No 777 Posted by fw, June 13, 2013
“When I was blowing the whistle and they couldn’t get any dirt on me…they made up dirt and tried to peddle it on Capitol Hill in order to discredit me and prevent me from testifying before Senator Ervin’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. Every bureaucracy hates dissenters. They must expel dissenters and discredit dissenters, because dissenters force them to reconsider what it is they’re doing, and no bureaucracy wants anybody to interrupt what they’re doing. And so, this is the natural, organic response of any bureaucracy or any establishment.” —Chris Pyle
Christopher Pyle exposed domestic spying in the U.S. in the 1970s. While in the Army, working as an instructor, Pyle discovered the CIA was spying on millions of Americans engaged in lawful activity. After Pyle blew the whistle, a 50-man Pentagon unit tried to discredit him.
Today, more than forty years later, nothing has changed. Congresspersons, government officials and reporters from corporate-owned mass media are hitting servile news outlets doing their damnedest to pillory Edward Snowden. Pyle considers the implications of the cracks in the system that Snowden has exposed.
To watch the Pyle interview on the Democracy Now website, with access to the full transcript, click on the following linked title. Alternatively, watch a 19:33-minute embedded video below followed by a greatly abridged transcript with added subheadings and text highlighting.
[Introduction by Amy Goodman] — We’re joined by Christopher Pyle, who first exposed domestic spying in the 1970s. After he left [the Army], he wrote about the Army’s vast and growing spy operations. His article from 1971 began, quote, “For the past four years, the U.S. Army has been closely watching civilian political activity within the United States.” Pyle’s story prompted Senate hearings, including Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence. These ultimately led to a series of laws aimed at curbing government abuse. Chris Pyle is the co-author of Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, Getting Away with Torture and The Constitution Under Siege. He now teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College and recently wrote a piece headlined, “Edward Snowden and the Real Issues.” He joins us from Chicopee, Massachusetts.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Pyle. Talk about what you feel those real issues are. But before you do, explain what happened to you, how it was you revealed in the early ’70s what was going on in the military.
[Christopher Pyle is the sole source for all the following passages]
In the early ‘70s about 1,500 Army agents secretly surveilled every demonstration of 20 people or more
I received a briefing at the U.S. Army Intelligence Command that showed me the extent of the surveillance system. There were about 1,500 Army agents in plain clothes watching every demonstration in the United States of 20 people or more. There was also a records system in a giant warehouse on about six million people. I disclosed the existence of that surveillance and then recruited 125 of the Army’s counterintelligence agents to tell what they knew about the spying to Congress, the courts and the press. As a result of those disclosures and the congressional hearings, the entire U.S. Army Intelligence Command was abolished. This was before Watergate.
After Pyle blew the whistle on this surveillance, a 50-man Pentagon unit tried to discredit him
Two things happened. The Army created a 50-man unit in the Pentagon whose sole job was to discredit my disclosures. That effort failed: The disclosures were all quite accurate. I was also put on President Nixon’s enemies list, which resulted in a tax audit.
Most significant change since ‘70s has been explosion of private corporations surveilling for government
What we’ve seen [since the ‘70s] has been a vast explosion in intelligence-gathering capabilities. But the most significant part of that is the fact that civilian corporations are now doing the government’s work. Seventy percent of the intelligence budget of the United States today goes to private contractors like Booz Allen, which employed Edward Snowden. This is a major change in the power of surveillance. It now goes not only to the government, but to private corporations.
Congressional oversight is more difficult now because members are in bed with private corporations
The forerunner of the PRISM system that Snowden disclosed was called Trailblazer. It wasted $1 billion on private contracts. It replaced a much less expensive system called ThinThread, which had more privacy protections and had been developed inside the government. Now, the reason that private contractors get this business is because members of Congress intercede with them with government agencies. And we now have a situation where members of the Intelligence Committee and other committees of Congress intercede with the bureaucracy to get sweetheart contracts for companies that waste taxpayers’ money and also violate the Constitution and the privacy of citizens. This is a very serious situation, because it means that it’s much more difficult to get effective oversight from Congress.
Protecting the Constitution is impossible when private agencies are totally unaccountable
We all want to protect the security of the country. We all want to protect the Constitution. But when government agencies are totally unaccountable, we can’t do that.
Today’s classified briefing system is designed to silence Congress
Members of Congress do not go to those briefings, even if they’re offered, because once you go to the briefing, then you can’t talk about what you’ve been told, because it’s classified. So the briefing system is designed to silence Congress, not to promote effective oversight.
Moreover, members of Congress are too busy “begging for money” to spend time on oversight
Members of Congress don’t want to spend time on oversight. They’re too busy raising money. New members of the House of Representatives this winter were told by the Democratic Campaign Committee that they should spend between four and six hours a day dialing for dollars. They have no time to do the public’s business. They’re too busy begging for money.
Where does Obama find time to be president when he’s busy asking wealthy people for money?
President Obama himself attended 220 fundraisers last year. Where does he get the time to be president when he’s spending so much time asking wealthy people for money to support his campaign?
The revolving door between government and private corporations is “part of the corruption of the system”
Well, it’s true. NSA doesn’t want to hire people like you and me. We don’t know enough about the Internet. That said, it’s important to note that the vice chairman of Booz Allen happens to be Mike McConnell, who was former director of NSA and of national intelligence. There is a revolving door between high government positions and private corporations, and this revolving door allows these people to make a great deal more money upon leaving the government, and then being rented back to the government in a contractor capacity. And that’s part of the corruption of the system.
Protection from searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution doesn’t apply to corporations
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, only binds the government, doesn’t bind corporations. That’s a serious problem. The reason we have privatization of prisons, in some ways, is for governments to escape liability. They put the liability on the private corporations that run the prisons, and they just charge their liabilities as an operating cost.
It’s time to move on from irrelevant “hero or traitor” nonsense and focus on “the corruption of our system that is done by massive secrecy and by massive amounts of money in politics”
When I was blowing the whistle and they couldn’t get any dirt on me—I had led a very uninteresting life—they made up dirt and tried to peddle it on Capitol Hill in order to discredit me and prevent me from testifying before Senator Ervin’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. Every bureaucracy hates dissenters. They must expel dissenters and discredit dissenters, because dissenters force them to reconsider what it is they’re doing, and no bureaucracy wants anybody to interrupt what they’re doing. And so, this is the natural, organic response of any bureaucracy or any establishment.
I think it is inappropriate and quite irrelevant to analyze Ed Snowden’s motivations. It doesn’t matter much—except in court, to prove that he either did or did not intend to aid a foreign power or hurt the United States. But separate from that motivation, whether he’s a narcissist, like many people on television are, no, I don’t think that’s relevant at all. He’s neither a traitor nor a hero, and he says this himself. He’s just an ordinary American. He’s trying to start a debate in this nation over something that is critically important. He should be respected for that, taken at face value, and then we should move on to the big issues, including the corruption of our system that is done by massive secrecy and by massive amounts of money in politics.