Glenn Greenwald

NSA Scandal Not about Republican vs. Democrat — It’s about Liberty vs. the State

Liberty and the NSA

It’s been a week since Glenn Greenwald broke the story on the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of calls made on the Verizon network. There have been a lot of arguments made for and against this program over the last week, and the battlelines have been clearly drawn.

First, let’s recap. This sort of surveillance has been around for at least seven years, perhaps even longer. The difference between what was going on with the NSA under the Bush Administration and what is currently going in the Obama Administration is that the former didn’t bother with court orders or warrants to conduct this sort of blanket surveillance.

So when the apologists for the program say it’s “legal,” like Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) did yesterday, they’re referring to the the statutory authority granted via Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, a controversial provision of the law that allows intelligence agencies to obtain a court order to collect this information from businesses. More on this in a moment.

Using this section of the law, the NSA obtained authority from a secret court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to force Verizon to turn over the phone records of millions of customers, even if they are not suspected of terrorist activity.

Big Brother Looking Out for Us or Just Looking at Us?

Mike Herrera is a songwriter and record producer from Bremerton, Washington. He hosts The Mike Herrera Hour every Friday night on You can catch more of Mike’s musings on Tumblr.

What if I told you that the government knows you are reading this? In an article on June 6, 2013 by Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, more damning evidence surfaced that “NSA PRISM program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others. The top-secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook.” However, one day before from Greenwald again, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.” Did he say daily? With these two huge stories on top of all the recent White House scandals — including kill lists, Predator drones, and the IRS debacle — this could read as a racy Hollywood drama much like the aptly named TV show, Scandal.

The real life scandals are worse! I feel consciously detached from the fact that some if not all of us are being recorded by the government. Many US foreign policies and our ongoing policing of the world has made me nervous to be an American on foreign soil many times over. I’m suddenly hit from behind by the fact that a large majority of US citizens don’t have a clue and don’t really want to know that everything you search online is recorded, every email saved in a government file. Ignorance is bliss. But when it suddenly affects those individuals, it’s too late.

Why Should We Care? We Have Nothing to Hide…

The consistently principled Glenn Greenwald recently broke the story that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting phone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers daily. Unsurprisingly, the usual Big Brother apologists chimed in with the rebuttal, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ah, yes. Civil libertarians are used to hearing the nothing-to-hide argument from people who are willing to trade privacy for security, or a false sense of it, anyway. When American citizens strongly opposed the Patriot Act that allows the government to wiretap phone lines without a warrant, we were told: “No secrets? No worries.” When we criticized the warrantless house-to-house raids in Boston following the Marathon bombing, we were told: “If you’re not housing the terrorists, what’s the big deal?”

Here’s the big deal: privacy isn’t simply the option to hide bad things. Privacy enables us to freely pursue the things that we enjoy, on our own terms. Maybe the Kardashian family enjoys putting their entire life out there for the world to see and harshly judge, but most of us like to keep some things to ourselves— and rightfully so!

Privacy is your right to control the flow of information about yourself. You choose what details to share, when, where, and with whom. There are likely parties from college that you do not want your employer to know about. You may not want your mother to know all the juicy details about your love life, or your friends to know the humiliating health questions you’ve searched on WebMD. When the government is snooping without your consent, they have taken away your right to a very important personal choice.

The Empire Tries to Strike Back

All y’all dumb motherf****** don’t even know my opinion on sh**.”

If there was ever a defining moment in the 2010 midterm elections, I would have to argue that it occurred when the statement above was made by a black construction worker who had just passed through a gauntlet of “protesters”. The crowd had assembled in lower Manhattan to express their absolute hatred for Muslims, fueled by years of neoconservative propaganda (though it only seems like a few weeks). The unidentified man, wearing a skin cap, immediately assumed to be a Muslim artifact, made the completely appropriate statement, under the circumstances, when the crowd started directing their vitriol toward him.

Clearly, none of the protesters were interested in knowing his opinion but rather projecting it upon him. Yet, he probably made the most sensible and astute comment they had heard since tuning off Fox News before traveling to New York.

Edward Snowden, Ebola, and Barack Obama’s quest for your personal information

Edward Snowden, Citizenfour

A new documentary has been released about Edward Snowden, and word is it’s a fascinating look into the life of a man who has become a fugitive of his country for doing what he believed was right for his countrymen.

Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour” (the handle Snowden used when he first began communicating with reporter Glenn Greenwald) is filmed in a Hong Kong hotel room around the time Snowden began communicating with Greenwald.

The pre-emptive mining of data has gone beyond suspicion of terrorist activity. As Snowden says: “We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind,” and a martial law for intercepting telecommunication is being created by stealth. This is despite the bland denials of every official up to and including President Obama, whose supercilious claim to have been investigating the issue before the Snowden revelations has been brutally exposed by this film.

What then are we to think when this same method of mining data is being hailed as one of the best defenses against another threat to the country: Ebola?

The hope is that by merging all the data in one place, analyzing it, and turning it into visually digestible graphs, BioIQ can make the data accessible to everyone who needs to work with it, regardless of their background.

