Main Core (Red List) database (of “threats” and “dissidents”) and 3 related articles

I. Main Core: From Wikipedia

Main Core is the code name of an American governmental database that is believed to have been in existence since the 1980s. It is believed that Main Core is a federal database containing personal and financial data of millions of United States citizens[clarification needed] believed to be threats to national security.[1] The data, which is believed to come from the NSA, FBI, CIA, and other sources,[1] is collected and stored without warrants or court orders.[1] The database’s name derives from the fact that it contains “copies of the ‘main core’ or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community”.[1]

The Main Core database is alleged to have originated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1982, following Ronald Reagan’s Continuity of Operations plan outlined in the National Security Directive (NSD) 69 / National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 55, entitled “Enduring National Leadership”, implemented on September 14, 1982.[1][2]

As of 2008, there were allegedly eight million Americans listed in the database as possible threats, often for trivial reasons, whom the government may choose to track, question, or detain in a time of crisis.[3]

The existence of the database was first asserted in May 2008 by Christopher Ketcham[4] and again in July 2008 by Tim Shorrock.[2]

See also

Rex 84
FBI Index
Investigative Data Warehouse
National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive
NSA warrantless surveillance controversy
PRISM (surveillance program)


Shorrock, Tim (July 23, 2008). “Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power”. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
Goodman, Amy (July 25, 2008). “Main Core: New Evidence Reveals Top Secret”. Democracy Now. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
Christopher Ketcham, “Is the government compiling a secret list of citizens to detain under martial law?”. Archived from the original on August 31, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29., RADAR Online, 15 May 2008
Satyam Khanna, “Govt. May Have Massive Surveillance Program for Use in ‘National Emergency,’ 8 Million ‘Potential Suspects'”, Think Progress blog, May 20, 2008.

External links

Radar article by Christopher Ketcham, May/June 2008
Salon’s New Revelations on Illegal Spying at Electronic Frontier Foundation
NSA’s Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data by Siobhan Gorman, Updated March 10, 2008 12:01 a.m. ET
Categories: 1980s establishments in the United StatesEspionageFederal Emergency Management AgencyGovernment databases in the United States Continuity of government in the United States

II. Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power

Salon has uncovered new evidence of post-9/11 spying on Americans. Obtained documents point to a potential investigation of the White House that could rival Watergate.


JULY 23, 2008 4:00PM (UTC)

Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power

The last several years have brought a parade of dark revelations about the George W. Bush administration, from the manipulation of intelligence to torture to extrajudicial spying inside the United States. But there are growing indications that these known abuses of power may only be the tip of the iceberg. Now, in the twilight of the Bush presidency, a movement is stirring in Washington for a sweeping new inquiry into White House malfeasance that would be modeled after the famous Church Committee congressional investigation of the 1970s.

While reporting on domestic surveillance under Bush, Salon obtained a detailed memo proposing such an inquiry, and spoke with several sources involved in recent discussions around it on Capitol Hill. The memo was written by a former senior member of the original Church Committee; the discussions have included aides to top House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, and until now have not been disclosed publicly.

Salon has also uncovered further indications of far-reaching and possibly illegal surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency inside the United States under President Bush. That includes the alleged use of a top-secret, sophisticated database system for monitoring people considered to be a threat to national security. It also includes signs of the NSA’s working closely with other U.S. government agencies to track financial transactions domestically as well as globally.

The proposal for a Church Committee-style investigation emerged from talks between civil liberties advocates and aides to Democratic leaders in Congress, according to sources involved. (Pelosi’s and Conyers’ offices both declined to comment.) Looking forward to 2009, when both Congress and the White House may well be controlled by Democrats, the idea is to have Congress appoint an investigative body to discover the full extent of what the Bush White House did in the war on terror to undermine the Constitution and U.S. and international laws. The goal would be to implement government reforms aimed at preventing future abuses — and perhaps to bring accountability for wrongdoing by Bush officials.

“If we know this much about torture, rendition, secret prisons and warrantless wiretapping despite the administration’s attempts to stonewall, then imagine what we don’t know,” says a senior Democratic congressional aide who is familiar with the proposal and has been involved in several high-profile congressional investigations.

“You have to go back to the McCarthy era to find this level of abuse,” says Barry Steinhardt, the director of the Program on Technology and Liberty for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Because the Bush administration has been so opaque, we don’t know [the extent of] what laws have been violated.”

The parameters for an investigation were outlined in a seven-page memo, written after the former member of the Church Committee met for discussions with the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Common Cause and other watchdog groups. Key issues to investigate, those involved say, would include the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities; the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of extraordinary rendition and torture against terrorist suspects; and the U.S. government’s extensive use of military assets — including satellites, Pentagon intelligence agencies and U2 surveillance planes — for a vast spying apparatus that could be used against the American people.

Specifically, the ACLU and other groups want to know how the NSA’s use of databases and data mining may have meshed with other domestic intelligence activities, such as the U.S. government’s extensive use of no-fly lists and the Treasury Department’s list of “specially designated global terrorists” to identify potential suspects. As of mid-July, says Steinhardt, the no-fly list includes more than 1 million records corresponding to more than 400,000 names. If those people really represent terrorist threats, he says, “our cities would be ablaze.” A deeper investigation into intelligence abuses should focus on how these lists feed on each other, Steinhardt says, as well as the government’s “inexorable trend towards treating everyone as a suspect.”

“It’s not just the ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program,'” agrees Gregory T. Nojeim from the Center for Democracy and Technology, referring to the Bush administration’s misleading name for the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. “We need a broad investigation on the way all the moving parts fit together. It seems like we’re always looking at little chunks and missing the big picture.”

A prime area of inquiry for a sweeping new investigation would be the Bush administration’s alleged use of a top-secret database to guide its domestic surveillance. Dating back to the 1980s and known to government insiders as “Main Core,” the database reportedly collects and stores — without warrants or court orders — the names and detailed data of Americans considered to be threats to national security.

According to several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations, Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. One former intelligence official described Main Core as “an emergency internal security database system” designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains “copies of the ‘main core’ or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community.”

Some of the former U.S. officials interviewed, although they have no direct knowledge of the issue, said they believe that Main Core may have been used by the NSA to determine who to spy on in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Moreover, the NSA’s use of the database, they say, may have triggered the now-famous March 2004 confrontation between the White House and the Justice Department that nearly led Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI director William Mueller and other top Justice officials to resign en masse.

The Justice Department officials who objected to the legal basis for the surveillance program — former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey and Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel — testified before Congress last year about the 2004 showdown with the White House. Although they refused to discuss the highly classified details behind their concerns, the New York Times later reported that they were objecting to a program that “involved computer searches through massive electronic databases” containing “records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans.”

According to William Hamilton, a former NSA intelligence officer who left the agency in the 1970s, that description sounded a lot like Main Core, which he first heard about in detail in 1992. Hamilton, who is the president of Inslaw Inc., a computer services firm with many clients in government and the private sector, says there are strong indications that the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance operations use Main Core.

Hamilton’s company Inslaw is widely respected in the law enforcement community for creating a program called the Prosecutors’ Management Information System, or PROMIS. It keeps track of criminal investigations through a powerful search engine that can quickly access all stored data components of a case, from the name of the initial investigators to the telephone numbers of key suspects. PROMIS, also widely used in the insurance industry, can also sort through other databases fast, with results showing up almost instantly. “It operates just like Google,” Hamilton told me in an interview in his Washington office in May.

Since the late 1980s, Inslaw has been involved in a legal dispute over its claim that Justice Department officials in the Reagan administration appropriated the PROMIS software. Hamilton claims that Reagan officials gave PROMIS to the NSA and the CIA, which then adapted the software — and its outstanding ability to search other databases — to manage intelligence operations and track financial transactions. Over the years, Hamilton has employed prominent lawyers to pursue the case, including Elliot Richardson, the former attorney general and secretary of defense who died in 1999, and C. Boyden Gray, the former White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush. The dispute has never been settled. But based on the long-running case, Hamilton says he believes U.S. intelligence uses PROMIS as the primary software for searching the Main Core database.

Hamilton was first told about the connection between PROMIS and Main Core in the spring of 1992 by a U.S. intelligence official, and again in 1995 by a former NSA official. In July 2001, Hamilton says, he discussed his case with retired Adm. Dan Murphy, a former military advisor to Elliot Richardson who later served under President George H.W. Bush as deputy director of the CIA. Murphy, who died shortly after his meeting with Hamilton, did not specifically mention Main Core. But he informed Hamilton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS involved something “so seriously wrong that money alone cannot cure the problem,” Hamilton told me. He added, “I believe in retrospect that Murphy was alluding to Main Core.” Hamilton also provided copies of letters that Richardson and Gray sent to U.S. intelligence officials and the Justice Department on Inslaw’s behalf alleging that the NSA and the CIA had appropriated PROMIS for intelligence use.

Hamilton says James B. Comey’s congressional testimony in May 2007, in which he described a hospitalized John Ashcroft’s dramatic standoff with senior Bush officials Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, was another illuminating moment. “It was then that we [at Inslaw] started hearing again about the Main Core derivative of PROMIS for spying on Americans,” he told me.

Through a former senior Justice Department official with more than 25 years of government experience, Salon has learned of a high-level former national security official who reportedly has firsthand knowledge of the U.S. government’s use of Main Core. The official worked as a senior intelligence analyst for a large domestic law enforcement agency inside the Bush White House. He would not agree to an interview. But according to the former Justice Department official, the former intelligence analyst told her that while stationed at the White House after the 9/11 attacks, one day he accidentally walked into a restricted room and came across a computer system that was logged on to what he recognized to be the Main Core database. When she mentioned the specific name of the top-secret system during their conversation, she recalled, “he turned white as a sheet.”

An article in Radar magazine in May, citing three unnamed former government officials, reported that “8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect” and, in the event of a national emergency, “could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and even detention.”

The alleged use of Main Core by the Bush administration for surveillance, if confirmed to be true, would indicate a much deeper level of secretive government intrusion into Americans’ lives than has been previously known. With respect to civil liberties, says the ACLU’s Steinhardt, it would be “pretty frightening stuff.”

The Inslaw case also points to what may be an extensive role played by the NSA in financial spying inside the United States. According to reports over the years in the U.S. and foreign press, Inslaw’s PROMIS software was embedded surreptitiously in systems sold to foreign and global banks as a way to give the NSA secret “backdoor” access to the electronic flow of money around the world.

In May, I interviewed Norman Bailey, a private financial consultant with years of government intelligence experience dating from the George W. Bush administration back to the Reagan administration. According to Bailey — who from 2006 to 2007 headed a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela — the NSA has been using its vast powers with signals intelligence to track financial transactions around the world since the early 1980s.

From 1982 to 1984, Bailey ran a top-secret program for President Reagan’s National Security Council, called “Follow the Money,” that used NSA signals intelligence to track loans from Western banks to the Soviet Union and its allies. PROMIS, he told me, was “the principal software element” used by the NSA and the Treasury Department then in their electronic surveillance programs tracking financial flows to the Soviet bloc, organized crime and terrorist groups. His admission is the first public acknowledgement by a former U.S. intelligence official that the NSA used the PROMIS software.

According to Bailey, the Reagan program marked a significant shift in resources from human spying to electronic surveillance, as a way to track money flows to suspected criminals and American enemies. “That was the beginning of the whole process,” he said.

After 9/11, this capability was instantly seen within the U.S. government as a critical tool in the war on terror — and apparently was deployed by the Bush administration inside the United States, in cases involving alleged terrorist supporters. One such case was that of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Oregon, which was accused of having terrorist ties after the NSA, at the request of the Treasury Department, eavesdropped on the phone calls of Al-Haramain officials and their American lawyers. The charges against Al-Haramain were based primarily on secret evidence that the Bush administration refused to disclose in legal proceedings; Al-Haramain’s lawyers argued in a lawsuit that was a violation of the defendants’ due process rights.

According to Bailey, the NSA also likely would have used its technological capabilities to track the charity’s financial activity. “The vast majority of financial movements of any significance take place electronically, so intercepts have become an extremely important element” in intelligence, he explained. “If the government suspects that a particular Muslim charitable organization is engaged in collecting funds to funnel to terrorists, the NSA would be asked to follow the money going into and out of the bank accounts of that charity.” (The now-defunct Al-Haramain Foundation, although affiliated with a Saudi Arabian-based global charity, was founded and based in Ashland, Ore.)

The use of a powerful database and extensive watch lists, Bailey said, would make the NSA’s job much easier. “The biggest problems with intercepts, quite frankly, is that the volumes of data, daily or even by the hour, are gigantic,” he said. “Unless you have a very precise idea of what it is you’re looking for, the NSA people or their counterparts [overseas] will just throw up their hands and say ‘forget it.'” Regarding domestic surveillance, Bailey said there’s a “whole gray area where the initiation of the transaction was in the United States and the final destination was outside, or vice versa. That’s something for the lawyers to figure out.”

Bailey’s information on the evolution of the Reagan intelligence program appears to corroborate and clarify an article published in March in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the NSA was conducting domestic surveillance using “an ad-hoc collection of so-called ‘black programs’ whose existence is undisclosed.” Some of these programs began “years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach.” Among them, the article said, are a joint NSA-Treasury database on financial transactions that dates back “about 15 years” to 1993. That’s not quite right, Bailey clarified: “It started in the early ’80s, at least 10 years before.”

Main Core may be the contemporary incarnation of a government watch list system that was part of a highly classified “Continuity of Government” program created by the Reagan administration to keep the U.S. government functioning in the event of a nuclear attack. Under a 1982 presidential directive, the outbreak of war could trigger the proclamation of martial law nationwide, giving the military the authority to use its domestic database to round up citizens and residents considered to be threats to national security. The emergency measures for domestic security were to be carried out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army.

