Posts tagged ‘Electronic Frontier Foundation’

Surveillance State Run Amok

In one of his many overreactions to the events of 9/11, however, President George W. Bush changed all that with an ill-conceived executive order that unlawfully unleashed the CIA inside the U.S. and the FBI into foreign countries. Rather than facilitating a cooperative spirit in defense of individual freedom and national security, this reignited their rivalry. FBI agents, for example, publicly exposed CIA agents whom they caught torturing detainees at Gitmo, and Bush was forced to restrain the CIA.

Isn’t it odd that FBI agents would be reading the emails of the CIA director to his mistress and that the director of the FBI, who briefs the president weekly, did not make the president aware of this? The FBI could only lawfully spy on Petraeus by the use of a search warrant, and it could only get a search warrant if its agents persuaded a federal judge that Petraeus himself—not his mistress—was involved in criminal behavior under federal law.

The agents also could have bypassed the federal courts and written their own search warrant under the Patriot Act, but only if they could satisfy themselves (a curious and unconstitutional standard) that the general was involved in terror-related activity. Both preconditions for a search warrant are irrelevant and would be absurd in this case.

All this—the FBI spying on the CIA—constitutes the government attacking itself. Anyone who did this when neither federal criminal law nor national security has been implicated and kept the president in the dark has violated about four federal statutes and should be fired and indicted. The general may be a cad and a bad husband, but he has the same constitutional rights as the rest of us.

No keen observer could believe the government’s Pollyanna version of these events. When did the CIA become a paragon of honesty? When did the FBI become a paragon of transparency? When did the government become a paragon of telling the truth?

Silencing General Petraeus: No keen observer could believe the government’s Pollyanna version of these events. (emphasis added)

The affair between Petraeus and Broadwell was discovered by the FBI and revealed late last week when Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA. But while the salacious details have kept Washington’s press corps busy, the details about how the bureau ever got this information should concern us far more.

Every turn in the investigation that led to Petraeus’s resignation perfectly illustrates the incredible and dangerous reach of the massive United States surveillance apparatus, which, through hundreds of billions of dollars in post-9/11 programs — coupled with weakened privacy laws and lack of oversight — has affected the civil liberties of every American for years. The only difference here is the victim of the surveillance state’s reach was not a faceless American, but the head one of the agencies tasked to carry it out.
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While these details may shock the average reader, these privacy-invasive tactics are used regularly by both federal and local law enforcement around the United States. In fact, as the New York Times reported, referring to Petraeus, “Law enforcement officials have said they used only ordinary methods in the case.” The only difference here is the target was the director of the CIA and one of the most decorated soldiers in modern military history.

The Petraeus scandal — or perhaps we should call it the FBI snooping scandal — dovetailed with Google releasing its semi-annual transparency report, which again showed that government requests for ordinary user data continues to skyrocket. The last six months showed the U.S. government requesting data from Google alone on more than 12,000 users, a marked increase over the six months prior. And this number doesn’t even include some Patriot Act demands, National Security Letters with gag orders, or secret FISA court orders for intelligence operations. As Google said in conjunction with the release of its report, “This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise.”

Congress is now demanding to know why it wasn’t informed by the Justice Department about the details of the Petraeus affair earlier. Lawmakers should instead be worried about why the public was informed of these details at all, given that no crime was committed. And instead of investigating one man’s personal life, they should investigate how to strengthen our privacy laws so this does not happen to anyone else.

The U.S. government has so far been unable to keep its colossal surveillance state in check. Now that it is so bloated it is eating itself, one hopes more people will finally pay attention.

Investigate the FBI: The real Petraeus scandal is why the bureau was rummaging around in his private communications in the first place.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America’s national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: “Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?”

It is usually the case that abuses of state power become a source for concern and opposition only when they begin to subsume the elites who are responsible for those abuses. Recall how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman – one of the most outspoken defenders of the illegal Bush National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program – suddenly began sounding like an irate, life-long ACLU privacy activist when it was revealed that the NSA had eavesdropped on her private communications with a suspected Israeli agent over alleged attempts to intervene on behalf of AIPAC officials accused of espionage. Overnight, one of the Surveillance State’s chief assets, the former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, transformed into a vocal privacy proponent because now it was her activities, rather than those of powerless citizens, which were invaded.

With the private, intimate activities of America’s most revered military and intelligence officials being smeared all over newspapers and televisions for no good reason, perhaps similar conversions are possible. Put another way, having the career of the beloved CIA Director and the commanding general in Afghanistan instantly destroyed due to highly invasive and unwarranted electronic surveillance is almost enough to make one believe not only that there is a god, but that he is an ardent civil libertarian.

FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation

How interesting that last night I was speaking to a former field-grade Marine infantry officer about l’affaire Petraeus wherein we marveled at other senior Army or Marine officers we had known in our careers who could not keep their pants zipped and ruined their otherwise-stellar careers. For my buddy it was a regimental commander, years ago. The one that I recollected first was an armor brigade commander who decided to poke his Spec 4 driver, and I don’t mean on the then-nonexistent Facebook.

I confess to having a more jaded view of the whole sordid mess than a lot of folks for two main reasons. One, my final assignment in the Army was as a principal staff officer of US Army Criminal Investigation Command – and you do that for awhile and you will never again be surprised at anything stupid or criminal that anyone does, no matter his/her reputation, accomplishments or station in life. Two, I’ve been in ecclesial ministry for 15 years, same lesson (including, sadly, fellow clergy).

Petraeus and Broadwell: The FBI circles the wagons

Google received more requests from the U.S. government to hand over user data during the first half of this year than from any other country, according to the search company’s biannual “Transparency Report” released on Tuesday.

From January to June, Google received nearly 8,000 requests for user data from the U.S. government. The search company said it “fully or partially” compiled with roughly 90 percent of them. That’s up from the 5,950 requests for user data that Google received from the U.S. government during the same period a year ago.

Google: Surveillance ‘is on the rise’

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