Report: NSA Violated Congressional Authorization in Intercepting E-Mails and Telephone Calls — Sought to Intercept Member of Congress

200px-national_security_agencysvgA new report establishes that the National Security Agency’s violations of federal law are much broader in scope than previously known, including the interception without warrants of the emails and telephone calls of American citizens. Once again, the question is where the congressional intelligence committee were during these continued violations and why citizens should place any trust in members who are tasked with the oversight of these programs.

When the illegal NSA warrantless programs were first revealed, General Michael Hayden insisted that the “experts” at the NSA general counsel’s office had made sure that everything that the agency did was entirely lawful. Many of us scoffed at the representation and the finding of the NSA GC, but it is clear that the office continued to approve facially unlawful programs. (Ironically, General Hayden is now my neighbor after buying a house down the street from us).

Democrats in Congress who were fully aware of the unlawful surveillance program have moved to block every investigation and civil lawsuit. The program, despite the “legal experts” at NSA, has been widely declared as facially illegal. President Obama has joined the effort to quash any civil lawsuits, here.

This report continues the patter of “over-collection” and the Obama Administration is again treating it as something little more than an oversight. Yet, the violations clearly show a conscious effort to intercept obviously protected materials. After all, it was only a few years ago that there was a raging controversy of the FBI intercepting even the titles of emails. Here the NSA was acquiring the entire content of personal messages. Not only that, the NSA reported tried to wiretap a member of Congress. This is precisely the result of Congress giving the NSA broad discretion to conduct warrantless surveillance despite a long proven history of abuses.

Yet, not only has President Obama moved to bar any citizens suing over NSA programs, but he is continuing this program under the same conditions secured by George Bush.

For the full story, click here.

20 thoughts on “Report: NSA Violated Congressional Authorization in Intercepting E-Mails and Telephone Calls — Sought to Intercept Member of Congress”

  1. Quote:

    [Obama’s latest use of “secrecy” to shield presidential lawbreaking

    What was once depicted as a grave act of lawlessness — Bush’s NSA program — is now deemed a vital state secret.

    By Glenn Greenwald

    “Yet here is Obama doing exactly the opposite of those claims and assurances: namely, he’s now (a) seeking to immunize not only telecoms, but also Bush officials, from judicial review; (b) demanding that courts be barred from considering the legality of NSA surveillance programs under any circumstances; and (c) attempting to institutionalize the broadest claims of presidential immunity imaginable via radically broad secrecy claims.

    To do so, he’s violating virtually everything he ever said about such matters when he was Senator Obama and Candidate Obama. And he’s relying on the very same theories of executive immunity and secrecy that — under a Republican President — sparked so much purported outrage.

    If nothing else, this latest episode underscores the ongoing need for Congressional Democrats to proceed with proposed legislation to impose meaningful limits and oversight on the President’s ability to use this power, as this President, just like the last one, has left no doubt about his willingness to abuse it for ignoble ends.”]

  2. Will we ever know what our most secretive agencies are doing, if they are able to hide behind the “state secrets privilege”? If anything goes, because government agencies are hiding whatever activities they want to hide, the following question must be asked: Who is running this country?

    Are we not, in theory, supposed to be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”?

    Refer to “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”

    Outlaw nonconsensual human experiments now
    By Cheryl Welsh | 16 June 2009

    If nonconsensual human experiments are, in fact, taking place, should they not be exposed and stopped? Or are we going to let them continue and pretend that we really believe in the rule of law and the Constitution.

  3. The “clearly criminal warrantless surveillance program” goes way beyond anything that most can imagine, in my opinion, based on events that I have witnessed. I hope and pray that Thomas Tamm is joined by others to expose the full extent of “the program” that is still in force, it would appear.

    As Tamm said, when accepting the Ridenhour Prize, “We are safer and more secure when we support the rule of law,” he said. “We need to hold our domestic enemies accountable. We still don’t know the truth about what was done in our name — how many wiretapped, how many tortured. We can handle the truth. Bring it on.”

    Please. “Bring it on.” The “clearly criminal warrantless surveillance program” is still in full-swing, it would seem.

  4. Prof. Turley, I imagine the neighborhood BBQ might be a little awkward. Be sure to have some cutting remark ready when the General asks you to pass the mustard or whatever. That is, if he’s not already in jail by that point.

  5. Paranoia will destroy ya.

    You are aware if you believe that people are listending to your conversations, they probably are.

  6. Imagine my surprise when I read that the NSA overstepped its authority and is spying on everyone! I wonder if they are spying on behalf of Cheney. Didn’t we read recently that he has someone still in the administration feeding him information? Maybe that “someone” is the NSA.

  7. I’ve heard no names mentioned as yet, but I’m betting the Congressman the NSA targetted was Jim McDermott.

  8. Mike S., I still have my copy of “None Dare Call It Treason” at home. I’ll have to pull it out tonight to remind myself how far we’ve come in fifty years.

    The violations come as no surprise. All restrictions on searches are predicated upon the understanding that human beings will routinely exceed their lawful authority if they can do so with impunity. Of course “over-collections” are intentional. The NSA can review its procedures from now until the cows come home and that will not prevent abuse. The best method for limiting abuse is to eliminate immunity. The threat of citizen lawsuits and judicial review remains the most effective method for enforcing compliance with the law. That is precisely why there are constant efforts among politicians to restrict access to the courts. The most recent example was the legislation granting immunity to the telecoms. This story is an example of why that was a bad idea.

  9. jim: it used to be that the terrorists hated us for our freedoms.

    I guess this is one way of getting the terrorists to stop hating us

  10. This is another form of spying. It is odious. I believe this occurs in Toledo as well from what I have heard. This spying destorys the fabric of society.

    “A Muslim organization in the Detroit area, home to one of the country’s largest Muslim communities, has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate complaints the FBI is asking members to spy on Islamic leaders and congregations. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan sent the letter after mosques reported that members have been approached to monitor people coming and their donations.”

    Also, Glenn Greenwald makes an excellent points in his column of toeday.

  11. it used to be that the terrorists hated us for our freedoms.
    not so much anymore!

  12. This is how the DHS came up with the report about Right Wing Extremist. There is no problem with NSA now that this administration has identified, categorized and cataloged all known individuals who they feel is currently a threat to national security. Sorry, forgot, blame Bush.

  13. I remember the iconic conservative book from the 50’s called “None Dare Call It Treason.” That referred to communists. Fifty years later it refers to the Bush Administration. This must be addressed loudly and publicly. Those in Congress and the Administration who would cloak this under the covers of national security are stupid and shortsighted.

  14. Anon: “Pray tell, when shall I give you my last bit of liberty, sir?”


    Sir: “Why, you already have. Now you must take it back.”

  15. I’m glad my govt. gave me such a big laugh, I’ve been needing that from them. Some of my favorite parts:

    “Justice Department officials then “took comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance” with the law and court orders,…” And we’re supposed to believe this because?

    In a statement on Wednesday night, the N.S.A. said that its “intelligence operations, including programs for collection and analysis, are in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations.”
    And we’re supposed to believe this because?

    “{When} inadvertent mistakes are made, we take it very seriously and work immediately to correct them.”–I’ll buy this one. There couldn’t have been that many inadvertent mistakes. When you are using the splitters and other technology to sweep up everything as your starting point, is there really much left that one could say was “inadvertently” obtained?

    Finally the idea that it’s just a “technical problem” gave me my best laugh. Yep, if there’s one thing the NSA doesn’t have it’s very good spy technology. They should get more funding for upgrades.

    If the Obama administration has cleaned up the program I’m certain they’ll want to share what went wrong and how they corrected it. I’m equally certain that Congress will find these abuses offensive and immediately pass a new law to return us to the FISA law–a law that was clearly adequate and did not allow unchecked authority by the executive and spy agencies to monitor our citizens. Citizens are not the enemy of the govt. but that’s how this law treats us. This law makes the govt. the enemy of the people.

    “Mistakes” aren’t really mistakes when they keep repeating. How many mistakes can be made before it is recognized that overreaching is part of the program, not an aberration of it? I hope the judicial branch comes out strongly on this because they are our last line of defense before we become a complete surrveillance state.

    P.S. I’d be on the lookout for any stray Easter eggs in my yard. They might have been mistakenly retrofitted with a “peep” filling!

  16. Imagine that. The dog off the leash. Bush said it would never happen.

    “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in
    man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the
    –Thomas Jefferson: Kentucky Resolutions, 1798.

    “There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust.”

  17. I feel so safe that Congress is protecting my safety. I sleep so much better with the knowledge that we still have some 4th amendment protections left. Pray tell, when shall I give you my last bit of liberty, sir?

  18. This is for Obama.

    Why is it again that Echelon and Carnivore don’t need FISA supervision???

    Res ipsa loquitur.

    I rest my case.

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