Tag Archive: Ron Wyden

Aug 22 2013

NSA Was Found in Violation of the Fourth Amendment

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has won a victory in its fight with the government in federal court to release a FISA court ruling that found the NSA in violation of the Fourth Amendment, illegally collecting e-mails of tens of thousands of Americans.

NSA illegally collected thousands of emails before Fisa court halted program

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Declassified court ruling from 2011 found government ‘disclosed substantial misrepresentation’ of data collection program

In his 86-page opinion, declassified on Wednesday, Judge John Bates wrote that the government informed the court that the “volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe”.

The ruling is one of three documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and comes amid growing public and congressional concern over the scope of NSA surveillance programs. [..]

Wholly domestic communications are banned from the NSA’s collection under section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act. An NSA document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by the Guardian on August 9 referred to an October 2011 change in the rules, by which the NSA must purge data it improperly collected but that said the NSA could still search its so-called “702” databases for “certain US person names and identifiers,” though not until an “effective oversight process” was implemented.

Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee, refers to the NSA’s still-current authorities to query those databases for US person information as a “backdoor search” loophole.

“The ruling states that the NSA has knowingly acquired tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, even though this law was specifically written to prohibit the warrantless acquisition of wholly domestic communications,” Wyden said.

“The FISA Court has noted that this collection violates the spirit of the law, but the government has failed to address this concern in the two years since this ruling was issued. This ruling makes it clear that FISA Section 702, as written, is insufficient to adequately protect the civil liberties and privacy rights of law-abiding Americans and should be reformed.”

October 3, 2011 FISC Opinion Holding NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

Anchor and managing editor for “Dan Rather Reports” on AXS-TV, Dan Rather joined Rachel Maddow to talk about the abuse of power and general bungling undermines the credibility of the US and calls into question how the “war on terror’ has been conducted over the last 12 years since 9/11.

The NSA has “built a surveillance network that covers more Americans’ Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say. The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans.”

Jul 29 2013

Wyden: FISA Court is an Anachronism

Before last week’s vote on the Amash/Conyer Amendment, that would have stripped financing for the NSA program of unfettered surveillance, the American people were already shifting in how they viewed these programs. Over the weekend Pew conducted another poll showing that the shift is even more stark.

“Overall, 47% say their greater concern about government anti-terrorism policies is that they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties, while 35% say they are more concerned that policies have not gone far enough to protect the country. This is the first time in Pew Research polling that more have expressed concern over civil liberties than protection from terrorism since the question was first asked in 2004.”

Major opinion shifts, in the US and Congress, on NSA surveillance and privacy

by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Pew finds that, for the first time since 9/11, Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism

Perhaps more amazingly still, this shift has infected the US Congress. Following up on last week’s momentous House vote – in which 55% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans defied the White House and their own leadership to vote for the Amash/Conyers amendment to ban the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program – the New York Times has an article this morning which it summarizes on its front page this way:

Congress Against NSA Xurveillance photo nyt1_zps2e4cb29e.png

Click on image to enlarge

The article describes how opposition to the NSA, which the paper says was recently confined to the Congressional “fringes”, has now “built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.” [..]

The strategy for the NSA and its Washington defenders for managing these changes is now clear: advocate their own largely meaningless reform to placate this growing sentiment while doing nothing to actually rein in the NSA’s power. “Backers of sweeping surveillance powers now say they recognize that changes are likely, and they are taking steps to make sure they maintain control over the extent of any revisions,” says the NYT.

The primary problem enabling out-of-control NSA spying has long been the Intelligence Committees in both houses of Congress. That’s an ironic twist given that those were the committees created in the wake of the mid-1970s Church Committee to provide rigorous oversight, as a response to the recognition that Executive Branch’s surveillance powers were being radically abused – and would inevitably be abused in the future – without robust transparency and accountability. [..]

