President's Spy Study Plan Prompts Protest
President Obama has prompted protest by naming to reform NSA's spy program the same staffer who misled the Senate last spring about the system.
White House Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, right, will lead a new intelligence review panel announced by Obama Aug. 9. Obama sought to reassure those in the public who believe federal authorities are abusing Americans' Constitutional rights.
Former NSA executives and other experts have claimed the government collects and stores essentially all domestic electronic communications via phone, email, and social media. These experts claim the government maintains a dragnet for essentially all such communications (including content), and can retrieve content to target individuals as it desires via secret procedures.
Separately, Reuters last week reported DEA Special Operations Division Covers Up Surveillance Used To Investigate Americans concerning a secret government program whereby federal drug agents would lie to federal judges, defendants, and attorneys about their surveillance to keep the program under wraps and prevent defendants from challenging procedures in court.
On Aug. 12, an Atlantic columnist called the speech "A Low Point in Barack Obama's Presidency." The next day, the Huffington Post reported that Google is arguing in federal court that Gmail users have no legitimate right to privacy for their emails. On Aug. 21, the Wall Street Journal reported, New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach, Programs Cover 75% of Nation's Traffic, Can Snare Emails.
The government denies intrusive capabilities and lawbreaking. Looking relaxed, President Obama went on NBC's Tonight Show Aug. 6 to tell the show's affable host Jay Leno there is no such thing as a domestic spying program. Obama and his aides say that secret courts and secret briefings of congressional leaders adequately safeguard privacy rights over the minimal "metadata" the government collects.
Yet some Senate and House members deny being adequately briefed. Also, former NSA analyst and decorated Air Force veteran Russell Tice has told me and others that NSA and its contractors spy on Congress -- including Obama when he was a Senator -- as it builds a resource databank that deters oversight. Furthermore, Tice told MSNBC as early as 2005 that NSA "collects everything...word for word."
Clapper will choose the panel to review intelligence operations that he supervises, and will then control the deliberations of his review panel. This is an obvious whitewash in the making.
Last spring, Clapper responded “no sir” to a question by three-term Senate Intelligence Commitee member Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, who asked whether the NSA collects information about millions of Americans. Clapper later admitted he misled the Senate. The revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June forced the Obama administration to admit it had deceived the public.
The administration has claimed its program protects the public by opposing major terrorist threats. Critics increasingly challenge those administration claims, as the Justice Integrity Project reported following a conference of former NSA employers and other experts July 25 at the National Press Club. My column was Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights quoted former NSA executives who had helped devise the spy program describe their concerns about its reach and waste of taxpayer funds. Much of the funding goes to politically powerful private contractors who run the guts of the system, and employ former government officials when they are ready for the wealth that awaits them through the revolving door.
The column illustrated themes of my new book, Presidential Puppetry, documenting how the White House and Congress are dominated by the private sector titans that run the surveillance systems in effect. Snowden, a former NSA and CIA employee, worked for Booz Allen Hamiliton, which is majority-owned by the Carlyle Group.
Constitutional scholar Paul Craig Roberts, left, on Aug. 13 called for impeachment proceedings because of the Obama administration's policies, which he described as a continuation of Bush violations of the Constitution.
"The US faces no threat that justifies the lawlessness and abuse of police powers that characterize the executive branch in the 21st century," Roberts wrote for the left-leaning OpEd News in a column entitled, Humanity Is Drowning In Washington's Criminality. Clapper, Roberts wrote, "blatantly lied to Congress and remains in office. Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, has also misled Congress, and he remains in office. Attorney General Holder avoids telling Congress the truth on just about every subject, and he also remains in office. The same can be said for President Obama, one of the great deceivers of our time, who is so adverse to truth that truth seldom finds its way out of his mouth."
"If an American citizen lies to a federal investigator, even if not under oath, the citizen can be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison," Roberts continued. "Yet, these same federal personnel can lie to Congress and to citizens with impunity. Whatever the American political system is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with accountable government. In Amerika no one is accountable but citizens, who are accountable not only to law but also to unaccountable charges for which no evidence is required."
Punishment of Snowden for warning Americans is now one of the nation's top foreign policy objectives. U.S. European allies, presumably acting under pressure from the Obama administration, infuriated many in Latin America by violating diplmatic protocol force the landing of a Bolivian presidential flight from Europe to South America in early July on the false tip that the Latin leader might be hiding Snowden from American authorities.
