To Protect Privacy and Freedoms From NSA, Truth Must Come Before Reform

Kurt Wiebe and William Binney at National Press Club Photo by Noel St. John

As debate increases over President Obama's proposals last week to curtail U.S. spying, the public must demand the truth first or nothing meaningful will be accomplished.

The history of such reform efforts over the past five decades shows that nearly all were launched with hopeful rhetoric while being crippled from the outset by hidden agendas, stalling tactics, whitewash and highly dubious results for the American public.

"We must maintain the trust of the American people," Obama said as he began his speech Jan. 17 providing his plan to implement some of the 46 reforms suggested earlier this month by his five-member panel of legal, security and privacy experts. They were empaneled last year to propose a reaction to the revelations beginning last June of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

 

  // You can place JavaScript like this ?php // You can place PHP like this ?> agencies, Washington Post, U.S. officials harbor doubts Obama’s NSA goal can be met, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 21, 2014. Some fear the president’s push to quickly revamp the phone-data collection program is unworkable. U.S. officials directed by President Obama to find a way to end the government’s role in gathering Americans’ phone records are deeply concerned that there may be no feasible way to accomplish the task soon, according to individuals familiar with the discussions. In a speech last week, Obama put the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in charge of developing a plan by March 28 to transfer control of the massive database of records away from the National Security Agency — a step aimed at addressing widespread privacy concerns. But even among U.S. officials who applauded the recommendation in principle, there is a growing worry that the president’s goals are unattainable in the near future, officials said.

Washington Post, Indictments provide new details of dealings between Williams, McDonnells, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman, Jan. 21, 2014. The indictments of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, reveal new details about the first couple’s requests for financial help and luxury items from a prominent businessman at the same time the pair was offering to help promote his company’s new product, Anatabloc, according to prosecutors. Here are some examples from the federal government’s charging documents.

Washington Post, ‘I did nothing illegal,’ Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman, Jan. 21, 2014. McDonnell says the case is an overreach.

Washington Post, Obama Speech, Breaking down Obama’s NSA speech, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Jan. 21 2014. President Obama called Friday for significant changes to the way the National Security Agency collects and uses telephone records of U.S. citizens. Watch the speech and read what the Post’s writers had to say about it. President Obama is proposing major changes in U.S. policy on conducting surveillance both in the country and abroad. Here are the highlights from his speech in three minutes. President ends eavesdropping on friendly foreign governments, changes system of data collection. Telephone companies have said they do not want to be responsible for the database, and no one has come up with a workable idea for how a third party could hold the records. “The idea that this complicated problem will be solved in the next two months is very unlikely, if not impossible,” said one official with knowledge of the discussions. “It is not at all inconceivable that the bulk collection program will stay the same, with the records held by the government until 2015,” when the law that authorizes the bulk collection is set to expire. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. No meeting has been scheduled between government officials and the phone companies to discuss the issue, and no decision has been made about approaching the companies to further discuss the possibility of them holding the records. Under the program, the NSA collects billions of records daily on Americans’ phone calls — the numbers dialed and the lengths and times of calls, but not the call content. The agency stores the “metadata” for five years in an effort to map links among terrorism suspects. In his speech, Obama said the government should preserve the capability to use the records but moved to narrow its access to them by ordering aides to develop a plan to “transition” the data out of government control. He also acknowledged that the process would “not be simple.”

“Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns,” Obama said. “On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single consolidated database would be carrying out what’s essentially a government function, but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability, all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.”

 

President Barack Obama goes over his speech with Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, in the Oval Office prior to remarks Barack Obama and Ben Rhodes, Jan. 17, 2014 (WH Photo)presenting the outcome of the Administration's review of the National Security Agency and U.S. signals intelligence programs at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014.

Four distinguished and courageous spy agency whistleblowers warned the public last week, "Wake up America."

The four executives, two shown at right, were once at the forefront of designing the super-secret system at the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on foreign threats to United States security. But Kurt Wiebe, shown at left in the photo and William Binney were among those who resigned or otherwise lost their jobs in order to alert the public to privacy dangers when the spy systems were illegally turned on Americans for wholesale data collection following 9/11.

