Illegal Spying Under Obama by Publius Tacitus


It is fascinating to observe the media contortions as they go to extreme lengths to ignore profound and important news. I am referring specifically to the revelations that the National Security Agency, under the stewardship of Barack Obama, was illegally spying on Americans. Here's the story:

A newly released court opinion from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) shows that for years the NSA improperly and perhaps illegally surveilled Americans. The court order triggered the surprise announcement two weeks ago that the agency would be severely scaling back its domestic surveillance and destroying previously collected data on Americans.

Thursday, the Department of Justice released the 99-page court opinion from last month that ordered the National Security Agency to delete much of its surveillance on American people, which was collected improperly and in potential violation of the Fourth Amendment. The DOJ released the opinion as part of a 2015 plan to be more transparent.

The NSA collected data about Americans if they even mentioned a foreign target.

The opinion is a rebuke of many of the NSA's surveillance collection practices under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the powers of which were expanded under the US Patriot Act. According to the opinion—parts of which are redacted—the NSA improperly collected untold numbers of "multi-communications transactions" (MCTs) as they were in transit around the internet. The NSA is intentionally vague about what MCTs are, but they are believed to be groups of emails, metadata, screenshots of your inbox, and still-classified types of digital information (here's the best primer explaining MCTs).

Under Section 702, the NSA is allowed to collect domestic communication if Americans are communicating directly with a "foreign intelligence target" as approved by the FISC court. According to the opinion, the NSA had been collecting information if a foreign target was merely mentioned in the communication.

"Upstream collection could acquire an entire MCT for which the active user was a nontarget and that mostly pertained to non-targets, merely because a single discrete communication within the MCT was to, from or contained a reference to a tasked selector," Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote. "Such acquisitions could take place even if the non-target active user was a U.S. person in the United States and the MCT contained a large number of domestic communications that did not pertain to the foreign intelligence target."
Instead of focusing on this revelation–i.e., that the Obama Administration was illegally intercepting the communications of many Americans–most of the media is still busy ridiculing Trump for his claim that Obama had him "wire tapped" and obsessing over an anonymous report that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had talked with Russia's Ambassador last December and allegedly conspired to set up a private means of communication.
Hardly anyone has focused on the irony of Kushner being concerned about Obama and his cronies intercepting Trump campaign communications while we are getting news that is exactly what transpired under Obama. There is no genuine protection for private communications.
I am shocked by the intensity of the propaganda campaign against the Trumpers and against the Russians. Having worked on covert action programs during my time in the intelligence community, I do have an appreciation and understanding about how such campaigns are mounted and carried out. What is being done inside the United States by our foreign intelligence organizations signals we have crossed a dangerous threshold. Our traditional beliefs about privacy and the requirement for a warrant before authorities can poke around in your personal affairs are no longer valid. 
Normally we would expect the so-called liberal media to attack such abuses and lead the charge against the law breakers. But these are not normal times. The media, for the most part, are partisan hacks who are so opposed to Trump that they will gladly embrace authoritarian, fascist tactics as long as they are directed against the Trump Presidency.
One interesting twist in all of this–as long as Trump plays along with the deep state, for example, by vilifying Russia and carrying out illegal U.S. military operations in Syria, then Trump's abuses are ignored and even cheered. There is not legal basis for Trump to authorize bombing strikes in Syria but most in the U.S. establishment and media seem content to welcome those actions.
We are becoming immunized as a society to accept Presidential authority to break laws and numb to any evidence of wrong doing as long as it is embraced by the media establishment. A very dangerous time for our Republic.
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46 Responses to Illegal Spying Under Obama by Publius Tacitus

  1. Willybilly says:

    There is much more going on as far as illegal and extrajudicial practices going on since the Clinton years, especially in his second term…., leading up to the access to power of Ziocons and their coteries in 2000…. Since then, the list of illegal practices by the exetive branch…and others blows the mind…. some first hand details lead me to make this statement with great confidence.

  2. steve says:

    It was my understanding that this began shortly after 9/11 and was going on well before Obama took office. Not true?

