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One heck of a Congressional hearing yesterday! House Judiciary committee held a hearing on FISA authorities.  Expect a lot of demonizing and distraction from the rapid response teams, stat.

NSA spying under fire: 'You've got a problem'

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a heated confrontation over domestic spying, members of Congress said Wednesday they never intended to allow the National Security Agency to build a database of every phone call in America. And they threatened to curtail the government’s surveillance authority.

Top Obama administration officials countered that the once-secret program was legal and necessary to keep America safe. And they left open the possibility that they could build similar databases of people’s credit card transactions, hotel records and Internet searches.

The clash on Capitol Hill undercut President Barack Obama’s assurances that Congress had fully understood the dramatic expansion of government power it authorized repeatedly over the past decade.

This story came out yesterday.  At least one member of Congress asked about it and seem as surprised as we are.  And yet NSA officials continue to say that their programs receive oversight from Congress and court approval.  You can see why Greenwald and the Guardian team are taking this slowly.  A lot of this kind of information has been out in the public, but without documents as proof.  And yet not many people reacted strongly.
Vehicle Records Taken By Law Enforcement Agencies Across America: ACLU

WASHINGTON -- Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.
"There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. The civil rights group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to a crime.

Law enforcement officials said the scanners can be crucial to tracking suspicious cars, aiding drug busts and finding abducted children. License plate scanners also can be efficient. The state of Maryland told the ACLU that troopers could "maintain a normal patrol stance" while capturing up to 7,000 license plate images in a single eight hour shift.

Spencer Ackerman at the Guardian.  It was revealed that it's not "two hops" as we suspected, it's three hops!  That means that when they do their analysis, they analyze all of your contacts, and all of their contacts, and all of their contacts.  If you have 100 contacts, and each of those contacts has 100 contacts, and each of them have 100 contacts, that means that 1 million people get scooped up in the query/analysis of 1 person.  
NSA warned to rein in surveillance as agency reveals even greater scope
NSA officials testify to angry House panel that agency can perform 'three-hop queries' through Americans' data and records

The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosed.

John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform "a second or third hop query" through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.

"Hops" refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.

For reference, here is the article by Greenwald and Ackerman from June 27
NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama
• Secret program launched by Bush continued 'until 2011'
• Fisa court renewed collection order every 90 days
• Current NSA programs still mine US internet metadata

Eventually, the NSA gained authority to "analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States", according to a 2007 Justice Department memo, which is marked secret.
One function of this internet record collection is what is commonly referred to as "data mining", and which the NSA calls "contact chaining". The agency "analyzed networks with two degrees of separation (two hops) from the target", the report says. In other words, the NSA studied the online records of people who communicated with people who communicated with targeted individuals.

Contact chaining was considered off-limits inside the NSA before 9/11. In the 1990s, according to the draft IG report, the idea was nixed when the Justice Department "told NSA that the proposal fell within one of the Fisa definitions of electronic surveillance and, therefore, was not permissible when applied to metadata associated with presumed US persons".

Town of Deer Trail considering hunting licenses for unmanned aerial vehicles, bounties for drones

DEER TRAIL, Colo. - The small town of Deer Trail, Colorado is considering a bold move. The town board will be voting on an ordinance that would create drone hunting licenses and offer bounties for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Deer Trail resident, Phillip Steel, drafted the ordinance.

"We do not want drones in town," said Steel. "They fly in town, they get shot down."
The ordinates states, "The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government."

