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By Brad Friedman on 7/3/2013 9:42pm PT  

"In my opinion, you don't need to hedge," Mark Rumold, attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told me.

"There's no question in my mind", he said, that the surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden include both illegalities and unconstitutionalities. They "violate the First and Fourth Amendment of the Constitution" and even "the plain terms of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], the law on which the authority is purportedly based, and...other federal statutes."

Rumold was my guest this week on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast where my hope was to strip away all of the nonsense "controversy" about Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in order to focus on the actual disclosures, what we know about them, what we don't, and what we know about the lies told by the Administration about them (especially those by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.)

Also, Rumold discussed the status of his EFF lawsuit attempting to force the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to release their 2011 finding on the illegalities/unconstitutionalities of one of the very few programs that they actually rejected.

If you are confused about any or all of that, today's show is a great primer on those key points and several more. The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernie Canning described today's BradCast as "fascinating stuff." And though he may be somewhat biased, I --- who am completely objective on these things --- would tend to agree with him.

We also covered the breaking news out of Egypt, as President Mohammed Morsi was forced out of office in a military coup and Al Jazeera English was pulled off the air...live. We quickly discussed the outrageous secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I had a few (more) very choice words for national embarrassment and professional hypocrite Justice Antonin Scalia, and Desi Doyen joined us, as usual, for the latest Green News Report and details on the next billion dollar natural disaster on its way...

Download MP3 or listen online below [appx 58 mins]...

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And why the rest of the world is having the last laugh...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/28/2013 1:04pm PT  

"Some countries are willing to stand up to the United States right now," Michael Ratner told Amy Goodman earlier this week, as he heaped praise upon Ecuador, the nation which previously granted political asylum to Ratner's client, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ecuador has defied the U.S. by saying it will consider NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's request for political asylum.

It is likely that Ecuador is already furnishing Snowden with some level of diplomatic protection. AP reports that, according to WikiLeaks, Snowden was being "escorted by diplomats and legal advisers" during his travels from Hong Kong to Russia last weekend. It seems likely that Snowden was met at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport by Ecuadorian diplomats. A black BMW with diplomatic license plates assigned to the Ecuadorian Embassy was reportedly, waiting at the airport last Sunday in advance of Snowden's arrival.

Ecuador is not the only nation that is unwilling to cooperate, for differing reasons, with an apparently vengeful U.S. government which has sought to make an example of Snowden by charging him with espionage. Some, like Hong Kong, have a longstanding commitment to free speech and the right to due process. Others, like Russia, have an interest in closer political and economic ties to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) --- a group of socialist and social democratic Latin American and Caribbean nations that includes three potential Snowden destinations, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador.

In all cases, there appears to be a growing revulsion towards the overreach of the NSA's increasingly privatized, "Big Brother"-like intrusions and a growing recognition that the United States has long-since abandoned its mantle as a beacon of democracy and a nation devoted to "equal justice under the law"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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'At the end of the day, it is on us - it is on all of us - what our government does in our name'...
By Brad Friedman on 6/28/2013 7:05am PT  

On MSNBC's All In Thursday night, Chris Hayes flagged Barbara Starr's Tuesday report at CNN on how, according to unnamed U.S. government intelligence officials who offer some very specific details, terrorists are now, allegedly, changing their habits in the wake of the recent surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Hayes cites Starr's reporting in order to point out the hypocrisy in how some leaks, those seemingly meant to make the Pentagon look good, are, apparently, perfectly fine in the eyes of many of the very same people who have otherwise criticized --- and even called for the arrest of --- both Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who had the temerity to report on Snowden's leaks.

The point Hayes makes here --- the last one, in particular, about the "vast and growing web of secret government" and our responsibility for "what our government does in our name," as quoted below (along with his full video commentary), is right on the money...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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TODAY: Ari Berman, Marcy Wheeler, David Dayen, PLUS: Lots of callers, the day's news & plenty of NSA/democracy-related rants!...
By Brad Friedman on 6/18/2013 8:10pm PT  

I had the pleasure of guest hosting for Ed Schultz today on his radio show.

It was my first time hosting for Big Eddie, after being a guest on his show at various times over many years. We had much fun today in the bargain! My thanks to him and his crew for so generously and helpfully welcoming me aboard. My thanks also to the folks at my radio home base, KPFK/Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, for helping us pull it all off at very short notice.

I hope you'll have fun as well, listening to the show, if you missed it live today. The entire program is archived below (sans commercials!)

