Parsing the Denials

From the Guardian’s PRISM story:

“Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

This, and the other statements I’ve seen, bare careful parsing. If Google discloses data “in accordance with the law” then the whole question of whether there’s a government “back door” hangs on what you mean by “back door”. Google has so much data on me–they know when I am sleeping, they know I am awake–that they could deny the existence of a back door while still sending the NSA all of my Gmail, for example.

All the major tech firms whose names appear in the PRISM slides have issued denials or statements of ignorance, and I believe them. For example, the Apple spokesman who’s “never heard” of PRISM probably never has. I also believe that Apple, Google, Microsoft, Skype, AOL and DropBox turned over massive amounts of data to the NSA.

So it happened, (and I doubt many of us are surprised it happened), it was legal, it was legally secret, and most of the House and Senate are complicit in it, because they passed the laws in the first place and were extensively briefed. The justification is the same one we’ve heard for almost a dozen years:

“The collection is broad in scope,” Clapper wrote, “because more narrow collection would limit our ability to protect the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it may assist counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities.”

The question is how much longer the vague threat of terrorism is going to justify the actual loss of liberty. My guess is a very long time, because I’ll bet when the next round of polls come out, a majority will still be swayed by this reasoning.






207 replies
  1. 1
    El Cid says:

    As long as someone says it keeps us safe, then it does.

  2. 2
    c u n d gulag says:

    I’m just shocked that anyone’s shocked that the NSA has access to all of this.

    And what I find funny, is the shock expressed by the same people who helped W get this going through Congress, now that President Obama is using it.

    Once you led that horse out of the barn, let it run loose, and locked the barn doors, you can’t bitch about who’s riding it.

  3. 3

    @El Cid: Yeah, the tiger repellent argument….

  4. 4
    Emma says:

    @c u n d gulag: This. Exactly.

  5. 5
    Schlemizel says:

    I’d disagree with one bit of this mixy – I think there will be a slight majority that will be against this as long as there is a Dem in the White House. Once the GOP takes control again it will disappear like a puff of smoke.

    The foundation for this belief is that this program has been hinted at and written about for at least 7 years and nobody was able to turn it into the sort of concern we are seeing today.

  6. 6
    Keith says:

    This brings back all those feelings of anger I had when Congress first “solved” the problem of AT&T about to be sued out of existence for doing the same thing by swiftly granting them immunity from lawsuits. It became pretty apparent pretty quickly that the government was more concerned about protecting large companies interests than it was about protecting its citizens’ Constitutional rights. Anyone not seeing this coming was deluding themselves, but I hope – HOPE – that this outrage translates into negative consequences for both Congress and the companies involved.

  7. 7
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    This, and the other statements I’ve seen, bare careful parsing. If Google discloses data “in accordance with the law” then the whole question of whether there’s a government “back door” hangs on what you mean by “back door”.

    Did anyone else think of this scene from Wargames?

    Mr. Potatohead! Mr. Potatohead! “Back doors” are not secret!

  8. 8
    Zam says:

    @Schlemizel: I pretty much agree with this. Dems are actually willing to be against things their own president does, while repubs will reflexively freak out about anything Obama does, even if they fully supported policies like this under Bush. So looks like we found the scandal the republicans were waiting for.

  9. 9
    balconesfault says:

    Slumming by listening to Rush the other day – he was almost apoplectic that the Obama Administration was talking about how the war on Terror would have to end some day.

    The true authoritarians among us really miss the Cold War days, and fear a time when we’re not in some kind of “war” that justifies suspension of civil liberties.

  10. 10
    Eric U. says:

    I don’t think Obama could have stopped this from happening. It’s gotten to the point where those agencies are enormous. This is one of the problems with letting it start in the first place. If you were a criminal and wanted to steal, there are any number of government jobs that would be great for that sort of thing.

  11. 11
    Ken_L says:

    I’m somewhat nonplussed at the huge media frenzy about this. It’s ancient and totally uninteresting ‘news’. I remember writing about it on my own blog back in 2006. But this is The Year of The Scandals and I guess we need a new one every week.

    Next week: GOVERNMENT HAS LIST OF TERROR SUSPECTS WITH 400,000 NAMES!!!

  12. 12
    debit says:

    So, I’m not the only one who remembers this, right? I mean, this has been out in the open since at least 2009. Why is everyone upset about it now?

  13. 13
    Eric says:

    I think it will be hard to whip up too much anger in the populace when you are talking about meta data not on their on devices and not about content. I am not saying that is a good thing but true nonetheless.

  14. 14

    I was talking to David Brin about this last night. His view is optimistic–that they never can keep these programs secret for very long, and that eventually people will insist on greater transparency from their leaders. To his point, it is only a decade or so that we’ve had wholesale domestic spying going on. Anyone who follows these issues at all knows that the government has the data they need to do pretty much any retrospective surveillance they want to do.

    Now the question is how we get those who haven’t been following this to recognize how intrusive and unconstitutional this is.

  15. 15
    jeffreyw says:

    You don’t need a backdoor key if you know where they keep the key to the front door. And you don’t even need a front door key with an “open sesame” warrant.

  16. 16
    Betty Cracker says:

    It all comes down to whether or not we are going to accept this permanent state of war. Obama’s speech awhile back indicated he thinks it’s time to dial it back. This is a perfect opportunity to have an open debate on the issue, with real-world consequences of a permanent war footing fresh in our minds.

  17. 17
    me says:

    @Eric: Point out that they collect who you called, how long the call and where you were when you called of every phone call you make.

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    @Jay Ackroyd:

    I think the real question is how do we get it to stop and ensure it does not happen in the future – but that genie is out of the bottle

  19. 19
    EconWatcher says:

    You know, I used to get really exercised about stuff like this, but now I think we’re in a data mining world and we have to learn to live with it. I think maybe our focus should be on circumstances when access to data is used to abuse an individual. The general right to privacy, in the sense of the right for government and others not to know too much about you, has been pretty much a dead letter for a while now. And I don’t think you’re going to win the general public over pounding on that one.

  20. 20
    Eric says:

    @me: I still think you get a meh. I do agree with others that you may get some white rage at a black king at the head of the table while it happens but little more

  21. 21
    KCinDC says:

    The GOP is generally against anything Obama does, but “anti-terrorism” trumps that when the targets are foreigners or not white people, and even when white people are involved they’ll still support sweeping violations of civil liberties as long as there’s a law-enforcement basis and as long as they’re not specifically aimed at, say, militia groups or gun owners or tea party groups. I don’t think we’re going to see that many Republicans actually opposing this stuff, unfortunately.

    There was GOP opposition to government spying during the Clinton years (remember Ashcroft’s opposition to it as a senator?), but since 9/11 most Republicans are all for it even when there’s a Democrat in the White House.

  22. 22
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    Call me a chump but I have always been of the “if you’re not doing anything wrong then why should you worry” brigade. This probably is more a product of me being British and having lived through the IRA bullshit and being willing to give up a certain amount of “freedom” if you will in exchange for not being blown to bits.

  23. 23
    David in NY says:

    Comment upthread about granting immunity to big corporations — how about somebody introducing a bill in Congress to grant immunity to those who provided us this important information? If some of our Democratic back-benchers would please step forward with that kind of bill, I’d be pleased.

  24. 24
    justawriter says:

    Google does not have a back door for the government

    Why would they use a backdoor when they open the front door for bulk shipping?

  25. 25
    ericblair says:

    @Zam:

    I pretty much agree with this. Dems are actually willing to be against things their own president does, while repubs will reflexively freak out about anything Obama does, even if they fully supported policies like this under Bush. So looks like we found the scandal the republicans were waiting for.

    Nope. This fractures the goopers. You’ve got Rand Paul hopping up and down about FREEDOM (instead of, like, proposing a repeal to the Patriot Act: maybe somebody should tell him he can do things like this), and you’ve got Graham saying that this is fine and dandy with them and KEEPS US SAFE.

    I don’t think the teabaggers will freak out any more than their normal daily baseline outrage, because it doesn’t involve tracking guns. They’re all fine with keeping a watchful eye on brown people, and all their privacy concerns seem to have been boiled down to gun registration, and the PATRIOT Act is all patrioticky, so benghazi.

  26. 26
    Eric says:

    @EconWatcher: I agree and i think many youbg people have grown up in a data mining world and shrug their shoulders at this. The issue os whether the info can be used in the way hoovers fbi operated to spy on political movements and to blackmail and destroy people by releasing their purient hobbies

  27. 27

    @Schlemizel:

    I think Brin’s long view is right–that these things will come and go. The police state we were under in WWI dissipated. The decision not to demobilize after WWII is a very serious one–they’ve been flapping really hard to justify staying on a war footing for two generations now.

    They’ll only get diminished if we keep raising a stink. At the moment the complete institutional failure of the Congress is our biggest problem. They used to care about power.

  28. 28
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @me: I don’t think the data included your location, but I could be wrong.

  29. 29
    Keith G says:

    @c u n d gulag: Most politicians do that as do most partisans. The political games should not derail the discussion about whether or not this is a fair and just process and whether or not we are allowing a government we happen to like to lead us down a road that can be fraught with future danger.

  30. 30
    Cassidy says:

    I still don’t get the talk about civil liberties and privacy. Let’s be honest, the moment we fired up that 2400 modem and connected to AOL, we said “fuck privacy” show me some kitties.

  31. 31
    Punchy says:

    If Ted Nugent goes by “The Nuge”, and Lebron goes by “The Bron”, does Clapper go by “The Clap”?

  32. 32
    me says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): It doesn’t exclude your location, or at least the towers you’re connected to which narrows it down quite a bit, and that is part of the metadata.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    And smartphones, fuck. OTOH, I can’t really fathom what good it does th NSA to know that most of America watches porn and checks Facebook at work on their phones.

