Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Mainstream Media: Obama's new phone isn't a BlackBerry, might not be a phone, and he might not be getting it

by Joshua Topolsky

This morning we've been barraged with tips alerting us to the news that President Obama has won his struggle to keep his (apparently deeply loved) BlackBerry -- a device which has historically been verboten in the White House due to security concerns. Unfortunately for the mainstream media outlets, a little conflation here and a little lack of fact-checking there does not a BlackBerry make. Just about everyone -- straight up to CNN and the AP -- are sourcing a post by Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic stating that Obama is "going to get his blackberry [sic]," though the actual news may be far different. Ambinder seems to be conflating two stories which he doesn't source at all, one saying that the NSA will jack-up Obama's BlackBerry with some kind of "super-encryption package," and the other stating that the President will get a Sectera Edge -- an NSA approved (but not issued) device we reported he might be getting last week. Here's the news in the exact (confusing) wording Ambinder uses:

On Monday, a government agency that the Obama administration -- but that is probably the National Security Agency -- added to a standard blackberry a super-encryption package.... and Obama WILL be able to use it ... still for routine and personal messages.

With few exceptions, government Blackberries aren't designed for encryption that protects messages above the "SECRET" status, so it's not clear whether Obama is getting something new and special. The exception: the Sectera Edge from General Dynamics, which allows for TOP SECRET
voice conversations.
The problem is that Ambinder (and the mainstream media) doesn't seem to know the difference between some NSA smartphone and an actual RIM BlackBerry... and there's a big difference. Of course, we won't tell MSM (or even solo bloggers) how to do their job, but we think there's some serious air-clearing called for here. We have yet to hear official word on what, if any, device Obama will be using in the White House, and recombining two separate pieces of information that may not be related (or fully understood) seems lazy at best, and dangerous at worst.

Original here

Bush and Cheney portraits will come down at noon Tuesday -- and then be destroyed

Posted by Peter Krouse/Plain Dealer Reporter

CLEVELAND -- Portraits of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that hang in federal buildings across the land will come down about noon Tuesday, which is when the outgoing administration officially comes to an end.

"We're going to try to get it as close to noon as possible," said Kathy Lease, supervisory property manager for the General Services Administration in Cleveland.

Once removed, the portraits will be destroyed.

Meanwhile, replacement pictures of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who take their oaths of office at noon, have yet to be printed.

"We were told the Government Printing Office will likely have them done the first week in March," said Lease, who handles the Carl B. Stokes and Howard M. Metzenbaum courthouses.

In all, the printing office expects to produce portraits for 9,000 federal installations, including hospitals and military bases. The public can buy prints of the official presidential portraits by going to and clicking on Inaugural 2009. An 8-by-10 is $9 and an 11-by-14 is $12.

But don't bother placing dibs on the Bush or Cheney pictures being removed from the federal buildings. That includes people looking for a keepsake to treasure and those who might want to accentuate the portraits with a moustache or goatee, or worse.

All pictures of the president and vice president are to be "respectfully disposed of," Lease said. The government suggests shredding or recycling.

"They don't want them laying around so people can use them for improper things," Lease said.

The frames can be reused.

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Obama’s First 100 Hours: A Clean Break From Bush»


At 4 pm ET today, it will mark exactly 100 hours since Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States. The first week on the job has been a very busy one for the new White House, as the Obama administration has worked quickly to repair the damage done under the last eight years of President Bush.

As President Obama indicated in his inauguration speech, he is seeking to chart a new way forward in domestic and foreign policy. Obama has made a clean break from the Bush legacy in his early going, undertaking a number of actions that the former President would never have considered. ThinkProgress has compiled a report documenting Obama’s record so far:


The Bush Record: In his final months, the Bush administration issued a series of “midnight regulations” that gutted safeguards protecting health, safety, the environment, and the public’s general welfare.

Obama’s Clean Break: Hours after his inauguration, Obama ordered a freeze on new regulations at all government agencies and departments and the withdrawal of all final or proposed regulations not yet published in the Federal Register.


