Leaked Documents Show How Feds Can Spy On Journalists ‘In Total Secrecy’

Source: UndergroundReporter.org | CommonDreams.org
Deidre Fulton
July 1, 2016

Newly leaked documents published by The Intercept expose just how easy it is for the FBI to spy on journalists using so-called National Security Letters (NSLs).

The classified rules, which had previously been released only in heavily redacted form, “show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists’ information,” The Intercept‘s Cora Currier wrote on Thursday.

According to the reporting, an attempt to access journalists’ call data with an NSL must be approved by the typical chain-of-command as well as the FBI’s general counsel and the executive assistant director of the agency’s National Security Branch.

“Generally speaking, there are a variety of FBI officials, including the agents in charge of field offices, who can sign off that an NSL is ‘relevant’ to a national security investigation,” Currier explained.

Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an advocacy group which had petitioned for the release of these documents, calls Thursday’s revelations “quite disturbing, since the Justice Department spent two years trying to convince the public that it updated its ‘Media Guidelines’ to create a very high and restrictive bar for when and how they could spy on journalists using regular subpoenas and court orders. These leaked rules prove that the FBI and [Department of Justice or DOJ] can completely circumvent the Media Guidelines and just use an NSL in total secrecy.”

The Intercept added: “There is an extra step under the rules if the NSL targets a journalist in order ‘to identify confidential news media sources.’ In that case, the general counsel and the executive assistant director must first consult with the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.”

Of this low additional hurdle, Timm scoffs: “That’s it! They don’t have to even go through the motions for following any of the several rules laid out in the DOJ [M]edia [G]uidelines: like get the Attorney General to sign off, exhaust all other means of investigation, alerting and negotiating with the affected media organization, making sure what is being sought is essential to the investigation, etc.”

Furthermore, the rules stipulate that if “the NSL is trying to identify a leaker by targeting the records of the potential source, and not the journalist, the Justice Department doesn’t need to be involved.”

And then there’s the matter of transparency, Timm writes, comparing the information gleaned through the leak with what was previously made available by the DOJ:

The other major question here is: why are these rules secret in the first place? The information that has been redacted here by the Justice Department—and which they are fighting to keep secret in court—is incredibly mundane. The fact that the FBI has to get another person in the bureaucracy to sign off on a particular investigation should not be a state secret, nor would it remotely harm any ongoing investigation, nor would “tip off” any alleged criminals to how to evade surveillance.

In an effort to make the rules more transparent, the Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2015 filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding the DOJ release the secret rules targeting journalists. Last month, a coalition of 37 news organizations—including the Associated Press, NPR, and Buzzfeed—filed a legal brief supporting that demand.

Just last week, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a bill that would have dramatically expanded the FBI’s authority to use NSLs to obtain Electronic Communication Transaction Records (ECTR) such as email time stamps, senders, and recipients, as well as browsing metadata such as history and location—all without a warrant.

However, digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation warned at the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “switched his vote to ‘No’ at the last minute so that he may be able to bring up the amendment during future debate.”

This article (Leaked Documents Show How Feds Can Spy on Journalists ‘In Total Secrecy’) by Deirdre Fulton originally appeared on CommonDreams.org and is licensed Creative Commons. Image credit: Pixabay

Read More At: UndergroudnReporter.org

Happy Fourth of July — Independence From What Though?

Source: Valor Ridge
Reid Henrichs
July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July is and was a world-changing event. Our Founders declared independence from Great Britain after the Crown and Parliament refused to hear our petitions, restore natural-born rights to the colonists, and occupied colonial towns with demonstrations of force. In addition, the Continental Army fought against the British for over a year before the Declaration of Independence was officially announced. The assertion of sovereignty over our own affairs happened 240 years ago, and now we have had many of the same infringements on our liberties that our ancestors did. Some in fact are even worse.

Issues To Contemplate This 4th Of July

” Waiting for when tyranny knocks on the door to take action is tantamount to waiting for the last second to attempt to cut the fuse of an explosive.”
– Zy Marquiez

“Most Americans are unaware of a decline in individual liberty, and the reason is obvious: the decline rarely takes form in sudden personal deprivations but, instead, takes the form of unnoticed erosion and, thus, we come to regard whatever state we are in as a normal condition.”
– Leonard E. Read

“They don’t want to see us unite: All they want us to do is keep on fussing and fighting.  They don’t want to see us live together: all they want to do is keep on killing one another.”
– Bob Marley

Zy Marquiez
July 4, 2016

What does freedom mean to you?  This is a question that gets myriad answers, for innumerable reasons.

