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Feds: Even Though We’ve Been Ordered To Reveal Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act, We’re Not Going To Do That

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | November 19, 2013

You may recall that, back in early September, the FISA Court (FISC) agreed that its various rulings that secretly interpreted Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to mean something entirely different than any plain language reading of the law implies should be declassified. Here’s what the court said at the time:

The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215. Publication of FISC opinions relating to this provision would contribute to an informed debate. Congressional amici emphasize the value of public information and debate in representing their constituents and discharging their legislative responsibilities. Publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this Court’s proceedings.

In addition, publication with only limited redactions may now be feasible, given the extent of the government’s recent public disclosures about how Section 215 is implemented. Indeed, the government advises that a declassification review process is already underway.

In view of these circumstances, and as an exercise of discretion, the Court has determined that it is appropriate to take steps toward publication of any Section 215 Opinions that are not subject to the ongoing FOIA litigation, without reaching the merits of the asserted right of public access under the First Amendment.

It then instructed the DOJ to figure out what to redact, so it could be declassified and released. Except… the DOJ instead fought that order, and while it did find some documents that meet the criteria — namely a ruling from February of this year — the DOJ is now telling the FISA Court that despite the order, it would really prefer to keep that interpretation of the law a complete secret. Actually, it goes further than that. It doesn’t ask for permission to keep it secret, it just says that it cannot reveal the interpretation.

After careful review of the Opinion by senior intelligence officials and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Executive Branch has determined that the Opinion should be withheld in full and a public version of the Opinion cannot be provided.

Got that? This secret court interpretation of a law that we all live under, which the court itself has ordered to be revealed, is unlikely to be revealed because the intelligence community really, really doesn’t want it revealed. Again, this is not about so-called “sources and methods.” This is entirely about understanding how a US court interprets a US law. But that interpretation is secret, meaning that the law itself is secret, and apparently the executive branch of the federal government is going to fight to keep it that way.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on Feds: Even Though We’ve Been Ordered To Reveal Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act, We’re Not Going To Do That

EFF to New York Times: Don’t Get Fooled Again by Claims of NSA Spying “Legality”

By Cindy Cohn | EFF | November 11, 2013

Over the weekend, the New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, published a piece investigating the Times’ thirteen month delay in the publication of a bombshell report on the Bush Administration’s domestic mass surveillance program back in 2004 and 2005. Sullivan’s revisitation of the issue in light of what we’ve learned since this summer about the NSA was a great public service.

We now know that the government lied to the New York Times about the legality of its spying to delay the publication of the story that would eventually win the Pulitzer Prize, hiding a tremendous fight inside the government about the legality of the spying.  The report also contains an important new admission from former NSA chief—and its current public booster—General Michael Hayden, that “he can’t prove any harm to national security from the publication of the eavesdropping stories — then or now.”  We hope Mr. Hayden will now revise the many hyperbolic statements he has made to the contrary.

Yet as the folks who, along with the ACLU, have been leading the lawsuits against NSA spying since early 2006, we need to point out a big problem with the New York Times’ characterization of the current mass spying.

The piece quotes Eric Lichtblau as saying that, as a result of the revelations, Congress made “all this stuff” legal, then adds: “There may be public outrage over the latest wave of surveillance revelations, but the government has a helpful defense: Hey, it’s legal.”

Not so.  The government’s claims of “legality” are wrong, have been strongly criticized by national security law professors, and are currently being challenged in court by EFF, ACLU, and EPIC, among others. The Times dis-serves its audience by repeating them as if they were true.

In fact, the ACLU has a hearing in New York on Friday, November 22, in its key challenge to one of those “legal” claims: that the NSA’s indiscriminately collecting telephone records is “legal” under a convoluted interpretation of the section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act that mentions neither telephone records nor the NSA. To try to make it fit, the government attempts to redefine the limits on production of “relevant” things to allow the collection of massive amounts of “irrelevant” information. In other words, by a plain reading of the statute, what the NSA is currently doing in collecting massive amounts of telephone records on an ongoing basis is not legal.

And that’s not even addressing the Fourth Amendment problems with mass, suspicionless seizure of records of our calls with doctors, business associates, churches, friends and lovers, records that can create an extremely intimate portrait of our lives and political activities. The government’s claim that the Fourth Amendment is not triggered by the ongoing collection of this sensitive information in an untargeted mass is far from settled.

The Fourth Amendment isn’t even the only amendment the NSA is violating. EFF focused on the First Amendment in our motion for partial summary judgment against the mass telephone records collection program we filed in California last Wednesday. The motion features declarations from 22 associations, from the California Gun Owners to Patient Privacy Rights to People for the American Way to the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, attesting to the First Amendment chilling effect from the collection of telephone records.

Also not “legal” is the mass collection of communications, including content, that the government claims is justified by section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. That’s the law Lichtblau references, passed in 2008 after the Times revelations.  Section 702 also doesn’t say that mass, untargeted surveillance of Americans is allowed. To the contrary, 702 expressly forbids the government from intentionally acquiring any communications that are purely domestic. The NSA’s “upstream” access, tapping into the domestic fiber optic cables of AT&T and other carriers that carry the content of our emails, web searches, social networking posts and many of our phone calls, plainly violates section 702 and also violates the Constitution.  EFF will be presenting these arguments before an open, adversarial public federal court starting in the spring.

