06/27/2013 archive

An Outright Liar

NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama

Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Thursday 27 June 2013 11.20 EDT

According to a top-secret draft report by the NSA’s inspector general – published for the first time today by the Guardian – the agency began “collection of bulk internet metadata” involving “communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States”

The Obama administration argues that its internal checks on NSA surveillance programs, as well as review by the Fisa court, protect Americans’ privacy. Deputy attorney general James Cole defended the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records as outside the scope of the fourth amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Toll records, phone records like this, that don’t include any content, are not covered by the fourth amendment because people don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in who they called and when they called,” Cole testified to the House intelligence committee on June 18. “That’s something you show to the phone company. That’s something you show to many, many people within the phone company on a regular basis.”

But email metadata is different. Customers’ data bills do not itemize online activity by detailing the addresses a customer emailed or the IP addresses from which customer devices accessed the internet.

Internal government documents describe how revealing these email records are. One 2008 document, signed by the US defense secretary and attorney general, states that the collection and subsequent analysis included “the information appearing on the ‘to,’ ‘from’ or ‘bcc’ lines of a standard email or other electronic communication” from Americans.

How the NSA is still harvesting your online data

Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Thursday 27 June 2013 11.20 EDT

A review of top-secret NSA documents suggests that the surveillance agency still collects and sifts through large quantities of Americans’ online data – despite the Obama administration’s insistence that the program that began under Bush ended in 2011.

On December 26 2012, SSO announced what it described as a new capability to allow it to collect far more internet traffic and data than ever before. With this new system, the NSA is able to direct more than half of the internet traffic it intercepts from its collection points into its own repositories. One end of the communications collected are inside the United States.

The NSA called it the “One-End Foreign (1EF) solution”. It intended the program, codenamed EvilOlive, for “broadening the scope” of what it is able to collect. It relied, legally, on “FAA Authority”, a reference to the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act that relaxed surveillance restrictions.

This new system, SSO stated in December, enables vastly increased collection by the NSA of internet traffic. “The 1EF solution is allowing more than 75% of the traffic to pass through the filter,” the SSO December document reads. “This milestone not only opened the aperture of the access but allowed the possibility for more traffic to be identified, selected and forwarded to NSA repositories.”

It is not clear how much of this collection concerns foreigners’ online records and how much concerns those of Americans. Also unclear is the claimed legal authority for this collection.

Explaining that the five-year old program “began as a near-real-time metadata analyzer … for a classic collection system”, the SSO official noted: “In its five year history, numerous other systems from across the Agency have come to use ShellTrumpet’s processing capabilities for performance monitoring” and other tasks, such as “direct email tip alerting.”

Almost half of those trillion pieces of internet metadata were processed in 2012, the document detailed: “though it took five years to get to the one trillion mark, almost half of this volume was processed in this calendar year”.

Another SSO entry, dated February 6, 2013, described ongoing plans to expand metadata collection. A joint surveillance collection operation with an unnamed partner agency yielded a new program “to query metadata” that was “turned on in the Fall 2012”. Two others, called MoonLightPath and Spinneret, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”

Bush NSA Bulk Email Collection Policy Continued Under Obama

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Thursday June 27, 2013 9:55 am

The revelation contradicts initial talking points by spying program apologists that the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens was targeted and limited.

So much for hope and change.

Obama came to office with a mandate to rollback the police state and decided – nah. This proves Obama to be an outright liar given his numerous campaign promises and public pronouncements opposing these types of policies.

(C)ontrary to some misleading pushback, the government is reading your email and has been since at least 2001.

NYC Council Reins in Bloomberg & NYPD

Late last night the New York City Council passed two bills that will reign in an out of control NYPD and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Passed with veto-proof majorities, the pair of bills aim at increasing oversight of the Police Department and expanding New Yorkers’ ability to sue over racial profiling by officers.

One, known as Intro 1079, would create an independent inspector general to monitor and review police policy, conduct investigations and recommend changes to the department. The monitor would be part of the city’s Investigation Department alongside the inspectors general for other city agencies.

The law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, leaving the matter of choosing the monitor to the next mayor.

