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Matthew Cooper, of Time, asks if the latest NSA revelations of a much more widespread campaign of apparently warrantless and therefore illegal spying on Americans will be enough to push us past a tipping point on the eavesdropping issue? A Tipping Point on Eavesdropping: Are the latest NSA spying revelations enough to turn the public against the program?

Are we at a tipping point yet? What author Malcolm Gladwell described as small things that make a big difference seems like an apt metaphor for the latest developments on civil liberties and the Bush administration. First was Thursday morning's USA Today story, declaring, "NSA Has Massive Database of Americans' Phone Calls." The story dominated the morning news shows and drove the day's events, with the President racing to the microphones in the Diplomatic Room of the White House before departing on a trip to Mississippi. Bush didn't get into the specifics of the USA Today story, but he did defend the program, saying the federal government is not "mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans."

Almost by definition, having computers filter through phone numbers of 10 to 20 million Americans looking for patterns is called "data mining and trolling." This appears to be another case of President Bush looking us right in the eyes and lying.  

Public Supportive So Far, But will it last?

The MSM has been reporting a recent overnight poll that is purported to show that Americans support this latest revelation. However, I think Americans are not as accepting as this poll seems to reveal.  

To date, the Bush Administration has enjoyed public support for a slew of policies -- including detentions without trials and new methods of eavesdropping -- that critics describe as an encroachment on civil liberties. Last year, the Democrats tried to make renewal of the USA Patriot Act an issue, but in the end they buried their objections and passed a bill that Bush could sign. When the NSA's policy of warrantless eavesdropping on some domestic calls was revealed by The New York Times in December, Democrats along with many Republicans also screamed from the rafters, but the program proved popular with the public. Presidential advisers thought it was such a winner that they put it in Bush's State of the Union address. Despite calls to investigate the program and shut it down, what the White House dubs the "terrorist surveillance program" continued unabated.

Not Only Has Domestic Surveillance Continued, But The Magnitude Is Revealed To Be Much Larger Than Previously Admitted -- And Denied!

Will the new revelations about the NSA tip the balance? Perhaps. According to the story, the NSA is not actually listening in on the phone calls but monitoring the patterns of calls in a kind of giant Google search, with the hope that their algorithm will detect something untoward and worth investigating. But even if your call to Aunt Sally isn't being listened to by some NSA officer, the program sounds creepy enough that no shortage of senators jumped all over it. The Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he'd subpoena the heads of the three telecommunications companies involved -- AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth -- before hearings to find out what they knew. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, who had kind words about former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden when he was nominated to be the new CIA boss on Monday, talked ominously about a "showdown" over the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unlawful search and seizure.

Judge Michael Luttig Resigns In Protest

Why do the good guys keep resigning but we keep the bad guys. It is supposed to work in the opposite direction. We have to encourage the good guys to stay to help us hold these others accountable.

At the same time, conservative Judge Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, whom many on the right wanted President Bush to name to the Supreme Court, abruptly resigned yesterday, reportedly in part because of civil liberties issues. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Luttig was shocked back in November when the Bush Justice Department announced that the government would file charges against suspected terrorist Jose Padilla as if he were a regular citizen. Just two months earlier, Luttig had written a seminal opinion saying that the federal government could detain Padilla without a charge, reasoning that the government must have had an extraordinary case against Padilla to justify such an extraordinary imprisonment. When the Bush administration reversed position and in effect acknowledged that the regular old justice system was able to accommodate the case, Luttig was enraged, saying the reversal strained the Bush administration's "credibility before the courts." It was that frustration that helped lead to his resignation, the Journal reported.

So to review the bidding: Bush's Justice Department is blocked from investigating its own controversial spy program; a leading conservative jurist resigns, reportedly in part over the government's handling of civil liberties; and a big NSA program of eavesdropping on Americans' phone-calling patterns is revealed. Will this be enough to turn public opinion against Bush on civil liberties and terrorism? Given the collapse in public support for the President on so many issues, it wouldn't be surprising

Conclusion

.

Matthew Cooper wouldn't be surprised if these most recent disturbing revelations are sufficient to turn public opinion against Bush on civil liberties and terrorism.  However, I've already been astounded that the previous year of revelations has not already not so. Over reactive fear of foreign threats such as communism, terrorism, war, and Mexicans has always been a weakness and blind spot of the American public.  

