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    Secret Surveillance Gives CIA Power to Subvert US Domestic Political Process

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    The secret warrantless surveillance program operated under Executive Order 12333 gives the CIA and other US intelligence services the potential power to subvert the political process in the United States just as they have done in many other countries, analysts told Sputnik.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch, a prominent watchdog group, said it had obtained documents documenting the Department of Defense’s policy on authorizing warrantless monitoring of US citizens and green-card holders considered to be "homegrown violent extremists."

    Secret Surveillance Puts US Political Processes at Risk

    The huge scale of the secret surveillance program posed clear dangers to undermine and manipulate democratic political processes within the United States, cyberwar and data collection expert and author William Blunden told Sputnik.

    "With decades of experience in manipulating affairs abroad there's a very concrete threat of the CIA wielding its tools inside American borders," he said. "The perils of domestic covert operations are obvious given the nature of the CIA."

    Blunden said the CIA had repeatedly carried out successful political coups and otherwise manipulated elections and political processes in countries around the world over the 70 years of its existence.

    Blunden described the system of surveillance as "a vast secret organization accountable only to the President which has since the end of World War II conspired to infiltrate and influence political systems in countries like Australia, Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Japan, Italy and more recently Syria."

    Many Americans still believed that the CIA was prohibited by law from operating within its own country, but that had not been the case in at least 36 years since President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12333 in December 1981, Blunden recalled.

    "It's a common misconception that the CIA is prohibited from launching domestic campaigns within the United States. One look at the General Provisions detailed in Executive Order 12333 demonstrates that this is not the case," he said.

    Blunden pointed out that in the executive order "special activities" — the legal term for the CIA's clandestine operations — were defined as activities conducted in support of national foreign policy objectives abroad.

    "The significance of this wording becomes apparent in light of the fact that the definition of special activities prior to Executive Order 12333 was ‘activities conducted abroad in support of national foreign policy objectives,’" he said.

    Blunden recalled that US Senator Dianne Feinstein, normally a stalwart defender of the intelligence community, on March 11, 2014 warned at the Senate's lectern that the CIA may have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the US Constitution.

    "Keep in mind this is a lawmaker who in the past had defended drone strikes, NSA surveillance and the Patriot Act. When you've lost Dianne Feinstein… that's a huge red flag," he warned.

    Former President Barack Obama had not restricted the legal powers of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies to operate secretly within their own country against its citizens. Instead, he had vastly extended them, Blunden pointed out.

    "There have been … developments since Reagan signed Executive Order 12333 which have expanded the reach of the CIA. … When Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, it contained provisions to explicitly enable state-sponsored propaganda targeting US citizens," he said.

    Procedures approved by then-US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and CIA Director John Brennan in early January 2017 before they left office specifically authorized the CIA to "participate in organizations in the United States," Blunden noted.

    Pentagon has Legal Right to Release Surveillance Data at Will

    The Defense Department similarly has been authorized to collect as well as release information as it deems appropriate.

    "Likewise, the Defense Department manual 5240.01, ‘Procedures Governing the Conduct of DoD Intelligence Activities,’ grants the Pentagon the authority to ‘collect, retain and disseminate information concerning US persons," he said.

    Obama had reiterated his full personal confidence in Brennan even after it was discovered that the CIA had spied on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Blunden commented.

    Former National Security Agency (NSA) Technical Director William Binney, who became a major whistleblower on the agency’s practices, agreed that the enormous mass surveillance program was continuing and was not justified while breaking the clear intent of the US Constitution.

    "This [is] all unjustified surveillance in violation of the Constitution that as far as I can tell has not stopped," he said.

    Human Rights Watch said the documents it had obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed how thoroughly the US public had been kept in the dark about warrantless surveillance under Executive Order 12333.

    The watchdog group said the US federal government may be carrying out monitoring that poses serious problems for human rights and that Congress should seek more information about what the intelligence agencies were doing in that area.

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    Tags:
    spying, government, domestic politics, covert action, surveillance, Human Rights Watch, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States
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