In the late 1980s, reports about a domestic database linked to FEMA and the Continuity of Government program began to appear in the press. For example, in 1986 the Austin American-Statesman uncovered evidence of a large database that authorities were proposing to use to intern Latino dissidents and refugees during a national emergency that might follow a potential U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. During the Iran-Contra congressional hearings in 1987, questions to Reagan aide Oliver North about the database were ruled out of order by the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, because of the “highly sensitive and classified” nature of FEMA’s domestic security operations.

In September 2001, according to “The Rise of the Vulcans,” a 2004 book on Bush’s war cabinet by James Mann, a contemporary version of the Continuity of Government program was put into play in the hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Vice President Cheney and senior members of Congress were dispersed to “undisclosed locations” to maintain government functions. It was during this emergency period, Hamilton and other former government officials believe, that President Bush may have authorized the NSA to begin actively using the Main Core database for domestic surveillance. One indicator they cite is a statement by Bush in December 2005, after the New York Times had revealed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, in which he made a rare reference to the emergency program: The Justice Department’s legal reviews of the NSA activity, Bush said, were based on “fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government.”

It is noteworthy that two key players on Bush’s national security team, Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, have been involved in the Continuity of Government program since its inception. Along with Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s first secretary of defense, both men took part in simulated drills for the program during the 1980s and early 1990s. Addington’s role was disclosed in “The Dark Side,” a book published this month about the Bush administration’s war on terror by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer. In the book, Mayer calls Addington “the father of the [NSA] eavesdropping program,” and reports that he was the key figure involved in the 2004 dispute between the White House and the Justice Department over the legality of the program. That would seem to make him a prime witness for a broader investigation.

Getting a full picture on Bush’s intelligence programs, however, will almost certainly require any sweeping new investigation to have a scope that would inoculate it against charges of partisanship. During one recent discussion on Capitol Hill, according to a participant, a senior aide to Speaker Pelosi was asked for Pelosi’s views on a proposal to expand the investigation to past administrations, including those of Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. “The question was, how far back in time would we have to go to make this credible?” the participant in the meeting recalled.

That question was answered in the seven-page memo. “The rise of the ‘surveillance state’ driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this Administration,” the author wrote. Even though he acknowledged in interviews with Salon that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents, he recommended in the memo that any new investigation follow the precedent of the Church Committee and investigate the origins of Bush’s programs, going as far back as the Reagan administration.

The proposal has emerged in a political climate reminiscent of the Watergate era. The Church Committee was formed in 1975 in the wake of media reports about illegal spying against American antiwar activists and civil rights leaders, CIA assassination squads, and other dubious activities under Nixon and his predecessors. Chaired by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, the committee interviewed more than 800 officials and held 21 public hearings. As a result of its work, Congress in 1978 passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required warrants and court supervision for domestic wiretaps, and created intelligence oversight committees in the House and Senate.

So far, no lawmaker has openly endorsed a proposal for a new Church Committee-style investigation. A spokesman for Pelosi declined to say whether Pelosi herself would be in favor of a broader probe into U.S. intelligence. On the Senate side, the most logical supporters for a broader probe would be Democratic senators such as Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who led the failed fight against the recent Bush-backed changes to FISA. (Both Feingold and Leahy’s offices declined to comment on a broader intelligence inquiry.)

The Democrats’ reticence on such action ultimately may be rooted in congressional complicity with the Bush administration’s intelligence policies. Many of the war on terror programs, including the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were cleared with key congressional Democrats, including Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Rockefeller, and former House Intelligence chairwoman Jane Harman, among others.

The discussions about a broad investigation were jump-started among civil liberties advocates this spring, when it became clear that the Democrats didn’t have the votes to oppose the Bush-backed bill updating FISA. The new legislation could prevent the full story of the NSA surveillance programs from ever being uncovered; it included retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that may have violated FISA by collaborating with the NSA on warrantless wiretapping. Opponents of Bush’s policies were further angered when Democratic leaders stripped from their competing FISA bill a provision that would have established a national commission to investigate post-9/11 surveillance programs.

The next president obviously would play a key role in any decision to investigate intelligence abuses. Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, is running as a champion of Bush’s national security policies and would be unlikely to embrace an investigation that would, foremost, embarrass his own party. (Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s spokesman on national security, declined to comment.)

Some see a brighter prospect in Barack Obama, should he be elected. The plus with Obama, says the former Church Committee staffer, is that as a proponent of open government, he could order the executive branch to be more cooperative with Congress, rolling back the obsessive secrecy and stonewalling of the Bush White House. That could open the door to greater congressional scrutiny and oversight of the intelligence community, since the legislative branch lacked any real teeth under Bush. (Obama’s spokesman on national security, Ben Rhodes, did not reply to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.)

