“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Far from providing the audacity of Hope, the Obama regime has been flirting with fascism and is audacious in its contempt for legality and standards of civilisation. Stop whining about "the war on terror", recognize we've faced far greater threats in the past and didn't need to turn ourselves into a police state to fight threats real and imagined.

NSA collecting phone records of millions daily, court order reveals

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

Read the Verizon court order in full here

Wednesday 5 June 2013

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.
Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.
The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.
The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.
The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI's request for its customers' records, or the court order itself.
"We decline comment," said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.
The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls".
The order directs Verizon to "continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order". It specifies that the records to be produced include "session identifying information", such as "originating and terminating number", the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and "comprehensive communication routing information".
The information is classed as "metadata", or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such "metadata" is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.
While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.
It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.
The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration's surveillance activities.
For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on "secret legal interpretations" to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be "stunned" to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.
Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.
Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: "We've certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of 'relevance' to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion." The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.
The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called "business records" provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration's extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.
In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that "there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows."
"We believe," they wrote, "that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted" the "business records" provision of the Patriot Act.
Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited "metadata" is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens' communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.
Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual's network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.
The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had "been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth" and was "using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity." Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.
These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA's mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency's focus on domestic activities.
In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.
At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: "The NSA's capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter."
Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.

One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.


  1. And, why am I supposed to be upset about this?

  2. If you have to ask the question, don’t worry about it.

    1. Okay (I wasn't going to, anyway.) :)

    2. But, again, why would I care if the NSA has a record of who I call? I don't get it.

    3. Knowledge and information is power. Some of it is private. It is your intellectual property.

      Your conversations belong to you and the person you trusted to share it with.

      Throughout life you establish a hierarchy of trust and confidence based on experience and need.

      Envelopes were developed with a coating of adhesive for a reason. We would not tolerate our mail being opened by a uniformed government employee.

      We put shades on windows and doors on bathrooms.

      We are entitled to privacy. It is not a gift from temporary government agents and temporary political pukes.

    4. Did you read your own link? The conversations Are Not recorded - only the numbers, times, duration, etc. (the same stuff that's on file with the phone company, anyway.

    5. Of course I read the link. “The conversations are not recorded”. Incrementalism is standard operating procedure. Don’t worry about income tax, it will only affect the top 1%. If it is on file with the phone company, the procedure calls for a specific court order.

  3. A few months ago, everyone was freaking out over "the cameras - all those cameras."

    Then comes the Boston bombing, and they caught the guys in just a matter of hours. How? The "cameras," of course. Now you don't hear much about "the cameras, boss."

  4. The Obama administration on Thursday acknowledged that it is collecting a massive amount of telephone records from at least one carrier, defending the practice as "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States."

    1. Could this tool have smoked out the 9-11-2001 attackers? I think there's a good chance it could have.

    2. Government and the airlines told passengers to remain docile and always cooperate with hijackers. That made 911 successful. Locks on cockpit doors and passenger initiative would have accomplished all that was needed.

    3. Let five assholes with box cutters try it again today. See what happens.

    4. What if the next time it's a Truck bomb at a Nuclear Plant?

    5. Or, a couple of tons of arsenic in the Philly water supply?

  5. The US government interned American citizens during WWII to protect the nation.

  6. The Syrian army has taken control of a UN-monitored crossing in the Golan Heights which had been overrun by rebel forces, Israeli military sources say.

    Tanks and armoured vehicles were used in the raid at Quneitra, near Israeli-held territory, the BBC was told.

    The fighting came a day after Syrian troops - backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah militants - retook the key town of Qusair after a three-week siege.

    The battle for Qusair has highlighted Hezbollah's growing role in the crisis.

    Amid heightened sectarian tensions in the wider region, the US has called on Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah to withdraw fighters from Syria.

    Hezbollah - or the Party of God - is a political and military organisation in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims. It emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and has always been a close ally of Syria's president.

  7. Remember the big stink over "why couldn't they *Connect the Dots?*"

    They're trying to "Connect the Dots."

    A guy that might go unremarked, upon, as a 3rd ring out from a suspected terrorist, Becomes very important when he shows up on the 3rd Ring of a Second Terrorist.

  8. Two missiles from Syria landed in Israel Thursday as fighting between President Bashar Assad’s forces and rebels raged on the Golan Heights.

    The Israel Defense Forces said that a “closed military zone” was declared near the Quneitra border crossing in response to the fighting. People were not being allowed inside the area and locals were warned not to work in the fields.

    No one was injured on the Israeli side, but two wounded Syrians who came to the border were taken to hospitals in Israel, an IDF spokeswoman said.
    “There were two projectiles that landed earlier in open areas in the north and central Golan Heights near the border of Israel and Syria,” she said.

    Syrian TV reports the government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters have taken the strategic town of Qusair that has been in opposition control since 2011.'s Dara Brown reports.

    “Initial reports suggest … the missiles were the result of the domestic situation in Syria,” she added, saying the “assumption at the moment” was they had not actually been fired at a target in Israel.

    She said the closed zone was set up because of the “internal fighting within Syria.”

  9. I though that the US government wanted to halt the hostilities. The Syrian army and Hezbollah carried the day. The Syrians are not fighting fair to preserve the union:

    The US has condemned the assault on Qusayr by Syrian government forces as celebrations erupted over the routing of rebels who have been battling for control of the southwestern city.

    Washington accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of having relied on Hezbollah fighters from neighbouring Lebanon, backed by Iran, to win the battle for the strategic area.

    "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime's assault on Qusayr, which has killed untold numbers of civilians and is causing tremendous humanitarian suffering," Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said in a statement.

    “It is clear that the regime could not contest the opposition’s control of Qusair on its own, and is depending upon Hezbollah and Iran to do its work for it in Qusayr.”
    My oh My, just like Lincoln could not carry the day at Gettysburg without the men under the green flag; Foreign Irish mercenaries, killing Americans. It is now the business of the US government on how a sovereign nation successfully fights an insurgency to restore peace and order despite our meddling.

  10. Lee should have called a press conference to call Lincoln out on the outrage.

  11. A robotic bird created for the U.S. Army by scientists at the University of Maryland for use as a miniature spy drone that can hide in plain sight, is so convincing that it has been attacked by hawks and eagles, according to researchers.
    The Robo-Raven, as the solar-powered remotely piloted surveillance aircraft is called, was designed and built at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Robotics Center — an interdisciplinary research establishment in the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. The center posted video of a test flight this week.

    Read more:
    Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

  12. All we have to do is have trust in Obama. All good human relationships are based on trust.


    1. The Robo-Raven for instance. Think of the lives it will save. The crimes foiled. A Robo-Raven in each back yard. The country will be safer for it. Trust but verify.


    2. Hell with it, just verify. Then you know who you can trust.


    3. A Robo-Raven for the master,

      And one for the dame,

      And one for the little boy

      Who lives down the lane.

      Feeling better now, secure, I go back to bed.


  13. al Qaeda must be upset as well, Let’s take a peek shall we?

    Syrian civil war has become three-way conflict, says al-Qaeda’s leader

    Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has urged jihadists fighting in Syria to unite and fight for the establishment of an anti-US government, stating the civil war had become a three-way conflict.

    In a newly-released audio message posted on Islamist websites, Zawahiri said: “Unite, listen and agree that you shall not lay down your arms and leave your trenches until the establishment in the Levant of an Islamic state that will restore the caliphate.

    “The United States, it associates and allies want you to sacrifice your blood ... to bring down the criminal Alawite regime and install a government in its pay and to preserve Israel's security," he said in the message posted on Islamist websites on Thursday.

    It was not immediately possible to verify the recording, which made no reference to victory on Wednesday of Assad forces in the besieged town of Qusayr, suggesting it was recorded before the campaign to retake the town began more than two weeks ago.

    Got it, we should not be happy until the Syrian rebels and al Qaeda establish a callipahte: …“The jihad in the Levant should work to establish a combatant Islamic caliphate that continues to make sacrifices … until the banner of jihad and Islam is hoisted.”

    1. So neither the rebels or the Assad's "legal" government is a friend of the west (ie America or Israel) and will seek it's destruction.

      To that end?

      Let both sides equally kill one another.

    2. Can't Hamas be gotten into the mix? Then it would be perfect, all the bad guys shooting it out.

      Circular firing squad!


  14. Where is the sarin gas when we need it? The French are always helpful with these things. Let’s get their view, mais, bien sûr

    In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the fall of Qusair underscored the Syrian rebels' need for more support in their fight against troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
    By Joseph BAMAT

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that Syrian rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad needed new weapon stocks, acknowledging that the regime had made a significant gain by retaking the strategic town of Qusair.

    “There is an imbalance when it comes to weapons. Mr Bashar al Assad has planes and other weapons and the resistance fighters do not have the same resources,” Fabius lamented in an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and sister radio station RFI. “This explains why Qusair has fallen.”

    “Things should be more balanced on the ground,” Fabius added, hinting at possible deliveries of arms just days after the European Union voted not to renew a ban on sales of weapons to Syria.

  15. We need more balance. Hezbollah is a little more tough than we thought. There is some food for thought.

  16. Replies
    1. Let’s take a peek and see how things are in the garden:

      Roughly 80% of the Senate’s $955 billion farm bill, which is expected to pass this week, will go to bankroll food stamps over the next ten years.

      “The trillion-dollar farm and food stamp bill should not be called the ‘Farm Bill,’” said Heritage Action for America CEO Michael A. Needham in an email. “Washington doesn’t want Americans to know that 80 percent of the spending in the bill goes to fund Obama's big-government, food stamp agenda.

      The other 20% provides farmers with price supports and revenue guarantees. Needham says that is “equally disturbing.”

    2. The "Disturbing" part, of course, is that 55 Million Americans NEED (and, qualify for) Food Stamps.

    3. And, just think of all that good farmland the Elites could pick up, On the Cheap, during drought years, like last year, if it wasn't for the dirty old Subsidized Crop Insurance.

    4. It seems to me that the fastest/best way to get many people off foodstamps/Medicaid, etc, would be to raise the minimum wage.

    5. >>>And, just think of all that good farmland the Elites could pick up, On the Cheap<<<

      This is true, and the best reason for federal support in farming. As it is farmland ownership is too concentrated but it could be worse.

      Help should be targeted to beginning farmers that truly need the help in tough times. Only farmers. Not absentee landlords of wealth.

      One farmer's opinion.


  17. Is “the government” no longer “our government”?