surveillance

More evidence that we must be vigilant: Barack Obama begs cops to stop reminding Americans they’re under constant surveillance

We have all heard of the now infamous technology known as “stingrays,” which law enforcement uses to track cell phones.

The military and local law enforcement agencies have been making use of this technology for years. The devices are used by law enforcement to trick cell phones into giving in details on its identification and location. This process takes place once the tool used by the authorities mimics a cell phone tower. The target then receives electronic signals that transform the phone into a tracking instrument.

Stingrays are reportedly used by law enforcement when officers are not willing to contact the phone companies during an investigation. They ignore a few steps of the operation, ignore any need for warrants, which they have already ruled unnecessary when using stingrays, and focus on obtaining information on a potential suspect by going straight for the target’s phone.

Some of the most recent coverage the use of these technologies has obtained was linked to the special motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU filed the motion in the Florida state court to obtain access to information on why law enforcement was using this technology, but federal authorities were having none of it.

According to Wired, U.S. Marshals grabbed the files before ACLU even had the chance to review any documents.

Whether this technology is widely and consistently used by law enforcement across the country or not, privacy proponents are not ignoring its capacity. Now, however, new revelations seem to indicate the real scope of the matter.

House NSA reformer: “There’s more than enough votes to pass the FREEDOM Act”

A leading critic of the NSA bulk data collection program says the votes exist in the House of Representatives to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, a sweeping measure that would end bulk data collection and protect Americans’ privacy rights.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) told The Hill last week that he would offer an amendment to address the NSA bulk meta collection programs if the White House and House Intelligence Committee proposal fall short. Now that he’s had time to review them, the Michigan Republican believes the dueling measures don’t stop bulk data collection at all.

“The proposals from the White House and the Intelligence Committee don’t really make much of a difference. They don’t actually stop bulk collection,” Amash said in an interview on Wednesday. “They transfer where the data is held, but the government can still access it in basically the same way.”

Amash supports the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced in October by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). This measure would not only end the bulk data collection program, it would also close loopholes the NSA could use to access Americans’ personal records.

The USA FREEDOM Act has broad, bipartisan support — a rarity in Washington these days — but it’s currently stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, though Amash notes that it has “a lot of support” from its members.

Snowden raised concerns with supervisors before going to the press

It’s still hard for some of us to grasp the motives behind Edward Snowden’s decision to go straight to the press.

Some question why government officials were never warned that pressing concerns related to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs had to be addressed , and some even question the goals behind the final disclosure of the confidential programs to the press.

While all questions are valid and should be addressed timely, recent reports show that Snowden’s recent testimony to the European Parliament assured the public that his concerns had been discussed with at least 10 officials before he decided to go to the press. According to the report, Snowden would have a hard time pursuing any further whistleblowing mainly because of his status as a contractor.

According to the testimony, the decision to go to the press to leak confidential documents only came to Snowden after he exhausted all other formal avenues.

When asked about the circumstances, Snowden replied that he “had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.” Edward Snowden’s status as an employee of a private company hired by the U.S. government makes it impossible for the contractor to be protected by whistleblower laws, which are only valid to U.S. government direct employees.

Snowden claimed that because he encountered these legal issues, he feared he “would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.”

C.I.A. to Senate Intelligence - do as I say, not as I do

The Senate Intelligence Committee is apparently getting a taste of what it’s like to be the subject of a C.I.A. investigation, and isn’t very pleased. It has partially come to light that the spies have been watching the committee, primarily over an investigation into the Bush administration’s interrogation and detention program in the wake of 9/11. Yes, it’s the long and expensive investigation into the C.I.A.’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” coming back to bite the committee.

It’s no secret that the C.I.A. was less than pleased with the findings the investigation, and when the Senate Committee managed to get their hands on a secret document that contradicted C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s contentions that their initial investigation was at least partially false, things started to get ugly. Like many other webs of intrigue in our government these days, one almost needs a scorecard to keep track.

1. The Senate Intelligence Committee engaged in an investigation of the interrogation and detention program. This cost taxpayers more than $40 million because the C.I.A. insisted that the investigation had to take place in a secure location, and all the material had to be reviewed by an outside contractor before it could be released to the committee staff.

2. The investigation found that the techniques like waterboarding used by the C.I.A. really didn’t yield a great deal of useful information. It certainly didn’t justify the use of those techniques, and placed the U.S. in a difficult situation when it came to foreign relations.

Maryland Republicans Introduce Bill to Fight NSA

Eight Maryland Republicans introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act last Thursday. The bill would keep local government from providing resources to the National Security Agency while it’s engaged in any form of spying programs. According to OffNow.org, the bill would make any data gathered by the NSA inadmissible in state court.

The piece of legislation is based on the model legislation drafted by the Tenth Amendment Center that is being used by lawmakers in several other states to fight the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance locally.

Maryland is basically the National Security Agency’s political subdivision, according to the Tenth Amendment Center’s executive director Michael Boldin. The agency’s home base in Ft. Meade, Maryland uses a massive amount of water, which would be denied to the agency if the legislation passes. Local governments would be denied state funds if they refuse to comply with the law and companies would be blocked from maintaining any state contract if they choose to cooperate with the NSA.

Eight Republicans are defending Maryland’s HB 1074 in the House of Delegates. The bill will only pass with the approval of three-fifths of delegates. The introduction of the legislation follows reports concerning a contract renewal between the NSA and Howard County, Maryland that will provide the agency with up to 5 million gallons of water per day. The water is used to cool the agency’s supercomputers, which would not be functioning if it weren’t for all of the water provided by local governments.

Obama To Talk NSA Reforms Friday, It May Disappoint You

President Obama is expected to present his proposal addressing reforms to the National Security Agency (NSA) this Friday following a lengthy review of the agency in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations last summer of agency data collection.

But, as James Oliphant writes in the National Journal, don’t expect to see anything really concrete addressing the overreach of the agencies’ powers into the lives of ordinary Americans. Not likely from a man who is now promoting a “9/11 justification” for the NSA program:

To lay the groundwork for that position, aides to the president told the Los Angeles Times this weekend that the NSA’s metadata collection scheme could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks. What’s more, Obama has adopted that “9/11 justification” for the NSA program, the paper reported.

That’s a blinking-red signal that the administration is not about to be accused of making the country more vulnerable by tampering with such a preventive weapon. Remember that George W. Bush, a Republican, walked back his warrantless wiretapping program in 2007 after a public outcry. This president, a Democrat, isn’t going to follow suit—especially given the new instability in Iraq and worries about the vacuum left by the coming pullout from Afghanistan.

U.S. IT Firms Lose Billions Due to NSA’s Surveillance Programs

The government’s intrusive NSA surveillance programs are not only causing Americans to fret over the limitless information government agencies are gathering daily without any warrants. According to The Independent, U.S. IT firms are also losing billions after reports proved they were involved with the bulk data collection programs.

The scandal is making it hard for American technology companies to sell their products to foreign companies and governments in Asia. Members of the export markets have begun to refuse making any deals with Americans because they simply cannot trust us anymore.

Tech giants like Cisco and IBM have seen a sales drop that surpassed the $1.7 billion mark since Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been gathering Internet data from millions of American users daily.

When foreigners don’t want what U.S. companies have to offer, especially after learning that surveillance programs have compromised their technology, China becomes the first place to go for an alternative. According to The Independent, IBM saw a drop of 15 percent of sales in Asia, while Cisco reported that it might have lost 10 percent of its customers in this current quarter.

The Asian market is not the only one that’s concerned with surveillance programs like Prism. According to the reports, the German government is urging tech developers to come up with an alternative local Internet and e-mail provider that would keep the consumer’s data private.

Federal judge dismisses legal challenge to NSA surveillance

A federal district judge ruled this morning that the National Security Agency’s phone metadata surveillance program is constitutional and dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley acknowledged that the NSA phone surveillance program “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States.” But he opined that the program could have prevented the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“As the September 11th attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a thread can be horrific,” wrote Pauley in ACLU v. Clapper. “Technology allowed al-Qaeda to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attack remotely.”

“The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the Government’s counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to re-construct and eliminate al-Qaeda’s terror network,” he added.

Pauley acknowledged that there have been “unintentional violations of guidelines,” but dismissed this at “human error” and “incredibly complex computer programs that support this vital tool.” He also wrote that the program is “subject to executive and congressional oversight” and “monitoring” by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

Pauley was appointed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in May 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. He was confirmed by the Senate in October 1998. The court on which Pauley serves is based in New York City.

U.S. District Court Judge: NSA Mass Surveillance Program Likely Unconstitutional

I believe I can speak for every single libertarian out there when I say that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s decision on the unconstitutionality of the phone collection program is nothing short of exceptional.

According to Judge Leon, the NSA program that gathers phone data made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional due to its violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Justice Department also failed to demonstrate to Judge Leon how the intrusive program has actually helped the government to track terrorists before actual attacks take place.

Leon, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, issued a preliminary injunction that keeps the NSA from gathering metadata pertaining to the Verizon cell phone users that led to the lawsuit filed by the conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. Since the first leaks provided by Edward Snowden concerning the massive surveillance program carried out by the National Security Agency, nothing significant has been officially accomplished by lawmakers or activists trying to curb the agency’s snooping programs.

The recent ruling is the first time that a judge considers the metadata gathering program unconstitutional, considering that several judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled the program constitutional.

Tech firms finally call for NSA surveillance reforms

After months of mostly silence on the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs, which includes obtaining information of Americans’ phone calls and Internet records, leading tech firms have finally spoken out and launched a campaign for reform.

A half dozen firms — including Facebook, Google, Twiter, and Microsoft — have written letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress in which they explain that the federal government must reform laws to protect Americans’ privacy. The firms have also launched a website — ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com — that outlines the principles of reform.

“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,” wrote the firms in the letter. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

“For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” the letter continues.


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