I just found five four-leaf clovers. Probability of finding one is 1 in 10,000 plants. I also just found two five-leaf clovers. Probability is from 1 in 20,000 to 1 in a million. Gotta find out. What is the probability of finding all seven within 10 minutes? In the same yard? 2 pm found another one. 2:23 found another one. Should I thank God, or Monsanto?
Bipartisan group seeks answers from intelligence chief James Clapper over scale of and justification for NSA surveillance
- guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 June 2013 12.39 EDT
A bipartisan group of 26 US senators has written to intelligence chiefs to complain that the administration is relying on a “secret body of law” to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens.
The senators accuse officials of making misleading statements and demand that the director of national intelligence James Clapper answer a series of specific questions on the scale of domestic surveillance as well as the legal justification for it.
In their strongly-worded letter to Clapper, the senators said they believed the government may be misinterpreting existing legislation to justify the sweeping collection of telephone and internet data revealed by the Guardian.
“We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” they say.
“This and misleading statements by intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly.”
This is the strongest attack yet from Congress since the disclosures began, and comes after Clapper admitted he had given “the least untruthful answer possible” when pushed on these issues by Senators at a hearing before the latest revelations by the Guardian and the Washington Post.
In a press statement, the group of senators added: “The recent public disclosures of secret government surveillance programs have exposed how secret interpretations of the USA Patriot Act have allowed for the bulk collection of massive amounts of data on the communications of ordinary Americans with no connection to wrongdoing.”
They said: “Reliance on secret law to conduct domestic surveillance activities raises serious civil liberty concerns and all but removes the public from an informed national security and civil liberty debate.”
A spokesman for the office of the director of national intelligence (ODNI) acknowledged the letter. “The ODNI received a letter from 26 senators this morning requesting further engagement on vital intelligence programs recently disclosed in the media, which we are still evaluating. The intelligence and law enforcement communities will continue to work with all members of Congress to ensure the proper balance of privacy and protection for American citizens.”
The letter was organised by Oregan Democrat Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee, but includes four Republican senators: Mark Kirk, Mike Lee, Lisa Murkowski and Dean Heller.
They ask Clapper to publicly provide information about the duration and scope of the program and provide examples of its effectiveness in providing unique intelligence, if such examples exist.
The senators also expressed their concern that the program itself has a significant impact on the privacy of law-abiding Americans and that the Patriot Act could be used for the bulk collection of records beyond phone metadata.
“The Patriot Act’s ‘business records’ authority can be used to give the government access to private financial, medical, consumer and firearm sales records, among others,” said a press statement.
In addition to raising concerns about the law’s scope, the senators noted that keeping the official interpretation of the law secret and the instances of misleading public statements from executive branch officials prevented the American people from having an informed public debate about national security and domestic surveillance.
The senators said they were seeking public answers to the following questions in order to give the American people the information they need to conduct an informed public debate. The specific questions include:
• How long has the NSA used Patriot Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?
• Has the NSA used USA Patriot Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?
• Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?
• Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.
The Senators signing the letter are: Ron Wyden (D-Or), Mark Udall (D-Co), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), Mark Kirk (R-Il), Dick Durbin (D-Il), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mt), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R- Nev),Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Patty Murray (D-Wash), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Al Franken (D-Minn), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chris Coons (D-Del), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Max Baucus (D-Mont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).
Earth’s alpha predator: Zionist Mafia
Secret-court judges upset at portrayal of ‘collaboration’ with government
By Carol D. Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman,
Recent leaks of classified documents have pointed to the role of a special court in enabling the government’s secret surveillance programs, but members of the court are chafing at the suggestion that they were collaborating with the executive branch.
A classified 2009 draft report by the National Security Agency’s inspector general relayed some details about the interaction between the court’s judges and the NSA, which sought approval for the Bush administration’s top-secret domestic surveillance programs. The report was described in The Washington Post on June 16 and released in full Thursday by The Post and the British newspaper the Guardian.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the former chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, took the highly unusual step Friday of voicing open frustration at the account in the report and court’s inability to explain its decisions.
“In my view, that draft report contains major omissions, and some inaccuracies, regarding the actions I took as Presiding Judge of the FISC and my interactions with Executive Branch officials,” Kollar-Kotelly said in a statement to The Post. It was her first public comment describing her work on the intelligence court.
The inspector general’s draft report is among the many documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, touching off a roiling national debate about the proper balance between the government’s reach into Americans’ lives and the effort to protect the nation in the Internet age.
