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Internal NSA Spy Blog Reveals Desire for ‘Total Surveillance’

The vast majority of Americans worry about the amount of personal information vacuumed up by the NSA. In fact, in one recent poll, 82 percent of likely voters expressed “concern” about government collection and retention of their personal data.

The NSA has concerns of its own. Some of its operatives worry that the spy agency doesn’t collect enough of your personal data.

Continue reading Internal NSA Spy Blog Reveals Desire for ‘Total Surveillance’

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It’s Time to Get Our Heads Out of the Sand, Acknowledge the Truth About NSA Spying

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

“They don’t spy on everyday Americans.”

“They don’t store truly personal information, just “meta-data.” It doesn’t violate your privacy.”

I hear comments like this all the time when I bring up NSA spying.

Continue reading It’s Time to Get Our Heads Out of the Sand, Acknowledge the Truth About NSA Spying

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Best Case Scenario: The NSA Keeps Spying

As the deadline to extend sections of the Patriot Act purporting to authorize bulk surveillance looms and the Senate continues to wrangle over NSA spying, it seems increasingly likely we will see some type of reform in the next week.

But even under the best case scenario, the NSA will go right on spying.

Continue reading Best Case Scenario: The NSA Keeps Spying

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Government Panel Approves Government Spying

On July 1, the Associated Press breathlessly reported that an “independent civil liberties board” gave NSA spying the constitutional seal of approval and declared the spy agency employs “reasonable” safeguards designed to protect the rights of Americans.

Funny what the AP considers “independent.”

President Barack Obama appointed the members of this civil liberties board. It was made up of a Democratic federal judge, two “privacy experts” and two former Republican Justice Department officials.

So, the real headline should read, “Government Board Appointed by Government Approves Government Spying.”

Shocking, I know.

According to the AP story, the board “found that the NSA monitoring was legal and reasonable and that the NSA and other agencies take steps to prevent misuse of Americans’ data. Those steps include ‘minimization,’ that redacts the names of Americans from intelligence reports unless they are relevant.”

‘Overall, the board finds that the protections contained in the Section 702 minimization procedures are reasonably designed and implemented to ward against the exploitation of information acquired under the program for illegitimate purposes,’ said the report, which is to be voted on at a public meeting Wednesday in Washington. ‘The board has seen no trace of any such illegitimate activity associated with the program, or any attempt to intentionally circumvent legal limits.’

Perhaps the board members should pick up a copy of the Washington Post.

Just a few days after the government panel released its findings, the Post published an in-depth article revealing that the NSA spies mostly on regular people. And the report shows that the government not only downplays the extent of its spying, it out-and-out lies about it.

Shocking, I know.

The Washington Post reported that as many as nine out of 10 Internet users caught up in the spy dragnet were not the intended targets of surveillance and about half were Americans. The Post report did reveal nearly 65,000 “minimized” records belonging to Americans, but found some 900 that were not. It also revealed a very loose standard for determining if a target was American or not, indicating that the agency likely spies on many Americans it has declared foreigners.

The Obama board did acknowledge the spy programs “potentially allow a great deal of private information about U.S. persons to be acquired by the government.”

According to the Snowden documents, there’s no “potentially” to it. It does.

President Obama’s panel was nothing more than another government dog and pony show, a classic fox guarding the hen house scenario. Nobody should put stock in the findings of a board made up of members of the political class. It was pretty much forgone conclusion that the government board would give its seal of approval to unconstitutional, illegal and immoral NSA spying.

It did.

Shocking, I know.

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Greenwald Releases Names of NSA Spy Targets

Journalist Glenn Greenwald released the names of five Americans targeted by NSA spies on Wednesday.

Greenwald obtained the information through documents given to him by Edward Snowden, specifically a spreadsheet called the FISA recap. The five people Greenwald revealed as spy targets all had one thing in common – their Muslim faith. They include civil rights activists, attorneys, a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates and academics.

Here are the five names Greenwald released:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The spreadsheet contained 7,485 email addresses that were apparently monitored between 2002-2008. According to Greenwald, it appears many were foreigners with suspected links to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. There were also many Americans, including known terrorists Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both killed in a 2011 drone strike. The nationality of many were listed as “unknown.”

Greenwald interviewed all five of the men he revealed. All felt their religion placed them in NSA cross-hairs. Although a few had some distant links to organizations linked to terrorism and foreign countries that might raise suspicion, the information Greenwald provided shows no justification for long-term snooping into their emails.

The five Americans whose email accounts were placed on the list come from different backgrounds, and hold different religious and political views. None was designated on the list as connected to a foreign power. Some have come under sharp public scrutiny for their activities on behalf of Muslim-Americans, and several have been investigated by the government. But despite being subjected to what appears to be long periods of government surveillance, none has been charged with a crime, let alone convincingly linked to terrorism or espionage on behalf of a foreign power. Taken together, their personal stories raise disturbing questions about who the government chooses to monitor, and why.

ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer likened the targeting of Muslim Americans by the government to FBI surveillance of dissedents in the 1960s.

Some of the government’s surveillance practices today are reminiscent of those earlier abusive practices. Today’s American-Muslim activists occupy the same position that civil-rights and anti-war activists occupied during the 1960s.

This latest revelation hints at the potential abuses inherent in secret spy programs run under the cloak of darkness. Documents released by Snowden indicate a far more insidious program than many imagined, and they reveal systematic lying by government officials. When one stops to considers what we now know about the NSA spy program, it boggles the mind to contemplate what remains hidden.

The government downplays each new revelation, but how can we believe their official statements when documentation has exposed a web of lies? The only solution lies in ripping away the veil of secrecy, and demanding the NSA and other federal agencies remain true to the limits on their power spelled out specifically in the Constitution. We cannot depend on Congress, the president or federal courts to rein in the spy programs. The federal government will never limit itself. We must take action at the state and local level to force the issue and bring about change from the bottom up.