Current location: Potlandia
Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
Number of posts: 11,137
Current location: Potlandia
Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
Number of posts: 11,137
- 2015 (58)
- 2014 (126)
- 2013 (219)
- 2012 (109)
- 2011 (2)
- December (2)
- Older Archives
US senators rail against intelligence disclosures over NSA practices
Officials say bulk phone records collection was not 'the most important tool' – contradicting previous statements to Congress
Spencer Ackerman and Paul Lewis * The Guardian * Wednesday 31 July 2013 12.50 ED
The bipartisan leaders of a powerful Senate committee questioned the truthfulness of the US intelligence community in a heated Wednesday morning hearing as officials conceded that their controversial bulk phone records collection of millions of Americans was not "the most important tool" – contradicting statements they previously gave to Congress.
Two senators said they now planned to introduce new legislation before the August recess that would significantly transform the transparency and oversight of the bulk surveillance program. The chairman of the committee has already advocated for ending the bulk phone records collection and plans his own legislative push to shut it down.
Just before the hearing began, the US director of national intelligence declassified and released documents shedding more light on how the bulk surveillance occurs. Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, denounced the move as "ad hoc transparency."
Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, said: "We need straightforward answers, and I'm concerned we're not getting them."
Leahy, joined by ranking Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, criticised director of national intelligence James Clapper for making untruthful statements to Congress in March about the bulk phone records collection on Americans, and NSA director Keith Alexander for overstating the usefulness of that collection for stopping terrorist attacks.
Grassley called Clapper's recent apology to senator Ron Wyden and the intelligence community "especially disturbing".
"Nothing can excuse this kind of behavior from a senior administration official," Grassley said. "Especially on a matter of such importance."
"Each tool plays a different role," Joyce said. Discussing the phone records bulk collection, he said: "I'm not saying it's the most important tool."
Senators Wyden and Mark Udall, members of the intelligence committee, have repeatedly said that there is no evidence that the controversial bulk phone records collection has disrupted any terrorist plots. They criticized intelligence officials for conflating to Congress the value of the phone records database and the internet communications surveillance. Last week, the House of Representatives came within seven votes of defunding the program.
"We are open to re-evaluating this program in ways that creates greater public confidence and trust," Robert Litt, the top lawyer for the US intelligence community, testified.
Wyden and Udall argued Tuesday night on the Senate floor for ending the bulk phone records collection. They accused intelligence officials, including Clapper, of deceiving Congress about the extent of abuses of NSA's databases, which Clapper described as accidental.
Before the Wednesday hearing, the first in the Senate on the bulk NSA surveillance, Clapper declassified new documents about the programs. One of them was a heavily redacted April order from the Fisa court on the rules for NSA to handle the bulk phone records it collects, complementing the one published by the Guardian in June.
Two senators said they would introduce legislation as early as Thursday that would change the transparency rules and the structure of Court oversight around the bulk surveillance.
Franken said he would introduce a bill forcing the NSA to disclose how many Americans have had their data collected, and how many Americans' data the NSA has analysed once placed in its databases. Last year, the NSA denied it had any way of estimating that number, and told Wyden that providing it would violate Americans' privacy.
Documents published by the Guardian that Snowden provided, however, revealed an NSA analytic tool called Boundless Informant that displays the country of origin of collected communications.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said he would also submit a second bill on Thursday to significantly reform the Fisa court process, including the introduction of security-cleared special advocates, to challenge the position of the administration.
He said the Fisa court needed to become more adversarial. "I think the current design of the Fisa courts is stacked against the protection of our civil liberties and can be improved and enhanced, without sacrificing either speed or security."
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Wed Jul 31, 2013, 01:27 PM (0 replies)
Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial
By: Julian Assange Tuesday July 30, 2013 4:39 pm
Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.
The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.
Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.
This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.
President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.
In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.
Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.
The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.
The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.
The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.
The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ‘no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?
Crossposted from Wikileaks.org
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Tue Jul 30, 2013, 07:02 PM (12 replies)
The Charitable-Industrial Complex
By PETER BUFFETT * NYT Op-Ed * July 26, 2013
I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.
Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.
Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.
But now I think something even more damaging is going on.
Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.
Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?
I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.
Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.
My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.
It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.
What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.
There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).
Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.