Wiebe, Binney, Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis and Diane Roark co-authored an oped in USA Today, We need real protection from the NSA, on the eve of President Obama's response Jan. 17 to a recommendation by a five-man panel he appointed to make recommendations following NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations last year of massive spying.

Obama said he would try to implement many of the 46 recommendations. Some congressional leaders and judge on the supervisory FISA court said they opposed many of the recommendations. However, Jim Bamford, the leading author and outside expert on the NSA, endorsed the reforms at a packed speech Jan. 17 at the National Press Club.

Your privacy and other freedoms remain at risk even after a Presidential commission on the National Security Agency spy scandal recommended 46 reforms.

The history of other such commissions shows that their research and results gets watered-down soon after initial scandals. So, anyone who cares about results must help keep up the pressure on all fronts, including the five commissioners who recommended NSA changes.

This conclusion is based on my study of the situation in a new book and of similar reform commissions covering major public scandals over the past five decades. Of eight top commissions in my survey, all but one skipped important parts of their mandate and saw their results watered-down terribly.

I know from law school studies three of the five commissioners recommending reforms. I met them all in pleasant and otherwise positive circumstances. So my recommendation for continued public pressure is simply to shore up the same civic impulses that got them involved with continuing encouragement for each to treat their recommendations as an going responsibility.

USA Today, We need real protection from the NSA, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake, William Binney and Diane Roark, Jan. 15, 2014. Wake up, America. While we've been paying attention to other things, our intelligence agencies have been tearing holes into the Bill of Rights. On Friday, President Obama is expected to issue new guidelines that purport to rein in these abuses, but leaked details leave little reason for hope that his proposals will go far enough. What America needs is a U-turn before we lose our freedom and our country. In the years since 9/11, administrations of both parties, along with U.S. intelligence agencies, have secretly built up enormous powers that they do not intend to relinquish. They were aided in this endeavor by the very institution that was supposed to be a safeguard, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court whose secret rulings essentially set aside the Constitution. Ill-considered legislation from Congress has only enabled the collapse of checks and balances. In late 2005 and early 2006, The New York Times, then Mark Klein and USA TODAY received fragmentary information on a program that collected private information on Americans. Last June, publication of documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden revealed a far more intrusive program of domestic spying. These programs were supposed to protect us, but the president's NSA review panel found that spying on Americans has not prevented any terrorist attacks. Even if it had, the power the government has aggregated is a more dangerous threat to our freedom than is terrorism itself. The executive branch has vast troves of electronic data on most Americans, even those who have never been suspected of a crime.

America's Founders knew better than to give a government powers with such enormous potential for abuse. Yet under both the Bush and Obama administrations, unconstitutional powers have been abused.

Boiling Frogs Post, Exclusive- Interview with Andrew Kreig: The CIA, Global Empire & the U.S. Presidency, Mark Mondalek, Jan. 10, 2014. Uncovering the Puppet Master Class of the Mega-Corporations. In this exclusive interview with Andrew Kreig, author of Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters (Eagle View Books, 2013), we discuss the findings behind his most recent research into President Obama’s contentious past, the current and historical impact of the intelligence services on American politics, and the Mitt Romney, Mormon-inspired presidency that might-have-been.

Guardian, A housing relief program with policies that 'throw people into the grinder,' David Dayen, Jan. 19, 2014. One of the biggest housing relief programs under the Obama administration has failed desperate homeowners in huge ways

Huffington Post, Obama On NFL Concussions: 'I Would Not Let My Son Play Pro Football,' Mollie Reilly, Jan. 19, 2014.

