Tag Archive: DOJ

Feb 13 2014

Obama Administration Abuses National Security, Secrecy Powers

Would the US Government executive branch abuse it’s state secrets privilege, abuse the classification of documents, and use its ability to prevent a foreign national’s entry to the US to bar her access to the court system? Would it spend millions of taxpayer dollars on lawyers improperly?

The answer is unequivocally yes.

Would top Obama administration officials practice deceit  repeatedly in support of efforts to avoid admission of a simple error?

Absolutely.

Here is proof that the Obama administration at the highest levels cannot be trusted to fairly, prudently and honestly wield the powers they have arrogated unto themselves in the name of national security.  Not only are they a pack of liars, they are people that lack the honor and decency to admit when they have made a simple mistake and apologize for it.

How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.

FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.

Eric_Holder perjuryEric Holder declared to the court that the government would not claim national security privileges to conceal administrative errors or prevent embarrassment.

Holder should have been charged with perjury for his mendacity and the administration should be beyond embarrassed.

Due to the clerical error committed by the FBI agent, the plaintiff in this case, having recently had a hysterectomy and wheelchair bound, was handcuffed, detained and denied her pain medications for hours. After she was released and returned to her home country, the administration barred her from returning to the US to attend her trial.

Most normal folks after discovering that they have by error caused someone pain, embarrassment and severe inconvenience would find apologizing for their error to be the right thing to do.  Apparently the Obama administration is not peopled by normal folks.

The administration almost got away with it.  The judge initially dismissed the case basis of the government’s claims.  After a federal appeals court reinstated the suit, the judge learned what the government had been at pains to conceal. In a pretrial conference the judge said, “I feel that I have been had by the government.”  

From the decision:

At long last, the government has conceded that plaintiff poses no threat to air safety or national  security and should never have been placed on the no-fly  list. She got there by human error within the FBI. This too is conceded. This was no minor human error but an error with palpable impact, leading to the humiliation, cuffing, and incarceration of an innocent and incapacitated air traveler. That it was human error may seem hard to accept – the FBI agent filled out the nomination form in a way exactly opposite from the instructions on the form, a bureaucratic analogy to a surgeon amputating the wrong digit – human error, yes, but of considerable consequence. Nonetheless, this order accepts the agent’s testimony.

The judge goes on in the ruling to describe some of the various abuses that the Obama administration engaged in to conceal the information from the public on realization that the petty error they had expended so much effort to conceal would be known to the court:

In stubborn resistance to letting the public and press see the details of this case, the government has made numerous motions to dismiss on various grounds, including an overbroad complete dismissal request based on state secrets. When it could not win an outright dismissal, it tried to close the trial from public view via invocation of a statutory privilege for “sensitive security information” (“SSI”), 49 U.S.C. 114(r) and 49 C.F.R. 1520.5, and the “law enforcement privilege.” Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 59 (1957). At least ten times the trial was interrupted and the public asked to leave so that such evidence could be presented.

Given the lengths that this administration has gone to in order to cover up a petty error made during a previous administration, one can only imagine the abuses of office and the national security and secrecy powers that they have arrogated unto themselves to cover up errors serious enough to be called war crimes.

When the Obama administration wielded the full power of the United States to prevent an international investigation of the Bush administration’s war crimes, perhaps his base which claims to care about these things should have paid more attention:

One of the little reported details from the latest batch of Wikileaks material are cables showing that the Obama Administration worked hard behind the scenes not only to prevent any investigation of torture in the United States but shutdown efforts abroad to enforce the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. …

American officials pressured government officials, including prosecutors and judges, not to enforce international law and that this was “a very serious matter for the USG.” It was Obama’s own effort at creating a “Coalition of the Unwilling” – nations unwilling to enforce treaties on torture and war crimes when the alleged culprits are American officials. …

Just as many conservatives abandoned their principles in following George Bush blindly, many liberals have chosen to ignore Obama’s concerted efforts to protect individuals accused of war crimes.

James_R._Clapper tehwahwistsObama’s “most transparent administration ever” is transparently untrustworthy and abuses the powers of office to cover up errors and crimes great and utterly petty. The powers that it has arrogated unto itself are enormous.  Besides the ability to scream 9/11! 9/11! Terrorists are everywhere!, which apparently is all congress and the press need to hear, the president has acquired some of the most extraordinary powers ever granted to the executive:

The administration has no burden of proof whatsoever to overcome before “disposing” of someone, even an American citizen. … When he ordered the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen without charging him with any crime, and without presenting any evidence to anyone, he avoided questions by hiding behind executive privilege. Only weeks later, Obama ordered another drone strike that killed Awlaki’s 16 year old son, and also refused to answer the serious questions surrounding that strike.