  34. 34
    LAC says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: thank you! Fucking AARP knows I will be 50 via email and regular mail and I am supposed to get worked up because my boring phone numbers might pass through govt hands? And if something that might have been preventable happens and I get blown up on my way to work, what is greenwald going to do for me? Swan around in his caftan in brazil and write about how we had it coming to us because of Bradley mannnng/drones?

  35. 35
    cathyx says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: What if they zeroed in on you by mistake? What if they misinterpreted what you said or who you talked to, a series of events occurred that led them to believe you are a terrorist or working with them, aiding them? And they could do that because they can track your conversations and movements. I guess you would just be collateral damage.

  36. 36
    Rob says:

    A Reminder – There’s a document called the Constitution:

    4th Amendment

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  37. 37
    Baud says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    That’s my hope too but I’m pessimistic.

  38. 38
    Emma says:

    @Cassidy: Personally I think the data analysis has to be set up with specific “look for this, especially if it connects to this” parameters.Weeding out about 98% of the data without even really looking at it. Otherwise it’s just a cascade of nonsense.

    (edit) The biggest issue is that we’ve never had a discussion of how to manage these new technologies. If terrorists are using the Internet to communicate, it makes sense for the government to look there. The question is how it is done.

  39. 39
    Todd says:

    http://supreme.justia.com/case...../case.html
    __________________________________________________________________
    U.S. Supreme Court
    Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)
    Smith v. Maryland
    No. 78-5374
    Argued March 28, 1979
    Decided June 20, 1979
    442 U.S. 735
    CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND
    Syllabus
    The telephone company, at police request, installed at its central offices a pen register to record the numbers dialed from the telephone at petitioner’s home. Prior to his robbery trial, petitioner moved to suppress “all fruits derived from” the pen register. The Maryland trial court denied this motion, holding that the warrantless installation of the pen register did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Petitioner was convicted, and the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed.
    Held: The installation and use of the pen register was not a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and hence no warrant was required. Pp. 442 U. S. 739-746.
    (a) Application of the Fourth Amendment depends on whether the person invoking its protection can claim a “legitimate expectation of privacy” that has been invaded by government action. This inquiry normally embraces two questions: first, whether the individual has exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy; and second, whether his expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as “reasonable.” Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347. Pp. 442 U. S. 739-741.
    (b) Petitioner in all probability entertained no actual expectation of privacy in the phone numbers he dialed, and even if he did, his expectation was not “legitimate.” First, it is doubtful that telephone users in general have any expectation of privacy regarding the numbers they dial, since they typically know that they must convey phone numbers to the telephone company and that the company has facilities for recording this information and does, in fact, record it for various legitimate business purposes. And petitioner did not demonstrate an expectation of privacy merely by using his home phone, rather than some other phone, since his conduct, although perhaps calculated to keep the contents of his conversation private, was not calculated to preserve the privacy of the number he dialed. Second, even if petitioner did harbor some subjective expectation of privacy, this expectation was not one that society is prepared to recognize as “reasonable.” When petitioner voluntarily conveyed numerical information to the phone company and “exposed” that information to its equipment in the normal course of business, he assumed the risk that the company would reveal the information to the police, cf. United States v. Miller, 425 U. S. 435. Pp. 442 U. S. 741-746.
    283 Md. 156, 389 A.2d 858, affirmed.
    BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 746, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 748, filed dissenting opinions, in which BRENNAN, J., joined. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
    _________________________________________________________________________
    You would think that constimatooshinal lawyer Glenn Greenwald would have mentioned this en passant….

    Anyway, to bring forward an argument I just made on a probably dead thread, I’ll add the following:

    In 1979, people willingly disclosed the destination of their mail on the outside of the envelope or package. That disclosure was made to the government.

    Does anyone doubt that the government kept a log on pieces of mail addressed to places like the Soviet Embassy or the Cuban Interests Section of whatever consulate they worked out of at the time? Would anyone have made an objection to such a log being kept, and why, considering that only the destination is on the face of the document and displayed to the world, but not the contents?

    Also, in the pre-internet days, I noticed that magazine subscription requests of similar publications to ones I subscribed to routinely came to my home, as if my subscription data was sold. How different is that from google and bing selling my stuff, and why should I have an expectation of privacy in that? I read the magazines in my home, same as scouring the internet.

  40. 40
    Emma says:

    @Rob: And there’s the problem. You used to be able to be safely “private” in your papers because they resided physically in your house. Now, every time you log into the Internet you put your “private” stuff out there. How do we square the circle on that one?

    (edit) and as so many others have mentioned, you told the government who you were communicating with and how when you addressed an envelope.

  41. 41
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @me:

    “Point out that they collect who you called, how long the call and where you were when you called of every phone call you make.”

    In other words, your phone bill.

    Can someone please list the types of things that I might be doing on the phone and internet that could be exploited by the government that they could use to ruin my life?

  42. 42
    Baud says:

    @Cassidy:

    we said “fuck privacy” show me some kitties.

    Yes. kitties. That’s what we said, all right.

  43. 43
    Keith G says:

    A@cathyx: And remember the lesson of the IRS. We can’t naturally assume that those who work for our government will use information in the correct way.The more we give them, or the more they are allowed to take, the more likely that a single renegade or a group will decide on their own what would be a good use for this information. And if you have ever known anyone who was the subject of. a baseless government investigation it is not like dealing with AOL.

  44. 44
    Emma says:

    @cathyx: No offense, but this sounds like the plot of a thriller. Innocent person talks to terrorist THEN TAKES A SERIES OF ACTIONS which point to their also being one?

  45. 45
    LAC says:

    @cathyx: I guess then Tommy lee jones will chase you down a big drain hole and just before you jump, you tell him that you didn’t kill your wife and… Oh wait, that is a movie…

  46. 46
    Jack the Second says:

    It’s kind of hilarious in that there are really just two fire-able offenses at Google, leaking information outside the company and accessing personal information. And yet the government legally requires both…

  47. 47
    Xenos says:

    Josh Marshall may have come up with the answer on how this was all done:

    In short, the same operation that in the pre-warrant Bush years ran this operation with a business-to-business contract on behalf of the CIA is still doing it. Now, it provides political cover to the operation because it is not part of “The Government”.

  48. 48
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Rob: Where in there does “data transmitted through a private communication network” fit?

  49. 49
    Todd says:

    @Emma:

    You used to be able to be safely “private” in your papers because they resided physically in your house. Now, every time you log into the Internet you put your “private” stuff out there. How do we square the circle on that one?

    Dropbox!

  50. 50
    Todd says:

    @Jack the Second:

    It’s kind of hilarious in that there are really just two fire-able offenses at Google, leaking information outside the company and accessing personal information.

    Unless Google wants to sell it, then its OK.

  51. 51
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @cathyx: Ask England. While we like to talk in vague generalizations, we do have evidence of this kind of place. What has been their experience?

  52. 52
    cathyx says:

    @Emma: Oh golly gosh, that would never happen in real life. That’s like so made up.

  53. 53
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    “The question is how much longer the vague threat of terrorism is going to justify the actual loss of liberty. My guess is a very long time…”

    IMO, not so long as the Blah Guy in the White House keeps this stuff in the news. Other than the objections of the far left, it was fine and dandy when the White Guy before him was doing it. But now that the Blah Guy is doing it, it seems to them that this may not be such a great idea. Bush only had the far left pissed at him for doing this while Obama has somehow been able to add the right to that opposition.

    That Obama sure knows how to get people to work together, that’s for sure. :)

  54. 54
    Poopyman says:

    Another opinion/data point from the techie side:

    Big Data Surveillance Is Real Purpose of Huge NSA Phone Record Sweep

    I think the reason this is such a compelling topic is because it’s far from black and white, with plenty of precedent court cases apparently going against the 4th Amendment. I think the big red flag here is the casual way each of these discoveries is treated by the public at large. We’ve simply learned to expect it. There will always be outrage among a minority, but it’s looking like that minority keeps getting smaller.

  55. 55
    me says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: Your phone bill includes your location? Mine doesn’t.

  56. 56
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Poopyman: The American Revolution was started by a small group of people. The Constitution was written by a small group of people. “They saw me make this phone call? Well, I hope they heard me bitching about my commute to work.”

  57. 57
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @cathyx:

    I was in the Royal Navy, it was far more likely that the IRA would “zero in” on me for just standing on a train platform waiting for a train because my suitcase identified me as being in the armed forces. I had a mirror on a stick that I used to check under my car every time I got in it because some evil bastard thought I needed blowing up. I love all this talk of freedom and liberty and all that but exactly how free are you when you are dead?

  58. 58
    ericblair says:

    @Keith G:

    And remember the lesson of the IRS.

    Oh, yes, that lesson. When a bunch of related politically active groups apply for tax-free status as completely apolitical social organizations, you’re supposed to smile and say “Sure, no problem, here ya go! No tax for you!”

  59. 59
    Mandalay says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    And what I find funny, is the shock expressed by the same people who helped W get this going through Congress, now that President Obama is using it.

    I see the media, libertarians, newbies on the right, and the left being shocked. But I don’t see anyone who “helped W get this going through Congress” being shocked. In fact I see those who helped W defending the current situation (e.g. Feinstein).

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but can you back your claim with some specific examples? I can’t find any.

  60. 60
    Todd says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee:

    Obama has somehow been able to add the right to that opposition.

    Thats because he’s using it to locate guns, patriotic Christians to jail and nubile white daughters to deliver to his supporters. Barry X Shabazz Muhammad Artist Formerly Known as Prince Obama is nefarious that way.

  61. 61
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @me:

    Where the hell are you making phone calls from that worries you so much? I just don’t get it.

    No analyst cares if you’re calling your mistress from the strip club while perusing porn on your cell phone even though you told your wife you were going to the library.

  62. 62
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Thank you!

