NSA spied on Martin Luther King, Mohammed Ali, members of Congress during Vietnam War

posted at 8:04 am on September 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The last large-scale scandal at the NSA came after the exposure of its Minaret program, which conducted illegal domestic surveillance during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.  Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) largely in response to the NSA’s espionage on Americans, but up to now the NSA’s targets had not been confirmed. Today, declassified documents show that the NSA targeted Vietnam War protesters of the highest profile — as well as members of Congress:

The National Security Agency eavesdropped on civil rights icon Martin Luther King and heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali as well as other leading critics of the Vietnam War in a secret program later deemed “disreputable,” declassified documents revealed.

The six-year spying program, dubbed “Minaret,” had been exposed in the 1970s but the targets of the surveillance had been kept secret until now.

The documents released Wednesday showed the NSA tracked King and his colleague Whitney Young, boxing star Ali, journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post, and two members of Congress, Senator Frank Church of Idaho and Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee.

One name in particular stands out.  Senator Frank Church chaired the committee that prompted Congress to pass the FISA laws with an investigation into how US intelligence agencies operated at home.  Until now, his personal stake in that probe wasn’t entirely clear, although Church must have either known or at least suspected that he was a target.  He had become a vocal opponent to the Vietnam War by 1970.  Baker, on the other hand, would probably have been shocked to discover it, and he’s still around to give a reaction; it will be interesting to see what that would be.

Spying on the media will be news, at least in having it confirmed forty years later.  I’d expect to see some reaction at the Times and the Post today on this revelation.  Regardless of how one feels about either or both of those outlets, it’s a good reminder about the dangers of government snooping, as sources that might expose these abuses of power could have been stopped before they could effectively blow the whistle, or perhaps be intimidated by the suspicion that the government has and uses that capability.  That’s something to remember when Eric Holder is signing court documents accusing James Rosen of abetting espionage in order to get surveillance approved by a court, or with the NSA’s broad collection of phone data.

Lastly, the inclusion of King and Ali among the targets just shows how insane this project got.  Both had been watched by the FBI, too, so government surveillance isn’t exactly a surprise here.  Even apart from the obvious violations of privacy, though, the NSA wasted valuable resources and time surveilling Americans who didn’t represent a threat to national security rather than spend those sources on real threats to our national security.  Without effective oversight, the NSA could easily slip back into those patterns, and having high-ranking intel figures like James Clapper and Keith Alexander mislead Congress on NSA activities doesn’t exactly give high confidence that those days won’t return.


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…JugEars had them declassified?

KOOLAID2 on September 26, 2013 at 8:06 AM

My, how we’ve “progressed” in 45 years. Back then, it was individual and institutional targets. Now, it’s everybody (except Islamokazis of course).

Steve Eggleston on September 26, 2013 at 8:08 AM

…JugEars had them declassified?

KOOLAID2 on September 26, 2013 at 8:06 AM

So he and his presstitute organs could say, “NIXON’S FAULT!!!!11!1ElevEnTY!~!@~!#”

Steve Eggleston on September 26, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Today, declassified documents show that the NSA targeted Vietnam War protesters of the highest profile — as well as members of Congress:

Yeah, we pretty much knew about MLK and Ali…. but what about John Kerry?

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee

…oh yes!…there was a threat…to national security! /

KOOLAID2 on September 26, 2013 at 8:09 AM

That was then and it took this long to find out. What about now and how long ’til find out about that?

apostic on September 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Now the NSA doesn’t discriminate – they spy on EVERYBODY!

BTW – It’s “Muhammad Ali”

myiq2xu on September 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

And yet no one can find Obama’s college records, grades, application forms, LSAT and SAT forms, etc, etc.

Where ever and however Obama is hiding his skeletons is where everyone else should hide their secrets!
;-)

albill on September 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

But without GPS, cell phones, On-star, and super computers.

So they weren’t spying on EVERYBODY.

and, OH YEAH

Snowden’s a traitor!

