DC resident Ashley Brandt was surprised to meet a TSA agent at Phoenix airport who didn't think that DC drivers' licenses
were valid ID, because DC isn't a state.
An anonymous NSA leaker revealed to the German magazine Bild am Sonntag that the agency has been spying on senior German government figures. The move is apparently a response to Obama prohibiting the agency from spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel (or other world leaders) without his authorization -- by spying on the people with whom Merkel communicates, the agency is still able to intercept a large fraction of her most sensitive communications without presidential authorization.
Two amazing facts about this story:
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The top Obama administration officials working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership came to government from investment banks who will benefit immensely from its provisions, which severely curtail countries' ability to pass laws regulating banks and other corporations. These top advisors, who came from Bank of America and Citigroup, were given multimillion-dollar exit bonuses when they left their employers for government. For example, the US Trade Representative, Michael Froman, was handed $4M from Citigroup as a goodbye gift on his way into his new job.
This is standard operating procedure for America's financial industry, where the largest players all have contracts guaranteeing millions to employees who leave the firm for government jobs.
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James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the architect of the Patriot Act, has repudiated his Frankenstein's monster -- though it took the NSA mass-spying scandal to do it (yo, James, where were you for the 10-ish years of horrors before Snowden's leaks?). He's told American spooks that if they keep on blocking reform to their habits, he'll lead an effort to tank the Patriot Act's spying provisions when they come up for renewal this June, and he sounds serious
: "Unless Section 215 is fixed, you, Mr. Cole, and the intelligence community will end up getting nothing because I am absolutely confident that there are not the votes in this Congress to reauthorize 215." (via Ars Technica
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a respected journalist who holds US citizenship. Every time he returns to his home in New York, he is detained for many hours by the DHS, subjected to humiliating questioning and detention without evidence or charge, because he fits a "profile" that seems to consist entirely of "brown dude with Arabic name who visits the middle east." He recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and found himself detained for hours, despite having been assured that his name had been removed from the DHS's watch-list.
His story of harrowing treatment at JFK airport stands in sharp contrast to his experiences at checkpoints in the middle east, where security risks are much more immediate and more grave. As he points out, America has spent billions creating an aviation security system and system of border checks that have had no material impact on security, but have nonetheless enmiserated, alienated, and harassed millions of people who committed no crime and posed no threat,
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Texas Governor Rick Perry has endorsed the idea of decriminalizing marijuana
. Note that this is not Colorado/Washington-style legalization (which would give Texas access to a flood of tax-dollars from a legal industry), rather, it's decriminalization, which means that you will get a ticket if you get caught with small amounts of pot. That deprives the state of tax revenue, but saves the state some money on the prison system, and allows police the all-important discretion to disproportionately hassle brown people and anyone they find suspicious. (via Reddit
Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Russian Head of Foreign Affairs Alexy Pushkov announced that whistleblower Edward Snowden's asylum would be extended
at the end of the year, and that Russia would not deport him to the USA.
The forthcoming report of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the arm's-length body established by the Congress to investigate NSA spying, has leaked, with details appearing in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
From its pages, we learn that the board views the NSA's metadata collection program -- which was revealed by Edward Snowden -- as illegal, without "a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value…As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program."
The report goes farther than the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (whose recommendations Obama ignored) and even farther than the policies announced by the President himself.
The Board also found that NSA metadata collection didn't stop any terrorist attacks, and would not have been useful in preventing the 9/11 attacks.
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl -- a brillliant digital civil liberties attorney who has been suing the US government and the NSA over spying since 2006 -- took to the stage at the 30th Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg this week to explain in clear and simple language the history of NSA spying. Kurt lays out the tortured legal history of American bulk surveillance, showing how an interlocking set of laws, policies, lies and half-truths have been used to paper over an obviously, grossly unconstitutional program of spying without court oversight or particular suspicion.
If you're mystified by the legal shenanigans that led up to the Snowden and Manning leaks, this is where you should start. And even if you've been following the story closely, Opsahl gives badly needed coherence to the disjointed legal struggle, connecting the dots and revealing the whole picture.
30c3: Through a PRISM, Darkly - Everything we know about NSA spying
Here's a photo that purports to show Vladimir Putin -- during his time as a KGB agent -- in plainclothes, inconspicuously hanging out near Ronald Reagan during the Gipper's visit to the USSR in 1988.
[Allegedly] Vladimir Putin (far left) when he was a KGB agent posing as a family member out for a stroll in Red Square when Reagan was visiting the USSR, 1988
The ACLU has spent years in court trying to get a look at a top-secret FBI interrogation manual that referred to the CIA's notorious KUBARK torture manual. The FBI released a heavily redacted version at one point -- so redacted as to be useless for determining whether its recommendations were constitutional.
However, it turns out that the FBI agent who wrote the manual sent a copy to the Library of Congress in order to register a copyright in it -- in his name! (Government documents are not copyrightable, but even if they were, the copyright would vest with the agent's employer, not the agent himself). A Mother Jones reporter discovered the unredacted manual at the Library of Congress last week, and tipped off the ACLU about it.
Anyone can inspect the manual on request. Go see for yourself!
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Writing from Guantanamo Bay via his lawyer, Shaker Aamer, the last UK citizen imprisoned at the camp, describes the Kafkaesque regime of censorship practiced by the camp guards. His lawyer brings him books every three months, but so far, guards have confiscated Russell Brand's memoirs (too sweary), "The Gulag Archipelago" and "The Rule of Law" by Lord Bingham. They allowed Dershowitz's "Blasphemy: How the Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence," but redacted certain passages. Unsurprisingly, Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" did not attain the Gitmo stamp of approval. Aamer's favorite book is (of course), "Nineteen Eighty-Four."
The piece is written with admirable resilience and humour, but it's a reminder that the US government is still maintaining a torture camp where people who haven't been convicted of any crime are imprisoned indefinitely.
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Two protesters who held up an anti-Keystone-XL-pipeline banner at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Devon Energy have been charged with perpetrating a "terrorism hoax" because some of the glitter on their banner fell on the floor and was characterized by OKC cops as a "hazardous substance."
The arrest is an extreme example, but it's not an isolated one. Indeed, leaked documents show that TransCanada has an army of spies assembling dossiers on protesters, and has been briefing the FBI and local law on techniques for prosecuting anti-pipeline protesters as terrorists.
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The latest Snowden leak reveals a list of bizarre targets for NSA/GCHQ surveillance, including the World Health Organization, Unicef and Medecins Sans Frontiers; the VP of the European Commission (whose file included EU competition policy); the UN's special representative to Darfur; German diplomatic networks; and other diplomatic targets. The program was run through GCHQ's Bude listening station in Cornwall, which receives large amounts of funding from the NSA. There's no colourable claim that this surveillance had anything to do with preventing terrorism or enhancing national security. It's an incoherent mishmash of out-and-out industrial espionage, institutional mistrust of humanitarian relief agencies, and a reflexive need to spy. And it's going to piss a lot of people off.
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A UK government inquiry into the practice of torture of suspects rendered by MI5 and MI6 found that British spies did not speak out
against torture because they didn't want to offend the CIA.