Author Topic: they know what you are doing  (Read 126292 times)

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #540 on: March 16, 2015, 08:37:28 AM »

Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret



A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.

Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.

The confidentiality has elevated the stakes in a longstanding debate about the public disclosure of government practices versus law enforcement’s desire to keep its methods confidential. While companies routinely require nondisclosure agreements for technical products, legal experts say these agreements raise questions and are unusual given the privacy and even constitutional issues at stake.

“It might be a totally legitimate business interest, or maybe they’re trying to keep people from realizing there are bigger privacy problems,” said Orin S. Kerr, a privacy law expert at George Washington University. “What’s the secret that they’re trying to hide?”

The issue led to a public dispute three weeks ago in Silicon Valley, where a sheriff asked county officials to spend $502,000 on the technology. The Santa Clara County sheriff, Laurie Smith, said the technology allowed for locating cellphones — belonging to, say, terrorists or a missing person. But when asked for details, she offered no technical specifications and acknowledged she had not seen a product demonstration.

Buying the technology, she said, required the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.

“So, just to be clear,” Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, “we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money,” he continued, but “you can’t tell us more about it.”

The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.

The technology can also capture texts, calls, emails and other data, and prosecutors have received court approval to use it for such purposes.

Cell site simulators are catching on while law enforcement officials are adding other digital tools, like video cameras, license-plate readers, drones, programs that scan billions of phone records and gunshot detection sensors. Some of those tools have invited resistance from municipalities and legislators on privacy grounds.

The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.

“It’s scanning the area. What is the government doing with that information?” said Linda Lye, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which in 2013 sued the Justice Department to force it to disclose more about the technology. In November, in a response to the lawsuit, the government said it had asked the courts to allow the technology to capture content, not just identify subscriber location.

The nondisclosure agreements make it hard to know how widely the technology has been adopted. But news reports from around the country indicate use by local and state police agencies stretching from Los Angeles to Wisconsin to New York, where the state police use it. Some departments have used it for several years. Money for the devices comes from individual agencies and sometimes, as in the case of Santa Clara County, from the federal government through Homeland Security grants.

Christopher Allen, an F.B.I. spokesman, said “location information is a vital component” of law enforcement. The agency, he said, “does not keep repositories of cell tower data for any purpose other than in connection with a specific investigation.”

A fuller explanation of the F.B.I.’s position is provided in two publicly sworn affidavits about StingRay, including one filed in 2014 in Virginia. In the affidavit, a supervisory special agent, Bradley S. Morrison, said disclosure of the technology’s specifications would let criminals, including terrorists, “thwart the use of this technology.”

“Disclosure of even minor details” could harm law enforcement, he said, by letting “adversaries” put together the pieces of the technology like assembling a “jigsaw puzzle.” He said the F.B.I. had entered into the nondisclosure agreements with local authorities for those reasons. In addition, he said, the technology is related to homeland security and is therefore subject to federal control.

In a second affidavit, given in 2011, the same special agent acknowledged that the device could gather identifying information from phones of bystanders. Such data “from all wireless devices in the immediate area of the F.B.I. device that subscribe to a particular provider may be incidentally recorded, including those of innocent, nontarget devices.”

But, he added, that information is purged to ensure privacy rights.

In December, two senators, Patrick J. Leahy and Charles E. Grassley, sent a letter expressing concerns about the scope of the F.B.I.’s StingRay use to Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, and Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security.
The Harris Corporation declined to comment, according to Jim Burke, a company spokesman. Harris, based in Melbourne, Fla., has $5 billion in annual sales and specializes in communications technology, including battlefield radios.

Jon Michaels, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies government procurement, said Harris’s role with the nondisclosure agreements gave the company tremendous power over privacy policies in the public arena.

“This is like the privatization of a legal regime,” he said. Referring to Harris, he said: “They get to call the shots.”

For instance, in Tucson, a journalist asking the Police Department about its StingRay use was given a copy of a nondisclosure agreement. “The City of Tucson shall not discuss, publish, release or disclose any information pertaining to the product,” it read, and then noted: “Without the prior written consent of Harris.”

The secrecy appears to have unintended consequences. A recent article in The Washington Post detailed how a man in Florida who was accused of armed robbery was located using StingRay.

As the case proceeded, a defense lawyer asked the police to explain how the technology worked. The police and prosecutors declined to produce the machine and, rather than meet a judge’s order that they do so, the state gave the defendant a plea bargain for petty theft.

At the meeting in Santa Clara County last month, the county supervisors voted 4 to 1 to authorize the purchase, but they also voted to require the adoption of a privacy policy.

(Sheriff Smith argued to the supervisors that she had adequately explained the technology and said she resented that Mr. Simitian’s questioning seemed to “suggest we are not mindful of people’s rights and the Constitution.”)

A few days later, the county asked Harris for a demonstration open to county supervisors. The company refused, Mr. Simitian said, noting that “only people with badges” would be permitted. Further, he said, the company declined to provide a copy of the nondisclosure agreement — at least until after the demonstration.

“Not only is there a nondisclosure agreement, for the time being, at least, we can’t even see the nondisclosure agreement,” Mr. Simitian said. “We may be able to see it later, I don’t know.”


A version of this article appears in print on March 16, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

Offline Somamech

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #541 on: March 16, 2015, 09:02:24 AM »
Spaceotter, it would seem this company are behind that little ditto :D

The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.

I kninda of imagine that very rich people get their kick's out of being ultra voyeuristic.  They are as diverted by social media as what people are.. Except they bank serious  coin shaping consciousness :D

Offline Glaucon

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #542 on: March 19, 2015, 06:27:06 PM »
I try not to purport, ever, what Rich elite people's intentions are. I'd be willing to bet it's a whole lot more "topological" and complex then shaping their own market via subverted citizens.