The other bill, Intro 1080, would expand the definition of bias-based profiling to include age, gender, housing status and sexual orientation. It also would allow individuals to sue the Police Department in state court – not only for individual instances of bias, but also for policies that disproportionately affect people in any protected categories without serving a significant law enforcement goal.

Mayor Bloomberg is expected to veto both bills. The council has 30 days from its next full meeting to hold an override vote.

Queens councilman Pete Vallone (D), who voted against the bill, gave a preview of the over the top rhetoric that will be used to convince New Yorkers to tell their council members to not override the mayor’s veto:

“New Yorkers went to bed a long time ago, safe in their beds,” Vallone said after the vote. “But they are going to wake up in a much more dangerous city.”

The Mayor and Police Commissioner Raymaond Kelley have already played the Al Qaeda and “be afraid” cards

“Every tort lawyer is gonna buy a new house and a new car right away,” Bloomberg said. “They’re not even gonna have to wait for the cases to come in.” Kelly added, “City council might as well have named the legislation, the ‘Full Employment for Plaintiffs Attorneys Act’…Take heart Al Qaeda wannabes.” [..]

“This is not a game, this is a life-threatening thing…This is life and death, this isn’t playing some game…It’s very nice to have a lawyer and everybody after say you should have done this and you should have done that, but when the other guy maybe has a gun in his pocket, that’s a different story.”

The most laughable moment in that press conference came from Mayor Bloomberg when asked if there is an independent body who oversees NYPD policy like an Inspector General would:

Yes there is. It’s called the Mayor…The police commissioner in our city works for the mayor serves at the pleasure of the mayor, and I can just tell you I’m not a professional in this but I have every single policy that this police department has the police commissioner has explained to me, kept me posted on it and when I talk to other experts, I’m convinced that they are the exactly the right thing.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) urged people to listen carefully:

“There have been a lot of bald-faced lies told about this bill,” [..]

“We can have safety and can have police accountability at the exact same time,” he said. “If you don’t live there, if you haven’t been going through it … please side with us.”

Michael Bloomberg has turned the NYC Police Department into his own private army, which was witnessed in the crack down on Occupy Wall St.’s peaceful demonstrations and occupation of Zuccotti Park. It’s long past time that City Council acted taking back the NYPD for the people.

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

Robert Sheer: The Good Germans in Government

What a disgrace. The U.S. government, cheered on by much of the media, launches an international manhunt to capture a young American whose crime is that he dared challenge the excess of state power. Read the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and tell me that Edward Snowden is not a hero in the mold of those who founded this republic. Check out the Nuremberg war crime trials and ponder our current contempt for the importance of individual conscience as a civic obligation.

Yes, Snowden has admitted that he violated the terms of his employment at Booz Allen Hamilton, which has the power to grant security clearances as well as profiting mightily from spying on the American taxpayers who pay to be spied on without ever being told that is where their tax dollars are going. Snowden violated the law in the same way that Daniel Ellsberg did when, as a RAND Corporation employee, he leaked the damning Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War that the taxpayers had paid for but were not allowed to read.  

E. J. Dionne: The Third Political Branch

We prefer to think of the Supreme Court as an institution apart from politics and above its struggles. In the wake of this week’s decision gutting the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, its actions must now be viewed through the prism of the conservative movement’s five-decade-long quest for power.

Liberals will still win occasional and sometimes partial victories, as they did Wednesday on same-sex marriage. But on issues directly related to political and economic influence, the court’s conservative majority is operating as a political faction, determined to shape a future in which progressives will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Josh Fox: Fracked Gas Isn’t a Bridge Fuel-It’s a Gangplank

It’s amazing to watch the bully pulpit, with all the power of this president’s ability to command words, focus on the greatest crisis of our generation. I applaud the President for tackling climate change in his speech on Tuesday. It’s the most important issue we face. Reducing coal pollution, increasing energy efficiency, stimulating more renewable energy-it’s about time. Especially because Dr. Hansen and other climate scientists have shown that time is running out.

However, all the good that President Obama will do with his reductions in CO2 from power plants will be undone by his embrace of fracked gas. It is clear that he does not have the right information on fracked gas. His administration has allowed the gas industry to influence far too much of this process. In March, the President called a meeting to discuss his pending climate plan. The group of 14 energy-industry leaders-nine were CEOs of energy companies-included the head of the oil and gas giant Anadarko; Southwest Gas; Edison Electric Institute; FedEx, which pushes a switch to gas vehicles; and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a longtime booster of gas.

Ana Marie Cox: Wendy Davis showed Texas’ GOP boys how to filibuster and respect women

‘Unruly gals’ like Davis are responsible for nearly everything good in Texas, including stopping the latest abortion ban

Sometime around midnight last night, a female state senator in Texas stood up under the capitol dome and asked a version of the single most important question that can be asked in a democracy: “At what point does a female senator need to raise her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?”

There are a lot of other versions of this question – “What do the oppressed have to do in order move the wheels of justice?” – but only one answer: Make some noise. Make a lot of noise. Noise draws scrutiny, and it is the enduring legacy of American democracy that injustice fully exposed does not stand. Yesterday’s supreme court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act illustrated that civil rights progress must be jealously guarded, but it did not invalidate the century’s worth of evidence that the arc of history bends toward justice.

Charles M. Blow: Joining Together in Justice

Proponents of equality have reason to both cheer and cry this week.

This week, in a series of rulings, the Supreme Court lay bare once more a continuing divide in this country about the role and limits of government in ensuring – or denying – equality.

In the University of Texas at Austin affirmative action case, the Voting Rights Act case and the same-sex marriage cases, the court drew a line between policies that explicitly articulate exclusion and those that implicitly and effectually remedy exclusion – both current and historical.

Proponents of racial diversity were on the losing end of those rulings, and same-sex marriage proponents were on the winning end.

Gary Younge: On the Voting Rights Act, the Color-Blind Have Been Led by the Blind

The supreme court thinks racism no longer exists at the polls. The actions of Republican legislators prove otherwise

One of the greatest cheers at an otherwise lacklustre Republican convention in Tampa last year was for Condoleeza Rice, who gave a glowing autobiographical account of her achievements in the third person. “A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham,” she said, “the segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced her that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.”

All mention of what it took to make such a life possible is an inconvenience. The children who were jailed, set upon by dogs and drenched by fire hoses in her home town, so that integration could become a reality, are irrelevant. The people who were killed because they registered to vote, marched against humiliation or just wouldn’t shut up when they were told to – so that a black female secretary of state was even plausible, let alone possible – do not fit. Condi made it because she worked hard. Maybe her kindergarten friend, Denise McNair, would have made it too. We’ll never know because she was bombed to death by those opposing integration while studying at Sunday school. Segregation was fickle that way.

Bunga Bunga

So the short story is that Silvio Berlusconi was caught paying an underage prostitute who claimed to be the niece of Hosni Mubarak to ply her trade at some of his infamous “Bunga Bunga” sex parties.

This week he was finally convicted.

Italy’s Berlusconi convicted in sex-for-hire trial


Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013

A court in Milan on Monday handed down a seven-year jail sentence to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi after finding him guilty of soliciting sex from a minor and abusing his position to cover up the affair.

The sentence by judges in charge of the so-called “bunga bunga” trial was one year more than what had been sought by the prosecution. A lifetime ban on holding public office also was imposed.

The three-time premier is a key backer of the grand coalition government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Cicchitto said the PDL would continue backing the government, despite its anger at the ruling.

The center-left Democratic Party, the other key member of the ruling coalition, simply “took notice” and said it respected “the decisions that the judiciary takes autonomously, whatever they may be.”

Nicola Morra from the Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo said the opposition group would insist on holding a vote in the Senate to declare Berlusconi unfit for parliament, due to a conflict of interest stemming from his business holdings.

In a trial that lasted over two years, an all-female court heard that Berlusconi would hold night-time parties where women performed lap dance routines in a special “bunga bunga” room, dressed up as nuns, nurses or public figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama.

Berlusconi has other legal troubles, including a final appeal ruling expected by the end of the year on a tax fraud case that could force him to step down from parliament.

A judge is also expected to decide Thursday whether he should face trial on charges of bribing an opposition lawmaker. On the same day, Italy’s top appeals court is due to consider whether his firm Mediaset should pay a hefty compensation bill to a business rival.

