Thomas Drake, formerly with the US National Security Agency and himself a noted whistleblower, discusses the Edward Snowden affair, the financial dimension of the activities of the NSA, the technical abilities at the disposal of intelligence agencies, the costs and benefits to corporations of NSA activities – and the F-word: Fascism.
By Lars Schall
The transcript of the following interview was exclusively arranged for Asia Times Online – see here. An audio file of the interview is published at the German financial web site „Die Metallwoche“ here.
Thomas Drake, born 1957, is a former senior executive at the US National Security Agency who blew the whistle on a multi-billion dollar program fraud and cover up as well as the NSA’s secret unlawful surveillance program. The US Department of Justice prosecuted and indicted him under the World War I-era Espionage Act in April, 2010, under 10 felony counts including that he „mishandled documents“. The case against him ultimately collapsed. He eventually pled to one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer. He is a former airborne crypto-linguist and electronic warfare mission crew supervisor. From 1991-1998 he worked at Booz Allen Hamilton as a management, strategy and technology consultant and software quality engineer. In 2011, Drake became the recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize and co-recipient of the Sam Adams Award. He holds a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees as well as numerous graduate certificates.
Lars Schall: Thomas, the first question that I would have for you is, why did you a) join the Signal Intelligence Directorate of the US National Security Agency in late summer 2001; and b) leave the NSA in 2008?
Thomas Drake: Well, between those two dates a lot happened. I joined NSA in 2001 as a result of a special outside hiring program that was led by then director Michael Hayden, a director of NSA during the 2000 period. There had been a lot of pressure even in the late ’90s. The NSA was growing increasingly irrelevant and having great difficulty keeping up with the challenges of the digital age, and a number of stakeholders, particularly Congress, began placing a lot of pressure on NSA to hire outsiders – people who had not grown up at NSA, had not been promoted at NSA, people who came from other parts of government but particular came from outside of government, even if they had government experience, but people that were not embedded, as they say, in the culture – and so about a dozen of us [were ultimately hired] after going through a formal application for jobs that had actually been advertised in a number of the leading newspapers across the United States.
… I had answered an ad in the Washington Post that had been placed in February 2001. Although it was not the position I applied for, I was offered a position reporting to the number three person at NSA, who was the director of the Signals Intelligence Directorate. We call it the SIGINT Director. I began late August within processing, and my first day actually reporting to my new job was 9/11. I actually had the title Senior Change Leader and was responsible for change leadership and communications. That is 2001.
I resigned in April 2008 because I had been placed under criminal investigation for allegedly causing great damage to the security of the United States and at the time I faced what ultimately led to an indictment that was handed down on me a couple of years later. That is the short version. There is a lot happened in between.
LS: As you left the NSA in 2008 what happened to you afterwards? I mean, among other things you’re one of four individuals in the history of the United States who has been charged specifically with „willful retention“ of „national defense information“.
TD: Well, it’s actually under US Criminal Code, Title 18 793e of the Espionage Act of 1917, which was actually passed into law to deal with spies, not whistleblowers. The first person charged for non-spy activities under the Espionage Act and that particular paragraph was Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; I was the second whistleblower charged in like manner. There were/are a couple of others earlier who had been charged under the same title 18 statute. It had been quite rare in US history for an American to be charged with espionage for „mishandling national defense information“. It is very unusual and it’s one of the worst names you can paint an American with. You’re actually placed into the same category as the real spies in US history, particular referring to the post-World War II era – the Alder James, Alger Hisses and Robert Hanssens of the world; it places you and paints you into a very dark corner and they have the label and moniker painted on you of espionage, [which] means that you’ve done something really, really bad, and at best you’re a traitor and at worst you’re an enemy of the state.
Now, this is 2008 and I had already been raided the previous fall by the FBI as part of a much larger national security investigation, a criminal league investigation, and I had become a target. I actually had become a target starting in 2006, and I knew that the nightmare had only begun. So, my entire career was gone, and I was going to have to deal with whatever the government was going to meet out in terms of its attempt to punish me severely, which meant the distinct possibility that … an indictment will be handed down on me and that’s precisely what happened a couple of years later. [To cut a] long story short, I ended up being indicted with a ten felony count [and] facing 35 years in prison. Five of the felony counts were for espionage, one was for obstruction of justice and four additional felony counts were for making false statements to FBI agents.
LS: What’s the attitude of national intelligence community towards whistle-blowing in general?
TD: Let’s just say whistle-blowing is not something that goes over too well, particularly in a national security arena. Even in terms of culture, whistle-blowing tends to have a negative connotation. You’re considered a rat or a fink or a tattletale, and you’re making the group and the institution look bad even if what you’re blowing the whistle on reveals government wrong-doing and illegality or even embarrassment or threats to public safety and health, which is essentially the definition of whistle-blowing – it’s all done in the public interest.
In the national security arena, you’re supposed to keep the secrets, and although non-disclosure agreements that I had signed over a number of years obligated me to protect legitimately classified information, whistle-blowing in that security space was considered a violation, culturally a violation of the group norms that you remain silent even in the face of wrong-doing, and so it’s fraught with peril but in particular under an Obama administration. Blowing the whistle in the national security arena has effectively become a criminal act that requires severe punishment, and it’s become the norm that if you blow the whistle in the national security space then it’s very likely that you will be threatened with or even charged with espionage.
As unusual as it was in terms of US history, my indictment under the Espionage Act was just the opening bell, and the number of people who followed [were] charged in like manner, and now it’s become quite routine – I think we’re up to eight now; eight cases in which the government has filed formal charges and also indictments … in which the Espionage Act has a very prominent place in the felony counts.
LS: We have currently the whistle-blowing case of Edward Snowden; did you become involved in this?
TD: When you say involved, I didn’t know Edward Snowden, you know he became quite prominent now as we go back almost six months, starting in the beginning of June of this year with the dramatic disclosures regarding the NSA and surveillance apparatus as well as other parts of the government and GCHQ et al. My involvement with Edward Snowden in terms of direct contact as a result of the Sam Adams Associates awarding him the 2013 Integrity and Intelligence Award, which I actually presented it to him along with Colleen Rowley, the first recipient of the award, and Jesselyn Radack, who had won the award with me a couple of years ago, and then one of the founders of Sam Adams Associates, Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst. We traveled to Russia in the beginning of October to present Edward Snowden with this award for what he had done in the public interest; so that’s my involvement.
I consider him a fellow NSA whistleblower. He had well learnt the realities of my ordeal as well as others; you know, standing on my shoulders and recognize that he was bringing out critical information in the public interest regarding just how far the surveillance state had penetrated the very fabric of our society on an extraordinary, truly extraordinary scale. A scale that’s never been seen in human history and makes even other regimes in terms of 20th century history look almost mild by comparison in terms of just the sheer breadth and scale and the global reach of the surveillance state.
Far, far beyond its mandated purpose under even the US Constitution to provide the common defense. It’s important to note 9/11 truly was a trigger event, but the foundation for the nation security state actually began, for the United States, shortly after World War II with the National Security Act. It was the first time in US history that we ended up having essentially, you know, standing arms of standing intelligence agencies that were made permanent.
LS: Has Mr Snowden done in your view the right thing?
TD: Actually yes. If the discussions and the debate and conversation, the sustained debates and conversations are any proof of that we just have to look back over the last five-plus months. This is something that we never had regarding what’s at stake for the sovereignty of individuals when you have such a surveillance apparatus involved and deeply embedded in so many aspects of society, and what does it mean for who we are as human beings in our culture. I well recognize that you know spying between nations and people is something that’s quite part of the human experience and some have said it’s the world’s second-oldest profession, to put it that way.
So, keeping track of other people and or wanting to know what other people are up to is certainly part of our common human heritage, but this is truly, with advances in technology, something that people have warned about over the years. Whether you listen to the farewell address of Dwight D Eisenhower as he was leaving office, warning the nation in 1961 about the military industrial complex, or the severe abuses that people often forget about in terms of US history in which instruments of national power were actually turned on thousands of people within the United States during the ’60s and ’70s, culminating in all the revelations under the Nixon administration – history is not kind here at all.
So yes, I believe it was fully within the public interest and he knew that disclosing the extent of the surveillance state as it had metastasized over the intervening 12 years since 9/11 would put his life in extraordinary peril, and he had to escape the United States in order to have any chance of keeping his freedom let along making the disclosures he did to certain reporters and journalists.
LS: Are you satisfied with regards to the coverage of that ongoing story in Western mainstream media?
TD: I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied if my own experience and others that I’m closely aligned with in this space – fellow whistleblowers and advocates and activists as well as other reporters and journalists – is any indication. … The international press is actually and continues to take a far greater interest in terms of what’s at stake and what this means to have such extraordinary surveillance, you know, penetrating every aspect, practically every aspect of our lives.
The United States mainstream media – although they are beginning to wake up regarding the extent of the surveillance state and what it means in the secrecy regime – have been quite muted, and still you see certain reporting journalists almost serving as apologists for the administration, arguing their case as it were on the pages of the main newspapers, whether it’s online, digital or in print.
But what I am encouraged by is the fact that articles are continuing to discuss other revelations, the import of those regulations and what it means for the future and I think there is what I call the second and third order effects – meaning that there are now other reporters and investigative journalists who are now digging deep into other aspects of this even beyond the continuing disclosures from Edward Snowden and are discovering a number of other areas that are causing trouble in terms of just how far the United States have gone under the excuse and mantle of 9/11. Somehow in order to make us all feel safe, in order to secure the nation we essentially have to seize all information that we can get our hands on, whether it’s directly, indirectly or through arrangements with companies because it’s the zero-sum game.
It’s the „what if“ scenario that if there’s any chance and if it’s only a 0.0004% [chance], „Well, you know, we’ll sacrifice the 99.99% for the sake of security and if we forsake some liberties and rights and freedoms along the way so be it because the price is worth it.“ I think what you’re seeing is that people are really beginning to question whether or not that price that we’re paying is worth it, and you have people now really asking the question, serious questions about government perhaps and [in] many cases even asserting government has clearly over-reached its own bounds.
As much running room as we gave the government to pursue the threats – and I’m the first to acknowledge there are legitimate threats to international order and stability and the need for partnerships and agreements between nations to blunt, stop and prevent acts against international order and stability both within nations and across nations, even trans-national threats to us, you know – there are limits. You can’t just toss aside rights, freedom and liberties simply for the sake of security. One of the founding fathers in the United States, Benjamin Franklin, actually said words to that effect.
LS: Related to the recent revelations regarding the global surveillance programs of the NSA; have you seen any credible piece of evidence so far that these programs are doing any good in the so-called „war on terror“?
TD: Well, that’s been the government meme for a long time, that this all to prevent that and it is true; one of the paradoxes in this space is that most of the intelligence operations and activities are covered, or take place under the cover of secrecy and many of those for completely legitimate reasons. I used to be part of those operations myself both during the Cold War and after in terms of my own government career – in the military, air force and navy respectively, as well as my time with the CIA, and of course my knowledge when I was a senior executive at NSA. I will be the first to tell you that the extraordinary efforts on the part of people I used to work with have in fact prevented threats or blunted threats or have exposed threats.
But here’s the thing, and I will give you a more recent example. If you go back to the summer, there is testimony that was given by General Alexander, the director of NSA and the commander of the cyber command. He himself and they actually had a public release – 54 terrorist events were detected, exposed by these secret surveillance programs. Well, it turns out, and this is more recent testimony, that when under questioning before Congress in a public hearing, he could only ultimately admit to one. One that might have been exposed, and that was the al Shabaab, the several thousand and eight thousand dollars plus that was wired to al Shabaab in Somalia in terms of „material support“. There’s even an open question as to whether that could have been detected by traditional law enforcement means, again the zero-sum game.
LS: Recently Al Jazeera America published the talking points of the NSA related to the revelations by Edward Snowden, and very prominent was the talking point related to 9/11.  What’s your comment on this?
TD: Invoking 9/11 as the specter, continuing to roll out the fear mongering that is engendered when 9/11 is mentioned, and using that as justification for ensuring the continuance of these programs just in case. We have to remember 9/11 was a systemic failure of the United States government – under the preamble to the Constitution, its two primary purposes are 1) to provide for the common defense and 2) to provide for the general welfare. Well, it utterly fails in terms of the former, providing for the common defense.
We do, we sometimes forget that, and so that failure is [the] trigger [for] this vast, vast set of activities and operations and surveillance as well as any number of other secret operations – the extent of which we don’t fully know to this day; many of them still remain in extremely dark shadows all because of 9/11 that somehow this „existential threat“ as a result of what happened on 9/11 means that we have use all means necessary. The very thing that former vice-president Cheney said was, five days after 9/11, on September 16, 2001, „We’re going to have to go to the dark side.“ I don’t think people fully appreciated what that meant.
The United States has invested, and when I say invested it’s in quotes, but it has spent literally trillions of dollars, when you sum up the totals over the last 12 years, related to national defense, national security, intelligence, homeland security. It’s just an extraordinary redistribution of US treasury and wealth to „deal with an existential threat“. Because it spent so much money it becomes a significant flywheel. You’re not going to be able to stop it very easily, and it continues to justify itself by saying we have to have America secure and we have to keep people feeling safe.
So we have 12 years of response and much of that was done in the shadows outside of any kind of public discussion or debate. It was simply done in secret, and it’s the secrecy and the overreach and all the activities that go far beyond the balance of, I think, what people actually were expecting. I mean, we have to remember a lot of room was given to the government after 9/11. People understood that 9/11 happened and legitimately needed to go after the perpetrators. I’m the first to acknowledge that, but it became far more than that.
It became the excuse. It became justification for fundamentally setting aside rights and freedoms as it now turns out, not just US citizen rights that are protected under the Constitution, but also the rights and freedoms of the sovereignty of citizens in other countries as well – on a scale, again, far beyond their purpose of just dealing with threats to international stability to include terrorism, and I think what we’re now seeing is people are asking the legitimate questions. „Is this a price worth paying? Do we really want to have everything being ‚tracked‘ and ‚monitored‘ just in case?“
Another example: for all of the powers of the surveillance apparatus even within the United States, it didn’t stop the Boston Marathon bombings. There was extraordinary surveillance that had been put into place there, including large numbers of cameras. It did not stop those bombings. But what I find interesting is that usually it has the inverse effect. Meaning when there’s a failure like the Boston Marathon bombings and that is not stopped although there was lots of indicators and including, ironically enough, warnings, formal warnings given to the United States by Russia regarding the Tsarnaevs – it not, it’s not just taken seriously but it, because of the failure it leads to further calls and cries for even more surveillance. So, you have this sort of this interesting incentive, this pathological incentive of when there’s a failure you actually [use it as] justification for even more surveillance.
I think people are really asking the question about what is it doing to who we are as a society, the corrosive effect that this has on society at large, and is the price that we’re paying worth it. I think many people are beginning to answer the question that it’s not. It’s not worth it, and we do have to accept some risk.
There is no such thing as no risk because to say risk [free] we would have to have the perfect surveillance state, and I don’t think anybody, even those who would let the government pretty much have unfettered access to almost anything, would want to go to the logical conclusion to simply let the government build the perfect surveillance state – what someone called the constant gaze upon society. History is not kind when it comes to these kinds of societies, and yet that power, that technology, is now very much in the hands of those who hold the levers of power in our country as well as others.
LS: As you have suggested the nexus 9/11 – War on Terror is also an excuse to expand programs that were existing pre-9/11, for example Echelon.  Could you tell us about the development of Echelon, for example, after 9/11?
TD: Well, Echelon, to be more accurate, I mean, I’m very familiar with what’s called the Five Eyes community. There were long-standing agreements between the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain – we call it the Five Eyes – and the Five Eyes developed a system called Echelon which in many respects was a precursor to a worldwide linked surveillance sensing system. It had extraordinary reach based on the traditional apparatus, the surveillance security apparatus put into place to monitor many parts of the world, but we also have to remember that the era was the Cold War, but it certainly had reach into other places.
That was the foundation, and so although you don’t hear people referring to Echelon by name today, clearly many follow-on programs either relied on Echelon … or expanded upon it after 9/11. This was the system that was in place. That infrastructure that is behind Echelon did not go away. That infrastructure was certainly used and leveraged post-9/11 and in many cases for completely legitimate purposes in detecting threats to stability and order within and without nations and across nations. Very legitimate and again, some people will point to abuses, but this is one of the paradoxes of secret power.
Even when it has a legitimate purpose in providing for the common defense not just within a nation but even across nations or through agreements with other nations it is right for abuse, and there’s what we call mission creep or requirements creep, that you will take on additional activities under the cover of the legitimate activities for other purposes because you can and it’s in secret, and to recast a phrase from Catch 22 … the Joseph Heller novel, you know, when you have this power, who’s going to stop us?
LS: I have a couple of questions regarding the use of legendary software PROMIS [Prosecutor’s Management Information System], which was developed by my friend William A Hamilton, the founder of the US information technology company Inslaw Inc, and he was also a programer for NSA. Do you know anything about NSA’s use of unauthorized copyright infringing copies of Inslaw’s PROMIS software for at least 25 years as the software it sold to banks in support of its „follow the money“ SIGINT mission?
TD: I don’t have any specific knowledge of it. I am certainly aware of the program. I was not part of it. I have heard about it and am aware, had become aware of it over the years, and … I’ve had people who’ve had the history of that program who have actually contacted me over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, it is an example – though I don’t have, I can’t validate or verify it – not any of the allegations or assertions, any of the history that’s been revealed and disclosed regarding PROMIS, none of it surprises me and here’s why. It’s unfortunate but it is, and I had the direct experience at NSA that NSA would either abscond with or would cast aside really powerful technology and then use it for their own purposes.
I’ll give you the example that I’m intimately familiar with, that was ThinThread, the extraordinary program in which I was the executive program manager during late 2001 and 2002 before it met a summary death at the hands of NSA leadership and placed in the Indiana Jones digital warehouse never to be seen again, in direct violation of congressional legislation signed into law to deploy ThinThread to the 18 most critical counter-terrorism sites.
Well, there’s one part of ThinThread that was actually used by the secret surveillance program called Stellar Wind, the very program that I blew the whistle on – they abused that program to by-pass the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. There were many crypto-mathematician brains behind the algorithms of ThinThread and this one particular sub-program. He’s actually apologized to the nation for it because he never intended that it be used in like manner. They stripped all of the protections off of it.
This pattern is unfortunate. You also have a pattern where large companies will do everything they can to … let’s say they have a company working for them, a sub-contractor. It will actually take intellectual property and then will re-package it for their own use and sell it to the government or in partnership with the government, so none of this surprises me. I just can’t speak directly to the specifics of PROMIS, but I’m certainly well aware of program and what NSA did with it.
