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Dragnet Nation: Julia Angwin’s Quest for Privacy & Ray McGovern on FISA Court’s “Raw Take” Order

Web ExclusiveMarch 12, 2014
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In Part 2 of our interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Julia Angwin, she explains how she got her children interested in privacy by making it fun. “I convinced them they could have secrets from me,” she says. We also speak with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern about the newly revealed “Raw Take” order that weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Watch Part 1 of this interview.

Read Chapter 1 of Dragnet Nation.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guests are Julia Angwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She used to work with The Wall Street Journal, now at ProPublica. And her new book is Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance.

We are also joined by the former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who is recently back from Russia, where he joined with others from the various intelligence agencies, who themselves had been targeted, to give Edward Snowden an award in Russia, where Edward Snowden has temporary political asylum.

And we’re joined by is Mike German, a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. From 1988 to 2004, he served as an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism.

So there is a lot of experience here, and I want to talk about that, but I want to go to Julia. Just tell us the exercises you engaged in to begin to figure out how much your privacy was being invaded.

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, I basically conducted this exercise because I felt that, you know, we are always told that we have made the choice to give up our privacy, so I—and that we, as—

AMY GOODMAN: By what? Going online?

JULIA ANGWIN: Just by going online and choosing to use free services, and that we really have given it up, right, for security for free services. And so I decided, OK, I’m going to withdraw that choice and see if I can still live in the modern world, because theoretically I can opt out. And so, I was successful at some things I did. I stopped using Google Search, and I started using this—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: What’s the problem with Google Search?

JULIA ANGWIN: So, what I didn’t like about Google Search was that they keep all of my search records, right? If you’re logged in, like I mostly was—my records were dating back to 2006, every search I had conducted, and it was all logged in there in my history. You can find it in yours also. And it’s really disturbing to look at, because you see that every single thought that goes through your head, you basically google it. So, in the morning, it was like I googled the weather, then I googled my breakfast. I mean, I didn’t—it seemed to me that I was—there was nothing in my head that didn’t come out into a Google search.

AMY GOODMAN: But what about when you write “clear history.”

JULIA ANGWIN: You can clear your history, but Google also saves history on their end tied to your IP address. And so, the thing is, even when you log out, they are—their business is keeping records and analyzing data. That’s what they do. They offer that data to advertisers as a way to convince them to advertise on Google. And so, I decided that basically I just didn’t want that record. I was also mad Google wouldn’t let me download it myself, because I thought maybe I would learn something about myself by, like, watching my crazy mind jumping around, but I can’t get it, right? They have it, but I can’t download it. So I left and joined a DuckDuckGo, which is this—

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, did you ask Google? Did you say, “I want my history”?

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, I did, actually. They have a section of their website where you can take some of your data—it’s called the Data Liberation Project at Google—and so you can liberate some of your data, like your contacts and some of your—you can download some of your emails and several things. So they do have some of that, but the search, which is actually, I think, the bulk of their business, is not part of the Data Liberation Project. And I asked them; they said they didn’t know when they would ever add it. So, I don’t know.

So I went to DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t save any history. So they’re just a privacy-protecting search engine, and they don’t—


JULIA ANGWIN: Yeah, DuckDuckGo. They’re a small startup near Philadelphia. And, you know, at first it was hard to adjust to a new search engine, because they don’t fill out your sentence, right? Google knows what you’re thinking. I mean, that’s the whole point. They already watched my mind for all those years; they know. So, I had to work a little harder, right? I had to actually finish my sentences and actually tell them that I lived in New York, because otherwise they would give me results for London or something, because they actually didn’t know. But in the end, I started to feel that I was controlling my destiny more, because I knew exactly what I wanted, whereas Google was guessing for me, and I didn’t necessarily want them to guess all the time.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And can you talk about, Julia Angwin, the extent of the surveillance? You also spoke about a couple who met on an online chat forum, which was supposed to be private, and then it turned out, in fact, that it wasn’t.

JULIA ANGWIN: Right. So this was a really sad story. These two people—it was one of the stories that is the promise of the Internet, right? Two people across the world, one in Australia, one in Arkansas, who never would have met, but shared a similar disease and met on a forum for patients, that was a password-protected forum for patients to talk about their diseases. And they were having a really kind of emotional conversation on this forum, when they got a notice from the forum operator that there had been a break-in. And so, this big media-monitoring company, Nielsen, which I think most people know, has a social-media-monitoring business where they try to monitor online buzz and sell—they sell that to big companies who want to know what their products are being talked about. And so, theoretically, we don’t know why Nielsen broke in, but probably they were trying to figure out what patients were talking about to sell that to somebody who is interested in what patients talk about. And so, these people were really horrified to find out that Nielsen was breaking in, but the notice also said, “Oh, by the way, in case you don’t know, this website is also selling your data.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But isn’t that illegal, I mean, the fact that Nielsen, which is a giant company, that it intervened in a forum that’s supposed to be private? Isn’t there some protection for the people—

JULIA ANGWIN: There—so, if the website itself had decided to bring legal action against Nielsen, they may have had a case. But those cases are hard to bring. There’s a lot of grey area. And Nielsen immediately apologized, said, “We’re not going to break in again.” And so, no legal action was brought.

AMY GOODMAN: They were talking about depression.

JULIA ANGWIN: They were talking about depression, yes. And what—I think the thing that was interesting, talking to them, they were more upset about the website selling their data than they were about Nielsen, because, OK, a break-in happens, but they were not aware that in the fine print of that site, they were being monetized, right? And I feel like that’s the issue of privacy these days, is so often we think of privacy as intrusion, but in fact it’s something we authorize in the fine print.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the moment you decided to buy a prepaid cellphone.

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, see, the problem with the cellphone was I was trying to figure out how can I protect my privacy with a cellphone, because you carry it with you everywhere. It’s the world’s best tracking device. I’m sure that when you were at the CIA, you would have loved to have your targets carry these things. So, I found that there really isn’t a way to—

AMY GOODMAN: And we actually pay to carry them.


AMY GOODMAN: We have to buy these.

JULIA ANGWIN: Yes, exactly. It’s sort of like incredible. So, the thing is that they’re always transmitting stuff that you’re not aware of. They have to talk to the cell tower to give you a signal. They often are sort of talking to wi-fi connections nearby. The apps can be sending data. And so, I realized that I really didn’t have that much control over what it was transmitting, even when I wasn’t using it. So I realized the best protection I could have was to get a cellphone that wasn’t tied to my identity. So I basically went and bought something for cash, prepaid, with a fake name, and—which is legal—and carried that around. Now, the problem is, this is a thin veneer of privacy, because I go to all the same locations, I call all the same people, so somebody who looked at that data would be able to tell. But basically I thought, well, at least they should work a little harder to get me.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how do you respond, Julia Angwin, to the people who say, “Well, we have nothing to hide, so who cares if the government knows where we’re going, either through our cellphone, or what we’re searching for on Google, or anything like that?”

JULIA ANGWIN: Right. Well, I think that—what I say to those people is: Information is power, right? So, the more information that you give to the government, the more power they have over you, right? And similarly commercially, the more power—information you give to the cellphone company or to Google, the more power they have over you. One thing that I had been investigating in my years at The Wall Street Journal was, there are a lot of companies that are trying to figure out ways to show different prices to people online based on the personal information they have about them. So, essentially, we’re going to get to a world where they’re going to know that I have five more dollars in my pocket than you, and my price is going to be $5 higher, because that’s the data that they have. And so you lose in a negotiation, generally, when you have less information than the other person.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is free wi-fi not really free?

JULIA ANGWIN: So, free wi-fi is something that I have actually turned off on my phone, because what is happening with free wi-fi is that people are using the wi-fi signal on your phone to sort of track you. So there’s shopping malls and retailers who actually ping the wi-fi on your phone to see you as you’re walking by, because they want to get into the tracking business. I mean, everybody wants to be in the surveillance business. We’re just lucky our neighbors are not yet doing this. But they will be. And so, the wi-fi signal is basically a—is a democratized tracking technique. Anyone could do it. I could drive around with a signal to pick up wi-fi. So I’ve essentially stopped using wi-fi altogether.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Julia, you went to Berlin to visit the archive of the East German secret police, the Stasi.

JULIA ANGWIN: Mm-hmm, yeah.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain why you did that and what you found?

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, you know, some people accuse me of being too paranoid, possibly, and so I thought, “OK, fine. I’m going to look and see: What did the most repressive surveillance regime that we know of in the modern world have on their citizens, and how does that compare? Am I overdramatizing this situation?” So I went to the Stasi archive, and I obtained, through their equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act request, a few files, which I got translated. And I looked at them, and, you know, there were handwritten dozens of pages. But in totality, they were not really as robust as like an average Facebook profile, and certainly not anywhere near as revealing as my Google search results. And, by the way, it was interesting to learn that they only had files on one-quarter of the population, which took them a lot of work to surveil those one-quarter. Now we’re in a situation where, clearly, the government and institutions have files on everybody. So, really, the question is: How can we prevent our regime from using that in a way to repress us? And that is, I think, the question, is really one of oversight.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is Daniel Jaye?

JULIA ANGWIN: So, Daniel Jaye is an interesting guy. He actually invented sort of the way that we’re tracked online by advertising technology. So if you’ve ever had an ad follow you around on the Internet—which most people have had that experience, right?—he’s the one who came up with that idea. And so, he came up with it back in—right around the dotcom boom. And then for—nobody was interested at that time, but then, around 2007, it really regained—it had a resurgence. What’s interesting about him is he thought it was going to be privacy protecting, because you are only identified by like a little number—123456, this person has gone to these websites. But what—he has actually kind of turned against it, because he finds that his innovation is now being used to connect people to their actual identities. People like Facebook and Google actually often, if you have an account with them, when they track you on other websites, know who you are. And so, he is concerned that his anonymous creation is actually becoming less anonymous.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what’s the relationship between corporate surveillance and government surveillance of users, of people online? Is it the same thing? Is it different? Do they have the same—

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, you know, corporate surveillance can seem more benign, and sometimes it is. But I think the one lesson I feel like I’ve taken, the biggest lesson, from the Snowden revelations has been how aggressive the government is about going to these private companies for data, because, to them, this is incredible. Google has so much more, right? They want it. So we have seen that the—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Google has so much more than the government.

JULIA ANGWIN: Yes, right. I mean, the government actually does have limits on their collection. Now, they don’t always obey them, as we have seen from some of their violations mentioned in the FISC. The foreign intelligence court has dinged NSA. But, ultimately, they do have to obey some laws, and—whereas Google has everything. They have every map you’ve ever looked at. They have every, you know, search. They have your email content. So, we have seen that the government comes to them repeatedly with requests, secret court orders for the documents. And then we’ve also seen some occasions where they’ve hacked in to different parts of the Internet to try to get that data other ways.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And there are no restraints at all on companies keeping this information or even disseminating it to other companies?

JULIA ANGWIN: Right now, yeah, we’re one of the only Western nations without a baseline privacy law that basically puts some baseline limit on what commercial data gatherers can do. Most Western countries have—at least offer citizens the ability to see their files, correct them, and sometimes remove them.

AMY GOODMAN: You write about how an innocent citizen can be placed in a police lineup and suspected of a crime. Tell us more about that.

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, so, before ubiquitous surveillance, which, by the way, I would just point out, was only 10 years ago, none of us probably, I hope—I mean, I didn’t, at least—have a police file. Right? They didn’t have a reason to track me, so they didn’t have my information. And that was a situation I was really happy about. Now, of course, all sorts of governments, from state and local to the federal, can sweep up tons of information and then sort of trawl through it for people that might be doing suspicious things.

I tell the story in my book of one man who is a boiler repairman in—near Boston. And he basically showed up one day and found that his driver’s license had been revoked. He saw a notice. He went to a court hearing. They said, “Show up at this hearing. We’ll tell you why.” And they—when he went there, they said, “Our facial recognition technology has identified you as looking too similar in your photo to another person, so we think you guys have done identity theft. Prove who you are.” Right? So he had to prove that he was who he was. And so, this is sort of—the presumption of guilt is reversed, right? He has to prove his innocence to get out of the lineup.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the web camera. It’s just become the webcam—


AMY GOODMAN: —that almost everyone has right now, because if you take pictures, you have it. GCHQ, it turns out, was using the images when you were in a Yahoo chat with someone. But talk about how often this is used. I remember, going back a year or two, that kid in—what state was it? Was it Pennsylvania? The school had given kids laptops.

JULIA ANGWIN: Yes, right.

AMY GOODMAN: And they were very excited, and they went home, and he’s home in his room. But the school—they said, to protect the students so that you wouldn’t think that they were stealing laptops—they would always turn the cameras on, if you took the laptop home, so that they could say, “Oh, he wasn’t really stealing the laptop; he was actually using it.” But in fact what they were doing, well, he was eating—I think it was Mike and Ike jelly beans. They took that to mean that he was popping drugs. They called in his parents, and they said, “You know, he’s using drugs.” They were frightened. They said, “What are you talking about? How do you know he’s using drugs?” He’s a kid. I think it was an elementary school. And they start to show photographs. But they recognize this is their boy’s room that he’s in. And they see he’s putting things in his mouth, which is his favorite candy. But these photographs—and this is a few years ago, and then all the kids realized they are being filmed in their bedrooms by the school.

