Yes, Of Course NSA is Collecting Metadata from Members of Congress

The New Year seems to have resurrected the Edward Snowden saga from its slow fade-to-black.

First, there’s a roiling case for the Justice Department to offer Snowden clemency or some kind of plea deal. It’s a bizarrely timed surge in pro-Snowden sympathy considering how his Christmas video was nothing but a series of wildly fabricated claims, such as his insistence that NSA watches literally “everything we do” and will soon possess the capability to record and analyze all of our thoughts, thus calling into serious question the credibility of earlier Snowden pronouncements as well as his, you know, grip on reality.

By all means, we should welcome this crank back to the U.S. as a free man with internet access and the blueprint for America’s national security apparatus. What could possibly go wrong?

Just beneath the clemency headlines, meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrote to NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander and asked point blank, “Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?” The letter defined spying to also include metadata collection. It shouldn’t have (more on this presently).

An NSA spokesman told The Washington Post:

“Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons,” the spokesman said. “We are reviewing Sen. Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Sen. Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.”

Following the publication of this quote, the Greenwald Super Friends assembled in their Hall of Outrage to frenetically screech in unison, “IEEEEEE! The NSA didn’t deny spying on Congress! GUIL-TY! GUIL-TY!”

And no, NSA didn’t categorically deny it. Why? Because of course NSA collects the metadata generated members of Congress, as it does with virtually everyone who owns a phone.

But if you define this as “spying” then holy jeebus, I don’t know what to tell you other than to ask whether you prefer to be called “Alex,” or “Mr. Jones.” The word “spying” is generally inferred as directly and secretly targeting a person for observation. This is precisely what people like Sanders and Glenn Greenwald want the general public to take away from questions like this. That’s the ruse: conflate targeted spying with metadata collection so people are misled into believing that NSA is spying on you personally.

Perhaps this is a good time review exactly what metadata is, and how it’s collected. Metadata is composed of the following pieces of information: your phone number, the phone number you called, and the date and time of the call. That’s it. It doesn’t include the content of the calls or your name. Authorization for the bulk collection and storage of metadata is granted by federal judges that compose the FISA Court. Moreover, if you’re a “U.S. Person” who happens to have been called by someone who’s being targeted by NSA, your metadata is digitally minimized before any analysts lay their eyes on it — in other words, your information is anonymized unless an NSA analyst, through a complicated bureaucratic process, shows cause and eventually requests an individual warrant to reveal your information. Otherwise, it’s never actually viewed by human eyes at NSA.

This is a far cry from spying on or targeting members of Congress — or you, for that matter. Indeed your favorite corporations, such Facebook and Google or banks or credit rating agencies, collect, analyze and even distribute far more detailed information on you and your congressman than NSA could ever dream of attaining. Hell, The Guardian collects more detailed information about you and your computer when you click on an article than is contained within your phone call metadata — the NSA collection of which, by the way, requires court and congressional oversight. On the other hand, there’s zero oversight in corporate data collection.

This raises the question: why is it horrifying for NSA to have a secure database of American metadata that it’s incapable of accessing without a complicated process involving reviews and reports culminating in a court order from a federal judge, while it’s perfectly okay for corporations to have significantly larger data clouds on your personal activities without any court oversight whatsoever?

Now, we can debate whether bulk collection is the best way for NSA to do its job. We can also debate, as President Obama’s NSA panel recommended, whether phone companies should retain metadata records instead of NSA (hint: privatizing metadata collection and storage is a phenomenally bad idea — see also the Target credit card theft story, for example). But we can’t have any real debate if the facts are clouded by scare-words cranked to 11 and framed in a way that only misinforms the public while fluffing the outrage-porn industry, from which Glenn Greenwald and his cohorts are handsomely profiting.

  • CL Nicholson

    But we can’t have any real debate if the facts are clouded by scare-words cranked to 11 and framed in a way that only misinforms the public while fluffing the outrage-porn industry, from which Glenn Greenwald and his cohorts are handsomely profiting.

    And THIS is why we can’t have nice things. Specifically, one of the things I appreciate about the Daily Banter (specifically Bob and his cantankerous partner in crime, Chez) is that while I may not agree with all the POVs, at least the writers attempt to bring discernable facts and common sense to discourse.

    You can’t have a real conversation about security vs. autonomy if you’ve got some guy screaming in the background about sci-fi level of paranoia.

  • lex

    This comment section reads like a rightwing consertive comment section when they went apeshit over wikileaks

    • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

      God’s truth.

  • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

    The FISA court is a Star Chamber. I am not comforted by your article.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      And the Illuminati. Weather weapons. What about chemtrails?

      • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

        What about them?

        • 624LC .

          Fix that tin foil hat! They are REAL!!!

          :-)

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            My friend tells me about the chemtrails. And I have a comedian friend who is doing an illuminati satire. I pay no attention. I am still worried about KILLER BEES!!!!!!!!!

  • formerlywhatithink

    And Cory S has given us a quite a seminar on how the emo/libertarian circle jerk I talked about earlier is held.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      It’s like they all have one damn brain which has been invaded by Greenwald or Alex Jones or something.

      • Jason

        And it is like the NSA has one asshole that all you guys are trying to simultaneously kiss

        • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

          I am with you. I trust Medicare. I do not trust NSA.

          The difference between the two.

          Medicare is trying to care for me and not hurt me and their operations are fairly transparent.

          NSA is watching me, what they do is secret and they might hurt me if I type the wrong words.

          Trust the Government = famous last words. “Trust but verify.” – Ronnie Raygun.

          http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/12/tech/social-media/facebook-jailed-teen/

    • Cory S

      I’m a computer systems and network engineer. I’ve been responsible for computer networks that span five continents. I’m an expert. You’re welcome for the network security lesson.

      • formerlywhatithink

        Lookout folks, we have a computer systems and network engineer over here. Represent!!!!!

        I’m glad you’re so obviously proud of your job, but really, thinking it somehow magically makes you the end all and be all of all things computer and network related, not to mention national security, is kind of pitiful.

        Oh, and saying things like “I’m an expert. You’re welcome for the network security lesson.” doesn’t make you look any better and only helps to shove the whole thing into d-bag territory.

        • Cory S

          Says the poster who uses the phrase “circle jerk.”

          • Jason

            Ad hominem and non sequitur pretty much reigns supreme with many of these commenters.

          • Nick L.

            How about ‘appeal to authority’? “Trust me I am a network engineer” isn’t much of an argument either.

          • Jason

            Usually i would agree, however “appeal to authority” is pretty much the only argument that flies on this site in defense of the NSA.
            The entire argument to trust the NSA is one big appeal to authority.
            Which is kinda why Snowden gets so much vitriol. Once he brought some facts to the table that supposed authority was shown to be quite the load of BS.

          • Nick L.

            I think there are a lot of reasons Snowden gets vitriol. I think there is a difference between a healthy distrust of authority while understanding the practical implications of maintaining modern government and what a lot of Snowden acolytes advocate. There is some trust that is unavoidable in a working society; as long as one lives in society there is always the potential that you can be harmed by another human being.

          • Cory S

            You say have a healthy distrust of authority but do trust that authority will protect the very detailed information that it secretly collected (forced companies to hand over) on all Americans (including members of Congress and Supreme Court).

          • Nick L.

            No, I am just not that worked up about my call history. I am more worried about medical records, etc. Still, I understand that governments do require collection of data from their citizens to function in the way to which we have become accustom. There are inherent dangers with this data collection and while minimizing these dangers are obviously desirable, one can never eliminate them entirely. At some point, the possibility of abuse cannot be eliminated.

            Now, I can understand the cost/benefit argument (i.e., are the benefits of this program worth the possibility of compromising sensitive information), but I can’t understand people who think it is possible to have a program like medicare or even meals-on-wheels without some trust on behalf of the citizen/consumer that information will not be released.

          • ChrisAndersen

            This reminds me of the challenge I have made to some liberals when they start getting all fired up about the NSA programs. I ask them a simple question, “If you can’t trust your government to protect your security than why would you trust it to manage your healthcare?”

            It’s amazing how many liberals fail to see how the very arguments they are making against the NSA program are akin to the arguments conservatives make against the liberal welfare state.

            (And I say this as a liberal myself).

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “the very detailed information that it secretly collected (forced companies to hand over) on all Americans”

            Metadata is not detailed, unless you are referring to the process that occurs AFTER they’ve gotten a warrant. And you haven’t provided any proof of patterns of abuse. Individual oops examples don’t count nor do individual malfeasance because we’re talking about monitoring Institutional policies and practices. The aggregate data shows that there is no abuse occurring and that it is not likely to occur.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “The entire argument to trust the NSA is one big appeal to authority.”

            No, the argument is trust our form of government and the process by which we protect our rights. That may technically be an appeal to authority but the fact remains, if you don’t trust your government, our ultimate authority, you can’t trust any institution. Our system is one of the most trustworthy in the world. So yeah, we’ll appeal to the authority of what the Founders created and we continue to try to perfect. Tell me how can a country function if we do not balance our trust in it with it’s ability to keep us safe? Your (and Cory’s) argument is that you can never trust it and you must put in safeguards to stop every possible abuse without any real regard for the probability of that abuse and without acknowledging the effectiveness of safeguards that already exist

            Edited for accuracy and clarity

          • ChrisAndersen

            There’s a reason why the preamble to The Constitution talks about “establishing a *more* perfect union”. The founders were realists. They knew they could never create a perfect system. But they believed it was possible to make a system that was “more perfect” than what they previously had.

            You don’t strive for a system that can never be abused. You just work for a system in which abuse is minimized.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Exactly! :)

            Edited to add: What did the President say, “Perfect is the enemy of good”.

          • Jason

            “Our system is one of the most trustworthy in the world.”

            Really now. Just because your corruption is legalised does not make it more trustworthy. One thing that can be said is that your system has the mechanisms to correct itself, and part of that mechanism is identifying and pointing out when the public trust is being abused. Hence the controversy regarding the NSA.

          • feloniousgrammar

            The fantasy of radical transparency being promoted as ‘disband ‘the NSA, you could put your eye out with that’ is pretty funny.

          • Cory S

            I never said trust me. Those are your words. I actually didn’t post that until after a bit either.

          • Cory S

            It’s like Jerry Springer in here!

        • ChrisAndersen

          I’ve been a developer of big data systems for over five years. I regularly nurse a system that processes terabytes of personal information on everyone in the United States. I don’t just know something about computers and networks, I actually know something about the very kinds of programs the NSA uses and it frustrates me to no end how much the freak-out patrol gets wrong about this stuff.

          There are justifiable concerns about these kinds of systems. But those are not the concerns I see most often voiced in these discussions.

      • 624LC .

        And I am having tea with the queen right now. I am so sure you are an expert – on balancing super gulps and cheetoss while finding the remote.

  • Sabyen91

    I am betting spying on Congress would be pretty boring. Watching people do absolutely nothing can’t be fun.

  • Cory S

    Take it from an IT security professional: Spying/monitoring by one branch of government on the other branches of government is our number 1 national security threat.

