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Senate Holds Hearing on Government Surveillance

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing this afternoon, "Continued Oversight of U.S. Government Surveillance Authorities." You can watch online here or at CSpan 3 here.

The Government's prepared statement is here. It begins:

Thank you for inviting us to continue our discussions with this Committee on our efforts to enhance public confidence in the important intelligence collection programs that have been the subject of unauthorized disclosures since earlier this year: the collection of bulk telephony metadata under the business records provision found in Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, and the targeting of non-U.S. persons overseas under Section 702 of FISA.

The statement details the Government's recent efforts to increase transparency and then lists a few changes to the FISA statute it willing to endorse, and several that it opposes. [More...]

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Tech Companies Write Obama and Congress

The big 8 Tech Companies have sent a letter to President Obama and Congress urging them to scale back surveillance programs.

The 8 companies are: AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo.

You can read their letter on the website they have set up, Reform Government Surveillance.

"We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide... "The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual - rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. "This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change."

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'Christian values' Hobby Lobby purchases its products from #1 'family planning' nation China

Hobby Lobby

David Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby , has said:

We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that's what we've tried to do. [...] We believe that it is by God's grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. [...] But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.

Apparently, Green and his family run Hobby Lobby on "Christian principles" only when it is convenient and good for the bottom line. They send their "Christian" money to China and its policy of one child per family and forced abortions:

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DOJ to Use Warrantless Surveillance in Criminal Case

The New York Times has an article about DOJ notifying a criminal defendant in Colorado that it intends to use warrantless surveillance obtained under FISA in its case against him.From the Notice:

...the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in proceedings in the above-captioned matter information obtained or derived from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, 50 U.S.C. 1881a.

The case is an interesting one. I wrote about it here. [More...]

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FISA Judge Rules NSA Mass Telephony Data Collection is Constitutional

The FISA Court today released the August 29, 2013 opinion by FISA Court Judge Claire Eagen finding the NSA's mass telephony data program is constitutional and statutorily permissible.

The opinion is here.

[B]ecause there is no cognizable Fourth Amendment interest in a telephone company's metadata that it holds in the course of its business, the Court finds that there is no Constitutional impediment to the requested production.

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The DEA, AT&T and the Hemisphere Project

The New York Times reports on the Hemisphere Project, a program in which the DEA HIDTAs have been paying AT&T for phone records for 26 years.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

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Holder Asked for Answers on DEA Use of NSA Data

Reuters reported yesterday that several Congresspersons and Senators have written Attorney General Holder seeking answers to questions about the report that the DEA used information collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) in criminal investigations unrelated to terrorism and the collection of foreign intelligence.

It appears the first letter was from Congressman John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler and Bobby Scott on August 9. It asked these questions and requested an answer by August 26:

1. Which components of the U.S. Department of Justice have access to information collected by the government under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

2. Does the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any other component of the Department of Justice, use or give to any other federal, state, or local agency foreign intelligence surveillance information collected under FISA for the purpose of criminal investigation or criminal prosecution? If so, with what frequency? Under which authorities is such information collected?

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Facebook Releases Info on Goverment Data Requests

Facebook has released the numbers of requests it received for user account information during the first half of 2013.

The United States sought data from between 20,000 – 21,000 accounts. Facebook said the data included “criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law.” It said it was prohibited from detailing exact numbers or types of national security related requests, which would include National Security Letters and FISA court orders.

...The data, the social-networking giant said, concern basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. “Other requests may also seek IP address logs or actual account content,” Facebook said.

Facebook's report is here. Take a look at FB's Data Privacy page and see how much information it stores about you. You need to check three places, the Activities Log, Expanded Archives and Downloaded Info and Activity Logs.

To save you some time, I combined them in this slideshow. The complete data use policy is here. For more on what information Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies store, see here. For stored metadata, see here.

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Chelsea Manning Requests Hormone Treatment

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, is requesting hormone therapy during her incarceration. Here is her letter. After thanking her supporters, she writes:

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

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FISA Court Opinion On NSA Collection of U.S. Communications

In response to a FOIA lawsuit(document here) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Government today agreed to release a FISA court opinion finding some parts of the NSA electronic surveillance program unconstitutional. For example, for a period of time, the NSA illegally collected domestic emails and internet communications of Americans.

The October, 2011 opinion by former FISA Court Chief Judge John Bates is here. A September, 2012 opinion by Judge Bates finding the issue sufficiently resolved is here. Spencer Ackerman and other reporters had a conference call with an intelligence official who gave an explanation of what happened and why. Here is the Guardian report on documents from Edward Snowden describing the loophole (also here.)

DNI Director James Clapper's letter explaining today's releases is here. The website DNI set up with links to released documents is here.
Other documents released today include: [More...]

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David Miranda Describes Heathrow Detention

The Guardian has an interview with David Miranda describing his 9 hour detention.

The Guardian editor describes how he was pressured to destroy hard drives.

[O]ne of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

The White House says it didn't request Miranda's detention, but the UK gave it a heads-up -- in other words, the U.S. knew of the detention plan before it occurred. [More...]

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Obama Addresses NSA Surveillance Issues

President Obama held a press conference today on NSA surveillance and released two documents concerning the program. They are combined here:

  • Pages 1 to 23: A legal memorandum explaining the Government’s legal basis for an intelligence collection program under which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtains court orders directing certain telecommunications service providers to produce telephony metadata in bulk.
  • Pages 24 to 30: NSA on Legal Authorities: a seven-page document describing the legal authorities that the agency uses as the basis for its spying, the controls that are in place to limit the surveillance and a brief description of what guides the agency’s use of what they call signals intelligence.

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Snowden Gets Asylum in Russia, Leaves Airport

Russia has given asylum to Edward Snowden for a year. He has left the Moscow airport. He is with a member of the Wikileaks legal team.

Why only a year? Maybe Russia is hoping that in a year's time, the U.S. will reconsider its refusal to hand over Victor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko in exchange for Snowden.

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XKeyscore: Real time Internet Monitoring Program

Via the Guardian: Edward Snowden's latest contribution to letting the world know what the U.S. Government doesn't want you to know: XKeyscore.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity.

....One top-secret document describes how the program "searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents", including the "To, From, CC, BCC lines" and the 'Contact Us' pages on websites".

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A Few More NSA Surveillance Documents Declassified

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