Michael Hayden: Voice of the Fabulist

March 12, 2016–Among the chorus of voices lifted in defense of the excesses of our intelligence agencies, when these came under the scrutiny of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was that of former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Michael V. Hayden. The Senate committee report pictured Hayden as a defender of torture. Readers of this space may remember warnings against listening to Mr. Hayden that were included in posts in the wake of the Senate committee (SSCI) report. Hayden is an experienced speaker and trained briefer, smooth and unctuous. He is superficially credible, which is what makes him dangerous. Mr. Hayden is out there now, a retired Air Force general with a memoir to peddle. It’s high time to revisit the question of his believability.

A former director of both the CIA and the NSA–at the very moment it entered into the present scheme of dragnet eavesdropping–not to mention deputy to the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Hayden had a finger in every pie. He slides by means of an m.o. where he typically asserts that he understands (this extreme view) as well as that (extreme view) covering the spectrum, and then proceeds to obfuscate.

The technique was on view last night in a lecture series sponsored by the blog “Lawfare” with the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. In that talk Michael Hayden deplored complaints against CIA for its torture of prisoners in black sites as a violation–a violation by citizens of CIA’s compact with the American people. What is that? Hayden explained that you have to check off boxes before sending an officer into the breach. Does the president approve the operation? Check. Does the attorney general? Check. How ’bout the CIA director? Yep. Does the operation have the agency’s sacraments? Uh huh. OK. It’s within the compact.

Sound good? It’s malarkey. First off, where was the vote–even the national conversation–where the “American people” agreed to that schema? It didn’t happen. Long ago George Tenet, Hayden’s predecessor several times removed, saw the need for a new national consensus on U.S. intelligence work after the Cold War, but Tenet dropped that project half way through and the quest was never resumed. There is no compact.

Second, on Hayden’s checklist there is exactly one elected official, the president. By definition the others, especially the CIA director and his minions, cannot be approval authorities for the compact. As for the president, George W. Bush–and the CIA–did their best to hide both black sites and torture, as well as the “legal” memoranda that were supposed to have justified this mess.

Insofar as torture is concerned the reality is that it is not certain the president did agree. Hayden himself admits there was much more difference between the first Bush term and Bush 2 than between Bush and Obama. Well, George W. in Bush 2 prohibited the torture (and indeed Obama followed suit). During Bush 1 George Tenet, the CIA director at the time, stopped the torture program–at least twice–because he was not sure the president approved it. Dick Cheney told the CIA President Bush approved, but Cheney also blocked every CIA effort to approach the president directly. As Hayden knows perfectly well, W.’s own assertion that he was briefed and did approve, has been disputed elsewhere. The difference between Bush 1 and Bush 2 is the leak of the black sites and CIA misdeeds, plus the increased distance from 9/11. To put it differently, permission, if there was that, went off the table the moment the public learned of the excesses. That sounds like a very different understanding of the “compact.”

Third, the attorney general (and here Hayden refers to John Ashcroft and then Alberto Gonzales–he hates Eric Holder, who is, apparently, a “true believer” against torture) is a weak reed on which to hang approval authority for a “compact.” By Mr. Hayden’s standard Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s knowledge of CIA plans to assassinate Fidel Castro brought them within a compact with the American people. Not likely.

(In the narrower sense, though he did not actually say so, no doubt Hayden was referring to the so-called “legal memoranda” compiled by the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice as approving of CIA torture. Not only have those memoranda collapsed, on their face, as legal underpinnings, they were given excessive importance in the first place. Legal memoranda are not laws or court decisions, and they do not substitute for law. Again, no “compact.”)

Both in speech and in his book Mr. Hayden refers to poll numbers that appear to accept the act of torture. Polls do not create a “compact.” Public opinion is notoriously fickle–and I’m sure if you could ask those CIA officers who carefully avoided the taint of these projects their reasons why, you would hear back that they knew opinion would change later and they’d be hung out to dry.

Which is exactly what’s happening to Mr. Hayden, Jose Rodriguez, and other CIA stalwarts of the interrogation programs. It’s their desperation showing. Unlike poll numbers and phony “compacts,” torture is a criminal offense under U.S. and international law, treaty law and the law of war, and associated activities are constitutional violations. There’s a reason why the psychologists the CIA hired to install its interrogation techniques insisted on coverage of legal fees for 20 years afterwards.

In various places Hayden has also made a point of trying to turn around the language. In particular in speaking of the SSCI, the former CIA director talks of the committee attempting to configure a “they say/we say” dynamic. Hayden connects the use  of the word “torture”–and others associated with the reality of what happened–with the supposedly false approach. Think about that for a minute–the CIA, an agency that specializes in deception (among its other skills), crafts a series of euphemisms (“enhanced interrogation techniques,” “high value detainees,” and so on), and then complains the public is out of line for using conventional vocabulary to discuss the issue rather than CIA’s deliberately contrived substitutes.

Tell me who is trying to impose the dynamic on this debate?

You see why you need to deal with Hayden’s logic, and his language, carefully.

In a few days I’ll have more to say about Hayden’s manipulation of secrecy and freedom-of-information while he was CIA director.

Hillary’s Emails: Overclassification “Run Amok”

January 30, 2016–The spokesman’s statement was redundant. “Overclassification” means crazy, excessive secrecy. To say that it “ran amok” is repetitious. Brian Fallon, Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, nevertheless had a point–and you read it here, first. Last August, as a matter of fact (in “Hillary’s Emails: Bursting the Secrecy Bubble,” August 22, 2015). The State Department announced on Friday that twenty-two of the Hillary Clinton emails examined by authorities contained information graded “TOP SECRET” or above. Those emails will now be separated from the court-ordered release of Clinton electronic messages and made secret. Guess what? That’s a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

We are close to six months after the piece in this space, cited above, predicted that secrecy authorities would comb over the Clinton email, find things they prefer not be out, and try and squelch public distress by means of imposing secrecy. Well, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) inspector general I. Charles McCullough, III, has done just that. The 22 emails are his hit list, possibly (but perhaps not) approved by Fearful Leader James Clapper, the man who issued an official ODNI directive designating officers of the United States intelligence community as the greatest threat to national security the U.S. faces.

In an interview last week on National Public Radio, Hillary Clinton commented on one of the TOP SECRET messages, one that informed her about an article on the drone war that was appearing in the New York Times. “How a New York Times public article that goes around the world could be in any way viewed as classified, or the fact that it would be sent to other people off the New York Times website, I think, is one of the difficulties people have in understanding what this is about.”

Just so. But ODNI’s hit on Clinton is a real one. It happens this way: there are plenty of things ODNI–or the CIA, or the NSA–don’t want out in public. In their secrecy game, if ODNI (or one of the others) do not themselves declassify information, then it’s still secret, even if everybody in the world knows it. So if the Times gets a leak and prints it, the newspaper is dealing in secret information. Meanwhile, government officials need to know what’s in the papers so they can respond when the media or the public asks about it.

It’s perfectly understandable that someone sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton an email containing the text of what the Times had reported, including whatever ODNI or anyone else deemed to be TOP SECRET. Right now you can go to the State Department’s Electronic Reading Room and see precisely equivalent messages that have since been released: to the U.S. Ambassador in Thailand warning the Times had the CIA black prison story; to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice containing the text of the Times story reporting that CIA officer Jose Rodriguez had ordered the secret destruction of videotapes that were evidence in a criminal case. You can easily imagine other examples that should be there–like the cables that must have flown around when the press reported that an American sought by Pakistani authorities for killing Pakistani citizens in a street incident was linked to the CIA.

So, let’s call a spade a spade–what just happened was that the spooks coerced the State Department into invoking secrecy, casting a cloak of classification, over material that was not designated secret by an “original classification authority”–as per government regulation–that had been in the public domain for many months, and that is subject to a court order compelling its release. As Barry Goldwater once said about CIA lies over Nicaragua, “This is no way to run a railroad!”

Last August I gave other recent examples of officials hoist on the petard of secrecy rules–and made the point that the officials against whom the rules are actually enforced–those who pay the price–are the people far down the food chain. The truth is that we are, all of us, being hurt by secrecy run amok. When the country reaches the point when officials cannot do their jobs without criminal violation of secrecy regulations, then it’s time for the regulations to change, not time to throw Hillary in jail. While we’re at it, it is time to understand that the security services have ceased being arbiters of necessary secrecy–if they ever were–and have become information manipulators seeking political, and other, advantages.

Sitting in Their Own Stool

August 29, 2015–Have you noticed that the National Security Agency (NSA) no longer insists its vacuum eavesdropping programs “caught” hundreds of terrorists and “saved” thousands of lives? NSA is also now silent about the specific claims it made for particular plots it alleged were broken up. It had abandoned the number “55,” alleged as a specific number of cases where the blanket spying was crucial, and the number “14,” a later version of the same claim. The ethereal spooks are no longer even talking about “one”–the guy who wanted to give cash to Somali fundamentalists, which under current statutes represents aiding terrorism. (It turns out the FBI had a bead on that person before NSA knew anything about him.)

