×
↓ Freedom Centers

Tag Archives: NSA Spying Scandal


Obama’s Year In Review

ISIS, Ferguson, the Senate, Ukraine, Ebola, border kids. Really, this was a pretty awful sixth year for the president. Not that he’s acting like it.

by James Oliphant     •     National Journal

Smug-ObamaYou can make a compelling case that 2014 was the worst year for President Obama since, well, the year before. And, in fact, the president spent much of this year trying to recover from some body blows he took in the final months of 2013, when, in short order, Congress rebuffed him on Syria and the federal health care exchange imploded.

Those setbacks ate away at Obama’s public support. According to Gallup, the president began 2014 with a 41 percent approval rating, and he’s ending it a tick or two higher. He’s also ending the year as a certified lame duck, facing two final years with a hostile Congress and the political conversation centering around the likes of Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. Continue reading


What Obama’s Many Messes Really Mean

Dems blame . . . big government?

bureaucracy_big governmentby S.E. Cupp

Another week, another scandal.

From Fast and Furious at the ATF to the Pigford fraud at the Department of Agriculture, the IRS’ political targeting to the State Department’s Benghazi mess, the healthcare.gov debacle at HHS to spying at the NSA and the DOJ, President Obama is running out of agencies and departments to defend in his two years left in office.

This White House has either had the worst luck in recent memory or it is responsible for breaches of public trust so vast, it’s no wonder public faith in our government is at a record low.

And now, we must add the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs — one so singularly sad, offensive and disappointing it almost feels wrong to put the callous deaths of at least 40 veterans who served our country in the same category as political tax targeting. Still, in some ways it is more of the pitiful same. Continue reading


Accused of Spying on Congress, CIA Director Tap Dances

Feinstein Brennan CIA Spyingby Major Garrett

CIA Director John Brennan denied credible allegations of spying on Congress—a federal crime—leveled by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein with a classic Washington evasion.

“We wouldn’t do that,” Brennan said during an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations. “That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

As might be said in a deposition, the witness was unresponsive. Brennan wasn’t under oath, and this isn’t a full-scale legal inquiry, at least not yet. As any cop or lawyer knows, when someone says they wouldn’t do something, that doesn’t prove they didn’t. And saying something is unreasonable doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Continue reading


Obama: If you like your privacy, you can keep it

Obama Privacy NSAby George Landrith

President Barack Obama had too little to say about the needed reforms at the National Security Agency in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. His previous comments on the subject have captured the natural and necessary tension between one’s right to be left alone by the government and the government’s responsibility to catch criminals and prevent terrorist attacks.

At other times, however, Obama has telegraphed that he has no real interest in reform. In his recent speech devoted to the subject, the president suggested no one should be overly concerned because “the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors. They’re our friends and family.”

This sounds good but is in fact a Pollyannaish view: Those who act on behalf of the government are our neighbors, friends, and family, but America is a nation of laws. If men and women were just and trustworthy there would be no need for the Fourth Amendment. In Soviet Russia the KGB depended on the “friends and family” plan to keep an eye on everyone. Continue reading


Government needs trust to effectively govern, but trust is at historic lows

Obama IRS NSA AP DOJ scandalsFrom the IRS to the NSA, Americans have sound and reasonable reasons not to trust the Obama Administration.

by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

At a tax symposium at Pepperdine Law School last week, former IRS chief counsel Donald Korb was asked, “On a scale of 1-10 … how damaging is the current IRS scandal?”

His answer: 9.5. Other tax experts on the panel called it “awful,” and said that it has done “tremendous damage.”

I think that’s right. And I think that the damage extends well beyond the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, I think that the government agency suffering the most damage isn’t the IRS, but the National Security Agency. Because the NSA, even more than the IRS, depends on public trust. And now that the IRS has been revealed to be a political weapon, it’s much harder for people to have faith in the NSA. Continue reading


USAToday: Obama NSA ‘reforms’ fall short

Obama-NSA-spying-scandal-reforms-Five months ago, after leaks revealed that the government is engaged in a vast and disturbing array of intrusive surveillance programs, President Obama vowed to find ways to strike the “right balance between protecting our security and preserving our freedoms.”

His announcement Friday of National Security Agency changes marked the start a much-needed recalibration toward individual privacy, but it fell short in some areas and left many of the key issues unresolved.

In classic Obama split-the-difference fashion, the president put forward “reforms” that are likely to satisfy neither the intelligence community nor civil libertarians. Perhaps that is as it should be. The balance between security and liberty raises difficult issues that don’t lend themselves to all-or-nothing solutions. Continue reading


Obama’s NSA Proposals Fall Far Short of Real Change

Obama Spying ScandalThe White House’s tepid plan aims to calm the public, not curtail the government’s surveillance programs.

by James Oliphant

The White House promised Friday that it was ending the NSA’s most controversial surveillance program “as it currently exists.” But make no mistake, it’s still going to exist.

n fact, what President Obama has announced will have little operational effect on the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ data. And, significantly, the administration has attempted to dodge some of the biggest decisions, passing the ball to Congress, which will likely do nothing if recent trends hold. Continue reading


Record High Say Big Government Greatest Threat

IRS Scandal Dog

BIG GOVERNMENT

Now 72% say it is greater threat than big business or big labor

Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question. The prior high for big government was 65% in 1999 and 2000. Big government has always topped big business and big labor, including in the initial asking in 1965, but just 35% named it at that time. Continue reading


5 Things The Obama Administration Had No Idea The Obama Administration Was Doing

Obama IRS Scandal Didn't Know“I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announce it on television.” — Jon Stewart

by John Hawkins

What’s the point of having a President who learns about everything his administration is doing from the newspapers, just like everyone else? When do you start to ask, “Is this guy stupid or just dishonest?” Given that Barack Obama seems to know so little about what’s going on in his administration that it’s starting to resemble a “Hogan’s Heroes” rerun with Obama playing the role of Colonel Klink, maybe the answer is “both.”

1) Obama didn’t know we were spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel for five years.

The White House cut off some monitoring programs after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programs have been slated for termination but haven’t been phased out completely yet, officials said.

The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them. Continue reading


Update: NSA Analysts spied on love interests

nsa scandal spyThe National Security Agency has admitted that analysts have abused their authority to spy on love interests on several occasions.

In response to a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the NSA identified 12 incidents since 2003 in which analysts intentionally misused their intelligence gathering powers.

In one case, an analyst spied on a foreign phone number she discovered in her husband’s cellphone, suspecting that he had cheated on her. She intercepted phone calls involving her husband, investigators discovered. The analyst resigned before any disciplinary action could be taken.

On one analyst’s first day of access to the NSA system, he pulled records on six email addresses belonging to his ex-girlfriend. He claimed he just wanted to test the system. The NSA demoted him and docked his pay for two months. Continue reading


Update on NSA gathering data on social connections of U.S. citizens

NSA Spy Scandal 10Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners. Continue reading


NSA employees spy on lovers and former spouses

Government Spyingby Harriet Alexander

Staff working at America’s National Security Agency – the eavesdropping unit that was revealed to have spied on millions of people – have used the technology to spy on their lovers.

The employees even had a code name for the practice – “Love-int” – meaning the gathering of intelligence on their partners.

Dianne Feinstein, a senator who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said the NSA told her committee about a set of “isolated cases” that have occurred about once a year for the last 10 years. The spying was not within the US, and was carried out when one of the lovers was abroad.

One employee was disciplined for using the NSA’s resources to track a former spouse, the Associated Press said. Continue reading


Abusing the Patriot Act

Obama Spying Scandalby Jim Sensenbrenner

On Aug. 9, the Obama administration released a previously secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that it used to justify the bulk collection of every American’s phone records. The strained reasoning in the 22-page memo won’t survive long in public light, which is itself one of the strongest arguments for transparency in government. As the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Recent revelations by the Washington Post emphasize the need for greater transparency. The National Security Agency failed to report privacy violations that are serious infringements of constitutional rights. Beyond these blatant violations, the foundation of the programs is itself illegal. Continue reading


It is Time for Answers from the NSA

Data Protection NSA Spy Scandal
by  John Fund

It’s time to ask tough questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities — even for conservatives who have given the NSA the benefit of every doubt up until now.

The Washington Post opened a can of worms last Friday when it reported that, in 2012, an internal NSA audit found that the agency had violated privacy rules 2,776 times within just one year. The audit counted only violations at NSA’s Washington facilities — nearly 20 other NSA facilities were not included. In the wake of the Post’s report, the NSA insisted that the violations were “inadvertent,” but it failed to explain why it had not shared the report with Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein or other congressional oversight authorities. Continue reading


Revelations hint at NSA ducking oversight

NSA Spy Scandal 10The agency’s approach to collecting data is too easily abused.

Since news broke in June that the government has been seizing millions of Americans’ phone and Internet records, the Obama administration’s defense has rested on three pillars. The collections are needed to prevent terrorist attacks. Internal safeguards protect the public’s privacy. And ultimately, Congress and judges on a special court have Americans’ backs.

Not a bad argument, if it holds up. So far, it hasn’t.