You haven’t the freedom to know who is spying on you for the NSA

The U.S. doesn’t have to disclose the telecommunications companies helping it collect phone call records or turn over a secret surveillance court’s orders, a federal judge ruled, saying the information would reveal methods used in terrorism investigations.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties advocacy group, sued under the Freedom of Information Act for access to information on the government phone record collection program. The group argued the government confirmed the participation of telecommunications companies in the National Security Agency’s surveillance program after the existence of the program was leaked.

NSA surveillance programs, disclosed by former security contractor Edward Snowden, are being challenged in a number of lawsuits. EFF’s lawsuit, which preceded the Snowden leaks, was filed on the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The collection of information relevant to a federal investigation, when authorized by a secret court, is allowed under a statute in the act. The EFF freedom of information lawsuit sought secret court orders from 2005, 2006 and 2008 to learn more about what the government was collecting and the legal justification for it…

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, today said declassification of general information about the call-record collection program didn’t justify forcing the government to reveal the companies’ names to EFF. Disclosing orders of the Washington-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court could provide a road map for targets to evade surveillance, she said in her ruling…

The judge accepts every lie, every blanket rationale our government uses to defend spying on all of us. That doesn’t take courage. That takes obedience. That takes complicity.

Telecommunication companies were granted immunity by Congress in 2008 from privacy lawsuits over surveillance programs.

Understand the arrogant creeps who demanded this law be passed. Inhale the bipartisan stink of spineless Democrats and paranoid Republicans who passed this law.

The whole so-called Patriot Act is structured to conceal collaborators in the loss of our constitutional freedoms. We not haven’t the right to know who is complicit – there can be no whistleblowers. If your personal banker tells you the Feds have snooped through your bank account, he is breaking the law. If some cop who went to high school with you tells you over a beer the Feds want to know who plays baseball with your kids, he is breaking the law. Cripes, I imagine your dentist can be asked to put a gps tracker in your new crown – and he would be breaking the law if he refused.

Obama’s vision of constitutional freedoms are as distorted by fear and arrogance as Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Tiny differences of degree and interpretation are meaningless compared to what we have lost.

FISA court contradicts SCOTUS on our rights — in secret of course

On Tuesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) declassified an opinion in which it explained why the government’s collection of records of all Americans’ phone calls is constitutional, and that if there is a problem with the program, it is a matter of political judgment, not constitutional law…

…The opinion does not even mention last year’s unanimous US supreme court decision on the fourth amendment and GPS tracking, a decision in which all three opinions include strong language that may render the NSA’s phone records collection program unconstitutional. No court that had been briefed by both sides would have ignored the grave constitutional issues raised by the three opinions of Justices Scalia, Sotomayor, and Alito in United States v Jones. And no opinion that fails to consider these should calm anyone down…

In Jones, the government attached a GPS device to a suspect’s car and tracked all the car’s movements for four weeks. The government argued that since the car was visible on public roads, and could have been tracked in the open by a police officer, no warrant was needed. Just like phone metadata, the car’s movements were not in private – they were on public roads. The lower court had already excluded evidence from when the car was parked in its private parking lot. All nine justices found the tracking unconstitutional, and each of the opinions offer strong reasons to reject the Fisa court’s interpretation of the fourth amendment with regards to phone metadata…

The most sophisticated opinion about how “big data” changes what courts must do to protect against state surveillance was authored by Sotomayor, who also provided the fifth vote for the court’s main opinion. Responding specifically to the claim that GPS tracking involved only non-private information from public travel, Sotomayor wrote that with today’s technology even observing these purely public movements “generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflect a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations”.

As though writing about the NSA program itself, Sotomayor continued…”Awareness that the government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms. And the government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse…

…All the Jones opinions offer a very strong argument that the dramatically lower cost of pervasive, sustained surveillance of publicly observable data in bulk implicates the fourth amendment, and that whatever its statutory basis, this program may well violate that amendment. That the FISC opinion did not even mention Jones is as clear a sign as we have that without fundamental reform, Americans simply cannot rely on the Fisa court’s lopsided process to protect our rights.

Lawyers – especially constitutional lawyers – understand how a change in context, in all or part of a process, changes a precedent. For Obama to play “Let’s pretend” with protecting our constitutional rights is a puppet show designed to gloss over the fears of the clueless, prop up the backbone of politicians and pundits who only need the word “legal” in a lie to make it acceptable.