These points were made well by former EFF attorney Jennifer Granick of Stanford and Professor Christopher Sprigman of the University of Virgnia in a piece in the Times in June, so it’s surprising that the Times simply repeated the government’s conclusions without question.

In short, nowhere in federal law, before or after the Times story in 2005, has Congress ever openly authorized the mass spying on Americans that is taking place. EFF is still fighting to force the release of the key FISA Court rulings, so we don’t know the specifics, but the fact that the government has convinced the secret, non-adversarial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to sign off, apparently based on contorted statutory interpretation, doesn’t change that. These questions need to be presented in the public courts where rule of law and due process rules are clear.

The piece admits that the Times was taken in by claims of “legality” in 2004. It shouldn’t get fooled again by government claims of “legality” of mass surveillance.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on EFF to New York Times: Don’t Get Fooled Again by Claims of NSA Spying “Legality”


Press TV – November 12, 2013

The list of US spying targets now includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, a new report reveals.

The US National Security Agency and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters infiltrated OPEC’s computer systems to access an internal study in the organization’s research division, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported, citing documents provided by American whistleblower Edward J. Snowden.

A list of individuals targeted for surveillance included “Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor”.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the targeting.

Der Spiegel said the information on OPEC had been available to the NSA for years, but in 2008 the agency infiltrated the organization, and has since been able to access Relevant Products/Services information specifically regarding oil exporting countries and the price of oil.

The infiltration however, was not easy for the NSA. A document from GCHQ, released in 2010, announced that after a long period of meticulous work, the two spying agencies had finally infiltrated the systems.

There is no national security justification for the spying effort. But the US needs the information to maintain its economic dominance in the world, some experts say.

OPEC has twelve members and is dedicated to coordinating the policies of the oil-exporting countries.

The American public, some IT corporations, and foreign leaders are all targets of the US super spying agency over the past years, according to documents released by Snowden, who is now in Russia where he was granted temporary asylum. Snowden is wanted in America for espionage charges.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on NSA, GCHQ spy on OPEC

The NSA Killed the Radio Star and American High Tech

By Richard Silverstein · Tikun Olam · November 2, 2013

While I don’t pretend to be a technical expert, it seems clear to me that one of the major pieces of collateral damage regarding the NSA spying scandal is the savaging that the American technology industry has taken. Though they initially denied it, it became apparent that companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others essentially rolled over and played dead in the face of Justice Department and NSA directives that they essentially unlock their data for inspection. Later it became clear that the government didn’t really need these data dumps, it could invade the company servers and sift through data at will.

Now these same companies are telling us that they’ll regain our trust by encrypting their data so that it can’t be hacked by NSA snoops. Such encryption is not going to be an effective tool if the NSA retains the same privileges it’s had to subpoena any data at any time for any person it wishes. In such cases, the only thing standing in the way of wholesale exposure of virtually every secret is a toothless FISA court which never questions a subpoena or prevents any spying.

The only benefit to encryption is that it will make it harder for the NSA to collect the reams of data which it sifts through in order to decide which individuals’ records it wants to subpoena. But given the creativity and ingenuity of NSA spooks, you can be sure they’ll discover a way to circumvent even this obstacle.

There is a certain attraction for the average NSA hacker to et everything they can; to open all possible doors; to pry into every possibly nook and cranny. That’s what spooks do. You can’t blame them for that. But you can blame the executive branch and legislators who were supposed to exercise oversight and, with a few exceptions like Marc Udall and Ron Wyden, abdicated their constitutional responsibility. 9/11 made them all go soft in the head.

Now even Rep. James Sensenbrenner, one of the chief architects of that foul piece of legislation called the USA Patriot Act, seems to have second thoughts. He’s gone so far as to call the actions of the NSA “criminal.” But is it too late? Once the NSA let the horse out of the barn, how will the U.S. technology industry get it back in?

These companies, the backbone of the U.S. economy, have shown themselves to be at the beck and call of the government. The trust we customers placed in them to protect our security has been savaged. Does anyone believe anything Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, Larry Page or Sergey Brin say on this subject?  Frankly, I think they can’t regain that trust no matter what they do.

The NSA has torn a hole in the high tech industry big enough to drive a super computer or Mack truck through. Countries like Brazil and others are already developing competing systems that will not be subject to the intrusive scrutiny of the NSA. Will any American want to maintain telecommunications accounts with U.S. companies?

If we lose the edge we’ve had in such technological development over the past 60 years, we will lose a huge sector of U.S. commercial innovation. We will hurt our economy, lose jobs, and slow the pace of development in our own country. In a strange and ironic way, NSA spying may ultimately hurt the U.S. and our national security.

An equally damaged victim of NSA spying has been our formerly warm relations with allies like Berlin, France, German, Mexico and Brazil.  One must ask: was the benefit of whatever was learned by hacking the phones of their leaders worth the years of damage and mistrust that will ensue from this mess? Further, one has to marvel at the hubris of U.S. spymasters who believed that their massive House of Spies would never be exposed. As a result of Edward Snowden’s revelations the House of Spies has become a House of Cards.

In addition to all the nations with whom we’ve had tense of even hostile nations over the last decade or so, now we have to add allies who have lost trust in us.