But even that may be a lofty hope. “It may be the last thing a new president would want to do,” said a participant in the ongoing discussions. Unfortunately, he said, “some people see the Church Committee ideas as a substitute for prosecutions that should already have happened.”

III. Main Core: New Evidence Reveals Top Secret Government Database Used in Bush Spy Program

Main Core: New Evidence Reveals Top Secret Government Database Used in Bush Spy Program


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing today on Congress member Dennis Kucinich’s measure to impeach President Bush. Part of the hearing is expected to examine the administration’s surveillance, detention, interrogation and rendition programs.

The hearing comes as new details emerge about the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance operations. reports Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are being urged to conduct a sweeping investigation into the White House’s domestic surveillance program along the lines of the famous Church Committee investigations of the ’70s.

Salon has also published new details about a top secret government database that might be at the heart of the Bush administration’s domestic spying operations. The database is called “Main Core.” It reportedly collects and stores vast amounts of personal and financial data about millions of Americans. A former intelligence officer told the database was “designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution, or the imposition of martial law.” Some former US officials believe Main Core may have been used by the National Security Agency to determine who to spy on in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Tim Shorrock wrote the piece in His latest book, by the way, is called Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.

So, Tim, tell us about this database and its significance.

TIM SHORROCK: Well, from what I’ve been able to learn about it, it dates back to the Reagan administration. There’s a program that’s been in place since about 1983 called the Continuity of Government program, and this was basically to preserve government functions in case of a nuclear war, catastrophic attack —-


TIM SHORROCK: Yeah, the COG. And it was actually run by -— under the Reagan administration, by former president and former vice president George H.W. Bush. But this program was basically, you know, to disperse people to different parts of the country when the government was attacked, when the country was attacked.

And people that were involved in this program from the Bush administration include Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and actually Cheney’s Chief of Staff David Addington, were all involved in sort of practice runs, where they would suddenly get a call and be told to go to a certain place to practice this Continuity of Government exercise. And they did this through the ’80s, a little bit in the 1990s. President Clinton apparently sort of deemphasized this whole plan. But it came back, and a version of it was run during the 9/11 emergency, when, you know, we remember Vice President Cheney always going to undisclosed locations, but many other officials and Congress people went with him to various places to carry on the functions of government.

Now, when this program was created during the Reagan administration, there was a database, some kind of watch list that they used, that was developed to keep track of Americans that the government believed were threats to national security, subversives, in some way. And there were different incidents where information about this database came out. For example, there were stories in both the Miami Herald and some newspapers in Texas, the Austin Herald-American, that reported about this database and how Oliver North, who was very involved in the Iran-Contra controversy when he was working at the White House, was actually using this — might be using this database as a way to keep track of, say, Central American immigrants and people opposed to US policy in Central America during the 1980s. And at one point during the Iran-Contra hearings, Representative Jack Brooks of Texas focused on this and asked Oliver North about this database, which at that time was believed to be controlled by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, FEMA. And immediately, Senator Dan Inouye, who was the chairman of the Iran-Contra hearings, cut him off, said that’s — “That deals with very sensitive classified information. We can’t talk about it.” And it was never really discussed. And there’s been articles about it.

And I began to learn a few months ago that this database, which some people now call “Main Core,” is still in existence and actually is being used by US intelligence agencies as a way to keep track of Americans and also run names — apparently, it holds all kinds of information on millions of Americans. There was an article recently also in Radar magazine, where they said eight million names are in this database. And what I’ve been told is that the database still exists. Of course, it was still created for martial law circumstances and in a period of absolute crisis in the United States where there would be sort of military government in place in different parts of the country. An extreme measure, in other words.

And what I’ve been told also is that this could have been the root of the dispute, when, as people may remember, the Attorney General John Ashcroft and some of his deputies, when they reviewed the NSA’s surveillance eavesdropping program that was operating without warrants, decided that something was illegal about the program, and they had a confrontation in John Ashcroft’s hospital room, and the dispute went on for some weeks until it was resolved by President Bush. But I’ve been told that it’s very likely that that dispute focused on those databases — on this one database and its use by the NSA to look at specific Americans and as a way to do the eavesdropping. Now, we don’t know this for sure. I reported it in the context of, there is this push to have some kind of investigation of the Bush administration’s policies on intelligence and that this should certainly be an area that should be looked at.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain more about Inslaw, about the past, and also comparisons with the possibility of a Church Commission — Church Committee investigation?

TIM SHORROCK: Well, Inslaw is a company that produces computer software for the government, and it’s been doing it for many years. It was started by a guy named Bill Hamilton, who was actually in the National Security Agency during the 1960s. He produced a software that’s been used for years in the Justice Department to keep track of cases that are filed against, you know, anybody, to keep track of criminal cases as they’re carried through the Justice Department. And apparently it has a very strong — you know, very good searching capabilities. It operates kind of like Google, but it was invented long before Google was ever around. It can search databases very quickly and come up with all kinds of information.