The Bush Record: After using false intelligence to launch the war, Bush “surged” 30,000 troops to Iraq in 2007 and vetoed all attempts to end the war.

Obama’s Clean Break: Two days into his presidency, Obama called on U.S. military leaders to start to plan for a responsible withdrawal.


The Bush Record: In his first term, Bush — in contrast to President Bill Clinton — “generally avoided robust efforts” to resolve the Middle East conflict. Bush demeaned diplomacy with “terrorists and radicals,” likening it to the “appeasement” of Nazi Germany.

Obama’s Clean Break: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected the “rigid ideology” of Bush and pledged to exercise “smart power.” Stressing diplomacy, Obama and Clinton “appointed high-level emissaries to handle the Arab-Israeli issue and Pakistan and Afghanistan.”


The Bush Record: Torture began with the drafting of a secret legal memo holding that Bush could authorize interrogators to violate anti-torture laws. Bush’s senior-most officials approved torture that, in some cases, lead to death.

Obama’s Clean Break: Obama signed executive orders ending the CIA’s secret prisons and ending torture by requiring interrogations to abide by the Army Field Manual.


The Bush Record: Bush created the “legal black hole” that is Guantanamo Bay. He called the harsh treatment of detainees there “an absurd allegation” and was rebuked time and again by the Supreme Court.

Obama’s Clean Break: On his first day, Obama signed an executive order closing Gitmo in one year and suspended all military tribunals for six months.


The Bush Record: Two out of five FOIA requests filed in 2006 were not processed. The number of exemptions increased 83 percent since 1998.

Obama’s Clean Break: Obama issued new orders instructing all agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor” of FOIA requests. Obama is developing an “Open Government Directive” over the next four months.


The Bush Record: Many former Bush officials “joined the ranks of the companies they once regulated where they are highly compensated. In many instances, they have helped their new employers obtain lucrative government grants and contracts.”

Obama’s Clean Break: Obama laid out stringent lobbying limits that will ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff and will ban gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the administration.


The Bush Record: Bush reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which prohibited aid from going toward any organization that mentioned abortion as an option in family planning. Sixteen countries lost access to birth control.

Obama’s Clean Break: Obama overturned the Gag Rule on Jan. 23.

Original here

Obama: End abortion 'politicization'


President Barack Obama
President Obama kept a low profile as he fulfilled a campaign promise by reversing President Bush’s policy barring U.S. aid to international organizations which provide abortions or advise women on how to get them.

President Obama kept a low profile on Friday as he fulfilled a campaign promise by reversing President Bush’s policy barring U.S. aid to international organizations which provide abortions or advise women on how to get them.

However, the new president also extended an olive branch to anti-abortion groups and expressed a desire to end what he called a “stale and fruitless debate.”

“It is time that we end the politicization of this issue,” Obama said in a written statement which accompanied an official presidential memorandum canceling Bush’s abortion-related restrictions on American aid money, referred to by critics as the “global gag rule.” The new president promised “a fresh conversation on family planning” and said his aides would “reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies.”

The policy towards U.S. funding to certain family planning groups has flipped back and forth as Republicans and Democrats traded control of the White House since the ban was first announced by President Reagan’s administration in 1984 in connection with a United Nations conference in Mexico City. The restrictions, which came to be known as the “Mexico City language,” stayed in place through the remainder of Reagan’s presidency and through the administration of President George H.W. Bush. The ban was dropped by President Clinton when he entered office in 1993 and reinstated by President Bush in 2001.

Obama also said he would work with Congress to restore American government support for the United Nations Population Fund, which has been blocked from receiving funds by a legal provision that bars the federal government from funding organizations which support or promote coerced abortion. The State Department found in 2002 that the U.N. agency was ineligible for funding because of its involvement with the Chinese government's enforcement of its one-child policy, which often leads to abortions.

