NSA Task Force Member Says Program Should Be Expanded Not Limited

220px-Michael_Morell,_December_2012Last week, I wrote about the dangers of tasks forces bearing gifts for civil libertarians and noted how Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program. One of those was former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell who served during the secret development and use of the program. Obviously, if he were to conclude that the program was illegal, it would have meant that he was part of the violations. Not only did the task force maintain the program was legal (in conflict with the recent ruling of a federal court), but now Morell has called not for the limitation of the program but its expansion. That is what President Obama considers a reformer in the national security field.

Morell gave an interview in the aftermath of the task force report that included a call for the expansion of the program to include emails. He also confirmed, as was stated in the earlier column, that the report actually did not include any substantial change for the program.

Morell stated “I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data. You can bet that the last thing a smart terrorist is going to do right now is call someone in the United States.” Well, yes, but the same discomfort is felt by citizens of the United States and others around the world. If you really want privacy, it appears that you had best use telepathy rather than telephony communications.

Morell also admitted that the telephone data program, conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” However that is no reason to end it and he insist that the “effectiveness we have seen to date is totally irrelevant to how effective it might be in the future.” Thus, remember that promise of how the panel balanced privacy and security? It turns out that even if a program is destroyed the expectation of privacy and not adding much to security, it should still be maintained in the possibility that it could produce better results some time in the future.

So Morell is saying that the reforms were not substantial, the program has not been that effective (consistent with the view of the federal court), and the program should be expanded. That is hardly what the media reported in the “sweeping” limits put on the NSA of course.

Source: National Journal

36 thoughts on “NSA Task Force Member Says Program Should Be Expanded Not Limited

  1. The Supremacy Clause makes the U.S. Supreme Court the final “interpreter” of constitutionality in the United States – all government officials/contractors (federal, state, local) are bound by this interpretation – including this commission.

  2. Hand pick your commission and get the answers you want. Just remember the NSA has never snooped on and American and it has never done anything inappropriate. So says the President.

  3. Forty two years ago the nation went through a similar fiasco where the Executive Branch broke international laws and then went ballistic and illegal when proof of the criminal activity was revealed in the Pentagon Papers. The so called traitor then was Daniel Ellsberg. The journalistic entities which released the “papers” and reports were The New York Times, Washing Post and St. Louis Post Dispatch. At that time the Times was owned by the Sullivan family, the Washington Post by the Graham family and the St. Louis Post by the Pulitzer family. What a difference 42 years makes. Back in 1971 the above newspapers and their owners stood up for America and the right of the people to be told of the crimes of their government so that grievances could be redressed.

    Today, the American press and broadcast media are chicken little. No offense to chickens here intended. Our present day hero for the First Amendment is Snowden and the only free press which will take possession of the documents and publish them is The Guardian, which is offshore somewhere.

    Back in 1971 and the years that followed we had a Congress which was willing to hold hearings on the war crimes and provide information to the public. Now we have the Washington Weenies.

    So there you have it folks. Your government is run by Weenies. Your free press went offshore. The Graham family sold the Washington Post to Amazon.com. Your government is committing human rights violations against YOU. And you may friends are worried about Santa.

  4. itchinBayDog is being a little rough today. No reason here to blame those on the blog for the crimes of the people as a whole. Yes, fellow citizens, the crimes of the NSA are now the crimes of us all. We preached that notion of international law at the Nuremberg Trials when we prosecuted Germans after the end of WWII and the Holocaust.

    I have sound sources in Europe, Den Haag to be exact, that The Guardian is releasing new documents any day which will further embarrass Obama and anger Merkle, Hollande and other European leaders and citizens. I may be a dog, but my half blind guy is involved in international law matters and makes trips to Den Haag and other places in Europe. A guide dog hears and sees all.

  5. “Morell also admitted that the telephone data program, conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” However that is no reason to end it and he insist that the “effectiveness we have seen to date is totally irrelevant to how effective it might be in the future.””

    On that theory the administration could justify funding soothsayers and fortune tellers – which might be preferable because they are equally effective and less threatening to our liberty and constitutional rights.

    I rarely believe one can read a man’s character from his physical features.

    But one must ask oneself if it would be safe to buy a used car from the man in the picture. If a man with that smile came to your door selling magazine subscriptions, would you dare to put money in his hand?

    We may never know his true character. But he does work for an agency that over the years has intentionally mislead FISA judges on matters of the greatest importance and he does associate with James Clapper a known, self admitted liar on matters that affect the liberty of every American.

  6. I can understand why they want the surveillance program extended.
    As I understand matters, the only terrorist plot involving US soil that has been thwarted by the program was a guy in San Francisco that was trying to send money to Yemen.
    That’s not a good result after so many billions spent and after the fuss caused by revelations (those to date only).
    We need a LOT more surveillance so somebody might possibly maybe find a plot somewhere.

    Susan Rice says the program is worth it, as there has not been a 9/11 since…. 9/11.
    Moral: Think of any number of things that have not happened since 9/11. The reason they have not happened is that the NSA were surveilling everyone, weakening everyone’s security, etc. Right?

    The Boston bombing did not happen – even though the elder brother had been previously flagged by the Russians to the US.
    That one does not count because maybe the FBI/CIA believed that Chechnyan rebels were only a danger to the Russians. Hassling the Russians is after all the reason that the CIA assists the Chechnyans in the same sort of way that they used to assist the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    It also does not count because the Tsarnaev brothers did not play fair. They should have been a lot more open about plots over the phone and on the Net. It’s just not right that FBI agents should have to check them out in the old-fashined way. There’s no money for that. All the money is being blown on foreign wars and the NSA.

    Also please note that according to Rice, the NSA did not lie to anyone.
    What happened was that officials “inadvertently made false representations”. They are really sorry about that. They won’t do that again until the next time they do it.

  7. ” the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic.”

    I tend to think of this discussion in terms of national policy.

    But we should never forget that this country, in the past, has actually rounded citizens up on pretexts that only thinly disguised the political nature of the actions.

    The so called Patriot act, and spying on citizens is serious business that demands our attention.

    The fact that the administration will lie to protect these programs should tell us much about the quality of their arguments to continue them.

    These programs clearly violate constitutional protection, have proven ineffective and their objectives can be accomplished with other less intrusive measures.

    How could any one other than an administration sophist possibly defend these programs?

  8. I saw both Rice and Morrel last night. The problem is they interview so nice as they lie through their teeth that you know at least half the people watching believe their BS. Several times I yelled at the TV last night when Rice said a latent lie. The poor reporter was so intent in not ruining her chance at a future interview that no challenge was made.

  9. I read an article …. State secrets are at stake….. I’m sure it is true…. How much more embarrassment can the us diplomats take….. And on a side note Raul Castro wants to establish relations with the us…. And why?

  10. Ignore the man behind the NSA curtain. I have reached the point that the NSA is unnecessary, in its present configuration and instead of cutting SNAP we should remove the NSA entirely and start over.

  11. An old opinion piece by Ellsberg that’s worth revisiting, given my view of what’s transpiring in the U.S.:


    Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S.

    By Daniel Ellsberg, Published: July 7


    Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

    It was, in effect, a global expansion of the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security in the Stalinist “German Democratic Republic,” whose goal was “to know everything.” But the cellphones, fiber-optic cables, personal computers and Internet traffic the NSA accesses did not exist in the Stasi’s heyday.

    As Snowden told the Guardian, “This country is worth dying for.” And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.

    But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.

    I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.

    What he has given us is our best chance — if we respond to his information and his challenge — to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.

  12. There are one of three conclusions I can draw about Mr. Morelli. He is an ass, he is blissfully ignorant, or he is an evil man. Despite which one is true, indeed they all could be simultaneously true, he has shown himself to be unfit to have any role in government. I bet almost all of us have read Orwell’s prescient novel “1984”. What Mr. Morelli suggests is turning this country into the horror State portrayed. The next step in his brilliant plan no doubt would be the installation of two way TV screens/cameras in each citizen’s room, the better to watch them by and thereby save us all from “terror” by creating a real terror to live under.

  13. Nuremberg would be a good setting for a human rights and war crimes trial against the responsible parties. Americans need to call for an international investigation and a trial. Den Haag would be a good place as well. The International Court is there.
    The American scene has fallen way below where were were when we had the Church Committee and the Watergate Committee. Now the House and the Senate are run by Weenies. There is no need to differentiate between so called Republicans and Democrats. The nation of sheep is run by the Weenies. Baaa.

  14. I would like to compare the German public of 1939 just prior to the war beginning but after the Holocaust began, with that of America now. They had few or no institutions to protest, to reveal and to stop the Nazi way. After the Reichstag Fire Decree the rules of law were suspended. In our country we had the Twin Tower and Pentagon attacks which were similar to the Reichstag Fire and we have the Patriot Act and NSA laws which are similar to the Reichstag Fire Decree. But we still have somewhat of a free press. Forget Congress. They went in dumb and come out dumb too. We need an international press and media like the Guardian and we need an international outcry and call for a war crimes tribunal. DronesRus.

  15. Shorter Michael Morell:
    Must have more porn links.

    No credible threats thwarted!
    … But plenty of sexy info.

  16. “The next step in his brilliant plan no doubt would be the installation of two way TV screens/cameras in each citizen’s room, the better to watch them by and thereby save us all from “terror” by creating a real terror to live under.”

    In case anyone has not noticed, the latest hacker news is that the circuitry that turns on the red light when the video camera on your computer begins recording can be circumvented.

    As a result your video camera may record your actions while you remain blissfully unaware the camera is turned on.

    Smart phones represent what must be a trifecta of spy technology. They can report your position with GPS precision, have a microphone for audio surveillance, and a video camera just to assure there is no confusion regarding what you are doing or who you are doing it with.

    Of course, many will be soothed by the thought that ‘if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.’

    But some of us, doing nothing more than living very ordinary lives, will be unplugging the video camera or putting duck tape over the lens.

    Does anyone really want an NSA computer jock monitoring their business conversations, or tender moments with a dear friend?

    In all fairness, I have no evidence to demonstrate that NSA or other law enforcement has ever surreptitiously turned on the microphone or camera built into many smart phones and laptops.

    But that might be a good question for any defense attorney to ask ‘can any evidence in this case be traced to surreptitious monitoring of microphone, camera, or other devices attached to or built into a cell phone or other computer device?’

  17. Any ‘patriotic’ American who knows where any NDS agent’s house is….. Those houses are now a fair target for a nice barn-fire!

  18. I think most of us want to see these issues properly adjudicated in a court of law.

    It is the administration that has used every technicality at its disposal to prevent these cases from going forward. It is the administration that has lied about NSA spying. It is NSA that has withheld data or lied to FISA judges.

    The actions of the administration ought to tells everything we need to know about the legality of these programs.

    And as data is released it becomes clear that administration’s claims of effectiveness for these programs are lies as well.

    The administration knows these programs cannot stand scrutiny and honest, objective evaluation. That is why the administration lies to the American public.

  19. Someone please explain to me what reasonable expectations of privacy are violated by monitoring in a data base who I call and who calls me and how long we talk. I just do not get it. But then maybe I am not trying to keep secret who I talk with.

  20. The purpose of Obama is to make the illegal, “legal”. He has done this at every turn. This commission is a step along that path. Surveillance, now in the open, will be preserved not so much in secret but in the open. People like Dale will welcome it. Obama supporters will love, honor and obey it!

    I hate to tell Ms. Rice something she already knows but there were those pesky anthrax attacks after 9/11, you know, the ones that the FBI did a seance on and declared the dead guy guilty. Case closed.

    The limits of the govt.’s spying are clear, the Constitution. This may not change because of terrorism. And, e-mails have already been fully pre- read and logged.

    Harold Koh said Obama’s legal theories would all line up in the end and its purpose would become clear. Well, it’s clear. He should be impeached.

  21. On reading this blog thread, it seemed appropriate to once again watch my DVD of “The President’s Analyst,” (James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, et al), Paramount Pictures, 1967.

    For those who do not remember, that movie ends with a non-extraordinary rendition of the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.”

    Presciently tragic comedic irony, anyone?

  22. Recently, in our neighbor between the states, a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada was described as follows: “The ruling is a victory for sex workers seeking safer working conditions because it found that the laws violated the charter guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person.”

    It’s ironic that our Declaration of Independence, one of the USA charter documents, uses similar language, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – but the NSA et al seem to operate by a different philosophy as regards citizens of the USA regardless of their occupation.

    I’d like to throw this out for discussion. It seems to me, that from the mid 1960’s, that the USA has added a fourth branch of government (not mentioned in or approved by the Constitution) and that branch, a security state apparatus, formal and informal, seems to answer to none of the other branches. This ‘apparatus’ until recently has mostly operated in foreign policy affairs (mostly out of sight and out of mind, except for wars), but it now it seems to have expanded it’s focus into domestic affairs. This seems to me to put the USA at a crisis with one of two possibilities as outcomes : A) either a constitutional change of government which might produce more transparency or B) a continuation of things into a quasi dictatorship, which would be a negation of the Constitution. My question is: What Constitutional changes would have to occur to prevent a descent into a dictatorship (whether by an individual or a select oligarchy)?

  23. Q U E S T I O N:
    What do you call a Senate Intelligence Committee that doesn’t question the liars but accepts the lie?

    “YES MEN”

  24. Dale:

    Someone please explain to me what reasonable expectations of privacy are violated by monitoring in a data base who I call and who calls me and how long we talk. I just do not get it. But then maybe I am not trying to keep secret who I talk with.”

    Here is just one analysis

    It’s not particularly short. It contains many links to references in support of points.
    It deals with potential abuse and with legal/constitutional issues.

    Some extracts:

    “Tracking whom Americans are calling, for how long they speak, and from where, can reveal deeply personal information about an individual. Using such data, the government can discover intimate details about a person’s lifestyle and beliefs — political leanings and associations, medical issues, sexual orientation, habits of religious worship, and even marital infidelities. Daniel Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a privacy expert, likens this program to a Seurat painting. A single dot may seem like no big deal, but many together create a nuanced portrait.”
    “By contrast, recalling his involvement in the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, Max Frankel warned against trusting the government when assessing the NSA’s surreptitious and indiscriminate collection of metadata. According to Frankel, “Information that is gathered and managed in secret is a potent weapon — and the temptation to use it in political combat or the pursuit of crimes far removed from terrorism can be irresistible.”

    You have nothing to hide, so you have nothing to fear?
    That’s might be true so far.
    What about tomorrow, next year or in 10 years time?

    What if politics/society changed so much that even you started to object?
    You would then have something to hide from the people who ruled you.

    Have you had a good look at the “inadvertant misrepresentations” coming out of previous and current administrations.
    Would you really be happy for those kinds of people to know absolutely everything about your life, interests and contacts? You think they would never use that against you if you even annoyed them enough – never mind if they saw you and or contacts as a threat to their power?

    Quite apart from the Administration, who are these NSA analysts who have the ability to to view your life as if you were a laboratory specimen?
    Are they some specially-bred superhumans who would never stray from the path of goodness and honor?
    Are they just a different kind of cop? Y’know, the sort of cops often described in this blog and elsewhere….. who abuse their positions without a seconds hesitation knowing that the system will back them up if anyone dares to object.

    You feel that you have nothing to fear from mass surveillance.
    This is because you are innocent.

    I don’t mean the “not guilty” type of innocence.
    I mean the “haven’t thought it through in any detail” sort of innocence.

  25. Dale,

    Perhaps you’ll find the following article helpful:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/09/20/how_to_tell_your_mother_and_bosses_why_they_should_protest_surveillance.html by Dan Gillmor


    “Government’s surveillance of—and interference with—our communications is making you less safe.” When the National Security Agency deliberately sabotages key parts of the encryption infrastructure that protects communications, it’s opening doors for criminals, not just law enforcement. Imagine that the government required you to use a crummy lock on your front door, so that local police—and your local burglars—could easily enter your home.

    “You think you have nothing to hide? Great: Then you won’t mind if we install cameras around your home, including your bedroom and bathroom—and wear a camera and microphone as you go about your business outside—so other people can check on what you say and do at any time.” This may sound hyperbolic, but it’s not so much. Given the amount of our personal, business, and commercial lives that rely on digital communications, pervasive surveillance is already unveiling vast amounts of what we have rightly considered private in the past. If you are willing to go that far, it is not much further to have government spy on literally everything—because you never know when you might be suspected of something.

    “America is about openness and personal freedom, starting with freedom of speech.” Total surveillance makes us afraid to speak our minds—we censor our own speech—because we worry that some government agency will decide, however unjustly, that we are a threat.

    “The NSA has betrayed fundamental values of American liberty. What it is doing is un-American.” The Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is all about our belief that having liberty means taking some risks. For example, we allow some guilty people to go free in order to protect innocent people from being punished for crimes they didn’t commit. By collecting everyone’s communications, or key parts of them, the government has effectively repealed the Fourth Amendment. Do you believe in liberty?

    “The government has a back door into your online commerce and a master key to your computer.” If the government does, so do the smarter crooks. Feeling safer now?

    “Has any government gone down the path of total surveillance without turning into a totalitarian state?” Government surveillance of all communications inevitably will lead to government oversight of your life. Is that what you want?”

    End of excerpt

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