Instead the NSA is trumpeting the latest set of court decisions, in which the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that an injunction against the NSA electronic eavesdropping has to be lifted because the original plaintiff lacked “standing” to sue, since they could not prove their phone records had been collected. The case has been sent back to the lower court for review.

How do the spin doctors pitch this? It “proves” that vacuum eavesdropping is “legal.”

Talk about Big Brother. A more convoluted, illegitimate application of judicial authority can hardly be imagined. Here is a tightly-held program–beyond top secret–that nobody knows about which is recording everybody’s information. But you can’t sue because you can’t “prove” NSA took your data. To put it another way, the original basis for “legality” was that broad classes of people have no “interest” in the privacy of their “business records,” which the NSA can therefore collect, but no member of that class can have standing to sue, essentially because the NSA has an interest in the privacy of its spying.

This despite the fact that Congress has passed a law revoking NSA’s authority to spy and giving the agency until November 29 to adapt to a new arrangement, and despite the fact that an injunction had actually been issued, simply held in abeyance.

Those are double standards. The courts should be ashamed. The NSA, which no longer dares front claims for the effectiveness of its blanket eavesdropping, now hides behind the fig leaf of “standing” for legal proceedings.

Toddler’s Grandfather: NSA’s Terrible Twos Tantrum

May 25, 2015–A few days ago it seemed as if we were finally set to emerge from this wiretapping nightmare. Congress is going on vacation so the spooks have to go home! (Only in America!)

The law containing the provisions under which the National Security Agency (NSA) claims authority to carry out dragnet eavesdropping of citizens is set to expire in six days–on May 31st. Congress had been working on a replacement bill, the so-called “USA Freedom Act,” which contained tighter definitions of what is covered, a more explicit requirement for legal review, a modicum of public representation at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and a clause prohibiting NSA from holding actual custody of the telephony data. The House of Representatives passed that bill but it stalled in the Senate.

In the Senate there was a clash of preferences. That body’s majority leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell prefers the original, draconian surveillance rules. An unreconstructed Neanderthal, McConnell has apparently drunk the kool-aid and believes the dragnet eavesdropping, which cannot be demonstrated to have had much of an impact at all, is a vital tool for security efforts in the age of terrorism. McConnell would not let the USA Freedom Act come up for a vote. His preferred legislation, with its euphemistic “Section 207,” and “Section 215” alleged “authorities,” then went down in flames. McConnell could not generate the 60-vote supermajority necessary to pass this bill in the U.S. Senate. At that point everyone left for recess (vacation).

It looked like a new age was about to dawn. The old law expires. The new bill, not passed, is not in place. Net result: there is no legal basis whatever for conducting dragnet surveillance. McConnell is said to have demanded senators return early from vacation so they can vote on May 30th. But it is not clear that the task of passing a bill in the Senate, reconciling that with what the House has already passed, and getting the result to President Obama for his signature can be physically accomplished before the deadline for the law’s sunset.

Now enter the spooks. There is a trial balloon in today’s New York Times. The proverbial anonymous source now asserts that the sunset of the law does not matter. The alleged authorities for dragnet eavesdropping were “grandfathered” into law. In this view they cannot be undone!  Got that? Behind the scenes at the NSA, intelligence officers were questioning these programs on cost effectiveness grounds because they did not accomplish anything. A firestorm of public criticism followed Edward Snowden’s revelation of the projects. A presidential review group found reasons to question the eavesdropping (though it did not quite bring itself to knock it down), then a government watchdog panel went the whole distance. A federal judge found the law “probably” unconstitutional–and now a circuit court of appeals finds the baseline argument the spooks have been relying upon–that citizens have no interest in the privacy of their business (read phone) records–is without legal basis. The NSA skipped its most recent deadline for filing for the next FISC approval of its dragnet eavesdropping (meaning that its authority for this is rescinded). Now the law actually expires.  So all of this happens, we are told, and none of it makes any difference to the spooks’ authority to intrude on everybody? This is zombie law! 

More to the point, this is the behavior of a toddler in the terrible twos. Take away her toy and she throws a tantrum. In a democracy, when the security services decide they are above the law they have gone far past the line. Not only is the behavior immature and improper, it violates their very oaths to the Constitution. The time has come to clean house.