    • Cory S

      Awe, I see I got two down votes. I feel sad for those people who don’t understand 1) the balance of powers our government structure requires and 2) how damaging personal information can be in the wrong hands.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        You should feel sad for yourself then, because your understanding of this issue is akin to that of a 10-year-old.

        • Cory S

          I’m a systems/network engineer.

          • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

            So what? If that’s true you should have a full understanding of how little information the NSA has on individuals. That is especially true if you contrast their metadata against the reams of information that Big Damn Business has on you.

            And, BDB SELLS your info, they need no warrant or court approval to do whatever they like with it. THAT is what you should be concerned about.

            But no, you’re a very naive emo who can’t see the forest for the trees. Grow up.

          • Jason

            BDB cannot unilaterally incarcerate you for information they have you on. That is what the government does.

          • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

            Actually, they require a warrant to arrest you. And, Jason, we are not living in Russia or North Korea, or even Brazil.

          • Jason

            LOL….the most amusing thing is the lengths and examples that you guys have to produce just to make the USA not look quite so bad, and failing even then.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Unilaterally incarcerate people? WTF country are you living in?! I’ll take a page from CoryS book and tell you that I’m an IT professional with 15 years experience AND I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in Criminal Justice (was my first profession) and you have no effing idea what you’re talking about. Nor do you have any data to support it.

          • Cory S

            You’re right. My expert understanding of data and computer networks doesn’t stand a chance to your snotty attitude.

          • kfreed

            Were this duscussion about climate change, he’d be telling you he’s a scientist.

            All of a sudden, whenever the topic of the NSA comes up, every second Libertarian I come across on the net is a “systems analyst.” LOL.

          • feloniousgrammar

            Vicarious Snowdenism. How pathetic is that?

      • Nick L.

        What is so shocking about the fact that congressmen are subject to the same laws as everyone else? I don’t see how metadata collection presents a unique threat of blackmail. In our democratic society, there are a million ways to do great harm with a much lower standard of technological prevention than the NSA employs.

        Perhaps, if I understood your end game. What is it you want to happen here? The end of the NSA? No domestic data collection? No foreign data collection? The problem I have is that presentations of reasonable checks on surveillance bleed quickly into indictments of every aspect of government whose mere existence are egregious violations of personal liberty. We should continue to fix problems and avoid being driven by fear.

        • feloniousgrammar

          Yeah, where’s the outrage over trolls doxxing women, making rape and death threats, and inviting all their buddies to target a woman who said something they didn’t like on the internet? People are apoplectic about the NSA having the ability to fish for a phone number when it is connected to a suspected or known terrorist, but don’t really give a shit about other persons’ privacy, safety, and security.

    • JozefAL

      Well, then, Cory, are you going to explain to the rest of us why it’s okay for CORPORATIONS to spy/monitor on citizens? Amazon, eBay, even retailers like Target and Macy’s, use information that YOU provide (from buying merchandise–whether online or in person) to send you e-mails and catalogs or sales flyers highlighting products that would “interest” you. (Yes, you can opt out, but, then again, YOU have to be proactive in that. You’d think the default method would be the “don’t wish to receive e-mails, etc” instead of “click here/mail to this address to receive no further communications.” But it isn’t.)

      See what you forget is that the NSA is NOT “one branch of government.:” Any–ANY–”spying/monitoring” by the NSA that would actually DETAIL pertinent personal information about “the other branches of government” actually REQUIRES (and this is FEDERAL LAW–passed by the Congress and upheld by the Courts) a COURT ORDER. And the only place you can get a “court order” is from a, you guessed it, court. Even that super-duper secret court (that Dubya and his ghouls used WITHOUT any oversight) is required to explain its actions TO CONGRESS.

      And, for the record, all this Congressional oversight and required court orders are the result of all of HOOVER’s illegal spying (which did far worse when it came to spying than ANYTHING the NSA has done–even according to all of Snowden’s “documentation”) in the 1970s and Nixon’s less-than-legal activities that resulted in Watergate.

      • Cory S

        Your first paragraph is a red herring but I’ll explain. Corporations collect data that you give them. You say that yourself. That doesn’t mean I defend them either. Many are reckless with your information, but you still voluntarily gave them that information. Also, the decentralization of your information among those corporations protects the data, some. The NSA seeks to compile all this data in once central location so it can have a more complete picture, regardless of the privacy risk it poses to you. Finally,, corporations don’t have the ability to also jail you.

        The NSA is an agency falling under the executive branch. While there are some legal protections to data abuse, exploitation through technology still exists.

        Unfortunately, as your last paragraph states, even presidents have been known to partake in illegal activities.

        • formerlywhatithink

          Also, the decentralization of your information among those corporations protects the data, some. The NSA seeks to compile all this data in once central location so it can have a more complete picture, regardless of the privacy risk it poses to you.

          Guess you’ve never heard of Google, Facebook, et al who are seeking to collect any and all data on you in one central location for purposes of data mining and selling that information for profit and have said so to that effect. You might also want to look up on what exactly makes up the Executive branch of the government, because based on your statements, you really have no idea.

          Finally,, corporations don’t have the ability to also jail you.

          You’re joking, right? Corporations run jails that pay politicians to keep at maximum capacity.

          • Cory S

            Data retention by corporations is a problem too. I don’t deny it. But it’s also a red herring.

            Is it your claim that the NSA does not fall under the executive branch?

          • ChrisAndersen

            A while back there was some breathless report about how the FBI had 20+ pieces of information on every person in the United States. I can tell you from personal experience that if that is the case then the FBI are pikers compared to companies like Equifax and Acxiom. They regularly process 200-300 pieces of information on everyone in the United States.

            The shear volume of information that is floating out there on everyone, including those who have tried to “get off the grid” would just astound people.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Corporations run jails that pay politicians to keep at maximum capacity

            Excellent point! I’ve been fighting against privatization of our prisons for many years. Now they’re taking over our schools. So if they can’t brainwash our kids, they’ll put them in prison. The corporations will have us from cradle to grave. It’s a major, major issue…..

    • Jason

      I think Bob needs to review his “Move along….nothing to see here” narrative.
      He has been claiming the NSA story is running out of legs for at least 3 months and yet can’t help but write about it himself.
      And yeah, anyone who can’t understand why it is not desirable to allow a government spy on other members of government really should be excusing themselves from the conversation.

      • repugnicant

        Its always humorous to read about people who take their tin foil seriously. I certainly enjoy it.

        • Jason

          You must really be in stitches all the time, then because there are alot of people all around taking this very seriously

          • repugnicant

            Seriously, if you want to change the laws governing the NSA, then you need Congress to do it.. and you don’t do that by allowing the Right to piggy-back on all your faux outrage going into the 2014 election. In fact, in your current state of mind, we’re looking at maybe another 10 years before anything significant happens. That would be around 3650 days of 24/7 unConstitutional civil liberties violations.. according to the SnowdenWalds. So, yes, not even you are taking this seriously.

          • Jason

            before Snowden….absolutely nothing was happening and Congress had no idea what was going on beyond the few on the committee who couldn’t say anything. And even they didnt know the full story as evidenced by Feinsteins surprise at NSA spying on world leaders.
            Se thanks to snowden we are already ahead of the game as it otherwise would have been played to this point. And there is plenty of bipartisan scope for NSA reform. Plenty on the right agree that NSA overreach is bad ju ju

          • repugnicant

            Again, MORE assumptions that Congress had no idea. Proof? And your Ralph Nadar strategy is extremely counter-productive to your cause. Really makes no sense whatsoever. And to add insult to injury, two judges on opposite sides of the spectrum, both ruled that metadata doesn’t belong to you. Changes will ONLY happen in Congress.. and you don’t get there by tying your shoelaces together.

          • Cory S
          • repugnicant

            LoL. Macs with PC innards.

        • Mike Mayors

          ad hominem

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      I’m an IT professional with 15 years experience and I disagree. So I guess that pretty much eliminates your “I’m an expert” argument. Other than that and your declaring that abuse is secretly happening without any data to back it up….you’ve got nothing.

      • Cory S

        What type of IT pro are you?

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          Right now I do web programming but I’ve done everything but Mainframe stuff, in many different environments using many different languages over many different types of networks. I started programming way back when the Internet was very new using classic ASP. Now I’m doing the latest .NET stuff. I’ve worked for a state government, a county and many private companies. I’ve taught networking, web programming, ethics, computer forensics (which I did as a Private Investigator for a while) and a bazillion other classes to college students for about 7 years. This is just a sample of my experience.

          • Cory S

            Cool. I went to college for programming but when I graduated, a lot of programming jobs were outsourced to India. Finally got hired as a systems engineer and realized I needed to learn networking so went back to school while working. Learned lots from people I’ve worked with too. Are you on Twitter? Call me an idiot there if you are. @bdcory

  • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

    In my view Congressional members should be under extra scrutiny precisely because of the amount of power they have. Can you imagine the damage that could be done by foreign interests if they had a Congressional Member under their thumb? Someone like me? Nada would happen. Someone like McCain, all holy hell could break loose. These asshats forgot that running for office is called “public service”. It’s not like they’re forced to do it. Hell, I would assume that the NSA is all up in my businesss if I was in Congress. They are just so full of it.

    • Badgerite

      Well, no, I disagree on this one. Congress should not be ‘under surveillance’. But they have the ability to control NSA activities through legislation. They authorized these programs via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 and can therefore amend or repeal the whole damned thing, if they want. Just like they could close Gitmo, but won’t and they could repeal the Authorization of Use of Military Force Act, that authorizes drone strikes, but they won’t. And much as I like Bernie Sanders, he can’t tell me what about any instance of actual abuse of the program that involves looking at information about a Congressman or any misuse of information. I’m pretty sure the NSA is not going to be able to get a warrant to investigate Alan Grayson based on the fact that he calls his mother across town.

      • Cory S

        If you think there are proper security measures in place to prevent the theft of data, how do you explain Snowden’s ability to walk off with the crown jewels? And I don’t have to blackmail all of Congress to pervert the system. I only need to blackmail a few.,

        • Badgerite

          What Snowden walked off with was information about the system. Not about individuals. If was his job to have access to the system to make it work better and they trusted him because he said things like “Those people (leakers) should be shot in the balls.) etc.
          Oddly enough, if he had tried to access personal information of citizens without a warrant he probably would have been caught. That was not his goal.

          • Cory S

            NSA said they don’t know what Snowden walked off with so how do you?

          • kfreed

            I’m sure they’ve been looking into it.

        • kfreed

          Obviously, a high school dropout with a security clearance had some help.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        I don’t mean they wouldn’t have to get a warrant for a Congress member BUT there are other, legal ways to perform closer inspection into their activities than the average citizen. Correct me if I am wrong but don’t all Congress members have to undergo some kind of security clearance, particularly if they serve on a committee with secret/top secret data (like the Intelligence Committee)? This is not something the average person goes through but should be/is required of them.

