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NSA spies on mainstream muslim US citizens
July 9, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

In one of the most damning Snowden leaks yet revealed, Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain show that the NSA targets prominent Muslim-Americans under the FISA secret court program. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has in response issued a denial that any Americans were targeted for exercising their constitutional rights via its tumblr.
posted by p3on (93 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has in response issued a denial

Well, James Clapper would never lie to us. Nothing to see here.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:59 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has in response issued a denial ... via its tumblr

what a time to be alive
posted by elizardbits at 9:59 AM on July 9 [94 favorites]


ODNI is clearly Hip and With It.
posted by indubitable at 10:01 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Good lord, that "denial" is unmitigatingly shitty:
No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.

On the other hand, a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.
You catch that? 'We don't spy on people because they exercise their freedom of speech. But if we happen to spy on people, it's probably because they're agents of a foreign power. So all those people on your little spreadsheet are evil foreign agents.'

Frankly, if I were on this list, I would be talking to my lawyer about legal action concerning these not-quite-saying-it-just-darkly-implying accusations.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


Notice they aren't denying what anyone is actually accusing them of.
posted by mike_bling at 10:02 AM on July 9 [12 favorites]


It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights.

"Solely" comes up in that response quite a bit. "We can't spy on you just for this reason", but it can apparently be one of the reasons.
posted by mhoye at 10:03 AM on July 9 [9 favorites]


So these are people with standing to fight this whole thing in court, right?
posted by unixrat at 10:04 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I saw something about this on 4chan last night, which invited verification I did not pursue at that late hour. Apparently one of the 2005 memos had a placeholder name of "Mohammed Raghead."

Nah, neither religion or ethnicity draw the CCD eyes of the Machines of Loving Grace, not in the slightest.
posted by adipocere at 10:05 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


This isn't a denial, it is a rationalization.
posted by 724A at 10:05 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Raghead.”
So we're being surveilled by bigoted morons? The bigoted part I expected to some extent, but just how moronic they are on the other hand...
posted by zachlipton at 10:06 AM on July 9 [12 favorites]


"Solely" comes up in that response quite a bit. "We can't spy on you just for this reason", but it can apparently be one of the reasons.

“We would never tap somebody's phone and Internet and read their mail based solely on their exercise of free speech. But if they say things we don't like and have too much melanin, well, that's a different story.”
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:07 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


I wonder if I follow their tumblr in an obviously ironic fashion if that makes me seem seditious as well.

On one hand, I'd just assume they ignore me as much as possible and I like to use tumblr for only things that bring me joy.

On the other, seeing shitty memos like that in my dashboard shoved between pictures of hot dudes from TV shows I don't watch would bring me a certain kind of joy.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:08 AM on July 9


Glenn Greenwald & Murtaza Hussain are currently conducting an "AMA" (interview) over on Reddit.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:09 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


So these are people with standing to fight this whole thing in court, right?

No, these are Muslims.
posted by Etrigan at 10:09 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I did not have sex with that woman.
I did not have sex with that woman.
I did not have sex with that woman.
I did not have sex with that woman.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:10 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


How did I miss this part in 2011??
The FBI—which is listed as the “responsible agency” for surveillance on the five men—has a controversial record when it comes to the ethnic profiling of Muslim-Americans. According to FBI training materials uncovered by Wired in 2011, the bureau taught agents to treat “mainstream” Muslims as supporters of terrorism, to view charitable donations by Muslims as “a funding mechanism for combat,” and to view Islam itself as a “Death Star” that must be destroyed if terrorism is to be contained.

John Guandolo, a former FBI counterterrorism official who takes credit for developing a training program for agents on the “Muslim Brotherhood and their subversive movement in the United States,” told The Intercept that he participated in investigations of some of the individuals whose email accounts were monitored. Echoing the “red under every bed” hysteria of the McCarthy era, Guandolo believes that “hundreds” of covert members of the Muslim Brotherhood are active in the United States, that some of them have succeeded in infiltrating the Pentagon, and that CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim.
Jesus.
posted by Phire at 10:13 AM on July 9 [24 favorites]


If they weren't doing anything wrong, what are they so afraid of?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:13 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has in response issued a denial ... via its tumblr

One "yo" means outright denial, two "yos" means neither confirm nor deny
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:16 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


Gonna need a new emjoi for a non-apologetic apology.

Though the pile of crap may suffice.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:17 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Let's do an "I am Sparticus" thing and all declare ourselves Muslims.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:17 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


So these are people with standing to fight this whole thing in court, right?

via the AMA linked above:

Murtaza Hussain:

We hope that the continued publication of these stories will drive public debate as well as create greater political momentum to alter such practices. In publishing this story and "naming names" part of our intention was to give the targets indicated legal standing to challenge the grounds of their surveillance if they so chose - something which would've been impossible had their surveillance remained a secret.

History has shown that government institutions function best when they are subjected to public oversight and accountability. While operating in the dark we can see that there were many practices being conducted at the NSA which were in fact objectionable to many American citizens. Our hope is that this story and future stories to come will generate the necessary political shift to ensure greater accountability in future.

I would think of it as dripping water on a stone, every drip makes an impact and eventually the stone will crack and some meaningful change will manifest (this debate shows that is already starting to happen).

posted by Drinky Die at 10:18 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I moved to Los Angeles in 2002, but it wasn't until 2005 I came to realize with what certainty its police drills/rehearsals/trainings were predicated on a conviction "LA is next" indicated by such things as posters in its subways encouraging "See something, Say something." I would learn later about its impressive underground facilities and fusion centers.

Snowden's documentation has turned attention to what the NSA's expanded roles are in assisting other components of US security, but those "other", newly founded/funded federal departments dove-tail with interstate/county and city authorities-- it's a magog.

I'd read about anti-war meetings in Oakland comprised of older citizens holding meetings and serving home-made cookies being infiltrated by "agents".

When people are investigated/harassed/surveilled and nothing comes of it, it's all buried in file systems and cabinets. I imagine the number of fully law-abiding citizens that have fallen under a net is several million by now.

I thought it was old news that thousands of citizens practicing the Muslim faith were surveilled and approached about reporting any extremists in their mists. That's what I was told by a few Muslims. The effect was making them suspicious of each other, which I'm sure authorities considered a feature.

It's all money. Security theater is all about money and a lot of good ole boys having a job involving bossing a lot of other people in need of jobs.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:20 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Great, the FBI is a bunch of yahoos with homemade Obama Osama stickers on their coal rollers. Vote for me and I will replace them with a big building full of sternly nodding Peter Graves clones
posted by theodolite at 10:21 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Just a guess, but I'd bet that all those men have sent money overseas. The government has been targeting non-profits and charities of Muslims for some time.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:22 AM on July 9


On how they picked the 5 Americans to focus on, Greenwald offers this in the AMA:
"2) It was important to us that we report only on those who were willing to be named. We did not want to drag people - especially private figures - into the light and name them as surveillance targets who were fearful of the ramifications for their lives."
It probably says sad things about my expectations for journalistic integrity/courtesy that I was surprised and extremely gratified that the consent and safety of those being reported on was taken into consideration.
posted by Phire at 10:26 AM on July 9 [11 favorites]


i'm so confused by tumblr in the main post that i can't really comprehend anything else. because my experience with tumblr has been gifs and memes and all i can imagine on the office of denial tumblr is gifs and memes with black lines over the punchlines.
posted by sio42 at 10:29 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


What frustrates me about much of the coverage of NSA actions like these is how people seem to be more focused on "it's not right that they're spying on Americans when it's meant to be for foreigners!!" when spying on anyone like this is fucked up no matter who the target is.

I'm here in the US on a student visa. I have official documentation from other countries stating I am Muslim, as well as a Muslim-sounding name and a Muslim-country passport (regardless of actual personal spiritual beliefs). I am friends with a lot of activists (including briefly dating someone who had lived in Occupy Oakland) and a lot of my friends do things like write critical essays and stage public rallies. I am also an activist myself for various issues, including immigration.

I always took it as a given that the US Government was spying on me, so the NSA reveal was not news to me. I have opted out of my friends' raliies and activist events, even though I support them in principle, because the costs are way too high for me. Yet I don't really see anyone caring about how people like me are vulnerable - because we are foreign, we are the supposedly right targets of NSA, we are collateral damage.

Will this comment land me in NSA trouble? I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by divabat at 10:32 AM on July 9 [12 favorites]


and as far as sending money overseas: my parents send me an allowance every month from back home. Does this make me a suspicious NSA target? A lot of people send money back home to their families, does that make them ripe for spying?
posted by divabat at 10:34 AM on July 9


Stands up, "I am Mohammed Raghead".

