Category Archives: Wiretapping

NSA PRISM, Writs of Assistance, Rattlesnakes, and the Fourth Amendment

British Crown dragnets of information against smuggling led to the U.S. Fourth Amendment, and U.S. defense against those dragnets was the origin of the Gadsden rattlesnake flag. Those colonial Writs of Assistance were much like that FISA court order for Verizon call logs and the NSA PRISM wide-range domestic communications dragnet, while Senators Feinstein and Chambliss act like the colonial royal governors who issued those Writs.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

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.

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss admit there is no probable cause, and no particular description of the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment was proposed because of things very like that FISA court order to Verizon back in colonial times, namely writs of assistance to stop smuggling:

In 1760, governor [Francis] Bernard of Massachusetts authorized the use by revenue officers of writs of assistance. Writs of assistance were Continue reading

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss shuffle their feet about FISA

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) lamely tried to defend the Verizon call log wiretapping, which they full well know is actually part of a dragnet of all U.S. communications. Ed O’Keefe wrote for the Washingtohn Post yesterday, Transcript: Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss explain, defend NSA phone records program,

Dianne Feinstein:

As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

It has been briefed to Congress and the letters that we have distributed — and you’ll note on the dates, this is prior to the Patriot Act amendments coming before the body, each of those. As you know, this is just Continue reading

NSA domestic spying: we stopped it in 1977 and we can stop it again

After seven years or more, it’s good people are finally noticing the NSA spying program: now maybe enough people will do something about it like we did in 1977.

Don’t believe it’s just limited to who calls who: since at least 2005, AT&T (and most likely all the other telcos) has been sending all telecommunications to NSA. This stuff started after 9/11 and was legalized by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Before 9/11 NSA respected a rigorous wall between it and domestic spying. Time to put that wall back up. Bruce Schneier wrote 29 December 2005, Project Shamrock,

Decades before 9/11, and the subsequent Bush order that directed the NSA to eavesdrop on every phone call, e-mail message, and who-knows-what-else going into or out of the United States, U.S. citizens included, they did the same thing with telegrams. It was called Project Shamrock, and anyone who thinks this is new legal and technological terrain should read up on that program.

Project SHAMROCK…was an espionage exercise that involved the accumulation of all telegraphic data entering into or exiting from the United States. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor NSA were given direct access to daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing, and transiting telegraphs via the Western Union and its associates RCA and ITT. Operation Shamrock lasted well into the 1960s when computerized operations (HARVEST) made it possible to search for keywords rather than read through all communications.

Project SHAMROCK became so successful that in 1966 Continue reading

Treasury discloses “secret” documents to spyee defense lawyer

pistole.jpg That’s the problem with secrets. You tell somebody, even somebody who works for you, and eventually they tell someone else:
As I recounted in Salon in July, lawyers for the Bush administration have gone to extreme and even bizarre lengths in their attempts to prevent the federal courts from determining the legality of the president’s warrantless electronic surveillance program. A key problem for them is a top-secret document that the Treasury Department accidentally disclosed to Al-Haramain’s lawyers in 2004. The document confirmed the surveillance of our clients, and thus, we contend, their legal standing to sue as victims of the program.

More evidence of Bush’s spying, Why the White House can no longer hide the truth about its warrantless surveillance of Americans. By Jon B. Eisenberg, 12 September 2008

Given thousands (or millions?) of people spied upon, eventually somebody is going to gain a foothold of legal standing to sue.

Oh, my, it gets better:

But since the July 2 ruling, we have discovered additional evidence of surveillance of our clients. In fall 2007, FBI deputy director John Pistole gave a speech at a conference of bankers and lawyers in which Pistole thanked the bankers for their cooperation in giving the FBI financial records for terrorist financing investigations, and then went on to describe the FBI’s 2004 investigation of Al-Haramain. In the text of the speech — which is posted on the FBI’s Web site — Pistole explicitly admitted that the FBI had used “surveillance” among other “investigative tools” in the Al-Haramain investigation, noting that “it was the financial evidence that provided justification for the initial [terrorist] designation” in February 2004.
I’ve got to wonder whether the FBI director didn’t know that he was providing standing, or whether he did it deliberately because he’s tired of this legal charade and wants warrantless wiretapping to stop before the eventual lawsuits tar his agency even more than it already is.

