NSA's Bulk Domestic Surveillance Ended Last Night? If You Believe That...
Officially, the NSA's "authorization" to to collect so-called "metadata" by a massive domestic surveillance program ended yesterday at midnight. And they say they stopped moments before the deadline. Do you believe them? They never actually had the authority to spy on American citizens and the "new program" that started at midnight... who knows how much less spying that will be doing anyway. Every single call was electronically monitored and no one knew-- until Ed Snowden, heroically, blew the whistle on the NSA. Instead of being rewarded for his service to the country, he's been hunted and forced to live in exile and under threat for his life.
This is what set in motion yesterday's "changes." The fascistic Patriot Act expired on June 1 of this year and the USA Freedom Act was meant to replace it with some changes, including the slight limitations on bulk collection of data on American citizens by the NSA. Actual mass surveillance of the content of Americans' communication doesn't-- even theoretically-- explore until 2017. "Littered with loopholes," according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the House bill passed in 2014 and was rejected by the Senate. It was modified slightly and passed May 13 338-88 with 41 Democrats and 47 Republicans voting against it. Lots of really bad Democrats-- from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel, Donald Norcross, Jim Cooper, Steny Hoyer, Jim Costa, and Collin Peterson to Patrick Murphy, Kathleen Rice, Scott Peters and John Delaney voted for the flawed bill while most of the good Democrats-- Alan Grayson, Ted Lieu, Keith Ellison, Jan Schakowsky, Raul Grijalva, Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, Donna Edwards, Mark Pocan-- voted against it. (There were some good Democrats who felt it was the best deal they could get and voted with the Republicans for the bill.) Most of the Republicans who voted no were from the Freedom Caucus. A few weeks later, after lots of drama, it also passed the Senate 67-32, again with a bizarre combination of the best Democrats (Bernie Sanders and Tammy Baldwin) joining with many of the worst of the Republicans, from nitwits like Joni Ernst, Pat Toomey, Rob Portman and Marco Rubio to the hardcore obstructionists like Tom Cotton, Jeff Sessions and Richard Burr. Obama signed it.
After it passed Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU said that the "bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision-the material-support provision-would represent a significant step backwards" and that "the disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform." Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties at Stanford Law School, had been even even blunter and more direct when the legislation was proposed: "The Administration and the intelligence community believe they can do whatever they want, regardless of the laws Congress passes, so long they can convince one of the judges appointed to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to agree. This isn't the rule of law. This is a coup d'etat."
This week the corporate media is painting this charade as "a long-awaited victory for privacy advocates and tech companies wary of broad government surveillance at a time when national security concerns are heightened in the wake of the Paris attacks earlier this month." It isn't.
Under the Freedom Act, the NSA and law enforcement agencies can no longer collect telephone calling records in bulk in an effort to sniff out suspicious activity. Such records, known as "metadata," reveal which numbers Americans are calling and what time they place those calls, but not the content of the conversations.I asked Grayson, one of the handful of Democrats with the guts to vote against it. "It’s progress," he told me. "But I still question the need for the government to photograph every piece of mail, and the NSA needs to come clean regarding its monitoring of internet use and personal spending (if any, of course)."
Instead analysts must now get a court order to ask telecommunications companies like Verizon Communications to enable monitoring of call records of specific people or groups for up to six months.
"The act struck a reasonable compromise which allows us to continue to protect the country while implementing various reforms," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.
Some Republican lawmakers want to preserve bulk collection until 2017, citing the Nov. 13 Paris attacks in which 130 people died. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killings.
But any new surveillance measures are unlikely to become law ahead of the November 2016 presidential elections.
A presidential review committee concluded the surveillance regime did not lead to a single clear counter terrorism breakthrough that could be directly attributed to the program.
UPDATE: Letter From Justin Amash (R-MI)
December 1, 2015
Stop Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote “NO” on H.R. 4127
This afternoon, the House will consider the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2016, which fails to address an expansive new authority recently granted to the intelligence community with virtually zero scrutiny or debate.
Last year, House and Senate leadership used the IAA to rush through a provision that permits the government to acquire, retain, and disseminate nonpublic telephone or electronic communications (i.e., content) of United States persons without the consent of the person or proper legal process. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.
The administration has historically conducted such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress has never before approved using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.
This provision received little media attention because of the unusual way in which it was adopted. During consideration of an earlier version of the FY 2016 IAA in June of this year, I offered an amendment in the Rules Committee to strike this provision from law. The committee ruled my amendment out of order without explanation. Here’s the timeline for how this provision came to be adopted: At 8:50 p.m. on December 9, 2014, the Senate passed a substitute amendment to H.R. 4681, the IAA for Fiscal Year 2015, which included a new provision (Section 309) that was not part of the original bill that moved through the House several months earlier. The Senate adopted the substitute amendment by unanimous consent and passed the bill by voice vote at 8:51 p.m. At 1:13 p.m. on December 10 (the next day), then-Chairman Mike Rogers attempted to suspend the rules and agree to the Senate amendment by voice vote—passing into law a provision virtually no one knew about and that had thus far received no real vote or been subject to any real debate. I rushed to the floor to demand the yeas and nays. Less than four hours later, the House voted on the measure with most members still unaware of this provision.
As noted above, I offered an amendment to the IAA in June to strike from law the words, "which shall permit the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of covered communications subject to the limitation in subparagraph (B)". The intelligence committees and intelligence community have claimed that this provision does nothing. If that’s the case, removing these words should be uncontroversial.
Congress and the American people deserve real substantive debate on these important issues, and we should reject reauthorization of surveillance authorities until our Fourth Amendment concerns are addressed. I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4127, the IAA for Fiscal Year 2016, when it comes before the House this afternoon.
Member of Congress