Berlusconi Is Sentenced to Seven Years in Sex Case, but Can Still Appeal Verdict


Published: June 24, 2013

Mr. Berlusconi, 76, who is widely seen as remaining in politics to keep his parliamentary immunity and to protect his business interests, has vehemently denied the charges, accusing prosecutors of being on a left-wing witch hunt against him. His lawyers had tried to change the location of the trial, arguing that the Milanese judicial milieu was biased against Mr. Berlusconi, who has faced several trials in that city.

Mr. Berlusconi was found guilty of paying for sex with Ms. Mahroug, who was under age at the time she attended parties at his villa. Though Ms. Mahroug denied that charge, she admitted that the prime minister had given her 7,000 euros, or about $9,100, the first time she visited his villa for a party in 2010. He was also convicted of abusing his office by calling the police to intervene when she was detained in May 2010 for theft. Mr. Berlusconi has said he called the police to avoid a diplomatic incident because he had been told that Ms. Mahroug was a niece of Hosni Mubarak, then the Egyptian president.

Monday’s ruling puts strains on the nearly two-month-old government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta, which unites the prime minister’s center-left Democratic Party with Mr. Berlusconi’s People of Liberty.

The coalition has so far withstood other moments of tension linked to the former prime minister’s legal woes. In May, an appeals trial upheld Mr. Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud in a film rights case involving his Mediaset television empire, a verdict that carries a four-year prison sentence and a five-year ban from holding public office. A final ruling in that case is expected later this year, though the ban would be upheld only after receiving parliamentary approval.

Will Berlusconi Be Bunga’d Up At Last?

By Tim Judah, Bloomberg News

Jun 25, 2013 2:58 PM ET

Italy’s former prime minister was due to meet today with incumbent Enrico Letta to discuss their fragile coalition government’s plans for tax cuts. No doubt Berlusconi’s conviction June 24 on charges of paying an underage prostitute for sex, for which he was given a seven-year prison sentence, will come up, too.

Berlusconi is also very unlikely to go to jail in the Mediaset SpA case, in which he was convicted in May of fraud and tax evasion. Lacking sex appeal, this prosecution has drawn less international attention but is probably more serious. Mediaset is Berlusconi’s multi-billion-euro media company. He was sentenced to four years in jail and given a five-year ban on holding public office in the case, which concerns the purchase of U.S. film and television rights. On May 8, he lost the first appeal. The second and final appeal must happen by next July or the case will expire due to a statute of limitations.

It is hard to predict how all of this will affect Italy’s ruling coalition. If Berlusconi’s conviction is finally upheld, then the Senate, in which Berlusconi sits, will have to vote to confirm his ban from office. The vote would be secret, so it is possible Berlusconi may threaten to bring down the government unless Letta instructs his Democratic Party senators to vote against the ban.

In the meantime, Beppe Grillo, founder of the maverick Five Star Movement, the largest party in Italy’s Parliament, is seeking to uphold a 1953 law that prevents anyone who has a concession from the state — such as a broadcasting license, which Berlusconi has — from holding public office. Indeed, had the law been enforced in the first place, Berlusconi could never have been a politician and a media mogul at the same time.

According to James Walston, a specialist in Italian politics, if Grillo succeeds in having this long-ignored law applied, then Letta and his party “will be forced to chose between consistency (they have accepted Berlusconi for 20 years) and legality and political expediency (they cannot be seen to be outflanked by Grillo).”

Berlusconi found guilty after case that cast spotlight on murky premiership

Lizzy Davies, The Guardian

Monday 24 June 2013

The more serious charge, however, was that in May of that year he exerted prime-ministerial pressure on police in Milan to release Mahroug from custody for fear she would reveal details of their liaisons. He admitted having made a call to police, but said he did so in the belief that her detention might cause a “diplomatic incident” because he believed her to be a relative of Hosni Mubarak, then the president of Egypt.

One person who will be less than delighted by the verdict is Enrico Letta, Italy’s current prime minister, who has the unenviable task of holding together a fraught grand coalition of his centre-left and Berlusconi’s centre-right. Although he occupies no ministry, Berlusconi still plays an influential role in national politics, and he has the power – as Letta is acutely aware – to bring it down by withdrawing his support and triggering new elections.