Albeit, I completely understand you, Somamech. I don't believe you meant to over simplify anything.
"The beginning of wisdom comes with the definition of terms" -Socrates

"..that the people being ignorant, and always discontented, to lay the foundation of government in the unsteady opinion and uncertain humour of the people, is to expose it to certain ruin" -Locke

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #543 on: March 24, 2015, 07:50:49 PM »

this will probably not pass.. but good try..?

Bipartisan Bill Would Repeal Patriot Act To End Government Spying On Americans

 The Huffington Post    |  By  Lydia O'Connor   
  Posted:  03/24/2015 8:20 pm EDT    Updated:  1 hour ago

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress Tuesday would end government spying on ordinary Americans by repealing the Patriot Act as advocates rush to reauthorize the law's most controversial provisions before a June deadline.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act, introduced by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), would overturn the 2001 Patriot Act that allowed for mass government surveillance in the name of anti-terrorism and the destruction of any information collected under it. The bill also would repeal the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which allows Internet spying, and would stop the government from forcing tech manufacturers to compromise encryption or privacy features to allow spying on their devices. Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, who exposed the National Security Agency's mass surveillance in 2013, would have additional protections.

"Revelations about the NSA's programs reveal the extraordinary extent to which the program has invaded Americans' privacy," Pocan said in a press release. "I reject the notion that we must sacrifice liberty for security -- we can live in a secure nation which also upholds a strong commitment to civil liberties. This legislation ends the NSA's dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change."

The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress, The Hill notes, as milder bills aimed at the Patriot Act in recent years haven't mustered enough votes to move forward.

Meanwhile, the provision of the Patriot Act that gives the NSA legal authority to carry out its phone data dragnet is set to expire June 1. While anti-surveillance members of Congress likely don't have the votes to extinguish the program, they may be able to shift the collection of phone records to communication companies from the NSA


By Steven Nelson

March 24, 2015 | 6:29 p.m. EDT

As the expiration of controversial Patriot Act provisions nears, anti-mass surveillance congressmen and privacy advocates are pushing for wholesale repeal of that 2001 law.

“We need to repeal all of this junk and just start over,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill briefing geared toward congressional staffers.

Massie is working with Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., to rally support for a bill that would do just that.

The bill, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, would abolish the entire Patriot Act and the FISA Amendment Act of 2008, which gave legal footing to more ambitious Bush administration surveillance programs.

[RELATED: Months After Appeals Argued, NSA Cases Twist in the Wind]

“This isn’t just tinkering around the edges," Pocan told about two dozen event attendees.

The bill would require warrants for collecting Americans’ communications, attempt to restrain mass surveillance of Americans under Executive Order 12333 and ban spy agencies from foisting surveillance-enabling product redesigns on tech companies, a reform that passed the House 293-123 last year before being cut from a large spending bill by congressional leaders.

Massie said the bill would significantly enhance whistleblower protections, meaning “the next Edward Snowden doesn’t need to go to Russia or Hong Kong.”

Snowden, a former contractor who exposed vast U.S. phone and Internet surveillance beginning in June 2013, “couldn’t have come to me legally and exposed it to me," Massie said. His only option would have been to speak with intelligence committee members sympathetic to the programs, he said, “[and] they’d probably take him right to jail.”

[EARLIER: NSA Restrictions Pass House by Large Margin]

Massie scoffed at what he sees as fear-mongering from executive branch officials who, he says, actually hold up photos of the twin towers burning while lobbying against mass surveillance reform in closed congressional hearings.

An earlier version of the surveillance-repealing package was introduced in 2013 by Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who has since left Congress.

On hand to sell the bill Tuesday were policy advocates who promised pressure on members and who attempted to make staffers comfortable with the idea of wholesale repeals.

Cato Institute policy analyst Patrick Eddington, a former Holt aide, said it was time to “raise the bar on what constitutes reform.”

[READ: Whistleblower Debates Top Spy Lawyer Over Surveillance Order ]

Eddington said it was “very disturbing” that NSA officials exaggerated the usefulness of programs such as the dragnet collection of U.S. phone records immediately after Snowden’s first leaks, and he questioned whether anything in the Patriot Act prevented a terror attack.

Panels probing 9/11 found a lack of information-sharing, not information itself, he said. NSA spy programs, Eddington reminded staffers, did not prevent jihadis from bombing the 2013 Boston Marathon, murdering 13 troops at Fort Hood in 2009 or from boarding and attempting to bomb aircraft with explosives hidden in underwear and shoes.

CREDO Mobile campaign manager Zach Malitz said that as the Patriot Act provisions’ June expiration approaches, “the Obama administration will put overwhelming pressure” on lawmakers to renew spy authorities, likely with a few “flimsy superficial reforms.”

Malitz said the bill would be an “enormous step in the right direction” and that CREDO – a phone company that also runs a large progressive advocacy group – will continue to oppose legislation that it sees as giving the mere appearance of reform, singling out last year’s USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the bulk phone record program but renewed Patriot Act provisions.

[ALSO: Lawmakers Push to Block Warrantless Harvest of Your Emails, Location Data]

Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, pitched the legislation to staffers as “institutional self-protection” for the legislative branch, noting Patriot Act sponsor Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and others say they first learned from Snowden of certain NSA surveillance programs allegedly allowed under their legislation.

Editorial cartoon on NSA phone call collection

See Photos

Editorial Cartoons on the NSA

Norman Singleton, vice president of policy at the Campaign for Liberty and congressional aide to former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, suggested if any Senate staffers were in attendance they should talk their bosses into pushing a companion bill.