The document portrays the surveillance court as “amenable” to the government’s legal theory to “re-create” authority for the Internet metadata program that had initially been authorized by President George W. Bush without court or congressional approval. The program was shut down in March 2004 when acting Attorney General James B. Comey and senior leaders at the Justice Department threatened to resign over what they felt was an illegal program.
Kollar-Kotelly disputed the NSA report’s suggestion of a fairly high level of coordination between the court and the NSA and Justice in 2004 to re-create certain authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that created the court in response to abuses of domestic surveillance in the 1960s and 1970s.
“That is incorrect,” she said. “I participated in a process of adjudication, not ‘coordination’ with the executive branch. The discussions I had with executive branch officials were in most respects typical of how I and other district court judges entertain applications for criminal wiretaps under Title III, where issues are discussed ex parte.”
The perception that the court works too closely with the government arises in large part from the tribunal’s “ex parte” nature, which means that unlike in a traditional court, there is no legal sparring between adversaries with the judge as arbiter. Instead, a Justice Department official makes the case for the government agency seeking permission to carry out surveillance inside the United States. No one speaks for the target of the surveillance or the company that is ordered to allow its networks to be tapped or to turn over its customers’ data.
Some critics say the court is a rubber stamp for government investigators because it almost never has turned down a warrant application. However, that high batting average doesn’t take into account changes the court requires in some requests and other applications that the government withdraws.
For about 30 years, the court was located on the sixth floor of the Justice Department’s headquarters, down the hall from the officials who would argue in front of it. (The court moved to the District’s federal courthouse in 2009.) “There is a collaborative process that would be unnatural in the public, criminal court setting,” said a former Justice official familiar with the court.
Kollar-Kotelly, who was the court’s chief judge from 2002 to 2006, said she could not comment further on the matter because “the underlying subjects” in the report generally remain classified by the executive branch.
Other judges on the court have confided to colleagues their frustration at the court’s portrayal, according to people familiar with their discussion.
The inspector general’s report, combined with persistent refusals by the government to declassify the opinions, have left the public in the dark about the court’s legal justifications for approving the broad surveillance programs.
“The court is a neutral party, not a collaborator or arm of the government,” said one government official close to the court. “But the information out there now leaves people wondering how and why the court endorsed these programs.”
The court historically has authorized in secret hearings classified warrants to wiretap the calls and monitor the movements of suspected criminals. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, far-reaching programs to gather Internet and telephone content and metadata were launched under presidential authority, without congressional action or approval from the surveillance court.
The Internet metadata portion of that program had to be revamped after Comey and other Justice officials threatened to resign. Metadata are information indicating facts such as an e-mail’s sender and recipient and its time and date, but not its content.
In May 2004, the NSA briefed Kollar-Kotelly on the technical aspects of that program’s collection, according to the report. She also met with the NSA director, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, on two successive Saturdays during the summer of 2004 to discuss the issue, the report said.
“It was very professional,” Hayden said in an interview. “We of course had to explain to her what it was we had been doing, what it was we wanted to do, how we would do it, what kind of safeguards we felt able to put in. We left it to her judgment whether there was proportionality in terms of was this worth doing, in the balance between security and liberty.”
He said in response to her concerns, the agency made some technical adjustments so that “the odds were greater that you’d pick up fewer protected communications of U.S. persons.”
Said Hayden: “She wasn’t in league with us. We were down there presenting what we thought was appropriate.”
On July 14, 2004, the surveillance court for the first time approved the gathering of information by the NSA, which created the equivalent of a digital vault to hold Internet metadata. Kollar-Kotelly’s order authorized the metadata program under a FISA provision known as the “pen register/trap and trace,” or PRTT.
The ruling was a secret not just to the public and most of Congress, but to all of Kollar-Kotelly’s surveillance court colleagues. Under orders from the president, none of the court’s other 10 members could be told about the Internet metadata program, which was one prong of a larger and highly classified data-gathering effort known as the President’s Surveillance Program, or PSP.
But the importance of her order — which approved the collection based on a 1986 law typically used for phone records — was hard to overstate.
“The order essentially gave NSA the same authority to collect bulk Internet metadata that it had under the PSP,” the inspector general’s report said, with some minor caveats including reducing the number of people who could access the records.
On May 24, 2006, Kollar-Kotelly signed another order, this one authorizing the bulk collection of phone metadata from U.S. phone companies, under a FISA provision known as Section 215, or the ”business records provision,” of the USA Patriot Act.