It’s an old story; we really need a new one.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Tue Jul 30, 2013, 03:09 PM (0 replies)
Chris Hedges: The Business of Mass Incarceration
Jul 28, 2013 * Truth Dig dot com
Debbie Bourne, 45, was at her apartment in the Liberty Village housing projects in Plainfield, N.J., on the afternoon of April 30 when police banged on the door and pushed their way inside. The officers ordered her, her daughter, 14, and her son, 22, who suffers from autism, to sit down and not move and then began ransacking the home. Bourne’s husband, from whom she was estranged and who was in the process of moving out, was the target of the police, who suspected him of dealing cocaine. As it turned out, the raid would cast a deep shadow over the lives of three innocents—Bourne and her children.
* * *
The murder of a teenage boy by an armed vigilante, George Zimmerman, is only one crime set within a legal and penal system that has criminalized poverty. Poor people, especially those of color, are worth nothing to corporations and private contractors if they are on the street. In jails and prisons, however, they each can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This use of the bodies of the poor to make money for corporations fuels the system of neoslavery that defines our prison system.
Prisoners often work inside jails and prisons for nothing or at most earn a dollar an hour. The court system has been gutted to deny the poor adequate legal representation. Draconian drug laws send nonviolent offenders to jail for staggering periods of time. Our prisons routinely use solitary confinement, forms of humiliation and physical abuse to keep prisoners broken and compliant, methods that international human rights organizations have long defined as torture. Individuals and corporations that profit from prisons in the United States perpetuate a form of neoslavery. The ongoing hunger strike by inmates in the California prison system is a slave revolt, one that we must encourage and support. The fate of the poor under our corporate state will, if we remain indifferent and passive, become our own fate. This is why on Wednesday I will join prison rights activists, including Cornel West and Michael Moore, in a one-day fast in solidarity with the hunger strike in the California prison system.
In poor communities where there are few jobs, little or no vocational training, a dearth of educational opportunities and a lack of support structures there are, by design, high rates of recidivism—the engine of the prison-industrial complex. There are tens of millions of poor people for whom this country is nothing more than a vast, extended penal colony. Gun possession is largely criminalized for poor people of color while vigilante thugs, nearly always white, swagger through communities with loaded weapons. There will never be serious gun control in the United States. Most white people know what their race has done to black people for centuries. They know that those trapped today in urban ghettos, what Malcolm X called our internal colonies, endure neglect, poverty, violence and deprivation. Most whites are terrified that African-Americans will one day attempt to defend themselves or seek vengeance. Scratch the surface of survivalist groups and you uncover frightened white supremacists.
The failure on the part of the white liberal class to decry the exploding mass incarceration of the poor, and especially of African-Americans, means that as our empire deteriorates more and more whites will end up in prison alongside those we have condemned because of our indifference. And the mounting abuse of the poor is fueling an inchoate rage that will eventually lead to civil unrest.
“Again I say that each and every Negro, during the last 300 years, possesses from that heritage a greater burden of hate for America than they themselves know,” Richard Wright wrote. “Perhaps it is well that Negroes try to be as unintellectual as possible, for if they ever started really thinking about what happened to them they’d go wild. And perhaps that is the secret of whites who want to believe that Negroes have no memory; for if they thought that Negroes remembered they would start out to shoot them all in sheer self-defense.”
The United States has spent $300 billion since 1980 to expand its prison system. We imprison 2.2 million people, 25 percent of the world’s prison population. For every 100,000 adults in this country there are 742 behind bars. Five million are on parole. Only 30 to 40 percent are white.
The intrusion of corporations and private contractors into the prison system is a legacy of the Clinton administration. President Bill Clinton’s omnibus crime bill provided $30 billion to expand the prison system, including $10 billion to build prisons. The bill expanded from two to 58 the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty can be administered. It eliminated a ban on the execution of the mentally impaired. The bill gave us the “three-strikes” laws that mandate life sentences for anyone convicted of three “violent” felonies. It set up the tracking of sex offenders. It allowed the courts to try children as young as 13 as adults. It created special courts to deport noncitizens alleged to be “engaged in terrorist activity” and authorized the use of secret evidence. The prison population under Clinton swelled from 1.4 million to 2 million.
Incarceration has become a very lucrative business for an array of private contractors, most of whom send lobbyists to Washington to make sure the laws and legislation continue to funnel a steady supply of poor people into the prison complex. These private contractors, taking public money, build the prisons, provide food service, hire guards and run and administer detention facilities. It is imperative to their profits that there be a steady supply of new bodies.
* * *
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 07:54 PM (3 replies)
We-e-e Belie-e-e-ve you Chief! Got it. NOT a clown. Not to mention manifesting
the very thing you are railing against (being a "vile tyrant") in your rant.
Could have fooled me.
~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ *
Pennsylvania police chief Mark Kessler insists he is not a ‘circus clown, deranged lunatic’
By Eric W. Dolan * July 29, 2013 17:28 EDT * Raw Story
A Pennsylvania police chief who made international news after posting profanity- and gunfire-filled videos to YouTube says he is now “under attack.”
Mark Kessler in his videos berated Secretary of State John Kerry over a United Nations conspiracy theory, repeatedly shot a picture of scary clown that he said was Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), told “libtards” they “take it in the *ss,” talked about shooting a “libtard out of a tree,” and later offered a faux apology filled with F-bombs and automatic gunfire.
During his radio show on Monday, Kessler said he and his family had received death threats. People have also been harassing his employer. Kessler complained the media had made “ out to be some kind of circus clown, deranged lunatic.”
The police chief of Gilberton, Pennsylvania also continued his tradition of berating Democrats and liberals.
“Democrats are the most vile creatures in this country,” he said. “They are vile. They are evil, evil, un-American. I don’t even want to call them people because that’s being to kind. They’re scum. You go against your country. They hate their country.”
Kessler also called WNEP’s Bob Reynolds a “communist c*cksucker” for reporting on his videos. Kessler said Democrats are “nothing but scum” and were the “most vile creatures in this country.” He described a member of the North Schuylkill School Board who told him to resign as a “tyrant.”
The disparaging videos have raised questions about Kessler’s willingness to protect every member of his community. Though he hates Democrats and liberals, Kessler insisted he was just as willing to protect “libtards” as anyone else.
Near the end of his show, Kessler received a call from a self-professed “libtard” who noted that while the police chief had ranted and raved about tyranny, he himself said all liberals and Democrats were enemies of the state. Kessler doubled down, and said the Founding Fathers of the United States would have been shooting liberals “years ago.”
When the “libtard” said the United States was home to people who believed in various political philosophies, Kessler accused him of “spewing communist socialism b*llshit.”
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 05:42 PM (11 replies)
Noam Chomsky: The State Fears Its Own People
Chomsky on terror, Snowden, and why "security" is usually an excuse for government repression.
July 29, 2013 * Noam Chomsky * Alternet
In a recent media appearance Noam Chomsky said that whistleblower Edward Snowden, who remains in Russia after releasing a trove of documents about secret NSA surveillance, should be honored.
"He was doing what every citizen ought to do," Chomsky says in the video below. "He was telling Americans what the government is doing."
Chomsky goes on to explain that governments always claim security as their justification for civil liberties abuses, but that overwhelmingly the security in question is that of the state ... from its own population. To smatterings of applause, Chomsky goes on to explain how America's drone campaign abroad is a far bigger threat to our security than leaked information about surveillance.
Watch Chomsky discuss the relationship between the state, the people, and "security" below.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 02:41 PM (31 replies)
Nothing fishy going on here. Nothing to see. Move along.
~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ * ~~~~ *
Hacker Barnaby Jack's cause of death could remain unknown for months
Celebrated hacker who infiltrated implanted medical devices and ATMs was found dead Thursday in San Francisco
by Amanda Holpuch * The Guardian * Monday 29 July 2013 13.42 EDT
The San Francisco medical examiner's office has said it could be several months before the cause of death for acclaimed hacker Barnaby Jack is released.
Jack, who was born in New Zealand, was famous for hacking implanted medical devices and ATMs. He was found dead in San Francisco on 25 July.
A San Francisco police department spokesperson told the Guardian Jack was found dead by "a loved one" in an apartment in the city's Nob Hill neighborhood and that no foul play was suspected.
Jack lived in San Francisco, where he worked as the director of embedded security research at security firm IOActive. The company said Jack was survived by his mother and sister in New Zealand and his girlfriend in California.
"This is an extremely sad time for us all at IOActive, and the many people in our industry that Barnaby touched in so many ways with both his work and vibrant personality," IOActive CEO Jennifer Steffens said in a statement. "But as a personal friend of Barnaby's for many years I know he'd want sadness to quickly turn to celebration of his life, work and the tremendous contributions he's made spanning well beyond his widely acclaimed professional accomplishments."
She said the company will continue working with the industry to "ensure the advancements Barnaby started in this field will continue saving lives for years to come".
Jack became well-known in 2010 after hacking an ATM so it would spit out money at the Black Hat hacking convention in Las Vegas. He received further acclaim last year by showing how an insulin pump is vulnerable to a hack that would allow a hacker to dispense a fatal dosage of insulin from 300ft away.
He was due to present his latest research on hacking implanted medical devices at this year's Black Hat convention on Thursday. Jack was set to show how he could hack into pacemakers and implanted defibrillators from 30ft away. That slot is now being used as a time to commemorate his life and work.
"Barnaby Jack meant so much to so many people, and we hope this forum will offer an opportunity for us all to recognize the legacy that he leaves behind," said Black Hat in a statement.
During presentations on implanted medical device hacks, Jack obscured some details to prevent people from replicating the attacks. His work also moved several companies to examine the security of their devices.
A fund created in his honor has collected nearly $11,000 and the donations will be used according to the wishes of his family.
San Francisco police said that it responded to a deceased person call at 7.41pm on 25 July. The police did not suspect foul play, so the case was handed over to the city's medical examiners office.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 02:00 PM (3 replies)
8 appalling ways America leads the world
Welcome to the new American exceptionalism: Number one in obesity, guns, prisoners, anxiety and more ...
Lynn Stuart Parramore * Salon * Monday, July 29, 2013 07:30 AM PDT
People uninterested in change and progress tend to cling to the jingoistic fantasy that America is an exceptional country. Often this implies that the U.S. is somehow superior to other nations. Some, like the neocons, have taken the idea of exceptionalism to mean that America should be above the law and that other countries should be remade in our image. Others, like conservative evangelicals, believe that America’s supposed exceptionalism is God’s will.
In recent decades, America has indeed pulled ahead of the global pack in a number of areas. But they aren’t necessarily things to go waving the flag over or thanking Jehovah.
1. Most expensive place to have a baby
3. Anxiety disorders
4. Small arms ownership.
5. Most people behind bars.
6. Energy use per person.
7. Health expenditures.
8. Cocaine use.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 01:46 PM (9 replies)
Wyden calls Fisa court 'anachronistic' as pressure builds on Senate to act
Dick Durbin joins growing outcry among senators to rein in power of secretive court meant to serve as a check on NSA
Ed Pilkington * The Guardian * Sunday 28 July 2013 13.25 EDT
Pressure is building within the US Senate for an overhaul of the secret court that is supposed to act as a check on the National Security Agency's executive power, with one prominent senator describing the judicial panel as "anachronistic" and outdated.
Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator for Oregon, said discussions were under way about how to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, the body entrusted with providing oversight on the NSA and its metadata-collecting activities. He told C-Span's Newsmaker programme on Sunday that the court, which was set up in 1978 under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), was ill-equipped to deal with the massive digital dragnet of millions of Americans' phone records developed by the NSA in recent years.
"In many particulars, the Fisa court is anachronistic – they are using processes that simply don't fit the times," Wyden said.
The Oregon senator is at the forefront of a growing chorus of political voices criticising the Fisa court for being biased towards the executive branch to the exclusion of all other positions. "It is the most one-sided legal process in the US, I don't know of any other legal system or court that doesn't highlight anything except one point of view – the executive point of view."
Wyden added: "When that point of view also dominates the thinking of justices, you've got a fairly combustible situation on your hands."
The court's secretive deliberations were first revealed in June by the Guardian which published its order approving the collection of phone Verizon phone records. The order was among a raft of top secret documents leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Since the Guardian's disclosure, attention has grown on the composition and practices of the Fisa court. The New York Times has shown how the court has secretly expanded its operations until it now holds the status almost of a parallel supreme court.
The Times has also analysed the make-up of the court and discovered an alarming bias within the ranks of its judges in favour of government. More than a third of the justices appointed to the court since its inception have had executive branch experience.
On Sunday, the prominent Democratic senator for Illinois, Dick Durbin, added his voice to the mounting criticism of the Fisa court, telling ABC's This Week: "There should be a real court proceeding. In this case, it's fixed in a way, it's loaded. There's only one case coming before the Fisa, the government's case. Let's have an advocate for someone standing up for civil liberties to speak up about the privacy of Americans."
The outcry from Durbin and Wyden chimes with other moves within the US Senate to reform the way the court is constructed. Adam Schiff, a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, has tabled legislation that would transfer the power to nominate judges to the court from the chief justice of the US supreme court, John Roberts, as is the current arrangement, to President Obama subject to senate approval.
The groundswell for reform received a boost from last week's narrow vote in the House of Representatives over a move to cut off federal funding for the NSA's metadata-gathering activities. The proposal to knock back the agency's collection of the phone records of millions of Americans was defeated by 217 to 205 votes, but more than half of the Democratic caucus in the House as well as 94 Republicans voted in favour of reform.
Wyden said that the vote has acted as a stimulus to discussions about NSA reform. "You are going to see a very strong and bipartisan effort in the Senate to pick up on the work of the House."
This week, the congressional debate about how to deal with anxieties over the NSA's data collection methods is certain to flair up again. On Wednesday, two congressional hearings will be held in which both sides of the argument are likely to be forcefully presented.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 01:34 PM (4 replies)
Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance
By JONATHAN WEISMAN * New York Times * July 28, 2013
WASHINGTON — The movement to crack down on government surveillance started with an odd couple from Michigan, Representatives Justin Amash, a young libertarian Republican known even to his friends as “chief wing nut,” and John Conyers Jr., an elder of the liberal left in his 25th House term.
But what began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.
The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency’s telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions.
Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, have begun work on legislation in the House Judiciary Committee to significantly rein in N.S.A. telephone surveillance. Mr. Sensenbrenner said on Friday that he would have a bill ready when Congress returned from its August recess that would restrict phone surveillance to only those named as targets of a federal terrorism investigation, make significant changes to the secret court that oversees such programs and give businesses like Microsoft and Google permission to reveal their dealings before that court.
“There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here,” Ms. Lofgren said.
The sudden reconsideration of post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism policy has taken much of Washington by surprise. As the revelations by Mr. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor, were gaining attention in the news media, the White House and leaders in both parties stood united behind the programs he had unmasked. They were focused mostly on bringing the leaker to justice.
Backers of sweeping surveillance powers now say they recognize that changes are likely, and they are taking steps to make sure they maintain control over the extent of any revisions. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee met on Wednesday as the House deliberated to try to find accommodations to growing public misgivings about the programs, said the committee’s chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California.
Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat and longtime critic of the N.S.A. surveillance programs, said he had taken part in serious meetings to discuss changes.
Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the panel, said, “We’re talking through it right now.” He added, “There are a lot of ideas on the table, and it’s pretty obvious that we’ve got some uneasy folks.”
Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has assured House colleagues that an intelligence policy bill he plans to draft in mid-September will include new privacy safeguards.
Aides familiar with his efforts said the House Intelligence Committee was focusing on more transparency for the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees data gathering, including possibly declassifying that court’s orders, and changes to the way the surveillance data is stored. The legislation may order such data to be held by the telecommunications companies that produce them or by an independent entity, not the government.
Lawmakers say their votes to restrain the N.S.A. reflect a gut-level concern among voters about personal privacy.
“I represent a very reasonable district in suburban Philadelphia, and my constituents are expressing a growing concern on the sweeping amounts of data that the government is compiling,” said Representative Michael G. Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican who represents one of the few true swing districts left in the House and who voted on Wednesday to limit N.S.A. surveillance.
Votes from the likes of Mr. Fitzpatrick were not initially anticipated when Republican leaders chided reporters for their interest in legislation that they said would go nowhere. As the House slowly worked its way on Wednesday toward an evening vote to curb government surveillance, even proponents of the legislation jokingly predicted that only the “wing nuts” — the libertarians of the right, the most ardent liberals on the left — would support the measure.
Then Mr. Sensenbrenner, a Republican veteran and one of the primary authors of the post-Sept. 11 Patriot Act, stepped to a microphone on the House floor. Never, he said, did he intend to allow the wholesale vacuuming up of domestic phone records, nor did his legislation envision that data dragnets would go beyond specific targets of terrorism investigations.
“The time has come to stop it, and the way we stop it is to approve this amendment,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said.
Posted by 99th_Monkey | Mon Jul 29, 2013, 01:26 PM (7 replies)