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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is pictured on Capitol Hill in Washington February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Harry "See no evil" Reid
The head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, testified before a Senate committee Wednesday, defending his agency's massive phone and internet surveillance programs, and saying that the leaks of those programs have done "great harm" to the nation's security. Alexander said in particular that dozens of terrorist attacks here and abroad were thwarted by the program.

Two member of the Senate Intelligence Committee aren't buying it.

Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, said they were not convinced by the testimony of the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, who claimed that evidence gleaned from surveillance helped thwart attacks in the US.

"We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA's dragnet collection of Americans' phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence," they said in a statement released on Thursday ahead of a widely anticipated briefing for US senators about the National Security Agency's activities. [...]

"Gen Alexander's testimony yesterday suggested that the NSA's bulk phone records collection program helped thwart 'dozens' of terrorist attacks, but all of the plots that he mentioned appear to have been identified using other collection methods," Wyden and Udall said in a statement. "The public deserves a clear explanation."

We've clearly got a problem in the Senate and with its oversight role here. Majority Leader Harry Reid says there's nothing to see here, and has chastened his members. He says essentially it's the senators' own fault if they feel they haven't been fully informed on this programs, because "they've had every opportunity to be aware of these programs."

Well, here are two members of the Intelligence Committee who have been briefed as fully as anyone on these programs, and they haven't heard enough. Or they haven't heard enough of the truth.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 01:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (28+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 01:29:18 PM PDT

  •  But the Plans WERE on display... (8+ / 0-)

    It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.


    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 01:34:16 PM PDT

    •  Heh Shades of HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      detroitmechworks, maryabein, Garrett, kurt

      “There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.”

      I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

      by JML9999 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:05:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  and the key to the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      filing cabinet was in a locked drawer in a desk in the attic.

      (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

      by PJEvans on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 05:12:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just saw a tweet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    stating Senator Nelson left an Intel Mtg not that long ago and he said:

    "privacy of Americans is protected." He says phone records aren't being "rummaged" by gov't

    Rand Paul said nothing.

  •  The NSA is now arguing some of the... (9+ / 0-)

    plots they prevented were abroad. Interesting.

    They are probably combing through old cases and trying to fabricate a thin evidentiary trail they can foist off on us. Probably easier to do that in a 3rd world nation. They are lying.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars of surveillance over 6+ years and they can't find a shred of evidence that it's helped. They couldn't even stop the Tsarnaev bros. It's not privacy vs. security, it's privacy vs. no privacy.

  •  I don't give any Senator or Congressperson (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, smiley7, greenbell

    a pass on this.  I don't care if they are thrown in the clinker, they have to let the people know what is happening.  If ANY congress person knows (knew) about this program, time to "man/woman" up.  Otherwise they're part of the problem, not the solution.  This is the only way to stop this. D,R, or I these congress critters HAVE to grow some cajones. Also, some bullshit 9/11 commission (with 1/2 of the findings redacted) won't do.

  •  Humm (4+ / 0-)

    Guardian national security editor Spencer Ackerman reports:


    Senate intelligence chair Dianne Feinstein says it's her "understanding" that an individual NSA query of the phone records metadata database does not require a court order.

    So, seemingly according to this description of her understanding, NSA can search through phone records unilaterally.

    Feinstein adds that they're shooting to get more information about NSA programs declassified by Monday, and are looking at legislation to limit contractor access to sensitive data (see next post).

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:02:07 PM PDT

    •  They can since 1979 Local Usage Data(LUD) &Scotus (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smiley7, sceptical observer, kurt


      Local usage details (LUD) are a detailed record of local calls made and received from a particular phone number. These records are regularly available to police in the United States with a court order, and were traditionally subject to the same restrictions as telephone tapping.

      LUDs may be legally used by the police without first obtaining a warrant, as determined by Smith v. Maryland (1979).

      Other terms for call records include CDR (call detail records) or SMDR (station message detail recordings). These terms normally apply to "raw call records" before they have been processed to apply locations and rates.

      Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979),[1] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the installation and use of the pen register was not a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and hence no warrant was required. The pen register was installed on telephone company property at the telephone company's central offices. In the Majority opinion, Justice Blackmun rejected the idea that the installation and use of a pen registry constitutes a violation of the "legitimate expectation of privacy" since the numbers would be available to and recorded by the phone company anyway.
      Pen register
      Pen register

      A pen register is an electronic device that records all numbers called from a particular telephone line. The term has come to include any device or program that performs similar functions to an original pen register, including programs monitoring Internet communications.

      I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

      by JML9999 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:12:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yep, I know, however (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JML9999, sceptical observer, kurt
        Mary Wheeler

         And so, because the supreme court approved the collection of one robber's phone records in 1979, Mueller insisted, it meant it was reasonable for FBI and NSA to collect and aggregate the phone records for every American today and for ever.

        Mueller even used the same reasoning to address a question from Californian congresswoman Zoe Lofgren about whether it was appropriate for Department of Justice to subpoena the call records of a phone in the congressional press office during the AP leak investigation. Lofgren was upset that those records would have revealed conversations between the press and members of Congress – an infringement of the first amendment, but also of Congress's protection under the constitution's "speech and debate" clause.

        Because it was just metadata, Mueller proposed, collecting that data didn't cross the line of appropriateness.

        New York Representative Jerry Nadler wasn't convinced Mueller's excuse was good enough. He noted that metadata includes so much more information than it did in 1979, and that that earlier ruling might not stand in this case. Utah's Jason Chaffetz got much more specific about the difference between phones in 1979 and now: location.

        Wheeler's arguments and analysis continues. It's a good read.

        "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

        by smiley7 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:42:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A couple of points (0+ / 0-)

        About Smith v. Maryland, and why it may not be the all covering ruling that seems to be bandied about on so many sites

        First off, Smith v. Maryland was dealing with a specific individual that was already under investigation for a crime. Not millions of Americans under no suspicion of any crime.

        Secondly, Smith v. Maryland essentially came down to two basic tests: A) Did the defendant attempt and think that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy and B)would society believe there is a reasonable expectation of privacy? The Court ruled that the first test had been met, but not the second, because the meta data of phone calls was routinely used by the phone company for billing and for addressing nuisance calls.

        Given that technology has changed substantially since 1979, and that VBS, among many others, actually advertises and sells encryption services to keep their customers data private, a strong argument can be made that the societal expectation of privacy has been significantly altered.

    •  more... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JML9999, sceptical observer, kurt
      Emerging from a hearing with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel, said Snowden simply wasn't in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he's claimed.

      Well that's interesting.

      The La times reported earlier today that Former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden used a computer thumb drive to smuggle highly classified documents out of an NSA facility in Hawaii, using a portable digital device supposedly barred inside the cyber spying agency, U.S. officials said.

      Investigators “know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from,” said one official who would not be named while speaking about the ongoing investigation.

      Snowden worked as a system administrator, a technical job that gave him wide access to NSA computer networks and presumably a keen understanding of how those networks are monitored for unauthorized downloads.


      "He was lying," Rogers said. "He clearly has over-inflated his position, he has over-inflated his access and he's even over-inflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."


      The criticism from the Intel leaders took a turn toward the personal Thursday, as Rogers and Ruppersberger questioned how the 29-year-old Snowden, who never graduated from high school, could have risen to a position to access such sensitive information.

      "I hope that we don't decide that our national security interests are going to be determined by a high-school dropout who had a whole series of both academic troubles and employment troubles," Rogers said.

      But... the LA Times again:

      Officials said they still don’t know how Snowden got access to an order marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or a highly-classified directive from President Obama authorizing a military target list for cyber attacks. Neither document would be widely shared, or normally available to a low-level NSA employee.
      Well, the above doesn't jive. Sorry Congressmen, but clearly Snowden was in the position to access highly classified directives and Top Secret documents of the FISA court. THey have been published worldwide. Don't you Congressmen read?

      "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

      by smiley7 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:24:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Typically a Datacenter Operations facility (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        smiley7, sceptical observer

        would have access to the applications running in the data center and would have some job requirement to check the health of the application on a periodic basis. In addition to systems health monitoring screens.

        I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

        by JML9999 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:43:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  what's been leaked so far (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        looks (according to emptywheel) like a training program for operators. In other words, it's not really the high-level secrets that they want us to think, it's the stuff for the people actually doing the work. Which may actually be more important, since 'policies' aren't the important part at that level, and 'policies' wouldn't tell us what they're getting and from whom.

        (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

        by PJEvans on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 05:17:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The President's Top Secret (0+ / 0-)

          cybersecurity directive and a document from the FISA court, plus prism to start

          Hardly, the information used to train operators

          Alexander seemed pensive, peeved when asked how?

          "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

          by smiley7 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 07:30:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Actually, individually, they are not. They have (0+ / 0-)

    lots of money; they're on the take.

    Their lining their pockets and damning the country.

  •  Wow, shades of the filibuster reform (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sceptical observer

    debacle. Those damn Senators from out West keep on being such troublemakers.

    Defending the theft of our freedom by the government is not a legitimate difference of opinion on a political matter -- it is a deeply un-American attitude that deserves nothing but scorn and derision.--Dallasdoc

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:35:54 PM PDT

  •  No reason to hold back (0+ / 0-)

    At this point only idiots will be caught by the program, so there is no need for NSA to hold back any details. Not only the Senators, but everybody should know exactly who was caught and how.

  •  Harry Reid: (0+ / 0-)

    The Alan Colmes of the Senate.

    I'm never sure if I've forgotten and left the lid up, or if InvisObama™ is using the loo.

    by The Gryffin on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 05:19:21 PM PDT

  •  Well they DID stop the Boston bombers. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kentucky Kid


  •  Time to totally scrap "Patriot Act" and start agai (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SottoVoce, JerryNA, mmacdDE

    I'm not totally opposed to data mining for security. But we knew very clearly that when the Patriot Act was passed, major pieces of it had been on the GOP "wish list" for years.
    It's corrupt and unconstitutional.

    I'd love to see a bipartisan commission of tech experts (Let's make Gates and Zuckerberg earn their tax credits) write  careful and VERY limited bill that allowed very specific data mining for security with careful supervison, and made misuse of this data very clearly felonious.

    And trash all the other parts of the PA.

  •  At a time when Senate Democrats (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SottoVoce, JerryNA

    need strong leadership, they have Harry Reid instead.

    The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

    by psnyder on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 05:34:09 PM PDT

  •  I've often wondered what's up with the lead pic (0+ / 0-)

    Is Reid:
    1) Reciting the AA Prayer?
    2) Channeling his inner Winnie the Pooh?
    3) Having a Zen moment?
    4) Savoring some unusual emanation?
    5) Experiencing a TIA?

    If he's anything like my dog, all of the above could be true.

  •  senators (0+ / 0-)

    are more concerned with protecting the senate than protecting america, they think they are more important than america and they legislate that way.

  •  Between Reid and Carl Levin, with his (0+ / 0-)

    buckling to male military brass on the sexual assault issue, it feels as though someone high up in the GOP has the secret goods on them.  How else to explain why they act against the best interests of the Democrats in the Senate, to say nothing of their constituents?

    "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand." ~ Atticus Finch, "To Kill a Mockingbird"

    by SottoVoce on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 05:50:03 PM PDT

  •  Reid "chastened his member"? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nailbender, mkoz

    You mean, like, flogged his monkey?

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 06:42:34 PM PDT

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