Obama Picks Clapper For Panel To Review Programs That He Previously Lied About Before Congress

220px-James_R._Clapper_official_portraitPresident Barack Obama was widely ridiculed last week for his latest effort to quiet public unrest over his massive warrantless surveillance programs. As we discussed, Obama made statements on the program and Snowden that were disengenuous at best and viewed by civil libertarians as facially dishonest. His main “reform” was the rather laughable suggestion that his Administration, once again, would review itself and he would create yet another hand-picked committee to monitor his unchecked authority. While some of us said that Obama’s comments showed almost open contempt for the intelligence of the public and the independence of the press, nothing prepared us this week for his announcement on who would head the review: National Intelligence Chief John Clapper. That’s right. Clapper, the man who admitted to lying before Congress on these programs and has been protected by Congress and Attorney General Eric Holder from a perjury charge. The White House announced Clapper’s selection on Monday and Clapper issued a statement announcing his intention to find a way to preserve national security while “maintaing the public trust.” On Tuesday, the outcry over Clapper’s selection led the White House to try to backpedal and explain this insulting appointment. The White House now says that Clapper will not “lead” the panel and that it will remain “independent” even with his looming presence.

It was the latest outrage from America’s new Animal Farm system. His selection shows the low level of respect for voters in this city and the virtual absence of any fear of confrontation by either Congress or the press in this Administration. It is, to put it simply, a disgrace. Rather than being charged with a virtual admission of perjury, Clapper will review the very programs that he lied about. He is also the person who has been overseeing and using these programs.

What is most unnerving is that Obama is not even trying to make a serious effort at evasion. He simply wants to create some review that can be cited by congressional allies as an excuse for not taking any action in the face of the erosion of privacy.

Clapper said that he will head the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies which will “assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.” The wording is telling. Notice how national security is the primary of focus and privacy is not even directly mentioned. Rather, it is part of a secondary category of risks and concerns over the public trust. Indeed, it seems that “maintaing the public trust” is the more pressing concern as it was with Obama’s comments. Obama insisted that if he had simply created this meaningless committee before the recent scandals, the public would not have been upset by the Snowden affair. The panel will restore public trust by being a panel committed to restoring the public trust.

Once again, the White House seemed entirely surprised that anyone in the media or public would object to a plan of the President. The White House on Tuesday back pedaled and insisted that Clapper would not run the entire show and would have limited powers as part of this overall review. Instead, the Administration insisted that “the panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the intelligence community.” Now that’s a closed circle. The panel will be selected by the White House accused abusive surveillance in consultation with the community accused of carrying out the abusive surveillance. I can see why the White House seems so surprised by the response. Why on Earth wouldn’t the public trust be maintained?

147 thoughts on “Obama Picks Clapper For Panel To Review Programs That He Previously Lied About Before Congress”

  1. “Washington Post Slaps Back White House Over NSA Privacy Quotes”


    “The story, which was written by former Post reporter Barton Gellman based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, revealed that the NSA had admitted to breaking privacy rules thousands of times since 2008. Gellman’s article detailed internal audits which showed how the vast surveillance capabilities of the NSA had been abused.

    The Post went to the NSA and the White House for comment before the article’s publication, as it does with almost any sensitive national security story. “The government was made aware of The Post’s intention to publish the documents that accompany this article online,” the article stated.

    But, in a separate post, the paper revealed that, after the Post refused to let the White House edit quotes from an on-the-record conversation Gellman had conducted with John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, the administration tried to substitute the quotes with a prepared statement. The Post tersely told readers that it had declined”… continues

  2. NSA Surveillance Broke Privacy Rules Thousands Of Times Per Year: Report

    WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

    Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. emails and telephone calls, the Post said, citing an internal audit and other top-secret documents provided it earlier this summer from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, a former systems analyst with the agency.

    In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    The Post cited a 2008 example of the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

    In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

    The NSA audit obtained by the Post dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.

    1. “National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year ”

      This could be the beginning of the end. Or it could be one more example of an important event that hardly lasts the MSM news cycle.

      Some years ago there were reports that the IG at the FBI documented wholesale abuse of the special powers from the Patriot act, such as the agency issued warrants for documents. Does anyone remember that?

      Even the most damning revelations don’t lead to change unless citizens demand change.

      Nevertheless, many different voices are stating what many have believed for a long time: these programs are out of control with no meaningful oversight.

      We hear members of congress complaining that their oversight has been thwarted. A member of the FISA court has spoken up and confirmed the court is dependent on the government and has no real ability to assure compliance with its rulings.

      NSA refusal to cooperate with the most basic requirements for oversight ought to concern every citizen.

  3. LK,
    You are welcome. The deep web, aka the Dark Net has been represented visually as an iceberg. 96% of it is below the surface and you can’t see it. If one decides to go exploring, it is extremely important to follow the rules of common sense and safety, and have your own machine well encrypted.

    As for memory in the computer, things have progressed so far if you don’t have at a huge amount of RAM, you are going to be out of luck. One of my friends uses a three terabyte external hard drive just to hold his photograph files.

    Here is a variation of the iceberg depiction of what you can see with a regular search, and what you can see if you dig down into the depths using TOR and its relatives.


  4. Otteray Scribe, Thanks for the info and videos. The first one was very informative. I was not aware of the size of the darknet, it is massive! I visited the TOR site a long time ago when I first started getting paranoid about the Internet privacy issue. It (Tor) was too complicated. I wasn’t THAT concerned and didn’t want to be bothered setting up a new browser. I also didn’t want to be slowed down which is something that is an issue with an older computer. It looks from the video like a fairly simple dashboard window opens after you install the program and the configuration now is a simple matter. That’s a plus.

    Freenet also sounded interesting and I found their site and wiki. It has the advantage of (apparently) complete anonymity but from it’s description it sounds like it operates just like a bit-torrent site. That’s a problem for me because I have very little spare HD space to donate as a node on a drive that has very little memory. I’m constantly shunting files among external drives to make room on my default (C) drive. I spend as much time cleaning out drives as I do temporarily adding stuff. I seriously need a hardware upgrade.

    Thanks again for the information, that video was very, very helpful.

  5. Here is Cole Stryker talking about what is on the Darknet. I am not sure that even the NSA can truly penetrate TOR. You can find truly awful stuff, but it is also used by Anonymous, rebels in the streets of Egypt and China, and ordinary people who are simply trying to keep their stuff private.

  6. LK
    I read about the TOR problem earlier today. Sites like that are a real threat to those who would have us believe there is a threat.

    Most people I talk to have no idea there is a Darknet, or how big it is. Or what is on it. You definitely cannot get there through Google, or any of the other normal search engines.

  7. Oh, bother. And I had high hopes for Tor. 🙁 Thanks for links, Lottakatz.

  8. Otteray Scribe, According to two stories reported by “Ars Technica”, NSA was probably responsible for launching a successful attack on Tor Browser through servers owned by their host from the look of it. Then the investigators originally making the claim backed off the statement. But the investigators are established and one of two things happened: the two independent teams of investigators doing the forensics were wrong, or the information- the data trail- changed between the time the original findings were made and follow-up analysis was done.

    Who knows? We live in William Gibson’s world now, there is an active cyber-war going on internationally and intranationally and the players are both public and private sector. Pick whatever version of the truth appeals to you. I’m of the mind that the government hates secrecy unless it’s theirs so encrypted communication that isn’t theirs is target one on their to-do list.



  9. PR,
    Lifehacker has reviewed all the email client programs, both stand-alone and server based. They picked Thunderbird as the best, and since it is open source freeware, it is constantly under development. You do not have to buy stuff when the next upgrade comes out. Here is their review:


    According to Lifehacker, Mozilla’s only serious “inside your own computer” competition is Windows Outlook…..for $399.00. Lessee now. Should I get one that is free, or do I spend four century notes for a program that can only be installed on one computer, will be upgraded every couple of years and have to pay for the upgrades…..oh, never mind.

    Here is a little trick if you download Thunderbird and want your standard toolbar at the top of the page. Place your cursor in the clear space to the right of the tab, right click will open a small toolbox, then click Toolbar to turn it on.

