Tag Archives: leaks

NSA FOIA requests explode in months since Snowden leaks began

By SB Anderson

Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the National Security Agency have boomed since Edward Snowden began leaking top-secret documents in June.

An internal document released last week to MuckRock showed 3,382 FOIA requests between June 6 and Sept, 14 of this year — nearly 12 times the 293 filed in that same period a year ago.

The requests have leveled off somewhat from earlier in the summer when the first media leaks appeared, although they continue to be much higher than normal. For perspective, for all of FY12 we received only 1809 requests,” the NSA said in its memo.

Change in NSA FOIA Requests

Fissures in support for the Surveillance State

By SB Anderson

Last week all but certainly will be looked back at as a watershed week in shifting support for the Surveillance State by not only U.S. citizens, but members of Congress.

For those who’ve been in eyes-half-open mode because it’s Summer and want to catch up, The New York Times today has a must-read on the politics and cross-party partnerships behind last week’s surprising oh-so-close vote in the House that would have killed funding for the National Security Administration’s telephone data collection, exposed by Edward Snowden.

Two quotes that stand out:

“There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here.”

“The time has come to stop it, and the way we stop it is to approve this amendment.”

The first, from U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who is helping craft a bill “to significantly rein in N.S.A. telephone surveillance,” the NYT story says.

The second is from someone who was a force behind the Patriot Act and who is helping Lofgren on that bill. — U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. His very brief (and unexpected) remarks — seven sentences — before the House vote last week were seen as pivotal.

Govt Anti-Terror PoliciesMeantime, new research data shows the opinion shift among Americans. Almost half of those polled from July 17-21 said their “greater concern about government anti-terrorism policies is that they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Friday.

That was a 15-point jump since 2010, when the question was last asked. “This is the first time a plurality has expressed greater concern about civil liberties than security since the question was first asked in 2004.”

Nearly 3 in 5 of those adults surveyed — 56% — said courts aren’t providing the safety net needed for government data collection. “An even larger percentage (70%) believes that the government uses this data for purposes other than investigating terrorism,” Pew said.

Politically, a clear lean toward more support for civil liberties vs. national security since 2010 is pretty much across the board, as the chart below shows. Particularly noteworthy is the shift in the civil liberties v. national security view by Tea Party Republicans.

For the media, the public remains divided over how aggressive journalists should be in reporting on secret methods used to fight terrorism — 47% yes, 47% no. That’s the same as 2006. However, there has been a partisan shift, as Republicans now are much more supportive of an aggressive media role (+17 points), while Democrats have retreated (-14 points). See chart below.

In a column today, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, whose release of Snowden’s inside information along with the Washington Post detonated the current NSA and civil liberties controversy, took note of the shift in the Venn diagram of civil liberties and national security that Pew’s survey revealed.

As I’ve repeatedly said, the only ones defending the NSA at this point are the party loyalists and institutional authoritarians in both parties. That’s enough for the moment to control Washington outcomes – as epitomized by the unholy trinity that saved the NSA in the House last week: Pelosi, John Bohener and the Obama White House – but it is clearly not enough to stem the rapidly changing tide of public opinion.

(Note: If you’re interested, Pew has details on how it conducted its survey).

Chilling ruling for journalists

By SB Anderson

A federal appeals court today said New York Times reporter James Risen is not shielded by reporters’ privilege and must testify whether a former CIA official was a source for his book.

“There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source,” the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA said.

A lower court had blocked the government from asking Risen to confirm that Jeffrey Sterling was a source for his book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” Sterling has been charged under the Espionage Act, accused of leaking secrets.

In a dissent on the privilege issue, Judge Roger Gregory wrote he found it “sad” that the court had veered from precedent. He continued:

“Under the majority’s articulation of the reporter’s privilege, or lack thereof, absent a showing of bad faith by the government, a reporter can always be compelled against her will to reveal her confidential sources in a criminal trial. The majority exalts the interests of the government while unduly trampling those of the press, and in doing so, severely impinges on the press and the free flow of information in our society. The First Amendment was designed to counteract the very result the majority reaches today.”

Just yesterday, Risen’s lawyer Joel Kurtzberg wrote to the appeals court to say that new Justice Department guidelines on the media exempt from Risen from testifying, NPR reported.

Kurtzberg this morning told the New York Times, “We are disappointed by and disagree with the court’s decision. We are currently evaluating our next steps.”

Steven Aftergood, who writes the Secrecy News blog, wrote this morning that the ruling has “ominous implications for national security reporting.”

He noted that there is “a permanent tension, if not an irreconcilable conflict, between a free press and the operations of national security. The tension can be managed by the exercise of prudent self-restraint on both sides. . . .But the tension can also be exacerbated, as in the present case, perhaps to a breaking point.”

Read the Ruling (PDF) | Bloomberg Story | Aftergood Story | NY Times Story

Worth a watch: good session on whistleblowers

By SB Anderson

There was a pretty good panel discussion a few weeks ago at the American Society of News Editors conference in Washington on whistleblowers. The archive has been posted and you can watch it below.

Here’s who you’ll see and hear in the session on “The Government vs. the Press:”

  • Kathleen Carroll, Associated Press executive editor
  • James Rosen, Fox News chief Washington correspondent/host of Foxhole
  • Thomas Drake, National Security Agency senior employee turned whistle-blower (his prosecution under the Espionage Act collapsed in 2011)
  • Moderator Marty Baron, The Washington Post executive editor

Journalists discuss impact of Justice Department’s grab of AP phone records

By SB Anderson

The Medill Watchdog interviewed a number of journalists last week, including Ellen Shearer and Josh Meyer of the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, about the impact of the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records from the Associated Press. It is believed authorities wanted the phone records as part of an investigation into AP coverage of a CIA operation in Yemen.