And there are further options:

In December 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president – and all future presidents – to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield.

This is just too much unaccountable power to be vested in any president.  

Would the people who claim to care about justice, civil rights and civil liberties please wake up?

Jan 18 2014

Greenwald: NSA Reforms Just a Bad PR Campaign

Journalist and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald and  the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Anthony D Romero discussed President Barack Obama’s new NSA “reforms” with Alex Wagner, the host of MSNBC’s “Now.”

Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

By Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place

In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.

The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge. [..]

Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.

Here is the press release from the ACLU commenting on the President’s NSA speech:

January 17, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – President Obama today announced changes to some aspects of the NSA’s surveillance programs and left others in place. Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:

“The president’s speech outlined several developments which we welcome. Increased transparency for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, improved checks and balances at the FISA court through the creation of a panel of advocates, and increased privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens abroad – the first such assertion by a U.S. president – are all necessary and welcome reforms.

“However, the president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

A new chart comparing the ACLU’s proposals, President Obama’s announcement, and the USA FREEDOM Act (a bipartisan bill currently pending in Congress) is at: aclu.org/national-security/where-does-president-stand-nsa-reform

ACLU Action is demanding an end to dragnet surveillance at: aclu.org/endsurveillance

Jan 17 2014

The President Flops on NSA Reform

President Barack Obama once again fell short of taking any meaningful action on reining in the NSA surveillance programs or assuring that American’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment be protected. He made one of his predictable speeches that attempted to placate both critics and defenders, failing to actually do anything significant, all the while lecturing the public on history and expressing his offense that anyone would think that he had done an inadequate job or had enabled surveillance state policies. FDL’s Kevin Gosztola contrasted today’s speech with NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander’s statements to Congress and his inaugural address last year:

The narrative that Obama promoted in the part of his speech building up to announcement of reforms was starkly similar to what NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander has said when addressing members of Congress at hearings held in the aftermath of Snowden’s first disclosures. The narrative he used should make Americans even more skeptical of how substantive the changes to surveillance will be. [..]

One might remember that just about one year ago Obama gave an inaugural speech after his re-election where he said a “decade of war is now ending” and later described how Americans believe there is no need for “perpetual war.” But the very premise of Obama’s speech involved a demand to recognize the value of militarized surveillance and this militarization keeps the US on a permanent war footing putting civil liberties of Americans at risk so long as this footing is maintained.

Since there were such low expectations, Mike Masnick at Techdirt thought the announced reforms were more significant than expected but stopped short of fixing the actual problems:

  • A judge will have to approve each query for data on the metadata collection from Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
  • The “three hop” dragnet will be reduced down to two hops. That does, in fact, limit how far the NSA can search by quite a bit. That last hop is quite big.
  • The NSA should no longer hold all of the data, meaning that the telcos will be expected to hold onto it (though, he leaves it up to Congress and the DOJ to figure out how to do this). He calls this a “transition” away from the Section 215 program, but that’s hardly clear.
  • National Security Letters (NSLs) will no longer have an unlimited gag order on them. The Attorney General will need to set up guidelines for a time in which gag orders expire, with the possibility of extending them for investigations that are still ongoing.
  • Companies will be given slightly more freedom to reveal data on the NSLs they get (though I don’t think he indicated the same thing for Section 702 orders…. which is a big concern).
  • The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will review annually FISC rulings to figure out what can be declassified.
  • He promises to “work with Congress” to look at changes to the FISA court
  • He is adding some very limited restrictions on spying on people overseas. It should only be used for actual counterterrorism/crime/military/real national security efforts.
  • A State Department official will be in charge of handling “diplomacy issues” related to these changes on foreign spying.
  • An effort will be started with technologists and privacy experts over how to handle “big data and privacy” in both the public and private sectors.

Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel addressed what the president does not consider abuse:

  • The NSA spied on the porn and phone sex habits of ideological opponents, including those with no significant ties to extremists, and including a US person.
  • According to the NSA in 2009, it had a program similar to Project Minaret – the tracking of anti-war opponents in the 1970s – in which it spied on people in the US in the guise of counterterrorism without approval. We still don’t have details of this abuse.
  • When the NSA got FISC approval for the Internet (2004) and phone (2006) dragnets, NSA did not turn off features of Bush’s illegal program that did not comply with the FISC authorization. These abuses continued until 2009 (one of them, the collection of Internet metadata that qualified as content, continued even after 2004 identification of those abuses).
  • Even after the FISC spent 9 months reining in some of this abuse, the NSA continued to ignore limits on disseminating US person data. Similarly, the NSA and FBI never complied with PATRIOT Act requirements to develop minimization procedures for the Section 215 program (in part, probably, because NSA’s role in the phone dragnet would violate any compliant minimization procedures).
  • The NSA has twice – in 2009 and 2011 – admitted to collecting US person content in the United States in bulk after having done so for years. It tried to claim (and still claims publicly in spite of legal rulings to the contrary) this US person content did not count as intentionally-collected US person content (FISC disagreed both times), and has succeeded in continuing some of it by refusing to count it, so it can claim it doesn’t know it is happening.
  • As recently as spring 2012, 9% of the NSA’s violations involved analysts breaking standard operating procedures they know. NSA doesn’t report these as willful violations, however, because they’ve deemed any rule-breaking in pursuit of “the mission” not to be willful violations.
  • In 2008, Congress passed a law allowing bulk collection of foreign-targeted content in the US, Section 702, to end the NSA’s practice of stealing Internet company data from telecom cables. Yet in spite of having a legal way to acquire such data, the NSA (through GCHQ) continues to steal data from some of the same companies, this time overseas, from their own cables. Arguably this is a violation of Section 702 of FISA.
  • NSA may intentionally collect US person content (including Internet metadata that legally qualifies as content) overseas (it won’t count this data, so we don’t know how systematic it is). If it does, it may be a violation of Section 703 of FISA.

No, Mr. President, this is not enough.

Jan 16 2014

NSA Excuses Get Moronic

We can’t tell you that we spied on you because it would violate your privacy??!!! This is precisely what the head of the NSA, General Keith B. Alexander told Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in a letter responding to Sen. Sanders’ question about whether it collects information on members of Congress because doing so would violate the law.

“Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups,” Alexander wrote. “For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without the predicate.” [..]

Alexander doesn’t actually say so in his letter, but it’s very possible that the NSA collects data on members of Congress just as it does on everyone else, in bulk. The NSA said in a statement earlier this month that members of Congress have the “same privacy protections” as ordinary citizens, which means that they too might be caught up in the NSA’s terrorism queries of its telephone database, which may sweep up millions of innocent people in a single search.

Seriously. I want to know what drugs they have given the heads of the DNI & NSA that they think that this is a plausible explanation of why that can’t tell a United States Senator whether or not they have spied on him. Alexander really wants us to believe that searching the NSA data base for information would violate the law

This certainly comes under the category of the most lamest excuses for abuse of power.



Dec 03 2013

Bank Fraud: They All Did It

Documents in JPMorgan settlement reveal how every large bank in U.S. has committed mortgage fraud



Transcript can be read here

Nov 06 2013

NSA: “Electronic Omnivore”

“Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search.”

   –Keith B. Alexander, September 2013

Inside the “Electronic Omnivore”: New Leaks Show NSA Spying on U.N., Climate Summit, Text Messaging

The New York Times has revealed new details about how the National Security Agency is spying on targets ranging from the United Nations to foreign governments to global text messages. We are joined by New York Times reporter Scott Shane, who reports that the NSA has emerged “as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations.” The Times article reveals how the NSA intercepted the talking points of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of a meeting with President Obama in April and mounted a major eavesdropping effort focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007. The Times also reveals the existence of an NSA database called Dishfire that “stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case.” Another NSA program called Tracfin “accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases.”



Transcript can be read here

As U.S. Weighs Spying Changes, Officials Say Data Sweeps Must Continue

by David E. Sanger, The New York Times

The Obama administration has told allies and lawmakers it is considering reining in a variety of National Security Agency practices overseas, including holding White House reviews of the world leaders the agency is monitoring, forging a new accord with Germany for a closer intelligence relationship and minimizing collection on some foreigners.

But for now, President Obama and his top advisers have concluded that there is no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of “metadata,” including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States.