The NSA Watch

January 3, 2015–In the first of a series of long-form collections, Prados here reprises his commentaries on the National Security Agency domestic spying and eavesdropping scandal. This selection includes commentaries posted from the end of 2013 through the winter of 2014, a period of time during which the NSA spying was found wanting by courts, presidential reviews, and a public privacy board. President Barack Obama promised reforms. These essays analyze the evolving scandal, providing background on individuals and issues involved in the controversy.

The collection is available as a product for a nominal fee from the “Downloadable” section of this website. It appears under several national security and intelligence categories.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015–Welcome to the New Year everyone. The one just past has been tough all around, not least for the constitutional values espoused by my country. The sagas of the NSA dragnet eavesdropping and the CIA’s torture program, the investigation of them, and the CIA’s efforts to game the system are quite disturbing. 2014 has been a bad year for American democracy, though a good one for the scaremongers. You can read a lot more about them on this website. Over the next weeks and months I shall be gathering old postings together, assembling packages of them, and presenting them en bloc as products on the downloadable section of the website. You’ll be able to see “The CIA Watch” and “The NSA Watch” as an evolving narrative.

The Torture Report: She Said, He Said

December 9, 2014–So it’s out. Finally! Despite every imaginable kind of pressure to keep the lid on this atrocity, the emergence of the Senate intelligence committee’s investigative report could not be prevented. Now the chips will fall where they may. There are a host of items on this platter, enough substance to keep a battalion of analysts busy for weeks–plus more added by the CIA “response paper” of June 2013, which the agency released to counter the Senate report. There’s no possibility of conveying more than first impressions, but overall I will say the combination of the two documents is odd. The CIA’s response paper largely accepts  the criticisms of the Senate investigation, then disputes the intelligence committee’s chapter and verse, leaving Senator Dianne Feinstein–it’s her paper after all–on one side of a “she said, he said” dispute. Here are some examples to illustrate:

Michael V. Hayden: If you visited this space yesterday you’ll have read that General Hayden, a former CIA director among other things, is not my favorite exemplar of truthfulness. One thing the Senate report makes much of is CIA’s misleading of Congress. In an appendix the torture report provides more than two dozen examples of CIA deceptions, and traces from the agency’s own documents and records just why Langley’s claims were phony. Every one of the CIA’s deceptive comments involves General Hayden, most of them from the omnibus briefing the CIA finally furnished to Congress when the program was being shelved. My favorite–Hayden had told Congress there were 97 CIA detainees (the intelligence committee has established there were 116, though a few were yet to be captured). In January 2009 a CIA officer established there were at least thirteen “new finds,” making the latest number 112. Hayden ordered the officer to keep the number reported at 98, picking “whatever date I needed to make that happen.” The CIA response paper disagrees with the conclusion that the agency impeded congressional oversight–but it admits that “a few aspects” of Hayden’s testimony were in error and that it could have done a better job of preparing the director for his appearance before Congress. Whatever else happens, you’ve been warned. Do not believe Michael Hayden!

Jose Rodriguez: This former manager of the torture program has been running around hollering from every rooftop that the torture was legal. Let’s put aside the whole debate over the Justice Department memoranda, though, and take this one from strictly inside the CIA. Teams at the first black prison begin torturing their subject, and they report to headquarters that they can’t keep it up, they have moral qualms, there are legal issues. Rodriguez shoots back a cable on August 12, 2002, instructing the base chief and field officers to “refrain” from using “speculative language as to the legality of given activities.” Mr. Hayden–backed by CIA lawyer John Rizzo, by the way– represented to Congress that any CIA officer observing a torture session had not only the ability to object to a “given activity,” but a positive duty to stop it at any point. Needless to say, the Senate report gives examples like this one, where field officers objected and were told in so many words to shut up.

Responsiveness to Oversight: The CIA Inspector General made his own inquiry into the torture program, which I have referenced in this space before. The reaction of CIA’s top operations officer–Jose Rodriguez’s predecessor in that post–when the IG raised questions of legality, organization, and effectiveness of the torture–was to object that the IG report should have concluded that torture is effective.

