Update on the status of the USA Patriot Act

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept interviewed the ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director, Jameel Jaffer about the maneuvering behind the USA Patriot Act whose provisions under section 215 will expire because of sunset provisions on June 1 unless Congress acts to pass something. The House has passed something known as the USA Freedom Act that revised some key provisions of section but that failed to pass in the Senate.
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Edward Snowden vs. Mitch McConnell

You may have been following the intricate and arcane maneuvering in the US senate where the fate of key data gathering provisions of the USA Patriot Act are due to expire on June 1 unless Congress takes action before then. Dan Froomkin gives us the current state of play on the debate over the NSA’s blanket collection of data. Froomkin says that currently there are just two options available:
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Appeals Court rules against NSA’s bulk collections of metadata

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously in the case of ACLU et. al, vs. Clapper et. al. that one aspect of the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata (one of the secret programs revealed by Edward Snowden) “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized” under section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. (You can read the opinion here.) The issue was whether the NSA’s collection of metadata was legal. A lower court had dismissed the ACLU’s claim but the Appeals Court overturned it and sent it back to the district court to be dealt with accordingly. Because they found it illegal under the law, they did not venture to decide on its constitutionality.
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The song is the same, only the names change

John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden about the abuses by the US government has been viewed over 4.3 million times and so of course the apologists for the national security state in the media and politics have come out of the woodwork to smear him yet again because they fear that his exposure of widespread government surveillance in pursuance of ways to control the population and suppress dissent will enable those seeking to curb those excesses to gain traction. These people may say they fear terrorism but what they really fear is transparency and democracy.
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Snowden wins Swedish Human Rights award

The famed whistleblower continues to garner international praise even as the US government continues to claim that he is a traitor who must be punished.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden received several standing ovations in the Swedish parliament after being given the Right Livelihood award for his revelations of the scale of state surveillance.

Snowden, who is in exile in Russia, addressed the parliament by video from Moscow. In a symbolic gesture, his family and supporters said no one picked up the award on his behalf in the hope that one day he might be free to travel to Sweden to receive it in person.

His father, Lon, who was in the chamber for what was an emotional ceremony, said: “I am thankful for the support of the Right Livelihood award and the Swedish parliament. The award will remain here in expectation that some time – sooner or later – he will come to Stockholm to accept the award.”

The awards jury, in its citation, said Snowden was being honoured “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights”.

Film review: Citizenfour (2014)

I saw this film yesterday and really enjoyed it. Documentarian Laura Poitras, a key person in the chain of events that led to the revelations of Edward Snowden, was in the odd position of making a documentary in which she could have been one of the featured people. But she is someone who hates the spotlight and she manages to largely write herself out of the film, appearing only in brief glimpses in mirrors or in the text of emails exchanged by her with Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, and providing the voice for the emails she received from Snowden that started the process.
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The person who brought Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald together

Micah Lee has a fascinating account about the role he played as an intermediary in enabling Edward Snowden to contact Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald and thus breaking the huge story. He was the initial contact for Snowden who had been unable to communicate securely with Poitras and Greenwald. Lee was a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the chief technology officer of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, his public encryption key was available and had solid digital signature guarantees. Snowden thought that Lee could be trusted and would know the public key for Poitras, which he did
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