Ed Snowden, Philip Agee, and Executive Authority


Though Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has insinuated that Ed Snowden is a Russian spy [1], it’s fairly obvious that Ed is currently stuck in Russia because the U.S. government revoked his passport [2]. What many people don’t realize is that history is actually repeating itself and that the precedent for passport revocation was established decades ago when a previous CIA employee disclosed classified information.

In the mid-1970s a former case officer named Philip Agee went public, publishing an expose entitled Inside the Company: CIA Diary that described U.S. covert operations in intimate detail [3]. Congress responded with the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, making it illegal to blow the cover of government spies. In addition, the State Department also annulled Agee’s passport, a move which Agee challenged in court. The legal case, Haig v. Agee [4], made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the power of the executive branch to revoke passports.

Certain overarching themes recur. Agee saw intelligence services like the CIA as “logical, necessary manifestations of a ruling class’s determination to retain power and privilege. [5]” Sound familiar? Snowden arrived at similar conclusions with regard to U.S. surveillance operations, that NSA programs “were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power. [6]” Preventing terrorism is a pretext for shoring up elite dominance both abroad and at home.

The intelligence services are merely obedient arms of the executive branch, which itself in turn dutifully heeds the call of corporate mandates [7]. Or perhaps you haven’t noticed that our financial elite are essentially above the law [8]? After all, the large banking houses have the resources necessary to reward government leaders who serve their interests while in blundenoffice. Is it any surprise that Keith Alexander, the former director of the NSA, is trying to charge banks something on the order of $1 million per month for the benefit of his expertise [9]? Just ask Hilary Clinton, she raked in close to half a million for making two speeches at Goldman Sachs [10]. Wow, those must have been epic speeches.

There are additional connections between what’s transpiring today and what took place during the Cold War. For instance, while anyone who’s not living in a cave probably knows that portions of the 2010 Justice Department “drone memo [11]” (thanks to the ACLU and New York Times) have been released to the public [12], not many people are aware that the foundations of extrajudicial killing were established way back in the Reagan era.

On April 3rd of 1984, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 138. This classified document, entitled Combating Terrorism, helped set groundwork for leveraging the U.S. military against terrorism in “an effort to switch from defensive to offensive action [13].” Specifically, NSDD 138 ordered the Pentagon to [14]:

“Develop a military strategy that is supportive of an active, preventive program to combat state-sponsored terrorism before the terrorists can initiate hostile acts.”

Shortly after Reagan signed this document, Secretary of State George Schultz made a speech about terrorism which admitted the potential for “preemptive action [15].” Preemptive, as in assassination. For instance, the CIA’s 1985 attempt to kill Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah with a car bomb in Beirut [16]. Readers may want to keep in mind that it was during this same time period that Al-Qaeda was formed with extensive support from the CIA. Alleged freedom fighters or so they said. You see, the Deep State was planting seeds. As former CIA officer John Stockwell presciently observed [17]:

“Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the U.S. military machine to turn… This is where the thousands of CIA destabilizations begin to make a macabre kind of economic sense. They function to kill people who never were our enemies… to leave behind, for each one of the dead, perhaps five loved ones who are now traumatically conditioned to violence and hostility toward the United States”

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

End Notes

[1] Michael Crowley, “Mike Rogers Says Obama Has Gone ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Against al-Qaeda,” TIME, April 3, 2104, http://time.com/49121/mike-rogers/

[2] Jane Mayer, “Snowden Calls Russian-Spy Story “Absurd” in Exclusive Interview,” New Yorker, January 21, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/01/snowden-calls-russian-spy-story-absurd.html

[3] Scott Shane, “Philip Agee, 72, Is Dead; Exposed Other C.I.A. Officers,” New York Times, January 10, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/10/obituaries/10agee.html

[4] Haig v. Agee – 453 U.S. 280 (1981), http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/453/280/case.html

[5] Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1975, page 596.

[6] Edward Snowden, “Snowden’s open letter to Brazil: Read the text,” Washington Post, December 17, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/snowdens-open-letter-to-brazil-read-the-text/2013/12/17/9bf1342a-6727-11e3-8b5b-a77187b716a3_story.html

[7] Peter Dale Scott, “The Deep State and the Wall Street Overworld,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, March 10, 2014, http://japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/4090

[8] “Matt Taibbi on Big Banks’ Lack of Accountability,” Bill Moyers and Company, February 1, 2013, http://billmoyers.com/segment/matt-taibbi-on-big-banks-lack-of-accountability/

[9] Carter Dougherty, “Ex-NSA Chief Pitches Banks Costly Advice on Cyber-Attacks,” Bloomberg, June 20, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2014-06-20/ex-nsa-chief-pitches-advice-on-cyber-threats-to-the-banks.html

[10] “Lucrative side business: Hillary Clinton raises eyebrows after netting $400K for giving two speeches at Goldman Sachs,” Daily Mail, October 31, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2482262/Hillary-Clinton-nets-400K-2-speeches-Goldman-Sachs.html

[11] https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/2014-06-23_barron-memorandum.pdf

[12] Charlie Savage, “Court Releases Large Parts of Memo Approving Killing of American in Yemen,” New York Times, June 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/us/justice-department-found-it-lawful-to-target-anwar-al-awlaki.html

[13] Jeffrey Simon, The Terrorist Trap: America’s Experience with Terrorism, Second Edition, Indiana University Press, 2001, page 180.

[14] http://research.archives.gov/description/6879736

[15] “Shultz Asks Move Against Terrorism,” New York Times, April 3, 1984, http://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/04/world/shultz-asks-move-against-terrorism.html

[16] Hugh Macleod, “Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah dies at 74,” Guardian, July 4, 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/04/ayatollah-mohammed-hussein-fadlallah-dies/print

[17] John Stockwell, The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order, South End Press, 1999, page 93.



Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs and a member of the California State University Employees Union, Chapter 305.

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