        • Badgerite

          No, I think you are right. What’s more, they seem to do fine at embarrassing themselves and wrecking their careers without any help from anyone else. Anthony Weiner comes to mind. And many many more.

          • kfreed

            Makes me think of Darrell Issa… his blatant corruption is out there front and center. By now, it’s common knowledge (who even needs the NSA for that):

            Wonkette: “…this is just so awesome, even though it is from Politico:

            ‘The Health and Human Services Department told… Chairman
            Darrell Issa [R-CA] that it won’t turn over documents related to the
            security of the Healthcare.gov website because it can’t trust him to
            keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system.’”
            http://wonkette.com/536456/no-fair-how-can-darrell-issa-leak-obamacare-website-security-info-if-hhs-wont-trust-him

          • Badgerite

            Unbelievable! Can’t California do better than that guy?

          • kfreed

            You’d think so. Looks like they’re going to give it a try:) Guess we’ll see how many not insane voters turn up at the polls:

            “Issa’s tenure as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ends in 2014 and he has not announced whether he will seek an eighth term. But if he does, he has more than $2.7 million in his campaign account to help stave off any challengers, such as Encinitas Democrat Dave Peiser, who says he intends to challenge Issa next year.”
            http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Oct/21/issa-poll-shutdown-moveon/

  • KABoink_after_wingnut_hacker

    “Metadata is composed of your phone number, the phone number of who you called, and the date and time of the call. That’s it.”
    May I add that anyone who has ever watched a cop show, movie or read a newspaper over the last 60 years knows that authorities investigate phone records.
    Snowden and Greendrone sure did some earth-shattering reporting because after all, who ever would have thought that governments spy!

    • Olga Grobut

      The non-commission of a non-coverup of a non-crime. Sounds like grounds for impeachment to me!

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      LOL, you want to really get their panties in a twist? Someone very close to me worked for a major phone company. In the 1970′s when the Phone Cos still used analog and physical switches, I had occasion to be in their local substations. I saw on more than a few occasions people simply take an instrument off their tool belt, plug into some person’s line and listen to the parties conversation. This was only acceptable if they were testing a line and they did all they could to avoid interrupting or hearing people’s conversations, but the ease of it was/is astonishing. The very same thing could be done from any phone relay boxes or even the line itself. AND there was no way to trace that little spying interlude. Law Enforcement could only get substation access and record it with a warrant….but the fact remains it was easy to do and done much more often than you think (at least, to my knowledge, for non-nefarious purposes).

      But there was no Google to cross reference our data and see across multiple communication methods to mine our personal data–it was one point of entry, one intermittent stream of data–now there are exponential ways to spy on someone. So there’s a reason the government is going to international corporations to get data. They are the ones who get it first and who get the most of it. Bob is right….it’s not enough to limit the government but do nothing about the corporations. And limiting corporations would also limit government capabilities in the long run as well. These corporations are one of the biggest threats to our privacy (and economy) and both the far right and the far left ignore them at their (and our) peril.

    • Cory S

      Investigation of phone records is much different than storing them.

      • Badgerite

        The ‘investigation’ extends to what numbers called what numbers and when. There are not even names or identifiers attached. That is what they are allowed to look at without a warrant. If they find suspicious connections, a suspected terrorist calls your number a lot for instance, then it must be reported to the FBI and they must secure an individualized warrant.

        • Cory S

          A phone number is an identifier.

          • Badgerite

            It is an anonymous identifier. Just looking at connections between phone numbers does not give you any information more than which numbers called which numbers and when. This provides probable cause for a warrant if the connections are suspicious. Nothing more.
            A phone number is not an identifier to someone who does not know your phone number. It is just a number.

          • Cory S

            A phone number can easily be linked to a person or an office. Just Google the phone number. Area code and prefix say a lot about the number too. And if all that fails, just serve the phone company with a national security letter to demand their secret compliance.

          • Badgerite

            And when the NSA has to explain that security letter to the Attorney General, or the FISA Court, as they would inevitably have to do as it is a procedural requirement of the statute that allows them to do this in the first place, how exactly would they do that. And what would they get out of knowing whose phone number it was exactly. Unless Bernie Sanders was calling Ayman Al Zawahiri, why would they care?
            What ‘political cause’ would they be working for? And what makes you think that people are so easily cowed as all that.
            When J. Edgar Hoover taped MLK in compromising situations and threatened to expose this to the public, MLK did what? Did he say, ‘yes massa’ and do what he was told? Of course not.
            And whose reputation suffered. J.Edgar Hoover’s reputation never recovered. MLK is now and always will be a revered national figure and international figure. A democracy is simply made of sterner stuff than you give it credit for.

          • Cory S

            Both the NSA and AG are part of the executive branch. That’s like asking the president’s left hand to check with his right hand.

            People/companies that do receive NSL’s can challenge them in court. However, companies are likely just to comply with the NSL vs fighting it. It’s your personal data and not theirs so what do they care? For them, it’s easier to just comply. Same goes for any other US company you may have entrusted your data to.

            Why would Senator Sanders (or any other Congress member) care? Because the executive branch could track where he’s been, who he’s spoken to and gain clues into how he plans on voting. The removal of this privacy breaks any balance of powers between the three branches of government.

            And I’m glad MLK stood up to Hoover but that does not mean others will. Others may succumb to blackmail or bribery.

          • Badgerite

            The FISA Court is not part of the executive branch, nor is the committee of Congress which controls the NSA purse strings and can repeal the statute authorizing their activities any time they want. The oversight stretches over all three branches.

            No, I meant why would anyone care to make a point of perusing who Bernie Sanders might have called and who might have called him?
            Getting a conspiracy together to do that would be like ‘cat herding’.
            And would Bernie Sanders really suffer any kind of damage if they did? I think he is made of sterner stuff as well. Our current POTUS does not deny that he tried cocaine in a younger incarnation. It did not destroy his career. I doubt that Alcoholic Anonymous membership would either. If someone is calling a suicide hotline they should probably get out of government and seek help anyway. (see Vince Foster) If they are that troubled, maybe they shouldn’t be there and divulging that might be considered a public service.
            Politicians have affairs all the time and survive them. So.
            Unless their affair is with some underage child……
            And if that is the case, again, they shouldn’t be there.

          • Cory S

            This is what Rep. Alan Grayson has to say about oversight:
            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/25/nsa-no-congress-oversight

            Congress does control the purse strings but for all they know, they’re either voting to fund or not to. If they don’t fund it, they’re labeled as “unpatriotic” or attacked with any other cheap ad hominem.

            As far as “what can go wrong,” a Congress member or Supreme Court justice can be blackmailed. Heck, they don’t even have to do anything wrong. If the NSA has dirt on a family member, they can be blackmailed over that.

            Here’s some more on what can go wrong: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/01/the-danger-of-nsa-spying-on-members-of-congress/282827/

            And your assumption that blackmail is to get them out of office, why would the blackmailer want to do that? They now have a Congressman that they can make vote their way. Again, not saying this is happening, but there’s nothing in the way to stop it.

            Quite simply, the pitfalls of NSA domestic spying far outweigh and perceived benefits.

          • Badgerite

            Yes, and maybe Barack Obama is the Manchurian Candidate, secret Muslim.
            What would be so terrible? One of their family members being gay. Like say, Mary Cheney. Or taken drugs. Like ( fill in the blank of the names of the last three POTUS es).
            Unless their family member committed murder, they are probably ok. And if they committed murder, the authorities should probably know about it.

          • Badgerite

            When Robert Kasten ( the senator from First Wisconsin who had ousted Gaylord Nelson from the Senate) was running for re-election and facing Ed Garvey, he spread a lot of stories in the press right before the election claiming that Garvey was under investigation for bribery and such. It was a blatant lie. So blatant that after he lost the election to Kasten, Ed Garvey brought a slander and libel lawsuit against Kasten and won.
            But the election was over, and that was what mattered to Kasten.
            What’s your point. Vulnerabilities always exist in the system, any system and always will. The Atlantic article says that the NSA people were blameless, and I’m sure they were.
            But politicians rarely are. That has to do with the people that we the people elect. And there is very little you can do about that vulnerability.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “Again, not saying this is happening, but there’s nothing in the way to stop it.”

            And there is nothing in the way of Sanders putting on a fruit hat and performing a saucy Carmen Miranda number on the floor of the US Senate but we don’t implement procedures and laws to prevent it, now do we.

          • Mike Mayors

            Is that seriously your excuse of a counterargument? The whole point of the 4th amendment is the government must prove that is probable cause before going thru your personal stuff. Government – not businesses, not individuals, which are handled by different laws. I, or Cory, or anyone shouldn’t need to prove that the government is abusing data it never should have the legal right to collect in the first place.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            prove that is probable cause before going thru your personal stuff.

            Aha, there’s the sticking point…the Supreme Court decided back in the 70′s that metadata in NOT “personal stuff”. So the collection of metadata has not been considered unconstitutional or illegal for many years now. The most recent ruling will probably go up to the Supreme Court and we can get yet another ruling and if they say it’s illegal then the metadata program needs to go. If they don’t then the President is within the law by keeping it.

            Cory, or anyone shouldn’t need to prove that the government is abusing data it never should have the legal right to collect in the first place

            I agree with that statement. But since the collection of metadata to date is currently legal if you make accusations that it is being abused you need to provide proof in order for us as a country to change the law and change policy and procedure. We don’t just change things because you suspect, you have to provide enough proof. Right now the only proof that GG and Snowden have provided is that the NSA is collecting legal data (metadata), they filter it to protect citizens and winnow it down and then if they want to pursue something based on that data they have to go through the FISA courts. So until you have enough proof to convince the Supreme Court and those useless paid shills in Congress to overturn existing laws and actually change the FISA process….all the hyperbole just makes the left look ridiculous.

          • Mike Mayors

            Is this website extremely biased or do the majority of commenters just have an extreme tendency to appeal to authority?

          • ChrisAndersen

            Or maybe we just have a different opinion than you?

            It is allowed you know.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “However, companies are likely just to comply with the NSL vs fighting it.”

            Data to support this please. Otherwise you have no idea whether this is true or not. Your suspicion does not evidence make.

          • kfreed

            In which case, your phone book is out to get you. Probably the mailman, too.

          • kfreed

            Addendum: And how do we know that the sudden NSA hysteria is a RW Libertarian circle jerk? A clue:

            “something to keep in mind if you find yourself getting all dewy-eyed as you take your place on the bottom of the “strange bedfellows” at the [NSA] StopWatching.us rally, topped by such rancid libertarian outfits as FreedomWorks, the Kochs’ climate denial front Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Kochs’ new anti-Obamacare Astroturf front Generation Opportunity, Students For Liberty (funded by CIA/NSA contractor Peter Thiel), Ron Paul’s Young Americans For Liberty, the Libertarian Party….”
            https://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/lying-to-liberals/

            Which is funny, because these same RW Libertarians were responsible for writing the legal justification for the Patriot Act under Dubya in the first place:

            “Another Cato Institute executive, Roger Pilon, vigorously supported Bush’s attacks on civil liberties. Pilon, Cato’s
            VP for legal affairs and founding director of the Cato Institute’s
            “Center for Constitutional Studies,” supported expanded FBI wiretapping in 2002 and called on Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act as late as 2008.”
            http://www.thenation.com/article/167500/independent-and-principled-behind-cato-myth

          • feloniousgrammar

            Who is this “us”? Hilariously self-important, aren’t they?

  • Vipsanius

    Te important objection to collecting this metadata is effectiveness/usefulness. In other words, what good does it do? Will it help detect a foreign terrorist communicating with a US based terrorist?
    The US Govt has no interest otherwise..

    • Badgerite

      Yes, but there is disagreement there. See this link
      http://www.nationaljournal.com/technology/how-edward-snowden-turned-unwitting-journalists-into-activists-20140103
      Read the whole article. It is short and to the point. Here is a quote that caught my eye:

      “And on the other side of the ledger, despite very justifiable doubts about the efficacy of the NSA’s bulk collection of telephony metadata, and very reasonable concerns that more protections should be built in against the possibility of a future J. Edgar Hoover — an abuser of liberty and privacy, in other words — intelligence experts have said that most of the agency’s key programs, such as surveillance of emails abroad, have already proven critical to national security. As panel member Michael Morrel, former acting director of the CIA, told me last month, even the telephony program might have helped avert 9/11. He also said he is in favor of restarting a program the NSA discontinued in 2011 that involved the collection of ‘metadata’ for internet communications. Both programs added together, he said, have “the ability to stop the next 9/11″.

      Judge Leon was not convinced of effectiveness. Judge Pauley was. Is it not clear cut.

      • Jason

        It is interesting to hear NSA officials claiming that their contentious programs might have stopped 911. Meanwhile they did nothing to stop Fort Hood, the underwear bomber or the boston marathon.

        • Badgerite

          Like I said. It is not cl;ear cut. There are competing interests and values that must be balanced and that is the SCOTUS job description. The collection of phone records (metadata) of American citizens is on it way up to the Court. Their other programs are authorized by an act of Congress that has never been held by any court as unconstitutional and will remain in place baring an act of Congress which repeals it. The country is not giving up foreign intelligence gathering. No one in Congress and no one in the courts supports that.

          • Jason

            They should probably start citing reasons other than terrorism since they seem to be having trouble citing any examples. perhaps they could tell us why they are spying on PETROBRAS?

          • Badgerite

            Actually they don’t. Judge Pauley lsited some rather significant examples in his decision.
            apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/us-district-judge-pauleys-ruling-in-aclu-vs-clapper/723/

  • WiscoJoe

    A couple of weeks ago I got a parking ticket for spending more than two-hours parked in a two-hour spot. How did my local parking attendant realize that my car had been there for more than two-hours?

    OMG I’M BEING SPIED ON!!!

  • CygnusX1isaHole

    I strongly urge everyone to read this article from Chris Hedges: The Last Gasp of American Democracy for a radically different perspective on the NSAs illegal surveillance.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_last_gasp_of_american_democracy_20140105?ln

    There’s an intense discussion ongoing. Join the real debate!

    (They use the Disqus system too.)

    • Razor

      What is the “real” debate over at truthdig? That this is the worst thing to happen to America or this is the worst thing to happen to recorded civilization?

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        But…..but……BUT, it’s 1984, mannnn!

      • feloniousgrammar

        I’m guessing that this is the worst thing to happen to white men in living memory so, of course, it’s the worst thing to happen ever. Poor wittle white men. Aww, aww– they need someone to rub their tummy.

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          “Poor wittle white men. Aww, aww– they need someone to rub their tummy.”

          Funny! But bad visual of pale, fat beer bellies….ewww ;)

          • Sabyen91

            Hey, now, we really DO need that!

        • lex

          spying effects peope of color more then white people ,

          • feloniousgrammar

            If the NSA were spying on, harassing, and prosecuting minorities in the U.S., you’d have a point.

            And no one here is “making fun” of violations of the Civil Rights of minorities of the Stasi in Eastern Germany or anywhere else.

            You make pitiful little straw men. Your attempt to make me look like a bad person who doesn’t care about minorities and despotic governments because I’m not taken in by the latest breathless horror show of white emo men who have to be the center of the universe and their concerns have to be addressed first and foremost while they push everyone else’s concerns to the side while black voters are being disenfranchised in states, young blacks are being given extrajudicial executions in Stand Your Ground States, the school to prison pipeline—

            What’s that? You want to talk about suppression and oppression of minorities, right? As an addendum at the end of the primary complaint of emotarians that is based on lies and ignorance— minorities are spied on too (did you stick out your tongue after you typed that?

          • kfreed

            Crocodile tears… unfortunately those RW stump speeches don’t comport with their actions.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            while they push everyone else’s concerns to the side,while black voters are being disenfranchised in states, young blacks are being given extrajudicial executions in Stand Your Ground States, the school to prison pipeline

            A-effing-men!

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Pulling out the “you must agree with Nazi’s accusation” is really helpful to the conversation, thanks. /snark, of course

        • Nick L.

          That these guys think this is the biggest threat to democracy, when women and minorities are having a hard time just getting in a voting booth is pretty appalling. That someone having my phone number takes precedence over a woman being denied health care because of her gender or a person harassed because of their race and location is pathetic.

          To quote Mr. Cory, in the scheme of maintaining the democracy this metadata kerfuffle is much more of a red herring than the crippling of the voting rights act.

          • Cory S

            What the hell does my NSA argument have to do with women being denied health care?

          • Nick L.

            I am only referencing your refrain, not your argument. In my view people are missing the forest for the trees. The greatest threat to democracy is the widespread denial of the right to vote for many women and minorities. A lot of energy has been expended to lament the reality that someone could possibly know who you called last December 20th and comparatively little has been expended to fight back against the egregious violations of civil rights facing women, minorities, and young people throughout the country.

          • feloniousgrammar

            And the mainstream media empire playing kingmakers while they lie like a cheap rug to the American public about issues and information that we the people have a need to know.

          • kfreed

            Everything. All one need do is take a look at the overall Libertarian/Repube agenda and it’s clear as day.

          • feloniousgrammar

            It’s funny that people who reject the “nanny state” want to cripple the NSA to assuage their fears that someone in the government might stumble upon their metadata while mining an ever expanding ocean of data for the purposes of national security.

            However do these people think that they’re more interesting to the NSA than terrorists? Their primitive understanding of this and failure to grasp the magnitude of the amount of data bouncing around on the planet all day every day, combined with their self-absorption has created some seriously numskull moral panic.

    • Vipsanius

      This is not the first “Last Gasp of Democracy “.. It is far from the last either.

    • Badgerite

      I read Chris Hedges and he mentions that he experienced the feeling of repression while in Germany during the time of the Stasi. He cites how he was followed by two Stasi men, how the people he visited were questioned, how his phone was bugged and how a vast number of informants in the population made people apprehensive about speaking the truth. Well, yes that probably is true. And I would have a few questions for Mr. Hedges.
      Did the Stasi have to get a warrant to follow you? Did the Stasi have to get a warrant to bug your phone ( that is listen in on conversations not just look at who you called or who called you)? Did the Stasi, in fact, need anything to do any of that other than the say so of a party functionary? I’m guessing the answer to all of those questions is no.
      If the new technologies are so dangerous to democracy, so essential to a surveillance and a police state, then how was the police state able achieve its aims of repression without them. The simple and true answer is that surveillance is not the essential element of a police state. Isolation of the individual is. That is the same lesson from the novel 1984 to anyone who is doing anything but a superficial reading of it.
      And that is what the Stasi were seeking to achieve. Isolation of the individual.
      The American constitution, on the other hand, has enshrined the individual and the rights of the individual to commune with fellow citizens unmolested and to speak the truth as one sees it, as a fundamental tenet of its laws. Technologies will come and go. These basic tenets of law are what we rely on. There are never any guarantees except the commitment of the people themselves not to be isolated from one another. Not to infringe on each other’s fundamental rights and to determine our course as a country based on a national consensus demonstrated through elections.
      You could dismantle the NSA tomorrow, fire all their employees, put all their buildings up for sale, and your freedom would be no more secure than it is now. Maybe even less, since there are real threats from abroad. Because your freedom is not based on privacy so much as it is your right to not be isolated. To be political without fear. To argue. To debate. To contend.
      It isn’t that privacy doesn’t matter. To search your home or your person, to search your reading material or your life. those are things that can have a chilling affect on freedom. But you search your phone records or other records that are public. Not so much. If that was all the Stasi had to work with, they would have been out of power a lot sooner. They had the military, and every lever of state at their disposal to isolate their citizenry , one from another. This was their tool. Not digital phone trails.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        Spot on.

        And, I would add that the people who are falling for the NSA outrage porn, via Greenwald, are paying less attention to what Big Business is doing. And between the two entities — gov v. business, we have much more to fear from big business re privacy.

        I have long thought that there is something to the talk that Greenwald works for the Koch brothers, and seeks to undermine trust in government.

        • drspittle

          This, Nicole. You nailed it. What no one in the mainslime media has asked is why, all of a suddent, the NSA (which has been around since, oh, 1952) is suddenly such a problem. If we had a white Republican president Snowald wouldn’t have stolen these documents. And he and GG would not have the fawning press attention.

        • Cory S

          That’s a red herring.

          • JozefAL

            Proof please, Cory.

          • Cory S

            Prove it’s a red herring? Google the term. Tell me if you disagree.

          • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

            You are a 1-trick pony, Cory, with barely a clue. Run along back to whatever emo cave you crawled out of……….you’re becoming a real annoyance with nothing of import to contribute.

          • lex

            says the rightwing neocon in denial , if your a liberal then Michael savage is a moderate

      • formerlywhatithink

        Because your freedom is not based on privacy so much as it is your right to not be isolated. To be political without fear. To argue. To debate. To contend.

        This is what really kills me about the emo/libertarian crowd. They run around declaring 1984 is here, that the NSA is worse than the KGB, Stasi, Nazis, et al combined, that their freedoms are being taken away…all on forums on the internet where they can post their paranoid wet dreams without fear of retribution. But then again, considering their role models, Snowden and Greenwald of the government is stifling my speech so I’ll say that in every medium possible, as often as possible because the government isn’t allowing me to speak even though it has done nothing to restrict my access to the media logic, can’t say I’m really surprised by their stunningly ignorant cognitive dissonance.

        • Badgerite

          Yeah, I know. Rather a striking contradiction. All of these people shrieking on the internet about living in a police state where no one bothers them or stops them from shrieking on the internet.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        “your freedom would be no more secure than it is now. Maybe even less, since there are real threats from abroad.”

        Hear, hear! Also, too, the lack of externally caused violence provides a calm place in which we have the luxury to express ourselves and to commune (or avoid isolation) as you point out. Go to your State Capital and stage a protest. 99.99999% of the time it will go off without a hitch. Now try to do the same thing in Afghanistan or Iraq. Car bombs sure do put a damper on freedom of expression in public.

        • Badgerite

          Bingo!

      • feloniousgrammar

        Yep. I can see how a man who had experienced the Stazi could be triggered by this news and the consequent mad melodrama, misinformation, and disinformation that has been stirring up the nuts; but these emotarians (left and right) are claiming that they are victims of a despotic surveillance system that they can’t stop talking about openly in public forums. So, I guess we ‘sheeple’ and ‘NSA shills’ who take a more earthbound view of this faux outrage are supposed to be impressed with the radical bravery of emo-nuts who won’t shut up.

        It’s like listening to “Freebird” every fucking day for six months.

    • Cory S

      Won’t find too many here interested in real debate. I think you can tell by their reply to you.

      • repugnicant

        A ‘real’ debate, meaning skeptics MUST assume, along with all few left promoting Libertarianism, that smily face Post-It notes actually translate into Armageddon. Got it.

    • Reilly

      I started reading the Hedges piece and only got this far….

      This is our last gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression.

      ….when I heard a knock at my door. I opened it to find a woman standing there.

      “Are you the one they sent to seize my right to liberty?” I asked.

      “What? I’m your neighbor. I just…”

      “Sure”, I interrupted. “Or maybe you’re a drooling authoritarian lackey of the United Stasi of America’s vast and pernicious surveillance apparatus.” It looked as though I had caught her off guard so I continued:

      “Am I suppose to believe it’s a coincidence that just as I’m reading Chris Hedges a stranger shows up at my door?”

      “Listen”, she said. “I’m not a stranger. I’m a neighbor from down the street. I’m just wondering if you’ve seen my cat.”

      “No”, I said. “But I’ll bet the NSA has.”

      “What are you talking about?”

      “Does you cat have a micro-chip?” I said.

      “Yes” she replied. “Of course.”

      “We’re next you know.” I said looking her dead in the eye.

      “Next? Next for what.”

      “First they put micro-chips in the cats and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a cat.” I said still staring intently at her. “You know the rest.”

      “No I don’t” she said as she began slowly backing away.. “But I promise, I won’t bother you again.”

      “Good!” I told her. “Now go report to your overlords that I still have my free expression and that I’m going back online to join the real debate.”

      • feloniousgrammar

        Is this your original content? Is good.

        • Reilly

          Yes it is. Thanks. Now if you want to see some original content that unfortunately can’t be mistaken for parody, check out the comment section of that Hedges piece. It’s some kind of emo mother-colony where the real debate seems to be between setting one’s hair on fire or complete self-immolation.

    • repugnicant

      As if we needed more comparisons between the Snowden-ite Left and the Republican/Libertarian prediction that Obamacare is the END OF THE WORLD!!!!!!!

  • Churchlady320

    Better my government with this anonymity than the Koch brothers with my identity.

    • condew

      I fear the day when “party affiliation” is checked on every job applicant. That’s why I was alarmed when I turned my Google tablet for the first time, and there, under “recommended for you” were links to Talking Points Memo and the Rachel Maddow Show.

      Access to the kind of personally attributed details Google collects will enable a whole new collection of prejudices that can be applied automatically, without seeing the person or asking questions. Being liberal could cause chronic unemployment which could then reenforce a prejudice along the lines of “lazy hippies”.

      • feloniousgrammar

        “… when I turned on my new Google tablet for the first time…

        Fucking hell— they have an electronic file on you that sees you by something that isn’t in the machine. During the Bush years I feared women’s medical records could be used to determine whether or not a woman had had an abortion. Now I hear that marketing companies are selling profiles of women who have been raped. Fucking hell.

        • condew

          It’s worse. That association with IP addresses is easy. Next the tablet asks for a credit card to buy something with “Google Play”, and now my interests are associated with all my financial dealings, my real name, address, phone number, and income. (I can buy cards for Google Play with cash and stop this association, but they’ll eventually make it, I only have to slip once.)

          Then there are the more subtle inferences that come from mining the data, like Target figuring out who’s pregnant, or facebook figuring out who’s gay.

    • Cory S

      That’s a red herring.

      • JozefAL

        Cory, you really need to stop with the “red herring” thing if you’re not willing to SHOW how it is.

        • Cory S

          A red herring is an argument that is intended to distract from the original argument being debated. In this case, the red herring is the Koch brothers argument. Also, in this case, presenting choices as one or the other is false dichotomy.

          • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

            Actually, the Koch brothers just act as a metaphor for big business.
            And, the choice wasn’t “presented” as “one or the other”, but rather as a choice about which issue you should be most concerned.

            Personally, I’d rather the gov, which was duly elected by the voters, have my info (which they don’t need the NSA for in any case because they have your tax records–since you’re so uptight about them having your phone no –you do file taxes, don’t you?) than the rat bastard corporations.

          • Cory S

            Ok, so it’s a straw man too.

      • Nick L.

        Is it really a red herring? The primary justification for the legality of these programs is that many collect data that have already been collected by a corporate third party; that the data are no longer private. Corporate collection of data makes it much more available to the government. That bot on greenwald’s guardian page allows the government to come in and say that your search history is fair game because you freely divulged it to a third party. I would assume one way to effectively reduce government collection of data is to severely limit corporate data collection.

        • Cory S

          The government doesn’t have the right to that data unless the business willingly hands it over or government has a warrant based on probable cause. And you’re right. One way to eliminate government collection of data is to limit corporate data collection. However, government through secret interpretation of the Patriot Act can force companies to comply with its data retention demands. Then it gags them to secrecy too.

          • ChrisAndersen

            You’re right. The government does need to prove probable cause. And that is what they have done.

            They have probable cause to believe that there is information in the bulk of call data records that could help them identify potential terrorist threats. So they issue a warrant for those records and the FISA court approves the warrant after listening to the governments case.

            The court can issue a warrant for only a portion of those records (e.g., the records exclusing congress and the courts), but only if the government can show probable cause that that subset contains evidence of criminal activity. Yet that is much harder to do.

            In fact, the more data the NSA can collect the better they will be at narrowing the focus on those criminal activities. In other words, the more data they have the better chance they have of reducing false positives and reducing false negatives. The NSA wants more data not because it wants to know more about you. It wants more data so it can more quickly remove you from its search parameters.

          • Mike Mayors

            Chris, “They have probable cause to believe that there is information in the bulk of call data records that could help them identify potential terrorist threat” is not how the law works. Probable cause is specific to a place and the person or things to be searched. That is, law enforcement can get a warrant for your phone records if they can demonstrate you’ve been working with a known drug dealer but they can’t demand the phone records of everyone in your city simply because there are drug dealers in your city. In this case, the government presumes that any one of us could be communicating with “known terrorists” and as such all of our call records must be monitored to uncover criminal activity. Noble? Perhaps. Constitutional? Hardly.

            This is the equivalent of the government copying the contents of everyone’s hard drive and then saying “don’t worry! We won’t look at it without a warrant.” The collection itself is illegal regardless of how it’s used or when it’s accessed.

            But even that analogy doesn’t go far enough, since the claim is specific to third parties and that data held by third parties has no expectation of privacy. A better analogy is the government randomly opening public storage lockers and recording the locker # and contents. But fear not, this data is only accessed when authorities have a “warrant” from our trustworthy FISA court whose rulings are classified and whose requests from the government are always approved. This also illustrates the absurdity of “But they only have a bunch of numbers! No names” as demonstrated by “They only have a bunch of storage locker numbers and their corresponding contents”

            Long story short:
            1. The government has refused to prove in any instance where the bulk collection alone created a lead that led to an arrest related to terrorism.
            2. Despite what Judge Leon has to say I don’t think Smith vs. Maryland can be used to justify bulk collection of everyone’s call records.
            3. If it can, then that’s very dangerous for the example I outlined above. I’d like to think that trusting a private business with my data does not automatically mean handing the data over to the government absent any probable cause or suspicion of wrongdoing.

          • ChrisAndersen

            At best there is a constitutional gray area here. You assert that “probable cause” requires specification of place, person and thing to be searched. Yet there is long precedent for the police to search property in bulk that is not specifically directed at a specific individual or organization. For example, I know there was a case involving the police bugging a public telephone because they knew it was used by organized crime. And that was allowed even though they were collecting a lot more than just metadata.

            I think people are far to quick to jump to the conclusion that something is or is not constitutional, especially when dealing with situations that the founders never imagined (they didn’t have the concept of phones, let alone the internet). We are to the point in the development of big data processing that it is time for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of how constitutional limits apply to analysis of bulk data. Until then, we should all learn to temper the constitutional pronouncements.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Unbelievable………or maybe not.

    Jesus. Christ. Do you people (the emos) truly believe that collecting metadata is spying? That the NSA has ANY fucking interest in YOUR phone calls beyond trying to track terrorists and those linked to them?

    Outrage porn has become an industry, and Greenwald is one of those who have benefited the most monetarily in targeting the young, the stupid, the naive, and those who are naturally inclined to jump at every shadow.

    As if the U.S. hasn’t got enough to deal with given the morally bereft, do nothing thugs running our Congress.

    • Draxiar

      My step son-in-law has refused to get insurance because he’s convinced that the ACA will utterly fail. He also won’t get it because he doesn’t want his humble North Carolina family of 3 to “be tracked”…according to my wife who had a conversation with her daughter (my step daughter).

      She had to get away from the dippy thinking in that particular matter otherwise she would have pointed out that her and her husband: Pay state, local, and federal taxes, get Medic-Aid for their 2 year old, have a job, social security numbers, have a registered vehicle, pay rent, post on Facebook and use the internet, etc.

      Try not to let your head explode.

    • Cory S

      I’m worried about one branch of government being able to spy on the other branches. And then knowing that that data can be swiped so easily (Snowden) and possibly given to enemies of America? How many Snowdens before Snowden ran off with data but were never caught? To allow that potential for abuse in a system is severe.

      • Badgerite

        Snowden was a systems administrator who took information about the system. Not information about individuals. There is a difference in the type of information he stole and the type of information that is protected from access by law.
        What he stole, and what he has divulged, is classified information as to how the NSA operates. Not information about individual citizens. They were guarding against that. They were not guarding against espionage.

        • Cory S

          So you know all that Snowden took? Tell me how. And data protected from access by law does not mean it’s protected from access by technology.

          • Badgerite

            I don’t know all he took. But he keeps saying how easy the system was to get around but has not shown anything to demonstrate that that is even true.
            Protected from military arrest by law does not mean protected from military arrest if they want to break the law. What’s your point?
            Why did George Bush get to assume the Presidency when he didn’t win the popular vote. One guess. The law.

  • kfreed

    Leave it to Bernie Sanders. I hear he’s also single-handedly going to bring us single-payer health care any minute now because we know how much tea bag congress is enamored of “socialist” healthcare.

    Once again… thank ye a thousand times over for breaking from the herd.

    • Cory S

      Thanks for the straw man argument!

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        You wouldn’t know a straw man if it bit you.

  • Badgerite

    It isn’t like Congress has no control over this. If they wanted to they could pass a law restricting the NSA from the practice of bulk metadata collection. This isn’t all on the courts. They are not helpless. Build support in Congress and pass a law. Unless, of course, it is in no way threatening to Congress or anyone else for that matter and they would not be able to actually build support for such legislation. Which I think is probably the case.

    • Olga Grobut

      Thank God for sensible people and their not-crazy opinions. Were it not for you and your cohort I would have to give up the internets for good.

    • Sabyen91

      That is why I get so sick of the firebaggers jumping every time Rand Paul tells them to. The man is a Senator! Of all the people in the country he has the power to write law. He (and the rest of the legislature) has the power to repeal laws like the Patriot Act. But, no, he grandstands and the irrational left eats it up like pap. They think they are “awake” and so pure but they are being led around by their nose ring by a right-wing snake oil salesman.

      • Badgerite

        My thinking exactly.

    • Cory S

      Congress is not in control when its communications can be monitored and stored by the Executive branch.

      • Badgerite

        Congress passed the legislation that controls the NSA in 2008 and they can,
        indeed, repeal it at any time. They don’t have the votes for that because the NSA’s activities are deemed as necessary to protect the country and provide foreign intelligence to the executive that might help to guide its foreign policy choices. Show me any evidence, any at all, that their communications have been monitored. Their phone records are collected like everyone else’s. That is it. And the phone numbers they dial from and call to have no names and no identifiers attached. To actually look at their communications the FBI would need to establish probable cause for an individual warrant before a court of law and they could use phone number connections to do so. In other words, unless Bernie Sanders is in touch with Ayman al Zawahiri, it is highly unlikely that anyone has even looked at his phone number, let alone looked at his communications. Or maybe if he ordered a pizza from the same place as someone who actually talked to Zawahiri ordered one, although most likely not because it is a pizza place and that would not provide probable cause.

        • Cory S

          If a system has vulnerabilities, you can’t assume it hasn’t already been exploited. Once it is exploited, it can be manipulated. And a phone number most certainly is an identifier.

          • Badgerite

            You know there is a military and we give them weapons and if anyone chose to exploit that they could arrest all of Congress. What’s your point. What are you, Haldemann? ( Nixon’s chief of staff who famously looked to run a “zero defect” operation ). Every system has vulnerabilities. Especially democracies.

          • Cory S

            That’s a red herring. But thank you for saying every system has vulnerabilities. That is true! Our government, a system of three branches, has huge vulnerabilities when one branch can spy on the others.

          • Nick L.

            Oh, I sorry that I previously responded to you. Now I see that you are just an epic twit. Carry on.

          • Cory S

            Nice name calling. You have real skill.

      • Badgerite

        What’s more, this is the issue before the courts right now. Bernie Sanders is piping up, much as the New York Times, not because he perceives any real danger to Congress. They are trying to weigh into the debate before it goes to the Supreme Court as is surely will. It has to because there are currently two conflicting Federal District Court opinions. One saying metadata collection of American phone records is constitutional and one saying it is not. This is the type of issue that only the Supreme Court can address with any authority at this point. I suspect they are preparing themselves even as we speak for this eventuality.

        • Cory S

          The NSA spies on the Supreme Court too!

          • Badgerite

            Oh Jeezbus! Stop talking. Stop talking now. There is a country where the intelligence services were actually caught spying on the country’s highest court. And by spying I meaning listening into their conversations. And that country would be, wait for it, BRAZIL.

          • Cory S

            Are you stating that the NSA does not collect data/metadata from Supreme Court justices too? Because that’s incorrect. As far as Brazil, that’s yet another red herring.

          • Badgerite

            No, I’m stating that that is all they do. Collect medtatdata. It is somewhere in a database somewhere and is incredibly unlikely to be looked at by anyone ever. Just like almost all of the metadata collected.
            As to Brazil, (quoting from Wikipedia)
            “On September 1, 2008, President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva suspended the leadership of the organization, (the Brazilian intelligence services known as ABIN) , including its director Paulo Lacerda and ordered an investigation into allegations that appeared in Veja magazine of phone tapping of senior figures including the heads of both the Senate and the Supreme Court.”

            How is that a ‘red herring’? It shows what a real surveillance state looks like. Not the imaginary one you conjure up out of ‘metadata’.

          • Cory S

            A real surveillance state doesn’t happen overnight. And I’m not even saying that blackmail is currently happening. At the moment, we don’t know one way or the other. However, the capabilities are most certainly in place.

            Lack of transparency, secret interpretations of the Patriot Act, secret courts with secret laws, collaboration with offshore spy agencies that don’t have to follow the Constitution, all used to “collect it all” is a heck of start. Good thing our government and our elections can’t be influenced by money. Oh wait!

            When I see this system, I see lots of ways to exploit it if I were to have nefarious intentions. So sorry for speaking up.

          • Badgerite

            The ‘capabilities’ are always in place young man and have been in place for a long time. Stalin managed to create just exactly that without any help from ‘metadata’. Mao as well. North Korea could not be defined by anyone but Dennis Rodman as anything other than a 1984 type police state. They didn’t need metadata to do it.
            And where do you think that money that will influence elections is coming from. The corporations whose mass collection and perusal of personal information of all kinds is of so little interest to you. Like Paypal.
            Maybe they’re blackmailing the Supreme Court. Or maybe they are black mailing you. How can you be sure they AREN’T blackmailing you?
            Jesus, give it up.

          • lex

            im not saying that, look up the history of abuses that are caused by this.

            This is knowlaged by aclu, amnesty interantional and human rights watch all agree that privacy is a human right,

            The nothing to hide crowd has always in usa been the far right lunatics, for some odd reason so many democrats have no principals and will flip there poetical views to suit there party even if it goes against what they belive in

          • Barbara Striden

            So many words, so little content. The need for privacy doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s one of many basic human concerns, one of which is the obligation of the American government to provide its citizens with a reasonable level of protection from foreign attack. Unless you are addressing the issue of how we should balance these two (sometimes-conflicting) needs, then you are, a la Greenwald, engaging in a useless display of moral vanity.

          • feloniousgrammar

            Yes, Barbara. It’s ridiculous to suggest that not having privacy in public is a violation of human rights. If that were true, then policing and security agencies could not examine a crime scene on main street in broad daylight. The telecommunications and electronic media are public spaces.

            Seeing radical transparency and absolute personal privacy being demanded at the same time is a wonder. Do these emotarians thing that they’re human and moral and public servants are not?

          • Cory S

            Incorrect. Telecommunications do not operate over a public medium. They operate over equipment owned by telecom companies.

            Government doesn’t have a right to privacy, it’s the people that do. Yet we’re told by government that it has a right to spy on all Americans while skirting any semblance of transparency.

            And no, I unfortunately do not feel all politicians and all government officials are of the utmost integrity. I’m sure many are, but not all.

          • feloniousgrammar

            Regardless of you fee-fees, the government not only has a right to some secrecy, it’s a duty.

          • ChrisAndersen

            I’ll agree with you on the transparency issue. I actually am much more concerned about that than I am about the specifics of what they are collecting and how they are collecting it. It’s the excessive secrecy that concerns me. Not because I assume they are being secretive because they want to harm me. No, my concern is that the secrecy creates the breeding ground for the very paranoid theories we so regularly posited in these discussions.

            In other words, in the absence of any solid information about what the NSA is actually doing, a lot of people will just speculate wildly about the programs. And that speculation will eventually take on the basis of fact in the minds of many, despite there being no evidence for them.

          • Cory S

            I’m with you 100% on your transparency concerns. Also, I’m more than happy to have (my) paranoid theories dispelled but it has to be done so with logic and critical thinking. And sorry if you have to deal with an exorbitant amount of conspiracy nuts who can’t form a logical argument. Yeah, that becomes annoying real fast.

          • Badgerite

            Bush was in office and did use it. And a Verizon technician leaked it. And James Comey ( who succeeded John Yoo at the Office of Legal Counsel) , Fred Mueller, of the FBI, and several others at the Department of Justice rebelled. What happened then is they found a FISA judge who would sign off on the program. But he was succeeded by one who would not. They then went to Congress to request authorization by statute for what they were doing and they got it. See, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008. The system has been tweaked a lot since then but the underlying statute has not been repealed.
            And truth be told, privacy is way down on my list of basic human rights. It isn’t that it doesn’t matter. But it doesn’t matter to the degree that some people are trying to pretend it does. There are far more important issues facing humanity and the United States than that. And if you happen to be Muslim, you can preach to me about human rights when you start treating women and people of differing religions better.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            So anyone that doesn’t put privacy at the top of their list of concerns is a righty? That’s reductionist and stupid. And I fail to see how anyone here has cast human rights as “white privilege”…ridiculous. Making blanket false statements doesn’t add to the debate and it just makes you look like an idjit.

          • Cory S

            The capabilities don’t have to be in place. Most of these capabilities weren’t developed until after 9/11 too, so no, they haven’t been in place for a long time either.

            And yes, different avenues exist to achieving a police state. Domestic bulk data collection is one of them.

          • Badgerite

            Domestic bulk collection of whom you called and whom called you and when, without a hell of a lot more, will never turn into a police state. It is not essential or even that useful to that end.
            Control of the military is useful to that end. And we still have a military. Reason being—–we need one.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “And we still have a military.”

            The key is that our military is controlled by elected civilians and the separation of powers (Congress funds, Executive implements). Control of the military is the most crucial aspect of any police state. So long as we keep our current structure and process, we should never devolve into a police state.

          • Badgerite

            Exactly so. Well put. When I look at this commotion about phone records, I must admit to not being able to see even in Judge Leon’s decision that kernel of a police state.that the left and right are so exercised about. The Stasi didn’t operate based on denial of privacy. They operated based on control of the country by the military and all of the levers of power in the state and that was controlled by the Soviet Union. The Stasi just provided that apparatus with the illusion of being ever present in people’s lives and therefore unchallengable. What made the East German regime unchallengable was the military might of the Soviet Union which backed it. And that might was flexed every decade or so with an invasion of an eastern bloc ‘ally’. As in the 1956 invasion of Hungary. The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. And the Soviet reaction and thereby the declaration of martial law in response to the labor movement of Solidarity in 1980-1981.

          • feloniousgrammar

            Aaaand, as soon as the Soviet Union became so broke that they couldn’t afford to pay soldiers and the police to keep the show running, the whole apparatus fell apart. It takes more than a party’s determination to maintain a surveillance state. Putin has put some of it back into play, no doubt, but with cell phones and the internet, the likelihood of having another iron curtain is minute. Sure, there’s North Korea, but it’s a crazy outlier, landlocked, isolated, resource poor, and a captive cult of a country that is surrounded by countries that keep it somewhat in check. Awful for Koreans, but not something that’s going to spread.

          • Badgerite

            If it weren’t for China, that regime would be gone by now.
            I think.

          • ChrisAndersen

            The yelling about the metadata program might be justified if it could be shown that it has been systematically abused to influence political activities. Yet, as far as I am aware, Snowden has never provided any evidence of this.

            But to his supporters the mere existence of the program is ipso-fact proof that it is being abused. And when pressed for what this proof is it inevitably comes down to a variation of “it could be abused therefore it is being abused.”

            I wonder if these people are aware of the fact that every cop they meet is an officer of the state that is officially sanctioned to kill them if they deem it justified. That’s a pretty big potential-for-abuse right there. Yet it is the reality of what you have if you have cops with guns.

          • Badgerite

            Good point. And that is why there are a lot of oversight provisions built into the law. Those didn’t even exist during the Bush administration.

          • feloniousgrammar

            In the end though, John Ashcroft wouldn’t allow Bush unfettered access to spy on American citizens. I think our government does a decent job of putting things back into check.

  • formerlywhatithink

    You should read some the more paranoid, and hilarious, comments on this by the emo/libertarian crowd. The accusations that Congress, all of Congress, is being held in check by threat of blackmail by the NSA is flying pretty thick and heavy. Never mind the fact that meta data collection is anonymous and takes a court order to dig deeper into it to find out specifics, like who made the call, these idiots just love riding the outrage train. Point out the fact that any digging into the meta data takes a court order and you get the tired refrain that the judges must be being blackmailed by the NSA as well. Then ask them, if this is true, why should we demand judges oversee the NSA and they’ll reply that because Congress won’t because of NSA blackmail Point out that they had just accused the judges of being blackmailed as well and they’ll reply that then Congress must act. Point out that they just claimed Congress is compromised because of the threat of blackmail and they’ll demand oversight by judges. Point out that…and the circular logic circle jerk goes on and on.

    • Badgerite

      They only require reams of evidence when you say something derogatory about Snowden or Greenwald. It’s ridiculous. You can’t win with that crowd.

      • Olga Grobut

        You have to provide proof, while their own standard of evidence is sarcasm and innuendo.

    • condew

      That’s the refrain from the libertarian left; everybody is crooked — except them.

      • Olga Grobut

        I see that you have met the hysterical ninnies at dailykos.com – what a gang of ineffectual pseudo radical wankers!

    • Cory S

      Did Snowden need a court order to walk off with documents? Did the NSA even notice until leaks started happening? NSA admitted it didn’t know what Snowden took.

      • Badgerite

        So let’s see the personal information of any American citizen that he ‘walked off with’ that he would have needed a warrant for. What he has shown in information about the NSA, which he downloaded while pretending to tend to his job as a systems administrator. Not about any individual American’s. He says the system is easy to get around. But he hasn’t demonstrated that. Probably if he had been doing that, accessing personal information about US citizens, an auditor or audit trail would have caught him.

        • Cory S

          He hasn’t demonstrated the system is easy to skirt? He walked away with documents!

          • feloniousgrammar

            He talked a lot of people into giving him their passwords, in the guise of needing it for his duties. He lied, he cheated, he violated his contract, he stole documents that were classified that he did not understand and gave them to a fellow libertarian emo. The people of gave him their passwords have been fired, as they should be.

            Seems to me that there are several problems that Snowden revealed 1) security clearances and access to classified information are being given with too little investigation 2) Booz Allen needs to be held accountable and fined until it’s nose bleeds or until it loses it’s sensitive government contracts 3) contractors need to me monitored by on-site government officials 4) Booz Allen needs to do a much better job of monitoring its employees and reporting breaches in a timely manner.

    • lex

      neocon please, you sound like those jackasses on the fox news comment section during the bush years

    • feloniousgrammar

      Yep.

  • ChrisAndersen

    The irony here is that a requirement that the NSA not collect information on members of Congress would actually require them to create a mechanism by which they could identify whose metadata they have. In other words, the very thing people are up in arms about is the one thing they would have to actually start doing in order to protect one sector of the public from observation.

    What next? Should we require that public cameras not photograph members of Congress?

    • Cory S

      Technically, that’s not correct. Proof can be seen in the minimization techniques already in use by the NSA to determine whether traffic is US or foreign. As far as the public cameras, that’s a separate debate but a great question!

      • Badgerite

        Proof of what? That they employ the minimization techniques that are required by law. And that is threatening to anyone, let alone Congress people, because why?

        • Cory S

          Protection by law doesn’t mean it’s protected by technology. Those are two entirely different issues. Protection by law didn’t stop Snowden from walking off with documents.

          • Badgerite

            And privacy does not insure you will have freedom or democracy.
            Snowden, as far as we know, walked off with information that he had access to because of his job and because he conned people into giving him their passwords with the excuse that he needed them to do his job.
            Show me where he has shown that he had access to personal information or conversations or emails of American citizens.

          • Cory S

            Your asking me for information that Snowden specifically has asked journalists not to leak. Don’t think I can help you there. But as a systems/network engineer, the vulnerabilities and potential for abuse of NSA powers has been clearly demonstrated to me.

          • Badgerite

            I’m not asking you for the time of day. You are the one claiming that the system doesn’t work. We are continually subjected here to people wanting us to ‘prove it’ with respect to anything we might have to say about Snowden.
            Like Judge Pauley said, the government has all sorts of personal information of Americans to administer important programs. The IRS, Medicare and Medicaid. Your drivers license. They employ far more people with far more access. The potential for individual abuse is not a reason for invalidating government programs that we find beneficial.
            The bulk collection of American phone records is going up to the SCOTUS. The other programs are still in place and have had no successful challenges in court. I will trust the court system on this one. And I will trust the FISA court. Far more than I will ever trust Greenwald or Snowden. Or someone I don’t know on the inter tubes.

          • ChrisAndersen

            Thanks. This is a point that so often gets lost in this discussion. The government has had lots of information about us before this. Yet somehow there is something about the use of computers to collate and sift the data that just seems to inherently freak people out. A similar dynamic crops up in the discussion of drone warfare. A lot more people are endangered by conventional military means, yet the computerized aspect of drones really seems to push a lot of people’s buttons.

          • Cory S

            The government has lots of information. Just because I’m willing to tell the government my address for a driver’s license doesn’t justify them also being able to monitor my phone records.

          • Badgerite

            Tell it to the Judge. I’m just relating his reasoning. That would be Judge Pauley. See Eric Posner’s piece in Slate magazine about Judge Pauley’s decision or read it yourself.
            apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/us-district-judge-pauleys-ruling-in-aclu-vs-clapper/723/

          • Cory S

            The difference is Smith vs Maryland involved a sole individual, not bulk collection. Bulk collection is what goes against the Fourth Amendment.

          • Badgerite

            Yes, I know. But the issue isn’t a single individual issue is whether information that you turn over to a third party, such as a phone company, has any expectation of privacy. Smith v Maryland said no.
            Judge Leon actually created new law on that point, anticipating the Supreme Court. Whether he has that right or not will require the Supreme Court to weigh in, which I am sure it will at some point.
            Judge Pauley who has as much authority as Judge Leon, ruled that bulk collection of that which has no reasonable expectation of privacy is not unconstitutional and that the NSA programs have been effective at preventing terrorist attack. As I said. Only the Supreme Court can talk with any real authority at this point. Any lower court ruling, one way or the other, will be appealed up to them eventually. And this is their job description. Weighing the competing interests at play here and determining what should and should not be allowed to constitutionally.

          • Cory S

            So Judge Leon created new law and then ruled that his new law in Constitutional? That’s rich.

            We will see how the Supreme Court rules. Until then, their communications will be collected too. Hope none of them get blackmailed for their vote.

          • Badgerite

            It isn’t just ‘rich’. It is accurate. Of course he created new law. It is a case of first impression. This exact issue has never been before the courts before, as Judge Leon himself said. The technology has changed and allowed for bulk collection of the same information that was ruled as unprotected by the 4th Amendment. This exact issue has never been before any court. To reach the conclusion he did, Judge Leon reached into a line of cases involving other SCOTUS rulings involving GPS tracking devices and such. But there no case on point.
            As Eric Posner ( University of Chicago School of Law) states, the SCOTUS could go either way on this issue and have a reasonable basis in doing so.

          • Cory S

            Yep, off to the Supreme Court. Still doesn’t correct the technology vulnerabilities that exist, that Snowden exploited. Supreme Court ruling won’t protect us from potential illegal abuses that we’ll never know about until another Snowden leaks them too. That’s not safe system. That’s dangerous.

          • Nick L.

            How do you make a system with no vulnerability? If one could, I suppose you would have to immediately kill all the developers so no one could ever discover its blueprints. If only there was a technological way to read people’s minds so we could know there intent and prevent abuse before it is ever attempted; oops, I suppose that might defeat the purpose.

            I don’t get why people like you are so encouraging of Snowden, when it is him and people like him who have posed the greatest threat to the exposure of this information. It is something bordering on tautology to advocate for more Snowdens, more intentional deceitful infiltration of the government for the express purpose of exposing information, and at the same time point to Snowden as the only tangible example of the dangerous release of the information. Vulnerability serves your purpose twofold: as a means to infiltrate, thieve, and escape and as the cudgel with which to destroy public institutions.

            What technological system has Snowden employed to make sure that those files he doesn’t feel should be released – EVEN THOUGH HE STILL HANDED THEM OVER – won’t be? Snowden is relying essentially on faith and professional ethics.

          • Cory S

            So you’re advocating we let government collect whatever data it wants all in the name of preventing crime?

          • feloniousgrammar

            Do your arms get tired from the moving the goal posts?

          • Badgerite

            Good point.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Nick, very well said!

          • Badgerite

            You know, if I’m going to worry about “technical vulnerabilities” I think I will save my concern for the technical vulnerabilities in nuclear power plants or nuclear installations or perhaps the technical vulnerabilities that might provide an opening to an an enemy who seeks to attack by cyber warfare. And to that end, Snowden has made things worse and more dangerous. I don’t think I’ll worry so much that the NSA might know who I called on any given day. Or what I bought from Amazon. I just assume that whatever I do online is not secret.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “we’ll never know about until another Snowden leaks them too”

            The fact that most of what Snowden has released we already knew, totally undermines this argument.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “So Judge Leon created new law and then ruled that his new law in Constitutional? That’s rich.”

            That’s how our system works–that means what he did is perfectly normal!?!? Ignorance of this process is what is wrong with too many Americans….they have no idea how our judicial system works and how precedence is established. They have no understanding of how the law does and should evolve.

          • ChrisAndersen

            And even the Supreme Court could get it wrong. The point Cory and others like him fail to appreciate is that there is no perfect system that can be designed to be free of abuse *and* provide protection. If we want any level of protection from government then there will be an increased risk of abuse.

            We should remain ever vigilant. But we should not remain ever paranoid.

          • Badgerite

            Yes, the SCOTUS can absolutely get it wrong.
            See Korematsu v United States where, in 1944, the Supreme Court signed off on wartime detention of Japanese Americans.
            That case still stands, for God Sake.
            Love that last line about the “ever paranoid”.

          • ChrisAndersen

            In your opinion.

          • ChrisAndersen

            And just because they might have some of your phone records is not proof that they are abusing that authority.

          • Badgerite

            Yeah, I think you’re right.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            “the computerized aspect of drones really seems to push a lot of people’s buttons”

            I think, psychologically, that it is due to the impersonal nature and the perceived probability of a mistake being made with that kind of technology. It’s done remotely, by a faceless person/group anywhere in the world. If someone shoots you with a gun, well, it’s much easier to say “THAT person did it”.

            The misunderstanding about potential mistakes is partly due to confusion about how computers work (most people don’t understand that the greatest risk of computers being wrong is the data entered by humans…computers don’t make mistakes…the people who make the computers and input data do).

            Another misunderstanding that feeds into the fear is that computers and such technology has been used since the beginning of guided missiles. Hell, the first guidance missile was patented in 1877 and the first computerized guidance missile was created by the Germans in WWII.

            Ultimately its ignorance and that ignorance is played like a violin by the likes Greenwald and Snowden. I would rather have a drone that allows the controller to view who and what their shooting at and uses a known decision making process with multiple levels of oversight that looks at when to target someone than the average computerized guided missile that strikes a particular geographic location with no fail-safe features and no ability to limit collateral damage. I have proposed and continue to propose that drones are an improvement over the way we have done it in the past.

          • Cory S

            These are red herrings and poor analogies. Also, your trust in a system that has these exploits is misplaced.

          • Badgerite

            “exploits” is a poor choice of words. People have exploits. Not systems.

          • Cory S

            Excuse me, these vulnerabilities. An exploit is possible because of a vulnerability.

          • Badgerite

            As I said, if I’m going to worry about technical vulnerabilities I will worry about technical vulnerabilities in nuclear power plants or installations or cyber warfare vulnerabilities. There tons of vulnerabilities in life in general and democracy in particular.
            The 4th Amendment gets violated all the time. Even when it goes before a judge and an individualized warrant is sought. There have been cases where a clerk typed in the wrong address and cops show up at someone’s house in the wee hours of the morning. With guns. I think that is a far more serious intrusion than some NSA analyst ( one of 22) knowing who I called at any given time. At least somebody is watching the NSA analysts.

          • Cory S

            I’m sorry. I thought I was having a discussion with patriots who don’t accept the violation of their Constitutional rights.

          • Badgerite

            No constitutional rights are absolute. None. A compelling state interest such as national security will be allowed to infringe on those rights to the extent that it is necessary to achieve that end which is prevention of terrorist attacks. The constitution does indeed get bent from time to time for that reason but it has yet to break.

          • ChrisAndersen

            The only absolute constitutional right is the 2nd. (I kid)

          • Badgerite

            Like Bill Maher.

          • ChrisAndersen

            And you think technology can do any better of a job of protecting us?

            The law is really the only thing that ultimately can protect us, the law as executed by reasonable people. But it is never a 100% guarantee. What gets me in this debate are those who say, “the technology could give them access to my private information, therefore we should assume they *are* accessing my private information.” But this same problem existed even before this new technology. The people we put in charge of protecting us have always had the ability to use that authority against us. It’s not the technology that makes us vulnerable. It’s the authority.

            The idea that we can ever develop a system that will (1) protect us and (2) never abuse us is naive.

          • Badgerite

            Totally agree.

          • Cory S

            If you go on vacation for a week, are you going to leave your front door wide open (rely on law) or are you going to lock your front door (rely on security)?

            And if someone can’t protect your data, are you comfortable with them having it in the first place?

          • Nick L.

            This is a strange argument. A window provides a very minimal obstacle to being broken into. The spectre of law enforcement is still a more effective deterrent in these cases than a deadbolt. Locking your front door probably does more to reassure you than it does to actually effectively prevent crime.

          • Cory S

            They both have an effect

          • ChrisAndersen

            This is not an all-or-nothing discussion Cory. There are always risks in handing over authority to others. But there are also risks to not handing over that authority. You would like the world to operate in a clear manner that allows you to easily judge an action good or bad. It just doesn’t work that way.

            I know of no one who says that the government would never abuse the authority we give them. But I know plenty of people who assume that any level of authority is to much because it *might* be abused.

            That position is untenable.

          • Cory S

            When I weigh the risks, the pros and cons, I think the risks associated with domestic spying far outweigh the benefits. Yes, I want to stop terrorist attacks too but I also want to stop the potential for government corruption, which in itself could be used to perpetrate a terrorist attack on the US.

            The simple solution is to spy on all. I agree. But it also opens the door to a world of abuse.

          • feloniousgrammar

            Right, because drones? It’s not the bombing or the targeting, ya’ see but drones, drones, drones, drones drones, and …but drones.

  • JimmyAbra

    I agree with what you say. The one area where I question is what is stored/saved beyond metadata. I don’t know for sure if it is saved, but it is entirely possible to save the contents of the communications, so I assume it is being saved….and I am fine with it regardless. I don’t see the real use of the metadata without the content, unless the metadata is used to make the connection and then to get any warrant for real “spying.” Either way, I think we have to realize that our realm of privacy is much smaller than we thought. The lack of collection technology allowed us to believe so. The proper channels do need to be in place though to use it against someone.

    • Badgerite

      Metadata is used to make a connection which demonstrates probable cause for an individualized warrant. And that must go before a judge. All the other information contained in digital files that Judge Leon was exercised about are not accessible without a warrant and that requires a demonstration of probable cause.
      Judge Leon was concerned that access to this other information could be abused in secret. Judge Pauley points out that the program has 22 NSA analyst who have access to phone record, a lot of oversight and no evidence of any abuse. And that a lot of government programs like the IRS or Medicare and Medicaid have sensitive information that can be subject to abuse by an individual and with less oversight. We do not do away with these programs because of a possibility of abuse by some individual.
      Eric Posner had a really good article about Judge Pauleys decision and its reasoning in Slate but he concedes that the SCOTUS could reasonably go either way on the Metadata collection.

      • feloniousgrammar

        Yes— just like the agency who busted that Senator who was buying coke. People in Congress are not immune to the law. If there is evidence that they are dealing with a criminal and engaging in criminal behavior themselves, then data can be used to get a warrant and to prosecute.

        Sanders says a lot of sweet things and it’s remarkable that we have a socialist in the Senate, but he really should just shut the fuck up and stop grandstanding. If he can’t stand behind President Obama and do his due diligence to understand what metadata and the NSA is about, then he’s robbing liberalism of vital nutrients and making an ass of himself.

        Fucking emotarians.

      • JimmyAbra

        Yeah. I guess I seemed that I wasn’t sure what metadata is, but I do…I was posing the question of its relation with the content – which may or may not be saved. But at some point metadata can provide the trail to gain access to the content. Outside of known people and using metadata to get connections, my thought was content is checked for patterns and then matched to metadata – direct or looking for links – to gain warrants, etc…

        • Badgerite

          Yeah. I think that is about right. The system purges itself every 5 years, but since it is also always collecting, there is always information there. It is sort of perpetual as Judge Leon pointed out.

      • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

        “WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) – A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans”.

        A defense attorney is suing the National Security Agency for phone records in a criminal case, US vs. Terrance Brown. It had to happen. Fricking Karma. Thank you, Snowden. All by yourself you neutered the Spyboys and the Suits.

        Do I think this will make the Spyboys stop haunting us? Hell no. Humans perseverate.

        Now the Suits and NSA may have to produce all these facts for the defense in criminal cases? If so, thank you doG. It is the 21st century jobs program – finally here – and the lawyers did it. Think of the clerks involved alone. The battle over this is going to be a hoot.

        • Nick L.

          Evidence is used to prosecute criminals. How is that a shocking reveal?

          • Cory S

            Do you even know this history of why we have a Fourth Amendment?

          • Nick L.

            There is nothing in the constitution that precludes law enforcement from using warranted surveillance information in prosecution.

            Are you arguing that law enforcement should be deprived of all investigatory tools?

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            You are stupid.

          • Nick L.

            Ha. Stunning riposte

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            I know. I am The Best.

        • Badgerite

          This is old news. The “secretive US Drug Enforcement Administration Unit” is SODS ( DEA Special Operations Unit).
          When an NSA analyst is searching through communications from abroad taken in under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 they may also come upon communications of American citizens mingled in ( inadvertent collection, which the statute authorizes). If the analyst becomes aware that he is searching the communications of an American citizen he must immediately stop and get a warrant to go further.
          There are some exceptions provided by statute to this requirement and one of them is evidence of a crime. And if an NSA analyst comes upon evidence of a crime he is required, by law, (statutes enacted by Congress) to turn that information over to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
          There is no problem with that. The problem arises and the case you cite is based on the fact that the judge and defense attorney were not informed as to where the information came from. The source was kept secret. The defense attorney in a drug case is claiming that his defendant did not have an opportunity to challenge the veracity or credibility of the source. Confront his accuser. Guess what? He’s probably guilty. If you think the Republic is going to rise or fall on this issue, you are nuts. I read the same article. Very few drug cases actually go to trial. The overwhelming majority are pleaded out. In other cases when prosecutors were told they could not reveal the source of the information they were expected to present in court they dropped the case. So this particular issue may affect a very few drug cases, and that is it. A few convicted drug felons may get to walk. I think the Republic is safe.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            You argue by misquotation. How tacky. I can see from this that you get the point, but you do not understand the significance. The below is a Star Chamber.
            “The problem arises and the case you cite is based on the fact that the judge and defense attorney were not informed as to where the information came from. The source was kept secret. The defense attorney in a drug case is claiming that his defendant did not have an opportunity to challenge the veracity or credibility of the source. Confront his accuser.”

          • Badgerite

            And what did I misquote?
            If you think that is a Star Chamber then you don’t know anything about the Star Chamber of the King as it was actually practiced.
            The courts of the Star Chamber were set up to try the powerful.
            Those whom citizens in the ordinary court system would never convict. There were no indictments, no witnesses, evidence was in writing and proceedings were in secret.
            No indictment – Nope, the guy was indicted and represented by
            a lawyer.
            Proceedings in secret – Nope. public trial in open court
            Evidence in writing – Nope, pretty sure the arresting officer
            drugs confiscated or other evidence
            presented in court and capable of
            being challenged.
            What they didn’t do is tell the judge or the defense attorney where the initial tip came from to investigate the defendant.
            This is not good but it hardly constitutes a Star Chamber.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            Go away.

          • Badgerite

            I was here first and you replied to me. You go away!
            No you go away! No you go away!
            Etc.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            Sure, if you will not go away, I can go away. Of course, you have not gone away. Must suck to have no boundaries.

          • Badgerite

            Great. Bye-bye, now!

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            Coo coo.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            “And what did I misquote?”

            I have contempt for folks who put words in your mouth that you have not asserted as a method of argument. FO.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            I’m sensing a pattern with you. If anyone replies with actual evidence and destroys your argument you resort to cursing and name calling. You need to grow up.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            You are sensing your ass. Maybe it needs wiping.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Thank you for proving my point.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            You are welcome.

          • Badgerite

            And you said, “You argue by misquotation”.
            And I said, “What did I misquote?”
            And you said, “FO”
            That’s what I call rational argument.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            You do not read what you type?