Instead, the administration has hinted it may hold that information for only three years instead of five while it seeks new technologies that would permit it to search the records of telephone and Internet companies, rather than collect the data in bulk in government computers. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., has told industry officials that developing the new technology would take at least three years.

NSA official cites ‘stop and frisk’ in effort to explain searches of phone records

by Ali Watkins, McClatchy Washington Bureau

The general counsel of the National Security Agency on Monday compared the agency’s telephone metadata collection program to the highly controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice used by law enforcement officers, saying the agency uses that same standard to choose which phone numbers to query in its database.

“It’s effectively the same standard as stop-and-frisk,” Rajesh De said in an attempt to explain the evidentiary use of “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to identify which phone numbers to target from the agency’s huge database of stored cellphone records.

De made the comment during a rare hearing of an obscure government body, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress created in 2004 to oversee the government’s expanded intelligence collection operations but which until Monday had never held a substantive hearing. [..]

The comparison was the latest in questionable analogies that intelligence officials have used in an effort to explain the agency’s metadata collection programs since former defense contractor Edward Snowden revealed their existence in June.

Intelligence officials, for example, have said repeatedly that the collection of hundreds of millions of phone records allows them to build a haystack in which to find a needle, apparently missing the irony that “finding a needle in a haystack” is an expression meant to convey that a task is all but impossible.

NSA’s Path to Totalitarianism

by Norman Pollack, Counterpunch

The New York Times, a recipient, along with the Guardian, of Snowden’s disclosures about the illegal activities of Obama and USG, is breaking out, as now, of its reticence about the nation’s profound disregard of constitutional principles AND its related policies of global hegemony at all costs-here Scott Shane’s lengthy article (3 Nov.), “No Morsel Too Miniscule for All-Consuming N.S.A.”  NSA to all intents and purposes appears as a “rogue” organization, extremism in the putative service of liberty, except that the designation is a way of distracting attention, and removing accountability, from its authorization and mission at the highest levels-call it, licensed roguery, official (with Obama’s eyes supposedly averted).  Or better, call it, stripped of all cosmetics, the unerring mark of a Police State, itself become identical  with Fortress America, the National-Security State.

Eavesdropping on foreign leaders speaks to an arrogance of power, in which the US claims for itself every right, unilaterally, to script both sides of the foreign dialogue as well as micromanage to its own advantage the rhythm and content of global events, from regional trade partnerships to the use of military force in shoring up alliance systems against a host of enemies, some terrorist groups to be sure, but, using that as pretext, mounting counterrevolution globally against alternative modes, notably, socialist, of modernization: autonomous national and/or radical aspirations seeking distance from US market penetration, the tarnished necklace of its worldwide military bases and CIA stations, and not least, the ideological saturation (assisted by IMF and World Bank applications of pressure) of market fundamentalism, the property right, unrestricted capital flows, and the honor of serving American industry with the lowest possible labor costs, as meanwhile we see the financialization of capitalism here and the gutting of the manufacturing base.

Eavesdropping, of course, is the polite term for control freak, which translates, in the realm of power politics, into societal desperation to employ any and all means for staying on top, cyber-strategies of disruption as well as information-gathering, campaigns of disinformation, CIA-JSOC paramilitary programs of regime change, and, upping the ante, as here, learning every move in advance of foreign leaders, the better-take no chances, take no prisoners-to orchestrate world politics in our favor.

Sep 05 2013

Obama Defends NSA Surveillance on the Way to the G-20

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”.

EFF Files Brief on Behalf of Rep. Sensenbrenner in NSA Spying Case

Press release from Electronic Freedom Foundation

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.

ACLU NRA photo blog-3hops-500x280-v01_zpsa00e2a91.jpg

Sep 03 2013

Worse Than NSA: DEA Deal with AT&T

In the midst of the angst of the debate over Obama bombing Syria, a front page article in Monday’s New York Times has revealed a new surveillance scandal involving a little known deal between the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and AT&T called the Hemisphere Project. That deal gives the DEA access to 26 years of its phone records:

Unlike the controversial call record accesses obtained by the NSA, the data is stored by AT&T, not the government, but officials can access individual’s phone records within an hour of an administrative subpoena.

AT&T receives payment from the government in order to sit its employees alongside drug units to aid with access to the data.

The AT&T database includes every phone call which passes through the carrier’s infrastructure, not just those made by AT&T customers.

