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Sunday, June 05, 2016


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Chanson de Roland

Two things about this blog post occur to me. First, while I am in substantial accord with the idea that NSA engaged in massive and unconstitutional program of surveillance against Americans and that Mr. Snowden's revelations were essential in alerting the public and many law makers to that unconstitutional surveillance, EFF and the media generally have severely under-reported the far more pervasive surveillance of us all by private tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al. Those private tech firms' surveillance of us and their collection and use of our personal information is far more complete, thorough, comprehensive, and pervasive than anything that the U.S. government does. And I fear will ultimately prove to be far greater danger to our democracy, our human rights, and our human dignity than anything that the government does or may do.

The second thing that strikes me is the utter mendacity of NSA claim that it did not know of that such pervasive surveillance was almost certainly unconstitutional, and it knew about that long before Edward Snowden raised his concerns. In 2004, James Comey, then Acting U.S. Attorney General, who is now Director of the FBI, refused to authorize a very similar unconstitutionally pervasive program of spying on Americans. When the G.W. Bush Administration threatened to proceed without Comey's authorization, both Comey, as Acting U.S. Attorney General, and then FBI Director Robert Muller threatened to resign if the G.W. Bush Administration proceeded with the surveillance program without Comey's authorization.

And, of course, there were three other whistle-blowers inside of NSA, who preceded Snowden, and who all have paid a heavy price for informing or trying to inform the American public about NSA's unconstitutional spying on Americans. Those men are: Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe. President' Obama's Department of Justice prosecuted all of these men, destroying their careers, their finances, their families, and friendships.

Mr. Drake was successfully prosecuted for doing far less than what Hillary Clinton did by exposing our Nation's most important secrets on her personal email server. Yet Mr. Drake was prosecuted for his disclosure, which the court found did not disclose any classified information, whether marked or not marked as classified, and with the presiding judge questioning why the government was even prosecuting Mr. Drake.

"For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media."

See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-nsa-officials-roundtable/2428809/.

So NSA has known about the fatal constitutional defects in its program of pervasive surveillance of Americans without probable cause, i.e., without a reasonable basis for believing that a person is involved in crime, at least since 2002, when Thomas Drake, a then senior NSA officer, who was a manager of a similar program called Trailblazer, stated his objections, using proper procedure and channels. And, as I write, supra, then Acting U.S. Attorney General refused in 2004 to authorize a very similar program because of its unconstitutionality. So NSA saying that it was unaware of objections to such a broad programs of surveillance as unconstitutional is utterly disingenuous and is a flat out lie, because it had notice of those objections from several of its senior employees since at least 2002.

And to this day President Obama has not pardoned Mr. Drake, a decorated veteran of both the United States’ Air Force and Navy, so that he can receive his full government benefits and pensions, as at least some recognition of Mr. Drake's heroic service in protecting our democracy and as some small yet wholly inadequate compensation for the way that Obama's DOJ destroyed his family, his career, his finances, and his reputation.



Thanks for the detailed comment. A good reminder about Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe. I should have included in the above blog post a link to my June 21, 2013 blog post about:

3 Former NSA Employees Interviewed By USA Today: "We Told You So"

That 2013 blog post also contains a link to a 2008 blog post which discussed questions raised in an Wall Street Journal article.

And, after reading the Vice News article, I got the distinct impression the officials in the NSA and government are tying their selves in knots to obfuscate, minimize, and avoid admitting to the clear inquiries and questions Mr. Snowden raised before the leaks. Officials clearly had plenty of opportunities to respond.


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