You are browsing the archive for civil liberties.

The Feinstein Syndrome: “The Fourth Amendment for Me, But Not for Thee”

12:05 pm in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Who knows, soon we might see headlines and cable TV shows asking: “Is Dianne Feinstein a whistleblower or a traitor?”

Mural: Hero Chelsea Manning

Don’t confuse Feinstein with real whistleblower heroes.

A truthful answer to that question could not possibly be “whistleblower.” It may already be a historic fact that Senator Feinstein’s speech on March 11, 2014 blew a whistle on CIA surveillance of the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs. But if that makes her a whistleblower, then Colonel Sanders is a vegetarian evangelist.

In her blockbuster Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA’s intrusions on her committee’s computers quite possibly “violated the Fourth Amendment.” You know, that’s the precious amendment that Feinstein — more than any other senator — has powerfully treated like dirt, worthy only of sweeping under the congressional rug.

A tidy defender of the NSA’s Orwellian programs, Feinstein went on the attack against Edward Snowden from the outset of his revelations last June. Within days, she denounced his brave whistleblowing as “an act of treason” — a position she has maintained.

Snowden and other genuine whistleblowers actually take risks to defend the civil liberties and human rights of others, including the most vulnerable among us. Real whistleblowers choose to expose serious wrongdoing. And, if applicable, they renounce their own past complicity in doing those wrongs.

Dianne Feinstein remains in a very different place. She’s 180 degrees from a whistleblower orientation; her moral compass is magnetized with solipsism as a leading guardian of the surveillance state.

This week, Feinstein stepped forward to tweak her tap dance — insisting that intrusive surveillance, so vile when directed at her and colleagues with august stature, must only be directed at others.

A huge problem is that for the USA’s top movers and shakers in media and politics, nothing rises to the level of constitutional crisis unless their noble oxen start to get gored. It doesn’t seem to dawn on the likes of Senator Feinstein that Fourth Amendment protections for the few are not Fourth Amendment protections at all.

More than 40 years ago, under the Nixon administration — when the U.S. government was breaking into the offices of the Socialist Workers Party, busting into the homes of members of the Black Panther Party in the middle of night with guns firing, and widely shredding the civil liberties of anti-war activists — few among ruling elites seemed to give a damn. But when news emerged that one of the two big political parties had severely transgressed against the other with a break-in at the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, the Republican White House had gone too far.

As spring 2014 gets underway, we might be nearing a pivotal moment when major sectors of the establishment feel compelled to recognize the arrival of a constitutional crisis. Consider how the New York Times editorialized in its Wednesday edition, declaring that Feinstein “has provided stark and convincing evidence that the CIA may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were ‘far different and far more harsh’ than anything the agency had described to Congress.”

In the euphemism lexicon of official Washington, “far different and far more harsh” refers to outright torture by the U.S. government.

At the surveillance-state garrison known as the Washington Post, where cognitive dissonance must be something fierce right now, quickly out of the box was conventional-wisdom columnist Dana Milbank, who portrayed Feinstein as a savvy and angelic force to be reckoned with. The adulatory logic was classic for journalists who like to conflate complicity with credibility.

Noting Feinstein’s record as “an ally of Obama and a staunch defender of the administration during the controversy over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs,” Milbank wrote: “So her credibility could not be questioned when she went public, reluctantly, to accuse Obama’s CIA of illegal and unconstitutional actions: violating the separation of powers by searching the committee’s computers and intimidating congressional staffers with bogus legal threats.”

News media accounts are filled with such statements right now. On the surface, they make sense — but there’s a pernicious undertow. With the underlying logic, the only time we could become sure that Wall Street malfeasance was a real problem would be if someone with the stature of Bernie Madoff stepped up to condemn it in no uncertain terms.

History tells us that we’d be deluded to depend on entrenched elites to opt for principle rather than continuity of the status quo. With few exceptions, what bonds those at peaks of power routinely trumps what divides them. It takes a massive and sustained uproar to really fracture the perversity of elite cohesion.

Consider the fact that the CIA, under the current Democratic administration, has gone to extraordinary lengths to transgress against a CIA-friendly Democratic-controlled Senate intelligence committee, in an effort to prevent anyone from being held accountable for crimes of torture committed under and by the Republican Bush administration.