Bin Laden’s Messenger: In a classic instance of “she said, he said,” the Senate investigators and the CIA disagree on the role of torture in bringing down Osama bin Laden. You’re sure to hear more about this since it goes to the debate ignited by the movie Zero Dark Thirty. You’ll recall that, at that time, there were a flurry of statements pro and con about whether torture had been necessary in uncovering the true role of the individual who served as Bin Laden’s go between, tracking whom led to the terrorist hideout. Members of the Senate intelligence committee issued statements that, unlike what was implied by the movie, torture had not been necessary. The CIA itself put out a statement in that vein, though there were opposing comments too. Here the Senate investigators lay out in enormous detail that CIA had data identifying the messenger from prisoners who were never tortured, or spoke before they were tortured, and focusing on the NSA intercepts and foreign liaison data nailing down the ID. In this case the CIA response paper insists that some information came from a prisoner after torture that was critical to the ID. As I say, I bet there will be more about this–and it is a place where the actual Senate report, not this thinned-out executive summary, could be crucial to a proper understanding of the matter. Stay tuned.


NSA: Who’s Damaging American National Security?

July 5, 2014–It’s ironic–or, perhaps, fitting in this new era of government  doublespeak–that the patriotic airs of July 4 and America’s birthday are now accompanied by news of fresh security outrages. The National Security Agency’s preoccupation for covering its ass is to blame, and from the looks of this, it sounds like NSA is dragging the CIA into the muck with it. The locale is Germany and the story is spies.

As you’ll know from watching television, reading the papers, or this space, the NSA has scandalized Germany with its dragnet eavesdropping operations. President Obama issued an order to impose some limits on coverage of individuals–and specifically prohibited (only) spying on German chancellor Angela Merkel. The subject was the elephant in the closest recently when Merkel visited Washington for the two leaders to concert a policy to cope with the current troubles in the Ukraine.

That was “identifiable damage to national security”–the standard applied to claim so many citizens have hurt the spies. Here we have the spies hurting the nation. The security agencies should have taken their marching orders from the sense of Obama’s instructions. Instead we have this: the German parliament, or Bundestag, is conducting an official investigation into the NSA dragnet operation. This week the investigating committee took testimony, some of it in secret session, from former NSA employees Thomas Drake and William E. Binney. The spooks are so desperate to learn what German parliamentarians are discovering about the NSA’s operations, illegal in Germany, that CIA sources have been mobilized to service NSA desires.

Not long ago German counterespionage officers apprehended a suspected double agent, a 31-year old officer for the federal intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), who was suspected of spying for Russia. German state prosecutor Harald Range has confirmed the action on July 2. The BND officer is accused of selling more than two hundred secret documents, including a number that disclose activities of the Bundestag parliamentary committee. Under questioning, German sources report, the suspected spy disclosed that he does not work for the Russians at all but for the CIA–and takes his instructions direct from the U.S. embassy. Reports are that U.S. ambassador John Emerson, summoned to the German foreign ministry, has been asked to cooperate with the investigation of this espionage.

Can’t blame this on Edward Snowden. It is the activities of the intelligence agencies–in this case spying on friends America needs to make our foreign policies succeed–that damage our national security. These activities become known to the targets (as they did here) whether or not they are revealed by whistleblowers. The spooks would prefer to have us believe the damage results from revelation, not from commission. That is an arrogant and cynical stance. Do not believe it.

Poles of a Magnet: Jim Schlesinger and Lawrence Walsh

March 27, 2014–Sometimes events pile atop one another, almost too quickly to respond. That’s the case this week, where almost simultaneously we see news of two important passages, the deaths of Lawrence E. Walsh and James R. Schlesinger. Once I got a moment I’d intended to write something about Lawrence Walsh because of his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, but before I could put finger to keyboard, this afternoon’s news brings word that Mr. Schlesinger, too, has passed away. The two men, both staunch Republicans, are linked in an unusual way, not due to their political affiliations but each figured in one of the central upheavals of America’s late 20th Century.

Lawrence E. Walsh was a lawyer, active from the mid-30s on. He served as an assistant district attorney and in other legal posts in New York City, as a counselor to New York governor Thomas E. Dewey, at the time the latter ran for president against Harry Truman in 1948 (losing in a breathtaking upset), as a federal district judge, and as deputy attorney general during the last part of the Eisenhower administration. For a long time Walsh worked as a lawyer in private practice, emerging briefly during the Nixon administration as deputy chief negotiator in the Vietnam peace talks in Paris. But his most important service by far was as special prosecutor in the investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair from 1986 to 1992.

