Tag Archives: NSA

Senator Feinstein your Credibility is on the Line…a letter from Dianne to Yahoo Thom

On July 17th I received this reply from my United States Senator Dianne Feinstein to a letter I sent her in regard to my concerns over NSA spying on American Citizens.

Dear Thom :

I received your communication indicating your concerns about the two National Security Agency programs that have been in the news recently. I appreciate that you took the time to write on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

First, I understand your concerns and want to point out that by law, the government cannot listen to an American’s telephone calls or read their emails without a court warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause. As is described in the attachment to this letter provided by the Executive Branch, the programs that were recently disclosed have to do with information about phone calls – the kind of information that you might find on a telephone bill – in one case, and the internet communications (such as email) of non-Americans outside the United States in the other case. Both programs are subject to checks and balances, and oversight by the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary.

As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I can tell you that I believe the oversight we have conducted is strong and effective and I am doing my level best to get more information declassified. Please know that it is equally frustrating to me, as it is to you, that I cannot provide more detail on the value these programs provide and the strict limitations placed on how this information is used. I take serious my responsibility to make sure intelligence programs are effective, but I work equally hard to ensure that intelligence activities strictly comply with the Constitution and our laws and protect Americans’ privacy rights.

These surveillance programs have proven to be very effective in identifying terrorists, their activities, and those associated with terrorist plots, and in allowing the Intelligence Community and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to prevent numerous terrorist attacks. More information on this should be forthcoming.

· On June 18, 2003, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) testified to the House Intelligence Committee that there have been “over 50 potential terrorist events” that these programs helped prevent.

· While the specific uses of these surveillance programs remain largely classified, I have reviewed the classified testimony and reports from the Executive Branch that describe in detail how this surveillance has stopped attacks.

· Two examples where these surveillance programs were used to prevent terrorist attacks were: (1) the attempted bombing of the New York City subway system in September 2009 by Najibullah Zazi and his co-conspirators; and (2) the attempted attack on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in October 2009 by U.S. citizen David Headley and his associates.

· Regarding the planned bombing of the New York City subway system, the NSA has determined that in early September of 2009, while monitoring the activities of Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, NSA noted contact from an individual in the U.S. that the FBI subsequently identified as Colorado-based Najibullah Zazi . The U.S. Intelligence Community, including the FBI and NSA, worked in concert to determine his relationship with Al Qaeda, as well as identify any foreign or domestic terrorist links. The FBI tracked Zazi as he traveled to New York to meet with co-conspirators, where they were planning to conduct a terrorist attack using hydrogen peroxide bombs placed in backpacks. Zazi and his co-conspirators were subsequently arrested. Zazi eventually pleaded guilty to conspiring to bomb the NYC subway system.

· Regarding terrorist David Headley, he was also involved in the planning and reconnaissance of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people, including six Americans. According to NSA, in October 2009, Headley, a Chicago businessman and dual U.S. and Pakistani citizen, was arrested by the FBI as he tried to depart from Chicago O’Hare airport on a trip to Europe. Headley was charged with material support to terrorism based on his involvement in the planning and reconnaissance of the hotel attack in Mumbai 2008. At the time of his arrest, Headley and his colleagues were plotting to attack the Danish newspaper that published the unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, at the behest of Al Qaeda.

Not only has Congress been briefed on these programs, but laws passed and enacted since 9/11 specifically authorize them. The surveillance programs are authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which itself was enacted by Congress in 1978 to establish the legal structure to carry out these programs, but also to prevent government abuses, such as surveillance of Americans without approval from the federal courts. The Act authorizes the government to gather communications and other information for foreign intelligence purposes. It also establishes privacy protections, oversight mechanisms (including court review), and other restrictions to protect privacy rights of Americans.

The laws that have established and reauthorized these programs since 9/11 have passed by mostly overwhelming margins. For example, the phone call business record program was reauthorized most recently on May 26, 2011 by a vote of 72-23 in the Senate and 250-153 in the House. The internet communications program was reauthorized most recently on December 30, 2012 by a vote of 73-22 in the Senate and 301-118 in the House.

Attached to this letter is a brief summary of the two intelligence surveillance programs that were recently disclosed in media articles. While I very much regret the disclosure of classified information in a way that will damage our ability to identify and stop terrorist activity, I believe it is important to ensure that the public record now available on these programs is accurate and provided with the proper context.

Again, thank you for contacting me with your concerns and comments. I appreciate knowing your views and hope you continue to inform me of issues that matter to you. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Dear Senator Feinstein…your credibility is on the line, I have never been so disappointed!

