Last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” former analyst for the National Security Agency Russell Tice revealed that the NSA had “monitored all communications” of Americans and specifically targeted journalists:
TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans’ communications — faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn’t matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications. [...] But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.
OLBERMANN: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the “New York Times?” Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?
TICE: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.
Tice, a major whistleblower who helped reveal President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program to the New York Times in 2005, also told Olbermann that the agency sought specifically “to be deceptive” to prevent congressional committees from learning more about the program, calling it “a shell game”:
TICE: The agency would tailor some of their briefings to try to be deceptive for — whether it be, you know, a congressional committee or someone they really didn’t want to know exactly what was going on. So there would be a lot of bells and whistles in a briefing, and quite often, you know, the meat of the briefing was deceptive.
Watch portions of the interview (full interview here):
In October, two other whistleblowers told ABC News that the NSA “routinely” listened in on Americans’ phone calls and agents would often share “salacious or tantalizing” intercepted calls with each other. All this despite Bush’s frequent protestations that his illegal wiretaping program was “limited,” that it targeted only “a phone call of an al Qaeda, known al Qaeda suspect,” and that he ensured “that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect.”
To the end, Bush and Cheney defended the program. In his final days in office, Cheney declared that “it always aggravated” him that the Times won a Pulitzer for exposing his administration’s illegal spying program.
Olbermann will interview Tice again on his program tonight, airing on MSNBC at 8 pm EST. ThinkProgress is interested to know whether Tice ever experienced political interference while working for the agency. What questions do you have?