Category Archives: Civil Liberties

NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve, by Josh Gerstein

Go into an IRS audit and see how the auditors react if you tell them you lost or inadvertently destroyed your financial records. It probably won’t get you out of trouble if you tell them how sorry you are. However, there’s a completely different standard for the NSA. From Josh Gerstein at politico.com:

The agency tells a federal judge that it is investigating and ‘sincerely regrets its failure.’

The National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and apparently never took some of the steps it told a federal court it had taken to make sure the information wasn’t destroyed, according to recent court filings.

Word of the NSA’s foul-up is emerging just as Congress has extended for six years the legal authority the agency uses for much of its surveillance work conducted through U.S. internet providers and tech firms. President Donald Trump signed that measure into law Friday.

Since 2007, the NSA has been under court orders to preserve data about certain of its surveillance efforts that came under legal attack following disclosures that President George W. Bush ordered warrantless wiretapping of international communications after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. In addition, the agency has made a series of representations in court over the years about how it is complying with its duties.

However, the NSA told U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in a filing on Thursday night and another little-noticed submission last year that the agency did not preserve the content of internet communications intercepted between 2001 and 2007 under the program Bush ordered. To make matters worse, backup tapes that might have mitigated the failure were erased in 2009, 2011 and 2016, the NSA said.

“The NSA sincerely regrets its failure to prevent the deletion of this data,” NSA’s deputy director of capabilities, identified publicly as “Elizabeth B.,” wrote in a declaration filed in October. “NSA senior management is fully aware of this failure, and the Agency is committed to taking swift action to respond to the loss of this data.”

In the update Thursday, another NSA official said the data were deleted during a broad, housecleaning effort aimed at making space for incoming information. 

To continue reading: NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve

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Snowden: Trump Must Veto Reauthorized NSA Spying Powers In Light Of FISA Memo, by Tyler Durden

Trump, unfortunately, has already signed the FISA reauthorization legislation, but Edward Snowden is dead on correct about that legislation. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Donald Trump must veto reauthorized NSA spying powers which passed both the House and the Senate yesterday without a single reform, in light of an explosive four-page memo said to detail sweeping FISA Abuses by the FBI, DOJ and the Obama Administration during and after the 2016 presidential election, says former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The memo was circulated to the entire House of Representatives, prompting GOP lawmakers to call for its immediate release to the public. 

Snowden, who exposed the NSA’s expansive mass surveillance program, contends that the expansive FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act never would have passed if the memo had been distributed before the vote. The Senate broke a filibuster led by Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Tuesday evening, voting 65-34, while the House voted last week 256-164 in favor of the bill with almost no changes.

Officials confirm there’s a secret report showing abuses of spy law Congress voted to reauthorize this week. If this memo had been known prior to the vote, FISA reauth would have failed. These abuses must be made public, and @realDonaldTrump should send the bill back with a veto. https://twitter.com/RepLeeZeldin/status/954102959394213889 

The reauthorized FISA bill constitute the “crown jewels” of the Intelligence Community’s spying powers, section 702, which allows the NSA to gather intelligence on foreigners overseas by surveilling fiber optic internet hubs where data enters the US.

Even President Trump voiced skepticism about reauthorizing the bill in a tweet earlier this year, where he claimed it had helped the Obama administration spy on the Trump campaign, although he infamously flip-flopped later.

To continue reading: Snowden: Trump Must Veto Reauthorized NSA Spying Powers In Light Of FISA Memo

Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It’s Time We Started Listening, by Caitlin Johnstone

Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have been working with governments to allow them to gain control of the internet. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:

Throughout the near entirety of human history, a population’s understanding of what’s going on in the world has been controlled by those in power. The men in charge controlled what the people were told about rival populations, the history of their tribe and its leadership, etc. When the written word was invented, men in charge dictated what books were permitted to be written and circulated, what ideas were allowed, what narratives the public would be granted access to.

This continued straight on into modern times. Where power is not overtly totalitarian, wealthy elites have bought up all media, first in print, then radio, then television, and used it to advance narratives that are favorable to their interests. Not until humanity gained widespread access to the internet has our species had the ability to freely and easily share ideas and information on a large scale without regulation by the iron-fisted grip of power. This newfound ability arguably had a direct impact on the election for the most powerful elected office in the most powerful government in the world in 2016, as a leak publishing outlet combined with alternative and social media enabled ordinary Americans to tell one another their own stories about what they thought was going on in their country.

This newly democratized narrative-generating power of the masses gave those in power an immense fright, and they’ve been working to restore the old order of power controlling information ever since. And the editor-in-chief of the aforementioned leak publishing outlet, WikiLeaks, has been repeatedly trying to warn us about this coming development.

In a statement that was recently read during the “Organising Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar, sponsored by the World Socialist Web Site, Assange warned of how “digital super states” like Facebook and Google have been working to “re-establish discourse control”, giving authority over how ideas and information are shared back to those in power.

Assange went on to say that the manipulative attempts of world power structures to regain control of discourse in the information age has been “operating at a scale, speed, and increasingly at a subtlety, that appears likely to eclipse human counter-measures.”

To continue reading: Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It’s Time We Started Listening

Democrats and Republicans Just Teamed Up to Pass a Bill — You Know What That Means, by Jake Anderson

This rare example of Democrat-Republican “teamwork” is particularly pernicious. From Jake Anderson at theantimedia.org:

Both mainstream political parties introduce their fair share draconian legislation, but in the current bipartisan climate they rarely agree on large issues. Whenever there is agreement between the two parties, you can take it to the bank that it’s something particularly nefarious. Remarkably or not, the two issues Democrats and Republicans have consistently agreed on so far in the 21st century is military intervention and surveillance.

Last week, the House pushed through a six-year extension of the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; this week, the Senate followed suit. This provision ensures that under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump, federal law enforcement agencies can arguably eavesdrop on virtually any American with impunity.

While Republicans control both branches of Congress — and the White House — the extension would not have been possible without a sizeable faction of the Democratic Party, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff, voting to hand over dangerously autocratic surveillance powers to Trump. Without this group of House Democrats siding with the Bush/Cheney era law, it would not have passed by a vote of 256-164.

The vote followed the defeat of an amendment that would have introduced safeguards on the government’s ability to conduct warrantless wiretapping on foreign nationals while on foreign soil, which some have argued allows agencies like the FBI and NSA a carte blanche for collecting surveillance on domestic communications. Pelosi and Schiff, who have spent the last year insisting Trump is a dangerous tyrant whose very existence threatens the fabric of our democracy, helped defeat the amendment, which would have restricted his power and paved the way for a Section 702 extension.

Major power brokers of the so-called Resistance entrusted Trump with the legal authority to spy on women, minorities, immigrants, journalists, activists, political enemies — whoever he wants. It was a rare moment of chipper cordiality between bitter political enemies, with Majority Leader Paul Ryan even personally thanking Pelosi for her magnanimous support.

To continue reading: Democrats and Republicans Just Teamed Up to Pass a Bill — You Know What That Means

Did Donald Trump Change His Mind on Domestic Spying? by Andrew P. Napolitano

President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have been abysmal on civil liberties. From Andrew P. Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

Late last week, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, repeated his public observations that members of the intelligence community — particularly the CIA, the NSA and the intelligence division of the FBI — are not trustworthy with the nation’s intelligence secrets. Because he has a security clearance at the “top secret” level and knows how others who have access to secrets have used and abused them, his allegations are extraordinary.

He pointed to the high-ranking members of the Obama administration who engaged in unmasking the names of some people whose communications had been captured by the country’s domestic spies and the revelation of those names for political purposes. The most notable victim of this lawlessness is retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, a transcript of whose surveilled conversation with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak found its way into print in The Washington Post.

During the George W. Bush and Barack Obama years, captured communications — digital recordings of telephone conversations and copies of emails and text messages — did not bear the names of those who sent or received them. Those names were stored in a secret file. The revelation of those names is called unmasking.

Nunes also condemned the overt pro-Hillary Clinton bias and anti-Trump prejudice manifested by former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey and their agents in the field, some of whose texts and emails we have seen. The secrets that he argued were used for political purposes had been obtained by the National Security Agency pursuant to warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Yet Nunes voted to enhance federal bulk surveillance powers.

Bulk surveillance — which is prohibited by the Constitution — is the acquisition of digital versions of telephone, email and text communications based not on suspicion or probable cause but rather on geography or customer status. As I have written before, one publicly available bulk surveillance warrant was for all Verizon customers in the United States; that’s 115 million people, many of whom have more than one phone and at least one computer. And it is surveillance of Americans, not foreigners as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act contemplates.

To continue reading: Did Donald Trump Change His Mind on Domestic Spying?

Government’s Misconduct In Cliven Bundy Case Stems From Ruby Ridge, by James Bovard

The Bundys, fortunately, did not suffer the same fate as the Weaver family. However, government skullduggery in the two cases was similar. From James Bovard at thehill.com:

Federal judge Gloria Navarro slammed the FBI and Justice Department on Monday, Jan. 8, for “outrageous” abuses and “flagrant misconduct” in the prosecution of Cliven Bundy and sons, the Nevada ranchers who spurred a high-profile standoff with the FBI and Bureau of Land Management in 2014. Navarro condemned the “grossly shocking” withholding of evidence from defense counsel in a case that could have landed the Bundys in prison for the rest of their lives. Navarro, who had declared a mistrial last month, dismissed all charges against the Bundys.

Navarro was especially riled because the FBI spent three years covering up or lying about the role of their snipers in the 2014 standoff. The Bundys faced conspiracy charges because they summoned militia to defend them after claiming FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim but newly-released documents vindicate the Bundys. In an interview Saturday, Ammon Bundy reviled the feds: “They basically came to kill our family, they surrounded us with snipers. And then they wanted to lie about it all like none of it happened.”

Many of the heavily-armed activists who flocked to the scene feared that the FBI snipers had a license to kill the Bundys. Their reaction cannot be understood without considering a landmark 1990s case that continues to shape millions of Americans’ attitude towards Washington: the federal killings and coverups at Ruby Ridge.

Randy Weaver and his family lived in an isolated cabin in the mountains of northern Idaho. Weaver was a white separatist who believed races should live apart; he had no record of violence against other races — or anyone else. An undercover federal agent entrapped him into selling a sawed-off shotgun. The feds then sought to pressure Weaver to become an informant but he refused.

To continue reading: Government’s Misconduct In Cliven Bundy Case Stems From Ruby Ridge

Neocon Think Tanks Not Russian Media Are the Enemy Within, by John Wight

RT and Sputnik are being harassed not because of anything they do wrong in their journalism, but what they often do right: expose the US government’s lies. From John Wight at ronpaulinstitute.org:

The latest salvo in the ongoing attempt to de-legitimize and demonize Russia-based media has arrived with a directive from the US Justice Department that Sputnik News in the US must register as a foreign agent.

In this regard Sputnik now joins RT America (previously directed to register as a foreign agent) in being stigmatized as peddling propaganda instead of news and news analysis, its journalists and contributors smeared by association, in the context of a wider neo-McCarthyite offensive unleashed with the aim of pushing back against opposition to neoconservative nostrums and influence on Western foreign policy, along with its neoliberal economic counterpart.

What needs to be stressed is that this offensive is being waged not so much against Russian media as against Western dissident voices who dare appear on Russian media. It is an attack on the free speech of US citizens — and also on UK and European citizens given that the same offensive is underway in those parts of the world — on their right to ply their trade as journalists, writers, broadcasters and political analysts.

The reasoning behind this censorious campaign is not, as claimed, because those dissident voices are engaged in peddling falsehoods, lies and propaganda; instead it is because they deign to expose the actual causes of the seemingly unending wars and economic, social, political and refugee crises that are the norm in our time.

The most penetrating truths are often the most simply expressed, a truism given credence by the life and words of US labor leader and anti-war activist, Eugene Debs at the turn of the last century. “War does not come by chance,” the great man said in the context of his unstinting opposition to the First World War. “War is not the result of accident. There is a definite cause for war, especially a modern war.”

In our time the “definite cause for war” is Washington’s determination to maintain the ability of Western global corporations to rampage across the globe unimpeded, Wall Street to suck up the world’s surplus capital, and the continuing supremacy of the US dollar, backed up by a gargantuan military which stands as a monument not to democracy but imperialism.

To continue reading: Neocon Think Tanks Not Russian Media Are the Enemy Within