Snowden Rules Out Return To US Even As Privacy Watchdog Concludes NSA Spying Was/Is Illegal

Tyler Durden's picture

As if the fact that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found the NSA's bulk telephone collection "has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism," the 238-page report concluded it was illegal in several ways and violates privacy. Coincidentally, on the day of the release of the 9/11 Commission-prompted report, Edward Snowden (in an online chat) stated, "It's not good for our country, it's not good for the world, and I wasn't going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me." Indeed, one wonders if this would have ever come to light; but now following these findings that the program is not authorized by the Patriot Act the panel may give ammunition to critics in Congress and fuel legal challenges presenting a problem for President Obama who said last week (instead of waiting for the report) that he would allow the program to continue.


The report's findings are damning (via Yahoo)...

A report released by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded the NSA's huge phone metadata program is illegal in several ways, and provides little or no value to the fight against terrorism.


The 238-page report said the program "has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism."


And the panel said the program is not authorized by the Patriot Act, the law passed following the attacks of September 11, 2001.


It said it violates constitutional guarantees of free speech and protection against unreasonable searches, and also fails to comply with a federal privacy law.


Moreover, it said the program threatens to have "debilitating consequences for journalism" because "sources in a position to offer crucial information about newsworthy topics may remain silent out of fear that their telephone records could be used to trace their contacts."


The report also said the NSA stretches the interpretation of what may be "relevant" to a terrorism investigation.


The board, which was set up to create safeguards for privacy and civil liberties for stepped-up anti-terrorism efforts, rejected the notion the NSA program could have prevented the 9/11 attacks.


But the politicians and their lackeys are defending it (via Bloomberg)...

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the intelligence committee, has defended the collection of bulk phone records as necessary to stop terrorism and vowed to fight efforts to end it.


Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House intelligence committee, who has been supportive of the surveillance tools, seized on lack of unanimity on the board in an e-mailed statement today.


In 38 times over the past seven years, 17 federal judges have examined this issue and found the telephone metadata program to be legal, concluding this program complies with both the statutory text and with the U.S. Constitution,” Rogers said. “I don’t believe the Board should go outside its expertise to opine on the effectiveness of counterterrorism programs.”


Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, downplayed the legal impact of the report.

“I think you can fairly describe it as an amicus brief written by three people,” said Baker, now with Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington. “This is free advice to the court from a board that doesn’t have any particular expertise on the legal issues.”


Edward Snowden praised the report's findings in an online chat today via Free Snowden webste:

"it's time to end "bulk collection" which is a euphemism for mass surveillance. There is no simple justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate. In light of another independent confirmation of this fact, i think Americans should look to the White House and Congress to close the book entirely on the 215BR provision."


Via Yahoo:

"The hundred-year old law under which I've been charged... forbids a public interest defense," he said in a question-and-answer session.


"This is especially frustrating, because it means there's no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury."


Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, said the report supports his contention that the NSA programs violate US laws and the constitution.


He added that the NSA is "setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing."


"It's not good for our country, it's not good for the world, and I wasn't going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me."




"The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom."


But the finds of the report could still be a problem for the President (via Bloomberg)...

In December, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, in Washington, ruled that the program probably violates privacy rights...


The report “lends enormous weight” to Leon’s ruling


In line with the conclusion of the panel’s majority, Leon, who allowed a lawsuit against the NSA to proceed, said he wasn’t convinced at this point that “the NSA’s database has ever truly served the purpose of rapidly identifying terrorists in time-sensitive investigations.”


“It’s clear that momentum is building and more and more people are coming to appreciate how truly threatening and intrusive some of these bulk collection programs can be,” Black said in an interview.


The bombshell of the report’s central conclusion may explain why Obama decided to announce his proposals on Jan. 17, before the panel’s report was made public. Obama defended U.S. electronic spying as a bulwark against terrorism.


I do not think we should just accept bulk collection as a given,” Jim Dempsey, speaking for the panel’s majority, said today at a meeting where the report was adopted. “We have to go back to the fundamental question: should we be collecting bulk data and under what standards?”


The board’s conclusions present a challenge for President Barack Obama, who is being pressed by phone and Internet companies, foreign governments, civil libertarians and some members of Congress to restructure the NSA’s surveillance activities following disclosure of the programs by former government contractor Edward Snowden.


The privacy panel has no authority to change the programs and Obama last week presented his own plan without waiting for the board’s report. The president said he would continue to allow government use of bulk phone records yet would prevent NSA from storing the data and require the agency get court approval to use it.



We leave it to Mr. Snowden to sum up the future:

Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden


Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.

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Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"......the 238-page report concluded it was illegal in several ways and violates privacy......"

"Make me stop spying on you. Go ahead........make me." - NSA to the world at large and the American people in particular.

<And what exactly will you and I do if that is precisely what the NSA and the President says?>

Millivanilli's picture

Fuck you Eric Holder.   


Spying on our private communications is the final nail in the coffin of liberty.



Pladizow's picture

Snowden knows America is no longer home of the free!

satoshi101's picture

Jimmy Carter long ago said

"The USA is no longer a democracy"

The frog was boiled dead long ago, but  ZH'ers just keep commenting on like change is going come, ...

Harbanger's picture

The US is not and never was a democracy.  That's so painfully basic I shouldn't have to tell you, Carter never was too bright.


James_Cole's picture

It's time to end "bulk collection" which is a euphemism for mass surveillance. There is no simple justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate



Four chan's picture

president snowden has a nice ring to it.

Gen. Keith Alexander's picture

Mr. Snowden obviously knows that the penalty for treason against the State is death.

icanhasbailout's picture

I'd wager the ridiculous hotness of Russian chicks might be a more substantial factor in his decision-making.

insect0man's picture

Metrosexual Useful Idiots like Snowden have no clue what to do with hot chicks, Russian or otherwise.

insect0man's picture

No need to ask him, given how Comrade Snowden left his "hot chick" American girlfriend/prop swinging without a clue.

Quack, waddle, metrosexual Useful Idiot pussy Snowdenduck.

F Him, You, and the Afro you rode in on.

Say What Again's picture

That RT lady looks pretty good to me.

Crash Overide's picture

I am still waiting on Eddy and his buddy Glenn to actually release some information regarding the really bad stuff the NSA is doing.

I mean we kind of already knew about 90% of the programs that Eddy disclosed. I want to know about the really, really, juicy stuff that will make the people of this planet get off the couch and restore the fucking Republic already.

kralizec's picture

Yes, hot Slavic women vs Prison and fugly dudes...gosh, what a difficult choice, eh?  Well, if you're not into fugly dudes that is...

Keyser's picture

Slavic chicks are hot, but I've never met one that didn't have ice water for blood. 


RemiG2010's picture


Just build that quantum computer. Ask for help at IBM . I bet you've got a lot of "dirt" on everybody, especially Mr Albert Einstein‎ (RIP).

F all the stupid people, who's historical memory does not extend beyond last five years! Maybe some day they will all end up in concentration camps like they did in Europe last century! History does not repeat but it rhymes. Memory is short, even shorter thanks to modern chemistry applied on mass scale! Ms E 2nd and Co. is right. Hoard all the gold while creating pavlovian economy for the rest of the 99%, which at some point in time will become self feeding, based on fuzzy math aka mark-to-myth accounting monster like in 2005-2012. Pizza will become a vegetable and the slogan of the day will be "I BUILT THAT! And always... always look around for useful idiots, who will dismantle State institutions. Next time there will be no Mr Snowden, because he won't give a .... about Mr I nsect0man and others. Instead he'll become Darth Vader on STEROIDS backed by Legion of pure EVIL! If you think two terms of this guy were bad (THE guy) think again! The future face of GOP! - Whatever people say about Bush family I really like seniors.

PS Bernanke is right. Gold isn't money. It is really hard to define what it is nowadays. Poor guy didn't even know why his monetary policy was failing in 2010-11. Well now he knows, it was the LIE-bor stupid but that was just on factor! Just remember to LIE a lot everybody and everything's going to be fine! Just fine!


RemiG2010's picture

Ohh. I forgot to mention TARP. When you want to F somebody really hard always apply TARP. Don't worry Insect0man. Your children will pay for everything ! Money for nothing and chicks for free!

Freddie's picture

Carter vouched for all of Chavez stolen elections.  Before Chavez - Venezuela had a smaller middle class.  Today they do not.

James_Cole's picture

Carter vouched for all of Chavez stolen elections.  Before Chavez - Venezuela had a smaller middle class.  Today they do not.

Yeah too true, before Chavez Venezuela was a bastion of democracy, the rivers flowed of chocolate and there were trees made of gumdrops. It was a wonderful... peaceful time. AND THEN GAWDDAMN CHAVEZ!!

Keyser's picture

It's ironic that Colombia used to be dangerous as hell and Venezuela was a safe haven. Now the roles have reversed in the course of 2 decades. 


satoshi101's picture

I was hoping somebody would catch me, but you didn't so I'll correct the Carter quote.

"The USA no longer has a FUNCTIONAL democracy" - Carter

I would agree that the USA was NEVER a democracy, its HAMILTONIAN FEDERALISM, a clever way to say "RULED BY THE RICH".

We don't really know what Carter meant when he said USA Democracy was no longer functioning, perhaps they're no longer giving out free peanuts at the WASH-DC canteen?

Perhaps the Secret Service, no longer provide whores to ex-presidents, we really don't know what Carter meant by "FUNCTIONAL".

Harbanger's picture

You're making it very hard for me to take you seriously.  You obviously have no idea that the US is not a democracy and never was.  That's too funny, I 1st thought your were joking.  Please take 5 minutes to learn about US system of Gov before continuing with the insightful comments..


James_Cole's picture

Lol John Birch society, now there's some dumb motherfuckers. The good news is you don't need to take my word for it, they've conveniently produced a hilariously goofy 13m48s video demonstrating their stupidity beyond a shadow of a doubt!

Keyser's picture

There are always those that attack the messenger and ignore the message. So what was it about the video that you find objectionable? 


Harbanger's picture

The Headline should be:

"Obama Admnistration" rejects review board finding that NSA data sweep is illegal.

That's the bigger News.

Andre's picture

"Promises to heretics are not binding."

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." - Eric "The Red" Holder

Seriously folks, what happens when a governmental agency, constitutional branch of government or the President himself decides they/he will no longer follow the Constitution?

I'm talking about in-your-face overt actions that no one can deny is out of bounds and beyond excuse. Do we call the Justice Department and request Holder put the collar on the Prez?

<Thank you for calling the office of Eric Holder at the Justice Department. Your wait time is presently 2 years, 11 months and counting.>

satoshi101's picture

"People have at all time the right to Abolish their government" - USA CONSTITUTION

Get with it people, abolish your government, because it hasn't been yours for 50+ years


CD you have the power, its written in the law of the land, that if the government becomes useless, the people can abolish that government.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

The law of the land is just words on paper if there is no will of the people to enforce it when those actually entrusted to enforce it fail to do so. Never underestimate the capacity of the average Joe to pass the buck to someone else.

satoshi101's picture


Because everybody was on the PAYROLL

Today in the USA, 70% of the PEOPLE are on the NAZI USA payroll, anybody that speaks up, is one of the 30% un-employed.


StychoKiller's picture

Read "Obedience to Authority" by Dr. Stanley Milgram

tweedle dee's picture

With the storm troopers now available courtesy of Homeland Security this may be an impossible dream


satoshi101's picture

HOLDER is only guilty cuz SNOWDEN was on his watch, but this shit was going down before HOLDER was born.


the narrative on ZH about the NSA is fucking priceless

nmewn's picture

The douchiest (is that even a word?) thing .gov critters & Obama ever said was "Come back and have a "fair trial".

Fucking really!?!?

Midas's picture

I would like to see a fair trial........for Eric Holder.

nmewn's picture

Wouldn't that be sumpin ;-)

SilverIsKing's picture

Snowden should pack up one of his turds in a bag and send it to the whitehouse with a note to the prez stating,

I'm here for my fair trial.


Eddie's Turd

LetThemEatRand's picture

The douchiest (is that even a word?)"


Westcoastliberal's picture

Great question, CD.  We may just be on that thin razor edge of revolution in this country if the NSA doesn't cease this.  I can tell you, the people I talk with are getting fed up with this, and a lot else.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Cross this line and we revolt.

<Line crossed.>

Cross this new line and we revolt.

<New line crossed.>

I really mean it this time. Cross this newest line and we revolt.

<Newest line crossed.>

Can we start again please? Cross this line and.................

The Gooch's picture

I think it comes down to threshold. Not "line".

"Boston Strong" was a good indicator of the "threshold" for most, unfortunately.

DaveyJones's picture

Remember to cross their lines and stab their eyes out  - mom to baby tyrant

Harbanger's picture

I think the 60's counter culture revolution may have been the last revolution in the US.  Most are now too high on prescription meds to even see any lines.

HulkHogan's picture

I was talking to an old man about that time. He said some people were VERY "into" the politics of it all, but most showed up to the rallies because it was a party.

Mark my words, in 50 years history will claim that a Counter Culture was happening right now. Instead of rallies, though, we had Facebook, ZH, YouTube, etc. as are new meeting places. Some people are VERY "into" the politics of it all, but most are just here for the party.


new game's picture

bingo, also to stupid. i mean that sincerely. people really think they are smart because they, watched the news and can remember what was said to them, 2, internet brains-research, recite.

what we have is a breakdown, of rational processing of thoughts to coherant dot connected discourse.

the average brain drops off after sentence three and can't correlate thoughts to a thesis and to a conclusion.

and/or if the dialog goes to a rational discussion, the knowledge base is so spoon fed and lacks any artistic value. out of boxers are dead/ dying humans. must be the the food, electronic devices, mainly tb, and human nature of laziness(which is actually a survival mechanism-conserve energy)...

Manthong's picture

um... can we say that again?

maybe we are not resolute???

El Vaquero's picture


"Make me stop spying on you. Go ahead........make me." - NSA to the world at large and the American people in particular.

As was stated in another article, it seems as though another civil war is going to be forced upon us whether we want it or not.  There is too much tension, too much division, too much corruption and too many paranoid freaks unwilling to give up some of their "authority," and all of this in the face of physical resource constraints and a system not set up to deal with those constraints.  I have an idea of what kinds of things would break down in the event of a real, bona fide uprising, and it's not pretty what we'll be facing.  I don't want a war, but I see one coming.  People will be in denial right up until it starts, and a many still even after it has started. 


Since the NSA obviously scans this shit, let me give you NSA guys some questions to ponder:  What are you going to do if just 1% or 2% are willing to pick up arms?  You know that just 1% of the US population is a huge fucking army, right?  You know that you might as well have big targets painted on you if that were to happen, right?  You know that control is an illusion, right?  What are you going to do if the people do say, "OK, we're going to go ahead and fucking make you stop?"  Are you going to have DOD bomb our own cities and cut off your own supply lines?

suteibu's picture

"hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account."