By DOUG THOMPSON
May 31, 2006
Now that he is officially sworn in as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden plans to build a vast domestic spying network that will pry into the lives of most Americans around the clock.
President George W. Bush told Hayden to “take whatever steps necessary” to monitor Americans 24/7 by listening in on their phone calls, bugging their homes and offices, probing their private lives, snooping into their financial records and watching their travel habits.
Can I prove this in a court of law? No. Do I know it is happening? Yes, without a doubt. Enough sources within the CIA, FBI, NSA and Pentagon have come forward in recent days to warn about Hayden’s plans for an expanded, consolidated spy network aimed at Americans, not terrorists, and violating numerous laws that prohibit such activities against citizens of this country.
“What Hayden plans to do is not only illegal, it is immoral,” says a longtime CIA operative who may retire early rather than participate in what he sees as an illegal extension of the spy agency’s activities.
Hayden, who oversaw the National Security Agency’s questionable monitoring of phone calls and emails of Americas, plans to consolidate much of the country’s domestic spying into a new desk at the CIA, calling it a “domestic terrorism prevention” operation.
The desk will oversee not only NSA’s increased monitoring of electronic communications by Americans but also the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “terrorist information awareness” program that monitors travel and financial activities by Americans by gathering real-time data from banks, airlines, travel agencies and credit card companies.
The CIA operation will also coordinate with the Pentagon’s domestic spying program that monitors activities of anti-war groups, organizations critical of the Bush administrations and others tagged as enemies of the state.
FBI agents will step up monitoring of journalists to identify leaks of stories embarrassing to the government. The bureau is already monitoring phone calls and emails by reporters on a routine basis and has increased surveillance of writers for major news organizations and monitoring of travel and financial records using the DARPA computers.
“This is not ‘total information awareness’ but ‘total information control’ aimed at watching Americans fulltime and ignoring the protections that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution,” says an FBI agent familiar with the programs. “I didn’t sign on for this and I’m getting the hell out.”
In fact, resignations at major U.S. spy agencies are at an all-time high. Exact numbers are classified but sources say field agents, data analysts and others are leaving in droves rather than join the frenzy to spy on Americans.
Hayden sailed through the Senate confirmation process defending his domestic spying program at NSA, claiming it was legal. Privacy experts and Constitutional law professors say otherwise but the Senate rubber-stamped Bush’s choice anyway, choosing to ignore the threats to freedom.
Hayden will have little problem concealing the operation from the public and Congress. Many of the CIA’s programs are classified and the agency has, in the past, concealed programs even from the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate. The DARPA project and the Pentagon domestic spying programs are “black bag” operations that do not require Congressional approval or oversight.
Likewise, many of the details of the NSA domestic spying program were withheld from Congress and escaped public notice until media reports unearthed them and the Bush administration now threatens to jail the reporters who broke the story.
I wish I could prove this. I wish one, just one, source on the inside was willing to come forward and allow his or her name to be used but those who might be tempted see what happened to Mary McCarthy, the CIA employee fired and under threat of prosecution for leaking information about CIA torture camps in Europe.
But I know it is happening. People I’ve known for years and trust tell me it is happening and the past record of spying, lies and deceit by the Bush administration point to just such an operation.
This nation is under attack. We, the people, are under attack. And the enemy in this case is not an Islamic radical hiding in a cave in Afghanistan but a cabal of truly evil men and women at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and on Capitol Hill aided by carefully-picked, law-ignoring appointees at the Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, a black glass-walled building at Fort Meade, MD, and a complex in Langley, Virginia.
Canadians are healthier than Americans, have better access to health care and have fewer unmet health needs, a new study of both countries reveals.
The findings come in spite of the fact that the United States spends almost twice as much per capita on health care as Canada, the researchers noted.
“This shows that you can spend much less than we [Americans] do, and deliver much more and better care then we do,” said study co-author Dr. David U. Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Mass.
