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Why the Obama Administration is not the Stasi

big barryThe Obama Administration is not the Stasi. After all, the Stasi notoriously created a nation-state of informants.

Instead of pesky informants, the Obama Administration prefers the “hoovering” of all electronic data, foreign and domestic, as well as the use of drones to spy on the citizenry. (And what does a drone do in such cases? It’s one of a million surveillance cameras, only it’s in the sky instead of on the ground.)

But rest assured, Barack “The Surveiller” Obama has made the determination with regards to your privacy and these programs are well worth the intrusion into every corner of the American life. It’s a small price to pay.

(The problem isn’t that these things are illegal; the problem is that they are legal.)

Send lawyers, drones, and money. It’s for your own good.

Reeducating Nadler

Has Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) been assimilated?

Here is Nadler as of Thursday:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Here is Nadler—maybe—via his mouthpiece, today:

James Owens, a spokesman for Nadler, provided a statement on Sunday morning, a day after this article was published, saying: “I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant.” Owens said he couldn’t comment on what assurances from the Obama administration Nadler was referring to, and said Nadler was unavailable for an interview.

So who are we to believe: Nadler, who says an analyst can serve as the decision authority on a listen-in, or the Nadler rep who toes the Administration line but contradicts his boss’s statement?

For the touchy-feely and gullible crowd, the President’s chief offers that Obama does not “feel” American’s privacy has been violated. (In related news from the annals of communism, Chairman Mao, Uncle Joe, and Pol Pot all “felt” they were exemplary leaders.)

Given the massive amount of information that can be held on a thumb drive (and that multiple thumb drives may be in play; you can get a 32 gig thumb drive for less than twenty bucks), is Glenn Greenwald just waiting for the right time to make a liar of (almost) everyone?

The surveillance state’s massive credibility problem

The surveillance state is simply not credible as the basic assertion of the watchers/gatherers appears to be this: “good” Americans are wholly surveilled while their privacy remains intact. Or, in some sort of paradox that makes sense only to the watchers and gatherers, we are monitored but free.

From the Washington Post comes the story of a leaker trying to do some damage repair:

The White House, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the record for this article. A senior intelligence official agreed to answer questions if not identified.

So based on the above, we likely have authorized leaks from an unidentified source. What’s comes next? The unnamed source’s plea for trust, naturally. Here’s what the leaker says:

“We have rich oversight across three branches of government. I’ve got an [inspector general] here, a fairly robust legal staff here . . . and there’s the Justice Department’s national security division,” the official said. “For those things done under court jurisdiction, the courts are intrusive in my business, appropriately so, and there are two congressional committees. It’s a belts-and-suspenders-and-Velcro approach, and inside there’s rich auditing.”

This might be the sort of “rich oversight” the IRS is subject to on non-profits, along with the associated “rich auditing.” (“Rich auditing” may in fact be code for “political targeting.” And as it turns out, the IRS is the one who does the auditing, not the public. We really don’t know much regarding the true genesis of the IRS scandal except that it’s a massive oversight failure. And ironically, those at the top often hide behind claims of “privacy.”)

Next, industry wants the top cover that only government can provide (and government is happy to do so. It makes the story sound so much better.)

When the New York Times revealed the warrantless surveillance of voice calls, in December 2005, the telephone companies got nervous. One of them, unnamed in the report, approached the NSA with a request. Rather than volunteer the data, at a price, the “provider preferred to be compelled to do so by a court order,” the report said. Other companies followed suit. The surveillance court order that recast the meaning of business records “essentially gave NSA the same authority to collect bulk telephony metadata from business records that it had” under Bush’s asserted authority alone.

So there you have it: meet the new boss, same as the old boss (except the new boss has a government approved program which is the same as the old, decider-approved program).

And what about the internet?

The NSA calls Internet metadata “digital network information.” Sophisticated analysis of those records can reveal unknown associates of known terrorism suspects. Depending on the methods applied, it can also expose medical conditions, political or religious affiliations, confidential business negotiations and extramarital affairs.

What permits the former and prevents the latter is a complex set of policies that the public is not permitted to see. “You could do analyses that give you more information, but the law and procedures don’t allow that,” a senior U.S. intelligence lawyer said.

We saw how that worked in preventing the Boston Marathon terror attacks, didn’t we? So where are we? We’re all the way back to where we started, with the Administration saying “trust me, trust the law, trust my procedures.”

