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Indefinite Surveillance: Say Hello to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014

 

June 18, 2013
by Stephen Benavides

Passed in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) set the groundwork for surveillance, collection, and analysis of intelligence gathered from foreign powers and agents of foreign powers, up to and including any individual residing within the U.S., who were suspected of involvement in potential terrorist activity.  On October 26, 2001, a little over a month after 9/11, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law. Two provisions, Sec. 206, permitting government to obtain secret court orders allowing roving wiretaps without requiring identification of the person, organization, or facility to be surveyed, and Sec. 215 authorizing government to access and obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorist investigation, transformed foreign intelligence into domestic intelligence.

NDAA 2014 builds on the powers granted by both the Patriot Act and FISA by allowing unrestricted analysis and research of captured records pertaining to any organization or individual “now or once hostile to the United States”.  Under the Patriot Act, the ability to obtain “any tangible thing” eliminated any expectation of privacy.  Under NDAA 2014 Sec. 1061(g)(1), an overly vague definition of captured records enhances government power and guarantees indefinite surveillance. 

On May 22, 2013 the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, one of several Armed Services Committees, met to discuss the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014.  The main subject of the hearing was Sec. 1061, otherwise known as Enhancement of Capacity of the United States Government to Analyze Captured Records. This enhancement provision of   NDAA 2014 would effectively create a new intelligence agency, one with the authority to analyze information gained under the Patriot Act, FISA, and known spying programs such as PRISM.

Sec. 1061(a) authorizes the Secretary of Defense to “establish a center to be known as the ‘Conflict Records Research Center’” (Center). The main purpose of the center, according to the bill text, is to create a “digital research database,” one with the capability to “translate” and facilitate research on “records captured from countries, organizations and individuals, now or once hostile to the United States.” The authorization also says the Center will conduct research and analysis to “increase the understanding of factors related to international relations, counterterrorism and conventional and unconventional warfare, and ultimately, enhance national security.”

In order to make the Center run, and to accomplish such an incredibly broad scope of “research and analysis,” the Secretary of Defense needs the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to cooperate in coordinating “information exchanges important to the leadership of the United States Government”.   That coordination would require participation of all 16 member agencies and departments of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  This would leave James Clapper, the man accused of lying to Congress about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program known as PRISM, in de facto direction of another federal surveillance and data analysis agency.  And while the Center would be officially directed and overseen by the Secretary of Defense, without unfettered access to secret and top secret information, the Center would be completely ineffective.  These information exchanges would most likely include data and records generated by the mass surveillance of everyday people under PRISM, as well as surveillance of those identified as “potential terrorists” or “high value targets” by any one of those 16 intelligence agencies now in operation.

The proposed Center’s information exchanges rely on captured government records.  Under the NDAA 2014, Sec. 1061(g)(1), a captured record is defined as “a document, audio file, video file, or other material captured during combat operations from countries, organizations, or individuals, now or once hostile to the United States.”  But considering that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) allows the “War on Terror” to exist in a perpetual and permanent state of combat operations, and that the American public is already existing under an expansive surveillance state, any record may qualify as a “captured record.” Thus, any captured document, audio file, video file, or other material could potentially be submitted to this new intelligence agency for research and analysis, all in the name of national security and counterterrorism, as deemed appropriate by a swelling government surveillance class.

The NDAA 2014 enhancement provision extends and consolidates the government’s authority to further gather and analyze records and data captured during any national security or terrorist related investigation, not just combat operations. But it does so without creating any explicit restriction from violating an individual’s right to privacy, from being subjected to unwarranted searches and seizures, or due process of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution. That’s eerily similar to the NDAA 2013 Sec. 1021 that codified the indefinite military detention of American citizens without requiring they be charged with a specific crime, or given a trial.

Under NDAA 2013, Sec. 1021 allowed the military detention of civilians without a writ of habeas corpus, when a person “was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” Under NDAA 2014, anyone is now subject to surveillance, not based on support of al-Qaeda or its associated forces, but based merely upon whether or not an individual is, or once was hostile to the U.S.  The question of what constitutes “hostility”, is left completely unanswered.

The new enhancement provision, as well as the previous NDAA’s indefinite detention mandate, goes to show how far the legislation has strayed from its stated purpose. According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), the NDAA “authorizes funding for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths, and for other purposes.”