LS: Understood, but I would like to ask you, nevertheless one more question related to this. This would be, once NSA controlled the software used by banks to process wire transfers or money and letters of credit it could in theory add, delete and/or modify the amounts of funds in accounts because the funds are just data like any other kind of data. Have you ever heard that NSA or other intelligence agency exploited the banks surveillance version of PROMIS towards such an end?
TD: I’ve certainly heard of it, I just don’t have any proof nor can I verify or validate, but I will tell you one of the aspects that has not been fully disclosed although I blew the whistle on it early on when I, within the system, had gone to key people within the government particularly congressional intelligence committees regarding Stellar Wind. One of the things that Stellar Wind did was actually without, again, without warrants, was gain direct access to financial transaction information at the bank level, credit card level, and this is extraordinary – these secret agreements were put into place regarding the flow of money.
This is shrouded in all kinds of secrecy … but I was well aware what would that mean if there were those within the system who chose to abuse it, you know far beyond the purpose of tracking money laundering and things of that nature because this is all hidden; … the life blood of any economy is the money, the money flows, the money deposits, the investments. I can’t speak specifically to the allegations or assertions that you mentioned, but I can tell you that I would not be surprised at all that it was used in that manner given my knowledge of other abuses of information and systems that people in secret would use or have access to.
The temptations are enormous. I come back to the fundamentals of the human condition, and temptations are enormous when you have that kind … You hear about all of these lower level stuff. We hear about contract fraud. A lot of that is all nickel and dime stuff. People just trying to rip-off the government by charging, you know $6 or something that only cost 50 cents to make.
Even beyond the contract agreements, you know this, the padding their expense accounts. Even on the part of government employees, you know there are clearly the case of people who will try to get away with things, but you’re talking in a more systemic level – but I can’t, again, I just want to be clear with you here and the audience, I don’t have any specific knowledge regarding the use of the PROMIS software for those purposes in terms of manipulating accounts.
LS: But do you think that intelligence information is also used by big players for insider trading, respectively informed trading?
TD: Well, see, now you’re asking what I think is actually the more sensitive question, the more relevant question. Okay, information is power; it’s the currency of power far more now than ever. It’s always really been that way, it’s just the technology greatly facilitates this?
LS: Hasn’t John Negroponte said that data is worth more than money?
TD: Yes, precisely because I can convert it. In fact data is actually much more – you know they talk about money being fungible because you can convert it into so many different things, but what’s behind that? How do you manage and exercise the fungibility. How do you optimize its fungibility-ness to say it that way. It’s fungibleness, okay to make up a word. That’s the information, that’s data, and if you have access in secret to this type of information this gives you enormous leverage in the marketplace, for example.
It’s extraordinary. Just look at the manipulation from just what’s been disclosed publicly in terms of Wall Street and over, all over the largest of them we have yet to see anybody actually go to prison at the highest levels. Enormous – you know, it’s the whole argument about banks being too big to fail; you know we’re seeing incredible amounts of money – the Fed alone with its QE [quantitative easing]. It’s pumping massive amounts of money. It’s not actually helping the economy as much as it’s basically compensating for all the bank losses.
Look at the stock market, I mean this is institutional manipulation at the highest levels of government in collusion with the levers of financial power. It’s an extraordinary power and it definitely becomes normalized and institutionalized, a lot of other things, and if you’re at the top of the pile, guess what – the pay-offs are enormous.
LS: Yes, and if you have that insider information and, on the other side, you have all that cheap money, you can leverage your bet and it’s a safe bet.
TD: Yes, it’s a safe bet precisely. I mean, that was part of the joke when the insiders in terms of Wall Street is that, you know, the full faith in credit of the United States was there to prop them up if it all failed. I just find it, I mean, it’s like „wow“. And ultimately who pays the price? I mean ultimately, in the end, who pays the price? A lot of this was paid by money, but the thing is ultimately there have to be real assets behind it, and when the assets themselves are now being leveraged to the hilt what are you left with? I mean that’s, now you don’t even have a real economy. It all becomes kind of this virtual thing and the number of people – this has been the 1% as it were. What, to whom, does this benefit go? I always follow the money, who does it benefit?
LS: And towards what end is it used? You talked about power and money, so I think it has to express somehow even though we don’t know how it does.
TD: Well, you see the large contours of it already. The effects do show up in the economy. The effects do show up in the impact on just the everyday financial flows. The enormous transactions that course within and between nations and around the globe. This has been the reality of human history – trade within and amongst people – and when you sit at the crossroads, the nexus of this, it’s an enormous temptation not just to feed off of it but actually to profit from it and this power – I remember Kissinger said „Power was the ultimate aphrodisiac.“ I mean, that really kind of puts it in really stark relief …
LS: Yes, and then you have secret power. I mean, this is then the crack version of this aphrodisiac.
TD: Well, you say the crack version, but you get, people get, they mainline it. They get addicted to it because you know something someone doesn’t [know], and that’s why I call it the currency of power. I know something you don’t, which means I have power over you by virtue of having that knowledge, and it allows me an enormous advantage, especially on the world stage or if I’m in agreements or if I’m surveilling you at the G-20 and I know what you’re saying in your hotel room or with your staff. That gives me enormous leverage .. if I’ve got secret information. If I’m inside the banking systems, if I’m truly – I’ve insider information even though there are all kinds of rules against it, but if I can get away with it in secret and I have the protection of certain powers that be, both government as well as the corporate world, well, my gosh. I mean I’m not, I’m generally not going to limit myself and because it feeds on itself it’s never enough.
I’ll give you a small example of this and it’s where I used to work when I was a manager at Booz Allen Hamilton. I remember being down at headquarters for Booz in northern Virginia and I’m hearing a conversation between two of the partners, the senior executives, and [one] had just gotten his gigantic bonus for the year and he was just contemplating in conversation with his colleague what am I going to spend the money on this year? Is it going to be a new Porsche or is it going to be that new, you know, summer place on the beach, the cottage on the beach. I mean that was the priority because he, I mean that was the priority. This is what happens.
The money is the root of a lot of things. I mean I give people their due in terms of making a profit and a living, but we’re talking enormous amounts of money literally at the central levers of power, and when it’s done in secret away from the – well away – from the public, away from reporters and journalists. There’s a whole lot that I can do and it gives me enormous control over others and ultimately what this is about is its power and control over others.
