FAQ :: Are Project Shamrock and Project Minaret spy programs?

Yes. The federal government has been eavesdropping on the American people for decades. Today the NASA spying is front page news. No one is left out of the overwhelming surveillance inflicted upon private citizens, and virtually anything that breathes.

Mass eavesdropping on the American people began in August 1945 as World War II was ending. Two early programs of eavesdropping were Project SHAMROCK and Project MINARET.

Project SHAMROCK was an espionage exercise started in August of 1945 in which the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) gathered and analyzed all telegraphic data entering or exiting the United States. AFSA and its successor the National Security Agency (NSA) that was created in 1947 were given direct access to daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing, and transiting telegraphs via the Western Union and its associates RCA and ITT. Telegrams of interest were passed to other agencies to follow up. “Intercepted messages were disseminated to the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense.” No court authorized the operation and no warrants were ever issued.

At the height of Project SHAMROCK, 150,000 messages a month were printed and analyzed by NSA personnel. In May of 1975 Congressional critics began to investigate and expose the program. Once it was made public NSA director Lew Allen terminated it.

The testimony of the representatives from the telegraph companies and of director Allen prompted Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Frank Church to conclude that Project SHAMROCK was “probably the largest government interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.”

A positive result of the investigations was the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978 which limited the powers of the NSA and put in place a process of warrants and judicial review. Another internal safeguard was U.S. Signal Intelligence Directive 18, an internal NSA and intelligence community set of procedures. It was originally issued in 1980, updated in 1993, and was the general guideline for handling signal intelligence inadvertently collected on Americans without a warrant prior to the George W. Bush Administration. The Bush administration assumed the Executive Branch has unitary authority for warrantless surveillance and violated FISA for eight years. [1]

Project MINARET, a similar program to Project SHAMROCK, was operated by the NSA from 1967 to 1973. The electronic communications selected Americans were intercepted and passed to other government law enforcement and intelligence organizations. The names on “watch lists” were created by Executive Branch law enforcement and intelligence agencies. AS with SHAMROCK there was no judicial oversight and no warrants.

The 1972 Keith decision by the U.S. Supreme Court became a controversial issue because even though the court had confirmed that the government had the authority to protect the nation from subversive activity and anarchy it did not make the government’s ability to use electronic surveillance for domestic espionage purposes illegal.

More than 5,925 foreigners and 1,690 organizations and American citizens were the “watch list.” NSA Director, Lew Allen, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975 that the NSA had issued over 3,900 reports on the watch-listed Americans. Today that list is in the millions. [2]

Endnotes [1]www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIIj.htm
Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans: National Security Agency Surveillance Affecting Americans. http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIIj.htm. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art4.html.
[2] National Security Agency (20 October 1980), http://cryptome.org/nsa-ussid18-80.htm. National Security Agency (27 July 1993), http://cryptome.org/nsa-ussid18.htm.