"Revelations that South American countries were targets of NSA surveillance disclosed by former agency contractor Edward Snowden have particularly angered Brazil, which has called for a U.N. investigation," the Washington Post reported Aug. 13. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Brazil, was asked point-blank by a reporter from the Brazilian newspaper O Globo whether the United States intends to “stop spying” on the rest of the world.
Also, Obama cancelled a summit meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in significant part over Putin's refusal to deliver Snowden for trial in the United States on spy charges. The United States and Russia have no extradition treaty and there is no known evidence that Snowden worked with foreign agents to unveil secrets. Snowden has said from the first that his goal is to warn the American public because intelligence officials of U.S. allies and opponents already know about the vast scope of warrantless spying and information databanks.
The president said during his Aug. 9 news conference that he wanted to reassure the public about the spy program. But the White House also released a Justice Department legal analysis that claimed the law allows NSA collection of records to aid investigations, as reported by the Washington Post in Justice claims broad powers for surveillance.
Photo below left: President Obama listens as Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, briefs him on the terror threat, in the Map Room of the White House on Aug. 6, 2013. Also participating in the briefing are National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Clapper's deceptive answers to Senate oversight are shown below.
The Obama administration's whitewash of its spying has prompted even such stalwart defenders as Washington Post commentator Eugene Robinson to question the administration's sincerity. Robinson published a column in the Post's Aug. 13 print edition headlined, What NSA reforms?
"Friday’s speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view," wrote FireDogLake blogger DS Wright. "The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper. No one was expecting Obama to embrace radical transparency, but this is basically a joke. A ham-handed slight of hand that could only fool the most casual of observers. The Obama Administration decided to investigate itself and put one of its most loyal apparatchiks in charge of the effort."
Among other developments are efforts by prominent Senators to restrict journalistic protections to those the government certifies as being managed by an "entity." Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein of California is a co-sponsor of the legislation backed by fellow Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois to deny press freedom protections in leak investigations to those who are not controlled by what the government regards as an established entity. Details: Feinstein Says Free Press Only Means People On MSM Payroll.
The concept is dubious on its face, like several other assaults on what were once regarded as Constitution-based rights. Newspapers during the Revolutionary Era were not large entities or corporations.
Most were one-person print shops operating much like today's bloggers, as University of Tennessee Law School Professor Glenn Reynolds has noted. Reynolds, my contemporary at Yale Law School, is now a prominent blogger known as "Instapundit." Thomas Paine, arguably the most influentional of the Revolutionary/Constitutional era journalists because of the 500,000 sales of his Common Sense pamphlet, was clearly a "blogger" prototype, and not an "entity" in modern Senate jargon.
Also, evidence has emerged that federal military and intelligence units are actively seeking job reprisals against journalists who report adversely on NSA. Last month, our project published a three-part series about these efforts. The faculty of the U.S. Navy War College in Rhode Island with ties to NSA is a center of this activity under its new commander, Rear Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr.
The Daily Beast, CNN, Wikipedia, and Business Insider are among the outlets that amplify Tweets and other social media attacks emanating from the War College against freelancers, including Glenn Greenwald and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen. Greenwald broke Snowden's revelations in the Guardian. Madsen, a former NSA analyst who studied at the War College, has written cutting-edge stories for years documenting the NSA global and U.S. spy programs.
More recently, Madsen has researched why the college has been engaged in activities that include faculty-generated Tweets mocking President Obama, Roman Catholics, and those of French, Italian, and Greek heritage. That demographic probably encompasses three-quarters of the Rhode Island population.
Until recently, the military was formally forbidden by law from trying to influence domestic political opinion, especially by sub-rosa campaigns to prevent critics from being quoted in the news media. Now taxpayer-paid fanatics are apparently free to use their official credentials to do whatever they want against critics of surveillance.
Related News Coverage
Wall Street Journal, New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach, Programs Cover 75% of Nation's Traffic, Can Snare Emails, Siobhan Gorman and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, Aug. 21, 2013 (Subscription required). (5-minute viewable video here.) The NSA's surveillance network covers more Americans' Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, reaching roughly 75 percent of all U.S. internet traffic.
