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Podcast: The US Surveillance State Now That USA Freedom Act is Law

Marcy Wheeler

The USA Freedom Act was signed into law this past week. It was viewed as both a victory for those concerned with privacy and restricting the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance and also as a law that did not go far enough in restricting spy agencies. In fact, the USA Freedom Act further codified the post-9/11 legal framework for surveillance and resurrected Patriot Act provisions, which expired for a couple days.

The law did do away with the NSA’s control of all Americans’ domestic call records. On the other hand, it left other programs, policies and practices, which NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the public, entirely untouched. For example, “backdoor searches” under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act can continue, which means the NSA can collect emails, browsing and chat history of US citizens without a warrant.

On “Unauthorized Disclosure” this week, journalist Marcy Wheeler joins the show to discuss the current state of play now that this law considered to be reform has passed.

Wheeler has written more about the USA Freedom Act than any other journalist. Her work can be found at Emptywheel as well as ExposeFacts.org, where she regularly contributes to the site’s “Right to Know” column.

During the discussion portion of the show, hosts Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek highlight how the US government declassified some of the torture memories of a former CIA detainee, Majid Khan. Gosztola talks about journalist Jason Leopold and how he was told to never file another FOIA request with a Pentagon in-house think tank. Khalek discusses a Texas law allowing people to carry firearms on college campuses and how President Barack Obama is trying to get an anti-slavery provision removed from the Trans-Pacific Partnership for Malaysia.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way or you can go to iTunes and find the podcast listed there. And follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

  • Hugh

    We should avoid euphemisms. They blur the issues, and play into the hands of those we call the powers that be, but who are in truth our ruling classes of the rich and elites. We all do this, out of habit or from a fear that we will scare people off in the mistaken belief that if we soften our rhetoric, we will appear more reasonable, instead of just weaker and unsure of ourselves. But language is a weapon in the class war being waged against us, and so far it is mostly being used against us. When we talk about a surveillance state, we concede terrain to our ennemies. Domestic spying on the scale we are experiencing is the hallmark of a police state. We should call it what it is.

  • http://mosquitocloud.net/ aprescoup

    You might enjoy this, Hugh.

    Drowning Reason in Political, Word-smithed, Kitsch – In kitsch we trust: lies, euphemisms and politicshttp://mosquitocloud.net/drowning-reason-in-political-kitsch

  • dubinsky

    ” Domestic spying on the scale we are experiencing is the hallmark of a police state. We should call it what it is”

    yes we should… and we shouldn’t call it what it isn’t and throw around terms such as police state when they aren’t really applicable.

    in an actual police state, Hugh, you wouldn’t have written that comment

  • dubinsky

    emptywheel was far and away the best part of fdl.

  • Libertarian

    Great interview, although it saddens me.

  • Hugh

    Police states don’t come into the world fully formed. In civil societies, they take root and expand, like a cancer. Privacy rights that were inviolate and uncontested, wither and disappear, while people like you temporize and say well, if my speech has not been totally suppressed, things must not be as bad as someone like me is saying. You apparently are not willing to admit to the existence of the police state until its control is absolute. I differ.

  • dubinsky

    I’m unwilling to use the term “police state” to describe a state that isn’t one.

    if you want to say that this is a disturbing development that is not compatible with a free nation, that is fine…. stretching the truth is not.

    you get the jack and ace of spades and declare that you have a royal flush?

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Paranoia is the hobgoblin of the upper class. Did you see the Guardians’ story on the protesters at G7? More police helicopters than protesters almost. Police State is a fair descriptor at this point unless you minimizing the disregard of the freedoms enumerated by the Bill of Rights and the case law supporting those rights. The uber wealthy don’t have a home Country but they do have a police force of all the alphabet agencies and the US military. Police State with militarized police is reality.

  • Hugh

    As Martin Niemöller wrote:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    As long as you do not personally feel the weight of the state bearing down on you, you do not speak out. You do not ask why the state has arrogated all these powers to itself, why it is relentless and even lawless in its pursuit of some, why a policeman can murder anyone, especially a minority and walk, even as it gives a pass to the greatest economic criminals of this or any age, or why it cloaks so many of its functions behind a curtain of secrecy and national security. Who, in all your naïveté, do you think among the parade of grotesques, fools, and criminals that are our political classes is going to fight for you or your rights? Do you think that they have constructed this vast spying apparatus and directed it against us just for shit and giggles? You will not call a police state a police state until they come for you. What good will all your denials do then for you or anyone?

  • jane24

    Apt quote and well said!

  • jane24

    I do see small positives in that the NSA, (at least in principal), no longer has broad access to call records, and that at least the expiration of the Patriot Act has prompted wider discussion on surveillance, but it must be admitted that in reality, as most expected, little has changed and it won’t until, (or unless), more take notice.

  • dubinsky

    Hugh, you avoid addressing the point.

    either a police state exists or not…….. if you want to say that the US is a police state….. define the term and defend the claim.

    don’t belabor me with quotations from an anti-Nazi who wasn’t speaking about the US

  • dick_c

    Hugh addressed the point perfectly. You’re only arguing degrees and semantics.

  • dubinsky

    I’m arguing that September isn’t the middle of winter.

  • dick_c

    Again, you’re concerned with the name of something, when that isn’t what most concerns people. Police states can come in degrees. We don’t have to, and really shouldn’t, wait until it’s total to take notice.

  • dubinsky

    yes, dick, I am arguing about whether the name “police state” is applicable and

    police states CAN come in degrees…but they all have to meet conditions to fit the definition….

    I agree with fighting against the data mining……. and want it ended…..