June 11, 2013

"'They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,' the then-anonymous Snowden told reporters as his leaks first emerged."

"Well, so can Google. And Facebook. And most companies’ internal networks. Creepy? You bet. Calamitous? Not so clear."
Daniel Ellsberg says Snowden is a “hero.” Let me suggest a different prism through which to view that term. Somewhere in the intelligence community is another 29-year-old computer whiz whose name we’ll never know. That person joined the government after 9/11 because she felt inspired to serve the nation in its hour of need. For years she’s sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats. Some Americans are alive today because of her work.

As one security analyst put it this week, to find a needle in a haystack, you need the haystack. If we’re going to romanticize a young nerd in the intelligence world, my Unknown Coder trumps the celebrity waiting in Hong Kong for Diane Sawyer’s call any day.

130 comments:

Lem said...

Well put.

AJ Lynch said...

Matt Miller is a prototypical librul and an innumerate lover of bigger and bigger guvmint.

AReasonableMan said...

It is clear where Althouse has come down on this issue. Law and order, uber alles.

pm317 said...

"Well, so can Google. And Facebook. And most companies’ internal networks. Creepy? You bet. Calamitous? Not so clear."

I can refuse to use Google and not have anything to do with Facebook. Is that also true for my govt -- where would I go or what would I do? Ask the teaparty people. I am tired of reading all these simplistic and unintelligent defense of Obama govt from his lapdogs.

Freder Frederson said...

For years she’s sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats. Some Americans are alive today because of her work.

You have no idea if this person exists or if any lives have been saved by the NSA's overreach. Our intelligence community really has a pretty dismal track record. Hell, they didn't even see the collapse of the Soviet Empire coming. And they were convinced Saddam still had WMDs.

Carl said...

Uh huh. So can my wife. Principle difference in general between "government" and "nongovernment" being that the latter don't have guns and laws and prisons, so the very worst they can do to me if they don't like me is...stop doing business with me. Oh dear.

Miller is a fatuous jerk, of course. There's a very good reason the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and all the rest of our complex paraphrenalia of restraint lies wrapped around government and not J. Random Private Actor.

Here's a clue, scribbler: why do you think guns should not be handed out to any random person, adult or child, criminal or not, sane or in? Because they're incredibly dangerous, right? Or conversely, why do you think very high standards of public behaviour and caution should apply to people who have guns?

Now, thinking very slowly, ask yourself what distinguishes government from Google. Take baby steps. Don't strain. You don't want any logic machinery in your brain that's become rusted with disuse to suddenly snap.

R. Chatt said...

It's an over reach to collect and store everyone's emails and phone communications. Just because you can doesn't mean you should or even need to "for national security." For instance if you are looking for your missing left shoe you don't have to look through your refrigerator, that is, unless you have lost your mind. Likewise if you are looking for a criminal you limit the suspects and don't interrogate everyone in town. Has our government lost its mind?

Furthermore, you probably don't tell your spouse everything you think about during the day so why would you want that information in the hands of government bureaucrats who are potentially serving someone else's agenda?

pm317 said...

Google, Facebook, Journolisters, sock puppets..that is Obama army for you. He is conducting a "war on information".

madAsHell said...

For years she’s sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats. Some Americans are alive today because of her work.

The life of Julia!

edutcher said...

She???

Almost certainly he.

AnUnreasonableTroll said...

It is clear where Althouse has come down on this issue. Law and order, uber alles.

Nothing wrong with that. Snowden, whatever he actually ended up doing, almost certainly broke the law.

In case it hasn't gotten through to the Lefties, who pick and choose what laws they obey, nobody has a right or obligation to break the law.

In this case, he may be fronting for somebody else.

Freder Frederson said...

For years she’s sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats. Some Americans are alive today because of her work.

You have no idea if this person exists or if any lives have been saved by the NSA's overreach.


You hear about the failures, not the successes.

And they were convinced Saddam still had WMDs.

He did, moron.

Simon said...

See, this is the challenge that technology poses. At the time that the fourth amendment was written, it's only a slight exaggeration to say that the only way that government could learn a whole bunch of information about a person was by surveillance of the person, their home, etc. Thus, the fourth amendment limits the government's surveillance of the person, their home, etc. Nowadays, however, people willingly turf over virtually every intimate detail of their lives to third parties, and in many cases, the government could simply buy all the information it needs on the open market. It could require by law that any business engaged in interstate telecommunications provide a copy of its transaction logs to the government.

Facebook and the like are obvious examples, but here's another one. A few years ago, the seventh circuit held that it didn't violate the fourth amendment to place a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car, because it was simply a technical means of achieving what the government could do by having an officer follow the car; last year, the Supreme Court disagreed and said that it may do so. But that debate is irrelevant in a world where, thanks to Google's big data project "Traffic" (or whatever it's called), the government doesn't have to follow you or place a GPS tracker on your car. You have placed your own GPS tracker on your person (you call it a "phone"), and have voluntarily supplied a constant and detailed account of your whereabouts to your service provider, information in which you have zero privacy interest, and information which the government may acquire in a variety of ways.

So modern technology has created the very real possibility that the government can, in many cases, achieve results that are functionally the same as it could previously have achieved only by engaging in the conduct that the fourth amendment forbade. This is why so many people seem determined to put a stop to it by shoehorning Article 8's "no aggregation of legitimately-obtained data" clause into the fourth amendment. It won't work. There is no fourth amendment issue here, save perhaps between the government and the telco. And we exaggerate, in any event, how novel (rather than how more pervasive) the situation is. Even in 1788, the government could find out information from an informant, and the fourth amendment had nothing to say about that. The government could ask a business to provide its records, and the fourth amendment had nothing to say about that. The fourth amendment regulates how the government collects information—it says nothing about what it can do with the information it legitimately obtains.

Mark said...

I’ve been spied on continuously by private-sector firms as I’ve written this column. As I typed “Snowden” on Gmail, I got ads for new mortgage rates. My search for “secrets” drew ads for Secret deodorant. My behavior has been fed into algorithms and sold to advertisers. At least the NSA isn’t getting rich tracking my every move.

False equivalences. Until Google can perform a no-knock raid on my house and "accidentally" kill everyone in it, then I'll consider that argument.

As for the other arguments, it all boils down to how dare you question your Dear Leaders?

(For what it's worth, the fact that the whole program could be shattered by one guy with a Batman complex opens up the question of what one guy with a Joker complex might have been able to do with the data.)

Simon said...

R. Chatt said...
"It's an over reach to collect and store everyone's emails and phone communications. Just because you can doesn't mean you should or even need to "for national security." For instance if you are looking for your missing left shoe you don't have to look through your refrigerator, that is, unless you have lost your mind. Likewise if you are looking for a criminal you limit the suspects and don't interrogate everyone in town. Has our government lost its mind?"

