Public Interest Lawsuit Forces Disclosure Of Widespread Surveillance Violations By The NSA

President_Barack_ObamaNSA logoWhile it was not long ago that President Obama,  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other officials insisted that there was no illegal surveillance in the massive warrantless programs disclosed by Snowdon and others, new documents show that the National Security Agency not only violated the law for years but actively misled judges on the use of such illegal surveillance.  The programs covered millions of call records and was only acknowledged by the Administration after a lawsuit by civil libertarians — a lawsuit that it has tried to dismiss (like dozens of others tossed out at the demand of the Obama Administration).

The documents were finally released by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. You remember Clapper. He is the one who admitted to lying under oath to Congress but has been protected from any investigation let alone charged for perjury by Attorney General Eric Holder. Fresh from his perjury, Clapper is now leading the effort to address any need for reform in the unlawful programs that he helped maintain.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued NSA to obtain the documents from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court. The violations occurred between May 2006 and January 2009 and affected as many as 16,000 phone numbers, including some based in the U.S. The FISA court, which is widely ridiculed as a laughable and toothless body, was only notified in 2009.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, serving on the surveillance court, wrote of being “deeply troubled by the incidents.” That is remarkably understated for a massive violation of privacy and notably it all occurred out of the view of the public. The FISA court has only turned down a couple applications among tens of thousands over decades of secret proceedings. It has more rhetorical than legal authority.

The NSA in this latest scandal intercepted calls without meeting even the low standard of a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a phone number is believed to be connected to terrorism. This was not accidental interceptions but deliberate violations.

More than 2,700 violations involving NSA surveillance of Americans and foreigners were found in a single year of review. No one of course was charged and there is no evidence of discipline. It is all part of America’s secret court system.

Notably, few of these violations would likely have been disclosed without the disclosure of Snowden. Not surprisingly, these embarrassing stories only increase the demand of President Obama and powerful Democratic leaders for the head of Snowdon. The disclosures show that congressional oversight remains a bad joke and that our leaders have continued to mislead the public about the pathetic state of privacy in this country.

Source: Washington Post

48 thoughts on “Public Interest Lawsuit Forces Disclosure Of Widespread Surveillance Violations By The NSA

  1. Anyone for revoking the Patriot Act?

    Putting the NSA back on the short leash?

    Prosecuting pols who enable this kind of Constitutional violation?

    Anyone?

  2. Good comments Gene.

    It seems impossible, but By comparison to NSA Director Keith Alexander, Director Clapper is starting to look like a paragon of honesty.

    Tells us about the standards of integrity towards the American people that exist in Washington.

  3. It is all part of America’s secret court system.” – JT

    That “secret court system” was ridiculed as a conspiracy theory not so very long ago.

  4. This is interesting from The Guardian:

    A former senior FBI official implicated in surveillance abuses is poised to become a federal judge in one of the US’s most important courts for terrorism cases.

    Valerie Caproni, the FBI’s top lawyer from 2003 to 2011, is scheduled to receive a vote on Monday in the Senate for a seat on the southern district court of New York.

    Caproni has come under bipartisan criticism over the years for enabling widespread surveillance later found to be inappropriate or illegal. During her tenure as the FBI’s general counsel, she clashed with Congress and even the Fisa surveillance court over the proper scope of the FBI’s surveillance powers.

    Just what we need. Apparently a female version of John Yoo on the Federal bench. On the menu, “I’ll have a large helping of rationalization sauce to pour over the surveillance à la mode, with a side order of torture.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/fbi-lawyer-surveillance-judge-valerie-caproni

  5. Regarding the purity of Keith Alexander: “Judge Reggie Walton, now the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court, imposed a significant and previously undisclosed restriction on the NSA’s ability to access its bulk databases of phone records after finding that the agency repeatedly violated privacy protections.

    The documents, mostly from 2009 and declassified Tuesday, describe what Walton said were “thousands” of American phone numbers improperly accessed by government counterterrorism analysts.

    They also indicate that US government officials, including NSA director Keith Alexander, gave misleading statements to the court about how they carried out that surveillance.” (The Guardian)

  6. The US govt. has not proven itself honest, credible or as having the best interest of ifs citizens in mind. For this reason, I remain bemused as to why this govt. and its president continue to be looked at as if they are each of these things. How many instances of lawlessness, lies and truly appalling behavior does it take before people will admit to the truth?

    It’s surrealistic that Obama and deep state USA is treated as trustworthy when the evidence shows again and again that they are not. The NSA isn’t doing this to catch terrorists any more than Obama is humanitarianly making war on Syria because he really, really cares about civilians in Syria.

    After a while, it becomes necessary to face difficult truths and act with that knowledge in our minds and hearts. There is a weird pathology that people bring to their dealings with the powerful. It keeps people from seeing what is directly in front of us.

    In order to bring the US back into compliance with US and international law, this pathological refusal to see reality must end.

    Here is the link to the Guardian article in my prior post:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/10/nsa-violated-court-rules-data-documents

  7. Gene,
    The only way to begin to reign in these abuses is to start with the Patriot Act, as amended, and tear it up. Then move on to the AUMF and tear it up. That would be a good start. Clapper should be behind bars.

  8. the great lie:
    9-11 is the great lie that is the foundation for all the other lies of the last decade, and the march to US corporate fascism within a Stasi police state. This great lie must be revealed, accepted and expunged before we, as country, can ever recover our footing.
    from a registered architect –
    see Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth
    http://www.ae911truth.org

  9. Otteray Scribe 1, September 11, 2013 at 10:07 am

    This is interesting from The Guardian:

    ===========================
    Bybee on the largest appellate court, luddites like her in the federal district courts.

    To protect the guilty and destroy the innocent (lest we forget) because of our “national interests”???????

  10. rafflaw 1, September 11, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Gene,
    The only way to begin to reign in these abuses is to start with the Patriot Act, as amended, and tear it up. Then move on to the AUMF and tear it up. That would be a good start. Clapper should be behind bars.
    =======================
    Indeed.

  11. Keith Alexander’s “command center”:

    It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed. -from the following article

    The Cowboy of the NSA

    Inside Gen. Keith Alexander’s all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine.

    by Shane Harris, September 9, 2013

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/08/the_cowboy_of_the_nsa_keith_alexander?page=0,0

    Excerpt

    When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

    “Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,” says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.

    Alexander wowed members of Congress with his eye-popping command center.

  12. Gene,

    Yep….

    And how can you have the wolf guarding the henhouse…. I suppose its ok to lie to congress of your name is clapper….

  13. Big News: “The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

    Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/nsa-americans-personal-data-israel-documents

  14. anonymously posted 1, September 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Keith Alexander’s “command center”:

    When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

    “Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,” says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.

    Alexander wowed members of Congress with his eye-popping command center.
    ================================
    This is not unusual in a modern feudalistic society where the military calls the shots: Then-defense secretary Robert M. Gates stopped bagging his leaves when he moved into a small Washington military enclave in 2007. His next-door neighbor was Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, who had a chef, a personal valet and — not lost on Gates — troops to tend his property.

    Gates may have been the civilian leader of the world’s largest military, but his position did not come with household staff. So, he often joked, he disposed of his leaves by blowing them onto the chairman’s lawn.

    “I was often jealous because he had four enlisted people helping him all the time,” Gates said in response to a question after a speech Thursday. He wryly complained to his wife that “Mullen’s got guys over there who are fixing meals for him, and I’m shoving something into the microwave. And I’m his boss.”

    Of the many facts that have come to light in the scandal involving former CIA director David H. Petraeus, among the most curious was that during his days as a four-star general, he was once escorted by 28 police motorcycles as he traveled from his Central Command headquarters in Tampa to socialite Jill Kelley’s mansion. Although most of his trips did not involve a presidential-size convoy, the scandal has prompted new scrutiny of the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle.

    The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

    The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737 … (American Feudalism – 3).

  15. This is a good article JT. I am for revoking the Patriot Act. It sounds like something Hitler dreamed up. Come to think of it he did, There are 1933 parallels here. Does anyone recall or know of the Reichstag Fire Decrees?

  16. Holder needs to testify, under oath, why he is not prosecuting for lying to Congress, illegal spying and what many would consider treason, sharing raw intelligence data on US citizens with Israel.

  17. Repealing the patriot act would be good but that’s not going to stop these politicians and their minions from continuing the abuses. Even with the patriot act in place they are still breaking the law.

    The only way this is going to cease is to vote out the leadership of the federal government and as electors be exceptionally careful on who we put in next.

    The first rule: If incumbent, vote for someone else.

    It has become in my view the case where politicians on the federal level are either the problem or they are those who are ineffective or unwilling to reign in the problem politicians. Either way, they all need to go.

    there are plenty of other persons out there who can do better.

  18. Regarding ap’s post at 11:08am about “The Cowboy of the NSA

    Inside Gen. Keith Alexander’s all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine.”

    This is nothing more than another one of those gold-platted toilets that the CEOs in Banks and on Wall Street like to install in their work places. I wonder how much of our money that crazy Alexander spent to satisfy his aberration.

    Can’t you just see all those Generals and Congressmen/women plopping their fat a$$es in that leather chair and joining Alexander in his tax dollar funded perversion?

    No wonder they want to punish Snowden … the whole world is laughing at their group depravity.

    Geeze, no wonder these numbnuts missed the Boston Marathon Bomb plot … “whoosh”

  19. Keith Alexander has a larger private army than the US government. Look it up. James Bamford is a very reliable source as is Jeremy Scahill.

  20. ” Mr. LV426 ‏@mrlv426 15m
    @ggreenwald So, it turns out Snowden wasn’t the one supplying secrets to a foreign government: it was the NSA itself. Who betrayed whom?”
    Retweeted by Glenn Greenwald

  21. Jill,
    From comments at Guardian

    jtobscure
    11 September 2013 3:52pm

    So if I give a bunch of private personal information about U.S. citizens to a foreign government known to spy on the U.S. so aggressively that we have people serving life sentences for it, instead of being thrown in jail, I’ll be paid $200,000 a year and get a nice pension? Or is it only illegal if normal, decent citizens do it?

  22. Zero Sum: Americans Must Sacrifice Some Security to Reform the NSA

    The nation can survive the occasional terrorist attack, but our freedoms can’t survive an invulnerable leader like Keith Alexander operating within inadequate constraints.

    Bruce Schneier Sep 11 2013, 7:00 AM ET

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/zero-sum-americans-must-sacrifice-some-security-to-reform-the-nsa/279537/

    Leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden have catapulted the NSA into newspaper headlines and demonstrated that it has become one of the most powerful government agencies in the country. From the secret court rulings that allow it collect data on all Americans to its systematic subversion of the entire Internet as a surveillance platform, the NSA has amassed an enormous amount of power.

    There are two basic schools of thought about how this came to pass. The first focuses on the agency’s power. Like J. Edgar Hoover, NSA Director Keith Alexander has become so powerful as to be above the law. He is able to get away with what he does because neither political party — and nowhere near enough individual lawmakers — dare cross him. Longtime NSA watcher James Bamford recently quoted a CIA official: “We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander — with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets.”

    Possibly the best evidence for this position is how well Alexander has weathered the Snowden leaks. The NSA’s most intimate secrets are front-page headlines, week after week. Morale at the agency is in shambles. Revelation after revelation has demonstrated that Alexander has exceeded his authority, deceived Congress, and possibly broken the law. Tens of thousands of additional top-secret documents are still waiting to come. Alexander has admitted that he still doesn’t know what Snowden took with him and wouldn’t have known about the leak at all had Snowden not gone public. He has no idea who else might have stolen secrets before Snowden, or who such insiders might have provided them to. Alexander had no contingency plans in place to deal with this sort of security breach, and even now — four months after Snowden fled the country — still has no coherent response to all this.

    For an organization that prides itself on secrecy and security, this is what failure looks like. It is a testament to Alexander’s power that he still has a job.

    The second school of thought is that it’s the administrations’ fault — not just the present one, but the most recent several. According to this theory, the NSA is simply doing its job. If there’s a problem with the NSA’s actions, it’s because the rules it’s operating under are bad. Like the military, the NSA is merely an instrument of national policy. Blaming the NSA for creating a surveillance state is comparable to blaming the U.S. military for the conduct of the Iraq war. Alexander is performing the mission given to him as best he can, under the rules he has been given, with the sort of zeal you’d expect from someone promoted into that position. And the NSA’s power predated his directorship.

    Former NSA Director Michael Hayden exemplifies this in a quote from late July: “Give me the box you will allow me to operate in. I’m going to play to the very edges of that box.”

    This doesn’t necessarily mean the administration is deliberately giving the NSA too big a box. More likely, it’s simply that the laws aren’t keeping pace with technology. Every year, technology gives us possibilities that our laws simply don’t cover clearly. And whenever there’s a gray area, the NSA interprets whatever law there is to give them the most expansive authority. They simply run rings around the secret court that rules on these things. My guess is that while they have clearly broken the spirit of the law, it’ll be harder to demonstrate that they broke the letter of the law.

    In football terms, the first school of thought says the NSA is out of bounds. The second says the field is too big. I believe that both perspectives have some truth to them, and that the real problem comes from their combination.

    Regardless of how we got here, the NSA can’t reform itself. Change cannot come from within; it has to come from above. It’s the job of government: of Congress, of the courts, and of the president. These are the people who have the ability to investigate how things became so bad, rein in the rogue agency, and establish new systems of transparency, oversight, and accountability.

    Any solution we devise will make the NSA less efficient at its eavesdropping job. That’s a trade-off we should be willing to make, just as we accept reduced police efficiency caused by requiring warrants for searches and warning suspects that they have the right to an attorney before answering police questions. We do this because we realize that a too-powerful police force is itself a danger, and we need to balance our need for public safety with our aversion of a police state.