Daily Kos, Issa, Rove, Christie and tales of GOP U.S. Attorneys, Jon Perr, Jan. 16, 2014. If nothing else, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has chutzpah. In response to news that the Department of Justice will bring no charges resulting from its probe of the IRS’ handling of non-profit “social welfare” groups, Issa demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder remove lead investigator Barbara Bosserman for the offense of having donated to Democratic candidates and causes in the past. That’s a pretty shocking charge for the car thief turned congressman to make. After all, Darrell Issa was one of the key players behind the Bush administration’s infamous purge of U.S. attorneys, a group which happened to include Dubya mega-fundraiser and Karl Rove favorite, Chris Christie. That history makes Issa’s furious letter to Holder all the more pathetic. A trial attorney for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Bosserman, he charged, had previously donated $6,750 to the DNC and the Obama campaigns between 2004 and 2012. That, he insisted, should disqualify her from any investigation of how the IRS handled the political spending of “social welfare” groups, left and right. As his committee website sums up Issa’s accusation:

Carson's Corner, Bob Carson, Jan. 19, 2014. On this episode of Carson's Corner, we welcome back to the show Andrew Kreig. Kreig, an investigator, journalist, author, and executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, has investigated Governor Christie extensively over the past 4 years. Andrew and I will discuss the latest news on the Christie scandal, implications for the future, and much more. We'll also discuss how the Christie saga helps Jeb Bush in 2016. Plus, Andrew has used his extensive research skills to write his second book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney, and Their Masters.

New York Times, Pennsylvania voter ID law struck down, Rick Lyman, Jan. 18, 2014.  In a strongly worded decision, a state judge on Friday struck down Pennsylvania’s 2012 law requiring voters to produce a state-approved photo ID at the polls, setting up a potential Supreme Court confrontation that could have implications for other such laws across the country. The judge, Bernard L. McGinley of Commonwealth Court, ruled that the law hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law — that it was needed to combat voter fraud — was not supported by the facts. “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election,” the judge wrote in his 103-page decision. In addition, Judge McGinley ruled, the state’s $5 million campaign to explain the law had been full of misinformation that has never been corrected. He also said that the free IDs that were supposed to be made available to those without driver’s licenses or other approved photo identification were difficult and sometimes impossible to obtain.

Lawfare, FISC Query Preapproval: Intelligence Burden or Bump in the Road? Peter Margulies, Jan. 18, 2014. Never was the phrase “the devil’s in the details” more apt than in describing President Obama’s instruction, yesterday, that the government query its bulk collection metadata only “after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency.”  Preapproval ratcheted up burdens at the NSA in 2009, when FISC Judge Reggie Walton imposed a preapproval requirement after learning that the NSA had been querying metadata using identifiers without a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” (RAS) link to terrorist groups.  But the impact of preapproval is actually only the second question to be asked about the President’s proposed RAS regime; the first question (as Ben noted at a fine Brookings event yesterday) is whether the FISC has the authority to preapprove specific identifiers.  This post addresses both questions, starting with the issue of the FISC’s power.

 
 
 
 
 
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C-SPAN Book TV, James Bamford on NSA Spying and Edward Snowden, Created Feb. 3, 2014 based on filming Jan. 15 at National Press Club. (78 min.) Author James Bamford, who has written three books about the National Security Agency (NSA), talked about the history of NSA spying and the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens since the September 11, 2011 attacks. He also talked about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the lawsuit brought against the agency by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This event was being held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Bamford is the author of The Puzzle Palace, the first book published about the NSA. He later authored two more: Body of Secrets and The Shadow Factory. Bamford has also written and co-produced a documentary on the NSA titled, The Spy Factory.

C-SPAN Live, James Bamford on Surveillance Policy, Jan. 18, 2014. Author James Bamford, who has written three books about the National Security Agency (NSA), talked about President Obama’s remarks on surveillance policy. A video clip was shown of President Obama’s speech the previous day about recommended changes to the way in which the NSA collects and monitors telephone data. Bamford also spoke about the potential for changes beyond the recommendations of the president’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. He responded to telephone calls and electronic communications. Bamford is the author of The Puzzle Palace, the first book published about the NSA. He later authored two more: Body of Secrets and The Shadow Factory. Bamford has also written and co-produced a documentary on the NSA titled, The Spy Factory.

