In 1949 the British novelist George Orwell published his novel ‘1984’, a dystopian view of the future. Orwell laid out a nightmarish vision of a totalitarian state which controlled its people’s every action and thought through propaganda, secrecy, constant surveillance and harsh punishment. One of the most famous lines in the book is the slogan “Big Brother is watching you.” At that time the Western world was shocked by the concept that a government could monitor the conversations and communications of its citizens. However, in Communist China, the U.S.S.R. and East Germany there was no great shock; government surveillance there was a daily reality.
News headlines have been made recently over leaks by purported whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) consultant. Snowden had previously worked for the CIA (2005-2009) in Switzerland as an IT security tech, for Dell (2009-2013) in Japan as a private contractor at an NSA Facility, and in 2013 in Hawaii for less than three months as a Booz Allen Hamilton defense contractor inside the NSA, at a SIGINT (signal intelligence) Operations Center.
Snowden disclosed hard evidence about classified intelligence programs carried out by the NSA and the British GCHQ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_Communications_Headquarters), including new details about worldwide interception of telephone metadata and internet surveillance programs:
ü MAINWAY – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_call_database;
ü BOUNDLESS INFORMANT – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundless_Informant)
ü TEMPORA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempora)
Snowden’s leaks are one of the NSA’s most significant breaches ever. Snowden said his leaks were an effort “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” He explained his actions, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded” (The Guardian, June 9, 2013).
Sales of Orwell’s centennial edition of 1984 have risen by more than 7,000% on Amazon.com since Snowden’s leaks – from 13,074 on their list to 193 and rising. It seems that people are watching (and reading about) Big Brother.
The NSA is painfully aware that it collects more intelligence that it can actual process or analyze. “‘Sometimes I think we just collect intelligence for the thrill of collecting it, to show how good we are at it,’ said former CIA director Robert Gates. ‘We have the capacity to collect mountains of data that we can never analyze. We just stack it up. Our electronic collection systems appear to produce far more raw intelligence data than our analysts can synthesize and our policymakers can use’ ” (Body of Secrets, James Bamford, Anchor, 2002, p. 520).
Big Brother is still watching you
Snowden’s exposures pull back another curtain on national security and intelligence issues, the foundations of which go back to World War One. A brief historical context may help here.
At the close of World War One the British government compelled American telegraph companies to hand over all cable traffic (including U.S. government communications), in an effort to obtain intelligence on the flow of guns and money to Irish nationalist groups as well as about Communist revolutionary activities. When the U.S. Senate found out, a law was passed by Congress in 1920, making it illegal to intercept diplomatic or telegraphic communications.
During WWII the British Secret Service obtained President Roosevelt’s permission for Sir William Stephenson to set up an illegal wiretap unit in New York City. This unit would spy on Americans who were collaborating with Nazi intelligence. Stephenson simultaneously played a key role in the founding of the CIA, and he was deeply admired by Ian Fleming (the author of the James Bond series) who worked with him in NYC during that time.
As early as 1944 the illegal British wiretap unit also focused on other tasks – collecting intelligence about American Jewish advocates for the establishment of a Jewish state. England was opposed to the establishment of the State of Israel, and used its American connections to impede the Jewish state’s formation. “In file after file, the FBI put the Jews under surveillance and worked with the British to identify those Americans who were supporting Israel, either financially or otherwise” (The Secret War against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People; abbreviated SWATJ; John Loftus and Mark Aarons, St. Martin’s; 1994; p. 185). One example of many such documents is found in the National Archives, “British Intelligence authorities have advised that the above captioned individual … left Palestine for the United States November 21, 1947 … British authorities reported that his address in the United States will probably be in care of …” (SWATJ, p. 185).
After WWII officially ended, President Truman issued a directive on August 15, 1945 (which became Executive Order 9031 on September 28, 1945) abolishing the office and activities of the Office of the Censor (their mandate included supervision of wiretapping). Defense Secretary James Forrestal, no friend of Truman’s, operated behind the President’s back, secretly transferring the wiretapping activities to the Army Security Agency. The ASA continued the bugging under the code name “Operation Shamrock” until May 26, 1975. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Frank Church called this “probably the largest governmental interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.” What had started as an operation against Nazis quickly moved to focus on Jews, and then on to an increasing spectrum of Americans.
“And you will be as eyes for us” (Numbers 10:31)
On May 17, 1943 the intelligence agencies of Britain and the United States signed the BRUSA agreement (Britain-USA), merging the sharing of Communications Intelligence (COMINT) of both countries. In 1947 the cooperation was expanded in the UKUSA Agreement, bringing “together under a single umbrella the SIGINT organizations of the Unites States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand” (The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, James Bamford, Penguin, 1982; abbreviated PP; p. 391).
