The National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.
More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa.
The Obama administration self-disclosed the problems at a closed-door hearing Oct. 26 before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that set off alarm. Trump was elected less than two weeks later.
The normally supportive court censured administration officials, saying the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26, 2017.
The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.
Circa has reported that there was a three-fold increase in NSA data searches about Americans and a rise in the unmasking of U.S. person’s identities in intelligence reports after Obama loosened the privacy rules in 2011.
Officials like former National Security Adviser Susan Rice have argued their activities were legal under the so-called minimization rule changes Obama made, and that the intelligence agencies were strictly monitored to avoid abuses.
The intelligence court and the NSA’s own internal watchdog found that not to be true.
“Since 2011, NSA’s minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collections under Section 702,” the unsealed court ruling declared. “The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries inviolation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.”
Speaking Wednesday on Fox News, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said there was an apparent effort under the Obama Administration to increase the number of unmaskings of Americans.
“If we determine this to be true, this is an enormous abuse of power,” Paul said. “This will dwarf all other stories.”
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people,” Paul added.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the newly disclosed violations are some of the most serious to ever be documented and strongly call into question the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to police itself and safeguard American’s privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure.
“I think what this emphasizes is the shocking lack of oversight of these programs,” said Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU’s legislative counsel in Washington.
“You have these problems going on for years that only come to the attention of the court late in the game and then it takes additional years to change its practices.
“I think it does call into question all those defenses that we kept hearing, that we always have a robust oversight structure and we have culture of adherence to privacy standards,” she added. “And the headline now is they actually haven’t been in compliacne for years and the FISA court itself says in its opinion is that the NSA suffers from a culture of a lack of candor.”
The NSA acknowledged it self-disclosed the mass violations to the court last fall and that in April it took the extraordinary step of suspending the type of searches that were violating the rules, even deleting prior collected data on Americans to avoid any further violations.
“NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target,” the agency said in the statement that was dated April 28 and placed on its Web site without capturing much media or congressional attention.
In question is the collection of what is known as upstream “about data”about an American that is collected even though they were not directly in contact with a foreigner that the NSA was legally allowed to intercept.
The NSA said it doesn’t have the ability to stop collecting ‘about’ information on Americans, “without losing some other important data. ” It, however, said it would stop the practice to “reduce the chance that it would acquire communication of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with a foreign intelligence target.”
The NSA said it also plans to “delete the vast majority of its upstream internet data to further protect the privacy of U.S. person communications.”
Agency officials called the violations “inadvertent compliance lapses.” But the court and IG documents suggest the NSA had not developed a technological way to comply with the rules they had submitted to the court in 2011.
Officials “explained that NSA query compliance is largely maintained through a series of manual checks” and had not “included the proper limiters” to prevent unlawful searches, the NSA internal watchdog reported in a top secret report in January that was just declassified. A new system is being developed now, officials said.
The NSA conducts thousand of searches a year on data involving Americans and the actual numbers of violations were redacted from the documents Circa reviewed.
But a chart in the report showed there three types of violations, the most frequent being 5.2 percent of the time when NSA Section 702 upstream data on U.S. persons was searched.
The inspector general also found noncompliance between 0.7 percent and 1.4 percent of the time involving NSA activities in which there was a court order to target an American for spying but the rules were still not followed. Those activities are known as Section 704 and Section 705 spying.
Review | The NSA inspector general’s highly redacted chart showing privacy violations.
The IG report spared few words for the NSA’s efforts before the disclosure to ensure it was complying with practices, some that date to rules issued in 2008 in the final days of the Bush administration and others that Obama put into effect in 2011.
“We found that the Agency controls for monitoring query compliance have not been completely developed,” the inspector general reported, citing problems ranging from missing requirements for documentation to the failure to complete controls that would ensure “query compliance.”
The NSA’s Signal Intelligence Directorate, the nation’s main foreign surveillance arm, wrote a letter back to the IG saying it agreed with the findings and that “corrective action plans” are in the works.
Former President Barack Obama traveled to Italy this week to make a speech on climate change at the “Seed & Chips: The Global Food Innovation Summit” in the city of Milan.
It seems like Obama has taken a page out of Leonardo DiCaprio’s book of “do as I say, not as I do” and took a private jet to Milan. Not only that, he had a 14 car convoy to get into the city, which also included protection from above with a helicopter.
It doesn’t end there. According to The Daily Mail, 300 police officers were used to protect the former president.
The fleet of 14 included multiple SUVs, police cars, and sedans — not to mention a few motorcycles.
Here’s another look at the convoy:
While in Milan, Obama also met with former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who was a close partner during their respective times in office.
During his post-presidency vacation, Obama spent many weeks in French Polynesia on music mogul David Geffen’s 450ft superyacht, which surely does not frugally sip fossil fuels like he wants the rest of the country to do.
Seems like President Obama’s retirement is going well.
by JOEL B. POLLAK 8 May 2017
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, testifying in the Senate on Monday, attempted to defend her decision to defy President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending travel from several terror-prone countries in January.
Yates told the Senate Judiciary Committee that her decision was made “not purely as a policy matter,” but suggested that she had been guided by “statements” that were made “contemporaneously or prior” to the order.
She did not specify which statements she meant, but several of the judges who have blocked the executive order — and its less ambitious successor — have referred to statements made by Trump on the campaign trail about a “Muslim ban.”
Under questioning, Yates admitted that “people of goodwill can make different decisions about this” — having just argued, moments before, that the conclusion of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel was so wrong that it had to be overruled.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was the first to question Yates:
Cornyn: Ms. Yates, this is the first time that you’ve appeared before Congress since you left the Department of Justice, and I just wanted to ask you a question about your decision to refuse to defend the president’s executive order. In the letter that you sent to Congress, you point out that the executive order itself was drafted in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel, and you point out that the Office of Legal Counsel reviewed it to determine whether, in its view, the proposed executive order was lawful on its face, and properly drafted. Is it true that the Office of Legal Counsel did conclude it was lawful on its face, and properly drafted?
Yates: Yes, they did. The Office of —
Cornyn: And you overruled them?
Yates: I did. The Office of Legal —
Cornyn: What is your authority to overrule the office of legal counsel whether it comes to a legal determination?
Yates: The Office of Legal Counsel has a narrow function and that is to look at the face of an executive order to determine purely on its face whether there is some set of circumstances under which at least some part of the executive order may be lawful. And, importantly, they do not look beyond the face of the executive order, for example, at statements that are made contemporaneously or prior to the execution of the E.O. that may bear on its intent and purpose. That office does not look at those factors. And in determining the constitutionality of this executive order, that was an important analysis to engage in, and one that I did.
Cornyn: Well, Ms. Yates, I thought the Department of Justice had a long-standing tradition of defending a presidential action in court if there are reasonable arguments in its favor regardless whether they may prove to be ultimately persuasive — which, of course, is up to the courts to decide and not you, correct?
Yates: It is correct, but not often times, but not always, the Civil Division of the Department of Justice will defend an president or an action of Congress if there is a reasonable argument to be made. But in this instance, all arguments have to be based on truth. Because we’re the Department of Justice. We’re not just a law firm. We’re the Department of Justice.
Cornyn: You distinguish “the truth” from “lawful”?
Yates: Yes, because in this instance, in looking at what the intent was of the executive order, which was derived, in part, from an analysis of facts outside the face of the order, that is part of what led to our conclusion that it was not lawful, yes.
Cornyn: Well, Mrs. Yates, you had a distinguished career for 27 years at the Department of Justice. And I voted for your confirmation because I believe you had a distinguished career. And I have to tell you that I find it enormously disappointing that you somehow vetoed the decision of the Office of Legal Counsel with regard to the lawfulness of the president’s order, and decided instead that you would countermand the executive order of the President of the United States because you happen to disagree with it as a policy matter. I just have to say that.
Yates: I appreciate that, Senator. And let me make one thing clear. It was not purely as a policy matter. And in fact, I remember my confirmation hearing. And in an exchange that I had with you, and others of your colleagues, where you specifically asked me in that hearing that if the president asked me to do something that was unlawful or unconstitutional, and one of your colleagues — or even that would reflect poorly on the Department of Justice, would I say no? And I looked at this. I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful. I also thought that it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice. And I said no. And that’s what I promised you I would do. And That’s what I did.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) rode to Yates’s rescue, citing three federal courts that had agreed with Yates, blocking the executive order on the grounds that it was improperly motivated by religious discrimination.
Durbin did not mention, however, that a federal judge in Boston had declined to block the executive order, ruling that the president was well within his authority, and that the order satisfied the legal standard of “rational basis” review:
Here, the President has exercised his broad authority under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f) to suspend entry of certain aliens purportedly in order to ensure that resources are available to review screening procedures and that adequate standards are in place to protect against terrorist attacks.
Under questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Yates said that the statute authorizing Trump’s executive order was superseded by a later statute prohibiting religious discrimination, and that the fundamental issue was the constitutionality of the order.
Cruz replied that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) had reviewed the executive order for its lawfulness. Yates said she was not convinced that the order was lawful, and she had to look “outside the face of the document.”
“It was appropriate for us to look at the intent behind the president’s actions,” Yates said.
Later, however, she allowed: “People of goodwill can make different decisions about this.” How that squared with her earlier argument that arguments in favor of the executive order were not based on truth, she did not explain.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked her to clarify, and Yates said that she would have had to argue that the intent had not been discriminatory, which she did not believe that she could do. Sen. Kennedy then asked whether she would have declined to defend an act of Congress that used exactly the same language, and she said yes.
She cited the previous example of the Department of Justice declining to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Sen. Kennedy pointed out that that had been a political decision.
“Who appointed you to the United States Supreme Court?” Kennedy asked.
BOOMSen Kennedy to #SallyYates: “Who appointed you to the Supreme Court?”
Then, watch Sally look for help @ end! pic.twitter.com/yFFxR0F3Hp
— BostonBobblehead (@DBloom451) May 8, 2017
Yates also did not explain why she had chosen to veto the executive order, rather than resigning. President Trump later fired her.
Update: Left-wing websites and social media are celebrating Yates’s exchange with Cruz, as if she “schooled” him. Yates cited the non-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which has never been interpreted to overrule the president’s broad authority under 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) to determine immigration policy — a statute that Yates failed to name when Cruz asked her about it, yet which is central to the executive order.
New scientific research has revealed that liberals – like conservatives – are just as likely to avoid opinions they dislike.
Research has exploded the popularly held view that people with a liberal stance on political issues are more rational than their conservative counterparts. Two new studies have revealed that bias is one of the few issues that gets bipartisan support.
The snappily titled paper, Liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid exposure to one another’s opinions’, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that liberals were just as averse to listening to opposing viewpoints on controversial issues as their conservative counterparts.
The aversion applied to issues such as same-sex marriage, elections, marijuana, climate change, guns and abortion.
Interestingly, the researchers found that around two out of every three people gave up a chance to win extra money so they could avoid hearing opinions that differ from their own.
A separate paper,At Least Bias Is Bipartisan: A Meta-Analytic Comparison of Partisan Bias in Liberals and Conservatives, which is actually a combination of 41 studies, reached the same conclusion, finding no difference in partisanship between liberals and conservatives.
In an article in the New Scientist, science writer Alex Berezow uses the example of progressive bastion Seattle to explode some of the myths surrounding liberals’ supposed love of science and rational thinking. Berezow notes that Seattle children have a lower polio vaccination rate than Rwanda and only five states have a lower MMR vaccination rate than Washington.
“If liberalism translated into embracing science, we would expect places like Seattle to have vaccination rates of 100 per cent,” Berezow says. He notes that the city also rejects GMOs and other facets of biotechnology.
Berezow argues that the rise of partisan news outlets and social media has contributed to a narrowing in the range of opinions people are exposed to because it enables people to create alternative realities “full of self-reinforcing platitudes and free of any pesky information that might upset fragile world views.”
By Eren Moreno
Liberal college kids at George Mason University were interviewed on camera about President Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Of course, these millennials are uninformed morons, so when the interviewer instead read off Obama’s accomplishments in his first 100 days they were absolutely disgusted while still thinking it was Trump.
What a bunch of idiots.