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from Threat Level
Did the government really disrupt a bomb plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange?
The FBI deputy director said that today in a Spygate hearing where the government for the first time said secret spy techniques publicly disclosed two weeks ago had halted some 50 terror attacks in 20 countries.
Sean Joyce, the bureau’s deputy director, identified Khalid Ouazzani as the culprit. “Ouazzani had been providing information and support to this plot,” Joyce testified to the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
The Kansas City man’s attorney today said that Joyce’s comments were news to him. Among other things, his client pleaded guilty in 2010 to providing money — $23,000 in “material support” to Al-Qaida. He also pleaded to a count of money laundering and bank fraud, and is set for sentencing next month.
“Khalid Ouazzan was not involved in any plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange,” Robin Fowler, the defendant’s defense attorney, said in a telephone interview.
His client’s plea agreement (.pdf) mentions no plot: According to his plea agreement:
Defendant and others also discussed how they could perform other tasks at the request of and for the benefit of Al-Qaida. Some of defendant’s conversations with others also involved plans for them to participate in various types of actions to support Al-Qaida, including fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Somalia. Defendant and the others he was communicating with about Al-Qaida took various steps and used various techniques to disguise their communications about their plans and assistance to support Al-Qaida.
Fowler declined to comment any further, including whether he would seek to reopen the case, given the government admitting that secret, and constitutionally suspect, methods were used to gain access to his phone records.
The Guardian newspaper two weeks ago published a leaked a secret court order requiring Verizon Business Solutions to provide the NSA with the phone numbers of both parties involved in all calls, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number for mobile callers, calling card numbers used in the call, and the time and duration of the calls.
The Guardian and Washington Post were also leaked material detailing a program called PRISM, which described a system whereby nine internet companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook had special equipment installed in their facilities that allowed NSA analysts sitting at their desks to query the data directly. The internet companies said they did not provide the government direct access to their servers.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fnf…Recently, following the disclosures of Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama defended the NSA’s top-secret PRISM program.
Initially a response to a hike in public transportation prices, the unrest is centered around the country’s wealth inequality and spending of public money on lavish stadiums in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Russia Today reports:
Mass protests continued throughout Brazil on Monday, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators converging in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, the capital of Brasilia and other cities.
Protests initially began last week following a government announcement of an increase in public transportation costs, which brought out students and young workers and led to more than 250 arrests.
In a sign that public dissatisfaction was still simmering, soccer fans booed president Dilma Rousseff on Monday during the opening of a two-week tournament at a stadium in the capital Brasilia. The heckling only intensified when the president of the global soccer body, FIFA, reprimanded the crowed for failing to show the president “respect.”
The post Largest Protests In Decades Fill Major Cities Of Brazil appeared first on disinformation.
via TPM News by
In a separate interview, the man whom Snowden faulted for failing to live up to his campaign promises, including closing Guantanamo Bay, sat down with Charlie Rose to defend what he calls a “transparent” tactic necessary in order to maintain America’s security. That interview with President Barack Obama airs Monday at 11 p.m. on PBS.
TPM excerpted portions of Snowden’s Q&A in contrast with the President’s interview, courtesy of a transcript obtained by Buzzfeed, below.
How and to what extent the U.S. government collects data:
More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.
There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see — did any of the — did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that … if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone — it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.
Whether the leak harmed U.S. national security:
I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.
I’m not going to comment on prosecution…. The case has been referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation… and possible extradition. I will leave it up to them to answer those questions.
Surveillance on domestic v. foreign individuals
US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection – policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection – a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the “widest allowable aperture,” and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn’t stop being protected communications just because of the IP they’re tagged with.More fundamentally, the “US Persons” protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”
…remember that just because you are not the target of a surveillance program does not make it okay. The US Person / foreigner distinction is not a reasonable substitute for individualized suspicion, and is only applied to improve support for the program. This is the precise reason that NSA provides Congress with a special immunity to its surveillance.
What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails … and have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be “they,” it’d be the FBI — go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause…. So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule.
[I]t’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.
It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court….The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee — but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.
