Tag: NSA

Obama Targets Another American for Assassination by Drone

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On September 30, 2011, President Barack Obama authorized the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen by virtue of his birth in New Mexico in 1971, by an American drone in Yemen along with another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, who grew up in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina. Two weeks later, Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed by another US strike in Yemen. Jude Kenan Mohammad, alleged to have at one stage been part of an eight-man terror cell in North Carolina, was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan later in 2011. These assassinations made Barack Obama the first president known president to have authorized the assassination of a US citizen.

Now, as was reported by the Associated Press, Pres. Obama is trying to find a way to legally justify the assassination of another American citizen living in Pakistan. The target has been accused, without evidence, of plotting attacks against America with Al Qaeda:

The CIA drones watching him cannot strike, because he’s a US citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn’t completed.

Four US officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses US military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And President Obama’s new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House. [..]

Under new guidelines Obama addressed in a speech last year to calm anger overseas at the extent of the US drone campaign, lethal force must only be used “to prevent or stop attacks against US persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively.” The target must also pose “a continuing, imminent threat to US persons” – the legal definition of catching someone in the act of plotting a lethal attack.

Co-founders of the new digital magazine Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald discuss the issue of another American being targeted for assassination with [Democracy Now! ]’s Amy Goodman.

While the Associated Press had agreed to keep the name and location of Pres. Obama’s latest target, his location was disclosed by the Los Angeles Times.

Why should we, as Americans, accept that the Executive Branch can act as judge, jury and executioner without a trial in a duly recognized court of law? Where is any evidence that this person is a threat or even doing what the Obama administration charges are his alleged crimes? At FDL Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola asks why should a news organization should conceal the target’s identity and location for an administration that has touted greater transparency:

Knowing where he is currently located would help one understand this story appropriately. So, in what country would certain officials like to be able to launch an attack? [..]

It seems reasonable to question this decision by the AP to not publish. The decision bears a distinct similarity to refusing to print that a secret drone base is located in a certain country when covering the issue of drones, which US media organizations have previously done.

If it is illegal to add the person to a list and the government cannot come up with a legal way to launch a US military attack because the country opposes it, why should a media organization play the role of not “interrupting” this “ongoing counterterror operation”?

Just how many alleged American members of al Qaeda are there? This report disseminated on the Internet could now aid an “enemy” in figuring out some details on the extent to which he is being tracked and monitored for assassination in order to stop him from launching more attacks on Americans overseas. So, it would seem if AP really wants to protect counterterror operations from “interruption” they would simply not publish the story at all.

The story was given to Associated Press reporter Kimberly Dozier by four anonymous “US officials,” who were not authorized to speak, and a “senior administration official” possibly from the Department of Justice may have political undertones. Marcy Wheeler suggested that the sources may have been congressional staffers since Dozier mentioned Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who is upset because Obama’s new guidelines would impede the assassination of another American.

Whatever the allegations are against this person, it does not legally justify the use of a drone to target an American in a sovereign country that we are not at war with or without due process. Breaking the law under the guise of protecting America from terrorist attack is not justifiable. Regardless of who is in the Oval Office, the US should be a nation of laws and respect the constitutional rights of its citizens.

Death by Metadata

Cross posted at The Stars Hollow Gazette

In their premier article for the new online magazine, The Intercept, co-founders Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald take an in-depth look at how the NSA mass surveillance plays an intrinsic role in President Barack Obama’s assassination program. In the article they reveal how the NSA is providing information that targets, not an individual, but a nameless SIM cards that have led to the deaths of innocent civilians:

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using. [..]

In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device. [..]

One problem, he explains, is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA’s reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses and family members.

As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. According to the former drone operator, the geolocation cells at the NSA that run the tracking program – known as Geo Cell – sometimes facilitate strikes without knowing whether the individual in possession of a tracked cell phone or SIM card is in fact the intended target of the strike. [..]

What’s more, he adds, the NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls. Based on his experience, he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata.

(emphasis mine)

Jeremy and Glenn joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to discuss the NSA’s secret role in President Obama’s assassination program and, defying the threats, the launch of The Intercept.



