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The stuff you won't see in the liberal media (click "Replies" for top stories)
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Beckwith

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Reply with quote  #76 

US company gives glimpse into future of government surveillance

News.com.au is reporting that a small private firm in the US has developed a surveillance system of Orwellian proportions that could very well be the future of big brother. 

Thirty kilometres above a chosen city, a plane hangs out of sight of the thousands of people scurrying below -- continuously circling the metropolis underneath. Every second, the plane takes a photo of the entire city and all the happenings within a 64sq km radius. The images are beamed down to a control centre where they create what is akin to a real-time Google map of everything taking place.

PerSys.jpg

When a crime occurs, teams of analysts simply scroll back in time to the scene of the incident and identify those involved. From that point, they can follow the target by clicking forward through the images to the present moment and pinpoint their location.

Ostensibly, surveillance is about preventing and prosecuting crimes -- and while it's only been used in a handful of cities, Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) are designed to do just that.

The times it has been used on US soil, the tool has allowed authorities to solve crimes in a matter of minutes.

According to PPS founder Ross McNutt, the concept was conceived over a few beers at the pub, with the initial plans drawn up on the back of a napkin.

"We developed the system quickly to get an initial capability (within) about 18 months. We have since spent the last eight years perfecting it, lowering the cost, and increasing the effectiveness," he told news.com.au.

It was thought up in an attempt to help the war effort in Iraq, which wasn't looking good for the US in 2004.

"The IEDs (improvised explosive device) were killing many of our troops and our commander asked that we see what we could do to help," he said.

Ross McNutt was teaching at the Airforce Institute of Technology at the time and the desire to aid US troops against the guerilla tactics used by those loyal to Saddam Hussein was felt strongly among faculty and students.

"We developed an idea that would allow us to track bombers back to the place they came from so we could then address the source of the bombs," he said.

The idea proved immensely useful in capturing those planting IEDs and the air force has since spent more than $US1 billion ($A1.3 billion) to improve and enhance the system.

In fact, the results proved so compelling that it wasn't long before the US military looked closer to home with thoughts of putting an eye in the sky over some of its own cities.

With the success of the technology in Iraq, the US government has since used Persistent Surveillance Systems to address high crime rates in cities such as Dayton, Ohio.

For Mr McNutt, it's simply an economic argument.

According to the National Institute of Justice, Dayton Ohio has 27,000 reported crimes per year, 70 to 80 per day and nearly 10,000 serious crimes, such as rape, murder and assault, which amount to a cost of $3,400 per person each year.

"PSS believes we will contribute to reducing the crime in Dayton by 20 per cent to 30 per cent," Mr McNutt said. He said this would amount to a yearly saving of $96 million to $144 million.

After a five-day trial in June of 2012, the results proved exciting to law enforcement and the police chief recommended a permanent expansion of the services.

However the city decided to hold a public forum to debate the idea and only about 75 people turned up. Due to the high rates of crime, many were supportive of having the surveillance plane overhead. But others, a slightly smaller but very vocal group, were opposed and ultimately dissuaded the city from adopting the service. At least for the time being.

The company says it has about $150 million in proposals and is waiting to hear if its services will be enlisted. It has negotiated with the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Moscow and London.

The company has also carried out a contract for a classified client to combat cartel violence in Mexico.

As with all forms of surveillance, PSS ignites a debate about the trade off between civil freedoms and the lengths we should be willing to go to prevent crime. But McNutt said they had made assurances to allay such concerns.

"We have developed a whole host of privacy policies and procedures that protect people privacies. In addition we have designed the system to be limited to one pixel per person, which only allows us to barely see a person and track them to a car. We only support reported crime investigation and ongoing criminal investigations," he said.

But the fears will always remain.

In the wake of the National Security Agency leaks, Barack Obama made an address in which he reaffirmed the importance for a balance between surveillance and privacy.

"The power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do," Obama said in the 2014 address. "That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do," he said.

And with companies like Persistent Surveillance Systems, those questions of what we should do are becoming increasingly pertinent.



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Beckwith

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There's a shadowy federal agency snooping around in your wallet

M.D. Kittle says the shadowy federal agency that wants to know what you're buying with your credit card finds itself the subject of wide-ranging discrimination allegations.

[ snip ]

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, chairman of the Financial Service subcommittee is leading the charge to reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Created under the sweeping Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the agency sets regulatory guidance for an array of financial products.

The bureau is funded through a direct percentage of Federal Reserve income, not by Congress -- and that means there's no congressional oversight. That hasn't stopped criticism of the bureau by free-market and privacy advocates for snooping on U.S. consumers and intimidating businesses.

A recent report found that the CFPB has accomplished the monitoring of more than 85 percent of all credit card records from U.S. consumers. The agency's goal is to reach 95 percent of the domestic credit card marketplace.

The bureau says it's all about protecting consumers, but Brian Wise, senior advisor to the free-market advocate U.S. Consumer Coalition, says CFPB's motivations are more nefarious.

"They are literally collecting and monitoring the credit card records of almost every single American consumer that has a credit card," Wise said. "They know the individual transactions that credit card users are making, where they are happening, and how often you're making those transactions."

In many ways, Wise said, the consumer data-mining project is worse than the National Security Agency's surveillance program.

"The NSA only knows who you called and when you called them. The CFPB potentially knows where every single dollar of your money has been spent," he said. "The CFPB can realistically know when your wife is pregnant before you do. All the NSA would know is when you called your wife last."

The agency is using the information to go after the kinds of businesses the Obama administration doesn't care for -- payday lenders, gun merchants, smoking-accessory retailers and dozens more that have made CFPB's enemy's list (This is Eric Holder's "Choke Point" program.

The bureau presided over the U.S. Department of Justice's Operation Choke Point, a campaign to choke off the credit lines of targeted businesses.

Wise said now that the DOJ and the FDIC have bailed on the controversial initiative, CFPB has taken over the entire operation and is calling it another name.

As more details about the secretive agency become public, it appears more Americans are concerned.

A recent U.S. Consumer Coalition poll conducted by Zogby Analytics found a majority of respondents oppose the CFPB's monitoring of consumer credit card purchases. And an overwhelming majority want the agency subject to congressional oversight through the appropriations process.

The poll, which has a 1.7 percent margin of error found:

* A majority (55 percent) of respondents believe the CFPB's data collection program is similar to or worse than the controversial NSA monitoring program.

* Only 20 percent of those polled believe the CFPB should be able to collect and review Americans' credit card statements without their knowledge.

* 78 percent of respondents believe the CFPB should have to seek Congressional approval for its budget like other agencies.

* Nearly 70 percent of those polled believe the government should not be able to tell consumers how to spend their money or make financial decisions for their families.

"We have a powerful agency unilaterally regulating products and industries while subjecting Americans to an unprecedented invasion of their personal financial data. And it's clear Americans don't like it," said Wise.


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Beckwith

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Privacy advocates resign in protest over U.S. facial-recognition code of conduct

FacialRec.jpg

Dan Froomkin says technology industry lobbyists have so thoroughly hijacked the Commerce Department process for developing a voluntary code of conduct for the use of facial recognition technology that nine privacy advocates involved withdrew in protest on Monday.

"At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they've never heard of are tracking their every movement -- and identifying them by name -- using facial recognition technology," the privacy advocates wrote in a joint statement. "Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise."

