I was not surprised to learn recently that John Bolton, our not-so-diplomatic ambassador to the UN, is involved in the domestic spying scandal.
From an investigative piece by Jason Leopold for truthout:
This past spring, an explosive nugget of information slipped out during the confirmation hearings of John Bolton - nominated by President Bush to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations - that in hindsight should have blown the lid off Bush's four-year-old clandestine spy program involving the National Security Agency.
At the hearing in late April, Bolton, a former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, told Congress that since 2001 he had asked the NSA on 10 different occasions to reveal to him the identities of American citizens who were caught in the NSA's raw intelligence reports in what appears to be a routine circumventing of the rules governing eavesdropping on the American public.
It turned out that Bolton was just one of many government officials who learned the identities of Americans caught in the NSA intercepts. The State Department asked the NSA to unmask the identities of American citizens 500 times since May 2001.
Newsweek revealed earlier this year that the NSA disclosed to senior White House officials and other policymakers at federal agencies the names of as many as 10,000 American citizens the agency obtained while eavesdropping on foreigners. The Americans weren't involved in any sort of terrorist activity, nor did they pose any sort of threat to national security, but had simply been named while the NSA was conducting wiretaps.
The "NSA received - and fulfilled - between 3,000 and 3,500 requests from other agencies to supply the names of U.S. citizens and officials (and citizens of other countries that help NSA eavesdrop around the world, including Britain, Canada and Australia) that initially were deleted from raw intercept reports," Newsweek said in its May 2 issue. "Sources say the number of names disclosed by NSA to other agencies during this period is more than 10,000. About one third of such disclosures were made to officials at the policymaking level; most of the rest were disclosed to other intel agencies and, perhaps surprisingly, only a small proportion to law-enforcement agencies."
The NSA has always blacked out the names of American citizens when it distributes reports about its activities to various governmental agencies because the NSA, by law, is not supposed to spy on Americans. If the NSA intercepts the names of Americans in the course of a wiretap, the agency is supposed to black out the names prior to distributing its reports to other agencies. The names of American citizens that are blacked out can be revealed to government officials if they ask for them in writing and only if they're needed to help the official better understand the context of the intelligence information they were included in.
But that didn't appear to be the case with Bolton.
During one routine wiretap, the NSA obtained the name of a state department official whose name had been blacked out when the agency submitted its report to various federal agencies. Bolton's chief of staff, Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA official, revealed during the confirmation hearings that Bolton had requested that the NSA unmask the unidentified official. Fleitz said that when Bolton found out his identity, he congratulated the official, and by doing so he had violated the NSA's rules by discussing classified information contained in the wiretap.