Today Amnesty International notes torture in 'liberated' Iraq:
The torture had so disfigured him that even his own mother had trouble recognizing him when she visited him in prison.
But as Ahmad ‘Amr ‘Abd al-Qadir Muhammad’s mother explained, what happened to her son behind bars is not unusual in Iraq.
"For a year I thought he was dead and then I was told that he was in prison. On my first visit I did not recognize him because of the marks of torture on him … The burn on his shoulder, the burn on his leg, the injury from a drill in his arm,” she told Amnesty International.
Her son Ahmad, a Palestinian born in Iraq, was arrested on 21 July 2006 in the Zayouna district of Baghdad, at the height of the sectarian violence that crippled the country, and held incommunicado for more than a year.
The authorities accused him of being a member of an armed group that was planning to plant explosives, and sentenced him to death 17 May 2011 after a trial marred by torture allegations.
When he saw his mother for the first time in a year, in a detention centre in the al-Baladiyat district of Baghdad, he just said:
“They tortured me to force me to ‘confess’.”
A medical examination carried out by the Forensic Medical Institute around two years after Ahmad’s arrest documented “brown large scars” on various parts of his body, congruent with his account.
The torture, the disappearances in the 'legal' system, the imprisonment of people without trial and, even more shocking, the imprisonment of people without being charged are hallmarks of Iraqi 'justice' today and they are among the issues that kicked off the 2011 protests and jump-started the ongoing protests that began December 21st. National Iraqi News reports "thousands" turned out in Falluja and Ramadi today and notes:
Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.
Iraqi Spring MC notes that speakers in Samarra sees Iran behind the 2006 attack on the al-Askari shrines and they cite US General George Casey for that assertion. They also note Samarra protesters are calling for an independent, international investigation and state that they do not trust Nouri's government to conduct the investigation. Alsumaria notes that the cry was also echoed at the Tikrit demonstration. They elaborate on Casey's remarks explaining that they were made in France and that he was speaking at event sponsored by an Iranian opposition group (they probably mean the MEK). NINA quotes Sheikh Hussein Ghazi stating in Samarra, "It has become clear in the light of what is declared by the US forces former commander in Iraq Gen George Casey, a few days ago, about Iran's implication in Samarra bombings that targeted the holy shrine of the two Imams in 2006, and the painful consequences of those bombings that have been carried out with the knowledge of the Iraqi government." Alsumaria notes Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader, responded to a question about Casey's charges by noting that the US government repeatedly blames Iran whenever possible and -- apparently confusing Casey with either former US general (and one time top commander in Iraq) and former CIA Director David Petraeus or with Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk who's currently stationed in Iraq -- Moqtada dismissed Casey as a "womanizer."
In Falluja, National Iraqi News Agency notes, Sheikh Ghalib al-Issawi called for the closure of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Iraqi Spring MC adds that many members of the media were prevented by Nouri's forces from entering the square where the sit-in was taking place.
Alsumaria reports protesters in Dhi Qar Province insist that they will continue their protests until the electricity situation is addressed. (Electricity actually has gotten worse in the last months in Dhi Qar which is what prompted the citizens to take to the streets.) Al Mada reports that at least 50 people turned out in Basra to protest in front of Egypt's Consulate over the death of Shi'ite cleric Hassan Shehata. Four days ago, saleh1966 (All Voices) reported:
Some 3,000 Sunnis, led by Salafis, attacked and killed four Shiite men including senior cleric Hassan Shehata and his brother, accusing Shehata of spreading Shiism beliefs in Egypt. The attack occurred in the town of Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province on the outskirts of Cairo on Sunday, al-Ahram newspaper reported.
The paper also stated that hundreds of attackers stabbed, beat and dragged the bodies of the victims. About 30 were seriously injured and four were pronounced dead by the Health Ministry.
For six months and one week, Iraqis have taken their protests public at great risk to their own safety. The the April 23rd massacre -- when Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in and killed adults and children -- was only the most violent example of the security forces attacking protesters. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured. Protesters have been followed home by security forces, have been harrassed by security forces, have been pursued in mosques by security forces.
But they have continued to turn out in a manner which the world press would normally applaud; however, the world press makes increasingly clear just how little they care about Iraq or Iraqis. The Tuesday April 23rd massacre, for example, was reported after the fact by the world press. In the days leading up to it (the Friday before at least one protester at the Hawija sit-in was killed by Nouri's forces and several were injured, the sit-in was surrounded by Nouri's forces which refused to allow them to leave; the Saturday and Sunday saw efforts by Iraqi MPs to enter the sit-in and deliver food and medicine), only the Iraqi press covered it. No US outlet filed one story even though, by Sunday evening, even the US State Dept was taking the issue seriously and terming it a "hot spot." Would the 53 people slaughtered have died if the world press had done their job? Possibly not.