The agency and its advocates maintain that its protection of that data is subject to rigorous controls and oversight by Congress and courts. For the public, it comes down to a question of unverifiable trust.

“The constraints that I operate under are much more remarkable than the powers that I enjoy,” said the senior intelligence official who declined to be named.

When asked why the NSA could not release an unclassified copy of its “minimization procedures,” which are supposed to strip accidentally collected records of their identifying details, the official suggested a reporter submit a freedom-of-information request.

So the final non sequiter is that the Administration’s leaker tells the reporter he/she’s leaking to that ‘A FOIA request should be submitted.’

After all this, if you’re going to give the leak, can’t you also include information which actually enhances your position? Why fall back on asking the leak-taker to file a FOIA request (which is far from timely and would be redacted to the point of incomprehensibility)? Good grief, man, you’re already leaking!

The failure to leak on “minimization procedures” is telling. This entire story, a gigantic “trust me” tale, is just like everything else coming out of the vast surveillance state: it comes across as disinformation and narrowly ranges between dissembling and wholly non-credible.

Warrants? Warrants?! We don’t need no stinkin’ warrant!!

Remember when the President said no one was listening to your calls? Well, it seems he was pulling a Clapper.

Instead, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is helping to unravel Obama’s disinformation campaign: (emphasis added)

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”

On the Truth-O-Meter, it’s Snowden 42, Administration 0… at halftime.

The corruption of language… and the truth

The disconnect between what people say and the truth has arguably never been larger.

Leading the way, at the moment, is James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. He’s the guy who said the national surveillance state was “not wittingly” collecting data on Americans. Clapper could easily have offered to answer the question truthfully in a closed hearing or to take a question for the record, both of which are done all the time with Congress, but he didn’t. Instead, he lied and it’s far more reasonable to assume that all your electronic transactions are being catalogued, correlated, and characterized by both industry and government.

Then there’s the President who falsely said Congress had been “fully briefed on these [surveillance] programs” when they hadn’t. Why would the President say such a thing? Easy: it’s a habit. He wants to 1) blame others and 2) avoid uncomfortable problems. Yes, misery loves company. The President, lacking credibility, also mechanically reoffered the standard “I welcome this debate” throwaway line as it regards the depth and breadth of the surveillance state. He welcomes no such thing.

Meanwhile, the NSA’s “industry partners” craft careful statements which imply no knowledge of government data calls while avoiding the unpleasant reality that they’re gathering all sorts of your information and are doing their very best to exploit their haul while also handing it off to the feds.

The Administration’s actions have shown they do not welcome transparency of any sort, except as it concerns crowing about victories and success stories, even when this crowing compromises national security. Mr. Obama says the global war on terror is over, even as the government’s GWOT actions continue unabated and intrusions into the lives of the citizenry expand.

And of course, White House spokesman Jay Carney is an entire case study unto himself.

Discrimination from the IRS is said to be caused by a pair of rogue agents in Cincinnati while in reality it was a big (88 people, so far; expect more), Washington DC-driven (that is, it was a top-down effort) initiative, in every way.

The Senate is working on “comprehensive immigration reform” which most Americans would rightly call amnesty. The usual suspects, both liberal and pseudo-conservative, demand Republican participation (that is, voting for amnesty) or else they say conservatives will face extinction.

Finally, the Benghazi security debacle was spontaneously caused by a YouTube video until that lie could not be sustained.

Regardless of the President’s protestations of innocence, most people know and accept that this fish rots from the head (and not from the tail). Similarly, the people of Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Cuba, Egypt, China, Turkey, et al., know of these—and even more rotten—things. Maybe that’s why sales of one particular edition of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four have gone up almost 10000 percent since the confirmation of the great American surveillance state.

The real lesson is simple… and sad. Americans are being deceived and mislead with malice and forethought and on a level once thought impossible, or even absurd. Why? To further an agenda of power and control. So instead of watching what they say—the “they” being the politicos and their courtiers—let’s resolve ourselves to watch what they do. And as required, to fight it.

Legal versus Constitutional (and does it matter?)

When the time is right—whenever that may be—expect another major media drop on America’s surveillance state, which has been much described as a legal endeavor which is well worth its modest privacy encroachment. In the meantime, the Administration appears to be working hard in order to get out in front of the likely media release:

… Michael Hayden told TPM yesterday that the NSA probably knows by now exactly what data Snowden has in his possession and therefore what leaks are still to come. Maybe that forced the agency to reveal more than they initially wanted to in their briefings this week with Congress: If they withheld something and then the world found out thanks to Snowden,, a lot of angry senators and representatives would want to know why they were kept in the dark.

