FISA Court Colludes with NSA to Allow Unconstitutional Surveillance

Documents obtained by The Guardian (U.K.) reveal that the court that was ostensibly created to keep the federal domestic spy apparatus from invading the rights of Americans is actually routinely giving the National Security Agency (NSA) and others the go-ahead to use data “inadvertently” collected during unwarranted surveillance of American citizens.

The newspaper that broke the story of the NSA’s activities as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden published on June 20 “two full documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” Both documents were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and were issued in July 2009.

According to the article written by Glenn Greenwald and James Ball, the documents “detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.”

Not surprisingly, neither the Fourth Amendment nor the freedoms against tyranny that it protects are honored by Holder or the other architects and construction crews erecting the surveillance state.

As Greenwald and Ball report, the leaked documents demonstrate that when the NSA is conducting surveillance under the pretense of monitoring foreign targets, any U.S. communication caught in the dragnet is “collected, retained and used.”

Using Section 215 of the Patriot Act as justification, the NSA is now known to monitor and seize the phone records of millions of Americans who are not now or ever have been suspected of any crime that would justify the issuing of a search warrant. This wholesale watching of the telephone activities of citizens was revealed by The Guardian a few weeks ago as part of Snowden’s release of information on his former employer.

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Why They Really Spy on You

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

If you’re a good little citizen who doesn’t make waves and loyally supports whatever the federal government does, always deferring to its authority and trusting its officials, and if you maintain this mindset for the rest of your life, the probability is that you don’t have anything to worry about with respect to the government’s keeping records of your telephone calls, your emails, and other aspects of your private life.

But if you’re the type who has an independent mindset, one that might come to recognize that the warfare state is one great big racket by which power-lusters use federal power to plunder and loot your wealth and income, and if you’re the type of person who might begin objecting to this racket and calling for a restoration of American freedom, then it’s entirely possible that the files that the government is keeping on your private life might come back to haunt you.

Recall what they did to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that national-security state officials were knowingly lying to the American people about the progress of the Vietnam War. They went after him with everything they could. For revealing their lies, they considered Ellsberg to be a super bad guy, a traitor. He certainly wasn’t a good little citizen who deferred to authority.

So, what did they do?

For one, they had him indicted and tried to send him to jail for a long time.

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Nothing to See Here, Says the Mainstream Right?

Last week we received a few heckles for posting a Facebook meme of George Bush signing the Patriot Act. We stand by our intent – Republicans and Democrats, George Bush and Barack Obama – are sell-outs and equally culpable for the security-surveillance industrial complex of whose scary details were leaked to the press last week.

If you are the sporting type and keeping score, the Democrat-Republican Party is beating the Constitution by six touchdowns going into the fourth quarter. These dudes are on the same team, even if it took you half the game to figure it out. Behind the inexorable expansion of the state, the Right and the Left often stand as one.

Take, for instance, Rich Galen, a neo-con who blogs at Townhall.com, writing today about NSA-whistle blower Edward Snowden:

As a taxpayer, I’m not paying you to look out after my Fourth Amendment rights. I’m paying you to do whatever job you were hired to do, and if you find that job too ethically distasteful, then you should quit.

But keep your mouth shut.

Galen suggests a long federal prison sentence would be just deserts for Snowden for exposing a creepy, out-of-control national government sifting warrantlessly through our personal emails and internet searches. After all, Galen declares, he is a 66-year-old guy with nothing to hide.

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Government Spying: You Shouldn’t Be Shocked!

by Ron Paul

Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records—including his own—because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

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The Role of Foreign Policy in Security-State Surveillance

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

In the national discussion over the national-security state’s massive surveillance scheme over the American people, it’s imperative that we keep in mind how the national-security state’s foreign policy of empire and interventionism play into how we have ended up with an Orwellian system of national surveillance at the hands of the federal government.

How are statists justifying the NSA’s surveillance over the American people? Not surprisingly, they’re saying it’s all designed to “keep us safe.” The federal monitoring of everyone, they say, enables them to catch a small number of people who are planning terrorist attacks. Never mind, of course, that all that monitoring didn’t prevent the Boston bombing.

A critically important question has to be asked: Why are there people who are initiating terrorist attacks against the United States?

The answer is a simple one: Because the U.S. national-security state is killing, torturing, abusing, humiliating, impoverishing, and destroying people in foreign countries through such policies as coups, support of dictatorships, regime-change operations, interference with internal politics, intervention in foreign disputes, assassinations, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, secret imprisonment, and so forth.

The foreign victims of those policies get angry. A certain percentage of them go on the rampage with acts of anti-American terrorism. That’s in fact what the Boston bombings were all about. And the Ft. Hood killings. And the Detroit and New York City would-be bombers. And 9/11. And the USS Cole. And the attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa. And Benghazi.

So, here’s how the national-security system has developed.

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Lesson Learned on NSA Spying? Hopefully?

Dear Republican,

I hear you’re a little miffed at Obama’s National Security Agency collecting phone records of millions of innocent American Verizon customers. I read some comments on the “bombshell” over at Townhall.com. Guy Benson seems displeased.

I hear ya!

I’m more than a little perturbed myself. I was always under the impression that the Fourth Amendment limited the federal government’s power to snoop around in innocent people’s private affairs without a warrant.

But I have to admit, I’m a little confused about your indignation. After all, you made it all possible!

