06/13/2013 archive

Clapper Louder

Snowden Has Already Exposed Potentially Illegal Activity

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Wednesday June 12, 2013 11:21 am

Snowden’s actions have already technically revealed illegal activity. This can be proven without even engaging in a debate about whether the programs revealed have been operating in a fully legal manner.

Perjury is a crime and misleading Congress while it is trying to engage in oversight of the executive branch is very serious wrongdoing. By revealing that the NSA has been secretly collecting data on millions of Americanshttp://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2013/06/11/clappers-lie-to-congress-was-prepared-in-advance/http:// Snowden proved that Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper’s [prepared answers to Congress were false ].

While Clapper currently engaged in extremely semantic hair splitting to make the case he didn’t actually lie but simply answered the question in the “least untruthful manner,” it is clear that Snowden’s actions exposed what was at least potentially a criminal act by a top government official. Regardless if a case is actually brought against Clapper, a serious potential act of wrongdoing was brought to light by this leak.

Fire James Clapper

By Fred Kaplan, Slate

Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013, at 12:44 PM

Back at an open congressional hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.” As we all now know, he was lying.

We also now know that Clapper knew he was lying.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden had been briefed on the top-secret-plus programs that we now all know about. That is, he knew that he was putting Clapper in a box; He knew that the true answer to his question was “Yes,” but he also knew that Clapper would have a hard time saying so without making headlines.

But the question was straightforward. It could be answered “yes” or “no,” and Clapper had to know this when he sat there in the witness chair. (Notice that, in his response to Mitchell, Clapper said he came up with the wife-beating analogy only “in retrospect.”) There are many ways that he could have finessed the question, as administration witnesses have done in such settings for decades, but Clapper chose simply to lie. “Truthful” and “untruthful” are not relative terms; a statement either is or isn’t; there’s no such thing as speaking in a “most truthful” or “least untruthful” manner.

Nor was this a spontaneous lie or a lie he regretted making. Wyden revealed in a statement today that he’d given Clapper advance notice that he would ask the question and that, after the hearing, he offered Clapper a chance to revise his answer. Clapper didn’t take the offer.

It is irrelevant whether Clapper really believes his definition of “collect” or made it up on the spot. Either way, this is a man who cannot be trusted to hold an honest discussion about these issues. If he lied about what he thinks “collect” means, he will lie about lots of things. If he really thinks the English language is this flexible, it is unwise to assume that any statement he makes means what it appears to mean.

This is crucial. We as a nation are being asked to let the National Security Agency continue doing the intrusive things it’s been doing on the premise that congressional oversight will rein in abuses. But it’s hard to have meaningful oversight when an official in charge of the program lies so blatantly in one of the rare open hearings on the subject. (Wyden, who had been briefed on the program, knew that Clapper was lying, but he couldn’t say so without violating the terms of his own security clearance.)

And so, again, if President Obama really welcomes an open debate on this subject, James Clapper has disqualified himself from participation in it. He has to go.

Clapper’s Lie to Congress was Prepared in Advance

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Tuesday June 11, 2013 9:19 am

Apparently, when Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper misled Congress it wasn’t simply the case of providing an inarticulate answer to a surprise question. Senator Ron Wyden let it be known today that he not only told Clapper in advance that he would ask the question about domestic surveillance, but even give Clapper a chance afterwards to officially revise his on the record remarks.

If Clapper is not seriously investigated for misleading Congress it should bring into question why we even bother put people under Oath before testimony to Congress. If the people in power are going to be above this law, both the law and the concept of Congressional oversight are worthless.

Apparently Clapper Makes It a Habit to Lie While Defending NSA Programs

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Wednesday June 12, 2013 6:52 am

Not only did Director of National Intelligence James Clapper purposely give misleading answers to Congress while under oath to hide the existence of NSA programs, but he also apparently lies about what these programs accomplished. The Obama administration declassified details about a terrorist plot that was supposedly stopped by PRISM, but Clapper got the basic details wrong.

NYC Bomb Plot Details Settle Little In NSA Debate

By MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press

06/11/13 03:58 PM ET EDT

In the rush to defend the surveillance programs, however, government officials have changed their stories and misstated key facts of the Zazi plot. And they’ve left out one important detail: The email that disrupted the plan could easily have been intercepted without PRISM.

Zazi, an Afghan-American cab driver living in the Denver suburbs, was an al-Qaida-trained bomber. In September 2009, he sent a coded message to a Yahoo email address in Pakistan. Months earlier, British officials had linked the Yahoo address to a known al-Qaida operative.