I am delighted to learn that attitudes in the international community toward Snowden are gradually changing. With every new insult to the national pride of these countries with further NSA spying charges, more people find Snowden’s work admirable. German legislators met with him over the past few days to determine whether he can travel to German to testify before the Bundestag about the hacking of Prime Minister Merkel’s cell phone. If they find a way to bring him to Germany, I fear the cat will be out of the bag.  As long as the U.S. could confine him to countries like China or Russia, with whom we have tense or hostile relations, Obama could dismiss Snowden as a crank.  But once he begins spilling his guts before national legislatures of U.S. allies, he becomes a technological Robin Hood.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on The NSA Killed the Radio Star and American High Tech

Court Reveals ‘Secret Interpretation’ Of The Patriot Act, Allowing NSA To Collect All Phone Call Data

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | September 17, 2013

The FISA Court (FISC) today released a heavily redacted version of its July ruling approving the renewal of the bulk metadata collection on all phone calls from US phone providers under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. This is part of the “secret interpretation” as to how the FISC interprets the Patriot Act’s “business records” or “tangible things” section to mean that the government can order a telco to turn over pretty much all records — even as the very author of the law says it was written specifically to not allow this interpretation.

Much of the ruling is pretty much what you’d expect, given the way defenders of this program have been insisting that this is all very legal. It argues that Smith v. Maryland show that there are no privacy protections in data given to your telco. It goes on at length defending the third party doctrine, arguing that because some third party holds your data, you have no expectation of privacy. As many have argued, this is a ridiculous and antiquated view of the third party doctrine, not at all consistent with modern technology, but the FISC repeats it without question. While some have pointed out that even if single points of metadata might not be privacy violating, collecting all of them creates a new problem, the court rejects that entirely.

From there, there’s a big discussion of whether or not “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” This is a big part of where the concern lies. How can the government defend the claim that all records are “relevant to an authorized investigation.” Here, the court compares the order to the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which lets the government get access to records as well. And then the word games begin. Basically, it argues that because one law requires “specific and articulable facts” and that the information must be “material,” while the other (the PATRIOT Act) does not, then the government doesn’t need specific and articulable facts. Rather it just needs “a statement of facts showing there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records are relevant to the investigation.”

For non-content records production requests, such as the type sought here, Section 2703(c) provides a variety of mechanisms, including acquisition through a court order under Section 2703(d). Under this section, which is comparable to Section 215, the government must offer to the court “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other information sought, are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” 2703(d) (emphasis added). Section 215, the comparable provision for foreign intelligence purposes, requires neither “specific and articulable facts” nor does it require that the information be “material.” Rather, it merely requires a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant to the investigation. 50 U.S.C. That these two provisions apply to the production of the same type of records from the same type of providers is an indication that Congress intended this Court to apply a different, and in specific respects lower, standard to the government’s Application under Section 215 than a court reviewing a request under Section 2703(d). Indeed, the Act version of FISA’s business records provision required “specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the person to whom the records pertain is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” 50 U.S.C. §1862(b)(2)(B) as it read on October 25, 2001. In enacting Section 215, Congress removed the requirements for “specific and articulable facts” and that the records pertain to “a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” Accordingly, now the government need not provide specific and articulable facts, demonstrate any connection to a particular suspect, nor show materiality when requesting business records under Section 215. To find otherwise would be to impose a higher burden — one that Congress knew how to include in Section 215, but chose to dispense with.

Also, it argues that since Section 215 allows recipients of the order to challenge them and no telco ever has that this lends it to believe there are no problems with the law.

Second, Section 2703(d) permits the service provider to file a motion with a court to “quash or modify such order, if the information or records requested are unusually voluminous in nature or compliance with such order otherwise would cause undue burden on such provider.” Congress recognized that, even with the higher statutory standard for a production order under Section 2703(d), some requests authorized by a court would be “voluminous” and provided a means by which the provider could seek relief using a motion. Under Section 215, however, Congress provided a specific and complex statutory scheme for judicial review of an Order from this Court to ensure that providers could challenge both the legality of the required production and the nondisclosure provisions of that Order. 50 U.S.C. §1861(f). This adversarial process includes the selection of a judge from a pool of FISC judges to review the challenge to determine if it is frivolous and to rule on the merits, provides standards that the judge is to apply during such review, and provides for appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court. This procedure, as opposed to the motion process available under Section 2703(d) to challenge a production as unduly voluminous or burdensome, contemplates a substantial and engaging adversarial process to test the legality of this Court’ Orders under Section 215. This enhanced process appears designed to ensure that there are additional safeguards in light of the lower threshold that the government is required to meet for production under Section 215 as opposed to Section 2703(d). To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.

Basically, the court says “why of course there’s an adversarial process” to protect users’ privacy. It just depends on Verizon or AT&T taking up the fight on behalf of their users, and they haven’t done so, so let’s just assume everyone’s okay with this. That’s kind of crazy when you think about it. Admittedly, the public should be up in arms that Verizon and AT&T appear to have no interest in challenging these broad collections of data, but that hardly makes them constitutional.

From there we move onto the interpretation of how this massive data collection could possibly be seen as “relevant.” First, it notes (as mentioned above) that the government doesn’t need to prove that the data is actually relevant. Just that it has reasonable grounds to believe that they are relevant.

As an initial matter and as a point of clarification, the government’s burden under Section 215 is not to prove that the records sought are, in fact, relevant to an authorized investigation. The explicit terms of the statute require “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant.

Then it basically says that because the NSA can sniff out terrorists within a giant database, that makes the entire database relevant. Really.

This Court has previously examined the issue of relevance for bulk collections. See; [REDACTED] While those matters involved different collections from the one at issue here, the relevance standard was similar…. (“[R]elevant to an ongoing investigation to protect against international terrorism….”). In both cases, there were facts demonstrating that information concerning known and unknown affiliates of international terrorist organizations was contained within the non-content metadata the government sought to obtain. As this Court noted in 2010, the “finding of relevance most crucially depended on the conclusion that bulk collection is necessary for NSA to employ tools that are likely to generate useful investigative leads to help identify and track terrorist operatives.” [REDACTED] Indeed, in [REDACTED] this Court noted that bulk collections such as these are “necessary to identify the much smaller number of [international terrorist] communications.’ [REDACTED] As a result, it is this showing of necessity that led the Court to find that “the entire mass of collected metadata is relevant to investigating [international terrorist groups] and affiliated persons.” [REDACTED]

It then applies those previous, redacted-named rulings, to this case, repeating the DOJ’s own filing saying “all of the metadata collected is thus relevant, because the success of this investigative tool depends on bulk collections.”

That’s ridiculous and tautological. You could argue that the “success” of a program designed to stop crimes “depends on” putting cameras inside everyone’s home, but that doesn’t make it any less a violation of privacy. It also hardly makes the collection of all such data “relevant.”

The FISC continues to tap dance on the grave of the 4th Amendment:

The government depends on this bulk collection because if production of the information were to wait until the specific identifier connected to an international terrorist group were determined, most of the historical connections (the entire purpose of this authorization) would be lost. The analysis of past connections is only possible “if the Government has collected and archived a broad set of metadata that contains within it the subset of communications that can later be identified as terrorist-related.” Because the subset of terrorist communications is ultimately contained within the whole of the metadata produced, but can only be found after the production is aggregated and then queried using identifiers determined to be associated with identified international terrorist organizations, the whole production is relevant to the ongoing investigation out of necessity.

Once again, that makes no sense. First off, just because you can put together all this aggregate data and use it to find criminals and terrorists doesn’t automatically make it legal. Once again, I’m sure that having cameras in everyone’s homes would allow similar capturing of illegal behavior. But that doesn’t make it legal. Second, the argument that without this metadata collection the information would be “lost” is clearly untrue. As was just revealed a few weeks ago, AT&T has employees embedded with the DEA who are willing, ready and able to do deep dive searches on decades worth of phone records (even beyond AT&T). The data isn’t lost. They’re available via AT&T employees who are working right alongside government employees.

Incredibly, the FISC then claims that the mere claim that terrorists use the phone system is enough to show that all phone records are relevant.

The government must demonstrate “facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” The fact that international terrorist operatives are using telephone communications, and that it is necessary to obtain the bulk collection of a telephone company’s metadata to determine those connections between known and unknown international terrorist operatives as part of authorized investigations, is sufficient to meet the low statutory hurdle set out in Section 215 to obtain a production of records.

Except, almost nothing there makes sense. It’s not true that it is necessary to obtain bulk collection of the metadata to find those connections. And just because terrorists live in houses, we don’t say that it’s okay for law enforcement to search every house. Take this same argument and apply it to anything else and the 4th Amendment goes away entirely.

In short, this shows the serious problems with these efforts being non-adversarial. The FISC more or less buys the government’s argument at every single turn, even though there are multiple arguments for why the government’s position is either not true or, at the very least, misleading.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Court Reveals ‘Secret Interpretation’ Of The Patriot Act, Allowing NSA To Collect All Phone Call Data

What Convinced Obama to Reverse His Position on NSA Surveillance?

By Jennifer Hoelzer | September 11, 2013

8734868513_42f8f0e4dd_m.jpgSince details of the NSA’s surveillance programs started coming to light in early June – and President Obama’s been forced to publicly answer for its activities – the president has repeatedly reminded us that he came into office with a “healthy skepticism about these programs.”  But, after careful evaluation, he determined “that on, you know, net, it was worth doing.”

Some of these programs I had been critical of when I was in the Senate. When I looked through specifically what was being done, my determination was that the two programs in particular that had been at issue, 215 and 702, offered valuable intelligence that helps us protect the American people and they’re worth preserving. (From his August 9th Press Conference.)

It’s a rhetorical strategy intended to win his critics’ trust by demonstrating that he understands our concerns because he used to share them.  The message he wants us to take away is: if we had been in his shoes and saw the evidence he saw when he got into office, we would have signed off on these programs too.

Well, yesterday we got a glimpse of some of the evidence he saw when he assumed office – at least in connection to the NSA’s collection of U.S. phone call records — and, it begs the question, what exactly changed his mind about the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs?  What did the President see that led him to the conclusion that everything he had previously said on the topic was wrong because allowing the NSA to collect everyone’s phone call records really is a constitutionally-supported, great idea?

Because, according to the documents the ODNI released yesterday, when President Obama took office, the NSA’s “telephony metadata” program wasn’t getting stellar reviews.  In fact, we now know that days prior to Obama’s inauguration, the NSA reported that it had repeatedly violated the court-ordered rules limiting its use of the data it was collecting.  A little over a month later, a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that, “Since January 15 [five days before Obama’s inauguration] it has finally come to light that the FISC’s authorizations of this vast collection program have been premised on a flawed depiction of how the NSA uses” the phone call data.

Not only had the Intelligence Community been misrepresenting its program to the court, the judge, Reggie B. Walton, went on to write:

The minimization procedures proposed by the government in each successive application and approved and adopted as binding by the orders of the FISC have been so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall BR regime has never functioned effectively.


