Tag Archive: FOIA

Mar 17 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 3.17.15

OK, I totally spaced on it being St Patty’s Day,s o I don’t have anything specifically themed for ya. But I do have 4 articles that are interesting…

First, this is as green as it gets today, but it is kind of round about green. Not sure how I feel about the idea, but it would make things interesting to say the least:

Al Gore should run for president

To many Democrats, the fight the party needs is clear: Hillary Clinton vs. Elizabeth Warren. But the differences between Warren and Clinton are less profound than they appear. Warren goes a bit further than Clinton does, both in rhetoric and policy, but her agenda is smaller and more traditional than she makes it sound: tightening financial regulation, redistributing a little more, tying up some loose ends in the social safety net. Given the near-certainty of a Republican House, there is little reason to believe there would be much difference between a Warren presidency and a Clinton one.

The most ambitious vision for the Democratic Party right now rests with a politician most have forgotten, and whom no one is mentioning for 2016: Al Gore.

Jump!

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.”

May 29 2012

FOIA Revelations Show Administration Role In Occupy Crackdown

DHS documents were released to Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) that despite extensive redactions reveal a greater administration role than previously known in the crackdown on the Occupy movement.

The release is described on the PCJF website:

Homeland Security Documents Show Massive Nationwide Monitoring of Occupy Movement

Documents just obtained by the PCJF from its FOIA request show massive nationwide monitoring, surveillance and information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and local authorities in response to Occupy. The PCJF, also on behalf of author/filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee, has made a series of FOIA demands regarding law enforcement involvement in the Occupy Crackdown. …

This set of released materials reveals intense involvement by the DHS’ National Operations Center (NOC) in these activities. The DHS describes the NOC as, “the primary national-level hub for domestic situational awareness, common operational picture, information fusion, information sharing, communications, and coordination pertaining to the prevention of terrorist attacks and domestic incident management. The NOC is the primary conduit for the White House Situation Room and DHS Leadership for domestic situational awareness and facilitates information sharing and operational coordination with other federal, state, local, tribal, non-governmental operation centers and the private sector.”

Documents are available in 3 pdfs here, here and here.

May 02 2012

Drones: Attack of the Killer Drones

President Barack Obama has resumed drone attacks into Pakistan and sends one of is lackeys to defend it as legal, blithely dismissing civilian casualties:

Fresh off of an interview yesterday in which he shrugged off civilian killings in the US drone war, top White House adviser John O. Brennan was ordered to provide more “openness” on the program at a speech today in Washington.

Fresh off of an interview yesterday in which he shrugged off civilian killings in the US drone war, top White House adviser John O. Brennan was ordered to provide more “openness” on the program at a speech today in Washington.

White House Admission of Drone Strikes Does Nothing to Justify Program’s Legality, ACLU Says

ACLU National Security Experts Warn Program is Unlawful and Dangerous

NEW YORK – April 30 – President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser today publicly confirmed that the United States conducts targeted killings of suspected terrorists using drones.

In a speech this afternoon at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, John Brennan insisted the targeted strikes are a “wise choice” and “legal” and within the boundaries of international law. However, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said Brennan’s statement did not go far in explaining how the program passed constitutional muster.

“This is an important statement – first because it includes an unambiguous acknowledgement of the targeted killing program and second because it includes the administration’s clearest explanation thus far of the program’s purported legal basis.” Jaffer said.

“But Mr. Brennan supplies legal conclusions, not legal analysis. We continue to believe that the administration should release the Justice Department memos underlying the program – particularly the memo that authorizes the extrajudicial killing of American terrorism suspects. And the administration should release the evidence it relied on to conclude that an American citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, could be killed without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

Brennan maintained the Obama administration was committed to transparency when it came to deciding who would be subject to lethal drone strikes. But Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said the program is both unconstitutional and overly broad.

“We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous. This statement makes clear that the administration is treating legal restrictions on the use of force as questions of preference. Moreover, it is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield,” Shamsi said.

“It is dangerous to give the President the authority to order the extrajudicial killing of any person – including any American – he believes to be a terrorist. The administration insists that the program is closely supervised, but to propose that a secret deliberation that takes place entirely within the executive branch constitutes ‘due process’ is to strip the Fifth Amendment of its essential meaning.”

Rights groups hit Brennan’s defense of ‘legal’ drone strikes

Representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA said they welcomed the unprecedented public acknowledgement of the drone campaign by John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

But they said there are still serious questions about whether drone attacks on suspected millitants are legal under international law.

