By Mario Murilllo

“Obama has lost all credibility.”  The New York Times said that.  Sit down, take a deep breath and consider what that means.   It is almost like a terrorist renouncing Allah.   No one and I mean no one has worshipped Obama like the New York Times.  They have bathed him in glorious immunity for even the most flagrant acts of arrogance and incompetence.

The New York Times is the proverbial she bear guarding her whelps, a she bear that viciously attacks anyone who would dare touch her love pup.  It is possible that even this bastion of protection has finally had enough of the tyranny?

Some vestiges of idol worship remain:  it seems that the original editorial read “Obama has lost all credibility.”  By morning it was softened to read “Obama has lost all credibility on this issue.”    However, that was no real comfort to the president who is used to Carte Blanc from the Gray Lady.

Here is an excerpt from their editorial:

“Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

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Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. 

Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where.

The senior administration official quoted in The Times said the executive branch internally reviews surveillance programs to ensure that they “comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”

That’s no longer good enough. Mr. Obama clearly had no intention of revealing this eavesdropping, just as he would not have acknowledged the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, had it not been reported in the press.

We strongly object to using that power in this manner. It is the very sort of thing against which Mr. Obama once railed, when he said in 2007 that the surveillance policy of the George W. Bush administration “puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.”

Even the New York Times agrees that Obama must be stopped.  How much more then should Christians wake up to this man?

As mystifying and objectionable as it might seem to me, there are still Pastors and Christians who will stand by Obama.  I will not judge their heart.    However, I cannot help but say that there is not a shred of justification for supporting Obama anymore.   There is, on the other hand, an overwhelming case for praying him out of office and working to protect our God given rights in the Constitution.   Wake up, speak up before it is too late.

-Mario Murillo

Obama should share his legal justification for collecting Verizon’s phone records.

verizon spy blogShow Me the Memo:  Obama should share his legal justification for collecting Verizon’s phone records


The revelation by The Guardian that the Obama administration’s National Security Agency has been secretly collecting logs of domestic and international telephone calls from Verizon “on an ongoing daily basis” under the Patriot Act is the most disturbing misuse of the government surveillance authority since the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretaps, some of which were later authorized by Congress. But the Obama surveillance program, which may represent a continuation of the Bush program under different legal authority, has an even more disturbing antecedent: the abuse of government surveillance powers by the NSA, FBI, CIA, and IRS during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations that led to the Church commission.

The Church commission asked a central question—does the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures apply to domestic surveillance? In answering yes, Congress created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, in 1978 to supervise domestic eavesdropping by issuing secret warrants for specified items, such as the records of car-rental companies or storage facilities. But then came Section 215 of the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001, which broadened the scope of data for which secret warrant could be issued to include “any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents and other items).” In other words, the government could now seize anything in secret, and without notification to those being spied on. The only qualification was that the seized data had to be relevant to a terrorism investigation and “not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.”

The order authorizing the massive surveillance through Verizon was signed by Roger Vinson, a retired federal judge in Florida who in 2011 issued a sweeping opinion striking down the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration insists that its invocation of Section 215 is legal, but refuses to release the secret memorandum justifying its legal conclusion—just at it had earlier refused to release its legal memorandum justifying targeted drone killings, before changing its mind.

That 215 memorandum should be released so that Congress and American citizens can debate publicly whether or not this kind of blanket surveillance is consistent with the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court has not ruled definitively on the question of warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance, and earlier this year made it harder to challenge foreign intelligence surveillance by finding that potential victims of surveillance had no standing to challenge it in court. One lower court allowed a constitutional challenge against Section 215 of the Patriot Act to proceed, but no court has ruled squarely on the question of the blanket surveillance that Verizon has allowed.

It’s clear at the very least that surveillance under the Patriot Act is being used far more broadly than Obama and Bush administration officials previously acknowledged. In May 2005, President Bush’s deputy attorney general, James Comey, who Obama is expected to nominate the FBI, gave the following testimony to Congress:

Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to obtain an order from the FISA Court requesting production of any tangible thing, such as business records, if the items are relevant to an ongoing authorized national security investigation, which, in the case of a United States person, cannot be based solely upon activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Attorney General recently declassified the fact that the FISA Court has issued 35 orders requiring the production of tangible things under section 215 from the effective date of the Act through March 30th of this year. None of those orders were issued to libraries and/or booksellers, and none were for medical or gun records. The provision to date has been used only to order the production of driver’s license records, public accommodation records, apartment leasing records, credit card records, and subscriber information, such as names and addresses, for telephone numbers captured through court-authorized pen register devices. Similar to a prosecutor in a criminal case issuing a grand jury subpoena for an item relevant to his investigation, so too may the FISA Court issue an order requiring the production of records or items that are relevant to an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.

But we now know that the Bush and Obama administrations have used Section 215 in ways that make it look nothing like a grand jury subpoena for obtaining credit card or hotel information. Grand jury subpoenas are issued for a limited set of documents in a specific criminal investigation, launched on a showing of probable cause. Here, the telephone logs of millions of innocent Americans are being stored with no showing that they have done anything wrong. That’s why two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado), wrotelast year that Eric Holder: “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

This week began with the Supreme Court upholding the power of government to seize the DNA of Americans on arrest. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a passionate dissentreminding Americans that “At the time of the Founding, Americans despised the British use of the so-called ‘general warrants’—warrants not grounded upon a sworn oath of a specific infraction by a particular individual, and thus note limited in scope and application.” The massive surveillance begun by the Bush administration and now justified by the Obama administration under the Patriot Act makes the intrusions of general warrants that concerned the Framers look tame. It’s time for a national debate about whether the Patriot Act, in fact, justifies this mass surveillance; and if so, whether that act is consistent with the Fourth Amendment. The only way to have that debate is for the Obama administration to release the legal analysis that it believes justifies its actions in the first place.

Jeffrey Rosen is the legal affairs editor of The New Republic.

This article has been corrected. It originally stated that Obama recently nominated James Comey to head the CIA. In fact, Obama is expected to nominate Comey to to be head of the FBI. 

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

• Read the Verizon court order in full here
• Obama administration justifies surveillance

Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

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The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.

For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretense of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

“We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency’s focus on domestic activities.

In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman