Friday, June 07, 2013

Public To The Government: "Can You Hear Me Now?"

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Verizon has been ordered by the Obama administration to turn over "on an ongoing basis" all call logs "between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls."

The New York Times says it is still unclear how deep this surveillance goes.

Forbes is suggesting it goes much deeper.

The administration says they are doing it on behalf of keeping the homeland secure. But many see it as yet another overreach and intrusion by the Obama administration into their private affairs.

Citizens across the country are very unhappy and hoping the government can "hear them now" as they express their anger.

Not only is it important that we understand what the government is doing and to what extent, but we must also see this in the context of what has been happening in the recent ongoing scandals regarding the IRS, seizing emails of reporters and the Benghazi issue and how at least some in government misled the public.

These are troubling times. Our freedoms are being challenged in new and curious ways.

The Guardian, a UK left leaning newspaper, first broke this story yesterday morning. I became aware of it as we were going on the air live. I mentioned what was being reported at that time, but initial information was sketchy. We know more now.

The Guardian published a copy the Surveillance Court Order approving the surveillance of millions of calls.

The New York Times says, "The order was marked, 'Top Secret//SI//NOFORN', referring to communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to non citizens. That would make it among the closely held secrets in the federal government, and its disclosure comes amid a furor over the Obama administration's aggressive tactics in its investigations of leaks."

The word "aggressive" is probably an understatement based on what we know about the IRS and other scandals presently consuming our government and creating a growing distrust among the citizens.

I have no doubt that many in the press will make the case that this is merely a continuation of what President Bush did under the Patriot Act. However, this must be seen in the present context of all the other irregularities surfacing in the other major scandals.

Forbes says, "NSA's Verizon spying order specifically targets Americans not foreigners."

They are saying this is much "more troubling than Bush, in part because it is purely domestic."

At least "Bush's activities," they say, "were targeted at agents of Al Qaeda."

"This includes every customer of Verizon's," they say.

In their last quarterly report, Verizon Communications, Inc. listed 121 million customers. Of those, 98.9 million are wireless customers, 11.7 million residential phone lines and about 10 million commercial lines.

Forbes is also reporting the following:
"In fact, the Verizon order may be just a glimpse of a much larger surveillance program. It’s unclear whether other carriers, not to mention Internet giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook, have been caught up in similar domestic surveillance, or how long that surveillance has been taking place. But as the Guardian notes, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have issued cryptic warnings for the last two years that the Obama administration has engaged in widespread surveillance of Americans."

"Other phone carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all responded to a congressional inquiry on government surveillance last year, stating that they had turned over hundreds of thousands of users’ records to law enforcement agencies, though that inquiry didn’t focus on intelligence agency requests."

While the administration is not directly acknowledging the "Order," they are, as of yesterday afternoon, starting to defend their authority to collect the information and they are not actually listening to calls, only recording the phone numbers involved, the location and duration of the calls and subscriber and handset I.D. numbers.

Fox News is raising a question I've not seen raised by other news sources.

They are asking if the Obama administration has been collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers in the US, could this contradict statements made by top officials who previously claimed the government was not holding data on Americans?

Fox says Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked at a March hearing whether the National Security Agency collects any data on millions of Americans.

"No sir...not wittingly," he said. He said there may be cases "where inadvertently, perhaps the data could be collected."

Fox is also reporting that NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander told Fox News last year that the agency does not "hold data on US citizens."

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky said, "The National Security Agency's seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon's phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution."

The ACLU said it is beyond "Orwellian."

Ironically, this story broke yesterday, exactly 64 years to the day that Orwell's book "1984" was published.

Beyond the obvious, it is also very concerning that the communication records of millions of Americans have been collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether they were suspected of any wrong doing.

The Editorial Board of most far left, secular progressive newspaper in this country probably summed it up best in their editorial published last night:

This from the Editorial Board of the New York Times.

President Obama’s Dragnet
Published: June 6, 2013 125 Comments

Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.

The entire editorial is linked above.

Charley Brown would say, "Good Grief."

Perhaps we should all say, "God help us."

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Informed. Be Prayerful. Be Active. Be Blessed.