The world press exists to humor Nouri al-Maliki, not to hold a US-installed thug accountable. Felicity Arbuthnot (Dissident Voice and Global Research) notes realities as she explains a popular rumor in Iraq currently:
As violence continues to rage across “liberated” Iraq under America’s puppet “Prime Minister” Nuri al-Maliki, a fair amount of it at his instigation as his troops round up and shoot demonstrators (President Jalal Talabani, who had a heart attack early in the year has vanished without trace, Vice President Tarik al-Hashimi has fled to Turkey in fear of his life) one incident arguably of note, has gone unnoticed in the Western media.
On Friday June 21st the Ba’ath Party, in a statement, said that “Party Members” had killed one of Saddam Hussein’s executioners alleging it was the balaclava masked man who placed the noose around his neck and led him to the trap door, in a videoed and multi-mobile recorded death and aftermath of further horror, ushering in the US-UK’s “New Iraq.”
The exeuctioner rumored to have been killed is also rumored to have worked for Nouri personally and to have been a relative of Nouri.
Good news, Iraq is not in the midst of a(nother) civil war (ethnic cleansing) and no civil war (ethnic cleansing) is coming because the current "crisis is manageable" -- so says Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press. Of course, Zebari's also fudging what happened yesterday at the United Nations Security Council. Like Zebari, I was there. See yesterday's snapshot. Iraq was 'removed' from Chapter VII but, despite Zebari (and other Iraqi officials) insisting 'free at last!,' Iraq was placed under Chapter VI which is only slightly better than Chapter VII. From the UN press release:
Recognizing that the situation that now exists in Iraq is significantly different from that which existed at the time of the invasion, the Council decided that the issues of missing people and property will now be handled under Chapter VI of the Charter, which calls for a peaceful resolution of disputes.
Another key provision of the new resolution is the Council’s decision to transfer the mandate formerly assigned to the High-Level Coordinator for Iraq-Kuwait Missing Persons and Property to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Paragraph 14 of resolution 1284 (1999) requested the appointment of a High-Level Coordinator to report to the Security Council regularly on “compliance by Iraq with its obligations regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains” and “the return of all Kuwaiti property, including archives, seized by Iraq.”
The new resolution terminates that measure and in turn calls on the head of UNAMI to “promote, support and facilitate efforts regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains, and the return of Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, seized by Iraq.”
Further, the resolution also requests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon consider designating the deputy chief of UNAMI covering political affairs “with the responsibility for overseeing these issues and ensuring appropriate resources for this purpose.”
Sorry to harsh the mellow but that is the reality.
The US Embassy notes a less specific but congratulatory message US Secretary of State John Kerry issued today:
Statement by Secretary Kerry: UN Security Council Decision to Transfer Chapter VII Mandate to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq
June 28, 2013The United States congratulates the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait on successfully resolving key bilateral and international issues over the past year, which helped result in today’s milestone decision by the UN Security Council. It's testament to the commitment of two neighbors to a new relationship that we're witnessing the transfer of the Chapter VII mandate and responsibilities of the UN High-Level Coordinator for Gulf War Missing Kuwaiti and Third-Country Nationals and the Return of Kuwaiti Property to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq.
We further welcome the completion of the border maintenance work and the establishment of technical arrangements between Iraq and Kuwait as recommended by the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission. As I discussed during my visit to Kuwait yesterday, we will continue to support both Kuwait and Iraq so they continue to build further confidence and cooperation, strengthen their relationship, and enhance regional stability.
As so often happens, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be the only one paying attention to the details. Alsumaria reports he declared today that he hoped the Iraqi government did not give away needed things to leave Chapter VII and that moving Iraq from Chapter VII to Chapter VI does not grant Iraq freedom. He has concerns about a number of issues including the economics of the deal. Al Mada reports that Parliament is also expressing concerns about the issue of Iraq's money held by the international community and about being shut out on the negotiations regarding the shift from Chapter VII to Chapter VI.
