“Obama is a fraud — a criminal fraud. He used the IRS to stifle the opposition. He used the Department of Justice to stifle journalists. He lied about Benghazi. And now, we know that he has stolen the phone records of millions of Americans who are suspected of no crime — with no warrant.
He’s just another tyrant.” ~Capitalism Institute[notify textbox-blue]”No president is above the law.” ~Senator Barack Obama on Senate Floor 2006[/notify]
Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.
Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.
President Barack Obama
Ohio State University May 2013[/notify]
Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls.
Articles in The Washington Post and The Guardian described a process by which the N.S.A. is also able to capture Internet communications directly from the servers of nine leading American companies. The articles raised questions about whether the N.S.A. separated foreign communications from domestic ones.[notify textbox-grey]*Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple ~CNBC.com[/notify]
A senior administration official quoted in The Times online Thursday afternoon about the Verizon order offered the lame observation that the information does not include the name of any caller, as though there would be the slightest difficulty in matching numbers to names. He said the information “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats,” because it allows the government “to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”
That is a vital goal, but how is it served by collecting everyone’s call data? The government can easily collect phone records (including the actual content of those calls) on “known or suspected terrorists” without logging every call made. In fact, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was expanded in 2008 for that very purpose.
Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where.
This sort of tracking can reveal a lot of personal and intimate information about an individual. To casually permit this surveillance — with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power — fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and it repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.[notify textbox-grey]*DOJ targeting of Associated Press and James Rosen of Fox News, whom they claimed was a co-conspirator regarding espionage is another prime example of this administration repudiating “constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.”[/notify]
The defense of this practice offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching, was absurd. She said on Thursday that the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the vice chairman of the committee, said the surveillance has “proved meritorious, because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years.”
But what assurance do we have of that, especially since Ms. Feinstein went on to say that she actually did not know how the data being collected was used?
The senior administration official quoted in The Times said the executive branch internally reviews surveillance programs to ensure that they “comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”
That’s no longer good enough. Mr. Obama clearly had no intention of revealing this eavesdropping, just as he would not have acknowledged the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, had it not been reported in the press. Even then, it took him more than a year and a half to acknowledge the killing, and he is still keeping secret the protocol by which he makes such decisions.
Two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, have raised warnings about the government’s overbroad interpretation of its surveillance powers. “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”
On Thursday, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, who introduced the Patriot Act in 2001, said that the National Security Agency overstepped its bounds by obtaining a secret order to collect phone log records from millions of Americans.
This is just plain wrong.”
Senator Barack Obama
U.S. Senate Floor
read full text below[/notify]
“As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the F.B.I.’s interpretation of this legislation,” he said in a statement. “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses.” He added: “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”
Stunning use of the act shows, once again, why it needs to be sharply curtailed if not repealed.[notify textbox-grey]The Obama administration is not the first administration to overstep its bounds. As the opening quote stated, there are many overreaches, some arguably criminal in nature, committed by this administration, and some in its governing Congress. Here are a few more…
Labor Board vs. Boeing
Fast and Furious
Military Rules of Engagement
Massive DHS Ammo Buy
California Campaign Money Laundering
IRS lavish spending
Extortion of money from companies to fund Obamacare
Associated Press and James Rosen
Secret Government Email Accounts
DHS/TSA searches of laptops and cell phones
Sharing Naval Intelligence with China
U.N. Arms Trade Treaty
Criminalizing anti-Islam Speech
Senate Floor Statement – THE PATRIOT ACT
TOPIC: Homeland Security
December 15, 2005
Senate Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama
Four years ago, following the most devastating attack in our history, this body passed the USA PATRIOT Act in order to give our nation’s law enforcement the tools they need to track down terrorists who plot and lurk within our own borders and all over the world – terrorists who, right now, are looking to exploit weaknesses in our laws and our security to carry out even deadlier attacks than we saw on September 11th.
We all agree that we needed legislation to make it harder for suspected terrorists to go undetected in this country. And we all agree we needed to make it harder for them to organize and strategize and get flight licenses and sneak across our borders. Americans everywhere wanted that.
But soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law – the very purpose of which was to protect us – was also threatening to violate our rights and freedoms as Americans. That it didn’t just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn’t need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.
In Washington, this issue has tended degenerate into an “either-or” type debate. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But that is a false choice. It asks too little of us and assumes too little about America.
That’s why as it’s come time to reauthorize this law, we’ve been working in a bipartisan way to do both – to show the American people that we can track down terrorists without trampling on our civil liberties. To show the American people that the federal government will only issue warrants and execute searches because it needs to, not because it can. What we have been trying to achieve, under the leadership of a bipartisan group of Senators, is some accountability in this process – to get answers and see evidence where there is suspicion.
Several weeks ago, this work bore fruit. The Judiciary Committee and the U.S. Senate managed to pass a piece of bi-partisan legislation that, while I can’t say is perfect, was able to address many of these most serious problems in the existing law.
Unfortunately, that strong bi-partisan legislation has been tossed aside in Conference. Instead, we have been forced to consider a piece of rushed legislation that fails to address the concerns of members of both parties as well as the American people.
This is legislation that puts our own Justice Department above the law. When National Security Letters are issued, they allow federal agents to conduct any search on any American, no matter how extensive or wide-ranging, without ever going before a judge to prove that the search is necessary. They simply need sign-off from a local FBI official. That’s all.
Once a business or a person receives notification that they will be searched, they are prohibited from telling anyone about it, and they are even prohibited from challenging this automatic gag order in court. Even though judges have already found that similar restrictions violate the First Amendment – this Conference Report disregards the case law and the right to challenge the gag order.
If you do decide to consult an attorney for legal advice – you have to tell the FBI that you have done so. This is unheard of – there is no such requirement in any other area of law, and I don’t see why it is justified here.
And if someone wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document – through library books they’ve read and phone calls they’ve made – this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear their plea, no jury will hear their case.
This is just plain wrong.
Giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate suspicious activity is one thing – and it’s the right thing – but doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for.
Supporters of this Conference Report have argued that we should just hold our noses and support the legislation, because it’s not going to get any better. That does not convince me that I should support this report. I believe we owe it to the nation to do whatever we can to make this legislation better. We don’t have to settle for a PATRIOT Act that sacrifices our liberties or our safety – we can have one that secures both.
There have been proposals on both sides of Congress, from both parties, to extend the PATRIOT Act for three months so that we can reach agreement on this bill. I support those efforts and will oppose cloture on this unacceptable Conference Report.[/notify]