NSA Helps Saudi Arabia Crush Dissent … Like It Helps Crush Dissent at Home

The NSA Helps Crush Dissent at Home and Abroad

Numerous high-level NSA whistleblowers say that NSA spying is about crushing dissent and blackmailing opponents … not stopping terrorism.

In addition, the NSA is giving the raw data on American citizens living in the U.S. to Israel.  That doesn’t seem to be a good strategy for protecting America from terrorism.

Newly-published Snowden documents also show that the NSA is helping one of the world’s most brutal and repressive dictatorships – Saudi Arabia – to crush dissent.

As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse” …. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

[Spying was similarly used in 15th-18th century England to persecute religious dissidents.]

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the


In December 2012, the U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, authorized the agency to expand its “third party” relationship with Saudi Arabia to include the sharing of signals intelligence, or “SIGINT,” capability with the MOD’s Technical Affairs Directorate (TAD).

“With the approval of the Third Party SIGINT relationship,” the memo reports, the NSA “intends to provide direct analytic and technical support to TAD.” The goal is “to facilitate the Saudi government’s ability to utilize SIGINT to locate and track individuals of mutual interest within Saudi Arabia.”

Even before this new initiative in 2012, the CIA and other American intelligence agencies had been working with the Saudi regime to bolster “internal security” and track alleged terrorists. According to the memo, the NSA began collaborating with the MOD in 2011 on a “sensitive access initiative… focused on internal security and terrorist activity on the Arabian Peninsula”; that partnership was conducted “under the auspices of CIA’s relationship with the MOI’s Mabahith (General Directorate for Investigations, equivalent to FBI).”

The NSA’s formal “Third Party” relationship with the Saudis involves arming the MOI with highly advanced surveillance technology. The NSA “provides technical advice on SIGINT topics such as data exploitation and target development to TAD,” the memo says, “as well as a sensitive source collection capability.”

The Saudi Ministry of Defense also relies on the NSA for help with “signals analysis equipment upgrades, decryption capabilities and advanced training on a wide range of topics.”


Over the past year, the Saudi government has escalated its crackdown on activists, dissidents, and critics of the government. Earlier this month, Saudi human rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a so-called “terrorist court” on charges of undermining the state and insulting the judiciary. In May, a liberal blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes; in June, human rights activist Mukhlif Shammari was sentenced to five years in prison for writing about the mistreatment of Saudi women.

Are the Saudis that bad?


Wikipedia notes:

Due to its authoritarian and theocratic rule, the House of Saud has attracted much criticism during its rule of Saudi Arabia. Its opponents generally refer to the Saudi monarchy as totalitarians or dictators.

There have been numerous incidents of demonstrations and other forms of resistance against the House of Saud.


All surviving males (including Utaybi himself) were beheaded publicly in four cities of Saudi Arabia.

While the Saudi royal family pushes the most strict and fundamentalist form Islam, the Saudi royal family’s debauchery and corruption is legendary. The monarchs – while pushing strict Wahabism as the official state religion – don’t practice it.

Backing the Saudis Means Supporting Terrorism

As we’ve documented, supporting Saudi Arabia means supporting terrorism … for two different reasons.   First:

Sunni Muslims commit more terrorist acts worldwide than any other group.  For example, the National Counterterrorism Center’s 2011 Report on Terrorism found that:

Sunni extremists accounted for the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities for the third consecutive year.


Saudi Arabia is the center of the Sunni branch of Islam.  It is also the center of the most violent and radical sect of Islam … the “Wahhabis” (also called “Salafis”).   But the U.S. has long supported the Madrassa schools within Saudi Arabia which teach radical Wahabi beliefs.

Indeed, the U.S. has directly inserted itself into a sectarian war between the two main Islamic sects, backing the “Sunnis” and attacking the “Shiites” (also called “Shia”). See this, this and this.

Oh, and the ISIS terrorists who have formed a new Caliphate across wide swaths of Iraq and Syria?  They’re Sunnis who want to kill all Shias.

Second,  both (1) the former head of the CIA’s Sunni Militant Unit and the chief of the CIA unit tasked with capturing or killing Bin Laden and (2) a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their vice presidents, secretaries of state, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials – U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, Bahraini and other tyrannies in the Middle East is  one of the main reasons that Muslims commit jihad against the West.

Backing the Tyrants In Bahrain

As to Bahrain:

Bahrain has been ruled almost continuously by the Al Khalifa royal monarchy since 1820.

Bahrain also makes CBS News’ list of “world’s enduring dictators”. CBS noted in 2011:

Uprisings in the late 1990s as well as right now have been fueled as much by resentment from the repressed, poor Shiite majority against their privileged Sunni rulers as anything else. In both uprisings, accusations against the government of gross human rights violations and protester murders have been plentiful. At least 11 demonstrators have been killed so far this year. Most recently, Bahraini security forces stand accused of indiscriminate abduction and torture of dissidents.

