tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera November 1, 2013 10:30pm-11:01pm EDT
some of america's best-kept secrets are out. by now, most of the world has heard the name edward snowden. the former national security agency contractor who released thousands of classified documents about government surveillance in one of the most significant leaks in u.s. history. he's been charged with espionage and has been living in russia under temporary asylum. the american journalist at the center of the story lives in brazil. >> we've had to come to rio to speak to glenn greenwald. he hasn't returned to the united
states since he broke the story about the nsa surveillance programs for fear of being prosecuted. >> the nsa's goal really is the elimination of privacy globally. it is literally a system designed to monitor all forms of human behavior inside the united states, which is the ultimate surveillance state. >> last december, glenn greenwald received an email from a person who didn't identify himself. >> we still didn't know who he was, where he worked, but he was saying he had access to large amounts of very sensitive surveillance information that show the united states
government was violating the law and abusing it's power. >> suddenly in my lap had dropped some of the most potent instruments for shining a light on what it is that they are doing, beyond your wildest dreams as a journalist. i had literally, physically couldn't breathe at points because of excitement and shock. >> the source was edward snowden. >> the nsa specifically targets the communications of everyone. it ingests them by default. it collects them in it's system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them. >> up to that point, the director of national intelligence, who oversees nearly 20 u.s. intelligence agencies, had been telling the public a different story. >> does the nsa collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of americans? >> no sir. >> it does not? >> not wittingly. there are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect,
but not wittingly. >> after the snowden revelations, clapper apologized, explaining that he'd given the "least untruthful" answer. >> i sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if i had a personal email. >> so everything from learning all your metadata, with whom you're speaking, who's emailing you, where you are when you do it, how long you speak for, what your network of associations and friends are to being able to target multinational corporations around the world to tapping directly into the servers of the internet companies that the world is now using to communicate, facebook and skype and microsoft and apple, is all about this idea that there should be no electronic communications between human beings that are protected or free from the prying eyes of the nsa.
>> meta-data means basic records about a communication: phone numbers, when calls are placed and how long they last. >> you don't have to have done anyting wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made. >> the documents also showed that the nsa was listening to the phone calls of world leaders. >> i think the best way to summarize the nsa surveillance mindset is to quote general alexander who runs the agency. he had a motto when he was in iraq, in charge of surveillance of the iraqi population against whom the united states waged war, which was, collect it all. >> what do you say to the people who are like, i don't do anything wrong, i don't care if they see my emails or hear my calls? people who say that don't actually believe it. they put locks on their bedroom and bathroom doors. every time somebody says to me, i have nothing to hide, i don't care about privacy, i always say to them, please give me all the passwords to your email accounts
and your facebook account. nobody has ever taken me up on that offer because we instinctively as human beings know that we crave privacy. j. edgar hoover had information on everybody in congress and the white house. this now is information on them and everybody in the country. and everybody in the world, really. >> before edward snowden, there was william binney: a former senior official at the nsa who helped develop some of the early technology being used in the data collection programs. >> he says 9/11 was a turning point for the agency. he left his job just weeks after the attacks, and became a whistleblower. >> with 9/11 everything changed here. some of them said this is a gift to nsa and what it meant was now we can just about get any kind of budget we want and build our nsa so much larger and get so many more contracts and so much more money and do so many more
things and that's exactly what they did. >> when you actually have even private conversations with members of the agency, what you hear is 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. >> general alexander, can you give the best argument for how these programs actually work to protect americans? 9/11. connecting the dots. we need programs to connect the dots. >> but it didn't stop 9/11. is there a case where it did work? >> we didn't have the programs, >> i imagine there are some people who are so frightened, who are so scared that they feel that whatever the government might do including denying them their own civil liberties somehow is in order to protect them from the boogeymen who are lying underneath their bed. (vo) gripping films from the world's top documentary directors. this sunday: it seemed like a normal adoption >> do you think this family has a lot of secrets? >> it's like there's an open book as far as the family goes.
