Baseball91's Weblog

June 7, 2013

While America Slept, Under Surveillance

Filed under: FISA,Journalism — baseball91 @ 1:28 AM
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There was Amy Goodman, in 2008. There were Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in the summer of 2011.

Had you heard about the recipients of Section 215 National Security Agency letter which you were not allowed to tell anyone about, as a result of the Patriot Act passed after the Twin Tower terrorism? Have you heard about the provision that authorizes the government to seek secret court orders for the production of “any tangible thing” relevant to a foreign-intelligence or terrorism investigation? Or The NSA letter? At the time with Colin Powell’s kid running the The FCC. And have you noticed the silence of national broadcasting companies with their renewable FCC licenses? Was this a flavor of recent life in Iran?

It was all legal, in a police state. Though continuously denying that the NSA spies on domestic communications, expansion of its original charter to eavesdrop on communications between countries, not inside the United States, happened soon after September 11, 2001. In response to questions presented by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who asked in a letter to the the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the summer of 2011 whether the intelligence community has the authority to collect geolocation information on American citizens, Kathleen Turner, the director of legislative affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, responded that the government is still defining its “view of the full contours of this authority and will get back to you.” This was well past day one thousand of the Obama Presidency.

The Washington Post reported efforts to target the conservative groups reached the highest levels of the Internal Revenue Agency by May 2012 -—far earlier than the agency had acknowledged. Reuters reported high-level IRS officials, including its chief counsel, knew in August 2011 about the targeting. There was much going on that summer.

“The White House is reported to be shell-shocked at public reaction to the scandal,” Peggy Noonan wrote in May 2013. “Were they so highhanded, so essentially ignorant, that they didn’t understand what it would mean to the American people when their IRS—the revenue-collecting arm of the U.S. government—is revealed as a low, ugly and bullying tool of the reigning powers? If they didn’t know how Americans would react to that, what did they know?”

What they didn’t know? Will there one day be concern about the database of evidence being surrendered “in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies,” in a program put in place under the Patriot Act’s Section 215 where recipients of Section 215 orders, such as telecommunications companies, are prohibited from disclosing — in this case by Judge Robert Vinson of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court –to anyone that they gave the government their customers’ records. This is the NSA letter. With a big telecommunication carrier responsible for one terabit per day, the actual physical transmission of this data is no big deal, out of a total 4 billion phone calls per day, and about 4 terabits of data at 100 bytes of metadata per call. A single DS3 line is nothing special with a potential for about 4 terabits per day.

To meet extremists there was now extreme secrecy. Would there ever one day be concern about the present day Inquisition against people from the Middle East, or just Muslims? Like the latter day concern about Japanese internment camps? These Muslim folks surely cannot scream. Since 9/11, the government has increasingly classified and concealed not just facts, but the Patriot Act’s Section 215, itself, inconsistent with the values of a transparent open government, with accountability. Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, there are secret courts, approved secret judges, and approved secret attorneys. It is said that these secret courts have expansively interpreted the section of the law and effectively given the administration an array of powers Congress never intended. Sometime in mid 2011, with Section 215 of the Patriot Act scheduled to expire, Congress reauthorized Section 215 without amendment until 2015.

During an investigation of administration leaks by the Justice Department, there had been another NSA letter tracking FoxNews reporter Rosen’s movements, with a search of his personal emails. Was there irony in the secretive and controversial seizure and surveillance on Associated Press phone records, in lieu of the Obama Administration own security breaches of classified or sensitive information disclosed by Leon Panetta to the filmmakers of “Zero Dark Thirty”? This top-secret information was mentioned at a June 2011 awards ceremony about the bin Laden raid’s participants.

Legal and illegal. There is an underlying contempt to this president’s administration that seemed to arise with his predecessor in the same office. For the last two years, “the government” has refused to describe its secret interpretation of the Patriot Act. And Mr. Obama has been in office for 52 months. And then the convenient leaks to get their own angle of the news out – maybe like Eric Holder’s off the record meeting this week with reporters that the New York Times refused to attend the spin session. .

