17 Oct 2013
in civil liberties, craziness, security
Tags: civil liberties, security, State Secrets
This is how state secrecy has traditionally worked:
In February, the Supreme Court dismissed a case challenging its constitutionality because the plaintiffs, led by Amnesty International, could not prove they had been wiretapped. Mr. Verrilli had told the justices that someone else would have legal standing to trigger review of the program because prosecutors would notify people facing evidence derived from surveillance under the 2008 law.
But it turned out that Mr. Verrilli’s assurances clashed with the practices of national security prosecutors, who had not been alerting such defendants that evidence in their cases had stemmed from wiretapping their conversations without a warrant.
In other words, it is almost impossible to try this in court and so there is no real oversight. That might be changing:
Five years after Congress authorized a sweeping warrantless surveillance program, the Justice Department is setting up a potential Supreme Court test of whether it is constitutional by notifying a criminal defendant — for the first time — that evidence against him derived from the eavesdropping, according to officials.
Prosecutors plan to inform the defendant about the monitoring in the next two weeks, a law enforcement official said. The move comes after an internal Justice Department debate in which Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that there was no legal basis for a previous practice of not disclosing links to such surveillance, several Obama administration officials familiar with the deliberations said.
Of course, it won’t be easy:
The department’s practices came under scrutiny after a December 2012 speech by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee. During debate over extending the 2008 law, she warned that terrorism remained a threat. Listing several terrorism-related arrests, she added, “so this has worked.”
Lawyers in two of the cases Ms. Feinstein mentioned — one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Chicago — asked prosecutors this spring to confirm that surveillance under the 2008 law had played a role in the investigations of their clients so they could challenge it.
But prosecutors said they did not have to make such a disclosure. On June 7, The New York Times published an article citing Ms. Feinstein’s speech and the stance the prosecutors had taken.
As a result, Mr. Verrilli sought an explanation from national security lawyers about why they had not flagged the issue when vetting his Supreme Court briefs and helping him practice for the arguments, according to officials.
The national security lawyers explained that it was a misunderstanding, the officials said. Because the rules on wiretapping warrants in foreign intelligence cases are different from the rules in ordinary criminal investigations, they said, the division has long used a narrow understanding of what “derived from” means in terms of when it must disclose specifics to defendants.
Yes, it was a misunderstanding. Expect to see lots of this in the future.
But in a twist, in the Chicago and Fort Lauderdale cases that Ms. Feinstein had mentioned, prosecutors made new court filings saying they did not intend to use any evidence derived from surveillance of the defendants under the 2008 law.
When defense lawyers asked about Ms. Feinstein’s remarks, a Senate lawyer responded in a letter that she “did not state, and did not mean to state” that those cases were linked to the warrantless surveillance program. Rather, the lawyer wrote, her point was that terrorism remained a problem.
Expect to also see this a lot–information is found using such surveillance and they use this information to find evidence while denying they used surveillance initially (of course it will be almost impossible to know in which cases this happens).
11 Sep 2013
in civil liberties, craziness, politics, security
Tags: craziness, NSA, security, State Secrets
So, it’s revealed that the NSA broke its own rules so badly that a judge almost shut down one of the programs:
In a sharply worded March 2009 ruling, Judge Reggie B. Walton described the NSA’s failure to comply with rules set by the intelligence court, set limits on how it could use the data it had gathered, and accused the agency of repeatedly misinforming the judges.
“The government has compounded its noncompliance with the court’s orders by repeatedly submitting inaccurate descriptions of the alert list process” to the court, Walton wrote. “It has finally come to light that the FISC’s authorizations of this vast collection program have been premised on a flawed depiction of how the NSA uses” the phone call data.
Walton’s ruling, originally classified as top secret, did not go that far. But he wrote that the privacy safeguards approved by the court “have been so frequently and systematically violated” that they “never functioned effectively.”
And here’s the explanation:
A senior US intelligence official, briefing reporters before the documents’ release, admitted the sting of the court’s reprimand but said the problems came in a complex, highly technical program and were unintentional.
“There was nobody at NSA who really had a full understanding of how the program was operating at the time,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The official noted that the agency itself discovered the problem, reported it to the court and to Congress, and worked out new procedures that the court approved.
Wow, they made a mistake because they really didn’t understand what they were doing. How do we know there isn’t a similar problem right now? We don’t. We have to trust the NSA to understand its operations and report when they do something wrong. Given what’s known about the NSA, I don’t trust them.
Oh, and they still have not shown that this program is necessary.
16 Aug 2013
in civil liberties, craziness, politics, security
Tags: craziness, security, State Secrets
So, besides the huge amount of data grabbed legally by the NSA, it turns out the NSA broke the rule thousands of times:
In June, after promising to explain the NSA’s record in “as transparent a way as we possibly can,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole described extensive safeguards and oversight that keep the agency in check. “Every now and then, there may be a mistake,” Cole said in congressional testimony.
The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.
“You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” he said. “You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”
That last bit is supposed to make us feel better, but it tells us that thousands of incidents are only a small percent of all the operations and these incidents don’t include incidental occurrences:
The NSA uses the term “incidental” when it sweeps up the records of an American while targeting a foreigner or a U.S. person who is believed to be involved in terrorism. Official guidelines for NSA personnel say that kind of incident, pervasive under current practices, “does not constitute a . . . violation” and “does not have to be reported” to the NSA inspector general for inclusion in quarterly reports to Congress. Once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.
Also, the notes show that the NSA gives the FISA court as little information as possible and takes its time giving it to them:
In what appears to be one of the most serious violations, the NSA diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.
The operation to obtain what the agency called “multiple communications transactions” collected and commingled U.S. and foreign e-mails, according to an article in SSO News, a top-secret internal newsletter of the NSA’s Special Source Operations unit. NSA lawyers told the court that the agency could not practicably filter out the communications of Americans.
In October 2011, months after the program got underway, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that the collection effort was unconstitutional. The court said that the methods used were “deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds,” according to a top-secret summary of the opinion, and it ordered the NSA to comply with standard privacy protections or stop the program.
Don’t you feel better?
03 Jul 2013
in craziness, politics
Tags: Europe, politics, Snowden, South America, State Secrets
A few days ago it was revealed that the US has been spying on EU countries. For some reason that upset a lot of people in Europe. Today they decided that perhaps capturing Edward Snowden was more important than upsetting much of Latin America (Morales is the President of Bolivia):
Morales’s plane, ferrying him home from a conference in Moscow, was redirected to Vienna late Tuesday after France and Portugal refused to allow it to enter their airspace, Bolivian and Venezuelan officials said.
Authorities in Austria confirmed that the plane was searched and that Snowden, 30, was not on the flight. There was no indication that he had left Moscow, where he has been in diplomatic limbo for more than a week.
The US almost certainly bullied France, Portugal, and Austria into this action. Which continent will President Obama try to alienate next?
01 Jul 2013
in craziness, politics
Tags: craziness, politics, Secrecy, State Secrets
It turns out that when officials know their statements can’t be checked, they’re not always truthful:
details that have emerged from the exposure of hundreds of pages of previously classified NSA documents indicate that public assertions about these programs by senior U.S. officials have also often been misleading, erroneous or simply false.
For now, the crumbling secrecy surrounding the programs has underscored the extent to which obscuring their dimensions had served government interests beyond the importance of the intelligence they produced.
Secret court rulings that allowed the NSA to gather phone records enabled the spy service to assemble a massive database on Americans’ phone records without public debate or the risk of political blowback.
The binding secrecy built into the PRISM program of tracking international e-mail allowed the NSA to compel powerful technology companies to comply with requests for information about their users while keeping them essentially powerless to protest.
The careful depiction of NSA programs also served diplomatic ends. Until recently, the United States had positioned itself as such an innocent victim of cyber intrusions by Russia and China that the State Department issued a secret demarche, or official diplomatic communication, in January scolding Beijing. That posture became more problematic after leaks by the former NSA contractor and acknowledged source of the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong and is thought to be stuck at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.
The latest news shows how this type of thing expands:
The latest allegations surfaced in the online edition of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which reported that US agencies had monitored the offices of the EU in New York and Washington. Der Spiegel said information about the spying appeared in documents obtained by Edward J. Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor, and seen in part by the magazine.
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said in a statement that he was “deeply worried and shocked.”
“If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations,” he said, adding that he wanted a “full clarification” and would demand “further information speedily from the US authorities.”
Viviane Reding, the EU’s commissioner for justice, responding to a question at a meeting in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, said that “partners do not spy on each other.”
If this is secret, why wouldn’t you do it? There is always pressure to get information from somewhere and with secrecy there won’t be much pressure on the other side. So you end up spying on citizens and friendly countries. You end up stranding citizens overseas:
Motiwala, a U.S. citizen, wanted to return to his family in Southern California. But earlier this month, as he traveled from Jakarta, Indonesia, to LAX, airline staff in Bangkok refused to issue him a boarding pass for his connecting flight. U.S. and Thai officials told him that he could not travel but offered no explanation, leading him to believe he’d been placed on the U.S. government’s secret no-fly list.
Although travelers can petition to be removed from the no-fly list, civil liberties advocates say the Department of Homeland Security‘s redress process is so opaque that the only way to know if you’ve been cleared is to attempt to fly again.
Motiwala, whose parents are of Pakistani origin, was not told why he might be on the list. A likely possibility, however, is his contact with Tablighi Jamaat, a conservative Muslim missionary movement based in South Asia.
He took leave from medical school last year, traveled to Pakistan to visit relatives and went on to Indonesia to work with the group, members of which go around the world proselytizing for Islam.
Tablighi Jamaat is widely regarded as peaceful and apolitical, and claims millions of followers, but U.S. and European law enforcement officials have raised questions about possible connections to radical Islam.
24 Jun 2013
in craziness, politics
Tags: craziness, politics, Secrecy, State Secrets
This isn’t very encouraging:
Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
The Obama administration already was pursuing an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, and some in Congress – long one of the most prolific spillers of secrets – favor tightening restrictions on reporters’ access to federal agencies, making many U.S. officials reluctant to even disclose unclassified matters to the public.
“If the folks who are watching within an organization for that insider threat – the lawyers, security officials and psychologists – can figure out that an individual is having money problems or decreased work performance and that person may be starting to come into the window of being an insider threat, superiors can then approach them and try to remove that stress before they become a threat to the organization,” the Pentagon official said.
The Department of Education, meanwhile, informs employees that co-workers going through “certain life experiences . . . might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” Those experiences, the department says in a computer training manual, include “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”
Some federal agencies also are using the effort to protect a broader range of information. The Army orders its personnel to report unauthorized disclosures of unclassified information, including details concerning military facilities, activities and personnel.
The Peace Corps, which is in the midst of implementing its program, “takes very seriously the obligation to protect sensitive information,” said an email from a Peace Corps official who insisted on anonymity but gave no reason for doing so.
In some sense, some of this type of thing makes sense if you’re working in the NSA on top-secret stuff but in the Department of Education? It promotes an adversarial relationship with everyone–if someone is having a bad day you should suspect them (the Pentagon official talk about removing stress, but this wouldn’t be by a colleague)–and that means that employees will be less likely to share information or pronounce differences of opinion with their superiors. If you live in a totalitarian regime you might want this, but I would think we wouldn’t want that in a Democracy.
13 Jun 2013
in civil liberties, politics
Tags: NSA, politics, State Secrets
In one of my first posts (with a couple follow-ups), I noted that one of the reasons I was a liberal was that I distrust governments and big business but think I have slightly more influence on government. One of the reasons I have more influence with the government is that its operations are open (in theory at least) while corporate meetings are not–I can’t influence something I don’t know about. And this is why the leaks by Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are important, they have shown things that the US government is doing secretly. And we have discovered two things: the government has done things that the public might not support; the government has kept things secret that don’t need to be secret. And these are both reasons why government secrecy is anathema to a democracy–I can’t intelligently decide who to vote for if I don’t know what they’re doing.
11 Jun 2013
in civil liberties, craziness
Tags: civil liberties, craziness, NSA, State Secrets
Here’s the guy who we’re supposed to trust that this newly revealed program is fine:
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is still working on his explanation for why he told Senator Ron Wyden in March that the NSA does not wittingly “collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” As we now know, the NSA does precisely that — metadata (but not content) from pretty much every phone call made in America is collected and stored.
On Thursday, Clapper claimed, “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.” Of course, that’s not what he said, and everyone knows it, because video. So now Clapper says that he simply has a different definition of collect than most humans, and this defniition allowed him to answer in the “least untruthful manner.” He admits that this explanation is probably “too cute by half.”
So, the person we’re supposed to trust lied to Congress. And:
The director of a top American spy agency said Tuesday that he believed that material from Iraq’s illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria and perhaps other countries as part of an effort by the Iraqis to disperse and destroy evidence immediately before the recent war.
The official, James R. Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ”unquestionably” had been moved out of Iraq.
”I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse,” General Clapper, who leads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.
I’m sorry, but I don’t trust him.
07 Jun 2013
in civil liberties, craziness, politics
Tags: NSA, obama, politics, State Secrets
I’m sorry, but I don’t trust you (they also track credit cards):
It was revealed late Wednesday that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of US phone customers. The leaked document first reported by the Guardian newspaper gave the NSA authority to collect from all of Verizon’s land and mobile customers, but intelligence experts said the program swept up the records of other phone companies too. Another secret program revealed Thursday scours the Internet usage of foreign nationals overseas who use any of nine US-based internet providers such as Microsoft and Google.
In his first comments since the programs were publicly revealed this week, Obama said safeguards are in place.
Government secrecy is anathema to a democracy and this isn’t good enough:
Obama said he came into office with a ‘‘healthy skepticism’’ of the program and increased some of the ‘‘safeguards’’ on the programs. He said Congress and federal judges have oversight on the program, and a judge would have to approve monitoring of the content of a call and it’s not a ‘‘program run amok.’’
Notice the sleight of hand here:
Senior administration officials defended the programs as critical tools and said the intelligence they yield is among the most valuable data the US collects. Clapper said the Internet program, known as PRISM, can’t be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the U.S, and that data accidentally collected about Americans is kept to a minimum.
Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to make quarterly reports of any accidental collection of U.S. content, but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”
Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially. The same math explains the aphorism, from the John Guare play, that no one is more than “six degrees of separation” from any other person.
In other words, every search collects data about Americans and it’s not a big deal.
06 Jun 2013
in civil liberties, Crime
Tags: civil liberties, NSA, State Secrets, telecoms
So, the NSA is grabbing some information from millions of phone calls. Like Kevin Drum, I assumed they were still doing this but it would be nice if there was a general outcry about this. The problem is that most people don’t think this is a big deal–after all they’re not criminals and only criminals care if they’re being watched, right? Here’s why you should care:
The government, like every other organization in existence, responds to pressure and because of that, they will never voluntarily give up added security powers. This is because of the way the public reacts to security issues–if there are civil rights infringements the public doesn’t respond that loudly, but it responds very loudly indeed to security break-downs (such as the bombing in Boston). This means that the default will be to add surveillance to a person that is suspected of a crime even if there’s no real reason for this suspicion.
Think of this example: I call the number of someone who is an actual high-level criminal. The response very well might be to put me on security lists which will mean that I will start to have very real difficulties, for example if I want to fly anywhere. If I called the number by mistake (maybe I know someone who has a number similar to it), then I’m going to be very upset by all this added scrutiny (especially because it’s almost impossible to get off such lists since they and the whole program will be secret, so I can’t prove I’m on one) but most people will assume I must have done something wrong and ignore me. On the other hand, if I really am a terrorist and end up committing some atrocity there will be a huge outcry if I wasn’t put on such a list. So, on the list I go … unless there is also a large outcry when innocents are put on the list.
I think I’m going to have to start calling numbers like 672-968-7825 and 672-382-5633.
15 May 2013
in politics, reporting, security
Tags: Benghazi, IRS, security, State Secrets, terrorists
The Boston Globe details the three BIG scandals affecting President Obama. The three are:
Benghazi: this is a completely Republican generated scandal. Something bad happened and they used that to imply things (there have been so many different implications, it’s near impossible to list them all). Kevin Drum has a nice roundup here.
IRS investigation of Tea Party groups: the IRS should not be political, so this is bad. On the other hand, I really want the IRS to strongly investigate all these new (and existing) 501 (c) organizations that are abusing the system to put unlimited anonymous donations into the political system. All of them should be investigated.
Gathering of AP phone calls by the Justice Department: welcome to the club guys. Many of us liberals, and a few libertarian Republicans, have been complaining about this type of thing since the PATRIOT act was passed. We were in favor of a press shield law. How about Republicans:
The legislation has broad support from journalism organizations and is a compromise worked out by senators, the intelligence community and the Obama administration.