Hey NSA could you please tell me my minecraft password? I seem to have misplaced it. My first pet was named Shasta. thx
posted by vapidave at 10:38 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim.

lol wtf
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:43 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


A lot of people send money back home to their families, does that make them ripe for spying?

For Muslims, sure, because All Muslims Are Terrorist Suspects per our security apparatus. I've always wondered about Hispanic folks here in Texas who send money to the wrong countries south of the border where they happen to have relatives. They're probably not suspected of jihad but they might be suspected of communism, if Muslim terrorists haven't completely replaced the communist bogeyman.
posted by immlass at 10:44 AM on July 9


i'm so confused by tumblr in the main post that i can't really comprehend anything else. because my experience with tumblr has been gifs and memes and all i can imagine on the office of denial tumblr is gifs and memes with black lines over the punchlines.

I CAN HAS [REDAKTID]?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:47 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Okay, okay, yes. But as a counterpoint: have you all also considered that Glenn Greenwald is rude to people on the internet?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:57 AM on July 9 [20 favorites]


how people seem to be more focused on "it's not right that they're spying on Americans when it's meant to be for foreigners!!"

Well, I hate to say this, but most countries have spy agencies. It's a useful function for state security. And many democracies have learned that having that spy agency spy internally is very dangerous, that the spy agency becomes a threat to the democratic order. So they have rules preventing the spies from operating in their home countries. Specifically in the case of the US, the NSA was established with a charter explicitly prohibiting domestic surveillance. That's been eroded over the years but has never been tested properly in court. To put it more simply: the NSA is acting illegally and threatening America's democracy, the foundation of our freedom.

I happen to agree that spying on lots and lots of foreigners is bad too. But for different reasons, mostly pragmatic. The public revelation of NSA surveillance has seriously harmed our relationship with Germany, for instance, at least in the public theater of diplomacy. And the way NSA is subverting software and hardware has significantly harmed American businesses, their ability to get international contracts. Those are bad consequences of NSA action too but for different reasons. The threat to US freedom posed by an unchecked spy agency is much more worrying to me.

This new report is terrific, but it's also not too much of a surprise. NSA is already spying on Americans illegally, of course they'd focus on Muslim–Americans. What's great about this reporting is the fantastic detail of just what it means when NSA has focussed spying on individual Americans. How dangerous it is to liberty. I love that the article leads with Faisal Gill, a Bush Administration operative.
posted by Nelson at 11:01 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Is "apologizing" via tumblr like breaking up with someone via text message?
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:03 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Yes, divabat, and the under educated morons can't distinguish a muslim from a hindu either, we all look alike to them. I've had my share of security theatre barely 6 months ago.
posted by infini at 11:06 AM on July 9


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has in response issued a denial ... via its tumblr

I'm disappointed the response wasn't in the form of humorous gifs.

[Ah, if social media had been around 45 yrs ago: I can just see @JEdgar on twitter.)
posted by NorthernLite at 11:10 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Is "apologizing" via tumblr like breaking up with someone via text message?

...Yea, actually.

I was trying to figure out how to put that feeling in to words and you did it perfectly. It's way to casual and laid back for an official statement like this.

It's like they didn't want to own this situation or actually deal with it, just like a text breakup.
posted by emptythought at 11:10 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


What frustrates me about much of the coverage of NSA actions like these is how people seem to be more focused on "it's not right that they're spying on Americans when it's meant to be for foreigners!!" when spying on anyone like this is fucked up no matter who the target is.

i absolutely agree, but unfortunately the government is in the position to set the terms of the debate since legal challenge is the only recourse we have as americans. as a result we're forced to rely on discrete examples of apparently illegal behavior to challenge the intelligence community, because "this is fucked" doesn't fly in court :/
posted by p3on at 11:12 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


From the tumblr: "The United States is as committed to protecting privacy rights and individual freedom as we are to defending our national security."

Oh fuck.
posted by el io at 11:14 AM on July 9 [20 favorites]


What frustrates me about much of the coverage of NSA actions like these is how people seem to be more focused on "it's not right that they're spying on Americans when it's meant to be for foreigners!!" when spying on anyone like this is fucked up no matter who the target is.

