Monday, December 16, 2013

Fed. Dist Court Judge Leon Rules Against NSA and in favor of Klayman wrt phone records/WSJ

From the WSJ:

WASHINGTON—A federal judge on Monday ruled against the National Security Agency's collection of phone records, saying the program "almost certainly does violate" the Constitution.
However, the ruling will have little immediate effect and faces a lengthy future of court proceedings.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who was nominated to the Washington, D.C., bench by former President George W. Bush, issued a 68-page ruling in favor of Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and lawyer.
Mr. Klayman filed suit in June, claiming that the program violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search.
On a daily basis, the NSA collects records of nearly every call made in the U.S. and enters them into a database in order to search for possible contacts among terrorism suspects. The scope of the program was revealed when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents describing the program this spring.
The ruling came on Mr. Klayman's request for an injunction barring the government from collecting any telephone records associated with Mr. Klayman and another plaintiff. In the ruling, Judge Leon ordered the government to destroy any such records it currently has.
However, "in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues,'' the judge suspended his own order while the government pursues an expected appeal.
In issuing his ruling, the judge disagreed with a central premise of the program's defenders—that a 1979 Supreme Court ruling allowing investigators to look at the phone records of a Maryland robbery suspect gave them the authority to collect phone records of nearly every American.
Judge Leon ruled that the technology of both phones and phone surveillance has changed so much in the intervening years that the Smith decision is of little value in assessing the NSA program.
"The almost-Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979,'' the judge wrote, adding: "I believe that bulk telephony metadata collection and analysis almost certainly does violate a reasonable expectation of privacy.''
A spokesman for the Justice Department said lawyers there were reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.
The ruling gives more ammunition to those in Congress who have argued for an overhaul of the laws authorizing government surveillance.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) welcomed the ruling, saying: "Americans deserve an open and transparent debate about the constitutionality, efficacy, and appropriateness of the government's dragnet collection programs.''
The phone surveillance program has been attacked by legal activists on both the right and the left. A similar case is pending in federal court in New York, after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in the wake of the Snowden revelations. The judge in that case has yet to make a decision.
Judge Leon's decision uses strong language, and even occasional exclamation points, to question the candor of the government lawyers who argued against Mr. Klayman and to knock down various arguments made on behalf of the phone surveillance program—particularly the legal basis of the 1979 decision.
"It's one thing to say that people expect phone companies to occasionally provide information to law enforcement; it is quite another to suggest that our citizens expect all phone companies to operate what is effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation with the government,'' the judge wrote.
He added: "There is the very real prospect that the program will go on for as long as America is combating terrorism, which realistically could be forever!''

Anonymous sources are increasing in news stories, along with rather curious explanations/ Washington Post

Anonymous sourcing is far too common in major media.  Usually, when unsourced comments appear in articles about controversial subjects to do with government, the source is providing officially sanctioned disinformation, imho.

As a way in to this issue, the WP is talking about the cockamamie excuses that sources have given for refusing to allow publication of their name or title.  Yet these anonymi blather on about a subject, and are treated by the media as reliable sources.

But let's face it:  if they are speaking at odds with official policy, they could be canned for talking--so why would they?  Very few would.  If they are providing the official line, why not give their name? So you can't hold them to it when it turns out to be false?

From the Post:
... Back in its pre-“Deep Throat” days, The Post tried an experiment. Faced with the Nixon administration’s manipulative use of off-the-record sourcing, then-executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee announced a no-more-unnamed-sources policy, banning any story based on one, according to Ben Bagdikian, at the time an assistant managing editor at the paper.
As a result, Bagdikian wrote, “The Post’s competitors, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, published important news stories that The Post did not have. The paper’s readers were deprived of significant information. For a fierce competitor like Bradlee, that was intolerable.” 
And so the experiment was dropped — after two days.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More harm than Good? Statins, Acid Blockers (PPIs) and ARBs for blood pressure/ Pamela Weintraub

Pam Weintraub, editor of Discover Magazine, has an in-depth piece on problems with commonly used drugs on the ExperienceLife website.  

The acid blockers (proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec or Nexium), sold over-the-counter or by prescription, can cause a variety of problems from long-term use.  Getting off them can be a challenge, because a hyperacidity rebound often occurs.  This necessitates taking an antacid like Mylanta frequently, for up to 2 weeks.  After that, the stomach stops producing excess acid.

PPIs can, in fact, effectively treat some noninfectious ulcers and severe cases of reflux, but it’s increasingly clear that long-term use can be dangerous, according to a series of studies published last year:
Research from the National Institutes of Health, published in Current Gastroenterology Reports, shows that long-term use of PPIs can limit the body’s absorption of essential nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamin B12, which require gastric acid to be absorbed. Risks include not just osteoporosis, but also anemia, fatigue, seizures and cardiac events.
  • The Annals of Internal Medicine
  •  reports that long-term use of proton pump inhibitors increases cardiovascular risk for those already suffering myocardial infarction or stroke.
  • The Archives of Internal Medicine
  •  reveals that PPIs substantially increase the risk of infection from a particularly hardy bacteria called Clostridium difficile. The study also linked long-term PPI usage with spine, lower arm and total fractures in postmenopausal women. Perhaps even more alarming was the finding that as many as 69 percent of people taking PPIs don’t need them to effectively treat their symptoms.
The ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers, like Cozaar) are used because they were thought to cause less side effects than some other antihypertensives.  But they have not been shown to save lives, so is the reduction in blood pressure of any benefit?  
Wright especially takes issue with marketing efforts to push ARBs rather than the less-expensive ACE inhibitors. The drug companies claim their studies showed better health outcomes with ARBs, he says, but recent research challenges that claim. A 2010 study published in The Lancet Oncology, for instance, reported an increase in cancer diagnoses among ARB users. Other side effects include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, nasal congestion, back and leg pain, and diarrhea.
You have already heard about statins for cholesterol lowering.  It is not at all clear that lowering cholesterol, which they do well, is why they may benefit heart disease.
If you’ve been prescribed the drugs prophylactically, it may be time to talk with your doctor about getting off statins entirely. According to internist and clinical pharmacologist James M. Wright, MD, PhD, professor at the University of British Columbia, statins have no proven net health benefit as a preventive. As managing director and chair of the Therapeutics Initiative, a group that evaluates drug studies in Canada, Wright is an expert on meta-analyses — the large “studies of studies” — that take every last bit of data into account. His latest review of the data — and the most comprehensive to date — was published in the Therapeutics Letter in 2010: “Statins do not have a proven net health benefit in primary prevention populations,” he wrote, adding that the “claimed mortality benefit” for this group is “more likely a measure of bias than a real effect.”

F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics' Use for Livestock

For 60 years, US factory farms have included broad-spectrum antibiotics in the feed for livestock. It is said to promote growth. It also promotes antibiotic resistance.  Fully 80% (30 million pounds) of the antibiotics used in the US are fed to animals who provide our meat and dairy products. In 1977, FDA announced it planned to withdraw approval for some antibiotic use in animal feed.  It never did, till 2005, when fluoroquinolones, like Cipro and Baytril, were to be stopped.  But there was no enforcement.

Cheap production methods introduce bacterial contamination to meat.  See this Bloomberg report on pork production, and the effects of FDA's reduced inspections. Scary.

Back in 2010, FDA asked farmers to reduce all antibiotic use routinely in animal feed. The practice had been banned in the European Union in 2006. But the practice continued in the US, in the absence of an outright ban.

Last year, after the 2005 FDA ruling on antibiotic fluoroquinolones failed to stop their use, FDA issued a stronger ban on the use of fluroquinolones in animal feed, as antibiotics resistance develops rapidly to this class of drugs.

Last April, the Environmental Working Group issued a report, Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets, which FDA rapidly rebutted.  (It seems the gov't PR folks can always get out a quick rebuttal to anything.) But now FDA has made an about-face.

In a surprise decision, FDA has taken the bold step of telling farmers to phase out the use of all indiscriminate antibiotics (those used to promote growth, not those used to treat specific infections) by 2017.  Farmers will need a prescription from a veterinarian to give animals antibiotics.  The change is being effected by changing the labels on the antibiotics:  their use to promote growth in livestock will no longer be FDA-approved.  This is a method available to FDA, with adequate enforcement tools, that could stop antibiotics' routine use.

Some claim farmers will still be able to use the drugs for "disease prevention." How FDA enforces this change will determine its scope.

Kudos to FDA for the very important decision (finally).  Let's hope this time it sticks. Banning antibiotics in feed may increase the price of food a little. But the quality of the US food supply, especially its factory-farmed meat, is currently so poor, that efforts to turn around the degradation of the food supply, and begin improving the quality of our foodstuffs are really, really important.  Hopefully, FDA will next ban the use of arsenic and prozac in chickens.  And move on from there to secure a safe US food supply.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is the NSA Blackmailing Its Overseers In Washington?/ Washington's Blog

Are the Intelligence Committees Being Blackmailed?
During the Vietnam war, the NSA spied on two prominent politicians – Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker – as well as critics of government policy Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and a Washington Post humorist.
A recently declassified history written by the NSA itself called the effort “disreputable if not outright illegal.”
The main whistleblower who revealed the Vietnam-era spying was Christopher H. Pyle. Pyle told Rob Kall of OpEdNews:
They targeted Sen. Frank Church and Sen. Howard Baker. It could meanthey were trying to get information or dirt on senators involved in the Church committee and Watergate committee investigations respectively — either to learn something about their investigations or to discredit them.
We still need more information about what happened then. But more critically, we need more information about what’s happening now. These revelations raise the obvious question: If the NSA was targeting people like Sen. Frank Church, who were in a position to oversee the NSA — is that happening now? That is, are people like intelligence committee chairs Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and other congressional leaders — who are supposed to be providing oversight themselves — compromised in some way by the NSA? If so, as seems quite certain from the recent Edward Snowden revelations, then how can they conduct genuine oversight of the NSA with their committees?”
If I were a member of congress, I would be terrified that NSA would do to them what J. Edgar Hoover did to members back during his time.
Sound paranoid? Maybe. But remember:
  • The NSA has been tracking people’s porn in order to discredit them. The New York Times reports that this type of behavior has been going on for a long time: “J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example”.
  • Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus
Postscript: Of course, there’s always the carrot.

UPDATE:  See important story by David Lindorff on this same topic.

217 Congress members who voted NOT to rein in the NSA's phone spying dragnet received double the defense industry campaign contributions as those who voted to rein in/ WIRED


House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard McKeon, (R-California), speaks to reporters following a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
From Wired: An excerpt, but suggest you read the whole story and see where your rep fell.
The numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.
That’s the upshot of a new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it. 
Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765. 
Of the top 10 money getters, only one House member — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) — voted to end the program...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

No Nation Wants to Destroy Syria's Chemical Weapons, So Destruction to take Place on the High Seas / Bloomberg

Although Secretary of State Kerry said there were multiple nations with whom the US was negotiating to take and destroy Syria's chemical weapons, none took him up on the offer.

So the US, working with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, plans to take a US cargo ship and turn it into a chemical weapons destruction facility.  US officials promise not to dump the resulting waste in the ocean (as the US did at least 74 times before).  The destruction is estimated to require 45-90 days.

Meanwhile, destruction of the US' own chemical weapons (CW) arsenal (2-3 times as large as Syria's, and consisting of the same 3 agents: mustard gas, sarin and VX) is a completely different story.

Two huge factories are being constructed in Kentucky and Colorado for the destruction, and the Kentucky facility will not even be completed until 2020!  See below:
  Destruction will then proceed for another three years.  The current cost estimate is $10.6 billion dollars to destroy the US stockpile.  But Syria's similar stockpile can be destroyed on board a cargo ship?

Something is wrong with this picture.  Mobile factories for CW destruction are owned by the Army and can be purchased from companies like Eisenmann.  An anonymous US official said its unit costs roughly $5 million to build.  It can destroy up to 25 metric tons of CW agents per day.
The U.S. unit, built by the ECBC and the government's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is operated by a crew of 15. It can destroy up to 25 metric tons of chemical agents per day when run around the clock, according to Edgewood. Several units could be located on the same site, enabling the sharing of security and other assets, it said.
From Bloomberg
Officials from the international organization have visited the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to examine the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, which can dilute Syria’s stock of poison gas and precursor chemicals with water and bleach to neutralize them, the officials said.
The low-level effluent that results won’t be dumped into the ocean, the officials said. It will be disposed of at a yet to be determined industrial waste-treatment facility...
 After a ship delivers the chemicals from Latakia to a port, the officials said, the stockpile will be transfered to the Cape Ray. Once the chemicals are on the U.S. ship, the neutralization process will occur at sea and may take 45 to 90 days, they said.
The Cape Ray will have about 100 U.S. personnel, with about 60 Pentagon civilian employees and the remainder being contract workers, the officials said. They declined to discuss security measures for the ship.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Irish narcolepsy patients told they would lose medical benefits if they sued; today gov't rescinds threat




The risk of narcolepsy was 13 times higher among those given the Pandemrix vaccine
The risk of narcolepsy was 13 times higher among those given the Pandemrix vacciney


The Irish government, as did all governments offering swine flu vaccines to citizens in 2009-10, provided indemnification to the pharmaceutical manufacturers of the vaccines.  Unless guarantees to hold manufacturers harmless for damages were given by governments, the vaccine manufacturers would not provide "emergency" vaccines.

Laws had been instituted in the US and Canada (which I previously discussed in this blog; see the Iowa Attorney General's discussion of the laws here) that provided manufacturers indemnification prior to 2009 for pandemic and bioterrorism vaccines, and for several other emergency therapeutic products.  This was in line with WHO policies. These laws guarantee profits to produce vaccines under pressure, with only rudimentary safety testing, shifting risk from manufacturers to consumers. Injured vaccine recipients are prohibited by their governments from suing the vaccine maker. This new legal doctrine has turned the body of tort law on its head.  By the way, vaccine recipients were not told of what rights they were giving up when they got vaccinated for Swine flu in 2009-10.

By guaranteeing immunity, these laws actually increase the risk of substandard, dangerous or ineffective products being produced and used, since the manufacturers are not on the hook for damages.  Governments may be liable for damages, but US law strictly limits the damages available and does not cover legal expenses.

From RTE (also see video at their site):

Pandemrix was made by pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline and was fast-tracked for use due to the human swine flu crisis. 
The State gave the makers of it an indemnity.
Following a vaccination programme in Ireland in 2009 and 2010, around 60 children were diagnosed with the narcolepsy sleeping disorder. 
Until now, the State has provided those affected with discretionary medical cards and also covers the cost of scans and private consultant visits. 
A report for the Department of Health, published last year, found that the risk of narcolepsy was 13 times higher among those given the vaccine, compared to unvaccinated individuals. 
Meanwhile, Director of Quality and Patient Safety at the HSE Dr Philip Crowley said the executive is fully responsible for the care of those who take legal action against the State over sleeping disorder problems they claim are linked to Pandemrix. 
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Crowley apologised for anxiety caused to those who received the letter and reiterated that the HSE will continue to fund all medical care that they need. 
The State Claims Agency has said it did not advise the HSE of any requirement to alter its approach to the awarding of items such as medical cards or the provision of other normal benefits and supports for those affected by narcolepsy. 
In a statement, the SCA said that it informed the HSE to cease making ongoing out-of-pocket payments to individuals who were suing the State and that these individuals should include these expenses as part of any special damages claim.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Seymour Hersh: Obama Administration Distorted the Facts Surrounding Syrian Chemical Weapons

Hersh has written an in-depth piece on the intelligence about Syria's chemical weapons attack in the London Review of Books, suggesting parallels with the justifications created for the war on Iraq in 2003.

His final two paragraphs note that Al-Nusra rebels may be the only group left with access to sarin in Syria soon:

The administration’s distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans 
The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: ‘no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.’ The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any ‘non-state actors’ acquire chemical weapons. No group was cited by name. While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.

Friday, December 6, 2013

International (Un) Law: 54 Countries collaborated with US extraordinary rendition program/ Washington Post

How do governments do business with each other?  Of course they often share goals, and may benefit jointly from certain actions.  But at the most basic level, they offer each other carrots and threaten each other with sticks.

Using some combination of these two strategies, the US government obtained the cooperation of 54 governments to conduct its admittedly illegal (in the US and in the majority, if not all of the cooperating countries) program of extrajudicial kidnapping, torture and withholding of due process. To cloak these actions in euphemism, the term "extraordinary rendition" was invented.

The nations form  an odd collection, including countries at both the bottom and the top of Transparency International's corruption index (report here). According to the Washington Post, discussing a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative, these nations include:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe
Governments colluded together to commit the most heinous crimes, repeatedly breaking national and international laws.   The victims and acts numbered in the hundreds or thousands, over years.  Systematically transgressing the law on this scale (and we are talking serious crimes: kidnap, rape, torture, murder, incarceration for years without trial) have made a mockery of our system of law.  

Think of recent, well-known cases of men, like Ariel Castro in Cleveland, who kidnapped, imprisoned and raped women during many years, and  how the public felt about those men.  Now consider that our government committed those identical crimes, in our name, with our tax dollars, around the world. And it was aided and abetted by 54 other governments in these crimes.


Officials of 54 other countries collaborated in highly illegal activities to benefit a foreign country, committing and/or conspiring in crimes against nationals of yet other countries.

The US government obtained the cooperation of officials in 54 countries, officials who could potentially face serious charges if their activities were made public.  Some of these countries are famous for lack of corruption.

What did it take to obtain this degree of cooperation?  What did it cost the American taxpayer? To whom were monies/weapons/other 'gifts' paid? Which American officials arranged for and paid bribes?

What sticks were employed? How much information obtained through NSA surveillance was used to pressure foreign officials to obtain their cooperation? Were low level officials corrupted individually, or was cooperation obtained from the highest levels?

Why did we choose to use secret prisons scattered around the world, anyway?  Why did we avoid due process?  Because we knew we had no proof of guilt, and were harming many innocent people? Weren't we terrorists in fact, meting out gruesome punishments to hundreds of innocent people to terrorize potential enemies?

The only way I can see to reduce such abuses is through increased government transparency: ending surveillance and its attendant potential to control those under surveillance.  Unless public officials who conspired to break the law and committed serious crimes are charged with those crimes, and pay the penalties, the system of checks and balances is only a myth. 

Obama misleads us on NSA surveillance/ NY Times, NBC

From NBC  we learn Obama is going to give Americans more "confidence" in the NSA.  "I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA and initiating some reforms that can give people some more confidence." But lack of confidence is not the problem.  Setting up a straw man to knock down "is an intentional misrepresentation of an opponent's position, often used in debates with unsophisticated audiences to make it appear that the opponent's arguments are more easily defeated than they are." Mr. President, is this spin-doctoring the best you can do to put out the NSA brushfires? 
"I want everybody to be clear.  The people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people.  They are not interested in reading your emails.  They're not interested in reading your text messages," he added later. "And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening."
No, Obama did not say this last year, last spring, or even last month.  He said it yesterday during an interview with Chris Matthews.  (He did make similar statements before the Snowden revelations were published.)  And Obama's pablum did not stop there:
"Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws. And part of what we're trying to do over the next month or so is having done an independent review and brought a whole bunch of folks, civil libertarians and-- lawyers and others to examine what's being done."
The Washington Post notes that "Obama has asserted, for instance, that the NSA’s collection of virtually all Americans’ phone records is lawful." Really?

*  It seems whenever there is a major embarrassing, ongoing issue for the executive branch, it calls for an "independent" review; but by choosing all the members of the review board, the review is never independent and its conclusions never in question.


*  We have NO checks and balances when the executive branch of government, which controls NSA, CIA and all other intelligence agencies, is performing total electronic surveillance on every member of the judiciary, every member of Congress, every elected and unelected official in the United States, not to mention most overseas.  If anyone can argue this point, please do so.  It's critical.


*  Even if the ballot boxes were/are honest, how can we get free and fair elections when it costs so much to run that candidates must provide quid pro quo's to their campaign donors to get the needed cash -- why else spend so much on campaign contributions? -- this essentially means that virtually everyone who achieves an important office (and is not spending only their own money) is subject to blackmail. In other words, the process for electing federal officials is intrinsically, by its nature, corrupt. 


* Laws are made by Congress; rules and regulations are made by agencies.  (Our constitutional law professor President knows the difference.) NSA and the intelligence agencies made up their own rules, repeatedly breaking the laws of the land and violating the US' supreme law, the Constitution. Congress, whose role is to provide oversight, was not informed of many NSA programs.  That makes oversight impossible. Even members of Congress' two Intelligence Committees, who receive more, classified briefings on intelligence programs than other Congressmembers, were uninformed about some NSA programs. So laws could not govern NSA processes since the lawmakers were kept in the dark about them.


* With respect to surveillance of foreign cellphones, NSA has just claimed what it does is legal under a Presidential Order.  Presidential Orders require no assent by Congress or the courts, and are often secret.  There are no checks and balances for Presidential Orders. 

* The NSA repeatedly lied to the one entity providing any oversight at all: the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court (FISA).  FISA's chief judge John D. Bates issued an 85 page (secret) ruling, which was released in August in response to a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and reported on by Savage and Shane at the NY Times. They note some of the Judge's statements, including the fact that FISA had ruled that NSA violated the Fourth Amendment...but this ruling itself was classified:

“The court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding N.S.A.’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program,” Judge Bates wrote.
One of the examples was redacted in the ruling. Another involved a separate N.S.A. program that keeps logs of all domestic phone calls, which the court approved in 2006 and which came to light in June as a result of leaks by Mr. Snowden.
In March 2009, a footnote said, the surveillance court learned that N.S.A. analysts were using the phone log database in ways that went beyond what the judges believed to be the practice because of a “repeated inaccurate statements” in government filings to the court.
“Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, N.S.A. had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the standard for querying,” Judge Bates recounted. He cited a 2009 ruling that concluded that the requirement had been “so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall ... regime has never functioned effectively.”

UPDATE: The Atlantic weighs in on how Obama Misled on NSA Surveillance.  Marcy Wheeler also does a great job of dissecting Obama's comments to Chris Matthews.