The largest changes toward demanding civil liberties protections have occurred among liberal Democrats, Tea Party Republicans, independents and liberal/moderate Republicans. Only self-identified “moderate/conservative Democrats” – the Obama base – remains steadfast and steady in defense of NSA surveillance. The least divided, most-pro-NSA caucus in the House for last week’s vote was the corporatist Blue Dog Democrat caucus, which overwhelmingly voted to protect the NSA’s bulk spying on Americans.

As I’ve repeatedly said, the only ones defending the NSA at this point are the party loyalists and institutional authoritarians in both parties. That’s enough for the moment to control Washington outcomes – as epitomized by the unholy trinity that saved the NSA in the House last week: Pelosi, John Bohener and the Obama White House – but it is clearly not enough to stem the rapidly changing tide of public opinion.

On Sunday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), one of the harshest critics of the NSA and the FISA court, was a guest on C-Span’s Newsmankers. He called the FISA court “anachronistic” and stated that he is most likely to support overhaul of the secretive court. He was particularly alarmed by the way that the Patriot Act was being interpreted by the federal government in its fight against terrorism.

Mar 27 2012

The System is Blinking Red

This past week two related stories broke, James Bamford’s article on the NSA’s “Stellar Wind” project in Utah which will dramatically enhance the governments ability to store and process intercepted communications and records and Eric Holder’s announcement that the US will now keep and analyze information gathered about Americans or U.S. residents for 5 years, 10 times the previously allowed period.

These are both somewhat ominous stories.  In describing the Stellar Wind project former senior NSA official and whistleblower, William Binney put it, “We are this far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”  The extension of time announced by Eric Holder for retention and analysis of records increases Americans jeopardy of having their information misused or misinterpreted by agencies that have repeatedly done so and Americans (including Senator Ted Kennedy) have found themselves wrongfully placed on no-fly lists or worse, find their homes bugged and burgled, and their phones wiretapped leading to them being arrested and jailed in error, as happened to Brandon Mayfield.

The details of the Mayfield case illustrate some of the problems with “human factors” in intelligence work:

From the Wikipedia article linked above:

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Mayfield was concerned for the safety of his children and wife, and according to his father, he suspected that he was under surveillance by the federal authorities. In the weeks before his arrest, Mayfield’s family was under the impression that their house had been broken into at least twice, although nothing was stolen. According to court documents, the FBI used National Security Letters in order to wiretap his phones, bug his house, and search his house several times.

Fingerprints on a bag containing detonating devices, found by Spanish authorities following the Madrid commuter train bombings, were initially identified by the FBI as belonging to Mayfield (“100% verified”). According to the court documents in judge Ann Aiken’s decision, this information was largely “fabricated and concocted by the FBI and DOJ”. When the FBI finally sent Mayfield’s fingerprints to the Spanish authorities, they contested the matching of the fingerprints from Brandon Mayfield to the ones associated with the Madrid bombing. Further, the Spanish authorities informed the FBI they had other suspects in the case, Moroccan immigrants not linked to anyone in the USA. The FBI completely disregarded all of the information from the Spanish authorities, and proceeded to spy on Mayfield and his family further. …

Before his arrest, Spanish authorities informed the FBI in a letter from April 13, that they reviewed the fingerprint on the bag as a negative match of Mayfield’s fingerprint, though this letter was not communicated to Mayfield’s attorneys. On May 19 the Spanish authorities announced that the fingerprints actually belonged to an Algerian national, Ouhnane Daoud; Brandon Mayfield was released from prison when the international press broke the story the next day – May 20, 2004. A gag order remained in force for the next few days. By May 25, the case was dismissed by the judge, who ordered the return of seized evidence and unsealing of documents pertaining to his arrest.

The FBI conducted an internal review of Mayfield’s arrest and detention, concluding that although he was not arrested solely due to his religious beliefs, they may have contributed to investigator’s failure to take into account the Spanish concerns over fingerprint identification. The FBI issued a press release announcing the report’s conclusion that they had not misused the USA PATRIOT Act in the investigation.

Nov 30 2011

Protect Internet & SOPA Will Break the Internet

What you need to know about the dangers of passing these bills and how it will destroy the Internet.

