August 8, 2012 archive

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(h/t Kevin Gosztola @ Firedog Lake)

Anti-Leaks Proposals Protect ‘Leak’ Powers of Congress

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday August 1, 2012 12:32 pm

Yesterday, I extensively detailed most of the proposals the Senate intelligence committee has approved. Two of the proposals, which are exceptionally crude in their nature, involve forcing intelligence agency employees to surrender their pension benefits if they are found to have disclosed information without proper authorization and prohibiting former intelligence agency employees, who want to take a job as a “consultant” or enter into a contract with a media organization.

Open government groups sent a letter to the Senate arguing this “extreme approach…would imperil the few existing safe channels for those in the intelligence community who seek to expose waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality.” It would dissuade “conscientious” or former employees from reporting wrongdoing to Congress or an agency’s Inspector General because individuals would not want to risk losing their pension through a process with no judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies condemned the proposed measure against employees entering into media contracts and wrote in a letter to the committee, “The over-breadth of this provision in prohibiting commentary and analysis even when no classified information is disclosed would violate the First Amendment. Indeed the provision seems drafted in order to chill public discussion of information that is not classified, rather than being narrowly tailored to simply target disclosures of classified information.”

What has most upset senators all along is the fact that government employees talk to journalists. For example, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions went through the New York Times article written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane on Obama’s “kill list” and questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about this article. He highlighted the individuals that the journalists who wrote the article interviewed. He said “these” people “were all talking to the New York Times. Somebody provided information that shouldn’t have been provided. These are some of the closest people you have in government to the President of the United States. So, this is a dangerous thing.” He went on to note that the Times was talking to senior officials at the Justice Department. He added this is a “matter of seriousness.”

It is the free flow of information, not leaks, which they wish to halt. They wish to halt this flow because they are ideologically opposed to the idea of government employees openly discussing national security matters. They are legislators that have transformed their oversight role over intelligence agencies into one that serves to shield the public from interfering with an agency’s daily affairs by raising objection to policies or programs. They are a faction that wants it to be more difficult for reporters to piece together stories like the story New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen published on Bush administration warrantless wiretapping. They do not want national security journalists to expose corruption that will make it difficult to serve agency heads without looking complicit. As sycophant senators, who have taken advantage of a crisis they have manufactured through the spread of unmitigated hype, they are willing to faithfully oblige those in power who wish to impose strict and likely unconstitutional regimes on lower level employees.

More Executive Branch End Runs, This Time With Cybersecurity

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Monday August 6, 2012 10:26 am

The Obama Administration will consider an executive order on cybersecurity in the wake of a defeat in the Senate on a bill to deal with the issue. This is another example of the executive branch taking action when the legislative branch bogs down in gridlock.

Carney did not bother to elucidate the authority on which Obama would enact cybersecurity regulations. …  I’m sure the executive branch will somehow find a way, as they did with No Child Left Behind waivers and changes to student loan rules and deferred action on DREAM-eligible immigrants. And nobody is likely to raise much of an objection beyond a stage whisper.

We’re really talking here about a breakdown of democracy. I’m not a big fan of the cybersecurity bill because it uses that threat of cyber attacks as a back door to information sharing of private communications. In this instance, executive action would be preferable, since it would probably only lead to the core goal of increased standards for critical infrastructure facilities to guard against cyber attacks. But this is really no way to run a democracy, where the executive branch has to end-run around Congress because they find themselves unable to get anything done. It damages democratic accountability. These end runs don’t deal with the core problem of unnecessary and unworkable supermajority requirements in the Senate. That’s where an executive branch that wants the American system to work needs to target.

NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake on ‘The Daily Show’

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday August 7, 2012 9:24 am

A “Daily Show” clip with correspondent Jason Jones aired last night on “super spy” Thomas Drake, who worked for the National Security Agency as an analyst until he was ultimately charged as “a spy” under the Espionage Act for blowing the whistle on the NSA. The segment nicely plays up the fact he did not commit espionage and, instead, was a “cost-benefit analysis expert,” who had examined two intelligence gathering programs and decided one was cheaper and would lead to less fraud, waste, abuse and illegalities.

