Syrian FSA Routing Al Qaeda: What’s Washington Waiting For?

Editor’s Note – Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She has done commentary on the Middle East since 2007.

Free Syrian Army Routing Al Qaeda: What’s Washington Waiting For?

By Mary Claire Kendall

Major General Paul E. Vallely (USA-Ret.), former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army in the Pacific and West Point grad, is the go-to guy for the Tea Party.

“We worship the ground he walks on,” said Captain Larry Bailey, USN (SEAL) (Ret), of Special Operations Speaks (SOS).

Retired MG Paul E. Vallely addresses attendees at the press conference.
Retired MG Paul E. Vallely addresses attendees at the press conference after his trip to Cairo.

Little wonder.  Vallely of “Stand Up America” is a stand-up guy—not only domestically but abroad. He’s got the kind of gravitas and vision rarely seen on the national stage.

“America is at a crossroads and it’s up to us to take the right road and get this country back again,” he told a recent Tea Party gathering in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Syrian Opposition Liaison Group Helps Rescue Swedish Journalists

Internationally, his “Syrian Opposition Liaison Group” (SOLG) is engaged in a high-stakes chess game guided by a clear strategic understanding of how to defeat Islamic extremists in the Middle East.

Just recently, SOLG played a direct role in the release of two Swedish journalists—Niclas Hammarstrom and Magnus Falkehed—abducted in late November by a group of bandits in the Qalamoun Mountains and held for six weeks in the small town of Arsal al Ward not far from Aleppo where the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has routed Al Qaeda.

General Vallely visited the area and met with FSA commanders last August—the only senior American to do so.  It was all part of a humanitarian, political and security fact finding mission, giving him unique knowledge of Syria’s complex dynamics. He was protected by a contingent of 400 FSA soldiers on this, his fourth visit to the Middle East in 18 months.

The goal of the bandit kidnappers, as always, was to “discredit and decimate” the FSA, said Col. Nagi N. Najjar, special adviser to General Vallely and manager of SOLG, as well as to make money.

SOLG came to the rescue, leading the negotiations secretly between the Swedish authorities, the Swedish Police, and the FSA command on the ground, ultimately helping secure the Swedes’ release in early January.  It was done without recompense as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude for all the Swedish government has done to find refuge for displaced Syrians.

Coming Arab Summer

Of course, this is but one episode in the ongoing bloody Civil War in Syria where the stakes could not be higher.  It’s a proxy war writ large.

For instance, Saudi Arabia and Qatar sponsor terrorism camps throughout Syria, where new recruits are trained—Yossef Bodansky’s claims to the contrary. Bodansky, former Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S. House of Representatives (1988 to 2004), claims the Syrian National Congress and FSA are supporting Islamic extremist camps. Not true, says Col. Najjar. “The mere existence of the Idlib camp should serve as a reminder of the true irrelevance and impotence of the West’s allies.”  They simply don’t have the resources to clean out every enemy training camp, even in areas under FSA control.

Why won’t the U.S. get with the program?

As General Vallely said in South Carolina, Col. Najjar told him in the wake of 9/11, America should not put bases in the countries where Islamic extremists live and plot.

Fast forward some 12 years and it’s high time to heed his wisdom.  As Col. Najjar said, “Al Qaeda (AQ) could be terminated… and the FSA is very good at doing it; they should be given the chance and opportunity.”

Yet, the Administration dithers as they weigh whether or not to resume non-lethal aid to the FSA, while “letting Assad continue the civilian massacres, dropping tons of bombs and explosives on civilian cities,” said Col. Najjar, “and letting the AQ extremists fill the vacuum.”

If Iran had attended the recent Syrian peace conference in Montreaux, outside Geneva, said Col. Najjar (a near reality until the U.N. rescinded the invite), it would only have strengthened the Al Qaeda network, while further weakening the FSA.  Meanwhile, Al Qaeda Chief Zawahiri, on January 26, has called for a “hot summer”.

In his video release, Col. Najjar said, he “declares war on America this summer and calls for the Islamic Ummah to resist the Crusade and its regional lackeys from the West, forcing the Islamic world to bow.”