Advocates for the U.N. agency disputed that finding. "The statements the Bush administration made and its actions with respect to UNFPA were purely for political purposes and not based on the facts," said the president of Americans for UNFPA, Anika Rahman. UNFPA is seeking $60 million from the U.S. in the current fiscal year

As expected, Obama’s action rescinding the Mexico City language drew a flurry of supportive statements from abortion rights and family planning groups, and a slew of sharply critical comments from abortion rights opponents.

However, there were also indications Obama and his advisers sought to minimize press attention to the polarizing issue and may have tried to avoid antagonizing anti-abortion activists. The administration skipped the chance to issue the directive on Thursday, the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, as thousands of abortion opponents gathered in Washington for an annual rally.

Instead, Obama opted to act late on a Friday afternoon, a time often used to minimize news coverage of an announcement or disclosure. While aides confirmed the signing at about 4 p.m., the text of the directive was not released until about 7 p.m. There were also signs that White House aides had difficulty in deciding whether or not to permit reporters and photographers to witness Obama actually signing the abortion-related directive.

At mid-afternoon Friday, pool photographers, camera crews and reporters were told to assemble for an event believed to be the signing. They spent about an hour waiting in the White House press briefing room before being dismissed without seeing Obama or any official event.

In past administrations, signings of presidential directives on sensitive issues were usually covered by only still photographers or a single official White House photographer. However, a flap over the omission of TV crews and press photographers from a partial pool that covered Obama’s unusual re-swearing-in Wednesday evening may have left White House press aides skittish about taking in only the still photographers or about asking news outlets to rely on only a handout photo.

Asked about the fruitless summoning and dismissal of the journalists Friday, White House spokesman Bill Burton said, “There was just a logistical misunderstanding on the part of the press office.”

Original here

President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for his first military action yesterday, missile strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan which killed at least 18 people.

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks. Although Obama has abandoned many of the "war on terror" policies of George Bush while he was president, he is not retreating from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

The US believes they are hiding in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, and made 30 strikes last year in which more than 200 people were killed. In the election, Obama hinted at increased operations in Pakistan, saying he thought Bush had made a mistake in switching to Iraq before completing the job against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US marine corp commander said yesterday that his 22,000 troops should be redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan. Gen James Conway said "the time is right" to leave Iraq now the war had become largely nation-building rather than the pitched fighting in which the corps excelled; he wanted the marines in Afghanistan, especially in the south where insurgents, and the Taliban and al-Qaida, benefit from both a nearby safe haven in Pakistan and a booming trade in narcotics.

Obama has warned that he is prepared to bomb inside Pakistan if he gets relevant intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. He had also said he would act against militants along the border if the Pakistan government failed to.

The US missiles were fired by unmanned Predator drones, which hang in the sky gathering intelligence through surveillance and, when commanded and directed by remote control, to launch attacks.

The strikes will help Obama portray himself as a leader who, though ready to shift the balance of American power towards diplomacy, is not afraid of military action.

The first attack yesterday was on the village of Zharki, in Waziristan; three missiles destroyed two houses and killed 10 people. One villager told Reuters of phonethat of nine bodies pulled from the rubble of one house, six were its owner and his relatives; Reuters added that intelligence officials said some foreign militants were also killed. A second attack hours later also in Warizistan killed eight people.

The Pakistan government publicly expressed hope that the arrival of Obama would see a halt to such strikes, which stir up hostility from Pakistanis towards the government; in private, the government may be more relaxed about such attacks.

There is a lot of nervousness in the new administration about the fragility of Pakistan, particularly as it has nuclear weapons, but it also sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as being linked. In the face of a Taliban resurgence, there is despair in Washington over the leadership of the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and there will not be much disappointment if he is replaced in elections later this year.

But Washington insists on seeing as one of its biggest problems the ability of the Taliban and al-Qaida to maintain havens in Pakistan. Obama on Thursday announced he was making veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, spoke by phone to the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari.

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Why the Gitmo policies may not change


A sign at Guantanamo detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Experts predict that American policy towards detainees could remain for months or even years pretty close to what it was as President Bush left office.

