Thomas Wictor

Surveillance by supporters of terrorism

Surveillance by supporters of terrorism

I’m under government surveillance. We all are, according to Edward Snowden, but Tim and I are under direct surveillance. How do we know? Because we hear clicks and weird sounds—including voices—on our phones.

Now, before you dismiss me as a lunatic, there are several reasons why the government would want to put Tim and me under surveillance. We have a relative who was once a member of a subversive organization. Tim and I have had no visible means of support since 1993, when we began taking care of our parents in exchange for early disbursements of our eventual inheritance. The amounts were not large enough to create a tax liability or for banks to report our deposits to the government. As far as Uncle Sam was concerned, these two guys had no income.

Tim researches airliners and buys books on them, while I research military matters, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction. One of my friends is a colonel in the Army of the Russian Federation, an expert on WMD. I have contacts in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Iran. We write to each other about explosives, flamethrowers, and warfare.

I was born in Venezuela and have lived in the Netherlands, Norway, Britain, and Japan. My passport was stolen in Yugoslavia, and after I got a replacement from the US consulate in Belgrade, I was interrogated at length by the secret police, the UBDA.

While in Japan I cut off communication with my family for several months. The reason was I’d gotten together with Carmen, and then we began the really terrible period of drinking, fighting, and all-around awfulness that culminated in the horror I describe on pages 53 to 55 of Ghosts and Ballyhoo. I was in no shape to write to my parents, people with whom I had only a superficial relationship anyway.

Dad contacted the US State Department, and I got a call at work from a man in Washington who explained that my parents were looking for me, but I had no obligation to tell them where I was. I almost died from guilt and self-loathing. After immediately calling Mom and Dad and telling them I was all right, I wrote them a nine-page letter explaining everything that was going on.


Mom saved it, along with all my letters. That helped me write Ghosts.

In 1991 I applied for a job at the CIA. After I learned that they didn’t accept alcoholics, I voluntarily took myself out of the running, even though they’d invited me to Langley for a second interview. I’ve also written to and received personal responses from President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.

All of that is more than enough to put me on several government watch lists. It would be prudent to keep an eye on someone like me.

Currently, the debate is over whether or not the National Security Agency (NSA) has the right to routinely collect all of the metadata of our communications. As I understand it, the NSA monitors who we call or e-mail and when, but nobody actually listens to or reads each conversation. Courts have already determined that if we agree to use a third party to communicate, we lose our right to privacy over that communication. It’s called the Third Party Records Doctrine.

Thus a telephone company or Internet service provider can hand over the metadata without violating our Fourth Amendment rights. These records can be merely subpoenaed. A search warrant is not required. The debate now is twofold: Has the NSA has overreached the powers that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court granted it? In other words is the NSA actually reading individual communications? And is the NSA collection of our metadata even constitutional?

It’s likely that the collection is constitutional, due to the established law of the Third Party Records Doctrine. That doesn’t mean the status quo can’t be changed. The system is working as it was designed; metadata collection is being challenged in court. If enough people raise enough hell, the program will be altered. And it’s clear that the government really can’t be trusted with so much information. The IRS scandal is proof of how rabidly partisan politics turns government workers into criminals.

Along those lines, members of the NSA have used their powers to eavesdrop on love interests and spouses. Government agencies are made up of flawed humans. Very few people given so much power can resist the temptation to abuse it.

Surveillance by supporters of terrorism

On a personal level, I find it utterly grotesque that a stridently vocal defender of the NSA metadata collection program is an unrepentant supporter of terrorism. Congressman Peter King (R-NY) was one of the most ardent American fanboys of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during its heyday, when it was murdering left and right.

He often stayed at the home of a senior IRA militant who ran operations in Belfast and was a welcome guest at the Felons Club, a heavily fortified drinking establishment for former IRA prisoners in West Belfast, according to Ed Moloney, author of “A Secret History of the IRA” and a review of Irish and Irish American press accounts of King’s trips…

“If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it,” King said in a 1985 interview with the Irish People, an Irish American newspaper that backed the IRA…

An infuriated Northern Irish judge threw him out of his courtroom, saying King was “an obvious collaborator with the IRA.”

