Earlier this week, Firedoglake reported on an internal NSA document circulated on November 22 that provides talking points for employees to defend the NSA to their friends and family. The two-page document includes five main points and a bulleted list of evidence to support each point.
Posts Tagged ‘transparency’
This commentary was written by Michelle Richardson and originally published on the ACLU blog on October 29, 2013.
Over the last several months, members of Congress have introduced at least two dozen spying reform and transparency bills. Today, a new proposal called the USA FREEDOM Act from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Ct.) was introduced to significantly limit the collection and use of Americans’ information under our nation’s spying laws. The ACLU strongly supports the legislation.
10/16, Tom Gjelten, NPR, Are We Moving To A World With More Online Surveillance?
10/15, Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Politics, Exclusive: Glenn Greenwald Will Leave Guardian To Create New News Organization
10/15, Addy Dugdale, Salon, The NSA intercepts emails, sure. But did you know it harvested address books?
10/15, Grant Gross, PCWorld, Supreme Court shouldn’t review NSA spying case, U.S. gov’t says
10/12, Sean Vitka, Ars Technica, DoJ: If we can track one American, we can track all Americans
For the past five months, an encrypted e-mail service called Lavabit has been locked in a mostly secret fight with the government over transparency and user privacy. Lavar Levison created Lavabit in 2004 to provide a higher level of privacy to its users than other popular e-mail hosts like Gmail. The FBI contacted Levison in May of 2013, seeking data about a particular user of Lavabit. Without knowing the target of the investigation, Levison explained how his encryption system works and the agents left. They returned at the end of June, right after Edward Snowden used a Lavabit account to call a press conference in Moscow, making it increasingly clear that the individual in question was the high-profile NSA whistleblower.
In the last couple of weeks, drones have been doing what they do best: surreptitiously showing up everywhere, from local law enforcement to the FBI.
As the NSA scandal continues to grow, compounded by the release of ever more documents that demonstrate the pervasive reach of surveillance on US soil, the significance of this should not be overlooked. Drones are part and parcel of the cancerous domestic surveillance state.
On June 19, on the tails of the first revelations of the NSA spying scandal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller came before the Senate Judiciary committee for an oversight hearing.
In his introduction to the hearing, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reminded the committee that the FBI needed to strike the balance between safety and civil liberties. The purpose of the hearing was to “review the broad intelligence authority Congress has granted the FBI” and to “ensure…that they do not violate the privacy rights and civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.”
It seems clear that the FBI is misusing that broad intelligence authority. During the hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) questioned Director Mueller on whether the agency was using drones for domestic surveillance, based on his understanding from the Department of Justice that the DEA and ATF have drones.
The answer was yes, although the Director was quick to qualify that by saying “In a very, very minimal way, and very seldom.”
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.
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.
Surveillance, secret interpretations, and secret authorizations: the story of Section 215 of the PATRIOT ActSaturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:04 am by Dave Mitchell
When one power is constrained (or simply not broad enough), interpret other powers to be unrealistically and shockingly expansive and shield that interpretation from public scrutiny…at least that’s what the FBI would tell you.
The FBI’s annual report on its use of spying powers released late last month reveals a meteoric 900% rise in the use of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act under the Obama Administration (see graphic). This provision, reauthorized in 2011, allows the FBI to force unwilling businesses to hand over “any tangible things” simply upon showing the closed-door Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts (FISA court) that they are “relevant” to an “authorized investigation” into “international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” In a break with foundational Fourth Amendment principles, the person whose “tangible things” are sought need not be suspected of any criminal activity themselves. The FBI merely must show the FISA court that those “things” sought are “relevant” to an investigation into international terrorism.
So just how broad is this power?
A few courageous senators in the know have hinted that Americans would be “stunned” by the scope of the spy powers claimed under Section 215; the only problem is the government has kept this interpretation secret. Not only does this lack of transparency prevent public discourse on what the limits of the government’s powers should be, it also drips with irony under a president that denounced such broad powers as a “fishing expedition” while in the Senate.
Obama said he made “no apologies” for being concerned about national security but that the free flow of information was important to him as well.
What exactly is this “free flow” of information? According to The Guardian blogger Glenn Greenwald:
If you talk to any real investigative journalist, they will tell you that an unprecedented climate of fear has emerged in which their sources are petrified to talk to them. That the Obama administration has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined has already severely chilled the news gathering process. Imagine what message this latest behavior sends to journalists and their sources: that at any moment, the phone records of even the nation’s most establishment journalists can be secretly obtained by the DOJ, which has no compunction about doing so even in the most extreme and invasive manner.
This mind set is obviously not very conducive to a “free flow” of information. So apparently, President Obama’s “free flow” of information is only pertaining to that information which benefits his administration:
The Obama administration does not mind leaks of classified national security information; to the contrary, they love such leaks and are the most prolific exploiters of them. What they dislike are leaks that they don’t approve and/or which don’t glorify the president.
Interestingly, the media is suddenly up in arms about this abuse by the Obama administration. This passage from the Washington Post had Greenwald laughing audibly:
President Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer who came to office pledging renewed respect for civil liberties, is today running an administration at odds with his résumé and preelection promises.
The Justice Department’s collection of journalists’ phone records and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties – and as a president who would heal the country from damage done by his predecessor.
You don’t say! The Washington Post’s breaking news here is only about four years late. Back in mid-2010, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, speaking about Obama’s civil liberties record at a progressive conference, put it this way: “I’m disgusted with this
president.” In the spirit of optimism, one can adopt a “better-late-than-never” outlook regarding this newfound media awakening.
The news media should take a several steps back from its cozy relationship inside the Beltway and return to its adversarial position as a watchdog of government. We, the people, need the media on our side, not the side of the politically elite.
For the past three years, Google has attempted to become more transparent by releasing reports about which governments are requesting it to remove content from its search engine or other sites. Their latest report covering the last six months of 2012, shows a significant increase of 26% more requests from governments to remove videos from Youtube, delete blog posts from Blogger, or remove items from Google’s search results, making them harder to find. The reports show that the number of requests have been increasing steadily for the last three years. Since Google controls a significant amount of international internet traffic, its decisions about what to show or restrict access to can have far reaching consequences.
In a blog post, Google wrote:
It’s become increasingly clear that the scope of government attempts to censor content on Google services has grown. In more places than ever, we’ve been asked to remove political content…or blog posts criticizing government officials or their associates.
This latest report also clarified whether videos were taken down for violating Google’s community guidelines or for violating local laws.