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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Judge Napolitano Slams FBI’s Mueller

On Studio B with Shepard Smith, Napolitano lambasted Mueller for testimony given before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday on the government’s surveillance of Americans’ phone and email communications, alleging that he’s “still singing the tune that Constitutional liberties can be subordinate to the government’s need to [find the bad people].”

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It’s not Edward Snowden who Betrayed Us

by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom Foundation

When you cut through the fog, the NSA controversy is about whether we should trust people with institutional power. Edward Snowden’s courageous exposure of massive secret surveillance separates those who say yes from those who say, “Hell no!”

The trusting attitude can be found among progressives and conservatives alike (with notable exceptions), and even some who have identified themselves as libertarians. Matt Miller, an occasional guest host on the progressive network MSNBC, left no doubt where he stands when he flippantly wrote in the Washington Post,

Do you empathize more with those who govern — and who in this case are charged with protecting us? Or has the history of abuse of power, and the special danger from such abuses in an age when privacy seems to be vanishing, leave you hailing any exposure of secret government methods as grounds for sainthood?…

Is there potential for abuse? Of course. An Internet-era J. Edgar Hoover is frightening to conjure. But what Snowden exposed was not some rogue government-inside-the-government conspiracy. It’s a program that’s legal, reviewed by Congress and subject to court oversight.

So it’s okay if the government monitors masses of innocent people as long as it’s reviewed by a clique of gagged members of Congress and a secret rubber-stamp “court.” That’s what I call trust in power. Frankly, it’s more alarming that the spying is legal rather than rogue. Michael Kinsley once said, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal.”

Miller’s progressive colleague Richard Cohen said much the same thing in much the same tone:

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Striking at the Root

Here in the northwest, there proliferates a climbing plant known to many people far and wide as Morning Glory.  Though there are different kinds of Morning Glory, they have in common creeping vines, and flowers that bloom at night, or through the early morning.The flowers can be quite lovely, and because they climb so nicely, are often used to cover patio trellises and fencing. The same vines that creep up, also creep out in a vast ground cover.

Unfortunately, all that flowers does not a happy gardener make. Morning Glory is highly invasive with a complicated root system that makes it very difficult to get rid of. “Very,” as in, I am pretty sure the cockroaches will be vacationing in it post nuclear fallout.

Every broken piece of Morning Glory will root and form it’s own plant. It can’t be composted, but rather must be thrown away or burned. The rototiller and the hoe are only helping it to achieve world domination. Weedkiller will take care of it temporarily, but do you want to spray weedkiller in your vegetable garden? The only real way to take it on is to dig up the root system everywhere you can, cover up your garden with black plastic all year (instead of growing anything) in order to burn it out with the sun, and/or just be prepared to be pulling it up constantly… for the rest of your life.

Sitting in my garden, pulling up Morning Glory, I was pondering the recent revelations in regard to the ever growing surveillance state. A local news station posed the question over Facebook of whether or not members of our community felt that Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, deserved to be tried for treason. Some of the answers disturbed me, and the split was much more even than I would have hoped.

You see, quite many people still see the intelligence community as more interested in our freedom and protection than anything else. It hasn’t occurred to them that it’s power could be (and is being) abused. If it has occurred to them, they have quickly discarded it and gone back to life as usual. I think there are many reasons for this, and I am even willing to say that some of those reasons stem from a habit of looking on the bright side. Obviously there are many more negative reasons as well, but for the moment I am giving people the benefit of the doubt. They want to believe that our government has our best interests at heart. They are good people, their friends and family are good people, certainly the men and women working in our government are at heart, good people. But is this outlook naive? At best.

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Government Spying a Bipartisan Affair

While the fervor created by revelations that the U.S. Department of Justice recently wiretapped American journalists, and IRS agents targeted Tea Party and conservative groups raged, an online anti-war magazine quietly filed a lawsuit indicating these federal government abuses of power go deeper and reach much further back than most Americans realize.

On May 22, Antiwar.com managing editor Eric Garris and longtime editorial director Justin Raimondo filed a federal suit against the FBI demanding the release of records apparently compiled on them and the 17-year-old online magazine. Filed by the ACLU of Northern California on behalf of Garris and Raimondo, the suit also demands the FBI stop collecting records of constitutionally protected speech.

A heavily redacted FBI memo released after a 2011 Freedom of Information Act reveals the FBI began spying on Garris and Raimondo as early as 2004.

“It’s easy to blow these recent scandals off as some kind of partisan, anti-Obama witch-hunt,” Raimondo said. “But clearly, this total disregard of basic constitutional rights and gross abuse of power go back to the Bush administration, and probably further than that. This is not a partisan problem. This is a systemic problem. The FBI pretty much does whatever it wants, whenever it wants in the name of ‘fighting terror,’ and has been for a long time – the Constitution be damned.”

According to the suit, the ACLU made several futile attempts to obtain the FBI records after release of the memo. The documents indicate the FBI has files on Garris and Raimondo, and at one point the FBI recommends opening a preliminary investigation of Antiwar.com “…to determine if [redaction] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to national security.”

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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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Who Would Trust Them After This?

Judge Andrew Napolitano called the situation “a fishing expedition on the grandest scale we’ve ever seen in American history.” The government is looking for a select group of people, and instead of obeying the Constitution and simply getting a search warrant for their phones, the judge says, “They got a search warrant for a 113 million phones!”

“Who would trust them after this? The Constitution doesn’t trust them!” Napolitano told Shepard Smith.

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