When the Patriot Act passed, Singleton recalled, “nobody read the bill [and] nobody cared.” The Department of Justice, he said, “took their wish list off the shelf and packaged it as counterterrorism


H.R.1466 - To repeal the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and for other purposes.
114th Congress (2015-2016) | Get alerts 

Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2] (Introduced 03/19/2015)

House - Armed Services; Education and the Workforce; Energy and Commerce; Financial Services; Foreign Affairs; Intelligence (Permanent); Judiciary; Transportation and Infrastructure

Latest Action:
03/19/2015 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Energy and Commerce, Education and the Workforce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

Summary: H.R.1466 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)All Bill Information (Except Text)

A summary is in progress.


this one didn't work...sigh

H.R.2818 - Surveillance State Repeal Act
113th Congress (2013-2014)

Rep. Holt, Rush [D-NJ-12] (Introduced 07/24/2013)

House - Armed Services; Education and the Workforce; Energy and Commerce; Financial Services; Foreign Affairs; Intelligence (Permanent); Judiciary; Transportation and Infrastructure

Latest Action:
09/13/2013 Referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

Summary: H.R.2818 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)All Bill Information (Except Text)

There is one summary for this bill. Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Introduced in House (07/24/2013)

Surveillance State Repeal Act - Repeals the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (thereby restoring or reviving provisions amended or repealed by such Acts as if such Acts had not been enacted), except with respect to reports to Congress regarding court orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and the acquisition of intelligence information concerning an entity not substantially composed of U.S. persons that is engaged in the international proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Extends from 7 to 10 years the maximum term of FISA judges. Makes such judges eligible for redesignation.

Permits FISA courts to appoint special masters to advise on technical issues raised during proceedings.

Requires orders approving certain electronic surveillance to direct that, upon request of the applicant, any person or entity must furnish all information, facilities, or technical assistance necessary to accomplish such surveillance in a manner to protect its secrecy and produce a minimum of interference with the services that such carrier, landlord, custodian, or other person is providing the target of such surveillance (thereby retaining the ability to conduct surveillance on such targets regardless of the type of communications methods or devices being used by the subject of the surveillance).

Prohibits information relating to a U.S. person from being acquired pursuant to FISA without a valid warrant based on probable cause.

Prohibits the federal government from requiring manufacturers of electronic devices and related software to build in mechanisms allowing the federal government to bypass encryption or privacy technology.

Directs the Comptroller General (GAO) to report annually on the federal government's compliance with FISA.

Permits an employee of or contractor to an element of the intelligence community with knowledge of FISA-authorized programs and activities to submit a covered complaint to the Comptroller General, to the House or Senate intelligence committees, or in accordance with a process under the National Security Act of 1947 with respect to reports made to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. Defines a "covered complaint" as a complaint or information concerning FISA-authorized programs and activities that an employee or contractor reasonably believes is evidence of: (1) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or (2) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. Subjects an officer or employee of an element of the intelligence community to administrative sanctions, including termination, for taking retaliatory action against an employee or contractor who seeks to disclose, or who discloses, such information.

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #544 on: March 26, 2015, 08:02:31 AM »

geeeeeeeze...!!!! :(

Report: Radio Shack To Sell Customers’ Personal Information In Bankruptcy Sale

March 25, 2015 5:18 PM
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When you go shopping, you probably think stores will keep your personal information safe and secure.

But now, a report says Radio Shack is ready to auction off customer information as part of its bankruptcy sale.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the report says Radio Shack is ready to sell information they have on some 117 million customers, including names, addresses, phone numbers and other details on purchases.

This despite the Radio Shack privacy policy, which says “We will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time.”

And some consumer experts say what Radio Shack is doing is nothing new.

“People are looking at Radio Shack now and they are gonna vilify Radio Shack,” said consumer expert Paul Viollis. “But at the end of the day, Radio Shack isn’t doing anything all other major corporations haven’t been doing for many years.”

But states are lining up against the move. The Texas attorney general has filed an objection to the sale.

And now, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a statement, saying “When a company collects private customer data on the condition that it will not be resold, it is the company’s responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain.”

So while this may become a legal battle, consumers are left wondering what they can do to protect their information.

Viollis says, just say no.

“When you go shopping the proprietor is not entitled to any personal information outside of the information you need to effect that transaction,” he said. “So if they are going to ask you anything additional, the answer is absolutely not.”

Schneiderman says his office will continue to follow the Radio Shack bankruptcy and whether it auctions off private data.

Schneiderman says he’s committed to taking appropriate action to protect consumers.

Offline zorgon

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #545 on: March 26, 2015, 03:14:24 PM »
I went into a Sears store to but a table saw. I paid cash.  Clerk asked for my name and zip code. I said "Why? I paid cash"  They insisted got rude. Called for a manager and he finally said they just needed a name for will call to pick up the item from the back...

He apologized for the clerk's attitude and I said okay  my name is George  :P  Picked up my saw

How many people will give a retailer personal ID so they can track your purchases?  Uhaul has every rental I ever made since I moved to Vegas on file  (Yes it does give me benefits too :P )

Blockbuster movie rentals wanted a credit card on file... I asked where they store that info. They showed me a record book that was kept under the counter for any clerk to reference. I said no thanks and went to Hollywood

Blockbuster is now out of business  I wonder why?

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #546 on: March 26, 2015, 03:24:00 PM »

yeah I had that happen a month ago.. big ticket item.. used gift cards
same thing they wanted my name and address...I said no..the guy very nicely says.. we need it for our records..
I said..ok mary smith and use the phone number and address for this store.. cause it's going home with me..
he started to laugh and said.. good one,  boy are they going to freak when they see this

I only needed the bar cdoe on the reciept to pick it up.

it was a long time before I had hubby trained to say to the nice clerk asking for personal info.. 'we don't give that info out, thank you"
but he still feels bad.. ::)
so I told him to just make something up...he can'

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #547 on: March 29, 2015, 08:41:15 AM »

Before Edward Snowden Leaks, NSA Mulled Ending Phone Program

AP      |  By By KEN DILANIAN 
   Posted:  03/29/2015 8:06 am EDT    Updated:  28 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency considered abandoning its secret program to collect and store American calling records in the months before leaker Edward Snowden revealed the practice, current and former intelligence officials say, because some officials believed the costs outweighed the meager counterterrorism benefits.

