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Is The Government Lying About How Much Of Your Metadata It’s Using?


This article was originally published in The Huffington Post. On Sunday, former NSA Chief Michael Hayden repeated what has become a familiar Obama administration talking point: While the government may make a record of every single call every American makes, its analysts actually use almost none of that data. “You’ve got this metadata,” Hayden said, arguing for a further expansion of government surveillance powers in the event of a future terrorist attack. “It’s now queried under very, very narrow circumstances.” The claim also appears in a July 18 letter from the Department of Justice… Read More »

NSA Surveillance Needs More than Window Dressing Reform

NSA Phone Records Big Data Photo Gallery

This article was first published in The Huffington Post. Yesterday, President Obama repeated what has become a familiar routine: after two months of bad press on a controversial issue, he made a grand gesture of conceding that his critics may have a point, even while largely holding to his increasingly untenable position, and announced a series of “reforms” that amount, at the end of the day, to window dressing. It was an even less persuasive version of his performance than his pretense of holding Wall Street accountable for the crimes that… Read More »

Criminalizing Compassion

Ag Gag map

This article was originally published in The Nation. On February 8, a 25-year-old animal rescue worker named Amy Meyer and a colleague pulled into a parking lot across the street from the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Company in Draper, Utah, a suburb south of Salt Lake City. They crossed the street and stepped onto a strip of public land on the roadside, stopping short of a barbed wire fence that demarcated the boundary of the property of the slaughterhouse. Across a small field, the building housing the killing… Read More »

Us Against the World


The most politically fraught movie of the summer may be Brad Pitt’s zombie flick World War Z, because of a brief act that takes place in Israel and that has given rise to competing interpretations of what it all means. The movie has political overtones, though, long before Pitt arrives in Israel – overtones that are more subtle because more familiar and closer to home. World War Z embraces the same plot points that most end-of-the-world movies do, and reinforces the same set of politics, by focusing almost exclusively on a single nuclear family. The movie opens with… Read More »

Attack of the Angry Black Woman

Gone with the wind

In a recent interview with Roland Martin, Rachel Jeantel’s attorney Rod Vereen discloses a heartbreaking statement from Rachel about her friend, Trayvon Martin: “…he was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion, you know, about my weight.” In a few months we will know if a jury believes that George Zimmeran was compelled to follow Trayvon Martin because of his race. We will find out if Trayvon paid the ultimate… Read More »

NSA Surveillance is Legal, and That’s the Worst Thing About It


Out of the three main arguments in defense of sweeping NSA surveillance — it’s legal; it keeps us safe; it’s not that intrusive — the lamest and most tone-deaf by far is the first. That’s not because it’s untrue; it’s because it is true. The President and his allies argue that the NSA’s telephone metadata gathering is a legitimate exercise of state power because all three branches of government have signed off on it. Some pundits are buying that line, some slavishly so (not to be outdone in its contempt for public… Read More »

An Interview on NSA Surveillance With Former State Department Official Matthew Hoh


Matthew Hoh is a former Marine who served six years in Iraq before being stationed in Afghanistan as a high-ranking foreign service officer. In 2009, Hoh resigned from the State Department in protest over the U.S.’ misguided occupation of Afghanistan.   Leighton Woodhouse interviewed Hoh for the Huffington Post to get his perspective on the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of both foreigners and U.S. citizens. Reactions to the NSA surveillance revelations have ranged from phrases like “beyond Orwellian”  to ones like “making a mountain out of a digital molehill”. Given your experience… Read More »

The Surveillance State That We Built

Spy camera

Roughly speaking, the contours of the debate over the Obama administration’s massive digital surveillance of both foreigners and U.S. citizens have taken this shape: Obama’s critics charge the President with rank hypocrisy at best, and at worst, a fundamental betrayal of his espoused values that has moved the Republic one step closer to Big Brother. Obama’s defenders claim that the whole affair is much hyperventilating about nothing. The program is legal, it has been going on for years with the full knowledge and support of all three branches of government, and it… Read More »

The Radical Non-Politics of ‘The East’


The East, just out this weekend, is a movie ostensibly about radical anarcho-environmentalists that has little to say about radicalism, anarchism, or environmentalism. It’s not a bad movie; as a suspenseful drama it’s entertaining. But that’s part of the problem. The entertainment comes first, and second, and third, and the politics last. This is one of those “I want to entertain my audience, but also make them think” movies in which politics ends up providing little more than a cardboard backdrop to what is finally a conventional thriller. Fair warning: this… Read More » Another Failed Silicon Valley Experiment in Technocratic Social Change

Mark_Zuckerberg_portrait_Design_trust, Mark Zuckerberg’s widely reviled, rapidly dissolving Washington DC lobby group, heralds itself as the bringer of “different and innovative tactics” to the usual Beltway brand of back room politicking. As has become abundantly clear over the past few weeks, the reality of is anything but that. Zuckerberg’s DC outfit has not only failed to bring anything new to its approach to the pay-to-play, back-scratching culture of Congress, but has in fact made the most cynical kind of Machiavellian horse trading into its signature style. As CEO Josh Miller… Read More »