JULIA ANGWIN: Yes, right. It was really—that was a horrifying story of, once again, where is the presumption of innocence, where you’re called in for taking drugs. So, the thing about the camera is that it can be remotely activated. That’s what happened to those kids. And unfortunately, there’s like criminal hacking gangs out there who want to trick us into downloading some—clicking on a link that installs some software that can remotely activate our camera. And what they’ve been doing is basically filming people in their rooms and then trying to blackmail them, saying, “I have naked pictures of you. Send me money.” And so, basically, in the tech community, that I am—hang out with the hackers, they all have stickers over their camera, because they know how easy it is to download this free software that can remotely activate your camera. And then you take it off when you want to use the camera. But, essentially, everyone should have a sticker over their camera.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But you’ve pointed out that this period of relentless surveillance is only a decade old. So, you know, for all of us at this table, that’s, you know, only a fraction of our lives. But you—in your book, you say that you even got your children—I mean, the next generation—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: —has grown up with this stuff.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: How did you get them to be interested in online privacy? And what steps can they take to protect themselves?

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, the thing about kids is there’s this myth that they don’t care about privacy. People tell me this all the time. “My kids don’t care about privacy.” And what I say to them is: “You are their threat model. You are the NSA to them. They want privacy from you. What you don’t realize is they don’t care about the same issues you care about, but they do have a privacy issue, and it’s you.” And so, the way I convinced my kids was essentially to show them that they could have secrets from me. This was the selling point. They actually mostly wanted secrets from each other, right? “Oh, little brother is going to find out my stuff.” So they really enjoyed the fact that it also seemed like fun. I showed them this tool they could put on their web browser that shows how many tracking technologies were on a different—any given website. And to them, it was like a video game. “Oh, I got a website with 40 trackers!” You know? And then I taught my daughter to build strong passwords so that her brother couldn’t break into her account. She actually ended up starting a password business where she sells strong passwords for a dollar. She’ll make them for you.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you mean by strong passwords?

JULIA ANGWIN: So what a strong password these days is really long, for—and basically not already used on another site. So many sites have been hacked that the password hacking community have every password that’s already been used. So you basically need something new, which is, by the way, really hard to think of. So all our brains are overtaxed with this password question. So what my daughter does is she solves that problem—

AMY GOODMAN: How old is she?

JULIA ANGWIN: She’s nine. And she solves that problem by picking random words out of the dictionary. We have a dictionary where every word is numbered. It’s called diceware, this method. And she rolls dice. She picks the words randomly. So then I have five dictionary words that I string together, so my passwords are 30 characters long. And then I can remember them, though, because they’re dictionary words. They’re still not words I would ever choose, but they’re most likely not in any of those password files that have been hacked already.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you also put numbers in them?

JULIA ANGWIN: So what she does is she gives you the password “unsalted,” and then you are supposed to “salt” it with numbers, exclamation points, capitalization, as you wish.

AMY GOODMAN: How will you ever remember these? That’s the problem.

JULIA ANGWIN: Then, here’s the other thing. You must write them down. You’re unlikely to have somebody break into your house, find the piece of paper with your password on it, and then figure out which account it goes to. So, the myth that we can’t write our passwords down is really unhelpful and is actually creating password insecurity.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So do you think attitudes about privacy are changing now? I mean, among youth and also—

JULIA ANGWIN: I do, actually. I find that young people, when I talk to them about privacy, are very interested. And the data also shows that young people are more willing to adjust their privacy settings. They are less likely to download an app if they’re concerned about the privacy of that app. And so, interestingly, the young people, I think, because they are very tech savvy and tech literate, understand they want to control their data. The rise of Snapchat is a very good example of that, right? They want their chats to sort of disappear into the ether.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Explain what Snapchat is.

JULIA ANGWIN: So, basically, it’s a way to sort of blow up your communications. After you send them, you can blow them up, and they sort of disintegrate after a certain amount of time.

AMY GOODMAN: Do they, really?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In other words—

JULIA ANGWIN: Well, that’s a question. That’s a question. So, maybe they like the perception of privacy. The problem we have with a lot of these tools is we don’t have good standards of auditing, and so it’s hard to know whether companies that say they’re doing something to protect your privacy are actually doing it. And that’s one thing I recently wrote an op-ed about, which is that I think that we also kind of need the equivalent of like organic food standards, which is like something needs to meet a minimum threshold before it can market itself as private.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe these companies, Google and Yahoo, when they say, “We are outraged! We are absolutely outraged that the government”—for example, with the Yahoo chats—”is using, looking at, grabbing photographs and images from our chats”?