The privacy groups and rights group are modern day heroes on a scale that is hard to really assess their value.  I'm not talking about every group who joined in this suit. I mean groups like ACLU and EFF and others.  Last night I listened to the House Judiciary hearing from yesterday morning.  It takes hours to go through it but really, every person should take the time to do it, even if in segments.  There were two panels. The first panel - officials from NSA, DNI and FBI.  The second panel - other experts. Of the four experts, two were defending the programs (one or both were former Bush admin officials, lawyers) and two were privacy/rights experts.  One was Prof. Martin of Center for National Security Studies and the other was Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, who you are probably familiar with.  It was really amazing to watch as members of Congress, from the right and the left, went to Jaffer with questions about the surveillance.  We're talking about yeoman's work here, and even right-wing Congress members, and you know they loathe the ACLU, going to Jaffer because IMHO they had no trust at all in the other two lawyers on that panel who were defending these programs.  

I think I'll have more to say on this. I'm still processing that hearing and how some things that are happening are real game changers.  Profound things happening.  Do take the time to watch the hearing.  Update: Of course I should credit Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel, because she is the reason that I know as much as I do after following her posts for years now, as she followed and perhaps collaborated with people like Jaffer, taking every small shred of information that a secrecy obsessed government allowed to be released, or way pried from their hands by FOIA and law suits filed by rights organizations, analyzing them and connecting dots and making educated guesses about what was going on, how things worked.  Painstaking and largely thankless work and true dedication.  They are real heroes and yet look who gets the glory in this country.

Privacy groups led by EFF sue to stop NSA and FBI electronic surveillance
Coalition of civil rights advocates and and church leaders is the latest lawsuit to challenge federal government over NSA files

Rights activists, church leaders and drug and gun rights advocates found common ground and filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the federal government to halt a vast National Security Agency electronic surveillance program.

The lawsuit was filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the unusually broad coalition of plaintiffs, and seeks an injunction against the NSA, Justice Department, FBI and directors of the agencies.

Filed in federal court in San Francisco, it challenges what the plaintiffs describe as an "illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance."

House Judiciary Cmte. Holds Hearing on FISA Authorities

The House Judiciary Committee holds an unclassified hearing on the administration's use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, including witnesses from the Department of Justice, NSA, FBI and law and civil liberties experts.

Video not embeddable. Link:

I hate to even think about this.
Chris Hedges Responds to NDAA Defeat, Says It’s a ‘Black Day’ for Liberty

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has dealt a terrible blow to Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and the other activists and journalists suing to prevent the indefinite military detention of American citizens.
Here is what Hedges wrote after Wednesday’s decision:

This is quite distressing. It means there is no recourse now either within the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of government to halt the steady assault on our civil liberties and most basic Constitutional rights. It means that the state can use the military, overturning over two centuries of domestic law, to use troops on the streets to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers. States that accrue to themselves this kind of power, history has shown, will use it. We will appeal, but the Supreme Court is not required to hear our appeal. It is a black day for those who care about liberty.
Whoever gets this position -- I hope they spend some of this time investigating Hastings' death and things related to it.
Michael Hastings National Security Reporting Fellowship, 2013-2014

In an effort to extend the legacy of Michael Hastings, who died tragically on June 18, 2013, BuzzFeed will sponsor an annual, yearlong fellowship for national security reporting that honors Michael's fearless example. The first fellowship will be awarded this fall.

The Michael Hastings Fellowship is aimed at proven journalists with strong sources and major stories to their credit who are interested in focusing for a year on a single subject and producing a series of stories on that topic. Proposed topics may include American foreign and national security policy; federal or local counterterrorism policy; the U.S. military; whistle-blowers; government secrecy; federal law enforcement; the military-industrial complex; veterans; human rights in conflict zones; and other related topics.
Michael Hastings, who died at the age of 33, wrote stories that would not otherwise have been written, and found emotionally gripping ways tell stories about vital policy decisions. He wrote for a wide range of new and old media outlets, from Newsweek to Gawker to GQ. His best-known piece, 2010's "The Runaway General" in Rolling Stone, raised questions about the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, prompted the dismissal of the top American commander there, and sped the end of the U.S. engagement in that conflict. He then covered the 2012 election campaign and Hollywood for BuzzFeed. He was the author of three books.

URGENT: Investigate Michael Hastings' Death

Published on Jul 12, 2013
Abby Martin takes a closer look at the death of award winning journalist Michael Hastings, featuring interviews with Michael's close friend, Joe Biggs, who suspects his death was not an accident, and Kimberly Dvorak, an investigative journalist who has been conducting an investigation into the anomalies despite stonewalling from the LAPD.

LIKE Breaking the Set @
FOLLOW Abby Martin @

Judge Expected to Decide on Charge of Aiding Enemy

WASHINGTON — The military judge in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is expected to decide Thursday whether to drop a charge accusing Private Manning of “aiding the enemy” that could put him in prison for life.

Civil liberties advocates said the judge’s decision could set a precedent for whistle-blowers who leak information that gets posted on the Internet.

“The real danger is that it equates leaks to the press in the public interest with treason against the country, and that is an extremely dangerous precedent to set,” Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said Wednesday. “There are dozens of bloggers for the military. This says every single one could be charged with aiding the enemy.”

If you've read the book or if you've seen the movie "Dirty Wars", you are familiar with Anwar al-Awlaki's father, and Abdulrahman's grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki.  President Obama owes this man an answer, at the very least.
The Drone That Killed My Grandson

The missile killed him, his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians on Oct. 14, 2011, while the boys were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen.

I visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.

Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew — that it was responsible for his death.

This AP story has been published in numerous media outlets.  This "three hops" thing is a key thing to understand.  If NSA is storing the communications they scoop up while targeting one person and grabbing everything within three hops of their contacts, they can grab a LOT of communications on millions of people.  They admit to warrants and queries run on about 300 people in 2012.  If they grab a million people's communications from each of those, and keep it or keep what they want from that harvest... you get the picture.  That's why the 300 number is so deceiving. That's why you need to keep your eye on this.  I'm not clear on what they do with the data they get from all the associations.  They claim that if it's a US person, they get rid of those communications, but there are exceptions.  We know some of the exceptions but not all.  There are a few people who are on this, big time, so just make sure to keep your eye on this particular aspect of the surveillance programs.

If you read only a few news articles from yesterday, make sure this is one of them.  Yost does a good job of explaining things and of giving you a good sense of how this hearing went down. It was one of the few hearings on the subject that seemed real and not kabuki, IMHO.

NSA spying under fire: 'You've got a problem'

By PETE YOST Associated Press
The House Judiciary Committee hearing also represented perhaps the most public, substantive congressional debate on surveillance powers since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Previous debates have been largely theoretical and legalistic, with officials in the Bush and Obama administrations keeping the details hidden behind the cloak of classified information.


Civil rights groups have warned for years that the government would use the USA Patriot Act to conduct such wholesale data collection. The government denied it.


The NSA says it only looks at numbers as part of narrow terrorism investigations, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

For the first time, NSA deputy director John C. Inglis disclosed Wednesday that the agency sometimes conducts what's known as three-hop analysis. That means the government can look at the phone data of a suspect terrorist, plus the data of all of his contacts, then all of those people's contacts, and finally, all of those people's contacts.

If the average person calls 40 unique people, three-hop analysis could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist.

Amusing. They get the doublespeak down pat pretty well.
*SATIRE* Virtual Obama Addresses NSA Surveillance Concerns



We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.

Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

Massive Spying Program Exposed
Demand Answers Now (EFF petition)

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues
Long before anyone ever heard of Edward Snowden, it was already time to fight the good fight
In the Hands of the U.K.
A 'Black day' for liberty - Hedges v Obama: the trial you didn't see on TV
The "Boss" Dedicates "American Skin" to Trayvon
U.S. Government Repeals Ban - Opens Floodgate to Mass Agitprop Meant for Domestic Consumption
Heroes of the motherland: How the NSA won the war in Iraq (or wants you to think it did)
Exactly when did America become a bunch of out-takes from Catch-22?
TransLife Center opened in Chicago

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