Drake leads Jones through the act he committed describing why the government decided to prosecute him. Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer for Drake and National Security & Human Rights Director at the Government Accountability Project, appears in the segment with Drake and gets in a good line before the segment concludes.

What’s shown basically affirms what Jon Stewart says in the introduction, “When it’s information the Obama administration no likey, they’ve been sonsofbitches on government whistleblowers.” And it ran right after Stewart skewered former New York Times columnist Judith Miller for going on Fox News to rail against Obama administration “leaks.” [Here’s that segment, which made for a great lead-in to the segment with Drake.]

These two segments aired in the first ten minutes of the program last night, the opening of the show. It gave Americans a flavor of the hypocrisy driving “leak hysteria” and the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowing. Few Americans are likely familiar with Drake-and they should be-so the “Daily Show” engaged in a kind of public service by choosing to satirize his case.

Somewhere Along the Way

He’s fifty, he lost his job three years ago, he won’t ever have a job again because American companies don’t hire the long-term unemployed parasites.  He wakes up Sunday mornings now, with no way to hold his head that doesn’t hurt.  And the beer he has for breakfast isn’t bad, so he has one more for dessert.  Then he fumbles through his closet for his clothes, and finds his cleanest dirty shirt, and stumbles down the stairs to meet the day.

Meet the day, parasite.  Welcome to the Brave New World of the Wall Street Gods, welcome to the Shock Doctrine Century, welcome to hunger games and drones in the sky and batshit ten feet deep in the halls of Congress.  Get ready to dodge bullets when you walk out the door, the NRA has turned America into a free fire zone, remember to salute the Job Creators and the police, bring three forms of photo ID if you’re going to cross the street.  Bring some courage along if you have any left, but leave your dignity behind, you won’t need it out here, hardly anyone in this shit storm that used to be America even remembers what it is anymore.

Protecting the Constitution & Freedom

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Here are some of the good guys in Congress who are trying to protect our freedoms under the Fourth Amendment:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Merkley Introduces Bill to Prevent Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

Under amendments to FISA passed during the Bush administration, the intelligence agencies may conduct warrantless wiretapping, potentially collecting vast amounts of communications and data, so long as they reasonably believe the communications involve individuals who are located outside of the United States and who are not U.S. citizens. However, there are loopholes in the current statute that could permit the intelligence community to intentionally or unintentionally collect and store the communications of American citizens and others living in the U.S. and to mine data collected from Americans without a warrant.  National security agencies have not even released estimates of how often Americans’ communications are swept up by the warrantless wiretapping program.  [..]

“Keeping Americans safe versus protecting American’s privacy is a false choice. We have a moral and Constitutional duty to do both,” Merkley said. “We can ensure our government has the tools to spy on our enemies without giving it a license to intrude into the private lives of American citizens.  This bill will establish new safeguards to respect the principles of the Fourth Amendment protections from government intrusion without a warrant while ensuring that the intelligence community has the tools it needs to combat terrorism.” [..]

“This bill will give the FISA Amendments Act the overhaul it so desperately needs, restraining the government from unconstitutionally collecting and using vast amounts of data about innocent Americans,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “These amendments would allow collection against foreigners to continue while better protecting Americans and should be considered a win-win for both the intelligence community and the Constitution.”  

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Wyden Places Hold on FISA Amendments Act Extension

Warns that Loophole Gives Government the Ability to Circumvent Warrant Requirements to Spy on U.S. Citizens

Wyden identified two specific concerns that he believes Congress must address before agreeing to a long-term extension of FAA’s authorities.

The first pertains to the lack of information regarding the number of law-abiding American citizens who have had their communications collected and reviewed under the FISA Amendments Act authorities.  Last Summer, he and Senator Mark Udall asked the Administration for an estimate of the “number of people located in the United States whose communications were reviewed by the government pursuant to the FISA Amendments Act.”  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence responded that it was “not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority of the FAA.”  Nearly a year later, Congress has yet to receive an estimate of the number of Americans who have had their communications collected under FAA.  

“The purpose of this 2008 legislation was to give the government new authorities to collect the communications of people who are believed to be foreigners outside the United States, while still preserving the privacy of people inside the United States,”  Wyden explains in his hold statement.  “Before Congress votes to renew these authorities it is important to understand how they are working in practice.  In particular, it is important for Congress to better understand how many people inside the United States have had their communications collected or reviewed under the authorities granted by the FISA Amendments Act.