All about our environs we can see many patriots today, but how many of them are proactively looking out for their rights? How many individuals are speaking out when they see individual freedoms stripped away?  How many are speaking out against the growing police sate?  What about speaking out about the noxious genetically modified foods they eat?  What about the attacks on our right to self defense?  What about speaking out about any of the other impending issues?

As a society, today we celebrate Independence Day, but ironically enough, we’re so dependent on the system that if it just slowed down for a second, people would lose their moral compass.  In fact, within the last couple of decades, during the times society has tasted but a semblance of a catastrophe or a disaster this premise plays out in a highly disturbing manner.  Katrina is a prime example of this, and not the only one sadly.

Yes, not every person acts in a self-centered manner when things go down the drain, but the amount of people that do carry out such actions is more than troublesome.  It only takes but the softest of winds to blow down a house of cards, and that’s exactly what our economic system has become.  Why else do you think handed bankers that were ‘Too Big To Fail’ ‘Too Big To Jail’ trillions and trillions of dollars in 2009?  That wasn’t that long ago, and it’s like nobody remembers.   Worse, nothing’s inherently changed.  Not one damn thing.

Our society has changed incredibly in the last century.  The farther back in time one goes, the more it is  apparent people were their brother’s keeper; the more individuals were willing to stand up for what they believed in, and stand up against tyrannical measures.  These salient thoughts spring forth even more issues to ponder on this 4th of July.

Have these so called patriotic festivities just become a facade?  A garrulous ghost of our past?  Are we just celebrating, because, that’s just what American society does on its day off?  Is it done because that’s just what we’ve been taught to do?  Is it because of its deeper meaning?  Ruminate on that for a bit.

At a cursory glance, it seems that it’s become automatic to celebrate this day while not delving deeper into the finer meanings it entails.  And speaking to many friends and acquaintances these last few days, this is confirmed over and over with most conversations had.  Fourth Of July has become a superficial celebration it seems, and that overriding theme of enjoyment without rumination has concerningly made this date a shadow of its former self.

Seeping deeper, why does apathy abound in American society?  Is it a stagnant state of mind, or has our mind – our most powerful weapon as individuals – been dulled through inaction?

America was once the shinning beacon of the world.  At this moment, if you were to ask people within America, a good lot would tell you this is still so.  Now if you’ve traveled extensively outside of America, you will realize quickly that those sentiments are not shared by most other cultures for myriad reasons.

As a society we have allowed apathy to take charge of our life, myself included.  We have allowed for this deleterious emotional state to infect us, our kith and kin, like a virus and be the impetus for our descent into societal stagnation.

Its kind of ironic how many love celebrating freedom on this day but allow the freight train of tyranny to continue barreling down the tracks.

Seeing so many flags on this 4th of July is a great thing, but if all they are is a hollow gesture – something robotic – that we’ve come to just do as a society without respecting its deeper meaning, then we’ve lost part of ourselves somewhere along the road most traveled.

Patriotism, on the surface, abounds.  And yet, nigh nobody is willing to back what it means when the country needs it’s people the most.

With every new law passed, Freedom sheds another drop of blood to the vampiric and corrupt system that harvests human potential in every way, and then spits empty skeletons back out  by the tens of thousands when it’s done chewing them out.

Ever notice how laws always empower the state, and never empower you – the individual?

In fact, one could argue that most laws not only do not empower individuals, but they seek to disempower individual action.  That’s highly disturbing, because we’re supposed to live in a ‘free’ society.

This 4th Of July, it would be prudent to take note as to why it is called ‘Independence Day’, and why this day is celebrated in the first day.  Am an not talking about taking superficial note.  Am talking about a deeper, more inward rumination about the endless events that transpired for an entire country – our country – to not only shed its shackles, but to change the course of history in the process that allowed the world to take notice of what the idea of Freedom and all that it entailed stood for once cemented with a tsunami of firm action.

America fought tyranny before, and it came out on top.  In more recent times, from many angles, its fighting it again.

With SB277 coming down the pipe, Medical Tyranny will reach new untold levels with people being forced to carry out medical procedures.  And if we don’t stand up, it won’t stop there.

Worse still, with Gunpocalypse also now firmly in the fray in Kalifornia, people’s right to self defense in that state just took such a tyrannical hit that reverberations are still being felt from it everywhere.

If we don’t stand up for our rights now, we will only have a bigger whole to dig ourselves from later.  Waiting for when tyranny knocks on the door to take action is tantamount to waiting for the last second to attempt to cut the fuse of an explosive.

The best way to defend against tyranny – or defend against any threat – is when its beyond your perimeter, where you can see its every action, and thus, act accordingly.

Let’s be cognizant and make sure what transpired on 4th of July does not happen again.  Ever.

Empower yourself.  Empower others.

Stand up for what you believe in.  Do what’s right.

Stand side by side with others and lets cast an unremitting light on the shadows once and for all.


Source: GizaDeathStar.com
Dr. Joseph P. Farrell
July 4, 2016

In the past few years it’s become my custom here either to refrain from blogging, or simply to post readings from America’s historical founding documents, on the Fourth of July, and with the BREXIT referendum in the United Kingdom, a revolt against out of touch, unelected bureaucrats in Brussels laying waste and ruin to European culture, I think the following readings are worth consideration:


“Mr. Adam’s sine qua non of a good government is three balancing powers, whose repelling qualities are to produce equilibrium of interests, and thereby promote the happiness of the whole community. He asserts that the administrators of every government, will ever be actuated by views of private interest and ambition, to the prejudice of the public good; that therefore the only effectual method to secure the rights of the people and to promote their welfare, is to create an opposition of interests between the members of two distinct bodies, in the exercise of the powers of government, and balanced by those of a third. This hypothesis supposes human wisdom competent to the task of instituting three co-equal orders in government, and a corresponding weight in the community to enable them respectively to exercise their several parts and whose views and interests should be so distinct as to prevent a coalition of any two of them for the destruction of the third. Mr. Adams… has not been able to adduce a single instance of such a government.” (Centinel, Number 1, October 5, 1787, The Anti-Federalist Papers, ed Ralph Ketcham (New York, American Library, 1986] p. 230).

Read More At: GizaDeathStar.com

Profile photo of Joseph P. FarrellJoseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and “strange stuff”. His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into “alternative history and science”.

Thanks to John McCain, the FBI Almost Just Got Access to Your Browser History

Source: UndergroundReporter.org
James Holbrooks
June 23, 2016

On Wednesday, a bill that would’ve broadly expanded the FBI’s ability to capture an individual’s internet records — by bypassing the need for a warrant altogether — was narrowly defeated.

Falling just two votes short of the 60 required for it to advance, the bill — sponsored by Senator John McCain and attached to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Act of 2016 — sought to allow the federal government to use “national security letters” (NSLs) to track suspected terrorists’ browsing history and email metadata, among other things.

“We aren’t asking for content, we’re asking for usage,” McCain stated in defense of the failed amendment. “This is an important tool.”

But others saw the bill — civil liberty and Fourth Amendment issues aside — as completely unnecessary on its face, given that the USA Freedom Act, passed last year, already grants agencies the ability to conduct warrantless surveillance in urgent situations.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, for instance, argued Wednesday that the USA Freedom Act already “allows the FBI to demand all of these records in an emergency and then go get court approval after the fact. So unless you’re opposed to court oversight, even after the fact, there’s no need to support this amendment.”

Wednesday’s vote was part of an ongoing attempt by senators to greatly expand the use of NSLs, which bypass courts and often involve gag orders. Such instruments, if utilized in the capacity many long for, would compel private companies to supply government agencies with individuals’ personal internet data.

But McCain’s bill would’ve also made permanent a “lone wolf” provision of the USA Freedom Act that, according to the ACLU, already“improperly allows the government to obtain secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders for individuals who are not connected to an international terrorist group or foreign nation.”

To that end, McCain himself invoked the “lone wolf” aspect of the proposed amendment — as well as the recent mass shooting in Orlando — in promotion of the legislation on Monday.

“In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando,” the senator stated in a press release, “it is important our law enforcement have the tools they need to conduct counterterrorism investigations and track ‘lone wolves,’ or ISIL-inspired terrorists who do not have direct connections to foreign terrorist organizations but who seek to harm Americans.”

But Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the ACLU, sees through that argument. Speaking to AlterNet, she said:

“We shouldn’t have a kneejerk reaction to say that there needs to be more surveillance and less oversight. Gutting civil liberties is not an appropriate response. This amendment runs counter to the conversation over the last several years where we talked about how do we rein in surveillance abuses. This says, ‘let’s expand the types of information the FBI can get without ever seeing a judge.”

In contrast to Wednesday’s vote in the Senate, last week the House voted down a measure — attached to a spending bill just days after the Orlando shooting — that would’ve prohibited the government from searching the online communications of American citizens without a warrant.

Read More At: UndergroundReporter.org

The Roots of Today’s Tyranny: Total Information Awareness

Source: ActivistPost.com
Derrick Brooze
June 23, 2016

To understand the roots of the oppression, erosion of liberties, and invasion of privacy that has become the new norm for Americans, we must go back to the days following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was promising Americans that he would exact revenge on those who dare attack the empire. Dubya’s program of “Shock and Awe” gave the American public an upfront look at what the U.S. military was prepared to do to the enemies of “freedom and democracy.” The bombing of Iraq was only the beginning of a larger conflict that the Bush Administration dubbed “The Global War on Terror.”

The War on Terror did not end in the physical battlefield, however. The U.S. government was determined to root out all possible terrorist activity and in the process roll back as many of America’s hard-earned liberties as possible. Only 45 days after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Congress passed the infamous USA PATRIOT Act, typically known as simply the Patriot Act. The full Orwellian title is the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”

The Patriot Act dramatically expanded the U.S. government’s abilities to monitor emails and landline phone calls, as well as also allowed access to voicemail through a search warrant rather than through a title III wiretap order. There is also section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been used to justify mass surveillance programs by the National Security Agency.

The Patriot Act also vastly increased the use of National Security Letters, a tool used by the government to force telecommunications companies to give customer information without the use of a warrant from a judge. The NSLs are typically issued by the FBI to gather information from companies when related to national-security investigations. This information can include customer names, addresses, phone and Internet records, and banking and credit statements. The NSL also requires employees who have been questioned to be silenced via a gag order which prevents them from notifying anyone that the government is invading customers’ privacy.

Interestingly, many Americans are unaware that the Patriot Act was in fact written before the attacks of 9/11 (see this and this). Not only was the bill written and ready to be released at the right moment, at least one of the bills which spawned the Patriot Act was written by Vice President Joe Biden while he was still a senator in Delaware. In 2008 CNET reported:

The Center for National Security Studies said (Biden’s) bill would erode “constitutional and statutory due process protections” and would “authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.”Biden himself draws parallels between his 1995 bill and its 2001 cousin. “I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill,” he said when the Patriot Act was being debated, according to the New Republic, which described him as “the Democratic Party’s de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism.”

Biden’s chronology is not accurate: the bombing took place in April 1995 and his bill had been introduced in February 1995. But it’s true that Biden’s proposal probably helped to lay the groundwork for the Bush administration’s Patriot Act.

The advancing tyranny that has resulted from the Patriot Act, and the bills which preceded it, has led to what we see in America in 2016. The bulk of American communications are now scanned, monitored, stored in a database, and analyzed for signs of terrorism. The NSA has even built a giant database in Utah to handle all of this data. Big Brother and Big sister are listening through an array of devices. Cell site simulators aka stingrays, Automatic License Plate Readers, Audio recording devices aka gunshot detectors, hidden cameras and microphones in public, thermal imaging planes and drones.

While most Americans are familiar with the dangers and civil liberties violations of the Patriot Act, many may be ignorant to the other steps taken by the U.S. government in their misguided War on Terror. In January 2002, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency responsible for all of the exciting and terrifying emerging military technologies, established the Information Awareness Office (IAO). The creation of the IAO was to bring together several DARPA projects that focused on using surveillance and data mining to track and monitor terrorists and other threats to U.S. National Security.

In November 2002, the New York Times reported that DARPA was developing a classified tracking program called “Total Information Awareness” (TIA), which was intended to detect terrorists by studying millions of pieces of data. The program was designed to create huge databases to gather and store personal data from emails, social media, credit card records, phone calls, medical history, and online history, without the need for a search warrant. The program also featured a biometric component that could be seen as a predecessor to the current FBI biometric database. The Electronic Privacy Information Center said the goal of TIA was “to track individuals through collecting as much information about them as possible and using computer algorithms and human analysis to detect potential activity.”

