In a live interview sponsored by the Guardian, Edward Snowden provided more details regarding NSA spying. If 20% of his information is true, Congress should tear apart the NSA, piece by piece.
Snowden makes an important distinction between what the NSA policy requires and what really happens on the ground. This is an attack on NSA credibility, which is already highly suspect.
Investigative reporter James Bamford casts doubt on government claims regarding the Surveillance State
Investigative reporter James Bamford isn’t believing the official government positions regarding the Surveillance State. He discussed his reasons for his disbelief with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now:
Amy Goodman: Jim Bamford, explain the spy center that’s being built in Bluffdale, Utah.
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it’s a mammoth—actually, the best way to think of it is NSA’s external hard drive. It’s a storage place for all that NSA gets from its surveillance, including the daily records of everybody’s telephone calls, which, again, we’ve just been hearing about in the news. But it’s not just that. It’s all this information that’s coming in from the Internet that the NSA picks out. It’s all their surveillance from all around the country, all around the world. And it all goes into this one place. It’s basically a huge data warehouse where all this information is placed. But it also serves as the cloud for NSA, the cloud being the central repository where every—where all the information is kept. And then, through these fiber-optic cables that go out from it, people at NSA headquarters, people at NSA listening posts in Georgia, Texas, all these places, are able to immediately go in. It’s just like, like I said, a hard drive. You go in, and you analyze all that information that’s in there. So if they’re collecting my telephone records today, who I’m calling, then tomorrow or tonight the NSA could go into those records in Bluffdale, Utah, and analyze them. So, that’s basically what it’s for. It’s this massive repository for all the information that NSA is collecting. And it’s a million square feet. It’s an enormous amount of space at a time when you can put a terabyte worth of data on just a blade on a Swiss Army knife, which can, like I said, hold a terabyte worth of data, and this is a million square feet, costing $2 billion.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask you about—in 2012, at the annual DEF CON convention, the hacker convention, NSA director, General Keith Alexander, was asked whether the NSA keeps a file on every U.S. citizen. This was his response.
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No, we don’t. Absolutely not. And anybody who would tell you that we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people know that’s not true. And let me tell you why. First, under our agency, we have a responsibility. Our job is foreign intelligence. We get oversight by Congress, both intel committees and their congressional members and their staffs, so everything we do is auditable by them, by the FISA Court—so the judiciary branch of our government—and by the administration. And everything we do is accountable to them. And within the administration, it’s from the director of national intelligence, it’s from the Department of Justice, it’s from the Department of Defense. I feel like when I was a kid growing up—and some of you may feel like this, too. You know, you might get in a little trouble. You’re supervised a lot and maybe had to spend time in the hall. Well, that’s the way I feel today. We are overseen by everybody. And I will tell you that those who would want to weave the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is absolutely false.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: James Bamford, that was General Keith Alexander, again, at the DEF CON convention in 2012 in—as we mentioned yesterday, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, a black T-shirt. Your response, especially this whole thing that he raises about we’re just involved in foreign intelligence gathering?
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it’s funny. I was there, too. I also spoke at the DEF CON conference there. But the comments that General Alexander made, I thought, were amazingly out of place, because here it is, we just discovered he has all these dossiers that he’s listing, that he’s got all these records on American people and all these links into American Internet. What he’s talking about in terms of oversight also is—is just nonsense. He talks about the courts. Well, the court he’s talking about is a top-secret court that nobody is even allowed to know where it exists, where its address is, let alone getting any information from it. And in the last—or, the last time that they overhauled the legislation, they weakened the court a great deal. So, I’m sure—was that the answer you were looking for? What was the question again?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, basically, his emphasis on the foreign intelligence gathering, as well, the role of NSA.
JAMES BAMFORD: Right, right, right, yeah. Well, that’s always what they claim, is that, “Look, we’re not involved in the United States at all. We’re not involved in U.S. interception at all. We’re just involved in foreign communications.” Well, you know, if you look at that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order that was released, what it talks about is getting from Verizon not just overseas calls, it talks about local calls. These are calls that aren’t even going to be on your bill. I mean, these are local calls or, you know, somebody calling their grandmother next door. We’ve come down to that, where the government is trying to get access to even your local calls. And I don’t see any connection between that and what they say. What they claim is that we’re only doing international, we’re only doing foreign communications. Well, when you’re asking for local phone calls throughout the United States, everybody in the United States, on a daily basis, you know, where’s the truth in all these claims?
Lee Camp, responding to a question by RT host Abby Martin at min. 4:05:
The problem, Abby, is that you have an “overgrown democracy disorder.” You think that we should have a say in what goes on in our country and around the world and our country’s actions. I don’t know who gave you that feeling, but it’s a real problem you have, and I think you need to realize that plutocrats will make these decisions for you. So don’t worry about it . . . It’s “restless democracy disorder.”
On this second video, Lee Camp asks two excellent questions regarding the Surveillance State:
I’m a pundit, so I’ll go first. I admire Edward Snowden, because the information he has provided will allow Americans to actually and meaningfully discuss domestic spying.
Many politicians out there are saying, “Sure, let’s discuss this issue of the scope of the U.S. surveillance state.” The problem, however, is that they want these discussions to be barren of real world facts. They want to discuss, in the abstract, whether we should make ourselves vulnerable to “terrorism” to placate civil libertarians. To be clearer, American have had very little information about what kinds of things an NSA spy can learn about an American. Based on Edward Snowden, U.S. government spies have far too much power to look into emails, phone calls and internet usage. Based on this real information, maybe we could actually have a conversation, but not until we had this information which, according to the U.S. government, was illegally gotten. Classic Catch 22.
I have to wonder how often it happens that a CIA or NSA (or contractor) spy snoops on an American and steals credit card information or other information for the purpose of identity theft. Of course, it would be impossible to have this conversation, because this information is secret. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, many court challenges to domestic spying have been quashed by the courts because the information is secret.
Once again, how was it that Americans were supposed to have meaningful conversations given the lack of information?
Now, for the article on what pundits think of Edward Snowden. The article is from FAIR, and it covers many perspectives.
This article about Edward Snowden, by Glenn Greenwald:
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
You’ll find Greenwald’s 12-minute video interview of Edward Snowden here.
I posted about Greenwald’s article on Facebook. I received the following comment:
I’m so glad I elected a 29 year old Booz Allen contract employee to make sensitive national security judgments for me. He’s so noble and righteous I’m sure that means he also is wise and has excellent, seasoned judgment.
Here is my response:
On July 4, we will celebrate the claim that U.S. governmental power comes from the People of the U.S. No, we didn’t elect Edward Snowden. Nor did we elect the military industrial complex. Nor do real people have much, if any, say in the national primaries–big money chooses them and then they give us the illusion of choice. Nor did anyone amend the U.S. Constitution to engraft terrorism exceptions to the First, Fourth or Fifth Amendments. Nor did I ever have a chance to vote to require the mainstream media to expand investigative journalism and diversity, so that anyone out there in a position of official authority would be forced to provide real answers to real questions, so that our national elections would be a legitimate exercise of grassroots power. What we are left with is a realpolitik, and in this massively dysfunctional system, the U.S. Surveillance State does whatever the hell it chooses to do, while the our obeisant news media villainizes other countries that do exactly what we do. The result is perpetual war, attendant with severely warped domestic governmental spending priorities. We are on an unsustainable path where war is the official excuse for hundreds of requests to fix fixable problems. Our politicians complete this circle by selling us nightmares (terrorism) and claiming that they can fix the problem with non-stop violent xenophobia, and now, spying on all of us. The question is what one should do when confronted with pervasive illegal spying by the U.S. government? If there is no perfect answer, what is a half-decent imperfect one? And more fundamentally, shouldn’t the People be giving their consent to such an ever-growing out-of-check system of the type described by Edward Snowden? Eddie, when did you vote to authorize the U.S. government to listen in on your phone calls? When did you vote to allow such widespread surveillance that investigative reporting through traditional outlets has almost come to a stop, meaning that we’re all very much in the dark? When were our representatives going to get around to telling us about these egregious NSA practices, even in the abstract? The official answers are “never” and “trust us.” There is no longer any reasonable way for law-abiding citizen to identify or address the underlying rot. The options are thus A) to do nothing to expose these abuses and B ) do something.
Congress insists that the massive, invasive, unprecedented spying that they have authorized the government to perform is legal and necessary to stop terrorists. I didn’t notice any exceptions written into the Bill of Rights that nullify the rights in cases of terrorism . . .
What is the Fed good at? Not much, according to Jessie Eisenger of ProPublica:
Investors . . . have almost no confidence in the Federal Reserve or the economics profession. And for good reason. It’s impressive that the Fed and many economists have successfully predicted the path of interest rates and inflation in the wake of the worst financial crisis in a generation. But neither the central bank nor academicians managed to predict or prevent the crisis in the first place. The failure dwarfs the accomplishment.
The Fed’s track record is out-and-out abysmal.The Fed began its lender-of-last-resort role in 2007, but did little to avoid or minimize the financial crisis. Once it hit, it did the right thing to flood the markets with money, but — along with the Treasury and a passive Justice Department — let banks and top executives off the hook. And now, asset prices are going wild. Junk bonds are up. Stocks are up. Housing in Phoenix and Brooklyn is going mad.
This prebubble euphoria only undermines the Federal Reserve’s fragile credibility. It reinforces the notion that it seems to know only two things: how to inflate bubbles and how to studiously not recognize them.
Glenn Greenwald gathers the evidence for concluding that all (not some, not most) telephone and email communications among Americans are subject to screening by the U.S. Surveillance State.
That no human communications can be allowed to take place without the scrutinizing eye of the US government is indeed the animating principle of the US Surveillance State. Still, this revelation, made in passing on CNN, that every single telephone call made by and among Americans is recorded and stored is something which most people undoubtedly do not know, even if the small group of people who focus on surveillance . . . Some new polling suggests that Americans, even after the Boston attack, are growing increasingly concerned about erosions of civil liberties in the name of Terrorism. Even those people who claim it does not matter instinctively understand the value of personal privacy: they put locks on their bedroom doors and vigilantly safeguard their email passwords. That’s why the US government so desperately maintains a wall of secrecy around their surveillance capabilities: because they fear that people will find their behavior unacceptably intrusive and threatening . . .