  3. Kooshy says:

    What’s the difference? They knew if requested, permission wouldn’t be denied,
    “FISC has declined just 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance requests made by the government in 33 years”
    We are only hearing this now because the new party is running the administration. I bet, under this new administration, if a government agent goes to FISA and asks for court permit for surveillance on so and so, because he or his agency has good reason, true or not he will be granted court permit.
    I wonder if they had FISA to wire up Trump tower. Is president Trump wired up NOW, I am not sure, but who knows.
    Did anybody ever go to jail for illegal surveillance, if they did they must be in same jail as Obama’s to big to fall bankers. Having this laws are only good to give comfort to voters, and only gets practiced on cable news talk shows.

  4. MRW says:

    I agree with you, Publius Tacitus.
    I’m afraid this has as much chance of happening as eradicating the Burmese python population now in Florida. Both had the chance to ‘nip this thing in the bud’ at inception. Why didn’t it happen? Why didn’t the Florida wildlife experts understand how the baby snakies ditched into the water supply during the worse hurricanes and tropical storms would multiply and threaten the Everglades, now people? Why didn’t FISA act when it saw this happening after the Patriot Act was enacted. It’s not as if no one knew. The exact name of the NSA program escapes me but it began with “Total Awareness…” something or other. A big hurrah was made about how it was stopped. What NSA does is change the name.

    Thursday, the Department of Justice released the 99-page court opinion from last month that ordered the National Security Agency to delete much of its surveillance on American people, which was collected improperly and in potential violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    There’s no goddam way they are going to delete “much of its surveillance on American people.” Not a chance. Not until someone at the level of a Keith Alexander goes to jail will anything ever change.
    NARUS was the machine invented, or lets say said to be invented by the Israelis in the late 1990s—they just stole it from us like they have everything else. NARUS was slipped in between NSA and AT&T’s backbone nodes nationwide. The AT&T employee Whomever Klein, who blew the whistle on the San Francisco node in 2007, described this interception with a description of a locked room that no one could enter. [NARUS is now owned by Boeing. The swarthy Israeli executives in CA who couldn’t resist bragging how smart they were, circa 1999, were replaced first with doe-eyed WASPy Ken doll execs. As the heat rose on NARUS’s operations, 100% US ownership came later, but not pipeline changes. They remain.]
    Basically, NSA’s ‘hoovers’ have been attached to AT&T’s deep backbone nodes for decades to siphon off all telecommunications then subsequently internet activity that travelled through Nortel and AT&T switches. Hell, I used to teach NSA how to do it at AT&T Bell Labs. NSA “scientists” had to be updated regularly on the changes to the fields and packet/switch improvements affecting collection.
    What NARUS did was not only insert itself between NSA and AT&T hardware–they had to get plausible deniability somehow–but because of the way the Israelis set it up, it acted like a signal splitter. Just like a coaxial splitter coming out of the cable hookup in your wall. One pipe went to NSA. The other to Israel. Every phucking bit of it. I’ve been raving about this for over 20 years but people think I’m wearing tin foil, and no one believes I can know this. [I used to describe this on Greenwald’s blog before the Snowden revelations, and got flak galore for my statements about how it worked and the extent of it.]
    Does anyone remember how you could enter someone’s phone number online in the early 2000s and get the complete Call Record Data for any phone number in North America, including mobile? The net was awash with these services. Of course, you were charged $300 or $400 per search, sometimes more. These were Israeli programs/apps. And they were eventually banned here as violating privacy blah-blah-blah, one poobah too many got ensnared. Where the hell do you think these Israeli software companies got the incriminating search results? [Useful in custody/divorce/other court cases.]
    The Snowden revelations are the tip of the iceberg. And this iceberg is the size of Antarctica, and just as impenetrable. Greenwald is holding onto the extent of it for some goddam reason, none of which I accept.
    There is no way this data is going to be destroyed. And there is no way that NSA is going to stop this collection.
    Its already been repackaged and renamed. Just like they did after the Church Commission rulings in the 70s.
    Until these perps fear decades of chains around their ankles and family ruin, nothing will change. And our loser Snowflakes don’t have the awareness, education, or skill, to make or enforce the hard institutional (and civic duty) changes. The Disney/Barney/PowerRanger generation is too preoccupied clutching its pearls over polar bears on Al Gore’s photoshopped ice floes to effect any meaningful change now or in the future. They don’t have the smarts or strategic capability. And people my age don’t give a shit, except here.
    Meantime, NSA soldiers on like the evasive Burmese invaders they are collecting your entire lives and those of your children and grandchildren. NSA is like the spurious climate model world, however. They can’t predict accurately, and their hindcasts are full of mea culpas.

