Posts Tagged ‘FISA Court’

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DEVIL OR SUPERMAN?

August 22, 2013

The headline this morning read “2011 ruling:  NSA violated Constitution”; the subtitle read “The e-mail collection program was later fixed to the court’s satisfaction.”

The opening two paragraphs summarized that the NSA program violated the Constitution for several years according to a top-secret court ruling from October 2011 which was made public yesterday.

And then the third paragraph “below the fold” if you will:

“The release of the ruling, under pressure by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was the latest effort by the Obama Administration to contain revelations about NSA surveillance prompted by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.   A side bar in bold in that paragraph proclaimed : ”Volume and nature of the Information [the program} had been collecting is fundamentally different than what the court had been led to believe.”    This quote was attributed to the 2011 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion.

Eight inches of print into the article, we learned that the problems were relatively small compared to surveillance on non-citizens abroad.  And we learned that NSA quickly fixed the problem to the court’s satisfaction.   Nevertheless, the remaining 5 inches of print indicated the court was still troubled, and that what was being collected was far different than what  FISA had been led to believe.  It reported this was the third time in less than three years in which the government disclosed a substantial misrepresentation of the volume and nature of information.

As I finished the article, despite knowing a small amount about the NSA/FISA Court history rooted in the Bush Administration, I admit I had to take a deep breath and say…wow-this is not only disconcerting;  it is enough to make me think I better think through my support of Obama.

For some of you reading this, I imagine it was enough to send you off to the organizing groups with your donations to support impeachment of the President.   And hopefully, there are some of you out there that know much more than I and recognized this immediately as Press manipulation.

I however, fortunately had a nagging voice in my brain telling me to think through that timeline.  And I listened to it.

 If Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009, how could there possibly have been time to move into the White House, learn all there was to know just about  how the White House itself operated, get all the appointments announced and people in place in all the government agencies and arms that represent the nation, have them get acclimated in their new roles, dig deep, learn the nitty gritty details, review, and report back to the President recommendations and actions; get those actions implemented and enforced  and still have been able to  pull off some MAJOR disturbing practices….all the while butting heads with an opposing party who announced  their mission over the  four years from January 2008, to January, 2013, was to ensure  that Obama would have no second term.    How could one man, who also crafted a major change in US healthcare and GOT IT APPROVED despite that same opposition by the Republicans, and got us out of Iraq, and on track to get out of Afghanistan, and finally found Osama bin Laden and killed him, and weathered a Republican plan – at least in the short term – to bring down the country financially – be able to launch this plot successfully?  How could one man already fighting GREAT ODDS accomplish all this?   He was not a” White Man” with all the privilege that implies; he did not bring decades and decades of experience about how Congress worked, nor decades and decades of relationships within the Legislative bodies, nor did he have the family connections and money of a Kennedy, nor the benefit of being a Governor like a Clinton.

Amidst all that, how could he campaign and be selected to a second term of office – thereby showing the weakness of the opposing party NOT ONCE, but twice?

 And even more perplexing, Obama believes in building a better world through collaboration, listening and learning from one another; in a world where individual people helping others do make a difference.    He set out to change the Best World ever built – that one built by the Boomers  – a world that brought power and fame and money to those that knew how to play by Boomer rules.  Those rules that say  if we just surround ourselves with others like us and boycott, we will be ok….and the rest of the world will go away.   How in the world did he overcome those barriers we put in his way?

The timeline made no sense to me in view of all of that.  And then there was the fact that I knew nothing about the organization that brought the suit.  Who is Electronic Frontier Freedom anyway? 

And so I detoured off to do a little research – fully expecting to find that this group was another Republican propaganda arm – masking as a do-good non-profit.   And I was proven wrong, at least in the short amount of time (about two hours) I have spent on it this morning.

But what I learned as FACT was the timeline.

