Posts Tagged ‘transparency’

How state secrecy protects government agencies from embarrassment, then and now

Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 9:37 am by

Original commentary published on Privacy SOS blog on March 24.

J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with secrecy is a legacy that scars present-day government agencies.

J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with secrecy is a legacy that scars present-day government agencies.

Often when the government wants to keep something secret, it claims that transparency would endanger national security. We’ve been hearing a lot of this lately in light of the new information about the FBI and NSA’s surveillance activities disclosed to the press by former contractor Edward Snowden. The leaks have caused “grave harm” to national security and even US foreign policy, Snowden’s critics repeat over and over again.

BORDC Legal Fellow Matthew Kellegrew appeared on RT America to talk NSA reform

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 8:03 am by

BORDC Legal Fellow Matthew Kellegrew made an appearance on RT America following the President’s speech on the need to reform the National Security Agency (NSA). Among the many topics discussed, Matthew commented on the absence of meaningful change offered in the President’s address:

The NSA comes home for Thanksgiving

Friday, December 6, 2013 at 8:45 am by

nsa_thanksgiving-smallThis holiday season, are you wondering how to justify the NSA’s illegal surveillance and civil liberties violations to your family? Don’t worry, the NSA has a secret document for that!

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.


News Digest for 11/15/13

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Current News 

11/15, Chris Strohm, Bloomberg News, Silicon Valley Nerds Seek Revenge on NSA Spies With Coding

11/14, Center for Investigative Reporting, UT San Diego, Reddit chat: Losing the ‘surveillance war’

11/14, Michael Tarm, ABC News, Ex-FBI Agent Pleads Guilty to Being AP Source

11/14, Fabien Tepper, Christian Science Monitor, Google transparency report curiously opaque, thanks to FBI gag order

11/14, Laura Ryan, National Journal, Google: Government Information Requests More Than Double Since 2010

The USA FREEDOM Act is real spying reform

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm by

This commentary was written by Michelle Richardson and originally published on the ACLU blog on October 29, 2013.

blog-patriotact-500x280-v01Over 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.




News Digest 10/16/13

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Current News

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, PCWorldSupreme 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

Lavabit: the e-mail service risking everything in the fight for transparency

Monday, October 14, 2013 at 10:00 am by

Snowden: Lavabit Encrypted Email Service Shuts DownFor 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.


The drone tide continues to rise

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 9:48 am by

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.”


“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.


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.