< A Busy Week In the Security State


Friday, August 02, 2013

BOB GARFIELD:  Gee whiz, what a whirlwind of activity this week surrounding the nation’s incredible definitely not shrinking security apparatus. A big verdict in the Bradley Manning case, new revelations on NSA domestic spying, a reporter compelled to burn confidential sources, you name it. But depending on which cluster of news stories you focused on, it was hard to tell if the country is re-embracing basic civil liberties or heading deeper down the rabbit hole in the direction of the security state. In a week of mixed signals, there was most prominently the Bradley Manning verdict.

MALE CORRESPONDENT:  Now, Manning was convicted in the biggest leak of classified documents in US history.

MALE CORRESPONDENT:  The judge deliberated for 16 hours and read her verdict in less than five minutes, starting with “Not guilty of aiding the enemy,” a charge which could have brought Bradley Manning a maximum sentence of life without parole.

BOB GARFIELD:  The charge of aiding the enemy, barely distinguishable from treason, was seen even by a military court as a case of government overreach. Overreach was a recurring theme this week, as Deputy Attorney General James Cole tried to persuade senators that the NSA's vacuuming of domestic phone records was done lawfully.

DEPUTY ATTY. GEN. JAMES COLE:  With these programs and other intelligence activities, we are constantly seeking to achieve the right balance between the protection of national security and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

BOB GARFIELD:  But a bipartisan chorus pushed back, including Democrats who accused the administration of actively misleading Congress about intelligence efforts. At a hearing Wednesday at which the controversial PRISM Program, revealed by leaker Edward Snowden, was officially declassified, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken vowed to introduce legislation forcing the Obama administration to come clean.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN:  I don’t want a situation where the government is transparent only when it's convenient for the government.

BOB GARFIELD:  And suddenly, the American public, scared out of its wits since September 11th, 2001, is beginning to conclude that the intelligence community has gone too far. A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the people in the press shows that 56 percent of the public believes the courts are not protecting us from invasion of privacy. And, says Pew’s Michael Dimock, they are suspicious of worse.

MICHAEL DIMOCK:  Seventy percent of the people we interviewed said that the government is not just limiting this to terrorism, that they're using this data for other purpose there. Sixty-three percent of the people we interviewed said this data collection is not limited to metadata, that they’re also collecting what's being said in our phone calls and our emails.

BOB GARFIELD:  Since 9/11, the public has shown its willingness to suffer all sorts of indignities for the sake of protecting the homeland from terrorist attack. The patience seems to be wearing thin.

MICHAEL DIMOCK:  This is the first poll we've conducted where more people said no, I – I’m not worried that they’re not doing enough, I’m worried that they're going too far.

BOB GARFIELD:  Meanwhile journalist Glenn Greenwald offered details of even more chilling intelligence capacities, alluded to by admitted NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, back in June.

GLENN GREENWALD:  For I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to, to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email.

BOB GARFIELD:  An NSA PowerPoint deck for a snooping program called XKeyScore illustrated how countless analysts can sit at a computer and summon Internet search histories and other private information for anyone, anyone, simply by plugging in an email address, an IP address or a name, which, if true, is not about impersonal metadata but tracking data of the most personal kind.

And who knows what jeopardy Greenwald himself might be in. Having passed along secrets leaked by Snowden, will he be in jeopardy, will his other sources? Armed with a favorable appeals court decision, this week the government continued its legal effort to coerce New York Times reporter and author James Risen to testify about where he obtained still other government secrets.

Yes, the same administration that says it supports a federal shield law protecting reporters and their sources is refusing to lift its subpoena compelling Risen

to reveal his sources, which is why Senator Franken wants to legislate accountability. The first impulse of an aspiring security state, after all, is to be secure

from the scrutiny and the authority and the sanction of the public.




Michael Dimock

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Bob Garfield