Posts Tagged ‘Obama administration’

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.


1968 in 2013: Democrats vs. themselves (Part II)

Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 10:05 am by

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 laws

Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm by

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.

Surveillance without oversight in the government shutdown

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm by

2013-09-12-BZSSRLast weekend, the government  decided that the NSA and its spying activities are essential government functions, but that surveillance oversight is expendable. As the government shutdown continues and thousands of federal employees remain furloughed, almost all of the Department of Defense’s civilian employees are heading back to work. The Pentagon announced on Saturday that 90% of its 350,000 furloughed employees could go back to their jobs in order to support various aspects of military readiness.

While the NSA returns to business as usual, the oversight committee tasked with investigating the NSA’s spying practices remains frozen. President Obama created this five-member panel, called the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, to evaluate the government’s surveillance strategies after the summer’s revelations of large-scale unwarranted wiretapping and other intrusions into privacy.

Smackdown NSA: the Constitution vs. the National Security State

Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm by

Written by Karen Nyhus
SF99% Coalition


998339_10200741875963554_425891382_nA knock-down, drag-out fight between basic constitutional rights and government surveillance will go another round in San Francisco federal court this week. In Jewel v. NSA (aka “Jewel”), the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the federal government and several high officials of the Bush and Obama administrations, charging they authorized illegal dragnet surveillance against millions of Americans in the wake of 9-11.

Despite recent revelations of a much wider surveillance program, none of it has yet been proven illegal, stopped by a court order, or led to any government official being held responsible. In Jewel, the EFF has defeated the government’s initial claims of total state secrecy and immunity from prosecution. While some charges have been dismissed, those alleging violations of Americans’ First and Fourth Amendment rights remain, as do some alleging statutory violations, and claims against government architects of the NSA surveillance individually.