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  1. #1
    Senior Member Reciprocity's Avatar
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    Alert:Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords

    Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords

    Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.
    by Declan McCullagh

    July 25, 2013 11:26 AM PDT

    (Credit: Photo illustration by James Martin/CNET)
    The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
    If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.
    "I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."
    A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"
    Some of the government orders demand not only a user's password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts.
    "This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?"
    --Jennifer Granick, Stanford University
    A Microsoft spokesperson would not say whether the company has received such requests from the government. But when asked whether Microsoft would divulge passwords, salts, or algorithms, the spokesperson replied: "No, we don't, and we can't see a circumstance in which we would provide it."
    Google also declined to disclose whether it had received requests for those types of data. But a spokesperson said the company has "never" turned over a user's encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are fishing expeditions or are otherwise problematic. "We take the privacy and security of our users very seriously," the spokesperson said.
    Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast did not respond to queries about whether they have received requests for users' passwords and how they would respond to them.
    Richard Lovejoy, a director of the Opera Software subsidiary that operates FastMail, said he doesn't recall receiving any such requests but that the company still has a relatively small number of users compared with its larger rivals. Because of that, he said, "we don't get a high volume" of U.S. government demands.
    The FBI declined to comment.
    Some details remain unclear, including when the requests began and whether the government demands are always targeted at individuals or seek entire password database dumps. The Patriot Act has been used to demand entire database dumps of phone call logs, and critics have suggested its use is broader. "The authority of the government is essentially limitless" under that law, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who serves on the Senate Intelligence committee, said at a Washington event this week.
    Large Internet companies have resisted the government's requests by arguing that "you don't have the right to operate the account as a person," according to a person familiar with the issue. "I don't know what happens when the government goes to smaller providers and demands user passwords," the person said.
    An attorney who represents Internet companies said he has not fielded government password requests, but "we've certainly had reset requests -- if you have the device in your possession, than a password reset is the easier way."

    Source code to a C implementation of bcrypt, a popular algorithm used for password hashing.
    (Credit: Photo by Declan McCullagh)
    Cracking the codes
    Even if the National Security Agency or the FBI successfully obtains an encrypted password, salt, and details about the algorithm used, unearthing a user's original password is hardly guaranteed. The odds of success depend in large part on two factors: the type of algorithm and the complexity of the password.
    Algorithms, known as hash functions, that are viewed as suitable for scrambling stored passwords are designed to be difficult to reverse. One popular hash function called MD5, for instance, transforms the phrase "National Security Agency" into this string of seemingly random characters: 84bd1c27b26f7be85b2742817bb8d43b. Computer scientists believe that, if a hash function is well-designed, the original phrase cannot be derived from the output.
    But modern computers, especially ones equipped with high-performance video cards, can test passwords scrambled with MD5 and other well-known hash algorithms at the rate of billions a second. One system using 25 Radeon-powered GPUs that was demonstrated at a conference last December tested 348 billion hashes per second, meaning it would crack a 14-character Windows XP password in six minutes.
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    The best practice among Silicon Valley companies is to adopt far slower hash algorithms -- designed to take a large fraction of a second to scramble a password -- that have been intentionally crafted to make it more difficult and expensive for the NSA and other attackers to test every possible combination.
    One popular algorithm, used by Twitter and LinkedIn, is called bcrypt. A 2009 paper (PDF) by computer scientist Colin Percival estimated that it would cost a mere $4 to crack, in an average of one year, an 8-character bcrypt password composed only of letters. To do it in an average of one day, the hardware cost would jump to approximately $1,500.
    But if a password of the same length included numbers, asterisks, punctuation marks, and other special characters, the cost-per-year leaps to $130,000. Increasing the length to any 10 characters, Percival estimated in 2009, brings the estimated cracking cost to a staggering $1.2 billion.
    As computers have become more powerful, the cost of cracking bcrypt passwords has decreased. "I'd say as a rough ballpark, the current cost would be around 1/20th of the numbers I have in my paper," said Percival, who founded a company called Tarsnap Backup, which offers "online backups for the truly paranoid." Percival added that a government agency would likely use ASICs -- application-specific integrated circuits -- for password cracking because it's "the most cost-efficient -- at large scale -- approach."
    While developing Tarsnap, Percival devised an algorithm called scrypt, which he estimates can make the "cost of a hardware brute-force attack" against a hashed password as much as 4,000 times greater than bcrypt.
    Bcrypt was introduced (PDF) at a 1999 Usenix conference by Niels Provos, currently a distinguished engineer in Google's infrastructure group, and David Mazières, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University.
    With the computers available today, "bcrypt won't pipeline very well in hardware," Mazières said, so it would "still be very expensive to do widespread cracking."
    Even if "the NSA is asking for access to hashed bcrypt passwords," Mazières said, "that doesn't necessarily mean they are cracking them." Easier approaches, he said, include an order to extract them from the server or network when the user logs in -- which has been done before -- or installing a keylogger at the client.

    Sen. Ron Wyden, who warned this week that "the authority of the government is essentially limitless" under the Patriot Act's business records provision.
    (Credit: Getty Images)
    Questions of law
    Whether the National Security Agency or FBI has the legal authority to demand that an Internet company divulge a hashed password, salt, and algorithm remains murky.
    "This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?" said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society. "I don't know."
    Granick said she's not aware of any precedent for an Internet company "to provide passwords, encrypted or otherwise, or password algorithms to the government -- for the government to crack passwords and use them unsupervised." If the password will be used to log in to the account, she said, that's "prospective surveillance," which would require a wiretap order or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order.
    If the government can subsequently determine the password, "there's a concern that the provider is enabling unauthorized access to the user's account if they do that," Granick said. That could, she said, raise legal issues under the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
    The Justice Department has argued in court proceedings before that it has broad legal authority to obtain passwords. In 2011, for instance, federal prosecutors sent a grand jury subpoena demanding the password that would unlock files encrypted with the TrueCrypt utility.
    The Florida man who received the subpoena claimed the Fifth Amendment, which protects his right to avoid self-incrimination, allowed him to refuse the prosecutors' demand. In February 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed, saying that because prosecutors could bring a criminal prosecution against him based on the contents of the decrypted files, the man "could not be compelled to decrypt the drives."
    In January 2012, a federal district judge in Colorado reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that a criminal defendant could be compelled under the All Writs Act to type in the password that would unlock a Toshiba Satellite laptop.
    Both of those cases, however, deal with criminal proceedings when the password holder is the target of an investigation -- and don't address when a hashed password is stored on the servers of a company that's an innocent third party.
    "If you can figure out someone's password, you have the ability to reuse the account," which raises significant privacy concerns, said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the
    “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” –Thomas Jefferson

  2. #2
    Senior Member Reciprocity's Avatar
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    Feds use keylogger to thwart PGP, Hushmail

    Court case provides a rare glimpse into how some federal agents deal with encryption: by breaking into a suspect's office, implanting a keylogger and watching what happens from afar.
    by Declan McCullagh
    July 10, 2007 4:45 AM PDT

    A recent court case provides a rare glimpse into how some federal agents deal with encryption: by breaking into a suspect's home or office, implanting keystroke-logging software, and spying on what happens from afar.
    An agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration persuaded a federal judge to authorize him to sneak into an Escondido, Calif., office believed to be a front for manufacturing the drug MDMA, or Ecstasy. The DEA received permission to copy the hard drives' contents and inject a keystroke logger into the computers.
    That was necessary, according to DEA Agent Greg Coffey, because the suspects were using PGP and the encrypted Web e-mail service Coffey asserted that the DEA needed "real-time and meaningful access" to "monitor the keystrokes" for PGP and Hushmail passphrases.
    The aggressive surveillance techniques employed by the DEA were part of a case that resulted in a ruling on Friday (PDF) by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which primarily dealt with Internet surveillance through a wiretap conducted on a PacBell (now AT&T) business DSL line used by the defendants. More on that below.
    The DEA's pursuit of alleged Ecstasy manufacturers Mark Forrester and Dennis Alba differs from the first known police use of key-logging software, which snared reputed mobster Nicodemo Scarfo in 1999. In the Scarfo case, the FBI said in an unclassified affidavit (PDF) at the time, a keylogger that also was planted in a black bag job was disabled when the Internet connection became active.

    Note requirement for 'real-time' access / Excerpt from DEA Agent Greg Coffey affidavit

    Not much more is known about the DEA's keylogger in the Forrester-Alba case. An affidavit prepared by DEA agent Coffey in July 2001 asks for permission to enter the Escondido office "by breaking and entering, if necessary, for the purpose of installing, maintaining, and removing software tools" that "will enable agents to capture and record all keyboard keystrokes."
    Note there's no evidence the DEA used the FBI's keystroke logger known as Magic Lantern, which reportedly can be installed remotely by taking advantage of operating system vulnerabilities without having agents physically break into an office.
    Keyloggers are hardly unusual nowadays, of course. In 2003, a former Boston College student was indicted for allegedly installing key-logging software on campus computers. More recent surveys indicate that plenty of workplaces are infected by spyware with key-logging abilities.

    Who created PGP? It was actually Phil Zimmermann. / Excerpt from DEA Agent Greg Coffey affidavit

    Keyloggers: Unresolved questions
    The use of keyloggers by police, however, seems to be uncommon: A search on Monday through legal databases for terms such as "keylogger" turned up only the Scarfo and Forrester-Alba cases.
    When used by police, they raise novel legal issues. That's because it's not entirely clear in what circumstances they're permitted under the U.S. Constitution and wiretap laws (which is why, in the Scarfo case, the FBI cleverly ducked this issue by, according to sworn testimony, disabling the keylogger when the modem was in use).
    Even so, Scarfo's defense attorney claimed that a keylogger is akin to a "general warrant" permitting the DEA to seize "any record, including e-mail, simply because it was typed on a computer." General warrants are prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, which requires that warrants specify the "things to be seized." Another potential legal obstacle is whether wiretap laws apply--including their requirement of minimizing the interception of irrelevant conversations.
    A federal judge eventually ruled that the unique design made the Scarfo logger permissible. But in the Forrester-Alba case, because Alba did not challenge the keylogger directly, the 9th Circuit never weighed in.

    DEA claims that alleged Ecstasy/MDMA lab operators use encryption frequently / Excerpt from DEA Agent Greg Coffey affidavit

    Eavesdropping without probable cause
    Instead, the 9th Circuit spent much of its time evaluating whether government agents can eavesdrop on the Internet addresses Americans visit and the e-mail address of their correspondents without obtaining a search warrant first.
    The judges' conclusion: federal agents did not violate the Fourth Amendment when spying on the Escondido DSL line without any evidence of criminal wrongdoing on his behalf, a legal standard known as probable cause. All the feds must do is prove the information is "relevant" to an ongoing investigation.
    The wiretap was done at PacBell's connection facility at 650 Robinson Rd. in San Diego. The DEA obtained what's known as a "mirror port," a feature that many network switches made by companies including Cisco Systems include for troubleshooting purposes.
    A mirror port duplicates all the Internet traffic of one user to a second port on the same switch, without the suspect being alerted that electronic surveillance is under way. The scheme is probably easier to accomplish with a static Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is what the Escondido case involved.
    According to the DEA, only IP addresses of Web sites (such as instead of and e-mail headers are captured, and not the rest of the communication stream. That, they argue, makes it akin to existing precedent dealing with pen registers, which capture telephone numbers dialed and are permitted without any proof of probable cause of wrongdoing.
    The 9th Circuit agreed, ruling on Friday that "e-mail and Internet users have no expectation of privacy in the To/From addresses of their messages or the IP addresses of the websites they visit because they should know that these messages are sent and these IP addresses are accessed through the equipment of their Internet service provider and other third parties." This follows the lead of a Massachusetts judge who said much the same thing in November 2005.
    Both Forrester and Alba were sentenced to 30 years in prison (PDF) on charges including conspiracy to manufacture and distribute Ecstasy. In a decision made on unrelated grounds, however, the 9th Circuit reversed Forrester's conviction and partially reversed Alba's. Forrester faces retrial.
    “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” –Thomas Jefferson

