Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Will Obama protect the CIA, as he has the NSA? (Part I)

Friday, April 4, 2014 at 3:26 pm by
(Credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to seek the declassification of less than 10% of its 6,000 page report documenting CIA torture crimes vastly beyond those previously acknowledged. The vote could be the most significant accountability moment for our nation’s intelligence agencies in the last 40 years.

But don’t hold your breath. The decision over declassification now goes to the White House, where despite his rhetorical support for transparency, the President has repeatedly aligned himself with the intelligence agencies despite documented crimes and bipartisan congressional opposition.

Beyond CIA & NSA spying: Corruption

Monday, March 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm by

PRISM-Microsoft-supported-NSAEven before open war erupted last week between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), embattled NSA officials had woven tangled skeins to downplay public crimes including lying to Congress.

Many observers have noted the double-standard apparent in Feinstein challenging the CIA while deferring to the NSA. Few have recognized that both the NSA’s pattern of spying and then lying about it, and the CIA’s trajectory of first committing torture crimes, then spying on Congress to cover it up and then lying about the spying when caught, can be described in a single word: corruption.


Snowden calls on tech community to join the fight against mass surveillance

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 2:58 pm by

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 1.02.43 PM

Edward Snowden, the man who initiated the debate on mass surveillance and the National Security Agency (NSA), further added to this critical dialogue on March 10 at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival. Through a video conference, Snowden spoke with two technology experts from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the role that the technology community has in the fight against the NSA.

Held in Austin, Texas, the Festival brought together the digital-oriented and Snowden, joined by Christopher Sogholan and Ben Wizner, argued that this tech community might be the most effective protection we have from mass surveillance.

“SXSW and the technology community are the folks who can really fix our rights, even if Congress hasn’t yet gotten to technical legislation,” said Snowden. “The NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet and the people in this room now, you’re the fire fighters. We need you to fix this.”

“NSA Surveillance and Our ‘Almost Orwellian’ State” panel with Daniel Ellsberg was a smash hit

Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 9:43 am by

On Thursday, January 23, over 400 Bay Area residents were treated to a panel of civil liberties leading activists at John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley California titled “NSA Surveillance and Our ‘Almost Orwellian’ State.”

Above: The packed hall hears opening remarks from Rob Jaffe

On the panel was famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, known nationally for leaking the Pentagon Papers leading to the collapse of the Nixon presidency and known locally for his tireless activism on civil liberties issues and vocal defense of fellow whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

PCLOB says government should end bulk data collection

Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm by

23NSA-superJumboThe Washington Post reported today that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) found that “the statute upon which the [bulk data collection] program was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program.”


President Obama defends the intelligence establishment

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 11:40 am by

PCLOBLast Friday, January 17, President Obama delivered an extensive speech acknowledging the disturbing history of government surveillance, while proposing meager reforms that would fail to address most of the wide-ranging concerns prompted by the Snowden disclosures.

The Boston Globe published an editorial, “Obama chooses to tweak NSA, rather than embrace reform,” citing BORDC’s Shahid Buttar. According to The Globe:

The most meaningful reform [that President Obama] announced was a new requirement that permission be obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court each time US officials want to search the database of phone and Internet records that the government holds….

Lastly, Obama asked Congress to change the rules of the intelligence court to carve out a role for privacy advocates. Currently, judges only hear from one side. These are important changes. But the fundamental question of whether the government should collect and retain massive amounts of data on private citizens remains unresolved. While Obama’s NSA review board urged the government to stop the mass collection of data — and have phone companies hold the data instead — Obama seemed determined to ensure that the government maintain access to it.


Dueling judicial rulings on NSA Spying, and why they don’t matter

Monday, December 30, 2013 at 11:01 am by

Two federal judges reached opposite conclusions in separate cases challenging NSA spying. One was thoughtful; the other reflected much of what is wrong with our courts. Ultimately, however, neither will matter. The NSA’s dragnet continues unabated, and only Congress is poised to stop it.

Dueling judicial rulings on NSA Spying

Two weeks ago, US District Judge Richard Leon rightly described the NSA’s domestic spying operations as an “indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion.” He ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction against the programs, and stayed his ruling pending appeals that could go on for years.

Last Friday, Judge William Pauley opined that the NSA’s program does not violate the Fourth Amendment, prompting outrage among observers who understand either the NSA’s programs, or the role of courts, better than Judge Pauley. His decision reflects a disturbing judicial deference to executive spin, and undermines not only constitutional rights, but also judicial independence.


Beyond the Panopticon: The NSA Isn’t Alone

Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 11:01 am by

This article is the second in a two part series that began with “Beyond the NSA: other agencies spy on you, too,”  originally published by on December 16, 2013.

The Panopticon is real. It siphons billions of dollars each year from a federal budget in crisis. And it is watching you and your children. Lost in the debate about NSA spying, however — and even most public resistance to it — have been the various other federal agencies also complicit in Fourth Amendment abuses.

Even critics of domestic surveillance have largely failed to recognize how many government agencies spy on Americans.

A presidential review panel recently recommended substantial changes to FBI powers, including ending the authority to issue National Security Letters. NSLs are secret data requests used to circumvent both First and Fourth Amendment protections, demanding information about third parties and gagging the recipients. The FBI’s pattern of abusing undercover infiltration to disrupt First Amendment protected organizations, however, stretches back decades, threatens democracy even more deeply than NSLs, and continues unabated.

Beyond the NSA and FBI, many other agencies are also involved in domestic surveillance. And all of them continue to evade public and congressional scrutiny.


GOP Reps call for criminal investigation for DNI’s lies to Congress

Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:06 pm by

CLAPPER-perjurerOn Thursday, seven members of Congress wrote a scathing letter to the Attorney General requesting a criminal investigation into potential perjury by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. The letter — signed by Republican representatives Reps. Darrell Issa (CA), James Sensenbrenner (WI), Trent Franks (AZ), Blake Farenthold (TX), Trey Gowdy (SC), Raúl Labrador (ID) and Ted Poe (TX) — reads in part:

One of the hallmarks of American democracy is that no one is above the law….

Director Clapper…was asked a question and he was obligated to answer truthfully. He could have declined to answer. He could have offered to answer in a classified setting. He could have corrected himself immediately following the hearing. He did none of those things despite advance warning that the question was coming….

Director Clapper’s willful lie under oath fuels the unhealthy cynicism and distrust that citizens feel towards their government and undermines Congress’s ability to perform its Constitutional function.

Earlier this year, in March, Clapper testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about domestic data collection conducted by the NSA. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) posed a tough question, asking whether “the NSA collected any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper responded “No, sir,” but revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed Clapper’s denial as a lie, for which he later apologized in writing. If anything, Wyden’s question was an understatement; in fact, the NSA collects telephony metadata for every call placed within the US.

Clapper has responded inconsistently to accusations that he lied to Congress under oath, stating alternately that he answered in “the least untruthful manner possible,” that he misunderstood the question, and finally that he just “didn’t think” of the specific section of the Patriot Act that the NSA claims authorizes bulk data collection. To some lawmakers in Washington, however, “Oops” is not good enough.


Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC’s December 2013 Newsletter

Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

December 2013, Vol. 12 No. 12

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