While Dianne Feinstein has a long and putrid record as an enemy of civil liberties, transparency and accountability, it’s also true that thieves sometimes fall out — and so do violators of the most basic democratic safeguards in the Bill of Rights. Some powerful “intelligence” scoundrels are now at each other’s throats, even while continuing to brandish daggers at the heart of democracy with their contempt for such ideals as a free press, privacy and due process. The responsibility for all this goes to the very top: President Obama.

Photo by Timothy Krause released under a Creative Commons license.

Dianne Feinstein: Big Brother’s Loyal Sister

5:25 pm in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Ever since the first big revelations about the National Security Agency five months ago, Dianne Feinstein has been in overdrive to defend the surveillance state. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she generates an abundance of fog, weasel words, anti-whistleblower slander and bogus notions of reform — while methodically stabbing civil liberties in the back.

Dianne Feinstein

Feinstein photographed on a rare break from dismantling civil liberties.

Feinstein’s powerful service to Big Brother, reaching new heights in recent months, is just getting started. She’s hard at work to muddy all the waters of public discourse she can — striving to protect the NSA from real legislative remedies while serving as a key political enabler for President Obama’s shameless abuse of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Last Sunday, on CBS, when Feinstein told Face the Nation viewers that Edward Snowden has done “enormous disservice to our country,” it was one of her more restrained smears. In June, when Snowden first went public as a whistleblower, Feinstein quickly declared that he had committed “an act of treason.” Since then, she has refused to tone down the claim. “I stand by it,” she told The Hill on Oct. 29.

Days ago, taking it from the top of the NSA’s main talking points, Feinstein led off a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece with 9/11 fear-mongering. “The Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States was highly organized and sophisticated and designed to strike at the heart of the American economy and government,” she wrote, and quickly added: “We know that terrorists remain determined to kill Americans and our allies.”

From there, Senator Feinstein praised the NSA’s “call-records program” and then insisted: “This is not a surveillance program.” (Paging Mr. Orwell.)

Feinstein’s essay — touting her new bill, the “FISA Improvements Act,” which she just pushed through the Senate Intelligence Committee — claimed that the legislation will “bridge the gap between preventing terrorism and protecting civil liberties.” But as Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Trevor Timm writes, the bill actually “codifies some of the NSA’s worst practices, would be a huge setback for everyone’s privacy, and it would permanently entrench the NSA’s collection of every phone record held by U.S. telecoms.”

California’s senior senator is good at tactical maneuvers that blow media smoke. In late October — while continuing to defend the NSA’s planetary dragnet on emails and phone calls — Feinstein voiced concern “that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee wasn’t satisfactorily informed.” Spinning the myth that congressional oversight of the NSA really exists, she added: “Therefore, our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased.”

Read the rest of this entry →

The NSA Deserves a Permanent Shutdown

12:49 pm in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

To the people in control of the Executive Branch, violating our civil liberties is an essential government service. So — to ensure total fulfillment of Big Brother’s vast responsibilities — the National Security Agency is insulated from any fiscal disruption.

Sign: Now Stalking Americans

End the NSA!

The NSA’s surveillance programs are exempt from a government shutdown. With typical understatement, an unnamed official told The Hill that “a shutdown would be unlikely to affect core NSA operations.”

At the top of the federal government, even a brief shutdown of “core NSA operations” is unthinkable. But at the grassroots, a permanent shutdown of the NSA should be more than thinkable; we should strive to make it achievable.

NSA documents, revealed by intrepid whistleblower Edward Snowden, make clear what’s at stake. In a word: democracy.

Wielded under the authority of the president, the NSA is the main surveillance tool of the U.S. government. For a dozen years, it has functioned to wreck our civil liberties. It’s a tool that should not exist.

In this century, the institutional momentum of the NSA — now fueled by a $10.8 billion annual budget – has been moving so fast in such a wrong direction that the agency seems unsalvageable from the standpoint of civil liberties. Its core is lethal to democracy.

A big step toward shutting down the National Security Agency would be to mobilize political pressure for closure of the new NSA complex that has been under construction in Bluffdale, Utah: a gargantuan repository for ostensibly private communications.

During a PBS NewsHour interview that aired on August 1, NSA whistleblower William Binney pointed out that the Bluffdale facility has a “massive amount of storage that could store all these recordings and all the data being passed along the fiberoptic networks of the world.” He added: “I mean, you could store 100 years of the world’s communications here. That’s for content storage. That’s not for metadata.”

The NSA’s vacuum-cleaner collection of metadata is highly intrusive, providing government snoops with vast information about people’s lives. That’s bad enough. But the NSA, using the latest digital technology, is able to squirrel away the content of telephone, e-mail and text communications — in effect, “TiVo-ing” it all, available for later retrieval.

“Metadata, if you were doing it and putting it into the systems we built, you could do it in a 12-by-20-foot room for the world,” Binney explained. “That’s all the space you need. You don’t need 100,000 square feet of space that they have in Bluffdale to do that. You need that kind of storage for content.”

Already the NSA’s Bluffdale complex in a remote area of Utah — seven times the size of the Pentagon — is serving as an archive repository for humungous quantities of “private” conversations that the agency has recorded and digitized.

Read the rest of this entry →

Obama’s Justice Department: Trumpeting a New Victory in War on Freedom of the Press

4:23 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Former FBI agent Donald Sachtleben pled guilty to leaking classified information and distributing child pornography

There’s something profoundly despicable about a Justice Department that would brazenly violate the First and Fourth Amendments while spying on journalists, then claim to be reassessing such policies after an avalanche of criticism — and then proceed, as it did this week, to gloat that those policies made possible a long prison sentence for a journalistic source.

Welcome to the Obama Justice Department.

While mouthing platitudes about respecting press freedom, the president has overseen methodical actions to undermine it. We should retire understated phrases like “chilling effect.” With the announcement from Obama’s Justice Department on Monday, the thermometer has dropped below freezing.

You could almost hear the slushy flow of public information turning to ice in the triumphant words of the U.S. attorney who led the investigation after being handpicked by Attorney General Eric Holder: “This prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information.”

Translation: This prosecution shows the depth of our contempt for civil liberties. Let this be a lesson to journalists and would-be leakers alike.

Audibly on the chopping block are provisions in the Bill of Rights such as “freedom … of the press” and “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Obama administration’s pernicious goal is to normalize circumstances where journalists can’t credibly promise confidentiality, and potential leakers don’t believe they can have it. The broader purpose is to destroy independent journalism — which is to say, actual journalism — which is to say, freedom of the press.

Impacts are crystal clear to just about any journalist who has done reporting that’s much more than stenographic services for official government and corporate sources. When unofficial sources are choked off, not much is left other than the Official Story.

Read the rest of this entry →

Oiling the War Machinery, From Oslo to Heathrow to Washington

8:25 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

In Oslo, the world’s most important peace prize has been hijacked for war.

In London, government authority has just fired a new shot at freedom of the press.

Bradey Manning Hero

The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to Bradley Manning.

And in Washington, the Obama administration continues to escalate its attacks on whistleblowers, journalism and civil liberties.

As a nation at peace becomes a fading memory, so does privacy. Commitments to idealism — seeking real alternatives to war and upholding democratic values — are under constant assault from the peaks of power.

Normalizing endless war and shameless surveillance, Uncle Sam and Big Brother are no longer just close. They’re the same, with a vast global reach.

Last week, I met with the Research Director of the Nobel Committee at its headquarters in Oslo. We sat at one end of a long polished conference table, next to boxes of petitions signed by 100,000 people urging that the Nobel Peace Prize go to Bradley Manning.

The Nobel official, Asle Toje, remained polite but frosty when I urged — as I had two hours earlier at a news conference – that the Nobel Committee show independence from the U.S. government by awarding the Peace Prize to Manning. Four years after the prize went to President Obama, his leadership for perpetual war is incontrovertible — while Manning’s brave whistleblowing for peace is inspiring.

In recent times, I pointed out, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to some dissenters who were anathema to their governments’ leaders — but not to any recipient who profoundly displeased the U.S. government. Toje responded by mentioning Martin Luther King Jr., a rejoinder that struck me as odd; King received the prize 49 years ago, and more than two years passed after then until, in April 1967, he angered the White House with his first full-throated denunciation of the Vietnam War.

