Tag: FBI

Your Privacy Matters

The NSA, FBI and DOJ are upset with the new Apple and Google encryption apps that they can’t hack. The poor Director of the FBI, James Comey is “concerned” so he plays the “fear card”

“I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country is beyond the law,” Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”

Apple said last week that it would no longer be technically feasible to unlock encrypted iPhones and iPads for law enforcement because the devices would no longer allow user passcodes to be bypassed. The move comes as tech companies struggle to manage public concerns in the aftermath of last year’s leak of classified National Security Agency documents about government access to private user data. [..]

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company said. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

Comey said that while he understood the need for privacy, government access to mobile devices may be needed in extreme circumstances, such as in the event of a terror attack.

“I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone,” he said. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”

Comey said FBI officials have had conversations with both Apple and Google about the marketing of their devices.

“Google is marketing their Android the same way: Buy our phone and law-enforcement, even with legal process, can never get access to it,” he said.

Why anyone would think that the guy who approved torture believes in the rule of law is beyond me. Trevor Timm at The Guardian dissects what Comey said:

Comey began:

  I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country is beyond the law. … What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.

First of all, despite the FBI director’s implication, what Apple and Google have done is perfectly legal, and they are under no obligation under the “the rule of law” to decrypt users’ data if the company itself cannot access your stuff. From 47 U.S. Code § 1002 (emphasis mine):

   A telecommunications carrier shall not be responsible for decrypting, or ensuring the government’s ability to decrypt, any communication encrypted by a subscriber or customer, unless the encryption was provided by the carrier and the carrier possesses the information necessary to decrypt the communication.

Comey continued:

   I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone.

That’s funny, because literally four months ago, the United States government was saying the exact opposite (pdf) before the US supreme court, arguing that, in fact, the feds shouldn’t need to get a warrant to get inside anyone’s smartphone after you’re arrested. In its landmark June ruling in the case, Riley v California, the court disagreed. So it’s great to see that Jim Comey, too, has come around to the common sense conclusion that cops need a warrant to search your cellphone data, but it would’ve been nice for him to express those sentiments when they actually mattered.

Comey doubled down in another statement with the absurd fear that criminals, like child kidnappers would be able to evade the law. On its face that’s insanely ridiculous since law enforcement has numerous ways tools to access your data. The Intercept‘s Micah Lee points out that Apple still has access to plenty of your data to feed to the Feds. He went on how bemoan the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden has caused the need to protect a person’s private information may have gone too far. How so, Mr. Comey? As Timm notes in his article

Congress has not changed surveillance law at all in the the nearly 16 months since Edward Snowden’s disclosures began, mostly because of the vociferous opposition from intelligence agencies and cops. The pendulum is still permanently lodged squarely on law enforcement’s side. If it has swung at all, it’s because of the aforementioned ruling by the supreme court of the United States, along with tech companies implementing more privacy protections unilaterally because US tech companies are losing billions of dollars because of the government’s spying scandals.

A week ago, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald gave a Ted Talk in Rio de Janeiro on why your privacy matters

Crypto wars redux: why the FBI’s desire to unlock your private life must be resisted

In 1995, the US government tried – and failed – to categorise encryption as a weapon. Today, the same lines are being drawn and the same tactics repeated as the FBI wants to do the same. Here’s why they are wrong, and why they must fail again

Eric Holder, the outgoing US attorney general, has joined the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in calling for the security of all computer systems to be fatally weakened. This isn’t a new project – the idea has been around since the early 1990s, when the NSA classed all strong cryptography as a “munition” and regulated civilian use of it to ensure that they had the keys to unlock any technological countermeasures you put around your data.

In 1995, the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a landmark case establishing that code was a form of protected expression under the First Amendment to the US constitution, and since then, the whole world has enjoyed relatively unfettered access to strong crypto. [..]

The arguments then are the arguments now. Governments invoke the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (software pirates, organised crime, child pornographers, and terrorists) and say that unless they can decrypt bad guys’ hard drives and listen in on their conversations, law and order is a dead letter.

