Politico: NSA Chief Attributes Calls For Restriction of Government Surveillance on “Sensationalized” Reporting and “Media Leaks”

Gen. Keith Alexander is pictured. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

The leader of the embattled National Security Agency doubled down Wednesday  against calls from Capitol Hill to restrict U.S. government surveillance programs — a campaign  he attributed to “sensationalized” reporting and “media leaks.”

On the same day that key Senate lawmakers pledged to bring new oversight to  the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander mounted a public defense of his agency: He  stressed the intelligence community isn’t “listening to Americans’ phone calls  and reading their emails,” and he urged technology and government leaders to  help “get the facts out” and “get our nation to understand why we need these  tools” in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures.

Speaking at a cybersecurity  conference in Washington, Alexander also commended companies for cooperating  with the federal government, and he made a plea for more power — particularly to  thwart terrorists who have elevated their activities to cyberspace.

“Over 950 people were killed in Kenya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan,” Alexander said at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit, referencing recent  violence in the region, “and we’re discussing more esoteric things here. Why?  Because we’ve stopped the terrorist attacks here.”

“We’ve been fortunate, and it’s not been luck,” the general continued. “It’s  our military that’s out [front], and it’s our intelligence community back here.  They can’t do it without tools. So we’re going to have a debate in this country:  Do we give up those tools? I’m concerned we’ll make the wrong decision.”

Alexander gave the speech before attending a classified meeting with  lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee — whose chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy  (D-Vt.), just this Tuesday called for sweeping changes to the NSA’s surveillance  powers.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other lawmakers later  unveiled their own blueprint for surveillance reform. The package would reform  the secret court that authorizes government surveillance requests while limiting  the NSA’s ability to collect U.S. phone call logs in bulk.

“It is designed to set a high bar and serve as a measure for true  intelligence reform,” Wyden said at a news conference, emphasizing the proposed  legislation is “not cosmetic.”

Alexander heads back to the Hill on Thursday to testify before the Senate  Intelligence Committee, which is exploring the NSA’s data collection and  retention practices under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.  He’ll return again next week for an open session with Leahy’s panel.

Even against those strong political currents, however, Alexander fiercely  defended the NSA’s existing authorities.

The general repeatedly referenced Sept. 11, 2001, saying the intelligence  community had learned from those attacks that it “had to connect the dots.” Alexander pointed to the Boston tragedy and “the threats this summer” as he made  the case for “speed and agility” in intelligence gathering. The NSA leader also  rebuffed charges that his agency had siphoned up mounds of Americans’ personal  data. Pointing to Section 215, the provision in the PATRIOT Act under which the  NSA has sought telephone  call logs in bulk, Alexander emphasized: “There is no content, there  [are] no names, just the numbers. That’s it. That’s all we asked for.”

Alexander also appeared to defend tech companies like Google and Microsoft,  both of which are actively are fighting the federal government to release more  data about government surveillance requests. Speaking only generally about “industry,” Alexander said companies aren’t “driving up to the NSA” and “dumping” data. They’re doing “what the courts are directing them to provide,” Alexander said. “Our industry have taken a beating on this, and it’s wrong.”


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Reason.com: TSA: Bringing Its Watchful, Officious and Useless, Eyes Everywhere in America

Amarand Agasi / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The New York Times notes an annoying trendtoward total police state in America, with “the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short — assigned to perform random security sweeps.”

Yes, what sounds like a second-rate terror-crime cartel that a minor Marvel superhero might be punching out is roaming the land:

With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Not everyone is happy.

T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive….

Civil liberties groups say that the VIPR teams have little to do with the agency’s original mission to provide security screenings at airports and that in some cases their actions amount to warrantless searches in violation of constitutional protections.

Ha, how naive, says TSA—what constitutional protections? Was that a common phrase back in a bygone century? We are living POST 9/11 now, suckers!

T.S.A. officials respond that the random searches are “special needs” or “administrative searches” that are exempt from probable cause because they further the government’s need to prevent terrorist attacks.

Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the T.S.A. has grown to an agency of 56,000 people at 450 American airports. The VIPR teams were started in 2005, in part as a reaction to the Madrid train bombing in 2004 that killed 191 people.

The program now has a $100 million annual budget and is growing rapidly, increasing to several hundred people and 37 teams last year, up from 10 teams in 2008. T.S.A. records show that the teams ran more than 8,800 unannounced checkpoints and search operations with local law enforcement outside of airports last year, including those at the Indianapolis 500 and the Democratic and Republican national political conventions.

The teams, which are typically composed of federal air marshals, explosives experts and baggage inspectors, move through crowds with bomb-sniffing dogs, randomly stop passengers and ask security questions. There is usually a specially trained undercover plainclothes member who monitors crowds for suspicious behavior, said Kimberly F. Thompson, a T.S.A. spokeswoman. Some team members are former members of the military and police forces.

