The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The FBI, COINTELPRO, and the most important robbery you've never heard of | Kade Crockford

Most people in the United States have never heard of the 1971 event the Los Angeles Times describes as “one of the most lastingly consequential (although underemphasized) watersheds of political awareness in recent American history.” Nevertheless, you’ve probably heard about the political scandal that erupted in its wake: COINTELPRO.

In March, 1971, activists calling themselves the Citizens’ Committee to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and stole more than a thousand documents. Then they released them — unredacted and in full — to the public.

Thirty-five years later, in 2008, the LA Times published a great piece on the break-in and the ensuing political firestorm:

Within a few weeks, the documents began to show up — mailed anonymously in manila envelopes with no return address — in the newsrooms of major American newspapers. When the Washington Post received copies, Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell asked Executive Editor Ben Bradlee not to publish them because disclosure, he said, could “endanger the lives” of people involved in investigations on behalf of the United States.

Nevertheless, the Post broke the first story on March 24, 1971, after receiving an envelope with 14 FBI documents detailing how the bureau had enlisted a local police chief, letter carriers and a switchboard operator at Swarthmore College to spy on campus and black activist groups in the Philadelphia area.

More documents went to other reporters — Tom Wicker received copies at his New York Times office; so did reporters at the Los Angeles Times — and to politicians including Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota and Rep. Parren J. Mitchell of Maryland.

Despite a six year, 33,000 page investigation into the robbery, the FBI never uncovered the culprits, the LA Times reports. The activists never came forward to publicly claim their responsibility for the series of political changes they helped to unleash, including the passage of the landmark Privacy Act in 1974.

The revelations were astonishing to many Americans: the FBI was engaged in extensive political surveillance and disruption of activist groups. Though mostly directed at left-wing organizations and anti-war deserters, the Bureau also spied on a couple of right-wing groups.

Noam Chomsky summarized what the Citizens’ Committee reported about the FBI’s investigative priorities in the early 1970s:

According to [The Citizens’ Committee’s] analysis of the documents in this FBI office, 1 percent were devoted to organized crime, mostly gambling; 30 percent were “manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural matter”; 40 percent were devoted to political surveillance and the like, including two cases involving right-wing groups, ten concerning immigrants, and over 200 on left or liberal groups. Another 14 percent of the documents concerned draft resistance and “leaving the military without government permission.” The remainder concerned bank robberies, murder, rape, and interstate theft.

In other words, the documents revealed that a whopping 77% of the FBI’s investigative records in the Media, PA office concerned political surveillance, including inquiries directed at Vietnam war deserters.

From the LA Times:

Found among the Media documents was a new word, “COINTELPRO,” short for the FBI’s “secret counterintelligence program,” created to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the U.S. Under these programs, beginning in 1956, the bureau worked to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles,” as one COINTELPRO memo put it, “to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.”

The Media documents — along with further revelations about COINTELPRO in the months and years that followed — made it clear that the bureau had gone beyond mere intelligence-gathering to discredit, destabilize and demoralize groups — many of them peaceful, legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups — that the FBI and Director J. Edgar Hoover found offensive or threatening.

The public was shocked to learn what the FBI had been up to in secret. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been. After all, this was the same FBI director who called the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program the “greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.”

How much has changed since then within the ranks of the FBI? We can’t be sure unless we can see what’s really going on inside the institution, but you can imagine how little the institutional culture has changed by reading how the FBI describes Hoover’s tenure during COINTELPRO on its website:

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Bureau took on investigations in the field of civil rights and organized crime. The threat of political violence occupied many of the Bureau’s resources as did the threat of foreign espionage.

That’s certainly one way of looking at it. [++]

Warrantless Eavesdropping Before Supreme Court | Wired

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments on whether it should halt a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance program targeting Americans’ communications, a program that Congress eventually legalized in 2008.

The hearing will mark the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed any case touching on the eavesdropping program that was secretly employed by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, and largely codified into law years later.

Before the justices is the FISA Amendments Act (.pdf), the subject of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and others. The act authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed to be outside the United States. Communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

The government has also, according to former top Justice Department lawyer David Kris, taken the ”position that surveillance of a U.S. person’s home and mobile telephones was ‘directed at’ al Qaeda, not at the U.S. person himself. [T]his logic seemed to allow surveillance of Americans’ telephones and e-mail accounts, inside the United States, without adherence to traditional FISA, as long as the government could persuade itself that the surveillance was indeed ‘directed’ at al Qaeda or another foreign power that was reasonably believed to be abroad.”

