own personal safety to stand up to the brutes who call the shots in Washington. He doesn’t want to end up as JFK, MLK, or RFK did – shot to death. I think we can all understand that. And I’m sure he understood this ‘deal with the devil’ when he was running for office. So we all know what kind of person he really is – a coward, a lying coward, a self- aggrandizing coward – and this man is truly opening the gates of hell for all of us as we creep closer, under Obama’s leadership, to a truly frightening police state. We have gone down this road of being the world’s greatest threat to peace for so long now, fundamental questions have been left behind as we attempt to absorb one outrage after another [e.g., Obama as 'killer in chief' of American citizens], and that is, what right do we as Americans have to allow our government to kill anyone with drones? Or with cruise missiles? Or with ‘shock and awe’ ? Certainly on the whole, haven’t we become what Obama and his ilk are? Cowards? Dastardly cowards? I wholehearted applaud GG and his team for fighting the good fight, putting their personal security at risk, showing us that speaking truth to power will cost you something, maybe even your life.

  18. Thanks once again for all you do. Bringing your colleagues expose home, and laying responsibility where it belongs, directly at Obama’s feet, is wonderful harmony to their melody. It is in the best tradition of the White House Watch. Thanks to all at FLM/TI. Please let us know how we can help. Cliff & Sue

  19. Things will change if people stand up and demand for it! Courageous and critical journalism exemplified by this article and advocated for by the Intercept is the catalyst that will hopefully get people to act – keep up the great work!

    • The “people” are divided; more than half support an “anything goes” policy as long as it keeps their place in the house of cards. They don’t read sites like this and they don’t care about where this might lead. They need an education and we need to do the educating to counter the religious right and corporate media.

  20. International Terrorism Data Base records 30 Americans killed by terrorist acts in the USA since 2005.

  21. None of this makes sense. If the US is really conducting a “war on terror” then they are failing abysmally. Terrorism used to be the preserve of a tiny minority of antisocial whackos and desperados; now it seems to have broad appeal. How many people nowadays would relish blowing up the White House? A lot more than 15 years ago. And terrorism’s number one promoter has been the US. Who could imagine better marketing than the US has given to Al Qaida free of charge? What better encouragement could the US provide than blasting countries to smithereens and then setting death squads loose in them? Or terrorising populations with death from the skies? And of course, who’s the biggest funder of terrorist groups worldwide?
    The officials running these wars are not morons. They know that this is not a war on terror — terrorism is not something to be eradicated but rather something to be carefully nurtured. As long as they can keep provoking a credible terrorist threat, they will have a semi-credible mandate to grab more and more economic, military and political power. The poor simps who strap on explosive vests don’t realise that they are fulfilling the US imperial agenda.
    The “War on Terror” has been a carefully-laid lie from the very outset; yet it has been virtually entirely unquestioned by any mainstream media. It’s been the greatest media meme for over a decade, now, but barely any media is subjecting it to the most basic scrutiny.
    I have been yearning for media outlets to start deconstructing the elaborate myth that the world has been fed these last thirteen years. The lie is so deeply established now, it has seeped into our very language. My hope is that these brave reporters at First Look will be able to start re-telling the story of the world we live in — what’s really happening and why. We need to understand. Bless you all.

    • The more left oriented European intellectuals are watching the big lie You described a long time now with consternation. The american people, but also the vast mayority of the population in Europe are manipulated in a way, that even Orwell never dreamed about. Propaganda and brainwash does not only work in North Corea.

      • And every petty dictator has caught on: any enemy or opposition that gets in the way is eliminated under the guise of terrorism.

  22. Mr. Froomkin,
    Having always admired your writing in the Washington Post (I like Paul Krugman’s take on your firing) and The Huffington Post, I am thrilled to see you have joined The Intercept. I look forward to reading you and your courageous fellow journalists shedding light upon the machinations of those government and corporate scoundrels (Pierre Omidyar presumably excluded), who, acting like lords, run this cruel and benighted land. Not that I am particularly sanguine about the results; it has been ever thus. Thomas Nast was successful, though, so perhaps you will be able to accomplish something other than providing what I anticipate will be some wonderful schadenfreude as you shine the light on our rich and powerful masters. Meanwhile, watch your backs.

  23. Mr. Froomkin, Having always admired your writing in The Washington Post and Huffington Post, I am thrilled that you have joined The Intercept. I look forward to reading you and your fellow muckrakers shed light on the machinations of the corrupt and often depraved scoundrels who, acting like lords, run this cruel, benighted land. Not that I believe it will do much good (it’s been ever thus, c

  24. Excellent article, and brilliant comment section. Thank you to all the awake and aware for sharing your thoughts.

    This is how I think about this country now: NSA now has a one stop shop (here) to tag, identify and track all those they consider “inside threats.” :/

  25. Thrilled to see the majority of comments on The Intercept show a much more refined understanding of geopolitical and militaristic intent, cause and effect. There was a small part of me that was starting to wonder if this was it for us, that we’d crossed the rubicon as an educated citizenry. The never ending assault of the main stream media’s propaganda machine has been so effective in its divisive intent, that its rendered the majority of our nations populace intellectually inert. Independent journalism is at the heart of our Constitutional Republic. Considered so important by the founders that it was rightfully enshrined in our first amendment. Secret courts, secret rulings and secret laws are now used to justify the abuse of not only the individual citizen, but of the press that dares to question this imperial presidency, all under the guise of our own security. This is a portion of the speech that President John F. Kennedy gave at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on April 27, 1961. I find the event title “The President and the Press” and the audience it was for, quite apropos. The speech was given before the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
    “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.”

    • LOL; just this past Saturday I was totally (and I assume permanently) barred from posting at MLIVE here in Michissippi for ‘failing to cease posting links and other info that connected American pols and corps to WWII era Germany.’ The truthfulness was not disputed, merely the relevance; it was MLIVE’s position that ‘they have no relevance to today.’ Once again posting a link to Ford’s ”The International Jew” seems to have been ‘my final offense.’

  26. “where capture is not feasible”

    If they can sneak into a compound in the middle of Pakistan, without the permission of Pakistan, and capture a well protected high value target like Bin Laden… then capture of anybody, anywhere is “feasible.”

  27. This story reminds me about how President becomes insular and becomes too dependent who advises him.

  28. “How Obama’s faith in his military and intelligence leaders was restored or remained unflagging after all these incidents, despite the skepticism that he so clearly displayed during his first presidential campaign, is surely one of the great mysteries facing his supporters today, and historians tomorrow.”

    I think the thing to do is to stop imagining that politicians are actually people, with sincerely held beliefs and guiding principles. They are automatons with a single overriding function – to gain and maintain power. He said what he said and believed what he believed during his candidacy because he and his handlers surmised that most Americans were thirsty for it. Now that he has power, he cooperates with the Security Establishment because he and his handlers believe that most Americans really want their president to get the bad guys, first and foremost.

    You can’t listen to what they say. You have to change the math.

    • Social and abnormal psychology, and cultural anthropology, extensively support your assertions.

      While we primates ARE subject to utilitarian coalition to seek social status, there have been and are other cultures holding more ethical traditions, in which social status is not achieved through accretion of political power (more direct in democracy, speakers only hold positions so long as they express the actual consensus – which avoids faction, as Madison might have put it).
      Instead, in North and South American continents, social status was achieved by distributing one’s wealth, having a result of showing that skills are all and possessions nothing.
      In the Andean cultures, there remains a tradition of sharing labor, using the exquisite human sense of reciprocity. In the Northern continent, reciprocity and thus trade, created closer familial-type bonding, unlike the predatory market culture in which you now participate.

      An oligarchy is a governing by the few, and an oligopoly is a market composed of a few. The failure of strong restrictions in governing, and of strong antitrust law in markets, creates this incerasingly stratified society.
      Any highly stratified society is a slave society.

      • “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
        J. W. Goethe

  29. What’s sad is that this sight had to be made because of the lack of journalistic integrity in television media. Everything that comes out of the television now that’s broadcast on basic cable is for entertainment only. Let’s just hope privatizing the internet doesn’t happen…..

  30. As an Englishman living in Norway, a country I love and as a person who has always been pro American, I must say the United States scares me now. This is no longer the country of equal rights or a country where you have a chance to better yourself, those days are long gone. SHAME ON YOU AMERICA, YOU ARE NOT A COUNTRY THAT FREEDOM LOVING PEOPLE LOOK UP TO!!!!

    • No, we are not the country people used to look up to – we are dominated by corporate policy and greed that is supported by our elected representatives. Why do you think that the Government is supporting state sanctioned harassment, and make a huge effort to silence people like Aaron Schwartz or Snowden or anyone else who is in a position to create a problem? I’m and American and am embarrassed and ashamed. The problem is so huge that it would take a world boycott to bring it to corporate attention. This is a world race for control of dwindling natural resources, and America is as ruthless as anyone else.

    • As an American myself I am ashamed and have a deep sense of betrayal. I am not stupid but I believed the USA could reform and set itself aright again. But with Obama’s second term it is obvious I like millions of Americans were scammed, lied to and have been attacked for wanting our basic freedoms, liberties, rights and justice. Our economy has been manipulated by elites so that we are more inclined to give in to their police state control methods and agree to less and less freedoms. Hitler would be proud of the US government for all it has done to destroy the American people and our society. “Operation Paperclip” from post WWII has been a real success in killing freedom, taking away our strength, destroying the family in America. Yes my friend SHAME is a word that Americans feel deeply. But … BETRAYAL IS THE MOST HURTFUL TO OUR SPIRIT. Pray for us for we are embattled and yet we battle on, “We will never give up”.

      • Thank you for this; I agree almost completely. BETRAYAL deeply damaging and so many of us live with this, on a number of levels. Finding our way out of this and honing our aptitude for discernment of the authentic is front and center as a task for us, individually and collectively. This website may very well help more of us find each other to cheer ourselves on through this grueling time.

      • It is refreshing to see so many comment on the ongoing assault to our constitution. I’m in my early 60s and was a product of “Pledge of allegience”, John Wayne WWII movies(the US was always the good guys), Superman(Truth, Justice, and the American way) propaganda, and it took until a couple years ago for the fog to lift. Once you pull the veil back it’s amazing how differently the world looks. I, too, am ashamed of what’s being done abroad in my name. I’m also angry at our government(term used loosely) and our citizenry(also, loosely) for allowing this to happen. The unconstitutionally egregious behaviour of the power elite just got to be so obvious I could no longer ignore. It’s a little scary to think that by simply commenting on this site we are all most likely on several lists of possible terrorist threats. Five years ago I would have called my comments the ravings of a paranoid delusional. The sad thing is just in my immediate family of approximately 25 people, I’m the only one who seems to care enough to at least voice my opinion.

    • As an American, living in the States, I am deeply ashamed and afraid. Fear resonates everywhere here in the good old US. I see and hear it everywhere. Bush & Co did their job of building fear. Now Obama is doing his by taking away our rights as we cower…

  31. Unrestrained surveillance lacking solid oversight always yields a security state and attracts the corruptible. I am a retired Government Department of Army scientists and ex-Special Forces soldier who held a secret security clearance for nearly three decades. I have never encounter a single soldier, Government employee, contractor or any elected official, top to bottom, I would trust to wisely function within the excessive secrecy, technological power and “turnkey” security state that currently exist. I would rather have someone spit on me and question authority than mindlessly thank me for my service. I have done my duty as a soldier, scientist and citizen. It is the duty of us all to question power even if this currently labels you as an “Insider Threat.”

    I am sorry the Intercept and Snowden’s revelations are so needed. Real and diligent oversight, adherence to Constitutional law and a truly free investigative press and there would be a lesser need. Snowden and The Intercept exist because our system of government and the press failed us terribly. We live in a wrong system I pray can be righted. A system designed by human fears and fallibility, and further extremely prone to the reaping of dangerous and definite human failings.

    Using the power of new technology to perform the surveillance is amazing. The bending of corporations and all three branches of Government to the surveillance mission is frightening and illegitimate. Executives fearful of terrorists attack and to some degree seduced by informational power and secrecy and trust in their own motives, and paranoia of “insider threats; ” secret courts that can interpret Constitutional law but cannot enforces even token restraint; and a legislature where many intelligence committee members bask in the power of secrecy, fail to enlighten their peers, and avoid the bipartisan hot-potato of true oversight, becoming enablers allowing the agencies to do as they will. Corporations were direct beneficiaries lobbying for or otherwise “induced “or faced “consequences.” Seal the entire process in secrecy, so even the honest and diligent cannot speak truth to power or inform the public. Expand the surveillance system as your diminish the Constitution, free will and freedom; until an “insider threat” weakest link snaps or a whistleblower man of conscious steps up. Either case unleashes a crisis of its own collective making.

    The surveillance police state leaves a blank to fill in the future evil and leaves the targets of that evil up for grabs. You may think they will come for someone else and you may be wrong. We might get the Mussolini cross armed totalitarian, a cheery Nazi open hand or Marxist clinched fist salute, probably some American homegrown evil beyond prediction or even imagination. Whether through malfeasance or malevolence, if you build it they will come.

    • Could you tell me if Edward Snowden has leaked any info that would result in harm coming to our men and women in the military or to confidential informants in the Mideast who are helping us? I have a feeling he isn’t, but I’d like to be sure. You seem to be well informed Fred.

      • I am retired and removed from being “well informed” and in this affair damned few were ever well inform prior to Snowden’s revelation. I keep up as best I can. In my opinion so far both Snowden and the associated press seem to have taken great care not to do harm to those that serve. Enablers of mass surveillance claim great harm but provide no proof. Enemies work to exploit all information and there can never be surety of no harm. The question becomes are the revelation worth the risk? I say yes, but this question is for each person to answer according to their knowledge and conscience.

    • Thank you for your comments and courage. It is clear that there is no sense of morality or decency a the upper echelons of power, just callous disregard for human beings the world over. I do hope this site is a spark to something better.

      • My limited accomplishments are no great matter and it takes little courage to make comments when you are retired. I suspected but did not see the proof of the problem prior to Snowden. Like Rick in Casablanca and almost all the rest of America, even our elected representatives, I was misinformed. The good news, there are good men both capable and honest within the “upper echelons.” The bad news for now they must either go along with bad policy or be labeled an “insider threat” a career ender or worse. These “sleepers” are waiting and will awaken when the season changes. Many from all walks of life love freedom and fair play. I bet Snowden knows a few such folks. This site is an oasis of hope, may it help many to carry some water.

  32. The world community is grateful for your efforts to shine a bright light in the dark, corrupt and ugly places that hold so much influence over the people of the world. The rotten smell is not just from governments but also the big corporate media mind control outlets, the so-called religions institutions that sit back and collect donations as wars rage, poverty deepens and corporate drug dealers create a society of addiction, and let us not forget the stench of the elite bankers who will finance anything for a profit. The sad thing, the sick thing is that so many institutions, organizations, government agencies, universities, and so-called public services have been co-opted, bought out or minimized as a public advocate. For example is the Red Cross really independent of government influence and what is the back ground and history of their directors, administrators, and policies. Another example is this disease called privatization of hospitals, health care, public utilities, government agencies (ex Booos Allen and the NSA), and all the disgusting examples of public education being destroyed so that “charter / privatized school$” can take over the education of our children. Other areas worth your time is the now invisible world of weather war and modification, secret space programs that the public pays for but do not have a clue that they exist, and the real consequences to individual freedom, equality and liberty programs like Agenda 21and Obamacare force on the public as we read the fine print. God Bless your enterprise and may we all bring the light into all these dark diseased places.

  33. “And countless journalistic accounts have described how the strikes are counterproductive, increasing civilians’ sympathy for al Qaeda and its allies in Yemen today as in Pakistan and Afghanstan [sic] before, and as in Somalia next.”

    Is not one forced to consider then that the creation of anti-American sentiment is in fact the real purpose of drone strikes? Doesn’t animosity towards America and positive views of al Qaeda
    feed the specious justification of the need for “collect it all” surveillance, and ever increasing military power, down to our own militarized neighborhood police departments?

    Is not one then forced to ask why? Beyond the corporate profits involved and the benefits to disingenuous politicians and Wall Street insiders, there appears to be what Greenwald has not so obliquely suggested – a plan to control human beings at every (conceivable) level of their lives. This involves the destruction of those values and liberties, we Americans have for too long taken for granted, once protected under the US Constitution.

    I do hope these connections will be made apparent to readers and become a topic garnering great interest in the public discourse.

  34. A very long list of comments! and in short time!
    So interesting reading those and, of course ,Your article!
    Thanks for Top level News and Analysis……We are”Here”

  35. Thank you for a well-written article that brings new light on a horrendous subject. I would like to share some information about what I consider a corollary to the drone strikes that are occurring here in the U.S. These strikes are on a local level but I believe that they are coming about because of the mindset of a government that seems to be seeing We, The People of the U.S. as the enemy of the guv. I think that the arbitrary execution of U. S. citizens is not at all that common for now, but if history is any evidence, that brutality and outright murder of potentially innocent people by the guv will increase.

    Here’s the comment that contains the information:
    Steve Dunlap • Top Commenter • University of New Mexico
    The raid teams are ordered to “toss”(destroy) a person’s property in the execution of a search warrant. This is done to illicit a response from the subject of the warrant that would justify their execution. This is nothing more than Government sanctioned murder of those who are deemed a threat to the agenda of the Government. It’s happening right now in this country. We are no longer a nation of free people.

    And here’s the web site upon which that comment is posted:
    http://www.teaparty.org/federal-agents-conduct-raid-machine-gun-preacher-34385/

  36. “And countless journalistic accounts have described how the strikes are counterproductive, increasing civilians’ sympathy for al Qaeda and its allies in Yemen today as in Pakistan and Afghanstan before, and as in Somalia next.”

    Doesn’t anyone else think this is intentional? The US is between Cold Wars, and the War on Drugs isn’t going well, thanks to South America failing to play along anymore. What else except the War on Terror justifies the continuing, ever expanding budgets for all the gizmos, gadgets, and war toys? Without those expenditures, the American economy (such as it is) cannot survive.

  37. History has shown time and again that secrecy and bad decisions go hand in hand.
    ————————–
    The latest example went up on The Guardian yesterday, with a new expose of the written record surrounding the instructions to destroy all images of bid Laden’s murder. Is there a person out there who truly thinks it isn’t suspicious that the country already in trouble for having lied its way into an illegal war by claiming that there were WMD–, a country that knew its “word” no longer counts for much –didn’t choose to keep the definitive proof that it had done what it claimed?

    That secrecy, that desire to destroy the evidence of what really happened speaks more loudly than the act itself. By continually raising more questions than we answer (and refusing to clarify why we won’t answer) in a context that includes war crimes and human rights abuses we’ve done more to damage our reputation in a decade than anything that’s happened since the founding of this nation. Given the nature of the crimes and lies, that’s not hyperbole.

  38. “State Secrets” is a judicial doctrine, not a law, and its use is not to protect “sources and methods” but to shield the government from oversight.

    When the US was developing the atomic bomb, Russia and Germany knew about the Manhattan project — it was just US citizens that were kept in the dark. Gary Wills argues that, given the use of chemical weapons in WWI and the subsequent 1925 Geneva Protocols against such weapons, the American public may well not have had an appetite for such a new weapon. We certainly did fine devastating Japan with incendiary weapons.

    When we were bombing Cambodia, the Cambodians knew it — it was no secret to the “enemy,” but it was a secret to the American public. We have drone campaigns in at least six countries right now — they know it, but the American public has only the sketchiest few details.

    The judicial origin of the state secrets privilege itself derives from an effort to shield the military from oversight. In the 1953 United States v. Reynolds case, several widows wanted to know why their husbands — airmen — died in the crash of a military aircraft. The details of the incident were ruled “secret.” In 2000, when the documents were declassified, it turned out the problem was a known, faulty engine design (they lacked sufficient airflow to keep them cool).

    These are political decisions, not objective, empirical assessments by an impartial cost-benefit analysis. The Snowden leaks are not much different. The public dislikes dragnet surveillance, and secrecy is a way to prevent public opinion from turning further against it.

    The War on Terror and these high-tech “solutions” to geo-political problems are at once a diversionary tactic — so those in control can appear to be doing something about the problems we face, without actually making the difficult policy decisions needed to do something about the problems we face — and, at the same time, they are a continuation of the Cold War subsidies at the core of the permanent war economy that has prevailed since the Eisenhower Administration.

    The fact that so many high-profile terrorism cases have involved paid informants at once undermines claims that these technologies are effective, and, at the same time, by bordering on entrapment, these cases demonstrate that the criminals are fabricated to support the policies. The secrecy is part an parcel of this, since the public sees the terror cases, but never sees the threat.

    • Exactly. It is all backwards. The War On Terror is actually a War OF Terror. (I’m quite sick of all these word, by the way.)

  39. “State Secrets” is a judicial doctrine, not a law, and its use is not to protect “sources and methods” but to shield the government from oversight.

    Wen the US was developing the atomic bomb, Russia and Germany knew about the Manhattan project — it was just US citizens that were kept in the dark. Gary Wills argues that, given the use of chemical weapons in WWI and the subsequent 1925 Geneva Protocols against such weapons, the American public may well not have had an appetite for such a new weapon. We certainly did fine devastating Japan with incendiary weapons.

    When we were bombing Cambodia, the Cambodians knew it — it was no secret to the “enemy,” but it was a secret to the American public. We have drone campaigns in at least six countries right now — they know it, but the American public has only the sketchiest few details.

    The judicial origin of the state secrets privilege itself derives from an effort to shield the military from oversight. In the 1953 United States v. Reynolds case, several widows wanted to know why their husbands — airmen — died in the crash of a military aircraft. The details of the incident were ruled “secret.” In 2000, when the documents were declassified, it turned out the problem was a known, faulty engine design (they lacked sufficient airflow to keep them cool).

    These are political decisions, not objective, empirical assessments by an impartial cost-benefit analysis. The Snowden leaks are not much different. The public dislikes dragnet surveillance, and secrecy is a way to prevent public opinion from turning further against it.

    The War on Terror and these high-tech “solutions” to geo-political problems are at once a diversionary tactic — so those in control can appear to be doing something about the problems we face, without actually making the difficult policy decisions needed to do something about the problems we face — and, at the same time, they are a continuation of the Cold War subsidies at the core of the permanent war economy that has prevailed since the Eisenhower Administration.

    The fact that so many high-profile terrorism cases have involved paid informants at once undermines claims that these technologies are effective, and, at the same time, by bordering on entrapment, these cases demonstrate that the criminals are fabricated to support the policies. The secrecy is part an parcel of this, since the public sees the terror cases, but never sees the threat.

  40. Everything this administration does is shrouded by secrecy. From TPP and even Obamacare discussions being performed behind closed doors to be followed by astounding statements like “we have to pass the bill to find out what is in it”. Even White House photo journalists complained of being barred from normal activities and being supplied with photo’s of dear leader Obama to use. Mainstream media has been so complicit that it is painful to look at and has left me believe that Operation Mockingbird is up and running. I think in addition to the death and destruction that the drone program has caused it is important to address where it looks like it is going. They have already used them to kill American citizens and are now looking to try to legalize it. Ben Smith a former Navy Seal revealed that military personnel are being asked if they would fire upon American citizens and being advanced based on their answer. Indeed the military has seen a huge and unprecedented purge of the top brass. Occupy, Anonymous, and whistle blowers have been given ridiculous sentences for peaceful dissent. When you realize the control the NSA has how can anyone believe that the electronic voting system hasn’t been hijacked as well? See this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J2NMyUncos . And the icing on the cake is that the new autonomous drone Taranis is up and functioning, the elite will soon only need a few to control all of society without having to worry about a controller developing a conscience. Americans need to wake up fast, and I wish we could see all of the Snowden files a bit quicker, at the pace they are coming out now it is almost like the boiling frog theory.

  41. “His most recent public assurance came in an October 2013 speech to the United Nations, where he announced that he had “limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.”

    Less than two months later, missiles fired by a U.S. drone killed 13 people in a convoy of vehicles headed to a wedding party in Yemen.”

    That’s almost like December 15th, 2012 when Obama cried fake tears for Sandy Hook children, then less than 3 weeks later, January 9th, 2013 Obama did another drone stike that killed another child. And didn’t announce it, cry fake or real tears, acknowledge it publicly, etc.

  42. “Obama authorized his very first drone strike on the third full day of his presidency, after having been assured by then-CIA director Michael Hayden that the targets were high-level al Qaeda and Taliban commanders. The Hellfire missile he sent into a compound in Pakistan instead killed a prominent pro-government tribal elder and four members of his family, including two children.”