Whether NSA programs foiled Najibullah Zazi’s NYC subway bomb plot:
US officials say this every time there’s a public discussion that could limit their authority. US officials also provide misleading or directly false assertions about the value of these programs, as they did just recently with the Zazi case, which court documents clearly show was not unveiled by PRISM.Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.
The one thing people should understand about all these programs though is they have disrupted plots, not just here in the United States but overseas as well. And, you know, you’ve got a guy like Najibullah Zazi, who was driving cross country trying to blow up a New York subway system. Now, we might have caught him some other way. We might have disrupted it because a New York cop saw he was suspicious. Maybe he turned out to be incompetent and the bomb didn’t go off. But at the margins we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs. And then the question becomes, “Can we trust all the systems government enough as long as they’re checking each other that our privacy is not being abused, that we are able to prevent some of the tragedies that unfortunately there are people out there who are going to continue to try to — try to strike against us.
What the U.S. government ought to do next:
This disclosure provides Obama an opportunity to appeal for a return to sanity, constitutional policy, and the rule of law rather than men. He still has plenty of time to go down in history as the President who looked into the abyss and stepped back, rather than leaping forward into it. I would advise he personally call for a special committee to review these interception programs, repudiate the dangerous “State Secrets” privilege, and, upon preparing to leave office, begin a tradition for all Presidents forthwith to demonstrate their respect for the law by appointing a special investigator to review the policies of their years in office for any wrongdoing. There can be no faith in government if our highest offices are excused from scrutiny – they should be setting the example of transparency.
So, you asked, what should we do? …What I’ve said is — is that what is a legitimate concern — a legitimate critique — is that because these are classified programs — even though we have all these systems of checks and balances, Congress is overseeing it, federal courts are overseeing it — despite all that, the public may not fully know. And that can make the public kind of nervous, right? Because they say, “Well, Obama says it’s okay — or Congress says it’s okay. I don’t know who this judge is. I’m nervous about it.” What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, number one. And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at because frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story. Number two. I’ve stood up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board, made up of independent citizens including some fierce civil libertarians. I’ll be meeting with them. And what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation, not only about these two programs, but also the general problem of data, big data sets, because this is not going to be restricted to government entities.
Protests in Athens and all across Greece have not abated since the ERT shutdown last week. If anything, they’ve intensified, into a genuine political crisis, raising talk of early elections as the ruling coalition struggles to avoid collapse.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras may dismiss calls for early elections, but with 64 percent of Greeks opposed to the government’s latest austerity measure he can’t ignore the situation. Painted into a corner by polls, threatened by challenges from allies, and facing a court ruling that could put ERT back on the air,Samaras offered a partial reopening of ERT, only to see it rebuffed.
Today, Greece’s governing coalition is in serious talks about how to hold the country and the coalition together.
The leaders of Greece’s increasingly fragile coalition are to meet on Monday in an effort to mend a deepening rift over the closing of the country’s state broadcaster that could force early elections if no compromise is found.
The surprise decision last week by the conservative prime minister, Antonis Samaras, to close the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp, known as ERT, was vehemently opposed by his two coalition partners and by labour unions, and was unpopular with many Greeks. Speculation has been rife that the dispute could fracture the coalition.
The dispute intensified over the weekend when Samaras gave a speech defending his decision to close ERT – which he called “sinful” because of its spending – and to crack down on “the privileged” as part of a cost-cutting drive demanded by Greece’s international creditors.
It was a year ago that Greeks went to the polls amid political upheaval and the spectre of a messy debt default that shook the countries that use the euro. The elections were inconclusive, leading to the cobbling together of the governing coalition. Samaras is supposed to serve a four-year term, but few expect it to last that long.
It’s hard to predict the outcome, but the Greek government is caught between a flawed and failed austerity plan, and a public that’s had enough of it. it’s a “make or break” moment for Greece, and then some.
Speculations about an imminent general election is already circulating in the Greek press, but Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis’ need to cling to power is likely to make them go along with Samaras’ decision.
They might try to buy time, since at the moment international attention and support for ERT is overwhelming. The absolutist way in which Samaras chose to act on his decision triggered a media revolt which was long overdue, with blogs, websites and EBU streaming ERT’s service online.
Reporters Without Borders’ executive director Christophe Deloire deplored the closure, explaining that such media shutdowns are “usual in dictatorships and rare in democratic countries.”
