Patriot Act

Patriot Act on life support – Julian Hattem

May 18, 2015

A stalemate in the Senate would leave the FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) without powers they have used to track terrorists for years, say supporters of the Patriot Act. Without action by the end of the month, key provisions of the Patriot Act will expire, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argues would put the United States at a pre September 11, 2001-footing. He and other hawkish senators are pressing for an extension of the key Patriot Act measures, but they are opposed by other senators, the White House and a majority of House lawmakers in both parties. The House voted last week to approve reforms to the NSA provisions in an overwhelming 338-88 vote. McConnell filed a short-term extension of existing law just 24 hours later, signaling his determination to move in a different direction. Observers say it’s increasingly looking like the standoff could result in no action by Congress, which would mean the Patriot Act provisions would lapse. That would be a worst-case scenario for the NSA, but a pipe dream for ardent civil libertarians who have been rooting for such a result. Read

‘Fake’ Reform: Little to Celebrate as USA Freedom Act Passes House – Jon Queally

May 18, 2015

Though the overwhelming and bipartisan passage of the USA Freedom Act in the House of Representatives on Wednesday portends the end of the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ private telephone records, civil liberties groups found little else to celebrate as the ultimate passage of the bill, which now heads to the Senate, would re-authorize a number of worrisome programs by extending the life of the controversial Patriot Act. “This is a fake privacy bill. Corrupt members of Congress and their funders in the defense industry are attempting to package up their surveillance-powers wishlist and misleadingly brand it as ‘USA Freedom.’ This is disappointing and offensive, and we will continue to work to kill this bill and any other attempt to legitimize unconstitutional surveillance systems.” —Tiffiniy Cheng, Fight for the Future Following a federal court ruling last week that deemed a provision of the Patriot Act, known as Section 215, as not a sound legal basis for the bulk phone data collection program, H.R. 2048, which passed the House by a vote of 338-88, would put a definitive end to the practice that was first revealed to the American public by documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. However, despite strong objections from critics, the

Hillary Clinton: Elitist, Imperialist, Politician Extraordinaire – ROBERT FANTINA

May 1, 2015

The Democratic Party continues its illicit love affair with presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, when asked about then Senator Clinton’s vote authorizing President George Bush’s disastrous and murderous invasion of Iraq, said this: “Elections are about the future. They’re not about what happened 13 years ago. They’re about the future, and that’s really what people want to hear.” Yes, this is the same Mrs. Pelosi who took the possibility of the impeachment of Mr. Bush ‘off the table’, because the evidence wasn’t there, she said, and she apparently had no interest in looking for it. So, as with Mr. Bush, with Mrs. Clinton we need not look at what she’s actually done, only at what she says she will do in the future. One is reminded of the abusive husband who, during the remorse stage, swears that he’ll never again strike his wife. No need to look at a long pattern of abuse; simply take his word that there will be no more. Unfortunately, we must, as voters and potential victims of a Hillary Clinton presidency, look back, forward and to the present. And it is that alarming present, put in context by the not-too-distant past,

National Security Whistleblowers Call for Repeal of Patriot Act – Lauren McCauley

April 29, 2015

Prominent national security whistleblowers are calling for the full repeal of the USA Patriot Act, charging that under that legislation the federal government has decimated the U.S. Constitution and warning that unless action is taken, there is no end in sight to government secrecy and manipulation. The group, which included former National Security Agency (NSA) official William Binney and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, appeared Monday at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to voice their backing for H.R. 1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was recently introduced by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). The bill would repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 while installing a number of provisions to safeguard people’s privacy and force the government to account for surveillance activities. The legislation was introduced as Congress debates key segments of the Patriot Act, Secs. 206 and 215, which are due to expire on June 1. During the press conference, former NSA senior executive and whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was among those present, said that following the attack on September 11, 2001, the federal government under former President George W. Bush and later under President Barack Obama “chose in great secrecy to unchain itself” from the

Obama’s NSA Reforms, One Year Later

April 9, 2015

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

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

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

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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