America spying on the world round the clock
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: At a Central Investigation Agency (CIA) listening facility in Virginia, 5,000 to 6,000 pieces of intelligence are examined as part of the agency’s counter-terrorism effort.
Phone conversations in remote parts of the world are monitored by satellite. In other words, America is spying on the rest of the world round the clock.
According to the current issue of Time magazine, the Terrorist Threat Integration Centre (TTIC) is staffed by professionals from a dozen government entities so that there is no intelligence-sharing failure as happened before 9/11. The spying operations involve only foreign targets. The chief of the facility, John Brennen of the CIA, says, “The centre is helping to monitor a lot of folks who have acquired US citizenship or green cards that are engaged in international terrorism.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is said to keep tabs on about 400 individuals in the US who are thought to be sympathetic to Al Qaeda or somehow connected to “Sunni extremism”. The FBI has also tried to co-opt some of them as informants.
One official told the team of reporters from the magazine that was permitted to tour the centre, “Our job is to capture them and kill them.” That means, he explains, taking action “at the direction of the president, by formal decree, clandestinely. Sometimes you’re acting at his direction to change the world.” He describes work done at the centre “so goddamn nitty-gritty it’ll turn your mind numb”.
Some of the best intelligence comes from interrogating captured terrorists. The counter-terrorist Centre helps direct and analyse those sessions. It’s all about “who knew who five years ago,” says the official. “Where did they go after that? How did the network expand? What were they plotting then? Where did they live? Who did they live with?”
The president’s daily intelligence briefing gets a great deal of input from the centre. To determine what intelligence the president should hear at around 8:00am, along with his standard daily reports, the official assigned the task will go through a stack of fresh intelligence as high as three phone books.