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News for the reality-based crowd, today—which is also the first anniversary of the Edward Snowden NSA document leaks--from over at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) hearing on S. 1599/H.R. 3361, a/k/a “The USA Freedom Act,” compliments of author, journalist and blogger Marcy Wheeler…

Mark Warner Confirms USA Freedumber Expands Surveillance
Published June 5, 2014 | By emptywheel

…Warner (who used to be a telecom mogul) got the government witnesses to concede to two key points.

First, Warner noted that under the new scheme, every telecom would be subject to government requests. As a result, he said, “On factual basis, the number of calls scrutinized universe will be exponentially larger.” Deputy Attorney General James Cole at first tried to prevaricate. But then admitted that more records would be exposed.

Then, Warner noted that telecoms have to keep cell location, and that the current Section 215 program does not obtain cell location. He asked if the NSA could use or obtain cell location going forward. Cole did not deny that; he admitted that sometimes it is very helpful.

Thanks to Mark Warner for getting these two details on the record, as I have been arguing both were true, but now can confirm they are.

Marcy also gives us a head’s-up on her over-arching insights about this story, which she’s noted she’ll cover in greater detail in another post, very soon: “…the hearing has proven that the overseers don’t understand the program they’re currently overseeing.”

(When has that trivial problem ever prevented our bought-and-paid-for D.C. pols from voting on behalf of their campaign chests “with their hearts” on virtually any piece of legislation on Capitol Hill?)

As Marcy’s also noted it over the past few months, this is just the tip of a far more nefarious iceberg of a surveillance bill that’s being orchestrated by America’s Ministry of Truth.

11 days ago, The Hill noted that S. 1599 (a/k/a H.R. 3361, the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House just a couple of weeks ago in a 303-121 vote) is shaping up to be the “fight of the summer” (spare us) in the Senate.

But, like so many political “fights” inside the Beltway these days, this spectator sport is a rigged game, at least when one takes a hard look at the bill’s whip count on the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Ms. Wheeler.

Yes, our elected morons love their oxymorons, especially when they’re put forth for public debate under emotional monickers such as the “USA Freedom Act.”

While our government--along with their minions in the MSM--takes surveillance to the next level, we're told they're "reining in the NSA." Honest!

USA Freedumber Will Not Get Better in the “Prosecutors” Committee
Published May 26, 2014 | By emptywheel

Having been badly outmaneuvered on USA Freedumber — what was sold as reform but is in my opinion an expansion of spying in several ways — in the House, civil liberties groups are promising a real fight in the Senate.

…“We were of course very disappointed at the weakening of the bill,” said Robyn Greene, policy counsel at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. “Right now we really are turning our attention to the Senate to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

…It is true Pat Leahy wants real reform. And he has a few allies on SJC. But in recent years, every surveillance-related bill that came through SJC has been watered down when Dianne Feinstein offered an alternative (which Leahy sometimes adopted as a manager’s amendment, perhaps realizing he didn’t have the votes). After DiFi offered reform, Sheldon Whitehouse (who a number of less sophisticated SJC members look to as a guide on these issues) enthusiastically embraced it, and everyone fell into line. Often, a Republican comes in and offers a “bipartisan reform” (meaning conservative Republicans joining with the Deep State) that further guts the bill.

This is how the Administration (shacking up with Jeff Sessions) defeated an effort to rein in Section 215 and Pen Registers in 2009.

This is how DiFi defeated an effort to close the backdoor loophole in 2012.

As this was happening in 2009, Russ Feingold called out SJC for acting as if it were the “Prosecutors Committee,” rather than the Judiciary Committee.

(Note, in both of those cases as well as on the original passage of Section 702, I understood fairly clearly what the efforts to stymie reform would do, up to 4 years before those programs were publicly revealed; I’ve got a pretty good record on this front!)

And if you don’t believe this is going to happen again, tell me why this whip count is wrong:

Projected Whip Count for USA Freedom Act (S.1599) in US Senate as of 5-26-14
On top of everything else, it should be noted that the current write-up of the USA Freedom Act (S. 1599/HR 3361) extends (most notably the Section 215 provisions in) the Patriot Act sunset clause by two years, through 2017.

