NSA Whistleblowers For Dummies, Part One
"We should dismantle every intelligence agency in this country piece by piece, brick by brick, nail by nail.”
— Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Oakland), 1975
The NSA spy scandal seems like a bolt out of the blue; some people are acting like the end of the world is nigh, as if the PRISM slides were prophesied in the Book of Revelations. It’s certainly bringing out the weird in a lot of folks, and some baffling displays of heroics in others. Baffling because one expects only bluster and affected bravery — it’s hard, after distrusting the surface for so long, to accept the surface of the Edward Snowden story. It’s an unfamiliar surface too, which is partly why a lot of us found ourselves groping for interpretations and counter-interpretations of this incredible story, something to make it more familiar.
To really get your nails into the story, you need to go back another decade, to 1966-7, when "Ramparts" magazine started exposing covert CIA programs, and the CIA’s reaction to the story. You can trace many of today’s worst anti-democratic government policies and programs involving secrecy and whistleblowers to the CIA’s illegal programs in the 60s, and the solutions the CIA came up with to stop leaks and intimidate future leakers and the media. This story will mostly cover the period from LBJ’s last years in office through Reagan-Bush Sr. The most surprising —and demoralizing — moment comes in the early Reagan years, when for reasons that have never been explained or accounted for, the ACLU played a very dubious and damaging role as wingman for Reagan’s CIA.
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