What would surprise me would be if the American people and our political leaders actually followed through on the many declarations that "enough is enough" and hold effective hearings to put a stop to this creeping infringement of our civil liberties and consitutional system of  checks and balances between the three branches of governments and hold those whom appear to have violated FISA laws accountable.

For a starter, this mean denying confirmation to General Hayden who supervised the design and initial launch of these transgressions.  

UPDATE: Think Progress reports that NSA Whistleblower will testify next week that General Hayden and the NSA were much more deeply involved. The revelations so far are just the "tip of the iceberg." Hasta La Vista General Hayden.

NSA Whistleblower To Expose More Unlawful Activity: `People...Are Going To Be Shocked'

CongressDaily reports that former NSA staffer Russell Tice will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week that not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg. Tice will tell Congress that former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden, Bush's nominee to be the next CIA director, oversaw more illegal activity that has yet to be disclosed:

A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said Thursday he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens. ...

[Tice] said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden. ... "I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It's pretty hard to believe," Tice said. "I hope that they'll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn't exist right now." ...

Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. "It's an angle that you haven't heard about yet," he said. ... He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he "will not confirm or deny" if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites.

Think Progress reports that "Tice has a history for blowing the whistle on serious misconduct. He was one of the sources that revealed the administration's warrantless domestic spying program to the New York Times."

He better be careful going up to the Hill next week to testify, Senator Pat Roberts is likey to have him put in jail and held incommuicado for violations of our national security secrets.

Originally posted to Torquemadog on Fri May 12, 2006 at 08:55 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gen. Hayden involved in adultery scandal? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DC Pol Sci, Torquemadog

    There are some pretty juicy allegations about Hayden having been named as a correspondent in a divorce proceeding in 2001-3 in this thread.

  •  I think the democrats (6+ / 0-)

    need to make the case about why this is so dangerous.  So far, all we've heard is the Bushies saying "we have to protect you" and "if you haven't done anything wrong you have nothing to hide".  While democrats are against it, their arguments have been lame.  Sadly, most people just won't get the "we need to protect civil rights" explanation.

    I'd like to see us talking about why this is such a bad idea....that it will lead to corruption through blackmail and harrassment.  Most of us don't really have criminal activity that we want protected, but almost everyone has had conversations that they would go to great lengths to keep from being made public.  Never underestimate how far we'll go to keep from being embarrassed.  This goes for private citizens as well as for politicians.  A great big old data base chock full of private information on everyone presents a temptation that is just too large...you know there will be politicians and others in power who just won't be able to resist the temptation.

  •  I think it's about escalation... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Annalize5, Torquemadog

    What started with NSA and wiretapping just Americans talking Internationally has developed into Tens of Millions of Americans having their phone records looked at.
    I think the tipping point will be when Tens of Millions of Americans find out that it wasn't just info being stored.
    Their phones were being tapped and listened to as well. Americans talking to Americans inside the country.
    When, not if, but when that comes out, duck. Or point the mob in the direction they need to go.

    A vote for GOP is a vote for WW3

    by RElland on Fri May 12, 2006 at 09:10:41 PM PDT

  •  tech question. please debunk this. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tlh lib, AnonymousArmy

    flame away; my asbestos jammies can take it.  I have absolutely nothing to substantiate this and I really want to be proven wrong.  someone please tell me this is not possible:

    hypothetically, a company that sells more operating systems than any other releases a new version in late 2000.  support on previous versions stops.  new system is a little buggy and improvements are made.  even so, a lot of "critical updates" are required.  talk about pre-installed Echelon or Critical Update Echelon becomes pretty routine at Slashdot during this time frame.

    remember MSBlast.exe aka "shutdown virus?"

    The DCOM vulnerability in Windows 2000 and XP can allow an attacker to remotely compromise a computer running Microsoft® Windows® and gain complete control over it. The worm causes a buffer overrun in the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) service. When this service is terminated the virus infects the machine and then tries to infect other machines.

    okay, so the virus writer, a teenager, was arrested for SoBigF.  

    teekids.exe? lsasse.exe?  how many instances of svchost.exe are supposed to be running processes?

    default security configuration is "allow file and printer sharing."  RPC is enabled by default.

    meanwhile, PGP releases an upgrade in the same time frame and in 2002,  the strange case of Nicodemo Scarfo surfaces.

    The use of keystroke-logging devices in the Scarfo case was revealed by The Philadelphia Inquirer. However it is not known whether software loaded onto a computer, an attachment linked to the keyboard part of a PC or a 'bug' inside the keyboard was used in the case. The most sophisticated, and least likely to be discovered, of these techniques is the bug.

    The case throws up the issue of whether technology is evolving faster than laws regulating the privacy and individuals. It also highlights potential gaps in the capability of the Federal government's controversial Carnivore e-mail monitoring techniques to effectively obtain information from the very types of people it is designed to monitor.

    Scarfo pleads guilty after a secret trial.

    Complicating the case is the government's unwillingness to release details on how the keystroke-capturing system works. The government calls the key-logger "a sensitive law enforcement that is privileged" -- and that its details may be kept from defendants, like the secret locations of bugs and surveillance devices.

    "It's critical that the details of this technique be made public and be subject to a determination of its legality," says David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. *"What the government is arguing is that it should have the right to surreptitiously install monitoring devices on computers without any obligation to explain what that device does."*

    For their part, the Feds believe so strongly in keeping this information secret that they've hinted they may invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) if necessary. That 1980 law says that the government may say that evidence requires "protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security."

    If that happens, not only will observers be barred from the courtroom, but the trial could move to a classified location. Federal security procedures say that if a courtroom is not sufficiently secure, "the court shall designate the facilities of another United States Government agency" as the location for the trial.

    tech people, please debunk this.  tell me there are enough holes to drive a Mercedes through and this cannot happen.

    When a nation is filled with strife, then patriots flourish. --Lao-Tzu

    by Avila on Fri May 12, 2006 at 09:57:07 PM PDT

    •  Well the Latest Upgrade (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila

      investigates to see if you have illegal software copies installed.

      It was diaried here within the last few weeks.

      I'm just sayin'.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri May 12, 2006 at 10:18:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Disable the services you don't need. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila
      A guy named Black Viper had lists of services and when the could be disabled, but his site seems to be gone.  He was well known enough that there seem to be a few archives of it.

      This site has a services list for Windows XP.  RPC is recommended for disabling.

      Or you could download Linux right now for free and spend 2 weeks on what can at first be a challenging learning curve.

      •  thank you so much (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tlh lib

        great link.  I really appreciate the info.  

        I have a SuSE 9.0 distro but as you said, the learning curve . . . . if it takes most people 2 weeks, it'll take me 2 months.

        thanks again for your help. :)

        When a nation is filled with strife, then patriots flourish. --Lao-Tzu

        by Avila on Sat May 13, 2006 at 04:02:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, this is great. I just disabled RPC and my (0+ / 0-)

        performance has just improved by about 500%.  I've been having the trouble that if I've been on dkos for a few hours or more my performances starts bogging down to the point that I have to wait for each letter while typing.

        And when I check the task manager the SVHost is hogging massive mounts of CPU even though I am not doing anything.  

        Now I suspect that it's been dumping stored keystrock files to a remote source.

        Dang.  Why didn't they just label it NRS option.  NSA Remote Spying default enabled.  I encourage other to disable your RPC if you are experience response delays despite the fact you have all the latest superprocessors.

        This is amazing now.  The letter are coming up as fast as I type them.  LOL

        No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

        by Torquemadog on Sat May 13, 2006 at 07:41:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Satellite surveillance? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Annalize5, Torquemadog

    I think one of his bombshells will be that they are visually spying on Americans. The article on Tice suggests that there is some sort of visual spying going on via satellite.

    "Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by reef the dog on Fri May 12, 2006 at 10:54:16 PM PDT

    •  Where's the illegality in that? (0+ / 0-)
      It may well involve optical surveillance, but unless the sats can see through your roof it sounds legal to take sat photos.
      •  It's sort of flattering in a way. I always sort (0+ / 0-)

        of fanatized that people would pay more attention to me.  

        Can you imagine the  vast armies of folks whose job it is to watch all the rest of us walk around in everyday life.

        And what about all those street people walking about in psychotic states talking to the bushes.  

        They were right all along.  Someone is acutally listen.  LOL  

        No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

        by Torquemadog on Sat May 13, 2006 at 07:43:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I would be surprised if they haven't been using (0+ / 0-)

      satellites to monitor the movements of the Minutemen on the Mexican border.

      If that comes out, talk about upsetting the Republican base!

  •  Thanks to all the commenter here. I think we are (0+ / 0-)

    starting to see the tips of several more icebergs of scandal here.  Thank to all.

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    by Torquemadog on Sat May 13, 2006 at 07:25:30 AM PDT

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