>> in many ways, the nsa surveillance story can seem abstract. in the stream of new revelations from the snowden documents, it can be hard to grasp. sure, the government is collecting information, but what does that really mean for someone's life? to find out, we went to a meet a group of people who definitely know they're being spied on. >> after 9/11 it wasn't just the nsa that increased surveillance on u.s. citizens. here at the city level in new york, the nypd actually brought in two senior officials from the cia to help run a program to spy on its own citizens. >> the program, which was uncovered by the associated press, is targeting one community: muslims. secret documents show that the nypd is conducting surveillance of entire muslim neighborhoods and infiltrating dozens of mosques and muslim student groups. >> they visited bookstores, they visited cafes, they visited hookah joints, and of course they visited mosques...
>> informants record conversations using hidden microphones, collect the names and phone numbers of congregants and even photograph them. >> they were listening for, you know, what were people talking about, how were they reacting to foreign events abroad, you know, the egyptian revolution or you know, the cartoons about the prophet muhammed and the danish publication, what was the chatter, what were the imams saying in their sermons? >> to justify this, the nypd secretly labeled entire mosques as "terrorist organizations". >> so it was total surveillance, it was suspicion-less surveillance. in other words the nypd wasn't necessarily pursuing concrete, specific leads having to do with a criminal investigation or a crime, they were really engaged in a mapping effort. >> can i get a shwarma? >> everyone is a target, and every place is fair game,
including this restaurant. it was listed in a secret nypd document as a "location of concern," along with other restaurants, cafes and bakeries in the area. all of them, the nypd says, are owned by arabs or muslims. >> it's funny because some of the nypd who were doing the spying, their supervisors kept noticing that they were going to the same restaurants. so they finally asked them you know is that a real hot spot, is there a lot of activity there? and it just turned out the cops liked the food a lot. can't blame them. >> the nypd's policy when it comes to muslims seems to be "collect it all." >> no detail of muslim public life in new york was too insignificant or too trivial to record. and not just to record in a police report secretly, but to sort of retain it, and possibly
to share it. >> i certainly know that i'm being surveilled. they've told me that i'm being surveilled. it's not a question for me. it's a reality. >> soheeb amin was a student at brooklyn college and the president of the muslim student group there, when it was being monitored by the nypd. the police kept tabs on the group's website, and it did the same at other colleges and universities in new york and beyond. they also had informants or undercover officers infiltrate the groups. >> i will drive myself crazy if i had to ask myself is this guy an informant for every person that i met. so i just tell myself, look, i'm not going to do, i don't do anything wrong, i don't say anything wrong, if they go after me on nothing there's nothing i can do about that. so i have two friends sitting over there who i trust but that's because i've known them for a long time. and it's probably only recently, not too long ago, that i could
have told myself yeah, they're not out to get me. and i would love to think i'm being paranoid, but that's the reality. >> so it does it make you kind of paranoid about every phone call or email or text? >> it's still silly to say, but i'll read a text or email and i'll just assume there's a third party reading it. sometimes we'll throw in a joke like you know haha nypd or something like that. especially if like something political is touched on, it will be like uh, just to clarify for the third party and then we'll actually clarify. and part of me thinks we're not joking when we do that. >> this is the bay ridge neighborhood in new york. it's actually part of brooklyn and it's like a center of life for arab americans in new york city. you can see a lot of signs are in arabic. there are halal grocery stores and it's also a real hot spot for nypd surveillance. >> it seems like no institution is off limits to the nypd. police department documents show they planned to place an
informant on the board of the arab american association of new york. it was part of a "terrorist enterprise" investigation. >> is there any reason to believe that something here could be a terrorist group or activity? >> if helping kids with their homework and teaching immigrant women english is terrorist activities then i guess so. i don't know, i don't think there is any reason to believe that an organization with good people, trying to do good work would be engaged in any type of activity. >> so this one of the secret documents that was leaked to the associated press. and what it does is it talks about multiple mosques and organizations and people that we know so that are mentioned in here and when i saw first saw it, so it says, it's looking at confidential informant profiles and looking for the right people to infiltrate particular centers or organizations. here we're number two. >> whoa, there you are huh.
>> and that's what's so hurtful about this nypd spying program is that our own community mistrust each other. mistrusting law enforcement is one thing, we'll get over that one day, but the fact that we, our fabric of our community is broken is what really hurts me the most that people can't trust each other. you come this country because it's america, because it's about liberty and justice and freedom and our community doesn't believe that that applies to them. >> i remember we had political discussions in class that i really didn't want to get involved in. i remember i had one professor that said that if he was in iraq he'd probably be on the other side. and i remember just looking at him thinking i'd be in jail if i thought that. >> they're like listen we're muslim, don't tell us about the constitution, that has nothing to do with us. what do you mean it has nothing to do with us, you're american, it does have something to do with you. that breaks my heart when people say that, that that doesn't apply to us. of course it does, but it's hard for me to prove that based on the real-life experiences of people in our community and based on black and white
documents. how can i stand in front of my community and say no, you're not targeted, you're not targets, you're not victims. they are, they absolutely are. >> there's a constant level of anxiety that actually on a biological basis can be very hazardous to one's health, there's also self-stigma, you begin to internalize the stigma and sometimes if you don't have a strong support system in your community, begin to think negatively about yourself, or perhaps your community. >> the nypd declined our request for an interview. police commissioner ray kelly and mayor michael bloomberg stood behind the programs, insisting that they don't target anyone without a lead. polls show that the majority of new yorkers think the nypd treatment of muslims has been appropriate. >> i think the "not me" effect also ties in with whether or not they believe a search or surveillance is reasonable and
whether or not you believe invasions of privacy are reasonable really depends upon the extent to which you believe that certain groups deserve to have their privacy violated, those are the "others." they're not me. >> we can't let this happen to this community because if we let it happen to muslims, you better guarantee it's going to become broader and it's going to happen to some other community along the line and we're going to remember and say damn if we would have done something when it was happening to muslims, this would never have happened. right now were not there yet. >> it's always acceptable when the costs are being borne by someone else. now all of a sudden there's some awareness socially that, oh wow, the nsa is actually doing is on sort of on a universal, all-encompassing scale. right, like everyone is a subject of that surveillance. >> the nypd admitted in court that its surveillance of muslims never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation. al jazeera america - a new voice
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the question of whether mass surveillance is effective in keeping people safe, is also at the heart of the debate over the nsa's programs. and nowhere is that debate more consequential than in washington dc's halls of power. >> it's been several months since the snowden leaks and the story isn't going away yet. now congress is holding a series of public hearings. today is the first one and we're going to hear general alexander and director clapper testify. >> what we do not do is spy unlawfully on americans or for that matter, spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country. we only "spy" for valid intelligence purposes as authorized by law with multiple layers of oversight to ensure we do not abuse our authorities. >> nsa's programs have contributed to understanding and disrupting 54 terror-related
events, 25 in europe, 11 in asia, five in africa, and 13 in the united states. this was no accident. this was not coincidence. that claim was challenged a week later. >> we've heard over and over again the assertion that 54 terrorist plots were thwarted by the use of 215 and 702. that's plainly wrong. these weren't all plots and they weren't all thwarted. the american people are getting left with inaccurate impressions of the effectiveness of the nsa programs. would you agree that the 54 cases that keep getting cited by the administration were not full plots? yes or no? >> yes. >> we're talking about massive, massive, massive collection. we're told we have to do that to protect us and then statistics
are rolled out. if they're not accurate, it doesn't help the credibility here in the congress. it doesn't help the credibility with the country. >> 215 and 702 are shorthand for the sections of laws the nsa uses to legally justify its collection programs. fault lines asked general alexander to name a case where these programs played a key role. >> there are several cases that we put out: the basaaly moalin, with the respect to 215 is probably the best case. fbi gave that an open hearing, that's a great one to use. just think, how do you connect the dots between the foreign intelligence agencies, and the domestic? i think these are the best tools; we need tools to stop it. >> the case in san diego was about $8,500 that went to somalia? >> yeah, and i don't have the specifics, but it's open record so you can pull that up pretty easy. >> this is one of the major cases they use to justify these programs and he just told us that he didn't know the specifics of it.
