New Book Details the NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program, As Government Moves to Avoid All Accountability in Court
posted by Keito
2012-09-30 12:39:23'Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s new book, published last week, provides yet more details about how the the NSA’s unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping program came about, and confirms that even top Bush Administration lawyers felt there was a “strong argument” that the program violated the law. “Officials might be slammed for violating the Fourth Amendment as a result of having listened in on calls to people inside the country and collecting so much personal data," Eichenwald wrote, and “in the future, others may question the legality” of their actions.
Yet even today, eleven years later, the government continues to claim that no court can judge the program's legality. In the next month, the government will argue—in EFF's case in federal district court and ACLU's case in the Supreme Court—that courts must dismiss the legal challenges without ever coming to a ruling on the merits.
Eichenwald's book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, describes how the NSA’s illegal program—what he calls "the most dramatic expansion of NSA's power and authority in the agency's 49 year history"— was devised just days after 9/11 to disregard requirements in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Instead of getting individualized warrants to monitor Americans communicating overseas, the Bush administration unilaterally gave the NSA the power to sweep up millions of emails and phone calls into a database for analysis without court approval:
Connections between a suspect e-mail address and others—accounts that both sent and received messages there, whether in the United States or not—would be examined. At that point, a more detailed level of analysis would be applied creating something of a ripple effect. The suspect e-mail address would lead to a second, the second to the accounts it contacted.
In other words, the NSA was given the green light to warrantlessly spy of Americans communications on American soil—a power that was illegal under FISA. And the government—instead of finding probable cause for surveillance like the Constitution requires—started using a burden of proof akin to the game Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon.
Eichenwald’s reporting, focused on the immediate aftermath of 9/11, unfortunately overlooks the NSA’s longstanding desire to live “on the network” reflected in its presentations to the incoming Bush Administration officials in December, 2000. The idea that the NSA only came up with this idea after 9/11 isn’t really accurate.* But regardless, Eichenwald's reporting makes clear that Bush administration officials were terrified that this program would become public.
Of course, after several years, much of the NSA’s program did become public when the New York Times exposed its existence in their 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning investigation. Virtually every major news organization in the US subsequently reported on the NSA and its mass spying programs, which led to congressional investigations and a multitude of lawsuits—two which will be argued in the coming month.
In EFF’s lawsuit, in addition to a mountain of public information including many governmental admissions, the court will see evidence from AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein showing blueprints and photographs of the NSA’s secret room in AT&T’s facility in San Francisco. Three more NSA whistleblowers, including William Binney a former high ranking official involved with the program during its infancy, also submitted affidavits laying out how the NSA illegally spied on Americans in the aftermath of 9/11.
Despite this all of this, the government recently filed a motion in the Northern District of California invoking the controversial “state secrets” privilege. Essentially, the government argues that—even if all of the allegations are true—the case should be dismissed entirely because admitting or denying any fact would potentially endanger national security, even in the face of the government’s own craftily wordsmithed “denials” before Congress and elsewhere.
In the ACLU’s case going before the Supreme Court this term, a group of journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists has sued over surveillance conducted after the passage of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). The FAA was passed in 2008 and formalized some of the admitted portions of NSA’s program, allowing emails and phone calls to and from from overseas to continue to be acquired without a warrant. The government only needs one general court order to target large groups of people—even entire countries—communicating to Americans for an entire year.
The plaintiffs, given that their professions, regularly talk to people who are almost certainly spied on. They argue that surveillance of them without warrants renders the statute unconstitutional. But the government contends the case must be dismissed on “standing” grounds because the plaintiffs can’t prove with certainty they have been surveilled, because, in a perfectly circular argument, the government won’t “admit” they have been surveilled, as if public admissions by the government is the only way to prove illegal wiretapping.
As the ACLU writes, “The government theory of standing would render real injuries nonjusticiable and insulate the government’s surveillance activities from meaningful judicial review.” The same can be said of the ‘state secrets’ privilege in EFF’s case. The government is contending they can use government secrecy as a sword to terminate judicial accountability. It doesn’t matter how much evidence is in the public domain, just by telling the Court that the information implicates “national security," they can wall off entire subject matters from judicial oversight, effectively hiding illegality, unconstitutionality along with embarrassing or overreaching acts by NSA spooks and others.
Eichenwald is just the latest in a long line of journalists to discuss and organize details about the NSA’s unconstitutional program. At this point the American people are well aware of the NSA’s actions – only the courts have been kept in the dark. And if the courts go along with blinding themselves, the government will have been given a license to violate the law and constitution long into the future.'
