Friday, August 16, 2013

NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens' emails and phone calls



Obama Appoints Spy Chief to Head NSA Investigation


by Stephen Lendmanobama-big-brother-is-watching-you

You can’t make this stuff up. It sounds like a bad film plot. The fix is in. Obama’s reform assures business as usual. His promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

He says one thing. He does another. It happens every time. He broke every major promise made. He’s a serial liar. He governs lawlessly. He claims Washington doesn’t have a domestic spying. NSA monitors everyone everywhere all the time. Obama lied claiming otherwise. A previous article said London’s Guardian headlined “NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens’ emails and phone calls.”

Snowden revealed a secret NSA backdoor. It’s a previously undisclosed rule. It lets NSA operatives “hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information.”

Under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) Section 702, warrantless intelligence data is collected. It’s official policy.

It includes foreign and domestic communications. Deceptive language calls it “incidental collection.” There’s nothing “incidental” about it.

It’s systematic meta-data mining. It’s done extrajudicially. It’s without oversight. Until now, it’s been secret. It’s far more intrusive than previously believed.

It permits warrantless searches. In 2011, Obama approved it. He did it secretly. On request, FISA court judges rubber-stamp approval. Whatever NSA wants it gets.

Obama assurances about privacy, transparency and reform ring hollow. It bears repeating. Business as usual continues. Big Brother watches everyone.

On August 12, a White House Press release said: “Presidential Memorandum — Reviewing Our Global Signals Intelligence Collection and Communications Technologies

SUBJECT: Reviewing Our Global Signals Intelligence Collection and Communications Technologies. The United States, like all nations, gathers intelligence in order to protect its national interests and to defend itself, its citizens, and its partners and allies from threats to our security. The United States cooperates closely with many countries on intelligence matters and these intelligence relationships have helped to ensure our common security. Recent years have brought unprecedented and rapid advancements in communications technologies, particularly with respect to global telecommunications. These technological advances have brought with them both great opportunities and significant risks for our Intelligence Community: opportunity in the form of enhanced technical capabilities that can more precisely and readily identify threats to our security, and risks in the form of insider and cyber threats. I believe it is important to take stock of how these technological advances alter the environment in which we conduct our intelligence mission. To this end, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I am directing you to establish a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (Review Group). The Review Group 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.

Within 60 days of its establishment, the Review Group will brief their interim findings to me through the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the Review Group will provide a final report and recommendations to me through the DNI no later than December 15, 2013. You are hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.”

Memories of Stasi color Germans’ view of U.S. surveillance programs



So-called review groups and independent commissions reflect damage control. They lack credibility. They spurn truth and full disclosure. In his book titled “The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions,” David Ray Griffin said Bush officials “deliberately” failed to prevent the attacks or were “actively involved in (their) planning and execution.” He titled a separate article “The 9/11 Commission Report: A 571-Page Lie,” saying:

“(T)he entire Report is constructed in support of one big lie: that the official story about 9/11 is true.” Griffin’s not sure how many lies the report contains. His book identified over 100. His article added others. He discussed 115 lies he knows about. He concluded saying “far from lessening (his) suspicions about official complicity, (the report) served to confirm them.” “Why would the minds in charge of this final report engage in such deception if they were not trying to cover up very high crimes,” he asked? The commission was stacked with insiders. Philip Zelikow was executive director. He’s a former State Department official. He was a GHW Bush National Security Council member.

He served on GW Bush’s 2000-01 transition team. He was appointed to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He worked on other administration initiatives. Thomas Kean’s a former New Jersey governor. Lee Hamilton’s a former Democrat House member. Fred Fielding’s a former Republican White House Council. Jamie Gorelick’s a former Clinton administration Deputy Attorney General. John Lehman’s a former Navy secretary. James Thompson’s a former Illinois governor.

Other members were seriously compromised. Max Cleland was the one exception. The former Georgia senator resigned. He did so saying “the White House has played cover-up.” Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey replaced him. Clapper is Obama’s Zelikow. Coverup, distortion and denial will follow. Reform is a nonstarter. So is truth and full disclosure. Business as usual is policy. It’s always this way. It’s no different now. Appointing Clapper exposes the ruse. Doing so reflects flagrant conflict of interest.