  63. 63
    Todd says:

    @ericblair:

    When a bunch of related politically active groups apply for tax-free status as completely apolitical social organizations, you’re supposed to smile and say “Sure, no problem, here ya go! No tax for you!”

    They tended to be formed by drawling white Southerners. Salt of the earth. Simple people. You know, morons.

    You’re supposed to take them at their word.

  64. 64
    Ken Adler says:

    It’s all about the terrorism. Did you see Jane Harman shut down Joe Scarborough this morning. She threw Boston in his face and I just thought this mentality is so entrenched that all politicians have to do to “reporters” , still, is imply that they are against saving Americans/support the terrorists.

  65. 65
    Glidwrith says:

    I had always thought that as soon as Obama took office the Thugs would collectively freak out that the big O was reading their mail, especially since their base hated him from Day 1. Can we take this as yet another hallmark of their incompetence that they didn’t use this weapon to defeat him during re-election?

  66. 66
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Todd: I responded on the other thread. I am on my phone so I can’t copy and paste it over here and I don’t want retype. Nevertheless, one can always get caught on the edge of a legitimate investigation and recorded even if one is not the subject of a warrant.

    It appears that a lot of people simply do not give a fuck. Fine. Next pay check, I am tossing some more cash to the ACLU.

  67. 67
    scav says:

    Practially speaking, I imagine the “Soft on Terrorism!” howls would have been equally loud if there had been moves to dismantle the program (and I somehow assume there would have been leaks at that point too). This really is getting to be a Golden Oldies Parallel Universe Tour of things that some got angry about a decade ago and were accused of hippy-based hatred of ‘merca over.

  68. 68
    Schlemizel says:

    @Jay Ackroyd:

    The power to spy after WWI was not a mite on a gnats ass in 1918 compared to today. Still the FBI did a pretty decent job with the crude tools they had. Plus a lot of their work left an evidence trail. In this modern electronic world gathering, parsing and combining data is automated, it does not take human intervention at all and can be done with no trace of the work being evident.

    If the FBI, CIA and NSA all stated today that no data collection or mining was taking place & never would how would you prove that? I work in IT security and can assure you that there are a thousand ways to do this work and you will not find most of them

  69. 69
    Emma says:

    @cathyx: Give me a for instance.

  70. 70
    EconWatcher says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Your perspective is interesting. What do you think of all the cameras in the London? I thought it was incredibly creepy at first, but now I’m kind of on the fence. Do I really care if my family and I are photographed while we’re running around town, if it might make police work more efficient and increase public safety? What is our privacy interest in not being monitored while we run around in public? Is it a big deal if a stranger happens to see me making a furtive pick of my nose?

    I don’t mean to trivialize, but I’m not sure initial emotional reactions to this kind of thing are a good guide.

  71. 71
    Suffern ACE says:

    @ericblair: this fractures the dems along generational lines.

  72. 72
    Todd says:

    @scav:

    Practially speaking, I imagine the “Soft on Terrorism!” howls would have been equally loud if there had been moves to dismantle the program (and I somehow assume there would have been leaks at that point too). This really is getting to be a Golden Oldies Parallel Universe Tour of things that some got angry about a decade ago and were accused of hippy-based hatred of ‘merca over.

    Its all “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. If it is an effectively used policy, it is tyrannical overreach, and to be expected from Barry X Shabazz Muhammad Obama, who plans to used it to oppress patriotic white Christian ‘Murkins. If something slips through the cracks, then Obama is soft on terror, and has been snorting coke while getting asspounded by Reggie Love as opposed to tending to national security.

  73. 73
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I’m cool with them. Having lived through the IRA terror era it never occurred to me to complain about having my bags searched when I went into a store or a public building, just as it never occurred to me to complain about the surveillance cameras now. They do an incredible job of solving crimes after the fact and in a lot of cases preventing them beforehand. I am cool with anything that results in me being not dead.

  74. 74
    Harold Samson says:

    You can have security

    You can enjoy freedom

    You can send your lawyers, bankers and armies around the world and take other people’s stuff.

    Pick two.

  75. 75
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: You would be okay with the police searching your house every week or so?

  76. 76
    c u n d gulag says:

    @Mandalay:
    Good point.
    When I googled some articles, Rand Paul is the only Republican that I could find, publically bitching about it – and, not only is he a (part-time) Libertarian, he wasn’t even in the House or Senate in 2006.

  77. 77
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Where in the scheme of things does it allow the police to search my house every week or so?

  78. 78
    CaseyL says:

    I really don’t get the outrage happening now. These programs have been in place for nearly 10 years. Considering the abuses carried out under Bush – which got hardly a peep in the news, and certainly no Congressional outrage – the surveillance is probably more targeted now to its ostensible purpose.

    Also, if the goal is to target cyberterrorism as well as the blowing-up-people type of terrorism, I flat out don’t know how to do so effectively without casting a very wide net.

  79. 79
    Todd says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    it never occurred to me to complain about the surveillance cameras

    Just think of America as the land of hypocritical contradiction.

    The same sort of melanin-deprived people that fuck everything up and scream about it all:

    1. Screamed objections about having a uniform national ID, and have pivoted to demanding difficult identification procedures in order to allow young, brown or black to vote or work;

    2. Enthusiastically support rigid ID checks by stops and sweeps in Arizona if it happens to be browns who are targeted, but get offended if a police officer asks them for ID; and

    3. Enthusiastically encouraged the militarization of police departments and the excessive use of force if it were employed against brown or black (and to a lesser extent, poor whites), but squeal like stuck pigs if they wind up as the focal point of institutionalized police authoritarianism and violence.

  80. 80
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: You said you were okay with anything that makes you not be dead. Searches of everyone’s house every week or so would be likely to turn up some information that would be helpful in that regard.

  81. 81
    KCinDC says:

    I’m not really surprised at the ho-hum reaction to this, and the assumption that it keeps us safe. But are people really so confident that the government will *never* be even slightly corrupt or take an authoritarian turn? Once this giant “friendly” police state is established, it’s trivially easy to turn it against political opponents of various sorts, or have individual government employees use it for profit or for tracking their exes.

  82. 82
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    but exactly how free are you when you are dead?

    Because some guy said you had to choose between them back in the 1700s.

  83. 83
    Emma says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Funny. That never happened in the UK Litlebritdifrnt talks about. And they don’t even have a written constitution.

  84. 84
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Ken Adler: This is now not a three-year-old story, not a thirty-year old story, but a seventy-year old story – and a very equivocal one.

    Among its original architects of the national security state are the same liberal icons who created the American social democracy, to the extent that we have one.

  85. 85
    Keith G says:

    @ericblair: Government workers misused information that was entrusted to them. To put it another way, they used information create an investigation process that even the President found abhorrent.

  86. 86
    Todd says:

    @KCinDC:

    it’s trivially easy to turn it against political opponents of various sorts, or have individual government employees use it for profit or for tracking their exes.

    The disclosure of Rick Santorum’s affinity for images involving coprophilia would amuse me, however….

  87. 87
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Emma: I am looking for where people will draw the line. Also, the Fourth Amendment got stuck into the Constitution because a government was doing things like that.

  88. 88
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Harold Samson: The second and third really aren’t as independent as you imply. If I choose overriding freedom, then, by weakening the military state, I would reduce my ability to plunder the rest of the world.

  89. 89

    Was the NSA checking out ICHC and Balloon Juice?

  90. 90
    LAC says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Oh, stop with the exaggeration already. The problem with trying to have a debate on this matter is that the two extremes hijack the conversation. We have the nuts on the right that think that marshall law sounds like fun and the far left who view any sort of response to terrorism as “invading muh rights, man!” This poster is bringing up his situation in London – lets be novel here and try to understand it.

  91. 91
    Xenos says:

    @Emma:

    Funny. That never happened in the UK Litlebritdifrnt talks about. And they don’t even have a written constitution.

    Actually it did happen to a whiggish political activist named John Wilkes, but that is a whole ‘nother kettle of wingnuts. His name has been out of favor since a baby who grew up to become a murderous thespian was named after him, but our founding fathers wingnut mobs would often shout “Wilkes and Liberty!” along with the usual bits about not being tread upon.

  92. 92
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    And so would free weekly health screenings but that’s not going to happen either.

    It is rather strange to try to explain to someone who has never walked around with a target on their back what lengths you are willing to go to to minimize the appearance of that target.

  93. 93
    Todd says:

    @Keith G:

    To put it another way, they used information create an investigation process that even the President found abhorrent.

    He had to say that, even if he didn’t believe it. We’ve got a squealing bunch of pansy-assed, trembly, crybaby teabaggers, but the demographic cohort of the propaganda deluded is large enough to create a problem. They have to be somewhat managed, and it is a razor blade upon which one must walk. these are the same peole who showed up to scream about death panels at town halls, who show up armed to city council meetings, etc.

    Only time will burn them out. Much as I desired some head-slamming violence being employed against them by the authorities, it is understandable that Obama wishes to create no teatard martyrs.

  94. 94
    Keith G says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Ironically you said that to someone to serve in Her Majesty’s army.

  95. 95
    Mandalay says:

    @EconWatcher:

    What do you think of all the cameras in the London? I thought it was incredibly creepy at first, but now I’m kind of on the fence.

    You raise a good point. Those CCTV cameras can do good. Here is an example from yesterday in Britain….

    Abdelkader El Janabi, 55, and Alex Wilson-Fletcher, 42, abducted their 14-year-old victim in Manchester’s Arndale Centre on a busy Saturday afternoon last summer.

    They marched him to the toilets of a nearby Debenhams where they carried out a “sustained attack” on him….

    The pair were tracked down after images from CCTV were circulated around the UK by police.

    There are also examples of where CCTV evidence has shown the British police to be lying, most famously when they mistakenly executed an innocent Brazilian.

    I find the case for public CCTV much more persuasive than that for the data mining of phone and internet data.

  96. 96
    Poopyman says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: The NSA wasn’t checking anything out. They’re merely acting as the techies here for the FBI, who are the ones with the authority to spy on US persons and coincidentally are the ones who submitted the FISA request.

  97. 97
    mai naem says:

    @Ken Adler: Boston actually illustrates the problem of casting a wide net. If you’re having to wade through so much info, doesn’t it make it harder to pick out the true red flags? If it’s because of Boston why didn’t they catch them before they did the bombing?

  98. 98
    JCJ says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Every week or so, definitely not. But I would like to get cleared by the Department of Homeland Security so I don’t get stopped for extra questioning when I re-enter the US from trips visiting my wife’s family. It has been going on for seven years now and has caused me to miss connecting flights. I know, first world problems, but it is annoying.

  99. 99
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Keith G: That is pretty funny.

  100. 100
    KCinDC says:

    @LAC, it’s not exaggeration. It’s an attempt to see where people think the line should be drawn. If searching absolutely everything online is OK, as is searching people’s belonging and person whenever they enter public places, then what is the principle that says the same safety-security tradeoff doesn’t apply to searching people’s homes?

  101. 101
    Hvillachez says:

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Not sure if another commenter has mentioned this… Mistermix, you use the past-tense repeatedly. This is the only quibble I have, that is all.

  102. 102
    ericblair says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    this fractures the dems along generational lines.

    I’d have to see evidence of it. I can see older people shrugging their shoulders after being aware of what the Bush administration was doing illegally a few years ago, and younger people being outraged simply because they’ve never really thought through what they’re doing on line.

    We have fragmentary, ad hoc, reactionary privacy policy and legislation in the US where nobody’s really responsible for much and it’s easy for anything new to fall through the cracks. We need some sort of national consensus on what electronic information is fair game and what should be private, which unfortunately falls to our completely dysfunctional legislative branch. Relying on the courts to essentially write policy (piecemeal and years after the fact) and the executive branch to pick and choose what it’s supposed to actually execute while ignoring the festering dead Congressional elephant in the room isn’t going to work. There’s no short-term fix for this.

  103. 103
    KCinDC says:

    @mai naem, yes, people have referred to that as trying to find a needle in a haystack but adding more and more hay.

  104. 104
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    @CaseyL:

    I agree with you. As far as I’m concerned, if Obama can outrage the right enough over this to finally get Congress off of their asses and do something about it then Mission Accomplished. If he was to try and dismantle this himself he (and by extension, Democrats) would be raked over the coals by the right. This way he gets the right to join the left and get us some of that change we all want.

    Until then, it’s so much meh. SSDD.

  105. 105

    @mai naem: If you collect so much data, parsing it is not exactly easy, especially when you don’t know what exactly you are looking for.

  106. 106
    Emma says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I think I will speak for myself. Maybe I have a slightly different view because, as a librarian, I have personally or at several removes been in the middle of the surveillance state from the time it was paper-based (anyone interested can look up how many times libraries have faced off with the government over turning over patron records). And also because I have read enough dystopian science fiction to be forewarned about some of these things.

    The whole data universe has created a unique set of problems for counter-terrorism. We haven’t addressed them properly; all we have done is try to extend the paper-based world into the data-based one and it doesn’t fit. Once you log in, you’re PUBLIC. If Google, Amazon, etc. can gather all sort of data, if anything you write on a social website (hello, CIA!) is freely available, “privacy” has changed meaning. We need to address that and we need to re-interpret the Constitution based on that. But it’s hard work, and few people are willing to do it. Fewer people (Hello Sensenbrenner (sp?) are willing to examine their own complicity in the over-reach. Even fewer people (hello, presidents, one and all) are willing to lose something that might help you keep the country “safe” whatever that might mean. But until we do the hard work, all we’ll do is thrash about.

    Lastly, the problem with asking “where do we draw the line” is that it asks us to take a heroic line when we’re not heroes. I wonder how you would have reacted, trying to live a regular life while bombs were set off at random around you. I would say surveillance cameras would soon have become a positive good to most people.

  107. 107
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @LAC: Oh, bullshit. The question of how far you would go is a legitimate one.

    @Litlebritdifrnt: How do you know that I have never had a target on my back? And even if I haven’t, I don’t get to ask questions? I don’t buy it, sorry.

  108. 108
    Todd says:

    @ericblair:

    We need some sort of national consensus on what electronic information is fair game and what should be private, which unfortunately falls to our completely dysfunctional legislative branch. Relying on the courts to essentially write policy (piecemeal and years after the fact) and the executive branch to pick and choose what it’s supposed to actually execute while ignoring the festering dead Congressional elephant in the room isn’t going to work.

    Ad Hoc policymaking leads to freedom….TO PROFIT.

    Google and Zuckerberg need to genuflect to our dysfunctional congress daily.

  109. 109
    Chris says:

    @Schlemizel:

    The power to spy after WWI was not a mite on a gnats ass in 1918 compared to today. Still the FBI did a pretty decent job with the crude tools they had

    This. The police state was not “demobilized” after World War One – see also Red Scare and Palmer Raids.

    To be honest, my cynicism/resignation about this has a lot less to do with what’s happened in the last ten years than with the fact that I’ve read enough history to know that it’s always been this way. J. Edgar Hoover essentially ran the FBI as America’s secret police for fifty years, and was far from the only person to abuse his power that way. People like that are almost never held accountable for their crimes, and attempts to keep the security state under control never last long.

  110. 110
    dianne says:

    It didn’t work so well with the Marathon bombers despite all the red flags they were showing. It has to at least work if we are going to be asked to give up our liberties.

  111. 111
    ericblair says:

    @Keith G:

    Government workers misused information that was entrusted to them. To put it another way, they used information create an investigation process that even the President found abhorrent.

    Please explain how the information was actually misused, and whether you believe political affiliation is a protected class under civil rights legislation. I believe the IRS workers took a short cut that violated internal IRS guidelines. The fact that IRS workers actually searched through data voluntarily given to them to investigate an application for tax free status doesn’t exactly send me to the ramparts. The fact that blatantly political groups got tax free status as apolitical social organizations is the real scandal, and I don’t know why Obama punted on this.

  112. 112
    Emma says:

    @Xenos: Yep. And in his later age he was Lord Mayor and it was by his orders that soldiers fired on the rioters attacking the Bank of England during the Gordon riots, and although he had earlier supported the American revolution he turned against the French. And he was member of Parliament, too, at some point.

    A little more complex than martyred for his beliefs.

  113. 113
    KCinDC says:

    Lastly, the problem with asking “where do we draw the line” is that it asks us to take a heroic line when we’re not heroes.

    @Emma, no, it doesn’t. It just asks where to draw the line. Searching everyone’s home every week would catch some terrorists (and plenty of other criminals) who would not be caught otherwise, and it would save some lives. Is it “heroic” not to do it?

  114. 114
    EconWatcher says:

    @KCinDC:

    You make the best counter-argument that can be made, and I have a lot of sympathy for the concern. But if you try to oppose the overall data mining and monitoring on these grounds, you’re swimming against a mighty, overwhelming current of public support or indifference, and you just won’t get anywhere. That’s why I think you have to try to focus efforts to prevent particular abuses of the data, rather than the collection and monitoring itself.

    Yeah, we are implementing technology that would be very useful to Big Brother if he ever gets control of the government. But the other side of the coin is that technological advancements also make it easier to monitor and organize against abuses.

  115. 115

    If you want to eat sweetened fried dough, jalebis can be quite good, especially if they are piping hot. A

  116. 116
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Obviously I don’t. However what I was trying to point out was that I was willing to give up certain “freedoms” in order to minimize the possibility of me being killed. These were really small, trivial things in some cases like not putting stickers on my car that would identify me as being in the Navy, not wearing t-shirts that did the same thing, not wearing my uniform off base. There were other more important things, like being willing to be searched and have my bags searched before I went into a public space, and yes, being monitored by security cameras.

  117. 117
    Emma says:

    @KCinDC: Sigh. Did you bother to read the paragraph before that? At all?

    And someone searching my house every week is a TEENY TINY bit different than somebody scooping up info I’m putting online myself. As someone has mentioned, what they’re taking is the equivalent of your phone bill. Now, we might want to make changes in “what data can be used and how” rather than “data is being collected”. But again, that’s hard work.

  118. 118
    Chris says:

    @ericblair:

    The fact that IRS workers actually searched through data voluntarily given to them to investigate an application for tax free status doesn’t exactly send me to the ramparts. The fact that blatantly political groups got tax free status as apolitical social organizations is the real scandal

    Amen. That tax exempt status is abused all the way to hell and back for groups that should never have been granted it.

  119. 119
    KCinDC says:

    @EconWatcher, I think organizing against abuses is going to get harder, not easier. Concern about “hacking”, intellectual property, and general security means we are heading toward a future when only government- and big-corporation-approved websites, software, and media are going to be “safe” enough for people to access on their computers.

  120. 120
    Bruce S says:

    I can’t get too exercised about this – largely because I think the “privacy” horse is already out of the barn. I am totally used to the fact that my internet activity is being tracked relentlessly. This is apparent every time ads start following me around on various sites that reflect something I’ve searched for. The notion that I’m supposed to get upset that the NSA has this data along with a whole host of private corporations just doesn’t make much sense at this late date. The NSA – assuming they actually have found a way to use this information to spot potential terrorists – is as much as I hate to admit it doing something more useful to me with the data than Amazon or Google.

    In the age of the internet – hell, in the age of surveillance cameras which are ubiquitous – certain notions of privacy have become obsolete. It may be a deal we’ve made with the devil, but the devil is the technology itself which allows this kind of invasion without anyone entering your home, intercepting your mail and steaming open envelopes, actually tapping into your home phone line or any other such obsolete interventions. The collection of this data automatically is a fact of the technology we’ve all come to embrace over the past two decades or so. If you don’t want anyone knowing who you’re communicating with, write your mother or your girlfriend or your best friend a letter. I can guarantee – even though they are in charge of delivery from start to finish, the government won’t have a clue, one else will care, there will be no record of it ever anywhere and the recipient will also love you for it.

    The internet is not – nor are cell phone data – private. It’s the way they work. End of story.

  121. 121
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: I don’t disagree with what you are saying here. WRT electronic communications, I think the US government should be required to abide by the Fourth Amendment and I don’t think they are at the moment.

  122. 122
    muddy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    You would be okay with the police searching your house every week or so?

    This would certainly solve the unemployment problem.

  123. 123
    ericblair says:

    @EconWatcher:

    That’s why I think you have to try to focus efforts to prevent particular abuses of the data, rather than the collection and monitoring itself.

    The EU model is the Data Protection Directive. It’s a common framework that requires accountability, disclosure, and (important for financial data) the requirement to correct erroneous data. It’s sort of like the ACA, in that it’s definitely not perfect, and could lead to abuse and failure if the standards are set too low, but sets up a common structure and dials that can be turned up or down depending on the need.

  124. 124
    LAC says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: You are arguing about the 4th amendment as if this was a warrantless action. It was wasn’t – it was legal. Now you can go with it from there, but this posturing as if black ops helicopters are hovering over your house via Google is exactly what I mean by extremes overtaking the legitimate debate about FISA and the Patriot Act.

  125. 125
    KCinDC says:

    @Emma, sorry if I misinterpreted what seemed to me to be a criticism of people asking where to draw the line.

    Now that you’ve edited your response, I’m editing mine. I’m not talking about just this particular case. There are plenty of other examinations of online data, some of them in the news today. The fact that something is online shouldn’t mean that it’s not private. If it does, then we’re not long from a time when there’s no such thing as a private record. I don’t see the bright line between the privacy of a physical home and the privacy of the growing online “home” that each of us has.

  126. 126
    different-church-lady says:

    @Rob:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…

    InTERnet. Not inTRAnet.

    I ain’t saying I’m happy about it, I’m saying there’s a legitimate question of where the “your” ends and public begins.

  127. 127
    Bruce S says:

    @Rob:

    I am totally sympathetic to the desire for privacy inherent in the 4th Amendment, but the fact is that the internet and cell phones use technologies that go outside of the realm of one’s “person, house, papers or effects.” One may hate it, but it’s a fact of the technology. Your internet activity is being robo-ransacked daily by corporations seeking to monetize your activities. Given that, I don’t see that there’s any such thing as “personal privacy” on the internet. So as much as I hate the notion of this level of governmental surveillance in principle, it’s about something that I feel has already been violated and is essentially public information insofar as Amazon, et. al. are ceaselessly tracking me. It already feels Orwellian to me. But I choose to engage, so any assumptions about my privacy in that context are pretty much already nil.

  128. 128

    @schrodinger’s cat: Oops wrong thread. Must have more tea.

  129. 129
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Question for you, then: When Congress and the courts allow this to happen – getting permission to access this data – can it be considered not following the fourth amendment?

  130. 130
    different-church-lady says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    …exactly how free are you when you are dead?

    Infinitely. But you don’t get to enjoy it.

  131. 131
    KCinDC says:

    @LAC, “warrants” that cover data for millions of people and are automatically renewed for years don’t seem to serve the purpose that warrants are intended to. Why not just have courts issue a “warrant” tomorrow saying law enforcement has access to everything for everyone from now on out?

  132. 132
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Emma: Britain doesn’t have a written Constitution like the slaveholder’s wishlist the US has been encumbered with for the past 230 years or so. It is however signatory to assorted conventions on the European level, including the data protection rules that don’t promise privacy of personal data but require that any data held is held for good and proper reasons and no more data than that needed for the purpose should be held.

  133. 133
    drunken hausfrau says:

    Apologies if someone has already asked this… but — if the NSA has all this info, why didn’t the FBI know about the two Boston bombers? I mean, if our phone calls, internet activities, travel, etc. were being tracked for national security reasons, shouldn’t someone in our vast homeland security uberstructure have cottoned onto those two BEFORE they killed and maimed? Feinstein is saying that all this surveillance has kept us safe — really? prove it. Who has been caught? Who has been stopped before committing terror? Was Boston Marathon bombing a slipup in an otherwise efficient secret dragnet… or is your secret dragnet a big wasteful fishing expedition with no real results?

  134. 134
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @KCinDC: The warrants are not automatically renewed. They have to be reviewed periodically. The one issued in April, the one talked about by GG, expires in July.

  135. 135
    Bruce S says:

    Does this extend to the government monitoring or data mining the content of emails on my personal account without a warrant that involves either me personally or some person I’m sending emails directly to. That is, frankly, the only aspect of this that I feel would violate my 4th Amendment rights.

    The rest of what I do on the internet already feels like it is in effect totally public activity, given the way the corporations in control follow me around and attempt to monetize my meanderings. Any sense of privacy on the intenet has already been surrendered – so I guess the only issue with me is literal content of my emails on a personal account. That, I hate to admit, is the only thing left that would seem like overreach into what I could consider my “person, papers or effects” as opposed to being seen wandering around in a public space, much like surveillance cameras at the mall.

  136. 136
    KCinDC says:

    @drunken hausfrau, you make a good point. Lots of things being done in the name of “security” nowadays actually do nothing to improve security but are done for other reasons (like finding drugs or copyright violations, improving the concession sales at movie theaters, or just getting people used to the idea of submitting to more and more intrusions). I’m talking about “security theater” like having a guard make sure everyone entering a building has a photo ID, or conducting bag checks on <0.1% of the people entering the subways.

  137. 137
    KCinDC says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): And it’s been routinely renewed every few months since 2006.

  138. 138
    LAC says:

    @KCinDC: This is how it has been explained: NSA, by law, has telecoms dump all their phone records into its database, in case they might be needed for a future investigation, as telecoms hold onto records for only 90 days. (Which means that the NSA has to go to the FISA court every 90 days to obtain a new order for collecting phone records.) But, it can dip into this database only if there is a specific suspicion. It can’t simply go looking for possible criminality. And all is done within a framework of judicial oversight. This court exists only to authorize surveillance; any evidence gathered which leads to prosecution still has to be tried in an open, civilian court.

    I think it would be better to get folks into Congress that can address FISA and the Patriot Act instead of flailing about on “gasp” THE INTERNET about teh Obama taking my rights away and oh….look, Macy’s logo came up and it is having a sale. I was there last week…golly….

  139. 139
    Emma says:

    @Robert Sneddon: I was making that remark about litlebritdiffrnt’s experiences during the IRA bombing years.

    The European method of dealing with controlling the security apparatus is one that I wish we would consider here. We don’t. We thrash about arguing about whether there’s a Constitutional right of collecting the data, rather than setting very strict legal limits on the use of it. The data horse is out of the barn!

  140. 140
    Mnemosyne says:

    @KCinDC:

    The fact that something is online shouldn’t mean that it’s not private.

    I think I may need a little clarification here. Do you think that everything you write on Balloon Juice should be considered private and the government should need a warrant to read it? Or do you mean that things stored online (like, say, a place like Dropbox) have an inherent expectation of privacy?

    IIRC, it’s been established for a long time that if you write or say something in public view, it’s fair game to be used against you. That’s why terrorists don’t write postcards to each other — if you put the information in public view, you don’t get to claim that it’s “private.”

  141. 141
    Mnemosyne says:

    @KCinDC:

    I’m talking about “security theater” like having a guard make sure everyone entering a building has a photo ID, or conducting bag checks on <0.1% of the people entering the subways.

    Again, I’m confused — you mean making sure that everyone entering a public building has a photo ID or driver’s license, or are you talking about private companies requiring that anyone entering a building have a company ID?

    The building I work in is filled with several million dollars worth of original artwork. When it was not stored securely, that artwork had a bad habit of walking away and later turning up at auction sites. Now it’s kept in a secure building that you have to show ID to get into. Is that “security theater,” or reasonable precaution against theft?

  142. 142
    StringOnAStick says:

    @drunken hausfrau: I suppose the reason why the Boston bomber weren’t caught pre-bombing is because the data currently being collected was metadata, not actual phone call contents (at least that is what we are being told). The fact that 2 brothers were calling each other often isn’t exactly a uniquely identifiable pattern of potential bombing behavior. This argument falls into the “careful what you wish for” category. Having metadata is useful for constructing a case after the crime has been committed; if you want guaranteed crime prevention, then you are asking for the contents of every form of electronic communication to be snooped, which I think is what most people are pissed off about. Plus, no guarantee all crimes/terror attacks will be prevented. What made the Boston Bombers successful was that it was just the two of them (as far as we know) and they had no web of activity with other known terrorists. I will be curious to see if the phone/text conversations revealed in court will contain things as obvious as “bombing to occur as planned, be there!”, though I rather doubt it.

    Does anyone else find it interesting that this leak occurred just after the president publically stated that it was time to draw down the war on terra? If, as Josh Marshall reports today, this is all being done by one (or maybe more) private contractors who are making serious bank on the NSA’s dime, do we really think these guys are willing to let that teat go without a fight? Maybe the leak was a way of lashing back at Obama, with the hope of crippling him to the point that they won’t have to worry about their contracts getting thinner.

  143. 143
    Keith G says:

    @ericblair: He punted because truly both sides do it, even if one side does it more.

    If the IRS singled out political affiliated group because they were gay or atheist in orientation it would touch me personally and I would be mad as hell, if it existed.

    They created their own protocol to treat organizations differently based on their affiliation. Their actions were widely critized which is the correct thing to do.