On the other side, virtually every security and cryptography expert tries patiently to explain that there’s no such thing as “a back door that only the good guys can walk through” (hat tip to Bruce Schneier). Designing a computer that bad guys can’t break into is impossible to reconcile with designing a computer that good guys can break into.

If you give the cops a secret key that opens the locks on your computerised storage and on your conversations, then one day, people who aren’t cops will get hold of that key, too. The same forces that led to bent cops selling out the public’s personal information to Glen Mulcaire and the tabloid press will cause those cops’ successors to sell out access to the world’s computer systems, too, only the numbers of people who are interested in these keys to the (United) Kingdom will be much larger, and they’ll have more money, and they’ll be able to do more damage.

Long live The Republic.

Democracy Under Fire

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In a joint statement, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch released a 120 page report documenting how mass surveillance by the US is undermining constitutional rights to freedom of the press and legal council

The 120-page report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” is based on extensive interviews with dozens of journalists, lawyers, and senior US government officials. It documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions. The report finds that government surveillance and secrecy are undermining press freedom, the public’s right to information, and the right to counsel, all human rights essential to a healthy democracy.

Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate sat down with Alex Sinha, Aryeh Neier fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, and Jeremy Scahill, staff reporter with The Intercept to discuss the threat to Americans’ liberties.

In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that “large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work.” The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense.



Transcript can be read here

Journalism under fire: America’s freedom of the press is in danger

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

If there’s one thing that civil libertarians across the American political spectrum tend to agree upon, it’s that the Bill of Rights is a guiding document. It doesn’t say everything but it says a lot. The various political factions do sometimes differ in their emphasis and interpretation, with the right’s civil libertarians often tending to focus more closely on the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause and the 2nd Amendment while the left-leaning civil libertarians take a harder line on freedom of speech and the 4th amendment. This is of course a sweeping generalization which can be disproved in dozens of individual cases, but for the sake of argument, it can probably be stipulated that those who concern themselves with the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution all agree on the Bill of Rights’ importance to our constitutional order.  And they tend to agree across the board, with equal fervor, on the necessity of a free press to a functioning democracy. [..]

Considering the reaction of many people in the government toward reporters involved in the NSA revelation, it’s clear they have reason to be paranoid. There are government officials awho consider them to be spies and have said they should be punished as such. Even fellow journalists have brought up the question of “aiding and abetting” as if it’s a legitimate line of inquiry.

The atmosphere of mistrust is also rampant within the government, as with the administration having cracked down on contacts between the intelligence community and issuing threats of legal action even before the Snowden revelations. The institutionalized, government-wide initiative called the Insider Threat Program could have any federal employee looking over his  shoulder and worrying that his innocent behavior might be construed as suspicious. [..]

And it’s not just national security agencies that are subject to this program. They are in effect in departments as disparate as the Department of Education and the Peace Corps.

Top Journalists and Lawyers: NSA Surveillance Threatens Press Freedom and Right to Counsel

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept

Not even the strongest versions of NSA reform being considered in Congress come anywhere close to addressing the chilling effects on basic freedoms that the new survey describes.

“If the US fails to address these concerns promptly and effectively,” report author  G. Alex Sinha writes, “it could do serious, long-term damage to the fabric of democracy in the country.”

Even before the Snowden revelations, reporters trying to cover important defense, intelligence and counter-terrorism issues were reeling from the effects of unprecedented secrecy and attacks on whistleblowers.

But newfound awareness of the numerous ways the government can follow electronic trails –  previously considered the stuff of paranoid fantasy – has led sources to grow considerably more fearful.

USA Freedom Act Still Won’t Protect Americans’ Liberties

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-NH) introduced the version of the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday.

Leahy’s bill, like the House’s, would still provide the NSA with access to enormous amounts of American phone data. Though it would require a judge to issue an order to telecos for “call detail records” based on a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of association with terrorism or a foreign power, the NSA will be able to use that single order to obtain the “call detail records” of a suspicious entity, as well as those of entities in “direct connection” with it and entities in connection with those.