After a government had finished with one enemy, who would be the next enemy singled out? In 2012, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) wrote to the Justice Department, about the Obama Administration views about this legality: “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.” In a 2012 followup, the ACLU filed a new Freedom of Information Act request in an effort to learn more about unaccountable intelligence agencies and a referenced “secret interpretation” made by Sens. Wyden and Udall.

In almost certainly a universal dragnet which applies to every United States phone service provider, Verizon, under a top secret NSA letter or a court order issued from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25, 2013, was compelled by law to pass on records of all calls made on its network until July 19th….as part of the program secretly authorized by President Bush in October 2001, implementing bulk collection of domestic telephone, internet and email records. What was not mentioned is how much Verizon is charging for their records. Verizon previously objected having to provide under the Freedom of Information Act proprietary information about what was given to the government because the company would be ridiculed and publicly shamed were their surveillance price sheets made public. To his knowledge, said U S Senator Saxby Chambliss, there has not been any citizen who has registered a complaint, though he might want to check the litigation filed by the American Civil Liberty Union. Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this, he said. Under the terms of the order, location data, time and call duration, the phone numbers of both parties are handed over, though the contents of the conversation itself are not covered. Even the Mother Jones periodical thinks it is all fine. “Bush approved this, Obama thinks it’s a great idea, and most congressional leaders, who have known about this for a long time, seem fine with the universal dragnet. Congress basically gave it its official blessing in 2007.” And during the most recent debate renewing the Patriot Act, it was the hypercritical and hypocritical senators from California, Feinstein and Chambliss, thwarting any robust discussion by Sens. Wyden and Udall in what falls under the category of BAD LAW, about what exactly was legal under the US Constitution which is not based upon what the vast majority of the American public seem concerned about.

Is there evidence that NSA, given free rein, has abused the surveillance program – perhaps like the IRS has been revealed to have abused their office – which allegedly thwarted a “significant” case of domestic terrorism “within the last few years?” The vast majority of the American public do not really seem concerned, in a world with 3 billion Google searches per day, with spy agencies having access to their phone records, with a free trade-off for personal safety, if they even knew? Do the vast majority of the American public seem concerned about the race, color, or creed of these humans operating in secret courts, as approved secret judge, and as approved secret attorneys. After all the Title 9 legislation of Congress. And wasn’t the War in Iraq about exporting this kind of democracy, in a new form of philanthropy, that was mentioned in speeches at the time. That they might have what “we” have.

As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) asked just where such authority might come from, the response from the director of legislative affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was that though the amount of evidence that can be collected and the procedures required to get it haven’t been settled yet, “the government has some authority to collect cell phone mobility data under appropriate circumstances.”

Classified information, “under appropriate circumstances,” as people becomes just commodities. There are a 1.2 million Americans with top secret government clearance, for the 76.7 million classified documents in 2010; there were 8.6 million classified documents in 2001, per Andy Greenberg in the book, This Machine Kills Secrets. In August 2011, Congressman Peter King became concerned about reports that classified or sensitive information might have been disclosed by the CIA and he sought the release of the report of the Pentagon inspector-general. He complained as much about the delay as what the report says about then CIA director and the film “Zero Dark Thirty.” The report concluded the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs did not keep adequate records” of its dealings with “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow and screen writer Mark Boal; CIA employees did not always comply with regulations designed to protect sensitive information while dealing with the film-makers; and the CIA did not seek as much monetary reimbursement for the costs of its extended cooperation, as it should have, from the filmmakers. And Mr. Panetta would not be prosecuted, under the law.

In late May 2013 at a conference in Washington, Keith Alexander said the National Security Agency does not have the bandwidth to read the 420 billion e-mails generated by Americans daily, even after tapping into the largest Internet companies for nearly six years. Though Alexander’s job is like that of the pope of national security, and he was going to protect his church and his priests the way the folks in Rome had on all the issues of abuse within the system. Obama officials contend it operates within the parameters of the Patriot Act, as the extensive surveillance of the NSA has continued under the Obama Administration, with their own version of infallibility when it came to the faith and morals of the Spiritual not Religious.

In lieu of all this surveillance, with public access to private lives, my state legislature formulated new bullying laws in school, but beat up on religious institutions in so many ways. As the Spiritual but not Religious, without any defined parameters, took over. And there was no THERE there any more. When people believed in nothing except fear itself, because of the lack of understanding about the ideals of a constitution.

More and more there is evidence of low, ugly, bullying tools of the reigning powers, not unlike what happened in the history of Inquisitions, in the quest of public access to private lives. In discovery and search for production of “any tangible thing.” The BBC reported yesterday on the force-feeding of some of the one hundred prisoners on a hunger strike, about lodging provided to so many without charge, ten years after September 11th. In our Spiritual but not Religious world, few Americans questioned the morality of a president who contends his administration operates within the parameters of the Patriot Act, though not defining those parameters to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). In our Spiritual but not Religious world, few Americans questioned the morality of a president pretending to have virtue and principle who once promised to close the GITMO prison where theses people, not yet prosecuted under the law, remain. In the vanity politics of hope and change, with an emphasis on charm over authenticity orchestrated now in two campaigns, comes this second-term president, believing that he is still “curating information” like a very special museum worker or like the gatekeeper on the information superhighway. Where, in the name of community-organizing, is the change, Mr. President?

Using their bullying tools, it is John Boehner, Senator Dianne Feinstein and John Bolton who are the traitors to the ideals of the constitution. With such rhetoric, trying to win the battle of their viewpoint with the parameters of unlimited power over who is evil, how soon will the armies be called out against the civilians here in these United States? Leaders who somehow were educated to think that the US Constitution which is based upon — so much the way political leadership is now based upon the latest polls — what the vast majority of the American public seem concerned about. Living in their cyber-world, Boehner, Feinstein, Bolton giving the intelligence agencies blank checks throwing around money like it was not real. Snowden was paid $122,000 a year for his work as a systems administrator in his less than three months under contract to the NSA, Booz Allen Hamilton announced, clarifying that this was substantially less than the $200,00 a year that Snowden claimed in his information to The Guardian while working at an NSA Threat Operations Center in Hawaii. How much money was Booz Allen Hamilton making while not detecting threats, off the books, without the same U S guidelines?

Doing a Google search of a guy named John Young, the creator of Cryptome, you will find out that in 2009, Cryptome published Yahoo’s 17 page guide which described Yahoo’s data retention policies and the surveillance capabilities it offers law enforcement, revealing how Yahoo retains the IP addresses from users who login to its site for a year; how Yahoo instant message logs are retained for 45 to 60 days and include an account holder’s friends list and the date and times the user communicated with them; and Yahoo was charging the government about $30 to $40 for the contents, including e-mail, of a subscriber’s account. Yahoo, the internet corporation notorious for helping China spy on its citizens had been doing the same in the United States. Yahoo, the internet corporation notorious for sharing information about me to the drug-company Viagara, like the phone companies themselves routinely store call and location data from your phone, aggregate it, and sell it to third parties.

Concerning the construction of Chinese Walls, what was it about Asian history which created barriers to the logic of constitutions based upon civil liberty? With the essential idea that some people were above the law, John Yoo who so poorly served the government of the United State as part of the Bush Administration as far back as July 2009 wrote, (), “As the 9/11 Commission found, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s wall between domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence proved dysfunctional and contributed to our government’s failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks….In a report issued last week, they suggested that President George W. Bush might have violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by ordering the interception of international communications of terrorists without a judicial warrant.”

And the Minnesota Highway Patrol kept data assembled from 11 cameras in town off scanned license plate, to monitor the vicinity of vehicles, for “public safety.” Scanning license plates, saving license plate reader data after the litigation in the Minneapolis police department of “authorized people” looking up information about a pretty female police officer.

What form police brutality? What could an authorized person do, like Leon Panetta, without fear of punishment? And how soon would be the day, like seen this week in Turkey, when you lost an ability to trust? Because in a civil society, when the majority lose an ability to trust in legal authority, a society loses its ability to function.

There was a quote in the New York Times last week from a farmer in Kansas, which could have been –but wasn’t –about the NSA: “Don’t let people tell you this is caused by drought. We are in climate change.”

Too much like the police brutality case, what happens at the IRS is the government’s every day essential business. And these reports designed to capture all forms of communication were of a new kind of brutality, in the once much feared but undefined Y2K problem. But other than Amy Goodman, who I had never heard of until 2008 when I thought she was a nut case –and Dana Priest, but too few others — where have the journalists been on these goings-on for the past ten years? Until the latest administration leak to a British newspaper, about Verizen. As a lesser evil supersedes other evil. For now, when apparently the end, under a constitutional form of government, justifies the means to maintain a semblance of world order.

Code Name Prism
Democracy Now
Medea Benjamin

POST SCRIPT: The senator from Colorado was defeated in his quest for re-election in 2014.



  1. Have you ever read the book, Catch 22? Working in his seven year term on the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in which the federal government is the only party to its proceedings closed to the public, and whose proceedings are a matter of record which are also not available to the public, one of eleven judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the U S Supreme Court, Clyde Roger Vinson is a graduate of the Naval Academy described to be a hardline judge who has refused to depart from maximum sentences in spite of their severity, even though he agrees his very own sentences are far too high. In his own words: “The punishment is supposed to fit the crime, but when a legislative body says this is going to be the sentence no matter what other factors there are, that’s draconian in every sense of the word. Mandatory sentences breed injustice

    Secret keeping “has become a huge industry and it’s extremely expensive,” said John Young of Cryptome. “And you can’t criticize it, you can’t get access to it, because those who go inside that world are sworn to life-time secrecy about it and they can never talk about it.”

    Described as a rubber stamp by former National Security Agency analyst Rusell Tice, he said that United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “is a kangaroo court.”

    According to a December 2009 piece by Kurt Nimmo in Infowars, “Indiana University graduate student Christopher Soghoian had earlier asked all agencies within the Department of Justice, under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, to provide him with a copy of the pricing list supplied by telecoms and internet service providers for the surveillance services they offer government agencies, according to Wired.… Verizon and Yahoo filed an objection to the FOIA request on the grounds the information was proprietary and that the companies would be ridiculed and publicly shamed were their surveillance price sheets made public.”

    If you read Andy Greenberg’s book, This Machine Kills Secrets, once you learn about the architect of the internet which has already been defined, you learn that consequently government agencies and telecoms corporations can learn whatever they want about you. There is nothing you can do except NOT get a cellphone.

    On February 14,2011, the U S State Department in the way of Hilary Clinton clamored for the rights to an internet connection, in the Middle East. The communication systems that could be bugged, or turned off or turned on. The ones which had been developed by the U S Military but became prevalent under the presidency of Hilary Clinton’s husband. Technology in which the location of every cellphone user could be found. The Clinton administration, not exactly the stalwarts of freedom, having set up the Joint Task Force-Civil Support in October 1999 as a “homeland defense command.” In 2002 this evolved into the establishment by the Pentagon of the U.S. Northern Command, charged with carrying out military operations within the United States. Up until the Clinton Presidency, the U S armed forces under Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 had been barred from domestic operations, except in specific, limited circumstances. There was a hollow ring to the words of Secretary of State Clinton, by a government which issued National Security Authorization letters which no one was allowed to talk to anyone about – not even a lawyer – under the terms of the Patriot Act

    “The battle is far from over in the fight for privacy which is going to be a long, important struggle,” Eric Schmidt said in his recently released book The New Digital Age, before describing a chilling effect of something which sounds a lot like PRISM. All these parties understood the inner mechanics of the internet.

    Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame has this to say about Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s book “The New Digital Age”: he questioned how a CEO had the time, suggesting the true author was Google ideas man Jared Cohen, a former adviser to both Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. Eric Schmidt had a girlfriend, Lisa Shields, who in June 2011 was media manager for the US council of foreign relations. Assange alleged that Schmidt and Shields had a pretense attending meetings while researching a book on WikiLeaks.

    Of both the pleasure and the pain in knowing, in a game of semantics, Google executive chairman Schmidt now tweets:”Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.” He maintains the media so far has gotten PRISM wrong in terms of its scale and structural makeup. I wonder if this was not another version of semantics of the powerful, as seen in the quote “I did not have ‘sex’ with that woman.”

    It is not the emperor who has no clothes but all of his fiefs. Google executive chairman Schmidt in his recently released book The New Digital Age, does ominously write about such a fully integrated information system, with all manner of a surveillance apparatus “with data inputs, along with software which tries to interpret and predict behavior which could grow beyond a free society’s control. Simply too powerful for anyone to handle responsibly….Once built, such a system will never be dismantled. Even if a dire security situation were to improve, what government would willingly give up such a powerful law-enforcement tool? And the NEXT government in charge might not exhibit the same caution or responsibility with its information as the preceding one.”

    In a chapter on the future of terrorism, about what he knows now, as the world later discover what is known, he writes: “Governments operating surveillance platforms will surely violate restrictions placed on them (by legislation or legal ruling) eventually. The potential for misuse of this power is terrifyingly high, to say nothing of the dangers introduced by human error, data-driven false positives and simple curiosity.”

    A 2012 Philippine “cybercrime” law drastically increased punishments for criminal libel and gave authorities excessive and unchecked powers to shut down websites and monitor online information, Human Rights Watch said in September 2012.

    Comment by baseball91 — June 7, 2013 @ 5:00 PM | Reply

  2. Per a March 19, 2013 Associated Press news article, “A federal court in California has ruled that the issuance of national security letters — a form of administrative subpoena in a surveillance tool widely used by the FBI to obtain information on Americans without court oversight — is unconstitutional because the gag order that accompanies it violates the First Amendment. The ruling by Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California on the 1986 statute has been stayed while the government weighs an appeal. The National Security Letter has allowed the FBI to ask Internet companies and other electronic communication service providers to turn over subscriber information on American customers and to demand that the providers keep the fact of the letter secret — including from the target.”

    “Electronic Frontier Foundation filed the case under seal in 2011. The plaintiff’s name has not been disclosed.”

    “To issue an National Security Letter, a supervisor need only certify that the records sought are relevant to an authorized national security investigation. No warrant is required. FBI officials have said that such flexibility, granted in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, is crucial to preventing future terrorist attacks. The Justice Department inspector general found several years ago that the FBI abused its authority to issue a National Security Letter, often failing to justify the need for the surveillance.”

    “Although the bureau has said that it fixed the problems, questions surround the use of the gag order. “National Security Letter are unique in their invasiveness and lack of judicial oversight,” said Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney with Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed suit on behalf of an unnamed telecommunications company.”

    Comment by paperlessworld — June 18, 2013 @ 2:16 AM | Reply


    “Once upon a time, everybody loved the internet. It would make us freer, richer, smarter. It would make us better citizens, better consumers, better humans. This gospel of digital optimism first arrived in the 1990s, when the dotcom boom made it something of a religion. And somehow it persisted, long after the rest of the decade’s delusions washed away. It’s only relatively recently that this faith has begun to unravel. Later historians will pinpoint the precise moment, but two obvious traumas stand out: the revelations of Edward Snowden and the election of Donald Trump. The first demonstrated how much the companies who own the internet know about you, and how easily that knowledge can be acquired by government agencies. The second illustrated how deeply the tech industry shapes the public sphere, and how little it cares about basic civic norms.”

    “Tech billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are engaged in a very public disagreement about the nature of artificial intelligence (machines that can think) and whether it’s a boon or bane to society. A year ago, in a public Facebook Live stream, Mark Zuckerberg took a not-so-subtle jab at Elon Musk’s anxiety toward artificial intelligence. Musk previously said that artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to the human race—a viewpoint that Zuckerberg characterized as “pretty irresponsible.”

    Now you know that Zuckerberg is determining national elections. After five days of silence, Zuckerberg acknowledged the massive data compromise that allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain extensive psychographic information about 50 million Facebook users.

    Comment by baseball91 — January 18, 2018 @ 9:39 PM | Reply

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