    I believe that when we allow the government to collect and hold information about us even more government workers will feel the temptation to be creative in how they use that information. And here I’m just talking about people who are not evil, but just cutting corners trying to be more efficient.

    Then it would be wise to consider those who truly might be evil. Someday another spawn of Satan like Dick Cheney will be back in power. What then?

  144. 144
    KCinDC says:

    @LAC, I’m not screaming about Obama. It’s precisely at Congress, with its rubberstamping of virtually everything the security complex asks for, that most of my outrage is directed.

    @Mnemosyne, of course I’m not talking about my Balloon Juice comments, or my public Twitter posts. The government, or anyone else, doesn’t need to go through any special procedures to access those. The whole reason the government has to do anything to get the data we are talking about is that it’s not publicly accessible. And within the data that’s not publicly accessible, there may be degrees of privacy.

  145. 145
    KCinDC says:

    @Mnemosyne, sorry for the confusion. I’m talking about going into a building, government or private, and having a security guard next to a “100% ID CHECK” sign look at your driver’s license (as it usually is). Not write it down, or check it against a list, or scan it. Just make sure you have one. I don’t see how that helps security at all.

  146. 146
    Emma says:

    @KCinDC: I think that once you put it online you will find it very hard to then classify it as “private”. For example, now companies routinely check your Facebook page and believe me, they take your non-work-related comments and stories very seriously. I do a lot of online shopping because I get going to malls. Anyone doing even a cursory looking will know everything about my shopping patterns. “Privacy” has become a different animal that it used to be. The laws need to be re-interpreted to deal with that. But it’s seriously hard work and I don’t see our Congress willing to do it.

  147. 147
    different-church-lady says:

    Good, substantive discussion we’ve got going on in this thread. It will be great when the usual suspects show up and derail it.

  148. 148
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    You want privacy? Cut the cord. It really is that simple. And yeah, cutting the cord entails consequences and inconvenience, but freedom isn’t free, amirite?

    I’ll bet that every person in this thread whining about how their rights have been violated has a Facebook account, and you probably expect that should be private too. Most of you really are that stupid.

  149. 149
    Jonathan says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: If you’ve reached the point where you are so scared that you don’t care what is done to you, or to the people you love as long as you’re not dead, then it’s clear that you have been horribly emotionally damaged by your personal experience with the IRA. You may not recognise that as true. But saying that you don’t care what is done to everyone else, as long as you aren’t dead, is a hopelessly narcissistic and nihilistic attitude. One created by a genuinely brutal experience, surely. But an attitude that goes against the very foundations of a free society.

  150. 150
    Mnemosyne says:

    @KCinDC:

    of course I’m not talking about my Balloon Juice comments, or my public Twitter posts. The government, or anyone else, doesn’t need to go through any special procedures to access those.

    I wanted to be sure, because a lot of people yesterday were apparently shocked and upset at the realization that the government could be monitoring their Facebook posts. I’m not sure what kind of headspace you’re in that makes you think that you have an expectation of privacy when you voluntarily post private information on a public website. If your best friend from third grade can track you down through Facebook, I don’t know why people were shocked and appalled that the government was doing the same thing. Public information is public to everyone, people.

    The whole reason the government has to do anything to get the data we are talking about is that it’s not publicly accessible. And within the data that’s not publicly accessible, there may be degrees of privacy.

    I don’t disagree with you about there being degrees of privacy — online transactions could not exist without an expectation that the vendor will keep your credit card or bank information private. But I do think that some people have exaggerated expectations of privacy on public sites like Facebook, as though the fact that they have to put a password in to access their account automatically means that the information they post for everyone to see is private and it’s an intrusion for the government to read it.

  151. 151
    Cacti says:

    So, the POTUS obtained a warrant from a federal judge, under a law duly enacted and subsequently renewed by large, bipartisan Congressional majorities?

    Monster.

  152. 152
    KCinDC says:

    @Emma, so you think all your emails, financial transactions, text messages, and the content of your phone calls are public data? Those are all online.

  153. 153
    Poopyman says:

    @different-church-lady: It’s more a question of whose interpretation of “unreasonable” wins out in the end, imo.

  154. 154
    Maude says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee:
    This is a beginning of the end of the war on terror.
    Taking the drones away from the CIA is a start to making the agency an intelligence gathering agency and no longer involved in para military or pro active thuggery.
    Obama does long term.

  155. 155
    different-church-lady says:

    @KCinDC:

    The fact that something is online shouldn’t mean that it’s not private.

    Ah, the slippery nature of language.

    Websites and e-mail are not the same thing, yet we use “online” to describe both of them. “Internet” is the same way — we talk about it as though it were a place, or a collection of places, but it’s really a means of conveyance for data. What’s on a server might be private, but there’s questions about whether it’s private once it hits the net, in the same way your car is private property, but it’s driving on public roads.

    Even without the present kerfuffle (or “breakdown of our very civilization” as some might have it) it might take years for courts to sort these kinds of issues out. It might never get sorted all out.

  156. 156
    Mnemosyne says:

    @KCinDC:

    Honestly, I’ve never seen signs like that. We do require people to sign in when they come into our building, but they don’t have to show picture ID to “prove” that they are the name they signed in as. In some of the larger buildings, they do require a driver’s license, but they do this thing where they scan it and turn it into a guest badge using the DL picture, so it at least has some utility.

    I’m also one of those people who writes “Please Check ID” on the back of my credit cards — I would really prefer store clerks to make sure it’s really me before they run my credit card — but some people find that to be a privacy violation and want the clerk to run their card with no questions asked.

  157. 157
    Bruce S says:

    @Keith G:

    If a bunch of organizations all use a particular banner name very publicly and are obviously engaged in political activity that does, in fact, violate the intent of the original 401c4 law, how is it a violation of their rights or overreach by the IRS to use applications bearing that name as a basis for further look at their activities or compliance? Frankly, I don’t think the IRS was rigorous enough in evaluating organizations that have primarily been political rather than “social welfare” under 401c4. This is a phony “scandal” and the real scandal is that any of these groups – including liberal ones – get to hide their donors behind this fraudulent “social welfare” facade. I’m outraged that the IRS is so damned lenient. The GOP congress-critters who ginned this thing up are hypocrites and liars of the first order. The Tea Baggers testifying the other day were an aggregation of white populist freaks and goons who will make any crackpot claim against the President. Fuck them. They’re breaking the law – as is Karl Rove, who is at least smart enough to get lawyers who know just how wide the loopholes have become and didn’t even file a formal application for granting of 401c4 status. He just made his claim and went about his illegal business. The administration won’t touch this for political reasons, thus the “apologies” – but these phony “social welfare” groups are breaking the law.

  158. 158
    KCinDC says:

    @Mnemosyne, I’d agree with you about ridiculous outrage over monitoring of Twitter, where almost everything is public (unless we’re talking about DMs or the few people who have private accounts). I disagree to some extent about Facebook. Most of what people put on Facebook is not publicly visible, and Facebook claims to give you fine-grained control over who can see what. I don’t put anything private on Facebook, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect Facebook not to tell you something is being kept private when it’s not.

  159. 159
    patroclus says:

    I haven’t seen many ideas for addressing these issues – most just seem to be complaining. Here are some possible ways to address this: (1) sunset the Patriot Act – making an overall re-authorization a public issue that will be debated periodically; (2) declassifying much of the information about the programs; (3) establishing immunity for leakers of the programs to journalists like GG; (4) standardizing and making public the approval times – in the GG article, Verizon’s is for 90 days, but I suspect that this varies; (5) enacting limits to which the NSA and other governmental organs can use this type of information and perhaps a higher approval level for certain types of uses; (6) requiring a periodic public report to Congress (and the people) about these programs and their effectiveness and what works and what doesn’t and what technologies have changed and how; (7) requiring automatic warnings upon sale and distribution of any technology that is susceptible to data mining and other types of ex ante disclosure; (8) requiring regular public testimony before Congress by the heads of the organizations doing the data mining; (9) requiring greater disclosure by the telecom companies to their customers about all front and back doors; (10) requiring the FISA court to make routine public disclosures; and (11) making the FISA court judges’ appointments confirmable by the Senate, thereby requiring public testimony.

    These are just a few ideas – maybe some of them are good. I don’t think abolition will ever fly, so something like these ideas may be the best one can hope for.

  160. 160
    different-church-lady says:

    @Poopyman: Unreasonable doesn’t matter if there’s no definition of privacy protecting the exchange.

    How we are to arrive at that definition might be one of the two big wake-up calls here.

  161. 161
    KCinDC says:

    Websites and e-mail are not the same thing

    @different-church-lady, agreed, but I would also say not all websites are the same thing. Some have an expectation of privacy, some don’t.

  162. 162
    Emma says:

    @KCinDC: I assume if the government wants them they can get them, which is a difference. If I want to keep something private, I avoid the internet like the plague. There’s an old saying about considering something secret if only one person knows it — two, if one of them is dead.

    I am a hell of a lot more concerned about the use they make of it. There seem to be very strict rules in Europe about how governments can use data collected and how long they are allowed to keep it. Also, I worry that the government is putting all its conter-terrorism eggs in one basket and the real “human eyes” work is being neglected.

  163. 163
    Emma says:

    @Jonathan: This is probably the most insulting thing I’ve read today — and I’ve read the T&H messages. Terri Schiavo levels of long-distance psychology.

  164. 164
    KCinDC says:

    @Emma, the government should not have free rein to look through email, listen to phone calls, or examine bank records whenever it likes. Of course there should be procedures (often warrants) for law enforcement to access those things when necessary. That doesn’t mean they’re not private, any more than your home is not private because the police may be able to get a search warrant.

  165. 165
    different-church-lady says:

    @KCinDC: Exactly. A further brainteaser: you and a friend run a private FTP site, with password protection. Nothing there is intended to be available for public viewing, and the files are encrypted. Yet the data runs through a number of public and private computers en route. Expectation of privacy or no? If it gets plucked from one of the relay computers, who’s property was it?

    To purport that James Madison saw this coming and had it covered is a sort of insult to our intelligence, but it won’t stop us from seeing 4th Amendment cut-and-pastes for the next 17 years.

  166. 166
    Bruce S says:

    The sad truth is that the intelligence agencies are as naive as some of us apparently are about secrecy in this day and age. Who the fuck would produce a “top secret Power Point presentation?” They are obviously having to train so many people at the level of data assessment – given the mountains of data inherent in this sort of meta-collection – that the idea of secrecy of any longevity in such a program is delusional.

  167. 167
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: But can his eyes follow a balloon?

  168. 168
    Emma says:

    @KCinDC: At least in the case of the phone records, they aren’t. They are collecting metadata, not content. If they see a sign of criminal/terrorist activity then they have to get a warrant for that.

  169. 169
    KCinDC says:

    I agree that there are many hard questions. I also think that as technology increases the amount of damage a small group of antisocial people (or a single wacko) can do, the balance may need to tilt toward more surveillance. But I think right now authoritarian thinkers in government, an overly fearful populace, and large corporations have pushed things too far toward the anti-privacy side.

  170. 170
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: Yet, interestingly, they got warrants for even the metadata. Although one can quite reasonably raise an eyebrow over just how thin the concept of warrant got stretched in that case.

  171. 171
    Bruce S says:

    @different-church-lady:

    This inherent aspect of current technology is why laws need to control lawful use and divulgence of information, and assume that the fact of simple access is beyond the scope of any regulation or control. I assume, for example, that if I’m talking on a cell phone it would be very simple for anyone with technological competence who was seriously interested to monitor me. I honestly have no idea whether that’s illegal since we’re talking about something that requires no physical intervention, like a wiretap on a land line.

  172. 172
    KCinDC says:

    @Emma, I was referring to your statement that “If I want to keep something private, I avoid the internet like the plague.” Lots of things are on the Internet, even things like phone calls and bank records that didn’t use to be. I don’t think that means they are not private. And even with “just” metadata, I still don’t think the government should be free to trawl through it whenever it likes.

  173. 173
    Keith G says:

    @Bruce S: So you have just said that even this current administration seems not to care about the letter of the law… for political reasons.

    And yet folks seem to be content with them collecting more and more information as they do their part to ratchet up our burgeoning surveillance society.

    Because they care about the law?

  174. 174
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @KCinDC: Could you give me an example of an authoritarian thinker in government versus someone overly concerned about keeping people safe? Not that I don’t think they exist, but there is a difference between the two types.

  175. 175
    Emma says:

    @KCinDC: Again, bottom line. There are three things that need to be done here (`1) repeal the Patriot Act (2) create a legal definition of “privacy” that fits this brave new world and (3) do some fairly serious work on electronic surveillance methods and what is legal and what isn’t.

    Now find me a Congress that will do it.

  176. 176
    LAC says:

    @KCinDC: And I hope that we can do serious eletoral damage to the assorted Congressional asshats that are polluting DC now.

  177. 177
    Keith G says:

    Anyway. Debating points aside, we must take the time to have a vigorous and detailed national discussion about what the right to privacy means, and what citizens want it to mean, in this new era.

    Such discussion and debates will end up being every bit as important as the debates we have been having over women and minority rights for the last century.

  178. 178
    Jonathan says:

    @Emma: @Emma: Insulting how, exactly? I certainly didn’t mean to insult you or anyone else. When someone says that they are so scared (and scarred) that they don’t care what is done to anyone, as long as they are safe, I feel great sadness and empathy for that person.

  179. 179
    Gian says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:
    you must never have been to new Hampshire.
    (live free or die on the license plates)

  180. 180

    So if we are to believe GGs Powerpoint on it’s face (as everyone seems inclined to do) then does anyone believe that the NSA is pulling all of this data out of $10B worth of data centers for a mere $20 million per year? (slide #2)

    And the reference to PRISMFAA is to a purchasing system for the FAA (slide #3).

    So, I’m not sure what of what has been reported is accurate or not, but I think this program is bullshit. The sheer volume of what they’re describing is enormous. They’re talking about spying on the largest datacenters on earth, which you can only do with even larger datacenters, which is unbelievably difficult to do and keep secret.

  181. 181
    ericblair says:

    @Keith G:

    So you have just said that even this current administration seems not to care about the letter of the law… for political reasons.

    I don’t think it was illegal what the IRS workers did, but against internal policy. Besides, this seems to be an irrelevant argument since from everything we’ve seen what the NSA did and does is completely legal. That’s the issue, and that’s why this falls on Congress.

  182. 182
    different-church-lady says:

    @Jonathan:

    When someone says that they are so scared (and scarred) that they don’t care what is done to anyone…

    That’s not really what he said, and it’s very clearly not at all what he meant.

    And this is a very good example of the kind of dishonesty in debate that moves us further from a solution instead of closer. And also a good example of why the vehement left disgusts me lately.

  183. 183
    Bruce S says:

    @Keith G:

    That’s pretty weak. No administration has cared about the letter of this law apparently – but an attempt to actually enforce a weakened regulatory interpretation was ginned into a scandal. You can’t go from arguing that the Obama administration or IRS or whatever is engaged in some kind of tyrannical targeting of people for political purposes to saying that the problem is that they aren’t turning on a dime and enforcing the law as intended in the midst of a phony media frenzy.

    If anything, at this juncture most of our problems are rooted in not enough tough government regulation directed at the politically powerful – and this includes such as Karl Rove’s phony “social welfare” facade. If anything the libertarian impulse that runs so deep in our country – and which I generally side with in terms of personal choices and behaviors – is a drag on effecting rational government policy for the common good. I am against the “military industrial complex” in any imperial sense, but I share concerns about monitoring potential terrorist activities and am not freaking out about this level of data collection of information that is in no sense anything I have ever assumed was secured in my home or on my person. I’m not that stupid, which I think is the problem with folks who make false assumptions about what is a very public and accessible space, whether one likes it or not.

    Regarding the general issue, there is certain content which one has a right to assume is secure, such as bank records. That is information where I would see lines being crossed if the government accessed it without a search warrant that had my name on it. But beyond stuff which purports to have a high level of protection, it’s just out there. For example, my Amazon account has password protection, but when I go on other sites, it’s obvious that activity on Amazon is being tracked and following me. I hate it – but it’s a fact of the internet. If I hated it enough, I wouldn’t shop or search on Amazon and I wouldn’t use google or frequent various sites for information or amusement. There is very little to no privacy on the internet. As it stands, it’s not about trusting government but trusting businesses – many of which are totally corrupt. In order to do business on the internet – or anywhere in the world for that matter – I need tools and access that force me to trust a corporation run by Jamie Dimon. If not him, someone who is just like him. How insane is that? Welcome to the 21st Century.

  184. 184
    ericblair says:

    @Bruce S:

    Who the fuck would produce a “top secret Power Point presentation?”

    Uh, everybody that needs to do a TS brief? These are produced on computers only connected to TS networks, and the TS networks are protected from networks at any other levels of classification. There are separate email systems at each classification level and electronic guards between them. Not that shit can’t happen, though it’s probably a lot easier to accidentally or deliberately compromise paper classified documents than electronic ones. The gubmint runs on Powerpoint, people. Be very afraid.

  185. 185
    different-church-lady says:

    @👽 Martin:

    So, I’m not sure what of what has been reported is accurate or not, but I think this program is bullshit.

    Although my inclination to defend GG approaches the value of the Zimbabwean dollar, “intellectual consistency™” compels me to comment that the ineffectiveness of the program has no impact on whether the principles the program is based on are correct or incorrect.

    Driving drunk is still a horrible offense, even if the thing you’re driving is a clown car.

  186. 186
    Emma says:

    @Jonathan: No you don’t. You’re putting your psychological reading in their mouths. And with a phony “poor you” smile.

    Nothing in what he said can be logically interpreted in the way you did.

  187. 187
    Bruce S says:

    @ericblair:

    Of course – there are probably tens of thousands of “top secret” Power Points and it’s evidence that “top secret” doesn’t mean shit. The entire classification system is delusional. There are too many people involved, too many computers, too many copies, too large of a network, etc. etc. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “protected network.” Information distributed at that level is asking to be leaked. Another reason that I don’t fear many of these “secret government programs” as much as some more hysterical than I think I should – they won’t stay secret for long.

  188. 188

    @different-church-lady: It’s not the effectiveness I question, but whether it actually exists at all as presented. The presentation refers to something at the FAA, not a spying program. It also says it costs $20M a year to operate, which is utter bullshit for something on the scale of what’s being described. Apple alone spent $3B on datacenters but the NSA can spy on that datacenter for $20M a year? Apple spends more than that on electricity. And they’re not even the big datacenter – Google and Facebook are even larger.

    Some aspect of this presentation that GG put forward is fabricated. I don’t know what, but what this presentation describes and what he describes cannot match. I don’t know which part of it is wrong, but I’m going to withhold judgement until someone sorts this shit out. I think someone is either leaking fake info to fuck with the press, or someone has created fake info in order to trap the NSA leaker.

    I could buy that this is a program to create a receiving system for data from these companies (everyone’s data schema is different) so that when a subpoena is issued that they can easily transfer the requested data to a system that is able to tie it all together. They’d need the assistance of the companies to create and maintain that schema. I’d buy that such a program costs about $20M to develop. But the system would be empty until individual records are loaded (one set per subpoena). There is simply no way they are doing mass data spying for $20M a year. No fucking way. That’s just fantasy.

  189. 189
    Emma says:

    @👽 Martin: Thank you. You just put your finger right on a sore spot that I didn’t even know I had.

