The Conversation

Obama's Digital Panopticon: Obama's Digital Panopticon

U.S. government to relinquish oversight of Internet addresses

Mar 14, 2014 9:07 PM PT

The U.S. government is going to surrender its oversight role over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) sometime in late 2015, according to an announcement on Friday evening.  ICANN is the organization that sets up Web addresses, converting those easily-remembered "dot-com" website names into the numbers used internally by Internet browsers.  Everyone agrees the end of American stewardship is historic, but opinions on the wisdom of the move, and its ramifications for Internet users, vary widely.

Today's announcement seems to have taken the tech industry by surprise, although a formal separation between the U.S. government and ICANN has been discussed ever since the corporation's inception in 1998.  Those who support a "global model" for ICANN say it's a sign of the Internet's maturity that American oversight will no longer be required.  Naturally, some other governments resent the special role played by the United States as godfather of the Internet.

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Youth Vote? Obama Quick Hits NSA Snooping in Galifianakis Interview

Mar 12, 2014 5:38 AM PT

Obama appeared on Zach Galifianakis' web show "Between Two Ferns" presumably to pitch his ill-performing health care program.  The President managed to offer a quick quip on the NSA surveillance dragnet revealed by Edward Snowden.  

During the six minute + Obamacare commercial interview, Obama encouraged the target demographic audience to sign up for his healthcare program.  Galifianakis followed up and asked how he can sign up without a computer. Obama offered a phone number to call to which Galifianakis responds: 

Galifianakis: Oh, I don't have a phone, I'm off the grid, I don't want you people like, looking at my texts. Know what I mean?

Obama: First of all, Zach, nobody's interested in your texts. But second of all, you can do it in person, and the law means that insurers can't discriminate against you if you've got a preexisting condition anymore.

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NSA Seeks to Expand Database

Feb 27, 2014 2:46 AM PT

Yesterday, the NSA asked the surveillance court for permission to retain millions of phone records beyond the five-year limit currently imposed on the agency.  The DOJ argued that they need to retain the data as "evidence" because of the privacy lawsuits filed after Edward Snowden revealed the administration's digital dragnet. 

Currently, the FISA court requires records to be destroyed after 5 years.  The agency only collects phone numbers, call times, and duration of calls.  They claim they do not have any contents of call conversations.

...the Justice Department said the government has a "duty to preserve" the phone records that overrides other obligations. The government said it would preserve the data in a format that prevents NSA analysts from accessing it.

"The United States must ensure that all potentially relevant evidence is retained," the Justice Department wrote.

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House Intel Chair Suggests Glenn Greenwald Selling Snowden NSA Docs

Feb 5, 2014 4:53 AM PT

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rodgers accused journalist Glenn Greenwald of selling the material Edward Snowden removed from NSA servers.  The accusations came during a House hearing on global threats to the United States. 

“For personal gain, he’s now selling his access to information, that’s how they’re terming it…. A thief selling stolen material is a thief,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) told journalists after a hearing where the leaks set in motion by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. were a major topic of discussion.

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New Obamacare Ads Hope to Attract Young Women by Featuring Pets

Feb 4, 2014 5:44 AM PT

A multimillion dollar Obamacare advertising campaign will feature cats, dogs, and other pets in the hopes that young women will be lured into signing up for Obamacare. USA Today is reporting that Enroll America is launching the ads. 

Enroll America President Anne Filipic told USA Today the pet-themed ads are designed to "help break through the clutter." She cited statistics showing that more than 60 percent of American homes have a pet and that most female pet owners would risk their lives for their pets.

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Tech Firms Release Details on NSA Snooping Requests

Feb 4, 2014 4:22 AM PT

On Monday, the nation's largest tech companies began releasing data on the NSA's requests for customer information.  The data shows that the government requested information on thousands of Americans. 

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tumbler were allowed to reveal the government's requests on account of a deal they made via a legal deal from the government. 

The figures from 2012 and 2013 showed that companies such as Google and Microsoft were compelled by the government to provide information on as many as 10,000 customer accounts in a six-month period. Yahoo complied with government requests for information on more than 40,000 accounts in the same period.

