John Kiriakou, co-host of "Loud and Clear" on Radio Sputnik, joined By Any Means Necessary Wednesday to discuss the evolution and increased normalization of US domestic spying since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In a 2018 ruling released Tuesday with partial redactions, the FISC found that the FBI had been spying on Americans by accessing a database of information on Americans through a surveillance program intended to spy on foreign nationals. The court found that the FBI had spied on Americans, misusing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows intelligence officials to monitor emails and phone calls on foreigners not living in the US.
“This is the nature of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, that they push the limits of the law to the breaking point and keep pushing until some court somewhere at some level tells them not to push anymore. This is one of those examples where they pushed and pushed, not because they needed to crack a case or to bring terrorists to justice, but because they could. That’s the only reason. It was fun. They wanted to type in their own names or check our their friends or their spouses or ex-girlfriends or whatever and see what the NSA [National Security Agency] had on people. That’s not what the law was meant to do. First of all, it’s a bad law. Secondly, that’s not what it’s meant to do, to essentially electronically harass people,” Kiriakou told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon.
“I think we should not have these mass surveillance programs. When I first started working at the CIA in the very first week of January in 1990, the policy at NSA was very, very clear on the collection of the communications of American citizens or US persons, that is any person here on a green card. And the policy was this: if NSA accidentally listened or intercepted an American’s phone call or a US person’s phone call, they had to stop immediately when they realized it’s a US person, they had to delete it from all NSA systems, they informed the CIA and any other recipient of the document that they in turn had to delete it from their systems, they sent a notification to the White House and a notification to Congress, the oversight committees, and then they had to make written steps of what they were going to do to prevent it from happening in the future.” Kiriakou noted.
“Now, that’s all they do: all they do is spy on Americans, and the FBI knows and the CIA knows that they are spying on Americans constantly, and so they’re abusing the system,” he said.
“We have also seen a lessening in congressional support for these different parts of the Patriot Act. While we’re not there yet, I think that thanks to [NSA whistleblower] Ed Snowden, thanks to court rulings like this and thanks to good journalists really digging up this information and reporting on these abuses, I think eventually we will get to the point where at least these elements of the Patriot Act are going to be thrown out,” Kiriakou said.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act was signed into law by then-US President George W. Bush in 2001 and, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, violates the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that the government cannot conduct a search without a warrant and probable cause.
“That’s how we got to this law: because of the crazy fear after 9/11 or in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Congress gave the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities literally a blank check to do anything they wanted, and they like being able to do anything they want. And so, whenever somebody in Congress says, ‘You know, this is an abuse of the system. This isn’t what the law was supposed to do in the first place. We are going to take a look at these different elements,’ these agencies go before the Oversight Committee, and they say: ‘9/11! We can’t have another 9/11! We need these tools!’ And here we are, 18 years later and we still see these Patriot Act elements being used against us.
“Even though the trend has been in the right direction, at least since the  Snowden revelation, we’re just not there yet … Most people aren’t talking about these issues. These are very basic issues of civil liberties and personal freedoms; this is what people lost their lives for through the 1960s and the 1970s,” Kiriakou explained.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.