Apr 26

Telecom firm fails in first known FISA court surveillance challenge (Al Jazeera, April 25, 2014):

For the first known time since the U.S. government began collecting data about Americans’ phone calls in bulk after the 9/11 attacks, a telecommunications company has questioned those surveillance activities in court, according to a judge’s opinion unsealed on Friday.

That company, whose name was redacted from the opinion, did not directly challenge the government’s right to make companies turn over “telephony metadata” — information about the phone numbers customers dial and the time, data and duration of such calls.

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Nov 20

The NSA’s metadata trawl was approved by a judge who felt the agency was asking for ‘exceptionally broad’ permission to tap into electronic communications. Photograph: Oliver Berg/dpa/Corbis

Fisa court order that allowed NSA surveillance is revealed for first time (Guardian, Nov 19, 2013):

Fisa court judge who authorised massive tapping of metadata was hesitant but felt she could not stand in the way

A secret court order that authorised a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans’ email and internet data was published for the first time on Monday night, among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge’s concern that the NSA “continuously” and “systematically” violated the limits placed on the program.

The order by the Fisa court, almost certainly its first ruling on the controversial program and published only in heavily redacted form, shows that it granted permisson for the trawl in part beacause of the type of devices used for the surveillance. Even the judge approving the spying called it a “novel use” of government authorities.

Another later court order found that what it called “systemic overcollection” had taken place.

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Sep 26

US intelligence chiefs lobby to prevent Congress curbing surveillance powers (Guardian, Sep 26, 2013):

NSA director and director of national intelligence to appear before Senate committee a day after senators propose reform bill

Two US intelligence chiefs will begin a public lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as they try to dissuade Congress from dismantling any part of the vast surveillance apparatus constructed in the aftermath of September 11 terrorist attacks.

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Sep 26

Senate bill would eliminate mass collection of phone records, reform FISA court (RT, Sep 25, 2013):

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has introduced legislation that, if approved, would attempt to strengthen civil liberties and curb the power of the secret FISA courts that approved widespread foreign and domestic NSA surveillance policies.

The bill, dubbed the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, bundles a number of ideas proposed in roughly 12 other bills drafted in the wake of the leaks by NSA contractor-turned  whistleblower Edward Snowden, which first began in June.

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Sep 19

Phone companies remain silent over legality of NSA data collection (Guardian, Sep 18, 2013):

Leading phone firms refuse to say why they have not challenged Fisa court orders that compel them to hand over customers’ data

America’s top telecommunications companies are refusing to say whether they accept that the bulk collection of their customers’ phone records by the National Security Agency is lawful.

The phone companies are continuing to guard their silence over the controversial gathering of metadata by the NSA, despite the increasingly open approach by those at the center of the bulk surveillance programme. On Tuesday the secretive foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court declassified its legal reasoning for approving the NSA telephone metadata program periodically over the past six years.

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Aug 21

The NSA: ‘The Abyss from Which There Is No Return’ (The Rutherford Institute, Aug 19, 2013):

“The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”
—Senator Frank Church (1975)

We now find ourselves operating in a strange paradigm where the government not only views the citizenry as suspects but treats them as suspects, as well. Thus, the news that the National Security Agency (NSA) is routinely operating outside of the law and overstepping its legal authority by carrying out surveillance on American citizens is not really much of a surprise. This is what happens when you give the government broad powers and allow government agencies to routinely sidestep the Constitution.

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Aug 05


YouTube

August 04, 2013 C-SPAN

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Aug 04

Battle Royale on Piers Morgan: Glenn Greenwald, James Risen and Jeffrey Toobin (Liberty Blitzkrieg, Aug 3, 2013):

“That’s the thing I don’t understand about the climate in Washington these days. People want to have debates on television and elsewhere, but then you want to throw the people that start the debates in jail.”
– James Risen, New York Times Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist (he now faces jail time)

The above quote occurred during an excellent discussion between Glenn Greenwald, James Risen and Jeffrey Toobin on Piers Morgan’s show. While pretty much everyone on planet earth knows who Glenn Greenwald is at this point, most people do not know who James Risen is. This is a situation that must change. Mr. Risen is at the center of another very important case that threatens the future of freedom of the press in these United States.

In his book State of War, James Risen published information leaked to him by former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is currently being charged under the Espionage Act by President Transparency, Barrack Obama. While a lower court had previously ruled Mr. Risen should be afforded reporter privilege to not testify against Mr. Sterling, a federal appeals court last month saw it differently in a 2-1 decision.

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Jul 16

Secrets exposed: How the NSA rubber-stamps warrantless spying (PressTV, July 15, 2013):

If we are to regard ourselves as a grown-up nation-and anything else will henceforth be mortally dangerous-then we must, as the Biblical phrase goes, put away childish things; and among these… the first to go, in my opinion, should be… the search for absolute security…

-George Kennan, The Sources of Soviet Conduct, in Foreign Affairs (1947.)

Now we know what they so badly wanted to tell us but couldn’t and what a revelation it is. I refer to the exciting and long-awaited news reported in the Wall Street Journal as to what it was that Senators Mark Udall and Tom Wyden have been dying to tell the American public about the operations of the NSA but were unable to disclose because the information was of such a top-secret nature.

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Jul 08

–  Meet the Secret Supreme Court of the United States (Liberty Blitzkrieg, July 7, 2013):

This program, by the way, is fully overseen not just by Congress, but by the FISA Court — a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them, and that it’s being carried out consistent with the Constitution and rule of law.

– President Barack Obama on June 7, 2013 (transcript here)

Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public. A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court. In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.

– From the July 6, 2013 New York Times article: In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.

One of the most incredible things that has occurred in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks has been President Barack Obama’s laughable attempt to justify the spying by claiming the process has judicial oversight, as he did in the quote above. What he fails to mention of course is the fact that the FISA court that signs off on all these activities is a secret court, the opinions of which are never made public. Does he think the American public is so brain-dead it is incapable of recognizing the difference between a regular court of law and a secret one? Apparently he does.  For those of you that have yet to get up to speed on America’s “parallel Supreme Court,” which also disturbingly happens to constructs its own laws, please read the article below from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

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Jul 07

H/t reader M.G.:

“Just found this article on today’s NY Times: Secret court of 11 judges staffed by John Roberts was established to rubber stamp government spying on US Citizens. It was established some years ago, and all the judges are Republicans. This court only hears the government’s side, never the others.
Absolutely terrifying! This is part of the info Snowden was exposing, explaining in part why this government is so upset. It suspends much of the 4th amendment to battle “terrorism”.”


In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A. (The New York Times, July 7, 2013):

WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.

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Jun 20

Revealed: the top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant (Guardian, June 20, 2013):

Fisa court submissions show broad scope of procedures governing NSA’s surveillance of Americans’ communication

Document one: procedures used by NSA to target non-US persons
Document two: procedures used by NSA to minimise data collected from US persons


The documents show that discretion as to who is actually targeted lies directly with the NSA’s analysts. Photograph: Martin Rogers/Workbook Stock/Getty

Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.

The Guardian is publishing in full two documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and stamped 29 July 2009. They detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.

The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used.

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Jun 16

NSA Admits To Warrantless Wiretapping According To House Judiciary Committee Member (ZeroHedge, June 16, 2013):

More confusion, or just more lies? You decide.In an exchange first caught by CNET, Rep Gerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller late last week about the NSA surveillance programs.

Nadler asked Mueller if a warrant is needed to listen to the content of a domestic phone call. Mueller said a national security letter is needed to get subscriber info and a FISA warrant is needed to get content. Nadler said he was told the exact opposite.

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Jun 09

CISPA Will Legalize PRISM Spy Program (Activist Post, June 8, 2013):

Give them an inch and they will take a mile. That is how power-hungry tyrants interpret any law.

The PATRIOT Act and the FISA court led to the blanket wiretapping of every American citizen and a PRISM lens into all Internet activity for the NSA.

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Jan 10

Cloud surfing: US surveilance act ‘grave threat’ to EU sovereignty (RT, Jan 9, 2013):

An intelligence bill has put the frighteners on EU citizens as it allows the US access to their personal data stored in internet clouds like those used on Facebook and Google. The law is a ‘grave risk’ to the rights of EU citizens, says an EU report.

­The amendments to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Monday.

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Sep 20

Supreme Court to rule on legality of wiretapping through FISA (RT, Sep 19, 2012):

The fight to stop the government’s sweeping surveillance of emails and phone calls will go all the way to the Supreme Court. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the warrantless wiretapping provisions included under the FISA Amendment Acts.

The US House of Representative voted last week to reauthorize the 2008 amendments added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, that allow for blanketing surveillance and eavesdropping of any communication suspected to be sent outside of the United States. Under the FISA Amendment Act (FAA), the government is granted the power to peer into the inboxes of any American and listen in on long-distance calls without ever requiring a judge’s approval. Pending approval from the Senate, the FAA will be renewed this year and be left on the books for another five years. The American Civil Liberties Union is adamantly opposed, however, and has asked the highest court in America to intervene.

On Monday, attorneys with the ACLU filed a brief (.pdf) with the Supreme Court challenging FISA and the FAA in hopes of keeping the feds from further snooping on message assumed to be private but made open to the National Security Agency with little oversight into their endeavors. The claim was filed on behalf of plaintiffs composed of human rights activists, attorneys, journalists and others opposed to the act “whose work requires them to engage in sensitive and sometimes privileged telephone and e-mail communications with people located outside the U.S,” the ACLU explains.

“Under the FAA, the government can target anyone — human rights researchers, academics, attorneys, political activists, journalists — simply because they are foreigners outside the United States, and in the course of its surveillance it can collect Americans’ communications with those individuals,” the ACLU writes in the brief.

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