1984 isn’t behind us…
Under current American law, the content of a US person’s communications cannot be accessed, under any circumstances, without a warrant signed by a Judge. To convince the judge to issue a warrant it means there is a Logical Reason for the wiretap. This conforms with the Constitutional warrant against unreasonable search and seizure.
Simple as that.
Or maybe not.
As we found out recently through the Wikileaks as seen in the Guardian newspaper, we are all subject to warrantless search and seizure of our Communications.
How did that happen?
It simply happened because of our Government’s avarice and our own legislator’s slumber.
It’s good to remember Cato of the days of Old: “Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.”
Today it’s smpler: When the watchdog is asleep at the switch — all hell breaks loose. Short term illusions of security is not to the long term benefit of the Republic…
It’s now painfully clear that the President and this Administration are following the Dick Chenney doctrine of how to govern. They disrespect the people who gave them the mandate to lead. They bury the Fourth Amendment under a mountain of shit they dish out at regular intervals to remind us that we need more security at the expense of our Liberty. Hogwash and they know it…
Yet as Ben Franklin said: Those who desire security at the expense of Liberty deserve neither. And will finally have none… And yet erudite champions of Liberty and the Constitution at the Capitol Hill, including the high functionaries of both parties are pliant observers of this travesty and quiet disgracers of our beloved Guiding Doctrine.
Still help come from some unexpected quarters. Because some other American patriots are on a rescue mission for the Constitution. They are few and maybe too late — but they are truly fighting a vigorous rear guard action….
One of them, the brave Congressman Justin Amash, and a friend of this page, began a debate on the House floor Wednesday with a vow to “defend the Fourth Amendment.” That’s really what he introduced: A new Amendment, requiring that surveillance be warranted. An amendment to protect and enforce the FOURTH. That’s what his call to action on the floor of the House, was all about. A fourth for the FOURTH…
No argument for the Amash amendment was more trenchant than the one offered by South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan, who simply read the Fourth Amendment outloud to his fellow Congressmen. To quote those words of yore, was to take a clear shot at those attempting to fuck with the Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This was the Guiding Fathers clear intent. This is the DNA of Freedom. This is how America became GREAT. A country built on Freedom and Democracy. Make No Mistake — the yearning of Americans to BE FREE is still ALIVE & WELL. You can feel it walking the streets of Washington DC – the Capital – same as walking the paths in the mountain forests of Washington State.
The yearning for freedom can be felt everywhere from Sea to shining Sea — all across this Great Country.
It can be felt through young Edward Snowden’s heroic revelations that have made it possible for ALL AMERICANS to become aware of the theft of their Liberty and for some US Congressmen [from both parties] to blow away the fog that shrouds so much of the secret doings in the Capital. Foggy bottom was never revealed so thoroughly ever before. Whistleblowers, like Manning and Snowden will come to be appreciated as the bravest of Patriots some day soon. Even though today they are attacked and hated by many who fail to see the Long Term View of the matters at hand.
Still in the US house of parliament when Congressman Amash brought his 4×4 amendment to the floor — there was no place left to hide for those trashing our Liberty.
Amash simply said: “It’s time to fight.”
Because the Administration doesn’t get it. They don’t understand Limits to Power. They simply treat all phone records, metadata, phone logs, and the “to” and “from” lines of emails, as well as summaries and leading content and selectively plucked transcripts, or main ideas — as not subject to the same standards the Fourth Amendment guarantees to all Americans but as something else — entirely unprotected.
NSA’s Prism and X-Keyscore data harvesting tools, collect and analyze metadata — but not only those — and there is a presentation that Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, that gives examples of finding all this information not only through delving into foreign countries, but also inside America… And it doesn’t stop at Metadata but goes into Big Data and all our emails, phone calls and general communication are recorded. East Germany’s secret police STAZI never had it so easy. The spooks there, never had it so Good. Because today all of our communications inside America are fully recorded. All your Life is under the microscope just like a bug under a kid’s microscope…. Do you feel protected?
Just tell me this: How long does it take for the kid to squash the bug he had under the microscope — when so moved?
This Government on this Issue can’t be trusted anymore than the Kid. Any immature kid. Any clumsy fuckin kid — bug watching and bug squashing. That “kid” is what we distrust as Americans. Th
Just to give you an example:
Yesterday, a Boston woman was researching the acquisition of a pressure cooker in the morning and by noon the FBI and the local police were breaking down her door and arresting her as a Terrorist suspect… She just Googled “pressure cooker” and looked at the sites of various companies making them. By Noon she was handcuffed and her House ransacked.
All she wanted was to find a more economical way to cook and put food on the table for her family.
Now Go tell me the NSA isn’t involved in this. Better yet. Go search for “pressure cooker” over the internet and wait to see who shows up at your door…
Because outside of the bulk collection of phone records authorized by the Patriot Act, relatively little is known about what Big Data and what kind of Metadata the NSA is collecting under other programs and with tools like X-Keyscore and Prism and all other tools that haven’t been disclosed yet. Simple intelligence tells you that in order for the NSA to be able to collect the Americans’ Communication metadata — they have All the Data to shift through.