While that would permit the NSA to yield thousands of records off of a single court order, on a daily basis for six months, the NSA and the bill’s architects contend that it bans “bulk collection.”

Leahy’s bill would go further than the House version in narrowing the critical definition of “specific selection term,” a foundational aspect of the bill defining what the government can collect. The House definition is a “term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device,” which privacy groups have lambasted as unreasonably broad.

Seeking to plug that loophole, Leahy would prevent the NSA or the FBI from accessing a service provider’s entire clientele or a wholesale “city, state, zip code, or area code.”

Although the Leahy bill has the support of several civil libertarian groups and major tech firms like Facebook and Google, it does not revive some privacy proposals that those organizations considered crucial but the intelligence agencies and their advocates in Congress stripped from the House measure.

There are still some really big loopholes, as noted by emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler:

Leahy’s bill retains the language from USA Freedumber on contact chaining, which reads,

   (iii) provide that the Government may require the prompt production of call detail records-

   (I) using the specific selection term that satisfies the standard required under subsection (b)(2)(C)(ii) as the basis for production; and

   (II) using call detail records with a direct connection to such specific selection term as the basis for production of a second set of call detail records;

Now, I have no idea what this language means, and no one I’ve talked to outside of the intelligence committees does either. It might just mean they will do the same contact chaining they do now, but if it does, why adopt this obscure language? It may just mean they will correlate identities, and do contact chaining off all the burner phones their algorithms say are the same people, but nothing more, but if so, isn’t there clearer language to indicate that (and limit it to that)? [..]

I remain concerned, too, that such obscure language would permit the contact chaining on phone books and calendars, both things we know NSA obtains overseas, both things NSA might have access to through their newly immunized telecom partners.

In addition, Leahy’s bill keeps USA Freedumber’s retention language tied to Foreign Intelligence purpose, allowing the NSA to keep all records that might have a foreign intelligence purpose.

That’s just for starters. She is also concerned about the vague language will still be used to allow bulk collection. She doesn’t think it’s strong enough

The question is whether this “agency protocol” – what Chief Justice John Roberts said was not enough to protect Americans’ privacy – is sufficient to protect Americans’ privacy.

I don’t think it is.

First, it doesn’t specify how long the NSA and FBI and CIA can keep and sort through these corporate records (or what methods it can use to do so, which may themselves be very invasive).

It also permits the retention of data that gets pretty attenuated from actual targets of investigation: agents of foreign powers that might have information on subjects of investigation and people “in contact with or known to” suspected agents associated with a subject of an investigation.

Known to?!?! Hell, Barack Obama is known to all those people. Is it okay to keep his data under these procedures?

Also remember that the government has secretly redefined “threat of death or serious bodily harm” to include “threats to property,” which could be Intellectual Property.

So CIA could (at least under this law – again, we have no idea what the actual FISC orders this is based off of) keep 5 years of Western Union money transfer data until it has contact chained 3 degrees out from the subject of an investigation or any new subjects of investigation it has identified in the interim.

In other words, probably no different and potentially more lenient than what it does now.

And one more thing from Marcy: Leahy’s version still will allow the FBI uncounted use of backdoor searches:

I strongly believe this bill may expand the universe of US persons who will be thrown into the corporate store indefinitely, to be subjected to the full brunt of NSA’s analytical might.

But that’s not the part of the bill that disturbs me the most. It’s this language:

   ‘(3) FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION.-

   Subparagraphs (B)(iv), (B)(v), (D)(iii), (E)(iii), and (E)(iv) of paragraph (1) of subsection (b) shall not apply to information or records held by, or queries conducted by, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The language refers, in part,  to requirements that the government report to Congress [..]

These are back door searches on US person identifiers of Section 702 collected data – both content (iv) and metadata (v).

In other words, after having required the government to report how many back door searches of US person data it conducts, the bill then exempts the FBI.

The FBI – the one agency whose use of such data can actually result in a prosecution of the US person in question.

