The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 23, 2013

U.S. releases more on surveillance origins

WASHINGTON — The director of national intelligence on Saturday declassified more documents that outline how the National Security Agency was first authorized to start collecting bulk phone and Internet records in the hunt for al-Qaida terrorists and how a court eventually gained oversight of the program.

The declassification came after the Justice Department complied with a federal court order to release its previous legal arguments for keeping the programs secret.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained in a statement Saturday that President George W. Bush first authorized the spying in October 2001, as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, just after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush disclosed the program in 2005. The Terrorist Surveillance Program — which had to be extended every 30-60 days by presidential order — eventually was replaced by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that requires a secret court to approve the bulk collection.

Clapper also released federal court documents from successive intelligence directors arguing to keep the programs secret, after a California judge this fall ordered the administration to declassify whatever details already had been revealed as part of the White House’s campaign to justify the NSA surveillance. Former agency contractor Edward Snowden first made the surveillance programs public in leaks to the media.

A senior intelligence official Saturday confirmed that the documents were released as part of two long-running class-actions cases against the NSA in California. The official said that at the judge’s direction the administration reviewed prior declarations in order to relate information that is no longer classified and determined what could be released. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to describe the court case by name.

President Barack Obama hinted Friday that he would consider some changes to NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records to address the public’s concern about privacy. His comments came in a week in which a federal judge declared the NSA’s collection program is probably unconstitutional, and a presidential advisory panel suggested 46 changes to NSA operations.

The judge said there was little evidence any terror plot had been thwarted by the program, known as Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The advisory panel recommended continuing the program but requiring a court order for each NSA search of the phone records database, and keeping that database in the hands of a third party — not the government. Obama said he would announce his decisions in January.

“There has never been a comprehensive government release ... that wove the whole story together — the  timeline of authorizing the programs and the gradual transition to (court) oversight,” said Mark Rumold, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group suing the NSA to reveal more about the bulk records programs. “Everybody knew that happened, but this is the first time I’ve seen the government confirm those twin aspects.”

That unexpected windfall of disclosures early Saturday came along with the release of documents outlining why releasing the information would hurt national security. The U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California in the fall had ordered the Obama administration to make public the documents, known as state secrets declarations.

The Justice Department issued the declarations late Friday in the two class-action cases: Shubert v. Bush, now known as Shubert v. Obama, on behalf of Verizon customers; and Jewel v. NSA, on behalf of AT&T customers.

Calls to the Justice Department were not answered.

“In September, the federal court in the Northern District of California ... ordered the government to go back through all the secret ex-parte declarations and declassify and release as much as they could, in light of the Snowden revelations and government confirmations,” Rumold said. “So what was released late last night was in response to that court order.”

In one such legal argument, former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair in 2009 told the court that revealing information — including how information was collected, whether specific individuals were being spied upon and what the programs had revealed about al-Qaida — could damage the hunt for terrorists.

“To do so would obviously disclose to our adversaries that we know of their plans and how we may be obtaining information,” Blair said. Much of his 27-page response is redacted.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 22, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 21, 2014

  • James Garner Obit.jpg 'Maverick' star James Garner, 86, dies in California

     Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western "Maverick" led to a stellar career in TV and films such as "The Rockford Files" and his Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance," has died, police said. He was 86.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Given life term, drug offender hopes for clemency

    From the very start, Scott Walker refused to believe he would die in prison.
    Arrested and jailed at 25, then sent to prison more than two years later, Walker couldn’t imagine spending his life behind bars for dealing drugs. He told himself this wasn’t the end, that someday he’d be released. But the years passed, his appeals failed and nothing changed.

    July 20, 2014

  • Teen’s death puts focus on caffeine powder dangers

    A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
    But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

  • For Obama, foreign crises grow more challenging

    Surveying a dizzying array of international crises, President Barack Obama stated the obvious: “We live in a complex world and at a challenging time.”
    And then suddenly, only a day later, the world had grown much more troubling, the challenges even more confounding.

    July 20, 2014

  • U.S.: Can’t rule out Russian role in plane downing

    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that the United States cannot rule out that Russia helped in the launch of the surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

    July 19, 2014

  • Clinton papers: Of Iraq, bin Laden and Supreme Court

    President Bill Clinton’s advisers carefully considered how to explain the president’s military action against Iraq in 1998 as the House was debating his impeachment, according to records from the Clinton White House that were released Friday. The documents also touch upon Osama bin Laden, consideration of military action in Haiti in 1994 and preparationsfor Supreme Court nomination hearings.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads