US spies seek renewal of broad surveillance powers on 9/11 anniversary

Josh Peterson Contributor
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The federal government is still playing coy with the public about the extent to which it has engaged in unlawful domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens.

U.S. intelligence officials held a press conference on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, where they ducked reporters questions on exactly what kind of unlawful surveillance they have conducted, how much, and how often it has taken place.

Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told reporters that such data was not readily available, the Associated Press reported.

The press conference was held to call for the renewal of broad surveillance powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The law — which was amended in 2001 by the USA Patriot Act, and then again in 2007 and 2008 — expires at the end of 2012.

In July, the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence admitted in a letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden that the federal government had conducted unlawful surveillance on “at least one occasion.”

Former National Security Agency employee-turned-whistleblower William Binney has not only publicly denounced NSA domestic spying efforts, but actively warns of the dangers of the surveillance state that is being erected in the shadows.

The program, called Stellar Wind, was first exposed in a 2005 New York Times story.

“We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he said in a March interview with Wired magazine.

Binney is one of three former NSA officials providing legal testimony in a lawsuit against the U.S. government, waged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and aiming to end such measures.

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