July 22, 2013
The Department of Justice told a federal court this week that the NSA’s spying “cannot be challenged in a court of law”.
(This is especially dramatic given that numerous federal judges and legal scholars – including a former FISA judge – say that the FISA spying “court” is nothing but a kangaroo court.)
Also this week, the Department of Justice told a federal court that the courts cannot review the legality of the government’s assassination by drone of Americans abroad:
“‘Are you saying that a US citizen targeted by the United States in a foreign country has no constitutional rights?’ [the judge] asked Brian Hauck, a deputy assistant attorney general. ‘How broadly are you asserting the right of the United States to target an American citizen? Where is the limit to this?’
“She provided her own answer: ‘The limit is the courthouse door’ . . . .
“‘Mr. Hauck acknowledged that Americans targeted overseas do have rights, but he said they could not be enforced in court either before or after the Americans were killed.’”
(Indeed, the Obama administration has previously claimed the power to be judge, jury and executioner in both drone and cyber-attacks. This violates Anglo-Saxon laws which have been on the books in England and America for 800 years.)
Reblogged From: The Vine of Life News
Washington, D.C.—Something quite unexpected happened just hours ago, in the dark of night, during a two-day layover in Washington, DC. My son and I are scheduled to take part in a seminar outside of Raleigh, North Carolina this weekend, so we combined our travels to include a side-trip to DC for a business meeting we had previously arranged. It was during this layover that something seemingly ripped from the pages of a spy novel took place.
The Department of Justice has been accused of religious intolerance and viewpoint discrimination after workers were sent an email directing them to verbally affirm homosexuality, according to a law firm specializing in religious liberty and now representing a DOJ whistleblower.
Liberty Counsel said DOJ employees were emailed a brochure called “LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers.” The brochure was created as a resource from DOJ Pride, an association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of the DOJ.
Morgan makes a near 180, declares American government “vaguely tyrannical”
May 18, 2013
It would seem CNN host Piers Morgan is still not quite ready to fully admit the US government has devolved into an utterly tyrannical state.
On his prime-time show Thursday, Morgan declared the recent IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and Justice Department’s phone tapping scandal only “vaguely” resemble “tyrannical behavior.”
AP: Feds tapped reporters’ phone records before 2012 election
While embroiled in two major investigations related to the Benghazi attack and the IRS’ admission that it has been targeting conservatives, the Obama administration is now facing a third scandalous accusation: It reportedly spied on Associated Press reporters just months before the 2012 presidential election.
The AP said the Justice Department secretly seized two months of reporters’ and editors’ telephone records without explanation in April and May 2012. In the AP’s report on the scandal, President and CEO Gary Pruitt called the Justice Department’s move “a massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
Pruitt wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding the records and all copies be returned. According to the AP, “News organizations normally are notified ahead of time that the government wants phone records and enter into negotiations over the requested information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption’s wording, might ‘pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.’”
More than 100 journalists who report on government and other matters work in offices the administration targeted. While Justice Department rules call for subpoenas of news records to be approved by Holder, it’s unclear whether he ordered the action.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt told Holder. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
According to reports, the Obama administration still hasn’t provided a reason for the seizure or revealed whether a judge or a grand jury signed off on the subpoenas.
“Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot,” the AP reported. “The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.
“In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP’s source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an ‘unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.’”
The AP said the 2012 terror plot was “significant both because of its seriousness and also because the White House previously had told the public it had ‘no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden’s death.’”
According to the news organization, the story was written by reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman with contributions from reporters Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Alan Fram. Those reporters, along with editor Ted Bridis, had their phone records seized.
It is believed the government obtained the records from phone companies, and it’s still unclear whether the actual phone calls were monitored.
The AP noted, “The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of providing classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the investigative House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told CNN, “They had an obligation to look for every other way to get it before they intruded on the freedom of the press.”
The House Ways and Means Committee said it will hold a hearing on the IRS matter Friday.