It’s a “regional Jihad project in the path of Allah and Palestine against the American ‘secular reforms,’” he is calling for, said Col. Najjar, and against “all secular regional regimes—from Algeria, Tunis, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Philippines, Pakistan and Arabia.” Furthermore, “he is calling for Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan to be the model of defeat for the West, and calling for the overthrow of the King of Saudi Arabia declaring him a lackey of the West.”

On
Image being posted throughout the Middle East which was taken from the SUA site by the terrorists and edited by the ISIS – to threaten him and SUA staff with their lives.

Third Option: What Is Washington Waiting For?

“Why ignore this third option,” which the FSA offers for stabilizing Syria, asks Col. Najjar? Doing so is “a dangerous combo that could ignite and inflame the entire region, with a domino effect in Lebanon and Jordan.”

Just now, in the wake of FSA’s successes in Aleppo, Al Qaeda is on the march, regrouping in other places and provinces, intent on revenge.

“Support and guidance is needed from the Pentagon for these guys fighting under fire against Al Qaeda,” said Col. Najjar. Otherwise, the extremists will prevail.  “Something needs to be done… and urgently,” he said. “This fight is no joke down there, 700 dead in one week… and AQ is promising a bloody retaliation.”

If ever there was a time to come to the aid of our friends in Syria, it’s now. And, the irony is, they can defeat Al Qaeda once and for all—something we’ve been trying to do with varying degrees of success since 2001.

Meanwhile, as Washington hesitates, Gen. Vallely continues to lead.  And, at great risk.

On January 21, Supreme Kalamullah Abu Abdullah (HA), the Emir of the Mujahireen of the Islamic State of Iraq and Shaam, posted a video in which he says, “The American General (Gen. Paul E. Vallely), may Allah enable us to kidnap him and cut his head off, has gathered with the Free Army and they have made battle plans to attack the Islamic State.”

General Vallely understands Al Qaeda is not ‘Junior Varsity,’ as President Barack Obama falsely claimed in a recent New Yorker interview, but intent on destroying America. He and his team will keep sounding the alarm bells until America wakes up and smells the tea—hopefully before it’s too late.

______________

Mary Claire Kendall has done commentary on the Middle East since 2007, most recently for the Washington Times in “Justice for the Benghazi victims” (January 10, 2014).  She’s also written for The Weekly Standard, Forbes, Washington Examiner, San Francisco Examiner, New York Post, NY Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, National Catholic Register, The Wanderer, Human Events Online, National Review Online and Pajamas Media, among other venues, and is currently writing a book about legends of Hollywood, due for publication in 2015.  In 2008 she did commentary on Iran’s Press TV, presenting America’s strategic vision for achieving a stable and peaceful Middle East that emphasizes the dignity of the individual.

Another Lie – in ACA, You Pay for Abortions, HR-7 Fix Veto Promised

Editor’s Note – Once again, we are finding out what is in the Affordable Care Act, AKA, ObamaCare as Nancy Pelosi so famously told us would take place once it was passed. Now it seems, we see another new part exposed – ObamaCare does pay for abortions after all.

The worst part is, we also have another lie, one in a long and continuous line where he told America: “The president promised when the health care bill passed that it would not cover abortion.” Well – it does! Surprise!

To fix this, the House has come up with H.R. 7 – but read what the White House said the President would do if it passed – VETO:

ObamaVetoHR7

Read on, you can see that document above here:

Secret abortion fees hidden in ObamaCare premiums, lawmakers say

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From Fox Politics

Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions, an apparent violation of federal law that forbids the practice, congressional leaders charge.

Consumers signing up for insurance in an Obamacare exchange won’t find a single sentence telling them that they will pay at least $1 a month to fund abortions. 

“The president promised when the health care bill passed that it would not cover abortion. We knew that was an empty promise as the bill stipulated a $1 a month surcharge for plans that covered abortions,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., who chairs the House’s Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health. “On top of that … it’s near impossible to decipher which plans include abortion and at what cost!”

To fix this, a House bill will be introduced this week to demand full disclosure and a separate itemized premium. It also will prohibit federal subsidies for Obamacare insurance plans that cover abortion. That bill, HR-7, or the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” will be introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

On Oct. 9, Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, introduced a bill on the disclosure issue, which now has been folded into the broader HR-7. Smith is co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

Aides with both Pitts and Smith have researched numerous Obamacare policies and have yet to find any mention of abortion.

“We can’t find any insurance plans where this is disclosed,” said Andrew Wimer, communications director for Pitts.

