CIA to End Undercover Vaccination Programs

Over a year after public health officials wrote to President Obama in anger that the United States had been using “sham vaccination campaign[s]” as a front for espionage, a White House official has pledged that the CIA will no longer use immunization programs as cover for spying operations. Continue reading

The NSA Does Not Equate to An Orwellian Society

Earlier this week, my colleague and co-founder of this blog, Paul Taylor, published a post highlighting the role of the media in propagating misconceptions of veterans’ mental health. In yet another example of the media influencing the average citizens’ perceptions of current events and hot topics, a study was recently released identifying George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as the only literary reference used to help explain NSA surveillance, a hot topic in the media over the course of the past year. Continue reading

Obama Addresses the NSA Scandal

This past Friday, President Obama finally directly addressed an issue that has been raging since the Edward Snowden leaks back in June; the NSA surveillance scandal (a full transcript of the speech can be found here, courtesy of The New York Times). Countless politicians and public figures have addressed the issue in the media, but this was one of the first times the President discussed it openly and at length with the press. As one could imagine, reactions to the speech ranged from “usefully balanced” to “skeptical.” Although the topic needed to be addressed by President Obama, the public should not expect much to change in the immediate aftermath of this speech. Continue reading

FISC Reopens NSA Phone Surveillance Program

Despite the public’s hopes that the NSA’s telephone surveillance program would be deemed unconstitutional, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) recently gave the Agency the go-ahead to continue collecting and analyzing millions of Americans’ private phone records. However, the extension may only be temporary as the FISC only granted the NSA three more months of surveillance. Continue reading

Posner Argues Foreigners Have No Right to Privacy From U.S. Surveillance

Prominent legal scholar Eric Posner argued on Slate this past week that foreigners should have no right to privacy from NSA surveillance. In an article entitled “Keep Spying on Foreigners, NSA”, Posner writes “They have no right to privacy from US surveillance- and they shouldn’t.” He argues that there will never be an international digital right to privacy (as Germany has proposed), because it “makes no sense.”  Continue reading

New Reports: U.S. Spied on Foreign Embassies

And the plot thickens.  It now looks like Edward Snowden’s release of NSA and CIA information will have ramifications outside the borders of the United States.  If you’ll recall, Snowden not only released secrets on the NSA’s PRISM program that involved collecting the phone and Internet records of millions of Americans, but also released information on American and British surveillance programs that targeted foreign diplomats at international summits.  Now members of the European Union, which includes some of America’s strongest allies, are speaking out against the programs.

The scandal seems to go deeper than we originally thought.  The initial accusations included claims that the British government had set up fake Internet cafes during the G20 summit and monitored diplomatic communications among foreign representatives.  We are now learning that this may have also gone on within U.S. borders.  New documents suggest that American intelligence agencies were monitoring up to 38 foreign embassies, including those belonging to Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, India, and countless others.  The NSA reportedly hacked into encrypted fax machines and was able to read communications that these diplomats were sending back to their home countries.

This new information has caused the European Union to question the integrity of the American government.  EU Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding voiced her concerns about how trade negotiations could continue with this knowledge.  In addition, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “this is unacceptable, it can’t be tolerated.  We’re no longer in the Cold War.”

I tend to agree with Commissioner Reding Chancellor Merkel.  I don’t think anyone would be surprised or outraged if we were spying on North Korea or Iran.  After all, both of those countries have made serious threats against the United States and/or its allies.  One could make a strong argument that it would be necessary to spy on those countries to protect our interests.  But the countries we are not accused of spying on do not exactly fit into the same category.  Just look at the list.  Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, and India are all included in the top 15 trade partners of the United States, and there are surely other important trade partners on the list of 38.  They’re all countries that we more or less have friendly relations with.  And they’re all countries that we have invited onto our own soil, supposedly in an effort to improve those relations.  And now the American government has caused its own citizens and foreign governments to question its motives.

The most important question here is simply, why?  Why jeopardize our relationships with our most important allies?  And what are we even looking for?  Back in 2008 General Keith B. Alexander, head of the NSA, asked during a visit to a British intelligence station why we couldn’t collect all the information we can as often as we can?  That suggests to me that we might not even be looking for anything in particular.  It looks to me like we’re spying just for the sake of spying.  And that’s probably the most troubling part of this whole ordeal.  We’re breaking the trust of countries that we depend on for what amounts to nothing.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs on the NSA scandal, you’ll probably see that I’m a little more willing than some to give the government a pass when it comes to surveillance as long as they aren’t using the information to censor us or hamper our freedoms.  But this is a whole different animal.  We are by no means a self-sufficient country.  We depend on foreign trade and if you look at the largest foreign owners of U.S. debt you’ll see quite a few EU and Asian countries on that list.  We’re playing a dangerous game here.  We’re no longer talking about collecting data to stop terrorism.  That at least has some merit.  Now we’re talking about spying on our allies, allies who have to be able to trust us to conduct business or any other sort of diplomatic relations.  Well, kiss that trust goodbye.  We just keep digging ourselves deeper and deeper into what’s beginning to look like a bottomless pit.

The United States government:  Breaking the trust of American citizens and foreign governments since (CLASSIFIED).

Chris Whitten, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research

SETON HALL LAW SCHOOL ISSUES REPORT DETAILING GOVERNMENT SPYING CAPACITY ON GTMO LAWYERS AND CLIENTS

Attorney-Client Meeting Rooms Implanted with Cameras that can Read ‘Tiny Writing’ and Microphones Disguised as Smoke Detectors that can Hear ‘Whispers’
Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has issued a report: “Spying on Attorneys at GTMO: Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions and the Destruction of the Attorney-Client Relationship.” The report details the surveillance and recording technology in designated attorney-client meeting rooms at Guantanamo Bay— capacities that are inexplicable unless being utilized to eavesdrop on confidential communications. The report also details the often contradictory if not false government statements regarding attorney-client privacy and the utilization (or even the existence) of the hyper-sensitive monitoring equipment installed in the supposedly private rooms.
The issue of government surveillance encroaching upon attorney-client privacy is expected to come to a head in the upcoming Military Commission Hearings in Guantanamo Bay.
Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Policy and Research, commented, “If the government has spied on attorney client communications discussing trial strategy the legitimacy of the military commissions is again in grave jeopardy. It is now clear that the government has secretly implanted surveillance equipment in the meeting rooms that has spying capacities that are inexplicable unless being utilized to eavesdrop on confidential attorney client communications. The court must determine the extent to which such communications have been penetrated; if the government spying allows the government to know an attorney’s defense before trial, the proceeding ceases to be a trial and is reduced to a farce.”
The Seton Hall Law Report concludes that lawyers at Guantanamo Bay can no longer assure their clients that the government is not listening to their conversations or reading or recording the attorneys’ written notes. The report further notes that:
  • Listening devices in the attorney-client meeting rooms are disguised as smoke detectors.
  • The listening devices are so hypersensitive that they can detect even whispers between attorneys and their clients.
  • Cameras in the attorney-client meeting rooms are so powerful that they can read attorneys’ handwritten notes and other confidential documents.
  • The cameras can be operated secretly from a location outside of the room.
  • The attorney-client meeting rooms turn out to have been the former CIA interrogation facility.
  • Importantly, the CIA recording equipment was upgraded after the CIA left.
“With cameras and microphones so powerful they can read ‘tiny writing’ and hear ‘whispers,’ the government assurance of a right to counsel seems more like a trap than a right,” said report co-author and Seton Hall Law student Adam Kirchner.