Sources: Former Obama officials, loyalists planted series of stories to discredit Flynn, bolster Iran deal.
Adam Kredo reports: The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.
The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.
The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.
“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran. So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”
Insiders familiar with the anti-Flynn campaign told the Free Beacon that these Obama loyalists plotted in the months before Trump’s inauguration to establish a set of roadblocks before Trump’s national security team, which includes several prominent opponents of diplomacy with Iran. The Free Beacon first reported on this effort in January.
“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump. Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”
Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation and avoid interfering with the White House’s official narrative about Flynn, which centers on his failure to adequately inform the president about a series of phone calls with Russian officials.
Flynn took credit for his missteps regarding these phone calls in a brief statement released late Monday evening. Trump administration officials subsequently stated that Flynn’s efforts to mislead the president and vice president about his contacts with Russia could not be tolerated.
However, multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.
“It’s undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him,” said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.”
The Free Beacon first reported in January that, until its final days in office, the Obama administration hosted several pro-Iran voices who were critical in helping to mislead the American public about the terms of the nuclear agreement. This included a former Iranian government official and the head of the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which has been accused of serving as Iran’s mouthpiece in Washington, D.C. Read the rest of this entry »
President Donald Trump told the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at their headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on Saturday that he is engaged in “a running war” with the “dishonest media.”
‘I think they made a mistake here. And when people make mistakes, they should apologize.’
Mark Finkelstein writes:
…not only does Pelosi implicitly accept the scurrilous allegations as true, her implication would seem to be that Trump is being blackmailed…(more)
DONALD TRUMP: A thing like that should never have been had, and it should certainly never have been released.
NANCY PELOSI: I always wondered what did Russia have on Donald Trump?
CHRIS WALLACE: Bob, what do you think, and this is something we discussed with both of our guests, of the way that the intelligence community handled the so-called Russia dossier, and overall, how do you think of the way they’ve handled Donald Trump?
BOB WOODWARD: I think what’s underreported here is Trump’s point of view on it. And you laid it out: when those former CIA people said these things about Trump, that he was a recruited agent of the Russians —
WALLACE: — a useful fool
WOODWARD: — yeah, and a useful fool. I mean, they started this in Trump’s mind, he knows the old adage, once a CIA man, always a CIA man. And no one came out and said those people shouldn’t be saying things. So then act two is the briefing when this dossier is put out.
I’ve lived in this world for 45 years, where you get things and people make allegations. That is a garbage document. It never should have been presented as part of an intelligence briefing, as you suggested, other channels have the White House counsel give it to Trump’s incoming White House counsel. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian intelligence agencies sought to influence the 2016 presidential election through coordinated cyber and propaganda activities, three U.S. intelligence leaders told a Senate hearing Thursday.writes:
“This was a multifaceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it. It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
Additionally, Senate testimony revealed that the National Security Agency, the government’s key cyber intelligence and technical spying service, confirmed the Russian intelligence service’s covert cyber and propaganda effort to influence the election campaign.
Wow, the DNI’s report, presented in this tweet in its entirety, is pretty amazing: pic.twitter.com/U1gtUS5jqd
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) January 6, 2017
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper previewed a forthcoming government report, to be released as early as Monday, on the Russian intelligence operations that included intrusions into Democratic National Committee computers and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The Russians then orchestrated the release of hacked internal information through three propaganda conduits in a coordinated campaign.
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was with that statement on the 7th of October. I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct effort to interfere in our election.”
“This was a multifaceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
The forthcoming report will describe the full range of Russian intelligence activities during the campaign, Clapper said.
Clapper confirmed the details of the Oct. 7 statement issued jointly by his office and the Department of Homeland Security accusing Russia of interfering with the 2016 election. That statement identified three entities, the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, another site called DCLeaks.com, and a hacker code-named Guccifer 2.0, as the outlets for the hacked information.
“There’s actually more than one motive, so that’ll be described in the report.”
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was with that statement on the 7th of October,” Clapper said. “I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct effort to interfere in our election.”
Asked if the earlier assessments about Moscow’s disinformation program had changed, Clapper stated: “No. In fact, if anything, what we’ve since learned just reinforces that statement the 7th of October.”
NSA Director Mike Rogers told the hearing that the report was “done essentially” by the CIA, FBI, and NSA.
The inclusion of NSA in the report is the first time NSA’s role in assessing the Russian cyber attacks was mentioned.
NSA’s capability to monitor foreign cyber intelligence operations is highly advanced. Documents disclosed by renegade NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency in the past has broken into foreign intelligence service networks and stolen information those services were gathering from spies—without being detected. Read the rest of this entry »
As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.
Edward Jay Epstein writes: Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.
Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz AllenHamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.
This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.
This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.
This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.
To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.
These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.
At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.
Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.
The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
The criminal government leaker with the hero complex is now living in Moscow under a 2013 asylum deal granted after Snowden gave the media troves of classified documents that revealed the extent of the U.S. surveillance state.
“If the Russian or Chinese governments have access to this information, American troops will be at greater risk in any future conflict.”
— Committee report
“Since Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, he has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services,” the House Intelligence Committee said in a report on the Snowden leaks released Thursday.
“Most of the material he stole had nothing to do with Americans’ privacy. Its compromise has been of great value to America’s adversaries and those who mean to do America harm.”
— House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff
The declassified report, which is heavily redacted, did not offer proof of its serious accusation. It follows the committee’s release in September of an executive summary of the then-classified document.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in a statement that the report offers “a fuller account of Edward Snowden’s crimes and the reckless disregard he has shown for U.S. national security, including the safety of American servicemen and women.”
The document casts Snowden as a dishonest miscreant and attempts to refute the portrayal of him as a duty-minded whistleblower.
The House panel’s report says there is “no evidence that Snowden took any official effort to express concerns about U.S. intelligence activities … to any oversight officials within the U.S. government, despite numerous avenues for him to do so.”
Snowden and his defenders claim that he feared reprisal and have pointed to numerous instances of the intelligence community retaliating against employees who complain about secret programs. Read the rest of this entry »
Snowden’s ‘Proper Channel’ For Whistleblowing Being Booted From The NSA For Retaliating Against A WhistleblowerPosted: December 18, 2016
Members of the intelligence community and members of its supposed oversight have said the same thing repeatedly over the past few years: oh, we’d love to cut Edward Snowden a break, but he should have taken his complaints up the ladder, rather than outside the country.