The NSA intercepted that email, touching off a frenzied two-week investigation in New York and Colorado that led to Zazi’s arrest. He pleaded guilty and provided information that helped send two friends to prison.

When news of the phone-records program broke, officials quickly credited it with thwarting an attack.

A senior intelligence official confirmed soon afterward that Rogers was talking about Zazi, but offered no explanation.

Now, in talking points declassified by the administration, the government says that Internet eavesdropping, not archiving phone records, disrupted Zazi’s plans.

The use of PRISM to catch Zazi does little to resolve one of the key questions in the surveillance debate: whether the government needs to take such vast amounts of data, sometimes sweeping up information on American citizens, to keep the country safe.

That’s because, even before the surveillance laws of 2007 and 2008, the FBI had the authority to – and did, regularly – monitor email accounts linked to terrorists. The only difference was, before the laws changed, the government needed a warrant.

To get a warrant, the law requires that the government show that the target is a suspected member of a terrorist group or foreign government, something that had been well established at that point in the Zazi case.

In using Zazi to defend the surveillance program, government officials have further confused things by misstating key details about the plot.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said investigators “found backpacks with bombs.” Really, the bombs hadn’t been completed and the backpacks the FBI found were unrelated to the plot.

Why Clapper’s Deception Destroys Obama’s Defense of Newly Revealed NSA Programs

By: Jon Walker Tuesday June 11, 2013 9:57 am

Not only are the prepared deceptive answers given by Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper in Congressional testimony potentially serious crimes, but the entire incident completely undermines President Obama defense of the newly revealed NSA domestic surveillance programs.

When asked about revelations Obama defended both the legality and legitimacy of the programs by repeatedly claiming they were subject checks by the other branches of government. Obama’s entire case for why these programs are acceptable is based on the premise that Congress is fully briefed and has complete oversight.

If this member of the executive branch in charge of said programs is going to mislead Congress under oath about the program then Congress is not being “fully briefed.” If the executive branch is going to actively and potentially illegally deceive Congress then it is impossible for Congress to engage in real oversight. Congress can’t provide a real check on that which it has been lied to about.

This problem is not only limited to Clapper. It should be noted that several members of the administration should have known about Clapper deceptive remarks when they were made. Yet apparently the administration did nothing to encourage Clapper to amend his answers while there was still ample time, publicly correct the record or punish him for his unacceptable behavior.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Surveillance: A Threat to Democracy

A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans are untroubled by revelations about the National Security Agency’s dragnet collection of the phone records of millions of citizens, without any individual suspicion and regardless of any connection to a counterterrorism investigation.  [..]

But Americans should not be fooled by political leaders putting forward a false choice. The issue is not whether the government should vigorously pursue terrorists. The question is whether the security goals can be achieved by less-intrusive or sweeping means, without trampling on democratic freedoms and basic rights. Far too little has been said on this question by the White House or Congress in their defense of the N.S.A.’s dragnet.

Dean Baker: The Trade Deal Scam

As part of its overall economic strategy, the Obama administration is rushing full speed ahead with two major trade deals. On the one hand it has the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes Japan and Australia and several other countries in East Asia and Latin America. On the other side there is an effort to craft a U.S.-EU trade agreement.

There are two key facts people should know about these proposed trade deals. First, they are mostly not about trade. Second, they are not intended to boost the economy in a way that will help most of us. In fact, it is reasonable to say that these deals will likely be bad news for most people in the United States. Most of the people living in our partner countries are likely to be losers too.

John Nichols: Not Just the NSA: Politicians Are Data Mining the American Electorate

As long as we’re opening a discussion about data mining, might we consider the fact that it’s not just the government that’s paying attention to our digital entanglements?

There’s a reason the National Security Agency was interested in accessing the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. When you’re mining, you go where the precious resources are, and technology companies have got the gold.

Data is digital gold. Corporations know that. They’re big into data mining.

But it’s not just profits that data can yield.

Data is also mined by those who seek power.

Thomas Drake; Snowden Saw What I Saw: Surveillance Criminally Subverting the Constitution

So we refused to be part of the NSA’s dark blanket. That is why whistleblowers pay the price for being the backstop of democracy

What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.

Like me, he became discomforted by what he was exposed to and what he saw: the industrial-scale systematic surveillance that is scooping up vast amounts of information not only around the world but in the United States, in direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution. [..]

The NSA is wiring the world; they want to own internet. I didn’t want to be part of the dark blanket that covers the world, and Edward Snowden didn’t either.

Leighton Woodhouse: NSA Surveillance Is Legal, and That’s the Worst Thing About It

One of the most disturbing realities that the surveillance revelations have brought into relief is that in its drive to safeguard national security, the Obama Administration has concocted policies and tactics that draw a sharp line of division between the state and the general public that tend to cast the latter in the role of potential conspirator. The problem isn’t the government’s assumption that there are those among us who may wittingly or unwittingly enable terrorists (or be terrorists ourselves), which is both credible and impossible to dispute. It’s that in the Administration’s view, our very understanding of what the government is doing and how it does it is deemed a priori an unacceptable security risk. It’s not only the secrecy around the NSA’s databanks of phone records: it’s the AP spying, the Stasi-like investigation of James Rosen, the merciless pursuit of leakers and whistleblowers — it’s the Administration’s entire attitude toward public scrutiny of its conduct.

Robert Reich; What We Need Now: A National Economic Strategy For Better Jobs

Jobs are returning with depressing slowness, and most of the new jobs pay less than the jobs that were lost in the Great Recession.

Economic determinists — fatalists, really — assume that globalization and technological change must now condemn a large portion of the American workforce to under-employment and stagnant wages, while rewarding those with the best eductions and connections with ever higher wages and wealth. And therefore that the only way to get good jobs back and avoid widening inequality is to withdraw from the global economy and become neo-Luddites, destroying the new labor-saving technologies.

That’s dead wrong. Economic isolationism and neo-Ludditism would reduce everyone’s living standards. Most importantly, there are many ways to create good jobs and reduce inequality.

On This Day In History June 13

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

June 13 is the 164th day of the year (165th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 201 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1966, The Miranda rights are established.

The Supreme Court hands down its decision in Miranda v. Arizona, establishing the principle that all criminal suspects must be advised of their rights before interrogation. Now considered standard police procedure, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you,” has been heard so many times in television and film dramas that it has become almost cliche.

Miranda v. Arizona 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was a landmark 5-4 decision of the United States Supreme Court. The Court held that both inculpatory and exculpatory statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them. This had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States, by making what became known as the Miranda rights part of routine police procedure to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights. The Supreme Court decided Miranda with three other consolidated cases: Westover v. United States, Vignera v. New York, and California v. Stewart.

The Miranda warning (often abbreviated to “Miranda”) is the name of the formal warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated, in accordance with the Miranda ruling. Its purpose is to ensure the accused is aware of, and reminded of, these rights under the U.S. Constitution, and that they know they can invoke them at any time during the interview.

As of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Berghuis v. Thompkins(June 1, 2010), criminal suspects who are aware of their right to silence and to an attorney, but choose not to “unambiguously” invoke them, may find any subsequent voluntary statements treated as an implied waiver of their rights, and which may be used in evidence.

Metadata: More Intrusive Than You Think


Simply put, metadata is data about data. It is descriptive information about a particular data set, object, or resource, including how it is formatted, and when and by whom it was collected. Although metadata most commonly refers to web resources, it can be about either physical or electronic resources.

Sounds harmless, so how bad could it be? According to mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau who was interviewed by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, it’s worse than many might think:

“The public doesn’t understand,” she told me, speaking about so-called metadata. “It’s much more intrusive than content.” She explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening-you don’t need the content.”

For example, she said, in the world of business, a pattern of phone calls from key executives can reveal impending corporate takeovers. Personal phone calls can also reveal sensitive medical information: “You can see a call to a gynecologist, and then a call to an oncologist, and then a call to close family members.” And information from cell-phone towers can reveal the caller’s location. Metadata, she pointed out, can be so revelatory about whom reporters talk to in order to get sensitive stories that it can make more traditional tools in leak investigations, like search warrants and subpoenas, look quaint. “You can see the sources,” she said. When the F.B.I. obtains such records from news agencies, the Attorney General is required to sign off on each invasion of privacy. When the N.S.A. sweeps up millions of records a minute, it’s unclear if any such brakes are applied.

Metadata, Landau noted, can also reveal sensitive political information, showing, for instance, if opposition leaders are meeting, who is involved, where they gather, and for how long. Such data can reveal, too, who is romantically involved with whom, by tracking the locations of cell phones at night.

Ms. Landua joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now to explain just how intrusive the government’s collection of metadata is.

Transcript can be read here.