JULIA ANGWIN: I suspect that they might well be outraged, actually, because they—you know, what’s interesting about all these companies is they’re all in a race to hoard as much data as possible. And so, to them, this is sort of their information has been stolen from them, and it’s hurting their reputation with their customers. So I kind of believe that they are upset. I think they were perfectly happy to cooperate with the secret court orders. It doesn’t appear that there has been—I mean, there was one fight Yahoo had with the FISA court, and maybe those fights are unwinnable. But we don’t know how hard they have fought on the legal battles. But I think most of these companies are pretty outraged about the hacking into their technology. You know, Microsoft, amazingly, came out with a statement saying that “the new biggest threat that we’re defending ourselves against is no longer Chinese hackers; it’s the NSA,” which is, you know, shocking for Microsoft to say that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been speaking with Julia Angwin. Her new book is Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, formerly at The Wall Street Journal, now at ProPublica. We’re also joined by Ray McGovern, who is a former CIA analyst, whose duties included chairing the National Intelligence Estimates. He briefed President George H.W. Bush daily. We’re also joined by Mike German, who worked for the FBI and is now at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice. And for, oh, about 15 years, he served as an FBI agent dealing with the issue of counterterrorism.

I wanted to ask about a front-page piece in today’s New York Times. It’s by Charlie Savage and Laura Poitras, so you know it’s going to be interesting. Laura, who lives in Germany now, concerned about coming into the United States, how many times did she come into the United States—she’s the one who filmed Edward Snowden, she and Glenn Greenwald, in those first interviews when he went to Hong Kong. How many times before that, in the years before that, did she come into the United States and get stopped at airports and interrogated? And when she took out a pen and tried to write down the questions, they would go after her further and become extremely aggressive. Laura Poitras, who is an award-winning filmmaker. So, it’s very interesting when you see her name on any story, and Charlie Savage does great work.

The story is headlined “How a Court Secretly Evolved, Extending U.S. Spies’ Reach.” And it says, “Ten months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the nation’s surveillance court delivered a ruling that intelligence officials consider a milestone in the secret history of American spying and privacy law. Called the 'Raw Take' order—classified docket No. 02-431—it weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans, according to documents and interviews.

“The administration of President George W. Bush, intent on not overlooking clues about Al Qaeda, had sought the July 22, 2002, order. It is one of several still-classified rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court described in documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

“Previously, with narrow exceptions, an intelligence agency was permitted to disseminate information gathered from court-approved wiretaps only after deleting irrelevant private details and masking the names of innocent Americans who came into contact with a terrorism [suspect]. The Raw Take order significantly changed that system, documents show, allowing counterterrorism analysts at the N.S.A., the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. to share unfiltered”—and we now move on to page A-18—”unfiltered personal information.

“The leaked documents that refer to the rulings, including one called the 'Large Content FISA' order and several more recent expansions of powers on sharing information, add new details to the emerging public understanding of a secret body of law that the court has developed since 2001. The files help explain how the court evolved from its original task—approving wiretap requests—to engaging in complex analysis of the law to justify activities like the bulk collection of data about Americans’ emails and phone calls.”

Ray McGovern, can you decipher this and explain its significance?

RAY McGOVERN: Sure. Well, I’m reminded of George W. Bush’s exit interview, where he was asked why he thought waterboarding is all right, and he said, “Well, the lawyer—the lawyers told me it was OK, and I have to rely on the lawyers’ advice.” Well, here you can always get lawyers to justify things that are illegal. You know, laws that are illegal sounds like an oxymoron, but when they’re unconstitutional, they are ipso facto illegal. And that’s what you had here. You had General Hayden, who was head of the NSA, summoned in by Dick Cheney before 9/11—and that’s important, OK?—and said, “You know, we know this First Amendment or this First Commandment out there at NSA: 'Thou shalt not eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant.' We know about that. Forget about it, General Hayden. Forget about it.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Why was Cheney interested in spying at that time on Americans?

RAY McGOVERN: Well, he was interested in all kinds of getting information. You know, he was preparing the war in Iraq and all that kind of thing. But there was one telecom that resisted that. That was Qwest, OK? The others all cooperated. This is before 9/11. We know about that room out there on Folsom Street in San Francisco, you know? They all had this backdoor into. Now, when 9/11 happened, it went on steroids, of course. Now, who is Hayden? He’s an Air Force general. And when it came out that he had been suborned into doing this, two of his predecessors as head of NSA really demurred. Bill Odom, general of the U.S. Army, said he should have been court-martialed on the spot, and the president should have been impeached. Odom is an incredibly—well, he’s died now, but he was an incredibly conservative guy, but he was head of NSA—

AMY GOODMAN: And he should have been court-martialed for what?

