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View Diary: White House blasts amendment curtailing the NSA's power (175 comments)

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  •  You seem to be confused about "surveillance" (2+ / 0-)
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    Scooby, yorkiedoglover

    This amendment and the WH statement are not about "surveillance" in the way that term is being used repeatedly here.   No one is listening to all of our calls, no one is watching what we are all viewing on the internet, and no one is reading all of our emails.  All of those things are still highly illegal under FISA and its progeny without a warrant on probable cause, and there's exactly ZERO evidence that the Obama administration is doing those things.  ZERO.  Oh, to be sure, there's a lot of wailing and whining and screeching and flailing here about what the current technology might be able to do if someone decided to something illegal, but any such "surveillance" of Americans still requires a warrant.  

    What this proposed amendment addresses is purely limited to meta-data about phone calls, which includes numbers dialed, numbers of incoming calls, times of the calls, and routing information.   In other words, nothing more than exactly what the telecom companies themselves have ALWAYS collected.  The programs we are talking about are those that collect this same meta-data -- they do NOT provide "surveillance" of those calls.

    Now, one can certainly think that even the collection of such meta-data should be severely limited, or even that it must always be supported by a specific warrant limited to specific targets of investigations (although personally I think that goes too far), but at least one should know what we're talking about here -- it is meta-data collection on calls, NOT what most people here are referring to as "surveillance."

    In my opinion, just saying, "NO, NEVER" in one fell swoop, as this amendment proposes, does nothing to evaluate those competing interests, and that is exactly why the WH calls this a "blunt" approach.  Are people here really claiming that collecting meta-data on who is calling who and when can serve no legitimate intelligence purpose?  I disagree -- it is a balancing act, to be sure, but there is a legitimate security interest in trying to be proactive in spotting and preventing attacks in advance, rather than waiting for specific intelligence and specific targets.  Now, we can argue about where to draw the line in balancing that interest with privacy concerns, but to claim out of hand that there is some absolute hard and fast line, and only one absolute hard and fast line, is just out of touch with the realities of the modern technological world.  After all, our enemies do use telephones, no?

    •  How exactly would we know if they are doing this? (13+ / 0-)
      No one is listening to all of our calls, no one is watching what we are all viewing on the internet, and no one is reading all of our emails.  All of those things are still highly illegal under FISA and its progeny without a warrant on probable cause, and there's exactly ZERO evidence that the Obama administration is doing those things.  
      When James Clapper stands before the Senate and lies through his teeth, with nary a word of chastisement from his ostensible bosses, what reason is there to believe they are secretly following the letter or the spirit of the law?

      When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

      by PhilJD on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 12:23:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's called evidence (0+ / 0-)

        As an initial matter, there is no evidence that they're doing illegal, warrantless surveillance.  That's usually what we need before we start making wild accusations, no?  Not even The Greenwald and The Snowden claim such illegal, warrantless spying on calls and emails was actually occurring, only that the technology allegedly made such spying possible -- that they could listen to calls and read emails if they wanted to.  But, again, under FISA, that is still highly illegal without a warrant on probable cause.

        Now, if you're telling me that you have concerns about whether there is enough oversight on the granting of FISA warrants, or that you want more oversight on specific NSA activities (maybe like something along the lines of an inspector general who constantly monitors what the NSA is actually doing and reports to Congress), that's one thing, but if your starting point is that the administration, the NSA, and the FISA Court are all bad actors with bad intentions, and are all engaged in some nefarious conspiracy to blatantly and willfully break the law, then there's no point even trying to have a discussion with you, because if that's what you bring to the table, then NO system of checks and balances could EVER satisfy you.

    •  Can you define "no one is reading/listening"? (6+ / 0-)

      The NSA is doing more than just collecting the meta-data. They are analyzing it. It would be pointless to just simply collect it. If analysis throws a red flag then the data connected with the meta-data must be scrutinized, i.e. read or listened to. If the data connected with the meta-data was also not stored then it would be easy to circumvent the system by constantly changing cell phones and internet connections.

      The vast size and scope of the NSA's storage facilities shows they are storing more than just meta-data. The meta-data can always be accessed from the carrier's billing files. The private carriers do not store the actual data.

      The question is, if the data is neither read nor listened to by a human being but simply stored in a non-intelligible manner in the form of binary code in computer memory, does that violate the Fourth?

      Obama has stated no one reads or listens to American communications without a FISA warrant. I've not heard him state the data was not collected and stored.

      •  Not sure where you disagree (0+ / 0-)

        FISA requires a warrant on probable cause to eavesdrop on American communications.  That is the law.  To do so is already illegal.  So what are you suggesting, that we somehow make it more illegal?  Harsher penalties for violations?  Public shaming?  The death penalty?  Spelling out in the law that it's not just illegal, but that it's really, really illegal?  Not sure where you're going with that.

        As for the collection of meta-data, yes, I imagine it is being analyzed. -- that's kind of the whole point, isn't it?  Analyzed for connections to terror groups, the timing of plots, and the timing of international chatter, I'd guess.  Again, I'm not sure of your point.  Of course there's sorting and analysis of the meta-data -- what good would just having it sit there in unanalyzed form do?  In order to be proactive in trying to see connections to persons, groups, and actions that would do us harm, our intelligence services would have to look for patterns, no?  I mean, how else do you suggest they do their job?

        Now again, if you're suggesting there needs to be more oversight, well, if a workable form could be established without completely undermining the ability to collect and analyze the data, then that's fine, but as I said above, if your premise is that the administration is lying, that they are really eavesdropping on all our calls and emails without a warrant, and that everyone involved has some sinister intentions and nefarious purpose, well, that seems like kind of a non-starter to me, because then NO system of intelligence gathering, and NO system of oversight, would ever be sufficient.

        As for the Constitutional question raised by the meta-data-mining, for me, I guess it comes down to whether there is an expectation of privacy.  When you make a call, you already know it is being logged in the ordinary course of business by whatever telecoms are involved -- it shows up right on your statement:  calls to/from whom, where, and for how long.  Phone companies have been gathering this data, and using it to design their systems (based on peak frequency periods, peak locations, etc.) for decades.  So, is there any expectation of privacy in a true sense?  I don't have an absolute answer for you there, I guess, but it seems to me there isn't much of an expectation of privacy at all.  In fact, when you sign up for any calling service, it usually includes a voluntary waiver of some of your privacy rights.  But the fact that there's no absolute, clear-cut answer is kind of the point -- reasonable people can disagree, and a balancing act is required:  privacy concerns versus the legitimate need for intelligence gathering.   So unless your premise from the start, like many posters here, is that there is never a need for data collection, and that we just need to "burn the motherf-er down," then I think there there are issues that require, as the WH stated, a "long, open, deliberate process" that balances these considerations.  

        Frankly, I'm not sure why such an utterly banal statement has caused such hysterical bed-wetting among certain elements here.

        •  You did not address my points. There is the (0+ / 0-)

          meta-data and there is the data. I would agree that no one expects privacy over the meta-data. But there IS this expectation on the actual data that the meta-data references.

          If the actual data is saved in binary form on a computer but not accessed by a human, ie not read or listened to, without a court order, does that or does that not infringe on the Fourth Amendment?

          So my question remains: Can you define "no one is reading/listening"? The Fourth Amendment needs to be redefined in light of today's technology. Otherwise the state (Obama) can say with certainty that "No one is reading or listening" even though the material has been saved for future reference.

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