Turning to the topic of violence, yesterday's snapshot noted, "BBC News reports Baghdad cafes were struck by bombings, 'The bombs went off on Thursday evening when the coffee shops were filled with people watching a football match.' Reuters counts 'at least 22' dead." AP reports today the death toll rose to 36. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 546 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month. AFP reports a twin bombing has taken place in Ramadi today and gives the death toll at 9. Alsumaria explains there was a bomb on a civilian car followed by another bombing when citizens rushed to the scene to help following the first bombing. AP states the death toll has increased to 11. Alsumaria also reports that the body of a tribal leader in Kut was discovered shot-dead in his own home. National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 Sahwa was shot dead in a Kirkuk attack, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in a Kirkuk attack and another was left injured, a Baghdad bakery bombing left five people injured, 1 person was shot dead in Baghdad and another left injured, and an attack on a Madain football field left 2 dead and ten injured. AP notes that the death toll rose to 4 and the number injured to 15 on the football field bombing while a Dujail suicide car bombing attacked a funeral killing 4 people and injuring four more.
And on the aftermath of violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports:
The Iraqi government declared the disputed town of Tuz Khormatu a disaster zone following the recent string of bombings targeting protestors bemoaning the deteriorating security situation in the city.
The bombings killed and injured hundreds of people, including the head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, a number of its leaders, and members of the Saladin provincial council.
Niyazi Oglu, a Turkmen representative to the Saladin provincial council, informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “Among the measures that the ministerial committee, protestors, and government representatives agreed upon is to provide the [town] with the necessary infrastructure to convert it into a governorate.”
Things sound a little less 'manageable' than what Zebari's portraying them as.
Al Rafidayn reports that the US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft met with the Iraqi media and answered questions. Among them, a new Iraqi prime minister? Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2014. Beecroft stated it is the job and right of the Iraqi people to pick their leaders and the US is prepared to have a diplomatic relationship with any Iraqi chosen to represent the people. He refused to speculate on any particular person. He was asked about the F-16 fighters and stated that they would not be delivered until September 2014.
Yesterday, the US State Dept issued a public notice regarding proposals for Iraq:
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Proposals: Democracy, Human Rights, and Rule of Law in Iraq.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Proposals for projects that promote human rights and the rule of law in Iraq.
PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly urges applicants to access immediately www.grants.gov in order to obtain a username and password. It may take two full weeks to register with www.grants.gov. Please see the section entitled, “DEADLINE AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS” below for specific instructions.
REQUESTED PROPOSAL PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
DRL invites organizations to submit proposals outlining program concepts and capacity to manage projects targeting one or both of the following issues:
Technical Capacity Building to Service Providers in Gender Based Violence Programs (approximately $1,500,000 available)
DRL seeks proposals for programs to increase the technical capacity of service providers (both governmental and non-governmental) in Iraq that focus on protections for victims of gender-based violence (GBV), pursuant to the goals and objectives of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally.
In the broadest terms, “gender-based violence” is violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex, gender identity, or his or her perceived adherence to socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity. It includes physical, sexual, trafficking in persons, and psychological abuse; threats; coercion; arbitrary deprivation of liberty; and economic deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life. Women and girls are the most at risk and affected by GBV. However, boys and men can also experience GBV, as can sexual and gender minorities, such as men who have sex with men and transgender persons. Strengthening the physical, material, and human resources of institutions that aim to assist victims of GBV is an essential first step in addressing this issue.
Proposed programs must directly target those service providers engaged with or training to engage with victims of domestic violence and other forms of GBV, including sexual violence, early and forced marriage, honor crimes, perceptions of gender that may lead to violence, and/or female genital mutilation (e.g., social workers, NGO workers, shelter staff, health care providers, and/or students in university programs focusing on human rights, counseling, or social work).
Training activities must, at minimum, include:
- ensuring privacy of victims
- sensitizing staff
- de-stigmatizing victims of violence
- addressing attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs of GBV counselors
- understanding the legal framework
- training health care providers, including in forensic examination and documentation
- improving danger assessment
- providing safety planning
- providing emergency services to survivors of sexual violence
- developing educational and informational materials for training GBV service providers.
An ability to implement programs in Iraq must be demonstrated. The proposal must realistically address the challenges and limitations the applicant would likely face in Iraq. The duration of proposed programs must be between twelve to eighteen months. Applicants may request between $750,000 and $1,500,000.
We don't have the space in the snapshot for the full release (the above is not even 1/4 of the release). So use the link if you're interested and we'll try to post it in full this weekend.
When you go out in the street
So many hassles with the heat
No one there can fill your desire
Cops out with the megaphones
Telling people stay inside their homes
Man, can't they see the world's on fire?
