Tag Archives: Snowden

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.


US Senator Feinstein Seeks to Further Limit Freedom of Press

The majority of America now gets its news from online sources. This has opened the country up to a whole new variety of sources including blogs, vlogs, youtube and other alternative media sources. The term “Freedom of the Press” has certainly expanded to include multiple new-age venues of modern press. However, in a developing story, Senator Feinstein (D-CA) is seeking an amendment to restrict who gets protection under new media shield laws.feinstein

First, consider the problem with a media shield law. On the surface, it may seem great. Here, you will find one of government’s dirtiest tricks. Journalists and media already have a shield law. It’s called the first amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

DC will now try and pass a law that will put parameters on media, journalism, journalists, etc. We are told that this will strengthen protection for journalists. In reality, it  could open the door for government persecution due to purposefully placed ambiguous language.  This is certainly by design, as it is repeated in almost every law passed by Congress and signed by the President.

S. 987 (Free Flow of Information Act) defines what a media provider is and who a journalist is, and is not. However, Senator Feinstein is not satisfied with the language and wants it further restricted. According to a report, Feinstein says, “I’m concerned this would provide special privilege to those who are not reporters at all.” She is referring to bloggers and the likes of Edward Snowden, NSA whistle-blower. Feinstein went on to suggest that the term journalist only apply to those who report for mainstream media sources, and do so as a primary source of income. H. 1962, the House version of the bill, already includes such stipulation:

The term ‘‘covered person’’ means a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

This meaning, if you aren’t being paid- then you don’t get protection under the new law.
Feinstein’s amendment, which is scheduled to be introduced will seek to restrict who is protected under the law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that the amendment will require journalists to meet one of the following criteria:
  1. working as a “salaried employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information;”
  2. either (a) meeting the prior definition “for any continuous three-month period within the two years prior to the relevant date” or (b) having “substantially contributed, as an author, editor, photographer, or producer, to a significant number of articles, stories, programs, or publications by an entity . . . within two years prior to the relevant date;” or
  3. working as a student journalist “participating in a journalistic publication at an institution of higher education.” (emphases added)

Amendment to S. 987, 113th Cong. § 5(A)(i), § 5(B)(iii) (2013)

Her amendment continues to muddy the waters by retaining original language that requires:

  1. that individuals “engage[] in . . . the regular gathering, preparation, collection, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting or publishing on” matters of public interest; or
  2. that individuals “regularly conducted interviews, reviewed documents, captured images of events, or directly observed events.” (emphases added)

Amendment to S. 987, 113th Cong. § 5(A)(ii), § 5(B)(i) (2013)

These criteria are troublesome. What about those not salaried? How do you define a “substantial contributor”, “entity”, or “significant”? What happens to these students once they have graduated? How do you define one who is “regularly” engaged in journalism? It is certainly ambiguous at best.

This attempt to restrict protection to bloggers and leakers is nothing new. In 2009, Senator Schumer introduced an amendment to the Free Flow of Information Act that purposefully excluded bloggers and non-salaried writers from protection.

In the future, keep an open eye for federal legislation, which claims any association with your innate rights such as the “Free Flow of Information Act”. Rights such as those to keep and bear arms, or the freedom of speech. When our rights are left to the hands of vague legislative language, no good can be found as result. For liberty and freedom are words of absolute, and ambiguity must find no refuge here.

After researching the law and proposed amendments, I cannot even be certain if my colleagues and myself would protected here at BenSwann.com due to the ambiguity. This ambiguity and fear certainly leads to restrictions on the press.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Snowden Gives First Interview Since Government Leaks

Edward Snowden gave his first interview since he leaked NSA documents.

The interview, which was published in the New York Times, was done through encrypted emails and focused on government and the media. Lara Poitras is a filmmaker who won Snowden’s trust many months ago — she served as the intermediary. Snowden said, “Laura was more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously paranoid.”

As reported by the Daily Mail:

“Snowden, in describing his methods for choosing a reporter to work with while searching for a way to tell the world what he knew, said that basically all emails are possible targets for government surveillance

Those from news organizations, he suggested, are all the more likely to be read.

‘Assume that your adversary is capable of a trillion guesses per second,’ he wrote to Poitras at the start of their work together, a relationship the New York Times documents alongside the Snowden interview.”

“It should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless,” Snowden said.


The whistleblower asserted that the media does not do an adequate job of holding government accountable. This allows government to remain unchecked and become out-of-control, he argued.

“The most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism,” he said. “From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly.”

Snowden, who now has asylum in Russia, said the media often turns a blind eye to government spying. “Any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world,” he said.

The whistleblower does have hope for the future, however. He thinks that major media outlets are beginning to recover from what he calls a “cold period” of not holding government accountable. He thinks this period began after the 9/11 attacks.

There is no doubt that Snowden himself has been a wakeup call for journalists who work in the mainstream media, who so rarely question things.