That argument doesn't work for the reasons that I mentioned yesterday:

"one answer is that the problem is that you're arguing that the inputs for a program for figuring out who is a terrorist should comprise only the outputs from that program. This isn't a surveillance program where we watch the activity of known terrorists, this is a data mining program where we look for suspicious activity that might identify people as terrorists. It's really easy to find the needle in the haystack if you remove all the hay!

"Another answer is that you're assume that the government doesn't already do precisely that just because it doesn't do it at the threshold. But it can't do it at the threshold! The government can't say to Verizon "hand over all the data on your customers who meet these red flags"—as if Verizon knows which of its customers are citizens and which of them have travelled to Chechnya in the last six months, and even if it did, do we really trust Verizon to do that screening process? Is Verizon really the proper body in which to repose that kind of national trust? The only sensible way to run a program like this, it seems to me, is that you ask the telco for everything and then winnow the dataset yourself, and I assume that the government does precisely that.
"

Carl said...

Somewhere in the intelligence community is another 29-year-old computer whiz whose name we’ll never know. That person joined the government after 9/11 because she felt inspired to serve the nation in its hour of need. For years she’s sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats. Some Americans are alive today because of her work.

Noble worker bee! Here's what that unsung hero looks like. Or perhaps he or she is one of these.

Marshal said...

“Snowden: Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said in his coming-out interviews.

Miller: That doesn’t describe officers I know who spent years risking their lives trying to help Iraqis forge a better destiny.


So the confusion created by the left's decades-long effort to prevent any action against America's enemies by pretending those actions were aimed at Muslims generally had unexpected results.

Whoever could have understood completely miseducating our population would result in negative outomces beyond those intended?

Peter said...

“They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type"

That's a pretty fancy way to describe autocomplete, no?

Revenant said...

As one security analyst put it this week, to find a needle in a haystack, you need the haystack.

And as any Good Citizen knows -- if the government needs something, it is entitled to it.

pm317 said...

In this case, he may be fronting for somebody else.

He was a sys admin.

traditionalguy said...

The odd thing is watching the crab bucket mentality seeking to provoke jealousy and envy at Snowden as the way to ignore the great heroism that he has displayed for all of us.

How dare Snowden try to get a martyr's fame compared to us way smarter folks who have chosen being slow cooked frogs over admitting that we are weak in the tools Snowden had and used. We wlll teach young Snowden and happily adopt In Obama We Trust as our battle cry.

AReasonableMan said...

pm317 said...
He was a sys admin.


A lot of the professional and amateur commentariat don't understand what this means.

pm317 said...

do you?

Palladian said...

Female computer whiz. Lol.

jr565 said...

Here's David Simon again:
We are shocked,shocked...
I direct those who are caterwauling about this to understand that this is what data collection entails and that it's been done for ages. As he says:
"Is it just me or does the entire news media — as well as all the agitators and self-righteous bloviators on both sides of the aisle — not understand even the rudiments of electronic intercepts and the manner in which law enforcement actually uses such intercepts? It would seem so."
Yes it would seems so.

Freeman Hunt said...

She? Spare me the pandering.

pm317 said...

For the righties, it is the military industrial complex and for the lefties it is the media complex (include google, facebook etc. in it). The left has appropriated the information hoarders/disseminators/arbitrators. Good luck with our democracy. They will win every election from now on. Put a thousand sock puppets on Google, Facebook and whatever else and steal elections by hook or crook.

This terrorism thing has become a cottage industry a la global warming. The danger is that it permeates both parties. They both want to make a fast buck off of scaring the heck out of you, some for power, some for money. There is no true risk analysis and rational thinking here. It is all risk all the time.

wildswan said...

Some Random Thinking
The point as I see it is that the government is tracking things people are doing which leave them open to blackmail. For instance downloading pornography, moving money to the Cayman Islands and selling drugs. Big Brother knows. But the government isn't using the information to prosecute - no, it just sits in files till the White House asks for it and uses it against its opponents. It happened with the IRS and it has happened with this other information, I feel sure.

The only way to sum the whole up is that the Federal government is too big and is overreaching in every field it is in. Power must devolve back to the states which is a rational achievable political goal.

I think that this program, Prism, explains the lies about Benghazi. The program was going but still one of the worst atrocities since 9-11 occurred. Why didn't Prism catch it? Because, says Obama, the attack was spontaneous. If the attack was planned, then its success suggests that Prism won't catch terrorists or anyone else who realizes that some program like Prism is monitoring them. So the program has no point now except to catch and blackmail Americans - the only group that might not expect to be monitored.

Please don't tell me that Obama will observe the law or that brave individuals will refuse to obey orders from "Washington" - look at what we know about the IRS.

jr565 said...

for a comparable example, though on a smaller scale Simon describes work he did as a police officer that was analagous, and was perfectly legal and had court orders behind it.

"allow for a comparable example, dating to the early 1980s in a place called Baltimore, Maryland.

There, city detectives once began to suspect that major traffickers were using a combination of public pay phones and digital pagers to communicate their business. And they took their suspicions to a judge and obtained court orders — not to monitor any particular suspect, but to instead cull the dialed numbers from the thousands and thousands of calls made to and from certain city pay phones.

Think about it. There is certainly a public expectation of privacy when you pick up a pay phone on the streets of Baltimore, is there not? And certainly, the detectives knew that many, many Baltimoreans were using those pay phones for legitimate telephonic communication. Yet, a city judge had no problem allowing them to place dialed-number recorders on as many pay phones as they felt the need to monitor, knowing that every single number dialed to or from those phones would be captured. So authorized, detectives gleaned the numbers of digital pagers and they began monitoring the incoming digitized numbers on those pagers — even though they had yet to learn to whom those pagers belonged. The judges were okay with that, too, and signed another order allowing the suspect pagers to be “cloned” by detectives, even though in some cases the suspect in possession of the pager was not yet positively identified."


All of that — even in the less fevered, pre-Patriot Act days of yore — was entirely legal. Why?

Because they aren’t listening to the calls.


If you watch the show The Wire you can see some of this in action. But the point is, its legal. It's been done since long before 9/11. The only difference is the scale on which this is being done.

Darcy said...

You either see the danger as too big of a risk to your liberty or you don't. You either see government as "mostly good" or you don't. You either understand that simply being a law-abiding citizen with "nothing to hide" does not protect you from abusive governmental power aimed at you, or you don't.

Ah. Whatever.

Astro said...

Ignorance is bliss. We can just pretend that everyone is a potential terrorist and listen to everyone's calls and read everyone's mail and watch everyone as they surf the internet...

Or we can use our brains and old-fashioned legwork to determine ahead of time who actually poses a threat to the nation, and use targeted surveillance.

Your idealized, idealistic, earnest little programmer will waste thousands of hours of time and abrogate everyone's 4th amendment rights, checking every piece of hay while searching for a needle in a haystack from her comfy chair in her comfy cubicle, when she could find it a lot faster if she actually went into the field with a strong magnet.

jr565 said...

Likewise if you are looking for a criminal you limit the suspects and don't interrogate everyone in town. Has our government lost its mind?

They aren't.

Tim said...

The baseline problem is the one everyone is complaining about: trust.

In light of what we've learned about this president and his administration, on what rational basis can anyone rationally trust this president and his administration to handle any of this fairly?

Already we've learned the program is vastly larger and different in scope than it was originally explained to us, once the New York Times and candidate Obama breathlessly went to war against GW's "domestic spy" program.

Now we learn they're all liars, and the defenders say, "uh, yeah, we lied, but trust us, you can trust us."

No thanks. I'm not one of your rubes who voted for Obama in'08.

I'm smarter than that - and so too are many of us.

jr565 said...

Darcy wrote:
You either see the danger as too big of a risk to your liberty or you don't. You either see government as "mostly good" or you don't. You either understand that simply being a law-abiding citizen with "nothing to hide" does not protect you from abusive governmental power aimed at you, or you don't.

I'm wondering. Did you read what courts allowed David Simon to do as a cop? Were you ok with it? You can't really argue that it was against the constitution or illegal because the courts allowed it. How is it different? The only difference is how the information is being culled. Rather than starting with one number and working outward they are starting with all numbers and working inward.
But the only real difference is that in the case of the current program the database is complete and in the case of Baltimore they had to construct the database on the fly. But they still, in alll cases are limited by their search.

So, if we're not talking about a pay phone but a cell phone and not a drug dealer but a potential terrorist, the only phones that are being targeted are the ones that are in the search.

Chip Ahoy said...

Did Community Organizer in Chief just now say, "Let us have a discussion on this issue, " then off he goes for golf or whatever and off we go dutifully having the discussion he suggested we have? Is that what happened.

Well, here's all the discussion that will come out of me, you cannot be trusted with anything.

Bryan C said...

Here I was all worried, but apparently the 4th Amendment was never intended to actually mean anything at all. What a relief. If only we'd realized this before we'd wasted everyone's time with all those silly warrants and investigations and stuff.

jr565 said...

Tim wrote;
No thanks. I'm not one of your rubes who voted for Obama in'08.

I'm smarter than that - and so too are many of us.
I didn't vote for Obama either time. And I totally agree that in the case of the IRS there is clear evidence of his admin targeting conservatives. No question.
So Im not apologizing for his admin.
But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. THere are republicans on the intelligence committee who are privy to some of this info who are even after Obama over his admins handling of Benghazi or the IRS who are saying "Dont fuck with this program".

Tim said...

Darcy said...

"You either see the danger as too big of a risk to your liberty or you don't. You either see government as "mostly good" or you don't. You either understand that simply being a law-abiding citizen with "nothing to hide" does not protect you from abusive governmental power aimed at you, or you don't.

Ah. Whatever."


There's that.

There's also this: who can seriously say, based upon what we know about human nature and behavior, and government power and behavior, that the genie will go back in the bottle?

That is to say, who thinks this situation is going to get better (i.e., Americans regain real privacy from the KGB/NSA data sweepers) rather than worse?

Does anyone really think the clock will turn back?

Or that data collection efforts will only grow ever time, sweeping up more information, lasting longer, analyzing deeper and in finer grain, utilized to detect things, like tax avoidance, regulatory compliance, political activity, gun ownership, etc.?

Which way would you bet, and why?

edutcher said...

AnUnreasonableTroll said...

He was a sys admin.

A lot of the professional and amateur commentariat don't understand what this means.


With Troll at the head of the list.

Tim said...

"...who are saying "Dont fuck with this program"."

Fine - actually, I get it. I volunteered for the Army, way back when. I'm all in favor of national security, and I'm all in favor of terrorizing the terrorists.

But we're back to the core issue - trust.

And the arc of government power.

Is the individual freer relative to government than he was 10, 20, 50 years ago?

Or is government bigger, more powerful, and more expensive than it was 10, 20, 50 years ago?

The answer seems obvious.

Finally, who stops this?

The majority of idiots who voted for Obama?

They'll hold no one they've elected accountable, ever, for anything.

jr565 said...

Tim wrote:
That is to say, who thinks this situation is going to get better (i.e., Americans regain real privacy from the KGB/NSA data sweepers) rather than worse?

Does anyone really think the clock will turn back?

Isn't this the default on the internet now? You don't need big brother. Your data is already freely available if you're internet savvy. YOu can buy spy glasses from Google and take pictures of anyone and put them on the internet.

jr565 said...

While I agree with you Tim, you can't wait until you get the president that everyone trusts before you can carry out covert operations or war time operations. the left didnt' trust Bush, the right doesn't trust Obama. So, if we have to wait until we have the perfect candidate before we do what needs to be done we will never actually do it. Because there is no such perfect candidate.

Darcy said...

@jr565

I did read that, and what's different for me is what I've been saying for days - my very hesitant initial hint of trust on this is gone. I've read all about it being illegal for the government to actually listen/read without some legal basis for doing so. My trouble is that I now see that the government can do things to us that most of us believed we had protection from, i.e., harass through the IRS simply because they disagree with us politically.
And the media will willingly oblige this.

I'm alarmed. I do not view government as good through my prism. I haven't for quite a while, and I'll be damned if don't keep validating my fear.

Icepick said...

It's not some unknown "coder" - it will be a PhD in mathematics or physics working out a lot of graph theory. (Probably a mathematician.) I happen to have gone to grad school (for mathematics) with someone who later went to work for the NSA. He had another hobby too that got him some public notice. I used to check up on him via Google, Yahoo and other search engines. We weren't friends, but I personally thought he was the most impressive of the people I knew in grad school, so I've looked him up occasionally.

I checked yesterday and his name has been almost entirely removed from the internet. I guess he's too important now to have is existence acknowledged....

Darcy said...

And to answer you Tim, no, I don't see it doing anything but expanding. Because we'll let it.

bagoh20 said...

...And then one day her boss tells her to trace the call records of the Democratic Presidential nominee, and have it done by October. She being a good soldier dedicated to law and order, and being assured by her boss that it's all been approved by judges does her job.

jr565 said...

Simon wrote:
"The only sensible way to run a program like this, it seems to me, is that you ask the telco for everything and then winnow the dataset yourself, and I assume that the government does precisely that. "


Yes.

Tim said...

"Because there is no such perfect candidate."

Concur.

The problem is, institutionally, the bureaucratic imperative will be grow this program rather than limit it. I believe politicians, regardless of party and to varying degrees, will eventually begin to seek for ways to exploit this information for their own purposes.

