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Hypocrisy and the Surveillance Stand-Off

Feinstein and the CIA

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | March 15, 2014

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s blistering attack on the CIA’s conduct in searching the computers used by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was deemed a remarkable salvo. The search was engendered by the Committee’s official request for a final version of the named “Internal Panetta Review”. The Review had been created for internal use by the CIA as a record of assessing what documents should be turned over to the Committee in connection with its investigation of the torture program. Once the CIA got wind that their precious internal documentation was finding its way into the hands of the committee, the hackers got itchy.

Senator Feinstein herself charged the CIA with violating the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and Executive Order 12333. This raises the first problem. The CFAA is a legislative creation that exempts authorised law enforcement and intelligence activities. Legal commentary from former Chief Counsel for the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence, Chris Donesa at Lawfare (March 12) puts the question as whether “the CIA’s investigation and search was in fact ‘lawfully authorised’ or merely a pretext for deliberate efforts to obstruct or interfere with the SSCI investigation.”

The point is valid – after all, the CIA may well have been doing what it is empowered to do – snoop, hack and conduct “counter” intelligence activities, even against a Congressional committee. A gray area exists in the CFAA as to the rights of access set by the owner and operator of the necessary computers. The Washington political establishment have only themselves to blame if that was the case. The demon is merely consuming its creators.

One thing Donesa is willing concede is that the agreement and understanding between the CIA and the SSCI was significant in its violation. In so doing, it has raised questions touching on the separation of powers “and, more importantly, the budget and authorities of any Agency that dares to breach it.” He is concerned, in fact, that the SSCI was also rather cheeky, scurrying off with documents at points befitting the CIA’s own conduct. A subpoena might have been sought, but was conspicuously lacking. Feinstein herself alluded to such behaviour, largely because the CIA had shown form in destroying evidence, notably videotapes.

There have been occasional remarks that the CIA would have been justified in chasing down the source of leaks in the event that a confidential document had found its way into “unauthorised” channels. Sometime in 2010, Feinstein claims that SSCI staff accessed documents connected with the Panetta Review. Feverish speculation is making its way around the intelligence traps as to whether that access was warranted, the result of intentional disclosure by the CIA, or an illicit revelation of a whistleblower.

Given the CIA’s well established reputation for gold medal incompetence, it might very well be that the agency enabled, quite unwittingly, the Committee access to the Review documents. The jury may well be out on that one for some time to come. In either case, be it the whistleblower thesis, or that of unwitting disclosure, the episode has brushed up, if not scraped, a good deal of constitutional gunk. James Madison would not so much be turning as standing up in his grave.

Not all have warmed to Feinstein’s agitated response. A split has developed in Senate ranks. Republicans are concerned, but many would prefer to await the findings of a full investigation into the matter. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was particularly concerned. “If what they’re saying is true about the CIA this is Richard Nixon stuff. This is dangerous to democracy. Heads should roll. People should go to jail, if it’s true.” Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was less certain. “Right now we don’t know what the facts are” (NPR, March 11).

Neither Feinstein, nor the CIA, can claim much of a high ground in this debate. The SSCI was the subject of a hacking enterprise, a snooping venture that would have been appropriate for the Senator in other cases. In fact, the rationale employed by the CIA was the very one that she has been defending with almost manic determination. If classified documents find their way into certain hands (that is, the likes of Edward Snowden), revealing the extent of state abuse, the messenger is the one at fault.

Given Feinstein’s legislative efforts to shore up the surveillance state, and her inflexible stance in limiting reform to the intelligence community, this would have come as a rude, yet richly deserved rebuke. In Snowden’s own words on the episode, this involved “an elected official [who] does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies” only to be scandalized “when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.”

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

CIA: We Only Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We’re Liars

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | March 7, 2014

Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA’s torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report’s findings — but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report’s findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.

In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers’ fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan’s statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault “the legislative” branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).

In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.

“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.

A further report detailed what he’s talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this… directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.

Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.

They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.

The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.

“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”

The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.

There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there’s an argument that Senate staffers weren’t supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in “wrongdoing” is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. “You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that” is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.

Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers.