“Under the theory that two ears are better than one, the NSA and GCHQ, through their BRUSA-UKUSA pacts, agreed to share the wealth of each other’s cable intercept programs” (ibid., p. 418). “The UKUSA Agreement … specified the total exchange of SIGINT intelligence between NSA and GCHQ” (Spycatcher, Peter Wright, Viking, 1987; p. 148).
In Bamford’s ground-breaking book about the NSA, he notes that “it is possible for GCHQ to monitor the necessary domestic or foreign circuits of interest and pass them on to NSA through the UKUSA Agreement. Once they were received, NSA could process the communications through its own computers and analysts targeting and watch-listing Americans with impunity… That such action is far from improbable can be seen by the way NSA processed its domestic civil disturbance watch lists.” According to a still classified Justice Department investigation into illegal NSA surveillance, “MINARET intelligence [ed., a wiretapping operation targeting American citizens]… was obtained incidentally in the course of NSA’s communications and the receipt of GCHQ-acquired …cable traffic SHAMROCK)” (ibid., pp. 468-69).
To put in simply, from the day that BRUSA and UKUSA were signed, Britain and USA have been able to “spy on each other’s citizens, without search warrants, by establishing ‘listening posts’ on each other’s territory” (SWATJ, p. 188). “Among the most critical elements of cooperation between the two nations, especially with regards to the United States, was the right to establish listening ports on each other’s territory” (PP; pp. 401-3). “Here is how the game is played. The British liaison officer at Fort Meade types the target list of ‘suspects’ into the American computer. The NSA computer sorts through its wiretaps and gives the British officer the recording of any American citizen he wants. Since it is technically a British target of surveillance, no American warrant is necessary. The British officer then simply hands the results over to his American liaison officer… Of course, the Americans provide the same service to the British in return… This …arrangement disguises the most massive, and illegal, domestic espionage apparatus in the world” (SWATJ, p. 190).
- It is worth remembering that the foundations of this intelligence framework have been in place since 1943 and 1947 – far before 9/11 and al-Qa’eda. The information on which Snowden focused a spotlight recently has actually been ‘open site’ information since 1967 (David Kahn, The Codebreakers, MacMillan), 1982 (Bamford), 1994 (Loftus), 2006 (USA Today and Bloomberg News scoops about MAINWAY), 2012 (NY Times and Wired about Operation Stellar Wind), etc., though many average citizens were not really aware of these easily available facts.
- It is also worth remembering that this intelligence framework has continued to function smoothly regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats held the reigns in the USA, or whether Conservatives or Labour held sway in Britain. The “news” Snowden has leaked is for the most part definitely not “new” news.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3)
The NSA is not the only intelligence agency involved in spying. For example, in 1969 the KGB residency in NYC (codenamed Operation PRESSING) “succeeded in concealing remote-controlled radio transmitters in UN offices used by the chairman of the Security Council … Simultaneously, Operation KRAB … succeeded in bugging the secretariat of the UN secretary-general, U Thant (codenamed BROD)” (The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive, Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, Basic Books, 1999, p. 344). So protestations by countries like France and Germany about the long reach of the NSA are somewhat hypocritical. The SIGINT agencies of these countries have long been aware of the NSA’s abilities and activities.
These facts remind us that intelligence is a necessary foot-solder in a very real cloak and dagger war. There are real enemies on the other side, and they also make use of SIGINT against us. There are also very real casualties in this war. We should not question the strategic importance of intelligence. It is the scope and directed use of that intelligence which is being considered.
Everyone who is patriotic understands that defending one’s country means that the enemies of one’s country may need to be weakened, impeded or perhaps even removed. The majority of Westerners have agreed that Nazism, Communism or jihadi Islamism all have the potential to present clear and present dangers to the security of Western countries. The goal of intelligence agencies is to defend their country by gaining accurate, timely and meaningful intelligence.
- However, pervasive surveillance comes with some not-so-hidden dangers, and they revolve around the ethical morality and spiritual condition of those who make use of that intelligence.
- ‘Ethical morality’ touches on how intelligence is used – is it used to control people, to crush freedom of expression, to illegally make profit through the misuse of one’s office, etc.
- ‘Spiritual condition’ relates to the question – is the intelligence available being used to violate God’s word and biblical principles. From a biblical point of view, one of the most important aspects here would be if intelligence is used to weaken or destroy the Jewish people and undo or impede their restoration to their Promised Land as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets.
Years ago the late Senator Frank Church spoke serious words about the two-edged sword of NSA’s SIGINT technology:
“At the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge of this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology… I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return” (PP; pp. 477).
More than Meade’s the eye
Most of the books written about American intelligence wiretaps against U.S. citizens without a warrant, have focused on operations against leftists, draft resisters and Black radical groups. The Snowden exposé has now opened the door even wider – we all have to struggle with the fact that SIGINT wiretaps are targeting the entire world.
- Yet only a handful of books and articles focus on a very specific target of SIGINT by Western intelligence agencies – the targeting of the Jewish people and their advocates in the Western world – in the USA, in the U.K., and contacts between citizens of those countries and Israel.
- According to John Loftus, former prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice in their Nazi-hunting unit, the illegal wiretapping started by Britain in 1918-19 is still focused against Jewish people who are kindly disposed towards Israel (as well as Gentiles who feel the same way). Only now it has increased in power and reach due to the addition of American technology and listening post facilities. Loftus’ assertion bears scrutiny and prayer.
“Our sources, who include a former special agent of the FBI, a former liaison to the NAS, several former NSA officials and employees, a number of former consultants to both American and British intelligence on communications security, and several former officers of the U.S. Army Security Agency, make one point very clearly: For the last fifty years, virtually every Jewish citizen, organization, and charity in the world has been the victim of electronic surveillance by Great Britain, with the knowing and willing assistance of the intelligence services of the United States… It has been the most continuous criminal violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights. Jews are not the only ethnic group to be wiretapped at their homes or jobs, although… they are the most frequent targets” ((SWATJ, p. 182).
According to these abovementioned sources, both the FBI and NSA facilities have what are called ‘Jew rooms,’ “from which all American Jews are banned, regardless of their proven loyalty or devotion to country …. The ‘Jew room’ is where the United States and Britain spy on Israel and on anyone who supports Israel” (SWATJ, pp., 193-94). Retired NSA agent Bruce Brill (worked at NSA’s Fort Meade facility 1971-74 in U.S. Army Security) substantiated the existence of these rooms (as well as U.S. higher echelon’s anti-Jewish bias) in a Jerusalem Post article called “One Man’s Agony After The Fact,” October 23, 1992; reprinted at www.jonathanpollard.org/2004/061304.htm).
“The traditional antagonism of the US State Department toward Israel is mirrored in the US intelligence community. For example, US intelligence can pinpoint every new housing unit set up in Judea or Samaria, yet could lose a Scud-laden vessel bound from North Korea to Iran on the open seas. The Hebrew language, too was the only one used at the Agency for overt spying, with Hebrew linguists told to declare they were ‘Special Arabic’ linguists. While working at the Agency as an Arabic and ‘Special Arabic’ traffic analyst in the early 1970s, I learned of the planned October 6, 1973, invasion of Israel by Syria and Egypt – 30 hours before the US notified Israel. Upper-echelon Agency personnel knew of the planned attack hours, if not days, prior to that. Not passing this vital information along in time resulted in the unnecessary death and maiming of thousands of young Israelis. The US intelligence community’s anti-Israel policy has until now been successfully kept secret, even at the Agency itself, since the ‘need to know’ rule governing such policies is strictly applied only to select non-Jews. It was, therefore, quite by accident that I discovered the existence of chambers at NSA that are off-limits to Jews, US citizens with the highest security clearances, simply because they are Jews. Clearly, efforts toward Israel’s demise are made here. These Agency inner sancta are so totally immune from any monitoring, that such unconstitutional goings on continue freely.”
Though the fact of these rooms may not be considered earthshaking news to many people, it does reveal that intelligence agency guidelines are not exactly the same as biblical guidelines.
Nevertheless, the God of Israel’s words in Genesis 12:3 apply to all mankind, even to intelligence analysts: “Those who bless you I will bless, and the one who scorns/derides/ treats you with contempt or as unimportant (ed., the Hebrew word meqalelecha has these shades of meaning), him I will curse.”
“Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see” (Luke 10:23)
Only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knows everything. Only He has the wisdom to fully understand all the information He knows. Only He possesses the justice and compassion to respond fairly, purely and with love. Only He is worthy of our ultimate respect, our thankfulness, our praise and our obedience. His strategies, His prophetic plans, His prophetic words – these are the things we can depend on, hope for, and lay down our lives to see them come to pass.
- As the world waits for the return of Messiah Yeshua, and as all nations (including the state of Israel) are met with the challenge of God’s words and ways, pray that the God of Israel will reveal His heart to those in the intelligence communities in the countries of the West, in Russia and in Israel – even to Edward Snowden
- Pray for the prophetic words of Isaiah concerning the Jewish people to come to pass, “You may take counsel together but it will be overturned; you may confidently declare your take on the matter, but it will not prevail, because God is with us – Immanuel!” (paraphrase of Isaiah 8:10)
“But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which YHVH your God cares; the eyes of YHVH your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:11-12).
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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