The new study appears to reinforce the findings of a Rand Corporation report issued earlier this month that showed a similar health care gap between the U.S. system and that of Great Britain, which, like Canada, has a universal health care system — subsidized by tax dollars.
In the current study, Himmelstein and his colleagues reviewed responses from more than 3,500 Canadians and almost 5,200 Americans over the age of 18 who participated in the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health — a one-time phone survey conducted between 2002 and 2003.
In addition to documenting race, class and immigrant status, the survey sought to assess each individual’s current health status, access to health care, use of health care, history of illness, and ongoing behaviors — such as smoking — considered to be health risks.
Reporting in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers found that although Canadians smoke more than Americans, Americans are more likely to be inactive and obese, and have higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and lung disease.
Specifically, Americans are one-third less likely to have a regular doctor, two times less likely to take needed medications, and one-fourth more likely to have unmet health care needs than Canadians.
While Americans were more likely to identify cost as the impediment to care, Canadians were more likely to cite waiting times as their main obstacle to good care. However, just 3.5 percent of Canadians were impacted by treatment delays, the survey found.
Despite generally better health and access to care, however, Canadians do not appear to be any happier with their health care system than Americans.
In fact, Americans said they were more satisfied than Canadians with the quality of care they received at either a hospital or a community-based facility. Canadians were happier with their physicians, however.
As well, American health care did excel in some areas compared to the Canadian system. For example, American women were more likely to have had a Pap smear and a mammogram than their Canadian counterparts.
Nevertheless, the American health system appears weakest in relation to the Canadian approach when it comes to caring for the uninsured.
Americans lacking insurance were found to have a much worse health care experience than both insured Americans, and (universally insured) Canadians. The survey found that nearly one in every three (30.4 percent) uninsured Americans had gone without some kind of needed care because of cost.
Overall, 7 percent of all U.S. residents cited cost as a barrier preventing them from getting needed care. That number was just 0.8 percent for Canadians.
The influence of wealth on access was also less acute in Canada, where poorer patients have better access to health care than low-income Americans.
In terms of race and health, non-whites in both countries were less satisfied with their health care than whites. However, racial differences in accessing care appear to be less drastic in Canada.
Based on the results, the researchers conclude that universal health care coverage should be implemented in the United States. But they also called for the health care community to improve services to the poor, and particularly the immigrant populations. They also urged reforms to prevent waiting-period issues that have impeded Canada’s system.
Although this research indicts the American health care system, Himmelstein said he wanted to accent the positive.
“Actually it’s a very hopeful message,” he said. “We (Americans) have the best doctors, best hospitals, and best nurses in the world. But the way we finance healthcare just doesn’t let us do the job. Given what we are now spending on our healthcare system, we can do better — if we just had national health insurance and were allowed to do it right.”
Jon Gabel, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan research organization Center for Studying Health System Change, agreed. He said the absence of a national health insurance system in the U.S. means patients don’t get full access to care or a better bang for their health-care buck.
However, Gabel noted that any between-country comparison depends in large part on whether the focus is on each system’s “haves” or “have-nots”.
“For example, once you’re in the U.S. health care system, patient satisfaction is higher than in Canada,” he noted.
Greg Scandlen, the founder of the non-profit Consumers for Health Care Choices based in Hagerstown, Md., disputed the findings.
“In terms of overall satisfaction with the health care system, Americans score better,” noted Scandlen. “So, the headline coming out of this ought to be that ‘Americans are more satisfied with their healthcare system than Canadians are.'”
Scandlen also criticized the way the study was conducted, noting that there was too much focus on routine health issues, to the relative exclusion of crisis situations that can demand more costly and dramatic interventions.
“Canada clearly emphasizes primary care pretty strongly, and I give them credit for that,” he said. But he added, “This survey doesn’t look at the more serious stuff, like surgery and cardiac care — serious, expensive things that apply to a minority of the population.”