FireDogLake, Obama Lied: NSA Scans 75% Of American Internet Traffic, DSWright, Aug. 21, 2013. Does President Obama know what his own government is doing or is he actively lying? According to the Wall Street Journal the NSA scans 75% of all American internet traffic often snatching emails and other communication information from Americans within the United States. This while Obama goes on television to tell Americans “we don’t have a domestic spying program.”
OpEdNews, Ramping Up Intimidation of Journalists: Obama's UK Stasi Poodles Detain Glenn Greenwald's Partner, Steal Digital Gear, Rob Kall, Aug. 18, 2013. Earlier today, Glenn Greenwald's Brazilian partner, David Miranda was held by UK authorities using anti-terrorism laws, for nine hours. The authorities released him without leveling charges, but they took his phone, camera, notebook computer and jump drive. Glenn Greenwald tweeted in response: Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation."
Atlantic, The Surveillance Speech: A Low Point in Barack Obama's Presidency, Conor Friedersdorf, Aug. 12, 2013. His tone on Friday was inappropriately dismissive, while the substance was misleading at best and mendacious at worst. On Friday, President Obama spoke to us about surveillance as though we were precocious children. He proceeded as if widespread objections to his policies can be dispatched like a parent answers an eight-year-old who has formally protested her bedtime. He is so proud that we've matured enough to take an interest in our civil liberties! Why, he used to think just like us when he was younger, and promises to consider our arguments. But some decisions just have to be made by the grownups. Do we know how much he loves us? Can we even imagine how awful he would feel if anything bad ever happened while it was still his job to ensure our safety? By observing Obama's condescension, I don't mean to suggest tone was the most objectionable part of the speech. The disinformation should bother the American people most. The weasel words. The impossible-to-believe protestations. The factually inaccurate assertions.
Washington Post, Lawmakers, privacy advocates call for reforms at NSA, Ellen Nakashima, Aug. 16, 2013. A turning point in the NSA debate? Democratic lawmakers are taking a stand amid the newest revelations about the spy agency. Some lawmakers called Friday for reforms and greater transparency in the surveillance operations of the National Security Agency following a report that the agency repeatedly violated privacy rules, while U.S. officials stressed that any mistakes are not intentional. The contrasting reactions came after The Washington Post reported that the NSA broke rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times in recent years, and the chief judge of the special federal surveillance court that oversees NSA spy programs said the court’s ability to provide oversight is limited.
Washington Post, House panel withheld document on NSA program from members, Peter Wallsten, Aug. 16, 2013. Obama administration had asked that the information on phone A letter drafted by the Obama administration specifically to inform Congress of the government’s mass collection of Americans’ telephone communications data was withheld from lawmakers by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee in the months before a key vote affecting the future of the program.surveillance be widely shared.
Huffington Post, Exclusive: Edward Snowden Says Media Being Misled 'About My Situation,' Michael Calderone, Aug. 15, 2013. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wants to set the record straight after individuals associated with his father have, in his words, "misled" journalists into “printing false claims about my situation.” In an emailed statement to the Huffington Post, Snowden said that neither his father Lon Snowden, his father’s lawyer Bruce Fein, nor Fein's wife and spokeswoman Mattie Fein “represent me in any way.” “None of them have been or are involved in my current situation, and this will not change in the future,” Snowden said of his father and the Feins. “I ask journalists to understand that they do not possess any special knowledge regarding my situation or future plans, and not to exploit the tragic vacuum of my father's emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news.” Mattie Fein told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Lon Snowden’s legal team doesn’t trust Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, the journalist at the center of the NSA story, or WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization that has advised Snowden in Russia. Fein also claimed Greenwald was trying to shop around an exclusive interview with Snowden for seven figures. Greenwald told the Journal Fein's claim was "defamatory."
The Huffington Post, Edward Snowden To NY Times: Media 'Abdicated' Role Post-9/11, Jack Mirkinson, Aug. 13, 2013. The New York Times secured an interview with Edward Snowden for the first time since he outed himself as the leaker of NSA documents in June. The brief Q-and-A appeared Tuesday alongside a lengthy profile of Laura Poitras, the filmmaker who, along with Glenn Greenwald, has been the journalist most at the center of the Snowden saga. Both pieces were written by reporter Peter Maas. In one portion of the interview, Snowden, right, talked about why he turned to Poitras and Greenwald, instead of the Times or the Washington Post:
After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power -- the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government -- for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period.
He also said that journalists need to become familiar with encryption tools that will shield their sensitive investigative material from surveillance. The longer article details the years Poitras spent being stopped at airports due to her work investigating the American surveillance system, as well as the complex tools she uses to protect her privacy from intelligence agencies. Maas also reveals that the Guardian, the paper that has benefited the most from Poitras and Greenwald's work, almost lost the story: When The Guardian didn't move as quickly as they wanted with the first article on Verizon, Greenwald discussed taking it elsewhere, sending an encrypted draft to a colleague at another publication.
Huffington Post, Google: Gmail Users Can't Legitimately Expect Privacy, Braden Goyette, Aug. 13, 2013. Google doesn't believe that people can reasonably expect their emails to stay private. At least, that's what the Internet giant articulated in a brief that was filed last month in federal court and recently surfaced by Consumer Watchdog. The document was written in response to a class-action lawsuit accusing Google of violating wiretap law when it scans emails to serve up targeted ads. Plantiffs accuse Google of violating the privacy of its users by mining their personal messages for information that it uses to inform which targeted ads it displays. The suit calls for Google to fully disclose exactly what information it's taking from emails, and to pay damages for these alleged violations of privacy.
Institute for Political Economy via OpEdNews, Humanity Is Drowning In Washington's Criminality, Paul Craig Roberts, Aug. 13, 2013. Americans will soon be locked into an unaccountable police state unless US Representatives and Senators find the courage to ask questions and to sanction the executive branch officials who break the law, violate the Constitution, withhold information from Congress, and give false information about their crimes. Congress needs to use the impeachment power that the Constitution provides and cease being subservient to the lawless executive branch.
New York Daily News, Oliver Stone blasts Obama as a 'snake,' throws support behind Edward Snowden, Leslie Larson, Aug. 14, 2013. The former Obama supporter, and director of films such as 'JFK' and 'W.' came down on the President during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, saying 'we have to turn on him' regarding the continuing of 'Bush-style eavesdropping' and surveillance techniques.
Washington Post, Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s, George F. Will, Aug. 14, 2013. President Obama’s increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency. Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and red lines is floundering. And at last week’s news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality. Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: “I didn’t simply choose to” ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, “this was in consultation with businesses.”
War Is A Crime.org, Screaming in Bradley Manning's Trial, David Swanson (latest book at right), Aug. 14, 2013. I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion. I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy. He's on trial in a system rigged against him. He's been convicted. Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence? Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong. But -- wow -- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom. This was the sentencing phase of the trial, but there was no discussion of what good or harm might come of a greater or lesser sentence, in terms of deterrence or restitution or prevention or any other goal. That's one thing I wanted to scream at various points in the proceedings. This was the trial of the most significant whistleblower in U.S. history, but there was no mention of anything he'd blown the whistle on, any of the crimes exposed or prevented, wars ended, nonviolent democratic movements catalyzed. Nothing on why he's a four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Nothing. War was like air in this courtroom, everybody on all sides militarized -- and it went unnoticed and unmentioned.
NSA Spying on Americans
Washington Post, Justice claims broad powers for surveillance, Ellen Nakashima and Robert Barnes, Aug. 9, 2013. A Justice Department legal analysis says law allows vast NSA collection of records to aid investigations, despite concerns of critics from both parties in Congress. President Obama announced plans Friday to pursue reforms that would open the legal proceedings surrounding NSA surveillance programs to greater scrutiny. Some in President Obama's administration are pushing for greater transparency in federal surveillance programs following recent revelations about National Security Agency programs. The report, which echoes assertions the administration has made to Congress, said the law and subsequent court decisions bestow broad power on the government to seek telephone records “relevant” to investigations of suspected terrorism. “Relevance,” the paper stated, is “a broad standard that permits discovery of large volumes of data in circumstances where doing so is necessary to identify much smaller amounts of information within that data that directly bears on the matter being investigated.” The release of the white paper appeared to do little to allay the concerns of critics in Congress and the civil liberties community who say the surveillance program violates Americans’ right to privacy. Last month, the House narrowly defeated a proposal to terminate it. The closeness of the vote, 217 to 205, was surprising but gave fresh momentum to lawmakers who have been trying to rein in the collection effort. “The president must acknowledge what a clear majority of Americans know: Our government has violated the law by collecting the communications of millions of innocent U.S. citizens,” said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), left, who wants the collection to end and has also criticized another major NSA surveillance program that targets communications of foreigners.