Instead, the NDAA has become the vehicle for the Executive Branch and Department of Defense to bypass Congress, and legislate away any perceived right, liberty, or privilege that conflicts with our current state of permanent war and indefinite surveillance.

In 2012, in an attempt to stop that “indefinite detention” provision, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would have prohibited the government from detaining citizens indefinitely using military force.  That proposed law, otherwise known as the “Feinstein Amendment” easily passed the Senate floor, but was later removed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI).  After removal of the only specific language that would guarantee the US Government would be prohibited from interpreting the act illegally; President Obama, also a Democrat, signed NDAA 2013 into law.

If passed in its current state, NDAA 2014 would authorize approximately $552 billion in total defense spending, with $86 billion going directly to war spending.  This amount exceeds what is allowed under the automatic austerity measures that went into effect as of March 1, 2013.  According to a report released in April 2013 by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “[i]f personnel, operation and maintenance costs keep rising, they may consume the “entire defense budget” by 2024, leaving no funding for weapons procurement, military construction or family housing.”  Any program created by the Enhancement Provision of NDAA 2014 would necessarily burden an already overwhelmed working class, who are most affected by austerity.

While the National Security Agency swears that no citizen was spied on under PRISM, the very fact that cell phone metadata and online activity was gathered from millions of individuals guarantees that information was taken illegally from innocent people .  We’re told that the government is attempting to minimize the amount of information captured from Americans, and that all of that information is being kept in specialized and restricted servers in order to protect our constitutional rights.  But that’s difficult to believe when the Department of Justice is currently fighting the release of a secret FISA Court opinion that details unconstitutional government surveillance.

If indefinite detention became the primary reason for opposing NDAA 2013, then the enhance provision authorizing unlimited indefinite surveillance, may become the same issue for NDAA 2014.  If passed in its current state, NDAA 2014 will further guarantee that people exist not only under indefinite detention and permanent war, but also under indefinite surveillance by its government.

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Texas Bills Would Nullify NDAA’s Indefinite Detention, TSA’s Intrusive Screening

Written by  Raven Clabough

State lawmakers in Texas are fighting to reassert their citizens’ Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights. Republican legislators have submitted two bills, one to remove the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the other to stop the intrusive screening procedures of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

HB149, the Texas Liberty Preservation Act filed by state Rep. Lyle Larson, targets the most controversial provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The online Huffington Post reports,

HB 149 specifically calls out Section 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA, which were recently subjects of a federal lawsuit filed by plaintiffs concerned that the language within the passages could be used to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens.

In October, a federal appeals court rejected the notion that the indefinite detention provisions found within the NDAA pose a reasonable threat to American citizens and blocked an injunction issued by another judge in May who had determined that the NDAA did not “pass constitutional muster.”

According to the appeals judges, “the public interest” outweighed the concerns raised by the plaintiffs. They determined that “the statute does not affect the existing rights of United States citizens.”

Lawmakers in the Lone Star State disagree. According to HB 149, sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA are “inimical to the liberty, security, and well-being of the citizens of the State of Texas” and violate both federal and state constitutions.

HB 149 notes that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which greatly limits the role of the federal government, has been violated as the government has usurped powers that it was not intended to have. It states,

It is the policy of this state to refuse to provide material support for or to participate in any way with the implementation within this state of Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012.

Violators of this statute may receive imprisonment of up to a year, a fine of no more than $10,000, or both, according to the bill.

The Tenth Amendment Center notes that Texas is just one in a string of states that has worked to override the provisions found within the NDAA:

Local communities in Colorado sent out the first warning shots, passing resolutions and ordinances rejecting such power earlier this year.

Then … Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed House Bill 1160, making that state the first to pass a law not only rejecting the federal act, but fully banning any state agency from cooperating with the feds on it.

Over 15 local communities have reportedly done the same. And Michigan is considering similar legislation.

Residents of Texas who support the legislation are encouraged to contact their state representative and senator here.

A second bill in Texas targets the controversial screening procedures of the Transportation Security Administration. HB 80, filed by GOP state Rep. David Simpson, is intended to prohibit what is perceived to be federal overreach by the TSA.

The Huffington Post writes:

The measure declares that any “intentional” touching of “the [private parts] of the other person, including touching through clothing,” without probable cause would be considered a violation of the law. It would also prohibit removing a “child younger than 18 years of age from the physical custody or control of a parent or guardian of the child,” and establishes broader restrictions on harassment or inconveniencing those desiring to avoid such searches.

The bill also asserts that it is the role of the state’s attorney general to defend the statute, and lists a variety of justifications he may use to do so:

If the government of the United States, the defendant, or the defendant’s employer challenges the validity of Section 39.03(a)(4), Penal Code, as added by this Act, on grounds of unconstitutionality, preemption, or sovereign immunity, the attorney general of this state … shall take any actions necessary on behalf of the state to defend the validity of the statute. The attorney general may make any legal arguments the attorney general considers appropriate, including that this Act constitutes a valid exercise of:

(1)  the state’s police powers;

(2)  the liberty interests of the people that are secured by the United States Constitution;

(3)  the powers reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; or

(4)  the rights and protections secured by the Texas Constitution.

If the bill becomes law, it will take effect in September of 2013.

This is not the first time Texas legislators have attempted to pass such a measure. In 2011, Representative David Simpson, who filed HB 80, spearheaded two bills which did not pass, HB 1937 and HB 1938, both of which specifically targeted the TSA. HB 1937 would have banned offensive touching of individuals who sought access to public buildings or transportation and punished those who broke the law. HB 1938 would have outlawed the use of “nude body scanners” at all Texas airports.

Unsurprisingly, HB 80 has garnered the favor of privacy advocates who view the TSA’s screening methods as being far too intrusive.

Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said in a statement,

If you walk up to somebody and grab their crotch out on the street, it will land you in jail. Blue uniforms and federal badges don’t grant some goon the power to sexually assault you, or at least they shouldn’t.

A person doesn’t forfeit her or his personal dignity or Fourth Amendment protections with the purchase of an airline ticket.

Both HB 149 and HB 80 are examples of nullification, as Texas is using the authority found within the Tenth Amendment to reject federal overreach.

Ken Hoover of The John Birch Society observed last year, “We all are aware of how the so-called ‘war on terror’ has been used to chip away at our liberties.” Pointing to TSA procedures specifically, he continued, “It would appear that the main casualty of the ‘war on terror’ has been the Fourth Amendment. These intrusions need to be stopped.”

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Chris Hedges: A Victory for All of Us

Iraq War veteran Sgt. Shamar Thomas leads a demonstration in New York’s Grand Central Station to call attention to a law signed by President Barack Obama that granted extraordinary powers to the military.

Posted on May 18, 2012
By Chris Hedges

In January, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran asked me to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that challenged the harsh provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We filed the lawsuit, worked for hours on the affidavits, carried out the tedious depositions, prepared the case and went to trial because we did not want to be passive in the face of another egregious assault on basic civil liberties, because resistance is a moral imperative, and because, at the very least, we hoped we could draw attention to the injustice of the law. None of us thought we would win. But every once in a while the gods smile on the damned.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, in a 68-page opinion, ruled Wednesday that Section 1021 of the NDAA was unconstitutional. It was a stunning and monumental victory. With her ruling she returned us to a country where—as it was before Obama signed this act into law Dec. 31—the government cannot strip a U.S. citizen of due process or use the military to arrest him or her and then hold him or her in military prison indefinitely. She categorically rejected the government’s claims that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to bring the case to trial because none of us had been indefinitely detained, that lack of imminent enforcement against us meant there was no need for an injunction and that the NDAA simply codified what had previously been set down in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act. The ruling was a huge victory for the protection of free speech. Judge Forrest struck down language in the law that she said gave the government the ability to incarcerate people based on what they said or wrote. Maybe the ruling won’t last. Maybe it will be overturned. But we and other Americans are freer today than we were a week ago. And there is something in this.

The government lawyers, despite being asked five times by the judge to guarantee that we plaintiffs would not be charged under the law for our activities, refused to give any assurances. They did not provide assurances because under the law there were none. We could, even they tacitly admitted, be subject to these coercive measures. We too could be swept away into a black hole. And this, I think, decided the case.

“At the hearing on this motion, the government was unwilling or unable to state that these plaintiffs would not be subject to indefinite detention under [Section] 1021,” Judge Forrest noted. “Plaintiffs are therefore at risk of detention, of losing their liberty, potentially for many years.”

The government has 60 days to appeal. It can also, as Mayer and Afran have urged, accept the injunction that nullifies the law. If the government appeals, the case will go to a federal appellate court. The ruling, even if an appellate court upholds it, could be vanquished in the Supreme Court, especially given the composition of that court.

Read more: Chris Hedges: A Victory for All of Us – Chris Hedges’ Columns – Truthdig.

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