Silvio Berlusconi supporters stage ‘we are all whores’ protest over conviction

Lizzy Davies, The Guardian

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Silvio Berlusconi’s supporters have mounted a provocative protest against his conviction for paying an underage prostitute for sex and abusing his office to cover it up, amid concerns the verdict could destabilise the fragile coalition government.

As the centre-right leader prepared to meet Italy’s prime minister, Enrico Letta, a number of his angry allies descended on a central square in Rome on Tuesday to hold a protest under the banner of siamo tutti puttane, which translates as “we are all whores”. In advance of the demonstration, the organiser Giuliano Ferrara, editor of right-wing newspaper Il Foglio, filmed a video of himself applying lipstick.

Observers say Letta’s government, however, may feel its impact quickly, with the PdL portion of the coalition thought likely to make increasing demands on policies such as tax and judicial reform.

On Tuesday Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, chided bickering politicians and urged them to commit to continuity in government. “It hasn’t been two months since the formation of a government and already the daily talk is of next, imminent or fatal government crisis,” he said.

The political ramifications of the verdict look all but certain to rumble on. The Left Ecology Freedom party (SEL) called on Tuesday for the deputy foreign minister, Bruno Archi,, to resign following the inclusion of his name on a list of more than 30 defence witnesses the Milan judges said they thought should be investigated for suspected perjury during Berlusconi’s trial.

On This Day In History June 27

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.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 27 is the 178th day of the year (179th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 187 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1950, Truman orders U.S. forces to Korea.

On June 27, 1950, President Harry S. Truman announces that he is ordering U.S. air and naval forces to South Korea to aid the democratic nation in repulsing an invasion by communist North Korea. The United States was undertaking the major military operation, he explained, to enforce a United Nations resolution calling for an end to hostilities, and to stem the spread of communism in Asia. In addition to ordering U.S. forces to Korea, Truman also deployed the U.S. 7th Fleet to Formosa (Taiwan) to guard against invasion by communist China and ordered an acceleration of military aid to French forces fighting communist guerrillas in Vietnam.

Factors in US intervention

The Truman Administration was caught at a crossroads. Before the invasion, Korea was not included in the strategic Asian Defense Perimeter outlined by Secretary of State Acheson. Military strategists were more concerned with the security of Europe against the Soviet Union than East Asia. At the same time, the Administration was worried that a war in Korea could quickly widen into another world war should the Chinese or Soviets decide to get involved as well.

One facet of the changing attitude toward Korea and whether to get involved was Japan. Especially after the fall of China to the Communists, “…Japan itself increasingly appeared as the major East Asian prize to be protected”. US East Asian experts saw Japan as the critical counterweight to the Soviet Union and China in the region. While there was no United States policy that dealt with South Korea directly as a national interest, its proximity to Japan pushed South Korea to the fore. “The recognition that the security of Japan required a non-hostile Korea led directly to President Truman’s decision to intervene… The essential point… is that the American response to the North Korean attack stemmed from considerations of US policy toward Japan.” The United States wanted to shore up Japan to make it a viable counterweight against the Soviet Union and China, and Korea was seen as integral to that end.

The other important part of committing to intervention lay in speculation about Soviet action in the event that the United States intervene. The Truman administration was fretful that a war in Korea was a diversionary assault that would escalate to a general war in Europe once the US committed in Korea. At the same time, “[t]here was no suggestion from anyone that the United Nations or the United States could back away from (the conflict)”. In Truman’s mind, this aggression, if left unchecked, would start a chain reaction that would destroy the United Nations and give the go ahead to further Communist aggression elsewhere. Korea was where a stand had to be made, the difficult part was how. The UN Security council approved the use of force to help the South Koreans and the US immediately began using air and naval forces in the area to that end. The Administration still refrained from committing on the ground because some advisors believed the North Koreans could be stopped by air and naval power alone. Also, it was still uncertain if this was a clever ploy by the Soviet Union to catch the US unawares or just a test of US resolve. The decision to commit ground troops and to intervene eventually became viable when a communiqué was received on June 27 from the Soviet Union that alluded it would not move against US forces in Korea. “This opened the way for the sending of American ground forces, for it now seemed less likely that a general war-with Korea as a preliminary diversion-was imminent”. With the Soviet Union’s tacit agreement that this would not cause an escalation, the United States now could intervene with confidence that other commitments would not be jeopardized.