NSA, DEA, IRS Lie About Fact That Americans Are Routinely Spied On By Our Government: Time For A Special Prosecutor

By Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman

It seems that every day brings a new revelation about the scope of the NSA’s heretofore secret warrantless mass surveillance programs. And as we learn more, the picture becomes increasingly alarming. Last week we discovered that the NSA shares information with a division of the Drug Enforcement Administration called the Special Operations Division (SOD). The DEA uses the information in drug investigations. But it also gives NSA data out to other agencies – in particular, the Internal Revenue Service, which, as you might imagine, is always looking for information on tax cheats.

The Obama Administration repeatedly has assured us that the NSA does not collect the private information of ordinary Americans. Those statements simply are not true. We now know that the agency regularly intercepts and inspects Americans’ phone calls, emails, and other communications, and it shares this information with other federal agencies that use it to investigate drug trafficking and tax evasion. Worse, DEA and IRS agents are told to lie to judges and defense attorneys about their use of NSA data, and about the very existence of the SOD, and to make up stories about how these investigations started so that no one will know information is coming from the NSA’s top secret surveillance programs.

“Now, wait a minute,” you might be saying. “How does a foreign intelligence agency which supposedly is looking for terrorists and only targets non-U.S. persons get ahold of information useful in IRS investigations of American tax cheats?” To answer that question, let’s review this week’s revelations.

Back in 2005, several media outlets reported that NSA has direct access to the stream of communications data, carried over fiber optic cables that connect central telephone switching facilities in the U.S. with one another and with networks in foreign countries. Reports suggested that the NSA had installed equipment referred to as “splitter cabinets” at main phone company offices, where they make a copy of all data traveling on the fiber optic cable and route it into a secret room where computers scan through the information – searching for names and terms that are themselves secret — as it goes by. For years, the federal government refused to comment on these reports. But on August 8, an unnamed senior administration official confirmed this practice to the New York Times.

We also learned that the NSA can grab information off these fiber optic cables in near real time using a tool called XKeyscore (XKS). Searching the firehose of Internet and telephone data as it flows takes an immense amount of computing power. The XKS system dumps a portion of the communications information NSA snatches into a truly immense local storage “cache.” This cache can keep network information for a few days, depending on the amount of traffic. This gives the NSA’s computers time to search through what otherwise would be an unmanageable torrent of emails, phone calls, chats, social network posts, and other communications. And importantly, XKS searches do not involve just communications “metadata”. The XKS system searches the contents of our Internet and telephone communications. Which is directly at odds with repeated Administration statements suggesting that NSA mass surveillance was limited to metadata.

To seize and search through all of this information without a warrant, the agency must comply with just a few legal limitations. Under the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA is not allowed to intentionally collect purely domestic information. That is, the NSA can search communications it believes begin or terminate in another country, either based on the facility where the information is collected (for example, an undersea cable) or other signifier, like an IP address that suggests origination abroad. Of course, these determinations are subject to error, particularly when the surveilled facility is in the U.S. and carries a substantial amount of purely domestic traffic.

To reduce the amount of purely domestic traffic that ends up on the desks of NSA analysts, the agency relies on post-seizure “minimization” procedures. For several reasons, however, these procedures are fundamentally inadequate to protect communications privacy. First, the minimization procedures are themselves secret. Moreover, by law, purely domestic communications that the NSA inadvertently collects need be deleted only if they “could not be” foreign intelligence information – a provision that requires the NSA to delete very little. Some minimization procedures have been leaked to the public, and these show that the government may “retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cyber security.” Even otherwise privileged communications between individuals and their lawyers are not deleted. The agency merely stores those in a separate database so they are not sent to a law enforcement agency for use in a criminal case.

Once the NSA identifies the subset of international or “one-end” foreign communications (i.e., those where a foreigner is either a sender or recipient), analysts are supposed to search only for “foreign intelligence” information. But since “foreign intelligence” includes anything relevant to the conduct of U.S. foreign affairs, this limitation alone imposes no real restraint on NSA’s warrantless spying. Certainly, the NSA isn’t limited to counterterrorism operations.

In undertaking their searches, NSA analysts use either “strong” or “soft” selectors. “Soft” selectors are a broad kind of search that pulls up messages based on content or even the language in which a message is written. When the NSA uses soft selectors, it can search the vast amounts of information it collects to retrieve all Internet users’ discussions of particular topics or in particular languages. The potentially very broad scope of searches using soft selectors is quite frightening, as ordinary Americans’ communications are likely to show up in search results.

