David Kirkpatrick

June 16, 2009

NSA and domestic surveillance

This New York Times report on the National Security Agency and ongoing domestic spyingis troubling. One of the largest problems with police state apparatus is how pernicious it becomes. Once in place it’s very, very difficult to root out. Every freedom lost is a freedom you can’t expect to get back.

From the link:

Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation.

Both the former analyst’s account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.’s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency.

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications.

In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

June 21, 2008

Bush 43 regime, meet the bus wheels

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:03 am

You can have any opinion of onetime White House press secretary Scott McClellan you want — disgruntled ex-staffer, shameless opportunist, speaker of truth to power — but one thing is very clear, the Bush 43 regime has no one to blame but itself for any claim to be given some level of traction at this point.

Tales of domestic spying and torture that seemed like incredible smears against an administration fighting an amorphous enemy have turned out to be all too true. As more sordid details about the inner workings of the rotten sausage factory that has been the White House the last seven-plus years, the more any fantastic claim will be taken at face value.

I’m guessing McClellan’s book will just be the tip of the iceberg of administration officials coming clean once Bush is out of office. I expect an ongoing parade of public “confessionals” from insiders with heavy hearts and sullied consciences.

As McClelland put it testifying before Congress this week, the Bush 43 regime is solely to blame for the culture of secrecy and cover-up that let all the dirty details fester away. Something the US system of government by the people, for the people is supposed to prevent. Hopefully we’re already starting the healing process and becoming an America we can all be proud of again. Hopefully Bush 43’s offenses against the United States and the American people will be seen as an anomaly fostered by a cabal of half-mad insiders (read: Cheney, Addington, Yoo, et.al) who twisted a horrible national tragedy in 9/11/01 into an opportunity to seize and wield power our nation simply does not allow to concentrate in one branch of government.

From the link:

If the nation doesn’t trust the Bush White House, it’s the president’s and Dick Cheney’s own fault, Bush’s former spokesman told Congress Friday.

From life-and-death matters on down – the rationale for war, the leaking of classified information, Cheney’s accidental shooting of a friend – the government’s top two leaders undermined their credibility by “packaging” their version of the truth, former press secretary Scott McClellan said.

He described the loss of trust as self-inflicted, telling the House Judiciary Committee that Bush and his administration failed to open up about White House mistakes.

March 13, 2008

The government is watching you …

Remember that little domestic spying program — Total Information Awareness — that was determined to be overly broad and more than likely unconstitutional? The one that was killed off several years ago?

Well, it wasn’t killed after all. It just went a little more underground like any good domestic spying program offered by tyrannic states throughout history.

Go read the entire linked Wall Street Journal article, but here’s the intro to get you started:

Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans’ privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn’t disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people’s communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress now is hotly debating domestic spying powers under the main law governing U.S. surveillance aimed at foreign threats. An expansion of those powers expired last month and awaits renewal, which could be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency’s mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called “transactional” data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA’s own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge’s approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA’s enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world’s main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

Keep in mind proponents of this level of domestic spying want you to remember, “there’s nothing to fear as long as you’re not doing anything wrong.” We all know government ought to be trusted with secrets and given expanded functions. I can’t believe some people still call the Bush 43 regime “conservative.”