National Security Agency

Congressional backlash against NSA growing after latest revelations

Justin Amash

The latest revelations concerning the National Security Agency (NSA) could potentially tip the balance in favor of a measure to prevent the intelligence agencies from broadly spying on Americans.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the NSA had broken privacy rules 2,776 times over a 12-month period dating back to May 2012, pushing key lawmakers to call for increased congressional oversight of the surveillance programs.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced plans for a hearing over the programs after the latest report, according to The Hill, and expressed concerns that Congress is “still not getting straight answers” from the administration and intelligence officials. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the Washington Post’s report “extremely disturbing” and called for more congressional oversight.

But the most interesting comments about the latest revelations came from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who proposed an amendment last month that would have limited the NSA’s spying programs. The amendment, which was defeated by a very slim margin, would have denied funding to execute any FISA court order that isn’t specific to a person who is the subject of an actual investigation.

Bipartisan group of Senators push NSA on book, gun data collection

A bipartisan group of 26 Senators, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), are urging the National Security Agency (NSA) to disclose whether they collected information related to book purchases, medical records, firearms sales and other third-party data.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows intelligence and law enforcement agencies to gain access to third-party data. While the information is supposed to be related only to specific investigations into terrorist activities, the NSA has been collecting phone records from virtually every American, even if they are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

“[W]e are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” wrote the Senators in the letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Statements from senior officials that the NSA ‘[doesn’t] hold data on US citizens’ had the effect of misleading the public about how the law was being interpreted and implemented. This prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly.”

Cato Institute scholar explains the threat of NSA spying

NSA

Americans have been lied to about the vast surveillance that their government has been conducting. While politicians and intelligence officials have said in the past that only those suspected of terrorist activity are the target of surveillance, we now know that intelligence agencies have been collecting phone records and data from Internet providers about Americans who aren’t suspected of any crime. These citizens are, understandably, bothered by the surveillance programs.

In a video released last week, Jim Harper and Caleb Brown of the Cato Institute discussed the depth of these programs and the dishonesty of politicians who denied that innocent Americans were being surveilled.

Reason: Tap It: The NSA Slow Jam

Remy and Reason TV have teamed up to bring us this hilarious take on the NSA surveillance scandal. What better way to a very serious issue than a little comedy, right?

H/T: Ron Paul Problems

Joe Biden Slammed NSA Surveillance in 2006

We’ve already covered the conflicting statements that Barack Obama has made concerning government surveillance. As a United States Senator and presidential candidate, Obama said that the Bush Administration “puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and security we provide.” He made a similar statement during his inaugural address, also invoking the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. This rhetoric presents quite a contrast to what Obama is saying today.

Though he’s remained quiet on the current issues with the NSA obtaining the phone records of millions of Americans, Joe Biden wasn’t so quiet on the issue back in 2006. During an interview with CBS News, Biden, who was then-serving as a United States Senator, was very pointed in his oppositition to what he described as “intrusive” surveillance that was being conducted under the Bush Adminstration.

Intelligence Director Lied about NSA Data Collection on Americans

James Clapper

The National Security Agency’s secret order to obtain the phone records of millions of American may put James Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, in the crosshairs of at least some members of Congress.

At issue is whether Clapper lied when he testified during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Clapper, who has served as DNI since August 2010, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” replied Clapper in a rather squirrelly manner. 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.”

Here’s the exchange:

Americans Not Happy about NSA Snooping

NSA secrets

It seems that Americans have finally awakened to the abuses of their civil liberties. Two new polls show that a solid majority of the public isn’t happy about revelations that the National Security Agency has been collecting their phone data for datamining purposes (emphasis mine):

At first blush, it seemed, most Americans haven’t gotten too exercised about the revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly tracking everyone’s phone data, in the name of protecting national security.

That was the take-away from a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday. But two new polls out Wednesday – one by Gallup, another by YouGov taken for The Economist – paint a difference picture. Both find that a majority of Americans disapprove of the NSA data-mining programs.

In the Gallup poll, conducted June 10 and 11, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the programs, while 37 percent approve. YouGov found that 59 percent disapprove of the programs, and only 35 percent approve.

Americans are also skeptical that the snooping is doing much good. Per YouGov, only 35 percent say it’s likely the information has prevented a terror attack, while 54 percent doubt it has. And while President Obama insists that “nobody is listening to your phone calls,” it turns out only 17 percent of Americans think that’s true, according to the YouGov poll, taken June 8 to 10.

Government to Open Investigation into NSA’s PRISM Leak

NSA's PRISM

Following claims that PRISM, a surveillance program run by the FBI and the National Security Agency was collecting data from millions of Americans who use online tools like Facebook on a regular basis, Reuters published an article reporting that a federal law may require investigation into the source of the claims.

The probe would be launched to find the source of information that leaked details regarding PRISM to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers.

As soon as the scandal broke, President Barack Obama was quick to point out that a surveillance program was necessary in order to keep the nation safe. He assured the public that “nobody’s listening to the content of people’s phone calls.”

Details concerning the probe haven’t surfaced as of yet but recent events have taught us that the U.S. system of checks and balances may not be enough to keep this administration from using every tool in its power to persecute those who have dared to denounce the abusive use of powers granted to the executive branch as a result of the re-authorization of the Patriot Act in 2011.

Washington Post: US Agencies Collect Online Data Secretly

A secret program run by the FBI and the National Security Agency called PRISM hadn’t been disclosed until recently, news reports claim.

According to the Washington Post, the agencies are “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”

This piece of information comes on the heels of reports concerning government agencies collecting phone records from millions of Verizon users.

The Post reported that in spite of the secrecy surrounding PRISM, participating companies have been engaging in the operation knowingly. A spokesperson for Facebook, however, told reporters from CNBC that the company does not provide the government with any direct access to its servers. Despite the company’s claim, the Post reported that Facebook is one of the companies that participates in PRISM.

Other companies include Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, PalTalk, AOL, YouTube, Skype, and even Apple.

When asked about PRISM, Apple responded it wasn’t aware of the program. According to the company, any government agency that requests customer data must first present a court order. Apple said that providing the government or any other agency with data or access to the company’s servers is not their practice.

NSA Probably has Your Phone Records

NSA Spying

Just last week a friend joked, “Between you, me, and the NSA reading this text message right now.” It’s a joke that has become common in the post-9/11 world, but we got a sobering reminder as to why it’s no longer funny.

The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained a court order in April requiring Verizon to turn over phone records of all calls on its network for no apparent reason at all. Glenn Greenwald broke the story last night at The Guardian (emphasis mine):

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.


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