surveillance state

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.

House Republican Raises the Issue of Drone Usage

On Thursday, Georgia’s Austin Scott introduced H.R. 5925, the Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act, a bill with the stated purpose of protecting privacy against unwarranted intrusion by use of drones.

When I saw the headline, I was skeptical. Scott’s a good guy; I’ve met him a handful of times, and though I think his intentions are usually good, he’s been a pretty big disappointment since he got to Washington. When he was campaigning (in the Georgia gubernatorial race first, and then for Congress), he said all the right things that made me think he’d be good to have in Washington. Once he got there, however, his tune changed, and he quickly sold out to the establishment.

That’s not to say that everything he’s done in the last 2 years has been a disappointment, but I was shocked to see that he was leading a charge to protect the Fourth Amendment. To be fair, I’ve not read this bill because it’s not available online as of this writing, so it might be wonderful legislation. The reports I’ve seen, however, list some exceptions in the bill that are troubling.

The legislation, according to this report, says that there are “several exceptions for the use of drones without warrants, including the patrolling of U.S. borders or during the threat of a terrorist attack.” On the surface, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but this is similar to some other legislation that violates the Fourth Amendment:

NDAA: “Indefinite detention only applies to you if we think you’re involved in terrorism. Otherwise you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

SCOTUS decision on GPS tracking may force a new debate about the surveillance state… and that’s a good thing.

Surveillance State

With the renewed interest in the intersection between technology (specifically, the kind that enables surveillance) and traditional Constitutional notions about freedom and privacy, a two-year-old Supreme Court case has left the door open for clarification on just what technologies law enforcement can use to monitor and enforce the law. Or, depending on your perspective, has made the situation more confusing:

Judges around the country are grappling with the ripple effects of a 2-year-old Supreme Court ruling on GPS tracking, reaching conflicting conclusions on the case’s broader meaning and tackling unresolved questions that flare in a world where privacy and technology increasingly collide.

The January 2012 opinion in United States v. Jones set constitutional boundaries for law enforcement’s use of GPS devices to track the whereabouts of criminal suspects. But the different legal rationales offered by the justices have left a muddled legal landscape for police and lower-court judges, who have struggled in the last two years with how and when to apply the decision — especially at a time when new technologies are developed at a faster rate than judicial opinions are issued.

Millennials aren’t willing to trade their liberty for the false security of unconstitutional NSA spying

Newt Gingrich

Former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich suggested on Meet the Press Sunday that Millennials would quickly embrace the surveillance state in the wake of another “major attack” on the U.S.

“[T]he Millennials are going to decide they want the government to protect them,” Gingrich said, equating warrantless indiscriminate snooping on innocent Americans to legitimate security measures carried out against suspected national security threats. Referencing the attacks on September 11 is a popular way hawks like Gingrich and Senator John McCain justify expansive national security programs.

Millennials have been the demographic most skeptical of the NSA’s surveillance program and most supportive of whistleblower Edward Snowden. A USA Today/Pew Research poll released shortly after Snowden’s leaks revealed:

[Y]oung people overwhelmingly believe the leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, which exposed secret government surveillance of phone and Internet records, serve the public. Sixty percent of 18- to 29-year-olds polled support the leaks…

Members of the younger generations were also more likely to disapprove of the government’s collection of data, which Peter Levine, director of Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, attributed to a greater distrust of government.

Arrogant Obama to court: Dismiss Rand Paul’s lawsuit against my unconstitutional surveillance

The Obama administration has just filed a motion to ensure that Sen. Rand Paul and FreedomWorks’ NSA lawsuit is dismissed.

Justice Department lawyers urged a federal judge to dismiss the class-action lawsuit filed against the National Security Agency by claiming that the lawmaker is not able to name the plaintiffs, in spite of the fact that it has been already widely reported that the NSA’s surveillance programs have targeted all Americans.

The lawsuit urges the court to keep the federal government from obtaining and controlling Americans’ telephone metadata.

According to FreedomWorks’ President Matt Kibbe, “Obama’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit is an insulting display of political arrogance coming out of the executive branch.” The same court that ruled that the government should destroy data obtained through Verizon on the Klayman case back in December would be in charge of dismissing the lawsuit.

Kibbe claimed that the move is a motion to censor civilians. “It wasn’t enough that the Obama administration authorized the single largest warrantless gathering of citizens’ private information in the history of the United States,” he said. “They don’t even believe citizens deserve an opportunity to plead their case after their rights have been violated.”

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.”

Facebook CEO: NSA spying hurting online businesses

Mark Zuckerberg

The National Security Agency’s broad surveillance programs aren’t just bad for Americans’ privacy, they’re also bad for business. That’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — a guy who knows a thing or two about running an Internet firm — said on Wednesday at an event hosted by TechCrunch:

While speaking at TechCrunch’s Disrupt event in San Francisco, Zuckerberg emphasized that it is his job “and our job to protect everyone who uses Facebook and all the information they share with us.” He said the government response put U.S. tech firms doing business overseas in a tough spot.

“It’s our government’s job to protect all of us and also to protect our freedoms and protect our economy … and companies,” he added. “And I think they did a bad job of balancing those things here. … So frankly, I think the government blew it. They blew it on communicating the balance of what they were going for here with this.”
Zuckerberg appeared to be noting the government’s initial steps when the NSA story first broke after revelations by leaker Edward Snowden.

“The morning after this started breaking, a bunch of people asked them what they thought,” he said. “And the government’s comment was, ‘Oh don’t worry, basically we’re not spying on any Americans.’ Oh, wonderful, that’s really helpful to companies who are trying to serve people around the world and really going to inspire confidence in American Internet companies. Thanks for going out there and being clear about what you are doing. I think that was really bad.”

Letter to the Editor: Save our Republic from the National Security and Surveillance State

 John Galt

Below is a Letter to the Editor, sent anonymously to United Liberty by a reader. The full, typewritten letter can be found below (click to enlarge).

So it’s okay for the NSA to come into your house and take very bit of information you have as long as they don’t look at it? To listen to everything you say as long as they don’t heard? To probe you and send all your medical records to the IRS, just in case?

But don’t worry, the cold dead eyes of those officials who have violated their oaths to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution like Feinstein, Reid, Rogers, Boehner, Holder, and Obama will provide oversight! (Not to mention the secret court, it’s secret! We call believe in the tooth fairy.)

This member of the “Governed” no longer gives his “Consent.”

As for the disposition of information already collected, they can stick it up their tyrannical asses!

John Galt

Poll: Americans’ views shift in favor of civil liberties

Americans are not willing to trade liberty for security, despite overtures from President Barack Obama and politicians from both sides of the aisle, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac. They also reject the notion that Edward Snowden, the man who linked the information about the NSA’s broad surveillance techniques, is a traitor to his country.

“In a massive shift in attitudes, voters say 45 - 40 percent the government’s anti-terrorism efforts go too far restricting civil liberties, a reversal from a January 14, 2010, survey by the independent Quinnipiac University when voters said 63 - 25 percent that such activities didn’t go far enough to adequately protect the country,” the polling firm noted in a release on Wednesday (emphasis added).

“There is a gender gap on counter-terrorism efforts as men say 54 - 34 percent they have gone too far and women say 47 - 36 percent they have not gone far enough. There is little difference among Democrats and Republicans who are about evenly divided. Independent voters say 49 - 36 percent that counter-terrorism measures have gone too far,” added Quinnipiac. “Some of the largest growth in those concerned about the threat to civil liberties is among men and Republicans, groups historically more likely to be supportive of governmental anti- terrorism efforts. “

FBI already using surveillance drones inside the United States

Look! In the sky. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…an FBI drone?

That’s right, folks, fresh off revelations that the NSA is collecting phone records and Internet metadata of ordinary Americans who are suspected of no crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has admitted for the first time that it has used surveillance drones inside the United States.

During congressional testimony on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged that the agency he oversees has used drones inside the United States, though he insisted that reliance on them is limited:

The United States uses drones for surveillance in some limited law enforcement situations, FBI Director Robert Mueller said on Wednesday, sparking additional debate about President Barack Obama’s use of domestic surveillance.
“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on U.S. soil?” Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Yes,” Mueller said, adding that the use was in “a very, very minimal way and very seldom.”

Mueller did not go into detail, but the FBI later released a statement that said unmanned aircraft were used only to watch stationary subjects and to avoid serious risks to law enforcement agents. The Federal Aviation Administration approves each use, the statement said.

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