Wyden’s second concern pertains to what he describes as the law’s inadequate protections against warrantless “back door” searches of Americans.

I am concerned, of course, that if no one has even estimated how many Americans have had their communications collected under the FISA Amendments Act,” Wyden writes. “Then it is possible that this number could be quite large.  Since all of the communications collected by the government under section 702 are collected without individual warrants, I believe that there should be clear rules prohibiting the government from searching through these communications in an effort to find the phone calls or emails of a particular American, unless the government has obtained a warrant or emergency authorization permitting surveillance of that American.

David Kravets alerts us to a proposal (pdf) by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and  Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) that require the government to obtain a probable-cause warrant to access data stored in the cloud:

The law that the measure would amend is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which has seen few updates following President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 signature on the measure.

The proposal represents yet another attempt to rewrite legislation that generally grants the government wide powers to access Americans’ cloud-stored data without a probable-case showing. [..]

Adopted when CompuServe was king, ECPA allows the government to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed, as long as the content had been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. E-mail and other cloud-stored data younger than six months is protected by the warrant requirement, as is all data stored on a personal computer drive.

ECPA was adopted at a time when e-mail, for example, wasn’t stored on servers for a long time. Instead it was held there briefly on its way to the recipient’s inbox. E-mail more than six months old on a server was assumed abandoned, and that’s why the law allowed the government to get it without a warrant. At the time there wasn’t much of any e-mail for the government to target because a consumer’s hard drive – not the cloud – was their inbox.

But technology has evolved, and e-mail often remains stored on cloud servers indefinitely, in gigabytes upon gigabytes – meaning the authorities may access it without warrants if it’s older than six months.

The same rule also applies to content stored in the cloud. That includes files saved in Dropbox, communications in Facebook, and Google’s cloud-storage accounts. Such personal storage capabilities were nearly inconceivable when President Reagan signed the bill.

The proposal will probably never be even heard in the radical right wing House committee. Kravets notes that a similar proposal in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) never even got a hearing in the Judiciary Committees that Leahy chairs.

While the Obama administration continues to carry out and expand the Bush/Cheney regime agenda and the obstructionist Republicans and Right wing Democrats unwittingly (or not) help him, there are some people who recognize that security and freedom are not mutually exclusive.

On This Day In History August 8

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 8 is the 220th day of the year (221st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 145 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1974, Richard M. Nixon becomes the first President to resign.

In an evening televised address, President Richard M. Nixon announces his intention to become the first president in American history to resign. With impeachment proceedings underway against him for his involvement in the Watergate affair, Nixon was finally bowing to pressure from the public and Congress to leave the White House. “By taking this action,” he said in a solemn address from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”

Just before noon the next day, Nixon officially ended his term as the 37th president of the United States. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and enigmatically raised his arms in a victory or peace salute. The helicopter door was then closed, and the Nixon family began their journey home to San Clemente, California. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” He later pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.

Summer in the City

Here’s a pretty good summary of Bankster crime.

This summer.

In London.

String of summer scandals tarnishes reputation of London’s financial industry

By Associated Press

Published: August 7

First came U.K. bank Barclays. Its chief executive, Bob Diamond, was forced to step down last month after U.S. and British authorities fined the bank $453 million for manipulating a key market interest rate. Other banks are being investigated for their part in the scandal.

Then there was HSBC, another big London-based bank. It faces fines of up to $1 billion after the U.S. Senate issued a damming report last month alleging it had failed to stop the laundering of Mexican drug money.

Back in May, JPMorgan Chase & Co. disclosed a surprise $2 billion trading loss – later upgraded to $5.8 billion – racked up by its London office in a portfolio designed to hedge against risks the company takes with its own money.

And now Standard Chartered, that most predictably profitable of British banks, has been accused by a regulator in New York of laundering Iranian oil money for years.

And what is the problem with this?

“We will get out of it, but it is a blow that means regulators will have a greater say in life, which means that economic growth will be slower.”


Our first Goner.  This was originally published here April 6, 2011.  Fortunately I was able to find a substitute pretty quick, this is my favorite Daffy solo.  Porky makes a cameo as the Tram driver.

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery

Late Night Karaoke