Of course, the CIA may still have one advantage on its side: there are still some in Congress who are so supportive of the intelligence community itself that even they will make excuses for the CIA spying on their own staff. At least that seems to be the response from Senate Intelligence vice chair Senator Saxby Chambliss, one of the most ardent defenders of the intelligence community he’s supposed to be watching over. When asked about all of this, he seemed to be a lot more concerned about the staffers supposedly taking “classified” documents than about the CIA spying on those staffers:

“I have no comment. You should talk to those folks that are giving away classified information and get their opinion,” Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said when asked about the alleged intrusions.

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

CIA Probed for Possibly Spying on Congress

ACLU | March 5, 2014

WASHINGTON – The CIA’s inspector general is investigating whether the agency may have been monitoring the computer usage of Senate Intelligence Committee staff members, according to articles today by The New York Times and McClatchy. The inspector general’s office has reportedly referred the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:

“If it turns out that the CIA was spying on the Senate committee that oversees the agency, it would be an outrageous violation of separation of powers. The CIA is prohibited from spying in the United States itself, and there can be few greater violations of that rule than spying on congressional staff carrying out the constitutional duty of being a check on the CIA’s powers. CIA surveillance of Congress would be another sign that the intelligence community has come to believe that they are above the law, and should get only deference from the other branches of government, not the meaningful oversight that’s required by the Constitution. Checks and balances, especially for agencies like the CIA and NSA that have many secret operations, are essential for democratic government. At the very least, these reports should spur the committee to vote quickly for the declassification and release of its full report into the CIA’s torture program so the American people can see what it is that the CIA is so eager to hide.”

In December 2012, the committee adopted a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s Bush-era rendition, secret detention, and torture program. The report concluded that abusive methods were ineffective, and the CIA wrote an extensive response, countering many of the Senate report’s conclusions. There is also a secret CIA report commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, which is reportedly consistent with the Senate report findings and contradicts the CIA’s response to the Senate report. All three reports are classified.

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

Intelligence Contractors Give Millions to Congressional Oversight Members

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | December 11, 2013

Republicans and Democrats serving on congressional oversight committees have defended the National Security Agency (NSA) in light of the revelations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. And it’s no wonder they have, considering how much money they’ve received from contractors invested in NSA and other intelligence operations.

Since 2005, the 20 top intelligence companies have contributed $3.7 million to members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to Maplight, a government watchdog organization.

This might help to explain why these two committees have stalled legislation by other members of Congress to reform NSA surveillance programs.

The biggest spenders among those 20 intelligence contractors have been Lockheed Martin, which gave $798,910 to committee members, followed by Northrop Grumman ($753,101) and Honeywell ($714,913).

The top individual recipients among lawmakers have been those representing the state of Maryland, where the NSA is headquartered. Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger received the most of any House member ($363,600) since 2005, while Democrat Barbara Mikulski was the largest recipient in the Senate, with $210,150.

Ruppersberger, who has gone on record labeling Snowden a traitor to the U.S., is one of the eight top legislators who, on a regular basis, receive highly detailed reports on intelligence matters. Mikulski is chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which funds government programs, including those that are intelligence-related.

Monies contributed have been equally divided among the two parties’ members on the committees, with $1.86 million going to Republicans and $1.82 million to Democrats.

To Learn More:

Intel Contractors Give Millions to Lawmakers Overseeing Government Surveillance (by Donny Shaw)

Intelligence Contractors Donate Millions to Intelligence Watchdogs in Congress (by Alexander Cohen, Center for Public Integrity)

This Year, Lockheed Donated to Election Campaigns of 386 of 435 Members of House of Representatives (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Lockheed Comes Out on Top in Pentagon Budget Battle (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Reactions To Dianne Feinstein Finally Finding Something About The NSA To Get Angry About

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | October 29, 2013

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Liberal Hawk

Dianne Feinstein, the NSA’s biggest defender in the Senate (which is ridiculous since she’s also in charge of “oversight”) has finally had enough. It’s not because she finally understands how crazy it is that the NSA is spying on every American, including all of her constituents in California. It’s not because she finally realized that the NSA specifically avoided letting her know about their widespread abuses. No, it’s because she just found out that the NSA also spies on important people, like political leaders around the globe. It seems that has finally ticked off Feinstein, who has released a scathing statement about the latest revelations:

“Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies—including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany—let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.

“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.