You're not alone, but this is a massively entrenched agency with the most powerful and deep political connections it is possible to have, and it's unclear if even their routine flagrantly unconstitutional abuses are going to be enough to get them put on an appropriate leash - there are so many of history-ignorant politicians who support unlimited spying on the great unwashed masses (provided that doesn't include themselves of course).
Right now, a lot of people are focusing on the strongest levers available to them (eg law, rather than ideals) in the hopes of getting traction. It doesn't mean those laws are right or good, just that they're the tools available.
posted by anonymisc at 11:14 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Well, I hate to say this, but most countries have spy agencies.

this is side-stepping the issue that we're dealing with global mass surveillance imo
posted by p3on at 11:15 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim.

lol wtf
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:43 AM on July 9 [+] [!]


This is going to sound totally zany, but Brennan probably is a practicing Muslim. It bothers me that this is being intentionally kept secret as to avoid the inevitable political firestorm that would erupt. If true, it would be a historic appointment. Sadly, we aren't ready for history.
posted by Avenger at 11:19 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I would learn later about its impressive underground facilities and fusion centers.

Fusion centers?
posted by briank at 11:22 AM on July 9


Never mind, Googled it.
posted by briank at 11:23 AM on July 9


fusion centers
posted by p3on at 11:23 AM on July 9


When are Greenwald et al going to release the inevitable evidence of high level politicians and appointees being watched? I remember Snowden saying he could read Obama's emails if he wanted but I don't recall any actual proof thereof.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:23 AM on July 9


I wish the NSA spied on me because I'm muslim. They could go through all my communications, maybe offer some advice and words of encouragement like:

"dude, you always get thirsty about 2 hours before breaking your fast...maybe you shouldn't take those make-you-pee vitamins before the start of your fasts".

"Ramadan Mubarak-from the NSA."

"Don't forget to call and tell your parents...you know how salty they get when you forget to wish them a ramadan mubarak".

"Don't worry about your cousin who claims to not be fasting because of food poisoning. She's actually just a bit hungover. She'll be ok".

"You better start on your law opinion now if you want to get it done by Friday. Something big will be coming through the mail tomorrow. We know about it."

"Awesome that you're going on a date tonight. But she's kinda a racist, and you'll find out soon if you ask her about her feelings on states' rights".

"Happy birthday, from the 3rd shift"

"Your friends are talking about you behind your back. These bros ain't loyal."
posted by hal_c_on at 11:24 AM on July 9 [29 favorites]


full text of Avenger's link
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:27 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


When are Greenwald et al going to release the inevitable evidence of high level politicians and appointees being watched? I remember Snowden saying he could read Obama's emails if he wanted but I don't recall any actual proof thereof.

Apparently the emails were released to the Washington Post a few days ago. I haven't heard more than that. I guess the Post is working on the story? Or I may be confusing them with the emails involved in the 9-to-1 ratio story?
posted by anonymisc at 11:31 AM on July 9


This is going to sound totally zany, but Brennan probably is a practicing Muslim.

I doubt that was Brennan:
The man with the nicotine habit is in his late 50s, with stubble on his face and the dark-suited wardrobe of an undertaker. As chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center for the past six years, he has functioned in a funereal capacity for al-Qaeda.
That article is from 2012, so "Roger" had been in place since 2006. In 2006, Brennan was in private industry. And even when he came back to the government, it wasn't as chief of the Counterterrorism Center, it was as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. There would have been no reason to bring him into that position if he were already in a secret position at CIA with an established cover.
A native of suburban Virginia, Roger grew up in a family where several members, across two generations, have worked at the agency.
Brennan is a native of New Jersey whose parents were immigrants from Ireland, so his grandparents didn't work at the CIA.

Is it possible that it's him and it's an elaborate con? Sure. But it's not likely.
posted by Etrigan at 11:34 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah that's my confusion too, anonymisc.

As soon as there's documented proof that the NSA is spying on the President and/or Congress, that will be the functional end of the NSA as the bloated shitbag it currently is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:35 AM on July 9


Is it possible that it's him and it's an elaborate con? Sure. But it's not likely.
posted by Etrigan at 11:34 AM on July 9 [+] [!]


It says in the article that he has an elaborate cover story, so eh.

It shouldn't matter what his religion is, regardless. I'm actually angry that it's even an issue.
posted by Avenger at 11:38 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Is it possible that it's him and it's an elaborate con? Sure. But it's not likely.
posted by Etrigan at 11:34 AM on July 9 [+] [!]

It says in the article that he has an elaborate cover story, so eh.


"Former head of the National Counterterrorism Center (an agency separate from the CIA's Counterterrorism Center), former head of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and sitting Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism" is either not at all a cover story or an excessively elaborate one.
posted by Etrigan at 11:57 AM on July 9


Well, the general point holds. Apparently somebody well-placed (probably not Brennan, but still) in the CIA is a Muslim. Which is interesting and groundbreaking and not talked about because the American public wouldn't like it much.
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on July 9


"As soon as there's documented proof that the NSA is spying on the President and/or Congress, that will be the functional end of the NSA as the bloated shitbag it currently is."

Maybe. Maybe not.

Remember, it's hard enough for congress to agree on the names of post offices it wants to rename, let alone pass comprehensive intelligence reform.
posted by el io at 12:09 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Apparently there are three main types of Muslim: Sunni, Shia, and Secret.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:09 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


Apparently somebody well-placed (probably not Brennan, but still) in the CIA is a Muslim. Which is interesting and groundbreaking and not talked about because the American public wouldn't like it much.

You mean talked about other than in the Washington Post.
posted by Etrigan at 12:10 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


"Roger" is still the Counterterrorism Center director. Which means he is not Brennan.
posted by mulligan at 12:22 PM on July 9


In another thread anonymisc linked to an infuriating Slate article about how language has been tortured, sometimes to produce statements that aren't even technically correct to anyone outside the NSA context, when NSA officials speak. Anytime an intelligence official makes any kind of statement denying something, that article should be kept in mind.
posted by JHarris at 12:25 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


When you build an entire society and governance structure towards opposing something and that something goes away, it's easier to find another something than it is to restructure an entire society and governance system.

Islam fills the role that communism once did, an excuse to clamp down on disorder and dissent and justify insane arms spending. Except that communist nations were at least actually threatening and belligerent and nuclear armed instead of being, like, assholes in caves and well meaning Americans in Dearborn or something.
posted by absalom at 12:28 PM on July 9 [6 favorites]


In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Raghead.”

That's damning. Seriously, heads should roll over that.
posted by JHarris at 12:32 PM on July 9 [6 favorites]


In the same vein, don't forget that the NYPD designated entire mosques as terrorist organizations. The article already points to Spencer Ackerman's 2011 expose in Wired about ludicrously anti-Muslim training materials in the FBI. And, unlike the NSA, these organizations are actually mandated with surveilling American citizens.
posted by mhum at 12:42 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


an infuriating Slate article about how language has been tortured

I think you mean "about how language has been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques."
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:49 PM on July 9 [9 favorites]


What is with that hyphen in Muslim-American? They are unhyphenated Americans, like the rest of us. *ululates*
posted by idlewords at 12:52 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


What's even more chilling is that some of this information is likely shared with the 5/9/14 Eye countries, and also the super-special 15th Eye that enjoys "robust" access to unfiltered surveillance data on US citizens.

I don't expect a whole lot from my government, but protection from foreign intelligence agencies would be up there on the wish list.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:05 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


As soon as there's documented proof that the NSA is spying on the President and/or Congress, that will be the functional end of the NSA as the bloated shitbag it currently is.

Now who's being naive, Kay?
posted by entropicamericana at 1:08 PM on July 9


It's often said that fasting during Ramadan is one of the most important things that a Muslim can do, because when you say prayer, others usually see you; when you go on Hajj or give zakat, others are aware of that.

I think the NSA is trying to change this, because they might even know if/when you're fasting.

(shout out to everyone fasting today; we got this!! :))
posted by raihan_ at 1:27 PM on July 9


Okay, okay, yes. But as a counterpoint: have you all also considered that Glenn Greenwald is rude to people on the internet?

Glenn Greenwald has one single issue to talk about, and it is obviously a real scandal and we need to talk about this. But because Greenwald has this one issue, he paints everyone with his black brush or his white brush.

"Glenn, that's a good point, but the NSA and CIA do need to do at least some counter-terrorist surveillance--"

"BLACK BRUSH!"

"Glenn, I agree with that, but what about Richard Clarke's contention that CIA officers have been put in danger because of Snowden's leaks?"

"You're not in total agreement with me so BLACK BRUSH."

"Glenn, what about--"

"BLACK BRUSH!"

That's my problem with Glenn Greenwald.
posted by zardoz at 2:00 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Now who's being naive, Kay?

I'm not being naive in the slightest.

