• Tag Archives PRISM
  • Obama Speaks with Forked Tongue on Surveillance

    It’s bad enough the federal government spies on us. Must it insult our intelligence too?

    The government’s response to Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s secret monitoring of the Internet and collection of our telephone logs is a mass of contradictions. Officials have said the disclosures are (1) old news, (2) grossly inaccurate, and (3) a blow to national security. It’s hard to see how any two of these can be true, much less all three.

    Can’t they at least get their story straight? If they can’t do better than that, why should we have confidence in anything else that they do?

    Snowden exposed the government’s indiscriminate snooping because, among other things, it violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and he had no other recourse.

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Snowden should have used established channels to raise his concerns, but there are no effective channels. Members of the congressional intelligence committees are prohibited from telling the public what they learn from their briefings. Two members of the Senate committee, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, for years have warned — without disclosing secrets — that the Obama administration is interpreting the Patriot Act and related laws far more broadly than was ever intended by those who voted for those pieces of legislation. Their warnings have made no difference.

    A court challenge wasn’t open to Snowden either. Glenn Greenwald, who published Snowden’s leaks in the Guardian, notes that for years the ACLU has tried to challenge the surveillance programs in court on Fourth Amendment grounds, but the Obama administration has blocked the effort by arguing that the ACLU has no standing to bring the suit. It’s a classic Catch-22. Since the surveillance is secret, no one can know if he has been spied on. But if no one knows, no one can go into court claiming to be a victim, and the government will argue that therefore the plaintiff has no standing to challenge the surveillance. Well played, Obama administration.

    Full article: http://reason.com/ar … rked-tongue-on-surve


  • 3 Reasons the ‘Nothing to Hide’ Crowd Should Be Worried About Government Surveillance

    Responding to a popular reaction to news of the National Security Agency’s massive data collection program, blogger Daniel Sieradski started a Twitter feed called “Nothing to Hide.” He has retweeted hundreds of people who have declared in one form or another that they are not concerned that the federal government may spy on them. They say they have done nothing wrong, so they have nothing to hide. If it helps the government fight terrorists, go ahead, take their civil liberties away.

    In his blog, a frustrated Sieradski listed many of the abuses of power our federal government is known for; he is not happy with the “nothing to hide” crowd.

    There are many, many reasons to be concerned about the rise of the surveillance state, even if you have nothing to hide. Or rather, even if you think you have nothing to hide. For those confronted by such simplistic arguments, here are a three counterarguments that perhaps might get these people thinking about what they’re actually giving up.

    1. Every American Is Probably a Criminal, Really

    That Americans think they have nothing to hide in the first place is a sign of how little attention they’re paying to the behavior of our Department of Justice. Many Americans have run afoul of federal laws without even knowing it. Tim Carney noted at the Washington Examiner:

    Copy a song to your laptop from a friend’s Beyonce CD? You just violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Did you buy some clothes in Delaware because they were tax free? You’re probably evading taxes. Did you give your 20-year-old nephew a glass of wine at dinner? Illegal in many states.

    Citizens that the federal government wants to indict, the federal government can indict if it monitors them closely enough. That’s why it’s so disturbing to learn that the federal government doesn’t need to obtain a warrant on us in order to get our emails and phone records.

    Attorney Harvey Silverglate even wrote a book about it, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. The Department of Justice has been notably and egregiously using federal laws to destroy lives. Former Tribune employee Matthew Keys is facing federal charges and possibly prison time because he gave his old password to a member of Anonymous, who changed a headline at the website for the Los Angeles Times. The vagueness of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes violating a website’s terms of service a possible felony. We’re not just referring to government websites. All websites. Given the digital focus of the PRISM program, everybody should be concerned about what could potentially happen should that data end up in the hands of federal prosecutors.

    2. The Federal Government Has Abused its Surveillance Powers Before

    While most Gen Xers were still very young and before any Millennials were born America went through similar controversies in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal. In 1975, Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) put together a committee (which would eventually be known as the Church Committee) to investigate abuses of the law by intelligence agencies. Abuses included spying on leftist activists, opening and reading private mail, and using the IRS as a weapon. Sound familiar? There’s a reason why Baby Boomers have started comparing Barack Obama to Richard Nixon. The value of doing so has been lost to the ages; everything politically awful that happens in America is compared to Tricky Dick.

    The defense that the current secret NSA/PRISM data collection plan can only target foreigners in foreign territory shouldn’t settle anything, even if it’s actually true, because that’s just a description of how the plan is currently being used, not how it might be used tomorrow or under the next presidential administration. And we have absolutely no way of knowing that the description of how the program operates is true anyway, because the oversight has been hidden from public view. We do know that a court ruling in 2011 determined that the U.S. government had engaged in unconstitutional behavior in its surveillance program, but the Department of Justice is trying to block Americans from seeing this court ruling and understanding what happened. We’re supposed to trust this oversight. We know they’ve broken the law once, but we don’t know what they did, what’s stopping it from happening again, what harm was caused, and whether there was any sort of

    3. Government Is Made of People, and Some People Are Creepy, Petty, Incompetent, or Dangerous

    While the federal government is arguing that all this massive metadata being collected by the National Security Agency is subject to significant oversight and not subject to abuse, it is at the same time trying to blame the IRS targeting political and conservative nonprofits for special questioning as the actions of rogue employees and poor management.

    You don’t have to be a privacy purist to be concerned about bad or dangerous people getting information about you. Some of them work for the government, and they may be interested in you for reasons that have nothing to do with politics. Even if you have nothing to hide.

    Full article: http://reason.com/ar … hing-to-hide-crowd/2