EXCLUSIVE REPORT: NSA Whistleblower: Snowden Never Had Access to the JUICIEST Documents … Far More Damning

NSA Spying On Congress, Admirals, Lawyers … Content As Well As Metadata … Cheney Was Running the Show

NSA whistleblower Russel Tice was a key source in the 2005 New York Times report that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping.

Tice told PBS and other media that the NSA is spying on – and blackmailing – top government officials and military officers, including Supreme Court Justices, highly-ranked generals, Colin Powell and other State Department personnel, and many other top officials:

He says the NSA started spying on President Obama when he was a candidate for Senate:

Many of Tice’s allegations have been confirmed by other government whistleblowers. And see this.

Washington’s Blog called Tice to find out more about what he saw when he was at NSA.

RUSSELL TICE: We now know that NSA was wiretapping [Senator] Frank Church and another Senator.  [That has been confirmed.]

And that got out by accident. All the information the NSA had back then – and probably many other senators and important people too, back in the 70s – they shredded and they destroyed all of that evidence.  As much as they could find, they destroyed it all. By accident, something popped up 40 years later.

And, in fact, they were asked 40 years ago whether NSA had bugged Congress. And, of course, they lied. They lied through their teeth.

NSA Has Hidden Its Most Radical Surveillance Operations … Even from People Like Snowden Who Had General “Code Word” Clearance

WASHINGTON’S BLOG: Glenn Greenwald – supposedly, in the next couple of days or weeks – is going to disclose, based on NSA documents leaked by Snowden, that the NSA is spying on all sorts of normal Americans … and that the spying is really to crush dissent.  [Background here, here and here.]

Does Snowden even have documents which contain the information which you’ve seen?

RUSSELL TICE:  The answer is no.

WASHINGTON’S BLOG: So you saw handwritten notes. And what Snowden was seeing were electronic files …?

RUSSELL TICE: Think of it this way.  Remember I told you about the NSA doing everything they could to make sure that the information from 40 years ago – from spying on Frank Church and Lord knows how many other Congressman that they were spying on – was hidden?

Now do you think they’re going to put that information into Powerpoint slides that are easy to explain to everybody what they’re doing?

They would not even put their own NSA designators on the reports [so that no one would know that] it came from the NSA.  They made the reports look like they were Humint (human intelligence) reports.  They did it to hide the fact that they were NSA and they were doing the collection. That’s 40 years ago.  [The NSA and other agencies are still doing "parallel construction", "laundering" information to hide the fact that the information is actually from mass NSA surveillance.]

Now, what NSA is doing right now is that they’re taking the information and they’re putting it in a much higher security level.  It’s called “ECI” - Exceptionally Controlled Information  – and it’s called the black program … which I was a specialist in, by the way.

I specialized in black world – DOD and IC (Intelligence Community) – programs, operations and missions … in “VRKs”, “ECIs”, and “SAPs”, “STOs”.   SAP equals Special Access Program. It’s highly unlikely Mr. Snowden had any access to these.   STO equals Special Technical Operations  It’s highly unlikely Mr. Snowden had any access to these.

Now in that world – the ECI/VRK world – everything in that system is classified at a higher level and it has its own computer systems that house it.  It’s totally separate than the system which Mr. Snowden was privy to, which was called the “JWICS”: Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.  The JWICS system is what everybody at NSA has access to.  Mr Snowden had Sys Admin [systems administrator] authority for the JWICS.

And you still have to have TS/SCI clearance [i.e. Top Secret/ Sensitive Compartmented Information - also known as “code word” - clearance] to get on the JWICS.  But the ECI/VRK systems are much higher [levels of special compartmentalized clearance] than the JWICS.  And you have to be in the black world to get that [clearance].

ECI = Exceptionally Controlled Information. I do not believe Mr. Snowden had any access to these ECI controlled networks).   VRK = Very Restricted Knowledge. I do not believe Mr. Snowden had any access to these VRK controlled networks.

These programs typically have, at the least, a requirement of 100 year or until death, ’till the person first being “read in” [i.e. sworn to secrecy as part of access to the higher classification program] can talk about them.  [As an interesting sidenote, the Washington Times reported in 2006 that – when Tice offered to testify to Congress about this illegal spying – he was informed by the NSA that the Senate and House intelligence committees were not cleared to hear such information.]

It’s very compartmentalized and – even with stuff that they had – you might have something at NSA, that there’s literally 40 people at NSA that know that it’s going on in the entire agency.

When the stuff came out in the New York Times [the first big spying story, which broke in 2005] – and I was a source of information for the New York Times –   that’s when President Bush made up that nonsense about the “terrorist surveillance program.”  By the way, that never existed. That was made up.

There was no such thing beforehand.  It was made up … to try to placate the American people.