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:12 AM

And yet no one can find Obama’s college records, grades, application forms, LSAT and SAT forms, etc, etc.

Where ever and however Obama is hiding his skeletons is where everyone else should hide their secrets!
;-)

albill on September 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

…the Emperor…has no clothes!

KOOLAID2 on September 26, 2013 at 8:13 AM

…JugEars had them declassified?

KOOLAID2 on September 26, 2013 at 8:06 AM

It wouldn’t surprise me. Anything to distract and say “It wasn’t just on my watch”. Of course what he fails to realize is that while I’m sure the NSA had the capabilities of tapping into phones in the 60s and 70s, people didn’t have those phones with them at all times and they couldn’t browse something known as the internet with them either.

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 8:14 AM

and, OH YEAH

Snowden’s a traitor!

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:12 AM

I don’t know what you would call Snowden but whistleblower or hero is not the word.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:14 AM

albill on September 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

The crazy fans soldiers of Fairy Barry did a good job.

Oil Can on September 26, 2013 at 8:16 AM

I don’t know what you would call Snowden but whistleblower or hero is not the word.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:14 AM

How about “enlightener”

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Lastly, the inclusion of King and Ali among the targets just shows how insane this project got. Both had been watched by the FBI, too, so government surveillance isn’t exactly a surprise here.

Hoover spied on everyone he and/or the current President regarded with suspicion, often at the explicit behest of the current President. If not, with the implied consent of the current President. And those were mostly Democratic Presidents, including JFK and LBJ.

At one point in the 60s Hoover suspended and wanted to stop some of that activity because of the risk of exposure. IIRC, LBJ wanted him to continue.

So it is no surprise the NSA also did some spying on some of the same US citizens.

farsighted on September 26, 2013 at 8:19 AM

Now, you see, I was all set to think of the NSA as bad guys, and then I read this. Life can be so confusing, sometimes.

OldEnglish on September 26, 2013 at 8:20 AM

Hoover spied on everyone he and/or the current President regarded with suspicion, often at the explicit behest of the current President. If not, with the implied consent of the current President. And those were mostly Democratic Presidents, including JFK and LBJ.

At one point in the 60s Hoover suspended and wanted to stop some of that activity because of the risk of exposure. IIRC, LBJ wanted him to continue.

So it is no surprise the NSA also did some spying on some of the same US citizens.

farsighted on September 26, 2013 at 8:19 AM

But, but, but the Rat Presstitute Organs and their “historians” assured me that up until Nixon showed up, Hoover was a rogue director or something.

Steve Eggleston on September 26, 2013 at 8:20 AM

Lastly, the inclusion of King and Ali among the targets just shows how insane this project got. Both had been watched by the FBI, too, so government surveillance isn’t exactly a surprise here. Even apart from the obvious violations of privacy, though, the NSA wasted valuable resources and time surveilling Americans who didn’t represent a threat to national security rather than spend those sources on real threats to our national security. Without effective oversight, the NSA could easily slip back into those patterns, and having high-ranking intel figures like James Clapper and Keith Alexander mislead Congress on NSA activities doesn’t exactly give high confidence that those days won’t return.

Ed, why was it “insane” for them to spy on MLK? Apparently the man had a lot of dealings with communists. It’s easy to look back on the Cold War now and call anti-communist surveillance efforts “crazy,” but I’m glad it was done!

bluegill on September 26, 2013 at 8:21 AM

How about “enlightener”

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Doesn’t work for me. One of the most important aspects of intelligence is protecting means and methods. Bradley Manning is responsible for exposing individuals that provided the US with information. Snowden is responsible for tearing apart intelligence collection that goes far beyond something that we should admire as courageous or laudable.

I have no doubt that stupid young liberals at some point will replace their Che t-shirts with that of images of Snowden.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Without effective oversight, the NSA could has easily slipped back into those patterns

FIFY

Mr. Bingley on September 26, 2013 at 8:24 AM

I have no doubt that stupid young liberals at some point will replace their Che t-shirts with that of images of Snowden.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:23 AM

I have no doubt our current administration is doing FAR more harm to the US than any foreign power ever could.

