Supreme Court Allows NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping to Continue

On October 9, the Supreme Court denied review of an appeal court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Federal Information Securities Amendments Act (FISA).

The FISA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008 after being overwhelmingly passed 293 to 129 in the House and 69-28 in the Senate. Just a couple of days prior to its being enacted, Representative Ron Paul and a coalition of Internet activists united to create a political action committee, Accountability Now, and conduct a money bomb in order to raise money to purchase ad buys to alert voters to the names of those congressmen (Republican and Democratic) who voted in favor of the act.

George W. Bush’s signature was but the public pronouncement of the ersatz legality of the wiretapping that was otherwise revealed to the public in a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005. That article, entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” described the brief history of the “anti-terrorist” program:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency (NSA), whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

At issue in the case the Supreme Court refused to hear, Hepting, et al v. AT&T, et al, was the government’s use of provisions of FISA to grant retroactive protection from prosecution to several telecommunications giants including AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. These companies aided the government in wiretapping the phones of subscribers without obtaining a warrant.

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TrapWire Training Courses Reveal Possible Purpose for its Creation

originally posted at The New American Magazine

Although certain people reportedly playing key roles in the web-like leadership structure of TrapWire deny their involvement with the massive surveillance system, there is evidence that the engine driving this global company runs on the ambition of a common core of officers and directors.

Given the potential flood of legal challenges to its constitutionality, the corporation believed to be behind TrapWire is heading for higher ground, denying any association with the surveillance technology.

In a statement published on its website on August 13, Cubic Corporation attempted to sever the ties binding it to TrapWire. “Cubic Corporation (NYSE: CUB) acquired Abraxas Corporation on December 20, 2010. Abraxas Corporation then and now has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc. Erroneous reports have linked the company with Trapwire, Inc.,” the company insisted.

Despite such denials, many are rightly worried about any corporate connection — no matter how tenuous — between Cubic and TrapWire given the former’s access to the personal data of Americans through its other corporate interests. The synergy of such access with a massive surveillance apparatus could threaten the privacy of millions, as well as the freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment.

As for the scope and significance of TrapWire, the size of it cannot be exaggerated.

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John McCain Anxious for NDAA Renewal for 2013

originally published at The New American Magazine

During the overnight Senate session that resulted in the passage of a “de facto declaration of war” on Iran and a stopgap bill that funded the federal government through March, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to push through a vote on next year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as well.

An article published online by Government Executive magazine reports that at about 1:40 a.m. Saturday, September 22, Reid worked the floor trying to get support for the latest renewal of the controversial defense funding measure before his colleagues abandoned the Capitol for their home states.

“I’ve been asked on a number of occasions by Senator [Carl] Levin, Senator [John] McCain what we’re going to do on … the Defense Authorization bill. I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by me, after consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate proceed to … the Defense authorization bill,” Reid said, according to the Government Executive story.

Foreign Policy blog The Cable reports that upon learning of Reid’s pre-dawn parliamentary plans, “Senate Minority Jon Kyl (R-AZ) objected … because Reid wanted unanimous consent to structure the debate with limited amendments and because Kyl couldn’t check with his caucus, as almost all senators had left the chamber.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), eager to get approval of the Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA on the books before heading back to the Grand Canyon State, accused Reid of purposely waiting until the chamber was nearly empty to start debate on the bill.

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Report Reveals Details of Obama’s Drone Program

originally posted at the New American Magazine

The headline in the Long War Journal reports: “2 al Qaeda leaders reported killed in Mir Ali drone strike.” The story fills in the details — those that can be ascertained without any official recognition of the strike or the deaths — saying:

Two al Qaeda commanders are reported to have been killed in Monday’s drone strike in the Mir Ali area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The report of the al Qaeda commanders’ deaths has not been confirmed.

Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Fateh al Turki, a previously unidentified leader, are said to have been killed in the Sept. 24 airstrike in the Mir Ali area, Pakistani intelligence officials, Taliban commanders, and local tribesmen told Dawn. Between five and six people were reportedly killed in the drone strike on a compound.

As Pakistan continues to be bombarded by missiles fired from U.S. drones, information revealed in a recent report compiled jointly by the law schools of New York University and Stanford demonstrates that such attacks “cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.”

The report entitled Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan contains tragic details of the myriad ways that President Obama’s death-by-drone program is devastating the lives of ordinary Pakistanis who have no connection to terror other than the fact that they are being constantly terrorized by the government of the United States.

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Obama Admin. Argues for Warrantless Cellphone Tracking

In a document filed September 4 in the D.C. District Court, the Obama administration argues that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a person’s cellphone GPS data. The president’s lawyers argue that they do not need a warrant to request cellphone company records regarding a customer’s movements and location as tracked by their signal towers.

In its argument against a motion filed to suppress the government’s use of a defendant’s cellphone location data, the Obama administration claims that the customer tracking records kept by cellphone service providers are no different from other business-related “third-party records” such as store receipts and bank account statements, and customers have no legal basis for any additional expectation of privacy.

The feds are making their case for warrantless tracking of citizens in a re-trial of an accused drug dealer whose conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court in its decision in the case of United States v. Jones.

In the Jones case the high court held that warrantless installation of tracking devices on cars was unconstitutional. In light of that decision, lawyers for the federal government are shifting their focus to Jones’s cellphone tracking data.