Details of the program – which was marked as law enforcement sensitive, but not classified – were released in a series of slides to an activist, Drew Hendricks, in response to freedom of information requests, and then passed to reporters at the New York Times.

Officials were instructed to take elaborate steps to ensure the secrecy of the Hemisphere program, a task described as a “formidable challenge” in the slide deck, which detailed the steps agencies had taken to “try and keep the program under the radar”.

The NYT‘s national security reporter, Scott Shane joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to discuss the Hemisphere Project and it’s impact.



The transcript for this segment was not available at this time.

Aug 12 2013

Mortgage Fraud Settlement: Is a Fraud

As we have documented here at Stars Hollow, the task force that was created to pursue mortgage fraud and hold the banks accountable was, and is, a sham game to protect the banks from real relief for defrauded homeowners.

Your mortgage documents are fake!

by David Dayen, Salon

Prepare to be outraged. Newly obtained filings from this Florida woman’s lawsuit uncover a horrifying scheme

A newly unsealed lawsuit, which banks settled in 2012 for $1 billion, actually offers a different reason, providing a key answer to one of the persistent riddles of the financial crisis and its aftermath. The lawsuit states that banks resorted to fake documents because they could not legally establish true ownership of the loans when trying to foreclose.

This reality, which banks did not contest but instead settled out of court, means that tens of millions of mortgages in America still lack a legitimate chain of ownership, with implications far into the future. And if Congress, supported by the Obama Administration, goes back to the same housing finance system, with the same corrupt private entities who broke the nation’s private property system back in business packaging mortgages, then shame on all of us. [..]

Most of official Washington, including President Obama, wants to wind down mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and return to a system where private lenders create securitization trusts, packaging pools of loans and selling them to investors. Government would provide a limited guarantee to investors against catastrophic losses, but the private banks would make the securities, to generate more capital for home loans and expand homeownership.

That’s despite the evidence we now have that, the last time banks tried this, they ignored the law, failed to convey the mortgages and notes to the trusts, and ripped off investors trying to cover their tracks, to say nothing of how they violated the due process rights of homeowners and stole their homes with fake documents.

The very same banks that created this criminal enterprise and legal quagmire would be in control again. Why should we view this in any way as a sound public policy, instead of a ticking time bomb that could once again throw the private property system, a bulwark of capitalism and indeed civilization itself, into utter disarray? As Lynn Szymoniak puts it, “The President’s calling for private equity to return. Why would we return to this?”

White-collar fraud expert proves ‘mortgage-backed securities’ neither mortgage-backed nor secure

by Scott Kaufmann, The Raw Story

The forged documents were endorsed by employees of companies long bankrupt, executives who signed their name eight different ways, or “people” named “Bogus Assignee for Intervening Assignments” so that the banks could establish standing to foreclose in courts. The end result, according to white-collar fraud expert Lynn Szymoniak, is that over $1.4 trillion in mortgage-backed securities are still, to this day, based on fraudulent mortgage assignments.

The lawsuit against Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citi and GMAC/Ally Bank was settled in early 2012 for $1 billion, but now that the evidence is unsealed, Szymoniak and her legal team are free to pursue the other named defendants, including HSBC, the Bank of New York Mellon, and US Bank. “I’m really glad I was part of collecting this money for the government, and I’m looking forward to going through discovery and collecting the rest of it,” Szymoniak told Salon.

Eric Holder Owes the American People an Apology

Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg News

The Justice Department made a long-overdue disclosure late Friday: Last year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder boasted about the successes that a high-profile task force racked up pursuing mortgage fraud, the numbers he trumpeted were grossly overstated. [..]

In an updated press release Friday, which corrected its initial release of last October, the Justice Department said a review of the cases found that the inflated figures included defendants who had been sentenced or convicted in fiscal year 2012 — not just people who had been criminally charged, as originally reported. Its original, lofty tally also included cases in which the victims weren’t distressed homeowners. [..]

What a charade. No wonder the government found it so difficult to bring a meaningful number of accounting-fraud cases against bank executives after the financial crisis. Its own books were cooked. [..]

This was the second time, mind you, that Holder’s Justice Department had pulled a stunt like this. In December 2010, Holder held a press conference to tout a supposed sweep by the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force called “Operation Broken Trust.” (The mortgage-fraud program was part of the same task force.) As with the mortgage-fraud initiative, Broken Trust wasn’t actually a sweep. All the Justice Department did was lump together a bunch of small-fry, penny-ante fraud cases that had nothing to do with one another. Then it held a press gathering.

