Patriot Act

Obama’s NSA Reforms, One Year Later

April 9, 2015 // 0 Comments

In February, the Director of National Intelligence issued a report summarizing the changes that President Obama has implemented since pledging major surveillance reforms in January 2014. The report chronicles a dizzying number of developments and contains links to several hundreds of pages of supporting documentation. But does this impressive accumulation of activity translate to meaningful reform? The report makes clear that the big picture has not changed. One year after President Obama promised to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, the administration continues to apply for a FISA court order every three months directing American phone companies to turn all of their phone records over to the NSA. It also continues to exploit a surveillance program nominally targeted at foreigners to listen to Americans’ phone calls and read their e-mails without a warrant. Overseas, the administration collects communications that involve Americans on a truly massive scale with no judicial oversight or legislative restrictions. These activities constitute an existential threat to civil liberties that cannot be addressed by procedural tweaks. It is tempting to cheer the administration’s changes simply because they happened—and because they improve the status quo, however incrementally. Context matters here: in the short period of time since 9/11, technological changes have exponentially

Fear of Terrorism is Making Us Crazy, Especially in the US – Dave Lindorff

March 30, 2015 // 0 Comments

When I lived in China, there was a story going around about a China Airlines flight in which both the pilot and the co-pilot had left the cockpit and then, on their return, found the door locked. They reportedly got a fire ax, and with the whole planeload of freaked out passengers watching in horror, started wailing in the metal door. The co-pilot then turned, and seeing the panic developing, calmly drew the curtain across the aisle, hiding their work from view. The axe’s bashing continued until they broke the latch and got back to the controls. Lucky this was before the 9-11 attacks! Now, because some terrorists forced their way into crew cabins and took over a few planes, virtually all aircraft have reinforced cabin doors that cannot be broken into. Predictably, this panicky response has led to a new kind of risk: mass passenger deaths by pilot suicide. A young Lufthansa pilot, apparently with a death wish but wanting to have his demise make a murderous impact, waited until the pilot had left for the loo, then locked him out and sent the plane into the side of a French Alp. So what do we do now? Put

Partners in Stupidity and the War on Terror

March 11, 2015 // 0 Comments

Casus belli anyone? So Obama wants Congress to authorize a war on ISIS. They’ll do it, of course, but not before the usual partisan sniping. So far the “debate” has been a festival of irrelevance. Should it be sun-setted? Is three years right? What about the open-ended authorization for Al-Qaeda from 1991? Does it limit a future President’s options? Oh, the self-satisfied sagacity of these people. Why, they’ve thought of everything … well almost everything. Among the things that’s missing in this discussion is the Casus Belli … you may remember the search for the missing Casus Belli just before we hurdled headlong into the Iraqi War – you know, the one that created ISIS in the first place? The one that gave them arms, motivation and a modicum of training? There’s also no acknowledgement that the “war on terror” approach to terrorism has been a complete, utter and abject failure. In fact, it encourages terrorism as a tactic, and serves as a recruitment tool. Here’s why. The US as ISIS’s Best Ally Someone once observed that terrorism is not complete until those being terrorized react. The more they react, the more effective terrorism is; the less they react, the less

Ignore the Drumbeat of Doom, the NSA’s Call Records Program Didn’t Stop a Single Terrorist Attack

March 5, 2015 // 0 Comments

The director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday and warned that if the Patriot Act was not renewed, lawmakers would be to blame if another 9/11-style attack occurs. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters) Do you hear that? It’s starting. The predictable drumbeat of dire warnings about what will happen if portions of the Patriot Act – the post-9/11 law being used to conduct controversial NSA dragnet surveillance – are allowed to expire on June 1 has already begun. Read
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