As with the PRTT order, the Justice Department and NSA “collaboratively designed the application, prepared declarations and responded to questions from court advisers,” the inspector general’s report said. “Their previous experience in drafting the PRTT order made this process more efficient.”
The court also agreed in 2007 to permit the government to collect the content of e-mails and phone calls to and from the United States when “there is probable cause to believe” that one of the parties is a member of al-Qaeda or an associated terrorist group. That program, known today as PRISM and described in documents obtained by The Washington Post, eventually was authorized by Congress.
Kollar-Kotelly could be a stern taskmaster when she thought the NSA was overstepping its bounds. In 2004, she temporarily shut down the government’s surveillance program when she learned of a key NSA failure, The Post reported in 2006. The agency was not properly walling off information gained in warrantless surveillance and may have been using the information to obtain court warrants, which was forbidden. In 2005, the problem resurfaced and she issued a strong warning to the government that it had to fix the problem or would face trouble obtaining court warrants.
Kollar-Kotelly “understood the problems that the government, particularly the Defense Department and the intelligence community, were facing in trying to keep this country safe,” said Robert L. Deitz, former NSA general counsel under Hayden.
But, he said, the court was no rubber stamp. “The judges ask searching questions,” he said. “If they don’t get the right answer, they don’t stamp things ‘reject.’ They say, ‘I’m not signing this.’ Then we go back and say, ‘Okay, we’ve got to do this the following way.’ ”
Still secret are the 2004 decision accompanying the PRTT court order and the legal opinion accompanying the 2006 business records order.
A former senior Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity, said he believes the government should consider releasing declassified summaries of relevant opinions.
“I think it would help” quell the “furor” raised by the recent disclosures, he said. “In this current environment, you may have to lean forward a little more in declassifying stuff than you otherwise would. You might be able to prepare reasonable summaries that would be helpful to the American people.”
Lawmakers and civil-liberties advocates have been pushing the Obama administration for several years to declassify these opinions and other opinions from Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that explain the legal justification for these programs.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has led an effort to review these opinions to see what, if anything, can be declassified. But Robert S. Litt, ODNI general counsel, has argued that declassification can be difficult when so much of the legal reasoning is intertwined with facts that need to remain secret lest they tip off enemies about surveillance methods.
Still, the former official explained, segregating relevant facts from classified material is routinely done in criminal proceedings under the Classified Information Procedures Act. In those cases, the government can extract the information that is relevant to the defense, the judge approves it, and it is provided to the defense.
“This is not unheard-of in the unclassified world, and some kind of summary document can be generated,” the former official said. “Maybe that’s a middle ground that can be done.”
Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.
© The Washington Post Company
By Annika Breidthardt and Ben Deighton, Reuters
BRUSSELS, Belgium – The United States has bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged U.S. spy programs.
Der Spiegel quoted from a September 2010 “top secret” U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) document that it said fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him, and the weekly’s journalists had seen in part.
The document outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations, not only listening to conversations and phone calls but also gaining access to documents and emails.
The document explicitly called the EU a “target”.
A spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence had no comment on the Der Spiegel story.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said that if the report was correct, it would have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the United States.
“On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the U.S. authorities with regard to these allegations,” he said in an emailed statement.
American fugitive Edward Snowden has taken his low profile to a new level. A week ago he landed Sheremetyevo Airport’s transit zone to take refuge, and no one has spotted him since. NBC’s Jim Maceda reports.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Der Spiegel: “If these reports are true, it’s disgusting.
“The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately.”
Snowden’s disclosures in foreign media about U.S. surveillance programs have ignited a political furor in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.
According to Der Spiegel, the NSA also targeted telecommunications at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home to the European Council, the collective of EU national governments.
Without citing sources, the magazine reported that more than five years ago security officers at the EU had noticed several missed calls and traced them to NSA offices within the NATO compound in Brussels.
Each EU member state has rooms in Justus Lipsius with phone and internet connections, which ministers can use.
Snowden, a U.S. citizen, fled the United States to Hong Kong in May, a few weeks before the publication in the Guardian and the Washington Post of details he provided about secret U.S. government surveillance of internet and phone traffic.
Snowden, 30, has been holed up in a Moscow airport transit area since last weekend. The leftist government of Ecuador is reviewing his request for asylum.
Reuters contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Sun Jun 30, 2013 4:21 AM EDT