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Obama secretly reversed NSA surveillance restrictions in 2011

Sunday, September 22, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: NSA, Obama, surveillance restrictions

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(NaturalNews) Maybe you don't remember - after all, it's been about five years now - but once upon a time, Dear Leader Barack Obama promised to have the most transparent, open government in U.S. history.

The number of times that Obama has proven this to be a lie is too high to count, but the business of the National Security Agency spying on virtually all Americans' personal electronic communications is only the most recent.

Most Americans already know that the NSA has been involved for years in serial violations of the Fourth Amendment, but what isn't widely known is the fact that Obama and his administration are responsible for it.

Per the Washington Post:

The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency's use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans' communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.

Not only that, but the court also extended the length of time the agency is permitted to keep intercepted U.S. communications, from five years to six, "and under more special circumstances," the Post reported, citing the documents - among them a 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, at the time chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the body that grants its authority to conduct spying operations domestically.

'We wanted to be able to do it'

More from the Post:

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban - at the government's request - on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

The change meant that the NSA had new and expanded power in very significant ways, which occurred without any public debate or new congressional authority.

As you might expect, in order to justify increasing the NSA's power, the Obama administration's lawyers twisted legal definitions of the term "target" until they no longer gibe with normal usage of the word.

The expanded authority is part of the Obama administration's strategy of spying first and protecting privacy later, if at all.

"The government says, 'We're not targeting U.S. persons,'" Gregory T. Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told the Post. "But then they never say, 'We turn around and deliberately search for Americans' records in what we took from the wire.' That, to me, is not so different from targeting Americans at the outset."

The FISA court's decision permitted the NSA "to query the vast majority" of its email and phone databases, using email addresses and phone numbers of Americans and legal residents - and all without a warrant, Bate's opinion states.

The inquiries have to be "reasonably likely to yield foreign intelligence information," he wrote. In addition, the results are subject to the NSA's privacy rules.

'Our founders laid out a roadmap' to protect our privacy

In 2008, at the request of the Bush administration, the court placed a wholesale ban on those kinds of searches, according to Alex Joel, the civil liberties officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI (remember when then-Sen. Barack Obama blasted the Bush White House for domestic spying by the NSA?).

The government included this restriction "to remain consistent with NSA policies and procedures that NSA applied to other authorized collection activities," he told the Post.

Fast-forward to 2011. ODNI general counsel Robert S. Litt says the Obama administration wanted more access to Americans' private communications, so "we did ask the court" to lift the ban. "We wanted to be able to do it," he said, in reference to poring over citizens' communications without first obtaining a constitutionally required warrant, and meeting the constitutional standard of probable cause.

"Our founders laid out a roadmap where Americans' privacy rights are protected before their communications are seized or searched - not after the fact," U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told the paper in a statement.

He and fellow Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have tried to sound the alarm bell over improper NSA spying for years.

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com

http://www.whitehouse.gov

http://washingtonexaminer.com

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