You are hereSpying
By Bob Egelko
SAN FRANCISCO -- President Obama is adamant about maintaining the secrecy of a wiretapping program authorized by George W. Bush, an administration lawyer told a federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday.
I bet it was uglier than this suggests and included spying on politicians and journalists.
Bush Personally Ordered Visit to Ashcroft’s Hospital Bed
By Spencer Ackerman | Washington Independent
One warrantless surveillance mystery solved. My friend Marcy Wheeler beat me to this: George W. Bush personally ordered White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andy Card to visit an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft in the hospital in March 2004 after Ashcroft’s deputy Jim Comey refused to certify the warrantless surveillance program. Just look at this profile in courage: Read more.
U.S. Wiretapping of Limited Value, Officials Report
By Eric Lichtblau and James Risen | NYTimes
While the Bush administration had defended its program of wiretapping without warrants as a vital tool that saved lives, a new government review released Friday said the program’s effectiveness in fighting terrorism was unclear.
The report, mandated by Congress last year and produced by the inspectors general of five federal agencies, found that other intelligence tools used in assessing security threats posed by terrorists provided more timely and detailed information.
Most intelligence officials interviewed “had difficulty citing specific instances” when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said. Read more.
An Islamic charity challenging former President George W. Bush's wiretapping program in a San Francisco federal court cited candidate Barack Obama's words Thursday in arguing that a president has no power to unilaterally order eavesdropping on Americans.
Lawyers for the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation introduced their brief by quoting Obama's words in December 2007: "Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional."
FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, requires the government to get a warrant from a court that meets in secret before intercepting messages between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists. Bush acknowledged in 2005 that he authorized such surveillance four years earlier and said he had constitutional authority to take such actions during wartime. Read more.
The Bush administration built an unprecedented surveillance operation to pull in mountains of information far beyond the warrantless wiretapping previously acknowledged, a team of federal inspectors general reported Friday, questioning the legal basis for the effort but shielding almost all details on grounds they're still too secret to reveal.
The report, compiled by five inspectors general, refers to "unprecedented collection activities" by U.S. intelligence agencies under an executive order signed by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Just what those activities involved remains classified, but the IGs pointedly say that any continued use of the secret programs must be "carefully monitored."
The report says too few relevant officials knew of the size and depth of the program, let alone signed off on it. They particularly criticize John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general who wrote legal memos undergirding the policy. His boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, was not aware until March 2004 of the exact nature of the intelligence operations beyond wiretapping that he had been approving for the previous two and a half years, the report says. Read more .
Another reminder of a crime unprosecuted and unended. But even if Obama is continuing it, Bush started it, so no Democrats will favor accountability for it. It took 7 signing statements by a Democrats after many times that by Bush before Democrats or Republicans would object to one. And they still haven't objected to Bush's or to Obama's others. FWIW this report admits the spying has done no good. Also admit Bush personally sent his goons to Ashcroft's hospital bed to try to coerce his approval of an illegal program we still don't know the nature of.
By Dave Lindorff
If this were the democracy that the Founding Fathers thought they were creating, word from CIA Director Leon Panetta that his agency had lied to Congress and specifically that it had lied repeatedly from 9-11-2001 through the end of 2008 concerning an as-yet undisclosed secret program, would have virtually every member of Congress in a state of rebellion, demanding answers.
After all, the CIA is required by law to report to at least the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and to the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress about such things.
But not only did the spy agency not report on what it was up to; it lied about what it was up to.
"Taking Back Our Constitutional Rights" July 4, 2009, Speech delivered by Marcy Winograd at Liberty Hill tribute in San Pedro
Members of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore will make their annual trek to the National Security Agency on Saturday, July 4. We plan to arrive at 10 AM, and will stay for one hour. Afterwards, we will enjoy a potluck picnic. Let me know if you want to join us. Kagiso, Max
Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore
325 East 25th Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
July 1, 2009
Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander
Director, National Security Agency
Chief, Central Security Service
National Security Agency
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755
Dear General Alexander:
Oshkosh Wins $1.06 Billion Job for Mine-Resistant Trucks
By August Cole | WSJ
Oshkosh Corp. has won a contract valued at $1.06 billion to provide mine-resistant trucks to the U.S. military for use in Afghanistan.
The big-ticket Pentagon weapons acquisition is part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's efforts to rebalance the military to better fight insurgent groups. Pentagon leaders insisted on fast-tracking the contract because the vehicles fill an immediate need for troops in Afghanistan, a similar effort to Mr. Gates's previous push to rush armored trucks to Iraq.
Other urgent Pentagon initiatives focused on fighting insurgent forces include buying turboprop planes equipped with state-of-the art surveillance gear designed to get better battlefield intelligence and information to U.S. forces on the ground.
