Monthly Archives: June 2013

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NEW DETAILS: NSA can record and store up to one billion cell phone calls per day

Spying graphicIf you didn’t watch the opening events live stream of the 2013 Socialism Conference in Chicago tonight, you missed out on something very special.

Glenn Greenwald spoke at the conference tonight via Skype, and he gave a quick preview of some upcoming stories he’s working on at The Guardian concerning the National Security Agency.

He didn’t go into detail and it was actually a little ambiguous, but the gist of what’s coming is that the NSA has the technical capability to monitor and store up to one billion cell phone calls per day, globally. We’re talking about call content here — spoken words — in addition to metadata like the cell numbers of participants, date and time, and possibly location from GPS.

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Oh, good. The NSA had a boundless email dragnet, too.

obama-email-spying-meme.jpgGlenn Greenwald (w/Spencer Ackerman) has a new story out today in The Guardian, revealing that the NSA had run a dragnet for all email metadata in the United States from 2001 until 2011. This would be an email version of the phone record dragnet revealed a couple of weeks ago, where in that case every phone call in the country had its metadata handed over to the National Security Agency without targeting any individual having been suspected of a crime.

Many people have already explained why such metadata can be an extreme invasion of privacy. In the case of phone metadata, repeated calls an abortion clinic that suddenly stop, or calls to a cancer specialist, can reveal medical conditions to the government that are otherwise strongly protected by state and federal law.

The NSA doesn’t appear to have any privacy constraints on the information it gathers, meaning it can be shared with other federal agencies and possibly even civilian authorities — privacy walls erected after Watergate that were weakened and removed by the USA PATRIOT Act, Protect America Act of 2007, and FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

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Why the Voting Rights Act crumbling could be a good thing

Florida-voters-brave-long-lines-via-AFP-615x345.jpgI haven’t yet read the opinions in Shelby County v. Holder and so won’t make any argument or analysis of the appropriateness of the ruling itself. I will quickly note that today’s ruling was 5-4, with Anthony Kennedy joining all of the court’s conservatives in the majority, with the liberal judges dissenting.

If John G. Roberts is to have a legacy, it probably won’t be upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’ll be presiding over what feels like one of the most politically divided benches in quite some time, which suggests that the Supreme Court should probably be the next logical target of comprehensive government reform.

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North Carolina voters already disgusted with their new all-GOP state government

Pat McCroryPublic Policy Polling surveyed 500 North Carolina voters between June 12th and June 14th, and the results are a real disaster for the state Republican Party.

North Carolina saw Republicans win control of the state legislature in the national 2010 GOP-wave and elected its first Republican Governor last year for the first time in over 100 years. The state GOP immediately pushed abortion restrictions, voter ID requirements, cuts to education, a rejection of an expansion of Medicaid (90% would be paid for by the federal government), a refusal to create a money-saving health insurance exchange under Obamacare (allowing the federal government to step in and run one on North Carolina’s behalf instead), and other conservative issues that had nothing to do with jobs.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 8.8% in May, the fifth highest in the nation.

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How tomorrow’s same-sex cases may play out in the Supreme Court

Predicting what might happen tomorrow at the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry is more difficult than with National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (health care reform).

The Supreme Court would uphold the individual mandate or it would strike it down. The how and why mattered (I correctly predicted that the insurance mandate would be upheld as a tax), but the potential outcomes were few even after the cases were consolidated.

First a little history which will partially explain why there are so many possible outcomes.

Proposition 8 was a voter-passed initiative that defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman that was immediately subjected to lawsuits by same-sex couples and civil liberties advocates. The law was defended by ProtectMarriage.com and Campaign for California Families because the state of California believed the proposition was unconstitutional and refused to defend it themselves.

A federal district court in California struck down Prop 8 on June 16, 2010, finding that that marriage is not a matter of religion because of entanglement with government and the segregation of legal rights, that the state of California had no compelling interest (very important) in banning same-sex marriage.

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NSA whistle blower Snowden left Hong Kong for Russia

National Security whistle blower Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today and reportedly met with an Ecuador ambassador at an airport in Moscow to seek asylum. I’ve yet to see anything concrete, but the feeling is that Hong Kong let Snowden leave because they weren’t going to extradite him to the United States.

Ecuador’s extradition treaty with the United States doesn’t cover political crimes.

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Edward Snowden personally addresses “direct access”, why he went to Hong Kong, and other questions in live Q&A

pic_giant_061313_SM_Edward-Snowden.jpgEdward Snowden took part in a live question and answer session this afternoon on The Guardian‘s website, with questioning opened by several of the journalists that broke the NSA spying news.

Many of the issues that have been used to change the conversation from the government’s controversial and possibly unconstitutional surveillance programs to quibbles over minor details or entertainment narratives (Snowden lied about his salary; what did his girlfriend know and when did she know it?) were addressed by Snowden himself. Not to mention the petty, pointless personal attacks that Snowden and journalists at The Guardian have had to put up with.

Many questions could only be answered by Edward Snowden himself, such as why he left the United States and how he ended up Hong Kong when his ultimate destination was Iceland.

I’ll provide the full text of the Q&A for anyone that would prefer to make up their own minds on what all of this means, without any analysis. I will not cover every single question and answer. You can see the full transcript by visiting this link.

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Edward Snowden chat transcript, 2013-06-17

Chat transcript of Edward Snowden via The Guardian, 2013-06-17.

Glenn Greenwald: Let’s begin with these:

1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?

2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?

Snowden: 1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.

Second, let’s be clear: 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.

2) All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.

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Snowden leaks already have been enormously consequential

fort_gordon.jpgMany supporters within the government, media, and citizenry have simultaneously argued that Edward Snowden didn’t reveal anything that we didn’t already know, so what’s the big deal, and also that his exposure of top secret spying programs that are keeping us all safe from The Terorrists is an unconscionable act of treason that should result in his execution.

Any person possessing minimal critical thinking skills should see the contradiction. It can’t be the case that these programs were well known publicly and thus inconsequential while at the same time they were deeply secret and revealing their existence has aided our enemies.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is the case, my point is that both things can’t be true at the same time.

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68% say Edward Snowden is a hero

Out of 32,000+ votes (online), only 18% believe that NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is a traitor:

 

nsa-fox-nation.jpg

If only Congress would get on board with reality like this. What does it say about establishment politicians calling for Snowden to be hunted down and executed, that even Fox Nation is more sane than them?