NSA and Brits – APPs on your Computer Gaming, etc.?

Editor’s Note – The question now is, what do the spy agencies not have access to, and then why when it comes to games that you play on the internet like Angry Birds what are they doing, what are they getting access to? Well, its not just the USA as well.

It was revealed recently that the British were also spying on Facebook and YouTube and wanted to show the NSA how they did it as well:

The British government can tap into the cables carrying the world’s web traffic at will and spy on what people are doing on some of the world’s most popular social media sites, including YouTube, all without the knowledge or consent of the companies.

Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News detail how British cyber spies demonstrated a pilot program to their U.S. partners in 2012 in which they were able to monitor YouTube in real time and collect addresses from the billions of videos watched daily, as well as some user information, for analysis. At the time the documents were printed, they were also able to spy on Facebook and Twitter.

Remember that user interface you have with gaming devices, and what are your kids playing on the computer that allows access to all other files on your computer?

Spy Agencies Probe Angry Birds and Other Apps for Personal Data

By Jeff Larson, ProPublica, and James Glanz and Andrew W. Lehren

Note: The story is not subject to our Creative Commons license. This story was co-produced with The New York Times and The Guardian.

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.

In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.angrybirds_630x420

According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.

The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address books, buddy lists, phone logs and the geographic data embedded in photos when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services.

The eavesdroppers’ pursuit of mobile networks has been outlined in earlier reports, but the secret documents, shared by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica, offer far more details of their ambitions for smartphones and the apps that run on them. The efforts were part of an initiative called “the mobile surge,” according to a 2011 British document, an analogy to the troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. One N.S.A. analyst’s enthusiasm was evident in the breathless title — “Golden Nugget!” — given to one slide for a top-secret 2010 talk describing iPhones and Android phones as rich resources, one document notes.

The scale and the specifics of the data haul are not clear. The documents show that the N.S.A. and the British agency routinely obtain information from certain apps, particularly some of those introduced earliest to cellphones. With some newer apps, including Angry Birds, the agencies have a similar capability, the documents show, but they do not make explicit whether the spies have put that into practice. Some personal data, developed in profiles by advertising companies, could be particularly sensitive: A secret 2012 British intelligence document says that spies can scrub smartphone apps that contain details like a user’s “political alignment” and sexual orientation.

President Obama announced new restrictions this month to better protect the privacy of ordinary Americans and foreigners from government surveillance, including limits on how the N.S.A. can view “metadata” of Americans’ phone calls — the routing information, time stamps and other data associated with calls. But he did not address the avalanche of information that the intelligence agencies get from leaky apps and other smartphone functions.

And while he expressed concern about advertising companies that collect information on people to send tailored ads to their mobile phones, he offered no hint that American spies routinely seize that data. Nothing in the secret reports indicates that the companies cooperate with the spy agencies to share the information; the topic is not addressed.

The agencies have long been intercepting earlier generations of cellphone traffic like text messages and metadata from nearly every segment of the mobile network — and, more recently, mobile traffic running on Internet pipelines. Because those same networks carry the rush of data from leaky apps, the agencies have a ready-made way to collect and store this new resource. The documents do not address how many users might be affected, whether they include Americans, or how often, with so much information collected automatically, analysts would see personal data.

This cartoon of a fairy accompanies a “top secret” NSA documentabout smartphones. The drawing seems to suggest that phones, and the data they transmit, are a magical intelligence gift to the agency.

Twitter Facebook Link

“N.S.A. does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission,” the agency said in a written response to questions about the program. “Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in N.S.A.’s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process.” Similar protections, the agency said, are in place for “innocent foreign citizens.”

The British spy agency declined to comment on any specific program, but said all its activities complied with British law.

Two top-secret flow charts produced by the British agency in 2012 show incoming streams of information skimmed from smartphone traffic by the Americans and the British. The streams are divided into “traditional telephony” — metadata — and others marked “social apps,” “geo apps,” “http linking,” webmail, MMS and traffic associated with mobile ads, among others. (MMS refers to the mobile system for sending pictures and other multimedia, and http is the protocol for linking to websites.)

In charts showing how information flows from smartphones into the agency’s computers, analysts included questions to be answered by the data, including “Where was my target when they did this?” and “Where is my target going?”

