Bamford Calls for New Church Committee Into NSA
January 18, 2014 • 10:50AM

Well-known author James Bamford, who has written three books on the National Security Agency, called for a new Church Committee to probe the NSA's illegal spying activities. Speaking on Thursday night before an audience of 400 people at the National Press Club, Bamford reviewed the history of the NSA, starting with the fact that it is the only U.S. intelligence agency to have been established by a secret executive order, not an Act of Congress. In 1952, President Harry Truman signed an executive order creating what is today the largest U.S. intelligence agency, with over 35,000 employees as well as an army of outside contractors.

During a lengthy question and answer period, Bamford confirmed that the NSA shares spy data on American citizens with foreign agencies, including the Israeli intelligence services. But he emphasized that, in effect, NSA is not just an American intelligence service, but is part of a multinational organization that has functioned as a single entity since World War II. At that time, U.S. and British code-breakers worked as a single, integrated team at locations like Blechley Park in Britain. After the war, the relationship was preserved and expanded into what is known as "UKUSA" and "Five Eyes." Effectively, the NSA is one component of an integrated technical spying agency, involving the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Bamford minced no words in criticizing President Obama for defending the secrecy of the NSA's metadata operations. He also attacked Obama for ordering drone strikes in Yemen without any declaration of war or public explanation of the program. In the very first drone attack against alleged al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, 50 innocent civilians were killed—mostly women and children—when it turned out that the intelligence was wrong. President Obama subsequently praised the President of Yemen for his bold counter-terrorism operations, knowing full well that the drone strikes were American actions taken without even consulting with the Yemeni government.

In response to a question from EIR, Bamford wholeheartedly endorsed the call by Reps. Walter Jones and Stephen Lynch to declassify the 28 pages of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 report. He noted that his only criticism of the Joint Inquiry report and the report of the later 9/11 Commission is that they did not pay adequate attention to the role of the NSA in the tracking of al-Qaeda cells prior to the attacks.

Bamford made clear that in his view, the only way to curb the illegal spying by the NSA, targeting innocent American citizens, is for there to be another Church Committee, like the mid-1970s Senate Committee chaired by Sen. Frank Church, that exposed massive criminality by U.S. intelligence and Federal law-enforcement agencies, which led to the creation of Congressional oversight committees. He expressed cautious optimism that the climate is now right for such a housecleaning effort by Congress.