Category Archives: Homeland Security

Patriot Act That Dennis Hastert Passed Led To His Indictment

Then House Speaker Dennis Hastert with President Bush celebrating the passing of The Patriot Act

Dennis Hastert laid claim to The Patriot Act as a personal achievement of his. Little did he know how this would lay the groundwork for his ultimate demise. Evidently Speaker Hastert had his own little secrets that he was willing to pay millions to keep from coming to light. Paying those millions is what brought him down.

The indictment suggests that law enforcement officials relied on the Patriot Act’s expansion of bank reporting requirements to snare Hastert. As the IRS notes, “the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 increased the scope” of cash reporting laws “to help trace funds used for terrorism.” The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, which was amended by the Patriot Act, had already required banks to report suspicious transactions.

Source: Patriot Act That Dennis Hastert Passed Led To His Indictment

For now Hastert’s secret is remaining secret, at least to the general public. I’m just finding a lot of irony in his arrest.

Edward Snowden statue installed by artists in Brooklyn removed by park officials

I fully understand the park officials removing an unsanctioned piece of art but……

The NYPD says its intelligence division is investigating the statue and will be searching for DNA or other clues that may bring up a suspect. It’s not clear what charges are possible, NBC continues to report.

via Edward Snowden statue installed by artists in Brooklyn removed by park officials |

Why go to this expense to prosecute the artists responsible?

Apple’s “warrant canary” disappears, suggesting new Patriot Act demands — Tech News and Analysis

Dan points me to this article about Apple’s Warrant Canary going missing. “What’s a Warrant Canary,” you ask? It’s a tool used by companies and publishers to tell people that they so far have not been served with any subpoenas or warrants that would prevent them from telling whether or not they had been served with said subpoena or warrant.

Apple put out its first transparency report on government activity in 2013 and it contained the following footnote:

“Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

via Apple’s “warrant canary” disappears, suggesting new Patriot Act demands — Tech News and Analysis.

Subsequent reports, in the last half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014 does not contain this language so you can figure that they have since then been served with an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

<sigh> — I really don’t like living under a government that makes Warrant Canaries necessary. I don’t think our founding fathers would like it either.

Lavabit Shutting Down

Boing Boing is reporting that Ladar Levison is shutting down Lavabit. Lavabit offered an email service with better privacy than the free email services such as Gmail and Yahoo! offer and it is also the email service used by Edward Snowden.

Evidently Snowden’s problems have sloshed over onto Mr. Levison. Here’s the letter he posted on

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.


Ladar Levison

Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

Our government isn’t suppose to be our enemy. I’m saddened by this evidence that it is.

Michael Hayden and the Fourth Amendment

Y’all are familiar with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Right? The one that says:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In other words, the government can’t go looking through my stuff except for something specific that they have good reason (probable cause) to believe they are going to find. Y’all knew that. Right?

Well, apparently Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA didn’t know this.

FBI Director: NSA Leaks Educate Terrorists Who ‘Don’t Understand The Internet’ | Mediaite

Dan passes along this article. FBI Director Robert Mueller says that leaks like those given by Edward Snowden harms our nation’s security by educating the terrorists.

“We tend to think that people know and understand the internet around the world,” he continued. “But you have persons who want to undertake terrorist attacks who don’t have a full understanding of the internet. And, to the extent that you expose programs like this, we are educating them. We’re educating them about how the internet works actually worldwide.”

“They will be educated and find other ways to communicate and we will not pick up the communication that we want,” Mueller warned. “I would not underestimate the price to be paid by substantial disclosures.”

via FBI Director: NSA Leaks Educate Terrorists Who ‘Don’t Understand The Internet’ | Mediaite.

I would hope that he would assume our enemies fully understand all technologies that we do and then some. But it sounds like he is depending on an uneducated enemy to keep our country safe.

I don’t know about you but it is NSA’a and the other Federal agencies denouncement of Edward Snowden that is giving me pause to fear, not Snowden’s leaks.

I Can’t Call It Treason

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States defines treason thusly:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

via Article Three of the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Neither Bradley Manning nor Edward Snowdon levied war against the U.S. nor did they adhere to Enemies of the US, giving Aid and Comfort in what they did. I’m sure they broke the law in doing what they did but I think the U.S. is or will be stronger for their efforts. Are they heroes? I won’t use that strong of a word but they are definitely not traitors to their country.