“Where there’s a war, for example in Afghanistan, [drone strikes] are a legitimate weapon of war,” said Tom Parker, a former British government security official who is now head of Amnesty International’s counter-terrorism program. “The problem comes when you make the unprecedented claim that you are in a world-wide conflict with a non-state actor.”

“We don’t believe that the justification [offered by Mr. Brennan] stands up under international humanitarian law,” he added.

Here is a report from Kevin Gosztola at FDL on Obama’s Death Panels and the videos of the speech given by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation:

Activists, lawyers, human rights advocates, civil liberties defenders and others came together for a major international summit on drone warfare and the issues created by drone use yesterday. The summit was co-organized by CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve. An exceptional lineup of speakers addressed participants detailing salient and significant aspects around the Obama administration’s expansion of the covert drone wars in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. [..]

Scahill opens his speech by saying, “The real death panels that we have in this country were unleashed on our own citizens. Republicans like to talk about death panels having to do with health care. President Obama is the one that is operating secret death panels” that include United States citizens and often include non-US citizens. The vast majority of the victims of this policy around the world are not US citizens.

Apr 28 2012

Drones: Killing Me By Remote

The “secret drone” program is the biggest absurdity in town. Every one knows the CIA is using drones and has requested an expansion of their use, the Bush and Obama administrations have admitted to using drones, Obama has even joked about it. We know that Obama has assassinated American citizens with it, without due process, but it’s a secret Really? How stupid does the Obama administration think we are?

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Ten days ago, I wrote about a request made by CIA Director David Petraeus to expand the drone war in Yemen in accordance with the following, as expressed by the first paragraph of The Washington Post article reporting it [..]

At the time, I wrote that “it’s unclear whether Obama will approve Petraeus’ request for the use of ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen,” though that was true only in the most technical sense. It was virtually impossible to imagine that a request from David Petraeus, of all people, to Barack Obama, of all people, for authority to target even more people in Yemen for death, now without even knowing who they are, would be anything but quickly and eagerly approved. And that is exactly what has now happened, as the Post’s Greg Miller reports today:

   The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said. . . .

   The decision to give the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) greater leeway is almost certain to escalate a drone campaign that has accelerated significantly this year, with at least nine strikes in under four months. The number is about equal to the sum of airstrikes all last year. . . .

   Congressional officials have expressed concern that using signature strikes would raise the likelihood of killing militants who are not involved in plots against the United States, angering Yemeni tribes and potentially creating a new crop of al-Qaeda recruits. . .

   Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, has questioned . . . the wisdom of the expanded drone operations. . . . “I would argue that U.S. missile strike[s] are actually one of the major – not the only, but a major – factor in AQAP’s growing strength.”

Drones knowns and drone unknowns

The Up with Chris panelists discuss counter-terrorism  as the examine the increase of the US military’s use in a tactic that kills targets, civilians included, by remote

Search and destroy by remote

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, a group representing the victims of drone strikes, joins from the Drone Summit in Washington, DC, an event set to investigate the expanding US drone program. The Up panelists key in on what this “expansion” means as the military continues to utilize drone strikes.

Michael Hastings, featured writer for Rolling Stone and a guest panelist on Up with Chris, wrote this chilling analysis of the history and current use of drones and “how killing by remote control has changed the way we fight“:

The use of drones is rapidly transforming the way we go to war. On the battlefield, a squad leader can receive real-time data from a drone that enables him to view the landscape for miles in every direction, dramatically expanding the capabilities of what would normally have been a small and isolated unit. “It’s democratized information on the battlefield,” says Daniel Goure, a national security expert who served in the Defense Department during both Bush administrations. “It’s like a reconnaissance version of Twitter.” Drones have also radically altered the CIA, turning a civilian intelligence-gathering agency into a full-fledged paramilitary operation – one that routinely racks up nearly as many scalps as any branch of the military.

But the implications of drones go far beyond a single combat unit or civilian agency. On a broader scale, the remote-control nature of unmanned missions enables politicians to wage war while claiming we’re not at war – as the United States is currently doing in Pakistan. What’s more, the Pentagon and the CIA can now launch military strikes or order assassinations without putting a single boot on the ground – and without worrying about a public backlash over U.S. soldiers coming home in body bags. The immediacy and secrecy of drones make it easier than ever for leaders to unleash America’s military might – and harder than ever to evaluate the consequences of such clandestine attacks.