At right, President Obama strolls the White House grounds with Chief of Staff Denis McDonaugh (White House Photos by Pete Souza).
FireDogLake, Man That Misled Congress On Spying To Setup Obama’s Intelligence Review Panel, DSWright, Aug. 13, 2013. In response to the information released by Edward Snowden and the resulting public outrage, President Obama has decided to set up an intelligence review panel to assuage fears that the government is abusing its surveillance authority. Unfortunately, Obama has chosen General James Clapper, right, who misled Congress under oath about the NSA, to set up the panel. The group of intelligence experts is supposed to be independent, but how independent can a group be that Clapper selects?
Washington Post, What NSA reforms? Eugene Robinson, Aug. 12, 2013. The modest reforms Obama proposed do not begin to address the fundamental question of whether we want the National Security Agency to log all of our phone calls and read at least some of our e-mails, relying on secret judicial orders from a secret court for permission. The president indicated he is willing to discuss how all this is done — but not whether.
Washington Post, Obama’s ‘misleading’ comment on whistleblower protections, Joe Davidson, Aug. 12, 2013. Obama implies Snowden had whistleblower protections, but experts say that’s not the case.
Washington Post, Kerry: Latest Mideast tensions should not scuttle planned talks, Aug. 13, 2013. Speaking in Brazil, the secretary of state addresses concerns about NSA surveillance. Secretary of State John Kerry confronted a challenge during a two-day visit to South America. In a joint news conference here, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said that if questions about the interception of Brazilian electronic and telephone communications by the U.S. National Security Agency are not resolved, “we run the risk of casting a shadow of distrust” over the wide range of bilateral issues with the United States. Revelations that South American countries were targets of NSA surveillance disclosed by former agency contractor Edward Snowden have particularly angered Brazil, which has called for a U.N. investigation. “We need to discontinue practices” that violate sovereignty and individual freedoms, Patriota said in the news conference with Kerry. Kerry, who faced similar, if less strident, questions during a stop in Colombia on Monday, was asked point-blank by a reporter from the Brazilian newspaper O Globo whether the United States intends to “stop spying” on the rest of the world. The paper published the initial revelations of surveillance in South America last month.
Washington Post, Lawmakers say obstacles limited oversight of NSA, Peter Wallsten, Aug. 10, 2013. Several lawmakers responsible for overseeing the telephone surveillance program in recent years say they felt limited in their ability to challenge its scope and legality.
Washington Post, Critics question NSA’s need to keep database, Ellen Nakashima, Aug. 9, 2013. The case against a San Diego cab driver convicted of sending money to a terrorist group has suddenly come to the fore of a national debate about U.S. surveillance.Officials have said that NSA surveillance tools have helped disrupt terrorist plots or identify suspects in 54 cases in the United States and overseas. In many of those cases, an agency program that targets the communication of foreigners, including e-mails, has proved critical. But the importance of the phone logs in disrupting those plots has been less clear — and also far more controversial since it was revealed in June.
The Hill, Obama tells Leno: ‘We don’t have a domestic spying program,’ Jonathan Easley, Aug. 6, 2013. President Obama on Tuesday defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs in a wide-ranging interview on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," arguing that the agency doesn’t target U.S. civilians. “We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama said, according to the media pool report. “What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack. ... That information is useful.”
Politico, Obama defends NSA surveillance, Edward-Isaac Doverre, Aug. 6, 2013. Obama chats with Leno -- and middle America. Pressed by Jay Leno about the surveillance operations revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama expressed frustration that the programs had gone public, but said he has every confidence that they are being used properly. “We don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack,” Obama told Leno on Tuesday night.
Reuters via Huffington Post, DEA Special Operations Division Covers Up Surveillance Used To Investigate Americans: Report, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Aug. 5, 2013. A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin -- not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence -- information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. "I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, right, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers. "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations." The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
Washington Post, Another e-mail service shuts down over government spying concerns, Timothy B. Lee, Aug. 9, 2013. A prominent supplier of secure communications services has decided to shutter its e-mail service to avoid having to turn over confidential customer information to the government. The move comes hours after another e-mail service provider called Lavabit made the same decision in order to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people” — likely a reference to government surveillance.