William Binney

Washington Post, Why tech companies and the NSA diverge on Snowden, Peter Swire, Jan. 29, 2014. Peter Swire is a professor of law and ethics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was a member of President Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and was the chief counselor for privacy in the Office of Management and Budget from 1999 to 2001. Is Edward Snowden a whistleblower or a traitor? There is a vast cultural divide between Silicon Valley and Washington on this issue, and the reasons reveal much about the broader debates about what to do in the wake of the leaks. After wrestling with the issue, I think that Snowden could have been a conscientious objector — but he has thus far failed the test. Snowden knowingly set himself above the law, claiming a higher morality. Full clemency, without any jail time, would create a bad precedent in holding others in the intelligence community accountable, should they break security rules.

Washington Post, U.S. officials harbor doubts Obama’s NSA goal can be met, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 21, 2014. Some fear the president’s push to quickly revamp the phone-data collection program is unworkable. U.S. officials directed by President Obama to find a way to end the government’s role in gathering Americans’ phone records are deeply concerned that there may be no feasible way to accomplish the task soon, according to individuals familiar with the discussions. In a speech last week, Obama put the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in charge of developing a plan by March 28 to transfer control of the massive database of records away from the National Security Agency — a step aimed at addressing widespread privacy concerns. But even among U.S. officials who applauded the recommendation in principle, there is a growing worry that the president’s goals are unattainable in the near future, officials said. 
Washington Post, Head of intelligence calls on Snowden to return documents, Greg Miller, Jan. 29, 2014. James Clapper offers blistering remarks at an annual hearing on the most significant U.S. security threats.

Guardian, Obama's NSA 'Reforms' Are Little More Than a PR Attempt to Mollify the Public, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 17, 2014. Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place,In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama's much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for "reforming" the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy. The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are "serious questions that have been raised". They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic "reforms" so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

New York Review of Books, The Three Leakers and What to Do About Them, David Cole, Feb. 6, 2014 (available online Jan. 27, 2014.) Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy by Rahul Sagar
Princeton University Press, 281 pp., $35; Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles by James C. Goodale, CUNY Journalism Press, 260 pp., $35. What should we make of Edward Snowden, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, and Julian Assange? Their names are known across the globe, yet the actions that made them famous have also driven them to lives of intense isolation—in hiding, in prison, or in a foreign embassy. They have been lionized as heroes and condemned as traitors. Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), and Manning, a low-level army intelligence analyst, are responsible for the two largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the nation’s history.

New York Review of Books, Power, Privacy, and the Internet Conference, Videos announced Feb. 8, 2014 for event from Oct. 30-31, 2013, New York, NY. The internet can become the best technology to bring knowledge and understanding to people or, if we let it happen, surveillance and control. Simon Head, director of programs for The New York Review of Books Foundation, addressed the theme of the conference: "The Internet is a transformative technology of our times and it is changing our lives as perhaps nothing else has done since the coming of the telephone, the telegraph, and the mass production automobile a century and more ago. Where the Internet surpasses these earlier technologies is in the speed with which its reach is expanding—in our contacts with one another through Twitter and Facebook, in what we read, hear, and buy; in our dealings with business, government, colleges and schools, and they in their dealings with us. Whether we like it or not we are caught up in these flows of technology and as we are carried along by the flows, some barely visible to us, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand back and distinguish between what is good about these innovations and what is not. Panel I: Governments, Corporations and Hackers: The Internet and Threats to the Privacy and Dignity of the Citizen. Eric Klinenberg, director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University, chairs a discussion with James Bamford, author and expert on the National Security Agency, Alice Marwick, professor of communications at Fordham University, and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Washington Post, Obama Speech, Breaking down Obama’s NSA speech, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Jan. 21, 2014. President Obama called Friday for significant changes to the way the National Security Agency collects and uses telephone records of U.S. citizens. Watch the speech and read what the Post’s writers had to say about it. PUSA Today, We need real protection from the NSA, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake, William Binney (left) and Diane Roark, Jan. 15, 2014. Wake up, America. While we've been paying attention to other things, our intelligence agencies have been tearing holes into the Bill of Rights. On Friday, President Obama is expected to issue new guidelines that purport to rein in these abuses, but leaked details leave little reason for hope that his proposals will go far enough. What America needs is a U-turn before we lose our freedom and our country. In the years since 9/11, administrations of both parties, along with U.S. intelligence agencies, have secretly built up enormous powers that they do not intend to relinquish. They were aided in this endeavor by the very institution that was supposed to be a safeguard, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court whose secret rulings essentially set aside the Constitution. Ill-considered legislation from Congress has only enabled the collapse of checks and balances. In late 2005 and early 2006, The New York Times, then Mark Klein and USA TODAY received fragmentary information on a program that collected private information on Americans. Last June, publication of documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden revealed a far more intrusive program of domestic spying. These programs were supposed to protect us, but the president's NSA review panel found that spying on Americans has not prevented any terrorist attacks. Even if it had, the power the government has aggregated is a more dangerous threat to our freedom than is terrorism itself. The executive branch has vast troves of electronic data on most Americans, even those who have never been suspected of a crime.

