Hitting Up the NSA for Records

September 1, 2013


This is by far the funniest thing to come out of the revelations of the NSA eavesdropping actions.

A recent court case found the lawyer for the defense bringing up an interesting notion. His client’s phone records could help clear him… now the NSA just has to produce them.

Isn’t this a nasty precedent? If the government does not come forward with the evidence the defense attorney could file for a mistrial.

The National Security Agency has spent years demanding that companies turn over their data. Now, the tables have turned.

Then the federal government filed a motion saying it would refuse, citing “national security” but some experts say the novel legal argument could encourage other lawyers to fight for similar access.

The defendant in the case maintains his innocence and claims cellphone location records would show he wasn’t at the scene of the crime.

The laws of evidence require that prosecutors turn over to the defense any records they have that might help prove a suspect’s innocence.

One expert said, “The NSA is not above the law. It’s a government agency, just like every other government agency. Just because it has this Harry Potter-like disappearing cloak, it’s still an agency that is subject to the law.”


a Tale of One City

August 18, 2013


This is something that came to my attention before the Snowden avalanched the world.

For two days in a row in May, the very small town of Granbury, Texas, was in the news.

And neither of the stories hinge on the fact that John St Helen (a.k.a. John Wilkes Booth) once lived there.

The first mention was when the scam-master Billy Sol Estes died in his home in Granbury and the next day we heard about tornadoes that slammed the small town just outside of Ft Worth.

I’m not saying there’s any correlation between the two stories but in this butterfly-effect universe, who knows?

A hundred-ten years ago this past January (on Jan 13, 1903) David E George supposedly killed himself after confessing that he was Wilkes Booth, but that was in Enid, OK, not in Granbury.

And for the life of me I cannot figure out any connection between John Wilkes Booth and Billy Sol Estes, but I have never thought of looking in that direction before.

It’s probably nothing but just another bizarre coincidence, huh?

Governments Toppling

July 31, 2013

There seems to be a severe shortage of trust in the leaders around the world.

Yes, riots seem to be erupting on all the continents – with the possible exception of Antarctica – and it is because people around the world are losing faith in their leaders.

It is not purely an American problem.

The American people think overwhelmingly (62% by the latest poll) that their government is actually working against them.

… in the American Revolution, 80% were opposed to the British King…

But soon, the furor will die down, and Americans can get back to what is really important in life: keeping up with the Kardashians’ latest antics, or the latest rumors about Lindsay Lohan, who is the favorite on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, or discussing the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

You know, the really important things.

And all this turmoil about our freedoms being eroded away over this thing called a “war on terror” that was implemented solely to speed up the process of eroding our freedoms will vanish into the past and be forgotten.

Just like all the patriots who have ever shed blood on foreign soils to protect and insure those very freedoms so lightly squandered.

Here’s a Twist

July 28, 2013

Every year the Def Con Hackers get together and hobnob with each other, academics, computer professionals and the relevant Federal Government personnel.

And it has a long and proud tradition of this “open forum” to discuss the matters that affect each group.

This year, however, the group is a little uncomfortable with the Feds dropping in. Yes, the NSA even makes the hackers nervous, if you get my drift.

With this little bit of news, I might have to attend this year.

Vegas can be so lovely at the beginning of August… well, if you’re indoors, anyway.

See http://defcon.org/ for more details.

Men of Courage Facing Injustice

July 25, 2013


The President thinks we should embrace men who stand up against the system, even when the odds are overwhelmingly bad.

Obama wrote: “On behalf of our family, we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

This was written in the guestbook in the prison where Nelson Mandela had spent many, many years.

Obama could say the same thing about Edward Snowden but he does not seem to be intelligent enough to make that connection.

And why should he? He is the injustice being fought against.

He just doesn’t see it.

Not surprising as that is the usual thing in cases of insanity.

Our Big Backyard

July 21, 2013


John Kerry, Secretary of State, claimed South America was “our backyard” and caused a diplomatic stink.

His candidate for UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, went before Congress and said her number one priority was cleaning up the human rights violations… in Venezuela!! You know, as opposed to Dubai where the victims of rape spend sixteen months in jail…

Quite naturally, the President of Venezuela objected and withdrew from the negotiations they had been involved with America. He said America had no right to meddle in their internal affairs, especially since they have such human rights issues with Snowden, Bradley, drones, torture, and Gitmo.

Kerry, quite naturally, wanting to draw the Venezuelans back to the bargaining table, called up the Venezuelan Foreign Minister and threatened consequences if they granted asylum to Edward Snowden.

His threats worked just as well as the ones he had made earlier to Ecuador over Snowden – the Ecuadorians withdrew their request for $25 million in tariff relief – and the fallout from grounding of Morales’ plane in Europe, pissing off ALL the nations southward.

Yes, Kerry is certainly making friends with our neighbors to the south.

Perhaps the countries in Latin America decided they do not like the “backyard” image.

Perhaps they are beginning to think of the United States as their “front yard”… you know, where you put all your unwanted stuff with a “free” sign on it.

Jus’ sayin’…

Happy Bastille Day!

July 14, 2013


I have been covering a lot of the circus going on around Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks but I have been searching, searching, for something meaningful from the ordeal.

Certainly what Snowden did took a great deal of guts and his future is far from certain but the media coverage – you know, those people who rarely cover much of anything that makes the Feds look really bad because “they are told to” – has been so heavy that I thought that surely it was only to cover something else going on.

All right, I have to admit to being a bit skeptical. Sure, something “good” can happen even in our heavily micro-managed world, but it seemed a little too well orchestrated to be a singular event.

Let’s face it, a lot of the information Snowden has published was released by other leakers earlier… though most of it did not get the press Snowden seems to be commanding.

Still, for the life of me, I could not find anything I could put my finger on.

Then I read a fascinating article by Jim W. Dean at PressTV. He contends that all these various whistle-blowers seem to overlook one of the major intelligence players in the world: Israel’s Mossad.

Their tentacles reach out into practically all corners of the globe but they have gotten no mention by the whistle-blowers.

It is an interesting observation.

Dean also advises that there is not much we can do except put fifty million in the streets in protest, just like they did in Egypt, just like they did in France in 1789. Yes, two-hundred-twenty-four years ago today, the Bastille fell and the French Revolution began.

From what I have seen in America – however – it seems unlikely we could get fifty thousand on the streets.

But Snowden said there will be more revelations. I don’t know if he’s saving the really good stuff for last or if he is just stringing us along as a mere distraction.

It is not just being a conspiracy theorist that causes me to wonder. It is based on history.

And we have so many distractions.

Moving On

July 11, 2013


It seems most people – those not affiliated with the President that “isn’t going to scramble any planes” – have lost interest in Snowden and his fate.

That’s to be expected. I’m sure the Kardashians are doing something interesting, or Jolie or Pitt, or some other notable.

And the minions have now taken the movie theaters by storm… And they are so darned cute.

Yes, there is something that can always distract us.

It is good to have distractions as long as we recognize them for what they are and can then refocus on what is important.

But… well, that’s just not us, is it?

And the media certainly doesn’t want to show us anything about the massive protests around the world and around the country in response to “the guy hiding in Moscow Airport”…

Not with so many distractions!

a Little Voyeurism

July 8, 2013


We can all “pretend” to be members of the NSA for a while and read read people’s mail… Or something like that.

But these correspondences were made very public so the voyeurism aspect is a little bogus.

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

Monday July 1, 21:40 UTC

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

A reply to this statement came the next day from Edward’s father through his attorney.

Text of the letter to Edward Snowden (from the Associated Press)

July 2, 2013

Edward Joseph Snowden


Dear Edward:

I, Bruce Fein, am writing this letter in collaboration with your father in response to the Statement you issued yesterday in Moscow.

Thomas Paine, the voice of the American Revolution, trumpeted that a patriot saves his country from his government.

What you have done and are doing has awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber; and, has already provoked the introduction of remedial legislation in Congress to curtail spying abuses under section 215 of the Patriot Act and section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. You have forced onto the national agenda the question of whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause to believe crime is afoot to vassalage in hopes of a risk-free existence. You are a modern day Paul Revere summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government.

In contrast to your actions, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded last March as follows to an unambiguous question raised by Senator Ron Wyden:

“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper testified, “No sir, it does not.” Wyden asked for clarification, and Clapper hedged: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”

Director Clapper later defended his stupendous mendacity to the Senator as the least untruthful answer possible. President Obama has not publicly rebuked the Director for frustrating the right of the people to know what their government is doing and to force changes if necessary through peaceful democratic processes. That is the meaning of government by the consent of the governed. “We the people” are sovereign under the U.S. Constitution, and government officials are entrusted with stewardship (not destruction) of our liberties.

We leave it to the American people to decide whether you or Director Clapper is the superior patriot.

The history of civilization is a history of brave men and women refusing to bow to government wrongdoing or injustice, and exalting knowledge, virtue, wisdom, and selflessness over creature comforts as the North Star of life. We believe your actions fall within that honorable tradition, a conviction we believe is shared by many.

As regards your reduction to de facto statelessness occasioned by the Executive Branch to penalize your alleged violations of the Espionage Act, the United States Supreme Court lectured in Trop v. Dulles (1958): “The civilized nations of the world are in virtual unanimity that statelessness is not to be imposed as punishment for crime.”

We think you would agree that the final end of the state is to make men and women free to develop their faculties, not to seek planetary domination through force, violence or spying. All Americans should have a fair opportunity to pursue their ambitions. Politics should not be a football game with winners and losers featuring juvenile taunts over fumbles or missteps.

Irrespective of life’s vicissitudes, we will be unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference. Your actions are making our challenge easier.

We encourage you to engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts about approaches to curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States. Nothing less is required to pay homage to Valley Forge, Cemetery Ridge, Omaha Beach, and other places of great sacrifice.

Very truly yours,

Bruce Fein

Counsel for Lon Snowden

Lon Snowden

I’ll bet the stuff the NSA gets to peek through does not read nearly as articulate as either of those pieces.

But Don’t Worry…

July 7, 2013


Many people say the CT crowd is overreacting to the Snowden revelations.

They keep repeating the mantra “if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have no need to worry”…

Yeah, but who’s to say you’re not “doing wrong”.

Perhaps you’re just raising a vegetable garden or browsing a newspaper…

Some people might think that is some pretty suspicious activity.

So, then you have a moment in traffic where you honk your horn or flip off another driver…

Pretty common fare, isn’t it?

The fact that you do not do anything wrong isn’t the issue here.

Privacy IS.

Sure, some people like to film themselves picking their nose and putting it up on youtube but that may not be your first choice. Still, they cannot film someone else doing such things without permission.

That’s why they have things called release forms for people to fill out and authorize their use.

You know, to “protect their privacy”.

The exact opposite of what the NSA is doing.

Remember to old stories about peeping Toms?

They weren’t “hurting anyone” either.

And maybe the people being peeped weren’t doing anything wrong either.