National Security Agency

Peter King’s disgusting, foolish attack on Rand Paul

Peter King

If you disagree with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on the issue of NSA surveillance, then you hate America and don’t care if people die. Or something. That’s what the cantankerous New York Republican intimated on Sunday during an appearance on Fox News.

Specifically, King was targeting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has spoken out against the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs and plans to file a class-action lawsuit against the controversial intelligence agency.

“The NSA is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. No one’s privacy is being violated. Despite what Senator Rand Paul was talking about, the NSA is not listening to American phone calls,” said King on Americas’s News HQ. “All they are doing is they are taking the records from the phone companies of phone number to phone number — no names, no address, no content.”

Rand Paul to file class-action lawsuit against the NSA

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced on Friday that he plans to file a class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance programs, after garnering more 250,000 signatures through his campaign and related political action committee.

“The question here is whether or not, constitutionally, you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people,” said Paul on Friday during in an appearance on Hannity. “So we thought, what better way to illustrate the point than having hundreds of thousands of Americans sign-up for a class-action suit.”

“So about six months ago,” he continued, “we began this call, and we now have several hundred thousand people who want to be part of this suit to say to the government and to the NSA, ‘No, you can’t have our records without our permission or without a warrant specific to an individual,’” adding that every American who has a cell phone can join the class-action lawsuit.

NSA metadata programs wouldn’t have stopped 9/11

Khalid al-Mihdhar

Since the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs were publicly exposed in June 2013, President Barack Obama and intelligence officials have argued that the surveillance had foiled dozens of terrorist plots, a claim that has recently been proven false.

Other supporters of the programs opined that it could have prevented the September 11 terrorist attacks. That opinion was promulgated by U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley, who held last week that the NSA metadata collection is legal.

“Prior to the September 11th attacks, the National Security Agency intercepted seven calls made by hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was living in San Diego, California, to an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen,” wrote Pauley in ACLU v. Clapper. “The NSA intercepted those calls using overseas signals intelligence capabilities that could not capture al-Mihdhar’s telephone number identifier.”

“Without that identifier, NSA analysts concluded mistakenly that al-Mihdhar was overseas and not in the United States. Telephony metadata would have furnished the missing information and might have permitted the NSA to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the fact that al-Mihdhar was calling the Yemeni safe house from inside the United States,” he added.

But the notion from Pauley and others is counterfactual thinking. It cannot be proven. But Justin Elliott of ProPublica, a public interest organization, noted last summer that federal law enforcement officials had the means to bring in al-Mihdhar, who was on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon, and simply didn’t act.

Biggest Stories of 2013: Edward Snowden Exposes NSA’s Mass Surveillance Program

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

NSA

Glenn Greenwald broke the news regarding the mass phone data collection program on June 6th 2013. News regarding the spying programs helped to prove that James Clapper, NSA’s director, had lied before Congress when asked if the NSA had in fact been collecting any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.

While we know that this sort of surveillance has been around for at least seven years, nobody seemed entirely at ease with the revelations concerning the scope of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs when the news first broke. At first, we learned that the NSA was collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers everyday. Then we learned that that sort of surveillance was actually legal. How so? Because of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. According to the law, the National Security Agency is given full authority from a secret court to force companies like Verizon and AT&T to disclose details concerning the numbers of both phone users on a call, as well as location data and other valuable information.

Researchers: It’s easy to match metadata to individuals

Supporters of the National Security Agency continue to argue that the metadata obtained cell phone companies isn’t a violation of Americans’ privacy rights. They’re not listening in on phone calls, they claim, the intelligence agency is just getting phone numbers, times and durations, and the location from which the call was made.

But despite the defenses of the programs from lawmakers and the intelligence community, researchers at Stanford University recently conducted an experiment to determine how it easy it would be for the NSA to match up metadata to specific people.

They crowdsourced volunteers who allowed them to collect the metadata using the MetaPhone app. The researchers found that was relatively easy and inexpensive to identify phone numbers from the sampled metadata to individuals:

So, just how easy is it to identify a phone number?

Trivial, we found. We randomly sampled 5,000 numbers from our crowdsourced MetaPhone dataset and queried the Yelp, Google Places, and Facebook directories. With little marginal effort and just those three sources—all free and public—we matched 1,356 (27.1%) of the numbers. Specifically, there were 378 hits (7.6%) on Yelp, 684 (13.7%) on Google Places, and 618 (12.3%) on Facebook.

NSA whistleblower blasts surveillance in Christmas message

Edward Snowden

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke out on Christmas day, giving a U.K.-based television station’s “alternative Christmas message,” which ran as a response to Queen Elizabeth II’s annual Christmas address.

“Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide system of mass surveillance watching everything we do. Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information,” Snowden said in a pre-record video run by U.K.-based Channel 4.

“The types of collection in the book -– microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us –- are nothing compared to what we have available today,” Snowden said in reference Orwell’s magnum opus, Nineteen Eighty-Four, sales of which took off after the NSA scandal became public knowledge. “We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.”

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 report undermines government claims of foiled terrorist attacks

Since the disclosures of the National Security Agency’s vast domestic surveillance programs became public knowledge, President Barack Obama and congressional supporters have repeatedly said that the bulk data collection of phone records is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.

Intelligence officials have gone so far to claim that some 50 terror plots have been foiled because of the program. That number was repeated by President Obama. “Lives have been saved,” he insisted in June shortly after the initial disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The credibility of this claim was already significantly diminished in October, when NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander admitted in congressional testimony that he had inflated the number of purportedly foiled plots.

“These weren’t all plots, and they weren’t all foiled, would you agree with that, yes or no?” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked the NSA chief. “Yes,” said Alexander.

The claim has been even further undermined by the White House Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, the five-member panel that reviewed the programs and made a number recommendations to President Barack Obama that would reform the NSA and provide for more accountability and transparency.

NSA official: “I have some reforms for the First Amendment”

Daniel Drezner, contributing editor at Foreign Policy, recently paid a visit to the National Security Agency’s complex in Fort Meade, Maryland and chatted with various employees at the intelligence agency.

The article Drezner wrote about the visit, which was published earlier this week, presents a fairly sympathetic view of the NSA and its frustrated employees in light of the heavy public scrutiny due to its controversial domestic surveillance programs. But he recounted a conversation with one unnamed agency official that shows a very real, terrifying disconnect over the concerns with its spying (emphasis added):

The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I honestly do not know whether that last statement was a joke or not. Either way, it’s not funny.

Yeah, that’s not funny, whether it was meant as meant as a joke or not. But the sad thing is that these comments echo a sentiment expressed by NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander in government-sponsored propaganda.

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul praise NSA court ruling

The preliminary federal court ruling issued on Monday which found the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program to likely be unconstitutional has drawn bipartisan praise from several civil liberties advocates on Capitol Hill.

Among the politicians praising the ruling were Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), both potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“The government has no business conducting overbroad surveillance of ordinary, law-abiding citizens. At the same time, we must provide for national security and thwart terrorist plots against our homeland and our citizens,” said Cruz via a statement, adding that the Obama Administration “seems to consistently favor undermining the rights of law-abiding Americans.”

“The NSA’s massive data mining program raises serious civil liberties concerns, and Judge [Richard] Leon deserves praise for giving the program a close review,” he said. “The Senate too must carefully scrutinize our surveillance programs to ensure that they protect American citizens without infringing on their constitutional rights.”

Paul, who has introduced and cosponsored a measures to restore the Fourth Amendment, commended Judge Leon for “upholding and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights.”


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