After the leak and the collective surprise around the world, NSA leaders strongly defended the phone records program to Congress and the public, but without disclosing the internal debate.

The proposal to kill the program was circulating among top managers but had not yet reached the desk of Gen. Keith Alexander, then the NSA director, according to current and former intelligence officials who would not be quoted because the details are sensitive. Two former senior NSA officials say they doubt Alexander would have approved it.

Still, the behind-the-scenes NSA concerns, which have not been reported previously, could be relevant as Congress decides whether to renew or modify the phone records collection when the law authorizing it expires in June.

The internal critics pointed out that the already high costs of vacuuming up and storing the "to and from" information from nearly every domestic landline call were rising, the system was not capturing most cellphone calls, and program was not central to unraveling terrorist plots, the officials said. They worried about public outrage if the program ever was revealed.

After the program was disclosed, civil liberties advocates attacked it, saying the records could give a secret intelligence agency a road map to Americans' private activities. NSA officials presented a forceful rebuttal that helped shaped public opinion.

Responding to widespread criticism, President Barack Obama in January 2014 proposed that the NSA stop collecting the records, but instead request them when needed in terrorism investigations from telephone companies, which tend to keep them for 18 months.

Yet the president has insisted that legislation is required to adopt his proposal, and Congress has not acted. So the NSA continues to collect and store records of private U.S. phone calls for use in terrorism investigations under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Many lawmakers want the program to continue as is.

Alexander argued that the program was an essential tool because it allows the FBI and the NSA to hunt for domestic plots by searching American calling records against phone numbers associated with international terrorists. He and other NSA officials support Obama's plan to let the phone companies keep the data, as long as the government quickly can search it.

Civil liberties activists say it was never a good idea to allow a secret intelligence agency to store records of Americans' private phone calls, and some are not sure the government should search them in bulk. They say government can point to only a single domestic terrorism defendant who was implicated by a phone records search under the program, a San Diego taxi driver who was convicted of raising $15,000 for a Somali terrorist group.

Some fault NSA for failing to disclose the internal debate about the program.

"This is consistent with our experience with the intelligence community," said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. "Even when we have classified briefings, it's like a game of 20 questions and we can't get to the bottom of anything."

The proposal to halt phone records collection that was circulating in 2013 was separate from a 2009 examination of the program by NSA, sparked by objections from a senior NSA official, reported in November by The Associated Press. In that case, a senior NSA code breaker learned about the program and concluded it was wrong for the agency to collect and store American records. The NSA enlisted the Justice Department in an examination of whether the search function could be preserved with the records stores by the phone companies.

That would not work without a change in the law, the review concluded. Alexander, who retired in March 2014, opted to continue the program as is.

But the internal debate continued, current and former officials say, and critics within the NSA pressed their case against the program. To them, the program had become an expensive insurance policy with an increasing number of loopholes, given the lack of mobile data. They also knew it would be deeply controversial if made public.

By 2013, some NSA officials were ready to stop the bulk collection even though they knew they would lose the ability to search a database of U.S. calling records. As always, the FBI still would be able to obtain the phone records of suspects through a court order.

There was a precedent for ending collection cold turkey. Two years earlier, the NSA cited similar cost-benefit calculations when it stopped another secret program under which it was collecting Americans' email metadata — information showing who was communicating with whom, but not the content of the messages. That decision was made public via the Snowden leaks.

Alexander believed that the FBI and the NSA were still getting crucial value out of the phone records program, in contrast to the email records program, former NSA officials say.

After the Snowden leaks, independent experts who looked at the program didn't agree. A presidential task force examined NSA surveillance and recommended ending the phone records collection, saying it posed unacceptable privacy risks while doing little if anything to stop terrorism. The task force included Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, and Richard Clarke, a former White House counter terrorism adviser.

"We cannot discount the risk, in light of the lessons of our own history, that at some point in the future, high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking," the report said. Times, dates and numbers called can provide a window into a person's activities and connections.

A separate inquiry by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded the same thing.

David Medine, chairman of that board, said the concerns raised internally by NSA officials were the same as theirs, yet when NSA officials came before the privacy board, they "put on a pretty strong defense for the program. Except their success stories didn't pan out," he said.

Offline zorgon

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #548 on: March 29, 2015, 11:26:07 AM »
Still, the behind-the-scenes NSA concerns, which have not been reported previously, could be relevant as Congress decides whether to renew or modify the phone records collection when the law authorizing it expires in June.

Sigh....  The Secret Space Program expose credit goes to Gary McKinnon  a buffoon who only spouted what he heard on the internet and snooped on NASA computers that had no passwords and likely saw a screen savers of a spaceship :P He captured NOTHING  He remembered NOTHING  he produced NOTHING yet he is a hero

Before Ed Snowden there was Pegasus and Cryptome who told yawl about the NSA phone monitoring. We provided direct links to MOUS (cell phone monitoring stations) and ECHELON stations including military links and Code names   Even Walt Handlesman made a cartoon back in 2006 

The internet audience is fickle and has short term memory. They also forget that long before Snowden the government approved a ruling to force IP providerd to watch and report on yawl


Offline zorgon

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #549 on: March 29, 2015, 11:36:54 AM »
One one of the many computers that store all your info  :D 


space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #550 on: April 06, 2015, 03:30:59 PM »

Edward Snowden Explains How The Government Can Get Your 'Dick Pic' During Interview With John Oliver

 The Huffington Post    |  By  Igor Bobic   
Posted:  04/06/2015 12:32 am EDT    Updated:  04/06/2015 10:59 am EDT


Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sat down for an interview with comedian John Oliver nearly two years after he leaked classified documents about U.S. government surveillance programs and fled to Russia to escape prosecution.

"I do miss my country. I do miss my home. I do miss my family," Snowden said.