That bill was signed into law in July 2008, and the ACLU filed suit immediately claiming it was unconstitutional. A lower court judge tossed the suit.

But a surprise appellate court decision last year reinstated the challenge. The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the decision and, in May, the justices agreed to do so. [continue]

When [William] Binney heard the rumors, he was convinced that the new domestic-surveillance program employed components of ThinThread: a bastardized version, stripped of privacy controls. ‘It was my brainchild,’ he said. 'But they removed the protections, the anonymization process. When you remove that, you can target anyone.' He said that although he was not ‘read in’ to the new secret surveillance program, ‘my people were brought in, and they told me, “Can you believe they’re doing this? They’re getting billing records on U.S. citizens! They’re putting pen registers” —logs of dialled phone numbers — “on everyone in the country!”’ Michael Hayden, Privacy and Counterterrorism Frugality Champion | emptywheel

Supreme Court allows wiretapping immunity law to stand | Ars Technica

The Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling in a case that challenged a Bush-era law (the FISA Amendments Act), retroactively giving telecommunications firms—including Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T—legal immunity after performing warrantless wiretapping at the government’s request.

The case, Hepting v. AT&T, was a class-action suit filed in 2006 by the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of customers. They originally sought billions of dollars in damages by arguing the telecom firms violated both users’ privacy and federal law. However, in the wake of this lawsuit and others like it, Congress passed the retroactive immunity law (FISA AA). The central question in the Hepting case was whether these immunity provisions were constitutional.

In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed (PDF) the district court’s ruling, which confirmed congressional authority to delegate oversight power—allowing the Attorney General to step in and halt private party telecom cases in certain circumstances, such as Hepting. The Ninth Circuit found the US Constitution does not forbid such delegated action.

However, the EFF still has another case pending, Jewel v. NSA, which targets the federal agencies involved as well as the government officials behind them (including President George W. Bush and other members of his administration). The EFF will be filing a motion for summary judgment in Jewel later on Tuesday.

The US Government Today Has More Data On The Average American Than The Stasi Did On East Germans | Techdirt

We’ve written plenty about how the US government has been quite aggressive in spying on Americans. It has been helped along by a court system that doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the 4th Amendment and by the growing ability of private companies to have our data and to then share it with the government at will. Either way, in a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (who’s been one of the best at covering the surveillance state in the US) made a simple observation that puts much of this into context: the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans. And, of course, as we’ve already seen, much of that data seems to be collected illegally with little oversight… and with absolutely no security benefit.

To be fair, part of the reason for why this is happening is purely technical/practical. While the Stasi likely wanted more info and would have loved to have been able to tap into a digitally connected world like we have today, that just wasn’t possible. The fact that we have so much data about us in connected computers makes it an entirely different world. So, from a practical level, there’s a big difference.

That said, it still should be terrifying. Even if there are legitimate technical reasons for why the government has so much more data on us, it doesn’t change the simple fact (true both then and now) that such data is wide open to abuse, which inevitably happens. The ability of government officials to abuse access to information about you for questionable purposes is something that we should all be worried about. Even those who sometimes have the best of intentions seem to fall prey to the temptation to use such access in ways that strip away civil liberties and basic expectations of privacy. Unfortunately, the courts seem to have very little recognition of the scope of the issue, and there’s almost no incentive for Congress (and certainly the executive branch) to do anything at all to fix this.

US data whistleblower: 'It's a violation of everybody's constitutional rights' | Paul Harris

Bill Binney believes he helped create a monster.

Sitting in the innocuous surroundings of an Olive Garden in the Baltimore suburbs, the former senior National Security Agency (NSA) official even believes he owes the whole American people an apology.

Binney, a tall, professorial man in his late 60s, led the development of a secret software code he now believes is illegally collecting huge amounts of information on his fellow citizens. For the staunch Republican, who worked for 32 years at the NSA, it is a civil liberties nightmare come true.

