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Forum Post: Edward Snowden's Worst Fear Has Not Been Realized – Thankfully

Posted 1 year ago on June 16, 2013, 1:58 a.m. EST by MikhailBakunin (13)
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By Glen Greenwald

In my first substantive discussion with Edward Snowden, which took place via encrypted online chat, he told me he had only one fear. It was that the disclosures he was making, momentous though they were, would fail to trigger a worldwide debate because the public had already been taught to accept that they have no right to privacy in the digital age.The news of Edward Snowden screens at a restaurant in Hong Kong, where he went before the NSA scandal broke. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

Snowden, at least in that regard, can rest easy. The fallout from the Guardian's first week of revelations is intense and growing.

If "whistleblowing" is defined as exposing secret government actions so as to inform the public about what they should know, to prompt debate, and to enable reform, then Snowden's actions are the classic case.

US polling data, by itself, demonstrates how powerfully these revelations have resonated. Despite a sustained demonization campaign against him from official Washington, a Time magazine poll found that 54% of Americans believe Snowden did "a good thing", while only 30% disagreed. That approval rating is higher than the one enjoyed by both Congress and President Obama.

While a majority nonetheless still believes he should be prosecuted, a plurality of Americans aged 18 to 34, who Time says are "showing far more support for Snowden's actions", do not. Other polls on Snowden have similar results, including a Reuters finding that more Americans see him as a "patriot" than a "traitor".

On the more important issue – the public's views of the NSA surveillance programs – the findings are even more encouraging from the perspective of reform. A Gallup poll last week found that more Americans disapprove (53%) than approve (37%) of the two NSA spying programs revealed last week by the Guardian.

As always with polling data, the results are far from conclusive or uniform. But they all unmistakably reveal that there is broad public discomfort with excessive government snooping and that the Snowden-enabled revelations were met with anything but the apathy he feared.

But, most importantly of all, the stories thus far published by the Guardian are already leading to concrete improvements in accountability and transparency. The ACLU quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legality, including the constitutionality, of the NSA's collection of the phone records of all Americans. The US government must therefore now defend the legality of its previously secret surveillance program in open court.

These revelations have also had serious repercussions in Congress. The NSA and other national security state officials have been forced to appear several times already for harsh and hostile questioning before various committees.

To placate growing anger over having been kept in the dark and misled, the spying agency gave a private briefing to rank-and-file members of Congress about programs of which they had previously been unaware. Afterward, Democratic Rep Loretta Sanchez warned that the NSA programs revealed by the Guardian are just "the tip of the iceberg". She added: "I think it's just broader than most people even realize, and I think that's, in one way, what astounded most of us, too."

It is hardly surprising, then, that at least some lawmakers are appreciative rather than scornful of these disclosures. Democratic Sen Jon Tester was quite dismissive of the fear-mongering from national security state officials, telling MSNBC that "I don't see how [what Snowden did] compromises the security of this country whatsoever". He added that, despite being a member of the Homeland Security Committee, "quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn't aware of before".

These stories have also already led to proposed legislative reforms. A group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill which, in their words, "would put an end to the 'secret law' governing controversial government surveillance programs" and "would require the Attorney General to declassify significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, allowing Americans to know how broad of a legal authority the government is claiming to spy on Americans under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act".

The disclosures also portend serious difficulties for the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and NSA chief, Keith Alexander. As the Guardian documented last week, those officials have made claims to Congress – including that they do not collect data on millions of Americans and that they are unable to document the number of Americans who are spied upon – that are flatly contradicted by their own secret documents.

This led to one senator, Ron Wyden, issuing a harshly critical statement explaining that the Senate's oversight function "cannot be done responsibly if senators aren't getting straight answers to direct questions", and calling for "public hearings" to "address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives".

One well-respected-in-Washington national security writer, Slate's centrist Fred Kaplan, has called for Clapper's firing. "It's hard," he wrote, "to have meaningful oversight when an official in charge of the program lies so blatantly in one of the rare open hearings on the subject."

The fallout is not confined to the US. It is global. Reuters this week reported that "German outrage over a US Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi."

Indeed, Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner, has, in the words of the New York Times, "demanded in unusually sharp terms that the United States reveal what its intelligence is doing with personal information of Europeans gathered under the Prism surveillance program revealed last week". She is particularly insistent that EU citizens be given some way to find out whether their communications were intercepted by the NSA.