There are so many different possible reactions to this. Let’s go to list form to go through a few:

  1. Most people seem a hell of a lot less concerned about spying on political leaders than the public. After all, you kind of expect espionage to target foreign leaders. It seems incredibly elitist for Feinstein to show concern about spying on political leaders, and not the public. It shows how she views the public as opposed to people on her level of political power. One of them doesn’t matter. The other gets privacy.
  2. For all the bluster and anger from Feinstein about this, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s mandate is only about intelligence activities that touch on US persons, so it’s not even clear that she has any power over their activities strictly in foreign countries targeting foreign individuals. Why she seems to have expected the NSA to let her know about that when the NSA itself has been pretty explicit that avoids telling Congress about anything it can reasonably avoid telling them.
  3. Feinstein has referred to Ed Snowden’s leak as “an act of treason.” Now that they’ve revealed something that she believes is improper and deserving of much greater scrutiny, is she willing to revisit that statement?
  4. Given that Feinstein has been angrily banging the drum for months about how her oversight of the intelligence community shows that everything’s great, and there’s no risk of rogue activity — yet now she’s finally admitting that perhaps the oversight isn’t particularly comprehensive, is she willing to admit that her earlier statements are reasonably considered hogwash and discredited? She even says in her statement: “Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.” And yet she’s been claiming that oversight has been more than enough for years?
  5. The cynical viewpoint: Feinstein knows the USA Freedom Act is coming out Tuesday, and that it has tremendous political momentum. Sooner or later she was going to have to admit that NSA surveillance was going to be curbed. Did she just happen to choose this latest bit of news for a bit of political theater to join the “time to fix the NSA” crowd?

There are plenty of other things that could be added to the list, but the whole situation seems fairly ridiculous considering about whom we’re talking.

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beware of Poison Pill Spying Reform

By Robyn Greene | ACLU | October 10, 2013

In the wake of revelations over the last few months about massive NSA surveillance programs that violate the privacy of millions of innocent Americans, members of the congressional Intelligence Committees have begun to draft legislation that they say will reform these authorities. There’s just one problem – unlike reform bills proposed by other members of Congress, the Intelligence Committees’ bills might do more to entrench domestic surveillance programs than rein them in.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) described her proposals, and one thing is clear: they won’t fix anything. In fact, they may even make government surveillance worse. They include:

These changes would represent significant expansions of the NSA’s domestic surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, an already overly broad law that authorizes the suspicionless surveillance and collection of millions of Americans’ communications, including the contents of their emails.

Sen. Feinstein’s proposal also wouldn’t reform the bulk collection of Americans’ call records but actually put Congress’s stamp of approval on the unconstitutional and indiscriminate surveillance program. Her tweak to the program includes:

The purpose of this reform, according to Sen. Feinstein, is “to change but preserve [the] program.” She is clear that she has no intention to fix the law or to rein in the dragnet collection of Americans’ call records. These changes would merely limit who can access the records and would codify the requirement that there be a “reasonable articulable suspicion that a phone number is associated with terrorism in order to query it.” This does not limit the current “3 hops” rule that may be sweeping up millions of additional Americans’ numbers into NSA databases or add any additional privacy protections.

To be fair, Sen. Feinstein’s proposals do include reporting requirements, such as making public the number of phone numbers queried by the NSA each year, and accountability measures, such as Senate confirmation of the director of the NSA. While these proposals for increased transparency and oversight would be important additions to these surveillance programs, they do not fix them. They do not stop the NSA’s mass surveillance of millions of innocent Americans.

As Congress considers the two dozen bills that have been introduced so far, it should ensure that, at a minimum, reforms include:

  • Ending bulk collection of Americans’ information under Section 215 of the Patriot Act;
  • Prohibiting suspicionless, dragnet collection of Americans’ communications under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act;
  • Increasing transparency of domestic surveillance programs with public reporting by the government and private sector, and limiting the issuance of gag orders associated with national security informational requests; and
  • Allowing public judicial review of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs.

The good news is that dozens of members of Congress – like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) – are already hard at work to pass fixes that would take big steps toward reining in the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs. And don’t forget that Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) got the House within 7 votes of defunding the bulk call records collection program altogether this summer. The momentum for reform is strong.

Despite this, Feinstein and some of her colleagues in the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are working on a proposal that would expand the NSA’s domestic surveillance authorities. In just a few short hours, the Senate Intelligence Committee will mark it up in secret, without even publicly releasing the initial draft language.