Things have gotten worse since then. Three-time Emmy award winning CNN reporter Amber Lyon reported on her first-hand experience of the systematic torture and murder of peaceful protesters by the government of Bahrain. But she was fired by CNN for doing so … while CNN accepted payment from the Bahraini monarchs to run a fluff propaganda piece about them.

Indeed, the U.S. government has supplied substantial military support to the Saudi, Qatari and Bahraini dictators.

The U.S. Federal Reserve also bailed out the Arab Banking Corporation of Bahrain.

Brilliant:  The Government Has Taken Away Our Liberties and Destroyed Our Prosperity In Order To Fight An Endless War On Terror … While Arming, Funding and Otherwise Backing the Very Terrorists Who Are Carrying Out Most of the Terror Attacks


Our backing of the most violent branch of Sunni Muslims has had real consequences:

  • Our backing of Sunnis in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia led to 9/11*
  • Our backing of Sunni extremists in Libya led to attacks on our embassies in Libya and Tunisia

And McClatchy interviewed an Al Qaeda terrorist fighting against the Syrian government – with U.S. backing – as saying:

When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!

Do you still doubt that the U.S. is supporting Sunni terrorists?

The U.S. National Security Adviser admitted that the U.S. created, organized and armed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan – including Bin Laden and his lieutenants – to fight the Soviets.  The Mujahadeen are predominately Sunni.    The Mujahadeen eventually morphed into Al Qaeda, which is a Sunni organization.

During various times and places, the U.S. has also backed the Muslim Brotherhood … another Sunni group.

In addition, the American government has supported:

  • Sunni MEK terrorists in Iran
  • The brutal Sunni government in Bahrain as it crushes its majority Shia population whenever it pushes for democratic reform

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:

In Lebanon, the [Bush] Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

And the “rebels” in Syria who we’ve been supporting are Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood.


The government has taken away our liberties and destroyed our prosperity in order to fight an endless war on terror.  Americans have become the most spied upon people in history. Never-ending war has destroyed our economy.

And yet the government has been arming, funding and otherwise backing the very terrorists who are carrying out the biggest percentage of terror attacks.

* Note:  It is clear that 9/11 was state-sponsored terror … although people argue about which state or states were responsible.

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  • Michael McNew

    And then at home the US is forming a militarized police force https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l26AwG6D3_Q and all the while telling you that it is all to protect you from ISIS and other radical groups. And this nation has the gall to question Russia on anything? Russians now have more freedoms than Americans.

  • Валерий Пионкин

    Michael McNew not have to lie. In Russia there is no democracy and never was.

    NSA wants to seize power in America and turn civilians disenfranchised animals. NSA does not want to disclose the truth. The truth is that the security services is killers of civilians. Besides total surveillance using the most modern equipment is manipulation of consciousness and behavior of citizens. As their country and its neighbors. Governments use advanced military technology to manipulate, while doing great damage to the health of citizens. The purpose of these killings – the capture and retention of power for a limited circle of people.
    On my site contains my articles on Snowden.
    However, English is translated only one article. About of Russian hackers.
    If there is interest, I’ll translate the other 5 articles on Snowden and NSA’s
    Presidents, sheiks, citizens!
    NSA is not only watching you. NSA you manipulate and destroy your health.
    Discussing this topic on the forums, I was surprised and puzzled.
    Americans firmly believe in the constitution, democracy and its president.
    I totally unknown how to explain that all the government authorized citizens’ interests are only interested in the election. And in between elections they Meanly and imperceptibly maim citizens (their American).
    Well, something like this.

  • Charles Aulds

    I’m an American who choose to live abroad. I’m doing nothing wrong; I have nothing to hide; I do not fear the NSA.

    But I deeply, DEEPLY resent their betrayal of my trust (for 48 years), the principles of the the nation, and their duty.

    Every true America does.

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    • NoChip4Me

      Why Innocent People Should Fear the NSA’s PRISM Program

      by Thomas R. Eddlem, July 01, 2013

      The use of warrantless surveillance by the NSA has brought a wave of naïve statements from a segment of Americans who claim they have nothing to fear from NSA surveillance of their telephone calls and internet traffic because they’ve done nothing wrong.

      Obviously, the NSA and its employees are capable of using any violation of law to intimidate or blackmail a voter or public official, such as the millions of Americans who have experimented with illegal drugs. In fact, the past three Presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – would basically be ineligible for office on illegal drug use charges, based on their own published statements. And as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said in a June 24 op-ed for USA Today, the three would be “barely employable” under our current drug laws.