“Strong” selectors pull up information associated with a particular known individual. The Obama Administration has repeatedly assured us that these strong selectors may only target non-U.S. persons. But screenshots of the user interface for submitting selector queries tell a different story. Published by the Guardian, they show that NSA analysts are presented with dropdown lists of preapproved factors the NSA accepts as sufficient proof that a person is a foreigner, including being “in direct contact with (a) target overseas” or the use of storage media (like a server located abroad) seized outside the U.S. So any U.S. person who talks to a foreigner that the NSA has identified as a target, or who stores data on a server outside the U.S. (as someone might well do if emailing from a foreign hotel room) may be presumed to be a foreigner. And that’s not even the worst of it. Leaked NSA documents also suggest that the agency will presume that a person is a foreigner whenever there is no information suggesting otherwise. That sort of willful blindness gives the NSA a lot of leeway to target Americans.

Worse, we now know that the NSA’s assertion that it does not “target” U.S. persons is either a lie, or is about to become one. Leaked NSA documents show that in 2011, the NSA changed its “minimization” rules to allow its operatives to search for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information. Such a change would turn “minimization” into a blanket authority to warrantless spying on Americans – in defiance of specific legal restrictions prohibiting this sort of domestic spying. Senator Ron Wyden has said that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing “warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans”, and raised the issue when he met with President Obama on August 1. This is the first time we’ve had evidence that the NSA has — or will have — the authority to warrantlessly search its databases with the specific intent of digging up information on specific U.S. individuals.

We can sum up very simply – at this moment, the NSA enjoys virtually unrestricted power to spy on Americans, without a warrant or any particular suspicion that any person spied upon has done anything wrong. Our phone, email and potentially other records are fair game for bulk collection. The contents of our communications with people overseas are also fair game, so long as there is an approved foreign intelligence purpose for the collection. The NSA does not believe that any stored emails are protected by the Fourth Amendment, so it can collect them from providers with little restraint. As far as we know, the only category of information the NSA currently believes is off limits to mass surveillance are the contents of phone calls it knows in advance are solely between Americans.

This is an astonishing development in the U.S., a nation that, until recently, carefully restricted the power of its domestic spying agencies by forcing them to submit narrow requests for spying authority to a court, which would issue a warrant if the government showed probable cause to believe that the surveillance target was engaged in some sort of wrongdoing. At this point, it’s clear those limits are gone. The United States is now a mass surveillance state.

In last week’s press conference, President Obama reassured the nation that “America isn’t interested in spying on ordinary people.” In other words, do not worry, because the information will only be used for narrow counterterrorism or broader foreign intelligence purposes. But the latest revelations show that these assurances too are a lie. Under current U.S. surveillance law, the NSA may share with domestic law enforcement information obtained both through authorized surveillance, and information unlawfully but unintentionally collected, if it contains evidence of a crime. This rule was worrisome when the NSA was only conducting targeted surveillance of foreign powers. It is terrifying now that the NSA scans virtually all American cross-border communications. And this is especially true in light of the recent reports showing that any number of other three-letter agencies are howling for access to NSA data for use in investigations of Americans’ drug use, tax evasion, and even copyright infringement. Usually, these agencies would need at least warrants based on probable cause that an individual was committing a crime before they could obtain the contents of our communications, and would need to certify to a public court that email or phone records are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation before it could collect such traffic data. But if they get their hands on NSA data, all these bothersome civil liberties protections simply vanish.

Which brings us to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As we noted previously, the DEA has a secret division called the Special Operations Division or SOD. The SOD receives intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records from its partner agencies, of which the NSA is just one, to distribute to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. The SOD gets information from the NSA and shares it with, among other agencies, the IRS. And this is where things get truly ugly. When agents receive SOD information and rely on it to trigger investigations, they are directed to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.” IRS agents receiving SOD data, which presumably can include information from the NSA, have been similarly instructed. They are instructed, in other words, to create a fake investigative file, and to lie. To lie, in particular, to defense lawyers and to judges, about the source of the evidence used in criminal prosecutions.

By hiding the fact that information comes from NSA surveillance, the government both masks the extent to which NSA’s domestic spying is used to trigger investigations of Americans, and prevents legal challenges to highly questionable surveillance practices like bulk phone record collection, warrantless access to American communications with friends and family overseas, and retention and use of illegally obtained domestic calls and emails.