And Inslaw has had a claim for many years that’s been investigated by several committees of Congress, of various courts, where he claims that this software was basically stolen by the Reagan administration Justice Department, misappropriated and given to the NSA, the National Security Agency, and the CIA as a way for them to keep track of intelligence cases because of its very strong search capabilities. And he has a lot of evidence to show this, that it was investigated. He hired lawyers like Elliot Richardson, the former Secretary of Defense, to take his case to the CIA and various intelligence officials. In my story, actually — his software was called “PROMIS” — P-R-O-M-I-S — and in my story that was in Salon the other day, I did get a former National Security Council official, who used to work very closely with the NSA on tracking financial transactions around the world, say that in fact the NSA had used this software as the basis for its searching. So there is definitely some evidence that, you know, the software, which Hamilton and Inslaw claim is the basis of this Main Core database, you know, was used by US intelligence agencies.

Now, as far as the Church Committee idea, what I reported was that there were meetings — there’s been meetings held primarily on the House side, with House Democrats and their aides, various organizations that are concerned about civil liberties, like the ACLU, sort of saying, “You know, look, we’ve had a very difficult time uncovering all of what’s happened under Bush and Vice President Cheney in terms of, you know, policies on torture, interrogation, rendition, the whole surveillance program, the whole warrentless surveillance program. Maybe there should be another Church Committee, as was set up during the 1970s to look at intelligence abuse.”

And I obtained a document, a memo that was written sort of as a think piece, that was written by a former senior member of the Church Committee. And in this memo, he outlined how it would work. And one of the interesting things about the memo was the suggestion that any investigation like this would have to go back to earlier administrations. In other words, there’s been a lot of terrible things, and very questionable things have happened under Bush and Cheney, but we don’t know the origins of these programs, and it would be important to go back to look at how they actually began and go back to this Reagan administration Continuity of Government, for example, and see what the roots of any kind of, you know, database that might have been — might be used, targeted at the American people.

And the Church Committee itself, if people remember, actually went back to the days of Franklin Roosevelt. So it was started during ’70s under Nixon because of reports in the New York Times and other media by Seymour Hersh and reporters like him, who exposed the CIA’s domestic spying on Americans. And then the Church Committee got started in the Senate, chaired by Senator Frank Church. There was an accompanying House committee, as well. And they looked at all aspects of US intelligence, and in particular, they looked at this whole use of watch lists by various agencies like the FBI and the CIA, and they exposed, during the Church hearings — that’s how the whole NSA spying came out, because they got the whole story about how the NSA had been listening in on the phone calls of many prominent antiwar activists, African American organizations, civil rights leaders, and so on. And they exposed the various programs of the NSA.

And that’s how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act emerged, was the Congress did not want to have the rights of Americans, the civil liberties, abused by their intelligence services anymore, and so they passed FISA as a way to require warrants, when there is any kind of monitoring of Americans in the United States by the NSA. And that was the guiding law until it was recently changed by Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave —-

TIM SHORROCK: So this need -—

AMY GOODMAN: Tim, you have thirty seconds.

TIM SHORROCK: Well, so there’s this — you know, so people are saying, look, Bush and Cheney have done a lot. We need —- they’ve stonewalled Congress. We’ve gotten little bits and pieces here and there of this story. But we need the full story, and that’s why there’s a need for a committee. I’m not sure if the Democrats will support it, because a lot of them signed off on some of these programs. So I think it needs [inaudible] -—

AMY GOODMAN: Tim Shorrock, I want to thank you for being with us, investigative journalist, author of the piece at on Main Core.

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IV. THE LAST ROUNDUP: Is the government compiling a secret list of citizens to detain under martial law?

By Christopher Ketcham

The Last Roundup

Is the government compiling a secret list of citizens to detain under martial law?
By Christopher Ketcham
This article is from the May/June issue of Radar Magazine. For a risk-free issue, click here.

ARE YOU ON THE LIST? The federal government has been developing a highly classified plan that will override the Constitution in the event of a major terrorist attack (Photo: Illustration by Brett Ryder)

In the spring of 2007, a retired senior official in the U.S. Justice Department sat before Congress and told a story so odd and ominous, it could have sprung from the pages of a pulp political thriller. It was about a principled bureaucrat struggling to protect his country from a highly classified program with sinister implications. Rife with high drama, it included a car chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., and a tense meeting at the White House, where the president’s henchmen made the bureaucrat so nervous that he demanded a neutral witness be present.