    The same reasoning needs to apply to the NSA. We want it to eavesdrop on our enemies, but it needs to do so in a way that doesn’t trample on the constitutional rights of Americans, or fundamentally jeopardize their privacy or security. This means that sometimes the NSA won’t get to eavesdrop, just as the protections we put in place to restrain police sometimes result in a criminal getting away. This is a trade-off we need to make willingly and openly, because overall we are safer that way.

    Once we do this, there needs to be a cultural change within the NSA. Like at the FBI and CIA after past abuses, the NSA needs new leadership committed to changing its culture. And giving up power.

    Our society can handle the occasional terrorist act; we’re resilient, and — if we decided to act that way — indomitable. But a government agency that is above the law … it’s hard to see how America and its freedoms can survive that.

  23. Thanks B. Garrett. No greater truth has been spoken. I’ve followed the architects’ and engineers’ proclamations re 9/11 as well as the danish professor’s claims of evidence of controlled demolition (thermite) – quite shocking and sobering (apologies for not remembering his name). Also read where the Bush family was involved in Trade Center’s “security” prior to the event – the mafia family’s smarmy tentacles of crimes and murder. Shall we imprison the “9/11 Commission” for their complicity and enabling?

  24. israel owns the usa when are the people going to accept that? thats why our cops are now being trained by israeli military soldiers. its why we give israel 4 billion dollars a year without fail. its why they have dual citizenship. and its why the majority of the bilionaires are jews or what we call crypto jews. guess those who were called crazy and/or conspiracy theorists are proving themselves right and exact about what was going on…… the basturds know and well understand that if they did not seize and own everything in the world. we would one day obtain this information and set in motion plans of courses to stop them. and that is why this administration does not fear us. they feel they have us under control in many numbers of ways. and those they dont have controlled are those they own. soi its a win win for them.. unless and until the people stand up as one and fight back.

    research the 13 protocols of zion and you’ll see these are the end stages for their one world government. to usher in satan and his control of the world. or so they think/thought…..

  25. Here we go with the 9/11 conspiracy dog chasing its tail again.

    Should have expected it given today’s date. Controlled demolition on WTC towers, missile hitting the pentagon building (yep, most people didn’t know that missiles carry passenger seats and landing gear that were found in the wreckage as standard equipment) and a litany of so called experts who leapt on the bandwagon when they realized a better marketing strategy was to seize the 9/11 events after their Alien Abduction and USS Eldridge time travelling invisible ship comic book tales were no longer believed or marketable on the Art Bell show.

    It would be funny if the stupidity wasn’t so pathetic.

    There is plenty of intrigue and absurdity and corruption to go around with our current federal government. There is no need to engage in these wild theories when all one has to do is report what is really going on in the federal government if they want to bring up scandals.

  26. And to usher Satan in to rule the world via the one world government lead by Zionist crypto Jews.

    I must have missed seeing the Israel Defense Force as trainers when I was a cop. I did have one defensive tactics instructor for a class I took back seven years ago who had an English Cockney accent. He could have been a member of MI6.

    But I have to say I must also be a member of the Provisional IRA because I have dual citizenship with Ireland. And we are trying to convert the USA into a caliphate of Sinn Fein so that we can usher in Gerry Adams to rule over us.

  27. “How about we revoke this Star Chamber court first?” (mespo)

    Excellent place to begin for without the Star Chamber court, it all falls.

  28. rafflaw 1, September 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Blouise,
    Maybe we can just “beam” Alexander up into a black hole somewhere.

    =================================

    Honestly raff, I can’t believe that a grown man would go to such lengths when spending tax payer dollars and then advertise it to Congress as a good and responsible expenditure. Such glaring lack of judgement is indicative of a seriously afflicted mental state. Who in the hell would leave him in charge of anything? Yet government VIPs took tours of the place panting to join in his delusional state of mind. That’s down right scary.

  29. Accountability, what is that?

    There are Americans without homes, food, access to medical care (etal) but we have enough extra money to pay for Keith Alexander’s mock-up of the bridge on Star Treks USS Enterprise at Fort Belvoir’s Information Dominance Center.

    These thieves operating within the bowels of the US government can do anything so long as it is our money they’re wasting.

    Accountability, there is no such word in the US governments dictionary.

    These folks have no shame.

  30. Personanongrata
    “Accountability, what is that?”

    Well, it was always considered a deterrent to future and ongoing crimes…
    … Until the Legislature decided to not dissuade the criminals among themselves. Why else was it taken ‘off the table’?

    The ongoing ursupation of Our Bill of Rights doesn’t happen in a vacuum, you know.

  31. @ Max-1
    The ongoing ursupation of Our Bill of Rights doesn’t happen in a vacuum, you know.

    Exactly, which is why the inaction of our fellow citizens in the face of decades of “official” criminality makes me sick.

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