Oliver, the host of HBO's "Last Week Tonight," encouraged Snowden to explain bulk surveillance in colloquial terms so the general public could better understand it. He showed Snowden a video of Americans who were concerned that the government improperly intercepted nude photos, or "dick pics," as part of its mass surveillance programs.


"The good news is that there's no program named the 'dick pic' program. The bad news... they are still collecting everybody's information, including your dick pics," Snowden said while stifling a chuckle.

"If you have your email somewhere like Gmail hosted on a server overseas or transferred overseas or anytime it crosses outside the borders of the United States, your junk ends up in the database," Snowden added.

Snowden then went on to explain the "PRISM" program, which collects data from tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and others.

"PRISM is how they pull your junk out of Google, with Google's involvement," he said. "I guess I never thought about putting it in the context of your junk."

So should Americans stop taking photos of their private parts and sending them online?

"You shouldn't change your behavior because of a government agency somewhere that's doing the wrong thing," Snowden said. "If you sacrifice your values because you're afraid, you don't care about those values very much."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story quoted Snowden as saying PRISM collects data without Google's involvement. He said that Google is involved in the process.

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #551 on: April 07, 2015, 03:38:24 PM »

surprise.. surprise..... :( :P

U.S. secretly tracked billions of calls for decades

 Brad Heath, USA TODAY 6:25 p.m. EDT April 7, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans' international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels' distribution networks in the USA, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers. They also used the records to help rule out foreign ties to the bombing in 1995 of a federal building in Oklahoma City and to identify U.S. suspects in a wide range of other investigations.

The Justice Department revealed in January that the DEA had collected data about calls to "designated foreign countries." But the history and vast scale of that operation have not been disclosed until now.

The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA's intelligence arm, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans' privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago.

More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials described the details of the Justice Department operation to USA TODAY. Most did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the intelligence program, part of which remains classified.

The DEA program did not intercept the content of Americans' calls, but the records — which numbers were dialed and when — allowed agents to map suspects' communications and link them to troves of other police and intelligence data. At first, the drug agency did so with help from military computers and intelligence analysts.

That data collection was "one of the most important and effective Federal drug law enforcement initiatives," the Justice Department said in a 1998 letter to Sprint asking the telecom giant to turn over its call records. The previously undisclosed letter was signed by the head of the department's Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, Mary Lee Warren, who wrote that the operation had "been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority," including then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her deputy, Eric Holder.

The data collection began in 1992 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, nine years before his son, President George W. Bush, authorized the NSA to gather its own logs of Americans' phone calls in 2001. It was approved by top Justice Department officials in four presidential administrations and detailed in occasional briefings to members of Congress but otherwise had little independent oversight, according to officials involved with running it.

The DEA used its data collection extensively and in ways that the NSA is now prohibited from doing. Agents gathered the records without court approval, searched them more often in a day than the spy agency does in a year and automatically linked the numbers the agency gathered to large electronic collections of investigative reports, domestic call records accumulated by its agents and intelligence data from overseas.

The result was "a treasure trove of very important information on trafficking," former DEA administrator Thomas Constantine said in an interview.

The extent of that surveillance alarmed privacy advocates, who questioned its legality. "This was aimed squarely at Americans," said Mark Rumold, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "That's very significant from a constitutional perspective."

Holder halted the data collection in September 2013 amid the fallout from Snowden's revelations about other surveillance programs. In its place, current and former officials said the drug agency sends telecom companies daily subpoenas for international calling records involving only phone numbers that agents suspect are linked to the drug trade or other crimes — sometimes a thousand or more numbers a day.

Tuesday, Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said the DEA "is no longer collecting bulk telephony metadata from U.S. service providers." A DEA spokesman declined to comment.


The DEA began assembling a data-gathering program in the 1980s as the government searched for new ways to battle Colombian drug cartels. Neither informants nor undercover agents had been enough to crack the cartels' infrastructure. So the agency's intelligence arm turned its attention to the groups' communication networks.

Calling records – often called "toll records" – offered one way to do that. Toll records are comparable to what appears on a phone bill – the numbers a person dialed, the date and time of the call, its duration and how it was paid for. By then, DEA agents had decades of experience gathering toll records of people they suspected were linked to drug trafficking, albeit one person at a time. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, officials said the agency had little way to make sense of the data their agents accumulated and almost no ability to use them to ferret out new cartel connections. Some agents used legal pads.

"We were drowning in toll records," a former intelligence official said.

The DEA asked the Pentagon for help. The military responded with a pair of supercomputers and intelligence analysts who had experience tracking the communication patterns of Soviet military units. "What they discovered was that the incident of a communication was perhaps as important as the content of a communication," a former Justice Department official said.

The military installed the supercomputers on the fifth floor of the DEA's headquarters, across from a shopping mall in Arlington, Va.

The system they built ultimately allowed the drug agency to stitch together huge collections of data to map trafficking and money laundering networks both overseas and within the USA. It allowed agents to link the call records its agents gathered domestically with calling data the DEA and intelligence agencies had acquired outside the USA. (In some cases, officials said the DEA paid employees of foreign telecom firms for copies of call logs and subscriber lists.) And it eventually allowed agents to cross-reference all of that against investigative reports from the DEA, FBI and Customs Service.

The result "produced major international investigations that allowed us to take some big people," Constantine said, though he said he could not identify particular cases.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush proposed in his first prime-time address using "sophisticated intelligence-gathering and Defense Department technology" to disrupt drug trafficking. Three years later, when violent crime rates were at record highs, the drug agency intensified its intelligence push, launching a "kingpin strategy" to attack drug cartels by going after their finances, leadership and communication.


In 1992, in the last months of Bush's administration, Attorney General William Barr and his chief criminal prosecutor, Robert Mueller, gave the DEA permission to collect a much larger set of phone data to feed into that intelligence operation.