As if that would have resulted in anything other than Snowden being cut loose from his job and his security clearance stripped. The NSA’s Inspector General — supposedly part of the agency’s oversight — was even more harsh in his assessment of Snowden’s actions.
During a day-long conference at the Georgetown University Law Center, Dr. George Ellard, the inspector general for the National Security Agency, spoke for the first time about the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In addressing the alleged damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures he compared Snowden to Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent and convicted spy who sold secrets to the Russians.
“Snowden, in contrast, was manic in his thievery, which was exponentially larger than Hanssen’s. Hanssen’s theft was in a sense finite whereas Snowden is open-ended, as his agents decide daily which documents to disclose. Snowden had no background in intelligence and is likely unaware of the significance of the documents he stole,” Ellard suggested.
These are the words of the “proper channel.” Ellard went on to state that had Snowden approached him with his concerns he would have pointed to the series of judicial rubber stamps that backed up the government’s post-9/11 national security assertions as they approved more and more bulk surveillance.
That Inspector General — the official channels, the oversight — is now (mostly) on his way out of the agency for actions undertaken in direct conflict with his position, as reported by the Project for Government Oversight.
[L]ast May, after eight months of inquiry and deliberation, a high-level Intelligence Community panel found that Ellard himself had previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower, sources tell the Project On Government Oversight. Informed of that finding, NSA’s Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, promptly issued Ellard a notice of proposed termination, although Ellard apparently remains an agency employee while on administrative leave, pending a possible response to his appeal from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Read the rest of this entry »
Among the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ duties is to determine the national security impact that the foreign takeover of an American industry could have on the U.S. Congress has expressed concern and has asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, to probe the national security issues associated with the Chinese acquisitions of American entertainment companies.
A one-time commander in China’s Communist Red Army has launched information warfare with an aggressive plan to invest billions in all six major Hollywood studios, a show business trade publication reports, describing the foreign deal as an unprecedented push into the U.S. entertainment sector. The former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regimental commander, Wang Jianlin, is China’s richest man and he’s aggressively pursuing a big chunk of one of the world’s most influential industries.
“The former People’s Liberation Army regimental commander, Wang Jianlin, is China’s richest man and he’s aggressively pursuing a big chunk of one of the world’s most influential industries.”
A few years ago, Wang doled out $2.6 billion to buy the nation’s largest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, and now he’s taking it a huge step further with the studio deals that will have a huge impact on production. Chinese money has been shaping the movie industry for years, mainstream news reports have revealed, and one major newspaper reported earlier this year that China is expected to become the world’s biggest box office by the end of 2017.
“This may cause Americans to wonder what the U.S. government is doing to counter the information warfare. Specifically, a division of the U.S. Treasury, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, is responsible for reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by foreigners.”
“This has changed how Hollywood behaves in big ways—like the flood of money coming in to co-finance blockbusters, or sequels that get the green light simply because they performed well in China,” the article states.
An industry expert cited in the article says that very few foreign companies have ever successfully cracked the Hollywood code in a big way, but Chinese buyers are getting closer to that goal.
“Wang doled out $2.6 billion to buy the nation’s largest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, and now he’s taking it a huge step further with the studio deals that will have a huge impact on production.”
This may cause Americans to wonder what the U.S. government is doing to counter the information warfare. Specifically, a division of the U.S. Treasury, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), is responsible for reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by foreigners.
“This has changed how Hollywood behaves in big ways—like the flood of money coming in to co-finance blockbusters, or sequels that get the green light simply because they performed well in China.”
Judicial Watch is investigating what this agency is doing to scrutinize the Chinese Communist takeover and is drafting public records requests for the CFIUS and other pertinent agencies.
After all, among the CFIUS’s duties is to determine the national security impact that the foreign takeover of an American industry could have on the U.S. Congress has expressed concern and has asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to probe the national security issues associated with the Chinese acquisitions of American entertainment companies.
“Judicial Watch is investigating what this agency is doing to scrutinize the Chinese Communist takeover and is drafting public records requests for the CFIUS and other pertinent agencies.”
These disturbing revelations come on the heels of an equally alarming Hollywood story Judicial Watch reported illustrating the Obama administration’s hands off policy when it comes to illegal activities in the powerful entertainment industry. It involves a big-screen movie about traitor Edward Snowden, who has been criminally charged by the U.S. government under the Espionage Act. Read the rest of this entry »
Western intelligence bosses recently have become open about stating what they’ve known for years, that Snowden is a Kremlin pawn designed to inflict pain on Russia’s adversaries in the SpyWar.
John R. Schindler writes: The National Security Agency can’t catch a break. Over three years ago, Edward Snowden, an IT contractor for the agency, defected to Moscow with more than a million classified documents. Since then, Snowden’s vast trove has been used to embarrass NSA about the extent of its global espionage reach.
“Significant questions loom over this new scandal. In the first place, what really is The Shadow Brokers? They appear to be a transparent front for Russian intelligence. Indeed, they’re not really hiding that fact, given the broken English they used in their online auction notice asking for bitcoin in exchange for NSA information.”
I’ve been warning from Day One that the Snowden Operation was a Russian propaganda ploy aimed at inflicting pain on NSA, America’s most important spy agency, and its global alliance of espionage partnerships that’s been the backbone of the powerful Western intelligence system since it helped defeat the Nazis and Japan in World War II.
“From his Russian exile, even Snowden admitted on Twitter that this was pretty obviously a Kremlin spy game.”
Western intelligence bosses recently have become open about stating what they’ve known for years, that Snowden is a Kremlin pawn designed to inflict pain on Russia’s adversaries in the SpyWar. There’s no doubt that’s the case, especially since the Kremlin now has admitted that Snowden is their agent.
For more than three years NSA has been subjected to an unprecedented stream of leaks about myriad Top Secret intelligence programs. Although Snowden claimed his motivation was to protect the civil liberties of fellow Americans by exposing secrets, it’s impossible to miss that well over 95 percent of the programs he’s compromised are purely involved with foreign intelligence. The impact of all this on agency morale has been devastating and NSA is in a state of crisis thanks to Snowden.
This week things took a marked turn for the worse, however, with the exposure of highly sensitive NSA hacking tools on the Internet by a murky group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers” which announced it planned to sell programs purloined from the agency. Like clockwork, NSA’s public website crashed and stayed down for almost a full day. Although there’s no indication this was linked to The Shadow Brokers, the optics for NSA were terrible.
First, some explanation is needed of what’s been compromised. The crown jewel here is a 300-megabyte file containing “exploits”—that is, specialized sophisticated cyber tools designed to burrow through firewalls to steal data. What The Shadow Brokers has, which it claims it stole from an alleged NSA front organization termed the Equation Group, appears to be legitimate.
Here we are, three years after Snowden, dealing with the consequences of allowing Russian moles to run amok inside NSA.
These exploits—or at least some of them—appear to come from NSA’s elite office of Tailored Access Operations, which is the agency’s hacking group. Arguably the world’s most proficient cyber-warriors, the shadowy TAO excels at gaining access to the computer systems of foreign adversaries. TAO veterans have confirmed that, from what they’ve seen of what The Shadow Brokers has revealed, they’re bona fide NSA exploits.
This represents a security disaster for an agency that really didn’t need another one. How this happened, given the enormous security that’s placed on all NSA Top Secret computer systems, raises troubling questions about what’s going on, since the agency instituted much more strenuous online security after Snowden’s defection, which revealed how slipshod NSA counterintelligence really was.
However, significant questions loom over this new scandal. In the first place, what really is The Shadow Brokers? They appear to be a transparent front for Russian intelligence. Indeed, they’re not really hiding that fact, given the broken English they used in their online auction notice asking for bitcoin in exchange for NSA information. From his Russian exile, even Snowden admitted on Twitter that this was pretty obviously a Kremlin spy game.
Pro-Russian sources have pointed to the Equation Group as an NSA front for more than a year. In early 2015, Kaspersky Labs, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, announced the discovery of the Equation Group and fingers were quickly pointed at NSA as being the culprit behind those hackers. It should be noted that Kaspersky Labs has a very cozy relationship with the Kremlin and is viewed by most espionage experts in the West as an extended arm of Russian intelligence. The firm’s founder, Eugene Kaspersky, was trained in codes and ciphers by the KGB in the waning days of the Soviet Union, even meeting his first wife at a KGB resort. Read the rest of this entry »
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo writes: With each passing news day, the scandal deepens around Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized removal of U.S. secrets during her tenure as Secretary of State.
The process of this unauthorized extraction of U.S. secrets by Mrs. Clinton makes one thing impossibly clear. This conspiracy was anything but convenient to Mrs. Clinton. Contrary to what she disingenuously claimed, convenience was most definitely not the reason for her actions. To remove Top Secret information and hundreds of other classified documents from the government’s care, she had to risk jail and even get others to collude in this process.
For nearly eight months, I observe that the most important question is still not being asked of Hillary Clinton and her partisans. Why was Clinton doing this?
As anyone knows it is impossible for Hillary Clinton to end up with a colossal stash of U.S. national secrets on her personal server by accident. She could not simply email herself most of this information. She had to engage others to do that which put them at obvious risk of breaking the espionage act and ending up in jail. It is absurd that the F.B.I. director Comey and several pundits continue to give her a pass on the absolutely bogus and irrational excuse that it was all done for the sake of convenience.
The real question is why was Hillary Clinton doing this? Here is one theory. She was trafficking in U.S. National Security secrets for personal gain, money. She was also making this information available to Bill Clinton and the Clinton foundation people. Their information being extremely valuable to intelligence services and private corporations was being rewarded through contributions to the Clinton foundation. The Clinton foundation essentially was being used to launder payments for influence and information under the guise of a legitimate charitable purpose.
The Clinton National Security Scandal is a more accurate name for what is occurring than the cynical euphemism, “ The Clinton E-mail scandal.” E-mail scandals are a dime a dozen.
Her unprecedented actions are materially no different than the actions of any person (formally charged for espionage), who provides or makes available secrets of the highest caliber to a host of “contributors”.
It matters little, that someone trafficking in U.S. secrets may not have been enlisted formally by a foreign government. Trafficking in U.S. National security secrets is exactly what these notorious spies were doing and in this regard it is becoming apparently clear, that Clinton’s actions are really all that any mole or spy would have to do to sell or profit from revealing U.S. secrets.
Allegedly the Clinton breach also contained names of our human assets and their methods, endangering thus their lives and indeed making available by her actions the most coveted information sought by foreign intelligence services.
Selling Secretes in the Age of Cyber Space
From a philosophical point of view, the essence of spying and treason (trafficking in U.S. National Security secrets), requires that fundamentally two necessary actions take place:
1. The spy or traitor has to accomplish the removal in an unauthorized manner of sensitive information, classified information, or, even graver, top secret information, from its rightful owner, namely the U.S. government. Indeed Clinton had authority to read the information, she had access. But she certainly did not have the authority to remove top secret information and put it on an unsecured server. Or allow others not authorized, access to U.S. National secrets.
Stealing information, or removing the information from its proper owner (The U.S. government) without proper authorization is half of the operation required for a mole to betray secrets.
Most information mercenaries and spies have licit access to the information, but they certainly do not have permission to remove it or make it their own and certainly they are not allowed to put it on an unsecured servers where the enemies of America can come and collect the information. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan has actually done remarkably well in averting terror attacks and has never been the victim of lethal jihadist violence. Some have praised Japan’s effectiveness in forestalling Islamic violence, proposing it as a model for other nations.
“The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam.”
In 2010, over a hundred Japanese police files were leaked to the public, which revealed widespread monitoring of Muslims across Japan. The files reportedly showed that the Japanese government was keeping tabs on some 72,000 Japanese residents who hailed from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Tokyo police had also been monitoring places of worship, halal restaurants, and “Islam-related” organizations, according to the documents.
“Along with surveillance, Japanese authorities also apply tight immigration standards. Muslims seeking a working visa or immigration permit, for instance, are subject to detailed scrutiny, which is credited with preventing the sort of terrorist activity that has plagued Europe. “
Soon after, 17 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit saying that their privacy had been violated, and challenging the extensive monitoring of followers of Islam in Japan.
After two appeals, the case made it to Japan’s Supreme Court, which on May 31 concurred with a lower court that awarded the plaintiffs a total of ¥90 million ($880,000) in compensation because the leak violated their privacy.
Nonetheless, the high court dismissed the more general charges of police profiling and invasive surveillance practices, which a lower court had upheld as “necessary and inevitable” to guard against the threat of Islamic terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »
Justin Fishel reports: The State Department said today it can’t find Bryan Pagliano’s emails from the time he served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior information technology staffer during her tenure there.
Pagliano would have been required to turn over any official communications from his work account before he left the government. State Department officials say he had an official email account, but that they can’t find any of those records he would have turned over and continue to search for them.
“It’s hard to believe that an IT staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s reckless email server never sent or received a single work-related email in the four years he worked at the State Department. Such records might shed light on his role in setting up Clinton’s server, and why he was granted immunity by the FBI. But it seems that his emails were either destroyed or never turned over, adding yet another layer to the secrecy surrounding his role.”
— Raj Shah, RNC’s Deputy Communications Director
“The Department has searched for Mr. Pagliano’s email pst file and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton’s tenure,” State Department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau said today, referencing a file format that holds email.
“To be clear, the Department does have records related to Mr. Pagliano and we are working with Congress and [Freedom of Information Act] requesters to provide relevant material. The Department has located a pst from Mr. Pagliano’s recent work at the Department as a contractor, but the files are from after Secretary Clinton left the Department,” Trudeau added.
After this story was posted, Trudeau reached out to ABC News, amending her previous statement to say that despite the absence of his original pst file, some small amount of Pagliano’s email has been recovered, suggesting they were gleaned from other email accounts. Read the rest of this entry »
Nobody knows what the ‘procedures’ are for conducting ‘church investigations’.
Bradford Richardson reports: Government watchdog groups have filed a motion in federal court to compel the IRS to reveal how it determines when to initiate “church investigations” after accusing the tax-collecting agency of “stonewalling” efforts to bring to light its procedures.
“Our country has a long history of religious leaders speaking freely on matters of public discourse. Whether it is Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the charge against segregation, or preachers opposed to the Vietnam War, Americans expect their religious leaders to be able to speak freely to their flock without government oversight.”
— From a 2014 letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, signed by nine members of Congress
The motion, filed jointly Friday by the Alliance Defending Freedom and Judicial Watch, came in response to a legal settlement struck in 2014 with an atheist organization, which said the IRS had “resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations.”
“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists.”
— ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb
“The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a press release.
But nobody knows what those “procedures” are for conducting “church investigations,” the watchdog groups said.
“The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court. The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”
— Judicial Watch President Tom Litton, in a press release
“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists,” ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb said in a press release. “The IRS has a legal obligation to explain why it is hiding things or else produce documents. Its ongoing refusal to follow the law is absurd, particularly since much of [what] we are asking for is information that the IRS has already provided voluntarily to Freedom From Religion Foundation.”
The IRS began producing documents in July, months after the ADF and Judicial Watch had sued the agency for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. But even then the agency withheld more than 10,000 of the 16,000 requested documents, and thousands of the released documents were completely redacted, according to the ADF.
“The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a press release. “The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”
The IRS could not be reached for comment by press time. Read the rest of this entry »
A new study shows people may be censoring themselves without realizing it.
Nafeez Ahmed reports: Thanks largely to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, most Americans now realize that the intelligence community monitors and archives all sorts of online behaviors of both foreign nationals and US citizens.
But did you know that the very fact that you know this could have subliminally stopped you from speaking out online on issues you care about?
“What this research shows is that in the presence of surveillance, our country’s most vulnerable voices are unwilling to express their beliefs online.”
Now research suggests that widespread awareness of such mass surveillance could undermine democracy by making citizens fearful of voicing dissenting opinions in public.
A paper published last week in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), found that “the government’s online surveillance programs may threaten the disclosure of minority views and contribute to the reinforcement of majority opinion.”
The NSA’s “ability to surreptitiously monitor the online activities of US citizens may make online opinion climates especially chilly” and “can contribute to the silencing of minority views that provide the bedrock of democratic discourse,” the researcher found.
The paper is based on responses to an online questionnaire from a random sample of 255 people, selected to mimic basic demographic distributions across the US population.
Participants were asked to answer questions relating to media use, political attitudes, and personality traits. Different subsets of the sample were exposed to different messaging on US government surveillance to test their responses to the same fictional Facebook post about the US decision to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
They were then asked about their willingness to express their opinions about this publicly—including how they would respond on Facebook to the post; how strongly they personally supported or opposed continued airstrikes; their perceptions of the views of other Americans; and whether they supported or opposed online surveillance. Read the rest of this entry »
The Making of Asian America: A History, by Erika Lee, 528 pages, Simon & Schuster, Nonfiction.
Nicolas Gattig reports: In 1922, a Japanese immigrant to the United States named Takao Ozawa applied for citizenship with the U.S. Supreme Court. Having lived in America for almost 30 years, Ozawa was fluent in English and an active Christian, assuring the court that his skin was “white in color” and that he wished to “return the kindness which our Uncle Sam has extended me.” Still, his appeal was denied — naturalization at the time was exclusive to Caucasians.
“Asian-Americans have experienced both the promise of America as well as the racism of America. As we debate what kind of America we want to be in the 21st century — with concerns about immigration policy, racial equality and our ties to the rest of the world — Asian Americans and their long history in the U.S. can inform on these issues.”
— Author Erika Lee
A recurring theme in Erika Lee’s new book “The Making of Asian America: A History” is the humiliations of immigrant life — the “collective burden” of people who have to keep proving they are worthy. With a keen eye for telling quotes, Lee shows the human dimensions of Asian immigration to the U.S., which now spans 23 different groups and makes up 6 percent of the total population. Incidentally, she tells of a nation expanding its identity, of the inclusion of people once vilified.
From the start, Japanese sojourners feature prominently in this history, as the second largest group of Asian immigrants —the bulk being Chinese — during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hailing mostly from Okinawa, Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima prefectures, they were mainly young men dodging military service or farmers fleeing the taxation of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) government.
