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James Clapper Issues Non-Denial Denial Of Greenwald's Story About Surveillance Of Muslim-Americans

from the want-to-try-that-again? dept

We already wrote about Glenn Greenwald's big story concerning how the FBI has been spying on prominent Muslim American politicians, lawyers and civil rights activists. If you follow this stuff closely, you may have heard that Greenwald was originally supposed to publish that story last week, but held off at the last minute due to some "new information" from the government. This resulted in some silly and ill-informed conspiracy theories, but in the article Greenwald explains what actually happened:
The Justice Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story, or for clarification about why the five men’s email addresses appear on the list. But in the weeks before the story was published, The Intercept learned that officials from the department were reaching out to Muslim-American leaders across the country to warn them that the piece would contain errors and misrepresentations, even though it had not yet been written.

Prior to publication, current and former government officials who knew about the story in advance also told another news outlet that no FISA warrant had been obtained against Awad during the period cited. When The Intercept delayed publication to investigate further, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence refused to confirm or deny the claim, or to address why any of the men’s names appear on the FISA spreadsheet. Prior to 2008, however, FISA required only an authorization from the attorney general—not a court warrant—for surveillance against Americans located overseas. Awad frequently travelled to the Middle East during the timeframe of his surveillance.
The fact that it was out warning people that the story was inaccurate before anything had even been written is... quite telling. Also, the fact that it only seemed to focus on the lack of a FISA warrant (and against one individual) seems like the standard form of the intelligence community choosing their words especially carefully to say one thing, while implying something else entirely. Now that the report has actually come out, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has issued a statement that is more of the same. You will note, for instance, that it does not deny spying on the five named individuals -- only that it doesn't spy on people because of their political, religious or activist views:
It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights.

Unlike some other nations, the United States does not monitor anyone’s communications in order to suppress criticism or to put people at a disadvantage based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

Our intelligence agencies help protect America by collecting communications when they have a legitimate foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose.
Again, note the specific denial they're making. They're not denying they spied on these five individuals. They're claiming that if they spied on them, it wasn't because of their religion -- though the evidence presented in the Intercept article certainly rules out many other explanations. And, remember, it was just a week ago that it was revealed that the NSA, does, in fact, consider people interested in Tor or open source privacy to be extremists. So, while it may be technically true that these individuals weren't targeted because of their religion, it does seem fairly clear that the intelligence community has fairly low standards for what it takes to convince themselves that someone may be a threat.

Furthermore, the statement admits that there are cases where it spies on people without approval from the FISA Court, but doesn't say what those examples are beyond "in an emergency." That may imply the only cases are in an emergency, but that's not what the statement actually says:
With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance.

These court orders are issued by an independent federal judge only if probable cause, based on specific facts, are established that the person is an agent of a foreign power, a terrorist, a spy, or someone who takes orders from a foreign power.
And, again, as the Intercept report itself notes, prior to 2008, there were different standards in place for people traveling overseas (even Americans) which could explain how some of these individuals were targeted.

The ODNI statement more or less concludes by suggesting that the five people named may have been agents of foreign powers, which is quite a claim:
No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.

On the other hand, a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.
It's a neat little out. Accused of spying on five Americans who pretty clearly do not appear to be agents of foreign powers, just hint strongly that they really are agents of foreign powers. It's back to the good old days of McCarthyism.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 2:39pm

    No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.


    Or so NSA claims. We've seen several things that call this into question. First, as this article shows, you can not believe on face value anything the NSA says. It has been caught time and again, lying to the public.

    It has also been revealed in the past articles just how close the working relationship is between the NSA, the CIA, FBI, DOJ, and HS. Saying that the NSA is not involved is at this point not believable as we see just how the OWS movement was spied on from coast to coast with the FBI and near worthless Fusion Centers collaborated with the police departments in all cases where protest were being held, including a plan to take out the OWS leaders with silenced sniper rifles.

    McCarthyism indeed, on steroids.

     

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  2.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 2:50pm

    It's back to the good old days of McCarthyism.

    With one crucial difference. For as scary as the Dirty Commies were, the USSR always maintained that their military, up to and including their nuclear arsenal, existed for defensive purposes, and declassified documents after the fall of the USSR shows that they were actually telling the truth on that one. They never had any intention of hurting the US if the US didn't hurt them first. Paranoids like McCarthy didn't believe it, but it turned out to be true. Russia has a long history of being invaded by foreign powers and doing whatever was necessary to drive them away, culminating in the Third Reich's invasion in World War II, and they mostly just wanted to be left alone.

    The enemy today is very different in that one crucial aspect. We have both loudly-declared and widely-published goals to bring about the fall of secular Western democracy, and a well-established history of aggressive, non-defensive acts that are intended to further this purpose. So it's not very productive to compare them to the USSR, when both their words and their deeds show them to be the exact opposite.

     

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  3.  
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    Murat, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:01pm

    Never!

    First, as this article shows, you can not believe on face value anything the NSA says.

     

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  4.  
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    sorrykb (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:02pm

    the United States does not monitor anyone’s communications in order to suppress criticism or to put people at a disadvantage based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

    So the ethnic and religious slur they put as a "sample identity" in their training document is a just an innocent result of a malfunctioning lorem ipsum generator?

     

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  5.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:05pm

    Re:

    No no, see, just because they use derogatory terms to refer to a group, that doesn't mean they would automatically assume the worst of that same group, what a silly thing to think.

     

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  6.  
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    AricTheRed (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:08pm

    My Favorite Quote

    "With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident..."

    As ther eare a limited number of "U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents" It wiould seem they are telling the truth.

    Just spy on everyone and the "Limited Exceptions" are limited to the number of US persons and legal residents.

    I have no idea what everyone is so worked up about, seems reasonable to me.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:18pm

    Definitions

    "a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted"

    At this point perhaps they should be asked to define "person", "court", "finds", "agent", "foreign", "power", "rigorous", "standard", "exempted" and "not". Let's start from there.

     

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  8.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:18pm

    And to think I was worried for a second there...

    With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance.

    So in order to 'target' US citizens or permanent residents, they need to get it approved by the FISA 'court', the same 'court' that never says no... oh yeah, that'll certainly keep them in check and their requests at a sane level. /s

    Also, given how often they try and defend their actions with 'If we don't massively violate your privacy, you're all going to die!', the 'in an emergency' example isn't that impressive or reassuring, given they seem to think, and act, as though it's always an emergency.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:24pm

    Parts bolded to emphasize loopholes:
    No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.

    On the other hand, a person who the [rubber-stamp] court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.

     

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  10.  
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    AnonCow, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 3:33pm

    We don't select our targets based on religion (we just collect information on everyone).

     

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  11.  
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    Joanna, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 4:02pm

    Re: And to think I was worried for a second there...

    "With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance."

    To be clear, they should be covered on this one as long as there is any integer N such that the number of exceptions is less than or equal to N. Which happens to be true for any finite number of exceptions, and since each "exception" refers to a specific case of intelligence gathering, and since only a finite number of those can be added to the total in a given time period (say, a day), and since the evaluation of how many "exceptions" have been made can only ever be done at a specific point in time (which is to say after a _finite_ number of time periods), it is actually impossible to violate this in the counting of these items.

    So it's actually a mathematically vacuous statement, which I expect is why they chose those words.

     

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  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    vancedecker (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 4:05pm

    What does he have to deny?!

    The NSA is doing its job. Glenn Greenwald is basically a liar. He's lied repeatedly on this particular subject and others.

    WHY MUST THE MSM FILTER ANYTHING????


    They don't. That's just one way you can tell that Glenn is full of shit.

    He promised us a list of tens of thousands of ORDINARY everyday AMERICANS who have been spied on by the NSA. WHERE IS THIS LIST? WHERE IS THE PROOF?

    You morons are so gullible it is sickening.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 4:24pm

    "These court orders are issued by an independent federal judge..." I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I got to this part.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 4:29pm

    We are past the point of this type of revelations. Show us which elections were rigged, and name blackmailed judges, Mr Greenwald.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    David, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 4:32pm

    Aaand you swallowed the doublespeak

    They're claiming that if they spied on them, it wasn't because of their religion --

    Oh no, not even that:
    It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights.

    No, they conduct electronic surveillance of religious figures solely because of their religion. See anything contradicting it?
    Unlike some other nations, the United States does not monitor anyone’s communications in order to suppress criticism or to put people at a disadvantage based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

    Instead, they are spying on them in order to track their behavior. That may have the side effect if suppressing criticism or putting those people at a disadvantage, but that's not the main incentive.
    No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.

    But being of a particular belief is not a "First Amendment activity". Also notice the use of "solely". First Amendment activities will very well make you the subject of surveillance, like when you additionally have the wrong skin color. Or religious affiliation.

    Really, it is not worth listening to anything Clapper says if you don't have a fetish for being smothered in strawmen and red herrings.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 6:00pm

    Re: What does he have to deny?!

    So much cocksucking of the NSA.

    You've got an exhibitionist fetish, don't you?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 8:04pm

    I'm still having a difficult time believing statements made by US officials. Such as statement that US citizens will only be spied on if they're terrorists or spies.

    All this electronic spying is being done in secret. Even the warrants are secret, and defendants aren't even allowed to see the evidence being used against them in court.

    There's absolutely nothing preventing US agencies from spying on citizens. Secret courts issuing secret warrants can't be held accountable by public auditing. We have no idea if evidence is being gather with or without a warrant, or if evidence is being fabricated for use in court through means of parallel construction.

    We can't even read the full interpretation of the law, because those interpretations are secret. Hence, we're not even allowed to study or use the letter of the law in our own defense. Much less understand the interpretations of the laws being forced upon and binding us.

    The US public is almost exactly in the same situation they were in before the Snowden revelations. The only difference is now we know for a fact we're being lied to by US officials. We also know that parallel construction exists so evidence can be fabricated and used against us without a warrant.

    The last thing we know is that in order to have a private conversation with someone, two air-gaped devices not connected to any external networks must be used for end-to-end encrypted messages. Encryption and decryption must happen on these offline devices, and these devices must be bought at physical retail stores, in order to prevent interdiction of online shipments.

    Basically the only thing that's changed for the American public, is that we now understand the scope of the mass surveillance apparatus happening all around us everyday. Nothing about the secret court system or mass surveillance itself has changed. Only the behavior of surveilled populations all over the world has changed.

    The line in the sand has been drawn between the surveilled and the surveillers. At least now both sides have a clear understanding of where the other side stands.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    I am Roger Corby, Jul 9th, 2014 @ 8:05pm

    Re:

    Dude, at least get your history straight.

    McCarthy didn't really give a damn about Soviet military intentions.

    He worried about Soviet spies in the highest levels of American institutions including the U.S. government.

    Have you been asleep these past thirty years? Venona ring a bell?

    McCarthy was right. His only problem was the need of a professional PR flak -- which the real and really covert Commies spies had in spades.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    JCHP (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 8:10pm

    Wait, hold up a second

    "Unlike some other nations, the United States does not monitor anyone’s communications in order to suppress criticism or to put people at a disadvantage based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion."

    Wasn't the CIA/NSA/whatever agency intending on using what they collected to trash the reputation of certain targets? Or am I remembering incorrectly?

     

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  20.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Wait, hold up a second

    No see, as soon as you designate a person/group 'The Bad Guys', it no longer counts, because they're not people anymore, just 'The Bad Guys'.

     

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  21.  
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    jimb (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 9:40pm

    "With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance. "

    Hmm... with limited exceptions (for example, never) I really believe Mr. Clapper this time.

     

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  22.  
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    AweSnap (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 9:48pm

    Re: reply...

    Touche. I am still milling over the what-the-what the " . . . double plus Denial Denial" really means. I did not realize Greenwald would agree to anything our govt. wants, hiccup, seeing his pseudo fugitive status. Who wrote this mickey mouse article?

     

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  23.  
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    techflaws (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 9:52pm

    Re: What does he have to deny?!

    You morons are so gullible it is sickening.

    Unless this is satire, right back at ya. And contrary to loonies like you we don't have to prove anything. So what about those foiled 50 plots?

     

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  24.  
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    AweSnap (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 9:52pm

    Clapper article...

    This article allegedly about Clapper, is not. Editor please.

     

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  25.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 11:32pm

    Someone should probably make a list of what constitutional rights Americans have not lost at this point. By that I mean any rights the government has not chosen to ignore at any time in the last 30 years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 11:35pm

    Re: What does he have to deny?!

    What is the pay like to be a shill? Do you have to submit a resume, or do you just get down on your knees and open wide.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Re: Wait, hold up a second

    Hopefully the American citizens will bring the "bad guys" i.e. the US government to account soon.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 1:07am

    Re: Re: What does he have to deny?!

    Going by his loud and proud constancy, sounds like the latter.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    me@me.net, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 4:54am

    AT a minimum

    Clapper should be fired for destroying the Government's credibility

    More fittingly he should be arrested for treason.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    cecil, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 7:11am

    spying

    It doesn't say they don't spy based on religion, it says they don't put you at a disadvantage based on your religion. Which essentially indicates they don't discriminate against you in hiring and the like... The actual meaning is totally different than what you are supposed to assume.

     

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  31.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re:

    McCarthy wasn't right. What he was saying was that there was a widespread secret infiltration of the government and industry by soviet moles. While there was certainly the usual spying going on (as Venona revealed), the scope of it wasn't anywhere near what McCarthy was saying. Also, McCarthy was in many cases just making stuff up. The parallel to the cries of terrorism today is very strong.

    At best, McCarthy was a paranoid nutjob. At worst, he was intentionally engaging in fearmongering and deception in order to accomplish other political goals. I suspect the latter is closer tot he truth.

     

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  32.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 8:17am

    Re: What does he have to deny?!

    "He's lied repeatedly on this particular subject and others."

    If this is true, then you shouldn't have any problems providing examples.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 4:09pm

    Re:

    Everyone by now knows the 2000 and 2004 (yes, see the electronic voting boots that left no paper trail and source code was found to be using very simple math to move votes from Kerry to Bush).

    Not that Kerry would have been any better. At least Kerry is able to speak to a crowd and sound sincere unlike that fake texan buffoon.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 4:16pm

    Imagine if they found an example named David Kike...

     

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  35.  
    icon
    JMT (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 5:28pm

    Re: What does he have to deny?!

    "Glenn Greenwald is basically a liar. He's lied repeatedly on this particular subject and others"

    Then provide a list of the lies and your sources. Sounds like it should be pretty easy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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