We already know the government has not provided all defendants caught using 702 data notice. And yet, having recognized the need to start counting how many Americans get caught in back door searches, Patrick Leahy has decided to exempt the agency that uses back door searches the most.

And if they’re not giving defendants notice (and they’re not), then this is an illegal use of Section 702.

While the Senate version may be a good enough reason for some civil libertarians, privacy groups and technology firms to back, it still falls far short of what is needed to protect Americans’ constitutional rights and privacy.

Americans Spied On By NSA & FBI Without Cause

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau if Investigation was given authorization by a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on five Americans because of their political activity and, umm, their Middle Eastern names:

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

By Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain

he National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans-including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers-under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”-short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.he National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans-including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers-under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”-short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens. [..]

The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press. Some have even climbed the ranks of the U.S. national security and foreign policy establishments.

[..]

Asim Ghafoor says his first-hand experience working on behalf of other Muslim-Americans has led him to believe that “the U.S. government embarked on a very systematic approach” to target his community.

“I saw the government specifically go after Muslim people who were involved in certain activities such as charity work, humanitarian work, political activism,” he says. “Maybe they had some website that had some speeches that nobody ever read or even noticed, maybe they had some bloodcurdling speeches. So the government just treated you like you were blowing up the next tower. They treated you like you were going to be the Manchurian Candidate, you were going to destroy America from within. There were U.S. attorneys, FBI agents, DHS agents, customs agents all over the country that were trying to find the next terror cell in their midst. If you were involved in those activities and maybe you were on a student visa and you didn’t quite fill out the paperwork, you were hosed. There is no question about it, you were worse off than a migrant worker in Dubai. You were just packed up and sent home. Life became very, very unbearable for them.”

Even a U.S. citizen like Faisal Gill, who served his country both in the armed forces and in the White House, found himself spied on by his own government. “I was a very conservative, Reagan-loving Republican,” he says. “If somebody like me could be surveilled, then [there are] other people out there I can only imagine who are under surveillance.

“I went to school here as a fourth grader – learned about the Revolutionary War, learned about individual rights, Thomas Jefferson, all these things,” he continues. “That is ingrained in you – your privacy is important. And to have that basically invaded for no reason whatsoever – for the fact that I didn’t do anything – I think that’s troubling. And I think that certainly goes to show how we need to shape policy differently than it is right now.”

As per Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim, Glenn Greenwald received the permission of all five named in the article before printing their names.

This is the Democratic administration of Barack Hussein Obama.

The Burglars Who Came In From The Cold

On March 8, 1971 a burglary took place in Media, PA. That wouldn’t be significant except for the target, the local FBI office, and the documents that were taken opened a can of worms that blew the lid off of the covert, and sometimes illegal, FBI program called COINTELPRO, an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram. The police and FBI, Hoover had over 200 agents on the case, were never able to find the perpetrators of the break-in. Now, 43 years later. with the statute of limitations expired, the burglars have some in from the cold.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

Two weeks after the burglary, Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger ran the first story exposing the FBI’s blanket surveillance of the peace and civil rights movement, the tactics of disinformation and deception the bureau used to silence protesters.

But the document that would have the biggest impact on reining in the F.B.I.’s domestic spying activities was an internal routing slip, dated 1968, bearing a mysterious word: Cointelpro.

Neither the Media burglars nor the reporters who received the documents understood the meaning of the term, and it was not until several years later, when the NBC News reporter Carl Stern obtained more files from the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, that the contours of Cointelpro – shorthand for Counterintelligence Program – were revealed.

Since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups. Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide.

“It wasn’t just spying on Americans,” said Loch K. Johnson, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Georgia who was an aide to Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. “The intent of Cointelpro was to destroy lives and ruin reputations.”

The eight burglars never met again as a group. When the statute of limitations had expired, the FBI closed the case. Ms. Medsger wrote that only one of the burglars was on the final list of suspects. Three of the burglars have decided to remain anonymous.