The immigrant dream was soon interrupted. The “gentlemen’s agreement” between the U.S. and Japan was signed in 1908, barring all Japanese laborers from entering the U.S. This spurred illegal immigration via Mexico, and in a quirky aside Lee quotes a letter by a stateside contact named Nakagawa, who advised border-crossers laconically: “Some people go to Nogales. But sometimes they are killed by the natives. So you had better not go that way.”
The book reminds us how hedging the “Yellow Peril” was a part of U.S. immigration policy, culminating in 1924, when “immigration from Asia was banned completely, with the establishment of an ‘Asiatic Barred Zone.’”
“There is widespread condemnation. But there is also a lot of amnesia about WWII incarceration, a lot of misinformation and misremembering. So the lesson still needs to be learned by many, and with great urgency.”
Fitting this theme, two whole chapters here are devoted to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Army, the “military necessity” allowed for the U.S. government to round up all persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, without due process or proof of wrongdoing. In fact, the measure was unwarranted: reports by the FBI and other offices showed that second-generation Japanese Americans were “pathetically eager” to show their loyalty to the U.S.
“Since the 1980s, American media have been praising the ‘rise of Asian America,’ pointing to Chinese and Indian Americans who enjoy better schooling and salaries than many whites. Still, it is misleading to speak of a ‘model minority.’ A wildly disparate community, Asian Americans also grapple with lower income and high crime rates.”
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans spent the war in camps, many losing their homes and livelihood. About 5,500 internees renounced their U.S. citizenship — becoming “Native American Aliens” — and some of them were deported to Japan. Read the rest of this entry »
What was Hillary Clinton’s biggest lie during the first Democratic debate?
“He broke the laws,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.”
Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack of ExposeFacts.org, begs to differ. “For the people out there shouting that Edward Snowden should have gone through proper channels,” she tells Reason TV, “there are not that many channels for national security and intelligence whistleblowers. They are excluded from most avenues available to other whistleblowers.”
More important is the experience of NSA and intelligence whistleblowers who came before Snowden.
“Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis DID go through the proper channels,” says Radack. “ALL of them fell under criminal investigations for having done so.” Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Snowden, the world’s most famous whistleblower, has joined Twitter, announcing his presence on the social media platform with a reference to a once ubiquitous Verizon Wireless advertising campaign. In the aftermath of his disclosures, it’s a not so subtle dig at American intelligence collection.
After providing a group of journalists with a trove of classified NSA documents in 2013, Snowden initially tried to stay out of the public eye, maintaining a fairly low profile in Moscow. He granted hardly any interviews and kept himself out of the news in an apparent effort to keep public attention focused on the substance of his disclosures.
Can this man look anymore self-righteous? pic.twitter.com/aSRrKDOxpY
— Christine Sisto (@ChristineSisto) September 29, 2015
But in the last year or so, Snowden has taken on a more public profile, appearing frequently at conferences and granting occasional interviews….(read more)
Source: Foreign Policy
Sean Davis reports: A review of recently released e-mails shows that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly originated and distributed highly classified national security information. Clinton’s classified e-mail missives were not constrained to State Department staff, either. She also sent classified information to Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton White House operative banned by the Obama White House.
An analysis by The Federalist of e-mails released by the State Department late Monday shows that scores of e-mails sent by Clinton contained highly confidential national security information from the beginning, even if they weren’t marked by a classification authority until later.
The original date of classification of Hillary’s e-mails can be discerned by noting the declassification dates noted next to redactions in the e-mails. Under a 2009 executive order signed by President Barack Obama, classified material in most circumstances is to be automatically declassified after 10 years. In some instances, that duration may be extended up to 25 years. In certain circumstances, classification authorities may adjust the classification duration based on the nature of the underlying information.
In this July 2010 e-mail, for example, the entirety of Hillary Clinton’s message was redacted prior to its public release under the federal FOIA law. The redactions of the material were provided pursuant to a provision of law protecting national security information. The printed redaction code “1.4(D),” cited next to the redaction and at the top of the document next to the official classification date, pertains to information on “[f]oreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources[.]” At the top of the document, a declassification date of July 1, 2025 is clearly noted:
That declassification date is highly significant because it is precisely 15 years after the date on which the e-mail was sent, rather than the date on which it was marked. Read the rest of this entry »
In 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.
“What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?”
For better or for worse, we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness. The Internet is less open and more centralized. It’s more regulated. And increasingly it’s less global, and more divided. These trends: centralization, regulation, and globalization are accelerating. And they will define the future of our communications network, unless something dramatic changes.
Twenty years from now,
• You won’t necessarily know anything about the decisions that affect your rights, like whether you get a loan, a job, or if a car runs over you. Things will get decided by data-crunching computer algorithms and no human will really be able to understand why.
• The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago.
• Rather than being overturned, existing power structures will be reinforced and replicated, and this will be particularly true for security.
•Internet technology design increasingly facilitates rather than defeats censorship and control.
It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change course, we need to ask some hard questions and make some difficult decisions.
What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?
How can we stop being afraid and start being sensible about risk? Technology has evolved into a Golden Age for Surveillance. Can technology now establish a balance of power between governments and the governed that would guard against social and political oppression? Given that decisions by private companies define individual rights and security, how can we act on that understanding in a way that protects the public interest and doesn’t squelch innovation? Whose responsibility is digital security? What is the future of the Dream of Internet Freedom?
For me, the Dream of Internet Freedom started in 1984 with Steven Levy’s book “Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” Levy told the story of old school coders and engineers who believed that all information should be freely accessible. They imagined that computers would empower people to make our own decisions about what was right and wrong. Empowering people depended on the design principle of decentralization. Decentralization was built into the very DNA of the early Internet, smart endpoints, but dumb pipes, that would carry whatever brilliant glories the human mind and heart could create to whomever wanted to listen. Read the rest of this entry »
Better Informed Than Congress: China’s Cyber Spies Reading Emails of Senior Obama Administration Officials Since 2010Posted: August 10, 2015
The email grab — first codenamed ‘Dancing Panda’ by U.S. officials, and then ‘Legion Amethyst’ — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.
