After years of secrecy, the National Security Agency’s phone records surveillance program had its day in open court on Friday, as civil liberties lawyers asked a federal judge in New York to shut it down, and government lawyers claimed ordinary Americans cannot legally challenge it.
Department of Justice attorney Stuart Delery said ordinary Americans have no standing to challenge the collection of their call records. Citing a 1979 Supreme Court ruling, he said Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy for those records, and that only phone companies can challenge their collection.
No telecommunications firm has ever fought an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the NSA program and is closed to the public.
U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III questioned Delery, however, on whether all members of Congress were aware that the Patriot Act was used to support such a far-reaching program. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the original author of the act, claimed in a brief to the court that he never envisioned the law as a way to sweep up every phone record. It appears many members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, were uninformed about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s interpretation of the law when they voted on its reauthorization in 2011.
The ACLU’s lawsuit is one of the most prominent of the legal efforts to stop the call records program, along with a suit by conservative lawyer Larry Klayman in Washington District Court and a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to have the Supreme Court consider the program on an emergency basis. The center’s request was turned down Monday.
In the waning weeks of its current session, Congress is also considering various proposals for the call records program that either shut it down or enshrine it in law.
The Centers for Disease Control funds research into the causes of death in the United States, including firearms — or at least it used to. In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous, the gun lobby mobilized to punish the agency. First, Republicans tried to eliminate entirely the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the bureau responsible for the research. When that failed, Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, successfully pushed through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget (the amount it had spent on gun research in the previous year) and outlawed research on gun control with a provision that reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
Dickey’s clause, which remains in effect today, has had a chilling effect on all scientific research into gun safety, as gun rights advocates view “advocacy” as any research that notices that guns are dangerous. Stephen Teret, who co-directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Salon: “They sent a message and the message was heard loud and clear. People [at the CDC], then and now, know that if they start going down that road, their budget is going to be vulnerable. And the way public agencies work, they know how this works and they’re not going to stick their necks out.”
In January, the New York Times reported that the CDC goes so far as to “ask researchers it finances to give it a heads-up anytime they are publishing studies that have anything to do with firearms. The agency, in turn, relays this information to the NRA as a courtesy.”
Fresh off its highly publicized ad campaign highlighting the privacy benefits of using Outlook instead of Gmail, Microsoft has now been accused of helping the federal government defeat the encryption of its own products, including Outlook and Skype, as part of secret, widespread surveillance.
Consider the irony of the Obama administration arguing here that the Guantánamo Bay detainees are not ‘persons’ within the scope of US law guaranteeing religious freedom, in a post-Citizens United world where even corporations are endowed with legal personhood.
You should care about surveillance because once the system for surveillance is built into the networks and the phones, bad guys (or dirty cops) can use it to attack you. In Greece, someone used the police back door on the national phone company’s switches to listen in on the prime minister during the 2005 Olympic bid. Chinese hackers used Google’s lawful interception back door to hack Gmail and figure out who dissidents talked to. Our communications systems are more secure if they’re designed to keep everyone out – and adding a single back door to them blows their security models up. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, and the computers in your pocket and on your desk and in your walls can’t be a little bit insecure. Once they’re designed for surveillance, anyone who can bribe or impersonate a cop can access them.
Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American.
As Jameel Jaffar, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, put it today, imagine if the government required every American to report to the government every night who they spoke to, or texted, for how long, and from where. People would be furious, but that’s precisely the information the N.S.A. is collecting from telecom companies. And it’s precisely why the government desperately wanted to keep the practice a secret.
If you haven’t heard about PRISM yet, you should get yourself informed. Click here to do so.
In a nutshell, it allows the government to spy on any of your information. Video, images, calls on skype to landlines or from computer to computer, searches on google, your profiles on social media sites… etc. In addition to the requirement of Verizon to release all phone logs, this is a violation of privacy on an unprecedented scale. It is a further expansion of the unnecessary Patriot Act signed into congress during the Bush administration.
Of course, there isn’t much of an outcry against this. Our ubiquity of social media and sharing of personal information on, say, twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc, has pretty much paved the way for this sort of act to be signed into place. What’s one more group looking at your site, even if it is the government, right?
Wrong. Given time, information that you may publish could be used against you by law enforcement and government agencies. Americans have been giving up civil rights regularly over the past fifty years, and it is getting to the point that we will have no rights left.
America will no longer will be “Home of the Free.” It is becoming “Home of the Observed, Controlled, and Wiretapped.”
sorry for the OoC, but this is important
Reporters worldwide are grappling with government censorship and limits to reporting. Some are even accused and convicted of activities against governments that are landing them in jail.
In the past week alone, the following reports have been made:
An Egyptian blogger has been convicted of insulting the president.
In China, most mentions of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre were censored from the Internet.
Turkish protesters accused media of ignoring unrest; reports of anti-press attacks amid Turkey protests raise questions of censorship.
Congo Republic suspended four independent newspapers
Burundi enacted media law that reporters say curbs press freedoms.
Guinea media set strike after government shuts opposition radio.
The Palestinian Authority arrested the general manager of a Bethlehem radio station.
Ethiopia arrested a reporter after he covered the story of evictions in dam region.
Toronto Star reporter was arrested and ticketed after taking photos of injured public transit employee.
Imprisonment of journalists worldwide reached a record high in 2012, driven in part by the use of charges of terrorism and anti-state offenses against reporters and editors, reported the Committee to Protect Journalists in its annual census of imprisoned journalists.
CPJ video summary of the 2012 report on media imprisonment:
Photo: Activists wearing masks of jailed Nobel laureate, writer, professor and activist Liu Xiaobo hold candles during a night vigil at Liberty Square in Taipei June 4, 2013, on the 24th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. REUTERS/Steven Chen
Nice job by Margarita putting this all together.