I motioned to the stacks of the petition, which has included personal comments from tens of thousands of signers — reflecting deep distrust of the present-day Nobel Peace Prize, especially after Obama won it in 2009 while massively escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

We were in the grand and ornate building that has housed the Nobel Committee for more than a hundred years. Outside, a bust of Alfred Nobel graces the front entrance, and just across a small traffic circle is the U.S. Embassy, an imposing dark gray presence with several stories, hundreds of windows on each of its three sides and plenty of electronic gear on its roof. (That intersection is widely understood to be a base for American surveillance operations.) More than ever in recent years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee building’s physical proximity to the U.S. Embassy is an apt metaphor for its political alignment.

Over the weekend, the British government showed more toxic aspects of its “special relationship” with the U.S. government. As the Guardian reported, “The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programs by the U.S. National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London’s Heathrow Airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.” David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, “was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. … Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and game consoles.”

Assaulting press freedom is part of a comprehensive agenda that President Obama is now pursuing more flagrantly than ever. From seizing phone records of AP reporters to spying on a Fox News reporter to successfully fighting for a federal court decision to compel reporter James Risen to reveal his source for a New York Times story, Obama’s war on journalism is serving executive impunity — for surveillance that fundamentally violates the Fourth Amendment and for perpetual war that, by force of arms and force of example, pushes the world into further bloody chaos.

The destructive effects of these policies are countless. And along the way, for the Nobel Committee, more than ever, war is peace. Across the globe, aligned with and/or intimidated by official Washington, many governments are enablers of an American warfare/surveillance multinational state. And in Washington, at the top of the government, when it comes to civil liberties and war and so much more, the moral compass has gone due south.

Read the rest of this entry →

Obama’s Escalating War on Freedom of the Press

11:24 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

The part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets.

The US Constitution

Obama’s war on basic freedoms continues with an escalating attack on Freedom of the Press.

Last Friday the administration got what it wanted – an ice-cold chilling effect — from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported.

The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.”

At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.

Journalists who can be compelled to violate the confidentiality of their sources, or otherwise go to prison, are reduced to doing little more than providing stenographic services to pass along the official story. That’s what the White House wants.

The federal Fourth Circuit covers the geographical area where most of the U.S. government’s intelligence, surveillance and top-level military agencies — including the NSA and CIA — are headquartered. The ruling “pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters,” Marcy Wheeler writes.

That court decision came seven days after the Justice Department released its “News Media Policies” report announcing “significant revisions to the Department’s policies regarding investigations that involve members of the news media.” The report offered assurances that “members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.” (Hey thanks!) But the document quickly added that the government will take such action “as a last resort” when seeking information that is “essential to a successful investigation or prosecution.”

Translation: We won’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs unless we really want to.

Over the weekend, some news accounts described Friday’s court decision as bad timing for Attorney General Eric Holder, who has scrambled in recent weeks to soothe anger at the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists. “The ruling was awkwardly timed for the Obama administration,” the New York Times reported. But the ruling wasn’t just “awkwardly timed” — it was revealing, and it underscored just how hostile the Obama White House has become toward freedom of the press.

News broke in May that the Justice Department had seized records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period and had also done intensive surveillance of a Fox News reporter that included obtaining phone records and reading his emails. Since then, the Obama administration tried to defuse the explosive reaction without actually retreating from its offensive against press freedom.

At a news conference two months ago, when President Obama refused to say a critical word about his Justice Department’s targeted surveillance of reporters, he touted plans to reintroduce a bill for a federal shield law so journalists can protect their sources. But Obama didn’t mention that he has insisted on a “national security exception” that would make such a law approximately worthless for reporters doing the kind of reporting that has resulted in government surveillance — and has sometimes landed them in federal court.

Obama’s current notion of a potential shield law would leave his administration fully able to block protection of journalistic sources. In a mid-May article — headlined “White House Shield Bill Could Actually Make It Easier for the Government to Get Journalists’ Sources” — the Freedom of the Press Foundation shed light on the duplicity: As a supposed concession to press freedom, the president was calling for reintroduction of a 2009 Senate bill that “would not have helped the Associated Press in this case, and worse, it would actually make it easier for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists covering national security issues.”

Whether hyping a scenario for a shield law or citing new Justice Department guidelines for news media policies, the cranked-up spin from the administration’s PR machinery does not change the fact that Obama is doubling down on a commitment to routine surveillance of everyone, along with extreme measures specifically aimed at journalists — and whistleblowers.

The administration’s efforts to quash press freedom are in sync with its unrelenting persecution of whistleblowers. The purpose is to further choke off the flow of crucial information to the public, making informed “consent of the governed” impossible while imposing massive surveillance and other violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Behind the assault on civil liberties is maintenance of a warfare state with huge corporate military contracts and endless war. The whole agenda is repugnant and completely unacceptable.

Read the rest of this entry →

Brooks, Friedman, and Keller Wish Snowden Had Just Followed Orders

10:51 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the New York Times reported on Sunday, “have renewed a longstanding concern: that young Internet aficionados whose skills the agencies need for counterterrorism and cyberdefense sometimes bring an anti-authority spirit that does not fit the security bureaucracy.”

Caricature of B Manning

Whistleblower heroes like Manning prove our government cannot eradicate the ethics and free spirit of every young person it hires.

Agencies like the NSA and CIA — and private contractors like Booz Allen — can’t be sure that all employees will obey the rules without interference from their own idealism. This is a basic dilemma for the warfare/surveillance state, which must hire and retain a huge pool of young talent to service the digital innards of a growing Big Brother.

With private firms scrambling to recruit workers for top-secret government contracts, the current situation was foreshadowed by novelist John Hersey in his 1960 book The Child Buyer. When the vice president of a contractor named United Lymphomilloid, “in charge of materials procurement,” goes shopping for a very bright ten-year-old, he explains that “my duties have an extremely high national-defense rating.” And he adds: “When a commodity that you need falls in short supply, you have to get out and hustle. I buy brains.”

That’s what Booz Allen and similar outfits do. They buy brains. And obedience.

But despite the best efforts of those contractors and government agencies, the brains still belong to people. And, as the Times put it, an “anti-authority spirit” might not fit “the security bureaucracy.”

In the long run, Edward Snowden didn’t fit. Neither did Bradley Manning. They both had brains that seemed useful to authority. But they also had principles and decided to act on them.

Like the NSA and its contractors, the U.S. military is in constant need of personnel. “According to his superiors . . . Manning was not working out as a soldier, and they discussed keeping him back when his unit was deployed to Iraq,” biographer Chase Madar writes in The Passion of Bradley Manning. “However, in the fall of 2009, the occupation was desperate for intelligence analysts with computer skills, and Private Bradley Manning, his superiors hurriedly concluded, showed signs of improvement as a workable soldier. This is how, on October 10, 2009, Private First Class Bradley Manning was deployed . . . to Iraq as an intelligence analyst.”

In their own ways, with very different backgrounds and circumstances, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have confounded the best-laid plans of the warfare/surveillance state. They worked for “the security bureaucracy,” but as time went on they found a higher calling than just following orders. They leaked information that we all have a right to know.

This month, not only with words but also with actions, Edward Snowden is transcending the moral limits of authority and insisting that we can fully defend the Bill of Rights, emphatically including the Fourth Amendment.

What a contrast with New York Times columnists David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Bill Keller, who have responded to Snowden’s revelations by siding with the violators of civil liberties at the top of the U.S. government.

Brooks denounced Snowden as “a traitor” during a June 14 appearance on the PBS NewsHour, saying indignantly: “He betrayed his oath, which was given to him and which he took implicitly and explicitly. He betrayed his company, the people who gave him a job, the people who trusted him. . . . He betrayed the democratic process. It’s not up to a lone 29-year-old to decide what’s private and public. We have — actually have procedures for that set down in the Constitution and established by tradition.”

Enthralled with lockstep compliance, Brooks preached the conformist gospel: “When you work for an institution, any institution, a company, a faculty, you don’t get to violate the rules of that institution and decide for your own self what you’re going to do in a unilateral way that no one else can reverse. And that’s exactly what he did. So he betrayed the trust of the institution. He betrayed what creates a government, which is being a civil servant, being a servant to a larger cause, and not going off on some unilateral thing because it makes you feel grandiose.”

In sync with such bombast, Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller have promoted a notably gutless argument for embracing the NSA’s newly revealed surveillance programs. Friedman wrote(on June 12) and Keller agreed (June 17) that our government is correct to curtail privacy rights against surveillance — because if we fully retained those rights and then a big terrorist attack happened, the damage to civil liberties would be worse.

What a contrast between big-name journalists craven enough to toss the Fourth Amendment overboard and whistleblowers courageous enough to risk their lives for civil liberties.

Read the rest of this entry →

Open Letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein About the Bill of Rights

10:55 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Dear Senator Feinstein:

On Thursday, when you responded to news about massive ongoing surveillance of phone records of people in the United States, you slipped past the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you seem to be in the habit of treating the Bill of Rights as merely advisory.

The Constitution doesn’t get any better than this: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The greatness of the Fourth Amendment explains why so many Americans took it to heart in civics class, and why so many of us treasure it today. But along with other high-ranking members of Congress and the president of the United States, you have continued to chip away at this sacred bedrock of civil liberties.

As The Guardian reported the night before your sudden news conference, the leaked secret court order “shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk—regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”

One of the most chilling parts of that just-revealed Surveillance Court order can be found at the bottom of the first page, where it says “Declassify on: 12 April 2038.”

Apparently you thought—or at least hoped—that we, the people of the United States, wouldn’t find out for 25 years. And the fact that we learned about this extreme violation of our rights in 2013 instead of 2038 seems to bother you a lot.

Rather than call for protection of the Fourth Amendment, you want authorities to catch and punish whoever leaked this secret order. You seem to fear that people can actually discover what their own government is doing to them with vast surveillance.

Meanwhile, the Executive Branch is being run by kindred spirits, as hostile to the First Amendment as to the Fourth. On Thursday night, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement saying the “unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation.”

That statement from Clapper is utter and complete hogwash. Whoever leaked the four-page Surveillance Court document to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian deserves a medal and an honorary parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Nation’s Capital. The only “threats” assisted by disclosure of that document are the possibilities of meaningful public discourse and informed consent of the governed.

Let’s be candid about the most clear and present danger to our country’s democratic values. The poisonous danger is spewing from arrogance of power in the highest places. The antidotes depend on transparency of sunlight that only whistleblowers, a free press and an engaged citizenry can bring.

As Greenwald tweeted after your news conference: “The reason there are leakers is precisely because the govt is filled with people like Dianne Feinstein who do horrendous things in secret.” And, he pointed out, “The real story isn’t just the spying itself: it’s that we have this massive, ubiquitous Surveillance State, operating in total secrecy.”

Obviously, you like it that way, and so do most other members of the Senate and House. And so does the president. You’re all playing abhorrent roles, maintaining a destructive siege of precious civil liberties. While building a surveillance state, you are patting citizens on the head and telling them not to worry.

Perhaps you should have a conversation with Al Gore and ask about his statement: “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” Actually, many millions of Americans understand that the blanket surveillance is obscenely outrageous.

As a constituent, I would like to offer an invitation. A short drive from your mansion overlooking San Francisco Bay, hundreds of us will be meeting June 11 at a public forum on “Disappearing Civil Liberties in the United States.” (You’d be welcome to my time on the panel.) One of the speakers, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, could explain to you how the assaults on civil liberties and the wars you keep supporting go hand in hand, undermining the Constitution and causing untold misery.

Senator Feinstein, your energetic contempt for the Bill of Rights is serving a bipartisan power structure that threatens to crush our democratic possibilities.

A huge number of people in California and around the country will oppose your efforts for the surveillance state at every turn.

Sincerely,

Norman Solomon

What Obama Said — and What He Meant — About Climate Change, War and Civil Liberties

11:33 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Barck Obama

Norman Solomon translates the State of the Union for us.

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.

We’ve done so little to combat climate change — we must do more.

I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…

Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.

The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.

Dual memo. To T. Boone Pickens: “Love ya.” To environmentalists who won’t suck up to me: “Frack you.” (And save your breath about methane.)

That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

Blow off steam with your demonstrations, you 350.org types. I’ll provide the platitudes. XL Keystone, here we come.

After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.

How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.

Read the rest of this entry →