The video above discusses the Senate version of the PROTECT IP Act, but the House bill that was introduced TODAY is much much worse.

It’ll give the government new powers to block Americans’ access websites that corporations don’t like. The bill would criminalize posting all sorts of standard web content — music playing in the background of videos, footage of people dancing, kids playing video games, and posting video of people playing cover songs.

This legislation will stifle free speech and innovation, and even threaten popular web services like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

America Censorship has a great infographic on how SOPA will block you from the Internet.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is leading the charge to stop the passage of these bills appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to explain how catastrophic to Internet and your rights that these bill are.

Along with Sen. Wyden, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (go figure) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi strongly oppose passage. Sen. Wyden has started a petition and will read the names on the Senate floor should these bills come to the floor for a vote (I have signed). We at The Stars Hollow Gazette and Docudharma urged you to sign Sen. Wyden’s petition (sign petition) and contact your Senators and House Representative telling them to vote against these bill. You can do that here

Congress needs to hear from you, or this bill passes

Oct 25 2011

It’s The End Of The Internet As We Know It (And Orrin Hatch Feels Fine)

Cross-posted to CandyBullets, MyLeftWing, firefly-dreaming and Docudharma

If you follow my website (CandyBullets) you’re probably well aware of the threat posed by the “IP PROTECT ACT” known more commonly as the Internet Blacklist bill. You’re may also be aware that this bill was recently halted in the Senate by the true Democrat Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) who prevented the bill from coming up for a vote in the Senate (where it would doubtless pass) however a House version will be introduced this week with help of Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) — probably tomorrow. If you’re not familiar with this bill then I suggest you become acquainted (the full text of the bill may be found here.)

It was once said about the much over analyzed movie Last Tango In Paris that it was a simple movie at heart: a movie about real estate, two people who want an apartment and will do anything to get it. In a similar vane Protect IP is also simple: it is merely the latest in a long line of slovenly hand-outs to corporations at the expense of your civil rights; it would give the Government broad, censorious new powers to shut down any site merely accused of Copyright Infringement and fuck the concept of innocent until proven guilty, yes, the PROTECT IP ACT authorizes an alleged “rights holder” who decides to claim to be the victim of the “infringement” to bring an action against the owner, registrant, or Internet site “dedicated to infringement”, whether domestic or foreign, and seek a court order against the domain name registrant, owner, or the domain name. The DOJ version however can apply against ISPs, search engines, ad providers and payment processors.

Of course corporate America, what were the founding fathers thinking? Of course you must be given permission to shut down YouTube and Facebook so that no one can potentially infringe upon your Copyrights. I recall Franklin making a remark about trading liberty for safety. This bill would criminalize YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Google+, Reddit, Digg, not least this site you’re reading this at. Any other site that uses user generated content. But you know, I’m glad to know that when conservative Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and nominal liberal Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) delightfully bipartisan fascism was first shot down when they coauthored COICA (The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act) these two adorable little corporate shills decided to take our criticisms into account. This time they remembered to ban criticism. Their new “PROTECT IP ACT” retains the blacklist of websites our “Democratic” Govenrment doesn’t wanting us looking at but ads a new one that we’ll just have to take a moment to marvel at: It bans people from even being able to discuss blacklisted sites. Under the new bill, anyone “referring or linking” to a blacklisted site will be Blacklisted themselves.

Yes this “bunker-buster bluster bomb” (h/t Ron Wyden) far past simply requiring these other service providers from blocking service, this new law will require search engines to censor sites out of their index. Now please understand, “infringing websites” is in no way defined in a reasonable way — the bill is not being specific about what constitutes an infringing web sites. For example if WikiLeaks or any similar organization were merely accused of distributing copyrighted content, U.S. search engines could be served a court order to BLOCK search results pointing to Wikileaks. Requiring search engines to remove links to an entire website altogether due to an infringing page raises alarming free speech concerns regarding lawful content hosted elsewhere on the site. The fact that an injunction can be issued without notifying the allegedly, supposedly infringing website essentially destroys the entire legal “presumption of innocence”, there is no innocent until proven guilty with this bill.

Jun 01 2011

The Patriot Act Renewed Without Change

The (un)Patriot Act was passed, unamended, without debate, and signed by President Obama, who was still in Europe, with a robotic pen before it could expire. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who along with several other liberal senators, had proposed an amendment that put an end to the government secret interpretation of the law, cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Read (?-NV) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (?-CA) to withdraw the amendment. Reid promised to hold hearings on secret law, and, if his concerns were not met, propose his amendment at a later date.

I long ago gave up any hope of change from the current regime. It’s obvious that they have shed their skins and revealed themselves to be no better than the Bush/Cheny criminal regime that they are covering.

George Washington University law professor, Jeffrey Rosen, joins Cenk Uygur to discuss the (un)Patriot Act, its unconstitutionality, the duplicity of Harry Reid and how American’s really do not understand what is in this bill.

Say good-by to the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment, as well as, Article III courts.

May 30 2011

Protecting The Constitution & Our Internet Rights

In the November elections, one of the greatest losses that the left suffered was Russ Feingold. What we didn’t notice until this past week during the rush to please the right wing and President Obama by renewing the unaltered (un)Patriot Act for four more years was that there were others who had picked up the cause of the left, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Amendment Requires Government to End Practice of Secretly Interpreting Law

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Washington, D.C. – As the Senate prepares to approve a four-year extension of the Patriot Act without public debate about how the executive branch actually interprets controversial provisions in the ten-year-old surveillance law, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Co.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced an amendment to the Patriot Act reauthorization legislation to require the U.S. Attorney General to make the U.S. Government’s official interpretation of the law public.

The amendment also states that it is the “Sense of the Congress” that government officials “should not secretly reinterpret public laws and statutes in a manner that is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of these laws and should not describe the execution of these laws in ways that misinforms or misleads the public.”

Now, Sen. Wyden takes a stand for our internet rights and against the sell out Democrats by placing a hold on the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011” (pdf) or as is euphemistically known the “Protect IP Act” which is the second try at getting Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which failed to pass the last session thanks to Wyden.

The “Protect IP Act” is a revamping of COICA making it just as bad if not worse:

This version changes the “interactive computer services” language mentioned in our post below to “information location tools,” a term that points back to section 512(d) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In that context it’s been generally understood to refer to search engines, though there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t see efforts to expand the definition in actions under this bill. But in any case, requiring search engines to remove links to an entire website raises serious First Amendment concerns considering the lawful expression that may be hosted on the same domain.

In other words, “the proposed laws could be used to shut down websites that link to other websites that authorities claim to be carrying out infringing activities.”

Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog points out that Homeland Security already has shut down sites:

As evidence, I offer channelsurfing.net and atdhe.net. These domains created no content, as near as I could tell. But they linked to sites that offered sports television over the Internet, and those links were on a game-by-game basis. So, for example, if you didn’t want to subscribe to cable, but wanted to watch ESPN games, you could go to one of these sites, peruse the list of links, choose your game and source, click and watch. Sometimes several sources offered the same game, and you had several links to choose from.

Again, neither of these sites generated the video. They merely offered links to other sites that did. Those other sites perhaps violated intellectual property rights; these sites certainly did not.

Now go ahead and click the links for those sites, and see what happened to them. Yep, that’s the Homeland Security logo.

hree guesses when both of these seizures occurred. If you said “Right before the Super Bowl,” America’s ad and money feast with a football game inside, you wouldn’t be wrong. Homeland Security, the counter-terrorism arm of our national security state, is helping to seize small-people’s property (those sites were property) in order to protect the profits and property of billionaire sports owners and the advertisers who love them.

Not that I wasn’t certain that Obama and friends weren’t in the pockets of billionaires and corporation but it is becoming even more evident that most of the Democratic leadership is no better than the Republicans.

We need more people in Congress like Ron Wyden who are willing to stand for the people who elected them. Like Gaius Publius, I’m making lists of those who are willing.