While the consensus here appears to be that the "ends justified the means", what mechanism should be used to actually label someone a whistleblower vs a criminal/traitor? After all, not everyone thinks the NSA should be barred from reading emails or keeping meta-data. (I tend to agree that they overstepped their mandate and should have more explicit limitations, but not that they are an out-of-control menace that must be stopped at all costs).
If, for example, someone working for the NSA thinks a particular program is "bad" and leaks details that leave it hobbled, should they be given a pass because some percentage of the US population agrees? Should it be based on opinion polls? Maybe just
The point I am trying to make is that Snowden may deserve leniency based on "mitigating circumstances", but he is not accused of "political" crimes. He is accused of leaking state secrets. Such cases cannot be left to trial by Twitter. Yes, trust in government is at an all-time low, but that does not make it irrelevant. And it certainly doesn't make it wrong on everything. If people get to do whatever they want in the name of "fighting tyranny", we will end up with a kind of "Stand Your Ground" precedent for leakers - "I felt threatened by the NSA spying on penguins in Peru, so no criminal charges should be brought."
By the way, Snowden did not disclose a "secret" this time - like the fact that we spied on the G8 or that they were housing phone data. This time he exposed a tactical capability. He basically told everyone the US is spying on how to find the microphones in their office.
Ok, so what good is the NSA without an enforcement mechanism? The armed services are only there to thwart a revolution by "Real Americans", so should be disarmed and dismissed. Oh, and we should dismantle our spy satellites because they might look into your backyard for the AR-15s you stockpiled under the rose garden. Obviously the national guard should be disbanded since they are only there to keep us in, not keep others out.
You seem to believe all of the most extreme rhetoric one finds in a Tea Party/Libertarian pamphlet. Do you have any actual proof that the NSA's mission is to control US citizens? Paranoia is defined thusly: "A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system."
In the world I live in, Elizabeth Warren is now a Senator, NYC elected a borderline socialist as mayor, President Obama just raised taxes on the "1%", and the problem of inequality is being discussed more and more. It does not sound like the NSA is doing a very good job of squelching debate. But perhaps we're just not as good as the Chinese seem to be.
I understand your concern about the scale and power of the intelligence community. It is in fact the duty of all citizens to be vigilant in the defense of freedom. But I suppose if you believe the whole "drown the govt in a bathtub" thing, there's not much more you'll have to offer in this discussion. But we'll see. Unless of course the NSA gets a look at this and we both hear the black helicopters coming...
I have been largely sympathetic to Snowden, especially given the scope of the NSA's domestic spying. But I have a real problem with this disclosure. Assuming it is true that none of these devices were meant for US machines (a dubious assumption, I agree, but the use of these tactics domestically is a separate issue anyway), then exposing NSA capabilities to our adversaries is quite simply "aiding and abetting".
Is there any doubt that the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, etc are right now examining their equipment for the presence of this device? And when they do find something, what good does that do US citizens? None.
If the net result of Snowden's leaks are that the NSA is hobbled in its actual job - acquiring foreign intelligence - then we should not be so quick to congratulate him. It is obvious that the domestic issues must be addressed, but the idea that the NSA is an unnecessary evil is stupid and dangerous. The new sport of trashing the intelligence services should be tempered with a sober look at the real threats we face. Whether it is guaranteed trips to heaven via high explosives or nation states with an agenda, we are not out of the woods yet. What if N. Korea or Iran now knows we're tapped into their nuclear infrastructure? What if Syria or the Taliban now knows we've been intercepting military communications? What if this was all about China and we lose an important window into their thinking?
Yes, there can be legitimate doubts about the effectiveness of a given technique (and domestic use should be verboten), but does that make all of them worthless for all time? The world is still a very dangerous place, and while vigilance in the protection of our basic rights is essential, we must also remain realistic and pragmatic.
Check out Richard Feynman's lecture regarding space-time and his analogy of bugs on a sphere. If you tell them that the rule for making a square is to go N units in one direction, then turn 90 degrees and repeat until you complete the square, they would find that they cannot actually make a square. This leads them to conclude that there is "something wrong" with their space.
The point is that while the underlying nature of their universe as a sphere is unavailable to them because they cannot escape it to see the bigger picture, they can still infer that because Euclid's rules of geometry don't work there must be something going on that they can't see. Moreover, they should be able to guess that there is curvature - without knowing for sure - because of exactly how the rules break down.
This is essentially what people talk about when they refer to the difference between larger objects like clumps of atoms and smaller ones like electrons and quarks. For some reason our 3D (technically it's 4D according to Einstein) universe only behaves "normally" until we start measuring it at a small scale. Then we start seeing where our rules about the behavior of "observable" objects - i.e., the stuff we can perceive with our senses - break down and are replaced by the true nature of the subatomic universe. In other words, when we look at quarks do stuff, we can no longer make the square.
Constructs like the one described above are the result of us trying to get our little bug heads around the way in which our every day rules break down when really tiny things are involved. It's a way for the bugs to correct Euclid to account for the spherical nature of things.
Finding instances of bad behavior does not make the case that an entire nation over it's entire history has been a "bad guy" instead of a "good guy". Such a simplistic view makes you sound even more naive than the straw man you've set up.
It is the success of the US culture of individualism and free speech that is the foundation for it's "good guy" status - which was duly earned. Your Chomsky wannabe take on things ignores this fact in the hope of...well, what exactly? Are you suggesting that there is another superpower with a better record of human rights that the US should emulate? Ancient Rome? Medieval Spain? Elizabethan England? Prussia? Soviet Russia?
Being better than others does not of course excuse bad behavior, but please do not cherry-pick mistakes in judgement and ignore everything else. It is exactly the kind of simplistic view that sends people into a jingoistic frenzy.
All depends on your perspective. To people outside the US, the CIA is the most well funded and brutal terrorist organization in the world!
Because the CIA regularly blows up markets full of people, poisons the drinking water in girls' schools, cuts journalists' heads off and posts a video of it online, etc, etc, etc, etc. Just because the CIA is feared does not mean it is a terrorist organization. The (over)use of the term "terrorism" to describe any kind of violence is the result of GWB's ridiculous use of the term "War on Terror". By declaring war on a tactic instead of an organization, he opened up the US to this kind of derision. Please do not fall into that trap because it does not reflect reality and only hurts the cause of peace because it foments exactly the kind of mistrust and fear that actual terrorists need to thrive. If you don't like drone strikes, propose an alternative and fight for it. Don't just take pot shots at the US's first line of defense against people who do actually want to kill indiscriminately so as to create terror in the general population.
It is our worst dystopian nightmares made real. It is 1984 in 2013. Our government is behaving in a way that is indistinguishable from the very worst surveillance police states.
Wow, that is some serious hyperbole. Have you actually read 1984? Do you have any idea what it means to live in a totalitarian state like Soviet Russia or even modern China? A police state actually arrests people for what they say. Have you or anyone you know or even read about been arrested for what they've said to anyone anywhere? Even Manning was not arrested for saying something and Snowden is not being chased because of his opinions about the NSA. They were arrested for leaking state secrets - a fact which even they do not dispute.
In Soviet Russia (and even to some degree contemporary Russia), people are arrested for simply speaking out against the government. In China, people are regularly sent to forced labor camps for their political opinions and even their religious affiliation.
If you or I get caught in their dragnet we won't have anything to worry about either because they just do detection
What dragnet? They have no jurisdiction over citizens, and I dare you to find any evidence of anything more than people falsely put on a watch list (which is not maintained by the NSA, but by the DHS). Please provide evidence of these mythical dragnets. And again I emphasize the fact that were the US government to go fascist and actually start rounding people up a la USSR, the constitution and the courts would not help. The NSA is a tool of government, not the government itself. As long as we are vigilant in our oversight - and I stress that I think more oversight and transparency is necessary - we have little to be concerned about.
You are insulting and diminishing the struggles of people in China, Saudia Arabia, Iran, N. Korea, etc etc by claiming that life is the US is even remotely the same as life in those places. It's like saying that the cops busting you for beer in the park is the same thing as people in the south being beaten for speaking out against segregation.
In other words treating people as criminals only after they have done something suspicious.
Actually the definition of a criminal is someone who has been convicted of a crime, so the simple act of surveilling someone does not make them a criminal. But that is just you being a bit confused. My original point was that the idea that no information about a person should be collected until after they have been made the target of an investigation would mean that phone, financial and other transactional records would no longer be kept any longer than the organizations who generate them deem it necessary. Such record keeping is expensive, and there would undoubtedly be cases where actual criminal activity would go unpunished for lack of evidence. Consider the Swiss banks. Do you imagine that their habit of keeping records secret is based on some principle of privacy? No, it is based on the fact that people all over the world are willing to pay a premium to keep their money somewhere that legitimate law enforcement investigations cannot get to them.
Again, the NSA is an intel gathering organization that is charged with determining threats before they occur. Not charging people with crimes after they happen.
Good. Stopping one or two suicide bombers every decade is not worth giving up our privacy from government intrusion. If I had to decide between the terrorists and the NSA I'd choose the terrorists. They are far less harmful to us than than the NSA.
First of all, what makes you think it was "one or two suicide bombers"? Do you have evidence for this? Because the NSA is claiming that they have thwarted more than 300 plots with these programs. They may not possess the unfaltering trust of the people at the moment, but even if that's 10x the actual number, 30 attacks over the past few years would have been devastating to the both the American psyche and its well-being. Consider how much more power would be given to the NSA were that number of plots actually successful. Chilling.
Because freedom from tyranny requires it. Once the government itself becomes the true enemy of its people then I for one will be cheering for the terrorists. Let them blow up the white house and the pentagon. I'd vote for whoever did it.
And the people of the Middle East are very happy with how well Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban have worked out as governing bodies. When fear and intimidation is your only path to support, you cannot abandon that path once you gain power. Have you studied anything at all about how the National Socialists came to power? They blew things up, intimidated people and claimed that once they were in power the abuses would stop. How'd that work out?
Even if the NSA were keeping everyone's emails, how exactly does that make them the enemy of the people? It does go against many of the principles we have considered sacrosanct, especially in the face of actual totalitarian regimes like Soviet Russia and China. But it does not alone make it the enemy. Is it possible that the NSA is actually made up of patriotic well-meaning people who are doing their best to protect the US from the very real and continuing threats it faces? No, probably not because you are immature enough to say things like "...fuck Big Brother and fuck you." That screams "daddy can't tell me what to do anymore", so there is little chance that you can impartially judge any powerful institution.
Abuse is what they do.
Evidence? None. I am certain there have been abuses, but the kind of widespread abuses that would justify getting "rid of the NSA entirely or at least disable it during times of peace." And even if we did for some reason shut it down. What would you replace it with? Moreover, how exactly do you define "times of peace"? I understand that we are not at war in the way the Bush administration claimed. But would we have any chance at all of stopping a serious plot against, for example, a major American city without an institution like the NSA? Like Ron Paul, you want to shut the government down without any consideration for what would rise up the vacuum. I suppose since you are ready to root for terrorism, you would have no problem with people killing thousands in a NYC tunnel or a crowed stadium. Perhaps your desire for anarchy is more a function of your hatred for institutions you personally deem to be too powerful than any defensible reasoning.
Monitoring all online forms of communication and cell phones and landlines is just a start.
Did you even read the slide deck Snowden released? The NSA is not monitoring anyone without approval from a judge. Collecting data is not the same thing as monitoring someone. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a phone call's meta data is stored and no one ever looks at it, does it constitute monitoring? Each question is legitimate and each is open to different interpretations, but you must balance the cost and benefit of such data retention before simply judging it all with the harshest interpretation.
I have lived in Cuba, and I still think the US is somewhat fascist and things are accelerating in a nonlinear fashion toward complete totalitarianism. These new revelations about our 1984-ish surrveillance state is even more evidence that this is so.
Again, opinion is not evidence. I ask again, have you actually read 1984 or are you just imagining it to be whatever you want it to be? If you lived in Cuba, you must have a reasonable sense of why most people living there would prefer the NSA to Castro. The NSA does not round up political enemies and kill them. The NSA does not outlaw political opposition. The NSA is not Castro. You would truly relieve yourself of any credibility if you claim that it is.
Orwell wrote 1984 as a commentary on the nature of Communism in the Soviet Union, and was simply taking what was the current state of affairs in Russia and extrapolating it to its logical conclusion. He was not talking about surveillance alone. He was talking about the way in which a totalitarian regime must maintain complete control over people's lives in order to stay in power. The US needs no such control because people actually want to live the way they do in the US.
The simplest test for this is to ask yourself, "am I at risk for saying what I am saying about the NSA?" You are not. In the state of Oceania, you would be arrested and executed for even thinking that there was something wrong with the government.
Please point out the relevant section of the constitution where it states that only American citizens have human rights and that the US government is free to enslave or murder or otherwise mistreat any non-US citizen simply because they weren't born here. I'll wait.
The 14th Amendment states that the government cannot "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". That means non-citizens living outside the US do not share that protection except under very specific circumstances. To claim that they do would be to say that people living in another country are subject to US law. Moreover, while there are certain universal rights assigned to "persons" living within the jurisdiction of the US, not all protections are granted in such a broad way. The 14th Amendment states that it prohibits "any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States." This explicitly states that these protections are for US citizens. Please understand that I believe these rights should be universal, but the idea that people living outside the US can plot against it with impunity is absurd. And this begs the question, what court would the US government acquire such rights under the rules of due process? The FISA court. Should it be more open and less of a rubber stamp? Absolutely. But the idea that the US is simply ignoring people's rights is simply wrong.
You really are a shill aren't you? I mean, you actually work for the NSA or some part of public relations responsible for defending them online. This sounds like it comes right out of some internal propaganda sheet. Traitor.
Ignoring the slander for a moment, I would suggest that you reconsider calling anyone who disagrees with your assessment of the situation a traitor. That is exactly what 1984 and a totalitarian state is all about. I find it quite amusing that your big finish involves claims of disloyalty to your cause and accusations of commiserating with the "enemy". You sir are the type of person who the average citizen should be concerned about. You are the definition of a zealot who considers opinion as fact, speculation as truth, and evidence as lies. What was the motto of the Oceanic government? Oh right, it was: Ignorance is strength.
Did this great system tell them that the Boston Marathon was going to be bombed? No, it didn't. It should have, after all, that was what it is for. But it and the NSA have failed miserably.
So they should just stop trying? There is no doubt such a system is an effective intelligence tool or they would not use it and no one would even be afraid of it. A single failure does not justify scrapping what is otherwise a very effective system. Even if they're only telling the truth about 10% of the threats they claim to have thwarted, that's 30 terror plots that would have otherwise been successful. And perhaps even more to the point, it surely slows down the development of a plot when those involved must go to such great lengths to avoid detection.
Because right now it's being abused.
According to whom? Snowden? What evidence has he presented? He has exposed the existence and some portion of the nature of these programs, but I have yet to see a shred of evidence that it is being abused in any systematic way - or even by any individuals. He has made various claims about what he could have done, but does that mean he could have done it and gotten away with it? No. There are surely abuses of every such system and oversight is necessary, but claiming that it is being abused without evidence sounds a lot like what Daryl Issa is trying to do. Which brings me to...
And if you don't believe that, remember that the IRS targeted "by accident" various political groups recently.
You're kidding right? Read this or this or this and any number of other reports about the fact that the IRS targeted any group claiming tax-exempt status in the months leading up to the election. The whole "keyword" fracas turned out to be a wash as they targeted just as many if not more progressive groups as tea party groups. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone in Washington had anything to do with the Cincinnati office and their unfortunate use of keywords in group names to filter the thousands of PACs requesting exemptions. Why do you think no one cares anymore but Fox? And even they dont talk much about it anymore. The GOP in general has disavowed it and not even the leadership thinks that dog will hunt.