We always knew they could do so with the IRS, and I believe it's a fair bet that more presidents than FDR and Nixon did so to further their own political agendas.

So then, the question becomes, "what kind of country do we want to live in."

Yes, one secure from terrorist attacks like 9-11.

But, at what cost?

We can still ask that, right?

jr565 said...

Darcy wrote:
My trouble is that I now see that the government can do things to us that most of us believed we had protection from, i.e., harass through the IRS simply because they disagree with us politically.
And the media will willingly oblige this.

In the case of the IRS scandaly there's no question that certain groups were targeted. And heads should roll.
But in the case of the NSA program it's the equivalent of someone rollling back the curtain to show you how the sausages are made, and you not liking that process. But that's simply how sausages are made.
I get the distrust of govt. But Someday you may get a president in power who isn't as untrustworthy as Obama. And he's going to have to deal with terrorist threats and trying to protect the country. And he will do so using programs like this. We shouldn't make the program unworkable and thus limiting our ability to prevent terrorist attacks simply because of the fear of the untrustworthy guy.What about when the president isn't untrustworthy? What about the need to find the Tsarnevs of the world before they blow up bombs at the Marathon?

Jay said...

Simon wrote:
"The only sensible way to run a program like this, it seems to me, is that you ask the telco for everything and then winnow the dataset yourself, and I assume that the government does precisely that. "


Right:

The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

30yearProf said...

An administration that lies continuously (while proclaiming it's belief in "transparency"), like the Obama Administration, can hardly ask the American people to "trust us" with a straight face.

Although it will be a pain (and I've nothing to protect), I've decided to encrypt all e-mails and to encrypt the entire hard disk each evening. If ordinary people don't protect Liberty, the government will certainly take it away slice by slice. YOU have to do it.

The executive won't, the Congress won't, and, unfortunately, the elitists on the federal courts won't either. Consider the erosion of the 4th Amendment since Earl Warren left the court. Once gone in Con Law, always gone.

bagoh20 said...

I know the girl in that story. We were pen pals when she was in school. She sent me a picture of her long ago.
Good girl

If Snowden has done something good, then he is a hero, because he will suffer greatly for it. The girl in the story is just doing what she gets paid for. It may also be good, but the two things are not really comparable acts. Likewise both could end up to have done something terrible. Then, his motivation is more admirable in my book.

This is just not an easy question nor a new one. Security or liberty? Neither is any good without the other.

Tim said...

"Isn't this the default on the internet now? You don't need big brother. Your data is already freely available if you're internet savvy. YOu can buy spy glasses from Google and take pictures of anyone and put them on the internet."

Sure.

And it's stuff I put out there.

Not stuff I don't believe anyone is looking at except the intended audience.

And those people have to look for it - it isn't sitting in some federal depository called up by a computer program on a fishing expedition.

And those people can't arrest me.

Or audit my taxes.

Or see if I paid my use taxes on Amazon shipments.

Or tap my phone's GPS to see if I'm driving within the speed-limit.

Or see if I'm attending a Tea-Party protest.

But the Government can.

jr565 said...

Tim wrote;
So then, the question becomes, "what kind of country do we want to live in."

Yes, one secure from terrorist attacks like 9-11.

But, at what cost?

We can still ask that, right?

If you lived in Baltimore in the 80;s as per David Simon then you lived in that world already. What's more important, tracking drug dealers or tracking terrorists?
IF it was necessary to tap these phones and monitor the call logs (while not listening in on the phone calls themselves) to deal with two bit drug dealers, why would we blanche at the use of said technology for something even more drastic?
This was already decided 20 years ago. Cops did this stuff routinely. And judges signed off on it routinely .

pm317 said...

bagoh20 said...

...And then one day her boss tells her to trace the call records of the Democratic Presidential nominee, and have it done by October. She being a good soldier dedicated to law and order, and being assured by her boss that it's all been approved by judges does her job.
-------------------

Yeah, schadenfreude. But I hope it happens sooner, like for this unvetted current Dem president.

Jay said...

Simon said...
This isn't a surveillance program where we watch the activity of known terrorists, this is a data mining program where we look for suspicious activity that might identify people as terrorists


Here is what Bill Kristol said on Sunday

You can't just then migrate through the whole database and data mine and say this looks suspicious. You need to say this is a group in Waziristan. Let's see who they're talking to. And if they're talking to me, you then have to go back to the court and get an order for me.

It would be nice to have clarification on this matter.

Darcy said...

I have no doubt we're going to get assurances that the NSA is trustworthy, or held to operate legally. I just don't buy it.

No. I don't think it's worth subjecting everyone's private communications to snooping in order to catch terrorists. I think the risk outweighs the gain. I don't trust any government.

Desconectado may loom in my future.

Tim said...

"This was already decided 20 years ago. Cops did this stuff routinely. And judges signed off on it routinely."

On EVERYBODY?

Can you link it? I'd like to read that.

jr565 said...

Jay wrote:
The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

Right. they entered the wrong number accidentally. It was a clerical error. They did have to report the error though, didn't they? And they did destroy the records no? That's oversight. You may not have heard about it when it happened but the national security court did. And that's how its supposed to work.


crosspatch said...

"Creepy? You bet. Calamitous? Not so clear."

It is also not true. NSA does not have real-time monitoring access to these systems. That notion has apparently come from a misreading of the PRISM power point. People are getting all upset over capabilities we don't really have and aren't really using.

http://www.zdnet.com/the-real-story-in-the-nsa-scandal-is-the-collapse-of-journalism-7000016570/

bagoh20 said...

"It would be nice to have clarification on this matter"

Yes, but you know that assurance is exactly what they would tell you if they were in fact a bunch of corrupt partisans.

Brief Sarah Palin, then let her do an investigation to verify what she was told. I'll trust her - not her alien child born via mind control in 2 months, but Sarah herself.

jr565 said...

Tim wrote:
"This was already decided 20 years ago. Cops did this stuff routinely. And judges signed off on it routinely."

On EVERYBODY?

Can you link it? I'd like to read that.

THey are not linking calls that everyone is making. THey are linking calls that certain phone numbers are making. Their database, as it were, are all calls. IF your call isn't part of the search it will never be triggered.
But you need to have all of the records available so that you can run the search in a timely manner.

bagoh20 said...

I'm with you Darcy. We will never be safe enough to say stop, even if everyone of us is forced to wear google glass hooked up to a central server in Utah 24/7.

As soon as one vagina bomb goes off, it will get even worse.

bagoh20 said...

Vagina Bomb was my porn name in the 70s.

Tim said...

jr565 - I meant link to something on the web I could read.

Like this: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/06/07/david_simon_nsa_wiretapping_with_prism_and_other_programs_not_a_big_deal.html

(read it - not so impressed) and this: http://davidsimon.com/we-are-shocked-shocked/ (reading now).

Strelnikov said...