So Binney has started speaking out as an NSA whistleblower – an act that has earned him an armed FBI raid on his home. “What’s happening is a violation of the constitutional rights of everybody in the country. That’s pretty straightforward. I could not be associated with it,” he told the Guardian.

Binney, a career NSA employee who first volunteered for the army in the mid-1960s, has now become a high-profile thorn in the side of NSA chiefs when they deny the programme’s existence.

At a hacking conference this summer in Las Vegas, NSA director General Keith Alexander said the NSA “absolutely” did not keep files on Americans.

“Anyone who would tell you that we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that’s not true,” Alexander told an audience of computer and security experts. But Binney himself was at the same conference and publicly accused Alexander of playing a “word game”.

“Once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data,” he told a convention panel there.

Binney’s outspokenness has earned him media appearances on shows across America’s political spectrum ranging from ultra-conservative Glenn Beck’s TV show to the liberal radio icon of Democracy Now.

“This is not a political issue. People on both sides are concerned,” Binney said.

The story Binney tells is one of extreme over-reaction by America’s national security establishment post-9/11. He recounts developing a small software system, called ThinThread, in the late 1990s at the NSA where he was the technical director of the organisation’s 6,000-strong World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group.

ThinThread correlated data from emails, phone calls, credit card payments and Internet searches and stored and mapped it in ways that could be analysed.

Binney wanted to use ThinThread to track foreign threats but it worked too well and kept catching data on Americans too.

So Binney’s team built in safeguards that encrypted that data. But, by 2000, the NSA decided to go with developing a larger scale programme called Trailblazer to be built by outside contractors (that eventually failed to make it past the design stage) and ThinThread was effectively mothballed.

Then September 11 happened. Within a few weeks, Binney says, he realised parts of ThinThread were now being used by the NSA in a massive and secret surveillance operation.

But his safeguards had been removed allowing for far more targeted surveillance of American citizens. “I knew the dangers so I built in protections. And you could still find the bad guys with the protections in it. But that wasn’t what they wanted so they took those things out,” Binney said.

Wireless Firms Are Flooded by Requests to Aid Surveillance

socialuprooting:

In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations.

The cellphone carriers’ reports, which come in response to a Congressional inquiry, document an explosion in cellphone surveillance in the last five years, with the companies turning over records thousands of times a day in response to police emergencies, court orders, law enforcement subpoenas and other requests.

The reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified. At least one carrier even referred some inappropriate requests to the F.B.I.

The information represents the first time data have been collected nationally on the frequency of cell surveillance by law enforcement. The volume of the requests reported by the carriers — which most likely involve several million subscribers — surprised even some officials who have closely followed the growth of cell surveillance.

“I never expected it to be this massive,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who requested the reports from nine carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, in response to an article in April in The New York Times on law enforcement’s expanded use of cell tracking. Mr. Markey, who is the co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, made the carriers’ responses available to The Times.

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

On the dramatic expansion of the surveillance of American citizens on the part of the National Security Agency (NSA)

With Morris Berman:

On 19 July 2010 the Washington Post reported that 854,000 people work for the National Security Agency in thirty-three building complexes amounting to 17 million square feet of space, in the DC Metro and suburban area. Every day, collection systems at the NSA intercept and store 1.7 billion emails and phone calls of American citizens, in what amounts to a vast domestic spy system. Writing in the New Yorker on 23 May 2011, Jane Mayer reported that the NSA has three times the budget of the CIA, and has the capacity to download, every six hours, electronic communications equivalent to the entire contents of the Library of Congress. They also developed a program called Thin Thread that enables computers to scan the material for key words, and they collect the billing records and the dialed phone numbers of everyone in the country. In violation of communications laws, ATT, Verizon, and BellSouth have opened their electronic records to the government. At the height of its insanity, the Stasi in East Germany was spying on 1 out of 7 citizens. The U.S. is now spying on 7 out of 7.

To make the surveillance of American citizens even more comprehensive (assuming that is even possible), the NSA is currently building the biggest-ever data complex in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” The center, scheduled for completion in 2013, will be twice as large as the U.S. Capitol, and contain 100,000 square feet of computer space, at a cost of $2 billion. In addition, the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country as part of this operation. All in all, there are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism and homeland security in about 10,000 locations across the U.S. The goal is to store and review the e-mails, phone calls, online shopping lists, and virtually every bit of information about every single American. Everything you do, from traveling to buying groceries, will be displayed on a graph. [NSA whistleblower] William Binney has stated that we are about two millimeters away “from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Glenn Greenwald on Challenging the Surveillance State | Kevin Gosztola

"You can just look at the famous aphorism typically attributed to Francis Bacon, ‘Knowledge is power.’ If I am able to know everything about you, what you do, what you think, what you fear, where you go, what are your aspirations are, the bad things you do, the bad things you think about and you know nothing about me, I have immense leverage over you in all kinds of ways. I can think about how to control you. I can blackmail you. I can figure out what your weaknesses are. I can manipulate you in all sorts of ways." — Glenn Greenwald

[In] the last part of his talk Greenwald makes a key point that cannot be understated, which is that the psyche of Americans who claim they have nothing to hide so they really don’t need to fear spying powers being abused can be difficult to argue against but must be challenged. It must be argued against because it “absolutely matters that privacy is being invaded.”

One, as Greenwald states, “any kind of social movement needs to be able to organize in private away from the targets of the organization.” If the government is able to learn what we speak about, who we are speaking to, and what is being planned, it makes any sort of organizing or activism difficult. Secondly, it is, “In the private realm, exclusively, where things like dissent and creativity and challenges to orthodoxy reside. It is only when you know you can explore without external judgment or you can experiment without eyes being cast upon you is the opportunity for creating new paths possible.”

Greenwald did not mention this example in his talk, but immediately what came to mind while listening to this talk was the example of Jafar Panahi, an Iranian filmmaker who currently faces a twenty-year ban against film making for creating “propaganda” against the Iranian government. He made a documentary film called This is Not a Film. He had it smuggled out of Iran. He describes a film he had planned to make but cannot now. It presents a powerful portrait of what it is like to become an enemy of the state, and obviously, he is not defying his ban and actually making movies because of surveillance the state could use against him to put him in jail. This is what the ever-expanding US surveillance state could do to more and more people.

Greenwald closed by declaring how important it is to educate yourself about how to engage in activism beyond the prying eye of government. He says he supports subverting the surveillance state’s “forcible radical transparency,” which is why he enthusiastically supports Anonymous and WikiLeaks and wants holes to be blown in the wall of secrecy. He endorsed the use of technology that protects the identity of users. And, he added, there are no more important fronts of battle than combating the surveillance state.

M. President, the Select Committee on Intelligence has just reported a bill that would extend the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for five more years. I voted against this extension in the Intelligence Committee’s markup because I believe that Congress does not have enough information about this law’s impact on the privacy of law-abiding American citizens, and because I am concerned about a loophole in the law that could allow the government to effectively conduct warrantless searches for Americans’ communications. Consistent with my own long-standing policy and Senate rules, I am announcing with this statement for the Congressional Record that it is my intention to object to any request to pass this bill by unanimous consent.

Wyden Hold Statement for Congressional Record on FISA Amendments Act

Senator Ron Wyden is fighting the good fight:

I recognize that the collection that has taken place under the FISA Amendments Act has produced some useful intelligence, so my preference would be to enact a short-term reauthorization to give Congress time to get more information about the impact of this law on Americans’ privacy rights and consider possible modifications. However, I believe that protections against warrantless searches for Americans’ communications should be added tothe law immediately.

An obvious question that I have not answered here is whether any warrantless searches for Americans’ communications have already taken place. I am not suggesting that any warrantless searches have or have not occurred, because Senate and committee rules regarding classified information generally prohibit me from discussing what intelligence agencies are actually doing or not doing. However, I believe that we have an obligation aselected legislators to discuss what these agencies should or should not be doing, and it is myhope that a majority of my Senate colleagues will agree with that searching for Americans’phone calls and emails without a warrant is something that these agencies should not do.

NSA wants to continue intercepting 1.7 billion messages daily

thepeoplesrecord:

Few Americans know how, when and why government agents monitor their phone calls and email accounts, and that might not change anytime soon. On Thursday, discussions began in Washington about renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Since last amended in 2008, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, has received very little publicity. The reason by-and-large is that even the elected lawmakers chosen to represent the American people aren’t kept privy on the government’s use of some problematic provisions within the bill. Under certain FISA act amendments (FAAs), the US National Security Agency is allowed to listen in on any correspondence that exits America that is meant for ears abroad, either by phone, email or other. And although US President Barack Obama said he’d abolish some of those dangerous laws while campaigning in 2008, Congress is currently in the midst of considering renewing FISA for another few years.

If this week’s arguments against FISA prove to be futile, the federal government will once more be authorized a blanketing approval to investigate anyone they want, without a warrant. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 13-2 last week to allow for Congress to hear arguments for a five-year extension. A sticking point among many opponents of the act, though, is that even lawmakers aren’t allowed insider access to the agency’s program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a DC-based watchdog group that advocates for Internet freedoms, reported live from Thursday morning’s FISA amendment arguments from Capitol Hill. According to the foundation, testimonies from congressmen and private sector opponents of FISA alike were introduced during the hearing and might help lawmakers reconsider the powers they current bestow in the NSA.

“Why can’t we know how many people are affected by FISA amendment act in the US? This kind of vagueness creates suspicions,” the EFF quotes Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan). Even before Thursday’s hearing, however, Rep. Conyers has adamantly opposed a FISA renewal.

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

FISA Amendments Act is Back | Michelle Richardson

Remember the George W. Bush warrantless wiretapping program? The one that was so illegal that Congress had to pass a special law to ensure that no one was prosecuted for it or sued by their customers for facilitating it? And was found by independent reviewers to be pretty pointless anyway? And was then brilliantly codified and written into stone by Congress? And which almost immediately went off the rails, being used to collect all sorts of stuff it wasn’t supposed to? It’s back!
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) rewrote our surveillance laws, which had generally required a warrant or court order for surveillance of people in the US. Under the FAA, the government can get a year-long programmatic court order for general bulk collection of Americans’ international communications without specifying who will be tapped. It is up to the administration to decide that on its own after the fact, without any judicial review. The major requirement is that no particular person in the US should be targeted.
While billed as a foreign surveillance program, it also authorizes the collection of Americans’ international communications – meaning one end of the communication is in the US – and therefore implicates the Fourth Amendments rights of all Americans. Once the National Security Agency sucks up these phone calls, texts, emails and Internet records, it can use them pursuant to secret rules that they swear protect our privacy.
The good news is that Congress had the foresight to subject this sweeping surveillance authority to a sunset provision, and it is scheduled to expire in its entirety at the end of the year. More concerning though is that, according to press reports, this afternoon* the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence will be secretly approving legislation to extend that law. No public hearings; no public oversight; no thorough debate about how this law has been used and how it has affected Americans.
While the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have been receiving classified reports, it’s time for a public vetting of the FAA and for meaningful amendments to better protect our privacy. Even Sens. Ron Wyden (OR) and Mark Udall (CO), with their secret briefings and cleared staff, don’t understand how this sweeping surveillance law is affecting everyday Americans. And when they asked, the DNI said it isn’t even ‘reasonably possible’ to estimate how many Americans are swept up in the NSA’s expansive dragnet.

* This was written on Wed. the 23rd. Glenn Greenwald adds this disappointment in his own piece:

That sunset provision is set to expire and the Obama administration, just like it did for the Patriot Act, is demanding its full-scale renewal without a single change or reform:

A key Senate panel voted Tuesday to extend a contested 2008 provision of foreign intelligence surveillance law that is set to expire at year’s end.
The vote is the first step toward what the Obama administration hopes will be a speedy renewal of an expanded authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the U.S. e-mails and phone calls of overseas targets in an effort to prevent international terrorist attacks on the country.
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. called the move by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “important” to the effort to ensure that authorities can identify terrorist operatives and thwart plots. Extending the provision is the intelligence community’s top legislative priority this year.

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote a joint letter to Congressional leaders demanding “speedy … reauthorization of these authorities in their current form” — “without amendment.”

The most transparent administration ever - bonus: the 2008 Act included a “look forward not backward” provision maintaining retroactive immunity from prosecution for the telecoms complicit in the surveillance of American citizens. I’m not sure if that was a guarantee-for-life; however, if the Act is reauthorized it won’t matter anyway.