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Rand: GOP Could Lure Young Voters with Strong Stand Against NSA Snooping

Feb 2, 2014 5:10 AM PT

At an event in Hot Springs Arkansas last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said that the GOP could attract young voters to the party by focusing on issues related to privacy violations of the NSA.  His message to the crowd was smart: a younger tech-raised generation has an interest in tech issues, the GOP ought to come out strong in favor of protecting civil liberties. 

"We need young people in the party. The president won the youth vote three to one," Paul said. "Since we've had the different spying scandals, I think if there were a Republican who stood up for privacy, who stood up for the Fourth Amendment, I think the young people will come back to us."

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RNC Passes Resolution to Restrict NSA Snooping

Jan 27, 2014 5:37 AM PT

The RNC has passed a resolution to restrict the National Security Agency's data-mining dragnet.  During the winter meeting of the RNC last week, the committee approved a measure that would form a special committee to “to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying” and to develop recommendations to end “unconstitutional surveillance” and hold officials responsible for the snooping "accountable."

"The Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state-secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records, and correspondence—electronic, physical, and otherwise—of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court."

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DOJ Claims Fraud Against Firm that Vetted Snowden

Jan 23, 2014 5:25 AM PT

United States Investigations Services (USIS) is the private firm that vets individuals who are seeking government employment.  According to court filings, the Justice Department has accused the firm of "bilking millions of dollars through improper background checks." USIS is the firm who vetted Edward Snowden; they have had a contract with the U.S. government since 1996 vetting applicants for federal jobs. 

The original claim was brought by Blake Percival in 2011 under the False Claims Act that allows people to collect reward money for whistleblowing on fraud against the government. Percival's claim alleges USIS did not perform quality control on their investigations. 

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House Committee Chairs: Snowden Did Not Act Alone

Jan 20, 2014 4:56 AM PT

Yesterday on ABC's "This Week" Rep. Mike McCaul said that Edward Snowden was not acting alone in when he leaked intelligence secrets about NSA surveillance gathering. McCaul is the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. 

Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he doesn't think that Snowden woke up one day and had the "wherewithal to do this all by himself," he said on ABC's "This Week."

"He was helped by others," McCaul said.

"I personally believe that he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did," he said.

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Activists Want to Cut Utilities to Utah's NSA Data-Snooping Center

Jan 9, 2014 6:01 AM PT

Among the various attempts to push back against the NSA's data dragnet, is one group who is taking it to the next level.  The Tenth Amendment Center is trying to get a law passed called the Fourth Amendment Protection Act "which would go as far as barring the provision of water to the NSA's $1.5 billion computing center in Bluffdale, Utah."  

The law has at least one Utah lawmaker supporting their efforts, according the the organization. 

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NSA Spying on Members of Congress Too

Jan 5, 2014 4:26 AM PT

On Friday January 3, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter to the National Security Agency asking if "the agency has monitored the phone calls, emails and Internet traffic of members of Congress and other elected officials."  The agency responded on Saturday with a statement essentially admitting that they do. 

NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.

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NSA to Build Quantum Computer to Crack Encryption

Jan 3, 2014 4:04 AM PT

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal a $79.7M government program titled "Penetrating Hard Targets" designed to build a "a cryptologically useful quantum computer" to crack encrypted data.  A quantum computer is exponentially faster for cracking the codes used to protected data from interception.

Snowden's documents indicate that the government is no closer to building a quantum computer than physicists and scientists in academe or the private sector. 

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Snowden and the Hero/Villain complex

Jan 2, 2014 7:56 AM PT

In response to NYT to Obama: Stop Vilification of Edward Snowden:

Maybe it was inevitable we would watch our hybrid news media/pop culture/political engine choke on Edward Snowden.  He's got to be either a Hero or a Villain, and while the media is usually reflexive in painting leakers and saboteurs of the Military-Industrial Complex as Heroes (sometimes tragic or conflicted heroes), in this case that would make Barack Obama the Villain, and he can't be the Villain, because he is the ultimate pedestal-mounted 100%-varnish-free Hero of the media culture.  They'd really like to blame the rise of the surveillance state on George Bush, but there's no way to do that while Obama is energetically defending his expansion of it, and insisting that no mistakes have been made.  