Well, if Liz has been reading my e-mail, "capturing" my cellphone use, watching me through a periscope, or whatever grand task she has been assigned, then, no, I do not prefer her. Once you've fallen to the level of the "if it only saves and\or avoids one (fill in the blank)...", you've demonstrated you have no argument in support of your position.

Darcy said...

Right. It's all fun and games until the vagina bomb goes off.

I'm sorry. I had to say it. It made me laugh hard. Thanks, bagoh.

Jupiter said...

"If you watch the show The Wire you can see some of this in action. But the point is, its legal. It's been done since long before 9/11. The only difference is the scale on which this is being done."

1 - If it has been going on forever, is perfectly legal, and everyone ought to know that, why are you pissed off at some kid in Hong Kong who happened to mention it?

2 - Since these highly necessary and effective techniques have been employed for decades, how come cocaine is so cheap in Baltimore?

Look, get with the program. The Government is both incompetent and malign. Can you refute either of those claims? If not, can you explain why you think it is OK that the government is both incompetent and malign?

Strelnikov said...

Sorry. I confused the use of "whiz" with a name for her.

Jay said...

So we're "data mining to look for suspicious patterns" except according to Obama we need a warrant to go into the database.

That's reassuring.

Jay said...

Oh, and Obama was a constitutional law lecturer/professor/whatever.

Which is super-duper reassuring.

bagoh20 said...

Seriously - because thats just how I am - what happens when after all this data collecting, we still get terrible attacks? Do we go further with it into listening via computer to every call? If an attack is planned by women Jihadis in a mall restroom, do we bug them all, video record? Where do we stop? Because, right now I'm seeing justifications that are ripe to be expanded endlessly. I don't hear much from the defenders about what would be too much.

Paco Wové said...

I keep searching the corners of my mind for the Outrage! and not finding it. I guess I never assumed anything I put online was private, unless encrypted, so these revelations don't surprise me that much.

Not that I like it -- I feel about this issue sort of how I feel about the Commerce Clause -- something that's been distorted and broken for a long time now, and people just seem to put up with it. Except it looks like a lot of people had an assumption of privacy I didn't share.

So:
Did the government commit a crime?

If so, who will prosecute?

If not, how do you curb it in the future?

William said...

Just as a matter of curiousity, I wonder if Snowden will get more marriage proposals than Tsarnev. He's not so photogenic as the bomber, but it must be noted that he didn't kill any children and, until recently, had a good paying job. If he gets more marriage proposals than Tsarnaev, my faith in American women will be renewed. I'm withholding my own proposal on the Althouse programeress until I see pictures.

leslyn said...

Lem said,

"Well put."

Agree.
---------------------
bagoh20 said,

"If Snowden has done something good, then he is a hero, because he will suffer greatly for it."

It is yet to be seen whether he will suffer at all.

Jay said...

bagoh,

stop asking questions. If you're not for this program, you're for Tsarnev blowing off little kids legs and are a libertarian kook.

So shut up now and show your patriotism!

bagoh20 said...

"It is yet to be seen whether he will suffer at all."

It's early, but right now he's looking at life in prison.

William said...

I live in NYC. I don't think I'll die in a terrorist attack, and I don't think the government will tap my phone. If I had to choose which unlikely event was likelier, I would choose terrorist attack.....I'd prefer that my terrorists to be living off the grid and in a constant state of paranoia. I vote to keep the program.

bagoh20 said...

"So shut up now and show your patriotism!

Oh I don't whip it out anymore. That how I got the porn job, and I kinda regret that. People can get very jealous of an oversized patriotism.

Tim said...

jr565 - Just read the David Simon piece; I understand where he's coming from, but for me, the critical distinction is the much larger scope of the federal program (and the fed's much larger set of powers) compared to a drug law enforcement program in Baltimore.

I think it's a categorical difference.

R. Chatt said...

Simon said:

""one answer is that the problem is that you're arguing that the inputs for a program for figuring out who is a terrorist should comprise only the outputs from that program. This isn't a surveillance program where we watch the activity of known terrorists, this is a data mining program where we look for suspicious activity that might identify people as terrorists. It's really easy to find the needle in the haystack if you remove all the hay!"

Here we have a perfect example of political correctness demonstrating its ability to produce the most absurd and irrational mind fog. Simon speaks in generalities about looking for suspicious behavior that might somehow result in terrorist acts. But we know in fact that we are not talking about some theoretical terrorists who might be Quakers or Unitarians, etc., planting bombs and planning terrorist attacks.

We have been so inculcated with the PC obfuscation that there is any connection between terrorism and jihad (the violent terrorist version) and Islam that hardly anyone, Simon included, seems to have any inkling that terrorists might be devout Muslims who support groups like Hamas, recent fanatical converts to Islam, or newly ultra observant Muslims. So instead of devoting resources to keeping an eye on young men like the Boston bombers for instance, our government will spend resources keeping track of everybody preferring to look through "haystacks."


"Another answer is that you're assume that the government doesn't already do precisely that just because it doesn't do it at the threshold. But it can't do it at the threshold! The government can't say to Verizon "hand over all the data on your customers who meet these red flags"—as if Verizon knows which of its customers are citizens and which of them have travelled to Chechnya in the last six months, and even if it did, do we really trust Verizon to do that screening process? Is Verizon really the proper body in which to repose that kind of national trust? The only sensible way to run a program like this, it seems to me, is that you ask the telco for everything and then winnow the dataset yourself, and I assume that the government does precisely that. "

Again, our government does know where people travel and where the terrorist (jihad) networks are located. I simply do not buy the argument that broad based domestic surveillance of everyone is the most efficient method for preventing terrorism.
Put the resources to monitoring people who are motivated to commit terrorism because their god and religion command them to do so.

jr565 said...

Jupiter wrote:
1 - If it has been going on forever, is perfectly legal, and everyone ought to know that, why are you pissed off at some kid in Hong Kong who happened to mention it?

Because its a covert program. Its legal, but they have to go through a special court to get approval etc. If Herc leaked the details of The Wire so that drug dealers on the street knew that we were monitoring certain pay phones he'd be a dick too.


2 - Since these highly necessary and effective techniques have been employed for decades, how come cocaine is so cheap in Baltimore?

Because even though its a good way to track drug dealers new drug dealers pop up every day.

"Look, get with the program. The Government is both incompetent and malign. Can you refute either of those claims? If not, can you explain why you think it is OK that the government is both incompetent and malign?"
No I can't refute that. Govt is bloated and should be more efficient.And Obama has grown it exponentially.

jr565 said...

Tim wrote:
Just read the David Simon piece; I understand where he's coming from, but for me, the critical distinction is the much larger scope of the federal program (and the fed's much larger set of powers) compared to a drug law enforcement program in Baltimore.

But the scope is much smaller in Baltimore versus the entire country.

