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Greenwald writes: "Top secret documents obtained by the Guardian illustrate what the Fisa court actually does - and does not do - when purporting to engage in 'oversight' over the NSA's domestic spying."

President Obama has tried to assure us that the FISA court is monitoring the NSA, but documents reveal otherwise. (photo: Reuters)
President Obama has tried to assure us that the FISA court is monitoring the NSA, but documents reveal otherwise. (photo: Reuters)

Documents Reveal Lack of FISA Court Oversight

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

19 June 13


Obama and other NSA defenders insist there are robust limitations on surveillance but the documents show otherwise

ince we began began publishing stories about the NSA's massive domestic spying apparatus, various NSA defenders – beginning with President Obama - have sought to assure the public that this is all done under robust judicial oversight. "When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls," he proclaimed on June 7 when responding to our story about the bulk collection of telephone records, adding that the program is "fully overseen" by "the Fisa court, a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them". Obama told Charlie Rose last night:

"What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a US person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls … by law and by rule, and unless they … go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it's always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause."

The GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, told CNN that the NSA "is not listening to Americans' phone calls. If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law." Talking points issued by the House GOP in defense of the NSA claimed that surveillance law only "allows the Government to acquire foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S.-persons (foreign, non-Americans) located outside the United States."

The NSA's media defenders have similarly stressed that the NSA's eavesdropping and internet snooping requires warrants when it involves Americans. The Washington Post's Charles Lane told his readers: "the government needs a court-issued warrant, based on probable cause, to listen in on phone calls." The Post's David Ignatius told Post readers that NSA internet surveillance "is overseen by judges who sit on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" and is "lawful and controlled". Tom Friedman told New York Times readers that before NSA analysts can invade the content of calls and emails, they "have to go to a judge to get a warrant to actually look at the content under guidelines set by Congress."

This has become the most common theme for those defending NSA surveillance. But these claim are highly misleading, and in some cases outright false.

Top secret documents obtained by the Guardian illustrate what the Fisa court actually does – and does not do – when purporting to engage in "oversight" over the NSA's domestic spying. That process lacks many of the safeguards that Obama, the House GOP, and various media defenders of the NSA are trying to lead the public to believe exist.

No individualized warrants required under 2008 Fisa law

Many of the reasons these claims are so misleading is demonstrated by the law itself. When the original Fisa law was enacted in 1978, its primary purpose was to ensure that the US government would be barred from ever monitoring the electronic communications of Americans without first obtaining an individualized warrant from the Fisa court, which required evidence showing "probable cause" that the person to be surveilled was an agent of a foreign power or terrorist organization.

That was the law which George Bush, in late 2001, violated, when he secretly authorized eavesdropping on the international calls of Americans without any warrants from that court. Rather than act to punish Bush for those actions, the Congress, on a bipartisan basis in 2008, enacted a new, highly diluted Fisa law – the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) – that legalized much of the Bush warrantless NSA program.

Under the FAA, which was just renewed last December for another five years, no warrants are needed for the NSA to eavesdrop on a wide array of calls, emails and online chats involving US citizens. Individualized warrants are required only when the target of the surveillance is a US person or the call is entirely domestic. But even under the law, no individualized warrant is needed to listen in on the calls or read the emails of Americans when they communicate with a foreign national whom the NSA has targeted for surveillance.

As a result, under the FAA, the NSA frequently eavesdrops on Americans' calls and reads their emails without any individualized warrants – exactly that which NSA defenders, including Obama, are trying to make Americans believe does not take place. As Yale Law professor Jack Balkin explained back in 2009:

"The Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, effectively gives the President - now President Obama - the authority to run surveillance programs similar in effect to the warrantless surveillance program [secretly implemented by George Bush in late 2001]. That is because New Fisa no longer requires individualized targets in all surveillance programs. Some programs may be 'vacuum cleaner' programs that listen to a great many different calls (and read a great many e-mails) with any requirement of a warrant directed at a particular person as long as no US person is directly targeted as the object of the program. . . .
"New Fisa authorizes the creation of surveillance programs directed against foreign persons (or rather, against persons believed to be outside the United States) – which require no individualized suspicion of anyone being a terrorist, or engaging in any criminal activity. These programs may inevitably include many phone calls involving Americans, who may have absolutely no connection to terrorism or to Al Qaeda."

As the FAA was being enacted in mid-2008, Professor Balkin explained that "Congress is now giving the President the authority to do much of what he was probably doing (illegally) before".

The ACLU's Deputy Legal Director, Jameel Jaffer, told me this week by email:

"On its face, the 2008 law gives the government authority to engage in surveillance directed at people outside the United States. In the course of conducting that surveillance, though, the government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans. The government often says that this surveillance of Americans' communications is 'incidental', which makes it sound like the NSA's surveillance of Americans' phone calls and emails is inadvertent and, even from the government's perspective, regrettable.
"But when Bush administration officials asked Congress for this new surveillance power, they said quite explicitly that Americans' communications were the communications of most interest to them. See, for example, Fisa for the 21st Century, Hearing Before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 109th Cong. (2006) (statement of Michael Hayden) (stating, in debate preceding passage of FAA's predecessor statute, that certain communications 'with one end in the United States" are the ones "that are most important to us').
The principal purpose of the 2008 law was to make it possible for the government to collect Americans' international communications - and to collect those communications without reference to whether any party to those communications was doing anything illegal. And a lot of the government's advocacy is meant to obscure this fact, but it's a crucial one: The government doesn't need to 'target' Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications."

That's why Democratic senators such as Ron Wyden and Mark Udall spent years asking the NSA: how many Americans are having their telephone calls listened to and emails read by you without individualized warrants? Unlike the current attempts to convince Americans that the answer is "none", the NSA repeatedly refused to provide any answers, claiming that providing an accurate number was beyond their current technological capabilities. Obviously, the answer is far from "none".

Contrary to the claims by NSA defenders that the surveillance being conducted is legal, the Obama DOJ has repeatedly thwarted any efforts to obtain judicial rulings on whether this law is consistent with the Fourth Amendment or otherwise legal. Every time a lawsuit is brought contesting the legality of intercepting Americans' communications without warrants, the Obama DOJ raises claims of secrecy, standing and immunity to prevent any such determination from being made.

The emptiness of 'oversight' from the secret Fisa court

The supposed safeguard under the FAA is that the NSA annually submits a document setting forth its general procedures for how it decides on whom it can eavesdrop without a warrant. The Fisa court then approves those general procedures. And then the NSA is empowered to issue "directives" to telephone and internet companies to obtain the communications for whomever the NSA decides – with no external (i.e. outside the executive branch) oversight – complies with the guidelines it submitted to the court.

In his interview with the president last night, Charlie Rose asked Obama about the oversight he claims exists: "Should this be transparent in some way?" Obama's answer: "It is transparent. That's why we set up the Fisa Court." But as Politico's Josh Gerstein noted about that exchange: Obama was "referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – which carries out its work almost entirely in secret." Indeed, that court's orders are among the most closely held secrets in the US government. That Obama, when asked about transparency, has to cite a court that operates in complete secrecy demonstrates how little actual transparency there is to any this.

The way to bring actual transparency to this process it to examine the relevant Top Secret Fisa court documents. Those documents demonstrate that this entire process is a fig leaf, "oversight" in name only. It offers no real safeguards. That's because no court monitors what the NSA is actually doing when it claims to comply with the court-approved procedures. Once the Fisa court puts its approval stamp on the NSA's procedures, there is no external judicial check on which targets end up being selected by the NSA analysts for eavesdropping. The only time individualized warrants are required is when the NSA is specifically targeting a US citizen or the communications are purely domestic.