LS: A lot of this money ends up off-shore. Therefore, do you take those recent off-shores leagues very seriously?
TD: Yes I do, but I think they’re desperate to protect it because remember the off-shore accounts are off-shore on purpose because they’re „outside“ the reach of traditional US or even banking laws because it makes it much, much harder to go after them. Remember they set up these special off-shore mechanisms specifically for the purpose of hiding and shadowing it from other prying eyes so I’m not surprised at all. I mean, there have been whistleblowers with the banking system and yet in some cases the whistleblowers themselves ended up in prison, right? So the banks have an enormous amount to protect and hide.
I smile at all this because it’s just, it’s kind of the way things are, it’s just – I continue to say – at what cost to society at large. Others will say, „Well, hey it’s whatever you can get away with and if it’s institutionalized and normalized then hey that’s the way it is“, and you know this kind of power it looks just, let’s just be real here. This kind of power doesn’t yield willingly; it’s just not going to give itself up even when it’s exposed.
LS: Does the NSA provide the other 15 US intelligence agencies that are working in other areas the possibilities of information gathering. The background of my question is, it may be true that the NSA does not engage in economic espionage directly. However, if the possibility of information gathering is provided to other agencies which then take care of the economic espionage field the statement of the NSA is true but the information is still ultimately wrong.
TD: Actually I agree. There’s one thing. NSA is a technical collection agency. It has no problem collecting information, the real question is what is it using it for? What is it doing with that information and there are arrangements and agreements within the US government for information that comes from NSA’s enormous reach and share it for so it can use it for other purpose even though that’s not why NSA took it in the first place. On the other hand I will tell you there are secret requirements it would take, it happen to be this particular source of method and you happen to hear it run across this, hey, please tell us. I mean, it happens.
If that happens it’s quite routine, so your question is a very loaded question in terms of yes, if you have the information and you’re gather it and you acquire it in secret and you can use to your advantage economically or for industrial espionage where you can learn about competitors on the world stage or to leverage your ability to improve your chances on gaining contracts, okay, or simply understanding what others are doing on the world stage economically. Then you will do so because it does give you enormous leverage. The leverage itself wants to know and have that knowledge.
LS: I think you have to guess about this question, but how is NSA intelligence provided to integrated and/or coordinated with the banking operations that are managing government accounts and interventions in the currency, commodity and financial markets, such as the Exchange Stabilization Fund, which is part of the United States Treasury but actually it’s hosted at the Federal Reserve of New York.
TD: Well, that’s a very tightly coupled arrangement, and the Treasury Department has its own intelligence unit. There is a direct relationship; it’s incredibly deep in the shadows. They obviously don’t talk about it because we’re talking about extraordinarily sensitive information. It’s information that not only translates into enormous power but it translates into enormous leverage in terms of billions and trillions of dollars. I mean we’re not talking just a few million or even hundreds of millions, we’re talking hundreds of billions plus that are routinely affected by decisions that are made and when you have this kind of intelligence it’s going to be used, alright.
So, but they don’t talk about that, but those arrangements are there. And there are units that share information understand that the funnel point for this [is] within the intelligence apparatus, you know there’s like 17 different intelligence agencies [and] one of them is inside the Treasury Department. Remember, you do have that relationship that extends to the Federal Reserve Bank, which by the way is a private entity, it is not, formally, part of the US government. If you actually look at it, it does not have a government frank when it sends out mail, it has its own, but that’s a much larger story, though, the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank.
LS: Yes, it surely is, but as you know Warren Buffett once talked about weapons of financial mass destruction relating to collateralized mortgages. Do you think there are some equivalent weapons of financial mass destruction at the disposal of those forces we are talking about and are they employed?
TD: Yes, you will see like blockades, financial blockades or lots of restrictions placed on trade. Yes, having these instruments of power especially over the flows of financial transactions that course back and forth gives you the ability to effect certain outcomes, and if you decide you want to shape world history then yes, you can withhold, withdraw or invest in ways that have enormous power. I mean money is the life blood, money is such a critical life blood, for finance, it’s such a critical life blood of economies, and if you restrict it or expand it depending, and if you marry that to political outcomes,you have, again, the phrase comes to mind, is enormous leverage over, in some cases, over elections or even the way in which certain activities will take place in other countries let alone your own.
Just look at the Wall Street Main Street dichotomy. I mean there is this Occupy Movement. They’re just highlighting the fact that you have this incredible redistribution of wealth and what’s been collateralized, what was collateralized was the future treasure. You basically collateralized all the assets of the country … essentially mortgaging your own future,but you collateralized and leverage it on an enormous scale and [if] that’s not sufficient then you create your own collateral and then play that game – okay – which is like a Ponzi scheme on steroids at the highest levels of government.
LS: Well, again, some kind of crack version. Is PRISM & Co. just the tip of the iceberg for example in comparison to the DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] project Total Information Awareness, respectively Trusted Information Environment?
TD: Well, let’s be reasonable. The Total Information Awareness environment never disappeared. There was a lot of push back, but it was, it went deeper into the shadows, and unfortunately this is typically the way it happens. When a secret program is exposed, particularly that kind of a program, post-9/11 it just goes deeper, and so Prism is one aspect of total information awareness.
They’re not going to call it that. They’re not going to stick, you know, a pyramid with an all-seeing eye on it. That was kind of obvious wasn’t it, so you make it less obviously and [in] this case you have secret agreements between major Internet service providers that grants NSA either near total access or direct access to just find anything in terms of subscriber information that’s resident on the servers, the stored units and facilities of those Internet service providers. When you say „tip of the iceberg“, I think there are many, many other arrangements especially the data provider, the data broker business.
These companies, by the way, are not doing this for nothing. They’re not doing this because it’s to benefit society. They’re companies and I always look at this from the dark side. I have to because of my own experiences and what I endured and the ordeal that I went through.
They’re not doing this just because it’s for national security. That’s partly the argument they already made with the senior executives of those companies which they brought in to provide cover for it, but the reality of it is that they’re getting rewarded. They’re getting paid.
The surveillance system, the surveillance state is a profit center for them.
So they get to leverage it and they get the leverage and data twice, okay so speaking of fungibility. They get to sell the subscribers their services for monthly fees or contracts and then they get to turn around and provide the same information okay to the government and get the government to pay for it as well and protect them. It’s a protection, I mean it’s a racket because they have immunity from any law suits that are brought their way, especially class action.
