Restore the Fourth Los Angeles - Overview of NSA Scandal


Published on

Restore the Fourth was founded in response to the recent NSA scandal that uncovered massive, unconstitutional domestic surveillance perpetrated by the NSA, a federal spy agency.

This presentation should provide an overview to the scandal, including the background, what we know now (summary of the leaks), and some of the political, economic, and legal implications of these revelations.

Restore the Fourth Los Angeles is one of the largest and most active Restore the Fourth chapters. Check us out at:

For more information on the national movement, please check out:

Published in: News & Politics, Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Restore the Fourth Los Angeles - Overview of NSA Scandal

  1. 1. Restore the 4th Los Angeles Chapter Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  2. 2. Restore the 4th - Who we are • • Restore the 4th Grassroots, non-violent organization established in early June 2013 in response to revelations that the National Security Agency has been secretly conducting massive, bulk domestic surveillance program on Americans “Franchise” organization structure – National group with separate charters in each city – City charters work largely independently of national organization, but have a vote on structural issues that affect the group on a nation-wide level • Restore the 4th LA has been one of the most active chapters to date, organizing: – Protests in Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica – Phoning, emailing, tweeting & Facebooking the Los Angeles congressional delegation in support of the Amash amendment – and we are keeping score – Involvement in local representatives’ town halls – Educating our communities on how to encrypt their online life • Our goal is to end these programs through the democratic process by putting pressure on our elected representatives to restore the 4th Amendment Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  3. 3. 1. The NSA Scandal Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  4. 4. The NSA Scandal The initial leaks • In early June 2013, former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden released top secret information to the Guardian and Washington Post revealing that the NSA had been collecting phone information on every American in the country • The revelations caused a major uproar, forcing the U.S. government onto the defensive to justify what, on the surface, seemed like a surveillance program that blatantly violated rights enumerated under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution (mass, warrantless collection of information from suspicion-less individuals) • Edward Snowden had already fled the country, revealing the initial leaks from Hong Kong • An international man-hunt promptly ensued, during which the United States Government (“USG”) placed increasingly fierce pressure on key trading partners and allies to turn over Edward Snowden • During this process, the USG potentially violated international law by seemingly compelling Austria to ground President Evo Morales’ (of Bolivia) plane under the suspicion that it was carrying Edward Snowden • Eventually, Edward Snowden was stranded in Moscow (due to the U.S. suspending his passport), where he was granted political asylum Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  5. 5. The NSA Scandal (Cont’d) The U.S. government’s legal justification • • • • • (1) (2) (3) Justification for these programs were given by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) courts, which approved these programs through a dubious interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act Section 215 of the Patriot Act grants the NSA, as well as other government organizations, the power to compel individuals to turn over “any tangible things” so long as the NSA "specif[ies]" that the order is "for an authorized investigation . . . to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activity”(1) The FISA courts took this section one step further, arguing that the private communications of each and every American are tangentially related to any potential terrorist attack, and can therefore be collected en masse without a warrant or suspicion Congressmen Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act, has come out in strong opposition to both these programs and the line of reasoning employed in justifying them (2) Sensenbrenner has stated publicly that the language of Section 215 was drafted specifically to prevent this form of mass surveillance, requiring the government to have individualized suspicion to collect such information(3) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  6. 6. The NSA Scandal (Cont’d) The U.S. government’s legal justification (Cont’d) • • The FISA courts were created in the 1970’s to oversee intelligence and other top secret cases However, there is no adversarial process involved in the FISA courts – – • As a result of this one sided process, the FISA courts have come to be seen as a “rubber stamp” court, approving all intelligence related requests made by the government without any critical assessment – • (1) (2) In other words, the U.S. government gets to present its case, yet there is no side arguing against the government’s position Adversarial systems underpin our system of justice and democracy In 2012, for example, of the 1,856 intelligence-related requests made by the government, the FISA court approved 1,856, resulting in an approval rate of 100%(1) Even more disturbing, the FISA courts have increasingly taken on the role as a parallel but secret supreme court, setting Constitutional precedent and, even in certain cases, overriding rulings made by the Supreme Court in secret and without any semblance of accountability or transparency(2) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  7. 7. The NSA Scandal (Cont’d) The U.S. government’s security justification • The U.S. government and intelligence programs have continually claimed that these massive surveillance programs are necessary to prevent further terrorist attacks • Despite claims that these programs prevented 54 attacks since their inception, the only example that has been provided to the public that these programs are effective is a plot to attack the New York city subway line in 2009 • However, this example has been amply reported on and has been shown that the discovery and foiling of it was accomplished through ordinary police work, not mass surveillance programs(1) (source:, primary documents from 2009 terror investigation all publicly available) • The administration was extremely lenient with top secret leaks when it led to the production of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a movie detailing the administration’s triumph in the bin Laden attack(2). Why would the administration be more reserved about additional intelligence-related triumphs? (1) (2) ,, Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  8. 8. The NSA Scandal (Cont’d) Attack on the Press • • • The press has been attacked vociferously throughout the NSA scandal Edward Snowden, seen by the majority of Americans as a whistleblower(1) (source: Quinnipiac University Poll) was charged by the Obama administration under the WWIera espionage act as a traitor Glenn Greenwald, one of the primary reporters on the NSA at The Guardian, had his partner, David Miranda, detained at the London Heathrow airport for 9 hours(2) – David Miranda’s detention was justified by the U.K. police under Britain’s “Terrorism Act” – The detention sets a disturbing precedent, potentially blurring the lines between “journalism” and “terrorism” • The Guardian, one of the key news outlets for information on the NSA scandal, was forced by the British Government to physically destroy computers that contained information on GCHQ (the British’s equivalent of the NSA) or face a freeze on all future surveillance-related publications(3) – According to The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, he was contacted by British spy officials and told: “You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” • (1) (2) (3) (4) Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the senate intelligence committee and strongly in favor of the NSA surveillance programs, has introduced a bill to more closely define what counts as a “journalist,” ostensibly to restrict 1st amendment free press protections for those who do not fit the more restrictive definition of a journalist (4) 20130913,0,5900019.story , Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  9. 9. 2. What do we know now? Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  10. 10. What do we know now? Process of leaks • • • • Before the initial leaks were published Snowden and his key journalist contact Glenn Greenwald (of The Guardian) stated publicly that they scrubbed the documents that were to be published to ensure that there was no information that could potentially hurt U.S. national security Since then, the leaks have come out in a trickle The result is that, after each leak, the USG has been forced to acknowledge the presence of such programs, but have generally made claims that other, more invasive examples of surveillance, do not occur As a result of the slow trickle of information, the USG has continually had its statements publicly proven untrue, resulting in a constant and signification degradation of public confidence in the USG’s ability to both 1) oversee the NSA and 2) tell the truth about the extent of it’s powers – • Source: Rasmussen poll indicating that only 11% of Americans trust the NSA to not monitor calls of innocent citizens(1) Given the constant contradictions of the government’s statements, many wonder now if the USG is either 1) unaware of the extent of the NSA programs or 2) blatantly lying to the country Sources: NPR: Guardian: (1) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  11. 11. What do we know now? (Cont’d) Key Revelations • • • • • Phone metadata program - All of Verizon’s customers’ information collected regardless of individual suspicion(1) PRISM – NSA has direct relationships with corporate partners such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and others that allows officials to collect materials including search history, content of emails, file transfers, live chats, and other private communications without a warrant(2) Microsoft cooperation – Microsoft gave NSA backdoor access to all of its affiliated services (i.e., hotmail, outlook, Skype) to circumvent all forms of encryption(3) Upstream program – Collects information directly from “fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past,” relying on the corporate partnership of 4 telecommunication companies whose identities have not yet been disclosed(4) Xkeyscore – According to NSA documents, Xkeyscore is the NSAs "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet. Another NSA documents states that Xkeyscore allows for the collection and analysis of "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.”