Tag Archive: NSA

Gov. Christie: Another great proposal

If elected (a big “if”), Christie said yesterday, “he would combat illegal immigration by creating a system to track foreign visitors the way Fed Ex tracks packages. So his plan is to reduce immigrants to the status of a package. Demeaning maybe?

Christie added that “he would ask the chief executive of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, to devise the tracking system.” Embed a GPS chip or use an ankle bracelet? Both can be easily discarded. How to track down 12 million non-citizen immigrants? How much would be the cost? Who else might be able to access the location of an immigrant? All U. S. government agencies? Stalkers? Scammers?

A natural next step would be to expand the program to perceived enemies of the government – one which would gain National Security Agency’s (NSA) immediate and enthusiastic support. Rally protesters could quickly have a bracelet installed. All Muslims could be ordered to report to a local department of health to have a chip inserted. Union officials would be required to have both a chip and a bracelet. People who own guns, of course, would mostly be excluded.  

Although there are some problems with your proposal, the fact that it is coming from you must make it a great idea. Once you have relinquished your quest for the presidency, you will undoubtedly be welcomed back by New Jerseyans impressed with this forward-looking initiative and eager to implement it here.

An Interview with Senator Menendez

Robert Menendez has represented the Garden State in the U.S. Senate since 2006. He’s now the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so I started today’s interview with questions about Syria. We also spoke about the NSA’s spying on Americans (5:15), Immigration Reform (8:00), dealing with climate change deniers (10:17), the Keystone Pipeline (13:00), energy independence (16:04), the future of nuclear energy (17:54), voting rights (19:24), and his views about the Democratic Party (21:30). The interview was recorded this afternoon in Camden.

Blue Jersey’s Interview with Frank Pallone

I travelled to Congressman Frank Pallone’s Long Branch office this morning to speak to him about his campaign for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination and his position of the issues of the day.

I was pleased that his response to my first question stressed his work on the environment, specifically New Jersey’s waterways. Pallone is strong on the environment, and like his counterpart Rush Holt (and unlike Cory Booker), unequivocally opposes dangerous hydraulic fracturing.

In addition to the environment, we talked about how he plans to work around the stalemate in Washington, health care, income disparity, education, and the emerging surveillance state.

Disclosure: I’m a Holt supporter and have volunteered for his campaign. But if Pallone beats Booker, I’ll be ecstatic

Rush Holt Speaks with Blue Jersey

On Friday, the Holt campaign office in West Windsor was teeming with activity. Blue Jersey visited for an exclusive extended interview with the Congressman who is running against three other Democrats in a primary election next month for Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat.

We talked about why he’s running, his accomplishments in the House chamber dominated by do-nothing Republicans, and why he feels he’s the best candidate to assume the Lautenberg legacy.

On the issues, among the things we discussed are climate change, health care, energy, today’s surveillance state, public education, foreign policy, and immigration.

Blue Jersey will be happy to conduct similar interviews with the other senatorial candidates. Contact us.

Sen. Menendez Calls For Sanctions Against Countries Offering Asylum to Snowden

promoted by Rosi

Senator Bob Menendez, Chair of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, spent his Sunday morning on the political TV shows, and called for sanctions against countries that aid or offer Edward Snowden asylum against prosecution in the US for leaking secret files about the NSA’s secret spying on Americans.

Meet The Press host David Gregory asked Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) what the repercussions should be for those countries if they grant him asylum. “It’s very clear that any country that accepts Snowden, offers him political asylum, is taking a step against the United States,” Menendez replied. “I think you have to look whether it’s at trade preferences that may exist with these countries, other elements of our policy our aid, our trade.”

“Any acceptance of Snowden to any country – to these three countries or any other – puts them against the United States and they need to know that,” Menendez continued. Snowden is currently stuck in the “transit zone” of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. From there, he has applied for asylum in more than a dozen countries around the world, many of whom have already elected to turn him down.

The three countries currently offering asylum to Snowden are Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia.  Snowden’s currently stuck in the international zone of a Russian airport where the Russians won’t let him out and the US froze his passport.

Quote of the Day

A judge has ruled President Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program was illegal. (This is actually the third time a judge has ruled the program illegal.) As the NYT observes, candidate Obama said the same thing, but the Obama Administration has instead generally backed the Bush Administration, following the useful “principles” that they would also like to be able do what they please and no one important should ever be punished anyway. Rush Holt asks the key question:

“Where does this leave the Obama administration? That’s a good question.”

Holt on NSA abuses

Representative Rush Holt could have had the quote of the day:

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental”

He’s talking about how the NSA repeatedly has violated the law by spying on domestic e-mails.  Holt goes on to note that most Congressmen can’t follow the technical details, but I think he’s being a bit kind. What kind of technical knowledge is needed to understand this?

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of the telecoms’ role in domestic spying, I want to turn to Mark Klein. He’s the former AT&T technician who blew the whistle on the involvement of phone companies in the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. Klein was with AT&T for twenty-two years. In 2006, he leaked internal documents revealing the company had set up a secret room in its San Francisco office to give the NSA access to its fiber-optic internet cables.

     MARK KLEIN: We were told one day in late 2002 that an NSA representative was coming to the office to speak to a certain management technician about a special job. And this turned out to be installing a secret room in the next office I was going to be in the following year. And that secret room involved a lot of spying equipment. Only this one management technician could go in there, and the regular union technicians were not allowed to go in there.

