The NSA’s Medical Intelligence Operations

By Wayne Madsen

In yet another worrying sign that the U.S. National Security Agency has completely gone off the rails, a June 2010 PowerPoint slide, titled «Medical Pattern of Life: Targeting High Value Individual № 1», subtitled «SIGINT [signals intelligence] Enabling HUMINT [human intelligence] / Targeting», describes how NSA is using medical intelligence (MEDINT) to target medical patients. The PowerPoint presentation is classified TOP SECRET/COMINT [Communications Intelligence]. By misusing medical information and data to target patients for either surveillance or assassination, NSA is on shaky ground with regard to abiding by the privacy and data protection acts of dozens of nations, as well as international law on human rights and warfare.

If «targeting» includes using medical intelligence to assassinate individuals, NSA and its military and civilian analysts are in violation of not only the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit attacks on medical personnel and hospitals, but also war crimes statutes. The abuse of MEDINT is also a clear violation of the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which concluded that the use of hospitals and mental institutions to carry out murder are clearly war crimes.

As witnessed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of psychiatrists in its torture program, the NSA has used clinical psychologists in its MEDINT operations. The CIA doctors who were involved in torture have been accused of violating professional standards, in addition to the Hippocratic Oath, and the NSA clinical personnel are no different. One individual identified as part of the NSA MEDINT program has the title of «Clinical Psychologist to Operations (SSG13)».

NSA’s MEDINT operations, according to the slides revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, include «extracting pattern of life (PoL) from MEDINT; identification of all recurring, and therefore predictable, patterns of behavior that constitute the specific treatment regimen for a target’s medical illness; medications, medical tests, medical surgical treatments, hospital, and doctor visits».

Although the NSA slide show refers to Osama Bin Laden as a target because of his «middle stage renal disease; recurrent urinary tract infections, and kidney stones; and intestinal problems», it is clear that any world leader could be subjected to the same type of NSA medical intelligence surveillance. A 2010 State Department DNA collection operation indicates that many world leaders have been «targeted» by the NSA MEDINT program.

The NSA program has involved its British partner, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the CIA, the Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland, and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6). The MEDINT operation also involves NSA’s ultra-secret RX branch, which is involved in «special access research».

The MEDINT program even involves placing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on prescription packages and the use of pharmaceutical «honey pots» to deliver possibly poisoned medication and sabotaged equipment, including intravenous (IV) bags and epoetin injection bottles, to targets. Honey pots in espionage are females or males who lure operatives of the opposite or same gender by providing sexual favors. The «sexpionage» targets are then prompted to carry out specific tasks through the pressure of blackmail.

The NSA is quite clear that its intention is to gain control of the «Pharma to Target» conduit through the breaking of seals on pharmaceuticals, RFID tracking and geo-location, and, what is perhaps the most sinister aspect, initiating an «operation on acquired target». In the world of intelligence, an «operation on an acquired target» usually means an assassination.

As far as the inviolability of the neutral status of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the NSA sees ICRC hospitals and «field agents» as candidates for ensuring that pharmaceuticals and medical equipment delivered to «targets» are clandestinely tagged or sabotaged.

The NSA promoters of MEDINT brag that «tagging and tracking medications/supplies to a specific target enables us to leap over the non-electronic moat with which HVIs (High Value Individuals) surround themselves, enabling their geolocation». The NSA also believes that «Credible Medical Intel never goes stale».

What is most disconcerting about the NSA MEDINT program is that the classified briefing on it came six months after the U.S. State Department, then headed by Hillary Clinton, requested U.S. embassies around the world to send DNA samples of government leaders, in addition to fingerprints, facial images, and iris scans, to Washington as part of a program called the National HUMINT Collection Directive (NHCD). The CIA director had previously been designated as the National HUMINT Manager for the U.S. Intelligence Community, of which NSA is a part, and the actual operations were carried out under the National Clandestine Service of the CIA.

A March 24, 2008 SECRET NOFORN cable from the State Department to the U.S. embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay requested DNA samples be collected on progressive presidential candidate Fernando Lugo, as well as other presidential contenders, including Education Minister Blanca Ovelar; former Vice President Luis Castiglioni; and former General Lino Oviedo. In August 2010, Lugo, who had been elected president, was diagnosed with cancer. In 2012, he was overthrown in a coup organized by the CIA. In addition to Lugo and Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chavez, cancer also suddenly plagued the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia.

A July 31, 2009 cable from the State Department to the U.S. Missions to the United Nations requested biometric data, including DNA samples, on UN officials, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; UN permanent representatives of Security Council member states; and North Korean diplomats. This directive also included the order to collect DNA samples from the UN ambassadors of Austria, Burkina Faso, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as the ambassadors and other officials from the European Union, African Union, Organization of Islamic Conference. The cable was very specific on which UN officials were subject to DNA collection: “key officials of Secretariat, specialized agency, committee, commission, and program officials in New York, Geneva, Vienna, and other UN system cities, to include special assistants and chiefs of staff.” Also targeted for DNA collection were “NAM [Non-aligned Movement]/G-77 [Group of 77]/OIC Permanent Representatives, particularly China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Senegal, and Syria.

The collection of DNA did not stop with the UN headquarters but also targeted diplomats with the International Atomic Energy Agency and NATO. The tasking called for DNA samples from “UN arms control interlocutors, especially candidates for the position of Director General of the IAEA, and the heads of other international institutions.” The cable specified arms control diplomats from other International Arms Control Organizations, NATO, and the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], particularly diplomatic and arms control officials from Austria, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and Vietnam.

International health officials were also targeted. The cable is specific on targets: “Director General of the WHO [World Health Organization], head of UNAIDS, the Pan American Health Organization, under Secretaries, heads of specialized agencies and their chief advisers, and top aides.”

It is abundantly clear from the Snowden revelations and the State Department classified cables allegedly supplied by Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning that the U.S. intelligence community has embarked on a dangerous program of using medical intelligence to assassinate HVIs, or «high-value individuals».

In 1975, Senator Frank Church displayed before a Senate hearing on the abuses of the U.S. intelligence community a «heart attack gun» produced by the CIA. The gun, powered by a battery, fired a frozen water projectile containing poisonous shellfish toxin. When the bullet entered a target, the projectile melted, leaving a small red blemish on the victim. The shellfish toxin entered the victim’s bloodstream causing a heart attack. In all cases, medical examinations would conclude the victim died from «natural causes», to wit, a sudden heart attack. Today, the NSA and CIA have obviously teamed up to develop more exotic and technological methods to kill their targets. Advances in telemedicine now mean that a political assassination is only one or two keystrokes away for Uncle Sam’s killers in military uniforms and business attire.