Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The illegal spying (and the lying) continue

In the summer of 2003, the ACLU explained, "The right to privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution, but the Supreme Court has said that several of the amendments create this right. One of the amendments is the Fourth Amendment, which stops the police and other government agents from searching us or our property without "probable cause" to believe that we have committed a crime. Other amendments protect our freedom to make certain decisions about our bodies and our private lives without interference from the government - which includes the public schools."  Today,  RT reports:

The National Security Agency is collecting information on the Internet habits of millions of innocent Americans never suspected of criminal involvement, new NSA documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden suggest.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Monday that top-secret documents included in the trove of files supplied by the NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden reveal that the US intelligence community obtains and keeps information on American citizens accumulated off the Internet without ever issuing a search warrant or opening an investigation into that person.
The information is obtained using a program codenamed Marina, the documents suggest, and is kept by the government for up to a full year without investigators ever having to explain why the subject is being surveilled.

In the Guardian article RT's referring to, James Ball explains:

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the NSA was using its metadata troves to build profiles of US citizens' social connections, associations and in some cases location, augmenting the material the agency collects with additional information bought in from the commercial sector, which is is not subject to the same legal restrictions as other data.
The ability to look back on a full year's history for any individual whose data was collected – either deliberately or incidentally – offers the NSA the potential to find information on people who have later become targets. But it relies on storing the personal data of large numbers of internet users who are not, and never will be, of interest to the US intelligence community.

This is a good time to note Ed Snowden.

ed snowden

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."  August 1st, Ed was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

 Jemima Kiss (Guardian) reports Jesselyn Radack (whistle-blower and with the Government Accountability Project) read a statement Monday from Ed at a hearing of the Eureopan Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.  The statement included the following:

A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people but only by the peopler after full, informed and fearless debate.

Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge - and in my country the cost of one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile. If we are to enjoy such debates in the future we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government but independent representatives of the public outside government.

When I began my work it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world.

Today we see legislative bodies forming new committees calling for investigations and proposing new solutions for modern problems. We see emboldened courts that are no longer afraid to consider critical questions of national security. We see brave executives remembering that if a public is prevented from knowing how they are being governed the necessary result is that they are no longer self governing. And we see the public reclaiming an equal seat at the table of government. 

May 21, 2006, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Don't Spook the Spook" went up.

 "Senator, I'm not at liberty to talk about that in open session. . . . No, sir, not in open session. . . . Let me give that answer in closed session."  It was Hayden speaking at his confirmation hearing for CIA Director.  We covered the hearing in the May 18, 2006 snapshot:

Hayden needs to be probed as to the responsibilities he has to citizens. That's who they all work for.
On damage done, he stated that if the NSA is exposed (for violating the rights of citizens) all that happens is "all they lose is a frequency" but that the CIA could lose lives. We all lose a great deal when the rights of citizens are trampled on. For someone who wants to argue that what he did he was legal, it's rather surprising that he told Kit Bond (Repube Senator) that "It was a personal decision" on his part. Ron Wyden did the best job I heard. Probing him and not taking easy answers. Pat Roberts, "scrub" (to use his word of choice today), equated US national security with Israel's.
Hayden kept conjuring up "October 2001" (which I'm sure lap dogs in the media will fix for him to "Sept. 11th") and wanted to whine about the NSA, "They're doing their job . . . during a difficult time." I thought he said the worst that could happen was the NSA lost a frequency? What's so difficult about that?
They should be doing their job. During a difficult time or a good one. That's what they're paid for, that's what they're hired for. Hayden can try to make the Gladys Kravitzes out as heroes but they're doing the job they were hired for. (And quite a bit more since Bully Boy's decided that laws are apparently as "quaint" as conventions.)
He's really doing lousy but he's aided by the fact that Dems are doing a pretty poor job. Such as DiFi who apparently has tried to drop the genteel mask of "
miss diane" and come off like a beer commercial with remarks to the effect of "So that's all good." The "BURP" was, apparently implied. (It's all good, DiFi.)

Reading that today, it's amazing how the same roles are still being played Dianne Feinstein remains an apologist and denier on the topic.  While Dianne shirks her responsibilities.  Ron Wyden continues to be the foremost leader on the issue.  And Hayden continues to appear conflicted (at best) while providing incomplete statements.  Nick Hopkins (Guardian) reports:

Speaking in London, Hayden said western security services were having to make difficult adjustments to new challenges. It was not fair for America's critics to "cross your arms and cluck at us", he said.
Hayden was director of the NSA for six years between 1999 and 2005, and was director of the CIA for three years until 2009.
Speaking in Westminster at an event organised by the Henry Jackson Society, Hayden admitted security agencies had become too secretive for their own good.
Even if every individual decision to keep something secret could be justified, the total effect was harmful, he argued.
"It's clear to me now that in liberal democracies the security services don't get to do what they do without broad public understanding and support.
"And although the public cannot be briefed on everything, there has to be enough out there so that the majority of the population believe what they are doing is acceptable."

Let's go back to that 2006 hearing to note some of Senator Carl Levin's opening remarks (Levin was then the Ranking Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the hearing):

Another major question is General Hayden's views on a program of electronic surveillance of American citizens, a program which General Hayden administered for a long time. That is the program which has taken up a great deal of the public attention and concern in recent weeks. The war on terrorism not only requires objective, independent intelligence analysis. It also requires us to strike a thoughtful balance between our liberty and our security. Over the past six months, we have been engaged in a national debate about NSA's electronic surveillance program and the telephone records of American citizens. That debate has been hobbled because so much about the program remains classified. Public accounts about it are mainly references by the administration, which are selective and incomplete, or the result of unverifiable leaks. For example, the administration has repeatedly characterized the electronic surveillance program as applying only to international phone calls and not involving any domestic surveillance. In January, the president said, quote, "The program focuses on calls coming from outside of the United States, but not domestic calls." In February, the vice president said, "Some of our critics call this a 'domestic surveillance program.' It is not domestic surveillance." Ambassador Negroponte said, quote, "This is a program that was ordered by the president of the United States with respect to international telephone calls to or from suspected Al Qaida operatives and their affiliates. This was not about domestic surveillance." Earlier this year, General Hayden appeared before the Press Club where he said of the program, quote, "The intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls." Now, after listening to the administration's characterizations for many months, America woke up last Thursday to the USA Today headline, quote, "NSA Has Massive Database of Americans' Phone Calls," close quote. The report said, quote, "The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans, most of whom aren't suspected of any crime," close quote. The president says we need to know who Al Qaida is calling in America. And we surely do. But the USA Today article describes a government program where the government keeps a database, a record, of the phone numbers that tens of millions of Americans, with no ties to Al Qaida, are calling. And the May 12th New York Times article quotes, quote, "one senior government official" who, quote, "confirmed that the NSA had access to records of most telephone calls in the United States, " close quote. We are not permitted, of course, to publicly assess the accuracy of these reports. But listen for a moment to what people who have been briefed on the program have been able to say publicly. Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, after talking about what the USA Today article did not claim said the following, quote, "It's really about calling records, if you read the story -- who was called when and how long did they talk. And these are business records that have been held by the courts not to be protected by a right of privacy. And there are a variety of ways in which these records lawfully can be provided to the government. It's hard to find the privacy issue here," Mr. Hadley said. Majority Leader Frist has publicly stated that the program is voluntary. And a member of this committee has said, quote, "The president's program uses information collected from phone companies. The phone companies keep their records. They have a record. And it shows what telephone number called what other telephone number." So the leaks are producing piecemeal disclosures, although the program remains highly classified. Disclosing parts of the program that might be the most palatable and acceptable to the American people, while maintaining secrecy until they're leaked about parts that may be troubling to the public, is not acceptable. Moreover, when Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, says that it's hard to find a privacy issue here, I can't buy that. It's not hard to see how Americans could feel that their privacy has been intruded upon if the government has, as USA Today reports, a database of phone numbers calling and being called by tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. It is hard to see, however, if the leaks about this program are accurate, how the only intrusions into Americans' privacy are related to international phone calls, as General Hayden said at the National Press Club. And it's certainly not hard to see the potential for abuse and the need for an effective check in law on the government's use of that information.

The lies Levin noted continue to this day.    Glenn Greenwald has broken many of the NSA stories.  The Guardian notes that the journalist will be online in a few minutes (1:00 pm EST, noon Central, ten a.m. Pacific) to answer questions on the illegal spying:

  • 20 minute warning: our Reddit AMA with and goes live at 1pm ET. Link will show up here.

  • The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.