Transcript can be read here



Transcript can be read here

Today We Fight Back

Today we take action to end the massive surveillance of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Today We Fight BAck photo 11484530_m_zpsa0cbe199.png

Click on image to participate

End NSA Massive Spying Programs

Dear Supporter,

We’ve told you about TODAY’s massive action against mass spying — and now it’s time to act.  We’re calling today The Day We Fight Back, and dozens of large organizations and websites and thousands of smaller ones are mobilizing their members and visitors to demand an end to broad suspicion-less surveillance.  

We announced it on the anniversary of the passing of Aaron Swartz, to honor him and to celebrate the victory over SOPA that he helped us achieve two years ago.

Today We Fight BAck photo 11484530_m_zpsa0cbe199.png

If all of the organizations and sites that have signed on to the cause press forward today, we should be able to drive tens of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers to demand that the NSA’s mass spying programs be reined in.

Will you place one of those calls?  It’ll only take 2 minutes, and we’ll make it easy for you by giving you a call script and connecting you to the right office.

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

We understand the United States to be a democracy, founded upon a Constitution that affords us critical rights, and governed by the rule of law.

Yet for years, the NSA has exploited secret legal interpretations to undermine our privacy rights — thus chilling speech and activism, and thereby threatening to subvert the very underpinnings of our democracy itself.

We are demanding that decision makers remedy this by:

  * Passing the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and institute other key reforms.

  * Defeating the so-called FISA Improvements Act, which would entrench — and potentially expand — the spying.

  * Creating additional privacy protections for non-Americans.

  * Ending the NSA’s subversion of encryption and other data security measures.

And we’re not even that far from winning on at least one key front:

The USA FREEDOM Act has more than 100 bipartisan sponsors, including two powerful lead sponsors: Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who was the original author of the PATRIOT Act and is furious that it has been abused to spy on Americans en masse.

This summer an amendment that’s very similar to parts of the USA FREEDOM Act failed to pass in the House of Representatives by just a handful of votes. Enough lawmakers now say they would have voted in support that it would pass if it came up for a vote today.

Now we need to force a vote on the issue in the House, and a first vote on it in the Senate — and we’ll do that by putting pressure on lawmakers by calling and emailing them today.  Tens of thousands of people are poised to join the cause: Please be one of them.

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

We’re going to persist in this fight, and we will win it.

In Solidarity,

Tim Carpenter

PDA National Director

We are in this fight together. It is time to act and end the massive surveillance of the NSA. Do it for yourself, for the future and to remember Aaron.

Today We Fight BAck photo 11484530_m_zpsa0cbe199.png

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize!!!

This will be very short.

I don’t know how many of you are aware or are not aware . . . EDWARD SNOWDEN has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize!  “Two Norwegian politicians have nominated NSA leaker Edward Snowden for that same prize [referencing Obama]. Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen of Norway’s Socialist Left Party announced Wednesday that they had nominated Snowden for the award. They praised his leaks for raising the curtain on modern surveillance techniques.”

Hysterically enough, within the same article, is a question:

Related:  Is Edward Snowden Working with the Russians?



But the Nobel Peace Prize nomination is also a reminder of the hypocrisy Snowden’s actions have exposed. Norway was an active participant in NSA surveillance, collecting some 33 million mobile phone records for the agency. Snowden is also being protected by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader with a human rights record that rivals a third world dictator.

Snowden’s been nominated for other prizes before, and has even won one – the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, given by a group of retired CIA officers. Being nominated for  a Nobel Peace Prize isn’t likely to change opinions on his actions; those who believe he’s hurting national security are likely to continue to do so, while those who think he did the world a great service would view the prize as evidence that they were right-at least until the next terror attack.

Snowden’s leaks have made him famous. A Nobel would make him immortal.

A DuckDuckGo search will beg the question, “Where is the MSM on this subject?”  See for yourselves: Snowden

O.K., a little more about the nomination, itself!

A Norwegian member of parliament nominated former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday, arguing that his release of classified documents made the world a safer place.

Baard Vegar Solhjell, a former education and environment minister for the Socialist Left party, said Snowden’s revelations deepened the public’s understanding of the extent to which states spy on their own citizens.

“There is no doubt that the actions of Edward Snowden may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short term,” Solhjell and fellow MP Snorre Valen said in a joint statement.

“We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistle blowing has contributed to a more peaceful, stable and peaceful world order,” they said.