In the wake of the Guardian's articles, I heard from journalists and even government officials from around the world interested in learning the extent of the NSA's secret spying on the communications of their citizens. These stories have resonated globally, and will continue to do so, because the NSA's spying apparatus is designed to target the shared instruments used by human beings around the world to communicate with one another.

The purpose of whistleblowing is to expose secret and wrongful acts by those in power in order to enable reform. A key purpose of journalism is to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts. Both purposes have been significantly advanced by the revelations thus far.

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/15

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[-] 6 points by shadz66 (17972) 1 year ago

''Now is the time to stand up and say something. If this crisis blows over and people forget about all of this stuff again, the Big Brother surveillance grid that is being constructed all around us will just continue to grow and continue to become even more oppressive. America is dying right in front of your eyes and time is running out. Please stand up and be counted while you still can.'' from :

Thanx for the important forum-post and am digging your moniker ;-)

e tenebris, lux ...

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5843) 1 year ago

Fighting the Secrecy/Surveillance State

Sunday, 16 June 2013 09:18 By Dennis J Bernstein, Consortium News | Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/17000-fighting-the-secrecy-surveillance-state

The emergence of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and now Edward Snowden represents just the tip of the iceberg of a popular resistance that is challenging the U.S. government’s excesses in secrecy and surveillance, a movement that Iceland MP Birgitta Jonsdottir discusses with Dennis J. Bernstein.


As Public Concerns Grow, Congress Spooked Over Spying

Sunday, 16 June 2013 09:36 By David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/17002-as-public-concerns-grow-congress-spooked-over-spying

Washington - The American people are growing increasingly concerned about reports of domestic spying. And Congress isn’t sure how to respond.

The public’s views have been evolving over the past week and a half. When news broke earlier this month that the National Security Agency could tap data from phone and Internet companies, most people accepted the tradeoff between security and privacy. Members of Congress routinely defended the programs.

Not anymore. By week’s end, polls suggested a groundswell of concern and lawmakers were hearing from constituents. Conversations at the Capitol had a new hue: Sure, the government says it has safeguards in place so it won’t listen to my calls and read my emails – but can it ever really control some rogue operator? And where is all that data? Who’s in charge?

The politicians are in a fix. Administration officials have secret briefings and most lawmakers walk out tight-lipped, skittish about revealing any details or betraying any doubts.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, defends the programs but concedes the rising concerns are “an education issue.” And, he laments, “Our hands are always tied on intelligence because we can’t say a lot of things we’d like to.”

Evidence of lawmakers responding to the mounting public concern keeps surfacing. Committee hearings called for other purposes became dominated by tough questioning of administration officials about spying. House of Representatives members emerged from a high-level briefing questioning whether oversight was adequate. Senators from both parties, including Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, pledged a fresh look at the programs.

“Initially people were going, ‘That’s interesting, I wonder what this is about.’ They were reserving judgment,” said Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb. “As they’re learning more and more about it they’re less likely to reserve judgment.”

It’s still unlikely Congress will make radical changes to the programs, one of which examines cellphone records and one which allows the government access to the online activity of users at nine Internet companies

The key to any major change rests with congressional leadership, which largely controls the agenda in Congress. Action seems unlikely.

“I’ve made it very clear this program does not target innocent Americans in any way, shape or form,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “These programs have helped keep America safe.” Since the revelations surfaced, the mantra among congressional leaders and congressional national security experts is that none of the news should come as a shock. If the public only knew what they did, they’d understand. Intelligence committees insist they’ve worked hard to keep an eye on the programs – a claim difficult to verify – and say lawmakers have long been free to raise questions. “I’m not on the intelligence committee. I’ve never felt like I’ve been shut out of the process,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Any member of Congress who’s astonished by this program has nobody to blame but themselves. It was there to be learned about.”

Yet Congress is driven by its political needs. And polls show a shift in opinion, and often the confusion Americans have about the programs. A CBS News survey taken Sunday and Monday found 36 percent thought the government had gone too far in infringing on people’s privacy, 13 percent said it had not gone far enough, and 46 percent said the balance was about right.

The poll also asked people if they approve of government agencies collecting phone records from ordinary people “in order to reduce the threat of terrorism.” Fifty-eight percent disapproved, while 38 percent approved.

Such numbers prod politicians to probe. When FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss bureau operations, he wound up in lengthy exchanges over the programs.

A day earlier, Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, went to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a budget hearing. Instead, he patiently explained the government’s strict guidelines governing domestic surveillance. Many senators weren’t satisfied.

“If you knew that a suspect had made a call into area code 312, the city of Chicago, it certainly defies logic that you’d need to collect all of the telephone calls made in the 312 area code on the chance that one of those persons might be on the other end of the phone,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

For all the escalating angst, any change likely would come gradually if at all. A bipartisan group of eight senators has proposed adding some transparency to the secret court that approves spying, an effort that has picked up little steam.

Feinstein said her committee would assess “what’s come out.” Serious moves also were afoot to try to declassify more material, or at least subject the programs to more scrutiny.

Whether the drumbeat for change will grow next week probably depends on what lawmakers learn as they talk to constituents back home this weekend.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., a House Judiciary Committee member, sent a message to his South Florida constituents Thursday asking for their views. Hundreds have called or written Deutch’s offices this week with a variety of concerns, seeking details about the programs, insisting they’re valuable tools against terrorism and so on. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, also found an uptick in calls and emails, and echoed the thoughts of many colleagues.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there. That gives people additional angst,” he said. “We need to explain this to people.” And then see what people want.

© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

[-] 5 points by MikhailBakunin (13) 1 year ago

I can't believe the people in these surveys that aren't concerned about this. First they've decided that its ok to kill American citizens without trail and now a massive surveillance program directed at public. At what point would they become alarmed?

[-] 0 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

The lack of concern is understandable. People see personal benefit in the perceived safety offered by government spying. The loss of liberty is viewed as more theoretical. Not saying their views are right, just understandable.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (17972) 1 year ago

"NSA Copies All Internet Data, Creates Dossiers on Every User", by J.P. Hicks :

(June 16, 2013 "Information Clearing House'') -

The Associated Press dropped a bombshell report yesterday that claims the NSA's secret Internet spy program Prism is just a small part of a much more "expansive and intrusive" digital spying effort.

According to the AP, the NSA copies ALL INTERNET traffic in and out of the United States for analysis by hoovering all data that passes through fiber lines.

"Tapping into those cables allows the NSA access to monitor emails, telephone calls, video chats, websites, bank transactions and more. It takes powerful computers to decrypt, store and analyze all this information, but the information is all there, zipping by at the speed of light," AP reports.

Prism was originally thought to be a program to force Internet companies to hand over private user data to the government. But it turns out that Prism is actually a filtering tool to "make sense of the cacophony of the Internet's raw feed...Prism takes large beams of data and helps the government find discrete, manageable strands of information."

It then manages those strands of data by creating dossiers on every Internet user, providing the government with "names, addresses, conversation histories and entire archives of email inboxes."

And, of course, all of this data is collected and kept on innocent people without a warrant or any probable cause.

This explosive report comes the same day that the NSA held a classified briefing for members of Congress where they admit to listening to phone calls within the United States without a warrant.

CNET reports:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."

If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Nadler told CNET that the "same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages."

In other words, the NSA claims the authority to listen to any call or read any email based on the whims of an analyst, not a court order based on probable cause.

This is precisely the power Edward Snowden, as an analyst working for the private NSA contract Booz Allen Hamilton, claimed to have in his interview with The Guardian.

All of these recent revelations seem to confirm the worst fears of civil liberties groups. The American government is indeed listening to our phone calls and reading our emails without a warrant and little to no oversight to how this information is accessed or used.

What's even worse, they're building dossiers on all Americans to be tapped whenever one of the hundreds of thousands of analysts decides to, and all of it occurs in secret.

This is perhaps the most egregious breach of the public's trust in the history of the United States. The government operates with complete secrecy while knowing all private information about its citizens.

Weren't we supposed to have a transparent government with individual privacy for citizens?

~

veritas vos liberabit et ... fuck 'em !!! & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-l91O9VxN0 ~*~

~

J.P. Hicks is an entrepreneur, info-activist, pro blogger, editor of BlogTips.com and author of Secrets to Making Money with a Free Blog. Follow @ Twitter, or like on Facebook.

Sources:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/secret-prism-success-even-bigger-data-seizure

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57589495-38/nsa-admits-listening-to-u.s-phone-calls-without-warrants/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

[Item copied verbatim under 'Fair Use' from : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35304.htm ]

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