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 . . .
Here’s how to track down and expose thousands of rich people hiding their money offshore. Congratulations to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
What did they find in the 260 GB hard drive that was anonymously delivered to ICIJ? Here’s another article on the work of ICIJ:
The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways.
They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program.
This trial is not simply the prosecution of a 25-year-old soldier who had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse that are carried out by our government and our occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government’s use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.
The cowardice of The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, all of which used masses of the material Manning passed on to WikiLeaks and then callously turned their backs on him, is one of journalism’s greatest shames. These publications made little effort to cover Manning’s pretrial hearings, a failure that shows how bankrupt and anemic the commercial press has become . . .
Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited—especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system—poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.
I know a lot of people are uneasy about calling Manning a hero because they consider him a criminal because he apparently broke laws. I wonder whether they would agree that by exposing lawless American warmongering and exposing huge numbers of civilian casualties covered up by the U.S. Manning has saved many lives by shortening, curtailing and discouraging the reckless use of the U.S. military. Can’t a thing declared to be criminal be the right thing to do? Was Martin Luther King merely a “criminal,” or was he doing the right thing? The case against Bradley Manning is a battle over whether the People of the United States, supposedly the ones running this country, have the right to know what their own government is doing. Or, on the other hand, the U.S. Government has the right to frighten off the relatively few remaining quality journalists out there by threatening a bizarre use of the federal Espionage Act. It’s that simple.
What is really at stake in the trial of Bradley Manning? It’s whether We the People are going to decide to trust our government regarding all foreign policy (and domestic security) matters, despite a long and disturbing track record of government coverups and public lies. Yochai Benkler explains at The New Republic:
Whistleblowers play a critical constitutional role in our system of government, particularly in the area of national security . . . Freedom of the press is anchored in our constitution because it reflects our fundamental belief that no institution can be its own watchdog . . . The implications of Manning’s case go well beyond Wikileaks, to the very heart of accountability journalism in a networked age. . . . If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, the introduction of a capital offense into the mix would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers. The consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire. And then there is the principle of the thing. However technically defensible on the language of the statute, and however well-intentioned the individual prosecutors in this case may be, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense? What a coup for Al Qaeda, to have maimed our constitutional spirit to the point where we might become that nation.
Benkler is slated to testify as an expert witness in Manning’s case. He has written extensively regarding the Constitutional issues at stake in the case, including this article previously discussed at this site.
Consider also, this similar assessment of Manning’s case by Julian Assanage of Wikileaks.
FBI agents landed in Reykjavík without prior notification in an attempt to investigate WikiLeaks operations in the country, but Home Secretary Ögmundur Jónasson found out about the visit and forced them to leave the country, with the Icelandic government then issuing a formal protest to US authorities, according to Islandsbloggen.
I’m reprinting the following, with permission, from the site of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments
Today, after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconsitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans’ overseas communications.
Incredibly, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government’s activities, despite previous refusals by the Executive branch to even estimate how many Americans are surveilled by this program or reveal critical secret court rulings interpreting it.
The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.
Sen. Ron Wyden’s amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA’s powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.
Sen. Jeff Merkley’s amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.
Tellingly, Sen. Rand Paul’s “Fourth Amendment Protection Act,” which would have affirmed Americans’ emails are protected from unwarranted search and seizures (just like physical letters and phone calls), was voted down by the Senate in a landslide.
The final vote for re-authorizing five more years of the FISA Amendments Act and secretive domestic spying was 73-23. Our thanks goes out to the twenty-three brave Senators who stood up for Americans’ constitutional rights yesterday. If only we had more like them.
Of course, the fight against illegal and unconsitutional warrantless wiretapping is far from over. Since neither the President, who once campaigned on a return to rule of law on surveillance of Americans, nor the Congress, which has proven to be the enabler-in-chief of the Executive’s overreach, have been willing to protect the privacy of Americans in their digital papers, all eyes should now turn to the Courts.
EFF was just in federal court in San Francisco two weeks ago, challenging the NSA’s untargeted dragnet warrantless surveillance program. And the Supreme Court will soon rule whether the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the “targeted” portions of the FISA Amendments Act can go forward.
But make no mistake: this vote was nothing less than abdication by Congress of its role as watchdog over Executive power, and a failure of its independent obligation to protect the Bill of Rights. The FISA Amendments Act and the ongoing warrantless spying on Americans has been, and will continue to be, a blight on our nation and our Constitution.
If you decide to view the speech of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), be sure to listen to the portion starting at min 38, where you can see that national intelligence authorities have been completely stifling even the reasonable requests of U.S. Senators regarding the numbers of communications of innocent American that have been intercepted.
The primary impetus for the formation of this group was to block the US government from ever again being able to attack and suffocate an independent journalistic enterprise the way it did with WikiLeaks. Government pressure and the eager compliance of large financial corporations (such as Visa, Master Card, Bank of America, etc.) has – by design – made it extremely difficult for anyone to donate to WikiLeaks, while many people are simply afraid to directly support the group (for reasons I explained here).
We intend to raise funds ourselves and then distribute it to the beneficiaries we name. The first group of beneficiaries includes WikiLeaks. We can circumvent those extra-legal, totally inappropriate blocks that have been imposed on the group. We can enable people to support WikiLeaks without donating directly to it by donating to this new organization that will then support a group of deserving independent journalism outlets, one of which is WikiLeaks. In sum, we will render impotent the government’s efforts to use its coercive pressure over corporations to suffocate not only WikiLeaks but any other group it may similarly target in the future.
. . . I’m very excited to have participated in its formation and will serve as an unpaid member of the Board of Directors, along with the heroic whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, 2012 McArthur-fellowship-receipient and Oscar-nominated documentarian Laura Poitras, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow, the actor and civil liberties advocate John Cusack, BoingBoing co-founder Xeni Jardin, and several other passionate free press and transparency activists.
David Carr of the New York Times recently wrote an article titled: “Group Aims to Be a Conduit for WikiLeaks Donations”:
A group advocating a more transparent government has formed a nonprofit organization called the Freedom of the Press Foundation to serve as a conduit for donations to organizations like WikiLeaks. The goal is to insulate those groups’ fund-raising efforts from political and business pressures.
In December 2010, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal announced that they would no longer accept transactions for WikiLeaks, the online leak group that released thousands of secret documents from the American government. The move to cut off donations, which came after vocal protests against the organization’s activities from members of Congress, eliminated the vast majority of financing for WikiLeaks.
Michael Calderon of Huffpo is recently posted on FPF:
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Timm said the idea for the foundation grew out of conversations with fellow co-founders, Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, and John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a former Grateful Dead lyricist.
The foundation plans to direct tax deductible donations to WikiLeaks for as long as payment processors block the organization, while protecting other outlets if they are similarly targeted.
“WikiLeaks was the inspiration for it, but we wanted to make the mission much broader than WikiLeaks,” Timm said.
For that reason, the group is also raising money for three other entities: MuckRock News, an open government organization; National Security Archive, an archive of declassified government documents; and The UpTake, a citizen-journalism news site.
Here is more on the four beneficiary organizations.
FDL’s Kevin Gosztola writes:
[T]he idea had come from something that had been discussed for months. There was a “real sense that the blockade on WikiLeaks was censorship of not just of WikiLeaks but actually of the people who wanted to express their opinions by making donations.” It was a suppression of “their rights to free speech,” as well.
FPF decided to do something that would empower people to do something that could keep WikiLeaks operational while also inspiring a new generation of WikiLeaks-like organizations that would be resistant to government and corporate pressures.
Here’s an excerpt from the About Page of Freedom of the Press Foundation:
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. We accept tax-deductible donations to a variety of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is built on the recognition that this kind of transparency journalism — from publishing the Pentagon Papers and exposing Watergate, to uncovering the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and CIA secret prisons — doesn’t just happen. It requires dogged work by journalists, and often, the courage of whistleblowers and others who work to ensure that the public actually learns what it has a right to know.
But in a changing economic and technological age, media organizations are increasingly susceptible to corporate or government pressure. This can lead to watered-down or compromised coverage, or worse: censorship.
Increasingly, non-profit media and transparency organizations are emerging as a critical component of the journalism landscape. Leveraging the power of the Internet, these organizations are helping to reinvent and reimagine independent watchdog reporting.
Right now, too many of those organizations are struggling for funding, relying on a few large foundations or competing for donors. Our goal is to broaden the financial base of these types of institutions—both start-ups and established non-profit organizations — by crowd-sourcing funding and making it easy for people to support the best journalism from an array of organizations all in one place.
Using the same networked, collaborative approach, the Freedom of the Press Foundation will also provide support for organizations and individuals that have been unjustly censored or cut off from funding for doing their job as journalists. Given the variety of corporate and government pressures on journalism outlets around the world, the need has never been greater.
Using the example of General Petraeus, the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains how the federal government looks at private email. What can be done about these abuses?
[The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA (1986)] is hopelessly out of date, and fails to provide the protections we need in a modern era. Your email privacy should be simple: it should receive the same protection the Fourth Amendment provides for your home. So why hasn’t Congress done anything to update the law? They’ve tried a few times but the bills haven’t gone anywhere. That’s why [Electronic Frontier Foundation] members across the country are joining with other advocacy groups in calling for reform. This week, we’re proud to launch a new campaign page to advocate for ECPA reform.
In 2007, Privacy International conducted a survey to determine the extent to which countries conducted surveillance on their citizens. The U.S. was in the same category as China and Russia.
Glenn Greenwald supplements this image with some stunning data:
The US operates a sprawling, unaccountable Surveillance State that – in violent breach of the core guarantees of the Fourth Amendment – monitors and records virtually everything even the most law-abiding citizens do. Just to get a flavor for how pervasive it is, recall that the Washington Post, in its 2010 three-part “Top Secret America” series, reported: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”
For more on the ever-increasing U.S. surveillance state, view this excellent video by Glenn Greenwald: