Monday, September 23, 2013

Barack's vast and illegal spying programs

Brendan Sasso (The Hill) observed Saturday:

For years, the government has successfully suppressed lawsuits by civil liberties groups challenging the constitutionality of its surveillance programs.
But the leaks by Edward Snowden have eroded the government's key legal defense and could mean that questions over whether the National Security Agency is breaking the law will be decided in open court.

Ed Snowden is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."

The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack's appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the 'explanations' offered, "None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there's a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything."  As US House Rep John Conyers noted, "But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned."  Barack couldn't deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for "a national conversation."  He's always calling for that because, when it doesn't happen, he can blame the nation.  It's so much easier to call for "a national conversation" than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off "a national conversation" then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say "thank you."

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on the review panel Barack created which was supposed to be independent.  However:

the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts.
The panel's advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI's press office. James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it's issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.

Kevin Gosztola (Firedoglake) points out, "Not only did the public get a 'high-level group' of people who should not be considered 'outside experts,' but the public got a group that has been conducting a review with a focus on 'moving forward, not looking back,' the mantra of President Barack Obama for excusing abuses of executive power and one that expressly benefits those responsible for unchecked policies or programs."


From June, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Predator of the United States."

Over the weekend, Noam Sheizaf (Haaretz) published an interview with Glenn Greenwald.  In the preface, Sheizaf reviewed the various revelations on illegal spying:

On June 6, Greenwald published, in The Guardian, the first article based on the documents Snowden had given him. He revealed a secret court order directing the communications giant Verizon to transmit to the NSA “on an ongoing, daily basis” the telephone records of all its customers, among them millions of American citizens. The story, which rocked the world media, turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Subsequently revealed was the existence of a program called Prism, through which the NSA monitors and mines traffic on the Internet on a massive scale, as well as a system that allows the penetration, storage and analysis of private information gleaned from most of the world’s email services. The details Snowden gave Greenwald and Poitras revealed the vast scope of surveillance of American citizens and diplomats conducted by the United States, including on American soil; the development of a program capable of penetrating every cellular phone; “back doors” in the big Internet services and leading Internet companies, which enable the administration to intercept the communications of their clients; and more.      

The illegal spying has not just been on Americans.  Barack's illegal spying on other countries has led to not only his image falling worldwide but also serious repercussions.  Last week Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff announced a planned visit to the US was now off.   Andrew O'Reilly (Fox News Latino) reported Friday of Vice President Joe Biden's visit with Mexico's President Pena Nieto:

[T]he NSA spying scandal will loom over Friday’s talks.
Relations between the U.S. and both Mexico and Brazil have soured since Brazilian media conglomerate Globo TV revealed that the NSA program was monitoring the Mexican president before he was elected in July 2012. The news agency also reported that the NSA monitored communications between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her top aides.
While Peña Nieto demanded the United States investigate the allegations and said that "if proved ... it is an act outside the law," most analysts don’t expect affairs between the two countries to fall to the nadir that U.S.-Brazilian relations stand now. Brazil’s Rousseff announced earlier this week that she was putting off a state visit to the U.S. next month to protest an American spy program that has aggressively targeted her nation's government and private citizens alike.

Brazil is leading the wave of justifiable anger in Latin America over Barack's illegal spying.  Mauricio Savarese (RT) explains:

Unlike Europeans, who complicitly give a wink and a nudge to the US in the mass surveillance scandal, Latin America is angry. In a drastic move, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a moderate, decided to call off a State visit to Washington. Leftists in the region are now more aggressive and right-wingers have been pressured to speak out. American experts may insist their focus is on Syria, but the backyard is rising in revolt. The National Security Agency (NSA) scandals have made it impossible for regional leaders to keep quiet without looking weak.
Brazil’s snub has the biggest implications. The decision was taken after Ms Rousseff discovered her personal communications were being spied on. Every South American leader called to support her, including Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, the only close ally Barack Obama has left in the region. She promised to attack mass surveillance at the United Nations. Boeing is now likely to lose a US$4 billion deal on fighter jets. 
Without the Brazilian buffer, leftists are emboldened. Bolivia’s Evo Morales said he will sue Obama in the international courts for human rights violations after Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro was blocked for a few hours from flying over Puerto Rico. These two and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa are likely to push more for bringing leaker Edward Snowden to South America. After Hugo Chavez passed away they needed a joint agenda to improve their chemistry.

Expect more fallout worldwide as articles appear like the one Glenn Greenwald and Shobhan Sazena have written for The Hindu:

In the overall list of countries spied on by NSA programs, India stands at fifth place, with billions of pieces of information plucked from its telephone and internet networks just in 30 days.
According to top-secret documents provided to The Hindu by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the American agency carried out intelligence gathering activities in India using at least two major programs: the first one is Boundless Informant, a data-mining system which keeps track of how many calls and emails are collected by the security agency; and the second one is PRISM, a program which intercepts and collects actual content from the networks. While Boundless Informant was used for monitoring telephone calls and access to the internet in India, PRISM collected information about certain specific issues — not related to terrorism — through Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, YouTube and several other web-based services.
Asked by The Hindu why a friendly country like India was subjected to so much surveillance by the U.S., a spokesman of the U.S. government’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence said: “The U.S. government will respond through diplomatic channels to our partners and allies. While we are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. We value our cooperation with all countries on issues of mutual concern.”

And the world is not sitting idly waiting for Barack, who knew of and oversaw these illegal programs, to fix things.  Jamil Dakwar (ACLU) notes this morning:


Human rights advocates from across the country are joining together today in a National Day of Action to raise awareness about the state of human rights in the United States at the local, state, and federal levels, and to spotlight areas where the U.S. has fallen behind in its international human rights obligations. The Day of Action comes just weeks before the U.S. will undergo a review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ACLU and other groups submitted shadow reports to provide the committee overseeing the review with a full picture of the state of civil and political rights in the U.S., which in many areas, ranging from the death penalty to privacy and more, remains starkly out of step with international commitments.

Today, Greenwald (Guardian) reports:

Last week it was revealed that Belgium's largest telecom, Belgacom, was the victim of a massive hacking attack which systematically compromised its system for as long as two years. Media outlets suspected that the NSA was behind it, and the country's Prime Minister condemned the attack as a "violation of a public company's integrity."
But last week, using documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and other der Spiegel journalists reported in that paper that it was the GCHQ, Britain's intelligence agency, that was behind the attack on its ally. According to that report, the attack was carried out by targeting individual engineers at the telecom with malware that allowed GCHQ agents to "own" their computer and thus exploit their access to the telecommunications system.
It's worth remembering that as the US and UK run around the world protesting the hacking activities of others and warning of the dangers of cyber-attacks, that duo is one of the most aggressive and malicious, if not the most aggressive and malicious, perpetrators of those attacks of anyone on the planet.

Global Research's Washington's Blog attempts to assemble the many revelations including these four:

  • NSA whistleblowers say that the NSA collects all of our conversations word-for-word

Thursday, John Knefel (Rolling Stone) reported on the FBI's domestic spying:

It's not only Muslim communities that were the subject of increased suspicion – political groups and activists have been targeted as well. A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund found that the FBI began investigating the Occupy movement in August 2011, even before the establishment of the encampment in New York's Zuccotti Park. The activist and anarchist Scott Crow requested his own files from the FBI, and was given 440 heavily redacted pages, though as The New York Times reported, he had "never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing."

One of the most powerful new tools the FBI has had at its disposal since 9/11 is a program called Domain Management, which Aaronson says "allows the FBI to map the United States along ethnic and religious lines, and then assign agents and informants to those communities." The ACLU report notes that the FBI's field office in Detroit, for instance, stated in a memo that "many [State Department-designated terrorist] groups come from the Middle-East and Southeast Asia." The memo continues: "because Michigan has a large Middle-Eastern and Muslim population, it is prime territory for attempted radicalization and recruitment by [State Department-designated] terrorist groups."

The FBI denies that Domain Management works the way critics allege. "Domain management efforts are intended to address specific threats, not particular communities," says spokesperson Christopher Allen. "These efforts seek to use existing, available government data to locate and better understand the communities that are potential victims of the threats."

Reminder, Kat's "Kat's Korner: Cher's Closer To Perfection" went up yesterday.

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