Category - USA: Homeland Security

Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism

Washington Post, By Radley Balko, March 10

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:

What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. Read More

Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity

The Intercept, By Jenna McLaughlin, December 18

In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something — anything — in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.

But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.

The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don’t need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government — while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.

Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass — or else the entire government would have shut down — it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)
Read More

One Year After the Senate Torture Report, No One’s Read It and It Might Be Destroyed

The Intercept, By Murtaza Hussain, December 9

One year ago today, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a highly redacted executive summary of its investigation into the CIA’s torture and rendition program. The 525-page summary was shocking in many of its details, revealing the torture and rape of detainees held in CIA custody and encompassing treatment far in excess of even the torture techniques formally authorized by the Bush administration.

Despite the passage of 12 months, the actual report, comprising 6,700 pages, still has not been made publicly available. In fact, reading it appears to be prohibited among officials in the executive branch. Nearly a month and a half after the report’s initial release, it had not even been taken out of the package in which it was delivered to the Department of Justice and Department of State, according to government lawyers. Even the organization that was the subject of the report, the CIA, tightly controlled internal access and made “very limited use” of it, as had the Department of Defense, the lawyers said in a court filing.

That shunning of the torture report appears to be ongoing and very much by design: It turns out the Department of Justice has “refuse[d] to allow executive branch officials to review the full and final study,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy wrote in a letter last month to the attorney general and FBI director, urging that they or their “appropriately cleared” underlings read the full report.

“The legacy of this historic report cannot be buried in the back of a handful of executive branch safes, never to be reviewed by those who most need to learn from it,” they added.

WikiLeaks’ 3rd strike: New batch of documents from CIA’s chief e-mails

RT, October 26

Two more documents from CIA Director John Brennan’s private email account have been released by transparency organization WikiLeaks, offering glimpses into the world of revolving-door government contracting.

While Brennan worked for the CIA between 1980 and 2005, all the documents in the cache date to 2008, when he was running a private intelligence and analysis company, The Analysis Corp (TAC). WikiLeaks notes that in 2008, Brennan donated to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, which hired TAC as a security adviser.

One of the documents in Monday’s release is an October 2008 dossier on Supervisory Special Agent Donovan J. Leighton, listed as “Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Program Manager for the Arabian Peninsula in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division based at the National Counterterrorism Center (CTD).”

Leighton later parlayed his FBI experience in jobs for Lockheed Martin and NBC Universal. There is nothing to explain why his biography ended up in Brennan’s personal email, though.

A Massive National Security Leak Just Blew the Lid off Obama’s Drone War

The Intercept just published a huge expose of the Pentagon’s drone program.

Mother Jones, By AJ Vicens and Max J. Rosenthal, October 15

On Thursday, the Intercept published a major package of stories that reveals the inner workings of the US military’s drone program, including how and why people are targeted for assassination on the amorphous battlefields of Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. “The Drone Papers,” according to the Intercept, is based on a trove of a classified documents leaked by a whistleblower who grew concerned by the government’s methods of targeting individuals for lethal action.

“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.

The package is a deep look into how the US military has conducted its counterterrorism operations around the world, and it comes on the same day that President Barack Obama cited the counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda as one of the two reasons to keep nearly 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year.

Amnesty International called for an immediate congressional inquiry into the drone program, saying the leaked documents “raise serious concerns about whether the USA has systematically violated international law, including by classifying unidentified people as ‘combatants’ to justify their killings.”

ProPublica: Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US ‘Assassination Complex’

The Intercept: The Drone Papers

No-fly list uses ‘predictive assessments’ instead of hard evidence, US admits

In May filing, Justice Department and FBI officials admit stopping US and other citizens from traveling is based on what the government believes they might do.

The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman, August 10

New York – The Obama administration’s no-fly lists and broader watch-listing system is based on predicting crimes rather than relying on records of demonstrated offenses, the government has been forced to admit in court.

In a little-noticed filing before an Oregon federal judge, the US Justice Department and the FBI conceded that stopping US and other citizens from traveling on airplanes is a matter of “predictive assessments about potential threats”, the government asserted in May.

“By its very nature, identifying individuals who ‘may be a threat to civil aviation or national security’ is a predictive judgment intended to prevent future acts of terrorism in an uncertain context,” Justice Department officials Benjamin C Mizer and Anthony J Coppolino told the court on 28 May.

“Judgments concerning such potential threats to aviation and national security call upon the unique prerogatives of the Executive in assessing such threats.”

The CIA Just Released Declassified Documents Related to the 9/11 Attacks

VICE News, June 12

The CIA has released declassified versions of five internal documents dealing with the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a press release sent to reporters on Friday afternoon. The documents are described as being “related to the Agency’s performance in the lead-up to the attacks.”