  3. #3
    Senior Member Reciprocity's Avatar
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    Oath Keepers Founder Targeted in Attempted Set Up

    Unknown assailant impersonated Stewart Rhodes in an e-mail with child pornography attachment.Kit Daniels
    July 25, 2013
    Pretending to be Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, an unknown assailant sent a child pornography e-mail to People Against the NDAA (PANDAA) founder Dan Johnson in a failed attempt to frame both Rhodes and Johnson for felony charges.The impersonator used a anonymous e-mail account with ‘Stewart Rhodes’ listed as the sender name and even included Rhodes’ signature block.Johnson, however, knew that Rhodes did not use Tor e-mail and did not open the attached PDFs.PANDAA’s Internet security expert determined that the PDFs contained child pornography.“Someone was trying to get Dan to open up these PDFs and download child pornography onto his computer,” Rhodes said. “That was a direct attack on him but also an attack on me because it purported to be from me.”“It had my name embedded and Oath Keepers name embedded in the files.”Rhodes said that this attempted framing of him and Johnson is part of a continuing scheme to try and set up freedom activists with felonies.As we recently reported earlier this month, Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change received an anonymous e-mail from someone claiming to be a Bilderberg insider with attached photos from this year’s meeting inside the Grove Hotel.The photos also turned out to be child pornography.After Rudkowski went public, he had a follow-up exchange with the unknown, alleged assailants who admitted they were trying to set him up as well as other activists.Rhodes and Johnson are both working together on anti-NDAA legislation intended to completely nullify the unconstitutional law.Oath Keepers is a non-partisan organization of current and former first responders and military veterans who have pledged to uphold the Constitution and to not obey unconstitutional orders given by predatory government officials.The organization is well-known in the liberty community for their Push Cards, wallet-sized cards that emphasize ten unconstitutional orders that oath keepers will not obey, such as “We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people” and “We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.”Constitutionalists routinely ask first responders and veterans seeking public office if they are oath keepers.This article was posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Videos at link

    Last edited by Reciprocity; 07-25-2013 at 08:51 PM.
    “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” –Thomas Jefferson

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    These are very important articles and I hope that everyone reads them.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Reciprocity's Avatar
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    I would strongly advise all Alipac members, especially Alipac Administrators and W flip thier passwords on a 2 day rotation period in light of this disturbing imformation. maybe now the American people will wake up. you all should seriuosly consider dropping your windows operating systems and switch to linux, you'll be alot safer. Any members needing help just contact me here.
    Last edited by Reciprocity; 07-25-2013 at 09:41 PM.
    “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” –Thomas Jefferson

  6. #6
    House Kills Effort to Halt NSA Program

    Associated Press
    The House narrowly rejected a challenge to the National Security Agency's secret collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records Wednesday night after a fierce debate pitting privacy rights against the government's efforts to thwart terrorism.

    The vote was 217-205 on an issue that created unusual political coalitions in Washington, with libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats pressing for the change against the Obama administration, the Republican establishment and Congress' national security experts.

    The showdown vote marked the first chance for lawmakers to take a stand on the secret surveillance program since former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked classified documents last month that spelled out the monumental scope of the government's activities.

    Backing the NSA program were 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who typically does not vote, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Rejecting the administration's last-minute pleas to spare the surveillance operation were 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats.

    It is unlikely to be the final word on government intrusion to defend the nation and Americans' civil liberties.

    "Have 12 years gone by and our memories faded so badly that we forgot what happened on Sept. 11?" Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in pleading with his colleagues to back the program during House debate.

    Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, chief sponsor of the repeal effort, said his aim was to end the indiscriminate collection of Americans' phone records.

    His measure, offered as an addition to a $598.3 billion defense spending bill for 2014, would have canceled the statutory authority for the NSA program, ending the agency's ability to collect phone records and metadata under the USA Patriot Act unless it identified an individual under investigation.

