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NSA Snooping Illegal, Violates Privacy: U.S. Watchdog

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NSA Snooping Illegal, Violates Privacy: U.S. Watchdog


Washington (AFP) – The bulk telephone data collection by a U.S. intelligence agency is a massive violation of civil liberties and should be shut down, a government advisory panel said Thursday.

A report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a panel created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, concluded the National Security Agency’s huge phone metadata program is illegal in several ways, and provides little or no value to the fight against terrorism.

The panel’s 238-page report said the program “has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism.”

“Based on the information provided to the board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the report said.

And the panel said the program is not authorized by Patriot Act, the law passed following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

It said the program violates constitutional guarantees of free speech and protection against unreasonable searches, and also fails to comply with a federal privacy law.

Moreover, it said the program threatens to have “debilitating consequences for journalism” because “sources in a position to offer crucial information about newsworthy topics may remain silent out of fear that their telephone records could be used to trace their contacts.”

“The Section 215 bulk telephone records program lacks a viable legal foundation… implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

The report said the NSA also stretches the interpretation of what may be “relevant” to a terrorism investigation.

“The government has argued… that essentially the entire nation’s calling records are ‘relevant’ to every counterterrorism investigation,” it said.

“The implication of this reasoning is that if the government develops an effective means of searching through everything in order to find something, then everything becomes relevant to its investigations. The word ‘relevant’ becomes limited only by the government’s technological capacity to ingest information and sift through it efficiently.”

But the five-member board, which began work in 2012, years after Congress called for its creation, split in its conclusions. Two members said they disagreed on the legal authority for the program.

Board member Rachel Brand wrote in her dissent that “I cannot join the board’s analysis or conclusions” that the NSA program is illegal, and said that if the United States is hit with another large-scale terrorist attack, “the public will engage in recriminations against the Intelligence Community for failure to prevent it.”

The other dissenter, Elisebeth Collins Cook, said the program “should be modified,” but that “I do not believe it lacks statutory authorization or must be shut down…. I disagree with the board’s analysis of the efficacy of the program.”

Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the report, saying the panel correctly concluded that the NSA’s call-records dragnet “is illegal and ineffective and presents a serious threat to civil liberties.”

Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International USA said the report “should be the final nail in the coffin for the bulk collection of U.S. telephony metadata under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Congress should move to end the program.”

The report comes one month after a special panel named by President Barack Obama has urged scaling back electronic spying powers to protect privacy rights and shore up public trust.

The NSA programs have been in focus since reports leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden were published in news media, outraging many activists at home and U.S. allies also caught up the data sweep.

Snowden was set to make his first public chat online, answering questions from the public, later Thursday.

AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards



  1. daniel bostdorf January 23, 2014

    quoting the article:

    The panel’s 238-page report said the program “has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism.”

    “Based on the information provided to the board, including classified
    briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance
    involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a
    concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,”
    the report said.”

    The ends do not justify the means.

    We cannot allow for the destruction of the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments to the Consitution because it is convenient to do so all in the false premise of “national security.”

    The propaganda the American people have endured since 2001 is staggering as it relates to subverting our very liberties…

    “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.” – “The secret of propaganda is to saturate a group of people with propagandist ideas without their even noticing it.” – Nazi-Joseph Goebbels.

    October 2001: politicians pushed the “Patriot act” through congress. Gives government access to: wiretapping, electronic surveillance, peoples medical records, everything without anyone ever doing anything wrong. Without a warrant. Congress continued to reauthorized and evenSenator Obama supported it then as he now RELUNCTANTLY has to admit to ordering the NSA to “stand down” no more surveiilance…

    The “Patriot Act” defines protests as terrorism. At the republican national convention in St. Paul in 2008, 400 American citizens were arrested for protesting and dozens of reporters were arrested.

    The Nazis had secret prisons outside of the law where torture took place ie actions which took place inside were unaccounted for to the public. Dachau- Himmler officially described as “the first concentration camp for political prisoners.”

    America has had secret prisons globally and still maintains the very public Guantanamo Bay.

    Gestapo memo on interogation ie Vernehmung translated: “Enhanced interrogation techniques.” Compared to current techniques Vernehmung is tame. Vernehmung forbids waterboarding, hypothermia and several other techniques that we utilize.. Memo imposed strict limits on utilization-.But what happened in practice? History told us. They did it anyway…

    Interrogation defended by Obama and teh NSA?CIA is not new. Obama’s phrase to describe torture-that-isn’t-is: “enhanced interrogation techniques”

    These methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

    Today: anyone who is a critic of NSA surveillance is unamerican.

    Look at Snowden….the propaganda surrounding him is classic dis-sinformation campaign by intelligence agencies.

    Unless we restore the Constitition to where it was before the Patriot Act IE REPEAL The unpatriotic “Patriot Act.” an the d preserve and protect Bill of Rights….any president or future president can subvert our liberties.

    NSA SNOOPING WAS ANDSTILL IS ILLEGAL and an affront to the founding fathers and mothers of the Consitution.

    Our troops fought and have died for protecting the very Constitution and Bill of Rights that was conveniently tossed out after the 911 attacks.

    So why did we pass this Patriot Act?

    The answer is contained in a brilliant movie Soliloquy:

    “Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others … but … truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now-High Chancellor … He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.”

    Our high chancellors Bush/Cheney…and the duplictous Congress and public….created the surveillance police state we now live in..

    Repeal the Patriot Act now…

  2. daniel bostdorf January 23, 2014

    This is the day that we fighht back against the NSA, The destruction of the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments to Constitution and privacy guaranteed in The Bill of Rights..




    1. daniel bostdorf January 23, 2014

      Fight back…

  3. daniel bostdorf January 24, 2014

    Snowden calls for whistle-blower protections, NSA reform


    Tom Kutsch

    Appeal comes as Attorney General Holder says administration may consider a plea agreement with former NSA contractor..

    here with excerpts from Snowdens live chat



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