Instead of simply asking phone companies for records about calls made by people suspected of drug crimes, the Justice Department began ordering telephone companies to turn over lists of all phone calls from the USA to countries where the government determined drug traffickers operated, current and former officials said.

Barr and Mueller declined to comment, as did Barr's deputy, George Terwilliger III, though Terwilliger said, "It has been apparent for a long time in both the law enforcement and intelligence worlds that there is a tremendous value and need to collect certain metadata to support legitimate investigations."

The data collection was known within the agency as USTO (a play on the fact that it tracked calls from the U.S. to other countries).

The DEA obtained those records using administrative subpoenas that allow the agency to collect records "relevant or material to" federal drug investigations. Officials acknowledged it was an expansive interpretation of that authority but one that was not likely to be challenged because unlike search warrants, DEA subpoenas do not require a judge's approval. "We knew we were stretching the definition," a former official involved in the process said.

Officials said a few telephone companies were reluctant to provide so much information, but none challenged the subpoenas in court. Those that hesitated received letters from the Justice Department urging them to comply.

After Sprint executives expressed reservations in 1998, for example, Warren, the head of the department's drug section, responded with a letter telling the company that "the initiative has been determined to be legally appropriate" and that turning over the call data was "appropriate and required by law." The letter said the data would be used by authorities "to focus scarce investigative resources by means of sophisticated pattern and link analysis."

The letter did not name other telecom firms providing records to the DEA but did tell executives that "the arrangement with Sprint being sought by the DEA is by no means unique to Sprint" and that "major service providers have been eager to support and assist law enforcement within appropriate bounds." Former officials said the operation included records from AT&T and other telecom companies.

A spokesman for AT&T declined to comment. Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge Walsh said only that "we do comply with all state and federal laws regarding law enforcement subpoenas."

Agents said that when the data collection began, they sought to limit its use mainly to drug investigations and turned away requests for access from the FBI and the NSA. They allowed searches of the data in terrorism cases, including the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people in 1995, helping to rule out theories linking the attack to foreign terrorists. They allowed even broader use after Sept. 11, 2001. The DEA's public disclosure of its program in January came in the case of a man charged with violating U.S. export restrictions by trying to send electrical equipment to Iran.

At first, officials said the DEA gathered records only of calls to a handful of countries, focusing on Colombian drug cartels and their supply lines. Its reach grew quickly, and by the late 1990s, the DEA was logging "a massive number of calls," said a former intelligence official who supervised the program.

Former officials said they could not recall the complete list of countries included in USTO, and the coverage changed over time. The Justice Department and DEA added countries to the list if officials could establish that they were home to outfits that produced or trafficked drugs or were involved in money laundering or other drug-related crimes.

The Justice Department warned when it disclosed the program in January that the list of countries should remain secret "to protect against any disruption to prospective law enforcement cooperation."

At its peak, the operation gathered data on calls to 116 countries, an official involved in reviewing the list said. Two other officials said they did not recall the precise number of countries, but it was more than 100. That gave the collection a considerable sweep; the U.S. government recognizes a total of 195 countries.

At one time or another, officials said, the data collection covered most of the countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as others in western Africa, Europe and Asia. It included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Italy, Mexico and Canada.

The DEA often — though not always — notified foreign governments it was collecting call records, in part to make sure its agents would not be expelled if the program was discovered. In some cases, the DEA provided some of that information to foreign law enforcement agencies to help them build their own investigations, officials said.

The DEA did not have a real-time connection to phone companies' data; instead, the companies regularly provided copies of their call logs, first on computer disks and later over a private network. Agents who used the system said the numbers they saw were seldom more than a few days old.

The database did not include callers' names or other identifying data. Officials said agents often were able to identify individuals associated with telephone numbers flagged by the analysis, either by cross-referencing them against other databases or by sending follow-up requests to the phone companies.

To keep the program secret, the DEA sought not to use the information as evidence in criminal prosecutions or in its justification for warrants or other searches. Instead, its Special Operations Division passed the data to field agents as tips to help them find new targets or focus existing investigations, a process approved by Justice Department lawyers. Many of those tips were classified because the DEA phone searches drew on other intelligence data.

That practice sparked a furor when the Reuters news agency reported in 2013 that the DEA trained agents to conceal the sources of those tips from judges and defense lawyers. Reuters said the tips were based on wiretaps, foreign intelligence and a DEA database of telephone calls gathered through routine subpoenas and search warrants.

As a result, "the government short-circuited any debate about the legality and wisdom of putting the call records of millions of innocent people in the hands of the DEA," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Patrick Toomey said.

Listen to Brad Heath detail his investigation into decades of bulk data collection in the audio player below:

go to link to listen


The NSA began collecting its own data on Americans' phone calls within months of Sept. 11, 2001, as a way to identify potential terrorists within the USA. At first, it did so without court approval. In 2006, after The New York Times and USA TODAY began reporting on the surveillance program, President George W. Bush's administration brought it under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to use secret court orders to get access to records relevant to national security investigations. Unlike the DEA, the NSA also gathered logs of calls within the USA.

The similarities between the NSA program and the DEA operation established a decade earlier are striking – too much so to have been a coincidence, people familiar with the programs said. Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said, "It's very hard to see (the DEA operation) as anything other than the precursor" to the NSA's terrorist surveillance.

Both operations relied on an expansive interpretation of the word "relevant," for example — one that allowed the government to collect vast amounts of information on the premise that some tiny fraction of it would be useful to investigators. Both used similar internal safeguards, requiring analysts to certify that they had "reasonable articulable suspicion" – a comparatively low legal threshold – that a phone number was linked to a drug or intelligence case before they could query the records.

"The foundation of the NSA program was a mirror image of what we were doing," said a former Justice Department official who helped oversee the surveillance. That official said he and others briefed NSA lawyers several times on the particulars of their surveillance program. Two former DEA officials also said the NSA had been briefed on the operation. The NSA declined to comment.

