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Clapper reveals Bush-era docs showing NSA spying dragnet started 2001

Obama’s Director for National Intelligence, James Clapper, has declassified new documents that reveal how the NSA was first given the green light to start collecting bulk communication data in the hunt for Al-Qaeda terrorists after 9/11.

President Barack Obama’s administration has for the first time  publicly confirmed “the existence of collection activities  authorized by President George W. Bush,” such as bulk  amounts of Internet and phone metadata, as part of the “Terrorist  Surveillance Program” (TSP).
The disclosures are part of Washington’s campaign to justify the  NSA’s surveillance activities, following massive leaks to the  media about the classified programs by former NSA contractor  Edward Snowden.
Clapper explained on Saturday that President George W. Bush first  authorized the spying in October 2001, just weeks after the  September 11 attacks.
It was revealed that President Bush issued authorizations every  30-60 days. Each authorization required “the minimization of  information collected concerning American citizens to the extent  consistent with the effective accomplishment of the mission of  detection and prevention of acts of terrorism within the United  States. NSA also applied additional internal constraints on the  presidentially authorized activities.”
The presidentially authorized activities were later shifted to  the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA), a secret court which considers government requests for  electronic surveillance for intelligence-related purposes. The  collection of communications content pursuant to presidential  authorization ended in 2007, when the government switched TSP to  FISA’s authority, and put it under the orders of the Foreign  Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

According to Clapper, content collection is currently conducted  pursuant to section 702 of FISA. In December 2011, the US  government “decided to not seek reauthorization of the bulk  collection of Internet metadata.”

The documents released also feature legal arguments by former  national intelligence directors to keep NSA spying activities  secret, in what has become the “longest running case against  the government seeking to stop the domestic spying program,”  filed in 2006 as Shubert v. Bush, and currently known as Shubert  v. Obama.

A civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,  hailed it as “a class action on behalf of all Americans  against the government, alleging a massive, indiscriminate,  illegal National Security Agency (NSA) dragnet of the phone calls  and email of tens of millions of ordinary Americans.”

Shubert seeks to hold accountable “the architects of the  dragnet,” including NSA Director General Keith Alexander,  former NSA Director General Michael Hayden, former Attorney  General Alberto Gonzales and former Attorney General John  Ashcroft.

For seven years, the government attempted to dismiss the case on  grounds of national security.

Former director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair argued back  in 2009 that revealing details about how sensitive information  was collected could damage the hunt for terrorists.

“To do so would obviously disclose to our adversaries that we  know of their plans and how we may be obtaining  information,” Blair said.

In July 2013, a federal district judge rejected the argument, and  has permitted the case to go forward against all defendants.

Meanwhile, in response to the public’s concern about privacy  violations, Obama said Friday he would consider some changes to  NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

“The question we’re going to have to ask is can we accomplish  the same goals that this program is intended to accomplish in  ways that give the public more confidence that, in fact, the NSA  is doing what it’s supposed to be doing,” Obama said. “I  have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in  domestic surveillance or snooping around, but I also recognize  that as technologies change and people can start running  algorithms and programs that map out all the information that  we’re downloading on a daily basis into our telephones and our  computers.”

On Monday, a US District Court Judge ruled that the NSA  surveillance program, which collects records and phone numbers in  every phone call made in the US, allegedly in search for  connections to suspected terrorists, was probably  unconstitutional. Judge Richard Leon said that the agency’s  notorious program violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment  meant to protects Americans against unreasonable searches and  seizures.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary  invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and  retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for  purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial  approval,” the judge said in his ruling. “Indeed, I have  little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison,  who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the  people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,’  would be aghast.”

He pointed out that when constitutional rights are involved,   “Congress should not be able to cut off a citizen’s right to  judicial review of that Government action simply because it  intended for the conduct to remain secret.”

“We’ve seen the opinion and are studying it. We believe the  program is constitutional as previous judges have found,”  the Justice Department responded in a statement.

The judge also noted that there was little evidence that any  terror plot had been successfully impeded by the controversial  program, known as Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

A task force appointed by Barack Obama to review the NSA  surveillance program recently came to the conclusion that the  data collection program was “not essential to preventing  attacks“, and suggested some 46 changes to NSA operations.

Although the advisory panel recommended continuing the program,  it required a court order for each NSA search of the phone  records database, and keeping that database in the hands of a  third party, rather than the government.

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Source: rt.com

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