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Ex-NSA analyst: Agency spied on news organizations

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A former National Security Agency analyst told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann Wednesday night that the Bush Administration targeted and eavesdropped on…

A former National Security Agency analyst told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann Wednesday night that the Bush Administration targeted and eavesdropped on the conversations of American journalists.

Russell Tice, one of the sources who revealed the secret NSA warrantless wiretapping program to The New York Times in 2005, gave harrowing details about the NSA’s wiretapping program in an interview less than 24 hours after President George Bush left office.  

He told Olbermann that the NSA collected all communications from various U.S. groups, many of which had nothing to do with terrorism: 

Tice: Now, what I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense. And that’s — I started to investigate that. That’s about the time when they came after me, to fire me. But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.

Olbermann: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the "New York Times?" Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?

Tice: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.

When Bush defended the secret wiretapping program after it became public a little more than three years ago, he said that only international communications were monitored as a way to collect terrorism intelligence. But Tice said that was not true.

“The National Security Agency had access to all Americans’ communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And that doesn’t — it didn’t matter whether you were in Kansas, you know, in the middle of the country, and you never made a communication — foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications,” he said.

Additionally Tice told Olbermann that "the agency would tailor some of their briefings to try to be deceptive” to congressional committees so that no one would know exactly what the NSA was collecting.

Olbermann asked Tice if President Barack Obama could, and would, stop the NSA from continuing to spy on Americans. Tice responded that he had tried to reach out to the Obama Administration and was still hoping he could work with the White House on intelligence issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the NSA wiretapping program, as legalized by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, in federal court in Manhattan. The Reporters Committee filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Amnesty International  v. McConnell, arguing that the law violates the First Amendment rights of journalist to conduct interviews with their sources.

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