     But when– in 2003 I was assigned to that office, and I got hold of the documents which were available — they’re not classified– and the documents showed what they were doing. They were basically copying the entire data stream going across critical internet cables and copying the entire data stream to this secret room, so the NSA was getting everything.

Rush Holt is quite right to push on this issue, because if the NSA is deliberately breaking the law than they cannot be trusted.  

I’d also like to say these violations are extraordinarily dangerous to our democracy, if nothing else because they can be used as a source of power by the unscrupulous. Just today we found out a well-known Republican Senator was being blackmailed over his affair.  It won’t take you long to think of other Republicans and Democrats who have had career-ending secrets revealed: What would they have done to keep them secret? The Times article says one analyst was punished for spying on former President Bill Clinton. And what about the private sector? Did you know that one telecommunication executive who agreed to cooperate with illegal NSA programs now is getting a key job at G.M. (though he knows nothing about cars), while another who refused was sent to jail on fraud charges?  Maybe it’s all on the up-and-up, but after following New Jersey politics can you really be confident it is?  

Holt wants answers about NSA wiretaps of Muslim Scholar

This is a pretty disturbing story, but it’s long overdue that we start getting some answers:

A Congressional oversight panel plans to ask the National Security Agency to start an investigation into new evidence that the agency illegally wiretapped a Muslim scholar in Northern Virginia and concealed the eavesdropping during a 2005 trial in which the scholar was convicted on terrorism charges.

Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said in an interview that he planned to ask the inspector general of the N.S.A. to open what would be the first formal investigation by the agency into whether its eavesdropping program had improperly interfered with an American’s right to a fair trial.  

Mr. Holt said he was responding to new evidence presented to him and other Congressional leaders by the Muslim scholar’s lawyer indicating that the Bush administration tried to hide the full extent of the government’s illegal spying in the criminal case.

Good for Congressman Holt on trying to get some answers here.  This is troubling on a few levels.  First, the issue of the wiretapping but second, the fact they covered it up at the trial is seems like a tacit admission that they knew their activities were out of bounds.  Some more background:

The scholar, Ali al-Timimi, once a spiritual leader in Northern Virginia and described by prosecutors as a “rock star” in the Islamic fundamentalist world, is now serving a life sentence in federal prison after he was convicted in 2005 on charges of inciting his Muslim followers to commit acts of violence overseas.

Prosecutors described Mr. Timimi as the spiritual mentor to a group of young men in Northern Virginia who were convicted of giving material support in Kashmir to Lashkar-e-Taiba – the separatist group blamed by the Indian authorities for the recent attacks in Mumbai. Several of the Northern Virginia men had received paramilitary training in Pakistan, apparently at the urging of Mr. Timimi, but there was no evidence that they had taken part in any terrorist attacks.

Mr. Timimi’s lawyers maintain that the N.S.A., without acquiring court-approved warrants, used the eavesdropping operation approved by President Bush weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks to wiretap his communications, and that the interceptions might include evidence that would point to his innocence in what they regard as a free-speech case. They charge that the government has intentionally withheld that material despite repeated requests.

The Justice Department has denied that it had any other evidence of eavesdropping against him other than what it turned over to his lawyers. But the federal judge in the case, Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria, Va., has expressed increasing annoyance over persistent questions about the N.S.A.’s possible role.

So the judge is tired of the NSA stalling and there was no evidence that the people he had mentored actually took part in any attacks.  Despite the conviction, his Wikipedia page identifies his stance against terrorism:

Dr. Al-Tamimi was noted for being against terrorism, both in public and in private. He has been quoted as saying:

“If you consider this, then we can frankly say that certain acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims against non-combatant unbelievers over the last ten or fifteen years clearly contradict Islam. It is exceedingly important that Muslims are the first and foremost to condemn and reject such actions.”[1]

“As at the time of the sending of the prophet Muhammad, the weapons employed in Arabia were simple sword, javelin, arrows, and so forth. It was only much later that the use of the catapult and the cannon became prevalent in warfare. The Muslim scholars writing at that time were in agreement that it was impermissible to use the catapult or the cannon against civilian populations. Their reasoning was that when laying siege to a city and you bombard it with catapults and cannons, this would necessarily result in the death of non-combatants. So therefore the Muslim army when laying siege to a city of a country to which they were at war, they should not use these weapons that in the modern times we would equate with weapons of mass destruction.”

His defense team has been trying to get things overturned for years and find some answers, separate from the new investigation:

Jonathan Turley, who is representing Ali al-Tamimi, persuaded the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt appellate proceedings January 24, 2006. The appellate court is considering whether to send the case back to the trial court to discover if the NSA warrantless surveillance was used to monitor Ali. If it does, Turley said, “the government would have to establish whether Dr. Al-Tamimi was intercepted under this or any other undisclosed operation, and the court could have to look at the legality of the whole operation

Separate from what happens with this case, past public reports point to the NSA wiretap program being larger than originally let on.  I think at the very least, it would be good to start getting some answers about the scope of the actions the Government took in the name of protecting us.

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, September 12

Open Thread: What’s on your mind, Blue Jersey?

NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls

By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

Link Here