Justice Integrity Project, Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights, Andrew Kreig, July 25, 2013. The National Security Agency (NSA) operates largely without accountability to other government branches or the public, according several former high-ranking NSA executives speaking July 25 at a forum at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. They said the NSA tries to collect as much phone, email, and social media data as possible from the world's population, including U.S. citizens, for storage and potential retrieval later. The process represents a massive loss of political freedom and privacy that Americans have enjoyed through history until recent years, according to panelists convened by the Government Accountability Project (GAP). GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards opened the forum by describing the pivotal role of whistleblowers to help the public understand when authorities overstep legal bounds.
Washington Post, Piercing the confusion around NSA, Aug. 9, 2013. The program that collects metadata has been referred to in shorthand as the “215 program” after the section in the law that governs it. It is a search for a needle in a haystack of unimaginable proportions, and administration officials can point to few successes. The NSA maintains a separate collection program, known as PRISM, that was exposed in June and has been at times conflated with the metadata program. But PRISM is focused not just on terrorism but any foreign intelligence matter. It is especially used to pursue foreign terrorism suspects, foreign espionage cases and investigations involving weapons of mass destruction, and it routinely sweeps up the content of e-mail and social media exchanges involving American citizens, according to documents and interviews. There is still much confusion about each program, even among people who have been briefed on them, and even among officials involved in carrying them out. What follows is an explanation of the 215, which has generated the most controversy and the most dedicated effort at reform in Congress. Every 90 days, Justice Department lawyers ask a federal judge to renew the authority to collect the phone records of all Americans by reissuing what is known as a “215 order,” after the section in the USA Patriot Act that government lawyers have determined permits the collection of such records. That blanket order allows NSA analysts to search the phone database for links between foreign terrorists and their U.S.-based contacts.
Federal Prosecution of Whistleblowers and Leakers
New York Times Magazine, How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets, Peter Maas, Aug. 13, 2013. This past January, Laura Poitras received a curious e-mail from an anonymous stranger requesting her public encryption key. For almost two years, Poitras had been working on a documentary about surveillance, and she occasionally received queries from strangers. She replied to this one and sent her public key — allowing him or her to send an encrypted e-mail that only Poitras could open, with her private key — but she didn’t think much would come of it. The stranger responded with instructions for creating an even more secure system to protect their exchanges. Promising sensitive information, the stranger told Poitras to select long pass phrases that could withstand a brute-force attack by networked computers. “Assume that your adversary is capable of a trillion guesses per second,” the stranger wrote.
Personal Liberty.com, Feinstein Says Free Press Only Means People On MSM Payroll, Sam Rolley, Aug. 12, 2013. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), backed by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), has proposed an amendment to a journalist shield law sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the month. She wants to choose who can and who cannot be considered a journalist. Schumer’s shield law bill’s purpose is aimed at protecting journalists’ sources. A renewed push for stronger media shield laws came after disclosures earlier this year that the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed two months’ of telephone records for phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a warrant to obtain the emails of a FOX News journalist.
Washington Post, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald will not do TV interview despite preliminary talks, Paul Farhi, Aug. 12, 2013. Glenn Greenwald, one of two reporters to disclose the existence of a massive National Security Agency surveillance program, has held preliminary talks with American TV networks to conduct an interview with his chief source, fugitive leaker Edward Snowden. Greenwald said Monday night that he decided not to do the interview, despite discussing a licensing fee of up to $50,000 for landing an interview with Snowden.
Washington Post, In the Snowden case, Bruce Fein finds the apex of a long Washington legal career, T.R. Goldman, Aug. 11, 2013. Lawyer's belief in Reagan revolution has steered him to take a stand against government surveillance. See also, Washington Post, Snowden's father, attorney plan to visit Moscow soon, Aaron Blake, Aug. 11, 2013. The pair plan to discuss Edward Snowden's possible return to the United States to face charges. An attorney for the father of Edward Snowden said Sunday that they have obtained visas to visit Russia, and they will do so soon to discuss Snowden’s possible return to the United States to face criminal charges. “We now have a date for visiting Moscow. We have visas, we have a date which we won’t disclose right now because of the frenzy,” the attorney, Bruce Fein, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s very soon. And we intend to visit with Edward and suggest criminal defense attorneys who have experience in Espionage Act prosecutions.” Appearing together on the show, Fein and Lon Snowden said they want to make sure that Edward Snowden would face a fair and open trial if he were to return.