As the program accelerated, the N.S.A. nearly quadrupled its budget in a single year, to $767 million in 2007 from $204 million, according to a top-secret Canadian analysis written around the same time.

Even sophisticated users are often unaware of how smartphones offer a unique opportunity for one-stop shopping for information about them. “By having these devices in our pockets and using them more and more,” said Philippe Langlois, who has studied the vulnerabilities of mobile phone networks and is the founder of the Paris-based company Priority One Security, “you’re somehow becoming a sensor for the world intelligence community.”

Detailed Profiles

Smartphones almost seem to make things too easy. Functioning as phones — making calls and sending texts — and as computers — surfing the web and sending emails — they generate and also rely on data. One secret report shows that just by updating Android software, a user sent more than 500 printed lines of data about the phone’s history and use onto the network.

Such information helps mobile ad companies, for example, create detailed profiles of people based on how they use their mobile device, where they travel, what apps and websites they open, and other factors. Advertising firms might triangulate web shopping data and browsing history to guess whether someone is wealthy or has children, for example.

The N.S.A. and the British agency busily scoop up this data, mining it for new information and comparing it with their lists of intelligence targets.

A portion of the computer code in Burstly’s Software Development Kit — used by Angry Birds. This software was studied by GCHQ for intelligence value.
A portion of the computer code in Burstly’s Software Development Kit — used by Angry Birds. This software was studied by GCHQ for intelligence value.

One secret 2010 British document suggests that the agencies collect such a huge volume of “cookies” — the digital traces left on a mobile device or a computer when a target visits a website — that classified computers were having trouble storing it all.

“They are gathered in bulk, and are currently our single largest type of events,” the document says.

The two agencies displayed a particular interest in Google Maps, which is accurate to within a few yards or better in some locations. Intelligence agencies collect so much data from the app that “you’ll be able to clone Google’s database” of global searches for directions, according to a top-secret N.S.A. report from 2007.

“It effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a G.C.H.Q. system,” a secret 2008 report by the British agency says.

(In December, The Washington Post, citing the Snowden documents, reported that the N.S.A. was using metadata to track cellphone locations outside the United States and was using ad cookies to connect Internet addresses with physical locations.)

In another example, a secret 20-page British report dated 2012 includes the computer code needed for plucking the profiles generated when Android users play Angry Birds. The app was created by Rovio Entertainment, of Finland, and has been downloaded more than a billion times, the company has said.

Rovio drew public criticism in 2012 when researchers claimed that the app was tracking users’ locations and gathering other data and passing it to mobile ad companies. In a statement on its website, Rovio says that it may collect its users’ personal data, but that it abides by some restrictions. For example, the statement says, “Rovio does not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13 years of age.”

The secret report noted that the profiles vary depending on which of the ad companies — which include Burstly and Google’s ad services, two of the largest online advertising businesses — compiles them. Most profiles contain a string of characters that identifies the phone, along with basic data on the user like age, sex and location. One profile notes whether the user is currently listening to music or making a call, and another has an entry for household income.

Google declined to comment for this article, and Burstly did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Saara Bergstrom, a Rovio spokeswoman, said that the company had no knowledge of the intelligence programs. “Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations you mentioned,” Ms. Bergstrom said, referring to the N.S.A. and the British spy agency.

Another ad company creates far more intrusive profiles that the agencies can retrieve, the report says. The apps that generate those profiles are not identified, but the company is named as Millennial Media, which has its headquarters in Baltimore.

In securities filings, Millennial documented how it began working with Rovio in 2011 to embed ad services in Angry Birds apps running on iPhones, Android phones and other devices.

According to the report, the Millennial profiles contain much of the same information as the others, but several categories listed as “optional,” including ethnicity, marital status and sexual orientation, suggest that much wider sweeps of personal data may take place.

A portion of the computer code in Burstly’s Software Development Kit — used by Angry Birds. This software was studied by GCHQ for intelligence value.

Twitter Facebook Link

Possible categories for marital status, the report says, include single, married, divorced, engaged and “swinger”; those for sexual orientation are straight, gay, bisexual and “not sure.” It is unclear whether the “not sure” category exists because so many phone apps are used by children, or because insufficient data may be available.

There is no explanation of precisely how the ad company defined the categories or how accurate the information is. Nor is there any discussion of why all that information would be useful for marketing — or intelligence.

