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MoPOP at dusk, Seattle

Monday, June 10, 2013

We have met the enemy...



“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure we’re abiding by the Constitution, then we’re going to have some problems here."President Barack Obama
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Mr. President, I think that we are going to have some problems here. We don't trust you. Or them. You have chosen to decide what is best for us and we haven't even received a say in the matter.

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There are a lot of lessons to be drawn and things to ponder regarding the recent NSA revelations. The first axiom is that in today's world there are no secrets. In the new information age, eventually the genie will spill out of every bottle. Administrations should count on it.

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I have been of course wary of the scope of the government surveillance programs for a long time. Unfortunately this stuff doesn't really surprise me, it only confirms what I already sensed. In a strange way I am happy that the information on the scope and scale of the government intrusion and spying has come to light. It has unveiled a lot of deceitful and duplicitous behavior, not the least of which is the conduct of our very own president. Many of us were alarmed at Bush's version of the Patriot act. Things are probably even worse under his succesor. What we were sold was a bill of goods.

Barack Obama maintains that there are adequate checks and balances present, that these programs have been vetted by all three government branches. Interesting. Senator Richard Durbin says that the amount of people in Congress who were aware of the program could be counted on two hands. Obama says that we are set to have an interesting dialogue on balancing security and privacy. I would welcome that because so far it looks like it has merely been a one sided monologue, where the executive branch simply dictates its plans. Nobody can really say anything. Udall and Wyden tried.

Forget the SCOTUS also. Last year the court decided that Amnesty International had no Article III standing to sue the government regarding foreign surveillance since no one had any sure proof that they were actually being spied on. This sleight of hand type of venal sophistry is right out of Alice and Wonderland and adds to the notion of an out of control, imperial government, the kind many of the citizenry now fear is perilously close.

In Clapper vs. Amnesty International, the SCOTUS, by a 5–4 vote, it held that a group of human rights organizations, lawyers, activists, and journalists lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of a congressionally authorized, warrantless government surveillance program.

The surveillance program was authorized by the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (FAA), which permits the executive branch to engage in large-scale, programmatic surveillance of foreign targets outside the United States. The surveillance is subject to approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and to procedures intended to minimize incidental interception of information regarding U.S. persons, a category encompasses citizens, lawful permanent residents, and certain associations and corporations.

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The FISA Court has been essentially a rubber stamp for the last several administrations.  Last year, according to this DOJ report, the government made 1,789 applications to the court — one was withdrawn by the government and 40 were modified by the court, but “the FISC did not deny any applications in whole or in part,” the report states. In 2011, there were 1,676 applications, of which two were withdrawn and 30 modified, but once again, “The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part.” In 2010, there were 1,511 applications, of which five were withdrawn and 14 modified, but “The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part.” Not one. In fact, only six applications have been denied in the last eleven years according to ex NSA operative Russell Tice. See this article in the Guardian..

Director Clapper says that if Americans data is collected, it is only incidental. Why does that not mollify the american people? Are we supposed to believe that it will not be utilized? Come now.
"It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp," said Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst.
Of course now the DOJ is fighting to keep a FISC opinion that they actually lost last year with repercussions for PRISM secret. This 2011 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling found the U.S. government had unconstitutionally overreached in its use of a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The National Security Agency uses the same section to justify its PRISM online data collection program. But that court opinion must remain secret, the Justice Department says, to avoid being "misleading to the public."

Hey Eric Holder, how about a little sunshine? You know we are going to find out anyway. We are not children, we can take it, unless of course it is unbelievably egregious and then somebody most definitely needs an ass whuppin'.

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Many of my liberal friends are very disappointed in this President, also Harry Reid and Dianne Feinstein. Obama talked a very good game but unfortunately lost his taste for the fourth amendment somewhere along the way. I guess we goofed. Because we as citizens value such antiquated concepts as the right to privacy and against unreasonable search  and we thought you shared our concern. Silly us.

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I believe that Edward Snowden's actions were necessary, if not heroic. Our security apparatus is becoming an out of control monster. No way do I equate his action's with Julian Assange's or Bradley Mannings. I would draw and quarter them and hang them from a tree. They outed some identities of people who were ultimately killed or never seen again. Snowden has merely lifted a veil on our misconceptions that we were guaranteed some rights to privately communicate without government interception.

Dude is going to spend a long time in jail. Thank you for your sacrifice, Edward. Somebody had to do it.

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How safe can a system be if it hinges on a 29 year old operative who never finished high school, articulate as he is? How many other contractors have our secrets within a touch stroke of their keyboards? Half a million? I guess it was only a matter of time...


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Lindsay Graham says that Snowden's actions may rise to the level of a felony. Horrors. I guess he won't be able to opt for diversion...

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"There's very little trust in the government, and that's for good reason.We're our own worst enemy." Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

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"I think the times that this program's been reauthorized, much of this operates in levels where there are not that many people — members of Congress — who are fully engaged in what's going on. You know, the intelligence committees obviously are involved and homeland security, I think, to some degree but most members of Congress are given a piece of legislation to vote on and I don't believe that most members of Congress, perhaps, going into this were fully aware of how broad this program was and so yes, you vote because you're obviously concerned about protecting the country," Thune said. "You know, many of these tools have been used and have been effective in preventing terrorist attacks but I think now as more of these details are starting to come out, there are going to be additional questions raised and asked and hopefully some answers given that will give us a better understanding, not only of how this program works today, but how we might proceed with it in the future and the way that protects individual privacy but also gives us the necessary tools that we need to fight terrorism and to protect Americans."Sen. John Thune (R) S. Dakota
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From the ACLU:

The ACLU and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Clinic filed a motion today with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), seeking the release of secret court opinions that permit the government to acquire Americans' phone records en masse. The public has a right to know the legal justification for the government's sweeping surveillance—but, until now, those judicial opinions have remained a heavily guarded secret.

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Why metadata matters - Electronic Frontier Foundation

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What's next in the power point deck? 36 slides still remain unseen. From Wired.

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Hey, remember Operation Carnivore? Think it actually was ever retired?

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The agency collects almost 100 billion pieces of information per month, according to a document from Snowden that is said to reflect information from an NSA data-mining tool, Boundless Informant. ZDNet


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Secret Surveillance and the Crisis of Legitimacy - Steven Aftergood

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Daniel Ellsberg: Edward Snowden, Saving Us From the United Stasi of America - The Guardian.

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NSA Monitoring and Partisan Hypocrisy - New York Times

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“There is no reason we cannot fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties. ... As president, Barack Obama would revisit the Patriot Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.”
Barack Obama - 2008

I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.
Senator Ron Wyden - May 2011
 

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