There were also significant differences.

For one thing, DEA analysts queried their data collection far more often. The NSA said analysts searched its telephone database only about 300 times in 2012; DEA analysts routinely performed that many searches in a day, former officials said. Beyond that, NSA analysts must have approval from a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court each time they want to search their own collection of phone metadata, and they do not automatically cross-reference it with other intelligence files.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, complained last year to Holder that the DEA had been gathering phone data "in bulk" without judicial oversight. Officials said the DEA's database was disclosed to judges only occasionally, in classified hearings.

For two decades, it was never reviewed by the Justice Department's own inspector general, which told Congress it is now looking into the DEA's bulk data collections.


Holder pulled the plug on the phone data collection in September 2013.

That summer, Snowden leaked a remarkable series of classified documents detailing some of the government's most prized surveillance secrets, including the NSA's logging of domestic phone calls and Internet traffic. Reuters and The New York Times raised questions about the drug agency's own access to phone records.

Officials said the Justice Department told the DEA that it had determined it could not continue both surveillance programs, particularly because part of its justification for sweeping NSA surveillance was that it served national security interests, not ordinary policing. Eight months after USTO was halted, for example, department lawyers defended the spy agency's phone dragnet in court partly on the grounds that it "serves special governmental needs above and beyond normal law enforcement."

Three months after USTO was shut down, a review panel commissioned by President Obama urged Congress to bar the NSA from gathering telephone data on Americans in bulk. Not long after that, Obama instructed the NSA to get permission from the surveillance court before querying its phone data collection, a step the drug agency never was required to take.

The DEA stopped searching USTO in September 2013. Not long after that, it purged the database.

"It was made abundantly clear that they couldn't defend both programs," a former Justice Department official said. Others said Holder's message was more direct. "He said he didn't think we should have that information," a former DEA official said.

By then, agents said USTO was suffering from diminishing returns. More criminals — especially the sophisticated cartel operatives the agency targeted — were communicating on Internet messaging systems that are harder for law enforcement to track.

Still, the shutdown took a toll, officials said. "It has had a major impact on investigations," one former DEA official said.

The DEA asked the Justice Department to restart the surveillance program in December 2013. It withdrew that request when agents came up with a new solution. Every day, the agency assembles a list of the telephone numbers its agents suspect may be tied to drug trafficking. Each day, it sends electronic subpoenas — sometimes listing more than a thousand numbers — to telephone companies seeking logs of international telephone calls linked to those numbers, two official familiar with the program said.

The data collection that results is more targeted but slower and more expensive. Agents said it takes a day or more to pull together communication profiles that used to take minutes.

The White House proposed a similar approach for the NSA's telephone surveillance program, which is set to expire June 1. That approach would halt the NSA's bulk data collection but would give the spy agency the power to force companies to turn over records linked to particular telephone numbers, subject to a court order.

Follow investigative reporter Brad Heath on Twitter at @bradheath.

another vid

The Justice Department began secretly collecting records of Americans' international phone calls in 1992.

« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 03:51:02 PM by space otter »

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #552 on: May 06, 2015, 07:57:55 PM »
I thought this was interesting but I don't know anything about this source..just sayin

France just passed its own Patriot Act, and civil rights groups aren’t happy

By  Malarie Gokey   — May 5, 2015

America’s controversial Patriot Act and the mass surveillance programs it authorizes — including those run by the National Security Agency (NSA) — is set to expire unless it is renewed by lawmakers. The authorization of metadata collection and virtually unchecked surveillance authority outraged more rights-conscious countries in Europe, including Germany and France. Now, in the wake of the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, France has passed its own version of the Patriot Act, which could give a French government intelligence agency NSA-like powers in the country

The bill was drafted shortly after the deadly attack on the offices of the satirical newspaper and a nearby kosher grocery store rocked Paris, leaving 17 people dead. Much like the Patriot Act, France’s new surveillance law has been deemed “necessary and proportionate” by the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Valls also argues that the law is entirely different from the Patriot Act, and that France’s wiretapping law was so outdated that it was written in 1991 — before cellphones and the Internet became common, the New York Times reports.

However, the bill’s authorization of bulk metadata collection with almost no oversight from the judiciary closely parallels the Patriot Act’s language, which has been used to justify the NSA’s most controversial spying programs in the United States. France’s new bill also gives the government the power to tap cell phones, read emails, and force Internet providers to scan customers’ Internet use for information upon request. Additionally, French intelligence agencies could request the authority to place tiny microphones in rooms, on objects, and add antennas that are capable of capturing phone calls and texts. The bill does not discriminate, either, so both French citizens and tourists could be tapped on demand.

Although the permissions granted by the French bill are extraordinary and very closely match the scope of the NSA’s authority in the U.S., the prime minister assured citizens that it’s approach will be more targeted

The means of surveillance for anticipating, detecting and prevention of attacks will be strictly limited,” Valls said

Of course, civil rights groups, privacy advocates, and others who oppose mass surveillance are quick to point out that bulk metadata collection is by its very nature random and without a clear target.

“It is a state lie,” said Pierre-Olivier Sur, the head of the Paris bar association. “This project was presented to us as a way to protect France against terrorism, and if that were the case, I would back it. But it is being done to put in place a sort of Patriot Act concerning the activities of each and everyone.”

Many French judges, lawyers, technology companies, and news organizations are also firmly against the law. The editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, whose own publication was the victim of the attack that inspired the new surveillance law, spoke out against it.

“I think that opportunistic laws are always bad laws,” Gérard Biard, said in an interview with the New York Times. “I understand the spirit of this law, but I think we already have a lot of laws, and with these laws, if they’re used correctly, you can fight and you can fight terrorism. So I understand the government, you have to do something. The easiest thing to do is to invoke a law. But maybe it’s a mistake, because if this law is not correct, if this law is not fair, it’s not the right answer.”