The Commerce Department, through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration, brought together "representatives from technology companies, trade groups, consumer groups, academic institutions and other organizations" early last year "to kick off an effort to craft privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology."

The goal was "to develop a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct that specifies how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights applies to facial recognition technology in the commercial context."

But after a dozen meetings, the most recent of which was last week, all nine privacy advocates who have participated in the entire process concluded that they were totally outgunned.

"This should be a wake-up call to Americans: Industry lobbyists are choking off Washington's ability to protect consumer privacy," Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, said in a statement.

"People simply do not expect companies they've never heard of to secretly track them using this powerful technology. Despite all of this, industry associations have pushed for a world where companies can use facial recognition on you whenever they want -- no matter what you say. This position is well outside the mainstream."

Ben Sobel, a researcher and Google Policy Fellow at the Center on Privacy & Technology, wrote last week for the Washington Post about the extraordinary advances in facial-recognition technology that have gone largely unnoticed by the public. "Being anonymous in public might be a thing of the past," he wrote.

He noted that while there are no federal laws that specifically govern the use of facial recognition technology, some states do. "Both Illinois and Texas have laws against using such technology to identify people without their informed consent. That means that one out of every eight Americans currently has a legal right to biometric privacy," he wrote.


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The FBI is operating a small air force to spy on Americans

The AP is reporting that the FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology -- all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government.

The planes' surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge's approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool in criminal, terrorism or intelligence probes. But the program raises questions about whether there should be updated policies protecting civil liberties as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.

U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services. Even basic aspects of the program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department's inspector general.

"The FBI's aviation program is not secret," spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. "Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes." Allen added that the FBI's planes "are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance."

But the planes can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over for prosecutions.

Some of the aircraft are also equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they're not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is rare.

Loiter.jpg

Details confirmed by the FBI track closely with published reports that a government surveillance program might be behind suspicious-looking planes slowly circling neighborhoods. The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights since late April orbiting both major cities and rural areas.

One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side. A federal budget document from 2010 mentioned at least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, in the FBI's surveillance fleet.

The FBI also occasionally helps local police with aerial support, such as during the recent disturbance in Baltimore that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who sustained grievous injuries while in police custody. Those types of requests are reviewed by senior FBI officials.

The surveillance flights comply with agency rules, an FBI spokesman said. Those rules, which are heavily redacted in publicly available documents, limit the types of equipment the agency can use, as well as the justifications and duration of the surveillance.

Details about the flights come as the Justice Department seeks to navigate privacy concerns arising from aerial surveillance by unmanned aircrafts, or drones. Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance, and has called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified programs.

"These are not your grandparents' surveillance aircraft," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, calling the flights significant "if the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft."

During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI's fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia, most with Cessna 182T Skylane aircraft. These included parts of Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and Southern California.

Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a "cell-site simulator" -- or Stingray, to use one of the product's brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

Officials say cellphone surveillance is rare, although the AP found in recent weeks FBI flights orbiting large, enclosed buildings for extended periods where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection. Those included above Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

After The Washington Post revealed flights by two planes circling over Baltimore in early May, the AP began analyzing detailed flight data and aircraft-ownership registrations that shared similar addresses and flight patterns. That review found some FBI missions circled above at least 40,000 residents during a single flight over Anaheim, California, in late May, according to Census data and records provided by the website FlightRadar24.com.

Most flight patterns occurred in counter-clockwise orbits up to several miles wide and roughly one mile above the ground at slow speeds. A 2003 newsletter from the company FLIR Systems Inc., which makes camera technology such as seen on the planes, described flying slowly in left-handed patterns.

"Aircraft surveillance has become an indispensable intelligence collection and investigative technique which serves as a force multiplier to the ground teams," the FBI said in 2009 when it asked Congress for $5.1 million for the program.

Recently, independent journalists and websites have cited companies traced to post office boxes in Virginia, including one shared with the Justice Department. The AP analyzed similar data since early May, while also drawing upon aircraft registration documents, business records and interviews with U.S. officials to understand the scope of the operations.

The FBI asked the AP not to disclose the names of the fake companies it uncovered, saying that would saddle taxpayers with the expense of creating new cover companies to shield the government's involvement, and could endanger the planes and integrity of the surveillance missions. The AP declined the FBI's request because the companies' names -- as well as common addresses linked to the Justice Department -- are listed on public documents and in government databases.

At least 13 front companies that AP identified being actively used by the FBI are registered to post office boxes in Bristow, Virginia, which is near a regional airport used for private and charter flights. Only one of them appears in state business records.

Included on most aircraft registrations is a mysterious name, Robert Lindley. He is listed as chief executive and has at least three distinct signatures among the companies. Two documents include a signature for Robert Taylor, which is strikingly similar to one of Lindley's three handwriting patterns.

The FBI would not say whether Lindley is a U.S. government employee. The AP unsuccessfully tried to reach Lindley at phone numbers registered to people of the same name in the Washington area since Monday.

Law enforcement officials said Justice Department lawyers approved the decision to create fictitious companies to protect the flights' operational security and that the Federal Aviation Administration was aware of the practice. One of the Lindley-headed companies shares a post office box openly used by the Justice Department.

Such elusive practices have endured for decades. A 1990 report by the then-General Accounting Office noted that, in July 1988, the FBI had moved its "headquarters-operated" aircraft into a company that wasn't publicly linked to the bureau.

The FBI does not generally obtain warrants to record video from its planes of people moving outside in the open, but it also said that under a new policy it has recently begun obtaining court orders to use cell-site simulators. The Obama administration had until recently been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology's use in open court.

A Justice Department memo last month also expressly barred its component law enforcement agencies from using unmanned drones "solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment" and said they are to be used only in connection with authorized investigations and activities. A department spokeswoman said the policy applied only to unmanned aircraft systems rather than piloted airplanes.

I first reported this technology two years ago when one of these loitering aircraft caused concern in the Wollaston Beach section of Quincy, Massachusetts, the neighboring community.

video

So this program has been operational for more than two years.


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Beckwith

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Senate takes up House bill but fails to avoid spying lapse

Ken Dilanian is reporting that eight days after blocking it, Senate Republicans have agreed to begin debate on a House bill that would overhaul the National Security Agency's handling of American calling records while preserving other domestic surveillance provisions.

But that remarkable turnabout didn't happen soon enough to prevent the laws governing the programs from expiring at midnight Sunday as Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential contender, stood in the way of extending the program, angering his GOP colleagues and frustrating intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Now, the question is whether the Senate will pass a bill the House can live with. If so, the surveillance programs will resume, with some significant changes in how the phone records are handled. If not, they will remain dormant.

The Senate vote on the measure known as the USA Freedom Act can come no earlier than 1 a.m., Tuesday. Senate Republican aides said they expected some amendments, but no major revisions to the bill.

"Having gone past the brink, the Senate must now embrace the necessity of acting responsibly," said Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, in a statement after Sunday's Senate vote.

The high-stakes drama played out as Congress debated the most significant changes prompted by the disclosures of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed the phone records collection and other main surveillance programs. With no deal reached in time, the NSA stopped collecting American phone records at 3:59 p.m. EST Sunday, officials said.

Other authorities that expired allowed the FBI to collect business records in terrorism and espionage investigations, and to more easily eavesdrop on a suspect who is discarding cell phones to avoid surveillance.

Intelligence officials publicly warned of danger, but were not deeply concerned with a lapse of a few days or weeks, given that the authorities remain available in pending investigations. What they most fear is a legislative impasse that could doom the programs permanently.

"The Senate took an important-if late-step forward tonight," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. "We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible."

President Barack Obama supports the USA Freedom Act, which ends NSA bulk collection of U.S. phone records but allows the agency to search records held by the phone companies. That bill, which preserves the other expiring provisions, passed the House overwhelmingly May 13.

Senate Republicans blocked that legislation on May 23, arguing that it undercut the NSA's ability to quickly search the records. It fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance.

But with no other options, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an about-face, reluctantly embraced the House-passed bill Sunday night.

"It's not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it's now the only realistic way forward," McConnell said.

The Senate then voted 77-17 to move ahead on the USA Freedom Act.


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Beckwith

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The NSA's techno-tyranny -- one nation under surveillance

"The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control."
  -- William Binney, NSA whistleblower

John W. Whitehead believes that we now have a fourth branch of government.

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum; and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress, and the courts; and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

You might know this branch of government as Surveillance; but I prefer "techno-tyranny," a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies, and their corporate ties.

Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored, and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government's choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.

The police state is about to pass off the baton to the surveillance state.

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation's soldier cops into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices, and so much more.

This is about to be the new face of policing in America.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been a perfect red herring, distracting us from the government's broader, technology-driven campaign to render us helpless in the face of its prying eyes. In fact, long before the NSA became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace.

Just about every branch of the government -- from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between -- now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies -- the police, public health officials, transportation, etc. -- and make it accessible for all those in power. And of course that doesn't even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.

The raging debate over the fate of the NSA's blatantly unconstitutional, illegal, and ongoing domestic surveillance programs is just so much noise, what Shakespeare referred to as "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

It means nothing: the legislation, the revelations, the task forces, and the filibusters.

The government is not giving up, nor is it giving in. It has stopped listening to us. It has long since ceased to take orders from "we the people."

If you haven't figured it out yet, none of it -- the military drills, the surveillance, the militarized police, the strip searches, the random pat downs, the stop-and-frisks, even the police-worn body cameras -- is about fighting terrorism. It's about controlling the populace.

Despite the fact that its data snooping has been shown to be ineffective at detecting, let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the NSA continues to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans' phone calls, emails, text messages, and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

Legislation such as the USA Patriot Act serves only to legitimize the actions of a secret agency run by a shadow government. Even the proposed and ultimately defeated USA Freedom Act, which purported to restrict the reach of the NSA's phone surveillance program -- at least on paper -- by requiring the agency to secure a warrant before surveillance could be carried out on American citizens and prohibiting the agency from storing any data collected on Americans, amounted to little more than a paper tiger: threatening in appearance, but lacking any real bite.

The question of how to deal with the NSA -- an agency that operates outside of the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution -- is a divisive issue that polarizes even those who have opposed the NSA's warrantless surveillance from the get-go, forcing all of us -- cynics, idealists, politicians, and realists alike -- to grapple with a deeply unsatisfactory and dubious political "solution" to a problem that operates beyond the reach of voters and politicians: how do you trust a government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing to actually obey the law?

Since its official start in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman issued a secret executive order establishing the NSA as the hub of the government's foreign intelligence activities, the agency -- nicknamed "No Such Agency" -- has operated covertly, unaccountable to Congress all the while using taxpayer dollars to fund its secret operations. It was only when the agency ballooned to 90,000 employees in 1969, making it the largest intelligence agency in the world with a significant footprint outside Washington, DC, that it became more difficult to deny its existence.

In the aftermath of Watergate in 1975, the Senate held meetings under the Church Committee in order to determine exactly what sorts of illicit activities the American intelligence apparatus was engaged in under the direction of President Nixon, and how future violations of the law could be stopped. It was the first time the NSA was exposed to public scrutiny since its creation.

The investigation revealed a sophisticated operation whose surveillance programs paid little heed to such things as the Constitution. For instance, under Project SHAMROCK, the NSA spied on telegrams to and from the U.S., as well as the correspondence of American citizens. Moreover, as the Saturday Evening Post reports, "Under Project MINARET, the NSA monitored the communications of civil rights leaders and opponents of the Vietnam War, including targets such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohammed Ali, Jane Fonda, and two active U.S. Senators. The NSA had launched this program in 1967 to monitor suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, but successive presidents used it to track all manner of political dissidents."

Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA, understood only too well the dangers inherent in allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers "at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

Noting that the NSA could enable a dictator "to impose total tyranny" upon an utterly defenseless American public, Church declared that he did not "want to see this country ever go across the bridge" of constitutional protection, congressional oversight, and popular demand for privacy. He avowed that "we," implicating both Congress and its constituency in this duty, "must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

The result was the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the creation of the FISA Court, which was supposed to oversee and correct how intelligence information is collected and collated. The law requires that the NSA get clearance from the FISA Court, a secret surveillance court, before it can carry out surveillance on American citizens. Fast forward to the present day, and the so-called solution to the problem of government entities engaging in unjustified and illegal surveillance -- the FISA Court -- has unwittingly become the enabler of such activities, rubberstamping almost every warrant request submitted to it.

The 9/11 attacks served as a watershed moment in our nation's history, ushering in an era in which immoral and/or illegal government activities such as surveillance, torture, strip searches, and SWAT team raids are sanctioned as part of the quest to keep us "safe."

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans' phone calls and emails. That wireless wiretap program was reportedly ended in 2007 after the New York Times reported on it, to mass indignation.

Nothing changed under Barack Obama. In fact, the violations worsened, with the NSA authorized to secretly collect internet and telephone data on millions of Americans, as well as on foreign governments.

It was only after whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 that the American people fully understood the extent to which they had been betrayed once again.

What this brief history of the NSA makes clear is that you cannot reform the NSA.

As long as the government is allowed to make a mockery of the law -- be it the Constitution, the FISA Act, or any other law intended to limit its reach and curtail its activities -- and is permitted to operate behind closed doors, relaying on secret courts, secret budgets, and secret interpretations of the laws of the land, there will be no reform.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA's 60-year history, but none of them have done much to put an end to the NSA's "techno-tyranny."

The beast has outgrown its chains. It will not be restrained.

The growing tension seen and felt throughout the country is a tension between those who wield power on behalf of the government -- the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the militarized police, the technocrats (the faceless unelected bureaucrats who blindly obey and carry out government directives, no matter how immoral or unjust), and the corporations -- and those among the populace who are finally waking up to the mounting injustices, seething corruption, and endless tyrannies that are transforming our country into a technocrized police state.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability, and a representative democracy by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to "we the people."

What we have failed to truly comprehend is that the NSA is merely one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control. For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for the CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts. Conveniently, as the Intercept recently revealed, many of the NSA's loudest defenders have financial ties to NSA contractors.

Thus, if this secret regime not only exists but thrives, it is because we have allowed it through our ignorance, apathy, and naïve trust in politicians who take their orders from Corporate America rather than the Constitution.

If this shadow government persists, it is because we have yet to get outraged enough to push back against its power grabs and put an end to its high-handed tactics.

And if this unelected bureaucracy succeeds in trampling underfoot our last vestiges of privacy and freedom, it will be because we let ourselves be fooled into believing that politics matters, that voting makes a difference, that politicians actually represent the citizenry, that the courts care about justice, and that everything that is being done is in our best interests.

Indeed, as political scientist Michael J. Glennon warns, you can vote all you want; but the people you elect aren't actually the ones calling the shots. "The American people are deluded … that the institutions that provide the public face actually set American national security policy," stated Glennon. "They believe that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change. But … policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions."

In other words, it doesn't matter who occupies the White House: the secret government with its secret agencies, secret budgets, and secret programs won't change. It will simply continue to operate in secret until some whistleblower comes along to momentarily pull back the curtain and we dutifully -- and fleetingly -- play the part of the outraged public, demanding accountability and rattling our cages, all the while bringing about little real reform.

Thus, the lesson of the NSA and its vast network of domestic spy partners is simply this: once you allow the government to start breaking the law, no matter how seemingly justifiable the reason, you relinquish the contract between you and the government which establishes that the government works for and obeys you, the citizen -- the employer -- the master.

Once the government starts operating outside the law, answerable to no one but itself, there's no way to rein it back in, short of revolution. And by revolution, I mean doing away with the entire structure, because the corruption and lawlessness have become that pervasive.

Related:  FBI confirms that no major terrorism cases cracked via unconstitutional Patriot Act spying

Speaking at an American Law Institute event this week, FBI Director James Comey warned that a PATRIOT Act sunset would “severely” affect his agency. He said the FBI relies heavily on the soon-to-expire provisions of the law to obtain specific business records -- from library records to gun ownership data -- and wiretaps for multiple devices.

So, they're not just storing your phone conversations and emails -- and tweets and likes -- they have your library records and gun ownership data.

I've worked at the NSA. I am an expert on the storage, retrieval and management of data in very large-scale databases and data warehouses.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

If a government agency wants a data set, it has that data set.


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Senators block extension of NSA surveillance program

Caleb Howe is reporting that in the very early hours of Saturday morning, the Senate blocked the last attempts to extend the NSA's domestic spying program and the Patriot Act in several key votes. The USA Freedom Act, which previously passed the House, was defeated by a vote of 57 to 42. The second vote, which would have extended the program by two months, was defeated 54 to 45 by a small group of senators.

The fight against reauthorization and even temporary extension of the program was led by Senator Rand Paul, who tweeted about his victory on Saturday.

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Many of Paul's fellow public servants complained loudly and publicly about having to work late, including Republican John McCain and Democrat Claire McCaskill. Both criticized Paul as "grandstanding" and using the fight to raise money for his Presidential campaign. Despite those objections, Paul's maneuvers, including a filibuster, have paid off, and the extension will not go through. For now, anyway.

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At least until then, there will be no extension of the NSA program past the May 31 deadline. Senator Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate will take the week off for Memorial Day, and then meet again just hours before the program's time runs out. Many observers expressed doubt that opinions will change in that time.

Related:  FBI says no major cases cracked with Patriot Act powers



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FBI admits no major cases cracked with Patriot Act snooping powers

Maggie Ybarra is reporting that FBI agents can't point to any major terrorism cases they've cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department's inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

The FBI did finally come up with procedures to try to minimize the information it was gathering on non-targets, but it took far too long, Mr. Horowitz said in the 77-page report, which comes just as Congress is trying to decide whether to extend, rewrite or entirely nix Section 215.

Backers say the Patriot Act powers are critical and must be kept intact, particularly with the spread of the threat from terrorists. But opponents have doubted the efficacy of Section 215, particularly when it's used to justify bulk data collection such as in the case of the National Security Agency's phone metadata program, revealed in leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden.

The new report adds ammunition to those opponents, with the inspector general concluding that no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act's records-snooping provisions.

"The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders," the inspector general concluded -- though he said agents did view the material they gathered as "valuable" in developing other leads or corroborating information.

The report said agents bumped their number of bulk-data requests under Section 215 from seven in 2004 to 21 in 2009 as a result of technological advances and legislative changes that the intelligence community believed expanded the reach of the law.

Increasingly, that meant scooping up information on those who weren't targets of a terrorism investigation, Mr. Horowitz said. He said that while Section 215 authority allows the government to do that, the FBI needed more checks to make sure it was using the power properly.

"While the expanded scope of these requests can be important uses of Section 215 authority, we believe these expanded uses require continued significant oversight," he concluded.

The report was an update to a previous study done in 2008 that urged the department to figure out ways to minimize the amount of data it was gathering on ordinary Americans even as it was targeting terrorists.

In Thursday's report Mr. Horowitz said the administration finally came up with procedures -- five years later. He said it never should have taken that long but that he considers that issue solved.

The report was heavily redacted, and key details were deleted. The entire chart showing the number of Section 215 requests made from 2007 through 2009 was blacked out, as was the breakdown of what types of investigations they stemmed from: counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or foreign intelligence investigations.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is slated to expire at the end of this month. The House, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, passed a bill to renew it but also to limit it so the government could no longer do bulk collection such as the NSA phone data program. That legislation is known as the USA Freedom Act.

But Senate Republican leaders have balked, insisting the NSA program and Section 215 should be kept intact as is.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is leading the fight to protect the NSA program, is counting on his opponents not being able to muster the 60 votes needed to pass the bill, leaving them with the choice of either extending Section 215 or seeing all of the powers expire -- including those that would go after specific terrorist suspects. Mr. McConnell believes that, faced with that choice, enough of his colleagues will vote to extend all of the powers.


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The X-37B -- a miniature version of NASA's space shuttle's fourth mystery mission

Resembling a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttle, the X-37B military space plane is scheduled to launch on its fourth mystery mission on May 20th from Cape Canaveral. The website Space.com reports that the official Air Force line about the launch is that the vehicle will be subjected to "testing of experimental payloads."

"The X-37B's payloads and specific activities are classified, so it's unclear exactly what the spacecraft does while zipping around the Earth."

A recent CNN report noted that the Air Force mystery plane on its last flight spent some 22 months orbiting the Earth, sparking all sorts of speculation about what exactly it was doing high above the planet.


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Obama snubbed in San Francisco by high-tech chiefs

Obama visited California to hold a cyber-security summit at Stanford University, but the chief executives of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo declined an invitation from the White House to have a private lunch with Obama when he visited the Bay Area this weekend.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

"Obama said his relationship with Silicon Valley and the tech community has historically been pretty good. But the revelations of the National Security Agency's mass data collection by former contractor Edward Snowden "were really harmful in terms of the trust between government and many of these companies, in part because of the impact it had on their bottom lines.”

"The president made the remarks in a wide-ranging interview with Re/code's Kara Swisher in Silicon Valley, where he headlined a first-ever White House summit on cyber security issues and was scheduled to attend a Democratic party fundraiser.

"The interview touched on everything from cyber warfare to the president's quandary over which fitness tracker to road test.

"These strained relations between the White House and Silicon Valley were placed in sharp focus Friday after the chief executives of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo declined White House invitations to attend the summit -- and a private lunch with the president.

"These companies are among a number of tech giants that have pushed Washington to end the bulk collection of private data because of customer privacy concerns, but little has happened to curb the NSA's practices."

Bloomberg had reported on Thursday that the chief executives of Google, Yahoo and Facebook would not attend the summit.

"The top executives of Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Facebook Inc. won't attend President Barack Obama's cybersecurity summit on Friday, at a time when relations between the White House and Silicon Valley have frayed over privacy issues.

"Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt all were invited but won't attend the public conference at Stanford University, according to the companies. Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is planning to be at the event, where Obama is scheduled to give the keynote speech and have a private lunch with a select group of attendees."

These are the same guys that have donated or raised millions for Obama's campaigns.


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Oops! White House forgot to tell the Intelligence Committee about new Cyber Intelligence Center

Stephen Kruiser is reporting that members of the House Intelligence Committee were not briefed on the plans the White House announced today for a new cyber integration center modeled on the National Counterterrorism Center -- and they're not happy about it.

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, projected to have a staff of 50 when it is fully operational next year, is funded by a $35 million line item in the "black budget" request for intelligence funding.

Representatives from the Office of the Director for National Intelligence briefed committee members on the budget last week, the source said, but did not provide any details about the new line item.

"When they were specifically asked for details on their cyber plans, they said there was nothing else they could share at this time," the source said, adding they were told more information would be made available in more detailed budget documents that have not yet been sent to the committee.

That was the last committee members heard of the issue before today's announcement was trailed with an official leak to The Washington Post, the source said.

What a comfort it is to know that President Hope and Change has made things in Washington so toxic that the branches of government can't communicate on matters of terrorism-related national security. This isn't really surprising given that Barack Obama treats the Legislative branch with blatant contempt these days.

Here is hoping that Obama's petulance doesn't lead to something catastrophic happening. It's already doing enough damage to the budget.


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Edward Snowden documentary premieres -- shocking inside look at how he did it

Roger Friedman is reporting that "CitizenFour" is the shocking documentary about Edward Snowden made by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The two hour film - just screened last night -- will be released by the Weinstein Company this month. It doesn’t paint the Obama administration in a very good light as Snowden explains how the government has violated privacy rights on a massive scale.

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Also the filmmakers clearly indicate that all roads lead to POTUS, a fairly serious accusation. There may be serious repercussions.

Then there’s the Hollywoodization of Snowden. The detail of how and why Snowden went about this is pretty surprising considering how the 29 year old former NSA employee says he wants his own privacy and not to be a celebrity. It’s instructive to see his evolution from eyeglass wearing nerd to contact lenses and moussed up hair sporting hero of his own thriller. It's all very Tom Cruise. Even the beautiful girlfriend sets up housekeeping with him in Moscow. Nevertheless as the details of the NSA's programs are revealed Snowden says, "This isn’t science fiction. It’s really happening."

Related:   "CitizenfFour" reveals the existence of a second NSA whistleblower



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CIA chief, John Brennan, refuses to tell Congress who in the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee

Ali Watkins is reporting that tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency's interrogation program.

The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report's public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.

After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation's top spy of defying Congress.

"I'm concerned there's disrespect towards the Congress," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. "I think it's arrogant, I think it's unacceptable."

"I continue to be incredibly frustrated with this director," said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. "He does not respect the role of the committee in providing oversight, and he continues to stonewall us on basic information, and it's very frustrating. And it certainly doesn't serve the agency well."

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he was "renewing my call" for Brennan's resignation.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that Brennan declined to answer the committee's questions because doing so could have compromised an investigation into the computer intrusions by an accountability board headed by former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. Moreover, the agency's leadership has asked the CIA Inspector General's Office to respond to the questions, Boyd said.

"Commencing a new, parallel investigation to compile answers to these questions could negatively impact the integrity of the ongoing Accountability Board process," Boyd wrote in an email.

Hours before Tuesday's meeting in the committee's secure offices, the panel received a letter in which Brennan said he wouldn't respond to written questions he'd received in January from the chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joined Brennan for the meeting, which had been expected to focus on the threat posed by the Islamic State. But tempers flared as some lawmakers challenged Brennan on his decision not to answer Feinstein's questions, witnesses said.

At one point, said a person familiar with the meeting, Brennan raised his voice at Feinstein.

Feinstein sent the questions after Brennan told her that agency personnel investigating a security breach had searched computers her staff used in a secret CIA facility. The questions included a demand to know who ordered the intrusions and under what legal authority they were conducted.

Brennan "shouldn't get away with not answering questions," said Levin. "Nobody in the executive branch should get away with not answering questions to a legitimate legislative inquiry."

Feinstein described the questions in a scathing March speech on the Senate floor. In her address, she confirmed an earlier McClatchy report about the computer intrusions and suggested that the CIA might have violated the law and the separation of powers provisions of the Constitution.

The committee staff used the computers to compile a report on the agency's use of torture on suspected terrorists under the George W. Bush administration. Bush ended the program, in which detainees were abducted and held in secret overseas prisons, in 2006. The CIA and former Bush administration officials deny that the interrogation techniques, which included simulated drowning known as waterboarding, constituted torture.

For its part, the CIA accused Feinstein's staffers of removing without permission classified documents from the secret facility in which the agency required them to review millions of pages of operational cables and other highly classified materials on the program.

Both sets of charges were referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigations.

At the time, Brennan adamantly denied Feinstein's allegations that the CIA had spied on her committee. But in July, he was compelled to apologize to her after a review by the CIA Inspector General's Office confirmed that CIA personnel gained unauthorized access to her staff's computers and combed through their emails.

The inspector general report also revealed that the agency's contention that the staff had removed classified documents without permission from the top-secret facility was unfounded and based on inaccurate information.

Levin dismissed Brennan's defense that CIA Inspector General David Buckley was the appropriate person to answer Feinstein's questions.

"It may or may not be appropriate for the (CIA) IG to answer, but it's not appropriate for Brennan to refuse to answer. If he doesn't know the answers, he can say so," said Levin.

Levin continued, "He either knows the information or he doesn't. If he doesn't know the answers, OK, tell us. It'd be kind of stunning if he didn't know the answers to those questions, but if that's what he wants to say, he should tell us."

In June, the Justice Department cited insufficient evidence and declined to launch criminal investigations into the CIA computer intrusions or the allegation that the staff had removed top-secret documents without authorization.

But Levin said that the answers to Feinstein's questions could yield new information that could prompt the Justice Department to reopen an inquiry into the CIA's computer monitoring.

The committee spent $40 million and five years compiling its more than 6,000-page report on the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program. It submitted the 500-page executive summary to the CIA and the White House for a declassification review in April, but the sides have been locked in a contentious debate over how much to black out prior to its public release.

At what point does Congress actually start using its power to stop this abuse?

It's interesting that McClatchy only interviewed Democrats for this article.


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For sale:  Systems that can secretly track cellphone users -- anywhere!

Craig Timberg is reporting that the makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people's travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world's most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain's GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation -- including the United States -- with relative ease and precision.

Users of such technology type a phone number into a computer portal, which then collects information from the location databases maintained by cellular carriers, company documents show. In this way, the surveillance system learns which cell tower a target is currently using, revealing his or her location to within a few blocks in an urban area or a few miles in a rural one.

It is unclear which governments have acquired these tracking systems, but one industry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive trade information, said that dozens of countries have bought or leased such technology in recent years. This rapid spread underscores how the burgeoning, multibillion-dollar surveillance industry makes advanced spying technology available worldwide.

"Any tin-pot dictator with enough money to buy the system could spy on people anywhere in the world," said Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a London-based activist group that warns about the abuse of surveillance technology. "This is a huge problem."

Security experts say hackers, sophisticated criminal gangs and nations under sanctions also could use this tracking technology, which operates in a legal gray area. It is illegal in many countries to track people without their consent or a court order, but there is no clear international legal standard for secretly tracking people in other countries, nor is there a global entity with the authority to police potential abuses.

In response to questions from The Washington Post this month, the Federal Communications Commission said it would investigate possible misuse of tracking technology that collects location data from carrier databases. The United States restricts the export of some surveillance technology, but with multiple suppliers based overseas, there are few practical limits on the sale or use of these systems internationally.

"If this is technically possible, why couldn't anybody do this anywhere?" said Jon Peha, a former White House scientific adviser and chief technologist for the FCC who is now an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was one of several telecommunications experts who reviewed the marketing documents at The Post's request.

"I'm worried about foreign governments, and I'm even more worried about non-governments," Peha said. "Which is not to say I'd be happy about the NSA using this method to collect location data, but better them than the Iranians."

Continue reading this comprehensive look at this technology here . . .


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It's still "treason"

Kerry Picket is reporting that the office of Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa confirmed to Breitbart News on Friday that he still believes the act of the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee is "treason."

"I think Senator Feinstein is as outraged as anyone, and I share her outrage. I think the violation of the Constitutional separation of powers should be an offense of the highest level—virtually treason," he said in March to Breitbart News, when it was revealed that agency personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers to research Bush-era terrorist interrogation tactics.

Barak Obama stood by Brennan, saying at a White House press conference on Friday:

I have full confidence in John Brennan. I think he has acknowledged it and directly apologized to Sen. Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to Senate staff. It's clear from the IG report that was some poor judgment as to how that was handled. Keep in mind, though, that it was John Brennan who called for the IG report, and he already stood up a task force to make sure lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Feinstein released a statement about the latest revelation, but did not call for any punishment at the agency. Feinstein expects the IG report to be released to the public soon.

"The investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate floor in March -- CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement we had reached, and I believe in violation of the constitutional separation of powers."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Breitbart News on Thursday that Brennan should listen to Democrats like Sens. Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich and resign immediately.

However, the Senate Intelligence Committee's ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) is not ready to call for Brennan's resignation, telling The Washington Examiner, "The [inspector general's] report says specifically, he didn't direct it, he didn't know about it in advance, but when he found out about it, he came to the committee, so I think Brennan has done what he's supposed to do."

Remember, Obama is obligated to John Brennan.

An individual or individuals working for John Brennan's firm, The Analysis Corp., that had earned millions of dollars providing intelligence-related consulting services to federal agencies and private companies, had accessed the passport files of presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John McCain in 2008.

Sources who tracked the investigation say that the main target of the breach was the Obama passport file, and that the contractor accessed the file in order to "cauterize" the records of potentially embarrassing information.  "They looked at the McCain and Clinton files as well to create confusion," one knowledgeable source said. "But this was basically an attempt to cauterize the Obama file."

At the time of the breach, Brennan was working as an unpaid adviser to the Obama campaign.

The files contained information including "original copies of the associated documents," the report added.  Such documents include birth certificates, naturalization certificates, or oaths of allegiance for U.S.-born persons who adopted the citizenship of a foreign country as minors.

The State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a 104-page report on the breach and although it was stamped "Sensitive but Unclassified," the report was heavily redacted in the version released to the public, with page after page blacked out entirely."


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Visiting websites about privacy gets you put in an NSA database of "extremists"

Paul Joseph Watson is reporting that searching for online articles about privacy is enough to get someone put in an NSA database of “extremists,” according to new revelations published this week.

In an article for German news outlet Tagesschau (translation here), Lena Kampf, Jacob Appelbaum and John Goetz reveal how the NSA’s “deep packet inspection” rules, which it uses to determine who to target for deep surveillance, include looking for web users who search for articles about Tor and Tails, an anonymous browser and a privacy-friendly operating system.

Those whose Internet traffic patterns suggest merely an interest in Tor or Tails are immediately put on a list of “extremists,” as is anyone who actually uses the Tor network.

“Tor and Tails have been part of the mainstream discussion of online security, surveillance and privacy for years. It’s nothing short of bizarre to place people under suspicion for searching for these terms,” writes Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow, adding that the NSA’s goal is, “to split the entire population of the Internet into “people who have the technical know-how to be private” and “people who don’t” and then capture all the communications from the first group.”

The revelation once again highlights the fact that the NSA’s data dragnet has little to do with catching terrorists and everything to do with targeting anyone who values their right to privacy. The mass collection of such information only serves to make it easier for actual bad guys to evade detection since the federal agency is building such vast and unwieldy databases.

Earlier this week, journalist Glenn Greenwald announced that he was set to release new information based on leaked documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden which would reveal which individuals and institutions were the targets of NSA spying.

However, at the last minute Greenwald said the story would be postponed as a result of the U.S. government, “suddenly began making new last-minute claims which we intend to investigate before publishing.”


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Official report: NSA Spied on 89,138 "targets" last year

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai is reporting that the overseer of U.S. intelligence agencies released its first transparency report on Friday, detailing the scope of NSA surveillance last year.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that the NSA spied on 89,138 "targets" under its PRISM program -- and that the spy agency needed just one order from the federal surveillance court to obtain permission for its spying, according to the report, which was posted on the intelligence community's Tumblr.

The report, however, noted that a "target" might refer to an individual, a group, a foreign power or "an organization composed of multiple individuals." In other words, the figure might not indicate the actual number of people targeted by the NSA, according to privacy experts and civil liberties advocates.

Julian Sanchez, a researcher at the Cato Institute who focuses on technology and civil liberties, said the number "hugely undercounts people intercepted."

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The report also disclosed information about the controversial NSA telephone metadata collection program, revealing that the NSA targeted 248 "known or presumed U.S. persons" in 2013.

Privacy experts said that low number obscures the broad sweep of data collection.

"They're collecting everybody's records to get information about only 248 people," Amie Stepanovich, the Senior Policy Counsel at the civil rights organization Access, told Mashable.

panel of experts appointed by Barack Obama and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government privacy watchdog, have both deemed the metadata program illegal and ineffective with a "minimal" value for terrorism investigations.

The report also included information on the secretive data requests from U.S. government agencies -- particularly the FBI -- known as National Security Letters (NSL).

Last year, the government sent 19,212 data requests. But it is unclear how many people were actually targeted, since the FBI is not required to track the number of individuals or organizations targeted, according to the report.

The transparency report comes more than a year after Obama ordered the declassification of as much information as possible about the surveillance programs. The extent of NSA surveillance was first revealed when information from hundreds of thousands of secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden was published.

Related:  This is how the NSA is trying to win over the media



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Team Obama is pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance

Jack Gillum and Eileen Sullivan are reporting that Team Obama has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned.

Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment.

Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.

One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.

But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances it's used, it's unclear whether the technology might violate a person's constitutional rights or whether it's a good investment of taxpayer dollars.

Interviews, court records and public-records requests show Team Obama is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. That pushback has come in the form of FBI affidavits and consultation in local criminal cases.

"These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them."

Harris Corp., a key manufacturer of this equipment, built a secrecy element into its authorization agreement with the Federal Communications Commission in 2011. That authorization has an unusual requirement: that local law enforcement "coordinate with the FBI the acquisition and use of the equipment." Companies like Harris need FCC authorization in order to sell wireless equipment that could interfere with radio frequencies.

Continue reading here . . .


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NSA Collecting millions of faces from web images

James Risen and Laura Poitrasmay are reporting that the National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency's reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency's ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

The agency intercepts "millions of images per day" -- including about 55,000 "facial recognition quality images" -- which translate into "tremendous untapped potential," according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show.

"It's not just the traditional communications we're after: It's taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information" that can help "implement precision targeting," noted a 2010 document.

One N.S.A. PowerPoint presentation from 2011, for example, displays several photographs of an unidentified man -- sometimes bearded, other times clean-shaven -- in different settings, along with more than two dozen data points about him. These include whether he was on the Transportation Security Administration no-fly list, his passport and visa status, known associates or suspected terrorist ties, and comments made about him by informants to American intelligence agencies.

It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation's surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images.

Continue reading here . . .

Remember, Obama and the NSA have repeatedly told the American People that the NSA is only collecting "metadata, a widely misunderstood and nebulous term.

However, if you look at this "Top Secret" PowerPoint screen from an NSA presentation made public by the Edward J. Snowden leaks, it becomes crystal clear that the NSA is collecting far more than "metadata." 

NSAData.jpg

As I have repeatedly said, they are collecting "everything" about a person -- Americans and others.

The three large clouds represent "data warehouses." The bold titles within the clouds are "data marts." The small textual items are "fact tables."

Using the  techniques of computer "analytics" the NSA is able to produce a complete history of a person, his or her relationships and behaviors.

This is way beyond Big Brother



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Feds' biosurveillance to grab private medical records

Patient confidentiality laws? Not here.

WND is reporting that the Department of Health and Human Services just closed a public comment period for a proposal that would give the federal government access to Americans' private medical records, all in the name of security.

The so-called "biosurveillance" system contained in a draft of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response's "National Health Security Strategy" plan is being billed as a simple means of communicating "critical health" issues among medical and government professionals to protect Americans.

Specifically, it calls for the government to do a better job of achieving a "health situational awareness [that] includes biosurveillance and other health and non-health inputs" to include lab tests and diagnostics, a draft of the policy stated.

But in layman's terms, that means the government is gearing up to collect private medical information from American citizens, said Cheryl Chumley, the author of the upcoming Police State USA: How Orwell's Nightmare is Becoming our Reality[image]

"Once again, under the guise of lending a helping hand and protecting American citizens, the federal government is trying to peer into our private lives," Chumley said. "And really, it's no surprise. ObamaCare truthers warned way back that letting the government get in the health care game would mean the government would eventually need access to our private medical records.

"Here we are. HHS is poised to collect data on our doctor visits for research. I'm not comfortable with the federal government knowing me that intimately," she said.

Chumley, a full-time reporter for the Washington Times, writes about politics and government for various newspapers, Internet news sites and think tanks. She is a journalism fellow with the Phillips Foundation, a prestigious organization in Washington, D.C., where she spent a year researching and writing about private property rights.

To be released on May 27 by WND Books, Chumley's "Police State USA: How Orwell's Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality" has received high praise from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

In the foreword to Chumley's book, Gohmert writes:

Look at what we know the government already has accessed. Under ObamaCare, the federal government now gets complete documentation of your deepest, darkest, most personal secrets in your medical records that only your doctor once knew until the government decided to help you.

Your revelations to your doctor were completely secret, and our courts used to protect that precious doctor-patient relationship with full-blown privacy rights. Now, without a single Republican vote, the Democrats in the House and Senate decided that those full-blown rights should be fully blown up because the omniscient, ubiquitous, all-knowing, all-caring federal government needs to be in full control of our lives.

Those Democrats are hoping that the governmental god in whom they trust will be more trustworthy in controlling our lives than it is in controlling and operating a website," he said.

The coming signs of tyranny are all around us. Fortunately, they can be stopped before it is too late, but not without a courageous effort. This nation's founders risked absolutely everything to secure the blessings of freedom. We only risk some belittling by the mainstream and government harassment for preserving those freedoms. Bottom line, the data in Chumley's book concerns me and it should concern you.

The book describes the case of a former Marine living in Virginia.

It was August 2012, and he "was taken into custody, thrown in jail, and forcibly transferred to a hospital located nearly three hours from his home and family to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, all at the order of law enforcement officials."

"His crime? He posted on his private Facebook page messages that painted the government in a poor light."

Then there was the July 2013 case of a University of Virginia student. She was "swarmed by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents who thought the carton of bottled water she was carrying across the parking lot of a grocery store was really a 12-pack of beer and she was an underage buyer."

"She said one drew her gun, another jumped on the hood of her SUV, and still others shouted conflicting orders and flashed badges she couldn't read. Terrified, she tried to flee in her SUV, but agents halted and arrested her, charging her with two counts of assault.

"Even the commonwealth's attorney who investigated the incident found the case ridiculous and refused to prosecute. But the 20-year-old still spent a night in jail -- for the crime of purchasing water."


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House votes to shut down NSA phone-snooping

Stephen Dinan is reporting that the House voted Thursday to cancel the NSA's bulk-data phone records collection program, marking an overwhelming show of bipartisanship that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago and delivering a stern message to the nation's intelligence community that lawmakers want limits on what the spies are snooping.

Backers touted the bill as the first major restriction imposed on government surveillance since the late 1970s and said if it becomes law, the National Security Agency will no longer be able to collect and query most Americans' phone records.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and the author of the original Patriot Act, which he said the government abused in order to start the mass snooping.

The 303-121 vote could have been more forceful had the administration not pushed for changes that watered down the bill over the past week, creating confusion about exactly what kind of snooping the NSA will be allowed to do.

The House acted almost a year after former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of the NSA's phone snooping program. That leak ignited a feverish debate about the extent of government data collection.

Under the phone program, the NSA collected the numbers and durations of every phone call made inside the U.S. The content was not collected, but the agency stored the data for five years and, when it suspected a link to terrorism connected to a certain phone number, would query the data to see whom that number had called, whom those connected numbers had called and so forth -- out to three "hops" away from the original number.

Intelligence agencies fiercely defended the programs as vital to national security and respectful of Americans' privacy. Officials said the data collection had been approved by a court and that select members of Congress had been told about it.

After the data collection was revealed, the backlash from the public, and from members of Congress not privy to the program's existence, was intense.

The vote Thursday was a first but major step toward officially ending the program. The Senate will have to approve the bill before it goes to Barack Obama for his signature.

The legislation also tries to prevent any request for bulk data. It changes the Patriot Act and seeks to make clear that the administration cannot use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or presidential executive orders to try to restart the programs.

Continue reading here . . .

Andy Greenberg adds: In the House’s final version of the bill, the NSA would be stripped of the power to collect all Americans’ phone records for metadata analysis, a practice revealed in the first Guardian story about Snowden’s leaks published last year. It instead would be required to limit its collection to specific terms. The problem is that those terms may not be nearly specific enough, and could still include massive lists of target phone numbers or entire ranges of IP addresses.

“The core problem is that this only ends ‘bulk’ collection in the sense the intelligence community uses that term,” says Julian Sanchez, a researcher at the Cato Institute. “As long as there’s some kind of target, they don’t call that bulk collection, even if you’re still collecting millions of records…If they say ‘give us the record of everyone who visited these thousand websites,’ that’s not bulk collection, because they have a list of targets.”

“To any normal person,” he adds, “that’s still pretty bulky.”


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Did the NSA blackmail Justice Roberts to OK ObamaCare?

WND is reporting that U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts may have been blackmailed to approve ObamaCare after being spied on by the NSA and CIA, says Larry Klayman, the attorney who has come to be known as "the NSA slayer" for his successful legal battles against the National Security Agency.

During an appearance Sunday night on Aaron Klein's New York City radio show on 970 The Answer, Klayman suggested the blackmail possibility when asked by a caller if the Supreme Court could be sued for its approval of the Affordable Care Act.

"Unfortunately, there's no way to sue the Supreme Court for decisions that it makes. There should be, and there should be a way to remove these justices for making decisions like that," explained Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch who now heads Freedom Watch.

"But let's take this possibility: Why did Chief Justice Roberts at the eleventh hour change his decision? He was going to side with the other justices and find that ObamaCare was unconstitutional. Is it something that was dug up on him by the NSA or the CIA? Was that used against him to blackmail him?

"These are the kinds of things [the government is doing], and that's why it's so scary what's going on with the NSA and the CIA. It can happen in a democracy. So that may help explain it, and perhaps we can reach these issues through the NSA cases that we brought, the NSA/CIA cases. I intend to get the truth on this."

Klein himself sounded taken aback by Klayman's suggestion.

"This is actually a staggering response to believe the government could have spied on a Supreme Court justice … and that information is somehow utilized … against him to pass ObamaCare," Klein said. "This is huge."

Klayman warned that "every aspect of Americans' lives is being accessed and monitored by the government."

"It's not just telephone metadata that's being monitored," he alleged. "They're also listening to the content, that's coming out in recent weeks.

"I'm a lawyer. I have an attorney-client privilege, and I can no longer talk to my clients on the telephone and expect that there's any confidentiality. It changes the whole nature of how you operate.

"We also know that the NSA and CIA -- as Communist China, as Russia can do, as any sophisticated country -- they can turn your cell phone on anytime and listen to you. And they do."

Klayman said such activity is "simply not acceptable in a democracy."

"And even if they are not accessing our records directly, the fact that the American people know about it, and it's been documented what's been going on, it has a chilling effect on our ability to communicate and our ability to criticize the government or take strong action against the government.

"If the government wants to destroy you, it has to access the information that it can use to do it, and that's why this is so frightening. [It has] a greater capability than King George III had in 1776. The tyranny is greater today than it was at the time of the American Revolution."

Regarding the status of the legal cases against government spying, Klayman said, "The bottom line is this: Our so-called government is trying to delay final adjudication of the constitutionality of the CIA and NSA's programs, and as a ruse, President Obama is claiming he wants to make modifications to those programs. They're not modifications at all."

People forget that Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of Barack Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but at the last moment changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations.

It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law.

Roberts' decision was not Constitutional. He tried to explain it with "incomprehensible logic." He tried to pass the buck to the legislature, and the voters by inference.

Remember, Obama has a database with everything on everybody:


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Obama’s Internet ID plot being tested in two states

Alex Newman is reporting that a plot by the Obama administration to impose Internet IDs on Americans is now officially being rolled out, with pilot programs for the controversial online “driver’s license” scheme already beginning in both Michigan and Pennsylvania. According to the White House, the virtual “Identity Ecosystem” being funded and pushed by the federal government is supposed to make the Internet more “secure” and “convenient.” Critics across the political spectrum, however, are warning that the Orwellian scheme only makes it more convenient for the feds to spy on people, control the public, and suppress dissent.

Indeed, critics, who have been sounding the alarm bells for years, say the plot -- a version of which is already in place under the brutal communist regime ruling mainland China -- represents a major danger to privacy, free speech, Internet freedom, and more. Organizations and activists from virtually every point on the political spectrum are gearing up to "vehemently" oppose the plan and its brazen threats to freedom -- not to mention the constitutional and practical problems it entails.

Officially known as the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace,” or NSTIC for short, outlines of the plan were initially floated by the Obama administration’s “Homeland Security” apparatus in 2010. Faced with an overwhelming and fierce public rejection of the plot at the time, though, it appears to have remained largely on hold over the last several years -- until now, that is. Under various executive decrees and programs, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is partnering with government agencies in Michigan and Pennsylvania to test out the online ID plot. It is already seeking other entities to participate as well, including companies.

Of course, polls show the vast majority of Americans now view the federal government as “out of control” and a threat to their basic liberties -- for good reason. As scandals continue to swirl around the administration over unlawful spying, mass-murder via drone, attacks on constitutionally protected rights, targeting of political opponents with the IRS, brazen lies, and more, what critics describe as the “radical” online ID plan is already facing enormous opposition. So, as always, the federal government is seeking to market its latest unconstitutional boondoggle as a safety measure that will supposedly help reduce fraud and increase “convenience.”   

The pilot programs will begin by targeting Americans who want some sort of government “service” -- welfare, food stamps, permission to do something, and more. In announcing millions in taxpayer-funded federal "grants" to the two states involved in the testing, the NIST said the purpose of the online identity scheme was to “improve access to government services and the delivery of federal assistance programs, and to reduce fraud.” At least initially, Obama’s Internet plot is supposed to be “voluntary,” with development of its “Identity Ecosystem” led by taxpayer-funded “private sector” outfits. 

The pilot projects, the agency continued in its announcement, “support the administration's National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which envisions an ‘Identity Ecosystem’ that allows people … to prove they are who they say they are online.” In Michigan, the primary agency involved in the testing plot is the “Department of Human Services,” which received $1.3 million from U.S. taxpayers to work on it. Pennsylvania’s departments of Public Welfare and Health, meanwhile, received over $1 million to implement the scheme. The administration is already seeking other state and local governments to shower more bribes on in exchange for cooperating with the plot.   

“States have a vital role to play in the Identity Ecosystem, both providing identity credentials and relying on them,” said NSTIC's Jeremy Grant, “senior executive advisor for identity management,” in a statement announcing the grants to Michigan and Pennsylvania agencies participating in the unconstitutional scheme. “States are ideal partners for NSTIC pilots because of the many services they offer online, and the many more they could offer online if the costs and risks involving identity fraud could be reduced.”

For critics across the political spectrum, though, the emerging “Identity Ecosystem” regime’s massive dangers far outweigh any purported “benefits” it may offer. “While there are certainly many security problems on the Internet, the world is getting along fine without an online identity ‘ecosystem’ and nothing should be considered that threatens these values,” said senior policy analyst Jay Stanley with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Speech, Privacy and Technology Project when the plot first became public. “Certainly anything that resembles a national identity system or a ‘driver’s license for the Internet’ must be vehemently opposed.”

Continue reading here . . .


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Reply with quote  #99 

ACLU questions constitutionality of DHS license plate tracking


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Reply with quote  #100 

Obama's pledge to curtail data collection is meaningless


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