Somebody take us away, take us away
-- "Safe In My Garden," first appears on the Mamas and the Papas' album The Papas & the Mamas
In the US, Lisa Neff (Wisconsin Gazette) observes:
The openly gay soldier’s arrest and prosecution have not been an issue for the nation’s largest LGBT groups. Searches for “Bradley Manning” on websites for the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, OutServe-SLDN or National Gay and Lesbian Task Force yield no statements, news releases or other references.
The ACLU and Amnesty International, however, have monitored the Manning case.
The ACLU maintains the government is overreaching with the charge of aiding the enemy. “The crux of the government’s case against Manning – that he leaked sensitive documents without authorization – in no way depends on branding him a traitor,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its ‘success’ would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals.”
Amnesty, which has dispatched a monitor to Maryland for a trial that is expected to last until August, has said the government must allow Manning to use a public interest defense. “The court must allow Manning to explain in full his motives for releasing the information to WikiLeaks,” said Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty director of research and crisis response. “Manning should have been allowed to explain how, in his opinion, the public interest in being made aware of the information he disclosed outweighed the government’s interest in keeping it confidential.”
Who are they talking about? Bradley Manning. Brad's a little 'too controversial' for support from the LGBT groups who will always stand up for one of their own -- provided that person can be easily marketed and vanilla. Brad's involved in issues that really matter and that's when Human Rights Campaign and others have to take a pass.
Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor." February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks. And why.
Bradley Manning: In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.
Standing up against brutality and War Crimes is too controversial for Human Rights Campaign. Give them an 'issue' like who didn't go to prom and they'll work themselves into a frantic uproar. But deal with an issue that has global implications of life and death and watch the 'brave' groups fall silent.
AP reports that Col David Miller, Brad's commander in Iraq, took the stand today and declared that the reaction in the unit to Brad's release was "a funeral-like atmosphere fell over that crowd." Oh, how awful. It sounds like the poor dears could be 'shaken' by other things as well -- like maybe the Superbowl or NBA play offs as well? Maybe the US military can next prosecute over that and how it effected 'morale'? Considering that Brad only confessed in February, Miller might have used his command position to execute those under him on democracy -- or was Miller so traumatized that he forgot the US Constitution and how the legal system works in the US? Was Col Miller so raked with gasping sobs that the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" escaped him? Was he so traumatized that he was unable to advise the people serving under him to focus on their tasks and missions?
Adam Klasfeld (Courthouse News) quotes Miller testifying, "I was stunned. The last thing I anticipated was an internal security breach from one of our own." So the 'morale' issue was really about Miller's own shock -- including the fact that he failed at his job since the "internal security breach" took place under his watch. Sounds like Miller's 'trauma' has a lot to do with his own failures as a commander. This is a point a functioning defense would have made (Brad doesn't have one) and they immediately would have begun asking Miller about disciplinary actions that were taken against him (Miller). If there were none, the defense should have hammered that home. If Brad's actions did not result in serious discipline for his commander, then the brass was saying privately that Brad's actions weren't that serious.
Ed Snowden is the NSA whistle-blower who blew the whistle on the US government's spying on its own citizens. He went to Hong Kong and now appears to be in Russia. He was discussed on the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- link is audio and remember the program now provides transcripts in an attempt to serve an even broader audience including those unable to stream and those who might have the computer capabilities to stream but who wouldn't benefit from an audio stream and need text due to hearing issues). Diane's panelists for the international hour were Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera, Anne Gearan of the Washington Post and Moises Naim of El Pais. Excerpt (this is from their transcript):
Diane Rehm: All right, so let me ask you all, if Snowden did decide to return to the United States, what would happen to him? Anne Gearan?
Anne Gearan: Well, there's an indictment, so he would be arrested. The question is, what would happen, presuming he came back to the United States in a public manner and the Justice Department, law enforcement authorities knew where he was? And it's hard to imagine that it could happen in any other fashion at this point. The question then becomes, what would happen to him post-arrest? Would he be treated as a sort of ordinary white-collar criminal? Would he be treated as some sort of special case because of the national security implications? The Obama administration is extraordinarily well aware of the bad PR around the world that surrounded the treatment in jail, the perception of the treatment in jail of the Wiki leaker who is now on trial in military court. They wouldn't want to repeat anything like that, but it is hard to imagine that they would allow him to be released before trial.
Diane Rehm: Would he get a fair trial, Moises?