My guests included three great, independent, progressive journalists (four, if you include Desi Doyen, who also joined us, as usual):

  • MARCY WHEELER , from EmptyWheel.net with the latest on today's House Intel Oversight hearing on Edward Snowden's NSA disclosures.
  • ARI BERMAN from The Nation to discuss the this week's Supreme Court rulings on Voting Rights and Voter registration.
  • DAVID DAYEN, formerly of Firedoglake.com on his new, disturbing article in the New Republic on how mortgage service providers are strong-arming the victims of the Moore, OK tornado (and other recent natural disasters).
  • PLUS! A whole bunch of other stuff, a lot of calls, and plenty of thoughts (and occasional rants) on the surveillance state and the politics of it all. As one very generous emailer wrote me after the show: "You cut right through this unfortunate 'where does that leave the President?' talk." --- Well, good! That was my hope!

The audio archives of today's show follow below. Enjoy!

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 6/17/2013 5:13pm PT  

I'm prepping to guest host the Ed Schultz Radio Show tomorrow morning (9a-Noon PT, Noon-3p ET), so, for now, I'm gonna leave you with just the request that you go read some of the transcripts and/or videos available at USA Today.

Over the weekend, they published a conversation with three NSA whistleblowers (and one from DoJ) from during the Bush era. They all laud the latest NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden for coming forward with his leaks, and say that "he succeeded where we failed" in getting the attention of the public as to what, they say, is going on, and the concerns about secret data gathering operations that the public need to be aware of.

"They say the documents leaked by Edward Snowden ... proves their claims of sweeping government surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing," as USA Today describes the conversation. "They say those revelations only hint at the programs' reach."

Please go to the page and read some of the transcripts and/or watch the video conversation, which I don't have time to highlight at the moment: "3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so".

Here is just the very beginning of the conversation...

Q: Did Edward Snowden do the right thing in going public?

William Binney: We tried to stay for the better part of seven years inside the government trying to get the government to recognize the unconstitutional, illegal activity that they were doing and openly admit that and devise certain ways that would be constitutionally and legally acceptable to achieve the ends they were really after. And that just failed totally because no one in Congress or — we couldn't get anybody in the courts, and certainly the Department of Justice and inspector general's office didn't pay any attention to it. And all of the efforts we made just produced no change whatsoever. All it did was continue to get worse and expand.

Q: So Snowden did the right thing?

Binney: Yes, I think he did.

Q: You three wouldn't criticize him for going public from the start?

J. Kirk Wiebe: Correct.

Binney: In fact, I think he saw and read about what our experience was, and that was part of his decision-making.

Wiebe: We failed, yes.

Jesselyn Radack: Not only did they go through multiple and all the proper internal channels and they failed, but more than that, it was turned against them. ... The inspector general was the one who gave their names to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. And they were all targets of a federal criminal investigation, and Tom ended up being prosecuted — and it was for blowing the whistle.

Also related and of note, from Thomas Drake, one of the whistleblowers included in the USA Today conversation above --- his column from last week: "Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution."

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Warns of accepting claims, at face value, that Americans must 'trust officials to exercise power in the dark, lest they be attacked'...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/15/2013 7:35am PT  

Earlier this week, CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald about the baseless claim made by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), on Fox "News", that Greenwald was "threatening to disclose" the identities of covert American CIA operatives.

Additionally, and in flagrant disregard for the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, King had earlier disgraced himself by calling for the arrest of journalist Greenwald, who originally broke the news on a number of the disclosures made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. (The additional irony here, of course, is that King himself actually is an avowed supporter of terrorism.)

Cooper and Greenwald then discussed the claim that American national security has been harmed by the disclosures made by Snowden, and why both citizens and journalists should never merely accept, at face value, such claims from public officials...

ANDERSON COOPER: King also says that you should be prosecuted because of what you've already published, saying it puts American lives at risk…When Wikileaks released huge amounts of information…a lot of people said, you know, "They had blood on their hands. Julian Assange has had blood on his hands." But then U.S. officials privately admitted to people in Congress and even publicly that even though the revelations were embarrassing, were a problem, that they couldn’t name anyone who really had lost their lives because of it. So now, when people are saying that you have put American lives at risk, do you believe that at all?

GLENN GREENWALD: No. And Anderson, that point that you just made, in my opinion, is really the crucial point, for anybody listening, to take away. Every single time the American government has things that they’ve done in secret exposed or revealed to the world and they're embarrassed by it, the tactic that they use is to try and scare people into believing that they have to overlook what they have done --- they have to trust American officials to exercise power in the dark, lest they be attacked; that their security and safety depend upon placing this value in political officials. And I really think it’s the supreme obligation of every journalist and every citizen when they hear an American official say --- 'this story about us jeopardizes national security' --- to demand specifics; to ask, what exactly it is that has jeopardized national security.

King's blatant lies about Greenwald ought to underscore his point that such officials are not to be merely trusted.

Video of Anderson Cooper's 6/12/2013 interview of Glenn Greenwald follows below...

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By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2013 5:07pm PT  

There's a reason I argued we are now living on Planet Partisan the other day. In what is now, apparently, our continuing series on partisans attempting to justify their all-new positions on the massive, secret, US national security surveillance state by completely ignoring and/or reversing their very strong previously held positions, we first had...

And now we have this...

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By Brad Friedman on 6/12/2013 8:22pm PT  

Several days ago, I posted a video showing the stark differences between the positions on massive surveillance programs by candidate Barack Obama in 2007 and President Barack Obama in 2013.

And now, since we're nothing if not "fair and balanced", here is a short video of Sean Hannity of Fox "News" repeatedly lauding massive NSA surveillance programs during the George W. Bush Administration...and then decrying the very same programs as "tyranny" and a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution now that Obama is doing it.

With all due respect to Hannity --- and I have none --- his over the top hypocrisy then versus now trumps even Obama's, hands down. Not to mention the small detail that the programs, as carried out under Bush were, at the time, illegal, while under Obama they have been made "legal". (Or so we are told. There is so much secrecy around them, of course, it is virtually impossible for the public to know either way.) Enjoy!...

Also recently related: "Republicans Suddenly Decide to Care About Big Government Overreach"

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By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2013 7:00pm PT  

I was on Abby Martin's Breaking the Set program on RT America this evening. The video is posted below.

We discussed the NSA leaks and everything related to it, including, briefly, my own disturbing experience --- which I have in common with Glenn Greenwald --- when we were both targeted by a cyber-scheme devised by government defense contractors set to turn tools developed for the "War on Terror" against us, at the behest of major corporate interests.

That is some of what The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst, Ernie Canning was attempting to warn about in his piece this morning on the many broad dangers of what has now become a massive, privatized, largely unaccountable, secret U.S. national security and surveillance state....

[I join Abby just after the 4:00 minute mark, for about 9 minutes.]

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By Ernest A. Canning on 6/11/2013 6:05am PT  

Whistleblower Edward Snowden did more than simply expose a level of NSA surveillance that suggests the entire system has grown dangerously close to that of "Big Brother" in George Orwell's 1984.

In disclosing that he served at the NSA as a third-party contractor employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden's revelations touch upon the disturbing fact that the U.S. has become not only a national security surveillance state, but a privatized national security surveillance state. Our national security apparatus is now run, in no small part, by massive private corporations whose financial interests may be better served by operating in secret and by exploiting and exaggerating public fears.

As reported by The New York Times on Monday, Booz Allen "has become one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States almost exclusively by serving a single client: the government of the United States." The company "reported revenues of $5.76 billion for the fiscal year ended in March."

The majority shareholder in Booz Allen is The Carlyle Group, the massive global asset management firm whose defense industry contracts raised questions of a conflict of interest during the George W. Bush administration in light of the direct financial ties and active rolls in Carlyle maintained by Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, his Sec. of State, James Baker, III, Ronald Reagan's Defense Sec. Frank Carlucci and even Shafiq Bin Laden (Osama's brother).

These new revelations serve as a reminder that 9/11 did more than serve as an economic boon for the military-industrial complex. The events of that horrible day gave rise to an endless "war on terror," to the starkly swift passage of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and eventually, along with it, --- as Sen. Russ Feingold, the only U.S. Senator to vote against the Act, predicted at the time --- to the massive reach of the NSA surveillance state. Feingold's prediction echoed the ominous warning provided by Sen. Frank Church (D-ID) some thirty years earlier, that if the NSA's surveillance capabilities were ever allowed to go unchecked, there would be "no place to hide."

But what Senators Feingold and Church do not seem to have anticipated was that this Orwellian level of surveillance capabilities would be placed into the hands of private cyber security contractors, and their billionaire benefactors, whose financial interests lie in an exaggerated state of fear and secrecy. The merger between the NSA and private corporate power raises the specter that this never-ending "war on terror" has given rise to a national security apparatus whose real purpose is to protect wealth and privilege against the threat democracy poses to our increasingly stark levels of inequality.

So, is it terrorism or democracy which is the real target of an omnipresent NSA surveillance capability? Or is it something else entirely?...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2013 3:54pm PT  

Huh...

[Hat-tip Lee Camp on the Twitters]

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By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2013 1:49pm PT  

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Guardian journalist pulls no punches, throws several...
By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2013 7:05am PT  

The first part of this segment from last Thursday night's Last Word on MSNBC includes a quick summary by NBC's Pete Williams of the first two different blockbuster releases of classified NatSec documents by the UK Guardian's Glen Greenwald this week. (Those two stories are here and here, and came before his third one on Friday.)

If you're familiar with those stories, you can skip to the 5:15 mark in the video below, where Greenwald's appearance begins, and as he responds to threats of investigation, etc. by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and others concerning his release of these documents journalism.

The first part of Greenwald's response: "Let them go ahead and investigate. There's this document called the Constitution, and one of the things it guarantees is the right of a free press. Which means, as a citizen and as a journalist, I have the absolute Constitutional right to go on and report on what it is my government is doing in the dark and inform my fellow citizens about that action ... And I intend to continue to shine light on that and Dianne Feinstein can beat her chest all she wants and call for investigations and none of that's gonna stop and none of it's gonna change"...


That's what journalism should look like, and what every journalist should sound like, in my opinion.

I'm very proud to call Greenwald both a colleague and a fellow target of secretly planned cyberattacks back in 2011 by incredibly powerful corporate/government forces (one of whom, by the way, may well be one of the government Defense Dept. contractors involved in the second of Greenwald's leak reports this week.)

One more point on all of this I'd like to cite, for now...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 6/7/2013 5:51pm PT  

In the wake of the latest revelations of our massive, secret, invasive national security surveillance state, I've been trying to remind folks how we got here, and how it was that many on both the Right and Left --- though far more robustly on the Right --- not only allowed for these outrageous intrusions into the private lives of Americans, but actually supported them, a great deal, for well over a decade.

The hypocrisy of some, particularly those on the Right, to be "outraged" about it all now, is laughable.

Nonetheless, for some of the very important context and backstory about how we got to this place --- and how, in fact, some Democrats tried (and failed) to reign in at least the most unlawful excesses of it (even while some also supported it --- talking to you, Sen. Feinstein & Sen./President Obama) --- Rachel Maddow's piece from last night's show is extremely helpful and educational...


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By Brad Friedman on 5/25/2013 3:15pm PT  

After he was interrupted, several times, by CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin during his foreign policy speech on Thursday, President Obama said: "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to."

I agree with that part of his response, which was met with applause in the room. I rather liked the questions that Benjamin shouted out before and as she was eventually led out of the room. She offered a pretty well constructed set of thoughts and questions, particularly under the circumstances. And I'd love to hear the President's answers to a few of her questions.

Here's what she said, as well as I was able to capture her remarks from the video...

It's not Congress. It's you, sir. There are 102 people on a hunger strike [in the Guantanamo Bay prison]. These are desperate people. 86 have been cleared for release. You are Commander-in-Chief. You can close Guantanamo today. You can release those 86 prisoners today.
...
How about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American killed by drones. Is that the way we treat a 16-year-old American? Why was he killed? Can you tell us why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed?

Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.

I love my country! I love the rule of law! The drones are making us less safe. And keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantanamo is making us less safe. Abide by the rule of law. You're a Constitutional lawyer!

For the record, the President absolutely can release the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release immediately, as Benjamin noted. He does not have to, as he likes to suggest, get approval from Congress to do that. He can release them immediately. He only needs Congressional approval to move prisoners (such as the ones who may actually face some sort of trial or military tribunal) to another prison on the U.S. mainland.

Despite his assertions to the contrary, as seen in the video below, Obama did not address the concerns of Benjamin. He did not explain why 16-year-old U.S. citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed. He did not answer whether drone strikes would be taken out of the hands of the unaccountable CIA and given to the slightly-more-accountable military. He did not respond to the question about compensation to the families of innocent victims killed in drone strikes. He did not speak to whether "signature strikes" with drones (attacks based on profiles of those believed to be gathered at a particular location, rather than a specific person believed to be in the group) would be ended. He should address all of those issues.

* * *

Video of the section of his speech during which the President was interrupted several times by Benjamin --- remarkably, she was not removed the first several times --- and his responses to her, follows below...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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