“After years of debate and countless cases of reporters being held in contempt, fined and even jailed for honoring their professional commitment not to publicly reveal their sources, the time has come to enact a balanced federal shield law,” said the committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Conservative Republicans and some in the intelligence community believe it can harm attempts to track down leakers of classified national security information.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said the bill “goes beyond protection for journalists. It’s granting journalists a power that is not provided to other people” who possess important information.
It’s good to see that Republicans have come around, it certainly couldn’t be that they’re just trying to hurt Obama.
Update: For example, how many investigations of this were there?
06 Mar 2013
in craziness, justice, politics
Tags: craziness, drones, justice, politics, State Secrets
This is not enough:
… Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, said the White House had agreed to give the committee access to all Justice Department legal opinions on the targeted killing of Americans. Two such opinions were briefly shared with senators at the time of Brennan’s confirmation hearing last month; it is unclear how many more memos will now be shared.
Republicans have pressed for more details on the administration’s response to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, in September, which killed the US ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. The committee has been given additional Benghazi material as well, though not enough to satisfy some Republicans.
In addition, a staff member for each senator on the Intelligence Committee will now be permitted for the first time to see the Justice Department memos, which govern the use of drones and other weapons to kill US citizens overseas who have been identified as dangerous terrorists. Previously, only senators themselves were permitted to read the memos, a restriction that Feinstein had strongly protested, staff members said.
‘‘I have reached an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all OLC opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities,’’ Feinstein said, referring to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. ‘‘I am pleased the administration has made this information available. It is important for the committee to do its work and will pave the way for the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director.’’
Congressional officials said the administration had also agreed to provide public, unclassified information about its position on when people suspected of terrorism can be killed legally on US soil. Several members of Congress, including Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, have raised the question, but neither Brennan nor Obama has given a clear answer in public.
As the ACLU representative says at the end of the article, this is a good, but small, first step. The rationale for killing someone needs to clear and needs to be public–we are a nation of laws. On the other hand, the Benghazi stuff is stupid and to be ignored.
21 Jun 2012
in justice, politics
Tags: obama, politics, State Secrets
As I noted a few days ago, Republicans are aching to impeach somebody and President Obama has decided to help them along:
A House committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt Wednesday for not releasing documents related to Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-tracking operation in which federal agents permitted Mexican drug smugglers to buy thousands of firearms that were eventually used in crimes.
The invocation of executive privilege or state secrets is often used to hide something embarrassing or incriminating, so it should be used only in rare situations and this is not one of them.
As you think about the operation Fast and Furious (the ideas behind it originated under President Bush), remember the reasons behind it. There is a huge drug war going on in Mexico being fueled by the US in two ways: most of the drugs go to the US; many of the guns come from the US. Given that, there is a lot of pressure from Mexico to do something about US guns making their way into Mexico. The sensible thing to do would be to crack down on the ability to buy guns in the US, but imagine what the NRA or Republicans would say about that. So instead we got Fast and Furious.
17 Jun 2012
in Media, politics
Tags: Media, obama, politics, State Secrets, Watergate
Today is the 40th anniversary of the beginning of Watergate. As Charles Pierce notes, the lessons learned from Watergate were the wrong ones. For example, President Obama has learned that people who leak government secrets need to be severely punished (also look here, Abramson’s speech is here):
Abramson, who took over as executive editor last September, said several reporters who have covered national security for decades have told her that “the environment has never been tougher or information harder to dislodge. One Times reporter told me, ‘The environment in Washington has never been more hostile to reporting,’ ’’ she said.
Abramson pointed out that the Obama administration has mounted six prosecutions involving leaks under the 1917 Espionage Act, double the number under all previous administrations combined.
“The United States has never had an official secrets act,’’ she said. “This would be antithetical to our democratic values. But it seems time to me to ask whether a once obscure espionage law from long ago is now being used to substitute for one.’’
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
At the same time, legal scholar Geoffrey Stone has concluded that there has not been any instance when the media’s publication of “a legitimate but newsworthy government secret has gravely harmed the national interest,’’ she said.
Republicans think Obama is using the links to make himself look good (gee, no other President has done that) and think his administration has been too open. It’s a surreal atmosphere for the anniversary of Watergate.
24 Jan 2012
in craziness, torture
Tags: State Secrets, terrorists, torture
The Obama administration is going after another leaker:
The Justice Department on Monday charged a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah — adding another chapter to the Obama administration’s crackdown on leaks.
