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.
Posts Tagged ‘Obama administration’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first installment in this series explained how, as the left vs. right schism grows eclipsed by establishment vs. populist tension, Democrats risk getting left holding the bag of the national security state. This post explores the dangerous consequences that could pose for progressivism.
As the NSA spying scandal has progressed, congressional Democrats have grown co-opted by an Obama administration committed to defending, entrenching, and perpetuating the Bush administration’s legacy—despite the president’s campaign promises in 2008 to reverse it. This co-optation spells grave threats not only to partisan Democrats, but also to principled progressives attached to an ideology inadvertently weakened by partisan Democrats aligned with the president.
Rallying around President Obama…to shoot themselves in the feet
In August 2013, during the debate on the House defense appropriations bill, only 7 votes protected the NSA from debilitating budget cuts that would have ended its domestic bulk collection activities. Seven members of Congress could have changed the outcome of the vote, reflecting a razor thin (under 2%) margin of victory for the surveillance state.
That margin of victory could be explained in many ways. One explanation may surprise progressives: Democrats from the Bay Area and Chicago, representing safe blue seats, who were outspoken about surveillance abuses at one point, comprised the NSA’s entire margin of victory. They chose to resign their principles, oaths of office, and constituents’ concerns in order to support their partisan patron, the president. They’re carrying the Bush administration’s water because it’s now President Obama holding the glass.
VIDEO: Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, and Congressman John Conyers agree that a free society should not have secret lawsThursday, October 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm by Adwoa Masozi
On October 23, the Stop Watching Us coalition released a new video on NSA spying which documents a tapestry of distinguished voices speaking out against the abuses of the NSA and the larger government. Such voices include whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), veteran talk show host and journalist Phil Donahue, as well as actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, and John Cusack–to name a few. These individuals are but a few of the millions of Americans around the country up in arms and organizing in their communities to hold the government accountable for its assault on our Constitutional rights and liberties on the whole.