Taking Short Break From Denouncing Trump Authoritarianism, House Dems Join With GOP to ‘Violate the Privacy Rights of Everyone in United States’

Despite spending much of the last twelve months denouncing the legitimate threat posed by President Donald Trump’s penchant for authoritarian policies and behavior, 65 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday joined with 191 Republicans in passing a bill that advocates of civil liberties warn will lead to the wholesale violation ‘of privacy rights for everyone in the United States.’

While the final vote on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 (or S.139)—which included renewal of the controversial Section 702 which allows government agencies to spy on the emails, text messages, and other electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant—was 256 to 164 in favor of passage, the partisan breakdown revealed that Republicans in the majority needed a great deal of Democratic support in order to have it pass.

A tribute to James Dolan, co-creator of SecureDrop, who has tragically passed away at age 36

It was with an extremely heavy heart that we recently learned our friend and former colleague James Dolan—one of the co-creators of SecureDrop and Freedom of the Press Foundation’s first full time employee—took his own life over the holidays. He was 36.

In 2012, James worked with Aaron Swartz and journalist Kevin Poulsen to build the original prototype of SecureDrop, the open source whistleblower submission system, which was then called DeadDrop. Poulsen described James’s role in the project’s creation in the New Yorker in 2013:

The Espionage Act And NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner’s Uphill Struggle To Defend Herself

The defense for Reality Winner, a National Security Agency contractor accused of mailing a classified document on Russian hacking to The Intercept, contends the government misstates the law under the Espionage Act. They believe the government ignores “serious constitutional problems” raised by their interpretation of the statute.

But Winner’s defense faces a tremendous uphill struggle. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, leak prosecutions intensified the government’s ability to wield the Espionage Act as a strict liability offense, which means there is very little the government has to prove beyond the fact that an unauthorized disclosure took place.

My husband gets out of prison soon

Jeffrey and I would like to express our sincerest gratitude for your support you have shown us throughout his wrongful incarceration. It is difficult to fathom that my beloved husband has been imprisoned for the last 2.5 years and that truth and justice did not prevail. Forever Jeffrey must wear the scarlet letter of being a supposed traitor to his country. The country he still loves.

As the new year begins, we are preparing for Jeffrey’s transfer to a halfway house scheduled for January 16, 2018, where he will complete the remainder of his sentence. This new year brings hope that we can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding our life that the government vehemently destroyed.

CPC Demands Meaningful Reform to Mass Surveillance Law

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Rául M. Grijalva (D-AZ) released the following statement following the markup of the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989) by the House Judiciary Committee:

“As the deadline to reauthorize broad government surveillance powers established under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act approaches, it is clear that only a bill that includes substantial reforms to protect journalists, activists, and citizens can pass the House and become law. “

Insider Threat Program Training and Trump’s War on Leaks: A Chilling Combination for Whistleblowers

The Trump administration has declared a war on media leaks and called for the U.S. federal workforce and contractors to receive “anti-leak” training. The centerpiece of Trump’s anti-leak campaign, aside from early morning tweet-storms railing against leakers and media, is the National Insider Threat Taskforce.

The Insider Threat Program is not Trump-era creation. In then-secret testimony to Congress in 2012, Directorate of National Intelligence official Robert Litt touted the original Insider Threat Program as a highlight in administrative efforts to “sanction and deter” leaks. In the past, Insider Threat Program training has improperly included “WANTED”-style images of whistleblowers pictured alongside actual spies and mass murderers.

Progressive Groups Invoke Trump In New Push For Surveillance Reform

Leading progressive organizations hope to turn the reform of government surveillance programs into a litmus test for 2020 presidential candidates.

In a letter to congressional Democrats, 34 groups, led by the digital rights-focused Demand Progress Action, demand new protections for civil liberties in the reauthorization of a key surveillance law. The groups favor allowing the expiration of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enables the federal government to search the electronic communications of Americans without a warrant.

Chelsea Manning Tells Off Harvard and the CIA

Chelsea Manning never ended up lecturing at Harvard University after loud objections from the Central Intelligence Agency. But late Monday afternoon, the day she was supposed to begin her fellowship, Manning did talk about surveillance, tech, and social repression down the street—at the similarly prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For someone who enlisted in the Army at a young age and spent most of her adult life in prison, seeing the prevalence of domestic surveillance and the militarization of policing is “like I’m walking out into the most boring dystopian novel I can imagine,” she told The Daily Beast shortly after her talk. “It feels like American cities, certain parts of them, are occupied by an American force, the police department.”

The Mark Zaid Materials from the Jeffrey Sterling Trial

Because he just formed a new whistleblower group with John Napier Tye, there as been renewed interest in allegations an FBI Agent made during the Jeffrey Sterling case about attorney Mark Zaid. But there was actually a second detail regarding Zaid released just after the trial that has not been publicly reported: Zaid was interviewed by the FBI, twice, and was even interviewed before Sterling himself was.

I asked Zaid whether he was obligated to do the FBI interviews on Twitter but got no response. I think it’s possible FBI asked to interview him as much because the Senate Intelligence Committee was refusing to cooperate in the investigation as anything else; at the time, FBI considered SSCI staffer Bill Duhnke a more likely suspect than Sterling (and it’s not clear they ever ruled him out).

Institutional Lack of Candor

The FISC has twice found that certain Section 702 collection violated the Fourth Amendment. In 2011 the
government revealed that as part of its “upstream” Section 702 collection it collected non-targeted, entirely domestic
communications. When NSA violated the rules that were supposed to make this collection legal, FISC again deemed
the practice “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”

For almost 12 years, both under Section 702 and other programs before it, NSA was always engaging in or retaining
some kind of electronic surveillance the FISC would go on to deem unauthorized, and NSA would only fix the
problem when threatened with criminal sanctions.