    It is quotes like this that add fuel to my belief Obama is possibly being extorted or blackmailed into cooperating with the NSA.

    Gen. Alexander: “Remember those innocent children you killed with Hellfire missiles in that drone strike at the start of your first term, like those innocent women & children you also killed with cruise missiles and cluster bombs in Al-Majalah at the start of your first term? Those were war crimes, remember? You don’t want to cooperate any more?Should we phone compromised MSM from official NSA lines to tell them [what to say], perhaps Congress members who we’re also blackmailing? Impeachment?”

    Obama: “Just tell me what to say, put it in my teleprompters. I’m golfing.”

    Gen. Alexander: “That’s my boy.”

    Gen. Hayden: “That’s MY boy.”

    DNI Clapper: “He’s MY BOY.”

    Obama: *thinks to his Uncle Tom self* (“Fuck. You. All.”) “Shit! Bogey.”

  43. “Despite their staggering implications, Obama has proceeded to establish the rules for them unilaterally, almost entirely in secret, based on dubious legal arguments, largely unchecked by judicial or congressional oversight, and with a seemingly unshakeable yet remarkably unfounded faith in their value.”

    —————-
    Note that all of this is in direct contradiction to Obama’s own stated principles. The optimistic interpretation is that the President is simply a liar. That is comforting since it feeds into our perceived stereotypes about politicians. But I can’t help but notice that what is being implemented is the exact agenda of the secret agencies themselves. The alternative explanation is more unsettling: the President is not running this show and is simply providing the cover.

  44. “How Obama’s faith in his military and intelligence leaders was restored or remained unflagging after all these incidents, despite the skepticism that he so clearly displayed during his first presidential campaign, is surely one of the great mysteries facing his supporters today, and historians tomorrow.”
    Don’t you think that maybe Obama is lying? When someone says one thing and then acts in a completely different way, I don’t see a ‘great mystery’, I just see a liar.

    • We know he is a liar, but just as bad it appears he is easily influenced when surrounded by a bunch of guys in uniform with lots of medals etc. I really think the Obama Admin has been a textbook case of how the XXXX-industrial complexes have co-opted the Presidency. Obama has always been a go along to get along kind of guy, and when faced with the entrenched powers in DC he was almost completely unable to resist them.

  45. “countless journalistic accounts have described how the strikes are counterproductive, increasing civilians’ sympathy for al Qaeda and its allies”

    I often wonder if this was not the intent all along. What better way to continue to justify a runaway military budget than to ensure that the United States has plenty of enemies to be defended against?

    • Your focus is on one issue while the corporations that will govern the world are focused on another. These global corporations do not adhere to acceptable and standard rules of conduct, and our government – with standing armies all over the world – support them in their efforts because the corporations support candidates that support what these corporations want to do.

  46. “HUMINT asset” is spy agency jargon. What does that mean in plain English? A spy or informant?

  47. Allan Francovich referred to the CIA as the rotary club version of the GESTAPO. Well I think what is happening today in the world, is just beyond belief. This is not just the American government, we have the Western European governments towing the line no matter what and who are just as complicit. I won’t even go into the totalitarian nature of the “new” democracies such as Poland, that are no better than a third world country, where the government likes buying arms, selling it’s territory to other governments and doing it all against the interests of its own population.

  48. @Gary – your observation is frustrating to the point of real pains. Unfortunately the major US media is controlled by only 6 organizations and this monopoly has created a dangerous combination of propaganda and censorship. The media, 1% and corporate interests control the lobbyists, politicians and political priorities. I’m of the opinion that blackmail and bribery have become so entrenched in our political system that no ones pants can be pulled down without exposing further filthy laundry (case in point, Christie) so they all keep quiet about each other for fear of their own exposure. I bet the domino effect would bring down the majority of our entire governmental process, the likes of which would surpass any in history in it’s scope and depth. I can no longer stomach the morning or evening “news” because it’s so watered down with insipid sound bites or heavy on entertainment as news (Bieber, Kardashians, the Superbowl). It’s frustrating because I want to hear about XL Pipeline protests, conflicts of interest within the Supreme Court, the secret Koch meeting documents, who at the EPA is accountable for the W.V. water catastrophes, the -lack- of prosecutions in Wall Street, the profiteering from prison privatization, the TPP, etc, etc, etc… But it’s like crickets out there. And the so-called journalists that work for these media outlets (I can’t call them news agencies) are perfectly content to collect their paychecks in return for recycling press releases spoon fed to them by the white house, government agencies, think tanks, and the like. The tentacles are far reaching with deep, insidious barbs. So I have learned to ignore all mainstream media and instead spend my time as a hunter/gatherer across many sources to I can objectively discern the steak from the sizzle. @WHaywood, I agree. Obama has sold his soul to the devil … he’s gone to the dark side. He has unapologetically reneged on more campaign promises than he’s kept … his administration has been intentionally aloof and smug … this combined with his protection of people like Clapper (who by all accounts has been pardoned and entirely defended after directly lying to Congress), his dismantling of privacy (as he pats us on the head), his administrations rabid pursuit of Edward Snowden, their relentless intimidation to silence and prosecute any form of whistle-blowing and investigative/provocative journalism to expose it, covert attempts to fast track the very, very secretive TPP … the list goes on. Obama is in bed with the rest of “them” and is a total lost cause. He had so much promise – but he’s fallen in step with Bush and is lost to us forever … beyond disappointing. My hopes are renewed with people Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren … and of course this new team of journalists at The Intercept. While I too prefer to have facts over opinions – I appreciate the tone that is being established here on Day 1 and look forward to what is to come – and I hope more cage rattling ensues. Good Job!

    • THat’s called an oligopoly, and without sufficient restrictions and oversight, is increasingly common. Wikipedia has an enlightening article for those unused to the concept.
      Cournot and Bertrand were two mathematicians of the 19th c. and John Nash of the 20th, who identified mathematically the processes of the unrestricted game which destroys this particular culture through such feudal/fascistic processes.

  49. This article is really good. It has given me some understanding of many things that have been perplexing for me. If you take the knowledge in this article and then read the famous quote by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, it began to shed some light on things I didn’t understand. His quote not only warned us about the military industrial complex but also if that complex got stronger and then put in the hands of someone who did not have a clear understanding of the military. Great article. I look forward to more of your articles.

  50. It begun with a lie “War on Terror” (Plame affair showed the philisophiy behind it) Terror is only a method of war, you American “Partymen” misunderstood Clausewitz.

    In this Secred War (and endless still prevaling since the cold war) we don’t know the motives, the reasons – or the storyboard and might be possible also the president does not.

    The Drone Wars could be a mixture of the sinister “French Doctrines” and PR with a lancet – by cutting out Mindhubs. They kill the phones and sims they identfy for spreading negative anti-US / Agyptian Dsch?hiliyya naratives. But as a secound effekt they created on purpose subversive measures by killing familiy members they also destroy the moral backings for anti american activism – the so called french doctrines. Jtrig/Jsoc is also only a method, crow contol a skinner society conditioned by algorithems

    I also started an semi-professional Art Projekt – on http://karlnielz.wordpress.com

  51. The argument could certainly be made that all resistance to the privatization of world natural resources by the global corporatocracy is happening now. When one considers that over half a million civilians have been murdered in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and illegal renditions, kidnappings, assassinations by secret operatives occur under the direction of the US, one can easily come to the conclusion that those native people who dare defy invaders (keep in mind how this operation began – with false information to create grounds for invasion) and their world wide standing armies are being slaughtered into submission.

    • Strange As a American farmer I feel the private natural resources are confiscated more by the public sector here in the U.S. at a alarming rate , with unconstitutional rules and regulations . Yes they use false information for grounds of invasion too . You only have to check and see if the total area under public ownership is expanding faster or if individual private ownership is expanding faster .

  52. The problem with HUMINT is that to be successful the asset need to blend in (e.g., as a local). The U.S. does not do well trusting its citizens that would fit in its current regions of interest (i.e. Middle East, South East Asia, and the rest of the Americas south of its borders). Hence SIGINT, although the original outlay is much higher than HUMINT, the delivery and maintenance are very cheap – with the master never having to leave the comfort of home.

  53. Normally, if you shoot down an aircraft owned by the federal government, you’d be in trouble.

    Not so in Deer Trail, Colo and Deer Park, Colorado.

    In 2014, Aspen should join these other small Colorado towns in proposing a $100 bounty to any hunters who shoot down unmanned drones that appear to be “owned or operated by the United States federal government.”

    The ordinances would also require a drone-hunting license, issued after a background check and a $25 fee.

    History teaches us the bigger the government, the less the liberty.

    The ancients warned the Athenians that the tyranny that Athens imposed abroad would return to haunt them at home. It did.

    Letter to the editor: http://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/9634767-113/aspen-amazon-ain-amendment

  54. “And each time, Obama evidently convinced himself that it wouldn’t happen again.”

    ‘evidently’? Why are you assuming that Obama cares much about some dead furryners?

  55. These journalists are demonstrating exceptional courage, clarity of vision and thought, and an unyielding determination to stand up for the basic principles and human rights upon which democracy is based. Have we so quickly forgotten that it was Voltaire who said: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” My hats off to these incredibly courageous journalists. I sincerely hope that Greenwald does not visit the US. I am highly fearful they will find some basis to legally harass, or, worse, arrest him. Derailing these important revelations would be a tremendous loss to us all.

    • I believe Mr. Greenwald would suffer the same fate as Micheal Hastings or maybe he would “commit suicide”. The powers that be would not arrest him, less their evil and illegal ways be exposed, but many here have suffered unfortunate “accidents” at the hands of the government.

      • I strongly agree. I think he should be very careful these days and visiting the US will certainly raise the level of danger significantly. Ultimately even if they want to arrest him, we all know it is within their power and at the present time I do not understand why Mr. Greenwald is considering such a significant risk to himself?

  56. “…highly disruptive instruments of national power that President Obama has pursued with unanticipated enthusiasm.”

    LoL. I had a sneaking suspicion that this was a Murdoch/Ailes side project.

    • What you’ve quoted is a factual statement. So then how does that lead you to suspect that this is “a Murdock/Ailes side project?”

    • Can you offer any arguments or facts in contradiction to Mr. Froomkin’s piece, including his description of Obama’s behavior?

      • Those who love secrets rarely like facts. It’s all part of making it up as you go…

    • I know you. You post the same kind of pro-NSA drivel over at huffington post all the time.

      Ignore this guy…..,

  57. It’s not like Obama walks on water, it’s just that you never forget your first time. And boy, was Bush a romancing swooner! A love like that one will not soon forget.

  58. It is funny how after reading this article, my question is…how can ALL this information not be getting through to the mainstream media ears! My next question is how many people in the U.S. know this information and are keeping quiet to save their jobs.

  59. When I saw that picture of the angry earth swallowing octopus on that NSA satellite I thought oh my the boys and girls of the surveillance state are sending up a SOS. We should all remember when we make our fellow citizens complicit in crimes against humanity and serious violations to human rights and let them deny people and families access to due process we are making these servants of ours criminals and are threatening their souls. Even the generals and Obama. That is why so many are heart broken and suffering from low morale and PTSD. In saving ourselves we are also saving them.

  60. Does it matter whether the intelligence for a strike comes from HUMINT, SIGINT, or gold-plated, notarized affidavits from a hundred witnesses? No. Such strikes are illegal and immoral. We shouldn’t be talking about whether it’s ok for the NSA to provide metadata on target locations, we should be working to end these strikes altogether.

  61. It is very obvious that Obama has been captured, like so many bank regulators are by the criminal banking industry, and that he has become one of the military’s go to guys, kind of like Pinochet or Mussolini. We should expect much worse if we do not pull together as a people to protect ourselves from the criminals that have taken our government over. We must get money, in all forms, out of the political decision making process, and hold accountable under the law these rogue politicians. They are drilling giant holes in the hull of our boat and we, the people, have so far just let them get away with it. It is time to put our feet down and all march to the same, democratic, tune.

    • I suspect that, if O’Bomba was ‘captured’, he is a more than willing captive. Maybe the new American dream is that of freely and joyfully worshiping the militaristic surveillance police state and the men and women who wear various uniforms.

  62. I can’t express how fortunate we are to have righteous Jews like Frumkin and Greenwald promoting Jewish values against the American Establishment.

    Never forget 9/11 and the amazing 9/11 Commission Report, written by Phillip Zelikow, another righteous Jew.