When it is time for the NSA to obtain Fisa court approval, the agency does not tell the court whose calls and emails it intends to intercept. It instead merely provides the general guidelines which it claims are used by its analysts to determine which individuals they can target, and the Fisa court judge then issues a simple order approving those guidelines. The court endorses a one-paragraph form order stating that the NSA's process "'contains all the required elements' and that the revised NSA, FBI and CIA minimization procedures submitted with the amendment 'are consistent with the requirements of [50 U.S.C. §1881a(e)] and with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States'". As but one typical example, the Guardian has obtained an August 19, 2010, Fisa court approval from Judge John Bates which does nothing more than recite the statutory language in approving the NSA's guidelines.

Once the NSA has this court approval, it can then target anyone chosen by their analysts, and can even order telecoms and internet companies to turn over to them the emails, chats and calls of those they target. The Fisa court plays no role whatsoever in reviewing whether the procedures it approved are actually complied with when the NSA starts eavesdropping on calls and reading people's emails.

The guidelines submitted by the NSA to the Fisa court demonstrate how much discretion the agency has in choosing who will be targeted. Those guidelines also make clear that, contrary to the repeated assurances from government officials and media figures, the communications of American citizens are – without any individualized warrant – included in what is surveilled.

The specific guidelines submitted by the NSA to the Fisa court in July 2009 – marked Top Secret and signed by Attorney General Eric Holder – state that "NSA determines whether a person is a non-United States person reasonably believed to be outside the United States in light of the totality of the circumstances based on the information available with respect to that person, including information concerning the communications facility or facilities used by that person." It includes information that the NSA analyst uses to make this determination – including IP addresses, statements made by the potential target, and other information in the NSA databases.

The decision to begin listening to someone's phone calls or read their emails is made exclusively by NSA analysts and their "line supervisors". There is no outside scrutiny, and certainly no Fisa court involvement. As the NSA itself explained in its guidelines submitted to the Fisa court:

"Analysts who request tasking will document in the tasking database a citation or citations to the information that led them to reasonably believe that a targeted person is located outside the United States. Before tasking is approved, the database entry for that tasking will be reviewed in order to verify that the database entry contains the necessary citations."

The only oversight for monitoring whether there is abuse comes from the executive branch itself: from the DOJ and Director of National Intelligence, which conduct "periodic reviews … to evaluate the implementation of the procedure." At a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday afternoon, deputy attorney general James Cole testified that every 30 days, the Fisa court is merely given an "aggregate number" of database searches on US domestic phone records.

Warrantless interception of Americans' communications

Obama and other NSA defenders have repeatedly claimed that "nobody" is listening to Americans' telephone calls without first obtaining warrants. This is simply false. There is no doubt that some of the communications intercepted by the NSA under this warrantless scheme set forth in FAA's section 702 include those of US citizens. Indeed, as part of the Fisa court approval process, the NSA submits a separate document, also signed by Holder, which describes how communications of US persons are collected and what is done with them.

One typical example is a document submitted by the NSA in July 2009. In its first paragraph, it purports to set forth "minimization procedures" that "apply to the acquisition, retention, use, and dissemination of non-publicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons that is acquired by targeting non-United States persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States in accordance with section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended."

That document provides that "communications of or concerning United States persons that may be related to the authorized purpose of the acquisition may be forwarded to analytic personnel responsible for producing intelligence information from the collected data." It also states that "such communications or information" - those from US citizens - "may be retained and disseminated" if it meets the guidelines set forth in the NSA's procedures.

Those guidelines specifically address what the NSA does with what it calls "domestic communications", defined as "communications in which the sender and all intended recipients are reasonably believed to be located in the United States at the time of acquisition". The NSA expressly claims the right to store and even disseminate such domestic communication if: (1) "it is reasonably believed to contain significant foreign intelligence information"; (2) "the communication does not contain foreign intelligence information but is reasonably believed to contain evidence of a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed"; or (3) "the communication is reasonably believed to contain technical data base information, as defined in Section 2(i), or information necessary to understand or assess a communications security vulnerability."

Although it refuses to say how many Americans have their communications intercepted without warrants, there can be no question that the NSA does this. That's precisely why they have created elaborate procedures for what they do when they end up collecting Americans' communications without warrants.

Vast discretion vested in NSA analysts

The vast amount of discretion vested in NSA analysts is also demonstrated by the training and briefings given to them by the agency. In one such briefing from an official with the NSA's general counsel's office - a top secret transcript of which was obtained by the Guardian, dated 2008 and then updated for 2013 - NSA analysts are told how much the new Fisa law diluted the prior standards and how much discretion they now have in deciding whose communications to intercept:

"The court gets to look at procedures for saying that there is a reasonable belief for saying that a target is outside of the United States. Once again - a major change from the targeting under Fisa. Under Fisa you had to have probable cause to believe that the target was a foreign power or agent of a foreign power. Here all you need is a reasonable belief that the target is outside of the United States ...
"Now, all kinds of information can be used to this end. There's a list in the targeting procedures: phone directories, finished foreign intelligence, NSA technical analysis of selectors, lead information. Now, you don't have to check a box in every one of those categories. But you have to look at everything you've got and make a judgment. Looking at everything, do you have a reasonable belief that your target is outside the United States? So, cast your search wide. But don't feel as though you have to have something in every category. In the end, what matters is, 'Does all that add up to a reasonable belief that your target is outside the United States?'"

So vast is this discretion that NSA analysts even have the authority to surveil communications between their targets and their lawyers, and that information can be not just stored but also disseminated. NSA procedures do not ban such interception, but rather set forth procedures to be followed in the event that the NSA analyst believes they should be "disseminated".

The decisions about who has their emails and telephone calls intercepted by the NSA is made by the NSA itself, not by the Fisa court, except where the NSA itself concludes the person is a US citizen and/or the communication is exclusively domestic. But even in such cases, the NSA often ends up intercepting those communications of Americans without individualized warrants, and all of this is left to the discretion of the NSA analysts with no real judicial oversight.

Legal constraints v technical capabilities

What is vital to recognize is that the NSA is collecting and storing staggering sums of communications every day. Back in 2010, the Washington Post reported that "every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications." Documents published by the Guardian last week detail that, in March 2013, the NSA collected three billions of pieces of intelligence just from US communications networks alone.

In sum, the NSA is vacuuming up enormous amounts of communications involving ordinary Americans and people around the world who are guilty of nothing. There are some legal constraints governing their power to examine the content of those communications, but there are no technical limits on the ability either of the agency or its analysts to do so. The fact that there is so little external oversight is what makes this sweeping, suspicion-less surveillance system so dangerous. It's also what makes the assurances from government officials and their media allies so dubious.

A senior US intelligence official told the Guardian: "Under section 702, the Fisa court has to approve targeting and minimization procedures adopted by the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence."

"The targeting procedures ensure that the targets of surveillance are reasonably believed to be non-US persons outside of the US", the official added.

"Moreover, decisions about targeting are memorialized, reviewed on a regular basis and audited. Moreover, Congress clearly understood that even when the government is targeting foreign persons for collection, communications of US persons may be acquired if those persons are in communication with the foreign targets, for example as was testified to in today's hearing when Najibullah Zazi communicated with a foreign terrorist whose communications were being targeted under Section 702.

"That," the official continued, "is why the statute requires that there be minimization procedures to ensure that when communications of, or concerning, US persons are acquired in the course of lawful collection under Section 702, that information is minimized and is retained and disseminated only when appropriate. These procedures are approved on an annual basis by the Fisa court.

"Compliance with them is extensively overseen by the intelligence community, the DOJ, the ODNI and Inspectors General," the official said. "Both the Fisa court and Congress receive regular reports on compliance." your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

+19 # Brian Flaherty 2013-06-19 09:03
Good article. . .

On the same topic. . .Obama's recent "interview" on Charlie Rose's "SHOW" [Rose often is more an entertainer and showman than a "hard-hitting newsman"] was a classic liar's exhibition! Rose gave the appearance of doing a Mike Wallace-type interview; however, he sat and smiled as Obama stumbled and hem-hawed through statement after statement of lies, untruths, "blurbs" designed to give the appearance of "transparency!" Richard Nixon would have been proud of him!!! [Harry Truman once said about Nixon: "He's the only man I ever met who could lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time!" Obama must be channeling Tricky Dick because he has apparently mastered the same ability!]

The interesting thing about the Rose-Obama "Great Moment" was how hesitant and "unsure" the Great Speechifier appeared. . .in contrast to other "great moments" on the podium!
-17 # 2013-06-19 13:23
Oh ye of such cynicism and agenda. I know when I suggest the reason for President Obama's caution in answering, you will dismiss it eagerly and with glee but first of all, your snide put-down of Charlie Rose gives your prejudice away. Any president, no matter which party, when speaking of such a sensitive subject BETTER be cautious in how he answers these questions. Ultimately I am thrilled we have a president who actually THINKS and responds thoughtfully and with vast knowledge rather than your man who preceded President Obama, who shot from the hip and didn't have the ability to be introspective or thoughtful. Now I invite you to condemn me, tear me apart and slice and dice me as you do with all Democrats. President Obama could cure cancer and all of you haters would still think he is despicable. Finally, it is interesting that you take everything Mr. Greenwald says as gospel. Now that I have heard both sides, I'm waiting for an objective view. Mr. Greenwald appears really smug to me with an agenda and those qualities are not what a real journalist should ever exhibit. He certainly has gotten his 15 minutes, hasn't he? I have never liked smug.
+7 # SeniorCitizen31 2013-06-19 15:51
"Any president, no matter which party, when speaking of such a sensitive subject BETTER be cautious in how he answers these questions."

ansley, about a year ago President Obama, aka Commander-inChi ef of U S military forces, pronounced Bradley Manning guilty. This long before a court-martial was convened to try that very sensitive question.

How cautious was that?
+2 # 666 2013-06-19 17:42
can we call him "Great Brother"?
+2 # engelbach 2013-06-20 12:09
Your ad hominem attack on Greenwald is as empty as your defense of Obama's dismissal of the Fourth Amendment.

Contrasting Obama and Bush puts down Bush but says nothing to justify Obama's lies.

Do you have anything of substance to say about the issue?
0 # Jack Gibson 2013-06-22 02:10
Greenwald does NOT act smug AT ALL. You are channeling what you want to see and/or believe. It's easier for you to falsely claim that the truthteller is "smug", because you can't handle the truth that they are espousing. Thus, everybody who speaks truth to power that you don't want to believe, or that most parts of you believe supposedly "just can't be true", etc., is allegedly smug, etc. Greenwald couldn't be telling it anymore like it is than he already is, but you just don't want to hear the truth in all of its very painful "glory". Or, is that, "gory"? The gory details are lost on your ilk because you want to continue to live in your very deep in avoidance and denial fantasy world where lies are supposedly "truth", and truth is allegedly "lies". Your kind are good little citizens of "Orwellian '1984' mentality" who don't question the many lies that they're surrounded by, because they've become so used to living amongst those lies, lying to themselves, and blindly believing whatever they're told by a government that "disappears" people into, and tortures them in, the "Ministry of 'Love'", reeducating them if they can make them back into mindless automatons who carry out nothing but unquestioning obedience to an evil government, or executing them if they can't. That's what is very quickly coming down the pike in the "good old U.S. of A.", but your ilk are too willfully blind and willing to "look the other way" rather than face just how bad things are truly getting to be.
0 # 2013-10-22 09:38
I know it is late to be responding to your attack but just discovered it. I hope you feel better having vented your rage. I always find it interesting (and sad) that there are so many people filled with rage these days. I do acknowledge their rage as being "truthful" from their perspective. You negate my "truth" and then proceed to do exactly what you accuse me of doing. I don't deny the "truth" of what Snowden has revealed at all. And it seems to me that you are the one who can't handle it. (Greenwald is no more than a minor messenger in this opera.) Since we were cavemen and cavewomen, we have spied on each other to keep ourselves safe or to get the upper hand on other tribes. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing can be debated. I am going to assume that nearly every country, if not all countries, spy--even those who are now feigning shock that a country would dare spy on them. Certainly each of the industrialized nations have institutional spy departments. If we all attended a lecture on why this is necessary and what it has done to protect us, I should think the vote would be overwhelming to continue doing it. This doesn't make it right or good. So, I suggest you make some room in your mind to allow other opinions and stop generalizing and attacking those with other opinions--comba t those opinions with your own in a civil manner. Oh, I know, civility unfortunately is no longer prevalent in our discussions--or should I say raves.
+1 # SMoonz 2013-06-20 00:05
Charlie Rose tends to come in to interviews knowing next to nothing on any given subject. Let's also recall that Charlie Rose, like most T.V. journalists, attends the Bilderberg Conference. Obama, Romney, Bush and every major party candidate attend these Bilderberg Conferences to be hand picked by their masters.
+15 # tbcrawford8 2013-06-19 10:42
It all makes me feel a sense of troubling deja vu. How long will it be before we fall victims to complete dictatorship?
-2 # tabonsell 2013-06-19 17:27
If you are worried about a "complete dictatorship" it might be wise to concentrate on where the real threat is.

That would be the Koch brothers, the Republican/Tea Party, Wall Street and the out-of-control banksters who are robbing you blind.

We already have one instance of a dictatorship and that is the state of Michigan. There a Republican governor supported by Republican legislature passed a law giving the governor dictatorial power to take over any city, town or municipality the gov believes is incapable of fulfilling its duties.

The governor can name a "tsar" to run the city, displace the elected officials, bust teacher or other unions, fire public employees at will and to vacate any contract he wishes. The fact that the United States Constitution clearly says no state can impair the obligations of a contract is lost on this regime.

It is all done on the idea that "we are broke" and we need to use austerity (that clearly doesn't work) in order to survive. This dictatorial, anti-America tactic is preferred to actually asking the corporations and billionaires to help maintain the society that made them wealthy in the first place.

But instead of addressing the real threat we obsess on what columnist Gene Lyons calls the "Edward Snowden-Glenn Greenwald Chicken Little Brigade."
+3 # engelbach 2013-06-20 12:10
The real threat is to the Constitution, silly nicknames notwithstanding .
-2 # Nominae 2013-06-22 20:35
Quoting tabonsell:
If you are worried about a "complete dictatorship" it might be wise to concentrate on where the real threat is..........

That would be the Koch brothers, the Republican/Tea Party, Wall Street and the out-of-control banksters who are robbing you blind.......

Part I

Refreshingly, and even surprisingly, *every* word of the above comment excerpt is *absolutely* accurate and correct, even as is *every* word of the ENTIRE comment from which it derives.

And, the full comment offers some *beautifully* concise and *sorely* needed reminders of OTHER problems we are facing BESIDES the breath-taking excesses of the Global Surveillance State.

The comment author is a *very* effective and efficient writer. That said, however, the argument is STILL *howlingly* invalid under the eye of Logic.

It is the CONCLUSION that fails logic.

It is like telling us that, with all the OTHER problems facing mankind we are wasting our time thinking about, say, Global Warming. Well, we aren't really. If Global Warming is not "redirected", NONE of our other problems will ultimately even matter !

But look at the number of "Cigarette Scientists" hired by Big Oil to attempt to convince us that there IS NO problem.
That is the insult added to invalid logic of the argument above.

-2 # Nominae 2013-06-22 20:38
Part II

And, speaking of *REDIRECTION* this is exactly what the argument above is ALL ABOUT. And also why it fails Logic.
Redirection, and the "Cigarette Science" effort to deny the very REALITY of the problem itself.