(5) – “Allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals” (Source: Guardian) – Snowden claimed in an interview that at his desk [at Booz Allen], he had the capability to tap into any persons private communication, in any form, wherever he wanted – U.S. officials vehemently denied this claim, repeatedly calling Snowden a liar – The subsequent revelation of the Xkeyscore program, however, validated Snowden’s claim – Analysts do not need prior approval to spy on any American citizen, but must simply choose from a few basic pull-down menus which then marks the American as an electronic target Sources: Overview: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  12. 12. What do we know now? (Cont’d) Key Revelations (Cont’d) • • • • • (1) (2) (3) Illegal data collection – Despite repeated public assurances by President Obama and Director of National Security James Clapper, documents released in September 2013 showed that the NSA illegally collected information on American citizens, violating its own security protocol because, according to Clapper, there were “compliance incidents” resulting from the “complexity of the technology”(1) Willful abuses by analysts – Analysts repeatedly used NSA technology to spy on significant others(2) FISA Court declared certain of NSAs programs illegal – Despite ruling, NSA continued using programs that illegally collected domestic data. According to one FISC document ruling: “Contrary to the government's repeated assurances, [the] NSA had been routinely running [search] queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the required standard for querying.”(3) NSA programs reaches ~75% of U.S. internet traffic, including e-mails – Despite Constitutional restrictions on bulk collection of information, NSA has capability to reach, intercept, and collect approximately 75% of all U.S. internet traffic(4) AT&T collaboration – A secret room (Room 641A) is used to divert all AT&T internet traffic to NSA servers(5) (4) (5) =e2tw , Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  13. 13. What do we know now? (Cont’d) Key Revelations (Cont’d) • Project Marina – An NSA program that collects and stores metadata for millions of internet users for a year regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest for the agency. According to the Guardian (which published this story), “Metadata provides a record of almost anything a user does online, from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords. This can be used to build a detailed picture of an individual's life(1) – • • • (1) (2) The USG and intelligence programs have repeatedly assured the public that collection of domestic citizens activity does not occur unless directly related to an investigation. The revelation of Project Marina contradicts these statements NSA Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens – This information includes collection of e-mail address communication, phone calls, bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profilers, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls, GPS location (including cellphone GPS location)(2) NSA pays private companies for data –The NSA pays private U.S. companies approximately $280 million dollars per year to provide them with information on their customers(3) NSA shares raw intelligence data on Americans with Israel – Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis. Only U.S. government communications are protected (3) (4) , Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  14. 14. What do we know now? (Cont’d) Key Revelations (Cont’d) • • • (1) (2) (3) GCHQ Tempora Program – Britain’s intelligence agency Tempora directly taps transatlantic fibre-optic cables. The partnership with the NSA allows for a circumvention of 4th amendment protections of American’s information as this data can be collected by GCHQ in England then shared with the NSA(1) NSA spies on communications of Brazil and Mexican presidents – A potential breach of international law, the NSA was shown to spy on Latin American presidents from the beginning of their potential candidacy to when they were in office(2) NSA spies on foreign private companies – Evidence that NSA spied on national Brazilian oil company Petrobras indicate that intelligence-gathering operations go beyond its core mission of national security(3) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  15. 15. 3. Domestic and International reactions Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  16. 16. Domestic and International Reactions President Obama and the Intelligence Agencies • As a result of the NSA leaks, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (“DNI”), has been caught committing perjury in front of Congress(1) – • In March 2013, Clapper explicitly claimed that the NSA did not collect the data on millions of Americans Instead of indicting or, at the least, firing James Clapper for perjury (which is a felony), President Obama appointed him as the head of an oversight panel to oversee the NSA violations – When public opinion went against this decision, Obama continued to appoint intelligence insiders and other individuals close to his administration to oversee the panel, as opposed to independent, third party security experts(2) • President Obama has continued to issue assuaging statements indicating that the NSA does spy on Americans. Many of these statements have been specific and have been publicly contradicted by subsequent publication of leaks – These contradictions indicate that President Obama is either 1) Unaware of extent of security programs or is 2) willfully lying to the American public about the extent of these programs Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  17. 17. Domestic and International Reactions (Cont’d) U.S. Congress • Congress has been split on this issue • Liberals and conservatives have paired up both in opposition and defense of these programs • In July, Representative Amash introduced an amendment that would have defunded the NSAs phone metadata program(1) – Initially considered a symbolic gesture, the vote came with 7 votes of passing (205-217) • Strong public disapproval and outrage at these programs have, however, sparked significant momentum to more seriously reform the NSAs capabilities, resulting in 9 bills currently being introduced in congress to curb the overreach(2) (1) (2) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  18. 18. Domestic and International Response (Cont’d) American Citizens • American citizens have been largely opposed to the NSAs surveillance, with opposition growing as more information about the overreach of these programs(1) • A poll held by the Guardian in June 2013 showed that approximately 2/3 of Americans wanted the NSA’s role reviewed, and 56% believed that Congress did not provide sufficient oversight • A Reuters poll showed that more Americans view Edward Snowden as a patriot than a traitor • Multiple other polls (Gallup, CBS and Rasmussen, The Economist/Yougov, Fox News, Quinnipiac University and Pew) indicated that a majority of Americans are opposed to the NSAs programs by a significant margin (1),,, Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  19. 19. Domestic and International Response (Cont’d) International Response • Germany, a nation that is no stranger to autocratic surveillance, has had protests numbering in the thousands after revelations that the U.S. spied on key European allies(1) • Latin American countries including Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia and Mexico, all key United States allies, have demanded an explanation for the extent of spying on their countries by the NSA(2) • Brazil especially has demanded answers from the United States government after revelations that the NSA had spied on the current President Dilma Rousseff as well as the Brazilian oil company Petrobras(3) – • (1) (2) (3) Dilma Rousseff not only cancelled an important diplomatic visit to Washington as a result of the NSAs activities, but also delivered a harsh reprimand of the USG’s spying activities in front of the UN Additionally, diplomatic relations with both China and Russia that the United States has been cultivating and attempting to improve were severely strained during the manhunt for Snowden Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  20. 20. 4. Why we should care Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  21. 21. Why we should care The 4th Amendment is the safeguard of privacy in our country, and privacy a safeguard of democracy • • • • • • (1) One of the key causes of the Revolutionary War were the general warrants issued by King George that allowed British soldiers to enter colonists’ homes and private property without due cause or suspicion and collect what they want The NSAs programs are, in effect, an electronic general warrant, allowing for bulk and complete interception and collection of all Americans’ personal information Aside from, in effect, disregarding the sacrifice the Americans have made for years defending such constitutionally protected rights, programs that gradually erode the 4th amendment threaten to end privacy in this country as we have come to know it Without privacy, the threat that people will be forced to conform their actions to a publicly accepted, government approved norm is real Self-censorship due to fear of government surveillance is a sure-fire method to stifle creativity and democratic participation As Glenn Greenwald (responsible for publishing many of the NSA stories in The Guardian) recently put it: “A major reason why those in power always try to use surveillance is because surveillance = power. The more you know about someone, the more you can control and manipulate them in all sorts of ways. That is one reason a Surveillance State is so menacing to basic political liberties.” (1) Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  22. 22. Why we should care (cont’d) We don’t know who will take office next • • • • • • (1) The massive consolidation of power in the executive branch through failures in multi-cameral checks and balances creates a slippery slope Traditional checks from the legislative branch have so far been proven to be ineffective, as intelligence agencies have repeatedly attempted to hide information from Congressmen representatives we elected specifically to oversee such activities(1) Traditional checks from the judiciary branch have been completely ineffective, as nearly 100% of government requests are “rubber stamped,” there is no adversarial process to challenge the government’s position, and all decisions, even those contradicting the Supreme Court, are held as top secret and hidden from the public to judge Confidence must be had in the system to prevent current and future abuses of power that we may not be able to predict Even if we were to assume that the Obama administration and the intelligence agencies could be trusted 100% (which we at Restore the 4th certainly do not), there is no telling who will take office next The existing infrastructure could allow for complete, opaque surveillance on the entire American populace, which could effectively quell democratic disagreement Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  23. 