Category Archives: Edward Snowden

U.S. Government Sues Snowden Over Memoir Release

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The U.S. government took swift legal action against famed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden after the release of his memoir, “Permanent Record.”

The government’s complaint, filed September 17th, alleges that Snowden, a former CIA employee and former contractor for the NSA, violated non-disclosure agreements with the NSA and CIA by publishing his book without first submitting it for prepublication review “in violation of his express obligations under the agreements he signed.” The government also claims that Snowden has violated NDAs by giving speeches without first providing materials for prepublication review. The book’s publishers are also named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit does not seek a halt in publication, but it argues that all profits from “Permanent Record” belong to the government.

“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “This lawsuit will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”

The ACLU responded to the suit criticizing the prepublication review, claiming that it’s “a process that prohibits millions of former intelligence-agency employees and military personnel from writing or speaking about topics related to their government service without first obtaining government approval.”

“This book contains no government secrets that have not been previously published by respected news organizations. Had Mr. Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified,” said Ben Wizner, an attorney for Snowden.

Snowden himself responded via Twitter that “It is hard to think of a greater stamp of authenticity than the US government filing a lawsuit claiming your book is so truthful that it was literally against the law to write.”

Snowden also wrote that “the very book the government does not want you to read just became the #1 best-selling book in the world.”

“Permanent Record” is available to purchase by clicking here.

Five Years After Snowden, Michigan Set to Be First State to Impede NSA’s Warrantless Surveillance

On the heels of the fifth anniversary of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosure of classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents to journalists, one state legislature has recently taken steps to hold the government agency accountable for its warrantless surveillance programs by making it illegal for state and local governments, including law enforcement and public utilities, to support the NSA’s warrantless spying on American citizens.

According to Michigan’s Fourth Amendment Rights Protection Act, also known as Public Act 71 of 2018, state and local governments can only assist or provide support to the federal government’s collection of data if there is a search warrant or the informed consent of the targeted party. The bill is set to take effect in just a few weeks on June 17th.

While the NSA has no publicly disclosed facility in the state, the bill’s proponents have asserted that it sends a clear message to the federal government regarding the lack of popularity for its warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans in violation of the legal protections granted to them by the Constitution.

“It hangs up a sign on Michigan’s door saying, ‘No violation of the Fourth Amendment, look elsewhere’,” said Republican state Rep. Martin Howrylak, the bill’s author, according to the Washington Examiner. “Democrats as well as Republicans would certainly stand very strong in our position on what this law means.”

“This new law guarantees no state resources will be used to help the federal government execute mass warrantless surveillance programs that violate the Fourth Amendment protections enshrined in the U.S. Constitution,” Howrylak said soon after the bill was first passed earlier this year in March.

“Michigan will not assist the federal government with any data collection unless it is consistent with the constitution,” he added.

The Michigan law seeking to condemn the NSA’s most controversial program is not the first of its kind. However, it is the first to have been passed successfully without having been  subsequently watered down. For instance, in 2014, state lawmakers in Maryland sought to shut off power and water to NSA headquarters but many of its sponsors dropped their support of the bill after a powerful political backlash. A similar bill was floated in Utah’s state legislature at the same time, but went nowhere after it was rejected by the state’s governor.

“It hangs up a sign on Michigan’s door saying, ‘No violation of the Fourth Amendment, look elsewhere.'”

The only state to have passed a bill similar to Michigan’s is California, which passed the Fourth Amendment Protection Act in 2014. However, that piece of legislation protects the Fourth Amendment in name only as it bans local assistance “in response to a request from a federal agency” and “if the state has actual knowledge that the request constitutes an illegal or unconstitutional collection.”

Despite the efforts being made by state legislatures to restore the Fourth Amendment, such efforts have been largely absent at the national level in recent years. Earlier this year, in January, Congress voted to extend the government’s warrantless surveillance of American citizens for another six years. However, Congress’ reauthorization of the program was more than a mere extension of the program as it actually helped expand the NSA’s authority by codifying some of the more controversial aspects of the program, suggesting that interest in protecting and restoring the Constitution is largely found at the state and local levels of government.

Snowden Documents: NSA Worked to Track Bitcoin Users

A new report from The Intercept reveals that the National Security Agency has been able to track users of the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin since at least 2013. The revelation is detailed in newly released classified documented obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden and provided to the The Intercept. The documents show the agency accessing the fiber-optic cables which allow internet traffic to travel around the world in order to gain access to private information of bitcoin users.

The Intercept reported:

“Classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the National Security Agency indeed worked urgently to target Bitcoin users around the world — and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to “help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins,” according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged the NSA’s ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.”

An internal NSA report from March 15, 2013 stated that the agency was interested in monitoring traffic for other cryptos; however, “Bitcoin is #1 priority”. Another memo from March 29, 2013 indicated that the NSA collected users’ passwords, internet history, and a unique device identification number known as a MAC address. The memo suggests analysts were also tracking internet users’ internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps. The documents also indicate the use of the NSA’s powerful internal search engine, XKeyScore.

“As of 2013, the NSA’s Bitcoin tracking was achieved through program code-named OAKSTAR, a collection of covert corporate partnerships enabling the agency to monitor communications, including by harvesting internet data as it traveled along fiber optic cables that undergird the internet,” The Intercept wrote. The NSA used a sub-program of OAKSTAR – known as MONKEYROCKET – to gather data from the
Middle East, Europe, South America, and Asia.

MONKEYROCKET is also apparently falsely promoted to the public as a tool for anonymity. The documents describe MONKEYROCKET as a “non-Western Internet anonymization service” with a “significant user base” in Iran and China. One document notes that the goal of MONKEYROCKET was to “attract targets engaged in terrorism, [including] Al Qaida” to use the “browsing product,” which “the NSA can then exploit.”  This is known as a honey pot in computer security. The NSA deceives users into believing they are secure and anonymous and then uses the program to track the activities of users. The documents do not clarify what type of program or software MONKEYROCKET actually is, but the description aligns with a virtual private network, or VPN, which is designed to encrypt and mask internet traffic.

Matthew Green, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, told The Intercept that the revelations are “bad news for privacy.” Green also said he is “pretty skeptical” that using Tor, the popular browser which promises anonymity, could escape the eyes and ears of the NSA. Green’s comments are bolstered by recently released documents which indicate that the TOR project is nearly entirely funded by agencies with connections to the U.S. government.

Another disturbing aspect of the latest Snowden revelation is the possibility that this program may have been used to illegally gather information in the Silk Road trial. In that trial, Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to three life sentences after the court was convinced he was the accused mastermind who created the Silk Road website which allowed drugs to be purchased using Bitcoin. Ulbricht’s attorneys attempted to have the charges thrown out throughout his trial because they believed the U.S. government had illegally obtained access to Ulbricht’s computers and property. The judge overruled such objections, and the entire premise was dismissed as a conspiracy. The Intercept noted that “although the documents leaked by Snowden do not address whether the NSA aided the FBI’s Silk Road investigation, they show the agency working to unmask Bitcoin users about six months before Ulbricht was arrested.”

These new documents show that the NSA had access to Bitcoin users around the world around the same time that Ulbricht’s case was heating up, pointing to plausibility that the NSA used this program (or another still secret tool) go gain access to the private documents of Ross Ulbricht. The question remains as to how many other Bitcoin and cryptocurrency users’ information was accessed by the NSA or other agencies of the U.S. government. Until there is a transparent investigation with subpoena power that looks into the hidden activities of the NSA and other intelligence agencies, the American public remains in the dark regarding the depth and nature of the American surveillance state.

NSA’s SKYNET Program May Be Killing Innocent People

In 2015, The Intercept published documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden which detailed the National Security Agency’s SKYNET program. These documents detail how SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan’s wireless network, and then uses an algorithm on the cell network metadata in an attempt to rate every member of the population regarding their likelihood of being a terrorist.

Patrick Ball, a data scientist and the director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, is now stating that he believes a flaw in how the NSA trains SKYNET’s algorithm could be leading to mistakes and improper surveillance. Ball has provided testimony for war crimes tribunals in the past, and he told Ars Technica that the NSA’s methods are “completely bullshit” and called the algorithm scientifically unsound.

Ars Technica reported:

“Somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 people have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, and most of them were classified by the US government as ‘extremists,’ the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported. Based on the classification date of ‘20070108’ on one of the SKYNET slide decks (which themselves appear to date from 2011 and 2012), the machine learning program may have been in development as early as 2007.”

Based on Ball’s assessment, it is likely that thousands of innocent people in Pakistan may have been labelled as terrorists and possibly murdered based on the “scientifically unsound” algorithm that SKYNET employs.

SKYNET operates by collecting and storing metadata on the NSA cloud servers before extracting “relevant information” and then using the algorithm to determine possible leads for targeted assassination. These assassinations may be carried out by the “Find-Fix-Finish” strategy implementing Predator drones or “on-the-ground death squads.

SKYNET’s analysis of metadata likely provides the program with details about people who may travel and sleep together, visits to other countries, and contact information. The slides released by Snowden reveal that the NSA machine learning algorithm uses more than 80 different categories to rate people as possible terrorists.

One large problem is that SKYNET relies on the user to provide the machine with examples of “known terrorists” in order to teach the algorithm to look for similar qualities. Ars Technica noted that since most terrorists are unlikely to take a survey from the NSA, the agency relies on possibly faulty indicators of what a terrorist’s behavior will look like. SKYNET’s algorithm analyzes metadata and compares that against a “known terrorist” and then produces a threat score for each individual.