You know how you see a two-year-old holding his older brother's loaded BB gun in the house ? And you attempt
to offer the tot an ice cream cone to take his focus from
the BB Gun ? Yeah. That technique is called "redirection".

That's *exactly* the argument above, except the author uses a howitzer instead of an ice cream cone for the same purpose. The author favors the "stick" over the "carrot".

The attempt above is to FRIGHTEN the reader into "redirecting" their focus to OTHER equally REAL, equally VALID concerns by pretending that this Global Surveillance State itself is an "ice cream cone". That it is NOT A REAL CAUSE FOR CONCERN !
Yeah ...... neither is a coiled Cobra in your kitchen when you are locked in there with it.

If we DO chose to ignore the stunning overreaches of the Global Surveillance State, some of will still be alive, but NONE OF US will still be "living".
+3 # SMoonz 2013-06-20 00:08
We are already there. We are living under an illegitimate government and an illegitimate president. I say illegitimate because the moment they failed to protect the Constitution they became traitors and illegitimate rulers.
+13 # anyfreeman 2013-06-19 11:15
In addition to creating a two-tier architecture of oppression with a lifetime VCR, this is an engine for corporate hegemony. Make no mistake, until the 'analysts' and 'contractors' suffer the same consequences for releasing information, we are SO screwed. The security infrastructure enforces "justice for some" that Mr. Greenwald wrote about.
0 # X Dane 2013-06-19 15:22
Wrong as it may be. It might help us that Snowdon "spilled the beans, for we are now discussing the mess. the secret surveillance is. That was only discussed by a few people in congress.

We need to be safe, BUT I think the "snooping" has gone too far, and it is too easy to misuse the information gained. I hope we can improve on the way we are keeping the country safe, and the citizens freer.
-3 # engelbach 2013-06-20 12:11
If the snooping had not "gone too far" you'd still be ignorant of the information.
+4 # Walter J Smith 2013-06-19 21:04
Of course there is plenty of oversight.

Looking right across the tops of any evil.

It is easy. Most citizens do it daily.

See no evil, know no evil.

It is as easy as watching tv.
0 # FDRva 2013-06-20 04:39
The allegations ring true. The FISA court is usually a rubber-stamp for US Executive branch action.

But the British Intelligence angle is problematic.

Tony Blair's BS about 'Big Bad Saddam's nuclear arsenal' circa 2001 discredit anything "British" as being useful intelligence.

And the Obama Administration- -politically speaking--is already far too close to the British Foreign Office--to win an American Mid-term election.
+1 # FDRva 2013-06-20 05:25
Tell me again how this approach differs from the fascistic measures that got Richard Nixon--impeached?

As I recall even Nixon did not claim the right to assassinate American citizens at his whim.

This civil libertarian Democrat thinks that the registered Democrat in the White House ought to take a closer look at the Constitution.

If he continues to dislike it--he should resign--or submit himself to impeachment.
0 # Charles3000 2013-06-20 14:25
Lets do a little Gedanken experiment. You are a computer person working at NSA at a workstation connected to a supercomputer. Analog telephone traffic is fed into the supercomputer via A to D converters. With telephone traffic having a bandwidth of a few kilohertz and a supercomputer capable of 10 to the 14 or 15 power operations per second the single supercomputer at your disposal is handling 10s perhaps 100s of millions of conversations at a time. The software program processing this traffic is looking for programmed in key words and phrases. When a keyword or phrase is encountered the conversation is saved and made available to you to hear and analyze . What Snowden has told us is that this software allows you to listen in and save conversations from any telephone number, even Obama's desk phone, while you are waiting for a keyword hit. Perhaps your aspirations are low. You only want to listen in on your wife's or girlfriend's chats. Or perhaps you want to get clever and snoop on some CEOs to get some inside info for stock speculations or perhaps you want to listen in on a lawyer who is suing you for some misdeed. Or perhaps you have a "friend" in a high place of power or one with very deep pockets who will reward you handsomely for some private work. If what Snowden said is true then it is a horrific situation. If he is lying or totally misinformed the government should ignore him. FICA courts do not control computers. We need to know how NSA controls the operations.
0 # Jack Gibson 2013-06-20 16:40
Do you see how open to abuse this entire, non-oversight, process is? The U.S. government violates laws constantly, and regularly covers up those violations; and it has increased same by leaps and bounds for years now, particularly since 2001.

