Timm writes: "There are still programs aimed at Americans that the Obama administration is keeping secret from the public. They should be a scandal, not line items in bills."
Senator Ron Wyden. (photo: Reuters)
Americans Are Still Being Spied On in Ways That Haven't Been Made Public
By Trevor Timm, Guardian UK
14 March 15
The same Senator who warned the public about the NSA’s mass surveillance pre-Snowden said this week that the Obama administration is still keeping more spying programs aimed at Americans secret, and it seems Congress only wants to make it worse.
In a revealing interview, Ron Wyden – often the lone voice in favor of privacy rights on the Senate’s powerful Intelligence Committee – told Buzzfeed’s John Stanton that American citizens are being monitored by intelligence agencies in ways that still have not been made public more than a year and a half after the Snowden revelations and countless promises by the intelligence community to be more transparent. Stanton wrote:
Wyden’s warning is not the first clue about the government’s still-hidden surveillance; it’s just the latest reminder that they refuse to come clean about it. For instance, when the New York Times’ Charlie Savage and Mark Manzetti exposed a secret CIA program “collecting bulk records of international money transfers handled by companies like Western Union” into and out of the United States in 2013, they also reported that “several government officials said more than one other bulk collection program has yet to come to light.”
Since then – beyond the myriad Snowden revelations that continue to pour out – the public has learned about the Postal Service’s massive database containing photographs of the front and back of every single piece of mail that is sent in the United States. There was also the Drug Enforcement Administration’s mass phone surveillance program – wholly separate than the NSA’s – in which “phone records were retained even if there was no evidence the callers were involved in criminal activity,” according to the New York Times. And recently, the Justice Department’s “national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the US”, reported by the Wall Street Journal.
That there are still programs aimed at Americans that the Obama administration is keeping secret from the public should be a front page scandal.
Instead of exposing and informing these programs, however, Congress seems much more intent on giving the intelligence agencies even more power. On the same day that Wyden issued his warning, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed its latest version of CISA, a supposed “cybersecurity” bill that allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government without any court order at all – and gives the companies immunity from any privacy lawsuits that may result.
Wyden called it “a surveillance bill by another name” – and was the only Senator on the Intelligence Committee member to vote against it.
The committee claims they passed some privacy amendments, but we have no idea what since they did so in complete secrecy, and the announcement came after it had already passed. The public has yet to see the bill.
While members of Congress attempt to pass a new way for the government – and the NSA – to get their hands on more data of Americans, they’ve barely made a peep about reforming Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the controversial law that was twisted and warped to allow the NSA to collect every phone record in the United States.
Soon they’ll have no choice but to address it: Section 215 has to be renewed by Congress in June, or the law expires. With no progress on reforming, there will be a huge push in the coming weeks for Congress to reject Section 215 entirely – and many people believe the surveillance state might not have the votes to keep it.
Congress can keep trying to avoid change, but reform is coming one way or another.
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