This database, as it stands now, is only being used for abuse, and/or for monetary/political gains by people with access to it.
Where exactly are you getting this ridiculous nonsense? The Weekly World News? The Enquirer? Oh, must be Newsmax. Did you see the one about Obama being an alien? (Not the foreign kind...like from space).
the only valid probable cause to surveil the entire domestic population is to declare them likely criminals
One question. Does a CCTV camera on a busy street mean we are declaring everyone on that street a likely criminal? I would suggest that no, it doesn't. What it does is collect information that can be used once an actual criminal investigation is started. Similarly, if someone charges something to their credit card, a record is kept and the data is protected as "papers" according to the Forth Amendment. Does that mean the government has no right to that information if the person is the target of a wire fraud investigation? No.
The point is, access to data is not the same thing as using it in a prosecution - see: Miranda Rights.
Moreover, email is special because it a transient medium. In other words, there is currently no mandate for SMTP hosts to keep emails, and even if there were, would a terror cell operating their own servers respect such a mandate? Of course not. And because the only access the NSA has to such data is over public networks, it has no effective way to filter messages sent to/from just the threats. It would slow the process to a crawl and render it useless. A more effective system is to collect all the data in bulk and only look at the bits (literally) that matter. In this way the process can follow standard probable cause guidelines. Is there room for abuse? Yes. But is the risk any greater than giving the FBI access to every financial transaction going through every US bank? Certainly not.
I understand that at first glance this looks like overreach, and depending on who had access and how often it was used, perhaps it is. But the NSA does not do law enforcement, they do threat detection.
Imposing a suspicion-based, after-the-fact scheme would mean terror cells could (and probably already do) host their own encrypted SMTP servers with no archive, thus thwarting any attempt to trace messages sent before a target is identified. So even if a judge finds probable cause and some kind of targeted hack/trace could be established, it would be too late to look at data created before the warrant was issued. Why would we hobble our first line of defense against real, plausible threats in order to avoid theoretical abuses? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep the programs intact and ensure safeguards against abuse?
Even if you are afraid of some hypothetical future fascist regime that has plans to abuse this apparatus on a large scale, please explain why such a regime would have any interest in respecting the Constitution at all? In other words, if things got so bad that the NSA started spying on you because you wrote something to a friend they didn't like, citing the lack of a warrant is not going to help.
Of course there are many (actually just some, but they like to think they are many) who believe the US is already some kind of fascist state, but I would suggest you talk to people living in places like Russia or China before establishing a "Big Brother" standard against which to compare the US.
As for the legality, IANAL, but some obvious observations:
- - The Constitution protects citizens from illegal search and seizure. It does not protect non-citizens.
- - Collecting data is not the same thing as using it in a prosecution. See: Miranda Rights
- - According to this leak (and common sense when you consider the sheer volume of data we're talking about), the NSA is not keeping this information for more than a few days. That means they are effectively creating a buffered cache of information that can be accessed quickly when necessary. This is akin to local law enforcement keeping CCTV video around for a short period of time for post-crime analysis (see: Boston Marathon bombing). If we're worried about them keeping this information for longer than they need it, put a law in place that restricts it - although I would suggest that it is physically impossible to keep up with all the data generated on the web.
- - The NSA claims that there are multiple fail-safes in place to prevent unauthorized access - most likely including access logs, credential checks, etc - similar to the ones used by the FBI, local police, etc. This could of course be partially or completely false, and the NSA does not exactly deserve our unwavering trust at the moment. But assuming for a second that it is true, why exactly is this any different than giving certain analysts access to satellite imagery or CCTV cameras?
We need to protect ourselves against government overreach and abuse - we are after all a nation of laws, not men. But the notion that the NSA keeping a few days worth of 1s and 0s just in case they are needed is anathema to our way of life is ludicrous. We keep medical, criminal, travel, financial and many other records for years and years. Why is this any different except that its a convenient vector of attack against an arm of government that is charged with doing exactly what XKeyScore is designed to do - seek out and neutralize threats to national security.
In case you have forgotten - not sure how old you are - for most of American history non-white crime was treated universally as a racial issue. When I was a kid (in NYC), the local news used to report on at least one or two drug-related crimes committed by blacks every night. They didn't actually come out and say "look at these black people and how savage they are", but they were clearly using people's prejudice to frame the story in racial terms that would keep them watching. In reality most of the crime they reported on was actually "black-on-black", but the implied story was, "What are we going to do about all these out of control black people?" There is a reason most people in prison are non-white. There is a reason so many people think there should be an electrified fence across the Mexican border, while the Canadian border is essentially open. The media has never been good at dealing with race, but the new "punditocracy" has taken it from subtle racism to a more hysterical finger pointing about who is a racist and who is not. The news media follows trends, they don't make them. Talking about race is no longer as toxic as it used to be, and the media has taken advantage of that fact to raise ratings.
Putting the media aside, when the motivation for a killing is money, it is difficult to make the claim that racism was involved - unless you consider the relative wealth of whites vs non-whites and assume that a non-white person is targeting a white person because they are likely to have more steal-able stuff. But when Zimmerman followed and ultimately shot and killed Martin, it was clearly motivated by "racial profiling". No one even disputes that. The only question was whether Zimmerman had any choice but to shoot Martin once the scuffle began. Obviously the jury thought he did not.
Are you claiming that race was not involved here? Zimmerman was clearly profiling, and Martin was clearly reacting to being followed by a "creepy cracker".
Didn't see anything about a gun being found, only that they found shell casings that matched the bullets found in/around the victim. As for what surveillance was ongoing, I dont think anyone was actively watching Hernandez before the murder, but the data used to retrace his steps - SMS records, cell tower records, phone call records, security cameras, etc - were simply there for the taking. Police have used pre-existing records to solve crimes for more than a century. Go look up the NYPD detectives that set the standard for investigative techniques like fingerprinting and fiber detection.
Everyone leaves a trail in both the digital and real spaces. The question is how much of that digital trail is stored as evidence before any crimes are committed. Law enforcement (including the NSA) will say that bits are cheap to store and can provide invaluable information when reconstructing someone's movements, relationships, etc. It is then up to the courts to decide what, if any, of that evidence is admissible in court. They use the Fourth Amendment to decide such things and i have not seen anything from Snowden or anyone else to suggest that this process is not the norm. The NSA can track you, but what exactly can they do to you without the support of the courts? And then if your're saying that the NSA and the courts are conspiring to circumvent the constitution, you've got Congress acting in an oversight role.
The conspiracy theories that arise from such "revelations" (there's nothing really new here except the specifics of the data being retained), often invoke the slippery-slope argument. But an entire government conspiring against it's people is not constrained by quaint notions of constitutional integrity. If its gotten that bad then the difference between FISA being secret or not become moot.
Its similar to the fears that creating a national background-check system for firearms would somehow lead to a totalitarian state. A totalitarian state would not concern itself with issues like the Second Amendment or the Tea Party when rounding people up for the camps.
The NFL player Arron Hernandez was just arrested and charged with murder based primarily on texts, surveillance video (some from his own home) and cell tower records. There are also corroborating witnesses who heard shots and found shell casings, but they were only contacted after the digital evidence was examined. Assuming he actually did what they say he did - shot a friend execution-style for making him "nervous" - I think his case presents a fairly strong argument as to why such pervasive record keeping and anonymous surveillance is useful to law-enforcement. No one actually saw him do anything, but the picture painted by the digital evidence is quite compelling.
That said, it is obviously the duty of a "vigilant democracy" to ensure that such tools are not used to target people maliciously, but I have to ask: who has actually been targeted in this way? Is there actually a known, verifiable case of a person being framed in such an elaborate way by some nefarious rouge agency? I am sure it has been attempted in the name of international espionage, but an every day citizen? Snowden claims that he's saving us all from something, but what exactly?