1) NSA is, unless I am entirely mistaken, an Executive-level agency. Meaning Obama could theoretically shut it down with the stroke of a pen. You think if he got proof, published in newspapers, that it was spying on him he'd be particularly happy about it? Heads will roll, and things will have to change.

2) Once a preponderance of Congress finds out they've been monitored too, they'll have a road-to-Damascus moment about invasion of privacy.

It's as true for politicians as for everyone else: once an issue actually affects you (and I have zero doubt that a majority of Congress has many skeletons--indeed, many barely-decomposed bodies--they don't wish unearthed), you start suddenly listening. Cf kids of Congressfolks magically getting deferments when the draft was still on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:02 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Department Of Justice Admits NSA 'Probably' Spying on Members of Congress

Bush-Era Whistleblower Claims NSA Ordered Wiretap of Barack Obama in 2004

They don't care.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:05 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the NSA were calling the shots right now. It would explain Obama's about-face.

If somebody has skeletons in their closet, and a person is threatening to expose those skeletons unless they heel, what usually happens?

Maybe that sounds tinfoil-y, but the NSA spying on everyone used to sound tinfoil-y, too.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:17 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "Once a preponderance of Congress finds out they've been monitored too, they'll have a road-to-Damascus moment about invasion of privacy."

The freshman congressman walked back into his new office. There were two men in dark suits waiting for him. Once of them pulled a thick folder out of his briefcase. It had the congressman's name on the tab and was loaded with typed pages and glossy photos. The other man shut the door while the first one said, "Have a seat, sir. Let's get right down to business..."
posted by double block and bleed at 3:53 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Cato Unbound: Check Your Privilege
I dwell on what Ben no doubt intended mostly as a rhetorical flourish because concerns about surveillance so frequently evoke blasé responses to the effect of: “Well, I’m sure they’re not interested in me, so I don’t really care; I have nothing to hide.” Privileged folks like Ben and I may well be right to think the laws, rules, and institutional priorities governing the intelligence community will protect us—a fortiori if we happen to be vocal advocates of that community—but the test of a just system is not how it treats the privileged. That doesn’t mean a privileged perspective is necessarily wrong, but it does mean we ought to be cautious about any inference from “this is not a problem I worry about” to “this is not a problem.”
NY Times: Spying Case Left Obama in Dark, U.S. Officials Say
WASHINGTON — When President Obama placed a call to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany last Thursday, he had a busy agenda: to consult with a close ally and to mobilize wavering Europeans to put more pressure on Russia to end its covert incursions in Ukraine.

What Mr. Obama did not know was that a day earlier, a young German intelligence operative had been arrested and had admitted that he had been passing secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency.

While Ms. Merkel chose not to raise the issue during the call, the fact that the president was kept in the dark about the blown spying operation at a particularly delicate moment in American relations with Germany has led frustrated White House officials to question who in the C.I.A.’s chain of command was aware of the case — and why that information did not make it to the Oval Office before the call.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:39 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


It's been a year and this is all we get ?
I mean, it's good work and the details are solid, but at less than 1% of the Snowden source material it's gonna take forever to get to the juicy and more important revelations.

In 2109 wel will learn Obama WAS indeed monitored big way since Chicago.
Too little, too late.
Back to Russell Tice, I say.
posted by Substrata at 4:46 PM on July 9


We are told NSA spies on all of us. Now we are told they spy on selected Muslims.
my view: they have targets to spy on and record rather than merely gathering metadata. We will learn about specific important figures singled out sometime, I believe, in Sept-Oct.
posted by Postroad at 5:17 PM on July 9


The Intercept:
The spreadsheet shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008.
The ODNI Tumblr:
These court orders are issued by an independent federal judge only if probable cause, based on specific facts, are established that the person is an agent of a foreign power, a terrorist, a spy, or someone who takes orders from a foreign power.
How many Americans were surveilled, and how many were tried on charges related to the FISA court order? Divide the latter by the former, and you have a metric for determining how probable the cause actually was.

The Intercept, again:
[FISA court] rulings are notoriously one-sided: In its 35-year history, the court has approved 35,434 government requests for surveillance, while rejecting only 12 ... According to the article Law enforcement officials familiar with the FISA process told The Intercept that the FISC’s high approval rate is the result of a thorough vetting process that weeds out weak applications before they reach the court.
If these surveillance requests are so rock solid, where are the tens of thousands of people convicted on espionage- and terror-related charges? I don't (solely) intend this as a rhetorical question. If you were to ask the NSA's Public and Media Affairs Office about the apparent discrepancy, what would be their response?
posted by compartment at 5:31 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


Did the Snowden list have any entries that received surveillance past a 2008 termination date? Did Greenwald say anything about this in the AMA?

