Big Brother Barack

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


flickeringA stunning report by the Guardian newspaper published late Wednesday evening reveals that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans who are customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest telecom companies. The top-secret order, obtained by the paper, requires Verizon to submit to the NSA, “on an ongoing daily basis…all call details or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” Moreover, the paper reports that Americans’ communication records “are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk–regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”

The parameters of the exposed surveillance program are indeed massive, indiscriminate and involve no conditions of probable cause or reasonable suspicion of terrorist activities. Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) granted the order on April 25, directing Verizon to collect the data only until July 19, unless the blanket order is extended. The so-called “metadata” includes

comprehensive communications routing information, including but not limited to session identifying information (e.g. originating and terminating telephone number, International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number,etc.), trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of call.

The content of the conversations are not covered. Neither is the name, address or financial information for a subscriber or customer. Yet the targets of this seizure — Americans — are clear in that the above order does not include calls made between foreigners. Furthermore, none of these limitations would stop the NSA from putting together a clear picture of who called who, how and when the call was made, and from what location.

Vinson’s order clearly states that while the application was initiated by the FBI, Verizon’s “Custodian of Records” shall turn the data over to the NSA. Yet section 2.3,  “Collection of Information” included in “Executive Order 12333-United States Intelligence activities,” specifically limits the NSA’s collection of data to “foreign intelligence or counterintelligence” sources, further stipulating that data collection within the United States

shall be undertaken by the FBI or, when significant foreign intelligence is sought, by other authorized agencies of the Intelligence Community, provided that no foreign intelligence collection by such agencies may be undertaken for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons.

Thus, the NSA is in violation of its own charter.

Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group, contends that, “absent some explanation I haven’t thought of, this looks like the largest assault on privacy since the N.S.A. wiretapped Americans in clear violation of the law” during the Bush administration. “On what possible basis has the government refused to tell us that it believes that the law authorizes this kind of request?” she asks.

On its face, however, the Obama administration’s cell phone surveillance is vastly more abusive than the Bush wiretapping program, which was leaked to the press in 2006 and discontinued in 2007. The Bush administration defended those efforts at the time, stressing that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls in connection to al Qaeda operatives and post-9/11 terrorism. “In other words,” Bush explained at the time, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.” In 2007, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, affirming that a FISA court judge authorized the targeting of international communications where there was probable cause that “one of the communicants is a member or agent of al Qaeda, or an associated terrorist organization.”

Even the far-left ACLU recognizes the tremendous difference between the Bush-era and Obama-era programs. Alex Abdo, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, noted, “In many ways it’s even more troubling than [Bush era] warrantless wiretapping, in part because the program is purely domestic,” he explains.  “But this is also an indiscriminate dragnet. Say what you will about warrantless wiretapping, at least it was targeted at agents of Al Qaeda. This includes every customer of Verizon Business Services.”

Prior to publishing its revelations, the Guardian contacted the NSA, the White House and the Justice Department for comment. All of them declined to say anything. So did Verizon, but that is completely expected. The order expressly states that

no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or the NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this order other than to: a) those persons to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with such Order; b) an attorney to obtain legal advice or assistance with respect to the production of things in response to the Order; or c) other persons as permitted by the Director of the FBI, or the Director’s designee.

As several news sources note, Verizon may represent the tip of the iceberg. It remains a distinct possibility that other phone carriers, as well as giant Internet entities such as Google, Facebook, or Microsoft or any other ISPs, may be under surveillance–and that such surveillance may have been taking place far longer than the three months granted in the specific order.

Furthermore, officials have been dishonest about the nature of these programs. On March 15, 2012, an article in Wired magazine chronicled the construction of the NSA’s top-secret Utah Data Center. The article also contended that the agency “has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens,” and “established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas.”

Five days later, during a budget hearing in Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) questioned NSA director general Keith Alexander about whether the agency was conducting the kind of domestic surveillance outlined in the article. During the ensuing exchange, Alexander denied the charge fourteen times, insisting that any and all domestic surveillance would have to be conducted by the FBI. “Within the United States, that would be the FBI lead,” responded Alexander. “If it were a foreign actor in the United States, the FBI would still have to lead. It could work that with NSA or other intelligence agencies as authorized. But to conduct that kind of collection in the United States it would have to go through a court order, and the court would have to authorize it. We’re not authorized to do it, nor do we do it.”

This latest revelation makes a mockery of that testimony.

On July 9, 2012, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) released a series of letters from major phone carriers responding to his demand they provide information on how often and under what circumstances they released information to the government. In addition to Verizon, companies such as Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, MetroPCS and Cricket  revealed they had answered a staggering 1.3 million requests for data. Moreover, those requests represented annual increases of between 12 percent and 16 percent over the previous five years. “I never expected it to be this massive,” said Markey. ACLU attorney Chris Calebrese noted that much of that data collection, like the effort revealed by the Guardian on Wednesday, was completely indiscriminate. “Just the sheer volume of orders is amazing, but a significant chunk are dumps from entire cell towers,” he said at the time. “That means tons of people’s information is being grabbed with a single one of these orders.”

The latest court order seemingly confirms numerous, but vague, warnings issued by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) regarding the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance efforts. For more than two years, both these members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been sounding the alarm regarding the “secret legal interpretations” used by the administration to justify a level of domestic surveillance so broad, Americans would be “stunned” by the revelations.

Yet as recently as March 12, 2013, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied any such domestic surveillance was taking place in an exchange with Sen. Wyden:

Senator Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any kind of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Clapper: “No, sir.”

Wyden: “It does not?”

Clapper: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently, perhaps…”

Late yesterday afternoon, White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the administration’s efforts. “The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress,” he contended. A senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity, also justified the effort. “Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” he argued.

Members of both political parties supported that contention. “It’s called protecting America,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “If we didn’t do it, we’d be crazy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC).

However, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who introduced the Patriot Act in 2001, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing precisely the opposite, a viewpoint undoubtedly shared by many Americans. “I do not believe the released FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act,” he wrote. “How could the phone records of so many innocent Americans be relevant to an authorized investigation as required by the Act?” In a press release accompanying the letter he made it clear where he stood. “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American,” it stated.

The NSA clearly exceeded its legal mandate. The dishonest statements of officials involved with the program indicate the government was aware of the bounds it was overstepping. But the dishonesty is dual in nature. While the Obama administration has been declaring the war on terror dead and gone, a relic of a bygone era, it has been secretly implementing extraordinary measures against Americans, and it has done so on the basis of the dire exigencies of the jihadist threat. And while posturing, as always, as a “progressive” force, this leftist administration is, once again, engaging in “Big-Brother” 1984-style tactics — revealing, in true leftist tradition, that inside every liberal is a totalitarian screaming to get out. The scandal-ridden atmosphere has become so rotten and disturbing that even the New York Times has noted that this is an administration that has lost all credibility.

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  • truebearing

    And on the heels of the NSA/Verizon scandal is the PRISM scheme, which is arguably even more serious.
    One has to ask: who does Obama see as his enemy? If you base your conclusion on those groups he has hurt, it would seem that conservatives, Tea Partiers, Christians, Jews, and capitalists would be the obvious targets of his vindictive nature. If you add all of the other people Obama and his minions are willing to punish, the list includes most of America: Smokers, overweight people, people serving in the military (from generals on down), journalists, and even unions who just found out they are getting screwed by Obamacare, too. Even blacks have fared poorly under Obama with continued high unemployment. Now we can add people who use phones or the internet. We are all suspect in Obama’s paranoid mind. He just doesn’t seem to like Americans period….except for gay Americans and Muslims, of course.

    • pupsncats

      Your question “one has to ask: who does Obama see as his enemy?” is a question even his supporters should be asking since history proves the tyrant/dictator turns against the “useful idiots” when they are no longer of use to him.

      • truebearing

        That was one of the points I was trying to make. The major point was that Obama sees Americans as the enemy….all of us, with a few exceptions. It is well past the time for America to find its survival instinct and work together to throw him out. There is always time for squabbling later.