    The House later voted to pass the overall defense bill, 315-109.

    Amash told the House that his effort was to defend the Constitution and "defend the privacy of every American."

    "Opponents of this amendment will use the same tactic that every government throughout history has used to justify its violation of rights: Fear," he said. "They'll tell you that the government must violate the rights of the American people to protect us against those who hate our freedom."

    The unlikely political coalitions were on full display during a spirited but brief House debate.

    "Let us not deal in false narratives. Let's deal in facts that will keep Americans safe," said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a member of the Intelligence committee who implored her colleagues to back a program that she argued was vital in combatting terrorism.

    But Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a senior member of the Judiciary Committee who helped write the Patriot Act, insisted "the time has come" to stop the collection of phone records that goes far beyond what he envisioned.

    Several Republicans acknowledged the difficulty in balancing civil liberties against national security, but expressed suspicion about the Obama administration's implementation of the NSA programs _ and anger at Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

    "Right now the balancing is being done by people we do not know. People who lied to this body," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.

    He was referring to Clapper who admitted he gave misleading statements to Congress on how much the U.S. spies on Americans. Clapper apologized to lawmakers earlier this month after saying in March that the U.S. does not gather data on citizens _ something that Snowden revealed as false by releasing documents showing the NSA collects millions of phone records.

    With a flurry of letters, statements and tweets, both sides lobbied furiously in the hours prior to the vote in the Republican-controlled House. In a last-minute statement, Clapper warned against dismantling a critical intelligence tool.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Congress has authorized _ and a Republican and a Democratic president have signed _ extensions of the powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

    Two years ago, in a strong bipartisan statement, the Senate voted 72-23 to renew the Patriot Act and the House backed the extension 250-153.

    Since the disclosures this year, however, lawmakers have said they were shocked by the scope of the two programs _ one to collect records of hundreds of millions of calls and the other allowing the NSA to sweep up Internet usage data from around the world that goes through nine major U.S.-based providers.

    Although Republican leaders agreed to a vote on the Amash amendment, one of 100 to the defense spending bill, time for debate was limited to 15 minutes out of the two days the House dedicated to the overall legislation.

    The White House and the director of the NSA, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, made last-minute appeals to lawmakers, urging them to oppose the amendment. Rogers and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, implored their colleagues to back the NSA program.

    Eight former attorneys general, CIA directors and national security experts wrote in a letter to lawmakers that the two programs are fully authorized by law and "conducted in a manner that appropriately respects the privacy and civil liberties interests of Americans."

    White House press secretary Jay Carney issued an unusual, nighttime statement on the eve of Wednesday's vote, arguing that the change would "hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community's counterterrorism tools."

    Proponents of the NSA programs argue that the surveillance operations have been successful in thwarting at least 50 terror plots across 20 countries, including 10 to 12 directed at the United States. Among them was a 2009 plot to strike at the New York Stock Exchange.

    Rogers joined six GOP chairmen in a letter urging lawmakers to reject the Amash amendment.

    "While many members have legitimate questions about the NSA metadata program, including whether there are sufficient protections for Americans' civil liberties," the chairman wrote, "eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation would not reflect our duty, under Article I of the Constitution, to provide for the common defense."

    The overall defense spending bill would provide the Pentagon with $512.5 billion for weapons, personnel, aircraft and ships plus $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan for the next budget year.

    The total, which is $5.1 billion below current spending, has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which argues that it would force the administration to cut education, health research and other domestic programs in order to boost spending for the Pentagon.

    In a leap of faith, the bill assumes that Congress and the administration will resolve the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have led the Pentagon to furlough workers and cut back on training. The bill projects spending in the next fiscal year at $28.1 billion above the so-called sequester level.

    By voice vote, the House backed an amendment that would require the president to seek congressional approval before sending U.S. military forces into the 2-year-old civil war in Syria.

    Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., sponsor of the measure, said Obama has a "cloudy foreign policy" and noted the nation's war weariness after more than 10 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The administration is moving ahead with sending weapons to vetted rebels, but Obama and members of Congress have rejected the notion of U.S. ground forces.

    The House also adopted, by voice vote, an amendment barring funds for military or paramilitary operations in Egypt. Several lawmakers, including Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who heads the panel overseeing foreign aid, expressed concerns about the measure jeopardizing the United States' longstanding relationship with the Egyptian military.

    The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., insisted that his amendment would not affect that relationship.

    The overall bill must be reconciled with whatever measure the Democratic-controlled Senate produces.

  7. #7
    Senior Member HAPPY2BME's Avatar
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  8. #8
    Senior Member HAPPY2BME's Avatar
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    Backing the NSA program were 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who typically does not vote, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Rejecting the administration's last-minute pleas to spare the surveillance operation were 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats.

    The opposing 205 legislators are bracing for having everything they have ever done being investigated, and everything they ever will do subject to microscopic surveillance.
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    How Nancy Pelosi Saved the NSA Surveillance Program
    Posted By John Hudson Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 6:39 PM

    Ahead of the razor-thin 205-217 vote, which would have severely limited the NSA's ability to collect data on Americans' telephone records if passed, Pelosi privately and aggressively lobbied wayward Democrats to torpedo the amendment, a Democratic committee aid with knowledge of the deliberations tells The Cable.

    The obituary of Rep. Justin Amash's amendment to claw back the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency has largely been written as a victory for the White House and NSA chief Keith Alexander, who lobbied the Hill aggressively in the days and hours ahead of Wednesday's shockingly close vote. But Hill sources say most of the credit for the amendment's defeat goes to someone else: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It's an odd turn, considering that Pelosi has been, on many occasions, a vocal surveillance critic.

    Ahead of the razor-thin 205-217 vote, which would have severely limited the NSA's ability to collect data on Americans' telephone records if passed, Pelosi privately and aggressively lobbied wayward Democrats to torpedo the amendment, a Democratic committee aid with knowledge of the deliberations tells The Cable.

    "Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say," said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. "Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it's unlikely there would've been more Democrats for the amendment."

    With 111 liberal-to-moderate Democrats voting for the amendment alongside 94 Republicans, the vote in no way fell along predictable ideological fault lines. And for a particular breed of Democrat, Pelosi's overtures proved decisive, multiple sources said.

    "Pelosi had a big effect on more middle-of-the road hawkish Democrats who didn't want to be identified with a bunch of lefties [voting for the amendment]," said the aide. "As for the Alexander briefings: Did they hurt? No, but that was not the central force, at least among House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi's political power far outshines that of Keith Alexander's."

    But despite the minority leader's instrumental role in swaying the vote, you won't find her taking credit: She's busy protecting her left flank from liberal supporters of Amash's amendment -- some of whom openly booed her at last month's Netroots Nation conference where she defended President Obama's NSA surveillance program.

    When contacted, a Pelosi aide did not dispute the minority leader's assertive role in influencing Democrats, but passed along a letter Pelosi sent to the president today raising skepticism about the NSA's surveillance powers.

    "Dear Mr. President," reads the letter. "Although the amendment was defeated 205-217, it is clear that concerns remain about the continued implementation of the program in its current form. Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program."

    The letter goes on to question whether the bulk metadata collection program sufficiently protects the privacy of Americans, whether it could be tailored more narrowly and whether the law is being implemented in a manner consistent with Congress's intent.

    Pelosi is no stranger to intelligence issues; she was a member of the House's intelligence committee in the aftermath of the September 9/11 attacks. In recent years, she's grown increasingly skeptical of surveillance powers authorized by the PATRIOT Act, which she voted against in 2005 when it was up for reauthorization and again in February. "Well, I didn't vote for the PATRIOT Act the last time it was up," she said today, at her weekly press briefing. "I don't want anybody to misunderstand a vote against the Amash resolution yesterday."

    At the briefing, she emphasized her current effort circulating a letter for members to sign expressing concern over how metadata is collected. "The Administration is the custodian of the information. The ownership belongs to the American people," she said. "And we, as their Representatives, have to make decisions about it, we have to know more about it."
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