The bureaucrat was James Comey, John Ashcroft’s second-in-command at the Department of Justice during Bush’s first term. Comey had been a loyal political foot soldier of the Republican Party for many years. Yet in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he described how he had grown increasingly uneasy reviewing the Bush administration’s various domestic surveillance and spying programs. Much of his testimony centered on an operation so clandestine he wasn’t allowed to name it or even describe what it did. He did say, however, that he and Ashcroft had discussed the program in March 2004, trying to decide whether it was legal under federal statutes. Shortly before the certification deadline, Ashcroft fell ill with pancreatitis, making Comey acting attorney general, and Comey opted not to certify the program. When he communicated his decision to the White House, Bush’s men told him, in so many words, to take his concerns and stuff them in an undisclosed location.

The Continuity of Governance program encompasses national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces. In short, it’s a road map for martial lawComey refused to knuckle under, and the dispute came to a head on the cold night of March 10, 2004, hours before the program’s authorization was to expire. At the time, Ashcroft was in intensive care at George Washington Hospital following emergency surgery. Apparently, at the behest of President Bush himself, the White House tried, in Comey’s words, “to take advantage of a very sick man,” sending Chief of Staff Andrew Card and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on a mission to Ashcroft’s sickroom to persuade the heavily doped attorney general to override his deputy. Apprised of their mission, Comey, accompanied by a full security detail, jumped in his car, raced through the streets of the capital, lights blazing, and “literally ran” up the hospital stairs to beat them there.

Minutes later, Gonzales and Card arrived with an envelope filled with the requisite forms. Ashcroft, even in his stupor, did not fall for their heavy-handed ploy. “I’m not the attorney general,” Ashcroft told Bush’s men. “There”—he pointed weakly to Comey—”is the attorney general.” Gonzales and Card were furious, departing without even acknowledging Comey’s presence in the room. The following day, the classified domestic spying program that Comey found so disturbing went forward at the demand of the White House—”without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality,” he testified.

What was the mysterious program that had so alarmed Comey? Political blogs buzzed for weeks with speculation. Though Comey testified that the program was subsequently readjusted to satisfy his concerns, one can’t help wondering whether the unspecified alteration would satisfy constitutional experts, or even average citizens. Faced with push-back from his bosses at the White House, did he simply relent and accept a token concession? Two months after Comey’s testimony to Congress, the New York Times reported a tantalizing detail: The program that prompted him “to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases.” The larger mystery remained intact, however. “It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate,” the article conceded.


ONE NATION, UNDER SURVEILLANCE James Comey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee (Photo: Getty Images)

Another clue came from a rather unexpected source: President Bush himself. Addressing the nation from the Oval Office in 2005 after the first disclosures of the NSA’s warrantless electronic surveillance became public, Bush insisted that the spying program in question was reviewed “every 45 days” as part of planning to assess threats to “the continuity of our government.”

Few Americans—professional journalists included—know anything about so-called Continuity of Government (COG) programs, so it’s no surprise that the president’s passing reference received almost no attention. COG resides in a nebulous legal realm, encompassing national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces—and effectively suspend the republic. In short, it’s a road map for martial law.

While Comey, who left the Department of Justice in 2005, has steadfastly refused to comment further on the matter, a number of former government employees and intelligence sources with independent knowledge of domestic surveillance operations claim the program that caused the flap between Comey and the White House was related to a database of Americans who might be considered potential threats in the event of a national emergency. Sources familiar with the program say that the government’s data gathering has been overzealous and probably conducted in violation of federal law and the protection from unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, “There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.” He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.

Christopher Ketcham writes for Harper’s, GQ, and Mother Jones, among other publications. He splits his time between Utah and Brooklyn, NY.
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I find it very difficult to believe that Dick Cheney would be part of anything that was not in our best interest.

Posted by: escoBam on May 20, 2008 12:22 AM

I find it very difficult to believe that anyone associated with *this* administration would pay any attention to anyone else’s best interest. Or very much attention to that “…piece of paper.” Or attention to the laws of this, or any other, couuntry. Maybe this represents a too-cynical and -jaundiced view but it has been created over the altogether-too-many years that this gang has been in office.

Posted by: mkemp on May 20, 2008 6:45 PM

I find it hard to believe that Donald Rumsfeld would do anything not in his own interest. I find it hard to believe that your readers need this old, very old and substantially proven article. I find it hard to believe that anyone intelligent enough to even click on this site would be stupid and ignorant enough to need to learn this information …. it is time to stop trying to inform people of what they will not believe. Donald Rumsfeld and those near him, on top of him, beneath him, with few exceptions are human slime. Simple.

Posted by: Moqui_Takoda on May 21, 2008 10:22 AM

Thanks for such a very important–and terrifying–article.