Russell Tice, Kurt Wiebe, William Binney, and Sam Husseini (Noel St. John Photo)Institute for Public Accuracy, NSA Veterans and Whistleblowers Respond to Obama Speech, Sam Husseini, Jan. 17, 2014. On Friday, the Institute for Public Accuracy held a news conference with several NSA whistleblowers immediately after President Obama’s address. NSA veterans Bill Binney, Russ Tice and Kirk Wiebe spoke at a news conference at 12:30 at the National Press Club. Binney and Wiebe — as well as Thomas Drake — are among the authors of a USA Today op-ed published Jan. 17 titled “We Need Real Protection from the NSA,” which states: “On Friday, President Obama is expected to issue new guidelines that purport to rein in these [NSA] abuses, but leaked details leave little reason for hope that his proposals will go far enough. What America needs is a U-turn before we lose our freedom and our country." Bill Binney (right) is former technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group and co-founder of the SIGINT [Signals intelligence] Automation Research Center. Russ Tice (standing) is former National Security Agency analyst and a source for the New York Times’ pieces published in 2005 about NSA surveillance. Photo credit: Noel St. John. Audio. The Institute for Public Accuracy was founded in mid-1997 by Norman Solomon with the support of a two-year $100,000-per-year Public Interest Pioneer grant from the Stern Family Fund. IPA opened its national office in San Francisco in October 1997. Several months later, IPA established its media office in the National Press Building in Washington, D.C. It is a 501(c)(3) organization. IPA increases the reach and capacity of progressive and grassroots organizations (at no cost to them) to address public policy by getting them and their ideas into the mainstream media. IPA gains media access for those whose voices are commonly excluded or drowned out by government or corporate-backed institutions. As a national consortium of independent public-policy researchers, analysts and activists, IPA widens media exposure for progressive perspectives on many issues including the environment, human rights, foreign policy, and economic justice. IPA has developed a detailed set of constantly updated databases of producers, commentators, and journalists at media institutions across the country. Generally, IPA news releases are most effective when they address breaking news stories. We have reached wide audiences by using major news developments as pegs for quickly providing accurate information and alternative analysis. While regularly making it possible for numerous policy analysts, scholars and other independent researchers to be heard in mass media, IPA boosts many progressive grassroots groups with scant resources for media outreach. Since 1998, IPA news releases have promoted analysts from more than 1,000 different organizations doing work on a wide variety of public-policy issues.

The many areas requiring rollback illustrate just how far things have gone. Real change would start with a confession to the voters by the NSA and the intelligence committees:

They should release the true extent of their data collection before the Snowden reporters do. Tell us how many Americans are in your files. Reveal the other categories of government agency and private business records that you have amassed.

Identify any other agencies that copy NSA databases and/or collect their own.

Reveal the secret ‘black’ budget that funds this intrusion into every nook and cranny of our lives. …”

Binney, Drake and Wiebe also co-wrote the recent intelligence memo “NSA Insiders Reveal What Went Wrong,” which states: “It is not difficult to connect NSA’s collect-everything approach with one principal finding of the Review Group you appointed to look into NSA programs; namely, that exactly zero terrorist plots have been prevented by NSA’s bulk trawling for telephone call records. One Review Group member, your former Chicago law professor colleague, Geoffrey Stone, has confessed to being ‘absolutely’ surprised at the group’s finding of zero. Clearly, the statements of top NSA officials left Stone wholly unprepared for the truth.

