Extending Domestic Surveillance: Tricks, Lies and Spies


By Diane Roark


Senate Leader Mitch McConnell this Tuesday pulled out his bag of parliamentary tricks to avoid a meaningful alternative to extending, until 2023, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). On January 11, Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi cooperated in the House of Representatives to beat back rising bipartisan opposition to unconstitutional domestic snooping that has been ineffective in preventing terrorism in the US.
Cloture limits total debate on the bill to 30 hours (often actually far less), with no more than one hour per senator. It also requires that proposed amendments be filed by certain deadlines. This will severely weaken the threat of Senators Paul and Wyden to filibuster passage of S.139, also requiring participation in the filibuster by numerous colleagues. Additionally, cloture bans consideration of amendments that have not been filed by specified times.

Using Section 702 authority and operating without warrants, the National Security Agency (NSA) has since at least 2008 scanned fiber optic lines entering the United States, copying, storing and searching them using a list of targets and other key words. Stored “hits” from these electronic transmissions may contain mere passing mention of such items. No warrants are obtained to scan and collect these electronic communications to or from US persons. Nor do analysts from NSA, FBI and elsewhere get a warrant to pull US persons’ messages from the databases and search them for any reason, even criminal investigations, not just counterterrorism. During House debate, supporters of Section 702 advocated excepting 702 operations from Fourth Amendment requirements.

Declassified opinions from the FISA Court (FISC) document longstanding and serious NSA violation of FISC’s guidelines, plus the Court’s inability to trust the Agency’s word. The Court found no way to enforce even the very lenient conditions it imposed. In 2008, then-Speaker Pelosi had ridiculed any suggestion that Section 702 would enable warrantless surveillance. But if any law should be rejected because of widespread abuses, this is it. Surprisingly, supporters of S.139 claimed during House debate that there had been no or minimal compliance problems, and those supporting an amendment to S.139 did not challenge this claim. Nor did they note that FISA allows emergency collection for three days while getting a warrant.

In an apparently deliberate loophole, Section 702 does not define what is “foreign” collection. Many communications between persons located in the US routinely are routed abroad to less crowded or cheaper fiber optic lines. Such communications re-entering the US therefore often are purely domestic, but could be labeled as “foreign” because they are returning from abroad. All such communications are searched using key words, and retained if there is a “hit.” So, for instance, if your email to a nearby buddy discusses a terrorist “bomb” explosion in New York, it may be copied and dumped into a 702 database.

In another sleight of hand, NSA secretly redefined its use of terms to avoid their common and prior technical meaning. Collection now occurs only when an analyst retrieves an item from the database; this abets NSA in misleading the public about the extent of collection. NSA has repeatedly refused to tell even its Congressional Intelligence Committee overseers how many US persons or communications are in such databases, a tally or range that mostly should be available using 2001 technology.

Despite this sorry record, the Judiciary Committee’s S. 139 bill extending Section 702 actually “legalizes” what FISC declared to be violations of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment banning unreasonable, warrantless search and seizure. It allows databased communications, whether foreign or domestic, to be searched by NSA and other agencies, for any purpose and without a warrant.

Past claims that pending terrorist attacks were blocked due to domestic surveillance have not withstood scrutiny.
Failure traces to NSA’s “collect it all” approach that buries useful information. Even were a few claims of 702 prevention of domestic terrorism reliably verified, the responsibility to protect our freedom and republic is far more important. Almost inexplicably, US terrorist attacks by untargeted persons who were radicalized and trained online to create bombs occur regularly.

These online sites, not ordinary persons’ electronic activities, should have blanket NSA coverage, but the agency repeatedly fails at this most basic task.

Diane Roark retired in 2002 after 17 years on the Republican staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. During her last five years, she was the majority staffer responsible for oversight of NSA finances and operations, and in her final months she strongly opposed the onset of domestic surveillance.

and, from Wikipedia:

Diane Roark is an American whistleblower who served as a Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee from 1985 to 2002. She was, right after 9/11, “the House Intelligence Committee staffer in charge of oversight of the NSA”. Along with William Binney, Ed Loomis, and J. Kirk Wiebe, she filed a complaint to the Department of Defense’s Inspector General (DoD IG) about the National Security Agency’s highly classified Trailblazer Project. Her house was raided by armed FBI agents in 2007 after she was wrongly suspected of leaking to The New York Times reporter James Risen and to Siobhan Gorman at The Baltimore Sun in stories about NSA warrantless surveillance. This led to her suing the government in 2012 because they did not return her computer, which they had seized during the raid, and because the government failed to clear her name. The punitive treatment of Roark, Binney, Wiebe, and Loomis, as well as, and, in particular, then still active (rather than retired) NSA executive Thomas Andrews Drake, who had gone in confidence with anonymity assured to the DoD IG, led the Assistant Inspector General John Crane to eventually become a public whistleblower himself and also led Edward Snowden to go public with revelations rather than to report within the internal whistleblower program.

Finally, a media query prompted by Ray’s recent article on the FBI role in Russia-gate.

FBI ‘Should Feel Embarrassed’ by Its Russian Meddling Claims –Ex-CIA Analyst
Jan. 15, 2018 (The audio is 8 minutes long; click on the start-arrow toward the end of the above link.)

Speaking to Radio Sputnik about his explosive, detailed and documented but broadly overlooked investigation into how US intelligence agencies, not Russia, were the ones trying to meddle in the 2016 US presidential race, retired CIA officer-turned political activist Ray McGovern outlined why changing Americans’ minds on the matter is so difficult.

McGovern’s report, which came out last week, provided new, documented proof on some of the ways US intelligence officers attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, and on how pro-Clinton FBI staffers now involved in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation worked to try to immunize former Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton from crimes including lying to the FBI and endangering state secrets.

Sputnik: Tell us a little about this report, and how you came about creating it.

Ray McGovern: Well, it was not very difficult. The fact that our report is unique is a symptom of the blanket coverage saying that Russia interfered in our election. Even most of my progressive colleagues believe that and so this is a counter-narrative, and it’s really hard to change your mind around into believing something very different, even if, as in this case, it’s based on documentary evidence [as cited in:
https://consortiumnews.com/2018/01/11/the-fbi-hand-behind-russia-gate/  ].

So, just let me note at the outset that this is the first request, after several days of this article being up on the web in various places, for an interview, on this shocking news that it might not be Russia that intervened into our election, but rather the FBI in cooperation with the CIA and others who we call the deep state.

The story is simply this: the exchange of emails that was released by the Department of Justice Inspector General shows that very top-level FBI officials, including the head of counterintelligence, were plotting to make sure #1: that Trump did not win and #2: that if he did win, they would be able to push a narrative saying ‘Aha, he didn’t win fairly, and it was the Russians that helped him win.’

That is the narrative that prevails in our media right now; it’s a really, really shameful thing because even my progressive friends believe it. Even the progressive websites that used to automatically print my materials, like CommonDreams for example, or Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. I am shunned, like those dissidents in Russia way back when the Soviet Union existed.

Sputnik: Why would the FBI and the CIA try to promote this Russian-hacking narrative, when implying that they could allow such a thing to happen makes them look incompetent?

Ray McGovern: If it were true, it would make them incompetent. You’re quite right; they’re pushing a narrative that should be embarrassing, but the American people are not aware of what’s really going on, because the media presents a one-sided view here.

The intelligence agencies were first and foremost determined [to ensure] that Trump could not win. You have not only this business coming out of the FBI – mainly documentary evidence in the form of text messages, but the…[forensically disproven] notion that Russia hacked into the DNC emails and gave them to WikiLeaks.

When I say that’s disproven, it all hinges on the forensic studies we have supervised, made and reported on, which show that this Guciffer 2.0 is a fraud…He’s an entity that was invented, we think [“we” being Bill Binney from the NSA, earlier, and I ] we think that it was probably our own security services who invented Guciffer 2.0 and used this entity as a way of showing ‘Oh, here are Russian templates on these messages!’ and ‘Oh, here’s a little bit of Cyrillic!’ They superimposed this ‘evidence’ on these messages to show that the Russians hacked. That is disproven by forensics now. [See:
https://consortiumnews.com/2017/09/20/more-holes-in-russia-gate-narrative/ ]

It’s very important that people know this, but just as other things that show the faults of the narrative that prevails, it does not appear in the media, not even in the so-called progressive media.

Sputnik: Donald Trump is known for his difficult relationship with the security agencies. What do you make of that?

Ray McGovern: Well let me just give you one example. Right before he became president, that is on the 6th of January [2017]…the FBI, the CIA and the NSA gave him a scurrilous document that indicated that he had been guilty of all manner of profane and other activities captured by the [Russian FSB] when he visited Moscow many years ago.

