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Lawmakers want to curb spy agency abuses

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Congress to consider intelligence-gathering reforms.

Reforms needed to restore public confidence

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate want to ban bulk collection of Americans’ records, shield Americans from warrantless searches of their communications and install a constitutional advocate to argue significant cases before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.

The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act would halt the erosion of constitutional liberties resulting from invasive surveillance activities and the secret legal interpretations that have allowed this surveillance to proliferate, according Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and other supporters of the bill, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Continue reading

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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

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

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

Are intel chiefs are exaggerating effectiveness of spy programs?

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It turns out the spy agencies are collecting all sorts of bulk data, including emails.

Spy chiefs need to be held accountable for their claims, Sens. Wyden and Udall say

By Summit County Voice

FRISCO — U.S. Intelligence officials have overstated the effectiveness of their bulk data collection in testimony to Congress, Sen. Mark Udall said this week, warning that policy makers shouldn’t accept all the statements made by spy agencies at face value.

In a joint statement on the recent disclosure by intelligence officials that the NSA operated a bulk email records collection program under the authority of the Patriot Act until 2011, Udall (D-Colo.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said intelligence agencies’ assessments of the usefulness of particular collection programs — even significant ones — are not always accurate.

“Intelligence officials have noted that the bulk email records program was discussed with both Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Wyden and Udall said. “In our judgment it is also important to note that intelligence agencies made statements to both Congress and the Court that significantly exaggerated this program’s effectiveness. This experience has also led us to be skeptical of claims about the value of the bulk phone records collection program in particular,” the lawmakers said. Continue reading

Federal wildfire budgets need a makeover

Congress makes bipartisan push to reform funding for prevention

The East Peak Fire burns in late June, 2013 in the Spanish Peaks area. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org/Don Degman.

The East Peak Fire burns in late June, 2013 in the Spanish Peaks area. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org/Don Degman.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators says the Forest Service must find a better to allocate funds for firefighting. Cutting money for wildfire prevention leads to spiraling costs for firefighting and ultimately increases the size of fires, the senators wrote in a June 28 letter to cabinet members.

The letter requests the administration to create an action plan to fully fund prevention efforts such as hazardous fuels reduction, in addition to fire suppression efforts. Currently, the administration takes funds from other non-fire programs to pay for fire suppression costs – a practice called fire borrowing. Continue reading

Energy: Congress may investigate mining royalties

Powder River Basin map

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Wyoming ranchers feeling short-changed on coal mining operations in Powder River Basin

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with polluting the water and air, fossil fuel companies may also be short-changing U.S. taxpayers on the royalties they’re supposed to pay for the resources extracted from public lands.

According to a report from an energy think tank, the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way enerfy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties, and another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.” Continue reading

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