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NYT to Obama: Stop Vilification of Edward Snowden

Jan 2, 2014 2:50 AM PT

The New York Times has published a opinion piece, arguing that Edward Snowden should be recognized as a whistle-blower and asking President Obama "to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home."

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.

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ACLU Sues for Disclosure of Surveillance Executive Order

Dec 31, 2013 6:09 AM PT

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the US Government yesterday to force disclosure of the executive order dealing with electronic surveillance.  The suit relates to executive order 12333 that governs surveillance of foreign entities. 

Under the order, the National Security Administration is collecting "vast quantities" of data globally under the order's authority, "inevitably" including communications of U.S. citizens, the lawsuit said.

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NSA Hijacks Computer Shipments, Installs Spyware in 'Secret Workshops'

Dec 30, 2013 4:11 AM PT

Yesterday, Spiegel Online revealed details about an elite hacking unit at the National Security Agency called  Tailored Access Operations (TAO).  The Agency not only uses fancy high-tech tricks to get information from it's targets on the digital front, it also uses more traditional spying methods.  "If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops."

Once the technology is successfully acquired, "agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer."

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Justifying power or defending liberty

Dec 27, 2013 11:40 AM PT

We now have two equally potent court rulings about NSA meta-surveillance on the books.  Unfortunately, they're complete and total opposites of each other, drawing exactly the opposite conclusions from very similar arguments.  In D.C., Judge Richard Leon said the controversial surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden were unconstitutional violations of the Fourth Amendment, in part because they violated the privacy of Americans without much in the way of due process, and the government could make no compelling case that meta-data surveillance (basically, painting a picture of your activities by reviewing the use of your cell phone) was either vital or demonstrably effective as a terror-fighting tool.  

But then in New York, Judge William H. Pauley said the exact opposite: there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for cell phone metadata, because (unlike the content of the actual phone calls) the activity logs are actually the property of cell phone providers, not the end users.  Pauley didn't seem to think the government had to offer a strong case for the effectiveness of the program to pass Constitutional muster; on the contrary, he thought the arguments against the program largely amounted to what-if scenarios.

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Judge Upholds NSA Phone Snooping Program

Dec 27, 2013 10:12 AM PT

Today, a judge ruled that the NSA surveillance program that collects millions of American's phone calls is "lawful." The case was brought by the ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union et al v. Clapper et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-03994

In his ruling, U.S District Judge Willian Pauley described how the government program  "vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States." But went on to say that the program's constitutionality "is ultimately a question of reasonableness," and that there was no evidence that the government had used "bulk telephony metadata" for any reason other than to investigate and disrupt terrorist attacks.

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VIDEO Edward Snowden Christmas Message: End Mass Surveillance

Dec 25, 2013 6:34 AM PT

Edward Snowden delivered Channel 4's "Alternative Christmas Message" today, urging the the end of mass surveillance.  The message was filmed from Russia, where he has temporary asylum. Below is the transcript:

Hi, and Merry Christmas. I'm honored to have the chance to speak with you and your family this year. 

Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance, watching everything we do.

Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book -- microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us -- are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go.

Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves -- an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together, we can find a better balance. End mass surveillance. And remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.

For everyone out there listening, thank you, and Merry Christmas.

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Snowden to Give UK Channel 4 'Alternative Christmas Address'

Dec 24, 2013 8:40 AM PT

Edward Snowden will deliver the "Alternative Christmas Address" on Britain's Channel 4.  In the past, the address was given by figures such as Ali G and Sharon Osborne.  The "Alternative Christmas Address" is the channel's answer to the Queen's message to the country.

Snowden will say "Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person."

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Obama Pushes Obamacare at Tech Giant Meeting

Dec 18, 2013 3:40 AM PT

Yesterday's meeting between Obama and America's tech giants was co-opted by the President, who used the meeting to flack  for Obamacare. 

The meeting was held with more than a dozen tech company honchos and the list of attendees is a roster of the largest, most influential companies: Apple, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Comcast and Etsy were present. 

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Federal Judge Rules NSA Phone Snooping Probably Unconstitutional

Dec 16, 2013 12:24 PM PT

On Monday a Federal Judge ruled that the National Security Agency's telephone snooping operation is probably unconstitutional.  U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizures. 

