The NSA is a criminal organization.
The first big revelation of NSA criminality in the modern era came from the New York Times’ James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who revealed the NSA was warantlessly wiretapping over 30 million Americans, or roughly one in every ten citizens of the country.
Next came the Snowden documents, proving that the NSA is illegally collecting metadata from every major US phone company, as well as emails and private social-media messages from most major email and social-media sites around the world.
These actions constitute a criminal and unacceptable invasion of personal privacy, but it doesn’t stop there. The NSA also engages in global terrorism by participating in the US’ illegal targeted-assassination program. Many drone strikes aren’t actually aimed at individual people, they’re aimed at cell phones under the presumption that a so-called “militant” is holding the phone. This assumption is often wrong, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of children in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. The deaths of these children, of course, do nothing to deter the NSA from continuing to provide information to be used in drone strikes.
The US drone program, by inflicting psychological terror on the civilian populations of entire countries in pursuit of a political goal, meets any and every possible definition of terrorism. Its intimate participation in the program means the NSA is, by definition, a terrorist organization.
And the list of NSA wrongdoing goes on, and on, and on until it’s impossible to wrap your head around the sheer blatant criminality of the group. The NSA illegally gave information to the DEA on the condition that the DEA would illegally hide the source of the information in court, a Federal crime.
Like most criminal gangs, they’re also extortionists, threatening Yahoo with $250,000 a day in fines if the company refused to participate in its illegal PRISM program.
All of this explains why I decided to confront them when they came to recruit at the University of New Mexico. The action was more successful than I possibly could have hoped, thanks to the short temper of an NSA recruiter named “Neal Z.”
Mr. Z freaked out immediately when faced with the slightest expression of dissent. I was never aggressive or rude to him, choosing instead to calmly confront him with the fact of his organization’s criminality.
He responded with more criminality, assaulting my friend and fellow activist Sean Potter for filming the interaction. The story made national news, and I’m sure Mr. Z’s overlords are not too happy with him.
Many commenters have argued that I was interfering with students’ ability to get a job with the organization. Well, yes, yes I was. That was the whole point.
No-one has the right to work for the NSA any more than they have the right to work for Los Zetas or al-Qaeda. These are all criminal terrorist organizations, and anyone who works for them is a criminal terrorist. We could argue the relative severity of their crimes or whether Los Zetas has killed more people than the NSA. But what’s not debatable is that the NSA is a criminal terrorist organization. That’s simply a fact.
Criminals and terrorists have no place on college campuses. Imagine the public outrage if ISIS was given a table to recruit operatives at a university career fair. The same people who say I shouldn’t have interfered with students’ job prospects would have no trouble at all understanding why students have no right to work for ISIS, regardless of how well the terrorist group would pay them.
I call on all students, and all people, to stand up to the NSA wherever and however you can. This can take many forms, from publicly confronting them as I did to simply taking measures to make it harder to track you. I recommend the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense guide as a useful jumping-off point to avoiding surveillance.
To everyone resisting NSA criminality and the wider problem of US imperialism, I wish you luck and send you solidarity. And for more updates on this story, follow ImportantCool, a worker-owned journalist collective where I will be publishing all future updates to this story.
Andy Beale is an independent journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s a worker-owner of the Ecuador-based journalism collective ImportantCool. Look for updates on this and other breaking stories on ImportantCool’s website or on twitter @ImportantCool.