The man behind TIA was Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, the former national security adviser in the Reagan administration, who was convicted in 1990 for his role in the Iran-contra affair. Poindexter’s conviction would later be overturned by a federal appeals court because he was granted immunity in exchange for testifying about his wrongdoing. Poindexter argued that the U.S. government must be granted even more powers than were given in the Patriot Act.

In 2002, The NY Times reported that Poindexter believes “the government needs to ‘break down the stovepipes’ that separate commercial and government databases, allowing teams of intelligence agency analysts to hunt for hidden patterns of activity with powerful computers.” Poindexter’s actions were criticized by many computer and security experts, including Barbara Simon, a computer scientist and past president of Association of Computing Machinery, who foreshadowed the coming Surveillance State with a warning that,”Once you’ve got it in place you can’t control it.”

“In some ways, Poindexter is the perfect Orwellian figure for the perfect Orwellian project,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University wrote for the LA Times in November 2002. “As a man convicted of falsifying and destroying information, he will now be put in charge of gathering information on every citizen. To add insult to injury, the citizens will fund the very system that will reduce their lives to a transparent fishbowl.”

Public criticism of the TIA would grow so loud that Congress was forced to defund the entire IAO in 2003. However, many Americans correctly suspected that the programs were still being developed, only under different names, using different agencies. This fact would later be confirmed by Edward Snowden’s surveillance leaks of 2013; however, for those paying close attention, it was known for at least 7 years before the Snowden leaks.

Continue Reading At: ActivistPost.com

Commission: 53,000 Reports Of Human Rights Abuses In Tunisia Since May 2015

Source: UndergroundReporter.org
Elika Ansari
June 20, 2016

A truth commission set up to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Tunisia before the 2011 uprising has just announced to have received a total of 65,000 claims. Complaints have been pouring in from all over, including from Islamist parties, members of the opposition, activists, non-governmental organisations, and trade union members, marking an astonishing increase from the already overwhelming 12,000 claims of abuse received by May last year.

After young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire as an act of protest against an oppressive regime which culminated into mass anti-government protests and exiled the country’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia became known as the birthplace of the Arab Spring phenomenon, which snowballed beyond the country’s borders to other Arab countries.

The so-called Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC) was created in 2014, through a newly adopted transitional justice law to investigate and offer compensation for claims of gross human rights violations from 1955, just before Tunisia became independent, up to 2013, when the TDC was founded.

“Our aim is to reveal the truth, how this desperate machine [was] working by a process of saying the truth,” said the head of the TDC, Sihem Bensedrine, to the Guardian last year.

Some of the claims reported so far include voluntary homicide, rape, extrajudicial executions, torture, and arbitrary detention.

One of the victims, Hamida Ajengui, shared her story with the Guardian. She was arrested at the age of 21 for wearing a headscarf, outlawed by the autocratic government at the time, and for offering to help the families of political prisoners. She was then imprisoned, tortured, beaten, sexually harassed and continuously intimidated and threatened with rape. Ajengui, now 46, says she just wants to meet her chief tormentor:

“I want to ask her, ‘why did you behave this way, why were you so merciless?’”

Another testimony of a 49-year-old former teacher, Kadri Lafi, who is now living in exile, was shared in Tunisian webzine inkyfada:

“They insulted me, they beat me. I felt physical fear of violence. I was afraid of losing my dignity, at the time, a teacher was very much respected […] I pay tribute to my father who told me, ‘My son, my heart is torn at the thought of you leaving your land, your school, your family, but I refuse to see you tortured and broken and to see you lose your dignity.’ Those who stayed were destroyed. So I chose exile.”

Though the transitional justice law, and subsequent Commission, have been lauded as a historical leap towards democracy in the country, the TDC has been attacked by biased media and the current government alike, and is further weakened by internal conflict.

The TDC’s implementing powers are also rather limited to only a set of recommendations it can make to a government that is already beginning to prove, not only uncooperative, but rather hostile to the Truth Commission’s mandate. When it comes to digging too deep in the past, it seems everyone has something to hide, especially in a newly-democratised country like Tunisia.

Read More At: UndergroundReporter.org

This article (Commission: 53,000 Reports of Human Rights Abuses in Tunisia Since May 2015) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Elika Ansari and UndergroundReporter.org. If you spot a typo, please email the error and the name of the article to undergroundreporter2016@gmail.com. Image credit: YouTube