The contract calls on the Oshkosh, Wis., truck maker to provide 2,244 wheeled armored vehicles, as well as parts and related services. Companies such as BAE Systems PLC also had bid for the contract. The Pentagon could order thousands more of the vehicles. Read more.
Spies In the Classroom: The Government Is Running a Secretive Intelligence Recruitment Program in Schools
Spies In the Classroom: The Government Is Running a Secretive Intelligence Recruitment Program in Schools
The "Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program" may become a permanent budget item, making universities unwitting agents of state intelligence.
By David Price | Alternet
As the continuities and disjunctures between the Bush and Obama administrations come into focus it becomes increasingly clear that while Obama’s domestic agenda has some identifiable breaks with Bush’s, at its core, the new administration remains committed to staying the course of American militarization. Now we have an articulate, nuanced president who supports elements of progressive domestic policies, can even comfortably say the phrase LGBT in public speeches, while funding military programs at alarming levels and continuing the Bush administration’s military and intelligence invasion of what used to be civilian life.
The latest manifestation of this continuity came last week when Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, announced plans to transform the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) from a pilot project into a permanent budget item. Blair also announced plans to establish a “Reserve Officers' Training Corps” to train unidentified future intelligence officers in US college classrooms. Like students receiving PRISP funds, the identities of students participating in these programs would not be known to professors, university administrators or fellow students -- in effect, these future intelligence analysts and agents would conduct their first covert missions in our university classrooms. Read more.
FBI compounds mystery with secret justification of gag order
The FBI continues its secrecy binge by filing a classified justification of its use of a gag order on an ISP in the ongoing Doe v. Holder battle.
By Jon Stokes | Arstechnica
When the FBI uses a national security letter (NSL) to force the cooperation of an ISP or phone company in the surveillance of a suspect, the agency typically slaps a gag order on the service provider to prevent it from revealing the existence of the NSL. Civil liberties groups have successfully challenged the DOJ on these gag orders in the ongoing Doe v. Holder, and last month the Obama administration decided not to appeal a federal court ruling that the FBI must justify these gag orders by meeting a relatively high First Amendment standard.
The implication of the court's ruling was that the FBI would finally have to justify the gag order that it had placed on the John Doe in the Doe v. Holder case, so that the plaintiff could talk about the NSL. The FBI has now cooperated, and has given the court a justification of the gag order, in secret.
The classified declaration that justifies the gag order can't even be seen by Doe's attorneys at the ACLU. In a statement, the ACLU elaborated on the move: "The government did not even file a redacted version of its secret affidavit or even an unclassified summary of what the secret affidavit says. Basically, the government is asking us just to trust that the gag is justified." Read more.
EFF Demands Public Release of FBI Surveillance Rules | Press Release
Lawsuit Seeks Disclosure of Guidelines Governing Investigations of Americans
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, demanding the public release of the surveillance guidelines that govern investigations of Americans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The FBI's Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines went into effect in December of 2008 and detail the Bureau's procedures and standards for implementing the Attorney General's Guidelines on approved surveillance strategies.
The Supreme Court will not revive a lawsuit that former CIA operative Valerie Plame brought against former members of the Bush administration.
The court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Read more
Legislation backed by Democrats would require the president to brief all intelligence panel members on classified operations. Lawmakers had said Bush withheld information to reduce scrutiny.
By Greg Miller
Reporting from Washington -- Criticized for failing to challenge the intelligence operations of the Bush administration, key lawmakers have endorsed a bill that would force the president to make fuller disclosure of covert spy programs.
The legislation approved by the House Intelligence Committee late Thursday would eliminate the president's ability to keep classified operations secret from any member of the panel, according to Democrats who described the provision.
Tired of waving the national security flag, Obama administration lawyers are apparently trying another tactic to get the courts to back Bush administration arguments which never worked to prevent the release of critical documents. Forget Qaeda or North Korea, late night hosts who tell jokes are why the government should retain its secrets.
"A federal judge yesterday sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration that former Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney’s political enemies or late-night commentary on The Daily Show," R. Jeffrey Smith reports for The Washington Post. Read more.
By David Swanson
In probably the most disturbing testimony to hit Capitol Hill since Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in May and refused to rule out lawless detention or to agree that government officials can sometimes be prosecuted for their crimes, on Wednesday Holder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and, among much else, refused five times to agree that warrantless spying is illegal and unconstitutional. I spoke to Holder in April, and he assured me that I would be proud of my country. When?
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama, referring to the violent attacks on protesters against the controversial election results in Iran’s just-completed presidential election, this week lectured Iran’s government, saying, “Peaceful dissent should never be subject to violence.”
Referring to the tens and hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry Iranians who have taken to the streets accusing Iranian authorities of rigging the election in favor of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said that “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."
But there is a certain hypocrisy going on here.
While nobody is even considering prosecuting the violators of the law, Dennis Blair is now in trouble for claiming the the illegal spying was (is) legal. So, Feingold has asked Obama to admit that it isn't:
Feingold Seeks Obama Declaration On Wiretaps
Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., today asked President Obama to declare that it was illegal for the Bush administration to conduct warrantless electronic wiretapping of U.S. citizens. Feingold sent Obama a letter
Judge Rules Telecoms Have Immunity Under Unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act | Press Release
EFF and ACLU Planning to Appeal Dismissal of Dozens of Spying Cases
A federal judge today dismissed dozens of lawsuits over illegal domestic surveillance of American citizens, ruling that telecommunications companies had immunity from liability under the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) California and Illinois affiliates are planning to appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that FISAAA is unconstitutional.
"We're deeply disappointed in Judge Walker's ruling today," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The retroactive immunity law unconstitutionally takes away Americans' claims arising out of the First and Fourth Amendments, violates the federal government's separation of powers as established in the Constitution, and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law."
Signed by President Bush in 2008, the FISAAA allowed for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court in September and demanded that the cases be dismissed.
An 85-year-old former civilian employee of the U.S. Army was fined but avoided prison time on Friday after earlier pleading guilty to giving classified documents to Israel in the 1980s in a case the sentencing judge said was "shrouded in mystery."
Court documents showed that Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined $50,000 but spared prison time, reported to the same handler as Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s and triggered a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations.
"Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery," U.S. District Judge William Pauley said during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan federal court. "It is clear the (U.S.) government could have charged Mr. Kadish with far more serious crimes."
Kadish pleaded guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of Israel. He was arrested in April 2008 on four counts of conspiracy and espionage. The spying charge, dropped under a plea deal, had carried a possible death sentence.
"I am sorry I made a mistake," a frail-looking Kadish said during the sentencing hearing. "I thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United States."
The judge said he gave a lenient sentence due to Kadish's age and infirmity, but said Kadish had committed "a grave offense" and had "abused the trust" of the United States. Read more.
The Facts Thwart Rehab of Colin Powell
By Ray McGovern
Watching retired Gen. Colin Powell refer to the parable of the Good Samaritan during Sunday’s Memorial Day ceremonies on the Mall in Washington, it struck me that Powell was giving hypocrisy a bad name.
Those familiar with the Good Samaritan story and also with the under-reported behavior of Gen. Powell, comeback kid of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM), know that the two do not mesh.
Powell’s well-documented disregard for those who have borne the brunt of the battle places him in the company of the priest and the Levite – in the Good Samaritan parable – who, seeing the man attacked by robbers on the side of the road, walked right on by.
Sadly, Powell has a long record of placing the wounded and the vulnerable on his list of priorities far below his undying need to get promoted or to promote himself. Powell’s rhetoric, of course, would have us believe otherwise.
CASE DISMISSED - WHY?
By Max Obuszewski
Activists from the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] regularly try to speak truth to power. For example, seven members of the NCNR went to the Pentagon on the morning of March 17, 2009 to seek a meeting with Secretary of War Robert Gates. Within twelve minutes of getting off the Metro, we were cuffed and stuffed in Pentagon Police vehicles.
We sent a letter to Gates [see below] seeking a meeting to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since there was no response, Ellen Barfield, Michele Grise, Steve Mihalis, Max Obuszewski, Pete Perry, Manijeh Saba and Eve Tetaz went to the Pentagon on St. Patrick's Day.
A federal judge on Friday threatened to severely sanction the Obama Administration for withholding a top secret document he ordered given to lawyers suing the government over its warrantless wiretapping program.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ordered Justice Department lawyers to court on June 3 to tell him why he shouldn't award unspecified damages to the now-defunct Oregon arm of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The group alleges that government officials eavesdropped on their telephone calls without court authorization.
The National Security Agency has also refused the judge's previous orders to provide security clearances to two of the charity's lawyers so they can view the top secret document.
The judge had issued a written order on Jan. 5 and then reinforced it during a hearing later that month. He also barred the prosecutors from appealing the order, but they asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to step in anyway. The appeals court refused to hear the case.
On May 15, government lawyers told Walker they would refuse to comply with his order.
"Enough is enough," said Jon Eisenberg, the charity's lead appellate attorney. "The DOJ has been so uncooperative for so long that this Draconian approach is now needed."
...In the name of looking to the future, we are being asked to forget the past....
It is instructive that the neoconservatives who gave us the Bush war program are now delighted with Obama’s policies, including his escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This all should be troubling to anyone who thinks elections can bring needed change. Presidents come and go, with little obvious effect on foreign policy, no matter what they say during their campaigns. Republican and Democrat, right and left — those terms are more about style than substance. In subtle ways and with staunch corporate media support, the system maintained by the ruling elite ensures that no successful national candidate will deviate too far from its plumb line. The marginalization of real anti-war candidates during the 2008 election was just the latest demonstration.