New York Times: House Defeats Effort to Rein in NSA Data Gathering
Last night, the House of Representatives, in the first Congressional vote related to the disclosures of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, narrowly defeated legislation that would have restricted the NSA's blanket surveillance program that collects the telephone information of tens of millions of Americans. Conservative Republicans teamed up with liberal Democrats to oppose the measure, which lost in a 217-205 vote. The bill, which the Obama administration heavily lobbied against, would have "limited N.S.A. phone surveillance to specific targets of law enforcement investigations, not broad dragnets."
Key Quote: House members pressing to rein in the N.S.A. vowed afterward that the outrage unleashed by Mr. Snowden’s disclosures would eventually put a brake on the agency’s activities. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and a longtime critic of post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism efforts, said lawmakers would keep coming back with legislation to curtail the dragnets for “metadata,” whether through phone records or Internet surveillance.
At the very least, the section of the Patriot Act in question will be allowed to expire in 2015, he said. “It’s going to end — now or later,” Mr. Nadler said. “The only question is when and on what terms.”
Related Articles: Politico, Huffington Post
Los Angeles Times: In Russia, Edward Snowden's Bid to Leave Airport Zone Short-Lived
Several media outlets yesterday reported that Snowden was on the verge of leaving the Moscow airport he has been trapped in for more than a month, as Russian officials were in the process of granting him the necessary papers to officially enter the country. However, a delay stemming from "bureaucratic difficulties" according to Snowden's lawyer has arisen, and the whistleblower remains stuck. Snowden may leave the airport in a matter of days.
Related Article: Politico
ProPublica: NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own Emails
In response to a ProPublica journalist's FOIA request regarding a documentary on the NSA that aired on the National Geographic Channel, the NSA has claimed that it does not have the capability to search its own employees' emails, purportedly because it lacks the technology to do so.
Key Quote: "There's no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately," NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week. The system is “a little antiquated and archaic," she added.
I filed a request last week for emails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period. The TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA and I want to better understand the agency's public-relations efforts.
A few days after filing the request, Blacker called, asking me to narrow my request since the FOIA office can search emails only “person by person," rather than in bulk. The NSA has more than 30,000 employees.
I reached out to the NSA press office seeking more information but got no response.
Jonathan Turley: Snowden is a Whistleblower ... Just Not in the United States
Excellent blog entry by noted constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley criticizing the American mainstream media's acquiescing to the Obama administration's wishes to label Snowden a "leaker" (or worse) rather than a whistleblower, which he clearly is. Turley rightly compares this effort to the Bush administration's successful attempt to popularize the term "enhanced interrogation" rather than "torture."
Key Quote: Putting aside the legality issue, whistleblowers are defined more probably by public interest organizations. For example, The Government Accountability Project, a leading nonprofit handling whistleblowers, defines the term as “an employee who discloses information that s/he reasonably believes is evidence of illegality, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement, abuse of power, general wrongdoing, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Typically, whistleblowers speak out to parties that can influence and rectify the situation. These parties include the media, organizational managers, hotlines, or Congressional members/staff, to name a few.”
Snowden clearly fits that more common definition of whistleblower, even if the government contests the application of statutory protections.
New York Times: WikiLeaks Founder Assange to Run for Australian Senate
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has officially inaugurated a WikiLeaks political party in Australia, and has formally announced his candidacy for the Australian Senate.
Related Article: AFP
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.