Today in Liberty: Rand Paul smacks down Obama’s neocon foreign policy, House passes Massie NSA amendment

“Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.” — Cullen Hightower

— Rand Paul smacks down Obama and neocon foreign policy: In an editorial at the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) cautions the Obama administration and lawmakers from choosing sides in, what has become, the Iraq civil war. But something he mentioned in the piece deserves some attention. “Saying the mess in Iraq is President Obama’s fault ignores what President Bush did wrong. Saying it is President Bush’s fault is to ignore all the horrible foreign policy decisions in Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere under President Obama, many of which may have contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. For former Bush officials to blame President Obama or for Democrats to blame President Bush only serves as a reminder that both sides continue to get foreign policy wrong. We need a new approach, one that emulates Reagan’s policies, puts America first, seeks peace, faces war reluctantly, and when necessary acts fully and decisively,” Paul writes. “Too many in Washington are prevented by their own pride from admitting their mistakes. They are more concerned about saving face or pursuing a rigid ideology than they are with constructing a realist foreign policy.” Basically, both sides are to blame for the foreign policy mess that we’re in today, and there’s really no getting around that.

#ThrowbackThursday: Leaks expose unconstitutional NSA program that allows the government to spy on innocent Americans

Edward Snowden Throwback Thursday

On this day last year, The Guardian published a classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling directing Verizon to hand over the telephone metadata for millions of American customers to the National Security Agency. This was the first such revelation in what would become an avalanche of information leaked by Booz Allen contractor Edward Snowden to journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The ruling reads in part:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, the Custodian of Records shall produce to the National Security Agency (NSA) upon service of this Order, and continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this Order, unless otherwise ordered by the Court, an electronic copy of the following tangible things: all call detail records or “telephony metadata” created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls…

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this Order…

Greenwald published the first story after waiting for several days for Guardian management and attorneys to confer with U.S. intelligence officials. From the story:

Glenn Greenwald is about release a shocking list of Americans Obama’s NSA has targeted for unconstitutional spying

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who published top secret National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden is about to reveal a shocking list of Americans the NSA has targeted for surveillance.

Glenn Greenwald, who worked through The Guardian to publish thousands of pages of leaked documents, is promoting his new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. Speaking to The Sunday Times of London, Greenwald said:

“One of the big questions when is comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’ Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists? What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer.”

Greenwald launched The Intercept earlier this year with a short-term mission of providing “a platform to report on the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.” The site’s long-term mission is to “produce fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues.” Greenwald will publish the names of those Americans targeted by the NSA at The Intercept.

Today in Liberty: Harry Reid backs anti-speech amendment, emails show IRS DC office coordinated targeting of conservatives

“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” — Voltaire

— Free speech doesn’t apply to the Koch brothers, apparently: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is backing a constitutional amendment that would limit political speech, framing the issue around the Koch brothers, obviously. “It’s been tried before, we should continue to push this and it should become our issue. That really puts the Koch brothers up against it. We believe and I believe that there should be spending limits,” Reid told BuzzFeed. “We’re going to push a constitutional amendment so we can limit spending because what is going on today is awful.” Yep. It’s just “awful” that the people use the First Amendment to say things that Harry Reid doesn’t like.

— Speaking of Harry Reid’s Koch addiction: Jon Stewart took aim at Reid on Tuesday night for his obsession with the Koch brothers even though he defends the likes of Sheldon Adelson, a Nevada casino owner who spends his money fighting against online gambling. “What is corruption?” Stewart asked The Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones. “Corruption is a billionaire who spends their money on shit you don’t like,” he replied. “What is free speech?” Stewart asked. “A billionaire who spends money on shit you do like,” Jones said.

Today in Liberty: Glenn Greenwald blasts a “corrupted” Hillary Clinton, former CIA official endorses Benghazi committee

“For liberty to triumph in the United States (and eventually throughout the world) libertarianism must become a mainstream movement, converting if not a majority, at least a large, critical minority of Americans.” — Murray Rothbard

— Glenn Greenwald blasts Hillary Clinton: The journalist behind the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures didn’t hold back in his criticism of Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential frontrunner. “Hillary is banal, corrupted, drained of vibrancy and passion. I mean, she’s been around forever, the Clinton circle,” Greenwald said in an interview with GQ. “She’s a f**king hawk and like a neocon, practically. She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere.” Gospel.

— Yes, it should be made easier to deal with a bad president: Impeachment, the mechanism in the Constitution for the removal of a president, has become too much of a political football to be an effective tool for Congress, says Gene Healy. It has also been misinterpreted by legal schools. Healy points to one law professor, Sanford Levinson, who is pushing for a new way to deal with a bad president. “Levinson favors a constitutional amendment allowing a congressional ‘no confidence’ vote and removal of the president. Adding that “safety valve” to the Constitution would be a long shot, to say the least,” Healy writes. “But years ago, we went through a yearlong constitutional conniption because the Constitution makes it so absurdly difficult to dethrone a misbehaving executive. Given the vast powers the modern president wields, it ought to be easier to ‘throw the bum out.’”

The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.