Revenant said...

If I had to choose which unlikely event was likelier, I would choose terrorist attack

Terrorist attack is less likely by around two orders of magnitude. Sorry, less likely than the phone taps the government acknowledges doing; the difference is probably greater when you include the ones we don't know about. :)

Mark said...

Personally, I think that idea that Libertarianism is a dangerous ideology is a definite step up.

Inga said...

Bagoh, Jay says if you aren't with him, you're agin' him! You should be askeered......

elkh1 said...

How do they know it's a "she"? A royal "she" like a royal "we"?

More likely a bunch of "he's" and "she's".

pm317 said...

elkh1 said...
---------

You know it is all about pleasing the 'lady parts' people. they need those stupid women to vote for them again.

William said...

I'll say this in Snowden's favor. Such an act makes everyone in government think twice about what he's doing. The occasional grandiose nerd adds a further check and balance to government programs......Libertarians are aware that the government has access to their snail mail and that, in the past, the government has used this access to spy on its citizens?.....There is no such thing as a government program that cannot be abused if there is a will to do it......We live in a democracy. If you think this is the greatest threat to our country, get behind Rand Paul and elect him President. I just don't see anyone except ACLU types who want to drop these surveillance programs. I can imagine a scenario where they are abused, but, with less effort, I can imagine a scenario where their absence allows some terrorist to commit an act of monumental damage.

Revenant said...

NSA does not have real-time monitoring access to these systems

First of all, what is your factual basis for that claim? What access to, say, Google, have either Google *or* the NSA admitted to? Last I checked that was "no access whatsoever", but that appears to be untrue.

Secondly, the data Google and Facebook use for things like autocomplete and targeted ads isn't real-time either. It is entirely possible for the NSA to have the same access to user data that Google's search engine does even if they don't have real-time access.

DADvocate said...

That person joined the government after 9/11 because she felt inspired to serve the nation in its hour of need.

Jesus. The fucking lefties can't even discuss government incursion on our rights without making it an exercise in political correctness. The fools gleefully welcome totalitarian authoritarian government without a though to the negative consequences but take great care to use the proper gender in all pronouns.

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
Terrorist attack is less likely by around two orders of magnitude. Sorry, less likely than the phone taps the government acknowledges doing; the difference is probably greater when you include the ones we don't know about. :)

If we're talkin about billions of phone calls a month, then the number of targeted phone calls is a statistical anomaly.
Also, if you are targeted by govt checking your phone calls to see who called you you wont ever know it. If you are the victim of a terrorist attack or are in a building that is being bombed (or at the Marathon) you will.

Inga said...

Exactly William, @7:19.

Revenant said...

as if Verizon knows which of its customers are citizens and which of them have travelled to Chechnya in the last six months, and even if it did, do we really trust Verizon to do that screening process? Is Verizon really the proper body in which to repose that kind of national trust?

Step 1: Government assembles list of non-citizens who have been to Chechnya in the last 6 months.

Step 2: Government hands list to Verizon and says "give us the phone records of these people".

Step 3: Verizon, which like all phone companies has been fielding law enforcement requests for customer records for its entire existence, and which has to be able to easily pull customer call records on a moment's notice just to run its own business, hands over the requested data to the government.

Your preferred plan, "government assembles the list of people, then demands a data set that is 99.9999% comprised of people who don't match that list, then combs through it themselves" hits the trifecta of being more intrusive to Americans, less effective at finding Chechnyan terrorists, and more expensive to taxpayers.

Jay said...

nga said...
Exactly William, @7:19.


Right!

Which is why you voted for the candidate who said he would end these programs.

Your silly rationalizations are pathetic.

Revenant said...

We live in a democracy.

We live in a constitutional republic.

I just don't see anyone except ACLU types who want to drop these surveillance programs.

Then you need to get out more.

jr565 said...

R.Chiatt wrote:
Here we have a perfect example of political correctness demonstrating its ability to produce the most absurd and irrational mind fog. Simon speaks in generalities about looking for suspicious behavior that might somehow result in terrorist acts. But we know in fact that we are not talking about some theoretical terrorists who might be Quakers or Unitarians, etc., planting bombs and planning terrorist attacks.

Even if a Quakers phone number is in the database, if Tsarnev doesn't call him, he is not targeted.
So, it's still based on the supposed terrorist.
They have a phone number that is linked to terrorism. (say one of the Marathon bombers). What numbers is he calling and how many times. And what numbers are they calling. Are any of them linked to terrorists. What numberes are THEY calling. You see how, if your number is not in that chain you're safe.
Of those numbers, many might be innocuous - the local Chinese Food restaurant for a delivery. Probably not terrorist related. BUt is that guy calling someone in Yemen? Maybe terrorist related. You can very quickly get patterns of calls that might give you an overview to then do further surveillance that might involve listening to calls. Or it might be a dead end. In which case the govt saw that one phone number called another phone number for a minute. If they aren't listening to that call, who cares?
But suppose they didn't have all numbers in the database to work from. If you call someone, who's number is that? It's a different carrier, now we need to get permission from that carrier for this number. Oh now he called another number from a different carrier. Now we have to get permission for that. Now the second guy called someone in Yemen so now we need to get approval from that carrier. And that guy then called this guy in the states. What number is that?
You have to collect all that data, versus the phone company already collecting the data. ALso, what if you start monitoring someone who you're pretty sure is part of a cell. Who did he call a month before you set up surveillance. How can you possibly get those records absent cooperation from the carriers.
Having all the data at hand makes the job easier. Having to compile the data means you have to spend time compiling the data. Why make it difficult.

Jay said...

Laugh out loud funny:

The FBI has dramatically increased its use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act to secretly obtain a vast store of business records of U.S. citizens under President Barack Obama, according to recent Justice Department reports to Congress. The bureau filed 212 requests for such data to a national security court last year – a 1,000-percent increase from the number of such requests four years earlier, the reports show

rhhardin said...

"Quite literally watch your ideas form as you type" is a Tom Swifty.

Simon said...

Jay said...
"It would be nice to have clarification on this matter. "

Sure. It's very simple: Kristol is wrong. If the government has data, it can mine it. As I've said, the fourth amendment regulates how the government can get data, not what it can do with data once it is obtained.


R.Chatt said...
"Here we have a perfect example of political correctness demonstrating its ability to produce the most absurd and irrational mind fog. Simon speaks in generalities about looking for suspicious behavior that might somehow result in terrorist acts. But we know in fact that we are not talking about some theoretical terrorists who might be Quakers or Unitarians, etc., planting bombs and planning terrorist attacks."

Hardly. I simply saw no need to confine comments about a program that is here for the long haul to the people that it is targetting today. Today, it is being used against islamic terrorists. Tomorrow, drug cartels. Next week, China. As Darcy correctly says, this program is not going away. The jihadis, hopefully, are.

"Again, our government does know where people travel and where the terrorist (jihad) networks are located. I simply do not buy the argument that broad based domestic surveillance of everyone is the most efficient method for preventing terrorism. "

You have missed the point. Let's say that the program will work best if it focusses on Muslims, okay? Verizon knows that I call a telephone number in England every five to seven days and spend about an hour on the call. It depends on how chatty my mom feels. Verizon has absolutely no idea, however, whether I am a Muslim. The government cannot ask Verizon for a list of all its Muslim customers. Re-read the portion of my comment that you quoted; it explains precisely this point to you. The government's most sensible and efficient play--remember how conservatives don't like the government wasting money?--is to subpoena all the records and do the kind of profiling that you are referring to. Thus, even if the government is in fact doing the kind of filtering that you advocate, which I assume they do, the program would look exactly the same. They can't and shouldn't ask Verizon to do the filtering.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"We [don't] live in a democracy.

We live in a constitutional republic.
"

Amen.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

Simon said...
Tim said...
"Already we've learned the program is vastly larger and different in scope than it was originally explained to us, once the New York Times and candidate Obama breathlessly went to war against GW's 'domestic spy' program."

Yeah, and remember how we said that candidate Obama and the Times were wrong? What changed? This is what drives me nuts--people whose knee-jerk hostility to Obama is so ingrained that they are so desperate to attack President Obama that they would rather take candidate Obama's side against President Bush than President Obama's side against candidate Obama.

Scott M said...

If we’re going to romanticize a young nerd in the intelligence world, my Unknown Coder trumps the celebrity waiting in Hong Kong for Diane Sawyer’s call any day.

How? You can't prove a negative or an unknown. We have no idea how, without this intrusion into their affairs, how much of an overreach this or, more likely, future administrations would become. There's a canary in a coalmine aspect to this and we have no idea how bad it could have gotten without this guy coming forward.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Step 1: Government assembles list of non-citizens who have been to Chechnya in the last 6 months.

Step 2: Government hands list to Verizon and says 'give us the phone records of these people'.
"

Nope. Not buying it. As I said, Verizon is not the proper body in which to repose that kind of trust, and that approach just has too many question marks over it, especially (although not exclusively) in terms of whether the data will continue to be available later if NSA later identifies additional targets.

And regardless of my opinion, as I keep saying, that isn't my call or your call to make. The executive branch has made a reasonable determination in light of what it knows--information unavailable to me--that the more restrictive option is inapt. The FISA court agrees. I realize that those who believe that this will set on edge those people who have an a priori belief that the government is out to get them--"of course they want everything! Then they can better keep track of you, man!" But those of us who aren't Tommy Chong or Glenn Beck and who have a more sensible head on our shoulders tend to conclude that the government is not actually out to get us and acts rationally to accomplish reasonable objectives, at least when there is no reason to think otherwise. It's the difference, as I keep saying, between healthy skepticism and neurotic fear.

Simon said...

AReasonableMan said...
"It is clear where Althouse has come down on this issue. Law and order, uber alles."

Law, order, and national security uber everything except the Constitution.

Almost Ali said...

Re: "Some Americans are alive today because of her work."

"Her"? I suppose "she" also invented Google, and Twitter, and Malls. Not to mention hair curlers.

Revenant said...

Nope. Not buying it. As I said, Verizon is not the proper body in which to repose that kind of trust

I wasn't soliciting your opinion.

Revenant said...

And regardless of my opinion, as I keep saying, that isn't my call or your call to make.

It is the call of anyone in a position to make the call, Simon. The government is our servant, not vice-versa. The servant does not decide to without information from the master.

Tim said...

"Yeah, and remember how we said that candidate Obama and the Times were wrong? What changed? This is what drives me nuts--people whose knee-jerk hostility to Obama is so ingrained that they are so desperate to attack President Obama that they would rather take candidate Obama's side against President Bush than President Obama's side against candidate Obama."

Except, Simon, my reaction isn't to Obama per se (although I do readily concede I'd feel better about this program were a president I felt even somewhat comfortable with was in office), but to the fact that the program as it exists today is categorically different from the program we were told existed circa 2003-2008: monitoring foreign phone calls into the US from suspected al Qaeda (or related) cells.

That's a distinction with a difference.

And, I'll note on a sidebar, it's nice to see you back here - but please do not confuse me with a knee-jerk reactionary against Obama.

Yes, I think (and I think it's inarguable) Obama is the least qualified president ever elected, and I think he's a truly awful president, and I think anyone who ever voted for Obama is a world class fool, the host of this blog included - BUT one can have a principled concern with this program - now, and into the future (do you really think it will ever rollback, like the drawdown on troops post WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Cold War, etc.?)

In other words, it isn't always about the hackery...

cubanbob said...

Except, Simon, my reaction isn't to Obama per se (although I do readily concede I'd feel better about this program were a president I felt even somewhat comfortable with was in office), but to the fact that the program as it exists today is categorically different from the program we were told existed circa 2003-2008: monitoring foreign phone calls into the US from suspected al Qaeda (or related) cells."

Tim funny thing is remember it that way as well and the outrage on the left at the time.

William said...

I like to think that the Unknown Coder is a dead ringer for Jessica Chastain. She wears a gray suit with high white collar to work. She carries a yardstick at her side in order to draw vectors. She's very displeased at all these porn sites I've been visiting. She thinks I might need a little governmental supervision to correct my behavior if you get my drift.......See. It's possible to not only live with these programs but perhaps even to love them if properly administered.....That's what the internet needs: The Unknown Coder to put a human face on these PRISM transactions and to discipline you for your internet infractions.

William said...

Claire Danes could cover for her on weekends.

Tim said...

"Tim funny thing is remember it that way as well and the outrage on the left at the time."

Yes, the New York Times, Washington Post (as I recall) and the institutional left simultaneously shit and pissed their panties over Bush's "unconstitutional eavesdropping program."

Those are the real hacks.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"It is the call of anyone in a position to make the call, Simon. The government is our servant, not vice-versa. The servant does not decide to without information from the master."

Actually, they do. For example, there was a story, recently, about the White House counsel's work to protect her client, the President, in regard to a damaging story that was about to come out about the IRS. She leapt into action: She insisted, and won an internal debate, that her client, the President, could not be told about this information. It was critical that her client not know about it in order to protect him not only from being tempted to interfere, but from any suspicion that he might have interfered. Likewise, espionage work has been serving the public for literally centuries without telling the public what it is doing.

We do nothave the information to assess this program. We are not going to get that information. Period. If there is a debate to be had about it, which I agree that there is, it must necessarily be held between those privy to that information and judged by someone privy to that information--which necessarily means that it isn't a public debate. It is a debate held primarily in the executive branch and judged by the President and, as necessary, the FISA courts. You don't have to like it, but it's a fact.