Democracy needs whistleblowers. That’s why I broke into the FBI in 1971

By Bonnie Raines

Like Snowden, we broke laws to reveal something that was more dangerous. We wanted to hold J Edgar Hoover accountable

I vividly remember the eureka moment. It was the night we broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in March 1971 and removed about 1,000 documents from the filing cabinets. We had a hunch that there would be incriminating material there, as the FBI under J Edgar Hoover was so bureaucratic that we thought every single thing that went on under him would be recorded. But we could not be sure, and until we found it, we were on tenterhooks. [..]

Looking back on what we did, there are obvious parallels with what Edward Snowden has done in releasing National Security Agency documents that show the NSA’s blanket surveillance of Americans. I think Snowden’s a legitimate whistleblower, and I guess we could be called whistleblowers as well. [..]

Democracy needs whistleblowers. Snowden was in a position to reveal things that nobody could dispute. He has performed a legitimate, necessary service. Unlike us, he revealed his own identity, and as a result, he’s sacrificed a lot. [..]

Nowadays, the country is divided once again, but I don’t see much concern about the abuses that are happening today, like the surveillance of mosques in America, using agent provocateurs. I hear people say, “I don’t care,” the government can do what it needs to do as long as it protects me from terrorism …” To me, that’s giving the authorities blanket permission to cross the line again.

Dissent and accountability are the lifeblood of democracy, yet people now think they just have to roll over in the name of “anti-terrorism”. Members of government thinks it can lie to us about it, and that they can lie to Congress. That concerns me for the future of my children and grandchildren, and that too makes me feel I can talk about, at my age, doing something as drastic as breaking-in to an FBI office in the search for truth.

Comey Set To Be Confirmed

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If anyone, at this point, thinks that President Barack Obama would a change from the Bush administration, his nomination of James Comey to be FBI Director should be proof that any change from the past was a delusion. Besides his record of approving torture, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping, at his confirmation hearing Comey defended current US surveillance practices.

James Comey defends US surveillance practices at FBI confirmation hearing

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Former deputy attorney general who famously rebelled against warrantless spying in 2004 declines to criticise current policy

James Comey, the former US deputy attorney general, said Tuesday that the secret surveillance court that approves wiretapping requests is “anything but a rubber stamp”, even though the so-called Fisa court approves nearly every surveillance request by the government.

“I think folks don’t understand that the FBI operates under a wide variety of constraints,” Comey testified during his confirmation hearing to succeed Robert Mueller as the second director of the bureau since 9/11. The combination of the Fisa court, investigative guidelines from the US attorney general, congressional scrutiny and internal inspectors general are “very effective” at checking FBI abuse, Comey argued.[..]

But Comey declined to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records when senators asked if they should be scaled back.

Having been out of government since 2005, Comey said that he was “not familiar with the details of the current programs” and did not wish to opine on them. “I do know, as a general matter, the collection and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counter-terrorism.”

When questioned about the use of drones, Comey said he did not think drones should be used to kill US citizens in America, but left the door open for cases of “imminent threats.” The precise definition of what circumstances would constitute an “imminent thread” were left unanswered.

Former FBI agent, Colleen Crowley, who was a division legal counsel for 13 years and taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police, joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss Comey’s testimony and inevitable confirmation.



Transcript can be read here

At his confirmation hearing to head the FBI, former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records of Americans and defended the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed to be enemy combatants. Comey also explained why he signed off on a memo authorizing waterboarding while serving under Attorney General John Ashcroft. We get reaction from former special FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who served with the Bureau from 1981 to 2004. The New York Times just published her op-ed titled “Questions for the FBI Nominee.” In 2002, Time magazine named her and two other female whistleblowers as Time’s “Person of the Year,” for warning about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks.

What digbt said: What do you have to do to not be eligible for promotion in official Washington?

I’ve always thought it was a mistake for the administration not to pursue prosecutions for the torture regime. It seems like a bad idea for a powerful nation to ignore war crimes. You have to assume that it could blow back on it some time in the future. But since we now know that the presidency is largely a ceremonial position without any power to shape the debate, affect legislation or influence the military industrial complex, it’s clearly awfully tough to do anything at all. Best stick to nice pictures with foreign leaders and leave it at that.

However, even those who view the office as nothing more than a symbol of leadership would have to grant that the president surely has the discretion not to promote the people who signed off on the war crimes.

Comey’s Torture Advocacy Questioned

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Try as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder might to denounce torture their actions with the last round of nominees and appointments to crucial positions speak louder than their words. First is was John Brennan to head the CIA, whose dubious record during the Bush/Cheney regime on torture and covering up war crimes was glossed over by Obama. Then there is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, an inveterate liar who has a memory problem as well, “I forgot the Patriot Act.” Really? Clapper also served as an executive for Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security company contracted to gather data for the NSA, who employed Edward Snowden.

Now, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Robert Mueller is retiring and who does Obama choose to replace him? Another Bush crony, James B. Comey, who served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Comey, as has been hammered by the Obama administration supporters, blocked, along with Mueller, the Bush administration’s attempt to renew a still secret and illegal surveillance program on Americans’ electronic communications. That incident is only part of Comey’s record at DOJ which includes his support of torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention. In her article at The Guardian, Laura Murphy reviews Comey stands on these issues and questions just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it?

On Torture

On 30 December 2004, a memo addressed to James Comey was issued that superseded the infamous memo that defined torture as pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure”. The memo to Comey seemed to renounce torture but did nothing of the sort. The key sentence in the opinion is tucked away in footnote 8. It concludes that the new Comey memo did not change the authorizations of interrogation tactics in any earlier memos.

In short, the memo Comey that approved gave a thumbs-up on waterboarding, wall slams, and other forms of torture – all violations of domestic and international law. [..]

On Warrantless Wiretapping

While, to his credit, (Comey) he immediately began raising concerns (pdf), the program was still in existence when the New York Times exposed it in December 2005. This was a year and a half after Comey’s hospital showdown with Gonzales and Card. In fact, the warrantless wiretapping program was supported by a May 2004 legal opinion (pdf) produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and signed off by Comey, which replaced the 2001 legal opinion Comey had problems with (pdf).

This, of course, raises the question: just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it? Last weekend, the Washington Post provided a new theory: the Marina program, which collects internet metadata. Now, the Senate has an opportunity to end the theorizing and find out what exactly Comey objected to.

On Indefinite Detention

The final stain on Comey’s record was his full-throated defense of the indefinite military detention of an American citizen arrested on American soil. In a June 2004 press conference, Comey told of Jose Padilla, an alleged al-Qaida member accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb as well as blow up apartment buildings in an American city. By working for al-Qaida, Padilla, Comey argued, could be deprived of a lawyer and indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant on a military brig off the South Carolina coast for the purpose of extracting intelligence out of him

In a letter to Comey, two Democratic senators, Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, expressed concern on Wednesday about Mr. Comey’s views on waterboarding and his role in approving “enhanced interrogation techniques” while at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration. They are asking Comey to explain his e-mail of April, 2005, where he gave his approval of 13 interrogation techniques that included waterboarding.

. . Mr. Comey gave his assent to a Justice Department legal opinion that authorized the C.I.A. to use 13 interrogation methods, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation. The opinion “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.

But he said in the e-mail that he disagreed with another legal opinion addressing the “combined effects” of the harsh methods, suggesting that their use in combination might be illegal. He recorded his views in e-mails to Chuck Rosenberg, then his chief of staff, as if deliberately creating a record in case his position might become relevant to his record in the future, as it has.

Appointing Comey to head the FBI is a another slap in the face to voters to whom Mr. Obama promised that he would end the Bush era abuses. Instead, Mr. Obama and his appointees not only continued these programs but covered up the wrong doing of the past, reinforcing and expanding the abuses.

This is what Barack believes.

NOT TO BE MISSED!

I have just finished reading questions and answers that were put forth to Edward Snowden.  Snowden’s answers are intelligent, most articulate and totally understandable/logical.

I urge you to do a read, as well.

Edward Snowden Q and A: “The US Government Destroyed Any Possibility of a Fair Trial at Home”

The whistleblower behind the biggest intelligence leak in NSA history answered questions about the NSA surveillance revelations.

June 17, 2013  

It is the interview the world’s media organisations have been chasing for more than a week, but instead  Edward Snowden is giving Guardian readers the exclusive.

The 29-year-old former NSA contractor and  source of the Guardian’s NSA files coverage will – with the help of Glenn Greenwald – take your questions today on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of US citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces. Ask him anything.

Snowden, who has fled the US, told the Guardian he “does not expect to see home again”, but where he’ll end up has yet to be determined.

He will be online today from  11am ET/4pm BST today. An important caveat: the live chat is subject to Snowden’s security concerns and also his access to a secure internet connection. It is possible that he will appear and disappear intermittently, so if it takes him a while to get through the questions, please be patient.

To participate, post your question below and recommend your favorites. As he makes his way through the thread, we’ll embed his replies as posts in the live blog. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag # AskSnowden.

We expect the site to experience high demand so we’ll re-publish the Q&A in full after the live chat has finished.

11.07am ET

Question:

GlennGreenwald

17 June 2013 2:11pm

Let’s begin with these:

1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?

2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?

Answer:

   1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it. . . .

I cannot see Snowden as anything but a man with a “nagging conscience,” such that steered him to his decision to reveal certain of his knowledges concerning the NSA activities.    

Obama: Privacy For Me But Not For Thee

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpgThe New York Times revealed in an article by Charles Savage that the Justice Department is preparing legislation that would allow the FBI to wiretap online communications with far greater ease:

The Obama administration is weighing a proposal that would fine companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. An earlier proposal by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would have required all companies to build in this capacity from the outset – a costly mandate that critics worried would stifle tech innovation and small businesses.

Attorney Albert Gidari Jr., who specializes in representing technology companies, told the Times: “We’ll look at lot more like China than America after this.”

Albert Gidari Jr., who represents technology companies on law enforcement matters, told the NYT, “We’ll look a lot more like China than America after this.” Gidari further stated, “that if the United States started imposing fines on foreign Internet firms, it would encourage other countries, some of which may be looking for political dissidents, to penalize American companies if they refused to turn over users’ information.”

The Raw Story notes:

It’s not clear yet if the White House will send this proposal to Congress, but if they do it’s sure to ignite another major debate on Internet freedom and privacy rights not unlike the struggle over network neutrality and the push-back against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

And according to the Department of Justice, “warrants? we don’t need no stinking warrants:”

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.

Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they’re not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access to e-mail correspondence.

The Fourth Amendment is apparently irrelevant to Mr. Constitutional Law Professor.

The fight to protect the Constitution from Barack Obama and his Justice Department continues.

FBI and Banks Supressed “Terrorist” #OWS

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If anyone had any doubts that the US Government is no longer a “government of the people” but of corporation and Wall St, you need only read the recently released FBI documents that labeled Occupy Wall Street a “terrorist group” and coordinated with banks and cities nationwide to suppress the protests with strong arm tactics and targeted assassinations (see pg 61 of document). This all started before the protest even began without evidence that the protests would be anything but peaceful and despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The documents prove that the government blatantly lied about the Department of Homeland Security involvement in coordinating the violent crackdown in New York City, Oakland and other major cities. Partnership for Civil Justice obtained the heavily redacted FBI documents revealing that the surveillance began at least a month before the protest in Zuccotti Park began and that the #OWS movement was being treated as potential criminal and terrorist activity.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).  “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.  These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

Author and activist Naomi Wolf reported in The Guardian that these “new documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent.”

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves – was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, sat down for an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

Transcript can be read here

So much for paranoia. The government is out to stop peaceful protest in anyway they can.

Letting It All Hang Out

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

One of the latest MSM fixations has been an incident that occurred last year during a Republican junket to Israel. A nighttime swim in the Sea of Galilee by some members of the delegations turned embarrassing when the FBI found the Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took his dip in the sea sans his suit. Oh my! A coed swim with one naked man is now national news. But the question by the press should have been, why was the FBI investigating this trip. Surely, they weren’t interested in who was taking off their clothed and skinny dipping. It turns out that the FBI was only interested in one member of that group and the investigation had nothing to do with that representative’s participation in that incident, clothed or otherwise.

