Ruling Reveals NSA Lies to Courts, Congress About Scope of Surveillance

originally posted at The New American

The National Security Agency was forced to de-classify a document, the contents of which make it easy to see why the snoops wanted it kept secret.

In an 85-page ruling handed down by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (commonly known as the FISA court) judge John D. Bates, the NSA was called out “for repeatedly misleading the court that oversees its surveillance on domestic soil, including a program that is collecting tens of thousands of domestic e-mails and other Internet communications of Americans each year,” the New York Times reported on Thursday.

Bates found that the NSA routinely misled the court as to the scope of its domestic surveillance activities.

“The court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding N.S.A.’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program,” former FISA court chief judge Bates wrote in his ruling.

Most of the secret NSA programs recently brought to light by the Edward Snowden leaks are mentioned by Bates as being evidence of the NSA’s blatant disregard for the Constitution and for legal limits on its surveillance authority.

As reported by the New York Times:

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Mike Maharrey Talks Patriot Act and NSA Spying with the Forgotten Men

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey spent an hour talking with the Forgotten Men about the Patriot Act, NSA spying, the specter of indefinite detention, government secrecy and other threats to liberty flowing out of the “War on Terror.” As you’ll hear, the subject stirred a…

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Why the 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal

by Ron Paul

Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.

The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

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Secrecy Versus a Free Society

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

A Texas company named Lavabit exemplifies everything that the national-security state has done to our nation. Lavabit is an Internet company that provides encrypted email service for its customers. It recently announced that it was voluntarily shutting down its business rather than capitulate to the demands of the NSA and its FISA Court to grant access to its customer’s communications.

The details of this sordid episode are set forth in this article by Glenn Greenwald.

Although Lavabit can’t explain exactly why it’s shutting down, which is incredible in itself, it’s obvious that the company got served with one of those secret FISA orders requiring it to give the NSA access to its customers’ communications. Such orders command the recipient to keep the existence of the order secret, even from its own customers.

So, this is where the national-security state has brought America. We now live in a country where the government can secure secret court orders permitting officials to access everyone’s private communications. The people who are adversely affected are not even aware of it because the recipient of the order is prohibited from telling them. That means that the customers themselves never have an opportunity to object to the order because they’re never told of its existence.

Thus, it’s a fairly perfect scam because ordinarily the company receiving the secret order has no real incentive to oppose the order. After all, it’s the customers’ records that are sought. So, most companies will simply comply with the order and also comply with the court’s order to keep it secret.

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NSA Uses Loophole to Justify Collecting Domestic E-mail, Phone Calls

The National Security Agency (NSA) is using a “secret backdoor” to conduct warrantless searches of the e-mails and phone calls of American citizens, the Guardian (U.K.) reports. As with earlier reports, this latest revelation comes from information given to the newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Spencer Ackerman and James Ball, reporting for theGuardian, write that a rule change that was previously unreported is giving the NSA the inroad it needs to monitor “individual Americans’ communications using their name and other identifying information.”

In a statement to the Guardian, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) reportedly said that this rule change makes it possible for the NSA to conduct “warrantless searches for the phone calls or e-mails of law-abiding Americans.”

The regulatory restatement relied on by the NSA to justify their unconstitutional surveillance was “approved in 2011” by the Obama administration, in direct contradiction to the president’s commitment to protect the constitutionally protected privacy of the American public “from the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs.”

The federal spy apparatus is relying on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008 (FISA). This provision purports to grant the government the “authority to target without warrant the communications of foreign targets, who must be non-US citizens and outside the US at the point of collection.”

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Personal Liberty Laws for Whistleblowers?

Over the past few months, a name that has become well-known among Americans following politics is Edward Snowden.  Mr. Snowden caused shockwaves throughout the country with his leaking of information in regards to the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance program.  Supporters and detractors alike have had strong opinions on the matter, and the issue does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

Snowden’s ability to avoid arrest for these leaks has depended upon him finding sanctuary somewhere.  For the moment, he has been granted asylum in Russia (Author’s personal note: I remember when Russian whistleblowers came to the United States), much to the chagrin of the Obama Administration and former Bush Administration officials.  The thought that few, if any, have voiced is, what if Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers didn’t have to go outside the United States to find asylum?

When slavery was still legal in the United States, several northern states passed Personal Liberty Laws to combat the Fugitive Slave Act (FSA).  More than one version of FSA had been passed, the 1850 one being the most egregious, essentially allowing the kidnapping of a black person on the say so of an alleged owner.  

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Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying?

by Ron Paul

In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.

This complacency has suddenly shifted given recent revelations of the extent of government spying on Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats are faced with serious backlash from Americans outraged that their most personal communications are intercepted and stored. They had been told that only the terrorists would be monitored. In response to this anger, defenders of the program have time and again resorted to spreading lies and distortions. But these untruths are now being exposed very quickly.

In a Senate hearing this March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senator Ron Wyden that the NSA did not collect phone records of millions of Americans. This was just three months before the revelations of an NSA leaker made it clear that Clapper was not telling the truth. Pressed on his false testimony before Congress, Clapper apologized for giving an “erroneous” answer but claimed it was just because he “simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.” Wow.

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