Judge Refuses to Dismiss NSA Spy Program Lawsuit. Judge Walker has denied the motion by the government to dismiss the EFF's suit based on the state secrets doctrine. Read the order [pdf] and more coverage and analysis at SCOTUSblog.
Gov't Break a Law? Change It The White House is nearing an agreement with Congress on legislation that would write President Bush's warrantless surveillance program into law, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday.
Personality, Ideology and Bush's Terror Wars [...]Just as disturbing as Al Qaeda's plans and capabilities are the descriptions of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and its willful determination to go to war against Iraq. That war, according to the author's sources who attended National Security Council briefings in 2002, was primarily waged "to make an example" of Saddam Hussein, to "create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."[...]
Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites From the fine folks that brought you the
Total Terrorism Information Awareness program, another wickedly-named branch of the NSA, the Disruptive Technologies Office (formerly ARDA), is funding research into the usefulness of the Semantic Web for combing through and profiling the 80 million members of MySpace.
Newsfilter. Surveillenve of everything you do online: "It was clear that they would go beyond kiddie porn and terrorism and use it for general law enforcement." Offline: "I'm John Doe, and if I had told you before today that the F.B.I. was requesting library records, I could have gone to jail." Previously, here. On your phone? We've already discussed that, too.
Wired News has obtained a copy of a file detailing AT&T's involvement with the NSA that was sealed in the EFF's class-action lawsuit against AT&T. At 2AM EST this morning they have published that file on their site for anyone to download (this is the fixed link, the one on Wired is currently broken).[via]
Wired article about the hardware/technology the NSA is allegedly using at AT&T's San Franscisco switching office to eavesdrop on our internet communications. The Electronic Freedom Foundation is suing AT&T over it. The administration doesn't want that to happen. Previous MeFi|Related ACLU case
Cheney Pushed U.S. to Widen Eavesdropping In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.
NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls. "The NSA's domestic program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the sources. Right around that time, they said, NSA representatives approached the nation's biggest telecommunications companies. The agency made an urgent pitch: National security is at risk, and we need your help to protect the country from attacks"
Bush administration signals intent to invoke the obscure state secrets privilege in order to stop the EFF lawsuit against AT&T, (previously discussed here) for providing the NSA direct access all 312 terabytes of its customers' telephone and internet traffic since 2001, (including those Good Vibrations charges you racked up). In a nutshell, according to legal experts, invoking the privilege kills the judicial process dead: the courthouse doors are closed, and there's nothing but grownup stuff to see here; move along, kids.
EFF Accuses AT&T of diverting internet traffic to NSA. "More than just threatening individuals' privacy, AT&T's apparent choice to give the government secret, direct access to millions of ordinary Americans' Internet communications is a threat to the Constitution itself. We are asking the Court to put a stop to it now." More details from the EFF.
"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."
NSA continues TIA (Total Information Awareness) program under different name "Total Information Awareness Lives On", a Democracy Now follow up on a 2/23 story from the National Journal. This was reported earlier in the Christian Science Monitor US Plans Massive Data Sweep Another Newsweek story, Wanted: Competent Big Brothers talks about TIA activities continuing under a program called TOPSAIL.
Was Gonzales truthful? Shortly after the warrantless eavesdropping program began, then-NSA Director Michael V. Hayden and Ashcroft made clear in private meetings that the president wanted to detect possible terrorist activity before another attack. They also made clear that, in such a broad hunt for suspicious patterns and activities, the government could never meet the FISA court's probable-cause requirement, government officials said. So it confused the FISA court judges when, in their recent public defense of the program, Hayden and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales insisted that NSA analysts do not listen to calls unless they have a reasonable belief that someone with a known link to terrorism is on one end of the call. At a hearing Monday, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the "reasonable belief" standard is merely the "probable cause" standard by another name.
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.
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald says emails relevant to the Valerie Plame leak investigation have gone missing from the White House. "In an adundance of caution," Fitzgerald wrote [PDF] to "Scooter" Libby's lawyers on January 23, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." Might this help explain why Alberto Gonzales -- now the Attorney General, and lately so busy mustering arguments to assert that Bush's NSA domestic-spying program is "legal" -- waited 12 hours before instructing White House staff to preserve documents relevant to the leak investigation after telling Andrew Card about it? Shades of the late, great yoga instructor, Rose Mary Woods. [More on Plame here.]
Spies, Lies and Wiretaps Instead of the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the warrantless spying on Americans, we've received only the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation and a couple of big, dangerous lies...
this is an editorial pointing out the lies given the American public about spying. In addtion some 15 legal scholars here conclude that the Bush "initiative" is clearly illegal and violates the American constitution. Declaring "war powers" simply will not do!
NSA,FISA, and Privacy It is of course the president who finally approves of actions that may or may not be deemed legal but before 9/11, this is what he had been advised to consider "The largest U.S. spy agency warned the incoming Bush administration in its "Transition 2001" report that the Information Age required rethinking the policies and authorities that kept the National Security Agency in compliance with the Constitution's 4th Amendment prohibition on "unreasonable searches and seizures" without warrant and "probable cause," according to an updated briefing book of declassified NSA documents posted today on the World Wide Web. If this is the sort of reading you enjoy, then by all means dig about here: But then Windows allowed NSA to have a sure access to your machine . And by now we all know that Google will fight the government on making its search data base available in order to protect your privacy.(Reality: to protect Google stuff). And if you worry about search engines tracking you and making data available, then here is a workaround
Bush authorized domestic spying before 9/11. What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information. But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.
The (Broken) Triangle: Progressive Bloggers in the Wilderness. The Huffington Post's Peter Daou, whose dour forecast of how Bush and lazy media would spin away the NSA scandal proved prescient, on why "netroots activists" can't get traction: "It's slow-motion-car-wreck painful, and most certainly NOT where the left's triangle should be a half decade into the new millennium, as the Bush-propping machine hums and whirrs, poll numbers rise and fall, Iraq bleeds, scandal dissolves into scandal, terror speech blends into terror speech. The landscape is there for everyone to see, to analyze. Enough time has elapsed to make the system transparent. It is dismaying for netroots activists to see the same mistakes repeated..."
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"?
Find out if the NSA's been keeping up on you. File a request with the National Security Agency to see your file. If, you know, you have one, of course.
The Agency That Could Be Big Brother [when this guy talks about NSA, he is authoritative] "DEEP in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country's largest eavesdropping bug. Located in a "radio quiet" zone, the station's large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour"...
CryptoKids Hey Kids! Want to learn about how to spy on your friends? Do you like to snitch on your siblings? Here's a fun site for you where the U.S. Government can start to let you know about the fun world of cryptography and violating the Fourth Amendment rights of your fellow citizens. For you parents, check out the NSA's Responsible Citizen page! Note the funny ellipses after the references to the Fourth Amendment and Government Oversight. Your tax dollars at work.
The New York Times (reg required) is reporting that the National Security Agency has eavesdropped on far more domestic telecommunications at the directive of President Bush than has been previously admitted. "The N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications... N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation."
Federal surveillance of over a hundred homes, businesses, mosques, warehouses and other sites has been conducted without warrants, according to a new USNews report. Indications are that the persons so targeted were US citizens. "In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts."
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?
Listening In and Naming Names "...The press tends to shy away from covering America's largest and most secretive intelligence agency, fearing precisely the kind of scolding President Bush delivered to the New York Times. But the truth is that the NSA—which has an estimated $6 billion annual budget bigger than those of the CIA and the FBI combined—has a decidedly checkered history when it comes to playing by the rules." And yet, NSA abuse seems not limited to Bush. Now, possib ly, Carter and Clinton also used NSA for spying on civilians. That said, NSA seems also to have been used for non-miltary spying, to help selected American firms compete against rival companies elsewhere. What is curious about this agency is that it is the single biggest intelligence organization in our country and yet so few people know what they do, where they are, what they had been legally allowed to do. If, as we are told, tapping phones is necessary in our fight against terror, why then doesn't the FBI do this? If any mobster worth his blackjack knows not to use phones because they are potentially tapped, why are we told that NSA doesn't want terrorists alerted to our tapping their phones and therefore there ought not to be any discussion of this "strategy."? In sum, my suspicion is that a lot more is going on than we have thus far been told, and that in fact email and the internet are more involved in what is taking place than is phone tapping.
"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?
Echelon This is what we know--or do not know--about NSA prgram called Echelon, from 60 Minute show (TV) in 2000. If we assume this what had been going on and there were some sort of restraints for internal spying, then what is going on now? This evening I had heard on radio that the White House claimed that only calls going in and out of the country might be monitored. But this early interview suggests that such calls were monitored previous to the "new" approach. Why were legal restraints put in place calling for judicial hearings? Because of spying abuse done under Nixon. Those restraints are now removed.
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)
NSA gets patent on locating the physical location of web surfers "There are still many advantages to knowing the physical location of a party one is dealing with across electronically switched networks. For example, in the realm of advertising, knowing the geographic distribution of sales or inquires can be used to measure the effectiveness of advertising across geographic regions." Advertising, mmm hmmm.
The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail In the spring of 1919, when the father of American cryptography, Herbert O. Yardley, drew up a plan for a permanent State Department codebreaking organization — a "black chamber — he estimated that a modest $100,000 a year would buy a chief (Yardley) and fifty clerks and cryptanalysts. Yardley rented a three-story building in New York City: on East 38th Street just off Fifth Avenue, he put two dozen people to work under civilian cover—as the Code Compiling Company. His summary dismissal happened in 1929 at the hand of incoming Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who closed down the Cipher Bureau with the casual observation that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail". The son of a railroad telegrapher, a man with a lively Jazz Age interest in money, good-looking women, and drinks at five, Yardley not only taught his country how to read other people's mail but wrote two of the enduring American books—the memoir The American Black Chamber (1931), and The Education of a Poker Player (1957).
The New Hows and Whys of Global Eavesdropping [book review: for access: "legion" "legion"] Remember chatter? After 9/11, it was all over the news. For months, snatches of cellphone conversations in Karachi or Tora Bora routinely made the front page. Television newscasters could chill the blood instantly by reporting on "increased levels of chatter" somewhere in the ether. But what exactly was it? Who was picking it up, and how were they making sense of it? Patrick Radden Keefe does his best to answer these questions and demystify a very mysterious subject in "Chatter," a beginner's guide to the world of electronic espionage and the work of the National Security Agency, responsible for communications security and signals intelligence, or "sigint." In a series of semiautonomous chapters, he describes Echelon, the vast electronic intelligence-gathering system operated by the United States and its English-speaking allies; surveys the current technology of global eavesdropping; and tries to sort out the vexed issue of privacy rights versus security demands in a world at war with terrorism.
George Washington University's National Security Archive carries a collection of declassified US documents and articles on Saddam Hussein; Mexico, Cuba and other Latin American countries; Nixon's meeting with Elvis; the CIA and Nazi war criminals; etc.
After all the hoopla about increasing security, it seems that the requirement for biometric data to be included in passports of those entering the US from visa waiver countries will need to be extended for two years to allow other countries to catch up with the technology, as it seems most countries are unable to meet the deadline. Some countries have put on hold the new technology, while others seem committed to going ahead with it, despite doubts about the readiness of the technology. Of course, if civil liberties groups get their way, the biometric passports may never see the light of day. Specific religious issues complicate the matter to some extent, also. Given that, if the technology to produce biometric passports is available, will it really be that hard for forged passports to be created? Unless a massive world-wide database containing the biometric details of every person was used for data-matching, it is hard to see how these new measures will really make much difference to anyone apart from the companies selling the technology.
Interviewing with an Intelligence Agency (or, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Fort Meade) is a really fascinating read of one fellows experience while attempting to pass a security clearance for employment with the National Security Agency. Ironically enough I have to wonder if perhaps you need to be just a little bit crazy to do it. But of course crazy in a NSA/DOD friendly way, as opposed to standing on a table clucking like a chicken...
D.H.S. - The Series. "... a multimillion-dollar episodic series, will explore the inner workings of the Department of Homeland Security, teaming the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and National Security Administration (NSA) together with "first responders" such as local police, fire and safety administrators." The series is being pitched to prospective networks today and has the full support of President Bush and Tom Ridge. "They love it. They think it is fantastic," say the series' producers at Steeple Productions, located in the Seventh-Day Adventist Community of Zillah, Washington. Not familiar with Steeple Productions? Well, perhaps you might find their four-episode "Creation Vs Evolution" series enlightening.
Need more hits? Try adding some of these 'spook words' to your meta tags if you'd like more traffic from your friends at the NSA. first link via Reality Carnival
"Newly declassified US intelligence documents say Pakistan helped Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda group to start its operations in Afghanistan in the 1990s and even secretly ran a major terrorist training camp." The declassified documents were obtained and posted as "The Taliban File" by the National Security Archive, and describe the closeness of al Qaeda and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) before the later lost control. [Via the Agonist and Juan Cole.] [More inside.]
On June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34 American citizens. Was it a tragic error or was it coldblooded attack on an ally?
The National Security Agency has recently released redacted transcripts and recordings of intercepted Israeli communications just after the attack. Fascinating reading, but will it clear up the controversy?
The National Security Agency has recently released redacted transcripts and recordings of intercepted Israeli communications just after the attack. Fascinating reading, but will it clear up the controversy?
Intelligence expert does new kind of spin (as in the 180 degree kind). Intelligence expert (and former National Security Advisor) Kenneth Pollack appeared on NPR [scroll to 3rd entry for full audio] to retract statements that he made on the same show in November. Pollack seems to be the first major wonk to call change his mind not on a single, tangible intelligence claim, but on the broader rationale for war in Iraq, and on the reliability of American intelligence in general.
Pentagon Plans a Computer System That Would Peek at Personal Data of Americans And this is justified because of National Security. We will lose much that is personal, private, but in turn we will be protefted against the bad guys. Or will we? When NASA and CIA claim they need to spy domestically, and computers gather all data on Americans, what is left that is not what Orwell had suggested might our future be like?Or, as Morth Sahl once labelled a comic record: TheFuture Lies Ahead."