Tim said...

"It is a debate held primarily in the executive branch and judged by the President and, as necessary, the FISA courts. You don't have to like it, but it's a fact."

Excuse me for jumping into this conversation with Revenant, but, and think this is critical - it is our information they are collecting.

So, even if, as you say, we are uninformed about the specifics of the program - they are collecting it from us.

And that not only matters, it matters not only a great deal, it gets to the root of who we are as a nation, and what is the fundamental relationship between man and state.

And so, yes, we are ignorant of much - but we are not disinterested. And representative, republican democracy seems to be failing here. It is not readily apparent we the people have consented to this.

Æthelflæd said...

And yet our little hypothetical computer whiz didn't stop the Tsarnaevs.

Joe said...

What if the reason for the extreme secrecy is that these security agencies don't do shit to actually protect and save American lives? And spend a whole lot money not doing that.

One of the most stunning things about reading the history of the CIA, MI5 and MI6 is how ineffective they both were in terms of the mission definition, but how both caused immeasurable damage to their own countries.

Revenant said...

Actually, they do.

This should have been obvious, but "the servant does not decide to withhold information from the master" was a statement of what the servant has a right to do. Obviously the government tries to keep information from us; it simply has no right to do so.

Likewise, espionage work has been serving the public for literally centuries without telling the public what it is doing.

Pedophiles have been raping children for longer than that, which by your logic makes that acceptable behavior as well. The legitimacy of a practice is not proportional to its longevity. :)

We do not have the information to assess this program.

Sure we do.

If you meant to say that there may be information we don't have that would prove to us that the program was less of a threat to liberty than its absence would be then, whoops, guess the government fucked up big time not telling me about it. :)

Revenant said...

And yet our little hypothetical computer whiz didn't stop the Tsarnaevs.

Or any other terrorist attacks that they'll admit to. Although they did briefly try claim it foiled a New York subway bombing.

The Patriot Act interpretations being used here are classified. In essence the government is using legal justification it won't reveal to back powers and actions it won't admit to in order to "protect" us from "threats" they won't tell us about, of which there is no apparent evidence.

Bizarrely, we managed to withstand *real* threats like the Soviets, the Nazis, the Klan and the Confederate rebellion without the government needing any such powers. But a bunch of lackwit Arabs religious nuts are such a mortal (if entirely classified) danger that it is just impossible to fight them without knowing how many times a week I call my family back east.

Pfft.

Writ Small said...

It's a little incoherent to argue the tools are both ineffective against our enemies and incredibly dangerous to our freedoms. Logic says those two things are unlikely to be simultaneously true.

gerry said...

That's a pretty fancy way to describe autocomplete, no?

Autocomplete can generate some pretty bad results. Not good, especially for drone attacks...

Fernandinande said...

"For years she’s sweated to perfect programs that can sort through epic reams of data to identify potential threats."

No "she" didn't: "he" did.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

Tim said...
"Excuse me for jumping into this conversation with Revenant, but, and think this is critical - it is our information they are collecting … [and] they are collecting it from us."

But they aren't. That's the point. They aren't collecting your information from you, they are collecting information about you from third parties to which you voluntarily supplied that information.

leslyn said...

@Simon: Good point.

leslyn said...

Glad you joined the conversation, Simon. Your facts and explanations clarify the issues and parameters.

Also, your facts are correct and not just unsupported opinions or wishful thinking.

"As I've said, the fourth amendment regulates how the government can get data, not what it can do with data once it is obtained" was particularly on point.


Tim said...

"But they aren't. That's the point. They aren't collecting your information from you, they are collecting information about you from third parties to which you voluntarily supplied that information."

That is, effectively, a distinction without a difference. They ARE collecting information from me, because, in order for them to NOT collect information from me, I have to stop using normal, everyday conveyances of information.

"Third-parties" is a dishonest dodge. Sure, it may be "legal," and even "constitutional," but that does not make it right. I don't pay Verizon to provide my information to the federal government; I pay Verizon so I can communicate with people. I don't pay for my smartphone so it's GPS can report my location to the federal government; I pay for my smartphone so it's GPS can assist me in travels and other things.

It is absurd to argue, as you are, that the only reasonable expectation of privacy anyone can have is to go off the grid. Because, per your argument, that's the only remedy to the problem.

If the remedy for law-abiding, tax paying, voting citizens is to force them to become de facto Luddites to protect their privacy from what, ostensibly, is their own government under which they've broken no laws, there is something terribly, terribly wrong with that government.

In what manner is that consistent with the founding principles of this nation?

When did you and I become subjects of the government, under which any normal, routine communication from me, like this comment on the internet, is now reasonably the property of the US Government? When did that become a reasonable expectation?

You and I, and all other Americans, are now members of a suspect class - potential terrorists. That's the rational for collecting all this data, isn't it - to find terrorists?

Nice. My government is collecting my information because it suspects I might be a terrorist.

That's what this policy says about me, and about you.

leslyn said...

TIM said,

"When did you and I become subjects of the government, under which any normal, routine communication from me, like this comment on the internet, is now reasonably the property of the US Government? When did that become a reasonable expectation?"

2002-2006, Tim. You mentioned it above, but you were off by a few years. And the debate then was that the NSA's surveillance program was too broad, in that it had dropped privacy protections for American citizens indiscriminately, AND that the Prez was having this done without any oversight of the FISC court. Which he was. The whistleblowers, media exposes, letters to Congress and a Congressional hearing went on for years. GW finally agreed to go back to using the FISC, but that's all that came of it.

Different questions would be, "Why did this become such a flamboyant issue now? Why didn't we pay attention to it years ago? Why are our memories so short? And who's facilitating Snowden?

Simon said...

Tim said...
"That is, effectively, a distinction without a difference."

No, it isn't. It is an absolutely critical distinction—indeed, it is dispositive of the fourth amendment claim. If the government takes your information from you, it needs consent or a warrant from you, because you are secure in your person, house, papers, and effects from searches and seizures. If the government takes records that contain information about you from a third party, it needs neither, because those records are not your person, house, papers, or effects, and and the government has neither searched you for them nor seized from from you. This is settled law. See, e.g., United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976) (customer has no fourth amendment rights vis-à-vis their bank's business records).

Robert Cook said...

"What if the reason for the extreme secrecy is that these security agencies don't do shit to actually protect and save American lives? And spend a whole lot money not doing that."

That's certainly a big reason for classifying so much information...not just to conceal "secrets whose publication might harm national security," or to conceal those activities which violate our own civil liberties and privacy rights, but simply to hide where they've fucked up.

Aridog said...

Robert Cook said...

That's certainly a big reason for classifying so much information ... simply to hide where they've fucked up.

Stop that. You're scaring me. Whenever I tend to agree, even partially, with you it scares me. :(