The release comes just before the weekend, a time when many organizations tend to “dump” news in an attempt to minimize coverage. VICE News is currently reviewing the documents in detail. The CIA describes them as including “a redacted version of the 2005 CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report on Central Intelligence Agency Accountability Regarding Findings and Conclusions of the Report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

The executive summary of the OIG report was released in 2007, and the CIA says it released the full report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The 500-page document reportedly underwent “an extensive review… in order to release information that no longer needed to be protected in the interests of national security.”

[…]

PDF versions of the documents can be found at the CIA’s online reading room.


CIA Report Says No Evidence Saudi Arabia ‘Willingly Supported’ al Qaeda Leading up to 9/11

Vice News, By Jason Leopold & Samuel Oakford, June 12

A newly declassified CIA watchdog report that probed the agency’s intelligence failures leading up to the 9/11 attacks reveals that investigators on the CIA’s 9/11 review team “encountered no evidence” that the government of Saudi Arabia “knowingly and willingly supported” al Qaeda terrorists.

Moreover, the June 2005 CIA Inspector General report’s, released Friday, said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 “‘had made no final determinations as to the reliability or sufficiency’ regarding Saudi issues raised by its inquiry.” (A separate report released in 2004 by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, found no evidence that the government of Saudi Arabia or Saudi officials individually provided funding to al-Qaeda.)

The conclusions the CIA inspector general reached in the unredacted portion of the report, and the reference to the Joint Inquiry’s own finding, appears to contrast with longstanding claims of Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s role have centered on a 28-page section of the Joint Inquiry, which was ordered classified by President George W. Bush prior to its release in 2002. For years, victims’ families, members of Congress, and former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chair of the inquiry, have called for the release of the pages, which are said to refer to FBI investigations into the attacks. Those investigations, according to individuals who have seen the pages, highlight elements of the financing that went into the orchestration of the attacks.

Donald Rumsfeld: George W. Bush was wrong about Iraq

MSNBC, By Amanda Sakuma, June 8

President George W. Bush was wrong to try to build democracy in Iraq, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a recent interview, marking a striking admission from a key player behind the 2003 U.S. invasion.

In an interview with British newspaper The Times, Rumsfeld said that efforts to oust Saddam Hussein and replace his tyrannical regime with democracy were unworkable, and that he had concerns about the plan from the beginning.

“I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories,” Rumsfeld told The Times. “The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”

Rumsfeld, who served under Bush from 2001 to 2006, has previously defended the administration’s actions in the run-up to the war, which dragged on for years before formally ending in 2011.

I think I’m going to go cough up some blood, now.

Mother Jones: Donald Rumsfeld Apparently Forgot the Times He Said the Iraq War Was Good for Democracy

The Watchdog, the Whistleblower, and the Secret CIA Torture Report

VICE News, By Jason Leopold, May 19

On June 9, 2010, a CIA employee working on a secret review of millions of pages of documents about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program contacted the CIA’s internal watchdog and filed a complaint. The employee had come to believe that the CIA’s narrative about the efficacy of the program — a narrative put forward by not just CIA officials, but also then-President George W. Bush — was false.

The CIA employee made the discovery while she was working on the Panetta Review. Named for former CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Panetta Review is a series of documents that top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee say corroborates the findings and conclusions of the landmark report they released last December about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program — that the torture of detainees in the custody of the CIA failed to produce unique and valuable intelligence, and that it was far more brutal than the CIA let on.

Panetta ordered the review in 2009 just as the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it would probe the efficacy of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. CIA employees were tasked with evaluating the cache of documents about the torture program that the agency turned over to the committee during the course of its probe; their goal was to compile the graphic and noteworthy aspects of the torture program — like the fact that detainees were fed rectally — on which the committee might focus.

GOP head of Senate environment committee says carbon pollution is good for the Earth

Raw Story, By Eric W. Dolan, May 7

As carbon dioxide levels surpassed 400 parts per million globally, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma headed to the Senate floor on Wednesday to explain the benefits of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Counter to the doomsday predictions of climate alarmists, increasing observations suggest a much reduced and practically harmless climate response to increased amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide,” he remarked. “Also missing from the climate alarmists’ doomsday scenarios and well-scripted talking points are the benefits from increased carbon that has led to a greening of the planet and contributed to increased agricultural productivity.”

Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, wondered why people didn’t understand that carbon pollution was good for the Earth.

“People do not realize that you cannot grow things without CO2,” he said. “CO2 is a fertilizer. It is something you cannot do without. No one ever talks about the benefits that people are inducing that as a fertilizer on a daily basis.”

Video at the link.