The Justice Department, after a legal battle with the ACLU to avoid having to admit it, recently released documents showing that the federal government’s use of warrantless “pen register” and “tap and trace” surveillance has multiplied over the past decade. But the Justice Department is small potatoes. Every day, the NSA intercepts and stores 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, texts, and other electronic communications. [more inside]
"If the government is able to learn what we speak about, and know who we're talking to, and know what it is that we're planning, it makes any kind of activism extremely difficult, because secrecy and privacy are prerequisites to effective activism. "Glenn Greenwald on challenging the surveillance state: (1 - 2 - 3 - 4).
... and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has supposedly started holding closed door meetings on extending the FISA Amendment Act to again extend the NSA's domestic warrantless wiretapping program. [more inside]
NSA E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress. "Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation." [Via]
The Fed Who Blew the Whistle: Is he a hero or a criminal? Three years after the New York Times first revealed the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, whistleblower Thomas Tamm has acknowledged his role in making it public. [Via]
Two years ago, then NSA-chief Gen. Michael Hayden said its domestic surveillance program was "not a driftnet over Lackawanna or Fremont or Dearborn, grabbing all communications and then sifting them out." Today, a story in the Wall Street Journal alleges this is precisely what is happening. Total Information Awareness seems to not have died, but to have just been quietly absorbed into the NSA's already extensive surveillance apparatus, all without the hassle of any kind of transparency or oversight.
"The Billboard Liberation Front today announced a major new advertising improvement campaign executed on behalf of clients AT&T and the National Security Agency. Focusing on billboards in the San Francisco area, this improvement action is designed to promote and celebrate the innovative collaboration of these two global communications giants." [Via Threat Level.]
In 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for cooperating with an NSA wiretapping program that created a "black room" in their San Fransisco office, which operated hardware that captured the entire stream of data travelling through AT&T's system (allegedly 2.5 gigabits of data/second). The details of this arrangement were revealed by Mark Klein, a 22-year employee with AT&T who stumbled across documents detailing the program in 2004. The lawsuit, which alleges that AT&T illegally cooperated with the NSA's domestic spying program, is facing a major hurdle in the Senate right now as Senators have reached a tentative agreement to give the company legal immunity from actions relating to their cooperation. This story previously on MeFi. [more inside]
What's the Big Secret? Four surveillance experts try to figure out what the NSA's superclassified wiretapping program really is (hint: it may have something to do with the filters). They don't seem to realize that this kind of reckless public discussion means some Americans are going to die. [Via Threat Level.]
Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check. The passage of the new FISA bill was a hurried response to the revelation that the FISA court recently decided that at least part of the NSA wiretapping program is illegal. It looks to be another step in our gradual transition into a National Surveillance State.
You had to live -- did live, from the habit that became instinct and the assumption that every sound you made was overheard.
For Your Eyes Only? Allegations that the government is reading your e-mails, with the help of AT&T. The latest episode of NOW did a good piece on the NSA's domestic surveillance program (previously discussed here.) It can be viewed on their website. Meanwhile, Canadian human rights attorney Maureen Webb has written a new book on the scope of government surveillance, and found that the use of sophisticated methods to search for terrorists is not identifying the right suspects.
"Don't worry Mr. President, we have Kansas surrounded." Warrantless searches: they're not just for wiretaps anymore. U.S. News and World Report probes the Bush administration's covert drive to conduct physical searches of American homes without court approval.
"Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans." Invoking "high crimes and misdemeanors," Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold introduces a motion to censure [PDF link] President Bush for his controversial, legally dubious NSA wiretapping program. Feingold declares: "The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law." Republican leader Frist retorts: "It's a crazy political move" that sends a "terrible" signal to Iran. Democratic bloggers say: Call your senator. [More legal fallout from the NSA program recently discussed here.]
Newsfilter: Secret arrests, secret renditions, secret interrogations in secret jails, and now, secret rulings from US federal judges. More fallout from the Bush administration's NSA domestic-spying program [recently discussed here].
'The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House," said Jay Rockefeller, vice-president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after the committee quashed a broad inquiry into the legality of the NSA spying on Americans -- despite an increasing number of legal scholars coming forward and declaring that the program is "blatantly illegal," in the words of Yale Law School dean Harold Koh. Meanwhile, the GOP proposes giving spying on Americans the "force of law" while subjecting it to "rigorous oversight."
Evidence of a slippery slope continued: Newsweek reports that White House counsel Steve Bradbury believes President Bush can order killings on US soil as part of the Terrorist-Surveillance ProgramTM. Meanwhile, while Attorney General Gonzales "lashes out" at the media and insists that the TSPTM is "not a dragnet that sucks in all conversation and uses computer searches to pick out calls of interest," the Washington Post reports it's precisely that -- "computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears" -- and has led to very few leads. (See also discussion of Arlen Specter and the legality of the TSPTM here.)
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance program appears to be illegal. Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Specter called the administration's legal reasoning "strained and unrealistic" and said the program appears to be "in flat violation" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Watch what you say. Russell Tice, the NSA whistleblower who was the source for the NYT, has alleged that the the technology exists to track and sort through every domestic and international phone call as they are switched through centers, such as one in New York, and to search for key words or phrases that a terrorist might use. "If you picked the word 'jihad' out of a conversation," Tice said, "the technology exists that you focus in on that conversation, and you pull it out of the system for processing." What else are they listening for?
National Security Agency What is it that NSA does? What are or were its legal parameters and its history? This is a quick "NSA 101" course that might be helpful as stories continue to emerge about the agency. Oddly, as large as this organization is, it has been very much in the background, and only recently when some whistleblowers spoke up, has this agency gained a good deal of public attention. Some of you may recall the fuss raised about some spy agency named Echelon and wonder how this group is or is not connected to NSA. And soon at least one whistle blower will testify before congress, though the White House seems to have convinced some 50% of Americans that the president can do whatever he wants in time of war, ignoring legal constraints upon intel branches. And that raises the question (for me): if NSA can skirt the courts to "fight terror," then what of the FBI, also once requied to have court approval for phone taps. Are they too now free to do as they want in this "fight against terror"?
Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner imagines a world in which US citizens are constantly under electronic surveillance.... and is totally okay with it. Once you accept Posner's premise that "machine collection and processing of data cannot, as such, invade privacy," how far are we from cameras and microphones in private homes. After all, there is no privacy invasion so long as it is only a computer flagging "suspicious" activity, right?
"I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story..." President Bush really did not want journalists to reveal his NSA spying program against Americans [discussed here.] And in yesterday's rare press conference, the President said: "An open debate about law would say to the enemy, 'Here's what we're going to do.' And this is an enemy which adjusts... Any public hearings on programs will say to the enemy, 'Here's what they do. Adjust.' This is a war." Neocon guru William Kristol argues that talk of Bush being an "imperial" president" is "demagogic" and "irresponsible" since "Congress has the right and the ability to judge whether President Bush has in fact used his executive discretion soundly." What is the role of "open debate" in a war against terror that may last for decades?
Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States ... is based on classified legal opinions...
"The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny." What's the article about? The NSA, and you, if you've ever called internationally or sent email overseas: ...the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, ... (very long, NYT--and the NSA's mission is to spy only on communications abroad)
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