>> there has, to my knowledge with classified clearance, never ever been a terrorist attack in the united states that's been foiled by use of any of this information. not even once, and they've been collecting this information since right after 9/11. so, there's just no basis for it. it just isn't any use. one thing that you hear from them is that they are looking for a needle in a haystack. what they're actually doing is creating a haystack and then inserting a needle in it. >> we're here today for a very simple reason, to defend the fourth amendment. >> after the leaks, as outraged constituents complained about surveillance to their elected officials, the house of representatives nearly passed a bill to end the phone data collection program. it was defeated but several members of congress have introduced bills to reform or end the programs altogether. still, the nsa enjoys support from some powerful lawmakers. >> i listen to this program being described as a surveillance program.
it is not. there is no content collected by the nsa. there are bits of data: location, telephone numbers that can be queried when there is reasonable, articulable suspicion. i so regret what is happening. i will do everything i can to prevent this program from being cancelled out. senator, i don't have any questions. >> it is ironic that not only is diane feinstein, who's a democrat, one of the most devoted apologists of the nsa, the position that she occupies in the senate, which is chair of the senate intelligence committee is the position that is supposed to be devoted to overseeing the intelligence community, serving as a watchdog over it, and yet they've managed to put and install into that position, one of the most slavish devotees and loyalist of all of their powers.
>> the people who are the ones who are supposed to be watching the intelligence agencies are the ones who end up being their biggest supporters and to some extent, the ones who try to rationalize every form of misconduct that ever gets displayed to us. >> as more and more leaks came out about the extent of the nsa's surveillance, president obama had to address it somehow. >> if you are the ordinary person and you start seeing a bunch of headlines saying, u.s.-big brother looking down on you, collecting telephone records, et cetera, well, understandably, people would be concerned. i would be, too, if i wasn't inside the government. >> he appointed a panel to review the programs, but critics say it's too close to the office of the director of national intelligence. and they accuse the administration of not being transparent enough about the nsa's reach. >> they have no way of verifying what they're being told by any agency in the intelligence community right now.
the congress has no way of verifying. they have to trust them and believe them as what they're telling them is the truth. >> the leadership of your agencies built an intelligence collection system that repeatedly deceived the american people. time and time again, the american people were told one thing about domestic surveillance in public forums while government agencies did something else in private. >> as a general premise, we are pushing transparency and we will declassify as much as we can. >> director clapper, can we ask you a quick question on the way out? when do the american people know you're being the least untruthful as possible? >> there are charges that have been filed against mr. snowden, three charges...
>> for the government it's as much about prevention as it is about punishment. making sure any potential leakers think twice before coming forward. for edward snowden, it's a fate he was willing to risk. >> you live a privileged life. you're living in hawaii, in paradise, and making a ton of money. what would it take to make you leave everything behind? the greatest fear that i have regarding the outcome for america, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. >> i think what the nsa in our nation is trying to do is protect our people and other people. you know, i would say, do you speak arabic? >> do i? no. maafi mushkila kil shi tamam, alhamdulillah. and so from my perspective, we want to have a world where there are no problems, where everything is ok, and we can say
thanks. so from our perspective, we have to work together as nations to do that, and it takes intelligence and the least intrusive way we could think of was metadata. if, if anyone has any ideas how they can do it better, let us know. >> but what price are people willing to pay for security? and what could mass surveillance do to the nature of american society, and its promises of democracy, liberty and privacy? >> if you allow the government, the state to know everything it is the population is doing, while the population knows less and less about what the state is doing because it's all done behind a wall of secrecy, you're shifting fundamentally the balance of power that ought to exist. the state has all the power. they know everything that you do, everything thing that you think, everything that you fear. they know how to manipulate and control you. >> up to this point, we haven't seen the government use big data against, let's say, anti-war protesters, environmental
protestors, and other people who are exercising their first amendment rights. we've seen it happen in the past. but in fact that effort is easier today than it was back then because of technological advancement. so, we've created what edward snowden has called the "turnkey totalitarian state." it's not quite totalitarian yet, but all you have to do is turn the key and it would be. -less
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