Posts Tagged ‘Obama administration’

Six years late and too many lives short: Obama & Holder on racial profiling

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 10:10 am by

Last month’s police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri revealed to many Americans for the first time how unaccountable police have grown. Around the country, local police forces are effectively militarized, widely discriminate against people of color, and suppress democratic dissent despite its constitutional protection.

This week’s announcement of new forthcoming federal guidance by the Justice Department addressing racial profiling — as well as Holder’s decision to leave the Department — are welcome signs. Both, however, come with disturbing implications.

Better late than never

Proposed changes to the Justice’s Department guidance to law enforcement agencies include prohibiting religious profiling, and closing longstanding loopholes allowing blatant profiling in the context of national security and border integrity. These are intelligent choices, not only for the rights at stake, but also for the national security and border integrity interests that profiling also undermines.

The timing, however, is striking. First, why are these changes being implemented on the eve of the Attorney General leaving office? Without being codified in law, the new standards will survive only at the whim of the AG’s successors.


How fear mongering is destroying our rights

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm by
Last Thursday, BORDC’s executive director, Shahid Buttar, appeared on Uprising Radio. When speaking about fear mongering with regard to ISIS and homeland security, he said:

“It’s eerie to see the resurgence of many of the same dynamics in the public debate that we saw ten years ago, namely, fears of national security threats justifying overbroad counterterrorism policies…. There were very important reforms moving through Congress that have been all but derailed…due to the fear mongering about ISIS….

The fact of the matter is the FREEDOM act wouldn’t impact the NSA’s foreign signals intelligence capabilities at all. It would only keep [the NSA] from spying on Americans. The idea that somehow fears about ISIS should justify insulating the NSA from accountability for years of lies and deception to Congress and the American people — and documented abuses violating [legal limits on] its powers, and breaking the Federal statutes that were set up in the first place to keep it from doing these things — is preposterous. We should all expect much more from our public officials.”
Listen to the full interview here.

Secretary of State slanders historic NSA whistleblower

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 8:04 am by

This Monday, BORDC’s Shahid Buttar appeared on the Pacifica Radio network’s Flashpoints program to respond to Secretary of State John Kerry’s confused, ironic, and self-serving statements about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Buttar noted Kerry’s complicity in mass surveillance given his voting record in the Senate, as well as his failure to maintain his own stated principles as a veteran who, at one point early in his career, testified before Congress about his opposition to the Vietnam War.


BORDC’s Shahid Buttar explains bait & switch on NSA spying

Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 10:19 am by

On Thursday, May 22, BORDC’s Shahid Buttar appeared on RT America’s evening news program to explain how the bipartisan Washington establishment co-opted the USA FREEDOM Act. The bill had passed two House committees seeking to reform NSA surveillance before the House leadership gutted it with White House support in a back room deal on Wednesday.

He explained that:

We don’t yet know how broadly the NSA is spying on the American people. We only have glimpses into the tips of the iceberg…. There has been no meaningful investigation into what is actually happening. Congress has been legislating in the dark for over a decade, and…continue[s] to do so, now, even after a year of establishing that it’s been getting lied to for the last ten years…. Congress should be much more skeptical of the agencies.

US government officials describe journalism as a crime

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 8:48 am by
Original image from

Original image from

Since Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA mass surveillance, US government officials have alleged journalists’ reporting on these revelations as criminal. Although the US government has not officially charged any reporters with a crime related to reporting NSA activity, several high officials have clearly expressed a desire to do so. This raises deep concerns about American’s right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution.

National Security Agency (NSA) director Keith Alexander said in an October 2013 interview:

I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000 — whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these — you know it just doesn’t make sense. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on.


States resisting the NSA dragnet

Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm by
Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP

Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP

January has witnessed continuing public outrage over surveillance state’s assault on our fundamental rights and civil liberties. Since the initial Snowden disclosures, the Obama administration has done little to address concerns about the threat posed by warrantless data collection by the National Security Agency (NSA). While the president addressed those issues in a major address on January 17, in a speech proposing to end indefinite bulk data retention by the NSA, his proposed reforms were ultimately meager, under-inclusive, and potentially counter-productive.


The intelligence-industrial complex and the persistence of mass surveillance

Monday, February 3, 2014 at 9:26 am by
(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

Revelations about the US government’s mass surveillance efforts truly piled up during this past week. According to documents released by NBC and journalist Glenn Greenwald, the British government showed its US counterparts a program that enables the extraction of user data through real-time monitoring of social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Then, the New York Times and ProPublica reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) and its British partner Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) gather personal data through smartphone applications. The agencies can access information about a user’s location, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and education. Finally, Edward Snowden said in an interview on German television that the NSA participates in industrial sabotage, gathering information from foreign companies that could be advantageous to US interests beyond national security.

This outpouring of discoveries about the the scope of the American surveillance state and its partnerships abroad comes on the heels of an independent oversight board’s strong rejection of the NSA’s data collection program. On January 23, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) concluded that the bulk data collection program is illegal and should end. PCLOB further highlighted that the program has not identified terrorist threats to the United States or played a role in terror investigations.

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.


Gallows humor: jokes about NSA spying

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:49 am by

While Congress mulls over dozens of competing proposals to reign in the NSA’s domestic dragnet spying activities, the agency continues to run circles around Congress and the courts, while continuing to co-opt the Obama White House.

At a time like this, it may help to rememeber some of the pithy reflections on NSA spying that comedians have shared, like:

  • “Germany is mad at the United States for the NSA eavesdropping. This, ladies and gentlemen, from the country that gave us the Gestapo.” –David Letterman
  • “Due to the government spy scandal, sales of the classic George Orwell book ’1984′ have skyrocketed. So the fallout is worse than we thought. It’s making Americans read.” –Conan O’Brien
  • “President Obama said he welcomes a national debate over our surveillance policies. He said that’s a debate we wouldn’t have had five years ago. Five years ago? It’s a debate we wouldn’t have had two weeks ago if they all hadn’t gotten caught.” –Jay Leno
  • “Mr. President, no one is saying you broke any laws. We’re just saying it’s a little bit weird you didn’t have to.” –The Daily Show’s John Oliver

If these jokes don’t prompt a laugh at your next cocktail party, consider focusing your friends on the laughable job that Congress has done in overseeing domestic spying over the past decade. Unfortunately, there seem to be no shortage of clowns involved in this ongoing sordid enterprise.

NSA plays key part in secret and illegal drone campaign

Monday, November 4, 2013 at 11:48 am by

Since June, the documents released by Edward Snowden have revealed the vast extent of the NSA’s surveillance regime and raised concerns about the legal basis of the NSA’s programs. The Washington Post recently published another set of documents from Snowden that expose a new side of the NSA and its role in the war on terror. These documents show how the NSA’s participates in the targeted killing program that utilizes drones to attack terrorist groups — as well as many civilians — in countries like Yemen and Pakistan.

The drone campaign was previously thought to be solely the responsibility of the CIA, but it is now clear that the NSA and CIA collaborate closely on gathering information about targets. The documents detail how the NSA intercepted electronic communication about Hassan Ghul, an associate of Osama Bin Laden who had been released from detention in Pakistan. In this case, the NSA acquired an e-mail from Ghul’s wife, which helped pinpoint his location and facilitated a drone strike shortly afterwards, resulting in his death.