Cabinet meeting

New York Times photographer Doug Mills shot an overhead view of the president meeting with his cabinet—sans Secretary Kerry who is in Geneva negotiating international takeover of Syria’s chemical arsenal with the Russian foreign minister. I note that the president is flanked on his side of the table by four women and two men; I wonder if such an alignment occurred in previous administrations:

President Obama meets with his Cabinet… missing is Secretary Kerry. #Syria pic.twitter.com/gGEPcA37pN

— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) September 12, 2013

The Brandon Mayfield Case

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....

You don’t have to have done something wrong; you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call. Then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone into the context of a wrongdoer.   —Edward Snowden

Lest you doubt Edward Snowden’s explanation of how the NSA’s dragnet might ensnare the innocent, Gail Collins’ column in today’s New York Times, “The Other Side of the Story” cites the Kafkaesque example of Brandon Mayfield of Portland, WA:

Based on a database mismatch of a suspicious fingerprint on a plastic bag tied to the Madrid bombing in Spain, where Mayfield had never set foot, agents obtained a secret warrant, broke into and searched his home. His 12-year-old daughter was terrified; she noticed someone had been in her room and had messed with her computer. The family became paranoid—for good reason. FBI agents walked into Mayfield’s office one day, handcuffed and took him away. He spent weeks in jail, imagining the worst. Spanish authorities, doubtful of the US fingerprint match, found the culprit who was the real match, and Mayfield was released.

What could possibly be more compelling than the fact that no one in the family had been to Spain? Well, the sophisticated government database that mismatched his fingerprint, correctly showed that Mayfield, who grew up in Kansas, after graduating from college, law school and serving in the Army, married an Egyptian immigrant and converted to Islam. He eventually got a rare FBI apology and $2 million for his trouble. “But you never quite get over these things,” Mayfield said. “It was a harrowing ordeal. It was terrifying.”

For more on the Brandon Mayfield case:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Mayfield

http://www.justicedenied.org/issue/issue_25/brandon_mayfield.html

NSA/Snowden links:

Here are a couple links to more info:

…a New York Times piece about Ed Snowden’s daring adventures in Hong Kong and what we might call the Chinese gambit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/15/world/asia/ex-nsa-contractors-disclosures-could-complicate-his-fate.html?nl=afternoonupdate&emc=edit_au_20130614

…and the week-old Guardian story detailing the NSA PRISM program, which goes much further than the metadata surveillance described in Snowden’s first revelations. NSA began directly accessing Microsoft servers in 2007 and has expanded the program to include all of the major Internet service providers—Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Apple and probably whatever servers this connection we’re sharing right now is going through:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data#start-of-comments

PrismPRISM slide crop