News of the phone records seizure comes amid reports of numerous scandals plaguing the Obama administration, including an investigation into its response to the Benghazi terror attack and the Internal Revenue Service’s Friday admission that it had targeted conservative groups with descriptions including “tea party” and “patriots” with increased scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
“I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it,” Obama said Monday, referring to the IRS’ actions while he made a White House appearance with British Prime Minister David Cameron. “And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”
Obama said he first learned about the issue Friday. The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration is expected to issue an audit report this week.
According to NBC News, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division on tax-exempt organizations, claimed the IRS’ actions were “inappropriate” but “absolutely not” influenced by the White House.
The News Tribune reported that acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller – who had been informed of the issue on May 3, 2012 – “repeatedly failed to tell Congress that tea-party groups were being inappropriately targeted, even after he had been briefed on the matter.”
In June 2011, members of Congress sent letters to former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman inquiring about its targeting of conservatives. NBC News noted, “The IRS responded at least six times but made no mention of targeting conservatives.”
Meanwhile, the simultaneous investigations have put Obama on the defensive.
In his Friday appearance on “The Rusty Humphries Show,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., suggested Obama’s role in the Benghazi cover-up could lead to the president’s impeachment.
Inhofe said, “People may be starting to use the I-word before too long.”
May 4, 2013
President Barack Obama told the Mexican people today that the United States is partly to blame for Mexico’s drug violence because of illegal drugs and gun smuggling. However, he did not mention the gun smuggling undertaken by his own administration under the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Operation Fast and Furious.
Speaking to Mexican university students, Obama pointed a finger at his own country, as Reuters reported:
Drug-fueled violence in Mexico is not entirely the fault of the Mexican people, he said. Instead, the United States shares the blame because much of the violence is centered around the Americans’ demand for illegal drugs and the fact that guns are smuggled into Mexico from the United States.
Justice Department agreed to issue “2511 letters” immunizing AT&T and other companies participating in a cybersecurity program from criminal prosecution under the Wiretap Act, according to new documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
NSA director Keith Alexander, shown here in a file photo, who’s also the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command.
(Credit: Getty Images)
April 24, 2013
Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws.
The secret legal authorization from the Justice Department originally applied to a cybersecurity pilot project in which the military monitored defense contractors’ Internet links. Since then, however, the program has been expanded by President Obama to cover all critical infrastructure sectors including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.
“The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which obtained over 1,000 pages of internal government documents and provided them to CNET this week. “Alarm bells should be going off.”
Those documents show the National Security Agency and the Defense Department were deeply involved in pressing for the secret legal authorization, with NSA director Keith Alexander participating in some of the discussions personally. Despite initial reservations, including from industry participants, Justice Department attorneys eventually signed off on the project.
The Justice Department agreed to grant legal immunity to the participating network providers in the form of what participants in the confidential discussions refer to as “2511 letters,” a reference to the Wiretap Act codified at 18 USC 2511 in the federal statute books.
The Wiretap Act limits the ability of Internet providers to eavesdrop on network traffic except when monitoring is a “necessary incident” to providing the service or it takes place with a user’s “lawful consent.” An industry representative told CNET the 2511 letters provided legal immunity to the providers by agreeing not to prosecute for criminal violations of the Wiretap Act. It’s not clear how many 2511 letters were issued by the Justice Department.
In 2011, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn publicly disclosed the existence of the original project, called the DIB Cyber Pilot, which used login banners to inform network users that monitoring was taking place. In May 2012, the pilot was turned into an ongoing program — broader but still voluntary — by the name of Joint Cybersecurity Services Pilot, with the Department of Homeland Security becoming involved for the first time. It was renamed again to Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program in January, and is currently being expanded to all types of companies operating critical infrastructure.
The NSA and DOJ declined to comment. Homeland Security spokesman Sy Lee sent CNET a statement saying:
DHS is committed to supporting the public’s privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Accordingly, the department has implemented strong privacy and civil rights and civil liberties standards into all its cybersecurity programs and initiatives from the outset, including the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program. In order to protect privacy while safeguarding and securing cyberspace, DHS institutes layered privacy responsibilities throughout the department, embeds fair practice principles into cybersecurity programs and privacy compliance efforts, and fosters collaboration with cybersecurity partners.