23. Why we should care (cont’d) Disturbing judicial implications • FISA courts have begun the disturbing process of overturning Supreme Court precedents in secret, without judicial oversight, through a rubber stamp process, effectively letting certain individuals in the upper echelons of the government to “turn on and off” the Bill of Rights as it suits them • This blatantly contradicts the American notion that no one is above the law, • When such foundational elements of American law are allowed to be triggered on and off in secret, there is no effective way to recognize these abuses of power and control for them • Even with Snowden’s leaks, attempting to correct for the abuses allowed by the FISA court’s dangerous precedents has been exceedingly difficult • Without transparent, effective judicial oversight, a crucial check and balance against executive power is rendered null Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  24. 24. Why we should care Complete surveillance threatens to undermine one of humanity’s greatest inventions – the internet • • • • • • The internet has created methods for communication hitherto unseen in human history Efficacy of this method of communication is predicated largely on the ability to maintain privacy online – something that has largely been called into question The pace of technological growth catalyzed by the internet has brought millions out of poverty, and has created the ability for people to resist oppression in certain parts of the world as was never before possible (i.e., Arab spring) The last 15 years have seen an enormous growth in the global reach of the internet and how it is used to connect people around the world Already, the NSA leaks are leading many to decrease their online presence, and instead use old-fashion methods of communications out of fear of being tracked and having their metadata collected While the future could see the internet bringing together peoples’ of different cultures, a potential reaction from the NSA scandal could result in multiple “internets” being established on a country-by-country basis, which could stifle the internet’s potential to engender a type global empathy never before imagined by humankind Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  25. 25. Why we should care (cont’d) The threat of declining American global influence • The revelations of massive domestic and global spying committed by the NSA have already significantly strained our relationship with major trading partners and allies including China, Russia, much of Latina America, and Germany • The United States is undoubtedly still a superpower, but a growing coalition in the international community could erode Americas standing in the world • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, recently cancelled a landmark visit to Washington D.C. and publicly condemned the NSAs spying activities and a breach of international law and a violation of Brazilian sovereignty • Foreign policy that creates enemies out of allies can only hurt the United States’ global standing in the future • Additionally, the United States will be decreasingly able to press autocratic foreign governments for human rights abuses if the United States Government is also seen as a civil rights abuser – this is a lose-lose situation for everyone who suffers such abuses worldwide Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  26. 26. Why we should care (cont’d) Economic and business implications • As Forbes, an established business magazine has pointed out, the NSAs control of U.S. internet threatens to severely weaken the global competitiveness of U.S. tech companies(1) • Spying on foreign companies (such as Petrobras) threatens to strain international trust of allies as well as the legality of existing trade agreements • Latin American companies have openly discussed setting up non-United States alternatives to internet traffic, so that their access would not have to be routed through the United States – • (1) This could seriously impact the financial success that certain American-based tech companies have enjoyed in the last decade Individuals in the technology community are increasing urging anyone, especially if they have important information online, to stay away from United States based internet companies Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  27. 27. 5. How to get involved Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  28. 28. Learn more about Restore the 4th • More information on Restore the Fourth LA, including events and ways to become involved, can be found on our social media websites: – – • Additionally, information about the national organization can be found here – Restore the 4th Los Angeles
  29. 29. Activism on campus • Protest the NSA recruitment efforts on your campus – Find out when NSA recruitment events are taking place and ask questions – Your classmates who are the next generation of computer scientists, mathematicians, technologists – all need to be encouraged to use their skills for good • Build bridges with other student groups – build those relationships on campus – ACLU – College Republicans – College Democrats • Support political leaders who will end NSA spying – we need about 217 more Justin Amash’s in the Congress – Young Americans for Liberty can help bring them to office – The Amash Amendment failed because 217 congressmen failed to uphold the Constitution Restore the 4th Los Angeles