Know all ye by these presents that Edward Snowden is hereby awarded the Corner-Brightener Candlestick, presented by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
Sam Adams Associates are proud to honor Mr. Snowden’s decision to heed his conscience and give priority to the Common Good over concerns about his own personal future. We are confident that others with similar moral fiber will follow his example in illuminating dark corners and exposing crimes that put our civil rights as free citizens in jeopardy…
Heeding the dictates of conscience and patriotism, Mr. Snowden sacrificed his career and put his very life at risk, in order to expose what he called ‘turnkey tyranny.’ His whistleblowing has exposed a National Security Agency leadership captured by the intrusive capabilities offered by modern technology, with little if any thought to the strictures of law and Constitution. The documents he released show an NSA enabled, rather than restrained, by senior officials in all three branches of the U.S. government.
Just as Private Manning and Julian Assange exposed criminality with documentary evidence, Mr. Snowden’s beacon of light has pierced a thick cloud of deception. And, again like them, he has been denied some of the freedoms that whistleblowers have every right to enjoy.
Mr. Snowden was also aware of the cruel indignities to which other courageous officials had been subjected — whistleblowers like Sam Adams Award honorees (ex aequo in 2011) Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack — when they tried to go through government channels to report abuses. Mr. Snowden was able to outmaneuver those who, as events have shown, are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to curtail his freedom and quarrel with his revelations. We are gratified that he has found a place of sanctuary where his rights under international law are respected.
Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a Sam Adams ‘Awardee Emeritus,’ has asserted that Mr. Snowden’s whistleblowing has given U.S. citizens the possibility to roll back an ‘executive coup against the Constitution.’ This is a mark of the seriousness and importance of what Mr. Snowden has done.
Like other truth-tellers before him, Edward Snowden took seriously his solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. He was thus legally and morally obliged to let his fellow Americans know that their Fourth Amendment rights were being violated.
The past few years have shown that courage is contagious. Thus, we expect that still others will now be emboldened to follow their consciences in blowing the whistle on other abuses of our liberties and in this way help stave off ‘turnkey tyranny.’
Presented this 9th day of October 2013 by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.”
….The panel rejected the government’s argument that the ACLU lacked standing because it couldn’t prove that any one person’s records, sitting in a searchable database, had been reviewed by government officials. But whether it’s a machine or a person doing the searching doesn’t matter, Lynch wrote:
[T]he government admits that, when it queries its database, its computers search all of the material stored in the database in order to identify records that match the search term. In doing so, it necessarily searches appellants’ records electronically, even if such a search does not return appellants’ records for close review by a human agent. There is no question that an equivalent manual review of the records, in search of connections to a suspect person or telephone, would confer standing even on the government’s analysis. That the search is conducted by a machine might lessen the intrusion, but does not deprive appellants of standing to object to the collection and review of their data.
This could become an important precedent in a legal review of the NSA’s ability to automatically turn voice into text, which I disclosed on Tuesday, based on more documents from the Snowden archive.
The court’s rebuttal of the government’s argument that Congress wanted bulk collection kept secret from the public is quietly blistering:
The government has pointed to no affirmative evidence, whether “clear and convincing” or “fairly discernible,” that suggests that Congress intended to preclude judicial review. Indeed, the government’s argument from secrecy suggests that Congress did not contemplate a situation in which targets of § 215 orders would become aware of those orders on anything resembling the scale that they now have. That revelation, of course, came to pass only because of an unprecedented leak of classified information.
The court did not officially rule on whether the program is unconstitutional, because it ruled it illegal on a statutory basis. But, Lynch wrote: “The seriousness of the constitutional concerns, however, has some bearing on what we hold today, and on the consequences of that holding.”
The primary author of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., has said that neither he nor anyone else imagined the law would be used for bulk domestic surveillance. “How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?” Sensenbrenner asked, shortly after Snowden revealed the program.
And as Lynch wrote in the opinion: “Congress cannot reasonably be said to have ratified a program of which many members of Congress – and all members of the public – were not aware.”
In a concurring opinion, Judge Robert D. Sack wrote:
Considering the issue of advocacy in the context of deliberations involving alleged state secrets, and, more broadly, the “leak” by Edward Snowden that led to this litigation, calls to mind the disclosures by Daniel Ellsberg that gave rise to the legendary “Pentagon Papers” litigation
(full article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept, here)
As Americans wait for Congress to decide next month whether to renew the Patriot Act and the vast NSA metadata surveillance program it’s made possible, a panel of three appellate judges has made the decision on its own: The Patriot Act, they’ve now ruled, was never written to authorize the sort of sweeping surveillance the NSA interpreted it to allow.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on Thursday that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata by the NSA wasn’t in fact authorized by section 215 of the Patriot Act, as the intelligence community has argued since the program was first revealed in the leaks of Edward Snowden two years ago. The ruling doesn’t immediately halt the domestic phone records surveillance program. But if it’s not overturned by a higher court it could signal the program’s end—and it at least forces Congress to choose whether it wishes to explicitly authorize the program when the Patriot Act comes up for renewal on June 1st.
“We hold that the text of § 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,” the ruling reads. “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously. Until such time as it does so, however, we decline to deviate from widely accepted interpretations of well‐established legal standards.”
The ruling comes as the latest surprise development in a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that immediately followed Edward Snowden’s revelations of the NSA’s mass domestic surveillance under the 215 section’s purported authorization. The lawsuit had been dismissed by a lower court in 2013, but the three appellate judges overruled decision.
Since it was first revealed, the 215 metadata surveillance program has been under attack from privacy advocates, and even the White House has said it’s exploring alternatives to the current system of collecting every American’s phone records. In a statement responding to the ruling, a spokesperson for the National Security Council writes that it’s already looking at a replacement for the program. “The President has been clear that he believes we should end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it currently exists by creating an alternative mechanism to preserve the program’s essential capabilities without the government holding the bulk data,” writes the NSC’s assistant press secretary Ned Price. “We continue to work closely with members of Congress from both parties to do just that.”
But the new court ruling will nonetheless have real significance for Congress’s upcoming decision as to whether and how to reform the Patriot Act. A reform bill known as the USA Freedom Act, which would limit the 215 metadata collection, has advanced in the House. But that bill has been opposed by Republicans.
Now, says Cato Institute privacy researcher Julian Sanchez, reform is almost inevitable. “This changes the calculus. You now have a federal appellate court saying that the statute in its current form does not authorize this program. If the program needs to continue, it may not be allowed under a straight reauthorization,” Sanchez says. “If your goal is to preserve this program, reform becomes the surest way to preserve some version of it.”
(Full article by Andy Greenberg at Wired)
Seven prominent national security whistleblowers Monday called for a number of wide-ranging reforms – including passage of the “Surveillance State Repeal Act,” which would repeal the USA Patriot Act – in an effort to restore the Constitutionally guaranteed 4th Amendment right to be free from government spying.
(Photo of (left to right) Kirk Wiebe, Coleen Rowley, Raymond McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Jesselyn Radack, and Thomas Drake by Kathleen McClellan (@McClellanKM) via Twitter)
Several of the whistleblowers also said that the recent lenient sentence of probation and a fine for General David Petraeus – for his providing of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell – underscores the double standard of justice at work in the area of classified information handling.
Speakers said Petraeus’s favorable treatment should become the standard applied to defendants who are actual national security whistleblowers, such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Jeffrey Sterling (who has denied guilt but who nevertheless faces sentencing May 11 for an Espionage Act conviction for allegedly providing classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen).
In a news conference sponsored by the ExposeFacts project of the Institute for Public Accuracy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., speakers included William Binney, former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) official; Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive; Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst and the Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Ray McGovern, formerly CIA analyst who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s; Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department trial attorney and ethics adviser, and now director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project; Coleen Rowley, attorney and former FBI special agent; J. Kirk Wiebe, 32-year former employee at the NSA.
Ray McGovern, former CIA officer, who gave Sam Adams award to Edward Snowden back in 2013, tells how this example influences whistleblowers in the U.S.
William Binney, former technical director of the NSA turned whistleblower, last night received the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.
The ceremony in Berlin featured a powerful line-up of fellow whistleblowers and former intelligence officers, who honoured Binney for “shining light into the darkest of corners of secret government and corporate power”.
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who won the Sam Adams Award in 2013, joined the event via video link from Moscow, to congratulate and thank Binney. “Without Bill Binney, there would be no Edward Snowden,” he said. (Read more.)