I agree the FISA court needs to be brought under congressional oversight, and after a period of declassification their decisions should be made public. I also believe that the FISA system is probably one of the most stringent legal systems ever based on American law ever developed by congressional legislation.

Call your congress representative if you are really invested in providing more public oversight for the intelligence community.

Intelligence collection has been a fundamental part of American and world diplomacy for the past two centuries. And yes, sometimes we spy on American citizens who we know or turn out to be foreign intelligence agency/organization assets.

If you were to ask the NSA's Public and Media Affairs Office about the apparent discrepancy, what would be their response?

"Over the past 35 years we have surveilled x% of the people in the US legally, either American or foreign born. (A% were American and B% were persons of another nationality in the US legally). At some point we revealed to x-y% that we knew what they were doing, and that they should stop before we brought charges of terrorism against them. B-z% of the surveilled were deported, For x-z1% we brought up on other charges to neutralize the threat their activities posed to American society (some percentage of which were deported or sent to prison for crimes not related to national security). Whereas 0.000z2% we found to have committed no crime and subsequently ended surveillance activities against that individual."

Since some % of the 35,434 requests were also requests for renewing surveillance of individuals it seems that X% is such a small # compared to the overall populace as to seem insignificant.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 5:48 PM on July 9


I also believe that the FISA system is probably one of the most stringent legal systems ever based on American law

How would you know? It's a secret court. One that always seems to yes, and has no advocate for the victim. It's really a stretch to even call FISA a legal process in the American tradition.
posted by Nelson at 6:13 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


The tumblr post has so few notes. I feel sad. /empathy
posted by fatehunter at 6:21 PM on July 9


Since some % of the 35,434 requests were also requests for renewing surveillance of individuals it seems that X% is such a small # compared to the overall populace as to seem insignificant.

The problem is not just the absolute number of FISA surveillance requests, it is the number of FISA surveillance requests in relation to the number of people in the US who represent an actual threat to national security. You don't find a needle in a haystack by making the haystack bigger.

There is also the issue of who the NSA has chosen to surveil. The five people profiled in the article — who are apparently part of the 0.0002% "found to have committed no crime" — consist of a Muslim political operative and candidate for public office, a prominent Muslim attorney, two Muslim college professors, and the head of the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The problem is not that the NSA is reading a majority of Americans' email, it is that they appear to have selectively surveilled prominent and apparently innocent individuals from a specific minority group.
posted by compartment at 6:26 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Well, most Bronx public advocate criminal cases are "not controversial", so I don't see how this is not a legal process in the American Tradition. My contention was that the FISA court was developed in bipartisan congressional legislation as an answer to executive overreach. The legislation that built the court is not secret.

I also agree with your post that the system is broken as the ACLU advisor says. The goal of democratic government is to manage individual and national interest. Something FISA was built to protect. Now the process needs to be brought out into the open for review. Technology challenged intelligence collection and now tech is challenging the legal basis for enhanced collection. This is a cycle of democratic government. We are having the public conversation we should, but it does not mean we need to automatically demonize the legally bound decisions the US has adopted.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 6:30 PM on July 9


The problem is not that the NSA is reading a majority of Americans' email, it is that they appear to have selectively surveilled prominent and apparently innocent individuals from a specific minority group.

Yes. This is the fundamental problem. We are targeting US individuals from a specific minority group. This is against the first amendment at some level. However, Foreign intelligence is required to surveil hard targets. Meaning probable threats. I am not going to spy on the church of scientology in Montreal when I think the real terrorist threat comes from a madrassa in Kandahar (especially since Afghan girls are prettier than hipster Quebecois). Same applies in country. I am not going to have FISA look at a Mosque in Concord, CA, but I might look at the guy to my left with Top Secret Clearance working with, for and in concert with intelligence services abroad like ISI etc.The fact that the intelligence services went to the court to get a warrant to do this, says nothing about what they might do warrantless. FISA is not the problem Oversight is.

Also, "apparently innocent". I would say very innocent. They have not been convicted of crimes. Their records are clean. Surveillance stopped in 08' and they still live freely in the US. They also never have to admit to any wrong doing.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 6:44 PM on July 9


We are having the public conversation we should, but it does not mean we need to automatically demonize the legally bound decisions the US has adopted.