According to the Guardian, France is keeping tabs on 1,200 Islamists and 200 people who have fought with militant groups in Syria and Iraq in the past. The country has set aside €425 million to bolster its new surveillance program with thousands of police, spies, and investigators whose jobs it will be to sort through intelligence and prevent terrorist attacks.


seems like everybody wants to get in on the act.... ;D

Canadian lawmakers vote to expand spy powers

2 hours ago
Legislation that would dramatically expand the powers of Canada's spy agency has cleared a key hurdle.

The House of Commons on Wednesday approved the Anti-Terror Act, which was spurred by last year's attack on parliament.

The act would give the spy agency the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests.

Dominated by the Conservative party, the Senate is expected to approve the act before June.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a staunch supporter of the bill, which criminalises the promotion of terrorism, including via the internet.

"There is a high probability of jihadist attacks from within," Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney said. "The threat of terrorism has never been greater."

The bill also makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge.
Critics who say the bill is overly broad and lacks oversight had sought to make changes but their attempts failed.

Four former Canadian prime ministers and five justices of the Canadian Supreme Court have written public letters questioning the bill.

"This bill will almost certainly lead to a chill on freedom of speech," said Allan Weiss, professor of humanities at York University. "It is filled with vague wording that would make it possible for the government to label virtually anything it disagreed with as harmful to Canada's national interests."

In October 2014, a gunman shot and killed a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and then attacked Canada's parliament buildings nearby.

Two days before, a man, said to be inspired by the Islamic State group, ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot dead.

Additional reporting by Micah Luxen in Toronto.

« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 08:16:14 PM by space otter »

Offline ArMaP

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #553 on: May 07, 2015, 01:20:28 AM »
France just passed its own Patriot Act, and civil rights groups aren’t happy
I saw something about that yesterday on Euronews, but haven't followed the story.

seems like everybody wants to get in on the act.... ;D
I think one of the reasons behind it is the high commercial value of the metadata they can gather. Sure, the basic reason may be security, but that information is worth millions if sold (even when stripped of identification data) to private companies, and, as we all know, most politicians have connections with private companies.

space otter

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Re: they know what you are doing
« Reply #554 on: May 09, 2015, 08:03:14 PM »

NSA Bulk Data Collection Illegal, U.S. Appeals Court Says

   Posted:  05/07/2015 9:26 am EDT    Updated:  05/07/2015 10:59 pm EDT

* Bulk phone surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013

* Appeals court says Congress did not authorize spy program

* NSA collected "staggering" amount of data -appeals court

* White House and Congress work on an alternative program (Adds comments from Senate minority leader, privacy and data security lawyer)

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, May 7 (Reuters) - A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans' phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end the controversial anti-terrorism surveillance.

Ruling on a program revealed by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans' calling records in bulk.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI's ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a "staggering" amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations.

"Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans," Lynch wrote in a 97-page decision. "We would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language. There is no evidence of such a debate."

The appeals court did not rule on whether the surveillance violated the U.S. Constitution.

It also declined to halt the program, noting that parts of the Patriot Act including Section 215 expire on June 1.

Lynch said it was "prudent" to give Congress a chance to decide what surveillance is permissible, given the national security interests at stake.

Enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act gives the government broad tools to investigate terrorism.

Thursday's decision voided a December 2013 ruling in which U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan found the NSA program lawful. The appeals court sent the case back to him for further review.


Snowden, a former NSA contractor who lives as a fugitive in Russia, in June 2013 exposed the agency's collection of "bulk telephony metadata." This data includes the existence and duration of calls made, but not the content of conversations.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a Senate budget hearing on Thursday that NSA data collection was a "vital tool in our national security arsenal," and that she was unaware of privacy violations under its existing program.

Snowden could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 2nd Circuit is the first federal appeals court to rule on the NSA program's legality. Federal appeals courts in Washington, D.C. and California are also weighing the matter.

While the government could appeal Thursday's decision, it will likely wait for Congress.

If Congress revamps the NSA program, then courts may need to review what it does. And if Congress reauthorizes Section 215, there could be further litigation that may ultimately require the Supreme Court's attention.

Scott Vernick, chair of the privacy and data security practice at Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia, said Congress may struggle to reach a consensus given how "the pendulum in this country is swinging toward privacy."

Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said President Barack Obama wants to end the NSA program, and is encouraged by the "good progress" on Capitol Hill to find an alternative that preserves its "essential capabilities."

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 25-2 to end the bulk collection of telephone data through the USA Freedom Act. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and the White House has signaled support for it.

While a similar bipartisan bill is pending in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, both Republicans, have proposed extending Section 215 and other parts of the Patriot Act through 2020.

Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and Senate minority leader, rejected that alternative, calling it "the height of irresponsibility to extend these illegal spying powers when we could pass bipartisan reform into law instead."

The existing NSA program has repeatedly been approved in secret by a national security court established under a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"FISA has been critically important in keeping us safe in America," McConnell said on Thursday.


Senators from both sides of the aisle, and who are running for president, used Twitter to welcome Thursday's decision.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said "phone records of law abiding citizens are none of the NSA's business!" while Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Democrat, said "the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner."

In upholding the NSA program in 2013, Pauley had called it a government "counter-punch" to terrorism at home and abroad.

Pauley ruled 11 days after U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C. said the "almost Orwellian" program might violate Fourth Amendment limitations on warrantless searches.

Leon issued an injunction to block the program, but put it on hold pending appeal.

While the 2nd Circuit did not resolve the Fourth Amendment issues, Judge Lynch did note the "seriousness" of constitutional concerns over "the extent to which modern technology alters our traditional expectations of privacy."

ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo welcomed Thursday's decision.

"Mass surveillance does not make us any safer, and it is fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society," he said.

The case is American Civil Liberties Union et al v. Clapper et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-42. (Additional reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Mark Hosenball, David Ingram and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool) USA, LLC
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