  10. Otteray Scribe,
    Thanks! Abandoning Google is our #1 goal. I did see the Mozilla petition against the surveillance–just haven’t jumped aboard. (https://optin.stopwatching.us/)

    I don’t want to disappoint Ai WeiWei. 🙂 (or my children or future grandchildren…)

  11. Prairie Rose,
    TOR is an acronym for The Onion Router. It is free. The way it operates is complex.

    No matter what email service you use, assume it could shut down at any moment. Hotmail shut down. Both Lavabit and Silent Circle have shut down rather than give the NSA their database. Unless it is a throwaway email account, get an email client program that will store all your messages on your own computer memory. When you open messages with your email client program, have your settings so that all messages are deleted from your ISP server once downloaded.

    In case anyone doesn’t know what an email client is, that’s a program on your own computer which opens and manipulates your email inside your own computer. Thunderbird from Mozilla is an email client, and it is free. Thunderbird does not have popup ads. You can compose on the email client program, affix any attachments, encrypt if you need to, and hit send. It connects itself to the email program (gmail, yahoo, etc.) and does its thing. One reason I like Thunderbird is that it is highly customizable with add-ons and themes, and it can handle multiple email accounts all from one window.

  12. Darren,
    Here’s a foreign email server that might interest you:


    “We offer secure email accounts including calenders and address books that synchronize to all your devices. The data is stored in our very own data center in Switzerland and can not be accessed by spy programs such as PRISM, so there will be no spying. There is also no corporate spying, because we show no advertisements. ”

    There’s also the TOR project, but I don’t know much about it: https://blog.torproject.org/

  13. The Police State Mindset in Our Public Schools

    Tuesday, 13 August 2013 09:18 By John W Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute | Op-Ed


    “Making matters worse, these iris scanning programs are gaining traction in the schools, with school buses even getting in on the action. As students enter the school bus, they will be told to look through a pair of binocular-like scanners which will either blink, indicating that the student is on the right bus, or honk, indicating that they’ve chosen the wrong one. This technology is linked with a mobile app which parents can use to track their child’s exact whereabouts, as each time their eyes are scanned the parent receives a print out with their photo and Google map location, along with a timestamp. Benefits aside, the potential for abuse, especially in the hands of those who prey on the young, are limitless.

    Insiders expect this emerging industry to expand beyond schools to ATMs, airports, and other high security areas within the next few years. It’s definitely big business. The school security industry, which includes everything from biometrics to video surveillance, was worth $2.7 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow by 80% over the next five years and be worth $4.9 billion by 2017.

    Even so, promises of profit, safety and efficiency aside, it doesn’t bode well for our nation’s youth who are being raised in quasi-prisonlike school environments where they are treated as if they have no rights and are taught even less about the Constitution. It has been said that America’s schools are the training ground for future generations. If so, and unless we can do something to rein in this runaway train, this next generation will be the most compliant, fearful and oppressed generation ever to come of age in America, and they will be marching in lockstep with the police state.”

  14. There Is No Such Thing As NSA-Proof Email
    Just ask ultrasecure email providers.
    —By Mariah Blake, Gavin Aronsen, and Dana Liebelson
    Aug. 14, 2013

    Since last June, when Edward Snowden tore the veil off the National Security Agency’s vast data dragnet, Americans have been flocking to ultrasecure email services in the hopes of keeping the government out of their private business. Use of the most popular email encryption software, PGP, tripled between June and July, while revenue for the data-encryption company Silent Circle has shot up 400 percent.

    But even these services may not be able to protect your email from government prying. That fact came into stark relief last Thursday, when Lavabit, the secure email service used by Snowden, abruptly shut down. Lavabit’s 32-year-old founder, Ladar Levison, issued a statement saying he pulled the plug because he didn’t want to be “complicit in crimes against the American people.” He has since given up using email entirely, and he urges others to consider doing the same. “I would strongly recommend against entrusting your privacy to a company with physical ties to the United States,” he told Mother Jones. “I honestly don’t think it’s possible to provide a secure service in this country.”