  5. Sylvia 1 says:

    In response to MRW–here’s another “violation”. As reported on Moon of Alabama: “Declassified memos show FBI illegally shared spy data on Americans with private parties.
    “The FBI has illegally shared raw intelligence about Americans with unauthorized third parties and violated other constitutional privacy protections, according to newly declassified government documents that undercut the bureau’s public assurances about how carefully it handles warrantless spy data to avoid abuses or leaks. ”
    “The behavior the FBI admitted to a FISA judge just last month ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight the bureau promised was in place years ago.”

  6. MRW says:

    [should read]
    …and their hindcasts (like NOAA’s) are full of data manipulation to justify their current existence.

  7. Jack says:

    A point of view from you I can agree with.
    I don’t know about if Israel gets to hoover all US communications but I recall well the EFF lawsuit about the San Francisco room at an AT&T nodal building with the splitter. That lawsuit went nowhere due to a state secrets defense and the inability of EFF to prove standing. Snowden came along much later. After Clapper brazenly lied under oath. Of course, he naturally got away, sending the message that perjury does not apply to the Borg. And note the venom with which Snowden is treated by the Borgistas of both political parties.
    Your key point. “There is no way this data is going to be destroyed. And there is no way that NSA is going to stop this collection.” Is absolutely dead on!!
    The reality is this mass surveillance will only grow bigger and more sophisticated. Not that it stopped Manchester and San Bernardino. A time will come when many average Americans will pay the price. Of course, when it is too late. Yeah! Today many will say if there’s nothing to hide then there’s nothing to worry. Exactly the way totalitarianism slowly creeps in, as we’ve seen throughout in history.

  8. Jack says:

    We’re too far down the rabbit hole for any kind of self-correction.
    Unless there’s a Jeffersonian revolution, which has a microscopic probability, there’s no chance that growth in the power and scope of the national security surveillance state will be curtailed. After all big government has massive support among both the left and right. Each side wants more government interference to further their agenda.
    The philosophy of distrust of centralized power and the primacy of personal responsibility and accountability which formed the intellectual basis of the American republic, no longer has a meaningful constituency among the American people.

  9. turcopolier says:

    SST may not last much longer in the national security state. pl

  10. BraveNewWorld says:

    >”Illegal Spying Under Obama”
    Because Congress (Republican controlled at the time) and the Senate (Democrat controlled at the time) had absolutely nothing to do with authorizing, financing and concealing from the public any of this? I’m not saying Obama doesn’t own a good chunk of this as he certainly does, but so does ‘W’ and his band of merry men under which the system was set up.
    There is a compelling story here that Americans should really be debating about what kind of a country they want to live in. But that, like so many other important stories gets pissed away in the the hyper-partisan pissing match that so many Americans want to play these days. Your argument would be far more convincing if it didn’t sound like some one just trying to screw the other side for political reasons. This is probably a story that both sides mostly agree on, and you would probably get better results if you were confronting the politicians with a united front.

  11. Karl Kolchak says:

    While it is certainly true that a vast majority of the MSM has it in for Trump, the notion that the “liberal media” should be expected to object to NSA abuses is LONG outdated. Many in the “liberal media,” including the NYT and the Washington ComPost helped sell the BS case for Iraq War, and after that compromise have more or less supported the American empire project. Their animus towards Bush, for example, was based more on his administration’s incompetence rather than ideology–and just look at how even “liberal” icons like Ellen Degeneres are now trying to rehabilitate him.
    The term “liberal media” should be retired and replaced with the term “propaganda ministry,” or something far more appropriate.