Why did they do that? They did it as an annex to another report that had no proof in real evidence, that is, that the Russians, under the direction of President Putin, interfered in our elections.

What happened was, three of them presented it, and one stayed behind, and that was James Comey of the FBI…[who] gave [Trump] what was called the dossier, the dossier about all of these terrible things. Now none of them are true. It’s disproven and really conjured up. Why did they do it?

It’s an old tactic that the FBI uses. They say to an incoming president, ‘we have this information on you, so just be aware.’…If I were Mr. Trump, I would react very, very negatively to that, because this is the old implicit trick of blackmail; that the security services have this information on a new president, and they can use it at any time if he does not do the bidding of the security services.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Takes on David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East; Suggests He Read Up on What’s Been Going On

Zakharova briefing, Jan. 2018 (excerpts below)

Zakharova: I would like to quote remarks by David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who spoke during Senate hearings. He said that the United States does not understand Russia’s long-term strategy in Syria.

The official Foreign Ministry spokesperson holds weekly briefings, the transcripts of which are posted on the ministry’s official website. We focus extensively on Russia’s long-term strategy in Syria. The US State Department could have already introduced its high-ranking official to our statements, briefings, and transcripts of remarks made by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Presidential Executive Office, primarily President Vladimir Putin, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry talk daily about the steps that Russia is taking to resolve the situation in Syria …

How is that unclear? … We could not have anticipated such incompetence in an Acting Assistant Secretary of State.

In yet another statement,  Satterfield noted that the United States plans to act on Syria through the UN in opposition to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. … This is a counterweight to Sochi … We cannot and will not legitimize a settlement process that is alternative to the one that Russia is pursuing.

Is he aware that Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was in Moscow and met with the Russian Foreign Minister and Defense Ministry? Is he aware that modalities were arranged to connect the UN directly to the holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi? Did he not hear the statements made by the UN Secretary-General and his special envoy? …

It is striking that the United States openly talks about opposing the Congress. It may well be that they are trying to package the events in Sochi as something in opposition to the processes unfolding in Geneva. We have repeatedly said that all these processes are intertwined. A full-fledged settlement is impossible without Geneva and Astana, or without connecting the negotiation platforms, which have been active over the past several years. … What is surprising, though, is that the opposition to holding the Congress in Sochi is now stated openly, in particular, by US diplomats. It is now becoming clear why some Syrian opposition groups are saying that they do not have a clear position with regard to participating in the Congress. It is clear who is behind this and who is actively hampering this process. (Emphasis added)

In yet another statement … Satterfield pointed out that while Russia announced that the fight against ISIS in Syria is over, the United States and its coalition partners do not consider this to be an end to the efforts. This is sheer lack of understanding of what Russia is doing and has been doing in Syria. Originally, Russia suggested – just in case recently appointed or yet to be appointed high-ranking US State Department officials are unaware of it – joining efforts in fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups, and doing so on an international legal basis.

Shortly afterwards, when we failed to hear, first of all, from the United States – as the leader of some anti-terrorist coalitions in Syria – confirmation of its desire to work together, Russia had to start that operation to counter terrorist groups which you observed, almost openly, sometimes online, as you visited the regions. During this operation, we have repeatedly stated that the United States and the international coalition that it leads provide direct support to certain terrorist groups.

Certain politicians in the United States claim that it was not Russia that scored such a truly major victory in the decisive battle against ISIS, but the United States. Now, everything is distorted and portrayed as if the United States was left there face to face with the enemy. It is just lack of understanding of what is actually happening in that region.

I would like to turn to specific subjects. The number of provocations by Jabhat al-Nusra militants and radical illegal armed formations, including attacks against Russian military bases, increased markedly in Syria in the first days of 2018. By the way, David Satterfield could share a lot of interesting information about the role of the United States in supporting this entity with US legislators. …

My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror

A Must Read — Most instructive piece of the year, so far.  Well worth the time

By James Risen, The Intercept, 3 January 3, 2018


A first-class reporter’s struggle with the malleable managers of the NY Times who then, and now, are inclined to take at face value what the CIA, FBI, NSA, and White House say is fit — or unfit — to print.  Amazing.

After Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
— Howard Thurman

Father of Jailed Palestinian Teen Ahed Tamimi Pens Letter to Israelis: “These Are Tears of Struggle”

By Bassem Tamimi, Haaretz
December 29, 2017

[ see also http://raymcgovern.com/2017/12/25/ahed-tamimi-has-become-the-symbol-of-a-new-generation-of-palestinian-resistance/ ]

Ahed Tamimi’s father: I’m proud of my daughter. She is a freedom fighter who, in the coming years, will lead the resistance to Israeli rule.  Here is his letter:

This night too, like all the nights since dozens of soldiers raided our home in the middle of the night, my wife Nariman, my 16-year-old daughter Ahed and Ahed’s cousin Nur will spend behind bars. Although it is Ahed’s first arrest, she is no stranger to your prisons. My daughter has spent her whole life under the heavy shadow of the Israeli prison — from my lengthy incarcerations throughout her childhood, to the repeated arrests of her mother, brother and friends, to the covert-overt threat implied by your soldiers’ ongoing presence in our lives. So her own arrest was just a matter of time. An inevitable tragedy waiting to happen.

Several months ago, on a trip to South Africa, we screened for an audience a video documenting the struggle of our village, Nabi Saleh, against Israel’s forced rule. When the lights came back on, Ahed stood up to thank the people for their support. When she noticed that some of the audience members had tears in their eyes, she said to them: “We may be victims of the Israeli regime, but we are just as proud of our choice to fight for our cause, despite the known cost. We knew where this path would lead us, but our identity, as a people and as individuals, is planted in the struggle, and draws its inspiration from there. Beyond the suffering and daily oppression of the prisoners, the wounded and the killed, we also know the tremendous power that comes from belonging to a resistance movement; the dedication, the love, the small sublime moments that come from the choice to shatter the invisible walls of passivity.

“I don’t want to be perceived as a victim, and I won’t give their actions the power to define who I am and what I’ll be. I choose to decide for myself how you will see me. We don’t want you to support us because of some photogenic tears, but because we chose the struggle and our struggle is just. This is the only way that we’ll be able to stop crying one day.”

Months after that event in South Africa, when she challenged the soldiers, who were armed from head to toe, it wasn’t sudden anger at the grave wounding of 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi not long before that, just meters away, that motivated her. Nor was it the provocation of those soldiers entering our home. No. These soldiers, or others who are identical in their action and their role, have been unwanted and uninvited guests in our home ever since Ahed was born. No. She stood there before them because this is our way, because freedom isn’t given as charity, and because despite the heavy price, we are ready to pay it.

My daughter is just 16 years old. In another world, in your world, her life would look completely different. In our world, Ahed is a representative of a new generation of our people, of young freedom fighters. This generation has to wage its struggle on two fronts. On the one hand, they have the duty, of course, to keep on challenging and fighting the Israeli colonialism into which they were born, until the day it collapses. On the other hand, they have to boldly face the political stagnation and degeneration that has spread among us. They have to become the living artery that will revive our revolution and bring it back from the death entailed in a growing culture of passivity that has arisen from decades of political inactivity. Ahed is one of many young women who in the coming years will lead the resistance to Israeli rule. She is not interested in the spotlight currently being aimed at her due to her arrest, but in genuine change. She is not the product of one of the old parties or movements, and in her actions she is sending a message: In order to survive, we must candidly face our weaknesses and vanquish our fears.

In this situation, the greatest duty of me and my generation is to support her and to make way; to restrain ourselves and not to try to corrupt and imprison this young generation in the old culture and ideologies in which we grew up.

Ahed, no parent in the world yearns to see his daughter spending her days in a detention cell. However, Ahed, no one could be prouder than I am of you. You and your generation are courageous enough, at last, to win. Your actions and courage fill me with awe and bring tears to my eyes. But in accordance with your request, these are not tears of sadness or regret, but rather tears of struggle.


What Christmas Means

By Chris Hedges, December 24, 2017

The tale of Jesus’ birth is not for oppressors. It is for the oppressed. And what is quaint and picturesque to those who live in privilege is visceral and empowering to those the world condemns.

“In the early 1980s I was in a refugee camp for Guatemalans who had fled the war into Honduras. It was a cold, dreary winter afternoon. The peasant farmers and their families, living in filth and mud, were decorating their tents with strips of colored paper. That night, they said, they would celebrate the flight of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem ordered by Herod. The celebration is known as the Day of the Holy Innocents.
“Why is this such an important day?” I asked.
“It was on this day that Christ became a refugee,” a farmer answered. … “