Americans are tired of excessive surveillance and secrecy. It’s time for Congress to legislate on these programs in the daylight and to pass real reforms.

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Feinstein’s Senate Committee Defends NSA Phone Surveillance, Pushes Bill to Retain It

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | September 28, 2013
Senator Dianne Feinstein

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee made it clear this week that they see no reason to halt the National Security Agency’s controversial program that collects records of Americans’ phone calls.

Led by the panel’s chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), a majority of the committee indicated during a hearing on Thursday that they want the NSA to keep using the once-secret program, but under certain conditions.

Feinstein and the committee’s top Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, plan to draft new legislation by next week that would require the NSA to file public reports on the calling log database.

The bill would also mandate that the agency reduce the number of years that it stores the database’s contents. Currently, the NSA says that it stores the records for five years.

In addition, Feinstein wants the Senate to have confirmation authority over new NSA directors.

At the same time, the Democratic lawmaker is willing to broaden the agency’s power to wiretap without court approval a foreigner’s cellphone for at least one week when that person travels to the United States.

Another provision would demand that the NSA send lists of the phone numbers it searches, along with explanations for doing so, to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for review.

Critics of the NSA’s domestic surveillance have called for ending the phone-records program altogether. These advocates include two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, who have introduced a tougher reform bill.

But it appears unlikely Wyden’s bill will get past Feinstein’s committee, since Feinstein says the call log program is legal and “necessary for our nation’s security,” according to The New York Times.

To Learn More:

Senators Push to Preserve N.S.A. Phone Surveillance (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)

Feinstein Outlines NSA Changes (by Brendan Sasso and Kate Tummarello, The Hill)

“Independent Experts” Reviewing NSA Spying Have Ties to Intelligence Community (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Left and Right Unite to Sue NSA over Telephone Records Surveillance (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Political Moves: How Dianne Feinstein Cut Off One Of The Few Attempts At Actual Oversight By Senate Intelligence Committee

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | September 27, 2013

We’ve already covered how Dianne Feinstein used the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to play games with the English language, while Senator Dan Coats used it to rant against all you stupid Americans for not trusting the NSA, but there have been some actual attempts to have the Senate Intelligence Committee perform its actual duty of oversight. Both Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall — who have been trying to raise these questions for years — actually had specific questions for the assembled panel, but the panel (mainly Keith Alexander) did its best to completely avoid answering the questions, then used political gamesmanship to block Wyden from asking followups.

Wyden used his question to highlight what he’s been hinting at for years, that it’s almost certain that the NSA has collected bulk data on the locations of Americans (something not yet officially revealed, and which they’ve sort of tried to deny for a while). Wyden has been asking versions of this question for a few years (and trying to pass legislation blocking this kind of thing for nearly as long). But watch how Keith Alexander never actually answers the question:

Wyden: Now with respect to questions, let me start with you Director Alexander, and, as you all know, I will notify you in advance so that there won’t be any surprise about the types of issues we are going to get into. And Director Alexander, Senators Udall, Heinrich and I and about two dozen other senators have asked in the past whether the NSA has ever collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site information in bulk. What would be your response to that?

Gen. Keith Alexander: Senator, on July 25, Director Clapper provided a non-classified written response to this question amongst others, as well as a classified supplement with additional detail. Allow me to reaffirm what was stated in that unclassified response. Under section 215, NSA is not receiving cell-site location data and has no current plans to do so. As you know, I indicated to this committee on October 20, 2011, that I would notify Congress of NSA’s intent to obtain cell-site location data prior to any such plans being put in place. As you may also be aware….

Note the word games: “under Section 215.” He does not say whether they’ve used some other authority to do so. And then he’s just repeating talking points so Wyden flat out cuts him off:

Wyden: General, if I might. I think we’re all familiar with it. That’s not the question I’m asking. Respectfully, I’m asking, has the NSA ever collected or ever made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site information. That was the question and we, respectfully General, have still not gotten an answer to it. Could you give me an answer to that?

Alexander: We did. We sent that — as you’re also aware I expressly reaffirmed this commitment to the committee on June 25, 2013. Finally, in the most recent and now declassified opinion renewing this program, the FISA court made clear in footnote number five that notice to the court in a briefing would be required if the government were to seek production of cell-site location information as part of the bulk production of call detail records. Additional details were also provided in the classified supplement to Director Clapper’s July 25th response to this question. So what I don’t want to do, Senator, is put out in an unclassified forum anything that’s classified there so I’m reading to you exactly. So we sent both of these to you. I saw what Director Clapper sent and I agree with it.

Wyden: General, if you’re responding to my question by not answering it because you think that’s a classified matter that is certainly your right. We will continue to explore that because I believe this is something the American people have a right to know whether the NSA has ever collected or made plans to collect cell-site information. I understand your answer. I’ll have additional questions on the next round. Thank you, Madam Chair.

First off, Alexander’s answer shows that, contrary to the assertions of some staunch NSA defenders, it is entirely possible to answer a question by saying “there is more information in classified documents that shouldn’t be shared in an open setting.” Some have tried to excuse James Clapper’s lies to Congress by suggesting he couldn’t have said more or less what Alexander said here.

Second, note the doublespeak that Alexander is engaged in here. Even asked, again, to answer the basic question, Alexander pulls an “under this program” type of answer, suggesting (again) that American location data either has been, or is planned, to be collected in bulk. That is worrisome, and should not be classified information. Rather it should be open to public debate as to whether or not it’s appropriate.

But here’s where the political gamesmanship came in. Committee chair Dianne Feinstein gave Senators only five minutes each for their questions. It seemed like a majority of this “oversight” committee didn’t actually ask any questions, but rather, like Coats, simply filibustered angrily at the American public or press for not trusting the NSA. But when actual questions were asked, not enough time was given to get a straight answer. At the very end of the hearing, after most of the other Senators had left, Senator Wyden made a perfectly normal request: could he ask his followup questions. He noted that he just had two questions and both could be asked within an additional five-minute window. Senator Susan Collins, who had similarly filibustered during her own five minutes (focusing mainly on knocking down a complete strawman: falsely insisting that people were upset that the NSA was using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to record all phone calls, when everyone knows that it’s just about call records, not call contents), objected to Wyden’s request because she thought everything would go in order. It was pure political gamesmanship.

So instead of getting to conduct more actual oversight by having the committee ask important questions of the surveillance bosses, the panel, instead, moved on to the “second part” of the hearing, which involved two staunch non-governmental NSA defenders who basically sat down to talk about the awesomeness of being able to spy on everyone. Ben Wittes opened with a “joke” about how the NSA’s director of compliance John DeLong, mocked the level of scrutiny the NSA was under by pointing out that if he had typos in a document he’d have to reveal that to some oversight authority. Har har. This was useless. There was no reason to have them testify, and they were given a hell of a lot more time than the Senators actually asking questions.

That time could have been used to actually conduct oversight. Instead, we got nothing. Throughout the panel Senators pointed out that the American public doesn’t trust the NSA right now (though, they often blamed the public and the press for this, rather than the direct actions and statements of the NSA). If they wanted a lesson in how not to build up that trust, holding a completely toothless “oversight” hearing was a pretty good start.

After Wyden, Udall also asked some specific questions, in which the deputy Attorney General basically just repeated the FISA Court ruling saying that “relevant” has been redefined by the intelligence community to mean basically anything that the intelligence community feels is “necessary” to its investigations, and seems to think that it’s a good thing that this is a “low bar.” He completely ignores the basics of the 4th Amendment, as well as recent Supreme Court decisions on the topic.

I’ve included the video of both Wyden and Udall’s questions below, so you can see the less than 20 minutes of the two-hour session where actual serious questions were asked.

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congressional Oversight? Dianne Feinstein Says She’s ‘Not A High-Tech Techie’ But Knows NSA Can’t Abuse Surveillance

By Mike Masnick | TechDirt | August 2, 2013

As the NSA and defenders of NSA surveillance are trying to minimize the damage from the latest leak, which revealed the details of the XKeyscore program, they’re bending over backwards to insist that this program is both limited and immune from abuse. We’ve already mentioned that the claims that it can’t be abused are laughable since there’s already a well-documented history of abuse. However, even more bizarre is the following quote from Senate Intelligence Committee boss, Senator Dianne Feinstein (a staunch defender of the surveillance programs):

Feinstein said, “I am not a high-tech techie, but I have been told that is not possible.”