Fast-forward one week to this past Monday, and Marcy’s observing how the three-ring circus has moved to another tent just around the corner from the SJC, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI)…

As Snowden Leak Anniversary Approaches, Intelligence Community Prepares to Declare Victory
Published June 2, 2014 | By emptywheel

As June 5 approaches — and with it the one year anniversary of the first reporting on Edward Snowden’s leaks — the privacy community is calling supporters to redouble efforts to improve the NSA “reform bill,” which I call the USA Freedumber Act, in the Senate.

I explained here why the Senate is unlikely to improve USA Freedumber in any meaningful way. The votes just aren’t there — not even in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ominously, Dianne Feinstein just scheduled an NSA hearing for Thursday afternoon, when most of the privacy community will be out rallying the troops.

Unless the surveillance community finds some way to defeat USA Freedumber, the intelligence community will soon be toasting themselves that they used the cover of Edward Snowden’s disclosures to expand surveillance….

…Here’s a post where I lay that out.

To make things worse, the last version of the House bill changed the term “selection term” to make it very broad: including “entities,” “addresses,” and “devices” among the things that count as a single target, all of which invite mass targeting. I was always skeptical about “specific selection term” serving as the limiting factor in the bill; key language about how the FISC currently understands “selection term” remains classified. But I do know that Zoe Lofgren and others in the House kept saying that under the current definition of the bill the government could collect all records in, say, my Area Code 202 example. And if that’s possible, it means the phone dragnet under this “reform” may be little more targeted than upstream Section 702 collection currently is, which has telecoms sniff through up to 75% of US Internet traffic.

But it’s not just that the bill doesn’t deliver what its boosters claim it does.

There are 4 other ways that the bill makes the status quo worse, as I show in this post:

•    The move to telecoms codifies changes in the chaining process that will almost certainly expand the universe of data being analyzed — potentially significantly

•    In three ways, the bill would permit the use of phone chaining for purposes beyond counterterrorism, which isn’t currently permitted

•    The bill weakens the minimization procedures on upstream Section 702 collection imposed by FISC Judge John Bates in 2011, making it easier for the government to collect and keep domestic content domestically

•    The bill moves the authority to set minimization procedures for Pen Registers from FISC to the Attorney General (and weakens them significantly), thus eliminating the tool John Bates used to shut down illegal content-as-metadata collection

In my opinion, these changes mean the NSA will be able to do much of what they were doing in 2009, before what were then called abuses – but under this bill would be legalized — were discovered. That, plus they’re likely to expand the dragnet beyond terrorism targets…

…But unless we defeat USA Freedumber, the Intelligence Community will have used the event of Snowden’s leaks as an opportunity to expand the dragnet.

(Bold type is diarist's emphasis.

So, here we are, a year after the Snowden-NSA document leaks first hit the media, and what we’re witnessing is our government preparing to take an even deeper dive down the surveillance rabbit hole!

In honor of the first anniversary of Snowden’s NSA doc leaks, there are many things you may do to send a little anniversary cheer Ed’s way, such as…

• giving the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee a little piece of your mind: CLICK HERE.

• and, that goes for the Senate Judiciary Committee, too: CLICK HERE.

• of course, there’s always the White House: CLICK HERE. (As I recently reminded fellow Kossacks, it’s not the NSA but the White House that finances the biggest domestic surveillance dragnet of them all.)

• and, I’m sure Ed would greatly appreciate it if (if you’re fortunate enough to be able to spare a few bucks) you’d consider celebrating today’s first anniversary of his NSA document leaks by making a small donation to: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kossack Jesselyn Radack’s Government Accountability Project, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

#            #            #

If Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner, one of the top-20 recipients of lobbying/PAC money, to date, on Capitol Hill in the 2013-2014 cycle, is speaking out about this travesty of so-called legislation--on the first anniversary of Ed Snowden's NSA document leaks, no less--maybe there is a fighting chance of affecting real change when it comes to pushing back against the military-industrial-surveillance state.

Then again, as Marcy Wheeler keeps reminding us, it's going to take a much stronger effort than that which has been put forward to date if anything substantive–increased recognition of the problem is one thing, successfully confronting the powerful forces at work here is something completely different--is to come of all of this, at least as far as putting a saddle on our virtually unbridled surveillance state is concerned.

#            #            #

Originally posted to on Thu Jun 05, 2014 at 08:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Whistleblowers Round Table.

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