The focus of the FBI is Staten Island’s freshman Tea Party backed House Representative Michael Grimm. The 42 year old former FBI agent who bears a striking resemblance to Rep. Paul Ryan and the other Tea Party clones has been under investigation by the FBI and a federal grand jury investigation into his 2010 campaign finances. The FBI was looking into Mr. Grimm’s side trip to Cyprus that was sponsored by the Cyprus Federation of America.

But FBI agents were actually interested in Grimm’s failure to file paperwork related to his trip to Cyprus following his Israeli junket, which had been paid for by the Cyprus Federation of America. The president of that company was arrested on federal corruption charges in June. Grimm had reported the Israel trip in his initial filing in May but did not list the trip to Cyprus until he amended it in June, one day after Cyprus Federation of America’s president was arrested.

FBI agents may have asked questions about “who went into the water that night, and whether there was any impropriety,” as Politico reported, but sources indicated the dip in the water certainly wasn’t the FBI’s central focus. [.]

Grimm, a former FBI agent, has been the subject of plenty of attention from federal authorities over the past year. On Friday, one of Grimm’s top fundraisers was arrested for allegedly lying about the source of a loan on immigration documents. That man, an Israeli named Ofer Biton, traveled around the New York area with Grimm in 2010 to raise money for his congressional campaign. At least four of Grimm’s 2010 campaign workers have been questioned by the FBI. Federal prosecutors have also interviewed several donors, according to the New York Times.

But heck, what’s more interesting, an skinny dipping congressman or an investigation into possible corruption by a congressman? I think we all know the answer to that.

Anonymous Strikes Back Against FBI & Music Industry

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This afternoon in raids that extended as far as New Zealand, the FBI took down on of the most popular websites in the world, Magaupload.com charging them with internet piracy seizing $50 million in assets and arresting seven people, four in New Zealand. Who needed SOPA?

Megaupload left this comment before the website went dark:

“The fact is that the vast majority of Mega’s Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay. If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch.”

Not long after Meguploads was shut down and the news hit the web, this happened

Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America. [..]

“It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on Justice.org,” Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon. [..]

Brown adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.”

Although many members of Congress have just this week changed their stance on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, the raid on Megaupload Thursday proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web.

Brown adds that operatives involved in the project will use an “experimental campaign” and search engine optimization techniques “whereby to forever saddle some of these congressmen with their record on this issue.”

Despite the loss of support for SOPA and PIPA Wednesday night, the Democrats remain the chief sponsors of the bills. MPAA CEO Chris Dodd, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut that blocked all financial reform, and his cohort, former Senate Democrat, now Independent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman have admitted that they want to copy Chinese style censorship. In an guest post article at naked capitalism, Washington’s Blog George Washington follows the money from Hollywood’s music and film industry to the Democrats in the Senate who are the “pillars of support for PIPA”:

Far and away, the top beneficiary in the Senate from interest groups that support PIPA is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who’s taken in just short of a million dollars from those groups, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. She’s also the most recent Senator to co-sponsor PIPA, adding her name to the list on Dec. 12. The runner-up is Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who’s taken $777,383 from PIPA-supporting interest groups, and has co-sponsored the bill since May 2011.

In fact, a list of the top 20 beneficiaries of special interest money in favor of PIPA reads like a list of the Senate’s most influential Democrats: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) in third; Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in fourth; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in fifth; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s primary sponsor, in sixth; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in seventh; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in eighth; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in ninth; and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in tenth.

The list goes on like that until Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who places 15th with $274,600 in special interest money promoting PIPA. He has not yet announced an official position on the bill. The only other Republican on the list of the top 20 PIPA beneficiaries in the Senate is Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), in 19th place with $212,312. Corker is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

I have to give at least one Democrat credit although she is not in the Senate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) opposed SOPA.

This is far from over.

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