“Reacting to the Review Group’s report, a member of Congress involved in intelligence issues told a reporter, ‘That was the ballgame … It flies in the face of everything they have tossed at us.’”

“While this finding of the Review Group is a further blow to Keith ’54-terrorist-plots-thwarted’ Alexander’s credibility, it is no surprise to us. More important, it goes to the heart of whether NSA’s bulk collection is more hindrance than help in preventing terrorist attacks.” The memo goes on to highlight the program THINTHREAD, that some of the authors worked on, and describe as a targeted program that was much more low-cost than the massive surveillance programs the NSA has been executing.

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Available for a limited number of interviews, Drake was a senior executive at the NSA, see background.

BILL BINNEY, williambinney0802 at comcast.net
Available for a limited number of interviews, Binney was with the NSA for decades and resigned shortly after 9/11. He was technical director of World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group and was co-founder of the SIGINT [Signals intelligence] Automation Research Center. See recent interview with The Real News.

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is former senior analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center. He also recently wrote in “NSA’s Preference for Metadata” that “the distinction between listening in on conversations and ‘just’ collecting phone numbers called and the duration of the conversations is a red herring. The truth is that persistent, bulk collection of metadata in support of analysis is — not can be — more revealing over time than content…” See background on Binney and Wiebe.

The memo was released in conjunction with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. A member of that group is also available for interviews:

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley is a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures and was named one of Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She wrote a piece for CNN: “Massive Spying on Americans is Outrageous.”

She also wrote the piece “Feinstein’s Phony Excuse for NSA Spying,” which debunks Sen. Feinstein’s claims regarding mass surveillance being needed to prevent another 9/11.

Also on Thursday, Chelsea Manning — the source for many of WikiLeaks revelations, including the “Collateral Murder” video — was named winner of the 2014 Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integrity in Intel­li­gence Award. See comments by Rowley and Drake.

Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show via OpEdNews, Whistleblower Former NSA Exec Thomas Drake On Obama's Speech, Bengazi, 911 and more, Rob Kall, Jan. 20, 2014. After attending a pre-lecture reception, then a one hour lecture, then doing dinner with Thomas Drake, that lasted almost five hours, I got together three days later with Thomas and did what turned out to be an almost 2.5 hour interview. This is the first hour of the interview. From Wikipedia: Thomas Drake is a former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), a decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy veteran, and a whistleblower.

Washington Post, Obama faces big hurdles in plan to limit NSA power, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Jan. 18, 2014. Technical, logistical and political issues, many largely beyond Obama’s control, will make reforming the collection of Americans’ phone records more difficult.

Lawfare, FISC Query Preapproval: Intelligence Burden or Bump in the Road? Peter Margulies, Jan. 18, 2014. Never was the phrase “the devil’s in the details” more apt than in describing President Obama’s instruction, yesterday, that the government query its bulk collection metadata only “after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency.”  Preapproval ratcheted up burdens at the NSA in 2009, when FISC Judge Reggie Walton imposed a preapproval requirement after learning that the NSA had been querying metadata using identifiers without a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” (RAS) link to terrorist groups.  But the impact of preapproval is actually only the second question to be asked about the President’s proposed RAS regime; the first question (as Ben noted at a fine Brookings event yesterday) is whether the FISC has the authority to preapprove specific identifiers.  This post addresses both questions, starting with the issue of the FISC’s power.

Washington Post, Squashing a GOP obsession, David Ignatius, Jan. 17, 2014. A Senate report takes Republican tirades about Benghazi head-on. Driving the Republican jihad was a claim, first reported in October 2012 by Fox News, that CIA personnel had wanted to respond more quickly to the Benghazi attack but were ordered to “stand down,” perhaps by political higher-ups. Although this claim was promptly rebutted by CIA officials, it was repeated by Fox News at least 85 times, according to a review by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters. This barrage fueled Republican charges that the Democrats were engaging in a coverup.