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. Trying to post the link to Glenn Greenwald on Piers Morgan.

    “There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal,” he told Piers Morgan. “And that is to destroy privacy and anonymity not just in the United States but around the world.”

    Visibly impassioned, and notably distressed by what he’s uncovered, Greenwald called for action, insisting something must be done to address the movements of the National Security Agency:

    “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.” -GG

  2. I suppose President “Body Count” Obama must find it difficult to fathom why Americans should suddenly complain about him secretly vacuuming up all their telephone calls when (a) he has done if for years and (b) they don’t complain when he has people murdered whenever and wherever he wants, and for any “reason” that he decides to keep secret because he may not actually have one. I mean, once you’ve given yourself a license to kill and gotten away with it, doesn’t a license to spy just sort of come along as part of the tyrannical territory? I mean, after all:

    Don’t You Know We’re at AUMF?

    He’ll only kill some Muslims,
    not us, he — sort of — says;
    unless we travel overseas,
    in which case, when he slays
    on purpose or by accident,
    no law on earth delays
    or otherwise impedes our Prince
    who’s found that killing pays,
    although the Senator complains
    but then his crimes OKs.

    Michael Murry, The Misfortune Teller, Copyright 2013

  3. If I were Obama I’d implant a listening device w/ a camera in Rupert Murdoch’s forehead, and I wouldn’t be gentle about it.

  4. BD, I salvaged one of the first amendment comments. I think I figured out why the spam filter kept snagging the comment. Explanation here: http://jonathanturley.org/2013/06/06/learning-to-love-the-matrix-feinstein-defends-warrantless-surveillance-of-all-citizens/#comment-581936

    ap, The spam filter has been acting up, and that looked like what happened to me earlier today when I copied and pasted a link on another blog. It copied the link, but then added a huge blob of machine code under it. I assumed that was what happened.

  5. I wish Vince would come aboard now…. He had good solid reasoning….

    I agree with what Jill said…. With out exception……

    The are very few things said I find issue with…. Except to defend these fools….

    Welcome to the US S of A …. Taking notes from the kremlin I’m sure….. Imperialistic power….

  6. Word Press keeps censoring my attempt to speak about the First Amendment.

  7. AP,
    I edited out the computer language “hash” in your comment. The link to the video still works.

  8. Blouise,

    🙂 I did, I did. And it’s the first time that I’ve laughed today.

    Note to arrive by carrier pigeon (whenever it gets there — you know the distance)… unless a “predator” takes it down first. (The juice is drying.)

    Thanks, Blouise. I needed that.

  9. Surveillance? Of U.S. citizens?

    Well good.

    Then you won’t have to guess which finger I’m holding up, will you, Obama?

  10. anonymously posted
    1, June 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm
    Yep, Blouise… “the straw” (I had intended to get back to you on that one.)

    Just don’t call … me thinks we’re going to have to resort to the old fashioned way:

    To make invisible ink:

    1.Pour lemon juice in a bowl. Dip a toothpick or straight pin in it, and with the lemon juice, write your message.

    2.You can see the lemon juice on the paper when it is wet, but when it dries, it is invisible.

    3.To read your message, put the paper containing your message over a 150 watt bulb and your writing will turn brown.

    But to ensure the creepy folk in government don’t catch on use a diary code too:


    This is the Diary Code. Look in the lower right hand corner of the box and read up. In between each word, put a Y W X Z or S.

    W x Y Y
    E S o S
    G I J E
    a H N P
    S T E O
    s Z S H
    E Y U X
    M w O I

    This might not post right … formating problem

  11. Glenn Greenwald ‏@ggreenwald 20m

    Way past time that the Surveillance State sees the sun. Sun is really good for you. Enjoy it. Absorb the rays.

    Glenn Greenwald Glenn Greenwald ‏@ggreenwald 23m

    The dam has broke – let the water and sunshine flow

    Glenn Greenwald Glenn Greenwald ‏@ggreenwald 23m

    OUR STORY: NSA has direct access to tech giants’ systems for user data, secret files reveal … http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data

  12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html?hpid=z1

    U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

    By Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, Thursday, June 6, 5:43 PM

    With Laura Poitras, board member of The Freedom of the Press Foundation co-reporting:

    Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

    And what is the govt doing with PRISM?

    The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

    The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

    An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

  13. Roots in the ’70s

    PRISM is an heir, in one sense, to a history of intelligence alliances with as many as 100 trusted U.S. companies since the 1970s. The NSA calls these Special Source Operations, and PRISM falls under that rubric.

    The Silicon Valley operation works alongside a parallel program, code-named BLARNEY, that gathers up “metadata” — address packets, device signatures and the like — as it streams past choke points along the backbone of the Internet. BLARNEY’s top-secret program summary, set down alongside a cartoon insignia of a shamrock and a leprechaun hat, describes it as “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

    But the PRISM program appears more nearly to resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over “exponential growth” in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques. From the WAPO article

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