Robert Windrem reports: China’s cyber spies have accessed the private emails of “many” top Obama administration officials, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official and a top secret document obtained by NBC News, and have been doing so since at least April 2010.
The email grab — first codenamed “Dancing Panda” by U.S. officials, and then “Legion Amethyst” — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.
In 2011, Google disclosed that the private gmail accounts of some U.S. officials had been compromised, but the briefing shows that private email accounts from other providers were compromised as well.
The government email accounts assigned to the officials, however, were not hacked because they are more secure, says the senior U.S. intelligence official.
The senior official says the private emails of “all top national security and trade officials” were targeted.
The Chinese also harvested the email address books of targeted officials, according to the document, reconstructing and then “exploiting the(ir) social networks” by sending malware to their friends and colleagues.
The time period overlaps with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while Secretary of State from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013. The names and ranks of the officials whose emails were actually grabbed, however, were not disclosed in the NSA briefing nor by the intelligence official. Read the rest of this entry »
Richard Whittle writes: Sweat the small stuff.
That’s the unofficial motto for this year’s edition of the military exercise Black Dart, a two-week test of tactics and technologies to combat hostile drones that begins Monday on the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County in California.
The military categorizes Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by size and capability, from Group 5 drones that weigh more than 1,320 pounds and can fly above 18,000 feet like the Reaper, down to Group 1, mini- and micro-drones less than 20 pounds that fly lower than 1,200 feet. Previous Black Darts have covered threats to troops overseas and targets at home posed by drones of all sizes.
But small drones are this year’s focus, said the director of this 14th edition of Black Dart, Air Force Maj. Scott Gregg, because of worrisome incidents since the last exercise.
Gregg cited the quadcopter that a drunk crashed onto the White House lawn in the wee hours of Jan. 26 and sightings of unidentified small drones flying over nuclear reactors in France. In the wake of those events, he said, “Even though we’ve been looking at [the small drone threat], it’s taken on a new sense of urgency.”
Gregg also could have mentioned how, to protest government surveillance, the Pirate Party of Germany flew a small drone right up to the podium as Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in Dresden two years ago. Or how in Japan last April, a nuclear-energy foe landed a drone carrying radioactive sand on the roof of the prime minister’s residence. And there was a report last week that British officials are worried ISIS may try to bomb festival crowds using small drones.
The United States enjoyed a near-monopoly on armed drones for much of the past 15 years, but with more than 80 countries now buying or building drones of their own, and with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS known to have used unarmed drones in the Middle East, that advantage has evaporated.
Few countries and no terrorist groups are likely to emulate the complex and costly US system of undersea fiber-optic cables and satellite earth terminals in Europe that allows crews in the United States to fly drones carrying missiles and bombs over Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
But anyone can buy a Group 1 drone for a couple of hundred dollars and put it to nefarious use. Arm it with plastic explosives, radioactive material, biological or chemical agents, and it can be crashed, kamikaze-style, into a target.
“I’d say for the Department of Homeland Security, it’s one of the biggest concerns,” Gregg said.
The threat isn’t imaginary. Former Northeastern University student Rezwan Ferdaus is now serving 17 years in prison for plotting to pack C-4 plastic explosives into 1/10 scale radio controlled models of F-4 and F-86 fighter jets and fly them into the Capitol and Pentagon. Ferdaus also supplied cellphone detonators for IEDs to people he thought were agents of al Qaeda but turned out to be working for the FBI….(read more)
This year the surrogate threats will include three Group 1 drones — a Hawkeye 400 hexacopter, a Flanker and a Scout II — and one Twin Hawk drone from the Group 2 category (21 to 55 lbs., slower than 250 knots, lower than 3,500 feet). Six Group 3 drones, all of them 13.5-foot wingspan Outlaw G2s made by Griffon Aerospace, also will be targets. Read the rest of this entry »
The Pentagon and intelligence community are developing war plans and an operations center to fend off Chinese and Russian attacks on U.S.military and government satellites
The ops center, to be opened within six months, will receive data from satellites belonging to all government agencies, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said Tuesday at the GEOINT symposium, an annual intelligence conference sponsored by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.
“We want to be able to establish patterns of life from space. We want to know what the unusual looks like. If, all of a sudden, a lot of cars show up in a parking lot of an adversary’s missile plant, we want to know about it and we want to know about it quickly. If, suddenly, small boats are swarming in the Gulf or pirates are starting to congregate off Aden, we want to know.”
“[W]e are going to develop the tactics, techniques, procedures, rules of the road that would allow us … to fight the architecture and protect it while it’s under attack,” Work said. “The ugly reality that we must now all face is that if an adversary were able to take space away from us, our ability to project decisive power across transoceanic distances and overmatch adversaries in theaters once we get there … would be critically weakened.”
“If Russian soldiers are snapping pictures of themselves in war zones and posting them in social media sites, we want to know exactly where those pictures were taken.”
Work also said that Air Force Secretary Deborah James would soon be named the “principal space advisor” to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, where she will to provide “independent advice separate from the consensus process of the department.”
Senior officials at the Pentagon and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are still finalizing details of the new center, which will back up the military’s Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The center will help the military and government coordinate their preparations for and responses to any attack, said Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, a spokeswoman for Work. Read the rest of this entry »
OPM IT Outsourced to Foreigner Contractors, with Root Access, Working from their Home Country. In this Case, Oh Yeah, ChinaPosted: June 17, 2015
Encryption ‘would not have helped’ at OPM, says DHS official: Attackers had valid user credentials and run of network, bypassing security
Sean Gallagher reports: During testimony today in a grueling two-hour hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta claimed that she had recognized huge problems with the agency’s computer security when she assumed her post 18 months ago. But when pressed on why systems had not been protected with encryption prior to the recent discovery of an intrusion that gave attackers access to sensitive data on millions of government employees and government contractors, she said, “It is not feasible to implement on networks that are too old.” She added that the agency is now working to encrypt data within its networks.
But even if the systems had been encrypted, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Dr. Andy Ozment testified that encryption would “not have helped in this case” because the attackers had gained valid user credentials to the systems that they attacked—likely through social engineering. And because of the lack of multifactor authentication on these systems, the attackers would have been able to use those credentials at will to access systems from within and potentially even from outside the network.
