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Senate approves bill backing NSA data collection

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In a closed session, the US Senate Intelligence Committee approved draft legislation that would codify into law the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata.

The bill, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), cements bulk phone metadata collection into the business records provision (Section 215) of the Patriot Act, strengthening NSA surveillance legality allowed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“The NSA call-records program is legal and subject to extensive congressional and judicial oversight,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I believe it contributes to our national security. But more can and should be done to increase transparency and build public support for privacy protections in place.”

The committee’s 11-4 vote for passage of the FISA Improvements Act runs counter to legislation introduced by the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees this week. Among other attributes, that legislation – the USA FREEDOM Act – would “end bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, in light of the massive intrusion on Americans’ privacy and the lack of evidence of its effectiveness.”

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-OH), chair of the House Judiciary Committee and co-author of the Patriot Act 12 years ago, has previously said that after Congress amended in 2006 the Patriot Act to authorize broad, secret warrants for most any type of “tangible” records, both the Bush and Obama administrations have misinterpreted the law’s power to allow bulk collection of all phone call records in and out of the United States.

Feinstein’s bill further authorizes such an interpretation into law, which would thwart current legal challenges to the program under those grounds. Though constitutional challenges could still be considered.

The legislation demands for the first time that when the government queries the metadata database, it has to have “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of terrorism against the targets. The NSA claims it has followed that guideline thus far.

Critics of Feinstein’s bill in and out of the Senate said it does not go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy and security rights.

“The NSA’s ongoing, invasive surveillance of Americans’ private information does not respect our constitutional values and needs fundamental reform – not incidental changes,” Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who voted against the bill in committee, said in a statement on Thursday. “Unfortunately, the bill passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee does not go far enough to address the NSA’s overreaching domestic surveillance programs.”

An aspect of the bill expands the NSA’s power in another way, allowing the agency to continue targeting the cell phones of “roamers,” or foreigners who enter the United States, for up to 72 hours – a practice that requires a warrant. An internal NSA audit provided by classified documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden found the agency often ignored the requirement.

“This says bulk collection of American records can continue. It especially ensures and approves bulk collection despite the fact that it’s under shaky legal footing,” Elizabeth Goitein, a director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Wired.

In June, revelations made possible by Snowden showed that a classified court opinion required telecom giant Verizon to provide the NSA with, among other data, phone numbers of both parties involved in all calls made by millions of Americans.

Feinstein’s bill would also require that the NSA director and inspector general be subject to Senate confirmation. In addition, it says that metadata can be kept for up to five years, and searches of data over three years old have to be approved by the US attorney general. The NSA must also supply the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves surveillance warrants, with a record of searches.

The bill also calls for the NSA to publicly release an annual report of the number of database inquiries made, as well as the number of times those searches led to an FBI investigation.

Senate floor debate is the next step for Feinstein’s bill, though no date has been set. Sensenbrenner’s bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), has not received a hearing date in either legislative chamber.

“The Feinstein bill is terrible and would make things worse. I think the Leahy-Sensenbrenner bill begins to address some of the problems” with the NSA, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, Jennifer Granick, told The Huffington Post.


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  • Wow … this news article reminded me of this passage of scripture: http://trumpetcallofgodonline.com/index.php5?title=My_Hand_is_Outstretched%2C_The_World_is_Given_Up…_The_Day_of_The_Lord_Has_Come

    “””Thus says The Lord to the United States: Your nation is given up; behold, the mighty nation is cast down! It has fallen on its side, and who is able to deliver them?! For all who remain shall fall! They shall fall hard, and they shall break!… Behold, they shall be broken in pieces without hand! They shall be stricken and brought very low! Says The Lord in His judgment.
    Behold, My anger burns hot and My fury has come up into My face, because of you, O mighty nation! Says The Lord, yes I, The High and Lofty One. For He who holds the key of David has spoken to you, yet you would not listen, indeed you have refused to hear, nor have you walked in The Way of The Lord; your ears are full of pollution and your eyes are covered with violence… You are as a cake unturned, milk gone sour, honey which has altogether lost its flavor, a wayward people who wallow in their own filth, a most backward people! You lay snares at the feet of all who seek to do good, while persecuting those who stand up for what is right!… A most wicked and slothful generation!

    Therefore, thus says The Lord: I shall make you as stubble fully dried; and behold, in the midst of you I shall kindle a fire! Upon you shall I bring distress and tribulation! For the whole land shall be as a woman caught in the midst of great travail; like a man overcome with madness, shouting and foaming at the mouth! The land shall convulse and your glory shall be thrown down, your loftiness bowed down, in the day I trample you underfoot! Says The Lord.
    City by city shall be broken down, and the blood of the wicked shall be poured upon the ground! For as lightning sets the tree ablaze and boisterous winds drive the flames, so shall I consume you from off this land, from one end to the other!… With blackness and death, with desolation and great distress, until there is no place!
    Behold, I shall wear you out, O mighty nation! Calamity upon calamity shall batter you and break you down! Your enemies shall persecute you, without respite, and breach the wall! For you have not ceased from doing evil before My face!… Behold, day and night the innocent are murdered because of YOU!

    Thus My hand is stretched out against you, O nation not desired!

    Behold, I shall set you forth as an example,
    A sign to all nations, a warning for all those who forget God!…

    And it shall come to pass, that all who look
    Upon you shall be greatly astonished;
    They shall hide their faces and draw back from you,
    Because of the terror of The Lord! “””

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  • Leech

    Under the codename “Dishfire,” the NSA collects information on credit card transactions from some 70 banks worldwide, including banks in Italy, Spain and Greece. The NSA also take advantage of the fact that many banks use text messages to inform their customers of transactions. The Dishfire program has been running since spring 2009.

    The documents also show that the intelligence agency targets large credit card companies, such as the US company, Visa. At an internal conference in 2010, for instance, NSA analysts provided an extensive and detailed description of how they searched for possible points of access in the complex network that Visa uses to process its transactions — and were allegedly successful in penetrating the company’s network. The XKeyscore spying program is used to skim regional data from the Visa network, according to a document.

    The agency’s snooping efforts now focus on more than one provider. According to another document, transaction data from a wide range of credit card companies flows into the NSA financial database Tracfin. This allegedly includes data from payment authorization processes by Visa and MasterCard. All in all, “credit card data” and related text messages made up 84 percent of the datasets within Tracfin in September 2011.

    According to the presentation, the NSA was previously only able to decrypt payment transactions by bank customers, but now they have access to the internal encrypted communication of the company’s branch offices. This “provides a new stream of financial data and potentially encrypted internal communications” from the financial service provider…”

    According to one document, the agency had access to data from Western Union, a company that manages money transfers in over 200 countries, for quite some time. But in 2008 Western Union began to protect its data with high-grade encryption. This made access virtually impossible, as NSA staff members complain in one paper.

    ( Der Spiegel)

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