He’s director of national intelligence (DNI). He lied to Congress. He committed perjury. He remains unaccountable. He said Washington has no domestic spying program. He was forced to admit his lack of candor. He did so disingenuously. Obama wants a known liar investigating NSA spying. Monday evening, White House damage control tried dampening controversy. According to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden:

“The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the intelligence community.”

She claimed DNI must be involved. Panel members need security clearances, she added. They’re needed to access classified material. She stopped short of saying anyone can be vetted like insiders. Credibility depends on independence. Insiders are wholly lacking. They’re paid to distort, coverup and lie. Putting foxes in charge of henhouse investigations assures same old, same old results. It happens every time. Monday evening, Obama disingenuously backtracked, saying:

He establish(ed) a review group on intelligence and communications technologies.” It’ll report to him through Clapper. He, in turn, issued his own statement, saying:

“DNI Clapper Announces Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. At the direction of the President, I am establishing the Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to examine our global signals-intelligence collection and surveillance capability.

The Review Group 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 Review Group will brief its interim findings to the President within 60 days of its establishment, and provide a final report with recommendations no later than Dec. 15, 2013.”

James R. Clapper

Director of National Intelligence

On August 12, Timothy Lee headlined “The man who misled Congress on spying will pick Obama’s intelligence review panel,” saying:

“The announcement doesn’t inspire confidence that the president is interested in truly independent scrutiny of the nation’s surveillance programs.”

“And there are other signs that the group won’t turn out quite the way the president described it on Friday.”

“Fridays speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view.”

“The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper.”

There’s “no mention of preventing abuses. The so-called commission will examine whether US spying “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.”

In 1975, Gerald Ford appointed Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. He headed a commission in charge of investigating US intelligence agency abuses. Members chosen had close administration ties. Coverup and whitewash followed. Administrations abhor independence. Obama claiming otherwise doesn’t wash. Senator Frank Church headed the only credible commission in recent memory. Congress has none like him now. His US Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities said:

NSA’s “capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

“There would be no place to hide.” Church’s warning went unheeded. Today’s surveillance abuse far exceeds his time. Insider commissions assure safe results. Manipulated deception substitutes for truth and full disclosure. This time’s no different. Perhaps David Ray Griffin will title a future book “The Clapper Commission: Omissions, Distortions and Bald-Faced Lies.”


Protestors greeted President Obama when he visited in June. They are upset over the NSA spying. BERLIN


NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens' emails and phone calls

Spy agency has secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans' communications


FAA-documentView larger picture

Detail of Section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act (FAA), which gives the NSA authority to target without warrant the communications of foreign targets.

The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens'email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.

The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans' communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing "warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans".

The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.

The intelligence data is being gathered under Section 702 of the of theFisa Amendments Act (FAA), which gives the NSA authority to target without warrant the communications of foreign targets, who must be non-US citizens and outside the US at the point of collection.

The communications of Americans in direct contact with foreign targets can also be collected without a warrant, and the intelligence agencies acknowledge that purely domestic communications can also be inadvertently swept into its databases. That process is known as "incidental collection" in surveillance parlance.

But this is the first evidence that the NSA has permission to search those databases for specific US individuals' communications.

A secret glossary document provided to operatives in the NSA's Special Source Operations division – which runs the Prism program and large-scale cable intercepts through corporate partnerships with technology companies – details an update to the "minimization" procedures that govern how the agency must handle the communications of US persons. That group is defined as both American citizens and foreigners located in the US.

"While the FAA 702 minimization procedures approved on 3 October 2011 now allow for use of certain United States person names and identifiers as query terms when reviewing collected FAA 702 data," the glossary states, "analysts may NOT/NOT [not repeat not] implement any USP [US persons] queries until an effective oversight process has been developed by NSA and agreed to by DOJ/ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence]."

