Homeland Stupidity http://www.homelandstupidity.us Government is stupid. Discover a better way to organize society. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 A House Divided Over NSA Spying on Americans http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/29/a-house-divided-over-nsa-spying-on-americans/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2013/07/29/a-house-divided-over-nsa-spying-on-americans/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 10:26:45 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/?p=887 Last week’s House debate on the Defense Appropriations bill for 2014 produced a bit more drama than usual. After hearing that House leadership would do away with the traditional “open rule” allowing for debate on any funding limitation amendment, it was surprising to see that Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment was allowed on the Floor. In the wake of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of US government spying on American citizens, Amash’s amendment sought to remove funding in the bill for some of the NSA programs.

Had Amash’s amendment passed, it would have been a significant symbolic victory over the administration’s massive violations of our Fourth Amendment protections. But we should be careful about believing that even if it had somehow miraculously survived the Senate vote and the President’s veto, it would have resulted in any significant change in how the Intelligence Community would behave toward Americans. The US government has built the largest and most sophisticated spying apparatus in the history of the world.

The NSA has been massively increasing the size its facilities, both at its Maryland headquarters and in its newly built (and way over-budget) enormous data center in Utah. Taken together, these two facilities will be seven times larger than the Pentagon! And we know now that much of the NSA’s capacity to intercept information has been turned inward, to spy on us.

As NSA expert James Bamford wrote earlier this year about the new Utah facility:

“The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration — an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.”

But it happened anyway.

Over the last week we have seen two significant prison-breaks, one in Iraq, where some 500 al-Qaeda members broke out of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, which the US built, and another 1,000 escaped in a huge break in Benghazi, Libya — the city where the US Ambassador was killed by the rebels that the US government helped put in power. Did the US intelligence community, focused on listening to our phone calls, not see this real threat coming?

Rep. Amash’s amendment was an important move to at least bring attention to what the US intelligence community has become: an incredibly powerful conglomeration of secret government agencies that seem to view Americans as the real threat. It is interesting that the votes on Amash’s amendment divided the House not on party lines. Instead, we saw the votes divided between those who follow their oath to the Constitution, versus those who seem to believe that any violation of the Constitution is justified in the name of the elusive “security” of the police state at the expense of liberty. The leadership — not to my surprise — of both parties in the House voted for the police state.

It is encouraging to see the large number of votes crossing party lines in favor of the Amash amendment. Let us hope that this will be a growing trend in the House — perhaps the promise that Congress may once again begin to take its duties and obligations seriously. We should not forget, however, that in the meantime another Defense Appropriations bill passing really means another “military spending” bill. The Administration is planning for a US invasion of Syria, more military assistance to the military dictatorship in Egypt, and more drones and interventionism. We have much work yet to do.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Government tries to stop AT&T surveillance lawsuit http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/att-surveillance-lawsuit-still-alive/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/09/att-surveillance-lawsuit-still-alive/#comments Thu, 09 Nov 2006 18:02:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/government-tries-to-stop-att-surveillance-lawsuit/ ]]> A federal appeals court on Wednesday agreed to hear arguments from the government as to why a lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged cooperation in a terrorist surveillance program should be dismissed due to state secrets.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation brought a lawsuit January 31 against AT&T alleging that the company unlawfully cooperated with the National Security Agency in implementing what President George W. Bush calls the terrorist surveillance program, a program to capture international telephone calls of suspected terrorists and their associates where one end of the call is in the United States.

The Department of Justice on Thursday asked for a stay in the case, as well as the other cases which had been consolidated with it, asking the district court to halt entirely while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considers the case.

“The government’s proposed stay would not be in the interests of justice in this very important case about ongoing illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans,’ said EFF media relations coordinator Rebecca Jeschke. “Many elements of our suit can and should go forward while the 9th Circuit considers the state secrets issues.’

The Department of Justice asserted that litigating the case would reveal national security secrets, causing exceptionally grave damage to the national security, and moved to dismiss the case. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker denied the government’s motion to dismiss, ruling that “because the very subject matter of this litigation has been so publicly aired . . . dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security.’

The government appealed that decision, and the the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to hear the appeal. The appeals court did not give an indication as to when it might rule on the appeal.

“We are looking forward to defending Walker’s decision to deny the motions to dismiss before the appeals court,’ said EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl.

After the motion to dismiss was denied, 17 other lawsuits against various telephone companies were consolidated with the EFF’s case. Judge Walker will hold a case management conference Nov. 17 for these cases, Opsahl said.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the NSA terrorist surveillance program was unconstitutional. The government is being allowed to continue the program while it pursues an appeal.

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New York City cuts off cell phone service in Holland, Lincoln, Midtown and Battery tunnels http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/07/11/new-york-city-cuts-off-cell-phone-service-in-holland-lincoln-midtown-and-battery-tunnels/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/07/11/new-york-city-cuts-off-cell-phone-service-in-holland-lincoln-midtown-and-battery-tunnels/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2005 03:10:51 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2012/06/11/new-york-city-cuts-off-cell-phone-service-in-holland-lincoln-midtown-and-battery-tunnels/ ]]> Immediately after the London bombings on 7 July, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Metropolitan Transit Authority cut power to the microcells in the Holland, Lincoln, Midtown and Battery tunnels which provide Verizon Wireless cellular phone users with mobile phone service.

Service was restored this afternoon to the Midtown and Battery tunnels, but the most heavily traveled, the Holland and Midtown tunnels, remain without service.

Verizon Wireless is the only vendor with microcells in the tunnels. The service had never been cut off before, not even after 9/11.

Apparently the shutoff in the Midtown and Battery tunnels was a result of miscommunication between local agencies. The Metropolitan Transit Authority reported that the New York Police Department asked for service to be shut off, and the NYPD denied making any such request to the MTA.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed skepticism that the shutoff made sense. “The MTA decided to do it. I don’t know whether it makes the most sense. I don’t know how long they’re going to keep it off,’ said Bloomberg.

The Port Authority has said that service in the Holland and Lincoln tunnels will remain off “until further notice.’

The concern is over the possibility of a bomb being detonated remotely by telephone call to a cellular phone wired to such a bomb. Critics contend that such bombs can also be detonated by the cellular phone’s alarm clock function in the event of a service interruption, or simply by a timer.

You know, I think I saw that bomb triggered by a cell phone in a movie somewhere. I am beginning to suspect officials have been watching too many movies or are just overly paranoid. This so-called security measure benefits no one, mitigates no risk, and actually makes matters worse, as now drivers in the tunnels cannot phone for help in the event of an actual emergency.

Update 12 July: BBC News has now picked up this story.

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