To approve such a program, the Court must have every confidence that the government is doing its utmost to ensure that those responsible for implementation fully comply with the Court’s orders.  The Court no longer has such confidence.

The judge also implied that – other than hypothetical examples of how this data might provide intelligence of “immense value to the government” – the government had yet to provide the court with concrete evidence that the program was actually providing that value.

This program has been ongoing for nearly three years.  The time has come for the government to describe to the Court how, based on the information collected and analyzed during that time, the value of the program to the nation’s security justifies the continued collection and retention of massive quantities of U.S. person information.

Again, Judge Walton reached these conclusions based on evidence that was available to him at the very same time that I imagine President Obama and his team were evaluating these programs.  Plus, I’m assuming the president considered Judge Walton’s opinion in his evaluation, right?

So, what exactly convinced President Obama that this was “worth doing?”  Because as the president explained last month, the prospect that something could happen isn’t the same as actual evidence that it has or ever will.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Comments Off on What Convinced Obama to Reverse His Position on NSA Surveillance?

Declassified FISA Court Opinion Shows NSA Lied Repeatedly To The Court As Well

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | August 21, 2013

The EFF finally gets to step away from one of its many legal battles with the government with its hands held aloft in victory and clutching a long-hidden FISA court opinion.

For over a year, EFF has been fighting the government in federal court to force the public release of an 86-page opinion of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Issued in October 2011, the secret court’s opinion found that surveillance conducted by the NSA under the FISA Amendments Act was unconstitutional and violated “the spirit of” federal law.

Beyond the many instances of NSA malfeasance, the most damning aspect of the opinion is its lack of effect on future behavior. What does make it past the redaction details repeated wrongdoing that even the FISA Court, long perceived to be the NSA’s rubber stamp, found egregious.

A footnote on page 16 points out that the agency had “substantially misrepresented” the extent of its “major collection program” (including the harvesting of “internet transactions”) for the third time in less than three years. The same set of footnotes attacks the so-called “big business records” collection, accusing the agency of using a “flawed depiction” of how it used the data to basically fleece the FISA court since the program’s inception in 2006.

Then there’s this pair of concluding sentences, which severely undercut anyone’s arguments that the FISA Court is a reliable form of oversight.

Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, NSA has been repeatedly running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the standard for querying. The Court concluded that this requirement had been “so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall… regime has never functioned effectively.”

Other pages detail more concerns, including misrepresentation of the methods used in 702 collections, which the opinion claims “fundamentally alters the Court’s understanding of the scope of the collection.”

As the Washington Post points out, this opinion, which details many instances in which the NSA flat out lied to the court, lends some credence to statements made by presiding judge Reggie Walton, who claimed the court was limited to making decisions based on information the NSA provided. This opinion appears to detail the NSA setting up its own complicit court system, intentionally misleading it in order to continue its surveillance programs unabated.

The only problem with accepting Walton’s narrative completely is the fact that, despite this opinion, the court granted every request that year (2011) and then proceeded to do the same the following year. The court was lied to but still kept giving the agency the thumbs-up on each new court order.

The leaks keep coming and keep pointing to the same conclusion: the NSA has acted as a law unto itself. And all the while it continues to point at its “overseers,” which include Congress (which has been lied to directly by the agency when not having information withheld from it by the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee) and the FISA Court (which has been lied to directly and is hampered by its reliance on the NSA’s data and narratives — which pretty much just means more lying).

And despite all this evidence that the NSA’s “oversight” is nearly completely compromised, the defenders, including those within the agency, continue to insist the system is working the way it should. In their eyes, maybe it is.

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Declassified FISA Court Opinion Shows NSA Lied Repeatedly To The Court As Well

Uncontrolled by FISA court, NSA commits ‘thousands of privacy violations per year’

RT | August 16, 2013

The National Security Agency broke the law and ignored privacy protections thousands of times in each of the years since Congressional leaders expanded the agency’s power in 2008, according to a new report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The majority of the violations are related to unauthorized surveillance on Americans or foreigners inside the United States, conditions deemed illegal by executive order, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

The account is based on top-secret documents and a May 2012 internal NSA audit that found 2,776 infractions – including unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications – in the preceding 12 months alone. The audit, originally only meant to be seen by top NSA leaders, only accounted for violations at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Virginia, and other locations in the Washington DC region.

Three government sources told the Post that the 2,776 infractions would in fact be much higher had the audit included all NSA data collection centers. Each of the 2,776 violations could have potentially encompassed thousands of communications.

“One key to the Washington Post story,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first published Snowden’s disclosures in June, “the reports are internal, NSA audits, which means high likelihood of both under-counting and white-washing.”

One of the most flagrant examples is a 2008 incident when a “large number” of telephone calls were inadvertently intercepted because a programmer erroneously typed “202” instead of “20,” Egypt’s national calling code, according to a “quality assurance” memorandum never seen by NSA oversight staff.

Another time, the NSA kept 3,032 files they were ordered to destroy by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Each individual file included an undisclosed number of telephone call records, according to the Post.

In a separate incident, the NSA failed to notify the FISA court about a new collection method the agency was using for months, at which point the court deemed the method unconstitutional. The agency reportedly “diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.”

This finding, and others like it, refutes claims made by NSA chief Keith Alexander and other brass that the government does not store or process the information it collects. As per NSA policy, the number of Americans affected was not disclosed in the top-secret documents.