The term "identifiers" is NSA jargon for information relating to an individual, such as telephone number, email address, IP address and username as well as their name.

The document – which is undated, though metadata suggests this version was last updated in June 2012 – does not say whether the oversight process it mentions has been established or whether any searches against US person names have taken place.

Ron Wyden

Senator Ron Wyden. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, has obliquely warned for months that the NSA's retention of Americans' communications incidentally collected and its ability to search through it has been far more extensive than intelligence officials have stated publicly. Speaking this week, Wyden told the Guardian it amounts to a "backdoor search" through Americans' communications data.

"Section 702 was intended to give the government new authorities to collect the communications of individuals believed to be foreigners outside the US, but the intelligence community has been unable to tell Congress how many Americans have had their communications swept up in that collection," he said.

"Once Americans' communications are collected, a gap in the law that I call the 'back-door searches loophole' allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans."

Wyden, along with his intelligence committee colleague Mark Udall, have attempted repeatedly to warn publicly about the ability of the intelligence community to look at the communications of US citizens, but are limited by their obligation not to reveal highly classified information.

But in a letter they recently wrote to the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, the two senators warned that a fact sheet released by theNSA in the wake of the initial Prism revelations to reassure the American public about domestic surveillance was misleading.

In the letter, they warned that Americans' communications might be inadvertently collected and stored under Section 702, despite rules stating only data on foreigners should be collected and retained.

"[W]e note that this same fact sheet states that under Section 702, 'Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a US personmust be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorised purpose nor evidence of a crime,'" they said.

"We believe that this statement is somewhat misleading, in that it implied the NSA has the ability to determine how many American communications it has collected under Section 702, or that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans."

The foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court issues approvals annually authorizing such operations, with specific rules on who can be targeted and what measures must be taken to minimize any details "inadvertently" collected on US persons.

Secret minimization procedures dating from 2009, published in June by the Guardian, revealed that the NSA could make use of any "inadvertently acquired" information on US persons under a defined range of circumstances, including if they held usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity.

At that stage, however, the rules did not appear to allow for searches of collected data relating to specific US persons.

Assurances from Obama and senior administration officials to the American public about the privacy of their communications have relied on the strict definition of what constitutes "targeting" while making no mention of the permission to search for US data within material that has already been collected.

The day after the Guardian revealed details of the NSA's Prism program, President Obama said: "Now, with respect to the internet and emails, this doesn't apply to US citizens and it doesn't apply to people living in the United States."

Speaking at a House hearing on 18 June this year, deputy attorney general James Cole told legislators "[T]here's a great deal of minimization procedures that are involved here, particularly concerning any of the acquisition of information that deals or comes from US persons.

"As I said, only targeting people outside the United States who are not US persons. But if we do acquire any information that relates to a US person, under limited criteria only can we keep it."

Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said in June 2012 that she believed the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department were sufficiently mindful of Americans' privacy.

"The intelligence community is strictly prohibited from using Section 702 to target a US person, which must at all times be carried out pursuant to an individualized court order based upon probable cause," Feinstein stated in a report provided to the Senate record.

While there are several congressional proposals to constrain the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, there has to date been much less legislative appetite to abridge its powers under Section 702 – as lawmakers are satisfied it doesn't sufficiently violate Americans' privacy.

"702 is focused outside the United States at non-citizens," said Adam Schiff, a member of the House intelligence committee. "The evidence of the effectiveness of 702 is much more substantial than 215 [the bulk phone records collection]. So I think there are fewer fourth amendment concerns and more evidence of the saliency of the program."

Wyden and Udall – both of whom say foreign surveillance conducted under Section 702 has legitimate value for US national security – have tried and failed to restrict the NSA's ability to collect and store Americans' communications that it accidentally acquires.

Wyden told the Guardian that he raised concerns about the loophole with President Obama during an August 1 meeting with legislators about the NSA's surveillance powers.

"I believe that Congress should reform Section 702 to provide better protections for Americans' privacy, and that this could be done without losing the value that this collection provides," he said.

The Guardian put the latest revelations to the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence but no response had been received by the time of publication.

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