Republicans Bolt as Bush Grabs More Spying Powers & Government Plans to Seize Laptops

August 2nd, 2008 - by admin

Joby Warrick / Washington Post & Pamea Hess / Associated Press & Information Week – 2008-08-02 22:49:17

Bush Orders Revamping Of Intelligence Gathering
DNI’s Authority Boosted, Document Shows

Joby Warrick / Washington Post

(July 31, 2008) — President Bush ordered a major restructuring of the nation’s intelligence-gathering community yesterday, approving new guidelines aimed at bolstering the authority of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) as the leader of the nation’s 16 spy agencies.

The long-awaited overhaul of Executive Order 12333 gives the DNI greater control over spending and priority-setting, and also over contacts with foreign intelligence services — a responsibility that has traditionally fallen to the CIA, according to a Bush administration document describing the changes.

Executive Order 12333, which was originally issued by President Ronald Regan in 1981, established the powers and responsibilities of the major U.S. intelligence services. Administration officials have been quietly negotiating the overhaul for more than a year, seeking to modernize the law to reflect the new role of the DNI as the head of the intelligence community.

The DNI was created by Congress three years ago in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but critics have charged that the agency was not given the budgetary and policy-setting authorities it needs to lead the intelligence community.

Details of the revamped order were expected to be unveiled by the White House today, but a summary of the major changes was spelled out in a White House PowerPoint presentation shared in advance with congressional oversight committees. The eight-page slide presentation was obtained by The Washington Post.

The main purpose of the reforms was to “clarify and strengthen the role of the DNI as head of the intelligence community,” the presentation states. The new order gives the DNI primary authority to issue “overarching policies and procedures” and to ensure that intelligence collection is coordinated among the 16 agencies. It also conveys greater power to set spending priorities and establish standards for training and tradecraft.

In one of the more controversial changes, the new order allows the DNI to formulate policy for engaging with the intelligence agencies and security services of other countries — a role traditionally held by the CIA. But the new policy stipulates that the CIA would “coordinate implementation” of those policies.

Left essentially unchanged is a prohibition against assassinations of foreign leaders, as well as long-standing restrictions on “human experimentation,” the document states. It asserts that the intelligence community would “maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberty protections.”

Republicans Walk Out as Bush Hands More Power to Intelligence Chief
Pamea Hess / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (August 1, 2008) — The Bush administration announced an executive order Thursday revising rules for intelligence agencies that expands the national intelligence director’s powers and may further erode the CIA’s traditional autonomy.

The order, revised in secret and signed Wednesday, is drawing criticism from civil liberties groups and even lawmakers from President Bush’s own party.

House Republicans on the intelligence committee walked out of a Thursday morning briefing on the order by the national intelligence director, Mike McConnell, to protest what they consider the White House’s pattern of disrespect for congressional oversight.

Committee members say the panel has not been consulted or informed about critical intelligence matters. These include the executive order; Israel’s bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear facility last summer; changes in U.S. intelligence on Iran; the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program; and the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes.

“This president is making it impossible for Congress to do oversight of the intelligence community,” the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, told the Associated Press. “The only effective oversight that can be done is out of the executive branch. And this is the fox guarding the chicken coop.”

The revisions to rules first issued by President Reagan in a 1981 executive order reflect organizational changes in the intelligence agencies after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush’s order lays out the relationships among 16 intelligence agencies.

The work was carried for more than a year amid a national debate, spurred by the wiretapping program, about the appropriate balance between civil liberties and security.

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the order soon after its release Thursday, saying it seems to authorize the intelligence agencies to focus more on domestic spying than before.

The order directs the attorney general to develop guidelines so intelligence agencies have access to information held by other agencies. That potentially could include the sharing of sensitive information about Americans.

For 50 years, the CIA has set the policy and largely called the shots on pursuing and managing relationships with foreign intelligence and security services, many of which provide critical intelligence to the United States.

But the latest version of Executive Order 12333 gives the national intelligence director new power to oversee those relationships, including how much information and the type of information to be shared with a foreign government; the CIA still will carry out day-to-day contacts. The intelligence director is also gaining oversight of covert operations, an area where the CIA has been the traditional authority.

The executive order gives the national intelligence director, a position created in 2005, new authority over intelligence information collected that pertains to more than one agency. That is an attempt to force greater exchange of information among agencies traditionally reluctant to share their most prized intelligence.

The order maintains the decades-old prohibitions on assassination and using unwitting human subjects for scientific experiments, according to a power point briefing given to Congress that was reviewed by the Associated Press.

© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.
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US Government Seizes Laptops Without Suspicion of Wrongdoing and Shares Personal Data Files with Private Companies
Washington Post

(August 1, 2008) — Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop’s contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The policies . . . are truly alarming,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government’s border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said that the newly disclosed policies — which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens — are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices have been taken — for months, in at least one case — and their contents examined.

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’ ”

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

When a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

“They’re saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler’s laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Notably, he said, the policies “don’t establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched.”

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts “do not infringe on Americans’ privacy.” In a statement submitted to Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had “plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant” to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that “the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices.” Searches have uncovered “violent jihadist materials” as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

With about 400 million travelers entering the country each year, “as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary [for a more thorough examination] when there is some level of suspicion,” Chertoff wrote. “Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers’ often split-second assessments are second-guessed.”

In April, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the government’s power to conduct searches of an international traveler’s laptop without suspicion of wrongdoing. The Customs policy can be viewed at:

Google Says Privacy Doesn’t Exist,
Get Used To Everyone Knowing Everything About You

Information Week

(August 1, 2008) — The headline practically says it all. Google is being sued by a Pittsburgh couple for posting images of its house on the Internet in Google’s Street Views pages. Google responded, in court no less, that complete privacy simply doesn’t exist in today’s world and the couple should stop crying about it.

Google may be right, in theory. It said in papers filed with the court, “Today’s satellite image technology means that even in today’s desert, complete privacy does not exist.” That’s partially true. With satellites, cameras and other monitoring devices all being tied together by the Internet, it is becoming more and more difficult to completely isolate yourself from view.

But does that mean our privacy should be violated by large corporations looking to provide better mapping software? Shouldn’t there be some boundaries that aren’t trampled in the name of a better product? Google said in the court papers that that doesn’t matter, and implied the idea of privacy is somewhat faulted.

The “Plaintiffs live in the 21st century United States, where every step upon private property is not deemed by law to be an actionable trespass. Unless there is a clear expression such as a gate, fence, or ‘keep out’ sign indicating that the public is not permitted to enter, anyone may approach a home by a walkway, driveway, or any other route commonly used by visitors, without liability for trespass.” Google says the Pittsburgh couple in question had no such signs, and therefore should not have any expectation for privacy.

I can see Google’s point here, but for Google to come out and say that privacy doesn’t exist is not a great publicity move for the company.

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