This is outrageous conduct. It is the sort of thing you expect from the Chinese government, or one of the now-vanished governments of the Warsaw Pact. And there is no stronger proof of the dangers of the NSA’s domestic spying effort than the fact that the government has consistently lied about it and attempted to cover it up. Think for just a moment about the stories J. Edgar Hoover could have plausibly concocted about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or any other civil rights activist with this kind of detailed information. The Obama Administration has gone after leakers, and the journalists at outlets like the Associated Press or the New York Times who use them as sources, with unprecedented force. Think about what the current Attorney General, Eric Holder, could do to bring down these reporters who cover – sometimes in ways the Obama Administration doesn’t like — the conduct of American foreign policy. At this point, it’s plain to see that the Obama Administration has no intention of honestly fixing this mess. So it’s time now for Congress to act. A good first step would be to appoint a Special Prosecutor with wide power to subpoena Administration officials, and to bring criminal indictments where appropriate. Congress should then begin the process of reforming surveillance law to make absolutely clear that the NSA has no power to conduct warrantless mass surveillance of Americans. First they came for the terrorists and the foreigners, and no one did anything. Then they came for the drug dealers. Then the tax cheats. Then the journalists. And that’s just what we know about. How much worse does it have to get before we say enough is enough?

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Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

By John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke                                 WASHINGTON |          Mon Aug 5, 2013 3:25pm EDT

(Reuters) – A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”

THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION

The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.

Today, much of the SOD’s work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.

“Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function,” a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.”

A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment.

But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to “recreate” an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.

A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” the agent said.

“PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION

After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.”

The two senior DEA officials, who spoke on behalf of the agency but only on condition of anonymity, said the process is kept secret to protect sources and investigative methods. “Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day,” one official said. “It’s decades old, a bedrock concept.”

A dozen current or former federal agents interviewed by Reuters confirmed they had used parallel construction during their careers. Most defended the practice; some said they understood why those outside law enforcement might be concerned.

“It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean,” said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.

Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.

A QUESTION OF CONSTITUTIONALITY

“That’s outrageous,” said Tampa attorney James Felman, a vice chairman of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association. “It strikes me as indefensible.”

Lawrence Lustberg, a New Jersey defense lawyer, said any systematic government effort to conceal the circumstances under which cases begin “would not only be alarming but pretty blatantly unconstitutional.”

Lustberg and others said the government’s use of the SOD program skirts established court procedures by which judges privately examine sensitive information, such as an informant’s identity or classified evidence, to determine whether the information is relevant to the defense.

“You can’t game the system,” said former federal prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. “You can’t create this subterfuge. These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?”

Some lawyers say there can be legitimate reasons for not revealing sources. Robert Spelke, a former prosecutor who spent seven years as a senior DEA lawyer, said some sources are classified. But he also said there are few reasons why unclassified evidence should be concealed at trial.

“It’s a balancing act, and they’ve doing it this way for years,” Spelke said. “Do I think it’s a good way to do it? No, because now that I’m a defense lawyer, I see how difficult it is to challenge.”

CONCEALING A TIP

One current federal prosecutor learned how agents were using SOD tips after a drug agent misled him, the prosecutor told Reuters. In a Florida drug case he was handling, the prosecutor said, a DEA agent told him the investigation of a U.S. citizen began with a tip from an informant. When the prosecutor pressed for more information, he said, a DEA supervisor intervened and revealed that the tip had actually come through the SOD and from an NSA intercept.

“I was pissed,” the prosecutor said. “Lying about where the information came from is a bad start if you’re trying to comply with the law because it can lead to all kinds of problems with discovery and candor to the court.” The prosecutor never filed charges in the case because he lost confidence in the investigation, he said.

A senior DEA official said he was not aware of the case but said the agent should not have misled the prosecutor. How often such misdirection occurs is unknown, even to the government; the DEA official said the agency does not track what happens with tips after the SOD sends them to agents in the field.

The SOD’s role providing information to agents isn’t itself a secret. It is briefly mentioned by the DEA in budget documents, albeit without any reference to how that information is used or represented when cases go to court.

The DEA has long publicly touted the SOD’s role in multi-jurisdictional and international investigations, connecting agents in separate cities who may be unwittingly investigating the same target and making sure undercover agents don’t accidentally try to arrest each other.

SOD’S BIG SUCCESSES

The unit also played a major role in a 2008 DEA sting in Thailand against Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout; he was sentenced in 2011 to 25 years in prison on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC. The SOD also recently coordinated Project Synergy, a crackdown against manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of synthetic designer drugs that spanned 35 states and resulted in 227 arrests.

Since its inception, the SOD’s mandate has expanded to include narco-terrorism, organized crime and gangs. A DEA spokesman declined to comment on the unit’s annual budget. A recent LinkedIn posting on the personal page of a senior SOD official estimated it to be $125 million.

Today, the SOD offers at least three services to federal, state and local law enforcement agents: coordinating international investigations such as the Bout case; distributing tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps; and circulating tips from a massive database known as DICE.

The DICE database contains about 1 billion records, the senior DEA officials said. The majority of the records consist of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. Records are kept for about a year and then purged, the DEA officials said.

About 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents have access to the DICE database, records show. They can query it to try to link otherwise disparate clues. Recently, one of the DEA officials said, DICE linked a man who tried to smuggle $100,000 over the U.S. southwest border to a major drug case on the East Coast.

“We use it to connect the dots,” the official said.

“AN AMAZING TOOL”

Wiretap tips forwarded by the SOD usually come from foreign governments, U.S. intelligence agencies or court-authorized domestic phone recordings. Because warrantless eavesdropping on Americans is illegal, tips from intelligence agencies are generally not forwarded to the SOD until a caller’s citizenship can be verified, according to one senior law enforcement official and one former U.S. military intelligence analyst.

“They do a pretty good job of screening, but it can be a struggle to know for sure whether the person on a wiretap is American,” the senior law enforcement official said.

Tips from domestic wiretaps typically occur when agents use information gleaned from a court-ordered wiretap in one case to start a second investigation.

As a practical matter, law enforcement agents said they usually don’t worry that SOD’s involvement will be exposed in court. That’s because most drug-trafficking defendants plead guilty before trial and therefore never request to see the evidence against them. If cases did go to trial, current and former agents said, charges were sometimes dropped to avoid the risk of exposing SOD involvement.

Current and former federal agents said SOD tips aren’t always helpful – one estimated their accuracy at 60 percent. But current and former agents said tips have enabled them to catch drug smugglers who might have gotten away.

Police Spying

“It was an amazing tool,” said one recently retired federal agent. “Our big fear was that it wouldn’t stay secret.”

DEA officials said that the SOD process has been reviewed internally. They declined to provide Reuters with a copy of their most recent review.

(Edited by Blake Morrison)

20 Million to One….NSA and NRA interests?

According to the Economist, your chances of dying as a result of “assault by firearm” is about 1 in 25,000. Americans also have a 1 in 514,147 chance of being killed by “firearms discharge. Keep these statistics in mind as the proponents of spying and taking our privacy away use “OUR” safety and security as their argument.  Because the odds of dying of a terrorist attack on US soil are 20,000,000 to 1, that is 20 million to one!  2,966 victims [2,998 as of Spring 2009] died on the attacks of 911 compared with 88,000 Americans killed by gun violence from 2003 and 2010, according to the U.N. study.

So when the Democrats and Republicans who are hell bent on spying on us tell you that it is to keep you safe, pull these statistics out and ask them, “If you are trying to keep us safe why don’t we have gun safety regulations and background checks?”

An American Citizen residing in the United States was around 5,000 times more likely to be killed by a fellow Citizen armed with a gun than by a terrorist inspired by Osama bin Laden.  So why is it that a progressive Media Network would be so invested in the United States ability to spy on its Citizens? It is just plain “GARBAGE” that it is about security. Americans are falling like flies due to gun violence and Congress could give a shit.  Some of the same politicians that are against “ANY” regulations on guns and gun owners to save lives, are the same politicians that are trying to talk us into giving up our privacy to the NSA to save lives.  What do you want to bet it is about MONEY?

In the age of surveillance and secret court orders, a shadowy multimillion-dollar market has developed. Paid for by U.S. tax dollars, but with little public scrutiny, lucrative surveillance fees charged in secret by technology and phone companies are now revenue streams that must be protected at the expense of American privacy.

According to Masslive.com, AT&T imposes a $325 “activation fee” for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that, according to industry disclosures made last year to Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. In its letter to Markey, AT&T estimated that it collected $24 million in government reimbursements between 2007 and 2011. Verizon, which had the highest fees but says it doesn’t charge in every case, reported a similar amount, collecting between $3 million and $5 million a year during the same period.

The mass surveillance industry is now worth $5 billion a year and growing, with technologies capable of spying on every telephone and Internet network on a national scale. The flagships of this market are called Nokia-Siemens, Qosmos, Nice, Verint, Hacking Team, Bluecoat and Amesys. Asked by the WSJ, Jerry Lucas, the organizer of Intelligence Support Systems (ISS), the international expo that every two or three months brings together communications interception professionals, explained that, from virtually zero in 2001, today that market is worth close to $5 billion in sales per year.

So when you hear that this is about the security of “We the People” it isn’t. It is about “We the Capitalist” and a $5 billion dollar emerging industry that wants to spy with abandon, it is good for business.

Last year the White House released its Privacy Bill of Rights.  In the preamble President Barack Obama made this argument in favor of American privacy:

February 23, 2012

“Americans have always cherished our privacy. From the birth of our republic, we assured ourselves protection against unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers. At the same time, we set up a postal system to enable citizens all over the new nation to engage in commerce and political discourse. Soon after, Congress made it a crime to invade the privacy of the mails. And later we extended privacy protections to new modes of communications such as the telephone, the computer, and eventually email. Justice Brandeis taught us that privacy is the “right to be let alone,” but we also know that privacy is about much more than just solitude or secrecy. Citizens who feel protected from misuse of their personal information feel free to engage in commerce, to participate in the political process, or to seek needed health care. This is why we have laws that protect financial privacy and health privacy, and that protect consumers against unfair and deceptive uses of their information. This is why the Supreme Court has protected anonymous political speech, the same right exercised by the pamphleteers of the early Republic and today’s bloggers. Never has privacy been more important than today, in the age of the Internet, the World Wide Web and smart phones.  In just the last decade, the Internet has enabled a renewal of direct political engagement by citizens around the globe and an explosion of commerce and innovation creating jobs of the future. Much of this innovation is enabled by novel uses of personal information. So, it is incumbent on us to do what we have done throughout history: apply our timeless privacy values to the new technologies and circumstances of our times. I am pleased to present this new Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as a blueprint for privacy in the information age. These rights give consumers clear guidance on what they should expect from those who handle their personal information, and set expectations for companies that use personal data. I call on these companies to begin immediately working with privacy advocates, consumer protection enforcement agencies, and others to implement these principles in enforceable codes of conduct. My Administration will work to advance these principles and work with Congress to put them into law. With this Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, we offer to the world a dynamic model of how to offer strong privacy protection and enable ongoing innovation in new information technologies. One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.”

—President Barack Obama

I was going to write about the injustice of calling “Snowden” a traitor instead of a “Whistleblower” but that would have played right into the distractions and faux hysteria being used by some in the media to take the side of the NSA and silence a conversation on “WHY” Americans should protect their privacy.  It is about the money and business….surely if the odds are 20 million to one, it is not about our security…just remember the odds of being killed by a gun are One in 25,000 and Congress has not lifted a finger to keep us “SAFE”!   It is about the NRA profits vs. the NSA emerging market!

Snowden is a straw man!

Restore the Fourth America! “We the People” Do Care About Privacy!

Internet Defense League launched largest online protest since SOPA. Thousands of websites displayed a message against NSA spying on July 4th, tech companies & grassroots Internet users crowdfund 4th Amendment TV ads

In the wake of shocking revelations about sweeping NSA surveillance, the Internet Defense League — a coalition of thousands of websites that formed after the Internet Blackout against SOPA — and hundreds of sites, organizations and Internet users have organized the largest online protest since the SOPA blackout. Thousands of people attended Restore the 4th street actions that happened around the country and tens of thousands more rallied on the web calling for an end to unconstitutional government spying.

Thousands of tech startups, popular websites, and organizations helped to fly the IDL’s famous “Cat Signal,” including WordPress (who built a plugin for all WordPress.com members to allow them to easily fly the cat signal on their sites), Namecheap, Reddit, 4chan, Mozilla, Internet Association, Imgur, Cheezburger, Demand Progress, O’Reilly Media, Upworthy, MoveOn, and EFF. Celebrities like actors Mark Ruffalo (who plays The Hulk),  Evangeline Lilly (Kate from the TV show “Lost”), and author Cory Doctorow also supported. True to the democratic spirit of the protests, each site and organization participated in their own way. Some, like Imgur, are running free ads regularly throughout the day. Namecheap is among those actively raising money to fund the protests and 4th Amendment television ads. The biggest web companies’ own lobbying group, the Internet Association, made a statement supporting the 4th Amendment. Most sites, like 4chan, are displaying this message about NSA spying with the text of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

Users of who see the message on July 4th will be directed to CallForFree

dom.org, a page that has been set up for the protests where people can take action in a variety of ways: share a variety of 4th Amendment themed images, find their local Restore the Fourth protest, call Congress to demand investigations into NSA programs, or donate to help fund television ads about NSA surveillance.

The NSA issued a statement the day before the protest acknowledging the mass demonstrations this 4th of July (archived image here).

“The U.S. Government has been systematically spying on people all over the globe, violating their human rights,” commented Tiffiniy Cheng, of the Internet Defense League and Fight for the Future, “The NSA programs that have been exposed are blatantly unconstitutional, and have a detrimental effect on free speech and freedom of press worldwide. This is going to be our biggest protest since SOPA, and it should be no surprise. You can’t disregard people’s privacy, invade their personal lives on a daily basis, and not expect them to fight back.”

Organizers are also promoted a social media Thunderclap that will reached more than 9.2 Million people, and was supported by “The Hulk,” actor Mark Ruffalo, tech luminaries like Tim O’Reilly, Lawrence Lessig, and Anil Dash as well as advocacy groups from across the political spectrum. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has also joined and expressed his support.

In a blog post in support of the protests, Reddit expressed how the NSA’s activities affect the nation on a broad level, “in addition to all of the individual privacy issues, these secret mass surveillance programs are troubling for online businesses like reddit. The potential that a business can be legally and secretly compelled to violate the privacy of both foreign and domestic users casts a pall over any U.S.-based site.”

The Internet Defense League (IDL) is a network of over 30,000 websites and internet users that are dedicated to sounding the alarm and mobilizing action whenever there is a major threat or unmissable opportunity for the free and open web. Their recent actions have focused on CISPA, the CFAA, and the ITU.

For more information about the July 4th protests, visit www.CallForFreedom.org

For further information, see www.internetdefenseleague.org and www.fightforthefuture.org

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Screenshots and links from the July 4th protest:

For images coming in from the more than 100 Restore the Fourth protests, follow #Restorethe4th on Twitter. We’re posting some here soon.

The New York rally had more than 500 protesters, who fill this photo and stretch out past another block on Wall Street.

The Chicago rally saw, by some estimates, over 200 people.

Hundreds turned out in San Francisco, too.

Most Internet Defense League sites, including 4chan, are displaying this modal on their front page until midnight EST on July 5.

Popular domain registrar, Namecheap is among those raising funds for the protests and TV ads with this statement and action on their front page:

Mozilla Firefox participated by pushing the message out to social media users via a Promoted Post on twitter, they have also been instrumental in the 500K+  StopWatching.us coalition.

Reddit, where the Restore the 4th Protests originated, as been running ads promoting them all week, and also posted this blog in support of the 4th Amendment today.

WordPress who serve 18% of sites and offered the NSA modal to all their users by building it into their platform: 

The Internet Association represents the biggest web companies, including Google and Facebook. They joined the protests by making a statement in support of the 4th Amendment.

Popular sharing site, Upworthy, posted this image from our gallery, which was quickly shared almost 3,000 times.

O’Reilly.com flew the Cat Signal all day driving thousands of users to take action against NSA spying. Tim O’Reilly also tweeted his support.

Techdirt made their statement supporting the 4th Amendment here.

MoveOn featured it on their front page.

More than 14,000 shared this image (to a total social reach of over 9.25 Million) via Thunderclap, it’s still being shared now, and is going viral according to Know Your Meme.

Speaking of which, several sites in the Cheezburger network posted about the 4th Amendment protests:

Popular blog, BoingBoing has this message for the NSA at the top of their page all day, driving thousands of emails to Congress through CallForFreedom.org

The Electronic Frontier Foundation supported the Internet Defense League by building their own version of the modal code that gave websites the option to drive phone calls to Congress demanding investigations into NSA spying.

Many academics, celebrities, authors, musicians, and activists also voiced their support:

Actor Mark Ruffalo, best known for playing The Hulk in the Marvel movies, tweeted his support multiple times throughout the day. He added this personal message to his supporters.

Noted academic Lawrence Lessig expressed his support on twitter.

Rep. Alan Grayson, one of the few members of Congress who has spoken out strongly against NSA programs, joined our Thunderclap and tweeted this message:

Actor / activist Evangeline Lilly, a regular FFTF supporter best known for playing Kate on the popular TV show “Lost,”  tweeted her support multiple times and joined today’s Thunderclap.

Tech celeb and 4th Amendment supporter Anil Dash joined as well.

New America Foundation’s OTI release a statement and joined the protests online.

Restore the Fourth Los Angeles-Patriotic and Inspiring-the Millennials Spoke Up and Spoke Out!

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“Americans have always cherished our privacy. From the birth of our republic, we assured ourselves protection against unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers.” –President Barack Obama

Sometimes the Boomers and the Millennials seem like they come from different worlds.  I am sure that’s what the Greatest Generation thought about us in the 1960’s.  This Fourth of July was patriotically inspiring for me, as I watched young people in their 20’s talk to me about the 4th Amendment, privacy and NSA spying.   90 miles from my home in the City of the Angeles, I actually walked among the newest generation and have to tell you their speeches were passionate, intelligent, moving and inspirational. Some started their speech with an apology for their lack of public speaking experience, the crowd roared with support, it was quite extraordinary as these young people climbed on a cement ledge and like the Founding Father’s  they echoed and shared with “US” what freedom, liberty and privacy meant to them.  “The government is going directly against the values and the freedoms that we are supposed to stand for,” protester Justin Newton said.

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It was a beautiful day in Southern California, 85 degrees under sunny skies, the last place you would expect a SOCAL resident would be Downtown Los Angeles when the beaches call.  But there they were, spending their 4th of July at Pershing Square, not at the beach, mountains, shopping, movies but protesting what was a great injustice in their eyes, the NSA’s violation of the 4th Amendment. Protesters crossed the political spectrum Republicans, Progressives, Liberals, Democrats, Independents and Libertarians, unified by revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the agency is monitoring phone calls and e-mails of Americans without warrants. The protest started in Pershing Square, where supporters read the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment and made speeches, then marched about a mile to the Los Angeles City Hall…all the way chanting “Restore the 4th”.

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How did I even know about this Nationwide protest, “Restore the 4th”, not through my favorite progressive cable news network, MSNBC, heck they have been reporting that the public doesn’t care about privacy, they wanted to report on the Snowden soap.  It was the written media, the Huffington Post and my browser Mozilla Firefox that alerted me, to this growing movement.   I want to personally thank the Huffington Post for including an article on “Restore the 4th”, it supported my belief that Americans must get their information from a variety of outlets, not to let cable news lead them to form a conclusion that is questionable at best.

Restore the Fourth is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-violent movement that organized and assembled a nationwide protests on July 4th, 2013. Protesters in over 100 cities across America gathered to demand that the government of the United States of America adhere to its constitutionally dictated limits and respect the Fourth Amendment. Restore the Fourth maintains that justification of the Fourth Amendment beyond the original text need not be given; the legitimacy of which is self-evident. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights clearly protects all citizens’ assets, both digital and physical, against searches and seizures without warrant; they aim to assert those rights. They insist that the proper channels of government work to ensure that all policy complies with the supreme laws of the United States of America in their entirety.

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“Hoping to tap into the wave of anti-SOPA Internet activism that flooded Congress last year, Mozilla has joined with a variety of activist groups to found an anti-spying coalition called StopWatching.Us.The just-launched website’s first order of business will be to gather signatures for a petition that demands Congress “reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.”

“When users fear government surveillance… a free and open Web becomes untenable,” said Mozilla Privacy Chief Alex Fowler on a hastily arranged press call. “We don’t want an Internet where everything we do is secretly tracked or logged by companies or governments.”

Mozilla, which makes the popular Firefox Web browser, has taken the extraordinary step of putting a link to Stopwatching.us right on the default Firefox homepage.”  Joe Mullin (Mozilla want 500M Users to Tell the Govn’t  Stop Watching Us) June 11 2013, ARS Technica

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced that the grassroots campaign opposing the dragnet surveillance programs of the National Security Agency (NSA) at StopWatching.Us has garnered 500,000 signatures. When half a million people sign up for a campaign the government would be wise to take note of it.  This is a copy of the letter Mozilla will send on your behalf by signing the petition at StopWatching.us

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by an intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

  1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the      state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that      blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any      person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can      be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
  2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the      public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create      specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end      unconstitutional surveillance;
  3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be      responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

I urge you all to go to the site and sign the petition.  In the Privacy Bill of Rights President Obama says this about privacy, “One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.”

I was happy to be a part of the Restore the Fourth event in Los Angeles.  Spending my Fourth of July with these young people fueled my patriotic fervor and provided for an exciting admiration for the Millennial generation, they are engaged, well informed and quite remarkable. They are also an important demographic that cannot be ignored, MSNBC, Fox News and CNN.  As a Boomer I know my generation is in sunset, the Millennials cannot just accept the world we leave them, but must fight for a world they believe in…and this 4th of July the Millennials spoke up!

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