The automated tools the NSA uses worked “in a manner that was not consistent” with the court’s specific orders, according to the 2009 letter and another sent to the Senate’s oversight committee in 2011.
“The problems generally involved the implementation of highly sophisticated technology in a complex and ever-changing communications environment,” the letter says. The incidents of non-compliance were reported to the committee “in great detail.” And in response, the NSA implemented an “end-to-end” review of its procedures and put in place “several restrictions,” which are not described. The agency’s director, Keith Alexander, also made a presentation about the changes to the court in September 2009. The Court, the NSA’s congressional oversight committees, and the executive branch “responded actively” to the problems, the letter states.
Collecting huge amounts of personal data has caused the agency problems, but the documents seek to justify NSA’s work as essential to stopping terrorism. The phone and email records provided the core of an “early warning system” for terrorist plots, the 2009 letter says. “The more metadata NSA has access to, the more likely it is that NSA can identify or discover the network of contacts linked to targeted [phone] numbers or email addresses.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, among the NSA’s most vocal critics, questioned whether the NSA programs have been working as advertised. Calling the documents released today “misleading,” Wyden said in a statement that he and Sen. Mark Udall had two years ago pressed officials to demonstrate that the bulk collection of email metadata was providing a useful capability to the intelligence agency that it would not otherwise have. “They were unable to do so and the program was shut down due to a lack of operational value, as senior intelligence officials have now publicly confirmed,” Wyden said, adding that he has not seen any evidence that the bulk collection of phone records provides any “unique” intelligence value, either.
Several senators in today’s hearing also questioned why the agency needed to gather up all phone records and store them up to five years in order to find leads or useful information in a handful of cases. (By NSA’s own count, the bulk phone records program “made a contribution” in a dozen terrorism cases with a “homeland nexus,” said NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis.)
“NSA needs access to telephony and email transactional information in bulk so that it can quickly identify and access the network of contacts that a targeted number or address is connected to,” says the 2009 letter, a view that Inglis and other of his senior colleagues from the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence echoed in the hearing. The NSA’s fundamental position, which has been unchanged for years, is that it needs access to all information because until it has a suspect in its sights, the agency doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. In order to find a needle, it needs the entire haystack.
But Inglis and others indicate the government may be open to modifying the phone records program, which narrowly survived an attempt by House members last week to dramatically scale it back. Intelligence officials have said they’d consider housing phone records at the companies themselves, rather than transferring them on a continuing basis to NSA repositories. Inglis voiced some support for that approach, and said there are “technical architectures” that could ensure NSA gets access to all the data it needs, and quickly, sometimes within seconds.
But according to telecom industry sources, this arrangement would only add significant checks against the NSA’s authority if the phone companies had a chance to review every request for information, the way they do when served with a criminal wiretap order, for instance. If NSA has unfettered access to phone records, it matters little whether they’re stored in an NSA server or a phone company’s.
But NSA has a long history of hoarding information, and jealously guarding access to it. If today’s hearing, coupled with last week’s House action, are any indication, NSA leaders may feel they have to make some concessions–even cosmetic ones–if they want to continue hoovering up the world’s data.
Such broad and amorphous guidelines suggest that XKeyscore gives analysts broad access to information from around the world about many people who are certainly not terrorists or their associates. And the presentation’s boastful tone, which reads more like a marketing document than a technical manual, appears designed to convince users that XKeyscore can solve their most vexing intelligence problems.
The document claims that X-Keyscore could find “all the encrypted word documents from Iran,” or all instances of the encryption technology PGP being used in that country. Encrypted message traffic might well be of interest to U.S. intelligence analysts tracking, for instance, the Iranian nuclear program. X-Keyscore claims to “perform this kind of retrospective query, then simply pull content of interest from site as required.”
How well the tool does this filtering and querying, however, seems debatable. The presentation itself acknowledges that queries of a global nature, for something as broad as all encrypted documents in a specific country, produces a huge amount of information. And in the context of a different program, officials at today’s hearing had trouble persuading lawmakers that sucking up all Americans’ phone records was all that useful for stopping terrorist plots.
According to a U.S. intelligence official, however, there’s less to the document than meets the eye. The proponents of a particular tool or program frequently create promotional materials like the XKeyscore presentation to encourage analysts to use their technology, and to promote interest among lawmakers who control the NSA’s budget. This was true of a slide presentation describing the PRISM system revealed earlier by the Guardian and the Washington Post. It had “made the rounds” of intelligence agencies and offered exaggerated claims about PRISM’s capabilities, such that it was the biggest contributor of information to the president’s daily intelligence briefing. This official strongly disputed that PRISM was so extraordinary.
The X-Keyscore presentation claims that “over 300 terrorists were captured using intelligence generated from” the tool. It also claims to be able to search more deeply in different data sets than other NSA data miners. But if there is more to be said about how precisely XKeyscore can do this, it’s either not in the document or is contained on the handful of slides that have been blacked out.