  190. 190
    ericblair says:

    @Bruce S:

    There are too many people involved, too many computers, too many copies, too large of a network, etc. etc. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “protected network.”

    Ah, OK, that I can agree with, and most people within the national security community will, too. Too much overclassification means too many people involved means not knowing what’s “really” classified versus BS classification. Classification used as a bureaucratic stick to beat others with. Most classified information has a shelf life of days at most, as well, after which it’s worthless but still archived and tracked for decades. And you’d think that anything literally world-changing (like little green men or whatever) would get leaked by a lot of people.

  191. 191
    phil says:

    This is exactly why using the cloud is a bad idea for business as well as individuals. You don’t know who will get their hands on your data. Almost all of the cloud services have keys for any encryption they use for your data and don’t allow you to use your own encryption.

  192. 192
    RaflW says:

    It will get worse, though. Read James Fallows of late to hear about multi-hour detentions, without providing probable cause, of private pilots legally flying (often with flight plans filed, and the normal monitoring of the FAA).

    Sure this only hits a few dozen random people (maybe more, who knows the count??), but reading the descriptions of the holds and searches, its the natural extension of what the NSA and others are doing with our e-mails and phone records.

    You fly within a few 100 miles of Mexico (or talk on the phone about Mexico), boom! you’re a suspect yet no one has to provide a warrant, explain the search, nothing.

    Because of course if you’re innocent, you’ll be let go. After hours of being sweated. Or maybe one of these days a zealous dude doesn’t like your look and is tired of going back to the boss with another whiff. Hmmm, planted evidence, that never happens, right?

  193. 193
    Cassidy says:

    We are all in a database for discussing this.

  194. 194
    Keith G says:

    @Bruce S: None-the-less it seems to me that access to data and the algorithms that manage it will form a new dividing line between a powerful and the powerless, between the actors and the acted upon.

    The powerful, including the government, have gotten really good at using the legal system to herd the underclasses. Imagine how much more efficient they will become with access to even greater amounts of information. And don’t think they won’t eventually find ways to gain access to it unless we work together now to create some highly resistant bulk heads.

    That’s why I am less concerned about this series of episodes than I am about a future that is being built.

  195. 195
    different-church-lady says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Some aspect of this presentation that GG put forward is fabricated. I don’t know what, but what this presentation describes and what he describes cannot match. I don’t know which part of it is wrong, but I’m going to withhold judgement until someone sorts this shit out.

    Considering the GG track record, I think that’s a very wise position.

    I think the second worse possible outcome here is that the left creates their own version of “death panels summer”. There will be a greasy tar-ball of rage, made up of separate, ill-understood issues, deliberately conflated, and with a huge heaping of rumors, mis-reporting, and outright lies. All of which will completely obscure the underlying issues, which are very worthy of debate.

  196. 196
    Bruce S says:

    @Keith G:

    Keith – You can count on the fact that “the future that is being built” is way scarier than anything having much to do with this. And even more difficult to control at the individual level. Just saying…

  197. 197
    dianne says:

    The Repubs never complained when this was Bush’s program – now that it’s Obama’s they are incensed. This could be the best way of getting rid of the whole abominable Patriot act since they may be more willing to let it sunset. All the Tea Partiers and a few good Dems is all we need. Maybe this
    is just 11th dimensional chess to save our liberties!

  198. 198
    Jonathan says:

    @Emma: I don’t know who you think I am (psychology twice? Terri Schiavo? Phony smile? Huh?), but I was being honest.
    You say you’re a librarian, and that libraries have fought for privacy rights of their patrons when the world was paper based, but that the second you “login” everything is PUBLIC.
    Thing is, we’re talking about phone numbers, location and other details for 170M people who used their mobile phones, and in the next story, it’s Dropbox, Apple, and online storage of people’s personal data; and in the story after that, millions of credit card transactions. All perpetrated on millions of unsuspecting, innocent people. Not by a company with whom these people have a business agreement, but by a government, which has the power to financially destroy them, and imprison them, and deprive them of their lives.
    Yes, I feel empathy and sadness for people who have given up on freedom, and for people who say there is no such thing as privacy, and for people who would sacrifice others’ freedom in order to make them feel a bit less afraid.

  199. 199
    Jonathan says:

    @Emma: I don’t know who you think I am (Terri Schiavo? psychology (twice)?, phony smile? wtf?), but I was being honest.
    You say you’re a librarian, and that libraries have fought for the privacy rights of their patrons when the world was paper based, but that the second you “login” everything is PUBLIC.
    Thing is, we’re talking about phone numbers, location and other details for 170M people who used their mobile phones, and in the next story, it’s Dropbox, Apple, and online storage of people’s personal data; and in the story after that, millions of credit card transactions. All perpetrated on millions of unsuspecting, innocent people. Not by a company with whom these people have a business agreement, but by a government, which has the power to financially destroy them, and imprison them, and deprive them of their lives.
    Yes, I feel empathy and sadness for people who have given up on freedom, and for people who say there is no such thing as privacy, and for people who would sacrifice others’ freedom in order to make them feel a bit less afraid.

  200. 200
    different-church-lady says:

    @Jonathan:

    Yes, I feel empathy and sadness for people who have given up on freedom, and for people who say there is no such thing as privacy, and for people who would sacrifice others’ freedom in order to make them feel a bit less afraid.

    Nobody here said that either.

    You care to triple down? It might guarantee you kill your opportunity to have people listen to your point of view.

  201. 201
    Jonathan says:

    @Emma: I don’t know who you think I am (Terri Schiavo? psychology (twice)?, phony smile? wtf?), but I was being honest.
    You say you’re a librarian, and that libraries have fought for the privacy rights of their patrons when the world was paper based, but that the second you “login” everything is PUBLIC.
    Thing is, we’re talking about phone numbers, location and other details for 170M people who used their mobile phones, and in the next story, it’s Dropbox, Apple, and online storage of people’s personal data; and in the story after that, millions of credit card transactions. All perpetrated on millions of unsuspecting, innocent people. Not by a company with whom these people have a business agreement, but by a government, which has the power to financially destroy them, and imprison them, and deprive them of their lives.
    Yes, I feel empathy and sadness for people who have given up on freedom, and for people who say there is no such thing as privacy, and for people who would sacrifice others’ freedom in order to make them feel a bit less afraid.

  202. 202
    Jonathan says:

    @Emma: I don’t know who you think I am (Terri Schiavo? psychology (twice)?, phony smile? wtf?), but I was being honest.
    You say you’re a librarian, and that libraries have fought for the privacy rights of their patrons when the world was paper based, but that the second you “login” everything is PUBLIC.
    Thing is, we’re talking about phone numbers, location and other details for 170M people who used their mobile phones, and in the next story, it’s Dropbox, Apple, and online storage of people’s personal data; and in the story after that, millions of credit card transactions. All perpetrated on millions of unsuspecting, innocent people. Not by a company with whom these people have a business agreement, but by a government, which has the power to financially destroy them, and imprison them, and deprive them of their lives.
    Yes, I feel empathy and sadness for people who have given up on freedom, and for people who say there is no such thing as privacy, and for people who would sacrifice others’ freedom in order to make them feel a bit less afraid.

  203. 203
    Emma says:

    If you read for context you KNOW that’s not what litlebritdiffrnt was saying. But hey, keep up the empathic good liberal act. Have you ever asked yourself what you would do if faced with a real threat? A real, ongoing, battle with terrorists or with a government? Me, I live by the Father Brown method: first I put myself in their shoes and ask myself what I would do.

    And I never, ever, condescend to anyone.

  204. 204
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ericblair:

    Not that shit can’t happen, though it’s probably a lot easier to accidentally or deliberately compromise paper classified documents than electronic ones.

    You’ve obviously never accidentally hit the “reply to all” button on an email. It’s stupidly easy to accidentally compromise electronic documents, and even easier to deliberately compromise them — have you seen how small USB drives are these days? That’s way easier to conceal than a sheaf of papers, as Sandy Berger could tell you.

  205. 205
    ericblair says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    You’ve obviously never accidentally hit the “reply to all” button on an email. It’s stupidly easy to accidentally compromise electronic documents, and even easier to deliberately compromise them — have you seen how small USB drives are these days? That’s way easier to conceal than a sheaf of papers, as Sandy Berger could tell you.

    Just in case anybody’s still reading, that’s not how it works. Classified email is carried on a separate classified network, and anybody you’d reply-all to would be cleared for the email: you have separate accounts on separate networks for different classification levels. If you tried to forward the mail to an unclassified recipient the (electronic) guard would block it. If there is a spill, it’s probably because some dumbass has managed to attach a classified file from a disk or a scanner to an less-classified network. And USB drives are banned banned banned ever since that little Manning incident.

  206. 206
    Jonathan says:

    @Emma: OK last thought. He said “Having lived through the IRA terror era it never occurred to me to complain about having my bags searched when I went into a store or a public building, … I am cool with anything that results in me being not dead.”

    I was a soldier for 12 years, and I fought for my country. And you have the stoopid to ask me “Have you ever asked yourself what you would do if faced with a real threat? A real, ongoing, battle with terrorists or with a government? ”
    Um, yes, yes I have. Daily. Now, what about you?

    i guess what I can’t figure out is the number of people, who are under NO existential threat, sacrificing so cavalierly the freedom we fought for. I saw people die to protect it, and it saddens me greatly to see people throw it away as if it’s no big deal.

  207. 207
    keestadoll says:

    @Bruce S: “Does this extend to the government monitoring or data mining the content of emails on my personal account without a warrant that involves either me personally or some person I’m sending emails directly to. That is, frankly, the only aspect of this that I feel would violate my 4th Amendment rights.”

    PRISM specifically in and of itself, I don’t know. But I’m sure the Data Mining facility in Utah does that:

    From Wired.com March 2012:”

    “A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”

    http://www.wired.com/threatlev.....atacenter/

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