Whistle Blown on Secret 9/11 Unit with Power to Pressure U.S. Media

From Russia Today: The US government has allegedly set up a special security wing with the sole task of distancing Washington from any involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Special Reports: NSA continues surveillance of journalists; WMR editor subject of espionage investigation

By Wayne Madsen, Aug 20, 2008

(WMR) -- On May 10, 2005, WMR reported on the existence of a highly-classified database at the National Security Agency (NSA), formerly code-named “FIRSTFRUITS,” that monitored journalists who reported on the activities of the eavesdropping agency, as well as other intelligence matters.

A few weeks later, according to an executive-level source at the NSA, and confirmed by a related source within NSA’s “Q” Directorate, the Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, this editor has been a subject of a national security investigation since June 2005 that remains ongoing. The investigation of this editor is classified at the level SECRET/COMINT (NOFORN). COMINT is “Communications Intelligence” and NOFORN denotes “Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals/Governments/Non-US Citizens.”

According to National Security Agency/Central Security Service Policy 1-27, dated March 20, 2006, and signed by NSA Chief of Staff Deborah Bonanni, the investigation of the public disclosure of the unconstitutional and illegal FIRSTFRUITS surveillance system is being coordinated by the NSA, Department of Defense, Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Justice.

The following are excerpts from the editor’s article that triggered the national security criminal investigation: “NSA maintains a database that tracks unofficial and negative articles written about the agency. Code named ‘FIRSTFRUITS,’ the database is operated by the Denial and Deception (D&D) unit within SID [Signals Intelligence Division]. High priority is given to articles written as a result of possible leaks from cleared personnel.

According to those familiar with FIRSTFRUITS, Bill Gertz of The Washington Times features prominently in the database. Before [NSA Director Michael] Hayden’s reign and during the Clinton administration, Gertz was often leaked classified documents by anti-Clinton intelligence officials in an attempt to demonstrate that collusion between the administration and China was hurting U.S. national security. NSA, perhaps legitimately, was concerned that China could actually benefit from such disclosures.

In order that the database did not violate United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18, which specifies that the names of ‘U.S. persons’ are to be deleted through a process known as minimization, the names of subject journalists were blanked out. However, in a violation of USSID 18, certain high level users could unlock the database field through a super-user status and view the ‘phantom names’ of the journalists in question.

Some of the ‘source’ information in FIRSTFRUITS was classified -- an indication that some of the articles in the database were not obtained through open source means. In fact, NSA insiders report that the communications monitoring tasking system known as ECHELON is being used more frequently for purely political eavesdropping having nothing to do with national security or counter terrorism.

In addition, outside agencies and a ‘second party,’ Great Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), are permitted to access the journalist database. FIRSTFRUITS was originally developed by the CIA but given to NSA to operate with CIA funding. The database soon grew to capacity, was converted from a Lotus Notes to an Oracle system, and NSA took over complete ownership of the system from the CIA.

Tens of thousands of articles are found in FIRSTFRUITS and part of the upkeep of the system has been outsourced to outside contractors, such as Booz Allen, which periodically hosts inter-agency Foreign Denial and Deception meetings within its Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or ‘SCIF’ in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Currently, in addition to NSA and GCHQ, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) routinely access the database, which is, in essence, a classified and more powerful version of the commercial NEXIS news search database.

In addition to Gertz, other journalists who feature prominently in the database include Seymour Hersh of The New Yorke,; author and journalist James Bamford, James Risen of The New York Times, Vernon Loeb of The Washington Post, John C. K. Daly of UPI, and this journalist [Wayne Madsen].

Since the disclosure of FIRSTFRUITS, NSA changed the cover name but the system remains in existence. Not only does the follow-on to FIRST FRUITS contain articles about NSA written by journalists, it has been expanded to include information gleaned from wiretaps on journalists, including sources with whom they communicate by phone, email, fax, and Voice-over-IP (VOIP), including Skype, which the NSA has managed to bring under easier surveillance due to some recent advances in VOIP surveillance technology, according to NSA sources.

This editor has, thanks to dozens of NSA sources, managed to report on the poor morale; overbearing Stasi-like conduct of NSA security personnel, including the wrongful prosecution and conviction of NSA Iraqi shop analyst Ken Ford, Jr.; contract mismanagement and fraud conducted by then-NSA Director General Michael Hayden; outrageous treatment of NSA whistleblowers by the NSA security and psychological staffs that work in the same fashion that the old Soviet KGB and psychiatric hospitals treated dissidents; and the outsourcing of sensitive signals intelligence contracts to companies with dubious links to foreign intelligence agencies, most importantly, those of Israel.

Federal investigators are apparently using the terms “espionage” and “treason” with regard to the investigation that includes this editor. The maximum penalty for espionage and treason, according to U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, is death.

On January 12, 2006, this editor first reported on the criminal investigation being carried out by the Bush administration: “Informed intelligence sources have informed this editor that he has, since October 2005, been under an active federal criminal investigation as part of the Bush administration’s probe of leaks about illegal NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens.

To reiterate what I’ve stated before: I refuse to cede my First Amendment rights and will not cooperate with ANY grand jury asking questions about sources and I will refuse to turn over notebooks or other materials to any investigators, warrant or not. I’m willing to become a political prisoner rather than succumb to the fascist thugs in the Bush administration. WMR is working on a number of investigations involving The Carlyle Group, the Fellowship Foundation, and illegal surveillance. We will continue to publish until the Bush administration makes their move to shut us down. Again, your support has helped us to gain enough of a media presence to make the Bush administration nervous.”

This publication, not intimidated by NSA, the FBI, or other Bush administration entities, will continue to report on the misuse of America’s intelligence agencies for political purposes and the repeated violations of the U.S. Constitution by illegal surveillance of citizens, including First Amendment-protected journalists. WMR has learned today [Monday] that our colleague, New York journalist Joe Lauria, who has written a series of articles on the Turkish/Israeli intelligence network exposed by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, is now also the subject of an FBI “leaks” investigation.

The FIRSTFRUITS journalist surveillance system was renamed after our exposure of its existence. According to our NSA source, who was involved in another operation designed to scan the media and academia for leaks, a program called “Cryptologic Insecurities,” FIRSTFRUITS exists within a new strategic program by NSA to surveil journalists, which may be the subject of a classified United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID 304P), dated June 7, 2007. One term used by NSA with regard to journalists in the FIRSTFRUITS follow-on surveillance system is the Orwellian-sounding ”media control.”

There is also reason to believe that additional journalists are now subject to FIRSTFRUITS surveillance and include Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times, Christiane Amanpour of CNN, and Lauria.

WMR has also learned that NSA has drastically cut the number of Hebrew and Russian linguists, with the Hebrew linguists suffering the greatest cuts. The result of this decision is that the two languages used most by international organized criminal syndicates that are part of the Russian-Israeli Mafia are virtually free to conduct their weapons, diamond, and drug smuggling operations, as well as financial fraud, without being subject to NSA surveillance.

Perhaps the fact that there exists a cabal within the U.S. District for Maryland, a few officials who have conspired to wrongfully prosecute NSA employees is not coincidental to the purge of Hebrew and Russian linguists at NSA. A triumvirate has emerged that suggests illegal collusion to prosecute NSA whistleblowers that includes U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein, his assistant David Salem, and US Judge Peter Messitte, who, according to U.S. intelligence sources, carries, in addition to his U.S. passport, a passport issued by Portugal.

WMR has also learned that an NSA signals intelligence mission codenamed “SALAMANDER” and devoted to monitoring communications in Georgia, may have been misused to provide the neocon Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili with intelligence gleaned from NSA intercepts of Saakashvili’s political opponents, including alleged phone calls with Russian embassy officials in Tbilisi. Those targeted in the wiretaps include Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, Freedom Party leader Konstantin Gamsakhurdia, the late Georgian opposition financier Badri Patarkatsishvili, and Conservative Party leader Zviad Dzidziguri.

The provision of U.S. SIGINT to a nation like Georgia, which is well outside the normal American “second party” and “third party” SIGINT partners, represents a dramatic departure from traditional U.S. intelligence management and may have provided sensitive sources and methods information to the Georgian government, one which includes a number of dual Georgian-Israeli nationals.

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