If Al-Haramain wins, perhaps the next step would be to sue the government officials who authorized those illegal wiretaps.


Selling Out Has Its Party: AT&T Fetes Blue Dogs

2793874065_fd20bc4453.jpg Glenn Greenwald has video of attendees refusing to say who they were or why they were there or what the party was for:
Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party’s purpose was, why they were attending, etc. One attendee said he was with an “energy company,” and the other confessed she was affiliated with a “trade association,” but that was the full extent of their willingness to describe themselves or this event. It was as though they knew they’re part of a filthy and deeply corrupt process and were ashamed of — or at least eager to conceal — their involvement in it. After just a few minutes, the private security teams demanded that we leave, and when we refused and continued to stand in front trying to interview the reticent attendees, the Denver Police forced us to move further and further away until finally we were unable to approach any more of the arriving guests.

AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Monday Aug. 25, 2008 11:15 EDT (updated below (with video added) – Update II) Thursday, Aug 28, 2008

The video includes Denver police repeatedly asking accredited press to move away from a public sidewalk.

At another party, an ABC News reporter was arrested while “attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.”

Parties like this are part of the lobbying revolving door that makes the U.S. look like a banana republic. I’m picking on Democrats, here, but at least 75% of Senate Democrats (including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, but not Barack Obama) voted against the recent bad FISA bill. A much higher percentage of Republicans voted for it.

If he were alive today, Robert Burns would say:

‘We are bought and sold for telecom gold’
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!


Boehner’s Latest Crying Jag

20070216-tearfulboehner.jpg Boo hoo:
At least one lawmaker is already crying foul over Friday’s expected Federal Communications Commission’s censure of Comcast for faking internet traffic to limit its customers’ peer-to-peer file sharing.

Republican minority leader Rep. John Boehner said the FCC would be “essentially regulating the internet.”

Lawmaker Cries Foul Ahead of FCC Net-Neutrality Decision, By David Kravets, ThreatLevel, July 31, 2008 | 7:02:45 PM

This is rather like crying foul because courts regulate contracts. I wonder how the free market would operate without them? The Internet free market in applications and services wouldn’t operate very well without net neutrality.

I don’t recall Boehner crying foul when Congress voted to regulate the Internet to require ISPs to hand over every bit (every email, phone call, web page, video, etc.) to the NSA and to legalize them having already done it when it was illegal. No free market talk from him then. Guess he didn’t think the Fourth Amendment was worth crying over, unlike Anna Nicole Smith.

And back in 1995, it was the duopoly ISPs demanding regulation from the FCC, because they wanted to squelch VoIP.

Now they want to squelch everybody else’s P2P and especially online video, except what they get a cut of. They think they can get away with it if the FCC stays out of the way, so now they are against regulation.

Their principles flip-flop kind of like Boehner’s, don’t they? Bunch of cry babies.


Congress at 9% Job Approval: Why Is Lessig Putting Lipstick on the FISA Pig?

fisa_crumbling.jpg Larry Lessig points out that for the first time in history Congress’ job performance is rated (by Rasmussen) in single digits: 9%. Some of his commenters think that has something to do with the recent FISA bill, and others think that’s just a minority concern.

Three quarters of the American people and even a majority of Republicans oppose Bush’s warrantless wiretaps. Two thirds oppose warrantless wiretaps even for communications between U.S. citizens and overseas persons, and almost 2/3 oppose immunity for telcos. Aome people call that a minority. I don’t think that word means what they think it means.

Instead of standing up to Bush as the Constitution requires, Congress capitulated and gave the worst president in history still more powers to spy on the people. And the people do know about it:

“Congress rolled over on FISA” –LA Times
“Democrats voted for FISA out of fear” –Chicago Tribune
“Obama gives telecoms a pass” –Hartford Courant
“Senate approves bill to broaden wiretap powers” –NY Times
“Senate vote backs Bush on wiretaps” –Salt Lake Tribune
“Senate vote gives Bush what he wants on surveillance bill” –Seattle Times finds about 960 other stories much like those.

Is the FISA bill the only reason Congress’s numbers tanked? Nope, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that they dropped immediately after the Senate passed that bill.

Why isn’t Larry Lessig working to convince Obama he was wrong and getting him to fix it, instead of trying to put lipstick on that pig of a bill?


Senate: Get Out of Jail Free, Telcos and Administration!

get_out_of_jail_free_card_small.jpg Yes, I know, the FISA bill just passed by the Senate doesn’t preclude criminal liability. But Bush can, by pardoning for any and all crimes committed, just like Ford did for Nixon; the man who commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence won’t balk at that. And the bill does do away with civil liability, so the telcos never have to pay for illegal warrantless blanket wiretapping, and the criminal evidence against the politicians that hired it is hidden.
But, to be Chicago kind of candid, whatcha gonna do about it?

Today, the freshman senator from Illinois voted in favor of the FISA bill that provides retroactive legal protection to cooperating telecom companies that helped the feds eavesdrop on overseas calls. Up until a few weeks ago — let’s see, that would be shortly after the last primaries settled the Democratic nomination and terminated what’s-her-name’s once frontrunning campaign — Obama adamantly opposed the bill. “Unequivocally” was the word his people used.

Nomination in hand, Obama stiffs the Dem left on FISA vote, Andrew Malcolm, L.A. Times, 9 July 2008

When did the U.S. lurch so far to the right that jetissoning the Fourth Amendment is considered running to the center?

The “compromise” the bill was supposed to represent is nonexistent; Continue reading

Patrick Henry Was Unreasonable, Too: Fight FISA “Compromise” on the Fourth of July!

496px-Patrick_henry.JPG On the Fourth of July, who wants to legalize their government spying on them, their children, their parents, and their neighbors, without even a warrant? Listening to every phone call; reading every text message, IM, email, and facebook poke; watching every video you post or view? This is what we expect from Hugo Chavez, from Fidel Castro, or from the old Soviet Union. Yet that is just what the United States Senate is proposing to do, after the House already passed it.

After fighting and winning a war at long odds against the greatest empire on earth, at the demand of the people, the Founders of U.S. added a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, the fourth of ten of which is:

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.

—Fourth Amendment, U.S. Constitution, effective 15 Dec 1791

That is what the Congress proposes to give away next week, by saying telcos like AT&T and Verizon can spy on you as long as they have a note from the president saying it’s OK.

The Internet provides us tools to bring the Senators to their senses.

To quote a fighter against that same world-spanning empire, Mohandas K. Gandhi: Continue reading

Amnesty Foes 2.0: SenatorObama-PleaseVoteAgainstFISA

obamafisa.jpg I’ve been waiting for this to hit the bigtime, and it has, it’s been slashdotted:
ya really notes a blog posting up at Wired reporting that foes of the Telecom Amnesty Bill have mounted a campaign on Barack Obama’s own website. Though the group was created only days ago, on June 25, it has grown to be the fifth largest among 7,000 such groups, just short of Women for Obama. Although it is widely known that Obama changed his stance from opposing telecom immunity to supporting it, many have not given up hope of getting him to switch once again.

Telecom Amnesty Foes On the Move, Posted by kdawson, slashdot, on Tuesday July 01, @08:02AM from the one-week-and-counting dept.

And today the group has more than 9,000 members and is #2 among all MyBO groups.

It’s everywhere else, too, Time, WSJ, Wired, Huffington Post, TPM, DailyKos, MyDD, OpenLeft, digg, reddit, and of course facebook. Read all about it on the wiki.

(Yes, I’m a member of the group, since about the second day, and here’s what I think about the issue.)

This group is a goldmine of information about which telecoms gave what money to whom.

The most significant part to me is that people are using a candidate’s own organizing tools to attempt to organize the candidate. Not stopping there, either, attempting to organize allies for the candidate. Obama claims to be people-powered. Let him say that while other politicians follow money from lobbyists, he listens to the people who give him money, who are the people, and when they said think again he did, and discovered the bogus House FISA “compromise” bill is no such thing, and now he’s against it. We’ll see.