That was, in particular, when legislation was passed to give the telecoms immunity – it was so to avoid having to deal with the potential exposure, obviously real exposure, because subscribers didn’t opt in that their data would simply be given over to the government wholesale in secret. So they had to have protection.
LS: The population around the world is more or less completely left in the dark when it comes to espionage by means of electromagnetic radiation and seeing through walls from the outside by means of mobile stationary and air- or space-based systems. Are such things not only technically possible, but are rather common practice nowadays?
TD: Technically possible is an understatement. Yes, I’m certainly aware even from the time I was in NSA there were systems that would allow you to penetrate extraordinary types of surveillance that go far beyond what I call traditional, even in the electronic space, but when you’re talking about magnetic scanning systems yes, there’s a lot that can be detected. There are specialized vans that do that.
Is it persistent, meaning is it everywhere? No. This technology is still kind of expensive, but where it’s employed, yes I can effectively see through walls. It’s sort of [like] radar – you have radar, ground penetrating radar; this is the electromagnetic version of that that allows you to basically – I’m familiar with technology that basically when it’s directed it can scan for any and all electronic devices.
Let me give you one small example to illustrate what’s possible. When I used to live in England, you had to pay, when I used to fly in RC-135s [a large reconnaissance aircraft] – you had to pay [for a license] to listen to a radio [this was abolished in 1971] and watch television. They used to have vans that would drive around to detect whether or not the [TV] antenna was active, meaning it was actively receiving a signal, not transmitting actively receiving a signal and it could do geo-location. … if it detected an antenna that was actively receiving a signal then they would triangulate, they would find out did you have a license and if you did not have a license then you would be fined. Well take that to a much larger level, where I was aware in the military about equipment that would basically scan systems and it would pick up all, every signature it could find, both passive and active. So, yes it’s not just possible, it’s actual.
LS: What’s your opinion about the drift that the United States have taken in general? I mean, I can imagine that it must be a very painful thing for you.
TD: The drift, oh boy. I’ll say it this way. It’s probably the starkest way for me to put it. I flew in RC-135s, an electronic warfare aircraft, during the latter years of the Cold War. I was trained as a crypto-linguist. Those voice intercepts as well as electronic intelligence intercepts – so communications and electronics as we would call the business – COMINT, but SIGINT equaled COMINT plus ELIT; communications intelligence plus electronic intelligence.
The target country in which I became an expert over a number of years was East Germany, and I listened in on state-level communications, military communications, you name it, and that was just simply from what we can pick up, alright in many cases using highly specialized equipment that was quite classified. I never imagined, to answer your question even more directly, I never imagined that the template of the Stasi, the secret police in East Germany having the motto to „to know everything“, would be used as the playbook by the United States to create the largest surveillance apparatus that the world has ever seen.
I just never imagined it, and I never imagined that I would find myself criminalized by my own government simply because I supported and defended the Constitution and apparently had the naive belief that the idea of the Constitution for all its faults and failures and contradictions, right, that had endured though over 220 years, that somehow the sovereign rights, the inalienable rights of human beings didn’t matter when it came to the State wanting to protect me. There is this moral rectitude that the surveillance secrecy regime wraps itself in as did the Stasi.
Remember they were the protectors of the State, that somehow the moral high ground superseded any rights, freedoms or liberties that an individual citizen had, and so when you say the drift, this drift is quite dramatic. This drift is citizens that have rights are now becoming subjects to and of the State in which the State simply regards them as wards of the State, and you get to have privileges that are determined by the State, and you have to continue to prove that as a subject of the State that you are innocent. It’s a complete inverse of our Western system of justice.
I just never imagined that I would be having this conversation. Remember I was on the end of a very long stick in which that stick was the crowbar, the stake of national security that the government wanted to drive right through me, brought me out on the comments, the public comments, and say, „Look, this is what happens when you dare hold up a mirror. This is what happens when you dare speak truth to or of power. We will come down on you hard and hammer you good,“ because you know at one point during their investigation of me – and this is why it’s deeply personal I lived this surveillance state. I’ve lived the physical electronic surveillance. I’ve lived with the distinct reality that I could have spent many, many decades in prison.
At one point during their investigation they actually, the Chief Prosecutor, this is in 2008, two full years before I was actually indicted. He said, „Mr Drake, how would you like to spend the rest of your life in prison unless you co-operate with our investigation.“ I mean what does that mean? I mean on a deeply individual level that means that I have no life? The State can just take it away because they determine I’m a threat to the State. A threat to the State, why? Because I held up a mirror? That’s what happened, and drift means were going down a very slippery slope, and I don’t want us to go off into the deep end. I mean, Frank Church, the head of, he was Senator Frank Church.
The Church Committee had an extraordinary series of hearings revealing and disclosing all the abuses of power by the Nixon administration and even before the Nixon administration by previous administrations. He, himself, warned the nation what would happen with the advances in technology if we had to find ourselves in the abyss of a surveillance state, would we be able to pull ourselves back out of it.  He left open the question as to whether or not we would.
I don’t want to see the dark shadows, secrecy and surveillance becoming the norm. That’s not how we want to live as human beings. It means we’re going backwards in terms of our own progress in with respect of democracy and freedom and yes, too many, I mean too many, colleagues, too many people I know – remember I’m in a very unique position. Right now of all the prosecutions that have been brought forward by the Obama administration alone, unprecedented in US history, more than all other administration combined, people charged under Espionage Act, are non-spy activities. They are now considered more of a threat to the State than even the traditional spy.
They said that. They said that in my case. They said that I would have the blood of American soldiers on my hands. That what I did, threatened, endangered the lives of American soldiers. They even argued in the court room at my case and they even said this publicly that the whistleblower is a greater threat than traditional spies because traditional spies usually disclose their secrets in secret to another spy or another foreign intelligence operation or agency. When you leak it gets spread across all the newspapers for everybody to see, and that’s a greater threat to national security.
So, what is national security has now become the State religion, and you do not question, and that the high priest of secrecy are the rules. I mean what have we come to? I don’t want to live in that kind of society. I don’t want to be Winston in 1984 cowering in the corner because that was the only place he had any … where he couldn’t be seen by the cameras which meant they knew where he was. I mean I got colleagues right now who are under physical, intimidating physical and electronic surveillance because why? Because the State considers them a threat, and they’re trying to send a message.
It’s an extraordinary development and there’s people more than willing to engage in that conduct, and they’re more than willing to worship national security over the sovereignty of individuals. I don’t want to live that kind of a life, and that’s why I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because it matters to who we are as human beings.
I can stand as a free man. What I meant to say earlier, why am I going on about this. Everybody else has been charged under the Espionage Act or the equivalent. Now, I was the first one. I was the first person, the second, only the second whistleblower – the first was Ellsberg – but I was the first person under the Obama administration charged with espionage. Many others have followed, and yet as I look back I’m right now, other ironically enough, other than Edward Snowden, who’s „free in Russia“ – how ironic is that, okay? All of the others that have been charged or indicted with espionage are either in jail, okay; or are facing jail, okay; or have been charged with espionage and are facing many, many years in prison.
It’s an extraordinary development, and I mean it’s not just those charged with espionage; it’s all these other related areas … of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, like Jeremy Hammond, where you flight political activism disclosures of illegal and criminal activity on the part of the government and secret corporations in league with the government and ends up being criminalized, you’re being thrown into prison in his case and only pled out because the pressures are enormous.
I know, I was facing many, many decades in prison and part of the leverage that they had is like, „Well, if you plead out Mr Drake maybe you’ll only spend 15 years in prison or maybe 12 years or maybe we’ll be able to work it where it’s only five years.“ I mean there’s a whole history behind how far the government went to destroy me, but I’m here speaking to you as a free human being. Do you know what it means to be able to keep your freedom after the government’s spent so many years trying to take that away from you. They mean more to me now than ever.
LS: Whose interests are ultimately served by secret intelligence agencies in the West?
TD: Well, it’s become less and less the citizens and has become more and more a protectorate for the powers that be.
LS: Yes, but didn’t they set up, for example, the CIA in the first place?
TD: See, I’ve said this and a lot of people look at me funny and even take exception to it. The real history is, you have to context this crucial to understanding all this. The CIA which, you know its predecessor was OSS, you know the Office of Strategic Services born during World War II.
LS: Which was placed, by the way, in the financial district of New York.
TD: That’s correct, that should tell you something and, of course, those links go back even further. I mean the culpability of financial interests are at the center of so much in terms of even modern history. I think modern history, if you go back even into the 19th century, you know it’s an extraordinary history to understand it but most people will give it short shift because so much of it is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Yes, isn’t it interesting that the OSS was centered in the financial district. That should tell you something; but that gave them enormous cover for the operations they want to engage in.
Well, out of World War II came the National Security Act in 1947, which created the CIA, it created the Department of Defense, it created the Air Force. Five years later it was followed by a secret directive, still secret to this day, signed by Truman creating the NSA, and so that whole apparatus so closely aligned with the heart and center of power within the United States but politically and financially and economically over time gives that enormous, enormous power and with great power comes great responsibility.
The problem is, when you enshroud it, wrap it in secrecy, then the opportunities for enormous irresponsibility are there to do. They are there to take place, and that’s precisely what’s happened, and it’s serving private interests – it’s clearly not serving public interest.
LS: In that regard, I would encourage our readers to take a look at the professional background of, for example, Clarke Clifford, James Forrestal, Ferdinand Eberstadt, William J Donavon, Allen Dulles, William A Jackson, Frank Wisner, William Casey, Stanley Sporkin, David Dougherty and so on – because they all came from or went to Wall Street. Okay, but this was just an aside. Coming back to my questions, what would you recommend what countries outside the Anglo-American sphere should do in order to cope with the problems existing through the activities by NSA & Co?
TD: I would separate from them. I really would. I would say, your nations own sovereignty and your citizens have been compromised. You have to assume that. You unfortunately now, even where there are legitimate agreements between governments and even those security services, you cannot trust, you cannot, you just simply cannot because it’s gone far beyond the bounds as it were, beyond the bale of agreements that exist for legitimate purposes, in terms of threats to international order and stability, and [I] recognize in saying that I’m saying a lot as an American citizen.
You know can you trust certain providers of, and it’s already happening and in fact US companies are now complaining to the Obama administration that the secret agreements and arrangement and the surveillance is causing them to lose business, and that begins to wake people up. Okay, when you start losing business you’re unable to compete, or it’s increasingly challenging to compete on the international market because others don’t trust you. That means you’re going to lose business and you’re going to lose jobs even when you have international reach. You’ll be frozen out.
Increasingly people will go to others, and I’ll be asking in those countries – I’d be asking hard questions, and I’ve said this to many, many reporters and journalists and particularly from Germany, you’ve got to ask the hard questions of your own government. You’ve got to ask the hard questions about what your own security services, what are they hiding? What do they know but they don’t wish their own public to know.
LS: If I could ask you, what were the most important questions that you would raise to the German government?
TD: I’d ask them to come clean on other than legitimate agreements, the agreements they have between the BND [foreign intelligence agency] for example and NSA. You know the BND has been strangely quiet about all this, they really have. They have a lot to hide. They really do and I, people ask me, „Well, what is it?“ I said I don’t have direct insight. I’m well aware of agreements, but the agreements I was aware of were legitimate agreements.
We’re talking about the other agreements that no one wants to talk about. These are access agreements. These are ones where there’s collusion. These are ones in which clearly they would not want German citizens to know precisely how far their own country has been compromised by their own security services. So it’s kind of easy, and I say hide behind all their NSA revelations while you remain in the dark.
But I’ve also said you need whistleblowers from within those security services to come forward and truly to further reveal how far your own rights, they’re ostensively protected under the German Constitution, are being violated. But I also understand the paradox because see this is what happened after 9/11. I’m using Germany because I’m more familiar with German history and German politics, and the dynamics going back over 50, 60 years okay.
I’m well aware that Germany itself was declared target number one post-9/11 by NSA for collection and intelligence and surveillance and because there are so many US facilities in Germany it was a platform to be able to do that – both within Germany and using it as a base to conduct other operations outside of Germany – I mean the post-World War II occupation and then ultimately, you know, independence and the, of course, the re-unification with East Germany. You had this – again, it’s this paradox, and so NSA chose to make Germany target number one.
I understand because so many of the hijackers of 9/11 lived, transited through or trained in Germany, but I get they needed partnerships and agreements to deal with the threat. It’s gone far beyond that. This whole thing [is] in order to know anything about a threat – okay, ostensibly for the purpose of dealing with the threat you have to know everything there is to know and that’s available to us, and who cares if some data about some German citizens on a vast scale, millions and millions of Germans, is caught up in that, because hey if they’ve got nothing to hide they’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re okay. Gee, I used to … that’s, you know, that nothing to hide. Guess who said that? That was Goebbels. That’s a quote attributed to Goebbels during the Nazi era.
I just shiver when I hear this because it gives excuse, it gives rise and justification for a national security state mind-set and history is not kind. It just isn’t, and we are not immune. I’ve said this to Americans. We are not immune from what happened in the 1930s. People say, „What a minute Tom, you’re an alarmist. We’re different. We’re America,“ I said, „Really, are we really that different?“
If you go back even in terms of the Founding Fathers, who were the elite of the day by the way, okay. One of the reasons they want to protect their own, you know, their own minority, they want to protect their own rights. Ironically enough they had to extend those rights to everybody in order to protect their own. Interesting was that in terms of history but if you go back … there was great concern about what would happen to centralized power. History’s not kind. I thought in terms of Western history that you know go back to the Magna Carta. I can’t speak to other history in terms of Eastern and other cultures, but I can certainly speak to Western democracy based on, you know, based on Greek democracy in Athens right?
Although a lot of that is shrouded in myth in legend and a lot of it is not true but what about the Magna Carta? You know that was a huge breath of fresh air that the king simply couldn’t rule because they said that God said they could, and gave them special dispensation. The serfs and the subjects did have rights, okay. Well we’re going backwards. It’s somehow because it’s national security, wow I guess I never. I mean look – somehow we’ve turned this terrorism thing into justification because, guess what, meanwhile you have all the other secret stuff going on.
LS: Since you mentioned Joseph Goebbels, we know for sure that he analyzed public relations techniques in the US and it seems a little bit that in turn some people in America have studied his propaganda techniques.
TD: Again, I shudder when I’m going to be responding because I just, I shiver at the reality of the dark side of history from the 20th century.
LS: Sometimes one of the frightening thoughts that I have is that America needs to take a look in the mirror and see that they have become pretty much Nazi-like and what they fought. They have fought, and they [have] become pretty similar to the enemy.
TD: Actually, unfortunately, there’s a number of people who actually admire the Nazis. They admire that enormous power, and it’s like, well because we’re America – I mean, this is the thing that really, really concerns me, that somehow because we’re America we have special protection. We are exceptional but that allows us the license, it gives, it grants us license to engage in the very practices the Nuremberg Trials put in stark relief.
I’ve spoken with one of the lead lawyers on the Nuremberg Trials. It was an extraordinary conversation over many hours. I just never imagined that here we are engaging in the equivalent. Somehow, you know, I’m just following orders. That’s the very thing that I took exception to, was orders. Somehow the orders took priority over rule of law, and then rule of law got corrupted by passing and enabling that legislation, like article 48 [which allowed the president, under certain circumstances, to take emergency measures without the prior consent of the Reichstag] in the Weimar Republic.
The history here is really unnerving, and that somehow we’re immune to that. We’re not immune at all. We’re not and you’re already seeing a police state, a virtual. I’ve called, I’ve said a digital fence already surrounds us.
We saw the physical wall of East Germany to keep people in, right? Well, we already have a digital fence that tracks us. I’ll just give you an example of this, Lars: When I go home I often go home from the beltway around Washington DC. I head north on Route 29 and the main intersection just north of the beltway. When I first started going that way I would just see all these, what would appear to be random flashes at the intersection. It dawned on me shortly thereafter that was no random flashes. Those are simply cameras taking pictures of license plates, 24/7 365, and there’s many, many of those cameras set-up all around DC.
What does it mean to be tracked and monitored like this? I mean ultimately it’s about control, about social control. It’s about knowing where people are anytime you want to know about them. I don’t want to live in that kind of a society because it has an extraordinary corrosive effect, yet the technology is benign.
It’s always about what do you use it for, right? Those cameras aren’t there to detect red-light violators, you know running red lights. It’s simply to take pictures of license plates. I didn’t opt in, but I guess the license plate is public because I can actually see it on the car. So if I’m not in public then its fair game, but what am I doing with that information? See it comes back to what do I do with the information, and if we don’t stand up for, you know, people – a vacuum is created. If you don’t stand up for your sovereign rights, there are those who will take them away from you and they love having power.
It’s a pathological condition when you actually derive pleasure from having power over others. You will use power. You will turn, you will manipulate. You will turn them into subjects and objects of your attention. That’s not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That means you’re now subject to and subject of somebody else and the last time I checked in human history it’s a form of slavery or indentured servant or a serf.
LS: A lot of talk is going on in your country about socialism. I think this is a very phony discussion, because wouldn’t you agree with me that it’s time to smell the coffee and talk about fascism in the US?
TD: Actually, that’s the word … Anytime I used it, when I use the word „fascism“ people cringe. They don’t even want to go there. Even when the overwhelming evidence says that we actually have a virtual fascist government that has extraordinary ties to Wall Street, the financial banking sector and large major corporations on a truly extraordinary scale. It’s a full argument, the „socialism“ thing is foe. There are people I know in my extended networks that are progressives; unfortunately they’re not stopping to smell the coffee because the face of fascism is – it’s not a pleasant thing to look at because that means you’re looking in the mirror.
LS: And you [the United States] have fought the fascists in World War II.
TD: Yes, we sure did. I mean, my own father fought in World War II, and I see one of the silver linings of my own case – I did plead out to a minor misdemeanor for exceeding authorized use for a computer. I had community service for 240 hours. I interviewed almost 50 veterans of World War II to the present day and the World War II veterans feared for the future of our republic. They do, and they said, „Geez, everything I fought against in World War II, was it in vain?“ Some of them are actually asking that question that we’re becoming the very thing that we fought against.
LS: Well, it was said that the next time fascism comes, it comes in the form of anti-fascism. 
TD: Usually it does and wrapped in the robes of moral rectitude and patriotism.
1. Compare Jason Leopold: „Revealed: NSA pushed 9/11 as key ’sound bite‘ to justify surveillance“, published here.
2. Regarding the Echelon Interception System, see for example this report of the European Parliament that was published on July 11, 2001, here.
3. US Senator Frank Church said in 1975: „I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [the National Security Agency] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.“
4. It was the Italian author Ignazio Silone who said that if fascism would come back, it wouldn’t say: „I am fascism“; it would say: „I am anti-fascism.“