Who What Why, Connections Between Michael Hastings, Edward Snowden And Barrett Brown--The War With The Security State, Christian Stork, Aug, 7, 2013. Just hours before his death, Michael Hastings sent off an ominous email saying that the FBI was investigating him "re: NSA." Why were the Feds probing this noted investigative reporter? And what might his death have to do with Edward Snowden, now in exile, and Barrett Brown, facing a century in jail?
OpEd News, The Power Of Edward Snowden, Philip Weiss, Aug. 10, 2013. Six weeks after Obama declared, "I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," he's canceled a summit because of him. Obama won't be meeting with Vladimir Putin because Putin extended temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. Some news accounts say it's a new Cold War. White House press secretary Jay Carney sought to deny that Snowden was the only factor yesterday, but he wasn't entirely convincing. Again: consider the power of Edward Snowden. A summit between superpowers has been cancelled and the human rights records of both countries are being scrutinized, thanks to a 30-year-old former government data analyst. Carney's defensiveness yesterday extended to fundamental character questions about the goodness of the American executive branch and of Edward Snowden's idealism.
FireDogLake, Bolivian President’s Plane Grounded On Snowden Fears, DSWright, July 3, 2013. Despite promises from the White House that there would be no tampering with flights over Edward Snowden, calls from the Obama Administration led to a flight by Bolivian President being grounded over fears that Edward Snowden was aboard his plane. The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, left, was rerouted to Austria after various European countries refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, Bolivian officials said Tuesday. Officials in both Austria and Bolivia said that Snowden was not on the plane, which was taking Morales home from a summit in Russia, where he had suggested that his government would be willing to consider granting asylum to the American. Woops.
Justice Integrity Project, For Security, Beware of Wikipedia, Daily Beast, CNN, Poynter -- and Many More, July 22, 2013 and National Media Spins National Security Scares, Aug. 9, 2013.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Associated Press via Washington Post, Bulger verdict brings closure for some victims’ families and eternal angst for others, Staff report, Aug. 12, 2013.The guilty verdicts against James “Whitey” Bulger brought catharsis and closure to relatives of the 11 victims in whose killings he was convicted of playing a role, but for the families of the eight people whose deaths couldn’t be definitively linked to the Boston mob boss, peace will be harder to come by.
Washington Post, Holder’s charging order aims to reduce prison population, Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky, Aug. 12, 2013. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s proposed prison reforms drew praise from criminal justice experts Monday, but some critics said the proposals do not go far enough to begin overhauling a costly and broken law enforcement system.
Washington Post, Al-Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate expands presence in Syria, Liz Sly, Aug. 12, 2013. The Islamic State is expanding into territory seized by other rebel groups and carving out the kind of sanctuaries that the U.S. military spent more than 10 years fighting to prevent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
InfoWars, Executing Children for Supporting Assad, Paul Joseph Watson, Aug. 14, 2014. (Video above.) A shocking new video out of Syria shows Obama-backed militants executing two teenage boys whom they accused of supporting the Assad regime, yet another reminder that the White House is arming jihadist extremists.
Justice Integrity Project, President's Sister Advocates for Peace, Justice, Andrew Kreig, August 14, 2013. President Obama's maternal half-sister shared her strategies Aug. 14 for educating communities to promote peace and resist oppression. In a rare speech for her in the nation's capital, Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng delivered an eloquent and otherwise effective discourse to a receptive audience at the Democratic-oriented Center for American Progress. She is shown at right in my photo after her lecture while she signed Ladder to the Moon, a children's book she wrote in 2011. She is a native of Indonesia born to the same mother as the president. She now teaches as an assistant professor of education at the University of Hawaii's campus at Manoa. During her lecture on the day before her 43rd brithday, she focused first on strategies to fight sex trafficking in India and in other Asian nations. She closed by suggesting more general tips to keep projects sustainable.