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Photo by: joanneleon.  May, 2013.


Big Brother Is Watching You - Sheldon Allman

News & Opinion

All hell has been breaking loose since Wednesday night when Glenn Greenwald released the FISA court order and published it in the Guardian.  There's so much from just the past 24 hours.  I'll include a sampling today but it's really worth taking some extra time today to read a lot of the articles, sift through Twitter and just get a sense of the enormity of this whole thing -- the way it's going down in the corporate media, social media and independent media.  Watching the journalists from mainstream and independent media (mostly blogs, others freelance) work together is really something to see.  There are a good number of them with integrity and they have been showing it during the past couple of days.  Yes, it's a shame that it took some of them so long to focus on this and find their integrity.  But on the flip side, there is a really stark contrast being drawn between them and the ones who are not showing much integrity.  It's very fascinating to watch.  It's very clear today who is on our side -- it's the ones who are kicking ass and taking names.

Yesterday, another bombshell was leaked about yet another Big Brother program called PRISM.  High tech companies are furiously issuing nearly identical statements of denial, saying they have never heard of a program called PRISM.  Sadly for them, the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, confirmed the existence of the system when the Obama administration decided to declassify some information about how we're under 24/7/365 surveillance by our government.  NBC reported that they have confirmation from two sources about PRISM.  Apple. Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al will need to walk back their denials now, I suppose.  Some of them flat out said they had no idea about the program and that they do not allow the government access to their servers.  Perhaps that was a deceptive denial, which would be similar to the kinds of parsed words denials President Obama is so fond of.  "I'm not going to slash Social Security" comes to mind.  We'll have to see what they come up with today.  

I have a theory about why the Obama administration decided to acknowledge the FISA order and the collection of meta data phone records so quickly.  I don't think it had much to do with their desire for transparency, obviously.  I don't think it had that much to do with the pressure on them for the past 24 hours.  I think it had something to do with the fact that Congress was probably getting pounded by their constituents, after Obama did not deny that the leaked court order was real and promptly spread the blame to all three branches of the government.  That, in itself, was misleading and probably created a stir. But I don't think that was the thing that got them moving on this either.  

I think the thing that lit a fire under the administration's butt was the fact that only one of the court orders was released to the public -- the one for Verizon.  Though most of us who have been paying attention knew that there must be matching court orders for all the other telecom companies, most other people in this country would not understand that because the media reported it as Verizon phone records, since they only had solid proof of one telecom coughing up all their phone records on a daily basis.  Therefore it was Verizon (and the govt) who took the heat and no doubt, people started switching phone companies yesterday, or started researching how they could switch to another carrier, and no doubt Verizon got a lot of heat from their customers yesterday and I'm sure they were pissed off that they were singled out.  On Twitter, for example, "Verizon" has been trending, on and off, for more than a day.  It think it's likely that Verizon insisted that more information be revealed to the public.  It's much more likely that this president did it to appease a huge telecom company than to appease the American people.  Some Republicans were starting to howl but other prominent Republicans like Lindsey Graham were expressing their support and approval, so I don't think Obama's motivation had that much to do with Republicans.

Obama Administration Declassifies Phone Records Seizures, Condemns Leaks

Following more than 24 hours of unrelenting scrutiny and criticism, the Obama administration moved late Thursday to declassify information on the Federal Bureau Investigation and National Security Agency blanket seizures of American phone records.


In a separate statement, Clapper defended a separate U.S. government effort to collect private communication from major techonolgy companies under a still-classified program known as Prism, as reported by the Washington Post Thursday.

[Emphasis added]

The reason that it was misleading for Obama to say that all three branches of government knew about and approved the way that the government is spying on all American citizens is that in Congress, only a small number of people in were aware of the way that Bush and Obama were interpreting the "business records" clause of FISA which was changed under the PATRIOT Act.  Only the intelligence committees would know about that, and it would probably be a situation where they were allowed to look at documents in a secure room, with no staff present, and no allowance for copies, photos or taking notes.  Both Sen. Wyden and Udall have been trying to warn the people about the overly broad interpretation for a couple of years now and they said that the American people would be "stunned" if they knew what the government was doing with it.  There is something significant about the way the FISA law was changed in recent years too, which might be what set Wyden and Udall off, but I'm not clear on that part of the story yet.  Wyden and Udall, and any member of Congress, is gagged about the whole thing anyway. If they have strong objections, they can only voice specifics in closed hearings and if they go further than that, they'd be breaking the law.  If they try to change the law, they cannot even explain to their colleagues why it is so important to do so.  

It's also misleading to say that all three branches of the government knew about this and approved it since it has not been reviewed by the Supreme Court, and I think the only part of the judicial branch that is aware of this is the FISA court, which is a secret court, and looking more and more like a rubber stamp since they hardly ever refuse a court order.

Fisa chief judge defends integrity of court over Verizon records collection
Reggie Walton tells the Guardian claims Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court 'is a rubber stamp [are] absolutely false'

The chief judge of the secretive court that granted an order permitting the US government to sweep up the phone records of millions of Verizon customers has strongly defended the panel's integrity.

In the wake of the Guardian's revelations, Reggie Walton, presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa), said claims that the body was unduly acquiescent to the government's requests for surveillance orders were "absolutely false".

The court, which was established in 1978 and which operates out of the E Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse near Capitol Hill, rarely provides a glimpse into its operations. Set up by Congress to act as a check on the government's broad surveillance powers, it operates in secret, with minimal public access to its deliberations or rulings. Civil libertarians have long been alarmed that it approves the vast majority of government surveillance requests.

"It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp," said Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst.

NYT editorial board.
President Obama’s Dragnet

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.

Wyden Statement on Alleged Large-Scale Collection of Phone Records

Thursday, June 6, 2013
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), released this statement following news reports alleging that the U.S. Government has collected the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence committee.

“The program Senators Feinstein and Chambliss publicly referred to today is one that I have been concerned about for years.  I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of the details at this time.  However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information.  Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy.  

The administration has an obligation to give a substantive and timely response to the American people and I hope this story will force a real debate about the government’s domestic surveillance authorities. The American people have a right to know whether their government thinks that the sweeping, dragnet surveillance that has been alleged in this story is allowed under the law and whether it is actually being conducted.  Furthermore, they have a right to know whether the program that has been described is actually of value in preventing attacks.  Based on several years of oversight, I believe that its value and effectiveness remain unclear.”  

NYT does a profile article on Glenn (and calls him a "blogger") and he talks about the source of the leak.
Blogger, With Focus on Surveillance, Is at Center of a Debate

“The N.S.A. is kind of the crown jewel in government secrecy. I expect them to react even more extremely,” Mr. Greenwald said in a telephone interview. He said that he had been advised by lawyer friends that “he should be worried,” but he had decided that “what I am doing is exactly what the Constitution is about and I am not worried about it.”
While Mr. Greenwald notes that he often conducts interviews and breaks news in his columns, he describes himself as an activist and an advocate. But with this leak about the extremely confidential legal apparatus supporting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he has lifted the veil on some of the government’s most closely held secrets.

The leak, he said, came from “a reader of mine” who was comfortable working with him. The source, Mr. Greenwald said, “knew the views that I had and had an expectation of how I would display them.”

Yes, they'll be going after Glenn and the Guardian.
DOJ Will 'Very Likely' Investigate Guardian NSA Leak, Says Pete Williams; Official Disagrees

NEW YORK –- The U.S. Department of Justice may try seeking out the source of a bombshell article that revealed National Security Agency surveillance of millions of Americans, according to NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams.

Greenwald with Jake Tapper on CNN last night.
Greenwald with Piers Morgan.
Glenn Greenwald on the NSA and PRISM: "It's well past time that we have a debate about whether that's the kind of country and world in which we want to live"
Death from Above: US drone victims share their agony & grief

US drone strikes on Pakistani soil must end - that's according to the country's newly elected Prime Minister, who's once again demanded Washington respects his country's sovereignty. This comes amid mounting reports of the many civilian casualties in America's war on terror - RT's Lucy Kafanov met some of them. Her report contains some graphic images.

Good stuff on "Dirty Wars" but look what else Scahill said on Chris Hayes' show last night about surveillance: "I think there's gonna be a lot more that we're going to be reading in the coming weeks on this"
Jeremy Scahill on Chris Hayes' Thursday Night

Don't miss this exchange (Scahill with fierce Obama defender who is also pro-drone program), and the way Sam Seder reports it.
Jeremy Scahill vs Toure on The Cycle

From the Hurryiet Daily News on the protests in Turkey.
Well done kids, well done

Well done to you kids, well done. You have thrown away like a used handkerchief into the wastebasket of history all those previously memorized theses, analyses, contradictions, strategies, approaches.

You have broken all the molds. You have bewildered those who thought they were measuring even the breath of the society by having 80 surveys held every day; you have baffled them.

You have made the conservatives of today who do not get you, not a bit, fall into the position of the secularists of yesterday who were not able to grasp the developing society at that period when they were asking, “Where have all these covered women come from? Every place is full of them, sweetie.”

You have shown to the whole world that it is predestined, that it is their fate to fail, those who close their ears to the demands for freedom of the developing society… That they will fail today as they have failed yesterday…
Really, well done to you, well done…

PM Erdoğan ‘sorry’ for gas but won’t back down on Gezi Park

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Tunis today that his government has expressed its sorrow for those hurt by repeated police attacks in the early stages of the Istanbul protests even while vowing to plow ahead with his plans to destroy Taksim Gezi Park.

I read that it was hundreds, not thousands, but whatever.  The guy really is not getting it.
Turkish PM Erdoğan calls for 'immediate end' to Gezi Park protests

"These protests must end immediately," Erdoğan said today in front of thousands of Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters who greeted him at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport. "No power but Allah can stop Turkey's rise," he said.

Thousands flocked to the airport to greet Erdoğan in a show of solidarity with the country’s most influential politician over the Gezi Park protests that have shaken Turkey in the last 10 days.


Crowd-Fund a Court Stenographer for Bradley Manning's Trial

The trial of Bradley Manning will have an enormous impact on press freedom and the rights of future whistleblowers. Help us crowd-fund enough donations so we can hire a court stenographer to take transcripts of the trial. The government refuses to make its transcripts available to the public.

Your donation to this project will be tax-deductible. You can also donate by check.

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