James Clapper

NSA knew about and used Heartbleed web exploit

The tech web has been abuzz this week about what has been dubbed “Heartbleed,” a code exploit in the OpenSSL encryption system, which could have allowed hackers and cyberterrorists to access login credentials from some of the biggest websites in the world over the last two years. Lists were quickly constructed to explain to users which sites were affected and which passwords they needed to change immediately.

It turns out the NSA has known about the Heartbleed vulnerability for years, but never warned anyone that millions of Americans’ online identities could be at risk. Indeed, not only did they not sound the alarm, the  NSA used the bug to access those online accounts in its already questionable surveillance activities.

Today in Liberty: Rand Paul-backed House candidate wins in Florida, SCOTUS upholds affirmative action ban

“We cannot wish away the objections of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, or browbeat them into submission. Even in our constitutional system, persuasion is a minority’s first and best strategy. It has served us well and we should not be done with it.”Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both

— Clawson wins special election in FL-19: Curt Clawson, a self-funder backed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tea Party Express, won the special election in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, to fill the seat left open by Trey Radel’s resignation. Clawson took 38 percent of the vote to state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto’s 26 percent. Benacquisto was backed by Sarah Palin. “I got into this race because I felt like we needed more Outsiders in Congress,” said Clawson, according to The Hill. “The career politicians aren’t getting the job done, and I don’t see a whole lot of people in Washington with the experience as a CEO in making the tough decisions to save our country.” No Democrat ran in the special election.

NSA exploiting loophole to search for Americans’ communications

When President Barack Obama stood before the media to defend NSA’s surveillance programs in June, his words reassured Americans that federal agents were not listening to their calls and that the content of their emails was not being read. He stated that the only thing that the agency was actually doing was to look at the duration of calls and specific phone numbers.

By suggesting that the NSA was not capable of examining the contents of emails and calls, President Obama misled the population, or at least that’s what a letter written by the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has confirmed.

According to the letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the NSA used legal authority to obtain data and search for Americans’ details within the agency’s database. According to Clapper, the queries into details pertaining to US persons that were used to obtain further information on non-US persons were carried out lawfully. All procedures were reportedly consistent with what FISA court had already approved.

According to Clapper’s letter, looking for specific data on foreigners by performing searches that made contents of emails and phone records of US persons accessible is also consistent with the fourth amendment.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act covers most of the bulk collection of records carried out by the NSA. According to Clapper’s interpretation of the Section 702, agents can collect data pertaining to phone or email of US persons without an individual warrant. This procedure takes place when agents have reasons to belief foreign persons are holding the communications as well.

Senate Democrat: White House’s NSA reforms don’t go far enough

Ron Wyden

Though he believes the White House’s proposed NSA reforms are a good start, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) says that President Barack Obama could do more to protect Americans’ right to privacy and gain back their trust.

“This starts towards what Ben Franklin had in mind, which is making sure that we can have security without sacrificing our liberties,” Wyden told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “Now, there’s certainly more to do. For example, I believe the president ought to make the transition right away to ending bulk phone record collection.”

The Obama administration asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to extend the controversial domestic surveillance program for another 90 days while Congress examines legislative options. Wyden said that President Obama should end the bulk data collection program “right now.”

Wyden, who has been among the strongest critics of the NSA bulk data collection program, also said that Congress has to fix the “backdoor search loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” (FISA).

“This allows the government to look at the emails of law-abiding Americans. That needs to be fixed,” Wyden noted. “I believe strongly that we ought to ban all dragnet surveillance on law-abiding Americans, not just phone records, but also medical records, purchases, and others.”

Rand Paul Asks Berkeley Audience to Take a Stand for Liberty

Rand Paul speaks at UC-Berkeley

Most conservative online news outlets or blogs covering Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) address to Berkeley Forum participants at the University of California-Berkeley have mostly focused on the praise the senator received from liberals as he addressed the NSA and CIA spying controversies, but what most publications have failed to cover was the praise Paul got for pointing out that the GOP is like bad Domino’s pizza crust.

That’s right. He went there: “I think the Republican Party finally admitted, okay? Bad crust - we need a different kind of party!”

The comment followed a quote from an op-ed penned by Paul himself that claimed the GOP must evolve, or die. His comments on the importance of evolving and becoming relevant again are a reminder to conservatives and libertarians that attacking the current administration for its power grab, its dedication to carry on ignoring the Constitution and for mistaking equal protection for equal disdain — as Paul put it during his address — alone will not change a thing.

Intel chief: Maybe we should’ve told Americans we’re spying on them

The Obama administration’s chief intelligence official says that the backlash over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs could have been avoided if the government had been transparent about what it was doing.

In an exclusive interview with Eli Lake of The Daily Beast, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the government should have come clean sooner about the snooping programs, rather than losing public trust due to disclosures made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Clapper told Lake. “Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 — which is the genesis of the 215 program — and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards…[w]e wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”

The comments are interesting because Clapper did have a chance to avoid the disclosures made by Snowden in March 2013. During an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Clapper if the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

“No, sir,” replied Clapper, adding “[t]here are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

Today in Liberty: Conservative groups won 2013 fundraising, Obama on Clapper, Vermont takes on NSA

“A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort…is not strictly speaking a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang violence.” — Ayn Rand

— Insurgent conservative groups won the 2013 fundraising war: The New York Times pointed out over the weekend that outside conservative grassroots groups outraised their establishment-leaning counterparts in 2013. “Insurgent conservatives seeking to pull the Republican Party to the right raised more money last year than the groups controlled by the party establishment, whose bulging bank accounts and ties to major donors have been their most potent advantage in the running struggle over the party’s future, according to new campaign disclosures and interviews with officials,” noted the Times. “Groups representing the party establishment, like Karl Rove’s Crossroads, are struggling to bring in the level of cash they raised in 2012, when Crossroads spent more than $300 million in a failed effort to defeat President Obama and retake the Senate, leaving donors grumbling that their dollars had been wasted.”

Clapper Says NSA Revelations Hurt National Security

In light of recent reports concerning Edward Snowden’s Nobel Peace Prize nomination, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper offered the Senate a glimpse into his personal view of what revelations concerning the NSA surveillance programs have done to hurt national security, without offering any evidence to back his statement.

According to Clapper, changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs that President Obama seems eager to embrace might make it more difficult for the government to detect terrorists.

During a Senate hearing on threats to U.S. national security, the Director of National Intelligence said that the changes would deliberately result in an increased risk of having terrorists evading detection.

While claiming that the changes will affect how the Intelligence does business to detect terrorists, Clapper failed to elaborate on what specific threats Americans would be vulnerable to if reforms to the laws were to be carried out.

During the hearing, Clapper addressed Snowden’s claims concerning the end of his role as the most talked about whistleblower in recent history by urging the former NSA’s contractor to “return [of] the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.”

House Republicans ask DOJ to investigate James Clapper

A group of seven House Republicans have fired off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in which they urged the Justice Department to investigate whether Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied in congressional testimony.

“Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony—witnesses cannot be allowed to lie to Congress,” the House Republicans wrote to Holder on Thursday. “Accordingly, we request you investigate Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s ‘erroneous’ statements to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this year.”

The seven Republicans who signed the letter are Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Ted Poe (R-TX).

Clapper was asked a very direct question by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” replied Clapper. Still, Wyden pressed him. Clapper again denied that the NSA was collecting data on Americans, saying, “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

White House unwilling to restrain the NSA anytime soon

The USA Freedom Act, which is cosponsored by 102 House members, would correct some issues with the Patriot Act by curbing the National Security Agency’s ability to administer communication sweeps and ensuring that searches of data of Americans would not be performed without warrants.

In spite of the great support this bill has been receiving, President Obama recently decided to maintain a previous arrangement that allows a single military official to direct the National Security Agency while also directing the military’s cyberwarfare command. This follows a recent statement delivered by President Obama himself concerning his commitment to restrain the spying agency’s power.

The Obama Administration decided to maintain the controversial arrangement despite criticism, showing that it might not be inclined to restrain the NSA’s activities anytime soon.

Top U.S. intelligence officials urged the administration to maintain the Cyber Command and the NSA under separate leadership due to accountability concerns. The administration was also warned that problems could stem from the undue concentration of power in case it decided to uphold the arrangement.

The administration vaguely described its decision to maintain one person as the NSA director and the Cyber Command commander as “the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”

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