There may be less than meets the eye to the executive orders President Obama issued yesterday to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and prohibit the torture of prisoners in American custody. Those pronouncements may sound dramatic and unequivocal, but experts predict that American policy towards detainees could remain for months or even years pretty close to what it was as President Bush left office.

“I think the administration’s commitment to close Guantanamo is heartening; the fact they want to give themselves a year to do it, not so much,”, said Ramzi Kassem, a Yale Law School lecturer who represents prisoners like inmate Ahmed Zuhair, who was captured in Pakistan in 2001. “That would bring men like my client to eight years imprisonment for no apparent reason.”

Here are a few of the delays, caveats and loopholes that could limit the impact of Obama’s orders:

1. Everyone has to follow the Army Field Manual—for now…

Obama’s executive order on interrogations says all agencies of the government have to follow the Army Field Manual when interrogating detainees, meaning the CIA can no longer used so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which have included waterboarding, the use of dogs in questioning, and stripping prisoners.

However, the order also created an interagency commission which will have six months to examine whether to create “additional or different guidance” for non-military agencies such as the CIA. One group that represents detainees, the Center for Constitutional Rights, deemed that an “escape hatch” to potentially allow enhanced interrogations in the future.
White House counsel Greg Craig told reporters such fears are misplaced. “This is not an invitation to bring back different techniques than those that are approved inside the Army Field Manual, but an invitation to this task force to make recommendations as to whether or not there should be a separate protocol that's more appropriate to the intelligence community,” he said.

The distinction Craig made between “protocols” and “techniques,” though, seems less than clear.

“For now, they’re punting, saying they’ll comply with what’s in the Army manual…but at some point in the future this commission may revert to the executive” to recommend harsher techniques, said Kassem, adding that he was concerned about how transparent the commission’s recommendations would be.

“I’m happy to postpone that discussion [on “enhanced interrogation”]… on the condition that [it] happens transparently,” he said.

A Columbia law professor who worked on detention issues at the State Department under President Bush, Matthew Waxman, said Obama is wise to leave open the possibility of different guidance for the CIA’s experienced interrogators. “I’ve worked on drafts of the Army Field Manual,” Waxman said. “It’s designed to be in the hands of tens of thousands of people who may not have a lot of training or supervision.”

2. Obama ordered a 30-day review of Guantanamo conditions—by the man currently responsible for Guantanamo.

A section of Obama’s order on Guantanamo entitled “Humane Standards of Confinement” orders Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to spend the next thirty days reviewing the current conditions at the Caribbean prison to make sure they’re legal and follow the Geneva Convention. It seems doubtful that Gates, who has been atop the chain of command for Guantanamo for more than two years, will suddenly find conditions that were just fine on Monday of this week are now flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention.

“He’s not exactly impartial,” Kassem said.

Waxman pointed out that adhering to the Geneva Condition is “already the law,” and deemed that section of the order “bizarre.”

3. Obama vowed no torture on his watch, but force-feeding and solitary confinement apparently continue at Guantanamo for now.

It’s possible that the 30-day referral to Gates is simply an effort to buy the Obama team time to deal with two Guantanamo practices that some consider torture, or at least inhumane: force feeding and isolation of prisoners. According to detainee lawyers, about two dozen inmates who refuse to eat as a form of protest are currently being force fed, and about 140 are in some form of solitary confinement.

The Bush administration has argued that the feeding is humane and that the solitary, at least as practiced now, is not the kind of total isolation that amounts to torture. “There’s an important distinction to be made between isolation and separation” from other prisoners,” Waxman said.

As far as we know, the force feeding and solitary practices continued onto Obama’s watch. Craig dodged a question about the new president’s views on those issues. “I'm not going to get into the details,” Craig said.

4. The vast majority of detainees in American custody may see no benefit from Obama’s orders

While Obama ordered a case-by-case review of the 245 prisoners held at Guantanamo, the 600 prisoners held in indefinite American custody in Afghanistan and roughly 20,000 in Iraq won’t get such attention. The general policy review might aid them, eventually, but unless someone was about to torture them it’s unclear how they are better off.