* Before 9/11, the NSA asserted” “The volumes and routing of data make finding and processing nuggets of intelligence information more difficult. To perform both its offensive and defensive mission, NSA must ‘live on the network.’” Opsahl Decl. Ex. 4 [Vol. I, p. 214] (National Security Agency, Transition 2001 (December 2000), at 31). Moreover, the NSA asserted that its “mission will demand a powerful, permanent presence on a global telecommunications network that will host the ‘protected’ communications of Americans as well as the targeted communications of adversaries.” Id. at 32 [Vol. I, p. 215]
Guantanamo: The Model for an American Police State
posted by Keito
2012-09-28 10:45:14“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” ~ James Madison
'For most Americans, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay — once the topic of heated political debate by presidential hopeful Barack Obama but rarely talked about by the incumbent President Obama — has become a footnote in the government’s ongoing war on terror.
Yet for the approximately 167 detainees still being held in that godforsaken gulag, 86 of whom have been cleared for release yet continue to be imprisoned at the facility, Guantanamo Bay is a lesson in injustice, American-style. It is everything that those who founded America vigorously opposed: kidnapping, torture, dehumanizing treatment, indefinite detention, being “disappeared” with no access to family or friends, and little hope of help from the courts.
For Adnan Latif — a 30-something-year-old Yemeni native detained at Guantanamo for ten years without a trial, despite a court ruling ordering his release and repeated military clearances ordering his transfer — his cell became his tomb. Latif, who had repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and suicide attempts while proclaiming his innocence, was found dead in his cell in Guantanamo Bay mere days before the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
If Guantanamo is the symbol of American injustice, Latif’s death is the realization of that injustice, the proclamation of how far we have strayed from the original vision of America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Ten years after opening for business, Guantanamo Bay stands as a manifestation of America’s failure to abide by the rule of law and its founding principles in the post-9/11 era. As Baher Azmy notes in the New York Times, its defining features have been the denial of judicial oversight and its exclusion of lawyers. Making matters worse, “far from closing the prison camp as he promised, President Obama is steadily returning Guantanamo to the secretive and hopeless internment camp that he vilified as a candidate.”
Examples of torture in Guantanamo and other American black site prisons are widely known, including waterboarding, beatings, and sensory deprivation. What is less widely known is that most of those forcibly arrested and tortured in Guantanamo have had nothing to do with terrorist activities. Most prisoners in Gitmo, including Murat Kurnaz, a detainee for five years, were not captured on the “battlefield,” but rather kidnapped and sold to the American government by local tribesmen. Kurnaz fetched $3,000 as a result of American fliers distributed across Afghanistan promising poor Afghans “enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life” in return for prisoners. Kurnaz, who was punched in the gut, dunked under water, and hung from ceiling chains during his imprisonment, was eventually sent back to his native Germany on a C-17 military flight which cost American taxpayers over $1 million.
Lakhdar Boumediene was arrested in late 2001 while working as the director of a humanitarian aid clinic helping the victims of the Balkan conflicts. Despite having no evidence that he was tied to any terrorist activity, he was arrested and shipped to Guantanamo Bay and kept there without charge for seven years. Boumediene eventually challenged his detention. In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo prisoners are guaranteed a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge their continued imprisonment.
Despite this ruling, indefinite detention is still the norm at Guantanamo. The Obama Administration shares the blame for this state of affairs. Having once promised to abolish Guantanamo, the president has now urged the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid reviewing Guantanamo detainees’ appeals. Incredibly, the Supreme Court has abided by this request, refusing to hear the appeals of any prisoners. As journalist Adam Serwer wrote for Mother Jones, “Gitmo detainees have now lost virtually every avenue – other than dying in detention – for leaving the detention camp.”
And die they do. The most recent detainee to “leave” Guantanamo was Adnan Latif, who spent most of his time at Guantanamo in solitary confinement with his hands in cuffs. He was recommended for transfer out of Guantanamo three times. However, Latif, along with 56 other Yemenis who have been cleared for release, continued to languish in the prison because the Obama Administration has placed an indefinite moratorium on transferring innocent Yemenis back to their native country.
What is the legacy of Guantanamo Bay? 171 men continue to languish there. The Bush torture program has been legitimized by the Obama administration, and indefinite detention has been codified as law. Guantanamo bleeds our coffers, costing $800,000 a year per detainee. And with a government that possesses the awesome power to indefinitely detain whomever it pleases, we are much, much less safe than we were 11 years ago.
Despite these obvious warning signs of a coming authoritarian state, a CNN poll from 2010 indicates that 60 percent of Americans would like Guantanamo to remain open. Yet what most Americans fail to realize, however, is that Guantanamo Bay is no different from every other aspect of America’s military empire, whether it be weaponry or military strategy, which has been tested against so-called “insurgents” abroad only to be brought home and used against American citizens. In this way, we are being conditioned to not only tolerate the government’s constant undermining of our freedoms but to actually condone the increasing assaults of our rights in the name of national security.
To put it more bluntly, we are being conditioned to live as prisoners in an Orwellian police state. Worse, we are being taught to enjoy our prison walls.
Encouraged by politicians and pundits to wade through life in a constant state of fear and apathy while being fed the bread and circuses of the corporate-entertainment complex, Americans have become accustomed to the illusion of security. In the process, we are finding ourselves subjected to a veritable arsenal of military firepower, government surveillance and battlefield tactics.
Such was the case with so-called “non-lethal” weapons of compliance — tear gas, tasers, sound cannons and barf beamers — all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Similarly, drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — were used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan only now to be authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace.
To anyone connecting the dots, it all makes sense — the military drills carried out in major American cities, the VIPR inspections at train depots and bus stations, the SWAT team raids on unsuspecting homeowners, the Black Hawk helicopters patrolling American skies. All of these so-called training exercises habituate Americans to an environment in which the buzz of Black Hawk helicopters and the sight of armed forces rappelling onto buildings or crashing through doors is commonplace.
The enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in January 2012, which allows the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, only codifies this unraveling of our constitutional framework. Viewed in conjunction with the government’s increasing use of involuntary commitment laws to declare individuals — especially American military veterans — mentally ill and lock them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time, the NDAA appears even more menacing.
Throw in the profit-driven corporate incentive to jail Americans in private prisons, as well as the criminalizing of such relatively innocent activities as holding Bible studies in one’s home or sharing unpasteurized goat cheese with members of one’s community, and you have a 10-step blueprint for how to transform a republic into a police state without the populace cluing in until it’s too late.'
Stallman urges Americans to support Senator Merkley's bill, the Protect America's Privacy Act
posted by Keito
2012-09-23 13:47:18'US citizens: Phone your senators to support Senator Merkley's bill, the Protect America's Privacy Act (S. 3515), which would limit warrantless wiretapping of Americans.
The Capitol Switchboard numbers are 202-224-3121, 888-818-6641 and 888-355-3588.
Here's info from CREDO Action about the bill:
While Sen. Merkley's bill does not repeal telecom immunity for illegal spying, restore privacy protection to library and bookstore records, end National Security Letter abuse, or roll back the worst abuses of the PATRIOT Act (all issues CREDO will continue to fight for, in addition to the full repeal of the PATRIOT Act), it does make three major changes to the warrantless wiretapping program that help us end some of the abuses of the Bush era.
First, it would put stronger protections in place to ensure that spy agencies are not using this program as an indirect way to target someone in the U.S.
Second, current law allows the government to collect information in anticipation of having its request to do so approved by a special type of top-secret court. Sen. Merkley's bill would ensure that if this court decides the procedures the government is using to collect information are improper, any information collected from Americans cannot be used in a legal proceeding.
Third, the bill would establish a new process for ensuring that if security agencies determine that information is being collected on Americans, that information cannot be accessed or searched until a proper warrant is obtained.'
The photo that speaks a thousand words...
posted by Keito
Secret Ruling Against The NSA For Spying On Americans
posted by Keito
2012-09-11 16:04:53'The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing the Justice Department for details of last month's ruling by a secretive U.S. court that National Security Agency's domestic spying program violated the U.S. Constitution, Jon Brodkin of arstechnica reports.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) found that "on at least one occasion" the NSA had violated the Fourth Amendment’s restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The decision is classified “because of the sensitive intelligence matters" it concerns, according to a letter from Seb. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to Congress that was acquired by Wired.
The EFF wants the information because of its current lawsuit against the NSA (i.e. Jewel vs. NSA) that alleges the U.S. government operates an illegal mass domestic surveillance program. Three NSA whistleblowers—including William Binney—agreed to provide evidence that the NSA has been running a domestic spying program since 2001.
The kicker is that there is ample evidence that the NSA has gone above and beyond the powers granted through the 2008 FISA Amendment Act by actively spying on the electronic communications of American citizens within the U.S. and by coercing service providers to feed it any and all information it wants.
That is what FISC found and what the government does not want to admit.'