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:25 AM

That was then and it took this long to find out. What about now and how long ’til find out about that?

apostic on September 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

If it’s 40 years, it may be never. The US could be unrecognizable by that time.

Fenris on September 26, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Well that was fun. Bedtime. Gotta put on my Colonel Sam Flagg jammies now.

WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:26 AM

I want the jihadists and the communists and the subversive anti-American elements spied on. Yeah, I know it
can be done against others and can be abused, but that doesn’t mean I want the whole practice stopped. Look, can we be real here for a second? If an organization has “Islamic” in the title, it should automatically trigger special monitoring. Is that not PC to say? Oh, well. Look where the terrorists from. I want law enforcement to hear every pin drop that takes place inside every mosque. Is that offensive to say? That’s how I feel. I want the terrorists in their midst caught and prosecuted, and I’m not afraid to say it.

bluegill on September 26, 2013 at 8:28 AM

Ed, why was it “insane” for them to spy on MLK?

bluegill on September 26, 2013 at 8:21 AM

I gotta agree with you on this point. The myth of MLK belies the activist and community organizer that was the reality. Anybody who reads his speeches other than the Dream speech would not use the word insane. The MLK of non-violence that existed in Memphis 1968 was not the MLK that engineered the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. MLK did not limit himself to meeting with civic and church groups.

What we have in MLK is a carefully crafted brand not the full picture of the man himself.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:32 AM

and, OH YEAH
Snowden’s a traitor!
WryTrvllr on September 26, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Snowden is a vile, anti-American traitor who set out to weaken and harm our country and help our enemies.

bluegill on September 26, 2013 at 8:35 AM

I would say the spying on King was a bit much but the spying on Ali was justified given his high profile involvement with the Nation of Islam.

Rocks on September 26, 2013 at 8:36 AM

J Edgar Hoover had every agency that he could strong arm spying on everyone he had interest in. Especially those damn Kennedy brothers…. I bet Hoover had a dozen volumes on both those boys and he made damn sure he knew every time they went and took a crap…

Sure wish I could read it all without those pesky redaction’s!

Tilly on September 26, 2013 at 8:36 AM

I want the jihadists and the communists and the subversive anti-American elements spied on. Yeah, I know it
can be done against others and can be abused, but that doesn’t mean I want the whole practice stopped. Look, can we be real here for a second? If an organization has “Islamic” in the title, it should automatically trigger special monitoring. Is that not PC to say? Oh, well. Look where the terrorists from. I want law enforcement to hear every pin drop that takes place inside every mosque. Is that offensive to say? That’s how I feel. I want the terrorists in their midst caught and prosecuted, and I’m not afraid to say it.

bluegill on September 26, 2013 at 8:28 AM

NSA is not law enforcement. Let law enforcement get a search warrant. I agree the government should be targeting Islamic terror groups and commies domestically, but within the constitution. I could spout off about other issues law enforcement is wasting time on, but that’s sorta off topic.

Fenris on September 26, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Rocks on September 26, 2013 at 8:36 AM

yeah that whole freedom of religion thing is so hard to comprehend…

Bradky on September 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

I have no doubt that stupid young liberals at some point will replace their Che t-shirts with that of images of Snowden.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:23 AM

You actually believe that? No, none of the young liberals I know seem to care. More than likely because their hero is in office. The only people I know who are outraged by this are true Conservatives and Libertarians. I will agree that Snowden didn’t have to divulge information about the foreign entities that we spied on, but he is a whistleblower about the fact that our own government is spying on us. Of course any rational human probably realized this in the back of their minds, but Snowden just brought it to the forefront. Sadly with most people it’s already being pushed aside and people just think “meh”.

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

yeah that whole freedom of religion thing is so hard to comprehend…

Bradky on September 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

Freedom of religion ends where the bombs begin. A person is not free to give money to terrorists just because the Koran demands it.

