NSA Data Collection Program Called “Orwellian” by Federal Judge Stopped a Total of… Zero Terror Attacks

Last week Federal Judge Richard Leon had some harsh words for the NSA’s massive data collection programs, including the one that collects all telephone calls in America:

I cannot 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…

[It uses] almost-Orwellian technology.

The irony is rich. As Roger Aranoff observes, “…had [this] happened on George Bush’s watch, they could have been calling our government fascist, expressing hyper-outrage, and demanding impeachment.”

An investigation by Michael Isikoff of NBC News found that the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic data collection programs helped to stop the following number of terror attacks: none.

A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.

…Under the NSA program, first revealed by ex-contractor Edward Snowden, the agency collects in bulk the records of the time and duration of phone calls made by persons inside the United States.

…The conclusions of the panel’s reports were at direct odds with public statements by President Barack Obama and U.S. intelligence officials. “Lives have been saved,” Obama told reporters last June, referring to the bulk collection program and another program that intercepts communications overseas. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information.”

But in one little-noticed footnote in its report, … Section 215, based on the provision of the U.S. Patriot Act that provided the legal basis for it – had made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” The report said that “there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome [of a terror investigation] would have been any different” without the program.

The panel’s findings echoed that of U.S. Judge Richard Leon, who in a ruling this week found the bulk collection program to be unconstitutional. Leon said that government officials were unable to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk collection metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”

…The comparison between [the] 702 overseas interceptions and 215 bulk metadata collection was “night and day,” said Stone. “With 702, the record is very impressive. It’s no doubt the nation is safer and spared potential attacks because of 702. There was nothing like that for 215. We asked the question and they [the NSA] gave us the data. They were very straight about it.”

In other words, the Obama administration (yawn) lied to the American people yet again.

Hat tip: BadBlue News

Doug Ross @ Journal

China lands rover on the moon while U.S. space program is reduced to begging the Russians for rides

Guest post by Investor’s Business Daily

Unexceptional: China becomes the third country to land a spacecraft on the moon in preparation for a manned visit. Meanwhile, U.S. astronauts have to ride Russian spacecraft to fix toilets on the International Space Station.

Tourists visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where one of America’s retired space shuttles now resides, were no doubt able to see news reports of the landing of China’s first lunar vehicle, a solar-powered rover, on the surface of the moon.

The landing of the rover 37 years after the last such mission by the Soviet Luna 24 sample-return voyage in 1976 makes China just the third nation to accomplish such a feat, joining the U.S. and Russia. Clearly, Beijing intends to be a player in space, just as on the global scene. On both scores, the Obama administration seems intent on making the U.S. a spectator.

The Chang’e 3 spacecraft and its lunar rover, sent aboard a Long March 3B rocket launched on Dec. 2 from Southwest China, is the latest triumph of an ambitious military-backed space program. Its goals include a manned orbiting space station and landing Chinese astronauts on the moon, possibly to plant their flag next to the U.S. flag left there in 1969. The rover itself is called Yutu or Jade Rabbit after the pet of Chang’e, Chinese mythology’s goddess of the moon.

On Oct. 15, 2003, China’s first manned spaceflight sent astronaut Yang Liwei on a 21-hour mission. An 8.5-ton space station module orbited in September 2011 was launched into space aboard a Long March 2F rocket. It was to be the prototype for a planned 60-ton Chinese space laboratory to be in orbit by 2020.

The Chinese plan to use their Long March rockets, comparable to the Delta IV heavy-lift vehicles used by the Pentagon, to lift 26-ton payloads, including a trans-lunar rocket, lunar module and lander, into Earth orbit from where the Chinese would go to the moon.

No doubt China’s lunar landing will be met in some quarters with been-there, done-that yawns by those who insist we have more important things on our plate right now.

But this is the latest nail in the coffin of American exceptionalism and has serious implications for both U.S. leadership and security.

America’s final space shuttle mission ended on July 21, 2011. On that day, Atlantis landed at its home port of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It is there still, on display and out of commission. Prototype shuttle Enterprise is on display in New York at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum after having been towed there on a barge up the Hudson River.

In 2009, astronauts were ferried to the International Space Station aboard the shuttle Endeavor and were tasked with fixing a Russian-built space commode. They accomplished this feat on the 40th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 moon landing. Now if our astronauts need to fix the plumbing, they have to hitch rides aboard Russian spacecraft. The cost is more than $ 50,000 for each cab ride.

It is ironic that the last manned mission to the moon, NASA’s Apollo 17, left the lunar surface on the same day in 1972 as China’s lunar lander arrived in 2013 — on Dec. 14. The last man to have walked on the moon, Eugene Cernan, told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto something in 2011 that still holds true today:

“We don’t have the capability today to put a human being in space of any kind, shape or form, which is absolutely, totally unacceptable when we got the greatest flying machine in the world sitting down at Kennedy in a garage there with nothing to do.”

Whether we return to the moon or not is problematical. But right now it seems that if we do, the Chinese might just be waiting there for us.

Guest post by Investor’s Business Daily

Doug Ross @ Journal

SURELY YOU JEST: President Obama Now Lying About Massive, Fraud-Riddled Food Stamp Program

Guest post by Adam Tobias

MADISON, Wis. — President Barack Obama seems to be stretching the truth — again.

But his latest round of deceit doesn’t involve people being told they can keep their health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

This time the commander in chief is stretching the truth about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which faces about $ 39 billion in cuts under a bill passed last month by House Republicans.

Obama, who is touting the taxpayer-funded program as a fiscal engine that helps boost the economy, claims in a report released this week that SNAP participation and spending will fall significantly as America recovers from tough financial times.

If only that were true.

Since Obama signed into law the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided close to $ 45.2 billion in additional SNAP benefits over four years, the national unemployment rate has dropped from 8.3 percent to 7.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

From 2009 to 2012, the country’s gross domestic product increased from $ 13.9 trillion to $ 15.6 trillion and the national average wage index also jumped from $ 40,711 to $ 44,321.

Yet the number of people who take advantage of SNAP and the money allocated for the program continue to skyrocket every year.

In 2008, the year Obama was first elected president, close to $ 37.5 billion was spent on SNAP, with 28.2 million Americans and 12.7 million households participating.

Funding for SNAP more than doubled to $ 78.4 billion in 2012, and this year is on pace to surpass that total.

Approximately 46.6 million people and 22.3 million households received SNAP assistance in 2012.

Numerous states, including Wisconsin, also have seen their food stamp beneficiaries and spending soar.

Wisconsin, which is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in several years and has added 11,590 new businesses since Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011, paid out $ 466 million in FoodShare benefits – the state’s version of SNAP – in 2008.

So far this year, the Badger State already has shelled out a little more more than $ 1 billion.

Wisconsin had 647,560 FoodShare recipients in 2008 and 1.1 million in 2012.

But Obama insists the growing number of people who rely on government support is actually good for the economy.

Every new SNAP dollar generates up to $ 1.80 in economic activity for the more than 230,000 retail food outlets that take part in the program, according to Obama, who is referring to the economic theory known as the Keynesian multiplier effect.

But others aren’t so quick to hop on the president’s bandwagon.

An article co-written by Harvard economics professor Robert Barro says that, in most instances, multipliers only result in stimulus programs that raise the gross domestic product by less than the hike in government spending.

That seems to be the case with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is expected to increase budget deficits by $ 830 billion between 2009 and 2019.

But the amount added to the gross domestic product because of the ARRA could be as low as $ 231.6 billion through 2012, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And the uptick for 2013 could come in at only .1 percent.

“So, basically, you shrink the economy,” said Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

Michael Tanner, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, said there is no evidence to suggest that SNAP provides a shot in the arm to the economy.

“The money spent undoubtedly does generate a certain amount of activity, but the money needed to pay for that comes from taking money out of the economy, which deprives the economy of needed investments and spending,” Tanner said.

Even the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture can’t prove the ARRA funding for SNAP achieved the goals of the stimulus package.

A 2013 audit could not evaluate the outcome because the performance measures developed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service failed to properly gauge the implementation of the extra SNAP money.

“As a result, FNS had not assessed or reported on the use of the approximately $ 45.5 billion in additional SNAP funds to show the American taxpayer, in terms of the established goals, what was received for the Recovery Act investments,” the report says.

Contact Adam Tobias at atobias@watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias

Doug Ross @ Journal