But there’s no doubt that NSA is collecting huge amounts of information on a broad scale, and that the agency’s leaders want to continue doing so.
The administration today declassified three documents about surveillance activities, including a 2009 letter from the Department of Justice to the then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which states that the NSA’s collection of bulk phone records, as well as another program to collect bulk email metadata, “operate on a very large scale.” Indeed, the NSA has collected so much metadata that “the vast majority” of it is never reviewed by a human analysts, according to the letter.
Managing big data has caused the NSA some big headaches, the declassified documents show. According to the 2009 letter, the agency ran into unspecified “compliance problems” while implementing automated technologies to scan for potential terrorist targets. Before analysts can examine records in the bulk phone databases, they must first specify a “reasonable articulate suspicion,” referred to inside the agency as RAS, that someone is connected to or involved in terrorism. But another document from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes NSA’s surveillance, shows that some automated scanning of information precedes an analyst actually looking at it.
Edward Snowden wasn’t such a blowhard, after all, when the NSA leaker insisted that low-level employees like him could spy on just about anyone. Anyone and Everyone in America.
Shame “Argives” — Shame upon You…
CONTRARY TO THE CONSTITUTION….
Still administration officials and NSA supporters in Congress were quick to call him an embellisher. An outright liar. A felon. A thief of data. A person to be hunted down like a dog and brought to the brig. A Spy. They revoked his passport. They turned a proud American immediately into a stateless person.
How is it logical, ethical, or reasonable, that our Government accuses of spying those who reveal the Illegal Spying the Government does?
But a pair of classified disclosures on Wednesday — one authorized by government officials, the other most certainly not — lend credence to Snowden’s claims. They don’t clearly demonstrate that Snowden was right, but they don’t exactly rule out that an analyst could use the powerful tool to spy on Americans without proper authority.
A U.S. intelligence official offered a competing explanation of the documents, however: that America’s electronic eavesdropping giant was itself the exaggerator. The documents that were released today? At least one of them looks like a NSA marketing brochure — an attempt to make the agency look like a better spy than it actually was.
The biggest news of the day came courtesy of the Guardian and its most productive source, Snowden. The newspaper published a 32-slide presentation on an NSA data analysis tool called XKeyscore. The tool is analogous to an intake valve or filter. It makes a first pass of the phone records, emails, and other electronic data NSA collects and then directs information into more discretely organized databases for storage, analysis, and retrieval.
The presentation was apparently created in early 2008, and it may be out of date given the rapid evolution of technology. But it describes XKeyscore operating on a massive network of more than 700 servers, snatching up electronic data from approximately 150 NSA sites on six continents. XKeyscore is collecting so much information, the presentation shows, that it can only hold onto it for a few days before the tool’s databases reach their storage capacity.
Snowden has claimed that as an NSA contractor, he had the ability to order surveillance and spy on anyone he chose. This was among his boldest claims and the one most hotly refuted by administration officials and NSA’s supporters in Congress. The XKeyscore presentation doesn’t clearly demonstrate that Snowden was right, but it doesn’t rule out that the tool could be employed by a rogue analyst or someone operating beyond the constraints of the law.
Whether the system is being used to spy on U.S. citizens and residents depends on the legal safeguards that are in place, according to a former intelligence analyst who is experienced in using NSA tools. Technologically, there is nothing impeding an analyst from using X-Keyscore, or other data mining programs, from looking at a U.S. citizen’s email or phone records. What matters is whether there’s a compliance and auditing process for ensuring that analysts aren’t exceeding their authorities. And there is no indication what, if any, controls are in place for the analysts using X-Keyscore.
Perhaps the most fundamental problem with the NSA’s constitutional theory is that it has no limit. If the constitution is blind to the collection of our data and limits only the NSA’s later uses of it, then the NSA truly can ‘collect it all’ now and ask questions later. Our emails, phone calls and internet activities would all be very simple for the NSA to collect under the NSA’s theory. But it could go much further. It could put video cameras on every street corner, it could install microphones in every home and it could even remotely copy the contents of every computer hard drive.
All three branches of the U.S. government are now largely under the control of forces with stunning contempt for basic legal processes required by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Mere words and mild reforms from members of Congress may mollify the gullible, but only a direct challenge to the Obama administration’s policies can rise to the level of the current historic imperative to restore civil liberties in the United States.
We need to join our Voices and Raise the stakes on this Issue in order to shed the Light of Day and drive Evil away. Light dispels all Illusions, Lies, and Untruths. Light destroys Evil and Deception and makes for a better transparent Government of the People, by the People and for the People. Lest we forget…
As Cato reminds me: “In doing nothing men learn to do evil.”
And as for Lady Liberty herself he says: “I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.”
As for You Mr President, I need to remind You:
Immanuel Kant, who taught us that freedom is the “unoriginated birthright of man, and it belongs to him by force of his humanity.”
For throughout all of history, the fate of this Republic will come down to a simple question: Will we live free or in chains? Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them? In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?
As free peoples, we stated our convictions long ago.
As Americans, we believe that “all men are created equal” with the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.