By lowering the bar so low in the amendment(s) to FISA, they have admitted that the FISA law was already being violated, and that they had to lower the bar so low in order to retroactively allow those violations. When the amendment was written, they should have at least said that the person(s) outside the U.S. who U.S. persons were in communication with, had to be actual terrorists or connected to (an) actual terrorist organization(s) ; simply removing the "foreign power" requirement of the original FISA law of 1978, before post-9/11 amendment(s). But, no, they made it much broader than that; proving that they're not just after real, actual terrorists, but anyone and everyone who is questionable to them, and/or those who they very conveniently determine in the process, has committed crime(s), or is about to do so; and/or those who they twist the law(s) around in order to make appear like they are committing, or are going to commit, (a) crime(s). In other words, it is not only in violation of the Fourth Amendment; it is also "pre-crime" and/or presumption of guilt; all of which is in further violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; and it makes us all vulnerable to being criminalized by the government.

- Continued -
0 # Jack Gibson 2013-06-20 16:53
Now, as a result, the government can simply have a foreign "terrorist" phone and/or otherwise contact U.S. persons in order to create the pretext to vacuum up those U.S. persons' communications, review them, disseminate them, use them against them, and arrest them for so-called "crimes".

I receive (attempted entrapment?) emails from foreign persons who I don't know, and who I am NOT in communication with, all the time; as, no doubt, millions of other Americans do as well. I don't open those email messages, and I immediately report all of them as phishing scams and/or junk mail. But, the way the U.S. government is interpreting things now, they can claim, if it conveniently turns out that any of those foreign persons' email messages were from alleged "terrorists", that any and/or all of those Americans receiving those messages are supposedly in contact with "terrorists", and use it as a pretext to criminalize, take action against, and detain and/or assassinate those U.S. persons who they want to get rid of for whatever reason(s), such as their non-violent dissent, criticism of the government, activism, protest(s), etc.

Therefore, it is NOT taking things too far to say that the U.S. government, and/or its allies, are intentionally having these kinds of email messages and other communications directed to the millions of American "activists" in order to be able to frame them for communicating with "terrorists".

- Continued -
0 # Jack Gibson 2013-06-20 17:51
Naturally, the U.S. government hopes that the American recipients of such communications, will open the email messages and/or converse with those foreign persons; but, even if such Americans don't do so, the government can claim that there must be some so-called "reason(s)" that those U.S. persons are receiving such communications; and, innocent or not, broadly use "guilt by association" against them concerning those communications. None of us should put any of this past them; especially when we consider the extreme level of the U.S. government's own terrorism and other criminal activities. They have been the criminals who, for decades, and particularly during the past almost twelve years, have been making other Americans out to be "criminals" who the government targeted because of their dissent, etc.

Thus, there is little or no doubt, other than false doubt, that the government has been doing so even more since 9-11, and is going to do so to an ever-increasing extent; because they want to silence everyone who stands up for true liberty and freedom, and who stands up against the U.S. government's increasing violation(s) and eradication(s) of those true freedoms and liberties, including nothing but non-violent dissenters, which the vast majority of dissenters are. Yet the nothing but non-violent dissent on the part of those dissenters is not stopping the government from coming after and silencing them, in any and all ways that they can.
+2 # RobertMStahl 2013-06-21 09:18
Is there a statute of limitations on stupidity?

Let me answer that one. No.

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