If Obama was only playing the opposition game when he opposed George W. Bush’s playing loose with our freedoms – then he’s just another opportunist hack. If his opposition was legit and, now, the arguments from the NSA/CIA/Pentagon-types have convinced him to accept this crap – then he’s lacking backbone as much as any ordinary Blue Dog Democrat. Either way – instead of providing leadership which BTW doesn’t burn money by the boatload in wasted hours and flunkyland snoop facilities – he’s settling in to the status quo and “change” means that’s what he does to get along with the thugs who really own this nation.

FISA judge admits Snowden’s NSA disclosures triggered debate


The only thing Republicans find wrong with this – is that it’s Obama not John McCain

The court that oversees US surveillance has ordered the government to review for declassification a set of secret rulings about the National Security Agency’s bulk trawls of Americans’ phone records, acknowledging that disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden had triggered an important public debate.

The Fisa court ordered the Justice Department to identify the court’s own rulings after May 2011 that concern a section of the Patriot Act used by the NSA to justify its mass database of American phone data. The ruling was a significant step towards their publication.

It is the second time in a week that a US court has ordered the disclosure of secret intelligence rulings. On Tuesday, a federal court in New York compelled the government to declassify numerous documents that revealed substantial tension between federal authorities and the surveillance court over the years.

On Thursday, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, conceded that the NSA is likely to lose at least some of its broad powers to collect data on Americans.

He acknowledged that Snowden’s disclosures had prompted a necessary debate: “As loath as I am to give any credit to what’s happened here, I think it’s clear that some of the conversations this has generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen.

“If there’s a good side to this, maybe that’s it…”

Someone mail me a penny postcard when Obama and the defenders of NSA spying on the people of America admit to overvaluing their decision to diminish our constitutional liberty.

Further publication of the court’s rulings “would contribute to an informed debate,” Judge Dennis Saylor said. “Publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this court’s proceedings…”

A procedural hurdle meant that he could not order the declassification of many of the documents, since the ACLU earlier sought their release under the Freedom of Information Act through a different court, in a case that is continuing…Should the ACLU lose that case, in the southern district of New York, Saylor ruled that it can return to the Fisa court to seek declassification of those surveillance documents…

The ACLU hailed Saylor’s ruling as a victory. “The opinion recognizes the importance of transparency to the debate about NSA spying,” said Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director…

Saylor’s opinion follows several legislative maneuvers scheduled for this fall in both the House and Senate to compel greater disclosure of the government’s interpretations of the Patriot Act justifying the bulk phone records collection.

RTFA for details about this and other recent decisions backing up our freedom to know how our government has “legalized” spying on the population of this nation and literally every person on the face of this Earth in the name of Homeland Security and National Defense.

It ain’t their simple paranoia, folks. It is a government apparatus run amuck with the self-assigned power of rule over our lives. There are simple, essential differences between providing leadership and assuming you have a mandate to rule. The precepts of democracy as understood by people like Ben Franklin or Thomas Paine are clear about that.

NSA admits to violating our privacy 2776 times in a year — think that’s all?


Courtesy of the Washington Post

I trust the NSA to be providing us with truthful reporting on violations of our privacy about as far as I can hurl a Congressional conservative uphill into a heavy wind.

There are damned few occasions when I can recall our elected officials providing us with an accurate accounting of what they feel is bad news. Good news? We get monster press conferences. Bad news? Revelations about the creeps paid to snoop on us? We get redacted, half-baked lowest common denominator admissions of “human error”.

Given a history of legalized cover-ups with criminal activity hidden for decades if not centuries – I still wonder how much thievery and corruption is still covered up in these “security” protocols.

Thanks to The Big Picture

U.S. phonies up the FISA Court program to investigate Americans for potentially criminal activities

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A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”

Tell me again how Obama and the Dems care more about due process than the scumbags in the Tea Party/Republican Party. I just bought a new pair of rubber boots and I’m prepared to break them in walking through a farmyard full of crap.

This whole process is indefensible and unconstitutional. Yes, the lack of standards were laid down by Bush and Cheney and Democrats are perfectly willing describe what thugs they were – selling the Patriot Act as defense against terrorism and then letting it be used for everything from schoolyard gangs to tax challenges. Obama and his flunkies revamped all that to add “legalness” and now it’s supposed to be OK.

Here we are facing the same process used to legitimize illicit law practices in the name of the War on Terror – courtesy of the FISA Court and the NSA, this time.. Inexcusable, unforgivable and should be overturned by any elected federal officials with principles and a backbone.

NSA tapped fiber cables to collect data

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The National Security Agency, which collected cellphone and online data from technology companies, also tapped fiber cables, The Washington Post said Wednesday.