This organization came to be in 1990 – just a few years into the DIGITAL AGE – as a result of some very forward thinkers imagining a future in which individual rights would be fighting a tough battle in terms of privacy rights issues.  It seemed to be legitimate; it scores well on consumer/public ratings of whether to invest/believe or not.  And it sounds good on its web and in Wikipedia, and its actions to defend personal and individual rights speak well of its intent.

1990 – yes,  in the midst of Reagan/Bush Senior era – but as I read about it, its focus did not show political philosophies, it clearly was focused on what will this digital world we are entering do to our personal freedoms.  I know, you can’t believe everything you read, but my gut feel led me forward.

The initial interest and filings in this specific case went back to 2005-2006. This lawsuit itself was filed in SEPTEMBER 2008.  Hmmm.  That’s a red flag, is it not? 

The Republicans had just nominated John McCain as their presidential candidate; the Democrats had just nominated Obama.  We were in the midst of debates…and the American public was immersed in the issues and teetering on the brink of the worst collapse of our economic world since the Great Depression – an amazing turn of events in eight Bush years.   And there as a candidate was an unthinkable possibility that just maybe we could have a President that would be a mixture of both white and multi-cultural race that could lead us through this transition to that time in 2040 and beyond when whites would become the minority.  And even better, this candidate thought differently.  He did not emulate power and out-trumping an opponent, he professed listening, dialog and collaboration – just what all the futurists were saying was needed around the world in this new 21st century.

 

But I digress.  Back to the timeline.

  1. Issues surfaced 2005-2006.
  2. Lawsuit was filed September, 2008, while Bush was still Presidet of the United States.  Translation:  This was a lawsuit against Republican actions during the Bush Administration.
  3. The ruling made in October, 20ll, with extensive review and necessary adjustments made by the Obama Administration to comply with that ruling.
  4. No data uncovered to date to when plan for those implemented adjustments began, but I presume that it had to be a priority fro mthe beginning in order to have a plan and be able to implement it successfully immediately in case the ruling demanded it.  I would call that foresight.
  5. Although the changes were quietly implemented, there was no publicity at the time and Obama defended the right to keep them secret. (Ed:  Think:  Suporting the right of the Office ofthe President; and hence the person who initiated the action – George W. Bush)
  6. Obama refused to give out details to the Press, but at the same time told the nation in his address this summer that he welcomed the review of this (21st century) issue.

Today, that has all been played out in the Press with a definite slant of sensationalism aimed at Obama.

This feeds right into the damage and trouble that I believe is being caused by the PRESS in this country whom we have allowed to move from reporting facts to telling us what we should believe about those facts- which today are interspersed with non-facts and simply personal opinion of what is rapidly becoming irresponsible commentators looking for ratings to keep their jobs.  

That, and the difficult issues emerging in this century for which we have no precedent, puts us right where we were at the beginning of the 20th century…fumbling our way through a whole new world of individual rights that were expanding past white men to women to native and other non-white men and women at a disturbing pace because of new means of communication.  I’d like to think we learned something over a hundred years, but perhaps we have not.

That aside, the time I have spent on this morning’s STRIB article leads me to one conclusion only: 

Perhaps the sin of Obama is only that his strong morals and thoughts about how to better prepare the United States for the 21st century  led him NOT TO BLAME THE CAUSE  – the Neo-Cons under the weak leadership of nice man – George W.

Many have questioned why he as a ”Constitutional Scholar “could even think that what was being done would not be unconstitutional.  Perhaps what they scoff at is exactly why he did not take a personal stand – his knowledge and confidence in that document may have led him to the knowledge that change would come without his intervention. He did not dishonor a former President;  and did not yield to political pressure to do so as he has no further political aspirations. 

 I listened to that nagging doubt and invested the time to think it through and it brought me right back to where I was in 2008.  I voted for a man I admired for his principles and new thinking.  I stand on that. I believe he has been motivated by those same things as well as commitment to the Office he holds as the leader of the country he loves…even though standing against releasing the details of a system established by his predecessor has made him the bad guy.   