NSA officials also failed to explain why, with the number of violations lower in 2008 and 2009 than in later years, violations only increased as time went on.

US District Judge Reggie Walton, the chief judge of the FISA court, admitted that the court’s rulings are based only on information provided by the government. Consequently, judges entrusted with determining what the NSA may and may not do are forced to rely on the NSA to prove the government has not and will not overstep its legal bounds.

“The [FISA court] is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” Walton wrote to The Washington Post. “The [FISA court] does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the [FISA court] is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”

Privacy advocates have previously expressed concern that the court is never informed of many of the violations. Even when the court is informed of the agency’s intentions, however, the judges are sometimes ignored.

A recently declassified Justice Department review from 2009 discovered a “major operational glitch that had led to a series of significant violations of the court’s order and notified the court.” While specifics of the error were not disclosed, problems including the so-called “over-collection” of phone call metadata were reported.

“The problems generally involved the implementation of highly sophisticated technology in a complex and ever-changing communications environment which, in some instances, results in the automated tools operating in a manner that was not completely consistent with the specific terms of the Court’s orders,” a December 2009 memo to the Senate and House intelligence committees stated.

The Washington Post notified the NSA of Thursday’s report before it was published, at which point the agency said it stops mistakes “at the earliest possible moment, implement mitigation measures wherever possible, and drive them down.”

“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” said one senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You can look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

The documents also described a tutorial that NSA collectors and analysts are required to complete. Titled the “Target Analysts Rationale Instructions,” the training instructs employees on how to complete oversight requirements without revealing “extraneous information” to “our FAA overseers,” a reference to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein said she did not receive a copy of the audit until questioned by the Post, despite her position as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman. She said the committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”

The timing of the report comes just after US President Barack Obama defended the NSA’s widespread domestic and foreign surveillance. Obama said the programs were necessary to protect national security and legitimate partly because of comprehensive oversight.

“If you look at the reports – even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward – all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails,” Obama said.

“What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

After the initial report was published Thursday night the Washington Post issued an appendix revealing that after reporters spoke with NSA leadership, the Obama administration refused allow the Post to publish their names or official titles. The explanation from the newspaper is reproduced in full below:

“The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted “by name and title” on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong. The statement is below.

“We want people to report if they have made a mistake or even if they believe that an NSA activity is not consistent with the rules. NSA, like other regulated organizations, also has a “hotline” for people to report — and no adverse action or reprisal can be taken for the simple act of reporting. We take each report seriously, investigate the matter, address the issue, constantly look for trends, and address them as well — all as a part of NSA’s internal oversight and compliance efforts. What’s more, we keep our overseers informed through both immediate reporting and periodic reporting. Our internal privacy compliance program has more than 300 personnel assigned to it: a fourfold increase since 2009. They manage NSA’s rules, train personnel, develop and implement technical safeguards, and set up systems to continually monitor and guide NSA’s activities. We take this work very seriously.”

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Uncontrolled by FISA court, NSA commits ‘thousands of privacy violations per year’

‘Low-level NSA analysts can spy on Americans’

RT :: July 28, 2013

NSA spying programs give access to US citizens’ private data to low-level analysts with little court approval or supervision, says Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story on Washington’s PRISM surveillance system.

“[PRISM] is an incredibly powerful and invasive tool,” Greenwald told ABC’s ‘This Week.’ The NSA programs are “exactly the type that Mr. Snowden described. NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I’ve said.”

The NSA keeps trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases which they can access anytime with simple screen programs, he said.

“And what these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things.” 

“It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future.”

While the program conducts wiretapping with little court approval or supervision, there are “legal constraints” on surveillance that require approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, in which court judges can secretly review the government’s plans to track suspected terrorists in advance.

“You can’t target [Americans] without going to the FISA court,” Greenwald stressed. “But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents.”

“And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst,” he added.

Greenwald will testify before a Congressional committee on Wednesday, along with NSA officials who have previously downplayed Snowden’s claims about the agency’s easy-access data.

PRISM is a mass electronic surveillance data mining program operated by the NSA since 2007. The program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this summer. Snowden leaked information about the program to the media, warning of a far greater extent of mass data collection than the public knew existed. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6.

Snowden later leaked further information to Greenwald which pertained to mass security operations carried out across the world. He spoke of British spy agency GCHQ, which uses the Tempora surveillance program. The whistleblower also shared information regarding Germany’s cooperation with US intelligence, which reportedly combs through half a billion German phone calls, emails, and text messages on a daily basis.

A call for transparency on surveillance programs

The call for increased oversight and transparency for surveillance programs has been growing, even among supporters of the NSA.

“I do think that we’re going to have to make some change to make things more transparent,” Senator Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC.

Former federal judge James Robertson, who used to grant surveillance orders, said he was shocked to hear of changes to allow broader authorization of NSA programs – such as the monitoring of US phone records. He urged for a reform which would to allow counter-arguments to be heard.

“What FISA does is not adjudication, but approval,” Robertson said, speaking as a witness during the first public hearings into the Snowden revelations. “This works just fine when it deals with individual applications for warrants, but the 2008 amendment has turned the FISA court into an administrative agency making rules for others to follow.”

However, government officials have defended the surveillance initiatives as authorized under law, claiming they are necessary in order to guard the country against terrorist threats.

Following Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance, President Barack Obama assured US citizens in June that “nobody is listening to [their] telephone calls.”

He said the surveillance programs monitor phone numbers and the durations of calls, adding that if there are any suspicions and “if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.”

President Obama added that America is “going to have to make some choices” between privacy and security, warning that the highly publicized programs will make it harder to target terrorists.

Meanwhile, deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce said that the “program is not intentionally used to target any US citizens” and is “key in our counter-terrorism efforts.”

Testifying on Capitol Hill before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in June, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander claimed that the NSA’s storage of millions of phone records has thwarted more than 50 terror attacks in more than 20 countries since September 11, 2001. However, evidence of the prevented attacks has not been revealed.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘Low-level NSA analysts can spy on Americans’

Government Fights to Keep Court Opinions on NSA Spying Hidden From Public

By Alex Abdo | ACLU | July 16, 2013

Last month, we asked the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—known as the FISC—to publish its legal opinions allowing the government to track the phone calls of essentially all Americans. Those secret opinions are critical to the ongoing debate about the NSA’s surveillance powers, but, perhaps even more importantly, they are the authoritative legal interpretations of a public law. Like the law itself, those opinions should be public. Given that fact, we were disappointed when, on July 5, the government opposed our request, arguing that the public is not entitled to read the FISC’s opinions.

Think about that for a minute. Our government believes that opinions of a federal court deciding what a controversial federal law actually means and whether sweeping surveillance conducted under that law is constitutional should be secret. And we’re not just talking about keeping secret the names of the government’s surveillance targets. The government’s filing was clear: The public doesn’t have the right to read even the FISC’s legal analysis.

Here is how we countered the government’s argument in the reply brief we filed late on Friday:

The First Amendment guarantees the public a qualified right of access to those opinions, because judicial opinions interpreting constitutional and statutory limits on governmental authorities— including those relevant to foreign-intelligence surveillance—have always been available for inspection by the public and because their release is so manifestly fundamental in a democracy committed to the rule of law.

The government’s contrary view—that legal opinions of an Article III court controlling the constitutional rights of millions of Americans may forever be denied to the public, even if any legitimate interest in secrecy has expired or can be accommodated—is wrong. Indeed, if the government succeeds in depriving the public of the tools necessary to understand the laws passed by its elected officials, it will have eroded the foundations of our democracy. The government’s theory affects more than the public’s right to this Court’s opinions; its reasoning would likewise deny the public a right of access to the opinions of courts sitting in review of those opinions, whether issued by the Court of Review or even the Supreme Court of the United States. That result would defeat democratic oversight and undermine public confidence in our legal institutions.

Our motion is now fully briefed and ready for the FISC to decide. Stay tuned.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on Government Fights to Keep Court Opinions on NSA Spying Hidden From Public

Bills Introduced by Congress Fail to Fix Unconstitutional NSA Spying

By Mark M. Jaycox | EFF | July 15, 2013

In the past two weeks Congress has introduced a slew of bills responding to the Guardian‘s publication of a top secret court order using Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to demand that Verizon Business Network Services give the National Security Agency (NSA) a record of every customer’s call history for three months. The order was confirmed by officials like President Obama and Senator Feinstein, who said it was a “routine” 90 day reauthorization of a program started in 2007.

Currently, four bills have been introduced to fix the problem: one by Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, Senators Udall and Wyden, and Rep. Conyers. The well-intentioned bills try to address the Justice Department’s (DOJ) abusive interpretations of Section 215 (more formally, 50 USC § 1861) apparently approved by the reclusive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) in secret legal opinions.

Sadly, all of them fail to fix the problem of unconstitutional domestic spying—not only because they ignore the PRISM program, which uses Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and collects Americans’ emails and phone calls—but because the legislators simply don’t have key information about how the government interprets and uses the statute. Congress must find out more about the programs before it can propose fixes. That’s why a coalition of over 100 civil liberties groups and over half a million people are pushing for a special congressional investigatory committee, more transparency, and more accountability.

More Information Needed

The American public has not seen the secret law and legal opinions supposedly justifying the unconstitutional NSA spying. Just this week the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported that the secret law includes dozens of opinions—some of which are hundreds of pages long—gutting the Fourth Amendment. The special investigative committee must find out necessary information about the programs and about the opinions. Or, at the very least, extant committees like the Judiciary or Oversight Committees must conduct more open hearings and release more information to the public. Either way, the process must start with the publication of the secret legal opinions of the FISA Court, and the opinions drafted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Why the Legislation Fails to Fix Section 215

Some of the bills try to narrow Section 215 by heightening the legal standard for the government to access information. Currently, the FBI can obtain “any tangible thing”—including, surprisingly, intangible business records about Americans—that is “relevant”

to an authorized investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a US person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities

with a statement of facts showing that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that the tangible things are “relevant” to such an investigation. Bills by Rep. Conyers and Sen. Sanders attempt to heighten the standard by using pre-9/11 language mandating “specific and articulable facts” about why the FBI needs the records. Rep. Conyers goes one step further than Sen. Sanders by forcing the FBI to include why the records are “material,” or significantly relevant, to an investigation.

By heightening the legal standard, the legislators intend for the FBI to show exactly why a mass database of calling records is relevant to an investigation. But it’s impossible to know if these fixes will stop the unconstitutional spying without knowing how the government defines key terms in the bills. The bills by Sen. Leahy and Sens. Udall and Wyden do not touch this part of the law.