    Also, never tolerate questions about the Nuremberg Trials and the righteous Jews who ran them.

    Torture works.

  63. This is watered down journalism; we need actual and physical stories/proof on the illegal/unconstitutional activities NSA et al is engaged in. This is the reason people come to Intercept/First Look. We are tired of the same mundane opinionated journalism from corporate media that talks about nothing other than blabbers. If you turn out to be the same as other media sites, you will lose your readership. We need facts and tangible evidence, not opinions!

    • With all due respect, I’ve been following these stories for quite some time. The issue is this: the crimes against the constitution and those middle eastern and south American countries are so huge that the conscientious observer can begin anywhere, and that’s the overwhelming problem.

    • Analysis is important, too. If you just want news, stick to the stories labeled “news.”

  64. The link to The American Conservative where you tagged it with “go hand in hand” in red letters is not working: Page not found.

  65. I think terms like “SIGINT” and “HUMINT” have no place in a civilized discussion; better use English than jargon.

  66. We need more heroes like Snowden to come along and expose the Un-American activities going on today!

    • There is another side to this story. Be careful before you jump on the love Snowden bandwagon. If the US suffers an horrific attack that was enabled because of Snowden, then how will you feel?

      • The decent and loyal people of America, caught by their own loyalty, fouled, gouged and bled
        To feed the power-hunger of politicians and make trick fortunes
        For swindlers and collaborators.
        For a time’s coming—fairly soon, you’ll not see it—when the ends of the earth,
        from east and west, one world, will close on your country
        Like the jaws of a trap; but people will say, be quiet, we were fooled before.
        We know that ALL governments
        Are thugs and liars, let them fight their own battles;
        and the trap is closing, and an angry spirit
        Will go through the camps whispering mutiny in conscripts’ ears .

        - Robinson Jeffers, poet laureate of the Old Right, whose censored volume of verse, The Double Axe, published in 1946.

      • We are going to have some kind of horrific attack some day and probably more than one. So will any country that engages in violence. That said, it is not the point. The government is supposed to act legally and in accordance with the will of it’s people.

      • The other side, as you put it, is that the actions of the NSA, CIA , JSOC, etc. are making it more likely that another horrific attack will occur, not the actions of Edward Snowden.

  67. Wow, Dan, powerful 1st article. Keep up the good work. We’ll drone the word far and wide about First Look.

  68. Very informative article which is much appreciated. My own background is advanced energy technologies and the effort to end our unnecessary enslavement to coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power which has cost lives and treasure. Both conservatives and liberals have totally failed to properly address this complex issue. For starters go to http://www.energysuppression.com and see the many energy inventors that have been blocked by the U.S. government for decades. These clean, green, technologies are nearly cost free and would eliminate wars over oil and the danger to the environment. I have been unable to interest environmental organizations or liberal journalists into investigating this subject.

  69. And so you bite the bullet. You take on president Obama and ask the hard questions. Many in the Dem party will think you are being unfair and disrespectful but I have wondered for years–where is the transparency and where are the programs to help the middle class and poor and where are the programs to stop the destruction of our environment by oil and gas giants and… I am extremely nervous with this man in the white house who is becoming so comfortable with the death of innocents and US citizens. He has a lot of explaining to do to the American People and your Intercept is the first ray of hope that I have seen which may portend backing him to the wall. Thank you once again.

  70. Soaring rhetoric: “…imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.”
    Reality: Like any vigilante or crime boss operating outside justice systems that were established centuries ago, we just wack ‘em along with anybody else standing around.

    • Make it plain. All this fluffy rhetoric needs to be brought down to earth. Who needs inspirational writing when we can have the alternative of no shades of grey. Thank you, Mike.

  71. “How Obama’s faith in his military and intelligence leaders was restored or remained unflagging after all these incidents, despite the skepticism that he so clearly displayed during his first presidential campaign, is surely one of the great mysteries facing his supporters today, and historians tomorrow.”

    This is an issue I’ve wondered about for a while. Has he been full of it all along? Did he become convinced once in office and privy to intelligence the rest of us don’t have that we’re in far greater and more imminent danger than it otherwise seems? Did he simply succumb to the political and financial pressures that drive us toward war all the time anyway? I wish I had a better handle on this question and it’s one I hope you’ll continue to explore.

    • I think the President joined the team, the killing machine, because he committed himself to get bin Laden. Can anyone blame him for that?

      The problem came with all the money that was thrown around so as to develop tools to find terrorists. Those tools are now being turned inwards following the logic of bureaucracies: they want to expand. And it does not mean much to be an American citizen because the government wants to go after Saudis, Uzbeks, and Somalis, etc. who happen to be US citizens too. Frankly, everyone is a potential terrorist. Every single person in the US is now looked upon as a potential terrorist.

      What this amounts to is a first strike on free speech. Massive surveillance is actually a first step in limiting free speech. This is all extremely dangerous for our democracy. The the US government gives raw SIGINT to foreign countries tells you how bad it has really gotten. Can you imagine how a foreign power could use that information to sway the election of a Senator or even of a President? The whole thing is like a monkey circus. Meanwhile, the US is losing a war in Afghanistan, and AQ is getting more savvy by the hour.

      • I don’t think it was an act when Obama was running for President, but once in office he was faced with a reality that previously was unknown to him…and I don’t mean Al Queda. He became aware of whatever permanent behind the scenes “shadow government” that actually runs this country and how incredibly dangerous they are. He seems far more concerned about the welfare of his wife and children, than the American people. Some men might be better Presidents, yet sacrifice their family. That’s the big dark secret they have on the President. That’s my theory anyway…

        • There is no shadow government. But there are a lot of people getting rich off of some hopeless nonsense that the US tries to pull overseas. The problem is that secrecy and breaking laws became a growth industry. It was done, supposedly, for the good of the nation. Notice that the US has never had less credibility, and that is because the world knows about our shenanigans. The US needs to operate with one set of values. Is it even possible?

  72. Well said, Mr. Froomkin. Partisan Democrats who loved Greenwald and other activists and journalist like him during the Bush years, are now given to the most shrill demonization of anti-militarists and civil libertarians. (And, if it was President Romney, there would be fewer Republican and conservative supporters for exposure of the NSA’s Global Surveillance Apparatus.)