Posted by: Hawleyblog on May 21, 2008 9:35 PM


hey people out there leave miley cyrus alone she is trying to be a great roll model for the younger kids so be quiet and LEAVE MILEY ALONE !
Posted by: Uneke R 1 on May 22, 2008 5:30 AM

As the article implies, programs like PROMIS (at least the way the US government uses it), Main Core, etc. can be used to track and detain terrorists, potential terrorists, etc., but it’s debatable whether its main target is terrorists, especially since it had its beginnings in the 1980s, before the degree of terrorism we see today existed. To anticipate today’s degree of terrorism doesn’t seem to be something that these program’s initiators were somehow psychic enough to foretell. So, it’s likely the target all along has really been anybody that whoever is “in power” doesn’t like. The degree of terrorism we see today, has probably been instigated by the people who created these programs, as a cover for pouring funding into these programs, because normal people would never have allowed such things to evolve as they have.

The people who started these programs, have a paranoid mindset more towards the country going in a “liberal” direction, than in terrorism. It’s a mindset that can’t get off its ass to figure out more reasonable ways of dealing with their perverse concerns. In their ideal world, there would be events that would allow them to use these programs and detention facilities to change the course of the country’s mindset away from “liberalism”. I don’t think one goal is to intimidate people simply by the creation of these facilities. I think they really would like to use them.

Posted by: JohnSawyer on May 22, 2008 6:51 AM

“Interestingly, plans drawn up during the Reagan administration suggest this parallel government would be ruling under authority given by law to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ”

More interestingly Blackwater, the private defense contractor has contracts with FEMA for emergency services.

Posted by: martinez65 on May 22, 2008 12:47 PM

Revolution is the Solution!!!

Posted by: George Warmonger on May 26, 2008 2:09 PM

Are you obsequious, brainwashed, clueless, immature, irresponsible americans just going to take this lying down? I`m sorry, stupid question. Of course you are. You`re are too busy watching cartoons and eating big macs to have any clue as to what`s transpired in your country over the past 8 years. You would rather believe the age old red, white and blue delusions about being “free” and “brave” and “christians’. Newsflash-you are none of the above. And that`s exactly what your israeli ziojew terrorist government wants. Looks like the final stage of your country becoming the fascist, ziojew terrorist ussa is just around the corner and you will experience what the jew terrorists did to Russia after 1917 and Germany in the mid 1930`s. But don`t worry about it-better go back to watching the simpsons and stuffing another big mac down your throat.

Posted by: Wane on May 26, 2008 5:42 PM

Now might just be a good time for the few remaining patriots left in america to start buying all the guns and ammo that you can (or buy more) while you can before your jewish terrorist government scuttles your 2nd amendment to the dustbin of history like they have most of your constitution already. Judging by the events in your country over the past 8 years chances are you will one day need to defend yourselves and your families against the “jew world order” when it comes knocking on your door. And rest assured it will-probably sooner than later-especially if you are one the the few brave, courageous americans that have the audacity to practice critical thought and ask questions about things you are not supposed to question. Better to go down fighting than to go down like a coward.

You americans used to have a constitutional right to resist tyranny. Just pretend that you still do and that you`re willing to fight for things that are worth defending.

Your founding fathers would be proud of you.

Posted by: Wane on May 26, 2008 6:27 PM

Continuity of government, yet another infringement on our rights by the gov’t. Add it to the ever-growing list of violations:

They violate the 1st Amendment by opening mail, caging demonstrators and banning books like “America Deceived” from Amazon.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns during Katrina.
They violate the 4th Amendment by conducting warrant-less wiretaps.
They violate the 5th and 6th Amendment by suspending habeas corpus.
They violate the 8th Amendment by torturing.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting 2 illegal wars based on lies and on behalf of a foriegn gov’t.
Support Dr. Ron Paul and save this great country.
Last link (unless Google Books caves to the gov’t and drops the title):;=0-595-38523-0

Posted by: Reader11722 on May 27, 2008 12:34 PM

We are in the process of transferring the executive power to an incompetent Marxist. What are we going to write about in two years? The Main Core program will still be around and I guess Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and Company will still want to confiscate your anal toys….

Posted by: danjonglee on June 2, 2008 9:44 PM

In reality, U.S. Governments have been doing much more worse than what being posted here and there compared to the following truths:
It would let the world acknowledge that in reality and in secret U.S. Governments have been doing much more than what known to public which are only the tips of a big ice – they operate their satellites from their U.S. ground bases to secretly and remotely unsuspected launch attacks and probes freely worldwide includes even in their U.S. homeland using Satellite Mind Control Weapons. Their activities are daily round-the-clock worldwide before and now.

Sincerely Report,

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