Obama Administration Confirms Massive Surveillance Program Of U.S. Citizens

President_Barack_ObamaWhile the media in the United States (with some notable exceptions) have been criticized for relatively soft coverage of attacks on civil liberties by the Obama Administration, the British press appears to be filling the gap. The Guardian is reporting on a massive surveillance program by the Obama Administration where the government has ordered Verizon (and presumably other carriers) to turn over all calls made within the United States and calls between the United States and other countries. The surveillance was conducted under an order from our controversial secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and demanded by the Justice Department and the FBI. The Administration has confirmed the existence of the program — another blow to civil liberties under Attorney General Eric Holder and this president. It also adds another area where Obama officials appear less than candid with Congress. [Update: USA Today first revealed aspects of this program in 2006]

The order signed by Judge Roger Vinson requires the company to turn over the phone numbers, location, duration, time and unique identifiers for all calls for all citizens. There is no effort to confine the search for individuals connected to any investigation. It is a sweeping surveillance on all citizens. Of course, just as Democrats have remained quiet over the recent attacks on the free press, it is not clear if even this abuse will generate opposition in Congress. Civil libertarians have been complaining for years about these programs and have met a wall of silence from Democrats protecting President Obama and Eric Holder.

In February, the Administration succeeded in blocking a challenge to its surveillance policies by arguing that any confirmation of such programs would put American lives at risk. Now that the case is dismissed, they have simply acknowledged the program. The decision is Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, and it is a true nightmare for civil liberties. The Supreme Court rejected the standing of civil liberties groups and citizens to challenge the Obama Administration’s surveillance programs. President Obama has long been criticized for his opposition to such lawsuits and his Justice Department has continued a successful attack on the ability of citizens to challenge the unconstitutional actions of their government in the war on terror. The 5-4 opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. insulates such programs from judicial review in yet another narrowing of standing rules.

Alito rejected the ability of an array of journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates to challenge the constitutionality of the 2008 law allowing secret surveillance without meeting constitutional standards of probable cause. Alito simply said that the parties could not prove that they were subject to surveillance — since the Obama Administration has classified such evidence — and insisted that their fears and precautionary actions are merely efforts to “manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms.”

Alito wrote that just because no one may be able to challenge the law is no reason to recognize standing — a position that guts the separation of powers principles underlying judicial review. He also cites to the secret FISA as judicial review — a truly laughable proposition. I have been in that court as a NSA legal intern and the thought that it constitutes any real form of review is a preposterous notion. I have written and testified on this court in the past.

Now we can see the inevitable consequence of this secret court and the Administration’s surveillance program. The Administration is creating a massive databank for all calls, including calls within the United States. This surveillance program is the result of a sense of political immunity reflected in this Administration. With some Democrats blindly following this President, there appears no concern over excessive surveillance or the ever-expanding security state. It is the final evidence of how Obama has truly crippled the civil liberties movement in the United States.

Source: NPR

118 thoughts on “Obama Administration Confirms Massive Surveillance Program Of U.S. Citizens

  1. anonymously posted 1, June 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    My comments aren’t posting.


    Except the one-liners.

  2. “It’s well past time that we have a debate about whether that’s the kind of country and world in which we want to live,” he declared. “We haven’t had that debate because it’s all done in secrecy and the Obama administration has been very aggressive about bullying and threatening anybody who thinks about exposing it or writing about it or even doing journalism about it. It’s well past time that that come to an end.” -Glenn Greenwald on Piers Morgan tonight (The link won’t post.)

  3. “But always – do not forget this, Winston – always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” — 1984

  4. On the Jake Tapper clip…
    … Why does Mr. Tapper appear shocked, like he just found out? Not like it wasn’t heavily covered back in 2004. Was he asleep at the Journalist wheel? never mind the answer… Or does he regularly play dumb for his audience?

  5. ap,

    I looked in the spam filter and moderation queue and found nothing from you either place. Are the comments up now? If not, they have been eaten by the WP Vortex of Doom. It has been known to happen from time to time. Maybe you should file a trouble ticket with WordPress. You can do so here: http://www.wordpress.org/support/

  6. The U.S. is one of the most violent countries in the world. We have huge numbers in prison and evidently we enjoy guns very much. It would be useful for Americans to learn how much we have spent on the haystack to find associations overseas that are real threats to this country by collaborating and correlate that to the real violence that we see and read about and live evey day in our cities and homes. Fusion Centers have admitted they have little impact on terrorists so they justify billions of dollars by fighting any criminal they can identify with their watch groups. Is that the real war that we are fighting for billions? At some point, the social contract has to include the wellbeing of the citizen. Threats from fanatics will always be but do we construct a society to toss everything at these people or do we start to rebuild our infrastructure and our defense so that fear of the fanatic is not the first concern — fear of loss of our values and our government should be our first concern.

  7. […] Alito wrote that just because no one may be able to challenge the law is no reason to recognize standing — a position that guts the separation of powers principles underlying judicial review. He also cites to the secret FISA as judicial review — a truly laughable proposition. I have been in that court as a NSA legal intern and the thought that it constitutes any real form of review is a preposterous notion. I have written and testified on this court in the past.” https://jonathanturley.org/2013/06/06/obama-administration-confirms-massive-surveillance-program-by-n… […]

  8. Why I’m Suing Barack Obama by Chris Hedges: It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

    The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing.

    With this bill, which will take effect March 3, 2011, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism.

    And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.”

    The oddest part of this legislation is that the FBI, the CIA, the director of national intelligence, the Pentagon and the attorney general didn’t support it.


    • Does this domestic policing and surveillance involve Fusion Centers and their law enforcement partnership? I would like to know if this is common information of confidential state by state.

  9. Death of the Liberal Class 10/22/2010. Is Chris Hedges right? Have the pillars which protect a liberal democracy – the press, liberal religious institutions, labour unions, universities and the Democratic Party in the U.S. – sold out to corporate interests?

    Chris Hedges on the loss of democracy from major American institutions, including education, religion, politics and unions and of the growing corporate class.


  10. Machiavelli would have approved. The hoarding of data gathered on the general population merely hides the real goal: get the dirt on the recalcitrant legislator or bureaucrat or reporter, and suddenly everything works according to plan.

  11. “Alito simply said that the parties could not prove that they were subject to surveillance — since the Obama Administration has classified such evidence…”

    But now, thanks to Snowden, they have the requisite proof.

  12. How is the information shared or used ? It is so massive that the explanation thus far seems to provide no information on this part of the activity. What value would this information be ? The assumption may be that information about individuals is already known so the collection can be correlated to that which is already known — but that appears to be only possible if something is already available to ready the collection. So what would that be? For instance, my ex-husband is head of the International Schools in another country. If I called him or he called me, that would provide no information whatsoever to anyone interested in bad actors. This seems to be an activity of the head chasing the tail. It would seems DHS has invested billions in data mining with hundreds of companies that are paid to do this and I want to know what impact this has on our economic recovery and I want to know exactly how this has made us more secure in this country. We are a company with thousands in jails, poverty and high crime, joblessness which correlates to these factors and just as important, a violent society that cannot even provide laws for those that wish to own a gun. We already spend billions on lawless countries like Pakistan and we now understand the risks of living in a free society amongst those that have no concept of choice or free will. What are we doing?

  13. Well tthose who never heard of what they are well
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  14. Investing in surveillance of our population appears to correlate to fear of this population — not a foreign actor or group of terrorists. Fusion Centers have now shifted gears to focus on citizen crime. Not violent crime but anything that might catch the attention of the citizen troops. As child of the 50’s, this is particularly upsetting. I will never find a house in Mayberry U.S.A. now. But I did have a very different life prior to September 11th and knew lots of very friendly people in a small town. It is not just Government surveillance that has changed us — we have changed us by permitting it, looking at leaders that suspect the average person of being a potential criminal without any proof, simply because they can. The Constitution can only mean something if we believe in the rule of law. There is no “sort of” justice.

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