God knows what level of totally normal appalled alarm at these gestapo tactics would seem “suspicious.” But don’t worry. The magic rock is working–no bears!


NBC News: ‘Stop with the napping’: TSA workers caught sleeping on the job

The chairman of a congressional subcommittee on oversight and management efficiency Wednesday called on the Transportation Security Administration to crack down on “the napping, the stealing, the tardiness, and the disrespect” a day after a watchdog’s report revealed a spike in TSA misconduct.

The TSA investigated and closed 9,622 cases of employee misconduct between the years 2010 and 2012, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.

The figure marked a 26 percent increase in misconduct cases in a three-year period.

Thirty-two percent of the cases involved problems with workers showing up for their jobs, according to the report, and 20 percent had to do with security and screening.

The report was released ahead of a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday morning that included representatives from the TSA and GAO.

In one case mentioned in the GAO report, an employee left an assigned checkpoint to help a family member get a bag — later found to contain “numerous prohibited items” — past screening. The employee was suspended for seven days, according to the report.

In another case from January 2012, two former employees of the TSA were sentenced to six months in jail after they admitted to have stolen $40,000 from a bag at John F. Kennedy Airport, NBC New York reported.

Of the more than 9,000 misconduct cases closed by the TSA over the three-year period, nearly half resulted in a letter of reprimand, while employees were suspended in 31 percent of cases, according to the report. Only 17 percent of the employees found to have engaged in misconduct were removed from their jobs.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., the chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and management efficiency, said on Wednesday that a few bad employees contributed to a poor public perception for the agency.

At a House hearing on TSA integrity and misconduct by airport security personnel, Chairman Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., called upon them to “stop with the napping, the stealing, the tardiness, and the disrespect. Earn Americans’ trust and confidence.”

“While I know that there are many thousands of hardworking, dedicated employees working at airports throughout the country, and it’s unfair to generalize to the whole workforce, unfortunately a few bad apples can ruin the bunch,” Duncan said. “These findings are especially hard to stomach since so many Americans todays are sick of being groped, interrogated, and treated like criminals when passing through checkpoints.”

“If integrity is truly a core value, then, TSA, it’s time to prove it. Stop with the napping, the stealing, the tardiness, and the disrespect, and earn America’s trust and confidence,” Duncan said.


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NY Times: The Pros and Cons of a Surveillance Society

Here are three topics much in the news these days: Prism, the surveillance program of the national security agency; the death of Trayvon Martin; and Google Glass and the rise of wearable computers that record everything.

Although these might not seem connected, they are part of a growing move for, or against, a surveillance society.

On one side of this issue we have people declaring that too much surveillance, especially in the form of wearable cameras and computers, is detrimental and leaves people without any privacy in public. On the other side there are people who argue that a society with cameras everywhere will make the world safer and hold criminals more accountable for their actions.

But it leaves us with this one very important question: Do we want to live in a surveillance society that might ensure justice for all, yet privacy for none?

In the case of Mr. Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, the most crucial evidence about how an altercation between the two began — one that ultimately led to Mr. Martin’s death — came down to Mr. Zimmerman’s word.

As the trial showed, eyewitness accounts all differed. One neighbor who was closest to the altercation saw a “lighter-skinned” man on the bottom during a fight that ensued. Two other neighbors believed that Mr. Zimmerman was on top during the fight. One said she saw the man on top walk away after the fight.

Clearly the memory of one or all of those neighbors had been spoiled by time, confusion and adrenaline. But if one of those witnesses — including Mr. Martin or Mr. Zimmerman — had been wearing Google Glass or another type of personal recording device, the facts of that night might have been much clearer.

“Whenever something mysterious happens we ask: ‘Why can’t we hit rewind? Why can’t we go to the database?’” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington. “We want to follow the data trail and know everything that we need to know. The big question is: Who is going to be in control of that recording and data?”

Prism, the highly secretive government program that was brought to light last month by a government whistleblower, is an example of a much larger scale of recording and data. President Obama has defended the government’s spying programs, saying they help in the fight against terrorists and ensure that Americans stay safe.

But critics say it goes too far. Representative James Sensenbrenner, the longtime Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin, compared today’s government surveillance to “Big Brother” from the Geroge Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Michael Shelden, author of “Orwell: The Authorized Biography,” told NPR earlier this month that today’s surveillance society is just like the book.

Orwell, Mr. Shelden said, “could see that war and defeating an enemy could be used as a reason for increasing political surveillance.” He added, “You were fighting a never-ending war that gave you a never-ending excuse for looking into people’s lives.”


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Openmarket.org: DHS Secretary Napolitano Resigns, TSA Body Scanner Scandal Remains Unresolved

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is resigning to become president of the University of California system. Republican politicians such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.) quickly praised Napolitano when news of her resignation broke, with McCain saying she “served our nation with honor” and McCaul touting her as “someone who does not underestimate the threats against us.”

