A rare public hearing of a mysterious security agency was held this week in Washingtom, where a former supervising judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court declared that the government is acting unconstitutionally in the star-chamber practices of the clandestine court that routinely allows global surveillance of electronic communications.
The shadowy "Privacy & Civil Liberties Board" was established by President George W. Bush 2004, but went for years without any members, prompting a Congressional conclusion that "it appears to be a presidential appendage, devoid of the capability to exercise independent judgement and assessment or to provide impartial findings and recommendations" on intelligence and Constitutional issues.
This week, in one of its rare proofs of life, the panel met for public hearings to minimize the fallout from the revelations of NSA whistleblower EDWARD SNOWDEN, who revealed ubiquitous monitoring and storage of emails, phone calls, and virtually every type of commercial or electronic records on all US citizens.
The hearing began with an opening statement by JAMEEL JAFFER, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU;
Former federal district judge JAMES ROBERTSON, who served on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court between 2002 and 2005, condemned the ex-parte procedures of "Foreign Intelligence" courts, saying that "A judge needs to hear both sides of a case";
KENNETH WAINSTEIN, a former Bush homeland security adviser, attempted to defend the alleged legality of the NSA/FISA surveillance regime;
MARK ROTENBERG, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, dissected the scandalous seizure of millions of Verizon customer records, pointing out that "metadata" is far more revealing than the content of calls;
Private researcher ASHKAN ZOLTANI stated that in today's global data environment, there is no such thing as a "national" border, thereby undermining the prime excuse offered to the American public for the NSA's surveillance over-reach; and
BOB DYLAN - "Desolation Row".
Anchor: Robert Knight
Engineer: Michael G. Haskins, Reggie Johnson