      The NSA would also obviously be able to intimidate/blackmail anyone who has had an extra-marital affair, which could be a corrupting influence on a future Bill Clinton in office.

      But what if you, like many who have said in recent weeks, have not broken the law or engaged in an extra-marital affair in recent years? What do you have to fear?

      In fact, there’s quite a bit to fear. Not everything embarrassing which can be used for blackmail or intimidation requires that a person have serious moral failings or to have committed crimes. In short, you have much to fear if you or anyone in your family have:

      seen a psychiatrist or counselor;

      a personal medical issue, such as cosmetic surgery, an eating disorder, take medication related to erectile disfunction, bowel or urinary tract issues, warts, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.;

      had an abortion;

      viewed pornography of any kind;

      closeted homosexual views;

      said anything negative about a friend, relative or boss behind their back;

      experimented with alcohol under the legal age;

      arguments between spouses, or between parents and children when passions are at their highest;

      had financial difficulties, such as a bankruptcy or home foreclosure;

      had poor grades in high school or college;

      had employment difficulties, such as disciplinary letters in your file or have been fired.

      The list could go on much longer, but the point is that even innocent people have many things about their lives they do not want exposed.

      And hundreds of thousands of people currently have access to this data. Consider that the NSA employs an estimated 40,000 people. Add a percentage of that number to the many officials in other federal security agencies (such as the CIA, FBI, DHS, U.S. Secret Service) and branches of the armed forces who would have access to the information. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Consider that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden didn’t even work for the NSA; he was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, one of many technology subcontractors hired by the NSA. Tens of thousands of people who don’t even work for the federal government, who instead work for private contractors, also have access to the information.

      Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of government officials and private citizens would have access to the private information on every American citizen, and have the potential to blackmail and intimidate both innocent and guilty. All it would take is one – just one – of those several hundreds of thousands of government employees and contractors to have a grudge against you, or against an organization or political party you support.

      Edward Snowden’s revelations were a warning in a way that perhaps he did not intend. The takeaway from the Snowden scandal is that the NSA is already incapable of keeping its data secret from wayward employees. Snowden exposed this terrible power to the public, though he did so as a public service. But suppose the next employee who leaks is not so publicly-minded. Suppose he sends the personal files of leading Republican politicians to dirty Democratic Party operatives (or he’s a Republican ideologue who sends files on Democratic politicians to leading Tea Party organizations).

      The potential for abuse of this private information is not limited to grand political conspiracies, though the IRS scandal targeting Tea Party organizations is more than ample evidence that government officials have and are doing this (as was Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” and Watergate scandal). Access to this data is available to people in many communities across the nation. What if a neighbor has access to the data and bears a grudge against you, punishing you with a controlled leak of embarrassing information about you or a family member throughout the neighborhood or to your employer?

      Some people would say – despite the IRS scandal – that the cost and risk is worth it for increased safety from the threat of terrorism. But is the United States really safer by searching the phone records of grandmothers and corn farmers? The Fourth Amendment – which bans warrantless searches of the type in which the NSA is engaging – should be seen as a guideline for effective police and intelligence work.

      The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and then defines what is meant by unreasonable:

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      In essence, the Fourth Amendment requires that searches have 1. a warrant from a judge, 2. evidence of probable cause, 3. the warrant signed by an official under the penalties of perjury, and 4. the warrant describes what officials are looking for and where they expect to find it.

      Searches without probable cause are – by definition – searches of people who are probably innocent. And that’s a tremendous waste of law enforcement/intelligence manpower and resources.

      Perhaps the best example of this is the case of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Alleged Boston Marathon Bombers Tamerlin and Dzhokar Tsarnaev had been under the watchful gaze of the FBI in the years before the bombing, but the FBI did not devote sufficient resources to surveillance of these brothers, despite Tamerlin’s increasingly radical rhetoric on-line. FBI surveillance of these likely suspects, despite diplomatic communication from Russia that they could be Islamic terrorists, was met by the wall of limited resources … tens of billions of dollars in resources that had been diverted to watching hundreds of millions of Americans who are not terrorists. The FBI simply didn’t have the manpower to watch likely suspects because the NSA was spending that money checking up on unlikely suspects, like cataloging and storing your mom’s emails and GPS data about her trip to the grocery store.

      The question for Americans is not whether the the government can check up on all possibilities; that kind of analysis could never happen in a world of limited resources. The question is where anti-terrorism resources are best directed. The Fourth Amendment at least guarantees that tax dollars for preventing terrorism will be spent effectively, i.e., toward people where there is “probable cause” of criminality, while at the same time preventing the horrific kind of surveillance state that once plagued East Germany.