Between this sham that protects the banks and the egregious violations of the press and privacy of all Americans with abusive use of FISA, Eric Holder owes us more than an apology, he owes us his resignation as Attorney General.

Aug 09 2013

The Greatest Lies Ever Told

Someone suggested that latest lie told by President Barack Obama on the Jay Leno Show that other night stating, “There is no spying on Americans. We don’t have a domestic spying program,” was up there with the 10 greatest lies ever told. That fallacy of the president’s declaration was made very obvious in a New York Times article by Charlie Savage on the latest and greatest NSA domestic surveillance program. The NSA has been copying virtually all overseas messages that Americans send or receive, scanning them to see if they contain any references to people or subjects the agency thinks might have a link to terrorists.

Hints of the surveillance appeared in a set of rules, leaked by Mr. Snowden, for how the N.S.A. may carry out the 2008 FISA law. One paragraph mentions that the agency “seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target.” The pages were posted online by the newspaper The Guardian on June 20, but the telltale paragraph, the only rule marked “Top Secret” amid 18 pages of restrictions, went largely overlooked amid other disclosures.

In an opinion by the New York Times Editorial Board, these messages could be very private and no connection to terrorists or terrorist activity:

That could very well include innocent communications between family members expressing fears of a terror attack. Or messages between an editor and a reporter who is covering international security issues. Or the privileged conversation between a lawyer and a client who is being investigated.

Data collection on this scale goes far beyond what Congress authorized, and it clearly shreds a common-sense understanding of the Fourth Amendment. It’s as if the government were telling its citizens not to even talk about security issues in private messages or else they will come to the attention of the nation’s spies.

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mark Rumold explains what it means to be an NSA target:

When “Target” Means Searching a Specific Person’s Communications

First, at least this much is clear: a “target” under the FA (FISA Amendments Act ) must be (a) a non-US person and (b) not physically located within the United States. A “person,” for purposes of the FAA, includes individuals as well as “any group, entity, association, corporation, or foreign power.”  Under the FAA, the government can thus “target” a single individual (e.g., Vladimir Putin), a small group of people (e.g., Pussy Riot), or a formal corporation or entity (e.g., Gazprom).

So, when the NSA decides to “target” someone (or something), it turns its specific surveillance vacuum at them. [..]

When “Target” Means Searching Everyone’s Communications

Once a target is established, the NSA believes it can expand the sweep of its interception far more broadly than the communhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2013/jun/20/exhibit-a-procedures-nsa-documentications of the particular, identified target. Notably, the NSA’s procedures state (emphasis added):

   [I]n those cases where NSA seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target, NSA will either employ an Internet Protocol filter to ensure that the person from whom it seeks to obtain foreign intelligence information is located overseas, or it will target Internet links that terminate in a foreign country.

In plain English: the NSA believes it not only can (1) intercept the communications of the target, but also (2) intercept communications about a target, even if the target isn’t a party to the communication. The most likely way to assess if a communication is “about” a target is to conduct a content analysis of communications, probably based on specific search terms or selectors.

And that, folks, is what we call a content dragnet.

Importantly, under the NSA’s rules, when the agency intercepts communications about a target, the author or speaker of those communications does not, thereby, become a target: the target remains the original, non-US person. But, because the target remains a non-US person, the most robust protection for Americans’ communications under the FISA Amendments Act (and, indeed, the primary reassurance the government has given about the surveillance) flies out the window. If you communicate about a target of NSA surveillance, your citizenship is irrelevant: the only thing standing between you and NSA surveillance is your IP address or the fiber optic path through which your communications flow.

Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, made the following comments about the latest revelations:

“The program described by the New York Times involves a breathtaking invasion of millions of people’s privacy.  The NSA has cast a massive dragnet over Americans’ international communications, collecting and monitoring all of them, and retaining some untold number of them in government databases.  This is precisely the kind of generalized spying that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit.

“The government’s scrutiny of virtually every international email sent by Americans will have extraordinary consequences for free expression. Americans will inevitably hesitate to discuss controversial topics, visit politically sensitive websites, or interact with foreigners with dissenting views. By injecting the NSA into virtually every cross-border interaction, the U.S. government will forever alter what has always been an open exchange of ideas.

“There is no spying on Americans. We don’t have a domestic spying program,” is right up there with “I am not a crook” and “I did not have sex with that woman.”

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