(Nine tech companies have already been tagged as Prism players, so will the outrage go off scale when we find out about the rumored 50 participants?)

So even if this is all legal, does anyone think just because a law is in place, it’s congenitally Constitutional, desirable, justified, supported, and/or necessary?

(And what are we to think when someone, say a chief justice in a 5-4 ruling, turns himself into a political pretzel in ruling on Barack Obamacare in order to avoid being tarred as “political”?)

An obvious truth is no one believes the executive branch, the legislature, and the judiciary always get things right. After all, not even the President, the very face of the government leviathan, believes this, witness his outrage—staged or real—with regard to Citizens United.

So the lesson, assuming there is one, can be reduced to this: our government is composed of flawed people who make flawed decisions based on… what? The time of day, self-interest, glycemic level, mood, eternal truths, expediency, and naked politics all come to mind. But the more resources the government controls and the less transparent their activities, the greater the opportunity for misbehavior, whether great or small.

And since many view the Constitution as a mere guide, which is “living and breathing,” does it really matter a source of truth?

The oath of office requires the individual to practice fidelity to the Constitution. So if the Constitution is in a constant state of redefinement, what is the individual really honoring?

And in the end, who should be trusted to run our lives, the ruling class (that is, the vast government bureaucracy like the IRS, the Justice Department, the surveillance state, etc.) or its citizens?

IMHO, Bill Buckley has never looked more prescient.

Is the NSA cure worse than the disease?

So beyond the practice of having the federal government track and characterize your calls,  watch your credit card transactions, and scrutinize everything you do on line, can we talk about the real issue at hand? That is, is the government’s cure to terrorism (and a great many other things) worse than the disease?

While our current President has decided for our benefit that a near-total loss of privacy for the ruled is a small price to pay, others—those losing their privacy—might feel quite differently.

Sadly, the decider and his handlers (since the whole thing is classified), point out they’d welcome a “conversation” about government eavesdropping except that it’s classified to begin with and therefore can’t be discussed. Ironically, expect the news on the surveillance state to now dribble out from within the Administration in a way that’s leaked to benefit their agenda. (Unless some in the media already have a large data dump on the surveillance state queued up and  ready to hit the fan.)

There’s speculation about the motives of NSA super-leaker Edward Snowden just as there’s angst, gnashing of teeth, and pretzel logic from the über partisans who are now defending the agenda and practices of the current president which are those of the previous president, writ extra large.

In the meantime, the welfare/security/surveillance-state warning light is illuminated steadily. Will the President take any meaningful action to enhance the privacy of the citizenry or will he keep things on auto-pilot as we continue down our slippery glide-slope?

All signs point towards auto-pilot; auto-pilot helps sustain the power and control agenda of the ruling class.

A post-Prism world

What sorts of things might happen given the super surveillance state revelations (FISA orders, Prism, Boundless Informant, et al)? Here’s a partial list:

  • Lawsuits.
  • More cash transactions.
  • Increased use of private encryption (which may already be futile).
  • A massive fall-off in on-line porn.
  • Unfocused pushback (with tightly focused disgust) against a government Americans clearly aren’t in control of.
  • Tech companies become the new big oil/big tobacco/big retailer/big pharma, only less trustworthy.
  • Legislative calls for on-line privacy.
  • Realization that “on-line privacy” is an oxymoron.
  • More politically targeted IRS audits.
  • Government mandates cloud-only computing. “After considering all things, I’ve decided it’s worth it for you,” Mr. Obama says.
  • The United States becomes a nation people seek refuge from.

The last item on the list (but not necessarily chronologically) is your forehead gets bar coded and you get an RFID implant. (Or in lieu of that, you have your cell phone on and with you at all times. There’s little basic difference.)

Prism changes things by an order of magnitude… or three

The revelation of the Obama Administration’s massive e-gather known as Prism almost defies belief.

But it is sadly believable and it’s going to make the Administration’s Verizon gather look like a rounding error.

Especially when you add in rest of the things that are now likely to dribble out before too long, that is, stuff like the government credit card gather, passing people’s tax returns from one government agency to another, tying things together with your medical records, places you’ve driven fed to Uncle Sugar via your car’s black box, etc.. Use your imagination… if you dare.

Funny how none of this came out before the 2012 elections.

Obama 4, Bush 3

The government’s NSA/FBI-sponsored surveillance-of-Americans-only effort has a score and after seven years, Obama leads Bush 4 years to 3. From Politico:

“As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been in place for the past seven years,” Feinstein said. “This renewal is carried out by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.”

Chambliss said the report in the Guardian Wednesday was “nothing new.”

“This has been going on for seven years,” he said. “…every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this. To my knowledge there has not been any citizen who has registered a complaint. It has proved meritorious because we have collected significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years.”

So let’s see: 1) this has been going on seven years, 2) it’s a rubber-stamped renewal, 3) only “bad guys” are collected on, and 4) “therefore, it is lawful.” The last one sounds like Al Gore and his “no controlling legal authority” claim. 

Of course, the millions of not bad guys the government is gathering on might disagree, that is, if they’d only been aware of what was happening.

What the left despised Bush for, Obama has managed to raise to high art.

Most transparent Administration ever.

What will we learn next on the NSA’s spying?

It’s interesting the court which approved the domestic gathering of phone records—which targets Americans only—is a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Another government oxymoron (like” Justice Department”), it would seem. I’m shocked, shocked.

And what revelations will likely dribble out in the near future regarding the vacuuming of your information?

1) This FISA order is a rubber-stamp process.

2) The FISA order is a rolling effort which is set up for a limited period of time, but is always renewed at its expiration.

3) That all the other phone service providers are also under court order to provide the same information and the effort isn’t just limited to Verizon.

4) There’s no there there regarding the justification for the effort.

5) Americans don’t know what we don’t know as it concerns surveillance by the U.S. government.

Yes, they can hear you now. (And watch you.)

Most transparent (and ethical) Administration ever.

Got Verizon? Uncle Sam’s watching you…

From the most transparent Administration ever, via Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

So here it is: if you have Verizon, all your calls made and all your calls received will be analyzed by the NSA and/or the FBI.

And the good news? The IRS is not said to be involved… yet.

Stupid question of the day

From Slate, the question (with some necessary set up) is this:

President Obama promised transparency and open government. He failed miserably. So why do Washington watchdog groups look the other way?

The answer is legion, for they are many. Obama is a mixed race uber—liberal Democrat. “Watchdog” groups—think the media first and foremost—like him. They want him to win. He’s one of theirs. He deserves special treatment. They’re vested in protecting him and moving him… forward. Obama warrants the sovereign power he seeks and those few watchers who question his limits are tools to be cast into the fiery pit of diminished access.

And who watches the watchers? For this Administration, the answer is largely limited to the non-traditional media.

So instead of looking away or defending the indefensible, let us be resolved to choose to evaluate Dear Reader by the content of his character and the quality of his ideas.

And as for Slate’s initial quandary, consider there are no stupid questions, only stupid people.

Most transparent administration ever, EPA-style

From the Weekly Standard, more news about the most transparent administration ever.

In this case, the issue at hand pertains largely to Lisa Jackson (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty), a former Chief of Staff to crony capitalist/criminal Jon Corzine. (Jackson, as pictured at right, appears to have captured a face full of self-generated toxic waste.)

Jackson—until last month—had served as President Obama’s EPA Administrator until law-bustin’ got in the way:

EPA head Lisa Jackson already resigned in January, following the revelation that she had conducted extensive official EPA business with a private email alias, “Richard Windsor.”

[snip]

The Washington Free Beacon is one of the few media outlets plowing through the 12,000 emails the Justice Department has released related to Jackson’s illegal conduct. We suspect that more revelations will be forthcoming. However, the Beacon has so far revealed that the EPA is about as contemptuous of American industry as you always expected.

[snip]

In the emails, Jackson also complains about having to answer the questions of GOP-controlled congressional committees. “The GOP should be called out for their kangaroo court,” Jackson wrote. “He is clearly an unethical bully.” According to the Free Beacon, the bully in question is likely a Republican congressman. To summarize, Jackson is lamenting being forced to answer questions from an elected representative, whom she calls “unethical,” even while breaking the law by using a secret email account to hide her conduct from public inquiry.

Do as I say and not as I do, the golden rule of the left.

Meanwhile, most of the rest of the media still crumbles before the Administration for “access,” even as they continue to provide solid service as the President’s errand boys/girls, shoe clerks, court stenographers, courtiers, and eunuchs, faithfully failing to challenge the eternal truths of Dear Reader and his ace Ministry of Truth man, Jay Carney-Worker.

