Friday, June 07, 2013

Barry O's Browsing History



The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.









Writing for the Guardian Glenn Greenwald scooped everyone last night.  It was a major scoop and a major accomplishment.  At Ann's site yesterday, I noted:  "All the other news outlets are following in his wake, Washington Post, CNN, New York Daily News, Reuters, Bloomberg News, etc.  Trained reporters who've made a career out of journalism would kill for this moment so let's hope Greenwald enjoys it.  He's got reason to be proud of himself. And from a civil liberties point of view, all Americans have a reason to be scared.  The government has truly overstepped its bounds."  And there's more.  As AP reports today, "Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours the nation's main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person's movements and contacts. It was not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans."

Of the FISA order, the ACLU notes, "ACLU attorneys have been monitoring the U.S. government's use of the Patriot Act for years, and this document confirms our biggest fears."  They have a clickable presentation on the order at the link.  The Center for Constitutional Rights released the following statement:

As far as we know this order from the FISA court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon subscribers anywhere in the U.S. It also contains a gag order prohibiting Verizon from disclosing information about the order to anyone other than their counsel.
The Patriot Act’s incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedly authorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in question and several senators have complained about it. The Patriot Act provision requires the FBI to notify Congress about the number of such warrants, but this single order covering millions of people is a deceptive end-run around that disclosure requirement. 
The presumed incoming FBI director, James Comey, will be the one in charge of and responsible for deciding whether to seek renewals of this order and any future orders like it, which is interesting in light of his complicated history with NSA surveillance. It certainly suggests some questions he should answer in his confirmation hearings.  
We will continue to challenge the surveillance of Americans in our case currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama.

Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) report today:

After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.
A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said.
But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians.
 Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".

Senator Ron Wyden's office issued the following today:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), released this statement following news reports alleging that the U.S. Government has collected the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence committee.
“The program Senators Feinstein and Chambliss publicly referred to today is one that I have been concerned about for years.  I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of the details at this time.  However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information.  Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy.  
The administration has an obligation to give a substantive and timely response to the American people and I hope this story will force a real debate about the government’s domestic surveillance authorities. The American people have a right to know whether their government thinks that the sweeping, dragnet surveillance that has been alleged in this story is allowed under the law and whether it is actually being conducted.  Furthermore, they have a right to know whether the program that has been described is actually of value in preventing attacks.  Based on several years of oversight, I believe that its value and effectiveness remain unclear.”  

Senator Bernie Sanders' office issued the following (and if you use the link, you also have the option of streaming video of Sanders discussing the issue):

June 6, 2013
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today criticized a secret domestic surveillance program that swept up millions of telephone records on calls by Americans who were not suspected of any wrongdoing.
A court order demanding the records be turned over was obtained under a controversial interpretation of a provision in the so-called Patriot Act, which Sanders voted against when it was first enacted in 2001 and when it was reauthorized in 2006 and 2011.
“As one of the few members of Congress who consistently voted against the Patriot Act, I expressed concern at the time of passage that it gave the government far too much power to spy on innocent United State citizens and provided for very little oversight or disclosure.  Unfortunately, what I said turned out to be exactly true.
“The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people,” Sanders added.
“While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans,” Sanders said.
The Obama administration did not dispute a report, first published yesterday by the Guardian, that a classified court order required Verizon to turn over massive phone records to the National Security Agency.

Senator Rand Paul's office issued a statement condemning the spying and calling for a restoration of the Fourth Amendment:

Jun 6, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Rand Paul today announced he will introduce the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013, which ensures the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment are not violated by any government entity.

 "The revelation that the NSA has secretly seized the call records of millions of Americans, without probable cause, represents an outrageous abuse of power and a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. I have long argued that Congress must do more to restrict the Executive's expansive law enforcement powers to seize private records of law-abiding Americans that are held by a third-party," Sen. Paul said. "When the Senate rushed through a last-minute extension of the FISA Amendments Act late last year, I insisted on a vote on my amendment (SA 3436) to require stronger protections on business records and prohibiting the kind of data-mining this case has revealed. Just last month, I introduced S.1037, the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act, which would provide exactly the kind of protections that, if enacted, could have prevented these abuses and stopped these increasingly frequent violations of every American's constitutional rights.

"The bill restores our Constitutional rights and declares that the Fourth Amendment shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause."

 Click HERE to view the text of this legislation, which will be introduced when the Senate returns to session on Friday, June 7.

To address the issues involved in the latest news cycle revelations, Marco Werman (PRI's The World) spoke with journalist James Bamford who noted, "The difference is in the Bush administration it was illegal.  Since then, they've created this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act and revamped the PATRIOT Act to some degree so what was illegal a few years ago is probably now legal in some secret back corner of the Justice Dept and NSA." At today's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Senator Mark Kirk estimated that this spying would have involved as many as 120 million phone calls.  (A key point Bamford made to Marco Werman was that raw data can be overwhelming and counter-productive to spying efforts.)  Kirk had one issue -- which was were members of Congress spied on.

Senator Mark Kirk:  I want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored -- of members of Congress.  That would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this stuff, kind of a -- would give them unique leverage over the legislature?

Attorney General Eric Holder:   Uh, with all due respect, Senator, I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss, uhm,  that issue.  I'd be more than glad to come back in a -- in a appropriate setting to discuss, uh, the issues that you have raised but I -- in this open forum, I don't -- I do not

Senator Mark Kirk:  I would interrupt you and say that the correct answer would be:  "No, we stayed within our lane and I am assuring you that we did not spy on members of Congress."

Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski:  You know I'd like to suggest something here.  When I read the New York Times this morning, it was like, "Oh God, not one more thing."  And not one more thing where we're trying to protect America and it looks like we're spying on America.  I think the full Senate needs to get a briefing on this.

Kirk, Mikulski and Senator Richard Shelby all agreed it was an important question.  And it's important because it's them.  It's too bad that they don't feel it's important for non-members of Congress.  It's too bad that Mikulski's 'answer' is to call for a closed hearing.  It's too damn bad that she doesn't think the American people are owed answers.  Remember, in American now, "democracy" translates as something that belongs only to elected members of Congress.

Attorney General Eric Holder:  While the Department of Justice must not waiver in its determination to protect our national security, we must be just as vigilant in our defense of the sacred rights and freedoms we are equally obligated to protect, including the freedom of the press. In order to ensure the appropriate balance in these efforts, at President Obama's direction, I have launched a review of existing Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters. Last week, I convened the first in a series of meetings -- with representatives of news organizations, government agencies, and other groups -- to discuss the need to strike this important balance, ensure robust First Amendment protections, and foster constructive dialogue. I appreciate the opportunity to engage members of the media and national security professionals in this effort to improve our guidelines, policies and processes -- and to renew the important conversation, that is as old as our Republic, about how to balance our security with our dearest civil liberties. As part of that conversation, let me make several things clear. First, the Department's goal in investigating leak cases is to identify and prosecute government officials who jeopardize national security by violating their oaths, not to target members of the press or discourage them from carrying out their vital work. Second, the Department has not prosecuted, and as long as I'm Attorney General, will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job. With these guiding principles in mind, we are updating our internal guidelines to ensure that in every case the Department’s actions are clear and consistent with our most sacred values.

Eric Holder is the Attorney General of the United States and, in that position, heads the Dept of Justice.  His remarks might have more meaning if (a) he wasn't investigating himself and his own agency (see CBS News' Bob Shcieffer's Face The Nation commentary on this point ), (b) his remarks were not so easily read as 'Let me say we're targeting American citizens not the press itself so the press can't stop worrying, we're just targeting Americans!'  American citizens who are not members of the press have First Amendment rights as well -- though Holder and the DoJ seem unaware of that these days.  Government officials also have First Amendment rights.  Lois Lerner's made clear that they even have Fifth Amendment rights.  And they also have an obligation to inform the public of what's going on.  When the government isn't honest with the people -- who are citizens, not its children -- then officials may step forward as whistleblowers.  Whistleblowers have protections as well even if the Justice Dept chooses not to recognize that fact.  The DoJ targeted journalist James Rosen.  Holder appeared in front of Congress days before that scandal broke and appeared to give a full portrayal of DoJ's interaction with the press.  And then we learn of the targeting of James Rosen.  So his words don't carry a lot of weight.  (C) What a ridiculous statement to make on the day when everyone's talking about the federal government monitoring the phone calls of private citizens.  No, there is no respect for the First Amendment on the part of DoJ.

This morning, Holder made the remarks in bold while appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify about the DoJ's budget request for Fiscal Year 2014.  Richard Shelby is the Ranking Member of the Committee and he stated this morning:

Madam Chair, I would be remiss if I did not mention the controversy that has engulfed the Department and the Attorney General in recent weeks.  These issues have overwhelmed the Department and cast a shadow of doubt upon the Attorney General.   The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government and as the head of the Department of Justice, it is his responsibility to ensure that laws are enforced and the interests of the United States are defended.  The controversy that has embroiled the Department has called into question its ability to fairly administer the law and justice.  Further, the questionable actions of this Attorney General have tarnished the integrity, impartiality and efficacy of the position.
It is the responsibility of this Committee to provide the resources necessary to ensure that the Department of Justice can efficiently and effectively enforce the laws, protect our citizens, and administer justice.  Similarly, it is the responsibility of the Department to ensure that it carries out its duties; that it is responsible and responsive to the citizens of the United States; and that it operates with and tolerates no less than the highest degree of honesty and integrity.  Unfortunately, I believe that until these issues are resolved and the controversy laid to rest, a hue of distrust will hover over the Department of Justice.   Mr. Attorney General, it is my hope that you will move swiftly to address these issues -- to put this controversy to rest in a full and open manner so that the Department can get back to focusing on the issues central to its mission.

On the scandals, a new NBC News - Wall St. Journal poll has been released.  Chuck Todd was on NBC's Today show this morning discussing it with Savannah Guthrie (here for video).  Todd noted "major erosion over independents -- political independents -- over a three month period.  The President's support among independents has gone from 41% to a very paltry 29%.  That is an ominous sign."  Last week, Rebecca noted the erosion of independents and last night she noted Jake Miller (CBS News) reporting on the new Bloomberg News poll which finds 47% of Americans surveyed do not believe Barack is being truthful with the American public.

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