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Seven of the members of the 9/11 Commission are arguing that the nation is still vulnerable a decade after the attacks.
“We are safer but we are not as secure yet as we can or should be,” Chairman Thomas Kean told the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington, D.C.

The commission’s original report contained 41 recommendations to improve US security. Due to insufficient progress, however, the committee issued a new report Wednesday detailing nine commission recommendations that remain unfulfilled and are causing a gap in the country’s security.

Perhaps that failure is because of the inordinate amount of time, energy and resources the government has put into an unprecedented domestic surveillance program.

Thanks to new laws and technologies, authorities track and eavesdrop on Americans as they never could before, hauling in billions of bank records, travel receipts and other information. In several cases, they have wiretapped conversations between lawyers and defendants, challenging the legal principle that attorney-client communication is inviolate.

Advocates say the expanded surveillance has helped eliminate vulnerabilities identified after the Sept. 11 attacks. Some critics, unconvinced, say the snooping undermines privacy and civil liberties and leads inevitably to abuse. They argue that the new systems have weakened security by burying investigators in irrelevant information.[...]

In May, two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that Americans would be disturbed if they knew about some of the government's data-gathering procedures. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said they were prohibited from revealing the facts.

"When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted" surveillance law, "they will be stunned and they will be angry," Wyden said.[...]

Exactly what records are kept and how they are used is not well understood even by lawmakers who oversee the intelligence agencies, said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), who chaired the now-expired Select Intelligence Oversight Panel.

"The NSA finds it pretty easy to snow members of Congress by confusing them," Holt said in an interview.

Officials from the FBI and NSA say they follow strict rules to avoid abuses. But in 2007, the Justice Department's inspector general found that the FBI had engaged in "serious misuse" of its authority to issue National Security Letters, claiming urgency in cases where when none existed.

Such letters, a kind of administrative subpoena, are key to the increased surveillance.

Courts have ruled that the government doesn't need a search warrant, which requires a judge's approval, to obtain records held by "third parties," such as hotels, banks, phone companies or Internet providers.

So the government has used National Security Letters to get the data, issuing 192,500 of the letters between 2003 and 2006, according to an audit by the Justice Department inspector general. The numbers have dropped sharply since then, but the FBI issued 24,287 National Security Letters last year for data on 14,212 Americans. That's up from a few thousand letters a year before 2001.

"It used to be the case that if the government wanted to find out what you read and what you wrote, it would have to get a warrant and search your home," said Daniel J. Solove, a law professor at George Washington University and the author of numerous books and articles on privacy law.

Now, "it just obtains your Amazon purchase records, your Facebook posts, your Internet browsing history—without you even knowing."

Coincidentally, a procedural hearing in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle was heard Wednesday on two long-running cases involving the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, begun under the Bush administration. The first case is Hepting v. AT&T:

The lawsuit claims that AT&T violated the privacy rights of its customers by allowing the NSA to occupy one of the company's switching stations in San Francisco and monitor its customers' e-mails and phone calls without a warrant.

The second case is Jewel v. NSA, brought by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation will ask the appeals court to reverse a decision dismissing the Jewel case. A lower court argued that since millions of Americans were spied on by the government, no single citizen had standing to sue the government. The court's reasoning in its ruling may be weak, since the government in its filings with the appeals court spends more verbiage reheating the national security chestnut than trying to defend the lower court's logic.

The court will decide, again, whether these cases can go forward. As EFF's legal director, Cindy Cohn writes, the "outcome of both Jewel v. NSA and Hepting v. AT&T will be crucial not only to those who wish to stop the spying and regain the privacy of our communications, but to upholding the Constitutional limitations on the Executive Branch’s power. "

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 01:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (19+ / 0-)

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 01:33:34 PM PDT

  •  Running the phone lines right to the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    police is a time honored practice.  At one time, the Providence police had every phone pair in the city routed through an apartment in a high rise diagonally across the street from ma Bell's central office.  No need for warrants, as the phone company never knew whose or when phones were tapped.

    Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but religion is assuredly the first.

    by StrayCat on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 01:50:37 PM PDT

  •  These advocate's claims that there were (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    apimomfan2

    vulnerabilities in the system after the 9/11 attacks are bogus.  This has been proven even though folks like Condoleeza Rice, George Tenet on up are still in denial mode that there was good intelligence that they ALL ignored in the run up to the attacks. These people have blood on their hands.  This vulnerability BS is just a way to try to protect the Bush administration's colossal and tragic mistakes while ripping apart the notion of civil rights and privacy and really going nutso on the spyware.

    These ratfucks have been itching to do politically based spying for years and now that they have a taste for it, ain't no turning them back right now.  Frankly it's utterly creepy when I'm on my laptop, have looked up a retailer, then see ads pop up for days on end from them.  They "see" every keystroke and I feel violated.  Yuck, I need a shower!

    When everybody talkin' all at once no one can hear the wise one speak, So just be still and silence will provide the wisdom that you seek - by Tori del Allen

    by Dumas EagerSeton on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 02:00:53 PM PDT

    •  If only WikiLeaks had published the CIA intel (0+ / 0-)

      on the activities of the 9-11 conspirators.

      Then the FBI would have learned about their movements. The public and the press would have forced both agencies to do something.

  •  That question of standing sounds seriously (0+ / 0-)

    specious.
    How exactly does ubiquity diminish individual harm?

    Anyway. Critical stuff, thanks for the update.

    "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

    by Unduna on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 03:01:38 PM PDT

  •  As in the Recent Choi Ruling Featured in a Rec (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    apimomfan2

    List diary (as I type), let's hope these suits proceed in the interests of rule of law and the individual's rights against an intrusive and abusive government.

    Like Republicans, I want my country back.  Only not the imaginary country that never existed that's based on 1960s TV shows.  I want it back the way it was before GWB and his Administration got their hands on the reins of power.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 03:39:03 PM PDT

    •  They said 9/11 would change everything. (0+ / 0-)

      Every interscetion is manned with armies of cameras. You can't go into any store without barrages of cameras pointing your way. Hell, cameras are now being put into our cars starting in 2012 ("thanks," Hillary.) Then there's the tons of $h!t we DON'T know about. Citizens, now property of USA, Inc.

    •  you are alas mistaken about this part: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      r2did2
       I want it back the way it was before GWB and his Administration got their hands on the reins of power.

      Nearly everything the Dubyaites did was already begun under the Clinton Administration.  Warrantless wiretaps, rendition for torture, spying on library books, deportation without trial based on secret evidence, indefinite detention--it all started under Clinton.

      The only innovation the Dubyaites introduced was to illegally kidnap people and take them to Cuba to be tortured directly by the US, instead of renditioning them to Libya or Egypt to be tortured by others.

  •  remind me again why the Dems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    r2did2

    continued all the Repug Dubya policies . . . ?

    BTW, warrantless wiretapping did not begin under Dubya.  It began under the Clinton Administration.  As did "extraordinary rendition" and indefinite detention based on secret evidence.

    When it comes to the national security state, the Dems and Repugs are one.

  •  They argue that the new systems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dark daze
    have weakened security by burying investigators in irrelevant information.[...]
    From above.

    Sounds like Jon Stuart said back in the day,"They didn't connect the dots, so we are going to give them MORE dots??"

    Hamdan v. Rumsfeld = the Constitution travels with the flag

    by sailmaker on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 07:15:09 PM PDT

  •  The good and the bad in all of this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tim woods

    Although I understand the concerns with regard to privacy and constitutionality of various secretive monitoring techniques (ala "1984"), there are also positives that exist here.  There have been countless numbers of criminals that have been taken off the street from these "armies of cameras" you're talking about...few from intersections, as you're referring to, however.  The cameras at ATM sites and on top of buildings and at convenience stores and so forth are an invaluable tool law enforcement uses to apprehend criminals.  

    It's a double-edged sword, so to speak.  Personally, I would rather these be where they are than not be present at all.  Just IMO, of course.

    - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

    by r2did2 on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 07:17:59 PM PDT

  •  We'll never be safe enough! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dark daze, Spoc42

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  •  This just in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigOkie, Spoc42, enhydra lutris

    FREEDOM is not 100% safe.  It's a trade off.

    Me, give me my freedom, I'll take my chances.

    Bad is never good until worse happens

    by dark daze on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 07:56:41 PM PDT

  •  You'll be sorry when the (0+ / 0-)

    commies terists get you. You can't have toomuch security, and it's worth having recording devices in the bathroom and bedroom, hell, I don't care - wanna look?

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 09:11:55 AM PDT

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