Friday, October 17, 2008

ACLU Says Recent NSA Spying Allegations Bolster its Lawsuit Against FISA Bill

It's shocking, though I suppose we shouldn't be, how little news coverage is being dedicated to the recent revelations that the NSA has been listening in on our even "pillow talk" conversations. Conversations that agents allegedly had fun passing around to colleagues and having a real hoot over.

And that's only the more personally disturbing privacy violations we all have apparently been subjected to in recent years. Reports also seem to indicate they NSA was listening in on individuals and organizations that simply might disagree with our government and its policies, most notably journalists. Any threat to what's left of our gutted "free press" should concern every American.

The silver lining of these Orwellian nightmare revelations of course is that it should strengthen the ACLU's lawsuit against the recently signed FISA bill that actually ENHANCES and EXPANDS the government's power to listen to our calls and intercept our emails.

Wired Magazine reports on this aspect of the story, and it includes video of Adrienne Kinne, a former Army reservist and Arabic linguist at Ft. Gordon, who told Threat Level last year that her group intercepted satellite communications of businessmen, aid workers and journalists in the Middle East and that they had received a waiver that allowed them to listen to and report on calls involving Americans and U.S. allies, including calls they made to other Americans in the U.S.

Kinne's account appears in a new book published this week by NSA expert James Bamford, called Shadow Factory, and were the focus of an ABC news report last week.

Read on:

The American Civil Liberties Union says that recent allegations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on communications of U.S. aid workers and journalists based in the Middle East will help bolster a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which were passed earlier this year.

Two Arabic linguists who worked at an NSA listening post at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, have alleged that the NSA systematically targeted U.S. aid workers and journalists in the Middle East for eavesdropping. The linguists say the calls were personal in nature and not terrorist- or military-related.


Under guidelines of the United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, also known as USSID 18, the NSA must not target U.S. persons for interception except under special circumstances and, if such communications are intercepted incidentally, NSA monitors must stop listening to the call once they realize the party is a U.S. person and must not keep a recording of the call or disseminate a report on its contents.


Melissa Goodman, staff attorney in the ACLU's National Security Program, said the allegations confirmed that despite the government's repeated assertions that after September 11 it targeted only suspected terrorists for surveillance, the NSA was targeting relief workers and journalists, including U.S. persons, without cause.

Goodman added that the allegations underscore the need for transparency and proper oversight of surveillance programs to ensure that abuses don't occur, which is the basis for a lawsuit her organization filed earlier this year.


The ACLU is challenging the law on constitutional grounds, saying it violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing the government to conduct untargeted, dragnet surveillance regardless of whether the person or entity being targeted is suspected of wrongdoing. The ACLU says the new law also removes effective oversight by not requiring the government to tell a court who it's targeting for surveillance. (The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed another suit challenging provisions in the Act that granted immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the NSA in conducting warrantless surveillance.).


Senate intelligence committee chair Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has ordered his staff to open a probe into the surveillance abuses alleged by the two Arabic linguists, Kinne and Faulk. The Senate Judiciary Committee has also announced it wanted a full investigation of the allegations. The Senate Judiciary Committee has known about Kinne's allegations for more than a year.

I highly suggest you watch the clip of Ms. Kinne...bone chilling stuff. Click here to watch her speak and read the rest of the article.

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