Moises Naim: Well, the publicity around him and surrounding the case will certainly make it very complex, but I don't see any other way, except if he go -- some country accepts and gives him asylum. And there is talk, you know, the Russians, he's at a very strange place...
Diane Rehm: He sure is.
Moises Naim: ...at (word?) airport in Russia where, you know, the Russians claim that he's not in their territory. You know, they have a hot potato in him, and it's a delicious hot potato because they are mining it to the hilt and enjoying the limelight on the case.
Diane Rehm: So what is his legal status in this country now that his passport has been revoked?
Anne Gearan: Well, he's not quite a man without a country. He's an American, but he's an American caught in an international transit zone which is the ultimate no-man's land without a passport. So he cannot travel as an American citizen. He will have to travel on some other kind of travel document which would have to be granted by another country.
Diane Rehm: I see.
Anne Gearan: Or the United States would have to an extradition arrangement under which he would come home with law enforcement escort.
The revelations about Barack's spying on Americans continue to emerge. Yesterday on the Pacifica Evening News (a joint-production from KPFA and KPFK -- click here for the specific broadcast), John Hamilton explained:
There are new revelations today about the scope of NSA surveillance on foreigners and on United States citizens. The Guardian reveals the Obama administration, for more than two years, permitted the NSA to continue collecting vast amount of records detailing the e-mail and internet usage of Americans. Top secret memos obtained by the Guardian detail how an initially warrentless wiretapping program code named Stellar Wind began shortly after 9-11 and continued until 2011 with some aspects continuing to this day. The program collected vast amounts of bulk meta data on e-mail traffic including for several years on communications not involving foreigners. The program also collected mega data on the Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses used by people inside the United States when sending e-mails, that's information that can reflect their physical location. It did not include the content of e-mails. An Obama administration official confirmed the existence of the program to the Guardian but said it ended in 2011; however, the Guardian reports some collection of Americans' online records continues today when one party in the communication is outside the US.
Free Speech Radio News today continues the coverage of the topic with Alice Ollstein interviewing the ACLU's Patrick Toomey about the revelations. Excerpt.
Patrick Toomey (ACLU): The process was one that doesn't support the normal, adversarial judicial process. Only the government is a participant in most proceedings before the [FISA] Court and we have also found, from the IG report, that there was a very clubby or seemingly friendly negotiation that happened between the Executive Branch and the Court. There's descriptions of back-and-forth between the Court and the Court's legal advisors and the Executive Branch, weekend meetings between the judges and the Court has simply proceed in a very pro forma way to reauthorize every three months or so the wire tapping programs that the government has brought under the Court's supervision.
Alice Ollstein: According to the Guardian, this particular program ended in 2011 but another called Evil Olive began in late 2012 designed to capture the meta data of online data between US citizens and their connections abroad. The ACLU is currently suing the Obama administration over the mass collection of phone data of American citizens revealed in documents published by the Guardian revealed earlier this month. Tommey says a jdugment in that case that mega date deserves protection against unreasonable search and seziure could set a legal precedent that also protects online communications swept up by the federal government. Alice Ollstein, Free Speech Radio News, Washington.
Yesterday, the ACLU issued the following press release:
June 27, 2013FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, email@example.com
NEW YORK – The government is collecting large amounts of information about Americans' internet communications, according to a report published today in The Guardian. The newspaper also published an internal government report detailing the blanket collection of email and other internet data as part of the NSA's original warrantless wiretapping program, which was apparently modified over time.
"The revelations about our government's spying raise new and troubling questions about the extent to which the government is monitoring Americans' private lives, including whom we email or chat with and what websites we visit," said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project. "This is further confirmation that the National Security Agency has been operating in the shadows for far too long. Extreme secrecy has facilitated extreme policy – all at the expense of Americans' constitutional right to be left alone by their government absent specific cause or suspicion. The Obama administration must come clean with the country about the extent to which it believes it may monitor all Americans' emails and phone calls. The debate that the administration has welcomed cannot take place without the facts it continues to conceal."
Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said, "We once again learn the Senate and House Intelligence Committees were briefed and approved of invasive surveillance, this time the bulk collection of our e-mail records without any suspicion of wrongdoing. There are still many unanswered questions, particularly what programs currently exist and what information they collect on innocent Americans. Congress needs to force public disclosure of all legal underpinnings of these programs and get to work on reining them in. It appears clear that the administration, the FISA Court, and many members of the intelligence committees will continue to allow the NSA's broad dragnet of innocent American communications if Congress doesn't act now to stop it."
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