intelligence gathering

A Libertarian’s Guide to Government Speak, aka Today’s NewSpeak

Since words are the weapon of choice for many in the political world, it seems to me that having a guide to translate the “feel good” words used in so many discussions of and about politics.  This is the beginning of one, and I encourage you to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Obama to call for an end to NSA bulk data collection

The New York Times reported late yesterday evening that President Barack Obama will supposedly call for an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, leaving data in the hands of phone companies:

The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.

Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of  court order.
[…]
The new type of surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.

They would also allow the government to swiftly seek related records for callers up to two phone calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies.

NSA can record every phone call in a foreign country

The NSA spying controversy has found its way back in the news after a brief respite due to the foreign policy crisis with Russia and coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

The latest revelation, provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, is just as concerning as previous ones. The Washington Post reports that the NSA has developed a program, with no approval from Congress, that has the ability to record and store every single phone call made in an unnamed foreign country:

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

Yahoo Webcam Feeds From Worldwide Users Hacked by NSA, GCHQ

NSA’s scandals continue to pile up.

According to The Guardian, the U.S. National Security Agency along with Britain’s surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters have intercepted and collected webcam images captured from millions of Internet users in bulk between 2008 and 2010. It has been discovered that the data, which was indiscriminately gathered from users that were not necessarily suspected of any wrongdoing, has been stored in agency databases for years.

The report shows that in a six-month period in 2008, data from 1.8 million users that were not under suspicion of having committed any crimes was collected and stored by both agencies.

A reportedly substantial amount of sexually explicit communications has been stored as well, making it hard for either of the agencies to use the terrorism excuse to back claims that the gathering of this type of material was essential to the success of surveillance programs. Secret documents indicate that between 3 to 11 percent of the imagery material was sexually explicit content.

The program known as Optic Nerve was designed to snap screenshots every 5 minutes from hacked Yahoo user feeds amounting to a massive amount of imagery data. Users from around the world were affected.

Here’s an actual quote from the secret documents: “unfortunately, it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person.”

FreedomWorks and Rand Paul Sue the NSA

See Video

FreedomWorks released a video this afternoon shortly after they joined Senator Rand Paul in filing a class action lawsuit against President Obama and intelligence officials over the National Security Agency’s violation of the Fourth Amendment through their domestic surveillance program.

While preparing to walk over to the court, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said, “One of the footnotes I find particularly interesting, this is a quote from then-Senator Barack Obama, who complained about the lack of judicial oversight with the NSA’s programs. He said in 2005, ‘If someone wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document, the library books you’ve read, the phone calls that you made, the emails that you sent, this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a need in a court of law. No judge will hear your plea. No jury will hear your case. This is just plain wrong.’”

Kibbe went on to call this the biggest day in FreedomWorks history.

During the joint press conference, Kibbe said, “I don’t think this is a partisan issue. This isn’t Republican versus Democrat. This isn’t about the Obama Administration. This is about a government that’s crossed a line.”

Senator Paul and FreedomWorks are being represented by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who says that they filed the class action lawsuit “to vindicate the Fourth Amendment rights of every American who uses a phone.”

Rand Paul, FreedomWorks file lawsuit against NSA spying

Photo credit: Kate Todd

It’s official. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe have filed a class action lawsuit against President Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials over the NSA’s domestic surveillance program.

“On behalf of myself, FreedomWorks and everyone in America that has a phone, we’re filling suit against the President of the United States in defense of the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said in front of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “We will ask the question in court whether a single warrant can apply to the records of every American phone user all of the time, without limits, without individualization.”

“This, we believe, will be a historic lawsuit. We think it may well be the largest class action lawsuit ever filed on behalf of the Bill of Rights,” he added.

President Barack Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Security Agency Keith Alexander were named in the lawsuit. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will represent Paul and FreedomWorks in the case.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program is unconstitutional and an injunction against further use. Paul and FreedomWorks want purged any metadata from the existing database.

Paul and FreedomWorks argue that they have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment as well as standing to file the complaint on the grounds that they are subscribers to Verizon and AT&T.

Rand Paul to file suit against Obama, intelligence officials today

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will file a class action lawsuit this morning against President Barack Obama and intelligence officials over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

“I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment,” Paul said in a press release from RandPAC. “The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants. I expect this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court , and I predict the American people will win.”

Paul has long contended that the controversy over the NSA’s surveillance programs, through which the intelligence agency collects phone metadata of innocent Americans, is a matter that will eventually have to be settled by the Supreme Court. His PAC began collecting signatures for the lawsuit in January.

In addition to President Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Security Agency Keith Alexander will be named as respondents in the lawsuit.

Paul will file the lawsuit at United States District Court in Washington, D.C and will host a press conference in front of the courthouse at 11 am. The Kentucky senator will be joined by FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who will serve as lead counsel in the case.

House Republicans ask DOJ to investigate James Clapper

A group of seven House Republicans have fired off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in which they urged the Justice Department to investigate whether Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied in congressional testimony.

“Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony—witnesses cannot be allowed to lie to Congress,” the House Republicans wrote to Holder on Thursday. “Accordingly, we request you investigate Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s ‘erroneous’ statements to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this year.”

The seven Republicans who signed the letter are Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Ted Poe (R-TX).

Clapper was asked a very direct question by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” replied Clapper. Still, Wyden pressed him. Clapper again denied that the NSA was collecting data on Americans, saying, “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

NSA director to step down soon

NSA Director Keith Alexander

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and his deputy, John Inglis, will step down in the next few months amid growing concerns and criticism over the intelligence agency’s surveillance programs, which have been used to collect data of Americans phone callsInternet recordsemails, and even their social media connections:

The director of the U.S. National Security Agency and his deputy are expected to depart in the coming months, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, in a development that could give President Barack Obama a chance to reshape the eavesdropping agency.

Army General Keith Alexander’s eight-year tenure was rocked this year by revelations contained in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s widespread scooping up of telephone, email and social-media data.
[…]
There has been no final decision on selecting Rogers to succeed Alexander, and other candidates may be considered, the officials said.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said Alexander planned to leave office in the spring after three extensions to his tenure, and the process for picking his successor was still under way.

Senators roll out NSA surveillance reform measure

NSA reform press conference

Congress may be dealing with other legislative priorities at the moment, such as passing a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government open, but the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance apparatus remains a hot topic.

Seeking to roll back the intelligence agency’s ability to spy on Americans, a bipartisan group of senators have proposed a package of measures to reform the PATRIOT Act — the legislation through which the NSA has claimed such broad power — and restore the Fourth Amendment.

The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), would end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and Internet metadata and prevent warrantless collection of communications, according to a statement provided by his office. It would also provide for a “constitutional advocate” on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), an idea backed by President Barack Obama.

“The overbroad surveillance activities that have come to light over the last few months have shown how wide the gap between upholding the constitutional liberties of American citizens and protecting national security has become,” said Wyden in the statement.


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