Most transparent, most ethical, most capable, most best administration ever.

Not.

Obama googles crony capitalism, gets Google

From Erik Telford at The Blaze:

Nestled among the lofty rhetoric of “hope and change,” Barack Obama made a core promise during the 2008 campaign that he would put an end to the corporate cronyism that has long pervaded the political system. “The days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House,” he proclaimed. What President Obama left out however, was that the days of sweetheart deals for his cronies had only just begun–with his chief corporate advocate, Google, quickly emerging as the Halliburton of his administration.

The phrase “regulatory capture” comes to mind.

The President talks the talk, but he fails to walk the walk and the traditional media is curled up at his feet, asleep, so don’t expect them to call him on it. The media would, however, like to have their pictures of Mr. Obama with Tiger Woods, Ben Affleck, Beyoncé, et al. Priorities.

Crony capitalism for me and denounced for thee seems to be Dear Reader’s rule of thumb.

Most transparent Administration ever.

Most transparent Administration ever, part deux

Props to Glenn Greenwald who may be a flaming d-bagger/libutard on a great many issues, but who sees the Obama Administration for what it is, the most hypocritical/least transparent organization since the Stasi.

The topic is Barry and the drones and an associated FOIA request by the ACLU regarding the CIA-administered Presidential death-by-drone/license to kill (hmm… I see the high-acronym warning light just illuminated steadily during the writing of the last sentence).

But even though Administration insiders leaked top secret to the the media to further the national security bona fides of Dear Reader during the run-up to the 2012 election, it seems the most transparent Administration ever is stoning the FOIA request to an absurd level. I’m shocked, shocked!

From Greenwald:

… the Obama DOJ from the start has refused not only to provide the requested documents about the CIA drone program, but they refuse to say whether such documents even exist. They do so by insisting that whether there even exists such a thing as a “CIA drone program” is itself classified, and therefore, they can neither admit nor deny whether they possess any of the documents sought by the FOIA request…

Ah, but given the Administration’s many leaks and its open death-to-terrorists braggadocio, would would such idiotic reasoning carry the day in court? Yes, if the government can find the right judge.

Even in the face of the endless stream of public statements from the president on down discussing and boasting about the drone program, the federal judge presiding over the lawsuit last September meekly deferred (as usual) to the DOJ’s secrecy claims and dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit. The judge, Rosemary Collyer, ruled that all of the public statements cited by the ACLU whereby Obama officials boasted of the drone program do not constitute official acknowledgment that the CIA (as opposed to some other government generally) has a drone program.

Greenwald then traps the President and his minions in, as Joe Biden might say–literally–an intellectual corner:

They conceal all of this – and thus prevent basic democratic accountability – based on the indescribably cynical and inane pretense that they cannot even confirm or deny the existence of the CIA program without seriously jeopardizing national security.

This is a complete perversion of their secrecy powers. Even among the DC cliques that exist to defend US government behavior, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to defend what is being done here. The Obama administration runs around telling journalists how great and precise and devastating the CIA’s assassination program is, then tells courts that no disclosure is permissible because they cannot safely confirm in court that the program even exists.

Such flagrant abuse of secrecy power is at once Orwellian and tyrannical. It has the effect of blocking even the most minimal transparency on the most consequential question: the government’s claimed authority to execute anyone it wants without charges, far from a battlefield, in total secrecy. It yet again demonstrates that excessive government secrecy is an infinitely greater threat than unauthorized disclosures.

A Democrat Administration that prevents basic democratic principles? I thought Obama was doing all this for our own good, like gun control, monitoring the internet, and mandatory abortions? No? Uh… maybe this abuse of power is for the children? No? OK, maybe they’re suspending basic democratic principles in favor of tyranny is for the generation that built this country? No, now I remember: the President is doing this for the benefit of the unmarried homosexuals in the military.

Seriously, this is work well done by Greenwald in sweeping away a tiny bit of the cult of personality that surrounds and protects the President and, by association, his Administration.

Although Greenwald is focused on freedom and national security, he might be well served to extend his thinking and ponder if the President’s big government economic, tax, and regulatory proposals might similarly diminish our rights as citizens.

Conventional wisdom offers it isn’t the crime, it’s the cover-up. With this Administration, it’s the crime and the cover-up.

Most transparent Administration ever.