NSA

Obama To Talk NSA Reforms Friday, It May Disappoint You

President Obama is expected to present his proposal addressing reforms to the National Security Agency (NSA) this Friday following a lengthy review of the agency in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations last summer of agency data collection.

But, as James Oliphant writes in the National Journal, don’t expect to see anything really concrete addressing the overreach of the agencies’ powers into the lives of ordinary Americans. Not likely from a man who is now promoting a “9/11 justification” for the NSA program:

To lay the groundwork for that position, aides to the president told the Los Angeles Times this weekend that the NSA’s metadata collection scheme could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks. What’s more, Obama has adopted that “9/11 justification” for the NSA program, the paper reported.

That’s a blinking-red signal that the administration is not about to be accused of making the country more vulnerable by tampering with such a preventive weapon. Remember that George W. Bush, a Republican, walked back his warrantless wiretapping program in 2007 after a public outcry. This president, a Democrat, isn’t going to follow suit—especially given the new instability in Iraq and worries about the vacuum left by the coming pullout from Afghanistan.

U.S. IT Firms Lose Billions Due to NSA’s Surveillance Programs

The government’s intrusive NSA surveillance programs are not only causing Americans to fret over the limitless information government agencies are gathering daily without any warrants. According to The Independent, U.S. IT firms are also losing billions after reports proved they were involved with the bulk data collection programs.

The scandal is making it hard for American technology companies to sell their products to foreign companies and governments in Asia. Members of the export markets have begun to refuse making any deals with Americans because they simply cannot trust us anymore.

Tech giants like Cisco and IBM have seen a sales drop that surpassed the $1.7 billion mark since Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been gathering Internet data from millions of American users daily.

When foreigners don’t want what U.S. companies have to offer, especially after learning that surveillance programs have compromised their technology, China becomes the first place to go for an alternative. According to The Independent, IBM saw a drop of 15 percent of sales in Asia, while Cisco reported that it might have lost 10 percent of its customers in this current quarter.

The Asian market is not the only one that’s concerned with surveillance programs like Prism. According to the reports, the German government is urging tech developers to come up with an alternative local Internet and e-mail provider that would keep the consumer’s data private.

Federal judge dismisses legal challenge to NSA surveillance

A federal district judge ruled this morning that the National Security Agency’s phone metadata surveillance program is constitutional and dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley acknowledged that the NSA phone surveillance program “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States.” But he opined that the program could have prevented the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“As the September 11th attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a thread can be horrific,” wrote Pauley in ACLU v. Clapper. “Technology allowed al-Qaeda to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attack remotely.”

“The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the Government’s counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to re-construct and eliminate al-Qaeda’s terror network,” he added.

Pauley acknowledged that there have been “unintentional violations of guidelines,” but dismissed this at “human error” and “incredibly complex computer programs that support this vital tool.” He also wrote that the program is “subject to executive and congressional oversight” and “monitoring” by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

Pauley was appointed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in May 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. He was confirmed by the Senate in October 1998. The court on which Pauley serves is based in New York City.

White House releases brutal panel report on NSA spying

Just two days after a federal judge issued a scathing opinion in which he said the NSA phone metadata program is “likely unconstitutional,” the White House released the report from the five-member panel tasked with reviewing the agency’s data collection methods.

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology recommending 46 changes, some of which are significant, to the how the NSA gathers intelligence. The suggestions in the 303-page report, Liberty and Security in a Changing World, are non-binding.

“We have emphasized the need to develop principles designed to create strong foundations for the future,” said the panel members a letter to President Barack Obama. “Although we have explored past and current practices, and while that exploration has informed our recommendations, this Report should not be taken as a general review of, or as an attempt to provide a detailed assessment of, those practices.”

“We recognize that our forty-six recommendations, developed over a relatively short period of time, will require careful assessment by a wide range of relevant officials, with close reference to the likely consequences. Our goal has been to establish broad understandings and principles that can provide helpful orientation during the coming months, years, and decades,” the members added.

Initial reports indicated that the panel would suggest that the agency dismantle its vast controversial and heavily criticized phone record database, which stores information on virtually every American. Indeed, the panel even says that “the current storage by the government of bulk meta-data creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty.”

U.S. District Court Judge: NSA Mass Surveillance Program Likely Unconstitutional

I believe I can speak for every single libertarian out there when I say that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s decision on the unconstitutionality of the phone collection program is nothing short of exceptional.

According to Judge Leon, the NSA program that gathers phone data made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional due to its violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Justice Department also failed to demonstrate to Judge Leon how the intrusive program has actually helped the government to track terrorists before actual attacks take place.

