Documents: NSA spied on Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The National Security Agency monitored overseas communication of U.S. critics of the Vietnam War including Martin Luther King, newly released documents show.

Documents -- including one that asserted the United States "appeared to be going up in flames" -- show the NSA intercepted telephone calls, telexes and cable traffic involving heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, U.S. Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, New York Times columnist Tom Wicker and Washington Post humor columnist Art Buchwald, The Washington Post reported Thursday.


The watch list of those targeted for surveillance included U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., who supported the war.

The list included more than 1,600 people from 1967 to 1973, the newspaper said.

The report came one day after four U.S. senators said they will introduce a bill revamping domestic spying and the secret U.S. court that authorizes it.

"The disclosures over the last 100 days have caused a sea change in the way the public views the surveillance system," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., unveiling a bill at a news conference with fellow Democrats Mark Udall of Colorado and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tea Party conservative libertarian Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky.


"We are introducing legislation that is the most comprehensive bipartisan intelligence reform proposal since the disclosures of last June," Wyden said of the proposed Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, which combines measures the lawmakers introduced before the summer recess with about a dozen other draft bills.

The June disclosures were made from top-secret documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The bill would prohibit the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' domestic phone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and ban the similar data collection of Americans' domestic Internet communication records, which the government said stopped in 2011.

The bill would still let Washington collect records of people suspected of terrorism or espionage or believed to be in contact with suspected terrorists or spies.

The measure would require an independent "constitutional advocate" in the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The advocate could challenge the government on privacy grounds in significant or precedent-setting cases, the lawmakers said.

In addition, the U.S. attorney general would be required to declassify FISA Court opinions that address significant constitutional or legal interpretations.

The White House and Justice Department had no immediate comment on the draft measure, nor did Senate leaders who have said they strongly support NSA programs.


President Barack Obama said Aug. 9 he would "work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to Section 215 of the Patriot Act."

The NSA currently interprets Section 215 to mean it can broadly monitor Web and phone communications.

Obama said he was open to setting up public advocates who could oppose government lawyers at FISA Court proceedings.

The White House maintains the NSA programs are vital counterterrorism tools.

Analysts cited by British newspaper The Guardian predicted the White House would pursue superficial reforms that simply increase NSA and FISA Court transparency but don't limit surveillance.

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