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The Future Of Foreign Intelligence: Privacy and Surveillance In A Digital Age - Laura K. Donohue


Greetings and Happy Spring every one! I hope you all feeling awesomely!


On my podcast, On The Same Time (which you can find on all our favorite podcast platforms today!), Episode 06 - Fallacy In Totality, I spoke about my beliefs on Sept 11, 2001, to which I believe is a total sham. Not going to delve into that idea any further, however, I just wanted to point to its relation and "coincidence" with this post. Sometimes, when I purchase books, the title alone may be the reason I get it. Or sometimes, I'll completely forget about its content and title after buying 20 more books lol. Once it's time for me to select a new book to read, I stand in front of my bookcase and randomly pick. Oddly enough, today's feature speaks on the systemic changes in the American government prior to and following the events of 9/11. The coincidental moment to me was that I chose this book within days after speaking about it and the episode had yet to be published! I enjoyed the information presented in this book.


Today we have: The Future of Intelligence: Privacy and Surveillance In A Digital Age by Laura K. Donohue. This book was published by the Oxford University Press in 2016. Concluding with readable text at 160 pages prior to the notes section, it's a quick read! I started this book 03/13/2021 and finished it 03/21/2021. There are seven detailed chapters of some good shit in this one. I probably should have finished it quicker than I did lol. I am okay leaving this with...


Grade: A



Donohue begins the introduction with a 1777 setting, in New Hampshire, USA with a beautiful and insightful first sentence of the book. "Since the early day of the Republic, political and military leaders have recognized the U.S. national security depends upon the collection of intelligence" (1). The New Hampshire Committee of Safety alerted the Provincial Congress in Massachusetts that the British were sending troops to Boston. With this info, of course, they took this to their advantage and sent 1,200 soldiers, surprised the British, yet still perished. Even in this era intelligence was vital, George Washington spent more than 10% of his military money on surveillance. Networks of agents were dispersed to gather advantageous information. Within half a year, Congress created the Contingent Fund of Foreign Intercourse, known as the "Secret Service Fund", to be used by Washington and numerous presidents that followed him. The idea growing from the line of presidents was there is a need for insight of information abroad. "Absent information about threats, the country is in peril, Accordingly, Congress and the courts have given the executive latitude in how it obtains intelligence from abroad" (2). Interesting perspective which leads to intriguing potential outcomes, eh?


The 1947 National Security Act prohibits the director of the CIA from having any domestic "police, subpoena, law enforcement powers or internal-security functions". More restrictions have come with surveillance conducted inside the USA on its citizens, to protect their rights. Starting in 1978, domestic electronic surveillance ushered in for national security purposes had to comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law provided added protections to U.S. citizens and created a special court to oversee this process, and required congressional oversight of the intelligence agencies. "The problem that we now face is that the law is no longer sufficient to guard rights. The world is suddenly and radically changing. New means of collecting and analyzing citizens' information threaten individual liberty and risk upsetting the balance of power in the United States" (3). Then Donohue points to 4 different phenomena that helped create this scenario.


First, new technologies have dramatically expanded the amount and type of information that can be obtained, stored, and analyzed. Second, even as technology has increased the information available, the government has expanded its authority to gain access to the data. Third, the geographic assumptions built into the law to protect citizens no longer hold. Fourth, since the events of 9/11 there has been a convergence between national security and domestic law enforcement. There goes my "coincidental moment" and reference for 9/11, eluding to the fourth phenomena that the ruling class likely will increase its power after or during tragic events. "The accumulation of power resulting from these changes risks enormous political and social harm, as well as the potential for the executive branch to override the structural constraints under which it historically has been placed. The stakes could not be higher as we confront the digital age" (4). Following the paragraph, Donohue transitions to the history of abuse in the history that precedes September 11, 2001.





In 1971, a group of anti-war activists, dubbed the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania. It was timed on the night of the Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fight, pretty good timing, hm? lol. This group recovered and stole 1000 classified documents, which one can expect that they began to leak it to journalists and members of Congress. On December 6, 1973, NBC reporter Carl Stern, filed a story on NBC Nightly News to initiate a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. This was a counter to the "COINTELPRO" (counterintelligence program) operation. Some other information that would not be breaking news to me: some files showed J. Edgar Hoover ordered political campaigns to expose and alienate the New Left. The FBI targeted mostly left-wing groups for no law enforcement purposes. All these allegations led both houses of Congress to create temporary committees to investigate.



The House Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. A Democratic Senator, Frank F. Church found that domestic surveillance had been done under the guise of foreign intelligence which undermined U.S. citizens' privacy rights.


The NSA were silent players in these actions. "The NSA, founded in secret in 1952 without a charter, was virtually unknown to most Americans at the time" (5). Another less shocking tidbit: The NSA was not the only federal team "spying" on citizens. "The NSA was not the only federal entity making use of the new technologies to collect information on citizens. The FBI, CIA, IRS, U.S. Army, and others engaged in broad, domestic intelligence-gathering operations. These programs affected a staggering number of citizens. FBI headquarters maintained more than half a million domestic intelligence files. The CIA opened and photographed nearly a quarter of a million domestic first-class letters between 1953 and 1973, resulting in a computerized index of some one and a half million names. The FBI also opened hundreds of thousands of letters. Another 100,000 Americans were the subject of Army intelligence files, even as the IRS maintained a database on 11,000 people based solely on political criteria. In each case, the initial purpose was to protect against national security threats. But the targets quickly expanded to include petty criminals and anyone with divergent political views" (8). Sorry, I know that was a long ass quote, but I feel that is some pretty good information to be at least aware of.


Following cases such as Katz v. United States and United States v. U.S. District Court, spawning in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). More and more outcry levied against invading citizens' privacy, prompted Congress to create additional divisions to level the playing field, if you will. "Congress adopted procedures aimed at restricting the type of information that could be obtained and retained. As a further precaution against the executive overreach, Congress provided for two new courts: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and, to act in an appellate capacity, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR). The purpose was to ensure that an independent, neutral, disinterested magistrate reviewed the strength of the government's case before it could place citizens under surveillance. Congress did not provide for opposing counsel. Instead, applications were made to the Court by the agency seeking the information. Where the government met the criteria and filed with the appropriate forms, the judge's role was to enter an order as requested or to modify it accordingly" (11). Another whole brick, my apologies, but she dropping gems lol.





If your confidence is waning at this point, one could bet that loopholes were found and/or created, so that privacy invasion can continue undetected. Over the years following, Congress amended the FISA multiple times. Prior to the digital age in 1994, Congress amended FISA to include a provision for physical search. Similar to the requirements to mark electronical surveillance, the government should first establish probable cause to enter someone's home. Yet, in 1998, Congress' amendment allowed for the instillation and use of a pen register or trap-and-trace device. A pen register device is installed on a phone and records the numbers of outgoing calls. The trap-and-trace device, the opposite, and is like the caller ID recording the incoming calls.


There are other instances I left unmentioned from the beginning of this text. However, those are some points in history that preceded September 11, 2001, when the intelligence agencies really changed. On September 19, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft presented a bill to Congress, demanding that they approve it within the next two days! The quote that follows this statement reminds me of COVID in a sense where, the ruling class is only doing this for the sake of "safety" for citizens. "The intelligence community used the opportunity to roll back the restrictions carefully constructed in the 1970s. New technologies allowed for the massive collection of information and novel data mining methods offered the government powerful new tools" (16). Going back to COVID, one instance right now with how travel is changing and being affected for our "safety".




The 1978 FISA was basically overhauled which ultimately led to broadened scope of data that the government could collect. "Despite Congress's clear statement that FISA was to be the sole means via which domestic electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes could be conducted, President George W. Bush went outside the statute and directed the NSA to begin monitoring citizens' communications" (17-18). So uh, that was what Bush decided to do. Not cool man. Then on October 4, 2001, Bush cleared the NSA to collect two types of info en mass: telephone and internet metadata. This was considered project STELLAR WIND.


Prior to this quote, I have not done any follow up or even research related to this