NSA Helps Crush Dissent at Home and Abroad

NSA Helps Saudi Arabia Crush Dissent … Like It Helps Crush Dissent at Home

Numerous high-level NSA whistleblowers say that NSA spying is about crushing dissent and blackmailing opponents … not stopping terrorism.

In addition, the NSA is giving the raw data on American citizens living in the U.S. to Israel.  That doesn’t seem to be a good strategy for protecting America from terrorism.

Newly-published Snowden documents also show that the NSA is helping one of the world’s most brutal and repressive dictatorships – Saudi Arabia – to crush dissent.

As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse” …. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

[Spying was similarly used in 15th-18th century England to persecute religious dissidents.]

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the


In December 2012, the U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, authorized the agency to expand its “third party” relationship with Saudi Arabia to include the sharing of signals intelligence, or “SIGINT,” capability with the MOD’s Technical Affairs Directorate (TAD).

“With the approval of the Third Party SIGINT relationship,” the memo reports, the NSA “intends to provide direct analytic and technical support to TAD.” The goal is “to facilitate the Saudi government’s ability to utilize SIGINT to locate and track individuals of mutual interest within Saudi Arabia.”

Even before this new initiative in 2012, the CIA and other American intelligence agencies had been working with the Saudi regime to bolster “internal security” and track alleged terrorists. According to the memo, the NSA began collaborating with the MOD in 2011 on a “sensitive access initiative… focused on internal security and terrorist activity on the Arabian Peninsula”; that partnership was conducted “under the auspices of CIA’s relationship with the MOI’s Mabahith (General Directorate for Investigations, equivalent to FBI).”

The NSA’s formal “Third Party” relationship with the Saudis involves arming the MOI with highly advanced surveillance technology. The NSA “provides technical advice on SIGINT topics such as data exploitation and target development to TAD,” the memo says, “as well as a sensitive source collection capability.”

The Saudi Ministry of Defense also relies on the NSA for help with “signals analysis equipment upgrades, decryption capabilities and advanced training on a wide range of topics.”


Over the past year, the Saudi government has escalated its crackdown on activists, dissidents, and critics of the government. Earlier this month, Saudi human rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a so-called “terrorist court” on charges of undermining the state and insulting the judiciary. In May, a liberal blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes; in June, human rights activist Mukhlif Shammari was sentenced to five years in prison for writing about the mistreatment of Saudi women.

Are the Saudis that bad?


Wikipedia notes:

Due to its authoritarian and theocratic rule, the House of Saud has attracted much criticism during its rule of Saudi Arabia. Its opponents generally refer to the Saudi monarchy as totalitarians or dictators.

There have been numerous incidents of demonstrations and other forms of resistance against the House of Saud.


All surviving males (including Utaybi himself) were beheaded publicly in four cities of Saudi Arabia.

While the Saudi royal family pushes the most strict and fundamentalist form Islam, the Saudi royal family’s debauchery and corruption is legendary. The monarchs – while pushing strict Wahabism as the official state religion – don’t practice it.

Backing the Saudis Means Supporting Terrorism

As we’ve documented, supporting Saudi Arabia means supporting terrorism … for two different reasons.   First:

Sunni Muslims commit more terrorist acts worldwide than any other group.  For example, the National Counterterrorism Center’s 2011 Report on Terrorism found that:

Sunni extremists accounted for the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities for the third consecutive year.


Saudi Arabia is the center of the Sunni branch of Islam.  It is also the center of the most violent and radical sect of Islam … the “Wahhabis” (also called “Salafis”).   But the U.S. has long supported the Madrassa schools within Saudi Arabia which teach radical Wahabi beliefs.

Indeed, the U.S. has directly inserted itself into a sectarian war between the two main Islamic sects, backing the “Sunnis” and attacking the “Shiites” (also called “Shia”). See this, this and this.

Oh, and the ISIS terrorists who have formed a new Caliphate across wide swaths of Iraq and Syria?  They’re Sunnis who want to kill all Shias.

Second,  both (1) the former head of the CIA’s Sunni Militant Unit and the chief of the CIA unit tasked with capturing or killing Bin Laden and (2) a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their vice presidents, secretaries of state, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials – U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, Bahraini and other tyrannies in the Middle East is  one of the main reasons that Muslims commit jihad against the West.

Backing the Tyrants In Bahrain

As to Bahrain:

Bahrain has been ruled almost continuously by the Al Khalifa royal monarchy since 1820.

Bahrain also makes CBS News’ list of “world’s enduring dictators”. CBS noted in 2011:

Uprisings in the late 1990s as well as right now have been fueled as much by resentment from the repressed, poor Shiite majority against their privileged Sunni rulers as anything else. In both uprisings, accusations against the government of gross human rights violations and protester murders have been plentiful. At least 11 demonstrators have been killed so far this year. Most recently, Bahraini security forces stand accused of indiscriminate abduction and torture of dissidents.

Things have gotten worse since then. Three-time Emmy award winning CNN reporter Amber Lyon reported on her first-hand experience of the systematic torture and murder of peaceful protesters by the government of Bahrain. But she was fired by CNN for doing so … while CNN accepted payment from the Bahraini monarchs to run a fluff propaganda piece about them.

Indeed, the U.S. government has supplied substantial military support to the Saudi, Qatari and Bahraini dictators.

The U.S. Federal Reserve also bailed out the Arab Banking Corporation of Bahrain.

Brilliant:  The Government Has Taken Away Our Liberties and Destroyed Our Prosperity In Order To Fight An Endless War On Terror … While Arming, Funding and Otherwise Backing the Very Terrorists Who Are Carrying Out Most of the Terror Attacks


Our backing of the most violent branch of Sunni Muslims has had real consequences:

  • Our backing of Sunnis in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia led to 9/11*
  • Our backing of Sunni extremists in Libya led to attacks on our embassies in Libya and Tunisia

And McClatchy interviewed an Al Qaeda terrorist fighting against the Syrian government – with U.S. backing – as saying:

When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!

Do you still doubt that the U.S. is supporting Sunni terrorists?

The U.S. National Security Adviser admitted that the U.S. created, organized and armed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan – including Bin Laden and his lieutenants – to fight the Soviets.  The Mujahadeen are predominately Sunni.    The Mujahadeen eventually morphed into Al Qaeda, which is a Sunni organization.

During various times and places, the U.S. has also backed the Muslim Brotherhood … another Sunni group.

In addition, the American government has supported:

  • Sunni MEK terrorists in Iran
  • The brutal Sunni government in Bahrain as it crushes its majority Shia population whenever it pushes for democratic reform

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:

In Lebanon, the [Bush] Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

And the “rebels” in Syria who we’ve been supporting are Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood.


The government has taken away our liberties and destroyed our prosperity in order to fight an endless war on terror.  Americans have become the most spied upon people in history. Never-ending war has destroyed our economy.

And yet the government has been arming, funding and otherwise backing the very terrorists who are carrying out the biggest percentage of terror attacks.

* Note:  It is clear that 9/11 was state-sponsored terror … although people argue about which state or states were responsible.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted Under