Paul Rosenzweig, a former Homeland Security official and founder of Red Branch Consulting, compared the NSA and DOD asking the Justice Department for 2511 letters to the CIA asking the Justice Department for the so-called torture memos a decade ago. (They were written by Justice Department official John Yoo, who reached the controversial conclusion that waterboarding was not torture.)
“If you think of it poorly, it’s a CYA function,” Rosenzweig says. “If you think well of it, it’s an effort to secure advance authorization for an action that may not be clearly legal.”
A report (PDF) published last month by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan arm of Congress, says the executive branch likely does not have the legal authority to authorize more widespread monitoring of communications unless Congress rewrites the law. “Such an executive action would contravene current federal laws protecting electronic communications,” the report says.
President Barack Obama leaving a National Security Agency Christmas party held across the street from the White House at the Blair House last December.
(Credit: Getty Images)
Because it overrides all federal and state privacy laws, including the Wiretap Act, legislation called CISPA would formally authorize the program without the government resorting to 2511 letters. In other words, if CISPA, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved last week, becomes law, any data-sharing program would be placed on a solid legal footing. AT&T, Verizon, and wireless and cable providers have all written letters endorsing CISPA.
Around the time that CISPA was originally introduced in late 2011, NSA, DOD, and DHS officials were actively meeting with the aides on the House Intelligence committee who drafted the legislation, the internal documents show. The purpose of the meeting, one e-mail shows, was to brief committee aides on “cyber defense efforts.” In addition, Ryan Gillis, a director in DHS’s Office of Legislative Affairs, sent an e-mail to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, discussing the pilot program around the same time.
AT&T and CenturyLink are currently the only two providers that have been publicly announced as participating in the program. Other companies have signed a memorandum of agreement with DHS to join, and are currently in the process of obtaining security certification, said a government official, who declined to name those companies or be identified by name.
Approval of the 2511 letters came after concerns from within the Justice Department and from industry. An internal e-mail thread among senior Defense Department, Homeland Security, and Justice Department officials in 2011, including associate deputy attorney general James Baker, outlines some of the obstacles:
[The program] has two key barriers to a start. First, the ISPs will likely request 2511 letters, so DoJ’s provision of 3 2511 letters (and the review of DIB company banners as part of that) is one time requirement. DoJ will provide a timeline for that. Second, all participating DIB companies would be required to change their banners to reference government monitoring. All have expressed serious reservations with doing so, including the three CEOs [the deputy secretary of defense] discussed this with. The companies have informally told us that changing the banners in this manner could take months.
Another e-mail message from a Justice Department attorney wondered: “Will the program cover all parts of the company network — including say day care centers (as mentioned as a question in a [deputies committee meeting]) and what are the policy implications of this?” The deputies committee includes the deputy secretary of defense, the deputy director of national intelligence, the deputy attorney general, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“These agencies are clearly seeking authority to receive a large amount of information, including personal information, from private Internet networks,” says EPIC staff attorney Amie Stepanovich, who filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security in March 2012 seeking documents relating to the program under the Freedom of Information Act. “If this program was broadly deployed, it would raise serious questions about government cybersecurity practices.”
In January, the Department of Homeland Security’s privacy office published a privacy analysis (PDF) of the program saying that users of the networks of companies participating in the program will see “an electronic login banner [saying] information and data on the network may be monitored or disclosed to third parties, and/or that the network users’ communications on the network are not private.”
An internal Defense Department presentation cites as possible legal authority a classified presidential directive called NSPD 54 that President Bush signed in January 2008. Obama’s own executive order, signed in February 2013, says Homeland Security must establish procedures to expand the data-sharing program “to all critical infrastructure sectors” by mid-June. Those are defined as any companies providing services that, if disrupted, would harm national economic security or “national public health or safety.”
Those could be very broad categories, says Rosenzweig, author of a new book called “Cyber War,” which discusses the legality of more widespread monitoring of Internet communications.
“I think there’s a great deal of discretion,” Rosenzweig says. “I could make a case for the criticality of several meat packing plants in Kansas. The disruption of the meat rendering facilities in Kansas would be very disruptive to the meat-eating habits of Americans.”