“His actions have in effect led to the reintroduction of trust and transparency as a leading principle in global security policies.” . . . . .

And from the The Daily Mail UK A sociology professor in Sweden has recommended NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a letter addressed to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and published in Swedish newspaper Västerbottens-Kuriren, Professor Stefan Svallfors nominated Snowden for his ‘heroic effort at great personal cost’ shedding light on the expansive cyber-spying conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency.

Because of his bravery, Snowden ‘helped to make the world a little bit better and safer,’ Svallfors wrote.

Scroll down for full letter:

I must say that once I learned of this nomination of Snowden, I’ve chuckled to myself a lot . . . . Karma really can be a “beech.”

Snowden Answers Questions

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yesterday afternoon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden answered questions in s candid on line chat. He responded not only to questions about what he believes should be done about the massive NSA surveillance programs and the threats to his life but countered some of the spurious accusations that he acted in concert with the Russians and stole his co-workers passwords.

@mperkel #ASKSNOWDEN They say it’s a balance of privacy and safety. I think spying makes us less safe. do you agree?

Intelligence agencies do have a role to play, and the people at the working level at the NSA, CIA, or any other member of the IC are not out to get you. They’re good people trying to do the right thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were worried about the same things I was.

The people you need to watch out for are the unaccountable senior officials authorizing these unconstitutional programs, and unreliable mechanisms like the secret FISA court, a rubber-stamp authority that approves 99.97% of government requests (which denied only 11 requests out of 33,900 in 33 years http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/06/fisa-court-nsa-spying-opinion-reject-request. They’re the ones that get us into trouble with the Constitution by letting us go too far.

And even the President now agrees our surveillance programs are going too far, gathering massive amounts of private records on ordinary Americans who have never been suspected of any crime. This violates our constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizure. Collecting phone and email records for every American is a waste of money, time and human resources that could be better spent pursuing those the government has reason to suspect are a serious threat.

I’m going to stop here. My deepest thanks to everyone who sent questions, and whether or not we agree on where the lines should be drawn, I encourage you to contact your members of congress and tell them how you feel about mass surveillance. This is a global problem, and the first step to tackling it is by working together to fix it at home.

If you’d like to more ideas on how to push back against unconstitutional surveillance, consider taking a look at the organizations working together to organize https://thedaywefightback.org/. [..]

@LukasReuter #AskSnowden How should the community of states react to the new information concerning surveillance? What actions have to be made?

We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying. Nobody should be hacking critical-to-life infrastructure like hospitals and power stations, and it’s fair to say that can be recognized in international law.

Additionally, we need to recognize that national laws are not going to solve the problem of indiscriminate surveillance. A prohibition in Burundi isn’t going to stop the spies in Greenland. We need a global forum, and global funding, committed to the development of security standards that enforce our right to privacy not through law, but through science and technology. The easiest way to ensure a country’s communications are secure is to secure them world-wide, and that means better standards, better crypto, and better research. [..]

@RagBagUSA #AskSnowden what (in your opinion) is the appropriate extent of US national security apparatus? Surely some spying is needed?

Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day. This is done not because it’s necessary – after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers – but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.

I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.

This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it. If our government decides our Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that’s a more efficient means of snooping, we’re setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing.

It’s not good for our country, it’s not good for the world, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance – the same way we’ve always done it – without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.

When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri. [..]

@savagejen Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden

Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.

The Russian government has extended Mr. Snowden’s asylum beyond next August, possibly indefinitely.

The lawmaker, Aleksei K. Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of Parliament, hinted during a panel discussion that the extension of temporary refugee status for Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, might be indefinite.

“He will not be sent out of Russia,” Mr. Pushkov said. “It will be up to Snowden.”

He added that Mr. Snowden’s father believes his son could not get a fair trial in the United States.

Mr. Pushkov made his comments came against a backdrop of broad criticism of the American spying programs that have come to light since the summer. He pointed to the sheer volume of information that American authorities are able to gather.

“The U.S. has created a Big Brother system,” Mr. Pushkov said.

Greenwald: NSA Reforms Just a Bad PR Campaign

Journalist and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald and  the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Anthony D Romero discussed President Barack Obama’s new NSA “reforms” with Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC’s “Now.”

Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

By Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

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. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. 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. [..]

Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.

Here is the press release from the ACLU commenting on the President’s NSA speech:

January 17, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – President Obama today announced changes to some aspects of the NSA’s surveillance programs and left others in place. Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:

“The president’s speech outlined several developments which we welcome. Increased transparency for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, improved checks and balances at the FISA court through the creation of a panel of advocates, and increased privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens abroad – the first such assertion by a U.S. president – are all necessary and welcome reforms.

“However, the president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

A new chart comparing the ACLU’s proposals, President Obama’s announcement, and the USA FREEDOM Act (a bipartisan bill currently pending in Congress) is at: aclu.org/national-security/where-does-president-stand-nsa-reform

ACLU Action is demanding an end to dragnet surveillance at: aclu.org/endsurveillance

The President Flops on NSA Reform

President Barack Obama once again fell short of taking any meaningful action on reining in the NSA surveillance programs or assuring that American’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment be protected. He made one of his predictable speeches that attempted to placate both critics and defenders, failing to actually do anything significant, all the while lecturing the public on history and expressing his offense that anyone would think that he had done an inadequate job or had enabled surveillance state policies. FDL’s Kevin Gosztola contrasted today’s speech with NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander’s statements to Congress and his inaugural address last year:

The narrative that Obama promoted in the part of his speech building up to announcement of reforms was starkly similar to what NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander has said when addressing members of Congress at hearings held in the aftermath of Snowden’s first disclosures. The narrative he used should make Americans even more skeptical of how substantive the changes to surveillance will be. [..]

One might remember that just about one year ago Obama gave an inaugural speech after his re-election where he said a “decade of war is now ending” and later described how Americans believe there is no need for “perpetual war.” But the very premise of Obama’s speech involved a demand to recognize the value of militarized surveillance and this militarization keeps the US on a permanent war footing putting civil liberties of Americans at risk so long as this footing is maintained.

Since there were such low expectations, Mike Masnick at Techdirt thought the announced reforms were more significant than expected but stopped short of fixing the actual problems:

  • A judge will have to approve each query for data on the metadata collection from Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
  • The “three hop” dragnet will be reduced down to two hops. That does, in fact, limit how far the NSA can search by quite a bit. That last hop is quite big.
  • The NSA should no longer hold all of the data, meaning that the telcos will be expected to hold onto it (though, he leaves it up to Congress and the DOJ to figure out how to do this). He calls this a “transition” away from the Section 215 program, but that’s hardly clear.
  • National Security Letters (NSLs) will no longer have an unlimited gag order on them. The Attorney General will need to set up guidelines for a time in which gag orders expire, with the possibility of extending them for investigations that are still ongoing.
  • Companies will be given slightly more freedom to reveal data on the NSLs they get (though I don’t think he indicated the same thing for Section 702 orders…. which is a big concern).
  • The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will review annually FISC rulings to figure out what can be declassified.
  • He promises to “work with Congress” to look at changes to the FISA court
  • He is adding some very limited restrictions on spying on people overseas. It should only be used for actual counterterrorism/crime/military/real national security efforts.
  • A State Department official will be in charge of handling “diplomacy issues” related to these changes on foreign spying.
  • An effort will be started with technologists and privacy experts over how to handle “big data and privacy” in both the public and private sectors.

Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel addressed what the president does not consider abuse:

  • The NSA spied on the porn and phone sex habits of ideological opponents, including those with no significant ties to extremists, and including a US person.
  • According to the NSA in 2009, it had a program similar to Project Minaret – the tracking of anti-war opponents in the 1970s – in which it spied on people in the US in the guise of counterterrorism without approval. We still don’t have details of this abuse.
  • When the NSA got FISC approval for the Internet (2004) and phone (2006) dragnets, NSA did not turn off features of Bush’s illegal program that did not comply with the FISC authorization. These abuses continued until 2009 (one of them, the collection of Internet metadata that qualified as content, continued even after 2004 identification of those abuses).
  • Even after the FISC spent 9 months reining in some of this abuse, the NSA continued to ignore limits on disseminating US person data. Similarly, the NSA and FBI never complied with PATRIOT Act requirements to develop minimization procedures for the Section 215 program (in part, probably, because NSA’s role in the phone dragnet would violate any compliant minimization procedures).
  • The NSA has twice – in 2009 and 2011 – admitted to collecting US person content in the United States in bulk after having done so for years. It tried to claim (and still claims publicly in spite of legal rulings to the contrary) this US person content did not count as intentionally-collected US person content (FISC disagreed both times), and has succeeded in continuing some of it by refusing to count it, so it can claim it doesn’t know it is happening.
  • As recently as spring 2012, 9% of the NSA’s violations involved analysts breaking standard operating procedures they know. NSA doesn’t report these as willful violations, however, because they’ve deemed any rule-breaking in pursuit of “the mission” not to be willful violations.
  • In 2008, Congress passed a law allowing bulk collection of foreign-targeted content in the US, Section 702, to end the NSA’s practice of stealing Internet company data from telecom cables. Yet in spite of having a legal way to acquire such data, the NSA (through GCHQ) continues to steal data from some of the same companies, this time overseas, from their own cables. Arguably this is a violation of Section 702 of FISA.
  • NSA may intentionally collect US person content (including Internet metadata that legally qualifies as content) overseas (it won’t count this data, so we don’t know how systematic it is). If it does, it may be a violation of Section 703 of FISA.

No, Mr. President, this is not enough.

NSA Excuses Get Moronic

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

We can’t tell you that we spied on you because it would violate your privacy??!!! This is precisely what the head of the NSA, General Keith B. Alexander told Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in a letter responding to Sen. Sanders’ question about whether it collects information on members of Congress because doing so would violate the law.

“Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups,” Alexander wrote. “For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without the predicate.” [..]

Alexander doesn’t actually say so in his letter, but it’s very possible that the NSA collects data on members of Congress just as it does on everyone else, in bulk. The NSA said in a statement earlier this month that members of Congress have the “same privacy protections” as ordinary citizens, which means that they too might be caught up in the NSA’s terrorism queries of its telephone database, which may sweep up millions of innocent people in a single search.

Seriously. I want to know what drugs they have given the heads of the DNI & NSA that they think that this is a plausible explanation of why that can’t tell a United States Senator whether or not they have spied on him. Alexander really wants us to believe that searching the NSA data base for information would violate the law

This certainly comes under the category of the most lamest excuses for abuse of power.



Will the NSA Be “Reformed”?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In the run up to President Barack Obama’s promised decision on reforms the National Security Agency and its surveillance programs, there has been an  unsubstantiated press release, by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers and his Democratic counterpart Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, that the material taken by whistleblower Edward Snowden gravely impacted America’s national security, put the lives of US military personnel at risk and aided terrorists. There are no specifics about these allegations that Snowden had downloaded 1.7 million files or had considerable information on current U.S. military operations because the Pentagon report is, of course, classified.

Meanwhile top NSA officials and their allies are making their public appeals to retain their surveillance powers

In a lengthy interview that aired on Friday on National Public Radio (NPR), the NSA’s top civilian official, the outgoing deputy director John C Inglis, said that the agency would cautiously welcome a public advocate to argue for privacy interests before the secret court which oversees surveillance. Such a measure is being promoted by some of the agency’s strongest legislative critics. [..]

But security officials are arguing strongly against curtailing the substance of domestic surveillance activities.

While Inglis conceded in his NPR interview that at most one terrorist attack might have been foiled by NSA’s bulk collection of all American phone data – a case in San Diego that involved a money transfer from four men to al-Shabaab in Somalia – he described it as an “insurance policy” against future acts of terrorism. [..]

Inglis was bolstered on Thursday by the new FBI director James Comey, who said he opposed curbing the bureau’s power to collect information from businesses through a non-judicial subpoena called a national security letter. The use of national security letters, which occurs in secret, came under sharp criticism from Obama’s surveillance review panel, which advocated judicial approval over them.

Comey told reporters that would make it harder for his agency to investigate national security issues than conduct bank fraud investigations.

What we have learned is that the massive data collection has not led to the prevention of one terrorist attack and that conventional methods using court orders were more effective (pdf).

Activist and journalist Chris Hedges, along with former NSA technical director and NSA whistle-blower William Binney, tell Real News Network‘s Paul Jay that there should be accountability, including the President himself, for the criminal practices used by the NSA against the American people.