Unwieldy Heaps

The agencies have had occasional success — at least by their own reckoning — when they start with something closer to a traditional investigative tip or lead. The spies say that tracking smartphone traffic helped break up a bomb plot by Al Qaeda in Germany in 2007, and the N.S.A. bragged that to crack the plot, it wove together mobile data with emails, log-ins and web traffic. Similarly, mining smartphone data helped lead to arrests of members of a drug cartel hit squad for the 2010 murder of an employee of an American Consulate in Mexico.

But the data, whose volume is soaring as mobile devices have begun to dominate the technological landscape, is a crushing amount of information for the spies to sift through. As smartphone data builds up in N.S.A. and British databases, the agencies sometimes seem a bit at a loss on what to do with it all, the documents show. A few isolated experiments provide hints as to how unwieldy it can be.

In 2009, the American and British spy agencies each undertook a brute-force analysis of a tiny sliver of their cellphone databases. Crunching just one month of N.S.A. cellphone data, a secret report said, required 120 computers and turned up 8,615,650 “actors” — apparently callers of interest. A similar run using three months of British data came up with 24,760,289 actors.

“Not necessarily straightforward,” the report said of the analysis. The agencies’ extensive computer operations had trouble sorting through the slice of data. Analysts were “dealing with immaturity,” the report said, encountering computer memory and processing problems. The report made no mention of anything suspicious in the enormous lumps of data.

Ginger Thompson contributed reporting.

NSA Speech – Kick the can, change a number, Podesta to Counsel

Editor’s Note – The NSA speech was today! The big reveal, long awaited from the President on his plans for the future of the NSA. He had 17 days in Hawaii to mull it over, and today, we heard what he is going to do – “kick the ball down the road”! But wait, he did make an assignment to handle it though last Friday – you guessed it, political hack extraordinaire, John Podesta.

The newly appointed…errr, named “Counselor” to the President, John Podesta, the man named to head up many of Obama’s political ambitions and long time counselor to his previous boss, Bill Clinton as well, was chosen to head the NSA review. Here is a reminder/primer on Podesta:

President Barack Obama speaks about college education, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. The event which is to promote opportunities for students to attend and finish college and university, was attended by college and university presidents and leaders from nonprofits, foundations, governments and businesses. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about college education, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. The event which is to promote opportunities for students to attend and finish college and university, was attended by college and university presidents and leaders from nonprofits, foundations, governments and businesses. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama on 10th December named John Podesta as counselor to the president.  Podesta has reportedly agreed to help the President in his time of troubles for a year.  The White House announced that Podesta would advise the President on a range of issues, but specifically mentioned climate and energy.

Podesta was a co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2009 and has been an unofficial but highly influential outside adviser to the Obama Administration for the past five years.  In 2003, he founded and became president of the Center for American Progress, the leftist think tank and advocacy organization that provided much of the ammunition to oppose the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.

Yes, you heard that correctly, a “political counselor,” his transition head and fromer Clinton advisor on politics, is going to counsel the President on what he should do to handle the massive issue with the NSA; the deepest issue over your liberty and privacy EVER. So now, our security apparatus is in the hands of a political “operative.” Here is the report:

President Barack Obama announced Friday that John Podesta, his new “counselor” and the political operative responsible for creating the institutional left in Washington, will be the appointed “to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy” in the aftermath of revelations about the National Security Agency’s electronic spying programs. When he joined the White House last month, Podesta’s focus was said to be “climate change.”

So the man named to handle “Climate Change” issues is qualified for the “NSA” issues as well? He is going to “counsel” the president on what the changes to the NSA should be; yes, we are shaking our heads as well. Do you see a new campaign of whistle stops, or a cogent look at such a primal and basic issue regarding our liberty?

The Breitbart report goes on to say:

The president’s speech contained little news. It was a classic Obama set-piece, designed to demonstrate that he understands both sides of a complex argument, while delegating responsibility to third parties and taking steps that reinforce the interests and goals of the hard left. In this instance, Obama left final decisions about where to store NSA data to Congress, while making sure that Podesta is in charge of the consultative process as a whole.

Of course, it’s another case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” and politicize everything! We all know that is the case in light of the former Secretary of Defense Gate’s new book, “Duty” where it was exposed in stark clarity that in the Obama Administration, politics trumps policy.