Wired describes the decision and the White House’s reaction:

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House Passes Extension of NSA’s Electronic Surveillance of Americans

originally published at The New American Magazine

In a move that should surprise no one aware of the increasing size, scope, and sophistication of the U.S. surveillance state, the House of Representatives voted on September 12 to approve a five-year extension of the snooping scheme created by George W. Bush in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The FISA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008 after being overwhelmingly passed 293 to 129 in the House and 69-28 in the Senate. Just a couple of days prior to FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) being enacted, Representative Ron Paul and a coalition of Internet activists united to create a political action committee, Accountability Now, to conduct a money bomb in order to raise money to purchase ad buys to alert voters to the names of those congressmen (Republican and Democratic) who voted in favor of the act.

George W. Bush’s signature was but the public pronouncement of the ersatz legality of the wiretapping that was otherwise revealed to the public in a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005. That article, entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” described the brief history of the “anti-terrorist” program:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said.

The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

It’s not the eavesdropping that’s the most egregious violation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (such activities are conducted by law enforcement all the time for legitimate purposes), but it’s the indefensible fact that the federally empowered snoops conduct this surveillance without a probable cause warrant so long as one of the parties being monitored is located outside the territory of the United States. The justification being that if an American is talking, texting, or emailing a foreigner, then something might be said that would aid in the acquisition of “foreign intelligence information.”

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Leaked Executive Order Gives Feds Control over Cybersecurity

Stroke of the pen, law of the land … kinda cool.” This nugget spoken by former Clinton adviser Paul Begala seems more than anything to be the guiding principle of the Obama Administration.

As is being widely reported, the White House is currently drafting an executive order giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) power to establish standards of cybersecurity purportedly protecting the “U.S. power grid from electronic attacks.”

BusinessWeek describes the new program as a “a council that would work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish the cybersecurity standards.”

Of course, the information being leaked about the proposed edict makes it clear that the adoption of such standards will be voluntary.

The threshold question that arises from the announcement of such a radical step toward federal control over our information infrastructure is not being answered. That is: Is the power grid of the United States being regularly attacked?

In a word: no. As Michael Tanji of Wired pointed out in a recent article refuting the government’s insistence that we are the target of frequent cyberattacks, “To start, these systems are rarely connected directly to the public internet. And that makes gaining access to grid-controlling networks a challenge for all but the most dedicated, motivated and skilled — nation-states, in other words.”

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Obama Lists His Five Criteria for Death by Drone

Originally published at The New American

President Obama is tearing the shroud of secrecy off his once hush-hush death-by-drone program.

From his interview with Ben Swann, host of Fox 19’s Reality Check, to his sit-down with CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, the kill-list compiler-in-chief is gradually exposing details of the principles he purportedly follows before targeting someone for assassination.

The president may assume that there is little reason to try hiding something that is being publicized daily — except in the mainstream media. In fairness, the New York Times has done fine work chronicling the expansion of the use of drones, as well as their involvement in the killing of innocents overseas caught in the blast zone of missiles aimed at alleged militants.

An exception to the official policy of silence on the matter of the death-by-drone program being carried out by the White House and the CIA was made earlier this year. In April the White House’s top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, admitted for the first time publicly to the government’s significant reliance on drones in prosecuting the War on Terror. Brennan said that the remote control killing of suspects on foreign soil who have been charged with no crime whatsoever, is “in full accordance with the law.”

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NDAA Nullification Movement Grows in Michigan

originally published at The New American

The Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) reports that “last week, the Allegan County, Michigan. Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing federal kidnapping powers.”

The powers referred to in the TAC article are those included in relevant provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law on December 31, 2011 by President Barack Obama.

Section 1021 of that act authorizes the president to send the armed forces to indefinitely detain:

a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

Despite an attempt by Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.) to remove them, the indefinite detention provisions remain intact in the 2013 version of the bill.

Allegan County’s resolution rejects these pernicious provisions. The resolution reads:

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Pointing Out the Peaks of the Massive Surveillance Iceberg

originally published at The New American

Every time a shutter blinks in one of the millions of cameras mounted on stoplights or building corners, the faces of those within the sight of the lens are instantly recorded and saved to a database kept somewhere for use by someone for some purpose.

The New American has been at the forefront of the coverage of the proliferation of many of the powerful and prolific surveillance technologies deployed in the United States. One of the most robust of these systems is the software connecting a network of cameras known asTrapWire.

TrapWire is a massive and technologically advanced surveillance system that has the capacity to keep nearly the entire population of this country under the watchful eye of government 24 hours a day. Using this network of cameras and other surveillance tools, the federal government is rapidly constructing an impenetrable, inescapable theater of surveillance, most of which is going unnoticed by Americans and unreported by the mainstream media.

Unlike other elements of the central government’s cybersurveillance program, word about TrapWire was not leaked by Obama administration insiders. The details of this insidious surveillance scheme were disclosed by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group founded by Julian Assange.

The TrapWire story percolated from the millions of e-mails from the Austin, Texas-based private intelligence-gathering firm Stratfor, published this year by WikiLeaks. Covering correspondence from mid-2004 to 2011, these documents expose Stratfor’s “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods.”

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