GardenGnome on September 26, 2013 at 8:45 AM

GardenGnome on September 26, 2013 at 8:45 AM

So there is proof Ali bought bombs? The Islamist radicals were a minor threat in the 60′s.

Perhaps they should monitor people who post at HA calling for anarchy and revolution? I mean after all….

Bradky on September 26, 2013 at 8:50 AM

yeah that whole freedom of religion thing is so hard to comprehend…

Bradky on September 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

I don’t really see where that has anything to do with it. No one stopped him from practicing his religion. NOI had many informal ties to the Black Panthers at the time and members of NOI had committed a very public and violent harassment of Malcolm X and his family which culminated in X’s assassination. Ali was the most high profile celebrity member of NOI and as such was constantly watched over and in contact with it’s leaders who were very legitimate targets of surveillance by any standard. It would be surprising if they had not watched Ali.

Rocks on September 26, 2013 at 8:51 AM

1970s – NSA spying evil and corrupt

2010s – NSA spying, itz all cool

mankai on September 26, 2013 at 8:52 AM

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

Snowden isn’t a whistleblower. Neither by definition nor by action. A true whistleblower would work within the system and not illegally divulge classified to third-parties. It can be argued that Snowden’s concerns would go nowhere if he had gone the whistleblower route but that is completely academic at this point since he never even tried.

Snowden gave away the keys to the kingdom. He didn’t just expose NSA domestic spying programs but he also destroyed years of intelligence collection efforts. Sorry if I don’t think he is some kind of hero.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:55 AM

I don’t know what you would call Snowden but whistleblower or hero is not the word. Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:14 AM

So you’re fine with the NSA reading your email and tracking your phone calls and monitoring your whereabouts?

If so, what do you like about it most?

If not, why would you be critical of the guy that exposed it?

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Bradky on September 26, 2013 at 8:50 AM

I prefer to squash the roach before it’s too big to catch.

OldEnglish on September 26, 2013 at 8:58 AM

So you’re fine with the NSA reading your email and tracking your phone calls and monitoring your whereabouts?

If so, what do you like about it most?

If not, why would you be critical of the guy that exposed it?

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 8:58 AM

It’s obvious that Happy Nomad would have rather just been left in the dark about it. Out of sight, out of mind.

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Snowden isn’t a whistleblower. Neither by definition nor by action. A true whistleblower would work within the system and not illegally divulge classified to third-parties. Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Imagine that! The NSA doesn’t have a facility for complaints by employees who want to tell us that the Bill of Rights is being violated by the NSA on a biblical scale. Who would have guessed?!

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 9:07 AM

It’s obvious that Happy Nomad would have rather just been left in the dark about it. Out of sight, out of mind.

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Thanks, moron, but I don’t need your help expressing what I think about the issue. You might want to figure out your own muddled ideas before you dare start speaking for others.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 9:09 AM

Thanks, moron, but I don’t need your help expressing what I think about the issue. You might want to figure out your own muddled ideas before you dare start speaking for others.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 9:09 AM

Okay, moron, well then what do you think about it? You obviously hate Snowden, which a bit sad that you have such personal angst against him. I don’t seem him as a hero and I don’t praise him, I just see him as someone who exposed something that I pretty much already knew and most rational people should have suspected, but instead the people who voiced their suspicions were derided as conspiracy nuts. I have no personal feelings for him in the least, but you obviously despise him, so what else am I to think?

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 9:15 AM

I don’t know what you would call Snowden but whistleblower or hero is not the word.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Traitor is the correct term, he’s been outed as the Russian spy that he is.

http://www.aim.org/aim-column/nsa-leaker-outed-as-russian-agent/

jp on September 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

then what do you think about it?

MobileVideoEngineer on September 26, 2013 at 9:15 AM

I think that I have better things to do than engage in a discussion with tag-team trolls.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Obama probably has the NSA spying on Beyonce so he can get a sneak listen to her new songs before they are released…

‘Cauz da o-BAM-a iz da cool and awe-sum.

albill on September 26, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Traitor is the correct term, he’s been outed as the Russian spy that he is.

jp on September 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Whether that was his original intent or not, he certainly has become one in the aftermath of his actions.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 9:29 AM

So, between Watergate, and the NSA surveillance of the ’60s; the only lesson liberals learned was – How To?

jaydee_007 on September 26, 2013 at 9:34 AM

What we have in MLK is a carefully crafted brand not the full picture of the man himself.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Yes, and even JFK was concerned enough about him to have him surveilled.

TXUS on September 26, 2013 at 9:42 AM

jp on September 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Wow, that piece even mentions a cartoon about Snowden. What more proof do we need?

A. Nothing but inference in that article. No proof of anything.

B. If you linked to a photo of Snowden and Putin shaking hands while exchanging bags of cash and CD’s, that would be better evidence, but even so I will fight every effort to infringe my rights, and accept the assistance of anyone who wishes to help me.

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 9:42 AM

I think that I have better things to do than engage in a discussion with tag-team trolls. Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Huh, and here I thought this was a discussion board.

“Run awaaay!:

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 9:44 AM

…conducted illegal domestic surveillance during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

Odd that there’s no mention of the Most Holy Kennedies.

slickwillie2001 on September 26, 2013 at 10:21 AM

What if the NSA isn’t doing any of this stuff?
What if the most sophisticated listening that they do is with a glass pressed against a motel wall?

It would sure be useful if everyone believed that they listen in on every transmission on earth- especially terrorists.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows if you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Oh, you better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why…..”

justltl on September 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Even apart from the obvious violations of privacy, though, the NSA wasted valuable resources and time surveilling Americans who didn’t represent a threat to national security rather than spend those sources on real threats to our national security.

That seems obvious now, with the benefit of hindsight. Was it so obvious then, not long after the Communist party had made a very concerted effort to take over the entertainment industry and multiple unions in California?

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 26, 2013 at 11:22 AM

GardenGnome on September 26, 2013 at 8:45 AM

So there is proof Ali bought bombs? The Islamist radicals were a minor threat in the 60′s.

Perhaps they should monitor people who post at HA calling for anarchy and revolution? I mean after all….

Bradky on September 26, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Let’s not confuse the Nation of Islam with Islam proper. At the time, Islamic radicals were not much of a problem, but the Nation of Islam is more like a cult than Islam proper, and they were involved in a lot more than free exercise of religion.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 26, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 9:42 AM

alot more than a photo is mentioned in that article, such as the Lies Putin has been caught in and the fact Snowden was Revealed to be staying in Russian housing when he initially fled to Hong Kong.

jp on September 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Lets see, Snowden flees to Hong Kong and stayins at the RUSSIAN CONSULATE
, then flees to Russia which has no Privacy Rights or Free Speech no less….

nothing to see here, Alger Hiss and Rosenberg were just “Whistleblowers” also while we are at it.

jp on September 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM

38 years from now we will find out that Obama spied on John Roberts.

cptacek on September 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

For those that don’t know … Bobby Kennedy (as Attorney General of the United States) routinely authorized warrentless wiretaps on Martin Luther King and his followers.
Deal with it LIVeral’s.

Missilengr on September 26, 2013 at 12:39 PM

alot more than a photo is mentioned in that article, such as the Lies Putin has been caught in and the fact Snowden was Revealed to be staying in Russian housing when he initially fled to Hong Kong. jp on September 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Proves nothing. Julian Assange is in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Who was he spying for, Ecuador or UK?

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Missilengr, you beat me to it. In the book, ” It Didn’t Start With Watgergate” it becomes clear it was SOP for Dem presidents and their AG’s to illegally wiretap others.
The book recounts JFK and Bobby laughing over such a thing.
The book is extremely well documented and shows how proof of such things were discovered then hidden by the dems while they were going after Nixon in Congress.

Hard Right on September 26, 2013 at 4:34 PM

The NSA really needs to spy on congress and the president now more than ever. Our country is in clear and present danger of being destroyed from within by congress and the whitehouse.

harvey1 on September 26, 2013 at 6:38 PM