NSA sued by Wikipedia

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/10/us-usa-nsa-wikipedia-idUSKBN0M60YA20150310

NSA sued by Wikimedia, rights groups over mass surveillance

(Reuters) – The U.S. National Security Agency was sued on Tuesday by Wikimedia and other groups challenging one of its mass surveillance programs that they said violates Americans’ privacy and makes individuals worldwide less likely to share sensitive information.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland, where the spy agency is based, said the NSA is violating U.S. constitutional protections and the law by tapping into high-capacity cables, switches and routers that move Internet traffic through the United States.

The case is a new potential legal front for privacy advocates who have challenged U.S. spying programs several times since 2013, when documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the long reach of government surveillance.

Other lawsuits have challenged the bulk collection of telephone metadata and are pending in U.S. appeals courts.

The litigation announced on Tuesday takes on what is often called “upstream” collection because it happens along the so-called backbone of the Internet and away from individual users.

Bulk collection there violates the constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs include the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the conservative Rutherford Institute, Amnesty International USA and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, among other groups.

The groups said in the lawsuit that upstream surveillance “reduces the likelihood” that clients, journalists, foreign government officials, victims of human rights abuses and other individuals will share sensitive information with them.

Legal standing, which requires the organizations to show individual, particular harm, is the most significant obstacle for them, said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at American University Washington College of Law.

While it might stand to reason that the plaintiffs’ communications are being intercepted, they can only use legally public information, which the government has acknowledged or declassified, to show harm, Vladeck said. It is “not beyond the pale” that the government could make more information public while the lawsuit is pending, he said. For now, the lawsuit is a “longshot” according to Vladeck.

An Obama administration official said: “We’ve been very clear about what constitutes a valid target of electronic surveillance. The act of innocuously updating or reading an online article does not fall into that category.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which was named as a defendant along with the NSA, said it was reviewing the lawsuit. The NSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“By tapping the backbone of the Internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.

STATE SECRETS

Another potential roadblock for the groups is that the government could try to assert what is known as the state secrets privilege, saying that continuing with the lawsuit would expose classified information, said Carrie Cordero, director of national security studies at Georgetown University Law Center.

Tretikov and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wrote in the New York Times’ opinion pages that they were concerned about where data on their users ends up after it is collected in bulk by the NSA. Citing close intelligence ties between the United States and Egypt, they said a user in Egypt would have reason to fear reprisal if she edited a page about the country’s political opposition.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 rejected another challenge to NSA surveillance of email and other communications, ruling that a similar coalition of plaintiffs did not prove they had been spied upon or would be.

The ruling, however, was made just three months before the first of Snowden’s revelations. Documents made public by Snowden support the right to sue, said Patrick Toomey, one of the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers working on the lawsuit.

Toomey said that with upstream collection, the NSA systematically taps into Internet message traffic between U.S. and overseas users as it moves in and out of the United States over fiber-optic cables.

The NSA then systematically sweeps through the vast amount of content for anything relating to specific individuals or groups considered by U.S. agencies to be intelligence targets, according to the documents leaked by Snowden.

Consequently, Toomey said, anyone inside the United States who sends or receives messages via the Internet to or from someone outside the country is likely to have had messages examined in some way by NSA.

The case is Wikimedia Foundation, et al, v. National Security Agency, et al, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, No. 15-662

(Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar, Supriya Kurane and Shivam Srivastava in Bengaluru, Noeleen Walder in New York; and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Ted Kerr and Grant McCool)

Media Consolidation

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/04/2014 09:53 -0400

In theory, the media is supposed to keep any given administration, even that of hope and change, “honest”, and to report its flaws, failings, criminality and hypocrisy. In practice, this never happens, since the bulk of US, and global, media outlets are owned by a handful of corporations which in turn do everything in their power to preserve the lucrative arrangement in which the administration pretends to administer, and the media pretends to do its job.

With this kind of informational near-monopoly, corporations – and the media – are far more interested in perpetuating the crony-capitalist status quo, which in conjunction with Wall Street’s bribery funding of the three branches of US government, has come to symbolize just how broken US governance has become.

For 364 days of the year, the theater that the press and the administration are on the opposite sides of the table, continues without a glitch. However, one day a year, during the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the facade falls and Obama, together with his fawning press corps, have a night of laughs in an Oscar-inspired night of self-congratularoty excess. Which, just like every other night in Washington, is at the taxpayers’ expense.

Among the over 2000 “guests” enjoying the jokes were Jessica Simpson, Patrick Stewart, Matthew Morrison, Anna Chlumsky, Lindsey Vonn, Katharine McPhee, Jeremy Irvine, Lupita Nyong’o, Julianna Margulies, Sofia Vergara, Brad Paisley, Kevin Hart, Cynthia Nixon, Tim Tebow, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, J.C. Chasez, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Olivia Munn, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Fred Armisen, Richard Sherman and Harvey Weinstein.

The good news: the humor – written by others, of course – was good. Here are the highlights from last night’s festivities.

First, Obama’s punchlines reported by Reuters:

“In 2008 my slogan was, ‘Yes we can.’ In 2013, it was control-alt-delete,” Obama joked to an audience also studded with film and television stars.

“At one point, things got so bad the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize,” he said, referring to 2012 presidential campaign scandal in which the Republican candidate was secretly taped saying that 47 percent of Americans have become reliant on government handouts.

The president highlighted some of the low points of his administration’s last year, dwelling on the disastrous rollout of the website for his landmark health insurance reform legislation.

“Of course we rolled out HealthCare.gov. That could have gone better,” he deadpanned.

Later he turned on Republican opponents in Congress who are clamoring to repeal the legislation despite higher than expected enrollment figures in the government health care exchanges: “How well does Obamacare have to work before you stop trying to repeal it?”

At the end of his speech, Obama turned the audience’s attention to a video monitor, which failed to work. Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary who announced her resignation this month after overseeing the botched rollout of Obamacare, stepped to the podium to try to fix the technical glitch.

Obama also took a swipe at Republicans for blocking his bid to raise the minimum wage. “If you want to get paid for not working you should run for Congress just like everyone else,” he said.

In a self-deprecating crack at his own low popularity ratings, the president referred to his fellow Democrats not wanting to campaign with him for November congressional elections in a wistful joke involving one of his daughters: “I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker for career day and she invited Bill Clinton.”

“Let’s face the facts, you’ll miss me when I’m gone,” Obama directed to the Fox News table. “It will be harder for you to convince Americans that Hillary was born in Kenya.”

Some more from  USA Today:

When McHale took over duties, he aimed straight at Obamacare’s launch.

“It was so bad!” he said from the stage. “I don’t even have an analogy, because the website is now an analogy that people use to describe other bad things. ‘Boy that latest Johnny Depp movie really healthcare.gov’d at the box office.’ ”

A few of McHale’s other best lines:

  • On Chris Christie: “I promise that tonight will be amusing and over quickly. Just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.”
  • On Rob Ford: “Between Rob Ford, Justin Bieber and Ted Cruz, you just want to tell Canada, ‘Hey, hey, relax. We already have a Florida.’ “
  • On Hillary running for office: Hillary Clinton has a lot going for her as a candidate. She has experience, she’s a natural leader. And as our first female president, we could pay her 30% less! That’s a saving this country could use. Who’s with me??”
  • On Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy: “In nine months we will officially have a sequel to Bad Grandpa.”

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