Posts Tagged ‘state secrets’

Kafka’s America: secret courts, secret laws, and total surveillance

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 11:44 am by

The-surveillance-stateThis commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published on July 22, 2013.

“Logic may indeed be unshakeable, but it cannot withstand a man who is determined to live. Where was the judge he had never seen? Where was the High Court he had never reached? He raised his hands and spread out all his fingers. But the hands of one of the men closed round his throat, just as the other drove the knife deep into his heart and turned it twice.” – Franz Kafka, The Trial

In a bizarre and ludicrous attempt at “transparency,” the Obama administration has announced that it asked a secret court to approve a secret order to allow the government to keep spying on millions of Americans, and the secret court has granted its request.

Late on Friday, July 19, 2013, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)—a secret court which operates out of an undisclosed federal building in Washington, DC—quietly renewed an order from the National Security Agency to have Verizon Communications hand over hundreds of millions of Americans’ telephone records to government officials. In so doing, the government has doubled down on the numerous spying programs currently aimed at the American people, some of which were exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who temporarily pulled back the veil on the government’s gigantic spying apparatus.

As a sign of just how disconnected and out-of-touch with reality those in the Beltway are, National Intelligence Director James Clapper actually suggested that declassifying and publicly disclosing the government application was a show of good faith by the government. The order, submitted by the federal government and approved by the FISC, is set to expire every three months and is re-approved without fail. This is the bizarre logic which now defines American governance: it doesn’t matter if we spy on you without your consent, so long as you know that we’re doing it, and so long as we give the impression that there is a process by which a court reviews the order.


“Insider Threat” program promotes spying on colleagues

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 9:48 am by

On October 7, 2011 President Obama released Executive order 13587, presenting a program that was ignored by major media coverage until recently.

The Executive Order purports to address “Structural Reforms to Improve the Security of Classified Networks and the Responsible Sharing and Safeguarding of Classified Information,” embedded in which was his introduction of the Insider Threat Task Force. Until a recent article by McClatchy, however, it had gone largely unacknowledged by those concerned with the safety of whistleblowers in the post-Bradley Manning era.

Even now, with the “Where in the world is Edward Snowden?” conversation, the Insider Threat Program remains largely outside the realm of discussion despite its enormous implications for government transparency and the rights of whistleblowers.


News Digest 06/28/13

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 06/21/13

Friday, June 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 06/11/13

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

President Obama vs. his administration’s legacy

Friday, May 24, 2013 at 9:43 am by

President Obama’s speech yesterday, presenting his vision of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, included welcome rhetoric about the importance of constitutional principles, including Due Process and rights to dissent. It may represent the high watermark for civil liberties since his inauguration five years ago.

It is disappointing, given his thoughtful words, that he ignored so many inconvenient truths. From extrajudicial assassination to free speech and freedom of the press, from the need to address root causes of terrorism to partnership with American Muslims, the president promoted important principles but papered over reality.

The reaction by Republican senators was even worse. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) foolishly suggested that “The president’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” and suggested doubling down on many of the same failed Bush-era policies from which President Obama finally signaled long overdue independence yesterday.

Due Process: Gitmo

The president forcefully spoke about the need to close Guantánamo Bay, and also lifted his moratorium on releasing Yemeni detainees whom the government has cleared for release, despite the clamor among conservative lawmakers who prefer to indefinitely detain anyone accused of terror without trial.

Yet the president’s words reflected important principles that his own administration has routinely violated. Col. Morris D. Davis, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo who resigned his position to challenge torture (and serves on the BORDC advisory board), agreed that “It’s great rhetoric. But now is the reality going to live up to the rhetoric?”

The president criticized restrictions on resettling detainees cleared for release imposed by Congress early in his administration. But he has the authority to resettle those detainees through a separate process, if he were willing to certify the release of particular individuals—which he has avoided in order to avoid the political risk.

Due Process: Drone strikes

President Obama also pledged more congressional oversight of drone strikes, responding to sustained controversy and reiterating a promise from his State of the Union address in January that he has yet to fill.


News Digest 04/01/13

Monday, April 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Son’s battle for records from 1960′s sheds light on today’s secrecy state

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11:12 am by

It’s been five years since Jim Scott embarked on his slog through the bureaucracy and secrecy of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in order to piece together why the government spied on his journalist father.

Paul Scott, who covered national security for the Northern Virginia Sun during the 1960’s, would walk to his neighbor’s house to call his sources in order to avoid a wiretap his family thought him paranoid to worry about. It wasn’t until 2007, when the CIA released a collection of documents called the Family Jewels, which outlined its illegal activities during the 1950’s-70’s, that Jim learned his father’s caution was justified.

In a recent article for the Washington Post, Ian Shapira describes Jim Scott’s five-year battle with the CIA to turn over documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Jim believes these documents will shed light on unanswered questions that linger after his father’s death.

Shapira’s article, in turn, raises a number of points worth elaborating on about the secrecy state.


News Digest 03/14/13

Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

A promising step against domestic drones

Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 7:17 am by

This past month, Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013 (HR 637), a bipartisan bill that would establish basic legal ground rules for the domestic use of drones (aka “unmanned aircraft systems”). The principles now governing searches by this new technology are vague, and the clarity of this bill would greatly benefit both police and the public. It represents a promising and crucial step in reigning in overbroad domestic surveillance. The following is a brief summary of its provisions and some suggestions for improvement.