But what happens if the algorithm makes a mistake?

“If they are using the same records to train the model as they are using to test the model, their assessment of the fit is completely bullshit,” says Patrick Ball. “The usual practice is to hold some of the data out of the training process so that the test includes records the model has never seen before. Without this step, their classification fit assessment is ridiculously optimistic.”

The reality is that as long as the people of the United States allow agencies of the U.S. government to operate largely in secret, we will never know what type of programs and criteria are used to judge and analyze our behavior. How long will it be before SKYNET applies its algorithm to the American people?

Documents: CIA Flew ‘Rendition Flight’ in Attempt to Capture Edward Snowden

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency flew a “rendition flight” in an attempt to detain National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to documents released by the Danish news outlet

While the documents, which were obtained by Denfri after the organization filed a Freedom of Information Act suit in August 2015, were heavily redacted, they confirmed that the Copenhagen airport was used to hold an American rendition plane in June 2013.

Denfri applied for access to the documents in August 2015, after a Gulfstream V with registration number N977GA was reportedly spotted flying over Scotland to Copenhagen.

The Register noted that the secret U.S. government jet” was previously used by the CIA for “rendition flights on which terror suspects disappeared into invisible ‘black’ imprisonment.”

The CIA’s reported attempt to capture Snowden occurred in the same month that the former NSA contractor was granted political asylum in Moscow, Russia, after he revealed that the NSA was collecting bulk metadata from American citizens.

Although access to many of the documents were denied, CPH Post reported that the released documents “confirm that the Gulfstream aircraft used Danish airspace and landed at Kastrup,” and included “an overflying and landing permission for a USA state flight.”

RT reported that the documents also contained a batch of heavily redacted emails indicating communications between senior officials in Denmark’s police, Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry,” with messages from Anders Herping Nielsen, an official who is responsible for determining the extradition of individuals for trial in foreign countries.

The Post also claimed that in an email to Denfri, the Justice Ministry explained the heavily redacting documents by writing, “Denmark’s relationship with the USA would be damaged if the information becomes public knowledge.”

WikiLeaks posted a link to a report on the documents, noting that both Scotland and Denmark were used for a “U.S. failed Edward Snowden rendition flight mission”

Snowden chimed in on Twitter, writing, “Remember when the PM Rasmussen said Denmark shouldn’t respect asylum law in my case? Turns out he had a secret.”


George Pataki Calls for Twitter CEO to Shut Down Edward Snowden’s Account

Former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden joined Twitter on Tuesday, and in addition to gaining 1 million followers in less than 24 hours after he posted his first tweet, his presence was openly criticized by one presidential hopeful who asked Twitter’s co-founder to shut down Snowden’s account.

GOP candidate and former New York Gov. George Pataki responded to Snowden’s first Tweet, which said, “Can you hear me now?” with criticism, calling Snowden a “traitor who put American lives at risk.”



Snowden is known for leaking documents which revealed that the U.S. government is spying on innocent Americans and collecting their phone records using the NSA’s mass surveillance program, which was once a guarded secret before Snowden’s actions exposed the agency.

[RELATED: Dishonesty, Deceptiveness, and Disservice – Why Snowden Chose to Become a Whistleblower]

Since the documents were published in June 2013, Snowden has yet to return to the United States and is currently in an undisclosed location in Russia. If and when he returns to the U.S., he will face felony charges of theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”

In addition to retweeting comments from Twitter users who agreed with his original statement, Pataki posted a second tweet addressing Snowden, this time calling on Twitter co-founder and interim CEO Jack Dorsey to shut down Snowden’s account.

Dorsey did not respond to Pataki on Tuesday, but he did respond earlier to Snowden’s initial tweet, welcoming him to Twitter.

Dorsey also retweeted a tweet from Snowden, which addressed the label of “traitor.” The word was mentioned in each of the Tweets Pataki posted that referenced Snowden.

Pataki’s final tweet mentioning Snowden was in response to a user who said that a “great American company gives voices a chance to speak, not silences them.”

Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, who published documents leaked by Snowden in the The Guardian in 2013, chimed in on Twitter with posts that appeared to be aimed at Pataki’s comments.

After posting his first Tweet on Tuesday morning, Snowden gained 1 million followers in less than 24 hours. Greenwald noted that this was over 10 times more than Pataki, who currently has about 53,300.

Snowden also gained attention for following only one account on Twitter: the NSA. In addition to greatly surpassing Pataki in number of followers, Snowden also surpassed the NSA, which has less than 100,000.

Snowden: “The Balance of Power Is Beginning to Shift”

In an op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times, whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden reflected on how circumstances have changed on the two-year anniversary of his first leaks. “Two years ago today, three journalists and I worked nervously in a Hong Kong hotel room, waiting to see how the world would react to the revelation that the National Security Agency had been making records of nearly every phone call in the United States. In the days that followed, those journalists and others published documents revealing that democratic governments had been monitoring the private activities of ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong,” wrote Snowden in the opening of his retrospective.

At first, politicians rushed to criminally charge Snowden under the 1917 Espionage Act and called him a traitor to his country. “Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations,” said Snowden.

However, fast-forwarding to the present day, just days after Senator Rand Paul and other civil liberties advocates in the US Senate forced Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which authorized many of the programs about which Snowden leaked information, to expire and just weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata is illegal, Snowden’s cynicism has given way to optimism. “We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects,” Snowden said, celebrating recent achievements by US civil liberties activists.

Snowden’s commentary noted that privacy advocates still have work ahead of them given the fact that the newly-signed USA FREEDOM Act essentially compels corporations to sweep up Americans’ phone records on behalf of the government. “Some of the world’s most popular online services have been enlisted as partners in the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, and technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world to work against their customers rather than for them. Billions of cellphone location records are still being intercepted without regard for the guilt or innocence of those affected. We have learned that our government intentionally weakens the fundamental security of the Internet with ‘back doors’ that transform private lives into open books. Metadata revealing the personal associations and interests of ordinary Internet users is still being intercepted and monitored on a scale unprecedented in history: As you read this online, the United States government makes a note.

He also warned citizens in Russia, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom that their governments too seek to take advantage of tragedies to generate political will for the dissolution of recognized civil rights. However, he pointed out some reasons to be optimistic about the flourishing of privacy protection worldwide. “Since 2013, institutions across Europe have ruled similar laws and operations illegal and imposed new restrictions on future activities. The United Nations declared mass surveillance an unambiguous violation of human rights. In Latin America, the efforts of citizens in Brazil led to the Marco Civil, an Internet Bill of Rights. Recognizing the critical role of informed citizens in correcting the excesses of government, the Council of Europe called for new laws to protect whistle-blowers,” said Snowden of the international movement towards the protection of privacy rights.

Snowden also recognized the work of “technologists” who have been toiling to prevent governments from hijacking their products in an effort to “ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders.

At the turning of the millennium, few imagined that citizens of developed democracies would soon be required to defend the concept of an open society against their own leaders… Yet the balance of power is beginning to shift,” said Snowden, recognizing that his decision to essentially destroy his cushy life as a well-paid NSA contractor living in Hawaii was not in vain.

National Journal notes that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and ex-Senator and Governor from Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee fused support for Snowden into a speech announcing his campaign earlier this week. “Our sacred Constitution requires a warrant before unreasonable searches, which includes our phone records… Let’s enforce that and while we’re at it, allow Edward Snowden to come home,” said Chafee.

Mitch McConnell: Freedom Act Is A Victory For Snowden And For Those Who Plot Against The U.S.

After the USA Freedom Act passed in the Senate on Tuesday, 67-32, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addressed the bill’s passage, and shared his thoughts on its impact.

While McConnell opposed the USA Freedom Act, which was created to maintain the NSA surveillance powers that expired with Section 215 of the Patriot Act at 12:01 a.m. on June 1, he was on the opposite end of the debate from his fellow Senator from Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul.

Although both Senators were against the USA Freedom Act, Paul led the campaign to abolish NSA surveillance altogether, and McConnell pushed for a “clean” extension of the Patriot Act.

The National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013. While advocates of the USA Freedom Act presented it as a bill that vindicated Snowden by reforming NSA surveillance, those in opposition noted that the act wouldn’t end the government’s collection; it would only change the channels the government went through to collect Americans’ records.

On the Senate floor, McConnell quoted an article from the Associated Press, which called the passage of the USA Freedom Act a “resounding victory for Edward Snowden.”

“Those who reveal the tactics, sources and methods of our military and intelligence community give playbook to ISIL and al-Qaeda,” said McConnell, who went on to say that not only was the USA Freedom Act a “resounding victory for Edward Snowden,” it was also a “resounding victory for those who plotted against our homeland.”

Although the Washington Post reported in Jan. that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism,” and the NSA’s mass surveillance was recently ruled illegal by a federal appeals court, McConnell defended the program.

“Nobody’s civil liberties are being violated here,” McConnell said, regarding NSA surveillance. “The president’s campaign to destroy the tools used to prevent another terrorist attack have been aided by those seeking to prosecute officers in the intelligence community, diminish our intelligence capabilities, and despicably to leak and reveal classified information, putting our nation further at risk.”

When the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday afternoon, it approved the same version that was previously passed in the House of Representatives, despite the fact that both McConnell and Paul requested amendments to the bill.

A debate was held over possible amendments on Tuesday, and while McConnell struck down the nine amendments presented by Senator Paul and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), he did bring up four amendments of his own, which were all rejected.

PATRIOT Act Spy Provisions Officially Expire After Senate Reauthorization Attempt Fails

After the USA PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 provision authorizing the bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records by the National Security Agency was ruled illegal by a federal appeals court, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) launched an aggressive campaign to force the Senate to allow the provision to expire. The law’s spying authority had been designed to sunset on May 31 absent reauthorization by lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to pass several bills that would temporarily extend the law’s expiring spying authorities but was blocked by Rand Paul, first through a perfectly-timed filibuster and then through additional procedural stalling tactics that pushed the timing of the vote past May 22, when senators were set to leave Washington DC for recess. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a last-minute vote on May 31 in an effort to reauthorize the provisions prior to their expiration, but Senator Rand Paul objected to any votes on PATRIOT Act reauthorization bills or the USA FREEDOM Act, a house-passed bill that Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) said would outsource NSA spying to corporations, until the Senate had sufficient time to debate, thus tabling the votes until Tuesday of this week at the earliest, forcing the PATRIOT Act to officially expire as of 12:01 EST this morning.

“Tonight we stopped the illegal NSA bulk data collection. This is a victory no matter how you look at it. It might be short lived, but I hope that it provides a road for a robust debate, which will strengthen our intelligence community, while also respecting our Constitution,” said Senator Paul of his bipartisan campaign to protect Americans’ privacy, which enjoyed substantial support by allies like Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressmen Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY).

Said Majority Leader McConnell, “We shouldn’t be disarming unilaterally as our enemies grow more sophisticated and aggressive, and we certainly should not be doing so based on a campaign of demagoguery and disinformation launched in the wake of the unlawful actions of Edward Snowden.”

According to NBC News, the three expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act include the National Security Agency’s authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, a “lone wolf” provision allowing officials to investigate individuals who lack connections to terror groups, and a roving wiretap authority allowing investigators to spy on different communication tools believed to be used by a suspect without obtaining a new warrant each time.

During Sunday’s battle over the PATRIOT Act, Senator Rand Paul blocked efforts to pass the USA FREEDOM Act before the PATRIOT Act was set to expire, but the Senate voted 77-17 to consider the legislation in an upcoming vote, which is expected to happen as soon as Tuesday.

A statement by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged Senators to pass the USA FREEDOM Act and said, “The Senate took an important—if late—step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual Senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly. The American people deserve nothing less.”

At Saturday’s Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser, likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush said according to The Associated Press that Senator Paul is wrong and “the PATRIOT Act has kept us safe, plain and simple.”

Senator McCain accused Rand Paul of playing politics with national security by thwarting the spying legislation and said according to Politico, “I know what this is about — I think it’s very clear – this is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise. He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.”

The Daily Beast notes that GOP presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz said of Rand’s stand against NSA spying, “I disagree with allowing key provisions of federal law to expire that allow the national security team to target radical Islamic terrorists.”

Congressman Thomas Massie defended Paul against those who say that he has exposed the nation to risk by allowing the PATRIOT Act to expire and said, “He’s exposing the country to the Constitution. And the senators that think that’s dangerous are saying the Constitution’s dangerous.”

Said Senator Paul during Sunday’s fireworks, “Tonight begins the process of ending bulk collection… People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”

NSA officials told CNN that the National Security Agency officially ended its bulk metadata collection program at 7:44 PM EST on Sunday.

American Government Hacked Phones, Planted Spyware in Google Phone Apps

A new document from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals that the United States, Canada, and other so-called “Five Eyes” nations hacked weaknesses in one of the world’s most popular mobile browsers to access smartphone traffic. The hacking involved using apps in the Google and Samsung app stores.

Consistent with much of the Snowden revelations, the “mainstream” media has largely ignored the story.

According to the “Top Secret” document, the spying agnecies of Canada, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand started targeting the UC Browser in 2011 after it was discovered that a leak released details of millions of users. UC Browser is the most popular app in China and India.

The agencies stated goal was to exploit the weakness to collect data on suspected terrorists or intelligence targets. Some cases apparently involved implanting spyware on targeted smartphones.

The Five Eyes nations were looking to exploit similar leaks in other mobile apps. CBC reports that the document shows the surveillance agencies did not alert the companies or the public about weaknesses.

The latest document release from Snowden was reported by The intercept and Canada’s CBC.

Canada’s Communications Security Establishment surveillance agency refused to comment on the CBC report, while the British GCHQ stated that all surveillance programs are “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework.” The U.S. National Security Agency and New Zealand surveillance agency did not respond to CBC News. Australia’s signals intelligence agency refused to comment.

Not everyone believes the government’s claims of accountability and promises that the program was only used in search of terrorists. Michael Geist, a professor at University of Ottawa and an expert on internet law, told the CBC “All of this is being done in the name of providing safety and yet … Canadians or people around the world are put at risk.”

The documents also reveal that the Five Eyes agreed not to spy on each others’ citizens and instead focused their attention on apps stores in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Cuba, Morocco, the Bahamas and Russia.

After Senate Fails to Extend PATRIOT Act, NSA Begins Shutdown of Bulk Spying Program

Last week, the Obama administration said that it would begin winding down the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ private phone data if Congress were to fail to reauthorize Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act by Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried desperately to extend the expiring surveillance authority before senators left town, but was shut down by a coalition of Senate privacy advocates led by Senators Rand Paul and Ron Wyden.

Now, National Journal is reporting that the Obama administration has begun to shut down the program. Said an administration official on Saturday, “We’ve said for the past several days that the wind-down process would need to begin yesterday if there was no legislative agreement. That process has begun.” The NSA’s bulk phone spying program had been ruled illegal by a federal appeals court earlier this month, and its authority granted by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order expired on May 22.

Republican Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said that the Obama administration was being “disingenuous” with its claim that the program’s shutdown had begun and that restarting it after the expiration of the FISA court’s Section 215 authority would not be as complicated as officials made it seem. Burr said that he believed that the real shutdown would take place at 4 PM on May 31, meaning that the Senate would have an opportunity to reauthorize the program in an emergency session now scheduled for Sunday. “The database doesn’t go poof and go away,” said Burr. He continued, “And the White House has been very specific that they wanted this bill passed. This was the most significant lobby on a piece of legislation in the six years I’ve seen the Obama administration.”

Last Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged the Senate to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, a PATRIOT Act alternative that has already passed the House of Representatives, which some say does not include the illegal spying program. However, privacy advocate Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) says that the USA FREEDOM Act still allows mass surveillance but requires corporations to do it, rather than the government. Earnest blasted McConnell for “playing chicken” with national security programs by pushing for a short-term PATRIOT Act reauthorization instead of the USA FREEDOM Act.

Though senators could reauthorize the expiring Section 215 authority when they return on May 31, the Obama administration said that restarting the program has become more complicated now that the May 22 deadline to submit the application to restart it has passed. “We did not file an application for reauthorization,” said an administration official to National Journal.



Christie Condemns “Civil Liberties Extremists”, Argues To Maintain NSA Surveillance In NH Speech

Portsmouth, NH- Following a recent ruling by an appeals court declaring that the NSA’s bulk collection of American phone records is illegal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie visited New Hampshire calling to preserve the government’s record collecting practices.

In a foreign policy-centered speech delivered on Monday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Christie criticized military spending cuts and proposed a growth in the United States military, suggesting 500,000 Army soldiers and 185,000 Marines. Christie also called for a larger Air Force and an increased number of Navy ships.

Christie held the Obama administration responsible in his claim that “American power is in retreat” and “no one understands any longer whom America stands with or against.”

In addition to calling for an increased military, Christie was sharp in his criticism of “civil liberties extremists” inspired by Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations:

[quote_center]When Edward Snowden revealed our intelligence secrets to the world in 2013, civil liberties extremists seized that moment to advance their very own narrow agenda.[/quote_center]

Christie declined to expand on what the “narrow agenda” might be.

“They want you to think that there’s a government agent listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie continued. “They want you to think the intelligence community are the bad guys, straight out of the Bourne Identity or some other Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would somehow love us more.”

“Let’s be clear: all these fears are exaggerated and ridiculous. When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy,” Christie said.

Firm in his belief that NSA surveillance of Americans is a vital tool to catch terrorists, Christie also called for the extension of the Patriot Act and the preservation of provisions that are set to expire on June 1st. Christie said he utilized the Patriot Act “extensively, aggressively and legally as US Attorney,” adding “And I can tell you this: it works.”

Christie’s prepared remarks are available in full here.

VIDEO: John Oliver Interviews Edward Snowden About NSA’s Explicit Photos Scandal

On  yesterday’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO, Oliver interviewed National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia and led off by giving Snowden the chance to answer some tough questions from his detractors. The interview segment begins at around the 14 minute mark in the above-embedded video provided on the show’s YouTube channel.

In particular, The Daily Beast points out the fact that Oliver questioned Snowden on whether or not it was wise to release so many classified NSA documents without being able to read them all first, given the fact that some of the leaks could have affected US national security. When asked by Oliver how many of the documents Snowden had actually read prior to turning them over to journalists, Snowden said, “I do understand what I turned over.”

Oliver challenged Snowden further, “So The New York Times took a slide, didn’t redact it properly, and in the end it was possible for people to see that something was being used in Mosul on al Qaeda.”

Snowden replied, “That is a problem… In journalism, we have to accept that some mistakes will be made. This is a fundamental concept of liberty.”

Snowden and Oliver discussed some of the NSA’s foreign surveillance scandals, including its spying on UNICEF, before turning their attention to the issue of whether NSA agents can access the explicit photos that many Americans trade with their significant others via cell phone. “This is something that’s not actually seen as a big deal in the culture of the NSA, because you see naked pictures all the time,” said Snowden.

After Oliver showed Snowden a video of a random sampling of Americans reacting strongly to the thought that the NSA might have their explicit photos, Snowden said, “I guess I never thought about putting [NSA spying] in the context of your junk.”

Oliver provided Snowden with a picture of his own unmentionables and listed off a series of NSA programs and authorities while asking whether agents could use them to justify seizing the photo. In each case, the answer was yes. As an example, Snowden described how PRISM could be used to obtain the photo, “When you send your junk through Gmail, that’s stored on Google’s servers… Google moves data from data center to data center—invisibly to use without your knowledge—your data could be moved outside the borders of the United States, temporarily. When your junk was passed by Gmail, the NSA caught a copy of that… PRISM is how they pull your junk out of Google with Google’s involvement.”

Snowden also admitted that, when he first leaked info about the NSA’s widespread spying on Americans, he was worried that the issue would fail to gain traction in the media. “I was initially terrified that this was going to be a three-day story — everybody was going to forget about it, but, when I saw that everybody around the world said, ‘Whoa, this is a problem. We have to do something about this,’ it felt like vindication.”

Snowden concluded his interview with a uniquely American response to John Oliver’s question about whether people should stop taking explicit photos of themselves on their cell phones given the fact that the NSA has the ability to seize them. “You shouldn’t change your behavior because a government agency somewhere is doing the wrong thing. If we sacrifice our values because we’re afraid, we don’t care about those values very much.”

Lawyer: Edward Snowden “Ready To Return” To US If Provided Fair Trial

Anatoly Kucherena, one of Edward Snowden’s lawyers, told Russian media outlet TASS that he and other lawyers are working on the “legal aspect” of Snowden’s possible return to the United States. Snowden, who has been in Russia since 2013 after exposing the NSA’s data collection practices, is reportedly open to returning to the United States if he is assured a fair trial.

“Edward Snowden is ready to return to the US, but on the condition that he will be given guarantees on receiving a fair and impartial trial,” Kucherena said. A letter sent to Kucherena by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2013 had included a promise that Snowden wouldn’t face the death penalty upon his return to the United States. Kucherena said, “That is, they guarantee that Snowden will not be executed, not that he will receive a fair trial. And it is guaranteed by attorney [general] who cannot even influence court decisions according to law.”

Snowden told Brian Williams last year that he wanted to go home. “I don’t think there’s ever been any question that I’d like to go home,” Snowden had said, but also acknowledged there was no guarantee of amnesty or clemency. Snowden told Williams that he didn’t want to return home to a jail cell to serve as a “bad example for other people in government who see something happening, some violation of the Constitution, and think they need to say something about it.”

If Snowden was to return to the United States, he would face charges under the Espionage Act. He has been provided a 3-year residency permit in Russia after his temporary asylum expired last August.

Snowden: Remove The Government’s Ability To Interfere With Our Rights

In an ‘Ask Me Anything’ question and answer session on Reddit, Edward Snowden was asked: “What’s the best way to make NSA spying an issue in the 2016 Presidential Election? It seems like while it was a big deal in 2013, ISIS and other events have put it on the back burner for now in the media and general public. What are your ideas for how to bring it back to the forefront?”

Snowden replied:

This is a good question, and there are some good traditional answers here. Organizing is important. Activism is important.

At the same time, we should remember that governments don’t often reform themselves. One of the arguments in a book I read recently (Bruce Schneier, “Data and Goliath”), is that perfect enforcement of the law sounds like a good thing, but that may not always be the case. The end of crime sounds pretty compelling, right, so how can that be?

Well, when we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.

But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?

Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing thour futures.

How does this relate to politics? Well, I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens’ discontent.

How do we make that work for us? We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights.

You can see the beginnings of this dynamic today in the statements of government officials complaining about the adoption of encryption by major technology providers. The idea here isn’t to fling ourselves into anarchy and do away with government, but to remind the government that there must always be a balance of power between the governing and the governed, and that as the progress of science increasingly empowers communities and individuals, there will be more and more areas of our lives where — if government insists on behaving poorly and with a callous disregard for the citizen — we can find ways to reduce or remove their powers on a new — and permanent — basis.

Our rights are not granted by governments.

They are inherent to our nature. But it’s entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy.

We haven’t had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we’ll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they “can” do rather than what they “should” do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral.

In such times, we’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.

Glenn Greenwald focused on how the issue did not break down along party lines:

The key tactic DC uses to make uncomfortable issues disappear is bipartisan consensus. When the leadership of both parties join together – as they so often do, despite the myths to the contrary – those issues disappear from mainstream public debate.