Walsh had great respect for the law as well as for the political dimensions of legal matters. Whether he learned that as a DA, with Thomas Dewey, or in the Eisenhower Justice Department, which was obliged to enforce civil rights rules after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, I don’t know. But when it came to Iran-Contra, where his political inclination was to help protect President Ronald Reagan, Lawrence Walsh worked steadfastly to get to the bottom of the morass of one of the most extensive cover-ups of the age. The special prosecutor would be stymied at every turn–his evidence tainted by Congress’s insistence on immunizing witnesses at its Iran-Contra hearings, by lack of cooperation from Edwin Meese’s Justice Department, by the mass amnesia of National Security Council staff aides and CIA officers who professed not to remember activities with which they had been intimately associated over a period of years.

Despite every obstacle Walsh and his investigators succeeded in building cases against fourteen U.S. government officials and obtained convictions in eleven of those cases, including those of national security adviser John M. Poindexter and conspirator Oliver L. North. Most of the convictions were set aside by higher courts on the strength of the congressional immunities previously extended to the defendants. The remaining culprits were pardoned by the first President Bush when he was headed out the door at the end of his presidency and Walsh was on the point of prosecuting the former secretary of defense, Caspar W. Weinberger.

Walsh’s investigation concluded that both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush–at that time the vice-president–bore significant responsibility, that CIA director William J. Casey had been a major player, abetted by Secretary Weinberger and others, and that the highest levels of the government had conspired to evade U.S. law in selling weapons to Iran, with subordinates smuggling some of the resulting money to Nicaraguan contra rebels run by the CIA. Walsh found Reagan and Bush not in criminal jeopardy, but certainly guilty of poor management and potentially vulnerable if their foreknowledge of the affair was other than had been represented.

I have written before in this space of certain secrecy rules enacted by the second President Bush–George H. W.’s son–when he came to office, which gave former presidents a say in the declassification of records pertaining to them. In my view these rules were almost certainly instituted to protect the first Bush from the consequences of his role in Iran-Contra. These rules have made a mockery of declassification regulations as they pertain to the Reagan-Bush era.

Like the pole of a magnet Lawrence Walsh attracted the opprobrium and criticism of many from his own political party.

I never met Lawrence Walsh, but I did meet James R. Schlesinger, first in his early guise as a nuclear weapons expert and analyst at the RAND Corporation. Schlesinger was a Harvard-trained economist who came to defense analysis, which I studied at the time, as a proponent of what was called “operations research.” Richard Nixon brought Schlesinger into his administration to lead the Office of Management and Budget. In that capacity, in 1971 Schlesinger conducted an efficiency study of the U.S. intelligence community on Nixon’s behalf, at a time when the president sought an excuse to pare the CIA’s budget. Mr. Nixon later appointed Schlesinger the CIA director. It was Mr. Schlesinger who commissioned the notorious CIA report called The Family Jewels. It was that document that lay directly behind the CIA and NSA abuse scandals of 1975, the “Year of Intelligence,” about which much has appeared on this website of late. Needless to say, CIA and NSA officers were outraged that U.S. government authorities presumed to investigate their activities. Schlesinger soon left to head the Pentagon, where his fights with Henry Kissinger became the talk of Washington.

I saw Mr. Schlesinger on a number of occasions in later years, often at CIA-hosted events, where he was always honored. His role as Mr. Nixon’s gunslinger had apparently been forgotten. I’d not be surprised to see Kissinger show up as a speaker at Schlesinger’s memorial service. Perhaps Mr. Schlesinger’s was an opposite magnetic pole–opposites attract while like poles repel. How else to account for the very different treatment accorded these two Republicans? We’ll see.

Hot Document: The NSA’s Been Here Before

February 27, 2014–  Today I’m posting an extract from the White House paperwork on the last go-round in NSA surveillance scandals. That occurred in 1975, when it was revealed that the agency had been conducting warrantless wiretaps and, for decades, taking in all the cables sent abroad by the international communications carriers–yesterday’s equivalent of the cell phone traffic. It was the first time the National Security Agency had ever been required to testify before Congress. President Gerald R. Ford insisted that his staff go through the proposed testimony with a fine-tooth comb. The NSA’s director, at that time Air Force General Lew Allen, complied.

This “Hot Document” is available under “Products” in the “Downloadable” section of the website. The page you will see is the NSA’s proposed answer to the objection that it was conducting dragnet eavesdropping (in 1975 they called it “vacuum cleaner” surveillance). Note that the wording is pretty much identical to what you’ve been hearing from U.S. intelligence officials for nearly a year now. In three-and-a-half decades the NSA’s answer has not changed, nor has its dragnet eavesdropping. It’s also not different that government has maneuvered to minimize objections and controls. The thing that is different is that there is now a law that is supposed to prohibit this, which the Bush and Obama administrations have worked to neutralize.