“I think there’s a fairly good chance that on the whole from the perspective of my clients at Guantanamo and Bagram [the site of an American air base and prison in Afghanistan], their lives will be the same until those facilities are shut down, unfortunately,” Kassem said.

Asked why the reviews are limited to prisoners at Guantanamo, and not those at Bagram or Abu Ghraib, Craig said, “The president asked us to look at Guantanamo. That's the answer.”

5. The orders downplay the possibility that some prisoners might be set free in America.

Obama ordered that when Guantanamo closes, any remaining inmates “be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.” But Obama’s wordsmiths seem to have deliberately trimmed out any explicit mention of the explosive possibility of freeing prisoners on American soil.

While Obama’s aides seem to prefer trying prisoners in civil courts or freeing them abroad, there are no obvious charges to be filed against some of the detainees. Once Guantanamo closes, letting them loose in the U.S. may be the only option if other countries won’t take them.

Craig said he was “hopeful” that other governments will take many of the detainees, but some nations may not step up until the U.S. does. “One question a lot of countries keep asking is, ‘How many are you going to take?” Waxman said. “There may be some countries that want to earn some credit [with the] new administration…but I don’t expect this problem to go away.”

6. Military commissions are shut down…. for now

One of the attention grabbing provisions of Obama’s orders calls for military tribunals at Guantanamo to be “halted.” But the Obama administration is not ruling out returning to some sort of military forum to deal with some of the prisoners.

“This order does not eliminate or extinguish the military commissions, it just stays all proceedings in connection with the ongoing proceedings in Guantanamo,” Craig said, making clear that “improved military commissions” were still on the table.

That suggestion exasperates detainee lawyers like Kassem. “That would be a huge mistake, “ he said. “That system [is] set up to launder statements obtained through torture… What’s the point of getting rid of our offshore, improvised, sham, military tribunals in Cuba, only to recreate it here in the United States?”

Original here

Obama adminstration brings back the Freedom of Information Act and transparency in government

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Marcia Hofmann has a report card on transparent government measures undertaken by the Obama administration on its first day in office. The news is pretty damned good: they've reversed Ashcroft's restrictions on Freedom of Information Act requests as well as changes to the Presidential Records Act, and have adopted general principles on transparency and open government.

According to Obama's memo: "All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."

This statement is almost certainly meant to address a controversial memo issued by John Ashcroft in the wake of 9/11, which ordered agencies to disclose information only after considering all possible reasons to withhold it, and assured them that government lawyers would defend their decisions in court unless they had no "sound legal basis." Many open government advocates believe Ashcroft's policy effectively gutted the FOIA over the past several years. Today's memo doesn't explicitly reverse that policy, but directs the incoming attorney general to issue new FOIA guidelines to agencies "reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency." This is a big step in the right direction.

The memo doesn't stop there. It goes on to say: "The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and down by their Government. Disclosure should be timely."

Original here

Missing White House E-Mails Traced, Justice Aide Says

Washington Post Staff Writer

A Justice Department lawyer told a federal judge yesterday that the Bush administration will meet its legal requirement to transfer e-mails to the National Archives after spending more than $10 million to locate 14 million e-mails reported missing four years ago from White House computer files.

Civil division trial lawyer Helen H. Hong made the disclosure at a court hearing provoked by a 2007 lawsuit filed by outside groups to ensure that politically significant records created by the White House are not destroyed or removed before President Bush leaves office at noon on Tuesday. She said the department plans to argue in a court filing this week that the administration's successful recent search renders the lawsuit moot.

Hong's statement came hours after U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ordered employees of the president's executive office -- with just days to go before their departure -- to undertake a comprehensive search of computer workstations, preserve portable hard drives and examine any e-mail archives created or retained from 2003 to 2005, the period in which e-mails appeared to be missing.

Hong said private contractors had helped find the e-mails by searching through an estimated 60,000 tapes that contain daily recordings of the entire contents of the White House computers as a precaution against an electronic disaster.

Her remarks prompted Anne Weisman, the counsel for one of two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), to say, "I'll believe it when I see it." Weisman said she hoped the administration's efforts to recover the e-mails can be verified by an independent expert, noting that officials have repeatedly declined to detail the procedures they used. She also said questions persist about whether backup tapes still existed for all of the days for which e-mails were reported missing.

Meredith Fuchs, counsel for the other plaintiff, a historical group known as the National Security Archive, said the Justice Department's statement was "striking" because the admission that 14 million e-mails had to be recovered showed "the level of mismanagement at the White House" of its historically significant records. She said, "For the past year and a half, they said, 'Don't worry, don't worry, leave us alone.' Now they say, at the last minute, they have solved it. I want to see the evidence."

Kennedy's order was the latest in a series of rulings about the fate of Bush administration records that have been unfavorable to the White House. Bush aides had long contended that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, and they had resisted a court order requiring that White House preserve the backup tapes that were used to recover the e-mails; the courts rejected both positions.

Last week, a different judge overrode White House objections and ordered the administration to search for information that CREW is seeking on White House visitors during the Bush tenure. Another judge turned aside White House objections to handing copies to aides of President-elect Barack Obama of documents related to the controversial firings of U.S. prosecutors in 2006, which Congress has demanded to see. Still to be decided, possibly in coming days, is a lawsuit by CREW demanding the preservation of vice presidential records that aides to Dick Cheney have said he alone can decide to withhold or discard.

The dispute over recovery of the missing e-mails was provoked by the disclosure four years ago that the White House, in switching to a new internal e-mail system shortly after Bush's election, had abandoned an automatic archiving system meant to preserve all messages containing official business. Under the new system, any of the 3,000 or so regular White House employees could access e-mail storage files, enabling them to delete messages.

An internal White House report noted in 2005 that e-mails from specific periods appeared to be missing, including key moments related to the invasion of Iraq and to a federal probe of the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's classified employment with the CIA. White House officials called that study flawed after congressional investigators released it.

Once the e-mails are transferred to the National Archives, federal law allows them to be requested under the Freedom of Information Act after a five-year interval.

Original here

Whistleblower: NSA spied on everyone, targeted journalists

David Edwards and Muriel Kane

Former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice, who helped expose the NSA's warrantless wiretapping in December 2005, has now come forward with even more startling allegations. Tice told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday that the programs that spied on Americans were not only much broader than previously acknowledged but specifically targeted journalists.

"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."

Tice further explained that "even for the NSA it's impossible to literally collect all communications. ... What was done was sort of an ability to look at the metadata ... and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected."

According to Tice, in addition to this "low-tech, dragnet" approach, the NSA also had the ability to hone in on specific groups, and that was the aspect he himself was involved with. However, even within the NSA there was a cover story meant to prevent people like Tice from realizing what they were doing.

"In one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them," Tice told Olbermann. "What I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and 365 days a year -- and it made no sense. ... I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me to fire me."

When Olbermann pressed him for specifics, Tice offered, "An organization that was collected on were US news organizations and reporters and journalists."

"To what purpose?" Olbermann asked. "I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every email 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?"

Tice did not answer directly, but simply stated, "If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything." He added, however, that he had no idea what was ultimately done with the information, except that he was sure it "was digitized and put on databases somewhere."

Tice first began alleging that there were illegal activities going on at both the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency in December 2005, several months after being fired by the NSA. He also served at that time as a source for the New York Times story which revealed the existence of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program.

Over the next several months, however, Tice was frustrated in his attempts to testify before Congress, had his credibility attacked by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, and was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in an apparent attempt at intimidation.

Tice is now coming forward again now because George Bush is finally out of office. He told Olbermann that the Obama administration has not been in touch with him about his latest revelations, but, "I did send a letter to, I think it's [Obama intelligence adviser John] Brennan -- a handwritten letter, because I knew all my communications were tapped, my phones, my computer, and I've had the FBI on me like flies on you-know-what ... and I'm assuming that he gave the note to our current president -- that I intended to say a little bit more than I had in the past."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Jan. 21, 2009.

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