He is neither the DEVIL nor SUPERMAN.  He is not even acting as a politician, although he has done that well  along the way.  He is a product of his time with deep beliefs and motivation to help his country where he can.  And I personally cannot wait until he is released from this sentence we have given him so that he can return to the real world and we learn of how he next intends to influence the world and help guide us through the turmoil ahead for which we refuse to prepare!

That is why I spent today – my first time off in almost 40 days – to think this through.  It was worth every minute.

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US SURVEILLANCE ISSUES

August 2, 2013

From past blogs, you know I am conflicted on which side of the surveillance issue I stand….not because of personal rights to privacy vs. government’s responsibility to protect-but because I feel we are having a 1900’s discussion about 21st century issues with no thoughts of the real world in which we live.

So basically, I see Snowden neither as a whistleblower nor as a traitor. I lean towards a self-righteous,, self-absorbed, immature narcissist young man looking for a claim to fame…who objected to government actions that crossed the line in his opinion; who unfortunately chose ego over responsibility in seeking council on how to address the issues; picked the wrong path to object, and in so doing sacrificed not only a discussion in the public realm, but his citizenship. In addition, his actions created significant national security issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our country around the world.

Whether we like it or not, he had another means to achieve the spotlight. Had he not wished to engage with his representatives in Congress, he had the Fourth Estate at his beck and call. Sharing what he had with the Press would have given him plenty of attention and started the conversation. Sharing not only the existence, but also detailed plans with other countries first was egregious and irresponsible.

And as much as the issue at hand, is the caution we take as we move forward in setting a precedent for those that come after him. Do we want to encourage breaking the laws to steal what he knew to be top-secret documents for a moment of fame, or do we want to use the incident to start a discussion that is needed in this country?

That said – one more time – one might understand how yesterday’s political talk show discussions regarding asylum in Russia were troubling to me.

On one hand, he deserves a life in Russia with NO real freedom of thought and expression; on the other hand, he has now become the pawn or perhaps the “straw that breaks the fragile camel’s back” and negates progress made at establishing a conversation with Russia. And although I respect John McCain’s opinion on the issue and would have agreed with him even 15 years ago, I am afraid it has given the angry old birds one more opportunity to chain our progress to 20th century anchors that we will regret as we try to move forward in a different world.

Since the issue was announced, discussed and is being addressed in black and white terms of another time with no new discussion of impact in today’s digital world, I am disappointed – to say the least.

This was a chance to step back, acknowledge the very different world in which we now live and start addressing the guidelines and expectations of HOW we adjust and what our responsibilities as citizens should be. Instead, the Press did some polls that reflect only the hype, not the real issues; and then pontificated about how WRONG the Obama Administration is for accepting the Neo-Con/Bush Plan to protect the country…which by the way, was voted on in Congress and passed as law during the Bush Administration.

Hd Obama refected the previous administration and legistor-approved law, with judicial approval inferred through their actions, JUST THINK of the outcry from the Republicans about usurpation of power!!

So while the judging and ranting continued loudly on the airwaves, I was comforted some by reading this morning that Obama/Biden were at the same time meeting at the White House with the two opposing sides – NSA’s most vigorous Congressional supporters (both Dem/Repos) and its sternest critics.

It was encouraging to read this morning that all agreed on three things:
1. Surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut the trust among the American people;
2. There is openness to making changes both in Congress and in the Administration. Congressional leaders have been charged with and accepted the challenge to refine proposals during the August break;
3. And, most promising, Republicans and Democrats alike seemed in agreement to overhaul how the FISA Court Law established under the Neo-Con Bush Administration and approved by Congress at that time can be altered.

We can only hope that our Judicial Branch of government that was given unprecedented power by the Bush Administration and certainly did not object, will also agree that FISA overstepped the line and should be drawn in.

This is bigger than daily press ratings folks…this is a basic key issue facing us and all world governments in this century. This could be the first honest attempt to address and understand what the global world is facing. It would be nice to think there is a possibility the Press can join the conversation – not as an adversary, but as a stakeholder.