    Levison, who is reportedly under federal gag order, declined to elaborate (though he opined, based on his experience, that we’re a “whisper’s breath away” from becoming a society where all electronic communications are recorded and scrutinized by the government). But according to other industry insiders and cybersecurity experts, there’s good reason to be wary of transmitting sensitive information via email—even if your provider claims to have iron-clad safeguards.

    Tech giants, such as the Microsoft subsidiary Hotmail, regularly hand over data to the government. In fact, in the last eight months of 2012 (the most recent period for which data is available), Hotmail, Google, Facebook, and Twitter provided law enforcement authorities with information on more than 64,000 users. And that doesn’t include responses to secret national security letters ordered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, or FISA.

    Secure emails services, such as Lavabit, are supposed to guard against this kind of snooping (as well as hackers and phishers) by encrypting email messages—turning them into gibberish that can only be read by people who have a password, or “key.” Theoretically, in most cases, the email provider can’t even decipher the contents, much less government agencies. But even the most secure email systems don’t completely encrypt “metadata,” the bits of identifying information that accompany messages, such as the sender’s name and IP address; the subject line; and the date and time the message was sent. Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University, says the government can tell a lot about a person from these details. “If you can map out who someone has talked to, that’s almost as useful as knowing what they were talking about,” he explained, “especially if you’re trying to map out a criminal conspiracy or find out who leaked information from reporters.”

    What’s more, encrypted emails may actually attract NSA scrutiny. Under most circumstances, the NSA is supposed to destroy intercepted email data from US citizens. But, according to an internal NSA document that was leaked to the Guardian in June, this rule doesn’t apply to “enciphered” communications—meaning the NSA can stockpile data from encrypted accounts and comb through it at will.

    1. ” information on more than 64,000 users.”

      Can’t wait to read that plots by 64,000 terrorists were thwarted when government agents intercepted their communications.

      Do I feel protected now.

      It sounds like the only way to have secure communications is to use an open source encryption program, compile the binaries yourself, and hope the recipient of your message is doing the same thing. Then there is still the issue of key security.

      Oh for the simpler days when we could just use pigeon droppings and make invisible ink.

      On a more personal note, We saw that new movie. It was a real BOMB. But its AUGUST so we will soon GO OFF to the mountains for vacation. When we get back in the fall we have lots of NEW ideas for the FRONT lawn. And the team is looking pretty so we are looking forward to lots of ACTION this season.

      Your friend,


  15. Shame on all of you who accused this President of not having a sense of humor.

    On the subject of elections,Dredd and Maggincat have right. It’s a charade. Obama is the Republican’s Democrat, willing to serve the oligarchy. For that reason, Romney was no more of a real choice than Bob Dole was in ’96.

    Nick: Nader? Third party? Does the phrase Pyrrhic victory ring bell?

    DavidM: Romney way better? That’s some extra turd flavored Kool-Aid you’re drinking there.

  16. Off topic–but scary:

    Hacked Baby Monitor Caught Spying On 2-Year-Old Girl In Texas
    The Huffington Post
    By Ryan Grenoble
    Posted: 08/13/2013

    If you need another reason to make sure your networks are secure and up to date, here it is: hacked baby monitors.

    In a true nightmare story, two Texas parents say they woke up this past weekend to hear a stranger’s voice coming from the room of their 2-year-old girl.

    “It felt like somebody broke into our house,” Marc Gilbert told ABC affiliate KTRK.

    As Gilbert walked down the hall and entered the room, he says he heard the voice say, “Wake up Allyson, you little [expletive].” The camera on their trusted baby monitor then rotated to watch Marc walk into the room as he rushed to unplug it.

    Marc said Allyson has impaired hearing and apparently slept through the entire baby monitor incident. Regardless, it has left the family shaken.

    “I don’t think it ever will be connected again … I think we are going to go without the baby monitor now,” Gilbert told ABC News.

  17. Michael Murry
    1, August 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm
    How come the good guys who defend our Fourth Amendment privacy rights have to shut down while the bad corporate-government guys who invade it get to stay in business? Something ass backwards about that.

    = = =

    It’s worse than that…
    … These bad-corporate government guys get paid with our taxes to screw us.

  18. You can find out more about whistle blower Karen Hughes, who is taking the lid off of the Federal Reserve, at newamerican.com

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