“Drones have really become the counterterrorism weapon of choice for the Obama administration,” says Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor who helped establish a new Pentagon office devoted to legal and humanitarian policy. “What I don’t think has happened enough is taking a big step back and asking, ‘Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing? Are we fostering militarism and extremism in the very places we’re trying to attack it?’ A great deal about the drone strikes is still shrouded in secrecy. It’s very difficult to evaluate from the outside how serious of a threat the targeted people pose.”

Apr 02 2012

Warriors vs. Journalists, Obama vs. Truth

This past week, several stories appeared which indicate the degree to which true investigative reporting about US efforts in the Global War on Terror is at odds with the desires of the Obama administration and the lengths to which the administration will go to create their preferred narrative and suppress reporting that fails to fit.  At the same time, the President and other administration officials have made public statements, unsupported by documentation, that they refuse for alleged “national security reasons” to release to the ACLU and journalists.

This diary will continue some of the themes developed in a previous diary, President Obama’s Propaganda Wars regarding the Obama administration’s attempts to “dominate the information spectrum.”

The stories this week suggest that sometimes in the Global War on Terror, it’s a matter of getting the images correct.  If the action is popular, we get, “Engaged-Commander-in-Chief-sweating-the-details Obama.”  If the action is controversial, or perhaps questionably legal, we get “Spectator Obama,” watching the action from the stands along with everybody else.

obama cic or spectator lg

Mar 27 2012

Drones? Of What Drones Doth Thou Speak?

President Barack Obama: “Drones? Drone attacks? Mr. Holder, do you know anything about this?

United States Attorney General Eric Holder, “I’ve never heard of drones, Mr. President. Leon, what do you hear from the generals?

Former Director of the CIA and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, “No, Eric, I have no information about drones. Perhaps, Director Petraeus would know about these drones”

The three men look around the room for CIA Director David Petraeus. He’s  nowhere to be found.

That fictional conversation never took place but the Obama administration would now like us all to believe that they cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security. Huh? They really don’t expect anyone to accept that statement that was made in response to an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act requesting the “the government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. In particular, the ACLU seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.

Glenn Greenwald in an in depth article at Salon dissected this laughable “defense” of national security about predator drones, targeted assassinations and Obama’s taking “Bush’s secrecy games one step further“:

What makes this so appalling is not merely that the Obama administration demands the right to kill whomever it wants without having to account to anyone for its actions, choices or even claimed legal authorities, though that’s obviously bad enough [..]

What makes it so much worse is how blatantly, insultingly false is its claim that it cannot confirm or deny the CIA drone program without damaging national security.

Numerous Obama officials – including the President himself and the CIA Director – have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. Obama recently hailed the CIA drone program by claiming that “we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” and added that it is “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” Obama has told playful jokes about the same drone program. Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also likes to tell cute little jokes about CIA Predator drones, and then proclaimed in December that the drone program has “been very effective at undermining al Qaeda and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.” Just two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech purporting to legally justify these same drone attacks.

“Cute little jokes”? Is that like President George W. Bush’s “cute” little video looking for weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office? I don’t think the people who have lost family and friends and had their lives destroyed by America’s misadventures in the Middle East think this is amusing.

And just where is the secret? Everyone in the world is talking about the predator drone program that has killed more innocent people than Al Qaeda operatives and put the US relationship with ally Pakistan on very thin ice. Just this weekend there was a long article in The Washington Post with an unnamed CIA official who was directing drone attacks in Pakistan:

Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington – the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.

Glenn further notes that this fixation of the Obama administration on secrecy, as evidenced by its increased prosecution of whistleblowers, is a means to protect itself from rule of our laws. He quotes from President G.W.Bush DOJ lawyer Jack Goldsmith, who defended executive authority and secrecy powers but recognized that Obama was taking this too:

First, it is wrong . . . for the government to maintain technical covertness but then engage in continuous leaks, attributed to government officials, of many (self-serving) details about the covert operations and their legal justifications.  It is wrong because it is illegal.  It is wrong because it damages (though perhaps not destroys) the diplomatic and related goals of covertness.  And it is wrong because the Executive branch seems to be trying to have its cake (not talking about the program openly in order to serve diplomatic interests and perhaps deflect scrutiny) and eat it too (leaking promiscuously to get credit for the operation and to portray it as lawful).

This can be filed under the “You’ve Got To Be Kidding” defense.

Drones? What drones? Hmm. Ask Iran, maybe they know something about this drone thing.