  12. Jack says:

    My fervent hope is that SST can continue as long as it can. Only people like you with the extensive experience and the deep knowledge of national security and intelligence matters in a rich historical context, can provide the necessary informed comment in an environment of outright propaganda.
    I know one thing. If it weren’t for SST, I would be among the mass of uninformed citizens, susceptible to the relentless propaganda of the Borg and the plethora of conspiracy theories propagated by those who lack the understanding of how things actually work and have worked in the past.

  13. Simplicius says:

    Our traditional beliefs about privacy and the requirement for a warrant before authorities can poke around in your personal affairs are no longer valid.

    Putting aside the media’s agenda for a moment, I’d argue that the reason this stuff is no longer as newsworthy is that people just don’t care. Snowden oddly contributed in a way I think. Now that people see (or imagine) the omnipotence of the NSA, they assume their entire digital existence is already available to their government (certainly those in the US & we inhabitants of Airstrip One).
    MRW says people his/her age don’t give a shit. Well just ponder how much less the Millennials care. My kids don’t think twice about allowing large parts of their lives to be permanently owned by various social media companies. Most folk now presume that these companies’ servers are either made available to, or have been backdoored by, the NSA. When I asked my doctor recently if he could encrypt mail to me I got the response “no, why?” and also “no one has ever asked before”. When I encounter a website that blanket blocks Tor and ask them if they would consider using a ‘prove you are human’ device instead, I get a similar response. Why should I care who records my IP?
    The State is not interested in it’s citizens’ privacy and it seems more and more that the citizens (present company probably excluded) largely aren’t either. It takes a brave few, like Phil Zimmerman, to provide the necessary tools – but is public key encryption taught in school? No, you have to educate yourself and that takes effort – far easier to not bother.
    Perhaps when people start to see their entry visas declined because of some rash tweet (or God forbid, SST comment) they may start to care. In the meantime I’ll be making sure my kids are aware of the implications of ‘total surveillance’ and read that most foresighted of British authors – who saw it all coming back in 1949.

  14. John Minnerath says:

    Many things won’t last much longer as the national security state continues to grow.
    Civil liberties hang by a thread. (or a pen)

  15. Freudenschade says:

    Always go to the original source. Given that the document is heavily redacted, it’s hard to tell under which administration the offenses took place. References to the director of the NSA Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander aren’t helpful as he served from 2005-2013.
    Certainly the collection of phone metadata dates all the way back to the Bush administration. My impression is that Obama simply continued many of the Bush surveillance policies. While it may feel satisfying to pin the blame on Obama, it doesn’t help us understand how we got to this sorry state and how we get back.
    A good place to start would be with the repeal of the Patriot Act. Also, a congressional review of our current surveillance practices (did we really stop all of this domestic snooping on Inauguration Day?) would be helpful.

  16. Freudenschade says:

    There is a section that states that ‘The government has expressed a belief that “the stand-up of NSA’s Office of the Director of Compliance in July 2009” will help avoid similar failures in the future…’
    So, the ruling you are citing is clearly referring back to Bush era failures.
    Again, I agree that the NSA exceeded its authority, but I think blaming this all on Obama is neither correct nor useful.

  17. raven says:

    Oh what fun would THAT be?

  18. Bsox327 says:

    “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” T.Pynchon
    It’s not the administration that is violating the constitution by overlooking their responsibility to guard against violating the constitution. It is the NSA
    It is the NSA.

  19. Ante says:

    I wonder what the 11 declined requests were declined for, typos?

  20. TonyL says:

    I’d second what Freudenschade said “blaming this all on Obama is neither correct nor useful.”
    George W Bush started it, Obama continued. Both administrations was illegally spying on Americans.