Of course, the right had its opinions on today’s “dog and pony show,” but here is something from a Democrat as well (From UT Documents):

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has introduced legislation that would repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, released the following statement on the President’s remarks today about reforming the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs:
“The President’s speech offered far less than meets the eye.
“His proposals continue to allow surveillance of Americans without requiring a Fourth Amendment determination of probable cause.  They continue to regard Americans as suspects first and citizens second.  They continue to allow the government to build backdoors into computer software and hardware.  They fail to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who uncover abusive spying.
“The President spoke about navigating ‘the balance between security and liberty.’  But this is a faulty and false choice.  As Barack Obama himself urged in his first inaugural address, we must ‘reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’
“The Fourth Amendment and other civil liberty protections do not exist to impede police or intelligence agencies.  To the contrary, they exist to hold to hold government agents to a high standard – to ensure that they act on the basis of evidence, rather than wasting time and resources on wild goose chases.
“Even the modest improvements announced today are subject to reversal at a stroke of the President’s pen.  A standard of ‘trust my good intentions’ isn’t good enough.  Congress should reject these practices and repeal the laws that made the NSA’s abuses possible.”

Hmmm, national security versus total loss of liberty, privacy and human rights…God help the Republic! He did however worry about what foreign nations would think, especially over industrial spying, read what he is doing regarding Brazil. Meanwhile all your texts belong to the NSA, despite the President telling us it was only meta data. Also, read more on signals intelligence issues here.

NewBossOldBossNSA

It’s up to you to decide, but let’s make sure we see all the angles before we decide. We hope we were able to point out a couple here, and also in the story below. Yes, it is from RT.com, but often, a viewpoint from overseas helps us focus and see through the fog:

Obama announces NSA programs overhaul

By RT.com

President Barack Obama announced as expected on Friday a major overhaul to some of the National Security Agency’s most disputed surveillance operations seven months after they was first exposed, reining in the metadata collection program among others.

Effective immediately, the president said, NSA officials must obtain court permission in order to access the government’s archive of telephone metadata — a trove of intelligence that has been regularly collected by the government through a program that its proponents say is a legally sound and crucial counterterrorism tool justified under Section 215 of the United States Patriot Act.

Evidence of that program was exposed last June through classified documents disclosed to the media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and spurred an immediate and ongoing international discussion that cumulated with the president’s endorsement of reform during a Friday morning speech inside the Justice Department building in downtown Washington, DC.

“I believe we need a new approach,” Mr. Obama said. “I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata collection program as it currently exists, and establishes a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.”

Exactly who will be in charge of holding onto the phone records pertaining to millions of Americans has yet to be decided, however, and Mr. Obama says he’s tasked United States Attorney General Eric Holder, the intelligence community and Congress with finding a solution.

Among the first of top-secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden since June is evidence that revealed the US government has regularly compelled the nation’s telecommunication companies for so-called metadata, in turn receiving on routine basis the primitive details about each and every phone call dialed. But while Mr. Obama and his administration has largely defended the program up to and during Friday’s speech, critics have condemned that program and others like it exposed by Mr. Snowden and have accused the government of violating the civil liberties and rights to privacy of not just Americans, but millions around the globe.

The president said during his address that he wouldn’t “dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations,” citing the ongoing investigation into the leaks, but insisted that when individuals who oppose government policy take it upon themselves to publically disclose classified information as the former contractor did, then the US government “will not be able to keep our people safe or conduct foreign policy.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an ally of Snowden, told CNN that the leaker will respond to the new NSA reforms next week.

Other documents disclosed by Mr. Snowden since June have revealed NSA programs that target the communications of foreign persons, including average citizens and allied leaders alike. As expected, Obama announced his intent to reform some of those operations during Friday’s address as well.

Revelations that the NSA had tapped the personal phones of foreign leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel caused outrage around the world last year, but on Friday’s speech Mr. Obama said that the US is the “world’s only superpower” and must continue to conduct operations allies are not able to accomplish on their own.

“We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective,” the president said, “but heads of state and governments with whom we work closely . . . should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners.”

The US government “will continue to gather information about the intentions” of foreign governments, the president said. On the contrary, though, he also promised the NSA “will not monitor the communications of heads of state” atop the ranks of allied partners unless there are compelling national security purposes at stake. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will be subjected to new reform as well, he said, allowing the government to intercept the communications of overseas targets with important information without putting as many Americans and foreign persons incidentally targeted under the looking glass.

More of the president’s new plans involve activity at home, however, including reformations meant to address concerns with how the government collects an array of intelligence gathering operations that may at times turn up the details pertaining to US persons.

Some of the issues touched upon by Mr. Obama during Friday’s address are included in a presidential policy directive published earlier that morning:

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In announcing changes to metadata program carried out through Sec. 215, Mr. Obama said, “I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.” His administration will begin immediately working towards transferring possession of those records away from the NSA, the president added, while at the same time significantly cutting down the number of persons whose information is collected.

“Effective immediately,” he added, “we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist association.” Until now the US government has given itself the authority to investigate the conduct of people separated by three steps, or “hops,” from a targeted number. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that a person with 40 contacts in their mobile phone address book could be connected to roughly 2.5 million others using the “three hops” rule.

Last month, a five-person review group handpicked by Pres. Obama after the dawn of the Snowden leaks released their findings with regards to how they believe the federal government should reform the NSA’s programs. Although the president heeded only a fraction of those, according to promises made during Friday’s address, he did also endorse significant changes to other surveillance programs that have struck a chord among civil libertarians.

National Security Letters, or NSLs, for instance, can be sent by federal agents to private businesses in order to compel them to provide specific information about certain customers without that targeted person ever being told they are under investigation. “We can and should be more transparent as to how the government uses this authority,” the president said from the DoJ headquarters, and in an effort to do as much he has directed Attorney General Holder to amend how NSLs are currently used.

Mr. Obama also announced that he’s asked Congress to establish a panel of advocate from outside of government to provide an independent voice before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, which authorizes in secret wiretaps and similar spy operations under what critics call little-to-no oversight.

Obama-Rule: We Don't Need Congress, I have a Pen!

Editor’s Note – Although we have known for ages that Obama has been usurping power via the pen, the podium, and the phone, now he actually admits it. The timing is especially interesting since the “Recess Appointment” case is underway at the Supreme Court. This is an obvious thumb-in-the-eye gesture to his foes and the court itself. That means he is thumbing his nose at you, the American citizens of all stripes.

Obama is openly saying that he does not need “no stinking Congress or Courts”, he is the Supreme Leader! So, it appears that all those labels foisted upon him in like regard are true: Messiah, Dear Leader, Anointed One, and so on…all couched in the “helping the people” jargon, while usurping the power of the people!

"See this pen, this is all I need!"
“See this pen, this is all I need!”

Obama: I will use my pen and phone to take on Congress

By REBECCA KAPLAN – CBS News

President Obama seems ready to work around Congress in 2014, telling reporters before his first Cabinet meeting of the year Tuesday that he stood ready to use two tools, a pen and a phone, to provide help for Americans.

“We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating,” the president said.

“I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life, nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme: making sure that this is a country where, if you work hard, you can make it,” he added.

He encouraged Congress to extend unemployment insurance and pass some form of immigration reform, and said he has plans to meet with university presidents to talk about college affordability and CEOs to talk about hiring the long-term unemployed.

"....and I have plenty of pens!"
“….and I have plenty of pens!”

The president has found himself at odds with Republicans since he was first elected in 2008. Although there has been bipartisan legislation in the past, the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives made those moments few and far between and looking for other ways to affect his agenda. Still, he said he would work with both parties and both chambers of Congress to continue the economic recovery, and he predicted “we can see a lot of improvements this year” if everyone works together.

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seems no more inclined to go along with the president’s policies today than he has for the past several years. “The American people have a right to continue to ask the question, where are the jobs? The president’s been in office now for five years. It’s time for the president to admit that his policies are not working,” he said.

Boehner added that many Americans lost their health plans or access to their doctors with the implementation of Obamacare despite promises from the president that they wouldn’t.

“If these statements by the president turn out not to be true, why would anyone think his economic policies are going to turn out any differently? Boehner asked.

Asked about the recent chemical spill in West Virginia, Boehner said it was not a reason to seek more regulations.

“We have enough regulations on the books, and what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs. Why wasn’t this plant inspected since 1991? I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people. Somebody ought to be held accountable here,” he said.