In some sense, it’s hard to feel bad for this guy since he was one of the advocates of torture. The reason I care is the same prosecution would have occured if the guy had leaked the information to show the government was doing something illegal. What makes this irritating is the fact that the Obama administration has not gone after any of the people who actually tortured or allowed torture. Glenn Greenwald notes the problem here. John Cole comments here.
29 Dec 2011
in politics, World
Tags: drones, politics, State Secrets, terrorists
Via here, this is very unsettling to say the least:
In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents.
Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.
On Sept. 30, Awlaki was killed in a missile strike carried out by the CIA under Title 50 authorities — which govern covert intelligence operations — even though officials said it was initially unclear whether an agency or JSOC drone had delivered the fatal blow. A second U.S. citizen, an al-Qaeda propagandist who had lived in North Carolina, was among those killed.
The execution was nearly flawless, officials said. Nevertheless, when a similar strike was conducted just two weeks later, the entire protocol had changed. The second attack, which killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, was carried out by JSOC under Title 10 authorities that apply to the use of military force.
When pressed on why the CIA had not pulled the trigger, U.S. officials said it was because the main target of the Oct. 14 attack, an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna, was not on the agency’s kill list. The Awlaki teenager, a U.S. citizen with no history of involvement with al-Qaeda, was an unintended casualty.
The outdated procedure reflects the agency’s effort to comply with Title 50 requirements that Congress be provided with timely, written notification of covert action overseas. There is no comparable requirement in Title 10, and the Senate Armed Services Committee can go days before learning the details of JSOC strikes.
Neither panel is in a position to compare the CIA and JSOC kill lists or even arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the rules by which each is assembled.
The senior administration official said the gap is inadvertent. “It’s certainly not something where the goal is to evade oversight,” the official said. A senior Senate aide involved in reviewing military drone strikes said that the blind spot reflects a failure by Congress to adapt but that “we will eventually catch up.”
Here’s a secret war, killing hundreds including US citizens, with little oversight. What could go wrong? And the idea that the long delay on strikes is inadvertent? That’s so stupid it’s laughable–just because something isn’t mandated doesn’t mean it’s prohibited. The person basically said they only give notification when they have to–again, what could go wrong?
05 Mar 2011
in civil liberties, craziness
Tags: craziness, State Secrets
In another case of President Obama’s problematic behavior to uphold state secrets, now:
Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking government files to WikiLeaks, will be stripped of his clothing every night as a “precautionary measure” to prevent him from injuring himself, an official at the Marine brig at Quantico, Va., said on Friday.
Private Manning will also be required to stand outside his cell naked during a morning inspection, after which his clothing will be returned to him, said a Marine spokesman, First Lt. Brian Villiard.
As always with this type of stuff, Glenn Greenwald has more as does David Coombs (via Jane Hamsher):
The defense communicated with both PFC Manning and the Brig forensic psychiatrist and learned more about the decision to strip PFC Manning of his clothing every night. On Wednesday March 2, 2011, PFC Manning was told that his Article 138 complaint requesting that he be removed from Maximum custody and Prevention of Injury (POI) Watch had been denied by the Quantico commander, Colonel Daniel J. Choike. Understandably frustrated by this decision after enduring over seven months of unduly harsh confinement conditions, PFC Manning inquired of the Brig operations officer what he needed to do in order to be downgraded from Maximum custody and POI. As even Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell has stated, PFC Manning has been nothing short of “exemplary” as a detainee. Additionally, Brig forensic psychiatrists have consistently maintained that there is no mental health justification for the POI Watch imposed on PFC Manning. In response to PFC Manning’s question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm. PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.
Without consulting any Brig mental health provider, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes used PFC’s Manning’s sarcastic quip as justification to increase the restrictions imposed upon him under the guise of being concerned that PFC Manning was a suicide risk. PFC Manning was not, however, placed under the designation of Suicide Risk Watch. This is because Suicide Risk Watch would have required a Brig mental health provider’s recommendation, which the Brig commander did not have. In response to this specific incident, the Brig psychiatrist assessed PFC Manning as “low risk and requiring only routine outpatient followup [with] no need for … closer clinical observation.” In particular, he indicated that PFC Manning’s statement about the waist band of his underwear was in no way prompted by “a psychiatric condition.”
This is pretty disgusting stuff. I think a message to the president is in order.
01 Apr 2010
in civil liberties, craziness, security
Tags: civil liberties, craziness, national security, obama, State Secrets
Despite threatening to take away documents from a judge, despite defying a judge’s orders, the Obama administration lost its argument that the Al Haramain case should be dismissed because it involved ‘state secrets’ (I put it in quotes since the Bush administration had inadvertently given the group evidence that they had been illegally wiretapped and the whole program had been exposed in 2005).
Given the ferocity of the defense, it’s hard to believe this:
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, noted that the Obama administration had overhauled the department’s procedures for invoking the state-secrets privilege, requiring senior officials to personally approve any assertion before lawyers could make it in court. She said that approach would ensure that the privilege was invoked only when “absolutely necessary to protect national security.”
This is a good result, but still leaves lots of room for future excesses and does nothing to punish the people who broke the law (Congress passed laws that made most of the procedures legal and made telecoms immune from lawsuits against them, which the same judge ruled legal). The reason it has limited scope is because it still agrees that one has to be able to prove the government did something illegal and the government doesn’t have to turn over any documents it calls secret.
Glenn Greenwald has a more thorough examination here and Time has a quick one here.
06 Nov 2009
in craziness, justice, security
Tags: craziness, justice, State Secrets
Via KD, it seems the CIA lied about ‘state secrets’ and the court found out. The judge was not happy:
The judge also criticized CIA Director Leon Panetta, saying he’s given conflicting accounts about what should be revealed in the case. The ruling led to the unsealing Monday of more than 200 unclassified versions of classified filings in the 13-year-old case.
“The court does not give the government a high degree of deference because of its prior misrepresentations regarding the state secrets privilege in this case,” Lamberth ruled.
Horn sued Brown and Huddle in 1994, seeking monetary damages for violations of his civil rights because of the alleged wiretapping.
Tenet filed an affidavit in 2000 asking that the case against Brown be dismissed because he was a covert agent whose identity must not be revealed in court. Lamberth granted the CIA’s request and threw out the case against Brown in 2004.
But Lamberth found out last year that Brown’s cover had been lifted in 2002, even though the CIA continued to file legal documents saying his status was covert. The judge found that the CIA intentionally misled the court and reinstated the case against Brown.
In fact the judge was so upset that he decided he could order that an individual had to be given security clearance back in August. This is important, since up to now only the executive branch has been allowed to do that.
The US settled for $3 million dollars. There’s more here.
Remember this when you look at other ‘state secrets’ cases: are there really state secrets involved or do the people just not want to be prosecuted or embarrassed? Also remember that the original case that articulated the state secrets provision involved a case where there really weren’t any state secrets involved, the claim was made to cover negligence.
21 May 2009
Tags: craziness, national security, obama, State Secrets
In this morning’s speech, President Obama mostly hit the right notes but basically called groups like the ACLU stupid:
We see that, above all, in how the recent debate has been obscured by two opposite and absolutist ends. On one side of the spectrum, there are those who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and who would almost never put national security over transparency. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words: “anything goes.” Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means, and that the President should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants – provided that it is a President with whom they agree.
This might sound better if his administration hadn’t argued in some cases that the entire case should be dropped because of ‘State Secrets’ even when the information was already out there.
And he uses the old Republican standby, that their policies will lead to deaths:
On the other hand, I recently opposed the release of certain photographs that were taken of detainees by U.S. personnel between 2002 and 2004. Individuals who violated standards of behavior in these photos have been investigated and held accountable. There is no debate as to whether what is reflected in those photos is wrong, and nothing has been concealed to absolve perpetrators of crimes. However, it was my judgment – informed by my national security team – that releasing these photos would inflame anti-American opinion, and allow our enemies to paint U.S. troops with a broad, damning and inaccurate brush, endangering them in theaters of war.
I really don’t understand this. He has basically said that the actions in the photos are terrible, won’t that information already inflame anti-American opinion (it is easier to exploit actual photos, but couldn’t people say something like: ‘the actions are so bad that the US won’t allow their release’?). Also, Obama has been arguing that the US will regain credibility if they’re open, but here he’s against it here because … umm … well it would look bad for the US. It’s not being open if you only do so when it looks good.