Tag Archives: Civil liberties

Fifth Scandal Breaks: NSA’s Massive Operation to Mine Internet & Cellphone Companies for Data

The New York Times, Huffington Post, and the Atlantic are blasting the Obama administration for multiple NSA-related scandals. It is going to be hard for their readers to miss and not be impressed.

The current Internet environment is now such that those who were only tagging along in support of President Obama due to peer pressure may finally be peeled away. A breaking news story showing the NSA and FBI engaged in massive surveillance through 9 Internet programs should help spread this negativity towards the U.S. government in general like a contagion.

What is the latest scandal, which should toss even more fuel on the fire?

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues. …

So with no further adieu, here’s the liberal paper-of-record on a sweeping NSA program that implies all American citizens are suspected of terrorist ties:

The Obama administration is secretly carrying out a domestic surveillance program under which it is collecting business communications records involving Americans under a hotly debated section of the Patriot Act, according to a highly classified court order disclosed on Wednesday night.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The order does not apply to the content of the communications.

The left-wing blogosphere has gone nuts… wait, gone nutsier, after the New York Times reported what Glenn Greenwald of the left-wing Telegraph scooped them on. Huffington Post ran the feature image of this post on its front page, to the chagrin of hordes of lefty drones. Screen-Shot-2013-06-06-at-5.07.23-PM-562x380

Here is one excerpt from the HuffPo-ran AP article that shows we are not talking about a mere conflation of Obama and Bush:

James Bamford, a journalist and author of several books on the NSA, said it’s very surprising to see that the agency tracks domestic calls, including local calls. In 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA was secretly collecting a database of domestic call information. However, some phone companies denied any involvement in such a program.

Bamford’s assumption was that the uproar over a separate, post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping program and the departure of the Bush administration meant that the NSA had been reined in.

“Here we are, under the Obama administration, doing it sort of like the Bush administration on steroids,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “This order here is about as broad as it can possibly get, when it comes to focusing on personal communications. There’s no warrant, there’s no suspicion, there’s no probable cause … it sounds like something from East Germany.”

Assuming that at least some HuffPo readers think East Germany was bad, that’s pretty strong criticism to publish on the big blog’s pages. Another non-righty site Atlantic Wire also had some caustic words for the Obama admin in a piece called “Phone Sex, Banks & Google for Emails: The NSA Spying Is Bigger Than Verizon”:

And the NSA isn’t just collecting the things we say. It’s also tracking what we buy and where we go. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal‘s Siobhan Gorman reported that the NSA’s domestic data collection “have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people’s communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.” That means emails records, bank transfers, phone records, travel records.

…And the NSA would never abuse its awesome surveillance power, right? Wrong. In 2008, NSA workers told ABC News that they routinely eavesdropped on phone sex between troops serving overseas and their loved ones in America. They listened in on both satellite phone calls and calls from the phone banks in Iraq’s Green Zone where soldiers call home. Former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk described how a coworker would say, “Hey, check this out… there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out.” Faulk explained they would gossip about the best calls during breaks. “It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy.'”

The coup-de-grace is an opinion piece from the tissified New York Times that has to be seen to be believed. Here’s just a taste of what the editorial board had to say:

Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.

John Nolte is quite right about the mainstream media not breaking one of the big scandal stories; but if there is a time for anything, it is for the conservative right to coax the left into unifying with them on civil liberties issues. It is outstanding that the left-wing punditocracy has turned to this extent on not just the President, but also acknowledges some basic principles the American right have been clamoring about for years! There is not a ‘but’ coming… take it and appreciate it for a change.

If right and left can agree on the importance of civil liberties, and see through the transparent abuse of the “war on terror” as a justification to deprive citizens of rights, then not all is lost. Maybe lefties will eventually be much more open to truths that were discovered hundreds of years ago with the founding of this country.

Quite simply, the Founders had it right. Citizens own the government and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It is the police’s job to investigate crimes with tools respecting the rights of citizens and to prevent crimes based on publicly acquired knowledge.

Police do not have a mandate to trample the rights of citizens and to treat them as if their lives are open books for ‘authorized’ bureaucrats or officials to read. In a bit of coincidence, Orwell’s 1984 was written 64 years ago. It should be taken as a warning.

When every American citizen is suspected of being a terrorist, there can be no privacy and no respite from the state’s intrusions. Democrats who say they care about civil liberties: Can you hear me now?

This article was adapted and extended from an IJReview article.

Anwar al-Awlaki Killed, Were His Civil Liberties Violated?

By now any American breathing knows that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a US military launched drone in Yemen on Friday, September 30, 2011. His killing has been hailed as the largest US success in hitting al-Qaeda leadership since the May, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden. But his killing raises questions about al-Awlaki, an American citizen. He has not been charged with any crime, and civil liberties groups have questioned the US’s authority to kill an American without trial. The strike also killed Samir Khan, the co-editor of an English-language Al Qaeda web magazine called “Inspire.” Khan was an American of Pakistani heritage. His magazine promoted attacks against U.S. targets.

Who was Anwar al-Awlaki?

Anwar al-Awlaki, 40, from San Diego, CA, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, was an American, a former imam, and an engineer and educator. He was promoted to the rank of “regional commander” on the Saudi Arabian peninsula within al-Qaeda in 2009. He reportedly spoke with, trained, and preached to a number of al-Qaeda members and affiliates, including three of the 9/11 hijackers. Al-Awlaki was believed to be in hiding in Southeast Yemen since 2002. President Obama signed an order in early 2010 making him the first American to be placed on the “kill or capture” list.

al-Awlaki’s Recent Activities

Anwar al-Awlaki is credited with inspiring or directing at least four plots on US soil:

  • Fort Hood military base shooting: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 12, wounded 31.
  • Failed Times Square bombing: Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen was arrested for trying to explode a bomb-laden SUV in Times Square.
  • Failed underwear bomber: Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab intended to blow up a Northwest flight 253 with a bomb made at the location in Yemen.
  • Parcel bombs hidden inside printers that also failed to explode while inside a passenger jet: Two bombs, disguised as laser printer cartridges, addressed to synagogues or Jewish community centers in Chicago, were identified in Britain and Dubai after a tip from Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service.

    There can be little doubt that al-Awlaki was a bad guy.

    Due Process Of Law

    Civil liberties groups are condemning the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, saying that he was killed without proper legal process. Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser, sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2010, when it became clear that the US was targeting al-Awlaki. But US District Judge John Bates threw the case out. Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU lawyer who handled the case said, “The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the president, any president, with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.”    [emphasis mine – I guess al-Awlaki’s recent activities were not concrete, specific and imminent enough for Jaffer]

    But Kenneth Anderson, an international law scholar at American University’s Washington College of Law, said US citizens who take up arms with an enemy force have been considered legitimate targets through two world wars, even if they are outside what is traditionally considered the battlefield.

    Let’s turn our attention to the US Constitution, specifically the 5th amendment. Among other things, it clearly states, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;….” Does “in time of War or public danger” apply to al-Awlaki? Apparently civil liberty groups don’t think so.

    “War On Terror

    President Obama and his administration worked hard to stop using the phrase “War on Terror,” essentially declaring it to be over, or that it never existed. They refused to call all activities by al-Awlaki “terrorist activities.” Obama has put himself on the spot. If he admits that we are fighting terrorists, he is admitting how wrong he has been about the “War on Terror.” If he does not, and continues downplaying the terrorist threat, he puts the nation at greater risk on the altar of political correctness. Obama does not want to identify the enemy for who they are – Islamic Jihadists working to destroy our way of life. We are at war and the enemy will never rest in their desire to harm us. They can’t be negotiated with or pacified. We must be more determined to destroy them than they are to destroy us.

    Interpretation

    So I suspect that the current situation with al-Awlaki, his being killed, and his “rights,” will come down to interpretation of the 5th amendment to the US Constitution and whether or not this country is “at war.” But let’s remember that al-Awlaki was a self professed al Qaeda member, and that the al Queda attack on September 11, 2001, was an act of war. Some ACLU “do-gooder” lawyer will file a lawsuit on behalf of al-Awlaki, and we taxpayers will again have to foot the bill for him and his activities.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  • Fox In the Hen House

    Our founding fathers knew the dangers of letting government officials and the groups that enforce our laws go unchecked. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently granted itself an expansion of power. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support our law enforcement officers and hold them in high regards. However, the problem I have is that they can just expand their powers at any given time of their choosing.

    According to the new rules and guidelines in which the FBI operates, many of the expanded liberties they have given themselves do not require creating a paper trail or even opening an investigation. Agents can search law enforcement and commercial databases without any evidence of criminal or other wrongdoing. New relaxed guidelines for administering lie-detector tests do not require the opening of a “preliminary investigation” either. The new guidelines heavily relax multiple forms of surveillance.

    One of the things that jumped out at me was the fact that investigations involving public officials require “oversight”. It appears to me that they made sure to make rules to use kid gloves on the politicians. For once I would like to see the same rules that apply to the common citizen apply to the politicians.

    “For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery”.
    -Jonathan Swift

    The other group that requires “oversight” has been labeled scholars and press. Bloggers are not considered members of the press under these guidelines unless they are “prominent” bloggers, therefore giving them the same status as the regular media.  Bloggers that are less “prominent” will not receive the same treatments that are given to people considered media.

    With the implementation of the new guidelines it is easy to see that the FBI wants to make sure they stay in the good graces of the politicians and mainstream media. The FBI presents the new guidelines as ways to better fight terrorism but the fact that they want to save the politicians and media seems strange. If these changes were about better protecting the citizens of the United States, why do the politicians and media get special treatment? Something just doesn’t quite add up right to me!

    “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
    -Thomas Paine

    ________________________________

    For those of you that own firearms, train hard and well and teach those that do not know how. Be good stewards of the right to bear arms, for we are the last line of defense against tyranny.

    -Benjamin Wallace

    ______________________

    Sources:

    Washington Post Article
    Yahoo News

     

    F.B.I Grants Themselves New Powers: Congress Proves Irrevelant

    There was a time in America when law-abiding citizens were protected from privacy-invading illegals searches and fishing expeditions into their private lives. We no longer have those protections today thanks to the F.B.I. deciding to rewrite their manuals and give themselves the power to basically invade Americans privacy without so much as a reason.  The F.B.I. will have the right to search your trash, read your emails and other Internet correspondence without having a shred of proof that you have done anything illegal. Meanwhile, so far Congress sits on their hands and has made no effort to stop this illegal and unconstitutional breach of our citizen’s right to privacy.  Aren’t all Federal laws and regulations supposed to go through our Congress before things like this can be done to the American people? 
      I first saw hints about this new F.B.I. “handbook” that gives them unchecked power to spy on American citizens without so much as a reason about  a week ago on the news. I have been awaiting the uproar from the informed citizens and groups upon discovering this new set of rules ( or total lack of) that the F.B.I. will be using against American citizens. The N.Y.Times published an article on this new F.B.I. “handbook” on Sunday, June 12th,2011, which you can read here.  In that Times article we see the following new guidelines and changes to the F.B.I. operating manual:

    The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.  

     The “more latitude” they refer to there, is generally what are termed illegal fishing expeditions into citizens personal lives without such things as warrants or any reasonable proof of criminal activity. This is what happens when uninformed citizens let the government pass seemingly harmless laws or regulations upon the citizenry and the accompanying “mission creep” that comes with it. Remember the Patriot Act, and its subsequent numerous extensions that have originally passed through congress on a steady basis since 2001 ?  The Patriot Act was started as a tool to fight terrorism. On May 26th 2011 Barack Obama signed a four year extension of key Patriot Act provisions.  Also in the Patriot Act is the clause that allows National Security Letters which allow the F.B.I. to search telephone, e-mail and financial records without a search warrant. Now the F.B.I. wants to  will expand that privacy invasion power to basically let them spy on anyone in America without a valid reason, search through their trash and search any database on the Internet that holds citizen’s personal records and communications without a warrant or reason!  And they are doing it all under the guise of “fine-tuning the F.B.I. manual. Further on in the Times article we see that they have sent us a General Council, Valerie Caproni to spin this into making it appear to be harmless changes:

    “Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

      Maybe Ms. Caproni will answer as to why former F.B.I. agent and current ACLU attorney, one Mr. Michael German replied that ” It was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.” That doesn’t sound like any “fine-tuning”  of the F.B.I. manual, but instead sounds like a huge privacy invading power grab! The F.B.I. is now using cloudy terms to try to hide this unconstitutional action also. Terms like assessment are being used as some sort of justification to spy on American citizens without any justification here.

    Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.
    Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision. (emphasis mine) 

     Another added tidbit concerning this privacy invasion of American citizens concerns possible “informants” also known as paid government snitches. One could deduce that if the F.B.I. wants to make someone an informant, having some dirt on them would aid them in persuading said person to become an informant, so lets just change the F.B.I. manual to allow that privacy invasion without a shred of proof of wrong doing by the subject.   And Ms Caproni said not only could that information be used to pressure people to assist the government, but it could also be used to determine whether the subject, ( notice it is not suspect, as there is no crime involved that gives them the authority to do this in the first place) poses a threat to the agents.
    Last but certainly not least, the F.B.I. will protect the privacy rights of certain people in this new manual. Just who would that be? How about sensitive investigative matter subjects ?  These are the F.B.I. types of privacy invasions that are being done to public officials. (IE: Corrupt Government officials and politicians) members of the news media, and of course  academic scholars! They need extra protection, which is also at the  discretion of the F.B.I. as to just who gets said protection. With the recent killing of the FCC’s fairness doctrine, we now see the F.B.I. is going to do it anyway, Congress be damned:

    The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.  

    So now the F.B.I. will be in fact, censoring and monitoring the internet, and labeling anyone who speaks out against this type of unconstitutional tyranny as some sort of domestic terrorist or person of interest. With the writing of this article, you can bet yours truly qualifies under the new F.B.I. manual, as they now need no proof of wrong doing of any sorts to invade the privacy of  U.S. citizens. This new F.B.I. manual also just happens to come just in time to try to use it to harass anyone who expresses their political views. That’s right, and I am expressing my views right here and right now, and I do not like the F.B.I. granting themselves carte blanche to read American citizen’s email, snoop in their trash, listen to their phone conversations and basically invade their private lives just because they decided to change their damn manual! Note to F.B.I.; You are not elected members of our congress.You have no right to enact what amounts to unconstitutional laws against the very taxpaying citizens that pay your salaries! People had better wake up here and speak up! We are losing our freedoms and rights granted to us as American citizens at a very rapid rate today, all due to an out of control, too powerful government. This is also a great example of why it is wrong to allow our President the power to make appointments without Senate approval. See here. The very same “minor appointments” mentioned in that article are the type of government employees who in fact, wrote this new F.B.I. manual that in fact declares that the F.B.I. has a right to spy on American citizens without so much as a valid reason or proof of wrong-doing!