Fortunately, not all Republican members of Congress are as enthusiastic when it comes to America’s bloated and malignant security state. “Secretary Napolitano’s departure comes not a minute too soon,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). “Now is a good time for Congress to consider dismantling the monstrous Department of Homeland Security and replacing it with a smaller security focused entity that is realistically capable of connecting the dots of threats posed to our national security.” Hear, hear, Rep. Mica.

News of Napolitano’s resignation deserves one response from civil libertarians and those in favor of risk-based security policy: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Among other unsavory deeds, for her entire tenure, she allowed the Transportation Security Administration to illegally deploy whole-body imaging scanners in airports. Until a court ordered the TSA in July 2011 to conduct the legally mandated regulatory proceeding, officials at the Department of Homeland Security maintained that such basic lawful administrative procedures were unnecessary and the public had no right to officially comment on the use of the machines. It then took over a year and a half for the TSA to open the regulatory proceeding in March 2013, something it should have done in 2009 before deploying the scanners in the first place.

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NY Daily News: ‘Star Wars’ actor’s light saber cane seized by airport security

Actor Peter Mayhew gets re-acquainted with his alter-ego, the lovable Chewbacca, at the Disney-MGM Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 6, 2003. Mayhew was attending "Star Wars Weekends," the theme park's celebration of the famous Star Wars film saga.  It was recently announced by Lucasfilm Ltd. that Mayhew, who stands 7'3" tall, will again star as the giant Wookiee in the next installment of the Star Wars films. The film is expected to be released in 2005. Mayhew will appear at the Disney-MGM Studios through Sunday, June 8.  NO SALES   REUTERS/HO/Mark Ashman   Original Filename: 5555_345458_DISNEY.jpg

He may have helped pilot the Millennium Falcon, but Chewbacca still can’t get  a break from the TSA.

“Star Wars” star Peter  Mayhew, who played Han Solo’s furry companion in the sci-fi series, had his  light saber-shaped cane confiscated by security agents while attempting to catch  a flight from Denver to Dallas.

“Won’t allow me through the airport with my cane!” the 7 foot 2 inch actor tweeted. “Giant  man need giant cane. Small cane snap like toothpick. Besides, my light saber is  just cool. I’d miss it.”

Luckily, The Sun reports, Mayhew,69, harnessed the power of social  media to pressure agents into allowin him to fly with his space-aged  weapon-looking walking stick.

'Giant man need giant cane. Small cane snap like toothpick. Besides, my light saber is just cool. I'd miss it,' Mayhew tweeted, posting a picture of befuddled-looking security agents assessing his walking stick.

@TheWookieeRoars via Twitter

‘Giant man need giant cane. Small  cane snap like toothpick. Besides, my light saber is just cool. I’d miss it,’  Mayhew tweeted, posting a picture of befuddled-looking security agents assessing  his walking stick.

“American Airlines won’t let me through the airport with me cane!” he  informed his followers. “can I get a retweet?”

Apparently the Wookiee’s fans heard his plea.

“Magic words to TSA are not ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ it’s ‘Twitter,” Mayhew  wrote. “Cane released to go home.”


The Libert Report Take:  Why on earth would the TSA even CONSIDER taking a man’s light saber CANE?  Did they think it was real or dangerous?  As soon as it went viral over Twitter they “decided” to let him have it back…. hmmmm…….

Below is a link to the article and a photo of this hazardous cane.  Peter, may the force be with you.


Peter Mayhew poses on the red carpet with Harrison Ford and his signature 'Star Wars' cane.

The Washington Post: Senate panel approves immigration changes requiring fingerprint system at 30 U.S. airports

Every immigrant leaving the United States through one of the 30 biggest airports would have to be fingerprinted by federal authorities under an immigration reform measure that won early committee approval in the Senate on Monday.

The plan approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a concession to Republicans and some Democrats who support establishing a nationwide biometric tracking system at all U.S. air, sea and land ports of entry, a key recommendation made by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to track potential terrorists entering or leaving the country.

The committee rejected a similar GOP proposal last week that would have forced the Department of Homeland Security to establish a biometric immigration tracking system at every U.S. air, sea and land port of entry. The committee’s Democrats and the four members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who wrote the immigration bill and sit on the panel said such a plan would be too expensive.

But bipartisan negotiators sought a compromise after Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) — a key GOP member of the “Gang of Eight” — said he supports the concept of a nationwide biometric system and would fight for the proposal once the immigration bill reaches the full Senate.

Under the new agreement sponsored by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), DHS would need to establish a fingerprint tracking system at the nation’s 10 largest international airports within two years of the bill’s approval. The program would expand to the next 20 largest international airports within six years.


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