Has the NSA ever Used its Surveillance Powers for Purposes other than Combating Terrorism? You Bet

Monday, June 17, 2013
Michael Hayden, director of NSA in 2003

Defenders of the National Security Agency (NSA) claim the agency must be trusted to do right by the country as it carries out its intelligence operations, presumably to deter only dangerous threats from terrorists and other foreign sources.


But history has already demonstrated that the NSA has allowed its surveillance tools to be used for political purposes.


In 2003, as President George W. Bush prepared to invade Iraq, his administration used the NSA’s capabilities to spy on diplomats from countries undecided about voting to support the United Nations’ authorization for the American-led attack against Saddam Hussein’s regime. The NSA intercepted the home and office telephone and email communications of the U.N. delegates


“The entire purpose of the NSA surveillance was to help the White House gain leverage, by whatever means possible, for a resolution in the U.N. Security Council to green light an invasion,” Norman Solomon wrote in his book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.


The spying only came to light after a British intelligence agent, Katharine Gun, leaked a memo to the press from an NSA agent named Frank Koza that described the American effort to monitor the communications of six delegations to the UN who were undecided on the war resolution.


Part of the memo read (note: the “Agency” refers to the NSA):


“As you’ve likely heard by now, the Agency is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council (UNSC) members (minus US and GBR of course) for insights as to how to membership is reacting to the on-going debate RE: Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/dependencies, etc—the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises. In RT, that means a QRC [Quick Response Capability] surge effort to revive/create efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters….We'd appreciate your support in getting the word to your analysts who might have similar, more in-direct access to valuable information from accesses in your product lines.”


“So here is a clear case where the US government used its surveillance powers—ostensibly in place for national security—to target political opponents and advance an invasion of Iraq,” George Zornick wrote at The Nation.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Remember When NSA Surveillance Was Used to Help Launch the Iraq War? (by George Zornick, The Nation)

NSA Spied on U.N. Diplomats in Push for Invasion of Iraq (by Norman Solomon, Huffington Post)


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