Monday, August 12, 2013


Somewhere in Russia, Edward Snowden Is Smiling - James Oliphant/National Journal President Obama couldn't say it—he denied it repeatedly in fact—but Edward Snowden was very much the reason he felt compelled to stand before the national press on a sun-baked Friday August afternoon and attempt to explain why his administration would pursue reforms of its counterterrorism programs even though—a That brings us back to Snowden, the whistleblower/patriot/traitor squirreled away somewhere in Russia after revealing key operational details of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance programs. The drip-drip of disclosures was slowly eroding the public's faith in the system... Obama, as well as senior administration officials, did their best to paint the new initiatives as a product of a review process the president commenced when he first assumed office, with Obama repeatedly noting Friday that he had criticized some NSA programs as a senator. But just about no one was buying that. And the president ultimately admitted that Snowden's actions had forced the administration's hand. ◼ Obama administration asserts broad surveillance powers - Ellen Nakashima and Robert Barnes/Washington Post The Obama administration on Friday asserted a bold and broad power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans in order to search for a nugget of information that might thwart a terrorist attack. In a 22-page “white paper,” the Justice Department for the first time detailed its legal rationale for a massive National Security Agency data collection program that it claimed is both constitutional and subject to federal oversight. The report, which echoes assertions the administration has made to Congress, said the law and subsequent court decisions bestow broad power on the government to seek telephone records “relevant” to investigations of suspected terrorism.... The release of the white paper appeared to do little to allay the concerns of critics in Congress and the civil liberties community who say the surveillance program violates Americans’ right to privacy. Last month, the House narrowly defeated a proposal to terminate it. The closeness of the vote, 217 to 205, was surprising but gave fresh momentum to lawmakers who have been trying to rein in the collection effort. “The president must acknowledge what a clear majority of Americans know: Our government has violated the law by collecting the communications of millions of innocent U.S. citizens,” said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), who wants the collection to end and has also criticized another major NSA surveillance program that targets communications of foreigners. The administration’s definitions defy “any previous interpretation of the law,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The way the government is interpreting relevance, anything and everything they say is relevant becomes relevant.” “The release of this document is too little, too late in light of a massive public outcry over a secret surveillance program that has affected millions of innocent Americans,” Romero said. ◼ NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens' emails and phone calls - The Guardian

Exclusive: Spy agency has secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans' communications...

The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens' email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.

The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans' communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing "warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans".

The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.