Flutterby™! : Government overreach outrage of the moment 2013-06-10 05:59:58.699733-07

Dan has a list of links to news items dealing with the US government’s snooping on it citizens. Rather than repeating them here I’ll just send you over there. He did include a graphic that explains why I view Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning as more heroes than villains. I’m not sure either chose the best approach for making the information public that they did but the information did need to be released.

It Should Come As No Surprise

I open up Google News this morning and I’m greeted by this headline:

NSA taps in to user data of Facebook, Apple, Google and others, secret files reveal
•Top secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Facebook and Apple
•Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007

via NSA taps in to user data of Facebook, Apple, Google and others, secret files reveal | World news | The Guardian.

This news actually broke a couple of days ago but it was limited to one cell phone carrier giving up all of its transactional metadata on its customers. Since then we’ve found out that it isn’t just cell phone information but also everything digital in our lives.

It isn’t like we really didn’t know this was happening, how could we not know with the theme of so many of the story lines running through pop culture pointing directly to Big Brother and his surveillence abilities. This can’t be a surprise but it is confirmation of our fears of a reality we didn’t want to admit to.

So where do we go with this knowledge? For one thing we need to acknowledge that there does need to be intelligence gathering efforts by our Department of Defense and some of the details of those efforts do need to remain secret. However, with secrecy comes a limit to the oversight so what remains secret needs to be kept to a minimum. And, see, that’s what I don’t think people in government grasp. For instance, we have this from James Clapper:

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in an unusual late-night statement Thursday, denounced the leaks of highly classified documents that revealed the programs and warned that America’s security will suffer. He called the disclosure of a program that targets foreigners’ Internet use “reprehensible,” and said the leak of another program that lets the government collect Americans’ phone records would affect how America’s enemies behave and make it harder to understand their intentions.

“The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,” Clapper said of the phone-tracking program.

via US declassifies phone program details after uproar : News :

See, I don’t think he fully understands that one of the threats facing our nation comes from our own government. The more stuff the government does behind our back the more stuff we start imagining them doing behind our back when stories like this come to light. We lose trust in the government when we learn that they have secretly been doing things that might step over the line of what we authorized them to do in our constitution. You don’t subject us to unreasonable seach and siezures without probable cause and this snooping appears to have been an unreasonable search without probable cause.

I am somewhat encouraged, though, that maybe those in charge do have some understanding of my concerns. Mr. Clapper has declassified the two programs that were leaked:

At the same time, he offered new information about both programs, saying he wanted to correct the “misleading impression” created by out-of-context news articles even as he acknowledged that publicly discussing the programs comes with inherent security risks.

“I believe it is important for the American people to understand the limits of this targeted counterterrorism program and the principles that govern its use,” Clapper said.

The problem is that if you keep it secret we are going to imagine the worse when the secret becomes public knowledge, and it will become public knowledge. Someone will leak it. You just need to understand that those leaking the information are probably more hero than villain.

FBI phone snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional

The Patriot Act, that knee-jerk piece of legislation passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, has run into more constitutional problems. One provision of it allowed for the FBI to use a National Security Letter (NSL) to compel a phone company or ISP or other communications vendor to hand over customer’s records and data and then gag the vendor from ever disclosing having even received an NSL. That last part is the part that bothered me. From my understanding, that NSL gag provision is in effect in perpetuity, not just until the investigation is over. That removes oversight and could lead to all sorts of abuse of the letters and to individual’s civil rights.

That may change:

A US judge has ordered the FBI to stop its “pervasive” use of National Security letters to secretly snoop on phone and email records, ruling Friday that the heavily used tactic was unconstitutional.

The order issued by US District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco came as a surprising blow to a measure heavily used by the administration of President Barack Obama in the name of battling terrorism.

via FBI phone snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional.

It seems Judge Illston has the same concern I have. I have no problem with the FBI obtaining records it needs to prosecute dangers to the life and property of Americans. I do have a problem with having to worry about what I say that might be misconstrued by a federal eavesdropper that could put me into legal jeopardy and this is the same problem Judge Illston has with the NSL.