The question of whether Greece, formerly known as the cradle of democracy, still lives up to the title is a persistent one. What is certain is that the current form of democracy is deeply flawed and, unsurprisingly enough, the media and the way they have operated for decades are part of the problem.
But switching off the state broadcaster will only exacerbate the problems, derailing democracy.
Whatever happens, the heat is on, and Greece’s governing coalition can’t afford the usual austerian indifferenceto the will of the people.
Sarah Lazare writes at Common Dreams:
The Obama Administration is quietly firing Commodity Futures Trading Commission head Gary Gensler, who ran afoul of big banks by pushing for greater government oversight.
The ouster comes in the midst of controversy over a proposed CFTF rule, strongly supported by Gensler, that would extend U.S. regulation to swaps–a kind of derivative exhange–involving firms founded or doing business in the United States. This means that foreign banks and hedge funds would face the same regulations as U.S. ones when trading in swaps with U.S. parties.
Wall Street fiercely opposes this regulation on the grounds that it discourages trade. Yet, supporters insist the regulation is necessary to give a modicum of oversight to vast swaths of the derivatives market marred by the same lack of regulation that paved the way for the 2008 economic collapse.
This is not the first time Gensler has clashed openly with bankers. The Huffington Post describeshis tenure:
A former Goldman Sachs executive who was viewed skeptically by some liberal lawmakers when he was first nominated in 2009, Gensler has become perhaps Wall Street’s leading foe as he has sought to curb risk and expand transparency and competition in the previously opaque market for a type of derivatives known as swaps.
Gensler has transformed a once-unknown agency to one at the forefront of financial regulation as CFTC rules are shaking up a marketplace unaccustomed to government supervision. His rules threaten to decrease profits at the nation’s largest banks as formerly unregulated activities are forced to comply with provisions that help buyers compare prices and compel banks to stump up more cash to back their trades.
Gensler will be replaced by former senate staffer Amanda Renteria, who worked briefly for Goldman Sachs and has little financial oversight experience.
via TPM News by
The Supreme Court on Monday overturned an Arizona law that required proof of citizenship to register to vote, declaring that state efforts of the sort are trumped by a federal statute commonly known as the “motor voter” law.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 required states to accept a voter registration form that lets people register to vote with basic identification when renewing their driver’s license or applying for social services. The registration form requires prospective voters to attest that they are U.S. citizens but doesn’t require them to provide proof of citizenship. The Court concluded that Arizona may not require such additional information.
The 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council was written by Justice Antonin Scalia. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the majority.
“We hold that [federal law] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond hat required by the form itself,” Scalia wrote for the court.
Progressive legal advocates had warned that the Arizona law would place undue burdens on minority groups. They hailed the decision as a victory for voting rights.
“Voters scored a huge victory today,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “We applaud the Supreme Court for confirming Congress’s power to protect the right to vote in federal elections.”
Arizona’s Proposition 200 was adopted by the voters in 2004. Copycat laws in three other states — Alabama, Georgia and Kansas — may also be in trouble. The three states supported Arizona’s argument that the NVRA form is insufficient to guard against voter fraud.
“Today’s decision means that these laws are preempted by the National Voter Registration Act,” said David Gans, the civil rights director of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal law group. He noted that Alabama’s brief argued that its voter law and laws in other states were “verbatim replicas” of the Arizona statute.
“Under Justice Scalia’s analysis, these copycat provisions are inconsistent with Congress’ efforts, using its Elections Clause authority, to streamline the registration process and prevent states from denying citizens the right to register to vote in federal elections,” Gans argued. “I think we can expect to see voters in these other states using today’s opinion to strike down these replicas of the Arizona law struck down today.”
During oral arguments back in March, Scalia wondered aloud why Arizona didn’t challenge the NVRA directly. A silver lining for proponents of proof-of-citizenship laws is that his majority opinion noted that the state is free to challenge the broader requirement that states accept the federal voter registration form.
“Arizona may, however, request anew that the [Election Assistance Commission] include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act,” he wrote.
Alito argued in his dissent that Congress was less than clear about what the NVRA requires, concluding that the relevant portions of the law hold that “the States need not treat the federal form as a complete voter registration application.”