The newspaper said it has obtained a classified NSA slide listing “two types of collection,” showing the agency had a data collection category called “Upstream” that accessed “communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.”

That was in addition to PRISM, which collects information from technology companies and has been widely reported by the Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper…

A former judge on the secret U.S. court overseeing government surveillance requests says he was shocked by changes forcing the court to OK blanket surveillance.

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “has turned into something like an administrative agency,” retired U.S. District Judge James Robertson testified during a hearing of a federal oversight board, directed by President Barack Obama to examine government spying and civil liberties after rogue National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked significant information about the NSA’s spying program.

“A judge needs to hear both sides of a case,” Robertson, who served on the secret surveillance court from 2002 to 2005, told the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in the first public hearings since Snowden’s revelations.

What FISA does is not adjudication, but approval,” Robertson said, referring to the court by its shorthand moniker, after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that created it.

“This works just fine when it deals with individual applications for warrants,” Robertson continued. “But the 2008 amendment has turned the FISA court into administrative agency making rules for others to follow.

“It is not the bailiwick of judges to make policy,” he said…

Robertson testified Tuesday he was “stunned” by the Times report, which said the FISA court had created a secret body of law empowering the NSA to amass vast amounts of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in espionage, cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation.

He said he was originally impressed with how “careful, fastidious and scrupulous” the court process was but said with the court’s expanded role, the so-called ex parte system, in which only the federal government is allowed to make its case before the court, needed immediate reform.

This was the first time a current or former FISA judge had the courage to speak out publicly. FISA judges until now were anonymous – and defended the court. Obedient as you would expect.

Tech companies working with the NSA prove they can’t be trusted

Whatever the details might be, it seems clear that dozens of technology companies — and perhaps even more — have co-operated with the NSA on its surveillance program. And they could pay a high price for doing so.

As the fallout continues to rain down from recent reports about the NSA snooping on millions of phone calls and terabytes of web traffic, the spin campaign from both the government and the technology companies allegedly involved in the program has reached a fever pitch. First there were strenuous denials from the likes of Google, Yahoo and Facebook, followed by broad hints that they only co-operated because they were trying to make things easier on their users — and then leaked reports that some were essentially forced at gunpoint to do the NSA’s bidding.

Whatever the case may be, agreeing to turn over data to the government might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the potential downside risks of that particular slippery slope are fairly overwhelming.

The popular response to the NSA revelations may lie somewhere between mild disinterest and outright apathy, according to surveys like the one done by the Pew Center — in part because we seem to have gotten used to the idea that tech companies are monitoring our every move. But being seen as co-operating with the spy agency is still a fairly huge risk for cloud-based services. Not only that, but co-operating in even a small way makes those companies look like easy targets for further government pressure…

At this point, the actual truth of what is involved in the NSA’s so-called PRISM program remains a rapidly shifting target. The documents first published by the Guardian and the Washington Post a week ago seemed pretty cut and dried in their description of a system that allowed the spy agency “direct access” to the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and about half a dozen other companies — something the Post originally said was provided voluntarily and gave the NSA broad access to information about user behavior.

Almost immediately, however, the details started to blur: not only did those companies deny providing “direct access” to their servers, but some sources said the data was only provided under duress, because of secret court orders related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…

Denials and duress don’t address the essential question of how much cooperation ended up happening?

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The whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said…

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing…”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government…

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future…he views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

Lots more in the article. A worthwhile read – to aid in understanding the processes that brought Ed Snowden to these conclusions. Watch the whole video up top. He’s bright, articulate, obviously he has been thinking about the hows and why of such a decision for a long time.

I wish him well. He’s done our nation, our democratic traditions, a service.

Tech Companies finally admit collaboration with snoops

When government officials came to Silicon Valley to demand easier ways for the world’s largest Internet companies to turn over user data as part of a secret surveillance program, the companies bristled. In the end, though, many cooperated at least a bit.

Twitter declined to make it easier for the government. But other companies were more compliant, according to people briefed on the negotiations. They opened discussions with national security officials about developing technical methods to more efficiently and securely share the personal data of foreign users in response to lawful government requests. And in some cases, they changed their computer systems to do so.

The negotiations shed a light on how Internet companies, increasingly at the center of people’s personal lives, interact with the spy agencies that look to their vast trove of information — e-mails, videos, online chats, photos and search queries — for intelligence. They illustrate how intricately the government and tech companies work together, and the depth of their behind-the-scenes transactions.

And, legally, they haven’t a choice. Courtesy of a chickenshit Congress and a cavalier Constitutional lawyer for president.

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