This Friday the president will publicly announce the results of his review of National Security Agency surveillance programs at the Department of Justice, not the White House.

Could Snowden Get a Fair Trial in the US

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Jessalyn Raddack, Edward Snowden’s legal adviser appeared on Meet the Press, December 29, discussed the NSA leaks by Snowden and why they believe that he could not get a fair trial in this country.

In editorials over New Year’s Day, the New York Times and The Guardian called on President Barack Obama to grant Edward Snowden some form of clemency or a pardon to allow him to return home.

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower

By The New York Times Editorial Board

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.  [..]

The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security. Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended.

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

Snowden affair: the case for a pardon

The Guardian Editorial, Comment is Free

Snowden gave classified information to journalists, even though he knew the likely consequences. That was an act of courage

Mr Snowden gave classified information to journalists, even though he knew the likely consequences. That was an act of some moral courage. Presidents – from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan – have issued pardons. The debate that Mr Snowden has facilitated will no doubt be argued over in the US supreme court. If those justices agree with Mr Obama’s own review panel and Judge Richard Leon in finding that Mr Snowden did, indeed, raise serious matters of public importance which were previously hidden (or, worse, dishonestly concealed), is it then conceivable that he could be treated as a traitor or common felon? We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself.

Attorney for Julian Assange and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York discussed how the New York Times Editorial should have also supported other whistleblowers with Real News Network’s Jaisal Noor.



Full transcript can be read here

Carl Jung on our present condition

Via Ilargi:

Here’s Jung from his book ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’, published in 1963, 2 years after his death, in the paragraphs with which he closes the chapter “The Tower”:

 Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components. Body and soul therefore have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new , in things that have just come into being. That is to say, our ancestral components are only partly at home in such things. We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend.

   Nevertheless, we have plunged down a cataract of progress, which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the farther it takes us from our roots. Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilisation and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up.

   We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognise that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is cancelled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us.

   The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.

   Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications, which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est – all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.

   Reforms by retrogressions, on the other hand, are as a rule less expensive and in addition more lasting, for they return to the simpler, tried and tested ways of the past and make the sparsest use of newspapers, radio, television, and all supposedly timesaving innovations.

   In this book I have devoted considerable space to my subjective view of the world, which, however, is not a product of rational thinking. It is rather a vision such as will come to one who undertakes, deliberately, with half-closed eyes and somewhat closed ears, to see and hear the form and voice of being. If our impressions are too distinct, we are held to the hour and minute of the present and have no way of knowing how our ancestral psyches listen to and understand the present – in other words, how our unconscious is responding to it. Thus we remain ignorant of whether our ancestral components find elementary gratification in our lives, or whether they are repelled. Inner peace and contentment depend in large measure upon whether or not the historical family, which is inherent in the individual, can be harmonised with the ephemeral conditions of the present.

   In the Tower at Bollingen it is as if one lived in many centuries simultaneously. The place will outlive me, and in its location and style it points backwards to things of long ago. There is very little about it to suggest the present. If a man of the sixteenth century were to move into the house, only the kerosene lamp and the matches would be new to him; otherwise, he would know his way about without difficulty. There is nothing to disturb the dead, neither electric light nor telephone. Moreover, my ancestors’ souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house. There I live in my second personality and see life in the round, as something forever coming into being and passing on.

US and British MSM Gets an “F”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

At a computer conference in Hamburg, Germany, journalist and lawyer Glenn Greenwald delivered the keynote address that chastised the US and British mainstream media for their failures to challenge erroneous remarks routinely made by government officials around the globe

Thousands of attendees at the thirtieth annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg packed into a room to watch the 46-year-old lawyer-turned-columnist present a keynote address delivered less than seven months after he started working with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Revelations contained in leaked documents supplied by Snowden to Greenwald and other journalists have sparked international outrage and efforts to reform the far-reaching surveillance operations waged by the NSA and intelligence officials in allied nations. But speaking remotely from Brazil this week, Greenwald argued that the media establishment at large is guilty of failing significantly with respect to accomplishing its most crucial role: keeping governments in check.

When Greenwald and his colleagues began working with Snowden, he said they realized that they’d have to act in a way that wasn’t on par with how the mainstream media has acted up until now.

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