    Hopefully, voices like The Intercept can chip away at this dreadful partisan tribalism by hammering on the systemic problems that all persons of integrity and good will should be concerned about, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

    • I think the Dems and Progressives who now support O-Bomb-a do so out of fear, the fear that if another terrorist attack equal or greater than 9/11 transpires, it would cast a very harsh light on the Ds and cost them the White House for the next twenty years.
      I’m really quite disgusted with the utter lack of principle.

  73. Obama is going to go down in history as the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to call in cluster munitions…on women and kids. Trying to cover it up did not work either. Talk about hypocrisy.

    • John, unfortunately I think Henry Kissinger beat Obama to that dubious title over 40 years ago with his illegal blanket-bombing of Cambodia.

      • What I wish the President would deeply understand is that playing whack-a-mole against people in mud huts is a strategic failure. Trying to bomb people into submission did not work in Vietnam, and it is not going to work in Pakistan/Yemen/Afghanistan either. I have a feeling he has learned his lesson. Also, Americans need to allow the President to make mistakes. Those are going to happen. Drone war needs to be put on a tighter leash. We do not need whole populations galvanized against us. Vietnam happened, and it was a disgusting tragedy. But now the world is a lot closer, a lot more interconnected. Drone war can come back to haunt us, and that is why it needs to be looked at to see if it is making things worse.

        • The ugly fact is that for the imperial capitalists, the Vietnam war did work: Vietnam is now another of their sources of cheap labor.

  74. “what may seem like good ideas within the confines of a like-minded military-intelligence establishment look very different when exposed to overdue public scrutiny.”

    Gee! General Patton has a choice word for that: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

  75. A bit of reality about the effectiveness of the drones might be in order. How many terrorists are produced, actually? And how does the constant haranguing by terrorist mullahs with their Friday sermons compare for producing terrorists.

    It seems to me that the time for the iron fist has come. Islam concedes to nothing but force. That has been proven.

    • It is, indeed, a good idea to inject some reality into the discussion of what causes terrorism. Greenwald injected some while writing at Salon, in a piece titled: “A Rumsfeld-era reminder about what causes Terrorism”

      >>In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld directed the Defense Science Board Task Force to review the impact which the administration’s policies — specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — were having on Terrorism and Islamic radicalism. They issued a report in September, 2004 (.pdf) and it vigorously condemned the Bush/Cheney approach as entirely counter-productive, i.e., as worsening the Terrorist threat those policies purportedly sought to reduce. It’s well worth reviewing their analysis, as it has as much resonance now as it did then.

      The Task Force began by noting what are the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security“: namely, the “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them” (click images to enlarge):

      And what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism? “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan“:

      Let’s just repeat that: ”Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” And nothing fuels — meaning: helps — the Islamic radicals’ case against the U.S. more than ongoing American occupation of Muslim countries:<<

      Rest here, with screenshots of the Pentagon's Report to Rusmfeld: http://www.salon.com/2009/10/20/terrorism_6/

    • I don’t know how one would quantify how many enemies are created by a drone strike taking out an entire family of non “terrorists”. If a well known biker gang brutally killed all of your immediate family, how many of your extended family would then hate that biker gang and seek vengence?
      And your assertion that Islam concedes to nothing but force is absurd. First of all as I previously mentioned, we have not exactly extended the olive branch of peace to Muslims. How many civilians did we kill in Bush’s war against Iraq? Your statement reminds me a lot of how the Jews spoke of the Pagans in Roman times, and how Christians spoke of Jews during the Nazi era and how slave owners spoke of Blacks during the slave era. The only thing which has been proven is that humans are mostly all bigots against one belief or another.

    • Great plan there Ormond. We’ll show them there’s a better way by bombing the shit out of them. How could they fail to see reason after that? “Time of the iron fist” indeed. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    • That’s an interesting bit of calculation you propose, but the solution, if it could be found, would be largely irrelevant. There’s already enough resentment combined with poverty and hopelessness to fill the roles of terrorist organizations for the rest of time (the military industrial complex is banking on it).

      The key strategic question that must be answered is, “can we wipe them all out?” As you would have to be an idiot to say “yes,” Then what’s the point?

      We have troops and ships throughout the Persian Gulf region and military bases in around a hundred countries. I would bet that a dialing back of those footprints would see a commensurate drop in the terrorist threat level. Heck, that’s gotta work better than trying to wipe them all out. Right?

      • “A dialing back of those footprints would see a commensurate drop in the terrorist threat level”

        U.S. militaristic types were howling about Spain’s cowardice in pulling out of Iraq. Yet, has there been a Muslim terror attack on Spanish soil since that decision was made in the spring of 2004?

      • Thrilled to see the majority of comments on The Intercept show a much more refined understanding of geopolitical and militaristic intent, cause and effect. There was a small part of me that was starting to wonder if this was it for us, that we’d crossed the rubicon as an educated citizenry. The never ending assault of the main stream media’s propaganda machine has been so effective in its divisive intent, that its rendered the majority of our nations populace intellectually inert. Independent journalism is at the heart of our Constitutional Republic. Considered so important by the founders that it was rightfully enshrined in our first amendment. Secret courts, secret rulings and secret laws are now used to justify the abuse of not only the individual citizen, but of the press that dares to question this imperial presidency, all under the guise of our own security. This is a portion of the speech that President John F. Kennedy gave at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on April 27, 1961. I find the event title “The President and the Press” and the audience it was for, quite apropos. The speech was given before the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
        “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.”

    • It seems to me that the time for the iron fist has come. Islam concedes to nothing but force. That has been proven.
      ———–
      Are we to assume the invocation of Stalin’s gulags is ironic?

    • And when, exactly, has “Islam” conceded? Your argument is nonsensical, and leans on embarrassingly desperate notions of “hard-man machismo” politics, rather than being informed by thought, or reality.

      There are two things Americans can do if they want to curtail terrorism.

      A) stop bombing them. As has been said elsewhere, Americans aren’t hated for their freedoms, they’re hated for their belligerence and bloodlust. We don’t see the Netherlands and Sweden getting called out in that many sermons, do we?

      B) Take serious, substantive steps towards economic development in the Muslim world. Religious extremism is almost always a symptom of poverty. As a population becomes more educated and more middle-class it inevitably becomes less fundamentalist and radical. This actually HAS been proven, again and again, by actual social science. If you want to extinguish Islamic extremism, extinguish poverty.