Brian Ross and Richard Esposito of ABC News are reporting that a senior federal law enforcement official told them that the government is tracking the phone numbers they call in an effort to root out confidential sources:
"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.
ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.
Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.
One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.Wayne Madsen has been reporting on this NSA program, code-named Firstfruits since May, 2005:
Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports.
People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.
Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.
The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.
A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.
According to those familiar with Firstfruits, Bill Gertz of The Washington Times features prominently in the database. Before Hayden's reign and during the Clinton administration, Gertz was often leaked classified documents by anti-Clinton intelligence officials in an attempt to demonstrate that collusion between the administration and China was hurting U.S. national security. NSA, perhaps legitimately, was concerned that China could actually benefit from such disclosures.Madsen writes: "The organization partly involved in directing this program is the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC), a component of the National Intelligence Council. The last reported chairman of the inter-intelligence agency group was Dr. Larry Gershwin, the CIA's adviser on science and technology matters, a former national intelligence officer for strategic programs, and one of the primary promoters of the Iraqi disinformation con man and alcoholic who was code named Curveball":
In order that the database did not violate United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18, which specifies that the names of "U.S. persons" are to be deleted through a process known as minimization, the names of subject journalists were blanked out. However, in a violation of USSID 18, certain high level users could unlock the database field through a super-user status and view the "phantom names" of the journalists in question. Some of the "source" information in Firstfruits was classified—an indication that some of the articles in database were not obtained through open source means. In fact, NSA insiders report that the communications monitoring tasking system known as ECHELON is being used more frequently for purely political eavesdropping having nothing to do with national security or counter terrorism.
In addition, outside agencies and a "second party," Great Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), are permitted to access the journalist database. Firstfruits was originally developed by the CIA but given to NSA to operate with CIA funding. The database soon grew to capacity, was converted from a Lotus Notes to an Oracle system, and NSA took over complete ownership of the system from the CIA.
Tens of thousands of articles are found in Firstfruits and part of the upkeep of the system has been outsourced to outside contractors such as Booz Allen, which periodically hosts interagency Foreign Denial and Deception meetings within its Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or "SCIF" in Tyson's Corner, Virginia. Currently, in addition to NSA and GCHQ, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) routinely access the database, which is in essence a classified and more powerful version of the commercial NEXIS news search database.
In addition to Gertz, other journalists who feature prominently in the database include Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker; author and journalist James Bamford, James Risen of The New York Times, Vernon Loeb of The Washington Post, John C. K. Daly of UPI, and this journalist (Wayne Madsen).
Gershwin was also in charge of the biological weapons portfolio at the National Intelligence Council where he worked closely with John Bolton and the CIA's Alan Foley -- director of the CIA's Office of Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) -- and Frederick Fleitz -- who Foley sent from WINPAC to work in Bolton's State Department office -- in helping to cook Iraqi WMD "intelligence" on behalf of Vice President Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby. In addition to surveilling journalists who were writing about operations at NSA, Firstfruits particularly targeted State Department and CIA insiders who were leaking information about the "cooking" of pre-war WMD intelligence to particular journalists, including those at the New York Times, Washington Post, and CBS 60 Minutes.
The vice chairman of the FDDC, James B. Bruce, wrote an article in Studies in Intelligence in 2003, "This committee represents an interagency effort to understand how foreign adversaries learn about, then try to defeat, our secret intelligence collection activities." In a speech to the Institute of World Politics, Bruce, a CIA veteran was also quoted as saying, "We've got to do whatever it takes -- if it takes sending SWAT teams into journalists' homes -- to stop these leaks." He also urged, "stiff new penalties to crack down on leaks, including prosecutions of journalists that publish classified information." The FDDC appears to be a follow-on to the old Director of Central Intelligence's Unauthorized Disclosure Analysis Center (UDAC).
Meanwhile, Madsen's disclosures about Firstfruits have set off a crisis in the intelligence community and in various media outlets. Journalists who have contacted Wayne Madsen Reports since the revelation of the Firstfruits story are fearful that their conversations and e-mail with various intelligence sources have been totally compromised and that they have been placed under surveillance that includes the use of physical tails. Intelligence sources who are current and former intelligence agency employees also report that they suspect their communications with journalists and other parties have been surveilled by technical means.
This past January, 2006, Madsen reported:
The National Security Agency's (NSA) illegal database code-named Firstfruits, which contains transcripts of the communications of and articles written by U.S. journalists about NSA has undergone a name change. Inside sources report that because of the "compromise" of the system, the name of the database has been changed from Firstfruits. However, the database continues to be maintained under a new cover term.
Just as disturbing, but curiouser:
NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, and their journalist and congressional contacts. Wayne Madsen Reports has learned that the National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies -- including the CIA and DIA -- and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices.
In addition, beginning in 2001 but before the 9-11 attacks, NSA began to target anyone in the U.S. intelligence community who was deemed a "disgruntled employee."
Why before 9/11/01?
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