The NSA IG (Inspector General) – who was not cleared for this – all of a sudden is told he has to do an investigation on this; something he has no information or knowledge of.

So what they did, is they took a few documents and they downgraded [he classification level of the documents] – just a few – and gave them to them to placate this basic whitewash investigation.

Snowden’s Failure To Understand the Most Important Documents

RUSSELL TICE: Now, if Mr. Snowden were to find the crossover, it would be those documents that were downgraded to the NSA’s IG.

The stuff that I saw looked like a bunch of alphanumeric gobbledygook.  Unless you have an analyst to know what to look for – and believe me, I think that what Snowden’s done is great – he’s not an intelligence analyst.  So he would see something like that, and he wouldn’t know what he’s looking at.

But that would be “the jewels”. And the key is, you wouldn’t know it’s the jewels unless you were a diamond miner and you knew what to look for. Because otherwise, there’s a big lump of rock and you don’t know there’s a diamond in there.

I worked special programs. And the way I found out is that I was working on a special operation, and I needed information from NSA … from another unit. And when I went to that unit and I said “I need this information”, and I dealt with [satellite spy operations], and I did that in the black world.  I was a special operations officer. I would literally go do special missions that were in the black world where I would travel overseas and do spooky stuff.

Cheney Was Running the Show

WASHINGTON’S BLOG: You said in one of your interviews that Dick Cheney ordered the intercepts that you found in the burn bags [the bags of documents which were slated to be destroyed because they were so sensitive].

Is that right … and if so, how do you know that?

RUSSELL TICE: I did not know one way or the other until I talked to a very senior person at NSA who – much later – wanted to have a meeting with me. And we had a covert, clandestine style meeting. And that’s when this individual told me that the whole thing was being directed and was coming from the vice president’s office … Cheney, through his lawyer David Addington.

WASHINGTON’S BLOG:  It sounds like it wasn’t going through normal routes?  It’s not like Cheney or Addington made formal requests to the NSA … through normal means?

RUSSELL TICE: No, not normal at all. All on the sly … all “sneaky pete” under the table, in the evening when most NSA employees are gone for the day. This is all being done in the evenings … between like 7 [at night] and midnight.

NSA Is Spying On CONTENT as Well as Metadata

WASHINGTON’S BLOG: And from what you and others have said, it’s content as well as metadata?

RUSSELL TICE: Of course it is. Of course. [Background. But see this.]

NSA Spying On Journalists, Congress, Admirals, Lawyers …

RUSSELL TICE: In 2009, I told [reporters] that they were going after journalists and news organizations and reporters and such.

I never read text of Congressman’s conversations. What I had was information – sometimes hand-written – of phone numbers of Congressmen, their wives, their children, their staffers, their home numbers, their cellphone numbers, their phone numbers of their residence back in Oregon or whatever state they’re from, and their little offices back in their state.

Or an Admiral and his wife, and his kids and his staffers …

The main thing I saw more than anything else were lawyers and law firms. I saw more lawyers or law firms being wiretapped than anything else.

These are the phone numbers I saw written.  And then I would see those numbers incorporated into those lists with the columns of information about the phone number, and the serial number and the banks of recorders and digital converters and the data storage devices.   I could see handwritten phone numbers and notes, sometimes with names, sometimes not.

Snowden and Greenwald’s Whistleblowing Was Done In the Right Way

RUSSELL TICE: If Mr. Snowden would have had access to VRK, ECI, SAP, STO (and a few others that I will not mention here), and he released them en masse to the press, I would volunteer to shoot him as a traitor myself.

But this is not what he did.

He gave up JWICS info that he insisted be vetted for sources and methods, and true damage to national security. Mr. Greenwald and company should be congratulated on the restraint that they have shown with the JWICS documentation that they have in hand via Mr. Snowden.

Postscript: When Tice started blowing the whistle on NSA mass surveillance in the early 2000s, the NSA all of a sudden decided that Tice was “crazy”. As Tice told us:

For many years, I was the only NSA whistleblower in public.

And what they did is call me in – 9 months after my routine psychological evaluation – which I passed with flying colors, like every other one I’ve had in my entire career, passed with flying colors.

They called me in for an “emergency” psychological evaluation, and they declared me nuts.

I am a fairly good judge of character, and I found Tice to be humorous, self-deprecating in a healthy and light-hearted way, and consistent on the facts. Tice talked about how he was a pretty darn good football player in junior college, but no star athlete. He talked about how one reporter tried to make him out to be James Bond with leading man looks, and he thought that was ridiculous. We shared some normal “guy talk” about women. Tice has a little anger at the way the NSA tried to whitewash the mass surveillance that he uncovered (wouldn’t you be?), but he wasn’t enraged or over-the-top. Tice is also a patriotic American, not a subversive. Specifically, we spent a long time talking about the importance of the Constitution and the rule of law. In other words, Tice seems “oriented to reality”, completely sane, normal, ethical and bright to me.

And the following facts are more important than my personal impression:

Given the way that the NSA has been repeatedly caught in lies about its surveillance programs – and the way that it has attacked whisteblowers – I believe Tice over the NSA.

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  • cettel

    This is yet another stellar piece from George Washington; and I wonder why there aren’t thousands of reader-comments to such pieces here. This one, like those other stellar ones, cries out to go viral. But it doesn’t happen. Do the public simply not care about what’s important? I suppose that democracy is ended and that very few people really care.

    • Carl_Herman

      As a teacher of high school government and economics with 30 years’ experience, I’m confident people care deeply, given the opportunity to reflect and consider our propagandized condition.

      We who read and write get to be leaders, Eric, to draw attention to what we see as most important. Leaders, by definition, go first :)

    • antoinepgrew

      “I wonder why there aren’t thousands of reader-comments to such pieces here.”

      Because 24 million people still don’t have work, and access to the net is limited by income.

  • xoxxxo

    Joel Brenner, along with scores of others, should be prosecuted, for these seemingly unending, state crimes against democracy (SCADs).

    More on SCADs here:

    • Sean Vanity

      SCAD’s are obviously too clueless to even understand our form of government, with that said, how can they even be taken seriously? We are a Republic, not a democracy. When they get themselves educated, and understand the difference between the two, then I will perhaps look into taking them seriously.

  • Michael Burns

    In researching Northwoods And Other Short Stories, I discovered that General Edward Lansdale wrote the Northwoods memo. Lansdale, the CIA’s top assassin, was identified by Fletcher Prouty as being in Dealey Plaza on the morning JFK was killed. The hijacking of our government all started with JFK’s assassination:


    • Alan8

      And it’s documented that a CIA agent named “George Bush” was in Dallas the day of the assassination. George H. W. Bush has claimed that it was “another” CIA agent with the same name.

  • telebob

    An agency who’s whole organizational purpose is spying, lying, and secrecy should be believed …. why? It’s like the philosophical conundrum “This sentence is false.”

  • Riaz Tayob

    Amazing how Amero-centric the discussions are on the videos (not WBlog – which is cosmopolitan): it is alright to spy on the rest of the world. And here’s some of us thinking that Human Rights are indivisible and universal! Some additional points that need focus include:
    1. The problem is the law – saying NSA follows the law is a cop out. Audi alterum partem is the essence of an adversarial legal system. And most do not get the chance. The NSA has lied to Congress… Clinton will get whacked for a little indiscretion but human rights violations on a grand scale… no problem.
    2. In the discussions on World Summit on the Information Society WSIS and Internet Governance Forum the argument was that multilateral control over Critical Internet Resources (like ICANN and IANA) would break the internet. The “useful idiots” ACTUALLY pushed a line that the world can only have a “single root” otherwise the net would be broken. Useful idiots included Vint Cerf whose 2006 IGF inputs are useful to look at again. The EU supported the US. And the developing world was cast as luddites who wanted to ruin the internet – including by asking for an Internet Bill of rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, IT4C in India and many other organisations pushed for change but were hounded and belittled and humiliated. Of particular interest is Karl Auerbach who suffered at the hands of useful idiots, the internet community… not a whistleblower as such, but a committed netizen…
    It is time more Americans look at the contributions of the brown world – because multilateral standards can help protect us all – and we now know that the US ain’t exceptional…
    The net is for peace…

    • not authorized

      Any law the NSA claims to be “following”, is an Ex Post Facto law. It’s part of the routine. Get caught, pass a law making it legal after the fact. The same thing happened with Senate Report 93-549. This is status-quo operation.

      Amendment 4 still stands, Article 6, still stands. The UN Charter and Treaty, including the UNDHR still stands. Kellogg-Briand still stands.

      I have a right to be free from war as a national policy. That includes cyber warfare.

      I’ve had enough. It’s time for trials. Either these people clean house themselves and return to the Constitution they allegedly were defending to begin with, or they need to be arrested and tried for war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

      War and the unhealthy obsession with Militarism, in order to dominate the entire Earth, has destroyed this place. Thanks dying Pacific Ocean.

  • cactuspie

    More support for Michael Ruppert’s contention in Crossing The Rubicon, that Cheney was the maestro of 9-11. Also the blackmailing of officials would explain a lot in recent times.

  • hidflect

    How long until the Israelis worm their way to the heart of this? Or is that why Bibi got 26 standing ovations from Congress when he visited?

  • Alan8

    This is a CANCER which has infested our government.

    It may be terminal; they can blackmail ANYONE to prevent any real action from being taken on this.

    Citizens must insist on disclosure of ALL this illegal spying, and PRISON TERMS for the dozens of criminals that have conspired to violate the 4th Amendment and turn our country into a police state.

  • artguerrilla

    well, we’re still in a ‘state of emergency’, ’cause, um, ’cause, uh… well, you know, tourists, and, um, oh! the kids, its all for the kids ! ! !

  • Sweetpeace

    President Obama is likely trying to manage whistleblowing traffic, so that necessary legal options are not made impotent by the sub-text of the whole environment of whistleblowing, containing multiple whistleblowers, some even in related bureaucracies and the distinct and highly probable possibility of whistleblowers blowing whistles on whistleblowers . . . blowing whistles on whistleblowers blowing whistles . . . you get the idea.

    On what MUST be extremely limited information, unknown persons involving themselves in these whistleblowing questions promote hate of the President without considering any possible alternative explanations for the President’s behavior. I do not require that (rhetorical) you agree with the traffic cop scenario I sketched above, but I do require that in coming to the conclusion that you do support, that you demonstrate that you, even though you don’t REALLY know enough, have rationally considered and logically and systematically eliminated, all alternative explanations for the president’s behavior.

    Many of the President’s detractors either don’t know that they should do that or they do know and don’t care because it is more important to $$$$pread LIES and hate about Barack Obama. In either case, ignorance or hate, I think their opinion of what goes on in the infinitely legally complicated world of whistleblowing is to be completely disregarded.

    • Fool_me_twice_shame_on_ME

      I don’t know that hatred of Obama is even necessary to condemn him, considering the liar’s track record. I naïvely voted for him the first time, but almost immediately after that first inauguration he proved to anybody paying attention that he is a world class liar and a stealth Republican. I can only assume his apologists, who continually keep their heads buried deep in the sand, are contorting themselves to make up possible explanations for his betrayals because they are desperate to avoid facing up to the fact that they have been betrayed yet again.

      I don’t hate Obama, but I have every good reason to never trust the man. Everything he does and has done since taking office has been controlled by the corporate greed that owns him. EVERYTHING! The evidence is simply too blatant and overwhelming, and actions always speak louder than words.

    • http://www.markgwoodworth.com/ Mark Woodworth, Ph.D.

      Do you care about the lies and hate against Bush?

  • laybe0P

    How does Joel Brenner know what the NSA is doing? He hasn’t been there since 2006. But yet he accuses whistleblowers William Binney and Russell Tice of not knowing what’s going on because they haven’t been at the NSA since 2001 and 2005.

  • Roymondw

    They hate you for your freedom!

  • Todd Giffen

    some of you guys are wondering what the hell the black world programs Tice is talking about are. I have that information on my website. they have 1. massive amount of satellites with microwave interferometry, capable of scanning us and watching and recording us through buildings and ground, and even doing remote brain scans. 2. numerous phased array antenna systems including HAARP and HIPAS and more, actually dozens of these installed around the globe, capable of ground, building, and body penetrating tomography. 3. these systems are capable of remote brain and neurological scans giving government access to peoples thoughts and memories as thoughts and memories are stored in magnetic states and electrical activity in the brain, capable of being read and altered with military radar. The technology was patented in 1974 by Robert Malech DOD radar systems contractor, and was retro-fitted into all DOD systems by 1976. Other whistleblowers like DOD/CIA/USDOJ whistleblower Dr. Robert Duncan confirm this. A network of fiber optic cables and microwave backhaul transport this data back to DOD systems to the tune of 1.4 terabytes per second and they store extracted memory, visual data, auditory information, and more from human nervous systems, with other data about all monitored people on earth. 4. People around the globe are getting attacked covertly by DOD and NSA and Air Force and DIA and CIA and FBI transmissions, and the public at large has no safety from whether or not the government uses this to either spy on them or subliminally or subconsciously or consciously manipulate them. I was actually spied on by the US DOJ in 2007/2008 with this system and then they used an electronic countermeasure to try to kill me in August of 2008 which caused calcium efflux and other damage. I have spent 6 years now a target of military directed energy assault and I know it to be true and fully operational all over Washington, Oregon, and California. Learn more at http://www.obamasweapon.com/

    Some people call parts of this electronic warfare system NSA Electronic Brain Link and NSA Remote Neural Monitoring. Yep, it’s real, and Tice knows it..

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  • Tonya-Clay Davis

    “If Mr. Snowden would have had access to VRK, ECI, SAP, STO (and a few others that I will not mention here), and he released them en masse to the press, I would volunteer to shoot him as a traitor myself.” So apparently this shitbag still believes in the legitimacy of the government. He is the traitor.