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Ex-President Carter fears U.S. monitoring

By AP | Last updated: Mar 28, 2014 - 1:43:33 PM

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Former President Jimmy Carter
NEW YORK - Former President Jimmy Carter said that U.S. intelligence monitoring has run out of control since the 9/11 terror attacks, and he now hand-writes and mails sensitive letters to foreign and American leaders because he can’t trust his e-mail or telephone to be secure.

He had begun this practice well before National Security Agency contract worker Edward Snowden leaked a trove of documents last year disclosing that the NSA was archiving the meta-data on telephone calls and emails and had secretly tapped into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt now that the NSA or other agencies monitor or record almost every telephone call made in the United States, including cellphones, and I presume e-mail as well,” President Carter told The Associated Press March 24 in an interview. “We’ve gone a long way down the road of violating Americans basic civil rights, as far as privacy is concerned.”

If intelligence services were monitoring Mr. Carter, they might gain insights into various hotspots and crises. Mr. Carter and his wife Rosalynn have visited more than 140 nations. The former president runs The Carter Center, which has pursued human rights, humanitarian work and offered political mediation and election monitoring since he left office in 1981.

Mr. Carter negotiated a nuclear disarmament pact with North Korea in 1994, which subsequently unraveled, and went to Pyongyang again in 2010 to secure the release of a U.S. citizen who had been detained. He visited Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2008, and has been to Cuba, Vietnam and many other countries of interest to U.S. intelligence. Carter Center monitors have observed disputed elections in Venezuela and many other nations.

Mr. Carter is also one of the “Elders,” a group formed by Nelson Mandela in 2007 that includes senior and retired leaders who work together on peace-building and humanitarian initiatives. They include former Irish president Mary Robinson, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

Mr. Carter said the surveillance state is now so omniscient that he has turned to “snail mail” in an effort to avoid snooping.

It’s a twist on the state of affairs that Carter left when he departed the presidency in 1981.

“When I was in office I was deeply concerned by the intrusion of the security agencies, the intelligence agencies, on American privacy,” he said.

Mr. Carter promoted the establishment of FISA courts under the Foreign Intelligence Security Act, requiring U.S. intelligence agencies to get a federal judge to approve any monitoring of a U.S. citizen.

“When I left office, they couldn’t do that with even one American person” without the court’s approval, he said.

But the public and Congressional demand for increased intelligence-gathering after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans swept away those safeguards. (AP)