        • Teddi

          I think he views the American way of life with great disdain and has always carried a chip on his shoulder to transform that by destroying the majors tenants that have allowed our great country to be successful.

          The irony to me is that leftists always use the very (American) system they rant against to try and bring that system to its knees. Their very actions in this respect are disingenuous…

          • truebearing

            In what may be the understatement of all time, the Left has misunderstood the essence of freedom…. but then again, they don’t think they care about the individual, unless it is them. Collectivism has strange effects on its adherents.

  • ElizabethMC

    This isn’t a matter of having nothing to fear if you’re doing or saying nothing wrong with regard to national security.
    It’s a matter of a corrupt government having the means to punish people who disagree or criticize them.

  • jeepwonder

    Dictators crush opposition as they climb to power.
    Evidently Obama doesn’t consider McConnell or Boehner opposition. We need to replace them with someone who is.

  • CowboyLogic

    Pretty scary.

    ………….and people aren’t even paying attention to it.

  • glpage

    Why just Verizon and not the other wireless carriers? Or, are those being monitored also?

    Isn’t crap like this the reason the founders gave us the Second Amendment?

  • ApolloSpeaks

    GEORGE W. OBAMA?

    HuffPo is blasting Obama today for breaking his pledge to kill the “shoddy and dangerous” Patriot Act, and for being instead the 3rd and 4th terms of the “hated” “criminally intrusive” George W. Bush. But the comparison is not even close. Obama is in a presidential class of his own. Not only has he put the Patriot Act on steriods and turned it into a tyrannical domestic surveillance program, he has supplanted George Bush as the most reckless spending head of state in all of world history-and is persecuting as “a threat to democracy” those who patriotically want to rein in the size, scope and out of control spending of government to prevent national bankruptcy and fiscal ruin. No, Obama is no George W. Bush. He’s so dangerously unique he can only be compared to himself.

    • pupsncats

      Exactly. Bush was no conservative and he clearly started us down the slippery slope to a police state with a future of enslavement to the state. But as you point out, Obama is in a class of his own because he has embraced all of Bush’s tyrannical policies and added to them while also giving the Muslim Brotherhood, our clear enemy, support both here and abroad while attacking our Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, association, religion, and ownership of guns which Bush never did.

  • BLJ

    Papers!……You’re papers!…….Schnell!

  • John Edward Coleman

    Notice ! Tea Party, Patriot , Republican, Right, Gun owner, 72 years old ,
    AMERICAM CITIZEN & Honest ! I chose not to remain silent anymore !
    Obama & His entire Administration are LIAR’s !!!!
    Do you hear me Now ?? >> By the way, I live in St. Cloud, Fl. , USA !
    How do you { OBAMA } like them apples ??

  • cathy

    Who is the Opposition? There is no opposition? Check out the voting record of all the Progressives representatives in Congress … in the Senate. Any outrage encompassing the major Obama issues … the major Obama scandals … is all a dog and pony show meant to give the appearance of an opposition. When all is said and done … the agenda of the Marxist/Islamic appeasing Obama is furthered. Check the Progressive voting record.

    “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

  • pupsncats

    And for our “security” and our “safety” the police state was begun by George W. Bush and extended substantially by Obama.

  • pupsncats

    Hey Sensenbrenner, guess you are like your Progressive colleagues who never care about the consequences of bills they support and are passed

  • Brucew56

    NOW we know why the Internet was created. It’s so the US government and eventually the world government can monitor all our communication!

  • Flowerknife_us

    Of course Obama and his minions are reading us.
    Fundamental change means passing from Freedom to Slavery.

    No doubt they already have their lists made so they are prepared for 2014. When the American People find out the true cost of their Bondage.

  • herb benty

    What a MASSIVE LIE by “progressives”. Take the recent Boston bomber for instance. Russia TOLD America about the bomber, and how well was this information acted on?? Obama clearly is after POLITICAL enemies with all this data collection, as his denigrating of Christians continues…

  • pupsncats

    People forget that during Obama’s first campaign he lambasted the Bush policies of spying on Americans, but now fully embraces them and has extended them.