The most interesting political fact about the NSA controversy, to me, was how the divisions didn’t break down at all on partisan lines. Huge amount of the support for our reporting came from the left, but a huge amount came from the right. When the first bill to ban the NSA domestic metadata program was introduced, it was tellingly sponsored by one of the most conservative Tea Party members (Justin Amash) and one of the most liberal (John Conyers).

The problem is that the leadership of both parties, as usual, are in full agreement: they love NSA mass surveillance. So that has blocked it from receiving more debate. That NSA program was ultimately saved by the unholy trinity of Obama, Nancy Pelosi and John Bohener, who worked together to defeat the Amash/Conyers bill.

The division over this issue (like so many other big ones, such as crony capitalism that owns the country) is much more “insider v. outsider” than “Dem v. GOP”. But until there are leaders of one of the two parties willing to dissent on this issue, it will be hard to make it a big political issue.

That’s why the Dem efforts to hand Hillary Clinton the nomination without contest are so depressing. She’s the ultimate guardian of bipartisan status quo corruption, and no debate will happen if she’s the nominee against some standard Romney/Bush-type GOP candidate. Some genuine dissenting force is crucial.

Both make great points. We must remember that it is our duty to restore our rights and take away the power of the government to destroy those rights. But to do so means full spectrum cooperation.

Read the whole Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras Reddit AMA here.

Truth in Media: A Constitutional Republic Allows Us To Take Back Power From Government

It has been all of 10 weeks since Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor revealed the collection of information on hundreds of millions of Americans by the NSA.

10 weeks and the fallout for the NSA could be just the beginning thanks to what appears to be a growing push for restoring American liberty.

The first step towards truth is to be informed.

Since Edward Snowden revealed the collection of American phone and email records and conversations, there has been debate throughout the country, debate in the media, debate among politicians and debate among the public.

How much is too much?

Right now, members of Congress are considering 11 legislative measures that would on some level reign in the National Security Agency.

The proposals range from entirely defunding the NSA, to repealing or rolling back the bills that the NSA claim give them the power and authority to spy on Americans who have committed no crime. Remember, the NSA has claimed that the prism program is authorized by the FISA and Patriot Acts.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act is one of those who wants the NSA brought into line. Sensenbrenner says that the way the NSA has interpreted the Patriot Act was never envisaged when it was passed.

But what Sensenbrenner now claims is necessary is for the NSA to be blocked from spying on Americans, and accessing phone and email records without a warrant and without some legal justification.

Congressman Sensenbrenner and the rest of Congress had their chance to move exactly that kind of control forward.

The Republican Congressman from Michigan, Justin Amash authored an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill just weeks ago.

It was called the Amash/Conyers Amendment, also called the Liberty Amendment and it attempted to ban the NSA from collecting the anonymous telephone and email records of Americans who are not under investigation for any crime.

Amash argues that the NSA is violating the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Both Republicans and Democrats got behind the Amash amendment but others did not and the amendment failed by a narrow margin of 217-205.

So you might ask…why didn’t more members of Congress get behind this amendment? One of those who did not is Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.

She stood against the amendment saying,

“We need to win the war on terror and defeat the goals and aims of Islamic jihad and for that reason I will be voting no on Representative Amash’s amendment,”

Amash argues that the NSA cannot legally seize a company such as Verizon’s phone records because it violates an individual’s privacy rights.

But Congresswoman Bachmann says that is not true. “There is no expectation of privacy,”

she says, technically, the government is requesting to see a business’s internal records, which is what the NSA does.
“Individuals do not own the records, the records do not belong to the individual,” but the phone company itself. “There’s no Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy on right to the business records exception.”

But that point is debatable. The “government”, for instance, the IRS isn’t asking to see Verizon’s financials. In this case the NSA is demanding access to private information and despite what Congresswoman Bachmann says, that information is not Verizon’s alone. It is information that is gathered under a contract agreement with the customer and nothing in the terms of service agreement explicitly states that government agencies will be reviewing that personal information.

Interesting that Congresswoman Bachmann who believes that Obamacare is a huge intrusion into the private lives of Americans does not believe that Verizon customers have a right to privacy.

But what you need to know actually goes back to what Congressman Sensenbrenner said about the Patriot Act.

Remember, I told you that he claims he had no idea the Patriot Act would be used in this way by the NSA. Well that is the lesson that needs to come from all this.

The Patriot Act was rushed into law just after September 11th, 2001 as Congress threw its hands in the air and decided that safety was more important than liberty. Government agencies took a law that allowed the Constitution to be trampled and handed a blank check to government agencies. 12 years later, we’re surprised that the feds are abusing that power?
Some people say that once you give government a power they will never give it back and that is true. But that doesn’t mean that power can’t be taken back. That is the beauty of a constitutional republic.

NSA’s Criminal Activity


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Read for yourself, Patriot Act section 215:


Patriot Act