Failure to Stop the Unconstitutional Collection of “Bulk Records”

Sens. Udall, Wyden, and Leahy use a different approach; their bills mandate every order include why the records “pertain to” an individual or are “relevant to” an investigation. Collectively this aims—but most likely fails—to stop the government from issuing “bulk records orders” like the Verizon order. Senator Sanders travels a different path by requiring the government specify why “each of” the business records is related to an investigation; however, it’s also unclear if this stops the spying. Yet again, Rep. Conyers’ bill provides the strongest language as it deletes ambiguous clauses and forces all requests “pertain only to” an individual; however even the strongest language found in these bills will probably not stop the unconstitutional spying.

Legislators Are Drafting in the Dark

Unfortunately, legislators are trying to edit the statutory text before a thorough understanding of how the government is using key definitions in the bill or how the FISA Court is interpreting the statute. For instance, take the word “relevant.” The “tangible thing” produced under a Section 215 order must be “relevant” to the specific type of investigation mentioned above. But the Verizon order requires every Verizon customer’s call history.

The New York Times confirmed the secret FISA court was persuaded by the government that this information is somehow relevant to such an investigation. The Wall Street Journal (paywall), quoting “people familiar with the [FISA Court] rulings” wrote: “According to the [FISA Court], the special nature of national-security and terrorism-prevention cases means ‘relevant’ can have a broader meaning for those investigations.” Obviously, only severely strained legalese—similar to the Department of Justice’s re-definition of “imminent“—could justify such an argument. And the Fourth Amendment was created to protect against this exact thing—vague, overbroad “general warrants” (.pdf).

If “relevant” has been defined to permit bulk data collection, requiring more or better facts about why is unlikely to matter. Even Sen. Sanders’ approach—which would require “each” record be related to an investigation—could fall short if “relevance” is evaluated in terms of the database as a whole, rather than its individual records. This is just one example of why the secret FISA Court decisions and OLC opinions must be released. Without them, legislators cannot perform one of their jobs: writing legislation.

Congress Must Obtain and Release the Secret Law

The actions revealed by the government strike at the very core of our Constitution. Further, the majority of Congress is unaware about the specific language and legal interpretations used to justify the spying. Without this information, Congress can only legislate in the dark. It’s time for Congress to investigate these matters to the fullest extent possible. American privacy should not be held hostage by secrecy. Tell Congress now to push for an special investigative committee, more transparency, and more accountability.

July 15, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Secret Court Making Secret Laws? That’s No Democracy

By Mike Masnick | TechDirt | July 8th 2013

Last December, well before the Ed Snowden leaks revealed some information about the FISA court (FISC) and its rulings, we had already noted that the court itself was almost certainly unconstitutional. More recently, we talked about how the fact that all the court’s judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court means that the court has turned into a rubber stamp made in the image of some of the most “law and order”-minded Chief Justices from the past few decades. Ezra Klein has since expanded on that to discuss the oddity of how current Chief Justice John Roberts is basically the Chief Justice of the Surveillance State, answerable to absolutely no one: “You have exclusive, unaccountable, lifetime power to shape the surveillance state.”

Over the weekend, the NY Times put out a powerful piece discussing how FISC has basically become a shadow Supreme Court, doling out all sorts of important rulings in total secrecy. It rules on cases where it only hears one side, and where there are no appeals, no guarantee that the full story is presented, and involves a bunch of judges who tend to have law enforcement backgrounds before being appointed to the court. In the end, you have a secret court issuing secret rulings by ex-law enforcement officials, allowing their former colleagues ever greater power to spy on everyone.

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

[….] Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public. A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court. In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.

As an example of how FISC has basically completely overturned the rules of surveillance in secret, the NY Times reveals the details of some of its thinking, taking a extremely narrow ruling meant to apply in special cases, and turning it into a general rule that has allowed the vast capture of information:

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”

I don’t care where you come down on the importance of widespread surveillance — I just don’t see how you can possibly square the above interpretation of the law with the 4th Amendment. If “special needs” can be used to justify mass collection of data on just about everyone “just in case” it might stop some sort of terrorist attack, then you no longer have a 4th Amendment. At all.

But, the bigger issue here is just the fact that we have a secret court issuing secret interpretations of the law that have a massive impact on our privacy. This is supposed to be an open democracy. An open democracy doesn’t involve secret courts and secret laws. We have laws that everyone knows, and which the public can discuss and weigh in on through their elected officials. When you set up a secret court, making secret rules with no oversight, and with all of the judges appointed by a single Supreme Court Justice with a particular bias, you no longer have a functioning democracy at all. And that’s downright scary.

This is a point that some Senators have been making for years now, but the leaks from Ed Snowden have really made it that much clearer just how insane the situation is. Earlier, it had seemed like perhaps there was one or two rulings from FISC that had some oddities in the interpretation, and which should probably be revealed to the public. However, the various revelations so far suggest that the issue is much, much bigger, and we have a secret “shadow court” system that is systematically obliterating the 4th Amendment and helping to create and then “legitimize” the vast surveillance state.

The Snowden leaks have shone a number of lights on various bad things within our government, but one thing that they have made abundantly clear is that the FISC needs to go. Whether that means it needs to be opened up, or to have greater oversight, or just be done away with completely, could be up for discussion. But if it remains the way it is, it’s clear that we’ve thrown away our basic democratic principles, and moved towards the same sorts of autocratic regimes with secret courts that the US has always presented itself as being against.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Secret Court Making Secret Laws? That’s No Democracy