But you could demonize them in the context of historical precedent, and have a fairly solid case.

Why is it that carefully monitored "terrorists" are never, ever white conservative Christians, despite said white conservative Christians having been by-and-large the largest ongoing source of terror to citizens of this country?
posted by maxwelton at 11:55 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


"BLACK BRUSH!"
That's my problem with Glenn Greenwald.


The age he lives in is one that demands strong response to tremendous abuses. There are so few people taking Greenwald's stance that yes, I will accord him all the extreme positions he wants, it doesn't nearly make up for the deafening silence from most other sources. It takes people like Greenwald to get the results that are needed.

Maybe that sounds tinfoil-y, but the NSA spying on everyone used to sound tinfoil-y, too.

It was tinfoil-y, once upon a time, to think that J. Edgar Hoover had dirt on everyone.

It's been a year and this is all we get ?

...THAT'S ALL WE GET?! Wow. You must be looking for Superman.

Vote for me and I will replace them with a big building full of sternly nodding Peter Graves clones

And they all went to school at the University of Minnesota! (Sorry, we didn't do a MST3K FanFare last week, I needed an outlet for it.)

We are having the public conversation we should, but it does not mean we need to automatically demonize the legally bound decisions the US has adopted.

How on earth can you be so damn handwavy about it, effectively saying "Well it's legal it must be valid," especially how what little we fucking DO know is simultaneously chilling and illegally leaked?! You show a touching and childlike faith in our political processes that would be adorable if it weren't so wrongheaded. The group was entirely appointed by one man, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with no Congressional or Executive oversight, and currently consists entirely of members who are politically Republican. For a group with so much power, that is chillingly anti-democratic.
posted by JHarris at 12:05 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


(Well, okay, maybe I was a little harsh. Still though.)
posted by JHarris at 12:32 AM on July 10


We are having the public conversation we should

Respectfully, no we're not. The only reason we're having any public conversation at all is because a man took an enormous personal risk and leaked a whole lot of secret documents. An action that various people are calling for him to be imprisoned, tortured, or killed for. He's still in exile in Russia, btw, and is currently trying to get his visa renewed.

When the Director of National Intelligence was called to explain to Congress what it is doing, he straight up lied under oath about the extent of surveillance. He only got caught because Snowden had the documentation.

So let's recap. The executive branch has a secret spy program that clearly has issues of constitutionality. The executive branch then lies to the legislative branch about the extent of that program. And the paper-thin judicial oversight FISA provides is a secret court with a non-adversarial process. NSA, and to some extent FBI and CIA regularly abuse the state secrets privilege to ensure there is no constitutional review of their actions. This is not American democracy.

I'm OK with the argument that the Fourth Amendment needs exceptions for state security. Limited exceptions, with careful review out of respect for the danger to democracy that an unchecked spy agency creates. That is not what the NSA is doing. They are spying on literally everyone with electronic communications. The only reason we're having a public conversation at all about it is a bunch of document leaks.
posted by Nelson at 8:28 AM on July 10 [10 favorites]


(especially since Afghan girls are prettier than hipster Quebecois)

I have no idea why you included this but it's disgusting and sexist. The rest of the comment was too good to flag, but seriously, that was gross.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:00 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


To be fair, I think that comment was hypothesizing the disgusting sexism of NSA analysts. Fair enough.

Another pne of the things we've learned from the Snowden revelations, the LOVEINT scandal. Where NSA analysts turned the state surveillance apparatus on to their ex-girlfriends and the like. NSA came clean about 12 cases and pinky-swears that no one else ever does this kind of thing and we can trust them.
posted by Nelson at 10:09 AM on July 10


Idk, it jammed up my eyes too for a sec. It's kinda similar to the "saying a shitty thing a shitty person would say Ironically to make a point" where it's gotta be done very well to not just come off as saying something shitty, and even when it works you're still repeating the shitty thing. Even if it's to "make a point".
posted by emptythought at 4:41 PM on July 10


Snowden: NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos
"These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions," Snowden says.

posted by Nelson at 6:04 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers
posted by jeffburdges at 5:45 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Hee hee, I like the graphic in the pie chart that they used to represent non-terrorist-affiliated watchlist people. A nice bit of levity amidst discussion of a seriously depressing topic.
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on August 6


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