Remember the Patriot Act?

Yup. It was your guy, George W. Bush, who insisted the feds needed these broad, sweeping powers to “protect us from the terrorists.” When civil libertarians protested and invoked the Constitution, you ridiculed them and swore it was “only for the terrorists.” You insisted these powers were absolutely necessary to “keep us safe.” I guess you never stopped to think “your guy” wouldn’t remain in power forever.

Nice bed you made.

Comfy?

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Texas Senate Passes Bill to Nullify Warrantless Drone Spying, 29-1

A bill has passed through the Texas State Senate that aims to protect the privacy of their residents from the police state by instituting strict limitations on the use of unmanned drones in surveillance by law enforcement.

Dubbed the ‘Texas Privacy Act’, H.B. 912 is an attempt to rein in potential abuses related to the rapidly-developing drone technology that has made its hands into the hands of government at the state and federal levels. The bill was originally authored by Rep. Gooden (R-District 4) and has amassed over 100 co-sponsors since it was introduced Feb. 1, showing vast and bipartisan support for stopping the government’s Orwellian takeover of our skies.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 128-11 on May 10th. (roll call here)  And last Friday the Senate passed a slightly amended version of the bill by a vote of 29-1. (roll call here).  HB912 will now go back to the State House to either concur on the amendments or form a conference committee to approve a final version acceptable to both the House and Senate.  Then it’s off to Governor Perry’s desk for a signature.

BILL INFORMATION

The bill states that “a person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image.” The offender would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if they were caught violating this part of the law.

Data gathered by law enforcement illegally ‘may not be used as evidence in any criminal or juvenile proceeding, civil action, or administrative proceeding’ according to the bill and ‘is not subject to discovery, subpoena, or other means of legal compulsion for its release.’ This incentivizes police to not misuse the drone technology unless they wish to risk jeopardizing their entire investigation.

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Will DC be the next “State” to Nullify Federal Prohibition?

Oh the irony to think that the capital city of these united states will be nullifying their own law even while their agents are raiding dispensaries in the states.  The voters in the city of DC approved medical Marijuana in 1998, and finally all of the licensing is complete.  The dispensary by the name of Capital City Care will be the first to open on the 22nd of April within blocks of the White House, and with a clear view of the US Capital.  This will be a hugevictory for the forces of liberty, in the face of the growing police state.

After resisting the clear will of the American people for so long, DC could have to call it quits and accept the demise of the war on drugs (police state), as they join the 18 states that have already nullified the war on pot (as a legal drug) .  As I have always said, weed is much like the war on drugs.

Respectable opinion on weed seems to be that it is a “gateway drug”.  This is meant to give the impression that one puff of it will lead one through a gateway and down a path towards desperation, and dependence upon drugs for daily functioning.  Doing unspeakable things for the next hit of your current drug of choice.  Theft and violence will become the life of the addict or so says this paradigm.  In reality it is the war on drugs that is the gateway, it is a gateways towards tyranny, and authoritarianism.

It is ironically the so called “Constitutional” Conservative who are the biggest cheerleaders for this insane policy.  Even as they hold the correct position on so many policies that you should not pile additional laws on already illegal behavior (such as opposing gun control because murder is already illegal, or opposing hate crimes because the crimes they punish are already illegal.)  None the less they point towards the culture of crime that surrounds the drug trade (as surrounds all black markets regardless of the banned items for sale) and say “look drugs cause murders and robberies.”  Murder and theft are already illegal, so why is that an argument for prohibition?

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Terrorizing the Constitution in Boston and Elsewhere

I was several blocks away at a bar when the bombs exploded, having finished my fourth Boston Marathon about an hour earlier. I was fatigued but enjoying the table fellowship of my fellow runners, telling stories, drinking Guinness and thinking all was right in the world. The bombs, by all accounts cowardly planted by two Chechen brothers, tore through that serenity and replaced it with tears, anger and fear.

Two days have now passed since the brothers were neutralized, one dead, the other hospitalized in serious condition. The media gave us a morbidly fascinating window to the action, a real life Running Man, where the bad guys were pursued in house-to-house searches with military precision courtesy of the billions in tax dollars that perfected the security-surveillance state we call America. Michel Foucalt was presciently right; we are living in a Panopticon.

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Minnesota Bills Would Nullify Warrantless Drone Spying

Companion bills in the Minnesota State House and Senate aim to curtail potential abuses by law enforcement pertaining to predator drones.

HF 612 and SF 485 were both introduced last month and they hope to specify guidelines to protect the privacy rights of Minnesotans. HF 612 has been referred to the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee while SF 485 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bills state that “law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather evidence or other information on individuals.” This is meant to safeguard individual citizens from excessive spying by law enforcement. However, some exceptions are given for law enforcement personnel to use drones.

Such exceptions include if it is necessary “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is this risk” or “if the law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant authorizing its use” or “if the law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the
destruction of evidence.”

Although these exceptions may seem like they could be prone to abuse (ie. DHS fabricating evidence to show that a political dissident is involved in terrorism), Subsection 4 of the bill states that “A person aggrieved by a law enforcement agency’s violation of this section may bring a civil action against the agency.” This will hopefully give the public some recourse in fighting back against unlawful infringements on their rights if the bills are passed. The bills also make evidence collected in violation of these new rules inadmissible in the court of law.

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