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A federal district judge ruled on Monday that the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, describing its technology as “almost Orwellian” and suggesting that James Madison would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way. District Judge Leon wrote that he could not “imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval… Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment,” which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. He also wrote that the government had failed to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive.”
The United States is now in a period of austerity, and after years of huge increases, the defense budget is set to be scaled back. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the consequences of past U.S. defense cuts were not bad. A look at five such periods over the past century — following World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War — shows that austerity can be useful in forcing Washington to think strategically, something it rarely does when times are flush.
The same kinds of politics that influence other aspects of society also help explain why some countries, such as the United States, suffer repeated banking crises, while others, such as Canada, avoid them altogether. A country does not choose its banking system; it gets the banking system it deserves, one consistent with the institutions that govern its distribution of political power.
Like the heralding of “American decline,” warnings about “the coming global disorder” have often proved premature. But with Americans and others rethinking the U.S. role in the world, and with no other nation, group of nations or international institutions willing or able to take its place, global disorder seems a more distinct possibility than it has since the 1930s.
One of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.
The Global Risks Report 2013 analyses 50 global risks in terms of impact, likelihood and interconnections, based on a survey of over 1000 experts from industry, government and academia. This year’s findings show that the world is more at risk as persistent economic weakness saps our ability to tackle environmental challenges.
Novelist John Lancaster, given access to the Snowden Files, discusses his impressions. At a moment of austerity and with a general sense that our state’s ability to guarantee prosperity for its citizens is in retreat, that same state is about to make the biggest advance ever in its security powers. Our spies and security services can, for the first time, monitor everything about us, and they can do so with a few clicks of a mouse and – to placate the lawyers – a drop-down menu of justifications. Looking at the GCHQ papers, it is clear that there is an ambition to get access to everything digital. And yet nobody, at least in Britain, seems to care. Snowden’s revelations are not just interesting or important but vital, because the state is about to get powers that no state has ever had, and we need to have a public debate about those powers and what their limits are to be.
By using the Espionage Act to punish Bradley Manning, the Obama administration has shown how far it will go to intimidate leakers. It is political despotism to use this act in a trial that has to do with neither espionage nor sabotage. His sentencing is a stain on the president’s legacy and on America’s global reputation.
Climate change caused by global warming is, arguably, a serious, even existential, threat to the world order and to the welfare of humanity. But over the last five or six years, public discourse has been driven less by policy needs and more by punditry.
Maritime disputes in Eastern Asia have been sending odd ripples of excitement through Western Europe for the past few years. Experts and policymakers claim that Europe cannot stay aloof. Maritime disputes in the East are, to be sure, a source of much uncertainty, and could escalate. But is this a reason for Europe to dive into the play pool of the Pacific powers? This question needs to be examined through a broad geopolitical prism.
Boeing has revealed that it has retrofitted retired fighter jets to turn them into drones and suggested that the innovation could ultimately be used to help train pilots, providing an adversary they could practise firing on. Boeing said that it had a total of six modified F-16s, and that the US military now planned to use some of them in live fire tests.
Obama would be standing on stronger ground in demanding that Syria’s government eliminate its stocks of poison gas if the US would sign onto the UN’s 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. He should order the US military to destroy its massive stockpiles of cluster weapons, and vow never to use them again.
The Kerry-Kissinger meeting, and the public outcry against the proposed attack on Syria to which both men are publicly committed, should be viewed through the lens of another Sept. 11…1973. On that day, 40 years ago, the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was violently overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup.
The US Senate rejects multilateral treaties as if it were sport. The US still wields influence in the UN Security Council and in international financial and trade institutions, but when it comes to solving global problems beyond the old centers of diplomatic and economic power, the United States suffers the self-inflicted wound of diminishing relevance.
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran’s head of state, commander in chief, and top ideologue. His views are what will ultimately shape Iranian policy. Khamenei has always been critical of liberal democracy and thinks that capitalism and the West are in inevitable long-term decline. Nevertheless, he is not reflexively anti-Western or anti-American. He does not believe that the United States and the West are responsible for all of the Islamic world’s problems, that they must be destroyed, or that the Koran and sharia are by themselves sufficient to address the needs of the modern world. He considers science and progress to be “Western civilization’s truth,” and he wants the Iranian people to learn this truth. He is not a crazy, irrational, or reckless zealot searching for opportunities for aggression. But his deep-rooted views and intransigence are bound to make any negotiations with the West difficult and protracted, and any serious improvement in the relationship between Iran and the United States will have to be part of a major comprehensive deal involving significant concessions on both sides.
The United States has been a supplier, supporter and even employer of a wide range of weapons of mass destruction, including sarin gas. The Syrian government may or may not have done what the Obama administration is claiming but the United States has its own dark history with biological and chemicals weapons, which we ignore at our peril.
In American courthouses this summer, a vitally important struggle over the First Amendment’s scope is taking place between the Obama Administration and the press. At issue is whether the Administration will fulfill a recent pledge to end its heavy-handed pursuit of professional journalists’ sources. The ripest case concerns a Times reporter, James Risen.
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.
For decades American politicians have assumed that mass incarceration works, wooing voters with ever-tougher sentencing laws. The dramatic fall in crime since the 1990s has persuaded many that they were right. Prison has diminishing returns, and America long ago passed the point where jailing more people makes sense.
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals. The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.
Few documents have been more closely held by the U.S. intelligence community, but now the “black budget” — the detailed breakdown of how American spies spend their money — has largely been made public. The materials depict an expanding intelligence apparatus that is struggling to respond to myriad challenges despite enjoying unprecedented levels of funding.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, most Americans seemed content to pare back some civil liberties in return for potential security. But after revelations of widespread spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), and the harsh treatment and verdict handed down to Bradley Manning, American public opinion is shifting.
A federal judge sharply rebuked the National Security Agency in 2011 for repeatedly misleading the court that oversees its surveillance on domestic soil, including a program that is collecting tens of thousands of domestic e-mails and other Internet communications of Americans each year.
The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces – now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.
In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false. It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.
It is estimated over 10 million beehives been wiped out since 2007, as part of a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Two Congressional Democrats have co-sponsored new legislation called the Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013 to take emergency action to save the remaining bees in the U.S., and in turn, the U.S. food supply.
Paul Collier is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. His research covers the causes and consequences of civil war; the effects of aid and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural-resources rich societies.
Sir David Frost travels to New York to meet the legendary Israeli conductor and pianist, Daniel Barenboim. A giant in the world of classical music, Barenboim is also a man with very strong political views, and is believed to be the only man alive with both an Israeli and a Palestinian passport, reflecting his deep interest in the Middle East. Daniel Barenboim bares his life and his soul to Sir David: he is emotional and outspoken. His love of music shines through the whole interview, as do his political beliefs.
The court may be primed for a reinterpretation of its own rulings on metadata, which can be even more revealing than content. Congress has shown little appetite for clarifying these issues, and has reliably voted to expand, not limit, the surveillance powers of the executive branch. President Barack Obama’s position on the issues is not only a continuation of his predecessor’s, but a change from the views he held as a candidate.
Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. The researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost $60 trillion (£39 trillion), roughly the size of the global economy in 2012.
A sense of fairness is universal among humans, but people often differ about exactly what fairness requires in a specific situation. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the debate over the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in order to avoid dangerous climate change.
Within a decade, the U.S. will likely deploy an aerospace shield, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and even vaster, more omnipresent digital surveillance networks that will envelop the Earth in an electronic grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield, atomizing a single suspected terrorist, or monitoring millions of private lives at home and abroad.
Soon after President Obama appointed him director of national intelligence in 2009, Dennis C. Blair called for a tally of the number of government officials or employees who had been prosecuted for leaking national security secrets. In the previous four years, 153 cases had been referred to the Justice Department. Not one had led to an indictment.
Strategic Survey 2012: The Annual Review of World Affairs covers all the events and themes of the year region by region, and includes special essays on important policy issues: the implications of the cyber world for intelligence agencies; building cooperation in African defence; and the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Iran.
The NSA programs represent a troubling increase in state power, even if—so far, and so far as we know—they have not occasioned a troubling increase in state wrongdoing. The harm is to the architecture of trust and accountability that supports an open society and a democratic polity. The harm is to the reputation of the United States as such a society, such a polity.
Armed drones can be tactically useful. But are they helping advance the strategic goals of U.S. counterterrorism? Drones are not helping to defeat al Qaeda, and they may be creating sworn enemies out of a sea of local insurgents. It would be a mistake to embrace drones as the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism.
General Keith Alexander is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. In his telling, the cyber threat is so huge that the nation has little option but to eventually put the entire civilian Internet under his protection, requiring tweets and emails to pass through his filters, and putting the kill switch under the government’s forefinger.
White House national security officials have released two key documents. The first, US Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism, lays out the standards now being used to decide whether to deploy ‘lethal force’ outside the battlefield. The White House has also released the transcript of a background briefing for journalists, in which anonymous senior administration officials offer their interpretation of the new guidance.
In defending the NSA’s sweeping collection of Americans’ phone call records, Obama administration officials have repeatedly pointed out how it could have helped thwart the 9/11 attacks. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has invoked the same argument. They have all ignored a key aspect of historical record.
The servers at the innocuously titled Utah Data Facility will have the capacity to store 100 years worth of the worldwide communications, phones and emails, but the ill-examined ecological impacts of the site, and other smaller but similar NSA data hording facilities like it, is far from sustainable.
Various NSA defenders beginning with President Obama have sought to assure the public that NSA surveillance is done under robust judicial oversight and that they do not target Americans. These claims are highly misleading, and in some cases outright false As part of the FISA court approval process, the NSA must submit a document describing how communications of US persons are collected and what is done with them; indeed, the principle purpose of the 2008 FISA Amendment Act was to allow government collection of Americans’ international communications. The Obama DOJ has repeatedly thwarted any efforts to obtain judicial rulings on whether this law is consistent with the Fourth Amendment.
Events in the greater Middle East are making it difficult for the United States to limit its involvement there. The irony is inescapable: a decade ago, Washington chose to immerse itself in the region when it did not have to, but now that most Americans want little to do with the region, U.S. officials are finding it difficult to turn away.
