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Obama to Propose Legislation Ending NSA Bulk Records Collection

President Obama will introduce legislation to end the NSA's warrantless collection of bulk telephone records. Authority for the NSA's program expires Friday, unless renewed by the FISA Intelligence Court. According to senior administration officials:

Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.

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Yet Another NSA Program: Mystic

The Washington Post reports on yet another NSA surveillance program: Mystic.

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

In related news, in a court filing, DOJ confirmed warrantless mass e-mail surveillance during the Bush administration.

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Obama and Deportation Policy

Republican intransigence over immigration reform may result in President Obama easing Homeland Security's removal (previously called deportation) policies. Two measures are under consideration.

Obama met with various Latino groups yesterday. After the meeting:

Obama announced late on Thursday that he had decided to review deportation practices to seek a more "humane" way to enforce immigration laws.....Immigration law experts have said Obama could use his executive authority to also stop deporting parents of those children to keep families together.

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"Incidental" Collection of Domestic Data Unaddressed By Obama Speech

This terrific piece by Bart Gellman explains how President Obama's speech was woefully lacking in what I think of as one of the most important issues regarding NSA spying:

[T]he NSA is gathering hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, breaking into private networks that link the overseas data centers of Google and Yahoo, and building a database of trillions of location records transmitted by cellphones around the world.

Those operations are sweeping in a large but unknown number of Americans, beginning with the tens of millions who travel and communicate overseas each year. For at least as many Americans, and likely more, the structure of global networks carries their purely domestic communications across foreign switches.

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Supreme Court to Decide Two Cases on Cell Phone Searches

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on warrantless cell phone searches. One is a state case, the other is federal:

The court will hear an appeal from David Riley, a San Diego man who was stopped by the police, initially for having expired registration tags. A subsequent search of his cellphone tied him to a gang shooting. The California Supreme Court by a 5-2 decision upheld the search of cellphones in a related case.

The court will also hear the Justice Department’s appeal of a ruling that rejected the search of a cellphone that was taken from an alleged drug dealer.

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Obama's NSA Reforms on Bulk Data Collection

President Obama today released his reforms to the NSA's bulk data collection program.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said the changes are welcome, but don't go far enough:

The president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

Here is Obama's Policy Directive . The fact sheet is here. [More}

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DOJ to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages in Utah

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the Department of Justice will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah while the issue makes its way through the appeals courts.

The 1,300 or so couples that married before a Utah court invalidated them will receive federal benefits.

"I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages," Holder said.

Holder's videotaped statement is here.

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NY Times Editorial Asks Obama for Clemency for Snowden

An editorial in the New York Times requests clemency for NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.

...When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.

The editorial concludes with:

...President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

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Calif Court Okays Undocmented Resident as Attorney

Great news for Sergio Garcia, an undocumented resident who went to law school in the U.S. and wants to be a lawyer. A California court has ruled he can be admitted to the bar as an attorney.

“We conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar,” the chief justice wrote.

Garcia waited four years for the ruling. More on his case, and that of Jose Godinez-Samperio at the ABA Journal here.

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TAO and ANT: The NSA's "Office of Tailored Access Operations"

Der Spiegel has several feature articles this week on the NSA's backdoor program TAO, which stands for "Tailored Access Operations."

This is the NSA's top operative unit -- something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.

According to internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO's area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage.

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Federal Judge Finds NSA Surveillance Legal

Yin and Yang. Last week, federal Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington ruled the NSA's collection of mass telephone metadata was “almost Orwellian” and probably unconstitutional."

Today, Judge William H. Pauley III in New York rules the opposite way, finding the NSA program legal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and the Fourth Amendment.

Today's opinion is here.

The ACLU says on to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Pre-Christmas Eve Open Thread

Merry Christmas from the NSA ACLU

They're making a list
They're checking it twice
They're watching almost every electronic device
The NSA is coming to town

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Govt. Releases New Documents to Justify NSA Surveillance

The Obama Administration has released new documents to justify its increased NSA warrantless surveillance.

The DNI announcement is here. The released documents are available here.

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Verizon to Reveal Info About Demands for Phone Records

Verizon says it will publish greater details on the records requests made by law enforcement, beginning in early 2014. Here is Verizon's statement.

To the extent permitted by applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations, Verizon’s transparency report will identify the total number of law enforcement agency requests received from government authorities in criminal cases.

In addition, the report will break out this data under categories such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants. Verizon will also provide other details about the legal demands it receives, as well as information about requests for information in emergencies.

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo already publish transparency reports.

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Federal Court Grants Injunction Against NSA Bulk Telephony Metadata Program


A federal judge in the District of Columbia has granted a request for a preliminary injunction against the NSA preventing them from bulk collecting and querying of telephone record metadata, finding it likely violates the Fourth Amendment.

The opinion is here.

In a 68-page ruling, Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia called the program’s technology “almost Orwellian” and suggested that James Madison, the author of the Constitution, would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

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