Archive for June 7th, 2013

It might be quicker to list the people that the US government is not tracking

As if the recent scandal surrounding the US Government’s Department Of Justice going judge shopping in order to find a judge who would agree to let them obtain the phone records of Associated Press and Fox News reporters with dubious reasoning wasn’t bad enough, now it turns out that the National Security Agency has been secretly obtaining the call records of millions of Verizon customers. Verizon is one of the largest telecommunication companies in the United States.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The National Security Agency has been collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order, according to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, the newspaper reported Wednesday. The order requires Verizon, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies, on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

The newspaper said the document, a copy of which it had obtained, shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens were being collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether they were suspected of any wrongdoing.

(h/t Associated Press via

It’s not surprising that a British newspaper broke this story as many of the stories of problems with ObamaCare and other Obama programs have been broken by British papers, particularly the Daily Mail. What is surprising is that The Guardian broke the story and this is having a follow-on effect. The Guardian, which has been fairly defensive of the Obama administration as part of a broader left-wing agenda, is respected greatly by a paper with a similar ideological bent, The New York Times and thus The New York Times has reported on The Guardian’s report. The New York Times is, for historical reasons, respected by a large section of the American media, possibly a majority, despite its blind spot for the Obama administration, and thus their report on this is being reported on by pretty much every news outlet in the country.

The New York Times has defended the Obama administration time and time again, but has gone to town on the Obama administration and, in particular, Attorney-General Eric Holder, on this story.

The order was sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that regulates domestic surveillance for national security purposes, that allows the government to secretly obtain “tangible things” like a business’s customer records. The provision was expanded by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which Congress enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The order was marked “TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN,” referring to communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets in the federal government, and its disclosure comes amid a furor over the Obama administration’s aggressive tactics in its investigations of leaks.
For several years, two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, have been cryptically warning that the government was interpreting its surveillance powers under that section of the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming to the public if it knew about it.

“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

They added: “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”
The senators were angry because the Obama administration described Section 215 orders as being similar to a grand jury subpoena for obtaining business records, like a suspect’s hotel or credit card records, in the course of an ordinary criminal investigation. The senators said the secret interpretation of the law was nothing like that.

(h/t Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt of The New York Times)

The New York Times also took the opportunity to give the previous Bush administration a whack for creating the provisions of the law under which this mass-collection of personal data has occurred, which is fair enough as there are many parts of the Patriot Act which are objectionable, but it’s interesting that the important part of the article where it is noted that the problem seems to rest with the way the law is being interpreted as opposed to the way in which it is written, is buried in the 2nd half of the article and not near the top where most people might notice it. None-the-less, it is there, and it’s good to see it there.

What I have to wonder is that, seeing as Eric Holder was involved deeply in obtaining the phone records of news reporters and lied to a House Judiciary Committee about it, and The New York Times is making it clear that he has had information about the NSA’s Verizon call records operation, is Eric Holder being set up to take the fall for these scandals and any other scandals which can be linked to him, so that the rest of the Obama administration doesn’t have to be held to account?

The rest of the administration has plenty of other problems at the moment, including the Internal Revenue Service deliberately targeting conservative groups so that it would be harder for them to operate prior to the 2012 election, and the ongoing issue of the altering of talking points about the deadly attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi so that it would seem less serious in the lead-up to the 2012 election, and the role Susan Rice had in the cover-up, a scandal which has been brought back in to the spotlight by Susan Rice’s appointment as National Security Advisor. Then there are the intermittent stories of healthcare costs going up and coverage being limited because of ObamaCare.

With these other scandals swirling, it wouldn’t surprise me if Eric Holder “steps down” soon so that as many scandals as can be tied to him can be swept away, and maybe it can act as a distraction from a few others.

Saying “I told you so” about the awfulness of the Obama administration doesn’t really cut it here because, yes, I was one of the people warning that he and his team were bad news right from the start, but “I told you so” doesn’t fit because I didn’t expect it to be this bad. It worries me that there is still three and a bit years to go until.

Until then, I have to wonder how much more data will be collected about innocent citizens, and for what purpose that information will be used. That shoe hasn’t dropped yet…but when it does, I doubt even I can imagine what awful purpose they have in mind for that information.


June 7th, 2013 at 05:51am


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