  21. Augustin L says:

    Yeah it’s all Obama’s fault… Never mind the Un-Patriot act and everything that transpired since 911.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Why is it called national security state? It’s not that America will become the usual third world country like mine where the state is continuously engaged in internal repression. America is becoming an International-Resource Propositionally-Contained Pseudo-State. I would expect exactly this kind of reaction (media black out plus courts restraining orders on surveilance) if the so called “americans” whose comms were being intercepted were in great proportion dual-nationals. There seems to be a disparate impact kind strategy that activates whenever “americans” of the “not to be investigated” kind become too noticeable.
    By the way, TTG is developing the Silverman sindrome. Expect him to start screaming that Putin is a Mafia Don, that the great threat to americans are groups of white supremacists, things like that. Since he could not accept the fact that Obama and his BLM front were really screwing up mightly, he cannot accept the idea that americans have had second thoughts on democrats by their own volition. No, it must be the russians. It is incredible. The country immersed in contiuous propaganda ops of internal origin (if we count Tel-Aviv as internal,) meant to conduct its people to a certain electoral result, but somehow it is Sergey on the other side of the world operating a morse code telegraph that got all the luck.

  23. mauisurfer says:

    agree, sadly
    seems like most people today are competing to expose themselves
    It is a celebrity culture, and those who succeed make a living at it. What did the Kardashians do today?
    A commissioner of a county agency said to me “why should you care if county trespassed if you are not doing anything wrong”. The county attorney was sitting right there, and i reminded him that our state constitution explicitly protects right to privacy. He got a dazed look, as if to say “never heard that one before”.

  24. sid_finster says:

    This is true.
    Wheb Obama was elected in 2008, he promised to curb the abuses of the national security state.
    Instead, he expanded them.

  25. sid_finster says:

    The civil liberties ship has long since sailed.

  26. MRW says:

    A point of view from you I can agree with.
    We’re almost married.

  27. MRW says:

    Thanks for that link, Sylvia 1. I didn’t see that. It’s a good report.

  28. MRW says:

    Jack, OT. We’re too far down the rabbit hole for any kind of self-correction.
    Few know that Jimmy Carter in an effort to curb rogue elements in the late 70s fired 4,000 agents.

  29. TonyL says:

    “By the way, TTG is developing the Silverman sindrome.”
    WTF. You gotta be kidding, or totally ignorant about who TTG is, or what he stands for.

  30. MRW says:

    Simplicius: Smart.

  31. MRW says:

    Started with Ronald Reagan.

  32. Freudenschade says:

    Sergey’s Morse code machine has Bluetooth, wifi, GPS jamming and a social media propaganda subsystem that will make your eyes bleed. 🙂 You need to get out more and see the world. Sergey’s got some high tech shit.

  33. Fred says:

    “It’s not that America will become the usual third world country…”
    You must not have politicians bringing in a replacement demographic of a more amenable citizenry.

  34. Lesly says:

    “Normally we would expect the so-called liberal media to attack such abuses and lead the charge against the law breakers. But these are not normal times.”
    It hasn’t been normal since at least the 110th Congress passed the innocently titled Protect America Act of 2007, reauthorizing the legislation (PATRIOT Act) Democrats railed against and had to thank for retaking both chambers. That same year the Senste voted on granting retroactive immunity to telecoms who assisted federal agencies with illegally collecting private information. Except for some holdouts like Glenn Greenwald the media hasn’t revisited the subject since both parties reached parity on this abuse of federal power. With no one in power to tell the media look here, they see nothing.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    It was sometime in 1980s – I think – when it was revealed that the Marseilles Police had kept the Gestapo files collected during World War II; much of them covering Jews.
    It caused some heated debate in France but, I think, they decided to keep the records instead of destroying them.

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You are not looking far enough into the future.
    In less than one hundred years, the communication surveillance data, the medical records data, the criminal records, the public commercial records, the gnomic data (including enzymatic information regrading propensity to violence or docility) will be compiled and available to many governments in the world.
    In turn, that data would also become available to shady business, criminals, and criminal syndicates, for such activities as cheating, blackmail, extortion and so on and so forth.
    Sky would be the limit.

  37. Valissa says:

    Thanks for the link Sylvia!
    More proof that Comey has lied to congress. We already know Clapper did. When the heads of intelligence agencies lie to congress as well as the public (though that’s more expected) and it’s documented and eventually makes the news, it seems to make no difference. No difference to their careers, no difference in the deference still shown them by media, and therefore ultimately no difference to most Americans.

  38. Laura says:

    I also appreciate SST. Not because I agree with every opinion but because there are a multitude of opinions, from many angles and viewpoints.
    Thank you all.

  39. Jeannie Catherine says:

    Amen to that.

  40. Peter VE says:

    “if they even mentioned a foreign target” So, since everyone on this site has mentioned Putin in some context or another. Welcome to the Great Eye of the Borg…

  41. Fred says:

    The Google search data; Facebook postso, likes and comment history as well as spending patterns by credit card to include political donations.

  42. dilbert dogbert says:

    Question: Is it possible that Publius Tacitus is Josh Trevino?

  43. Anonymous says:

    Fred, what I mean is exactly that, that America without its original demography is not a “Nation,” but a mere resource for international parties. It surprises me that underlining the conversation in this thread there is the notion that someone would actually intervene against the advance of the police state for the sake of preserving essential american liberties. I think that is no longer the case.
    Freudenschade, I know, and I am aware how sophisticated is TTG’s insight on that.
    TonyL, TTG has a long history of abstaining from discussing american internal ethnic tensions. When Tyler arrived I thought TTG had in him enough substance to at least impart on Tyler a more “Special Forces” approach to the conflict young americans have ahead (you know, having a herd of water buffaloes awaiting you in heaven with long faces and litigious claims of premature earthly departure, like Col. Lang has) otherwise why the hell would Tyler be directed by Providence to SST? I pressed TTG to tell his tale, but the “substance” ended up being mere romanticism of the “Royal Marines” kind. Worse still, TTG implied in typical liberal retconning for virtuousness imagery that he wished his A-Team had been less white. Now, while Tyler would long have abandoned SST were not for the absurd levels of impartiality in judgement regarding the problems of american society displayed by Col. Lang, we come to the full circle with TTG drinking the very kosher “the russians did it” cool-aid served by the child molesting predators of the democratic “no whites allowed to speak” party, because in the end, he is no less prone to ideological manipulation than Nancy K (who weeps for the children of illegal immigrants but is fast and furious in prescribing divorce, single motherhood and abortion, with benefits to biotech biz, to those who by all rights should be called “thy neighbours.”)
    TonyL, in few, I like to pester TTG from time to time. Don’t be annoyed by it. He isn’t.

  44. MRW says:

    Babak, a little OT.
    I ran across a copy in my files the other day of an interview with the noted historian and researcher Yehuda Bauer. He’s a professor at Hebrew University, and a senior consultant to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
    Yehuda Bauer Interview
    I found this interesting:
    ”…Two thirds of the Jews of France survived, so obviously it had something to do with the attitudes of a large number of French people. Sixty percent of the Jews of Belgium survived, eighty percent of the Jews of Italy survived. In the inner let’s say region of Bulgaria, not the areas that were conquered by the Bulgarian army outside of Bulgaria, but within Bulgaria, all the Jews survived. Why? Why did it not happen elsewhere? Now that is not very difficult to explain. And it is very important if you are looking for the human element, then how do you explain that people behaved differently in the Ukraine than in Poland, then France? And how high do you value those few who did help in the Ukraine versus a general mood in France that made it much much easier for an ordinary Frenchman to say well my neighbor is doing this so that’s okay, I’ll do it too. And how come there are these differences and Bulgaria isn’t in Western Europe, so it’s not a question of region maybe it’s not a question of democracy, Bulgaria was never democratic and so on, it was for a very short time, France was, yet the behavior seems to be similar in some ways.”

  45. Lefty says:

    Here’s a good analysis that is not flattering to the FISA court opinion or sanguine that it has materially reeled in NSA’s violations that go back to at least 2003:

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