As news breaks of Trump-era surveillance of reporters and elected officials, we remind you that similar skulduggery occurred under Bush and Obama.On June 10, reports are surfacing about leak investigations conducted by the Trump attorneys general, J. Beauregard Sessions and Bill Barr, who secretly collected phone and email metadata on reporters and elected officials. While the full scope is not yet known, early reports indicate that at least 100 individuals were investigated starting in 2018, and that gag orders similar to those enacted in the 2001 Patriot Act were used to silence top officers at news organizations; the gag orders were recently lifted. On TV, pundits and victims like Rep. Adam Schiff describe this as "unprecedented". While it's outrageous and illegal, it's happened before.
Our lead podcast from the archive is a blockbuster revelation--still untouched by the corporate media 8+ years later--from former NSA official Russell Tice. He confirms that during the first Bush administration, he witnessed wiretap orders for Sen. Dianne Feinstein and then-Sen. Orrin Hatch, plus many other officials including Supreme Court justices. More furtive than Trump, Bush's AG John Ashcroft used the Justice Dept. to legitimize domestic spying by NSA. Here's the original text from my 2013 interview with Tice:
"In our interview in June, NSA Whistleblower Russell Tice told Sibel Edmonds and PBC flatly that Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein was one of many targets of NSA surveillance, using wiretapping and other methods. Big Question: does Feinstein know this, or has NSA kept it secret even from its highest-ranking oversight official?We kept this interview brief, and to the point: Is Sen. Feinstein unaware that NSA targets top elected leaders, including herself? If she is aware, does she support domestic surveillance programs because she is compromised by blackmail or other leverage? And even if she is not compromised, does she see the potential for abuse by a rogue NSA?
We open with a quick summary of Tice's background, and then he details the wiretapping of Feinstein's offices, homes, and family. Tice also says NSA used other surveillance methods on Feinstein, and places the initiation of wiretaps in 2004 or 2005. He responds to questions about evidence for his disclosures, and his motive for revealing them now.
And he recaps the story of his appearance with Feinstein and Sen. Orrin Hatch on CNN's Larry King Show, where the senators defended the programs that Tice knew were also monitoring them.
Please share this widely: if Feinstein will answer these questions honestly, we might see a break in the hold NSA appears to have over top elected officials."
In Obama's war on whistleblowers, reporter James Risen, then at the NY Times, was aggressively pursued by the Eric Holder Justice Department. Risen was threatened with jail for refusing to disclose his contacts with CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. In this 2015 podcast with media reform leader Norman Solomon and veteran journalist Gareth Porter, we recap the bizarre trial which led to the conviction of Sterling and a lengthy jail term--based only on the metadata from very brief phone calls between Risen and Sterling. Like the outrageous prosecution of former CIA officer John Kiriakou, the Obama-era persecutions were for alleged offenses that occurred under Bush.
So, Trump's efforts to track whistleblowers were illegal an improper, but not unprecedented.