The judge also said the Department of Justice failed to demonstrate that the snooping had helped stop terrorist attacks. 

"I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval," wrote Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

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Sources: Extent of Snowden Leaks May Never Be Known

Dec 15, 2013 4:54 AM PT

Senior government officials are saying that the extent of Edward Snowden's intelligence leaks may never be known.  Snowden fled the US after removing classified documents from government computers, subsequently leaking documents showing an alarming level of domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. 

Investigators remain in the dark about the extent of the data breach partly because the N.S.A. facility in Hawaii where Mr. Snowden worked — unlike other N.S.A. facilities — was not equipped with up-to-date software that allows the spy agency to monitor which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time.

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NSA Uses Google Tracking Cookies to Spy on Potential Targets

Dec 11, 2013 3:01 AM PT

A new information leak from Edward Snowden reveals that the NSA is using Google's tracking cookies to identify targets for government hacking. The Washington Post reports that Snowden's documents "show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations."

These tracking cookies allow a website to identify a user's browser, but do not contain any personal information.  "This cookie allows NSA to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer."

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Tech Companies Unite, Push Back on NSA Surveillance

Dec 9, 2013 8:24 AM PT

America's tech giants have joined forces to ask the Obama administration to reign in the scope of government surveillance. In a letter published today, the tech companies write they "believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information."

The letter is signed by AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo and urges "the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight."

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NSA: Snowden May Have Leaked 200,000 Classified Documents

Nov 15, 2013 10:50 AM PT

According to remarks by NSA Director General Keith Alexander, Edward Snowden may have shared as many as 200,000 classified documents with media sources.  

At a speech on foreign affairs in Baltimore last month, Alexander was asked about measures the United States was taking against further leaks by Snowden. Alexander responded:

"I wish there was a way to prevent it. Snowden has shared somewhere between 50 (thousand) and 200,000 documents with reporters. These will continue to come out," Alexander said.

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Report: Obama to Replace NSA Head with Civilian

Nov 11, 2013 5:23 AM PT

Amid criticisms of the National Security Agency's domestic snooping operations, the White House is considering appointing a civilian to head the agency. An official told the Hill that a list of civilian candidates has been drafted for the position.

General Keith Alexander, the current head of the agency, plans to step down from the position next spring.  Since its creation in 1952, the agency has always had a military officer at the helm.  

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Gore: Snowden Revealed 'Crimes Against US Constitution'

Nov 7, 2013 6:06 AM PT

In a speech on Tuesday evening, Former Vice President and internet inventor Al Gore said that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the US Constitution." 

During a speech at McGill University, Gore described the NSA snooping operation as "outrageous" and "completely unacceptable."  He had previously described the NSA's surveillance as not "really the American way."

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Google Turns on the NSA

Nov 4, 2013 7:23 AM PT

Google's chairman Eric Schmidt ripped into the NSA after reports surfaced that the NSA was spying on Google's data center. 

"It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true. The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people's privacy, it's not OK," Mr. Schmidt told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. "The Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it's perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come."

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It Just Keeps Getting Worse For Obamacare's Web Roll Out

Oct 16, 2013 6:32 AM PT

 You know it must be really bad for Obama, when his own Democratic Party head honcho-ette is talking smack about the failed Obamacare website "roll out."

Clearly, the roll out of the website and people’s ease of getting on to the website, has been a bit of a struggle, and that needs to be fixed, they are working on that aggressively. I think the good news is that the website was designed for fewer people that actually logged on, we had exponential interest- the website had some challenges handling that through their servers. -Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) 

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Week Later, Signing Up for ObamaCare Still Impossible

Oct 8, 2013 10:56 AM PT

While my conscience will not allow me to actually sign up for ObamaCare, I am curious about what the process will be like and am even more interested in what my health insurance costs will be. Rather than jump in on day one, I waited a week after the launch to give it a test drive. Incredibly, a full week after the launch, I still can't set up an account much less get anywhere near the point where quotes would be made available.

Yesterday, I tried four times to set up an account and this is as far as I got:

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NSA Scandal Hurting Tech Industry Bottom Line

Aug 27, 2013 8:00 AM PT

American tech companies are feeling the consequences of recently revealed information concerning the extent of NSA's surveillance operations.  

An industry group, the Cloud Security Alliance said last month that 10 percent of its non-US members have cancelled a contract with a US-based cloud provider, and 56 percent said they were less likely to use an American company.

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Report: NSA Spied on the U.N.

Aug 26, 2013 1:35 AM PT

Der Spiegel is reporting that the NSA was spying on the United Nations New York headquarters and embassies around the world, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. 

"The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!)," read one document, according to a report in Reuters. NSA operatives cracked that system in summer 2012, and "within three weeks the number of decoded communications rose to 458 from 12."

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NSA Employees Spied on Love Interests

Aug 25, 2013 5:14 AM PT

On several occasions, National Security Officers have used their access at the agency to spy on their love interests U.S officials said.  It may not a be frequent occurance, but it has it's own name LOVEINT.  (LOVEINT is short for Love Intelligence.)

Last week reports indicated that the NSA had violated privacy rules on nearly 3,000 occasions.  NSA compliance officer John DeLong told reporters that there have been a "couple" instances of willful violations but did not have exact figures. 

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NSA Snooping Costs Obama Youth Vote

Aug 21, 2013 3:10 AM PT

According to a new poll, the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs are costing Obama the youth vote. Since Edward Snowden revealed the NSA snooping dragnet, there has a been a "double digit drop" in Obama's approval rating among younger voters.  

Polling taken by the Economist and YouGov finds a 14-point swing in Obama’s approval and disapproval rating among voters aged 18-29 in surveys taken immediately before the NSA revelations and last week. Overall, the swing in Obama’s approval rating moves just four points.

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Obama Asks SCOTUS for Warrantless Cellphone Searches

Aug 20, 2013 4:22 AM PT

Last week, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to rule that the Fourth Amendment allows for warrant-less cell phone searches.  The administration filed a petition asking the SCOTUS to hear a 2007 case in which information was retrieved from a cell phone that was used to obtain evidence against the defendant. 

The defendant was subsequently convicted but upon appeal argued that the information obtained from his phone was a Fourth Amendment violation since it was obtained without a warrant. The First Circuit Court accepted this argument.  

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White House Denies Involvement in Detainment of Greenwald's Partner

Aug 20, 2013 4:07 AM PT

Yesterday, the White House denied involvement with the British government's detainment of David Miranda at Heathrow airport. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the decision to detain Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald in Brazil, was "a law enforcement action that was taken by the British government."

Earnest did say that the United States was given a "heads-up" by the British government but that it was a "a decision they made on their own."

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WH Tried to Interfere with WaPo's NSA Story

Aug 16, 2013 11:00 AM PT

The Washington Post's article detailing the fourth amendment abuses by the NSA got some push back from the administration who attempted to "edit" the article before publication.   The internal audit referenced in the article was obtained by the WaPo from Edward Snowden.  The details of the audit indicated repeated and growing privacy violations by the NSA, violations which included obtaining thousands of American citizen's communications records and using methods of information collection that were later deemed unconstitutional by a court.

The Post was able to interview John Delong, NSA director of compliance for the article and they were initially informed "DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted 'by name and title' on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review."  However, the WH subsequently changed their minds.  The Washington Post included the following statement with their article:

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NSA Violates Privacy Rules Thousands of Times per Year

Aug 16, 2013 5:09 AM PT

According to an internal audit, the National Security Agency has violated privacy rules and overstepped its authority thousands of time each year. The Washington Post obtained the internal audit documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden. 

"Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls."

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Obama Exposed In Two Sentences

Aug 11, 2013 12:27 PM PT
Obama is not a tough guy, he is the weenie on the schoolyard who lost before the fight started. Now he has position and power and he is going to get even. This sentence extra: How many of you know someone like him?

Official: FBI Can Remotely Activate Your Android Phone, Laptops to Record Conversations

Aug 4, 2013 4:19 AM PT

An ex-FBI official reports the agency can remotely activate the microphone in your android phone and record your conversations.  They can also do the same with your laptops.  The claims were made in a Wall Street Journal article publihed yesterday. 

With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.'s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment.

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