National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.
NSA director Keith Alexander says his agency's analysts, which until recently included Edward Snowden among their ranks, take protecting "civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day."
(Credit: Getty Images)
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."
If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.
Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler's disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.
The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii "wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president."
There are serious "constitutional problems" with this approach, says Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has litigated warrantless wiretapping cases. "It epitomizes the problem of secret laws."
Truth as always. He notes as I did as soon as Obama started justifying giving Rebels military aid based on reports of chemical use, that a couple of weeks ago the administration seemed to agree with the UN investigators that it was the Rebels, not Assad using the gas. Not that I think Assad is wonderful, just that we don't want to be responsible for the actions of either.
May was Iraq’s deadliest month in nearly five years, with more than 1,000 dead – both civilians and security personnel -- in a rash of bombings, shootings and other violence. As we read each day of new horrors in Iraq, it becomes more obvious that the US invasion delivered none of the promised peace or stability that proponents of the attack promised.
Millions live in constant fear, refugees do not return home, and the economy is destroyed. The Christian community, some 1.2 million persons before 2003, has been nearly wiped off the Iraqi map. Other minorities have likewise disappeared. Making matters worse, US support for the Syrian rebels next door has drawn the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government into the spreading regional unrest and breathed new life into extremist elements.
The invasion of Iraq opened the door to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which did not exist beforehand, while simultaneously strengthening the hand of Iran in the region. Were the “experts” who planned for and advocated the US attack really this incompetent?
Ryan Crocker, who was US Ambassador to Iraq from 2007-2009, still speaks of the Iraqi “surge” as a great reconciliation between Sunni and Shi’ite in Iraq. He wrote recently that “[t]hough the United States has withdrawn its troops from Iraq, it retains significant leverage there. Iraqi forces were equipped and trained by Americans, and the country’s leaders need and expect our help.” He seems alarmingly out of touch with reality. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2...rab-insurgents
It is clear now that the “surge” and the “Iraqi Awakening” were just myths promoted by those desperate to put a positive spin on the US invasion, which the late General William Odom once called, “the greatest strategic disaster in American history." Aircraft were loaded with $100 dollar bills to pay each side to temporarily stop killing US troops and each other, but the payoff provided a mere temporary break. Shouldn’t the measure of success of a particular policy be whether it actually produces sustained positive results?
Now we see radical fighters who once shot at US troops in Iraq have spilled into Syria, where they ironically find their cause supported by the US government! Some of these fighters are even greeted by visiting US senators.
The US intervention in Iraq has created ever more problems. That is clear. The foreign policy “experts” who urged the US attack on Iraq now claim that the disaster they created can only be solved with more interventionism! Imagine a medical doctor noting that a particular medication is killing his patient, but to combat the side effect he orders an increase in dosage of the same medicine. Like this doctor, the US foreign policy establishment is guilty of malpractice. And, I might add, this is just what the Fed does with monetary policy.
From Iraq to Libya to Mali to Syria to Afghanistan, US interventions have an unbroken record of making matters far worse. Yet regardless of the disasters produced, for the interventionists a more aggressive US foreign policy is the only policy they offer.
We must learn the appropriate lessons from the disaster of Iraq. We cannot continue to invade countries, install puppet governments, build new nations, create centrally-planned economies, engage in social engineering, and force democracy at the barrel of a gun. The rest of the world is tired of US interventionism and the US taxpayer is tired of footing the bill for US interventionism. It is up to all of us to make it very clear to the foreign policy establishment and the powers that be that we have had enough and will no longer tolerate empire-building. We should be more confident in ourselves and stop acting like an insecure bully.
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"This past Thursday and Friday, President Obama delivered two speeches designed to outline his new thinking on national security and counter-terrorism. While much was made in the media of the president’s statements at the National Defense University and the US Naval Academy suggesting that the most active phase of US military action overseas was coming to an end, this “new” approach is but the same old policy wrapped in new packaging. In these addresses, the president panders to the progressives, while continually expanding and solidifying the "enabling act” principle.
The president will continue and even expand drone attacks overseas because they are “less deadly” than ground invasions. He promises to be more careful in the future.
He is entertaining the introduction of “kill courts” which will meet in secret to decide who is to be executed without trial or charge. He promises these will have sufficient oversight.
He will seek a new and updated Authorization for the Use of Military Force to expand his legal authority to wage war wherever and whenever he wants. He promises it will one day be repealed.
He will continue to indefinitely detain at Guantanamo individuals who have been neither charged nor convicted of any crime, and who cannot even be tried because they were tortured and thus the evidence is tainted. He promises to “commit to a process of closing GTMO.”
The speech speaks of more war and more killing and more interventionism all masked in the language of withdrawal."
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