President Obama has prompted protest by naming to reform NSA’s spy program the same staffer who misled the Senate last spring about the system.
White House Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, right, will lead a new intelligence review panel announced by Obama Aug. 9. Obama sought to reassure those in the public who believe federal authorities are abusing Americans’ Constitutional rights.
Former NSA executives and other experts have claimed the government collects and stores essentially all domestic electronic communications via phone, email, and social media. Independent experts claim the government maintains a dragnet for essentially all such communications (including content), and can retrieve content as it desires via secret procedures.
Separately, Reuters last week reported DEA Special Operations Division Covers Up Surveillance Used To Investigate Americans concerning a secret government program whereby federal drug agents would lie to federal judges, defendants, and attorneys about their surveillance to keep the program secret and prevent defendants from challenging procedures in court.
The government denies such capabilities and lawbreaking. Looking relaxed, President Obama went on NBC’s Tonight Show Aug. 6 to tell the show’s affable host Jay Leno there is no such thing as a domestic spying program. Obama and his aides say that secret courts and secret briefings of congressional leaders adequately safeguard privacy rights over the minimal “metadata” the government collects.
Yet some Senate and House members deny being adequately briefed. Also, former NSA analyst Russell Tice has told me and others that NSA and its contractors spy on Congress — including Obama when he was a Senator — to build a resource databank that deters oversight.
News reports suggest that Clapper will choose the panel to review intelligence operations that he supervises, and will then control the deliberations of his review panel.
Last spring, Clapper responded “no sir” to a question by three-term Senate Intelligence Commitee member Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, who asked whether the NSA collects information about millions of Americans. Clapper later admitted he misled the Senate. The revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June forced the Obama administration to admit it had deceived the public.
The administration has claimed its program protects the public by opposing major terrorist threats. Critics increasingly challenge those administration claims, as the Justice Integrity Project reported following a conference of former NSA employers and other experts July 25 at the National Press Club. My column was Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights quoted former NSA executives who had helped devise the spy program describe their concerns about its reach and waste of taxpayer funds. Much of the funding goes to politically powerful private contractors who run the guts of the system, and employ former government officials when they are ready for the wealth that awaits them through the revolving door.
The column illustrated themes of my new book, Presidential Puppetry, documenting how the White House and Congress are dominated by the private sector titans that run the surveillance systems in effect. Snowden, a former NSA and CIA employee, worked for Booz Allen Hamiliton, which is majority-owned by the Carlyle Group.
Constitutional scholar Paul Craig Roberts, left, on Aug. 13 called for impeachment proceedings because of the Obama administration’s policies, which he described as a continuation of Bush violations of the Constitution.
“The US faces no threat that justifies the lawlessness and abuse of police powers that characterize the executive branch in the 21st century,” Roberts wrote for the left-leaning OpEd News in a column entitled, Humanity Is Drowning In Washington’s Criminality. Clapper, Roberts wrote, “blatantly lied to Congress and remains in office. Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, has also misled Congress, and he remains in office. Attorney General Holder avoids telling Congress the truth on just about every subject, and he also remains in office. The same can be said for President Obama, one of the great deceivers of our time, who is so adverse to truth that truth seldom finds its way out of his mouth.”
“If an American citizen lies to a federal investigator, even if not under oath, the citizen can be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison,” Roberts continued. “Yet, these same federal personnel can lie to Congress and to citizens with impunity. Whatever the American political system is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with accountable government. In Amerika no one is accountable but citizens, who are accountable not only to law but also to unaccountable charges for which no evidence is required.”
Punishment of Snowden for warning Americans is now one of the nation’s top foreign policy objectives. U.S. European allies, presumably acting under pressure from the Obama administration, infuriated many in Latin America by violating diplmatic protocol force the landing of a Bolivian presidential flight from Europe to South America in early July on the false tip that the Latin leader might be hiding Snowden from American authorities.
“Revelations that South American countries were targets of NSA surveillance disclosed by former agency contractor Edward Snowden have particularly angered Brazil, which has called for a U.N. investigation,” the Washington Post reported Aug. 13. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Brazil, was asked point-blank by a reporter from the Brazilian newspaper O Globo whether the United States intends to “stop spying” on the rest of the world.
Also, Obama cancelled a summit meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in significant part over Putin’s refusal to deliver Snowden for trial in the United States on spy charges. The United States and Russia have no extradition treaty and there is no known evidence that Snowden worked with foreign agents to unveil secrets. Snowden has said from the first that his goal is to warn the American public because intelligence officials of U.S. allies and opponents already know about the vast scope of warrantless spying and information databanks.