Note that among Feinstein’s jobs is oversight of this program. Yet, what kind of “oversight” is it when she admits that she’s not qualified to understand the technology but “has been told” that such abuses are not possible? That doesn’t seem like oversight. That seems like asking the NSA “can this system be abused?” and the NSA saying “oh, no no no, not at all.” That’s not exactly oversight, now is it?

August 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why is Obama Hiding 6,000-Page Report on Bush-Era Torture and Why is Torture Still Allowed?

By Matt Bewig | AllGov | May 13, 2013

President Barack Obama is currently blocking the release—or allowing the CIA to block the release—of a comprehensive Senate report on the use of torture by the George W. Bush administration CIA that is said to conclude that torture was not an effective or reliable method of interrogation and that the agency repeatedly misled the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress about its interrogation efforts.

Initiated by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and continued by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) when she succeeded him in 2009, the Senate torture probe entailed about six years of work and the review of 6 million pages of documents. In December 2012, the committee voted out the report on a mostly party line vote. Since that time, the report has been stuck in limbo at the CIA, with Director John Brennan refusing to state when his review will be complete, and reports indicating that the agency intends to write a rebuttal and oppose public release of the report.

Although the report validates anti-torture positions taken by Democrats, including President Obama, during the Bush years, Obama may be delaying its release over concerns about shedding negative light on his own, related, anti-terror policies that offend human rights, such as the continued use of torture at Guantánamo Bay or the predator drone assassination program. Further, the deep involvement of Obama’s hand-picked CIA Director, John Brennan, in the Bush-era torture and kidnapping programs may call Obama’s judgment about Brennan into question.

On the issue of torture at Guantánamo, the Obama White House claimed in 2009 that the President had canceled all Bush-era legal memos purporting to justify the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual. The President did not, however, cancel an April 13, 2006, memo regarding the 2006 revision of the Army Field Manual and its controversial Appendix M on interrogation. That memo justifies the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and forms of sensory deprivation that have been denounced as torture or abuse by a number of human rights and legal groups—and which sparked the ongoing hunger strike at Guantánamo.

Obama may be concerned about the impact release of the report might have on his predator drone targeted assassination program. In 2009, the Obama administration successfully persuaded the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to overrule a trial judge’s ruling ordering release of a September 17, 2001, presidential directive that established a wide range of anti-terror efforts, including the use of torture. Why Obama went to such great lengths to keep the directive secret may have been revealed by the appeals court opinion, which stated that “the withheld information pertains to intelligence activities unrelated to the discontinued [torture] program,” including targeted killings of suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intelligence Committees Get Additional Targeted Killing Memos, But Not the Public

ACLU | March 5, 2013

WASHINGTON – In a win for congressional oversight over the government’s vast killing program, the Obama administration has shown an additional but undisclosed number of Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the program to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, but has continued to withhold some of its legal opinions from the Intelligence Committees and has not provided any of the legal opinions to the rest of Congress or to the American public. The legal opinions focused on non-citizens continue to be hidden from the Intelligence Committees.

“This is an important first baby step towards restoring the checks and balances between Congress and the president, but it isn’t enough. Amazingly, the Obama administration continues to hide at least some of its legal opinions, even from the intelligence committees. The intelligence committees should have been given all of the legal opinions years ago, particularly when the Obama administration has claimed broad authority to kill people, including American citizens, far from any battlefield,” said Senior Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders. “The legal opinions also shouldn’t stay hidden with the few dozen members of the intelligence committees, but should be available to all members of Congress and minimally redacted copies should be made public. It makes a mockery of the rule of law when the government hides the rules, or makes them up as they go along. It is time to come clean with Congress and the American people.”

Previously, only four memos were briefly shown to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which prompted some Senate committee members to stall the confirmation of John Brennan—the architect of the targeted-killing program and President Obama’s choice to run the Central Intelligence Agency. In response, the government sent additional materials to the Intelligence Committees, but has not shown the committees all 11 legal opinions sought by several committee members, and also has not provided the legal opinions to other senators or made them public. This afternoon, the Senate Intelligence Committee will vote on whether to send John Brennan’s nomination to the full Senate.

More information on the ACLU’s work on targeted killing can be found here: www.aclu.org/national-security/targeted-killings

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment