Fresh revelations about the scale of U.S. surveillance programs reveal Barack Obama’s broken promises

U.S. President Barack Obama answers a question during a press briefing following a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, on June 7, 2013. Obama, with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping by his side, called Friday for common rules on cybersecurity after allegations of hacking by Beijing.

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty ImagesU.S. President Barack Obama answers a question during a press briefing following a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, on June 7, 2013. Obama, with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping by his side, called Friday for common rules on cybersecurity after allegations of hacking by Beijing.

In 2008, a small legal foundation in San Francisco launched a civil action for AT&T customers against the U.S. National Security Agency, claiming it was illegally obtaining their phone records.

The aim was to test the legal boundaries of what staffers believed was a vast government surveillance program of Americans’ private communications.

I think we got balance right, Obama claims as furor intensifies over massive spy programs

President Barack Obama promised the American people “nobody is listening to your telephone calls” as he faced tough questions Friday over whether he had allowed U.S. surveillance to run out of control.

Speaking on the eve of a major U.S.-China summit in California, Obama was forced to answer accusations that his administration had expanded on Bush-era surveillance systems that he had once campaigned against.

Under intense fire from both the liberal Left and libertarian Right for trampling on constitutional freedoms, the president defended secret programs that collect data on hundreds of millions of US phone calls and harvest huge amounts of online information about foreigners. “In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother or how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details I think we’ve struck the right balance,” Obama said, insisting that they were vital in the fight against terrorism.

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Since then, federal and appeals courts have kicked the little-known case around, never killing it, just letting it flounder against a wall of claims the information was “classified” and “top secret.”

“The government has raised every legal privilege it could possibly muster to block a regular federal court from hearing the case,” said Mark Rumold, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which launched the case.

The EFF lawyers were trying to put an end to a nationwide domestic surveillance program they had no real proof even existed.

“I kind of hoped that we were wrong, that the government wasn’t doing what we alleged,” he said. “But we were right, unfortunately.”

In fact, the U.S. government is not only obtaining the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans, it is also operating a covert program, called Prism, which obtains email and other electronic data records from Internet companies, such as Google, Facebook and Apple.

full article

I think we got balance right, Obama claims as furor intensifies over massive spy programs

President Barack Obama promised the American people “nobody is listening to your telephone calls” as he faced tough questions Friday over whether he had allowed U.S. surveillance to run out of control.

Speaking on the eve of a major U.S.-China summit in California, Obama was forced to answer accusations that his administration had expanded on Bush-era surveillance systems that he had once campaigned against.

Under intense fire from both the liberal Left and libertarian Right for trampling on constitutional freedoms, the president defended secret programs that collect data on hundreds of millions of US phone calls and harvest huge amounts of online information about foreigners. “In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother or how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details I think we’ve struck the right balance,” Obama said, insisting that they were vital in the fight against terrorism.

Continue reading …

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