But in her ruling, Illston said evidence indicated that tens of thousands of NSLs are sent out every year, and that 97 percent of them are fettered with the provision that recipients never mention the requests.
“This pervasive use of nondisclosure orders, coupled with the government’s failure to demonstrate that a blanket prohibition on recipients’ ability to disclose the mere fact of receipt of an NSL is necessary to serve the compelling need of national security, creates too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted,” Illston said in her written decision.

via FBI phone snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional.

If the FBI knows that the recipient of an NSL can, at some point disclose the receipt of the letter then the FBI will be less likely to use these letters to go on fishing expeditions and will only be reading private discussions when there is probable cause to suspect terrorist activities.

The judge did give the FBI 90 days before the “cease and desist” order goes into place so that they will have time to appeal her ruling but now that the courts are listening I can’t see how such prevalent use of  NSLs can be found to be constitutional. I’ll be watching this.


Hey! What’s that clicking noise on the phone?

Have you been paying close attention to Congress and the President’s efforts to avoid the “fiscal cliff”? The discussion has monopolized our attention and Congress’ time. Hasn’t it?

Not quite.

Federal detectives won’t need a warrant to eavesdrop on the emails and phone calls of Americans for another five years. President Obama reauthorized an intelligence gathering bill on Sunday that puts national security over constitutional rights.

via Obama authorizes five more years of warrantless wiretapping — RT.

If I was a cynical person I would think that this “fiscal cliff” thing was just a distraction for the rest of us to keep us from seeing our rights to keep the government from prying into our personal lives without reasonable suspicion. But I’m not that cynical. I don’t think there is collusion between the parties but I do find it interesting that the bills Congress has no trouble agreeing on are the bills that will give both parties more control of the citizens.

TSA Removes X-Ray Body Scanners From Major Airports

Okay, those body scanners that have received so much derision are coming out of major airports and being moved to smaller airports. In the major airports they are being replaced with new and improved scanners that don’t rely on X-rays. This way fewer of us will get cancer from them. Of course the TSA won’t admit to that.

The TSA says it made the decision not because of safety concerns but to speed up checkpoints at busier airports.

via TSA Removes X-Ray Body Scanners From Major Airports – ProPublica.

Of course you did, TSA. You would never consider our health or privacy. Would you?


Death to Moussaoui?

I’ve been listening to a lot of the arguments, both pro and con, of putting Zacarias Moussaoui to death. While I understand the calls for a life sentence from the group that does not believe in the death penalty and the calls for the death penalty from all those who support the death penalty there is a group that I don’t understand. There is a group who otherwise believe in the death penalty that argue for life in prison for Moussaoui because death is what he wants.

What Zacarias Moussaoui wants is not death. He wants the results of martyrdom, which to him is a special place in heaven with a passel of virgins to care for him. The people who want to deprive him of his wishes don’t believe that he will be rewarded so why do they want to “deprive” him of his wishes when they don’t believe those wishes are achievable by him even in the death that he wishes for?

An Open Letter to the Transportation Safety Administration

It was Monday, the day after the fourth anniversary of 9/11 and I’m flying weekly now and will be for the forseeable future. I’m currently reading Tom Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger about terrorist threats to the US. Do I feel safer today flying than I did four years ago? No. In fact, if anything I think that my safety is more at risk today than it was this time last year or the year before.

The reason that I don’t feel safer has nothing to do with terrorist. It has everything to do with your typical traveler. Traveling is becoming much more stressful each year. With that stress comes frustrations, annoyances and rage. The rage is what I fear, not the terrorist. I place the blame for a lot of this stress directly on the shoulders of the TSA. Not only are the searches becoming more and more invasive but the screeners are becoming more an more beligerent. Simple questions can’t be asked without it being taken as a challenge to the screeners authority.

Maybe it’s just the Atlanta Airport on Monday mornings because I have been through there at other times and the TSA employees were polite and friendly but that has changed over the last few months. Also flying in and out of Tucson a last year the TSA people were cracking jokes with people in line and this was during the holidays. I’m not sure what it is that is changing these people but it isn’t good.

Plan to Keep Detainees in Jail for Life Criticized by Senators

You knew it was going to happen. All those supposed terrorist being detained down at Gitmo are going to have to have some sort of final dispostion decided for them by the US. It appears that some pentagon and intelligence officials feel that they need to be kept incarcerated for the rest of their lives even when there isn’t enough evidence to bring them to trial. Luckily, a couple of US Senators in high places recognize the fact that our constitution doesn’t allow for that.