House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, “You failed utterly and totally.” He referred to OPM’s own inspector general reports and hammered Seymour in particular for the 11 major systems out of 47 that had not been properly certified as secure—which were not contractor systems but systems operated by OPM’s own IT department. “They were in your office, which is a horrible example to be setting,” Chaffetz told Seymour. In total, 65 percent of OPM’s data was stored on those uncertified systems.
Chaffetz pointed out in his opening statement that for the past eight years, according to OPM’s own Inspector General reports, “OPM’s data security posture was akin to leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and hoping nobody would walk in and take the information.”
When Chaffetz asked Archuleta directly about the number of people who had been affected by the breach of OPM’s systems and whether it included contractor information as well as that of federal employees, Archuleta replied repeatedly, “I would be glad to discuss that in a classified setting.” That was Archuleta’s response to nearly all of the committee members’ questions over the course of the hearing this morning.
At least we found it
Archuleta told the committee that the breach was found only because she had been pushing forward with an aggressive plan to update OPM’s security, centralizing the oversight of IT security under the chief information officer and implementing “numerous tools and capabilities.” She claimed that it was during the process of updating tools that the breach was discovered. “But for the fact that OPM implemented new, more stringent security tools in its environment, we would have never known that malicious activity had previously existed on the network and would not have been able to share that information for the protection of the rest of the federal government,” she read from her prepared statement. Read the rest of this entry »
London (AFP) – Britain has been forced to move some of its spies after Russia and China accessed the top-secret raft of documents taken by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, British media reported.
“We know Russia and China have access to Snowden’s material and will be going through it for years to come, searching for clues to identify potential targets.”
— Intelligence source, to the Sunday Times
The BBC and the Sunday Times cited senior government and intelligence officials as saying agents had been pulled, with the newspaper saying the move came after Russia was able to decrypt more than one million files.
“It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information,” a Downing Street source said, according to the newspaper.
“It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information.”
— Downing Street source
Downing Street told AFP on Sunday that they “don’t comment on intelligence matters” while the Foreign Office said: “We can neither confirm or deny these reports”.
The BBC said on its website, meanwhile, that a government source said the two countries “have information” that spurred intelligence agents being moved, but said there was “no evidence” any spies were harmed.
Snowden fled to Russia after leaking the documents to the press in 2013 to expose the extent of US online surveillance programmes and to protect “privacy and basic liberties”.
The Sunday Times said other government sources claimed China had also accessed the documents, which reveal US and British intelligence techniques, leading to fears that their spies could be identified. Read the rest of this entry »
The final vote divided Senate Republicans, with 23 voting ‘yes’ and 30 voting ‘no,’ and senators seeking re-election in 2016 split on the issue
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved sweeping changes Tuesday to surveillance laws enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, eliminating the National Security Agency’s disputed bulk phone-records collection program and replacing it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies’ hands.
“This is a step in the wrong direction…does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”
— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Two days after Congress let the phone-records and several other anti-terror programs expire, the Senate’s 67-32 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama, who said he would sign it promptly.
“This legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs,” Obama said in a statement. The bill signing could happen late Tuesday or early Wednesday, but officials said it could take at least several days to restart the collection.
The legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse in a dizzying collision of presidential politics and national security policy. But the authorization will undergo major changes, the legacy of agency contractor Edward Snowden‘s explosive revelations two years ago about domestic spying by the government.
“I applaud the Senate for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities, and I’m pleased this measure will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.”
— House Speaker John Boehner
In an unusual shifting of alliances, the legislation passed with the support of Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but over the strong opposition of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell failed to persuade the Senate to extend the current law unchanged, and came up short in a last-ditch effort Tuesday to amend the House version, as nearly a dozen of his own Republicans abandoned him in a series of votes.
“This is a step in the wrong direction,” a frustrated McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the Senate’s final vote to approve the House version, dubbed the USA Freedom Act. He said the legislation “does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”
“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
— George Orwell
The legislation remakes the most controversial aspect of the USA Patriot Act — the once-secret bulk collection program that allows the National Security Agency to sweep up Americans’ phone records and comb through them for ties to international terrorists. Over six months the NSA would lose the power to collect and store those records, but the government still could gain court orders to obtain data connected to specific numbers from the phone companies, which typically store them for 18 months.
It would also continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that lapsed Sunday night, and which are considered more effective than the phone-data collection program. These include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.
In order to restart collection of phone records, the Justice Department will need to obtain a new order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read the rest of this entry »
Forget the White House’s doomsday talk about American intelligence going blind. Thanks to backdoor provisions and alternate collection schemes, U.S. spies will keep on snooping.
“I don’t want us to be in a situation in which for a certain period of time those authorities go away and suddenly we’re dark, and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could’ve prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity.”
— President Obama, to reporters on Friday
That argument is highly debatable—at least, in the short term. Not only does the U.S. government have all sorts of other ways to collect the same kind of intelligence outlined in the Patriot Act, but there’s also a little-noticed back door in the act that allows U.S. spy agencies to gather information in pretty much the same ways they did before.
“It does seem to me at least reckless to not allow at least a temporary continuation of the bill while we have this debate. But that’s not the way it’s working, and unfortunately I think it’s part of the presidential campaign, and I think people have to judge it for themselves.”
— Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
In other words, there’s a zombie Patriot Act—one that lives on, though the existing version is dead.
On Sunday night, senators voted overwhelmingly to end debate on a measure passed in the House, the USA Freedom Act, which will leave most surveillance authorities in the Patriot Act intact. But some of those powers won’t expire at least until Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Administration officials had warned that even a momentary interruption posed a grave risk.
“I don’t want us to be in a situation in which for a certain period of time those authorities go away and suddenly we’re dark, and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could’ve prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity,” Obama told reporters at the White House on Friday. On Sunday, CIA Director John Brennan said on CBS’s Face the Nation that there’d “been a little too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue,” an apparent reference to Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, and his promise to force the law to expire, “but these tools are important to American lives.”
They may be. But they are far from the only tools in the counterterrorism arsenal, and though they are no longer law as of Monday, the United States still has plenty of authority to collect intelligence on jihadis and foreign spies.
For starters, there will be what’s left of the Patriot Act itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Key Patriot Act provisions will expire at midnight
In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, the two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions that also lapse at midnight were one, so far unused, to helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones.
The Senate failed Sunday to strike a deal to extend the NSA’s phone surveillance program before the midnight deadline.
Members of the GOP-controlled chamber returned Sunday to Capitol Hill in a last-ditch effort to extend the National Security Agency’s authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk to search for terror connections and to authorize two other programs under the post-9/11 Patriot Act.
“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity, but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”
— President Obama
The Senate attempted to either pass a House bill that would have altered the collections of the so-called phone call metadata or simply extend the program.
The 100-member chamber passed the first of two procedure hurdles, known as cloture, to proceed with the House bill. The vote was 77 to 17.
“The sky is not going to fall.”
— Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union executive director
But no final action was expected before Sunday’s midnight deadline after Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul served notice that he would assert his prerogatives under Senate rules to delay a final vote for several days.
“The people who argue that the world will come to an end and we will be over by jihadists (by not passing the bill) are using fear,” Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, said on the Senate floor.
Still, the program is all but certain to be revived in a matter of days, although it also looks certain to be completely overhauled under the House-passed legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly blessed in an about-face Sunday evening.
With most senators opposed to extending current law unchanged, even for a short time, McConnell said the House bill was the only option left other than letting the program die off entirely. The Kentucky Republican preferred extending the current law. Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING NEWS – The Republican-led Senate blocked a House bill early Saturday that would have ended the National Security Agency’s bulk of collection on domestic phone records.
The vote was 57-42, short of the 60-vote threshold to move ahead. It leaves the fate of the key provisions in the Patriot Act in doubt with a June 1 deadline less than two weeks away.
The Senate also failed to advance a two-month extension of NSA programs as well. The vote also needed 60 votes to get to the Senate floor. The vote was defeated 54-45…(read more)
The Kentucky Republican’s speech, which began at 1:18 p.m., is not technically holding up any legislation because the Senate is actually currently debating a trade bill, but Mr. Paul said his move was a filibuster nonetheless, as he vowed to hold the floor until he couldn’t go any longer.
“It’s time to end the NSA spying,” his official Twitter account said in a post at 1:36 p.m., as he was on the floor.
WASHINGTON — Damian Paletta reports: The Obama administration on Wednesday released details on more than 400 letters, books, news articles, research reports and even software manuals it seized during the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden at his secret compound in Pakistan, offering a fresh view into the interests and correspondence of the former head of al Qaeda.
The intelligence agency declassified the names of 39 English-language books seized at bin Laden’s compound. These included books about the Central Intelligence Agency; Christianity and Islam in Spain from 756 until 1031; and Bob Woodward’s 2010 book, ‘Obama’s Wars.'”
The declassified material, which the Office of the Director of National Intelligence labeled “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf,” shows a number of interests—ranging from a Noam Chomsky book on “thought control” to things that could be seen, such as how-to books on terrorist attacks.
“It included, for example, a 2001 document from the U.S. military on ‘instruction on aircraft piracy and destruction of derelict airborne objects’ and numerous records about how to obtain a U.S. passport.”
It included, for example, a 2001 document from the U.S. military on “instruction on aircraft piracy and destruction of derelict airborne objects” and numerous records about how to obtain a U.S. passport. The compound also contained numerous world maps.
“These are gigantic events that will eventually engulf most of the Muslim world, will free the Muslim land from American hegemony, and is troubling America whose secretary of state declared that they are worried about the armed Muslims controlling the Muslim region.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said “it is in the interest of the American public for citizens, academics, journalists, and historians to have the opportunity to read and understand bin Laden’s documents.”
“All of this indicates that the Western countries are weak and their international role is regressing.”
— Osama bin Laden, in a letter recovered in the raid
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the records, said analysts were still reviewing more information seized during the raid and that “hundreds more” records could be declassified in the future.
The intelligence agency declassified the names of 39 English-language books seized at bin Laden’s compound. These included books about the Central Intelligence Agency; Christianity and Islam in Spain from 756 until 1031; and Bob Woodward’s 2010 book, “Obama’s Wars.”
In addition to the books, the documents seized at bin Laden’s compound included 35 items published by other extremist groups, most of which came from Khalifah Publications. Read the rest of this entry »
In a ruling certain to profoundly shape the ongoing debate over surveillance reform in Congress, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that the National Security Agency’s indiscriminate collection of Americans’ telephone calling records exceeds the legal authority granted by the Patriot Act’s controversial section 215, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
Comments Cato scholar Julian Sanchez, “While the court didn’t reach the crucial question of whether the program violates the Fourth Amendment, the ruling gives civil libertarians good reason to hope that a massive and egregious violation of every American’s privacy will finally come to an end.”
- “Second Circuit Declares NSA’s Telephone Dragnet Unlawful,” by Julian Sanchez
- “In Holding NSA Spying Illegal, the Second Circuit Treats Data as Property,” by Jim Harper
Dana Hedgpeth, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima report: One person was killed and at least one other was injured Monday when shots were fired after two people in a vehicle tried to ram a gate at Fort Meade, a military installation in Anne Arundel County that houses the National Security Agency, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation.
“The shooting scene is contained, and we do not believe it is related to terrorism.”
— Amy J. Thoreson, a spokeswoman for the FBI
Authorities did not release any details of exactly what happened, but law enforcement officials said police officers with the National Security Agency shot at the two people in the vehicle. One of them was killed, the officials said. There were no details immediately available on the condition of the second person.
Two U.S. officials said the men in the vehicle were dressed as women, but they both cautioned that the information is preliminary.
Just before 11 a.m., NSA officials said they had no further information.
In a statement, issued around 11:30 a.m., the FBI Baltimore office said it was investigating a shooting at a gate at Fort Meade.
“The shooting scene is contained, and we do not believe it is related to terrorism,” said Amy J. Thoreson, a spokeswoman for the FBI. She said the incident is being investigated by the FBI with NSA Police and other law enforcement agencies.
FBI crews from its evidence response team are processing the scene and agents are interviewing witnesses, she said. Deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz said President Obama has been briefed on the incident. Read the rest of this entry »