Leon, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, issued a preliminary injunction that keeps the NSA from gathering metadata pertaining to the Verizon cell phone users that led to the lawsuit filed by the conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. Since the first leaks provided by Edward Snowden concerning the massive surveillance program carried out by the National Security Agency, nothing significant has been officially accomplished by lawmakers or activists trying to curb the agency’s snooping programs.

The recent ruling is the first time that a judge considers the metadata gathering program unconstitutional, considering that several judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled the program constitutional.

Tech firms finally call for NSA surveillance reforms

After months of mostly silence on the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs, which includes obtaining information of Americans’ phone calls and Internet records, leading tech firms have finally spoken out and launched a campaign for reform.

A half dozen firms — including Facebook, Google, Twiter, and Microsoft — have written letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress in which they explain that the federal government must reform laws to protect Americans’ privacy. The firms have also launched a website — ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com — that outlines the principles of reform.

“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,” wrote the firms in the letter. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

“For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” the letter continues.

NSA tracks cellphone location data around the globe

After The Guardian reported that only 1 percent of the files leaked by Edward Snowden have been published, the Washington Post reported that the NSA also tracks location data from mobile phone users around the world, allowing the agency to gather “nearly 5 billion records a day.”

The NSA is able to do that because it manages to tap into the mobile networks’ cables that happen to serve worldwide cellphones as well as U.S. phones. The NSA does that to collect information regarding its targets.

With this data in its power, the NSA locates and analyzes data from cellphones anywhere in the world. This represents an effort that might have no matching historical precedent since analysts can use this data to retrace cellphones’ movements and uncover potential relationships among users anywhere.

Elements of the intelligence community are not collecting the bulk cellphone location data intentionally, according to Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA. But the NSA collects this information anyway, mainly because one of the agency’s most powerful analytic tools, the CO-TRAVELER, can search unknown associates of intelligence targets by tracing intersecting cellphones.

Harvard poll: 52% of youngest Millennials would vote to recall Obama

Despite voting heavily for him in 2008 and 2012, Millennials — voters between the ages of 18 and 29 — have increasingly become disenfranchised with President Obama. This began early in the summer with the coverage of the NSA’s domestic surveillance and has worsened thanks to the disastrous Obamacare rollout.

But slide, it seems, is much worse than most standard surveys have shown. Ron Fournier of the National Journal broke down the results of a recent Harvard University poll which found that not only do Millennials disapprove of President Obama, but 52% would vote to recall him (emphasis added):

Obama’s approval rating among young Americans is just 41 percent, down 11 points from a year ago, and now tracking with all adults. While 55 percent said they voted for Obama in 2012, only 46 percent said they would do so again.

When asked if they could choose to recall various elected officials, 45 percent of all Millennials said they would oust their member of Congress, 52 percent replied “all members of Congress,” and 47 percent said they would recall Obama. The recall-Obama figure was even higher among the youngest Millennials, ages 18-24, at 52 percent.

While there is no provision for a public recall of U.S. presidents, the poll question revealed just how far Obama has fallen in the eyes of young Americans.

Uhhhh. President Obama, call your office because…wow.

Are the NSA data collection programs hurting the economy?

What happens when businesses aren’t able to provide the service that customers were promised? That’s right: customers get mad.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published a report indicating that the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance programs aren’t simply putting an end only to our privacy rights; they are also causing major damage to the economy.

Once revelations surfaced and the public was made aware that the spying programs were collecting phone and Internet data from average Americans, major sectors of the U.S economy started to feel the financial damage caused by the loss of consumer confidence. According to EEF, companies that have been compromised by the revelations regarding the surveillance programs are watching as U.S. trade partners simply distance themselves to avoid any potential problems or even lawsuits in the future.

Vodafone, a major European company, was on its way to becoming a sister company to AT&T, whose desire to purchase the European giant was well documented, until the moment details concerning the NSA’s data-collection programs came to light. According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T could face major issues trying to purchase Vodafone since the company has been under scrutiny for participating in the NSA’s surveillance programs.

What Does Pope Francis Have to Hide?

Pope Francis

As troubling as it is to have leadership in the White House insisting it’s so above the fray that it must learn from the news (just like you and me, kids!) when serious allegations of improper behavior by government entities is occurring, this latest “mea culpa because I just didn’t know” is kind of fun. For Catholics, anyway:

In light of a recent report, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) fears the National Security Agency may be spying on President Barack Obama. “They could well be spying on the president, for all I know,” Paul says, in an interview with National Review Online. “He has a cell phone, and, in fact, my guess is that they have collected data on the president’s phone.”


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