During his stop over in Stockholm, Sweden on the way to the G-20, President Barack Obama renewed his defense of unfettered surveillance
“I can give assurances to the publics in Europe and around the world that we’re not going around snooping at people’s emails or listening to their phone calls,” Obama said in response to a Swedish reporter’s question during a news conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as he began a whirlwind, 24-hour trip to Sweden. “What we try to do is to target very specifically areas of concern.”
Still, the president acknowledged that questions about privacy were likely to trail him in Europe – a continent that is protective of privacy rights – for some time. The issue also bubbled up during his trip to Germany in June, shortly after newspapers published reports based on documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
Despite Obama’s assertions of a more narrow-scope effort, the Snowden-leaked documents show the NSA collects and stores all kinds of data traveling through the Internet, including emails, video chats and instant messages. Under one such classified program, known as Prism, the government can obtain secret court orders and gather mass amounts of data from major Internet companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.
The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of the intelligence agency’s action filing a complaint in the Southern District of New York against James Clapper in June. An up date on that lawsuit was posted today on their web site. (please note that the link contains an interesting but really annoying gif).
An impressive array of organizations and individuals filed amicus briefs yesterday in support of the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the government’s collection of the call records of virtually everyone in the United States. The range of voices joining the protest against mass government surveillance-not to mention the bipartisan storm that has swept Congress since the recent NSA disclosures – is a real testament to the fact that the government’s dragnet surveillance practices are offensive to Americans from across the political spectrum.
Among the groups supporting our lawsuit are the National Rifle Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the PEN American Center. Philosophy Professor Michael Lynch submitted a brief arguing that privacy is fundamental to human dignity. Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted a brief on behalf of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), one of the authors of the Patriot Act. Rep. Sensenbrenner has decried the now-public call-records program as outside the scope of the law he authored.
Yes, you’re reading that right, the NRA and Rep. Sensenbrenner.
NSA surveillance: National Rifle Association backs ACLU challenge
by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Anger at US government’s data trawling creates unlikely alliance in court between NRA and American Civil Liberties Union
The NRA, in an amicus brief in support of the ACLU, argues that the mass surveillance programme provides “the government not only with the means of identifying members and others who communicate with the NRA and other advocacy groups, but also with the means of identifying gun owners without their knowledge or consent”.
Original Patriot Act Author Says Call-Data Collection Exceeds Congressional Intent
San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a brief on behalf of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the original USA PATRIOT Act, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the National Security Agency (NSA). In the brief, Sensenbrenner argues that Congress never intended the Patriot Act to permit the NSA’s collection of the records of every telephone call made to, from and within the United States. Sensenbrenner urges the court to deny the NSA’s motion to dismiss and grant the ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would halt the program until the case is decided.
In another development today, hundreds of pages from NSA spying documents are to be released in response to an FOIA request by EFF:
In a major victory in one of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded yesterday that it will release hundreds of pages of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans. [..]
While the government finally released a white paper detailing its expansive (and unconstitutional) interpretation of Section 215 last month, more important FISA court opinions adopting at least part of that interpretation have remained secret. The results of EFF’s FOIA lawsuit will finally lift the veil on the dubious legal underpinnings of NSA’s domestic phone surveillance program.
This victory for EFF comes on the heels of another FOIA success two weeks ago, when the Justice Department was also forced to release a 2011 FISA court opinion ruling some NSA surveillance unconstitutional.
Now to that gif. It is visualization demonstrating the staggering scope of the NSA’s surveillance. Click on the image to view.