Primary Sources: It’s Hard to Do PR for Warrantless Surveillance

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Bush%20phone.jpgThe White House certainly doesn’t make suing George W. Bush a cakewalk. A lawyer challenging Bush’s warrantless surveillance program darkly recounted on Salon the extreme lengths the government went to to ensure watertight secrecy in the case.

The Salon article is well worth reading, as this NSA oddity I unearthed recently while fact-checking.

The National Security Agency, apparently feeling the heat from a citizenry up in arms over their wiretapping program, released a factsheet in 2006 to clear some things up with the American public. The actual title:

“The NSA Program to Detect and Prevent Terrorist Attacks: Myth v Reality.”

Some examples of those myths:

Myth:

“The NSA program is illegal.”

Reality:

“It has long been recognized that the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless surveillance to gather foreign intelligence even in peacetime.”

Myth:

“The NSA program is a domestic eavesdropping program used to spy on innocent Americans.”

Reality:

“The NSA program is narrowly focused, aimed only at international calls and targeted at al Qaeda and related groups. Safeguards are in place to protect the civil liberties of ordinary Americans.”

And so on.

Now that Congress has handed the big telecoms a free pass for enabling government eavesdropping, can they at least throw us a safeguard to protect ordinary Americans?

Photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov.

—Nichole Wong

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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