King also clashed with prominent Irish Americans who condemned IRA violence. He dismissed the Friends of Ireland caucus in Congress, which included Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Edward M. Kennedy, as infused with a “moral arrogance and self-righteousness that would do justice to the royal family.”

Not only does King have no regrets, he lionizes himself in fiction.

Mr. King, son of a New York City police officer and grand-nephew of an I.R.A. member, offers no apologies for his past, which he has celebrated in novels that feature a Irish-American congressman with I.R.A. ties who bears a striking resemblance to the author.

Of comparisons between the terrorism of the I.R.A. and that of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Mr. King said: “I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

He said he does not regret his past pro-I.R.A. statements. The Irish group, he said, was “a legitimate force” battling British repression — analogous to the African National Congress in South Africa or the Zionist Irgun paramilitary in British-ruled Palestine. “It was a dirty war on both sides,” he said of I.R.A. resistance to British rule.

That’s one thing he says with which I agree. It was a dirty war. The IRA used kneecapping as a punishment for…anything, really.

I found that kneecapping using a small caliber bullet, usually a .22, was the preferred method of reprimand used by the IRA in Ireland in the 1970s and 80s. In fact, it appears that no other group, including the mafia, has used kneecapping as a method to inflict pain more than the IRA. The group generally forced the victim to lie down or face a wall; in both cases they were shot through the back, rather than the front of the knee.

The IRA captured the family of a cook named Patsy Gillespie and forced him to drive a truck bomb into an army barracks. It’s called “proxy bombing,” a tactic the IRA invented. Gillespie and five soldiers were killed. Think of that for a second. Someone holds your family at gunpoint and tells you that they’ll be murdered unless you murder others and kill yourself. The people who did that are the “brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” as King said to a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island in 1982.

That was a banner year for me, 1982. On July 20, the IRA came within seconds of murdering my brother Paul and me in the Regent’s Park bombing. I wrote about it on page 21 to 23 of Ghosts and Ballyhoo. It took me decades to get beyond my hatred of the Irish.

Peter King tells me that the IRA is different from al Qaeda, but this is a man who can’t even produce a normal smile for his official portrait.


He looks like what he is, a shifty freak bereft of morals. As for the IRA not being an enemy of the US, it’s got connections to al Qaeda and every other international terrorist group. IRA terrorists train and are trained by Islamic terrorists, the same people King says he’s determined to fight. Most sickening of all, the methods the IRA uses are savage beyond imagination.

In West Belfast, the IRA have invented a new form of torture. They drill a hole in the knee-cap, widen it and pour in quick-drying cement. As it dries and expands, the joint is wrecked forever.

On January 30, 2005, members of the IRA killed Robert McCartney in Belfast during a bar brawl over an alleged insult to a woman. Twelve to fifteen men beat him with iron bars, cut his throat, and then sliced him open from groin to chest. After that they went back inside the pub, warned the patrons to keep quiet, stole the surveillance tapes, and cleaned up the forensic evidence.

The events have added to a disillusionment with the I.R.A. that has slowly built since the 1998 peace accords. Its members, once considered heroes in Catholic neighborhoods for their role in the struggle against British rule, are increasingly seen as turning to Mafia-like crime and common thuggery and preying on the very community that formed the group’s core of support. The I.R.A., long nicknamed Ra, is now sometimes called the Rafia.

This is what supporters of terrorism never acknowledge. People who commit savage acts come to like it. The butchery itself is what they live for. I’d tell Peter King that he should be ashamed of himself, but his disgusting face indicates his complete lack of all the values I cherish.

They may say they are followers of Christ. Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan.

—Bishop Edward Daly, at the funeral of forced suicide bomber Patsy Gillespie