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Newly declassified documents offer partial explanation for dragnet-style domestic spying

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Intelligence officials are publishing a Tumblr to “provides immediate, ongoing and direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

Documents related to bulk collection of email data remains classified

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Newly declassified intelligence documents related to NSA telephone data collection show that the agency’s compliance and oversight mechanisms may simply been overwhelmed by the massive amount of data coming — “operational momentum,” as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described in a statement accompanying the release of the documents.

According to Clapper, the agency responded by ramping up compliance and oversight efforts by more than quadrupling personnel associated with making sure the data collection program doesn’t violate the law. Clapper’s office has also established a Tumblr blog to provide access to some limited information about intelligence activities.

“This increase was designed to address changes in technology and authorities and reflects a commitment on the part of the Intelligence Community and the rest of the Government to ensuring that intelligence activities are conducted responsibly and subject to the rule of law,” Clapper said in his statement.

U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the release of the documents will help Americans understand the scope of the violations. According to Wyden and Udall, the documents show that intelligence agencies can gather information “without engaging in the dragnet surveillance of huge numbers of law-abiding Americans.” Continue reading

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Court acknowledges that government made ‘substantial misrepresentations’ of surveillance programs

Released FISA Court document raises Fourth Amendment issues

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A heavily redacted FISA Court ruling from 2011 confirms that U.S. spy agencies have been violating the privacy rights of American citizens.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Far from just passively collecting long lists of telephone numbers, U.S. spy agencies actively worked to intercept communications by tapping into fiber-optic cables, going well beyond the bounds of programs authorized by a secret intelligence court.

The revelations came this week, as intelligence officials released a previously classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Activities court ruling confirming what had already been leaked via other sources — that the government is spying on Americans with no connection to terrorism. The document shows that the NSA acquires more than 250 million internet communications each year. Continue reading

Latest NSA revelations just ‘the tip of the iceberg’

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The NSA broke the law thousands of times as it spied on Americans and foreigners during the past year.

Senators say Americans deserve more transparency

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While Obama administration officials have acknowledged that the National Security Agency may have made some mistakes in the course of its widespread and invasive surveillance, new documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the agency overstepped its bounds, and broke the law, thousands of times just in the past year.

The Washington Post reported on the revelations of an internal NSA audit based on documents provided by Snowden. The NSA violations were widely reported in the press this week and drew a sharp response from a pair of U.S. Senators who have been watch-dogging the intelligence agency.

Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the latest revelations are still just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading

Obama addresses domestic spying concerns

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President Barack Obama.

President pledges more transparency and reform of Patriot Act

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — President Obama tackled the domestic spying controversy head-on during an Aug. 9 press conference, saying he will push for increased transparency and reforms in U.S. intelligence programs.

Obama spelled out four specific steps aimed at addressing issues raised by critics in Congress and at rebuilding public confidence in the intelligence community.

Obama said he wants to reform the PATRIOT Act and push U.S. spy agencies to declassify more information about data-gathering programs.

He said the White House will also take input from outside groups in a review of intelligence and communications technologies. Continue reading

Domestic spying: Lawmakers say NSA is violating the rules for collection and handling of bulk telephone data

Leaked information on NSA surveillance is only the tip of the iceberg. Domestic intelligence gathering operations are much more pervasive than most Americans realize, several U.S. senators say.

Leaked information on NSA surveillance is only the tip of the iceberg. Domestic intelligence gathering operations are much more pervasive than most Americans realize, several U.S. senators say.

Surveillance laws and practices need major overhaul to protect privacy and civil liberties

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — U.S. spy chief James Clapper fell short of showing how the NSA’s intrusive data collection program has any unique value to the country’s intelligence efforts, a pair of U.S. senators said this week.

In a statement released after receiving a response from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to a June 27, 2013 letter sent along with 24 fellow  lawmakers, Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Clapper’s response didn’t provide enough information.

“This response is appreciated, but the intelligence community still has left many of the questions most important to the American people unanswered. Given the implications for the privacy of the millions of law-abiding Americans, intelligence leaders were specifically asked to demonstrate the unique value of the bulk phone records collection program. They did not,” the senators wrote. Continue reading

House effort to curb NSA snooping fails on close vote

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis helped lead a charge against intrusive snooping by the NSA.

There’s rowing political momentum to curtail data gathering by spy agencies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bipartisan push to limit sweeping data collection by the National Security Agency narrowly missed approval in the House this week. The close vote shows that Congress is moving closer to exercising more oversight and to protecting the civil liberties and privacy of millions of American citizens.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) co-sponsored the amendment to a defense spending bill. The measure (H.R. 2397) would have limited the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone data to people who are subject of an NSA investigation. The amendment failed on a vote of 205 to 217. Continue reading

Colorado: Udall seeks more transparency on spying laws

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall.

Two senators ask for an unclassified explanation of the government’s geolocation collection authority and Details on FISA Amendments Act interpretations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Government should be more transparent about how it uses existing intelligence laws to spy on people, Sen. Mark Udall said in a recent letter to the James R. Clapper, Jr., director of national intelligence.

Along with Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, Udall said the Senate should take a close look at how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been interpreted and implemented. The act was signed into law in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. It was passed by Congress partly as the result of investigations into espionage abuses by the Nixon administration.

We believe that the debate over these initiatives will be better informed if Congress and the public are provided with more unclassified information about how these initiatives will affect current intelligence authorities and activities,” Wyden and Udall wrote in the letter.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.

The two Democrats requested unclassified information that will be at issue as Congress debates the FISA Amendments Act, due for extension in 2012. They want more information on a 2007 statement by the Office of Management and Budget’s that it would “likely be impossible” to count the number of people whose communications were reviewed by government agents.

There have also been recurring violations of the FISA Amendments Act, and Wyden and Udall also want to determine whether or not the law has been used to collect communications of law abiding Americans. Wyden and Udall earlier this year called for the declassification of secret interpretations of the Patriot Act.

The Senators also asked for information on another increasingly talked-about area of surveillance law involving the use of geolocation data. Taking into account recent advances in geolocation technology, the increasing ease in secret tracking capabilities of individuals on an ongoing, 24/7 basis and law enforcement’s utilization of this technology, Wyden and Udall identified conflicting judicial rulings on the legality of the government surreptitiously tracking an individual’s movements using a mobile electronic device.   Continue reading

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