RAY McGOVERN: For violating his oath of office to defend the Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment. Now, Hayden earned his spurs by doing this work, and when Porter Goss turned out to be a really feckless head of the CIA, they needed somebody else, and, “Oh, well, Hayden, he could be—he can be persuaded to come in and do our work for us.” Now, before he was even named head of the CIA, he held a press conference, after James Risen and Lichtblau revealed all this warrantless wiretapping, and he—

AMY GOODMAN: For which James Risen continues to have to deal legally with his revelations.

RAY McGOVERN: That’s right. He could be—he could end up in jail. Well, anyhow—

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times reporter.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, what happened was, Hayden was asked to explain everything, OK? “Explain it all to the American public.” And he got up before the national press conference, and Jonathan Landay said, “You know, how were you using the criteria for this eavesdropping? The Fourth Amendment says probable cause.” And General Hayden said, “No, it doesn’t. No, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t say probable cause.” This is before the National Press Club. And Jonathan Landay says, “Well, I think it does.” And then Hayden says, “Well, look, there’s one amendment that we at NSA knew by heart, and that was the Fourth Amendment doesn’t say probable cause.” Here’s what the Fourth Amendment says: The people shall not be—shall be secure from “unreasonable searches and seizures … and no Warrants shall issue, [without] probable cause,” particularly defining the areas to be searched and the people or things to be seized. Probable cause is part of the Fourth. Anyhow, he did such a good job that he was nominated to be head of the CIA, OK? And that’s the rest of the story. He did this bidding, and now—then, of course, he had to explain torture and all that kind of stuff. He did a great job. And now he’s the CNN and Fox News commentator on all this kind of stuff and defending it to the hilt. So, General Hayden is really the fellow that started all this.

Not only did Bill Odom, his predecessor as head of NSA, say he should be court-martialed, but right here in New York at the New York Public Library, before Hayden, before Hayden was nominated or before he was—the nomination hearings took place, James Risen and the sainted Bobby Ray Inman—now, I say “sainted” because he was widely admired as the intelligence professional. I mean, this is the go-to guy. He couldn’t even abide Bill Casey. You know, he’s the paragon of virtue here. He got up in the New York Public Library and said, “What General Hayden did clearly violated the law. I know that. I helped craft the FISA law. As a matter of fact, I added a sentence that nothing is permitted unless it’s expressly permitted in this law.”

So, you know—now, what happened? I knew about that thing because somebody blogged it. I’m waiting in—to go into an interview in New York because I had been in this debate with Donald Rumsfeld. And what happens is, I’m waiting, and in rushes Bobby Inman. It’s the day before the nomination hearing for Hayden to be head of the CIA. And people kind of know—there’s a little buzz that Inman had said that Hayden had violated the law, OK? So he brushes in, and I said, “Well, hi, Admiral Inman.” And, oh, [inaudible] and puts on a tie, and he goes in. And he’s asked, “What do you think of—what do you think of General Hayden being nominated for the head of the CIA?” And he said, “Oh, you couldn’t pick a better person. You couldn’t pick a—this fellow is an expert. He’s a [inaudible]—couldn’t”—now, as he came out, I said, “Hey, what about—how does that square with what you said in the New York Public Library 10 days ago?” What he said—and then they said, “McGovern, it’s your turn, you know.” So I couldn’t follow—I would have followed them out.

Now, what am I saying? I’m saying that these guys all protect one another. And if it’s necessary to correct the truth by telling a lie so that somebody can get nominated to be head of the CIA, even the best of them, Bobby Ray Inman, will do it. And that’s what happened. And here I was an eyewitness to this. It was really quite an amazing experience.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike German, how does the FBI fit into this story?

MIKE GERMAN: Interestingly, in a lot of ways. I mean, part of what we keep referring to as NSA programs are actually done in conjunction with the FBI. It’s the FBI that goes and gets the FISA orders that allows the NSA to obtain them. And, in fact, statutorily, under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, it only authorizes the FBI to do it, so this idea that the NSA has a role in these programs is somewhat specious. You know, the FBI also has a role in kind of being the attack dog, right? I mean, part of the reason that the CIA is making a criminal referral to the Department of Justice is so that the FBI will investigate them. And, you know, again, that has a very intimidating factor.

I mean, one of the things that you asked Julia earlier—you know, if you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you fear? Obviously, when I joined the FBI, I gave them an awful lot of private information about me. That was a voluntary choice that I made. They hired me. And, you know, I went about my job for 15 years and never was concerned, because I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was doing everything right—until I became a whistleblower. And then, all that information is useful to go back to find anything. And there’s actually a saying in the FBI that nobody is administratively pure, that if they want you, they will find someplace where you have filed the wrong form. And I mean they even went after me for arguing that $50 in an undercover operation was not properly authorized before I spent it. You know, so it gets that petty, when they want you. So you can imagine—

AMY GOODMAN: And ultimately, they’ll just say, “He stole money.” They won’t talk about the amount.

MIKE GERMAN: Right. And, I mean, it wasn’t even stolen; it was just, you know—

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, but if they want to change—

MIKE GERMAN: —spent—right, exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: If they want to spin a story.

MIKE GERMAN: Exactly. And keep in mind that in order to maintain these jobs, you need to have a security clearance. And they don’t need to tell you any reason they withdraw your security clearance. And you automatically lose your job. So once you realize that you are completely vulnerable, it becomes much harder to dissent within these organizations. And I think that’s how you’ve gotten a situation where, you know, everybody who had questions about these programs was quickly pushed out the door. And anybody today thinking, “I can report something,” knows that the retaliation will be swift and brutal.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you become a whistleblower? What were you blowing the whistle on?

MIKE GERMAN: So, I was involved in a counterterrorism case post-9/11 that was being mismanaged. And this was about the time that Coleen Rowley, another FBI special agent’s letter about the 9/11 failures had become public. And the president of the United States, George Bush, came on TV and said, “If any counterterrorism agent is aware of problems in a counterterrorism case, we want them to come forward.” And the director of the FBI, Bobby Mueller, said, “You know, if there’s an agent out there who knows of a problem in a counterterrorism case, please come forward.”

And this—it was a case where supporters of an overseas terrorist group were trying to establish links with a domestic white supremacist group, and the tape that had been in this meeting was recorded illegally by an informant. And I found out that the recording was illegal and thought it was my job—I was a law enforcement officer—to report that and, more than anything else, or at least as much as anything else, to preserve the prosecution, right? There’s a way to handle an improperly recorded conversation by segregating it from the investigation that proceeds. So I thought we could quickly address that illegality, put that aside and continue working the investigation. But instead, they papered over it and tried to pretend it didn’t happen and actually wrote false documents and whited out the—literally, whited out the documents. But the only person who received any sort of retaliation was me. And, in fact, the people who were involved in that cover-up actually went to high levels in the FBI, and I was pushed out.

So, you know, I don’t think at the time that I reported it, I had any idea that that’s how it would. And part of it was, you know, I, at that point, had had a pretty successful career doing undercover cases in terrorism, and probably singular career at that point, and thought that my good reputation would protect me. You know, kind of like, “I’m not doing anything wrong; why should I fear?” You know, they can go through—they can look at that $50 I spent, because I know I did it the right way. But the problem was, that actually, in hindsight, made me a better target, because the purpose was to tell every other whistleblower out there—I mean, part of the reason why they’re going on such a name-calling spree with Ed Snowden isn’t because they think they can stop anything Ed Snowden has done. That horse is out of the barn. It’s for the next one, that, you know, if you think that you have an urgent concern you want to report to Congress or you want to report to the public, we are going to go after you with everything we have.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it too cynical to say, if—when the president, like George Bush, or the head of the FBI says, “Whistleblowers, come forward; we really want your information,” that what they’re doing is they’re trying to ferret out whistleblowers, to attack you and remove you from the agency?

MIKE GERMAN: You know, I don’t know that I’m that cynical. I mean, I think it’s more just pandering, you know, that it’s—you’re always—in their confirmation process, they always get that question. “Oh, of course we love whistleblowers.” But, you know, once they get into power, they do everything they can to suppress any internal dissent, much less external dissent. I mean, part of the issue with me, I didn’t even express external dissent. I was just dissenting within the agency and received this retaliation. So, once you go outside—I mean, I knew once I brought it to Senator Grassley, I was done. I wasn’t going to wait for the next thing. I went ahead and resigned, because I knew that going outside the agency was going to bring that retribution even more.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, in your piece on Tuesday, the piece in The Guardian, “The NSA Won’t Shut Up About Snowden, But What About the Spy Who Stole More?”


NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain what you argue in that piece and who Jeffrey Delisle is?

MIKE GERMAN: Right. So, you know, part of the issue, part of the sort of scandalous accusations against Edward Snowden, you know, the worst thing you could say about somebody in the intelligence community is that they’re a Russian spy. And, you know, Senator Feinstein later clarified that she had never seen anything in her secret briefings that suggested that was true, even though Mike Rogers and others were making this claim. So, I thought, well, it would be interesting—you know, are there Russian spies?

And it didn’t take long to find Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer who had access to U.S. signals intelligence because, while the NSA doesn’t share with the American people what it’s doing, it actually does share with a lot of foreign governments, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and even Israel. You know, a lot of different countries get the information about us that the NSA is collecting. So, because he had access to that information. He apparently had a crisis in his life and decided to walk into a Russian Embassy. I mean, this isn’t trade—this is actually any spy—anybody who reads a spy novel, much less knows anything about spying, would say that’s the only way you’re going to get caught, is to do something that stupid. So his tradecraft was awful. He walks into the Russian Embassy. He says, “You know, I have this access. I want to spy. Give me some money.” They pay him the princely sum of $3,000 a month—you know, hardly what you would think this information is worth. And for the next 50 months, every month he would download information onto a thumb drive and take it and then email it to—again, you know, the tradecraft not very good—to his Russian handlers. And he did this for 50 months. So, think of the security breach that—the volume of information.

So when the NSA now talks about Edward Snowden and says, “Oh, my gosh! Now our enemies have access to this information,” the enemies already had access to this information. The only people who are new to this conversation are the American public. And what Ed Snowden did was give us an idea of what all these foreign governments already knew, that we are being spied on to an extent far beyond—you know, I mean, I’ve been in this business now, the privacy advocacy business, for almost 10 years and, you know, testified before the House Judiciary Committee and had Representative Jim Sensenbrenner wave a finger at me: “You can’t prove there are any abuses.” And I had to admit that I couldn’t prove it, but with a law so broad, obviously there are going to be abuses. Well, now we can prove it, and now even Jim Sensenbrenner has said, “This is far beyond what we thought we were authorizing.” So, that public knowledge is so critical to actually controlling these agencies, because obviously all branches of government knew about it. It’s only their reaction to the public that has now changed the conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, I just wanted to ask about John Kiriakou, Ray McGovern.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah. Well, it’s the supreme irony that the only CIA official who actually exposed the torture regime, and inadvertently let slip the name of one of the torturers, who can be found in northern Virginia—I’ll give you his telephone number and address, if you like—he’s 30 months in a federal penitentiary. So—

AMY GOODMAN: Not the torturer, but the person who exposed him.

RAY McGOVERN: But the fellow who revealed the torturer. So, you know, if you want to be cynical or you want to repeat what Mike has said about showing this object lesson, they put him under indictment for violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which was designed for German spies, you know, to get German spies. And here, they threw the book at him. And he did a plea bargain where he got off late with 30 months. He’s got five kids, OK? He lives about two miles away from me. And he’s put away for 30 months, about halfway through his sentence. So, that’s what happens.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he explained what the context was?

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, he said that waterboarding was going on and that it was torture. And then he said, by the—well, they charged him with giving the name of one of the torturers to the press. That—

AMY GOODMAN: And where was that torturer? Where did he engage in the torture?

RAY McGOVERN: He was kind of a super—a torture supervisor, you know, like a GS-15 torture supervisor—sorry. So, you know, he was very much involved in it. But, you know, one of the other ironies is his name never came out in the press. It was just given to one correspondent, and they got that from all these technical means that we’ve been talking about. And so, Kiriakou made one small mistake in that he gave it to a person who wasn’t very safe in guarding the information, and so they threw the book at him. They wanted to put him away for like 35 years, like they wanted to put Tom Drake away. He plea-bargained, and so he got off light with 30 months.

AMY GOODMAN: And so he’s in prison today.


AMY GOODMAN: And the most important lesson you learned, Julia, in researching Dragnet Nation?

JULIA ANGWIN: What I learned was basically that there’s some things we can do ourselves, but in fact, if we really want to curb ubiquitous surveillance, the most important thing we need, actually, is we need some rights. We need due process for our data, because right now, when it’s used against us secretly, we often don’t know. We never see it, and we don’t have a right to challenge it. And I think that that’s not fair.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us. Mike German, longtime FBI agent. Julia Angwin, her new book is called Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance. And thanks so much to Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst who recently returned from Russia, where he presented Edward Snowden with an award. That does it for this broadcast. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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