FISA Amendments Act is Back | Michelle Richardson

Remember the George W. Bush warrantless wiretapping program? The one that was so illegal that Congress had to pass a special law to ensure that no one was prosecuted for it or sued by their customers for facilitating it? And was found by independent reviewers to be pretty pointless anyway? And was then brilliantly codified and written into stone by Congress? And which almost immediately went off the rails, being used to collect all sorts of stuff it wasn’t supposed to? It’s back!

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) rewrote our surveillance laws, which had generally required a warrant or court order for surveillance of people in the US. Under the FAA, the government can get a year-long programmatic court order for general bulk collection of Americans’ international communications without specifying who will be tapped. It is up to the administration to decide that on its own after the fact, without any judicial review. The major requirement is that no particular person in the US should be targeted.

While billed as a foreign surveillance program, it also authorizes the collection of Americans’ international communications – meaning one end of the communication is in the US – and therefore implicates the Fourth Amendments rights of all Americans. Once the National Security Agency sucks up these phone calls, texts, emails and Internet records, it can use them pursuant to secret rules that they swear protect our privacy.

The good news is that Congress had the foresight to subject this sweeping surveillance authority to a sunset provision, and it is scheduled to expire in its entirety at the end of the year. More concerning though is that, according to press reports, this afternoon* the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence will be secretly approving legislation to extend that law. No public hearings; no public oversight; no thorough debate about how this law has been used and how it has affected Americans.

While the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have been receiving classified reports, it’s time for a public vetting of the FAA and for meaningful amendments to better protect our privacy. Even Sens. Ron Wyden (OR) and Mark Udall (CO), with their secret briefings and cleared staff, don’t understand how this sweeping surveillance law is affecting everyday Americans. And when they asked, the DNI said it isn’t even ‘reasonably possible’ to estimate how many Americans are swept up in the NSA’s expansive dragnet.

* This was written on Wed. the 23rd. Glenn Greenwald adds this disappointment in his own piece:

That sunset provision is set to expire and the Obama administration, just like it did for the Patriot Act, is demanding its full-scale renewal without a single change or reform:

A key Senate panel voted Tuesday to extend a contested 2008 provision of foreign intelligence surveillance law that is set to expire at year’s end.

The vote is the first step toward what the Obama administration hopes will be a speedy renewal of an expanded authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the U.S. e-mails and phone calls of overseas targets in an effort to prevent international terrorist attacks on the country.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. called the move by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “important” to the effort to ensure that authorities can identify terrorist operatives and thwart plots. Extending the provision is the intelligence community’s top legislative priority this year.

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote a joint letter to Congressional leaders demanding “speedy … reauthorization of these authorities in their current form” — “without amendment.”

The most transparent administration ever - bonus: the 2008 Act included a “look forward not backward” provision maintaining retroactive immunity from prosecution for the telecoms complicit in the surveillance of American citizens. I’m not sure if that was a guarantee-for-life; however, if the Act is reauthorized it won’t matter anyway.

NSA Whistleblower: Justice Department Covers Up Crimes of Obama, Bush Administrations | The Dissenter

"In a recent segment from Current TV‘s show “Viewpoint,” host Eliot Spitzer interviewed three National Security Agency whistleblowers: William Binney, a former technical director; Kirk Wiebe, former senior analyst; and Thomas Drake, a former senior official. Each man talked about what he saw the NSA do when they were employees.”

ELIOT SPITZER: You see what’s going on with the Justice Department these days. We’re prosecuting Roger Clemens for steroid use. You guys are made into enemies of the state. Nobody on Wall Street has been held accountable. Do you begin to think something is amiss somewhere?

WILLIAM BINNEY: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. But the real problem I see is that the DoJ is covering up for all the crimes that this administration and the previous administration has been committing against every one of the public…

… KIRK WIEBE: We have a Congress that isn’t ensuring protections under the Fourth Amendment as well. We have a real problem on multiple fronts in government. [emphasis added]

Kevin Gosztola:

Not only is the Justice Department engaged in the act of shielding officials and corporate executives from prosecution for crimes, but Congress is not fulfilling its role as the Legislative Branch that is supposed to check the power of the Executive Branch by engaging in oversight. It is complicit and impotent. And, as these whistleblowers have been targeted, Congress has not raised much of an objection to this conduct by the Obama Justice Department at all.

Read the rest