World Affairs Brief, January 12, 2017 Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World.
Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen’s World Affairs Brief (http://www.worldaffairsbrief.com).
This Week’s Analysis:
Trump Disappoints Supporters Again on Immigration
North Korea’s Charm Offensive
Bundy Trial Dismissed with Prejudice
House Fails to Rein in NSA Surveillance of Phone Calls
Preparedness Tip: Maximize Your Fuel Economy
HOUSE FAILS TO REIN IN NSA SURVEILLANCE OF PHONE CALLS
On a vote of 183-233. The House of Representatives voted to renew NSA authority to spy on all domestic phone calls and rejected a powerful amendment by Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash of Michigan—one of the nation’s best Congressmen defending liberty.
Stupidly, his amendment was opposed by the Trump administration. As The Hill.com pointed out,
Just a few hours before the vote, President Trump roiled the waters by sending out a tweet that appeared to contradict his own administration’s opposition to the changes, which were offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.).
“House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.” This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” Trump tweeted.
Of course NSA surveillance was used against Trump, but he appears to have gone along with his advisors’ support of the bill for some unknown reason. This may well have been a case where Trump is so busy fighting media brush fires that he doesn’t spend the time to study what his administration is doing.
The White House had said it supported the underlying surveillance bill but strongly opposed Amash’s amendment. Trump later clarified that he “has personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land.”
But that’s what the Amash amendment does—not the bill. Apparently, Trump got snookered by advisors satisfying his objections to “unmasking” and thought the entire bill stops the NSA from surveiling domestic phone calls. It does no such thing.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to swiftly take up and pass the measure before the surveillance program expires on January 19.
At issue is a law passed in 2008 — known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — that allows the NSA to collect texts and emails of foreigners abroad without an individualized warrant, even when they communicate with Americans in the U.S.
The entire FISA law is a sham that gives the appearance of following the 4th Amendment. In fact, only a tiny fraction of surveillance goes before the secret FISA court in order to obtain a warrant—and usually only when the government wants to prosecute someone. Ironically, they often use evidence derived from illegal surveillance to justify the warrant and the judges never challenge the source.
Let’s take a look at the Amash-Conyers amendment to see why the Deep State didn’t want it:
The Amash-Conyers amendment—and only the Amash-Conyers amendment—ends the indiscriminate collection of those records. The amendment limits the government’s collection of records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act to those records that pertain to a person who is subject to an investigation under that provision.
How Sec. 215 surveillance works: The Patriot Act’s Sec. 215 (50 U.S.C. § 1861) authorizes the government to collect “tangible things” that are “relevant” to an authorized national security investigation.
We now know that NSA used Sec. 215 to collect metadata on every phone call that every American has made, reportedly over the last seven years. That metadata includes numbers dialed, numbers of incoming calls, times of the calls, and routing information. Many Members who voted for the Patriot Act, including the past chairman of the law’s authorizing committee, have stated that NSA’s blanket surveillance program is far beyond what was intended in the law.
Note: they also collect all the content along with the metadata, but primarily use the metadata to create profiles on every person in the world showing all their metadata connections to everyone they talk to and all their financial dealings. This massive data connection map on every person also links bank, tax and credit card records so that in an instant that metadata can point to any content the government wants to view. This is part of the Trailblazer NSA software that NSA whistleblower William Binney revealed—which I covered in last week’s WAB.
Pursuant to Sec. 215 and at the request of the government, the FISA court routinely enters 90-day orders to telecommunications providers like Verizon to turn over to the government all call detail records or “telephony metadata” for calls within the U.S., including purely local calls. The FISA court approves the procedures that the administration says it will impose on itself to limit its own access to the data.
The administration has not provided a public explanation as to how the telephone records of all Americans are “relevant” to a national security investigation. Similarly, Sec. 215 is silent as to how the government may use these records once it has obtained them.
What the Amash-Conyers amendment does: The Amash-Conyers amendment ends NSA’s blanket collection of Americans’ telephone records. It does this by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation.
The amendment has three important practical effects. First, it ends the mass surveillance of Americans. The government no longer is authorized under Sec. 215 to hold a pool of metadata on every phone call of every American. Second, the amendment permits the government to continue to acquire business records and other “tangible things” that are actually related to an authorized counterterrorism investigation. The government still has access to this tool under the amendment, but it’s forced to comply with the intent of Congress when it passed Sec. 215. Third, the amendment imposes more robust judicial oversight of NSA’s surveillance. The FISA court will be involved every time NSA searches Americans’ records, and the court will have a substantive, statutory standard to apply to make sure the NSA does not violate Americans’ civil liberties.
In reality, the amendment would only end the legal authorization for the surveillance. I am certain the NSA wouldn’t stop. They were gathering all this information well before the Patriot Act.