Drone warfare is here to stay, and it is likely to expand in the years to come. Washington must continue to improve its drone policy, spelling out clearer rules for extrajudicial and extraterritorial killings so that tyrannical regimes will have a harder time pointing to the U.S. drone program to justify attacks against political opponents.
Verizon has been supplying the National Security Agency (NSA) with phone records for all domestic calls, and the NSA and FBI are datamining nine technology companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs enabling analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
Mr. Obama has used some of the same aggressive powers in the name of guarding national security as his predecessor, even at the expense of civil liberties. Rather than dismantling Mr. Bush’s approach to national security, Mr. Obama has to some extent validated it and put it on a more sustainable footing.
The combination of a strong, rising China and economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly uncomfortable. By buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination.
With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible “co-conspirator” in a criminal investigation of a news leak, the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news. Obama administration officials, accusing a reporter of being a “co-conspirator,” on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, show a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press.
The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
Espionage of any kind is serious, of course, but some do not understand how spying in the cyber world is different from spying in the physical world. Few realize that the same tools required to conduct digital espionage could allow intruders to go a step further and commit digital destruction.
American University professor Akbar Ahmed’s new book, The Thistle and the Drone, cautions wisely about the geostrategic dangers that can result if Washington is seen as using force disproportionately or carelessly in ways that hurt innocent people. However, the United States has made huge progress in minimizing civilian casualties.
In 2001, George W. Bush signed a military order concerning the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism.” Suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without charge, denied knowledge of the evidence against them, and, if tried, sentenced by courts following no previously established rules.
For a country exhausted after more than a decade of war, remote-controlled drones are undeniably tempting. Obama has yet to explain the basics of the broader policy, but that wall of silence is starting to erode. This new pledge of accountability comes amid growing international criticism.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails. The ruling illustrated how hard it is to mount court challenges to a wide array of antiterrorism measures, including renditions of terrorism suspects to foreign countries and targeted killings using drones.
The IISS Geo-economics and Strategy Programme is designed to analyse global economic trends, their impact on the global governance agenda and their meaning for the global distribution of power. Its broad and global scope will allow for a comprehensive examination of the structural economic changes that are shaping today’s international strategic relationships.
The IISS believes climate change could have a serious effect on regional and global stability. Its Climate Change and Security Programme explores how global warming may affect disputes over territory, water and other resources, or could otherwise threaten peace and stability, and considers international mechanisms for producing the best solutions for climate security.
Nearly 365 years ago, more than 100 warring diplomats and princes got together and created the basic framework for territorial sovereignty: nation-states, demarcated by borders. But 30 years ago, humanity gave birth to the internet. With the flip of a switch, three engineers had undone the work of more than 100 princes and diplomats.
The U.S. government faces a tough fiscal future. Absent significant changes to current taxation and spending policies, debt held by the public will mount within two decades to levels never before experienced by this country. The consequences for the American economy and for the nation’s place in the world could be severe.
Now, more than ever, the United States might be tempted to pull back from the world. That would be a mistake, since an engaged grand strategy has served the country exceptionally well for the past six decades — helping prevent the outbreak of conflict in the world’s most important regions, keeping the global economy humming, and facilitating international cooperation.
The United States has consistently spent hundreds of billions of dollars per year on its military. This undisciplined, expensive, and bloody strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. This undisciplined strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. It is time to abandon the United States’ hegemonic strategy and replace it with one of restraint.
The Obama administration’s attempt to develop a more coherent doctrine of cyber-warfare is sensible so long as it is not just an excuse for hyping something that has yet to kill anybody. The essence of cyber-warfare is ambiguity and uncertainty, that makes policy both hard to construct and harder still to explain.
The Brennan nomination crystallizes the ways in which Obama has also cemented and expanded the Bush approach to counterterrorism. We have a far-flung drone campaign that deals death, even to American citizens, on the say-so of the president and a secret administration “nominations” process.
President Barack Obama has closely followed the policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to tactics used in the “war on terror” — from rendition, targeted killings, state secrets, Guantanamo Bay to domestic spying, according to Michael Hayden, Bush’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. The heavily fortified $2 billion center will store all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change, is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes.
In their New York Times article, Secret Kill List Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will, Jo Becker and Scott Shane discuss the Obama Administration’s approach to the fight against terrorism. The article is the third in a series of articles, called A Measure of Change, that assess President Obama’s record.
The Government Accountability Office provides public access to its wide-ranging research related to International Affairs. Covered topics include Terrorism, Human Rights, Aids Relief, Export Controls, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Humanitarian and Development Assistance, and Diplomacy.
CBO analyzes policy proposals pertaining to Homeland Security’s broad mandate to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks including aviation and border security, emergency response, anticounterfeiting measures, the protection of federal infrastructure, and cybersecurity.
Defense spending accounted for about 20 percent of total federal spending in 2011. The Congressional Budget Office analyzes the budgetary effects of proposed legislation related to national security and assesses the cost-effectiveness of current and proposed defense programs.