Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Reach Out and Touch Someone"

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Remember that old jingle from the phone company? Guess today, it has a whole new meaning!

Dame Maggie over at Maggie's Notebook, has an excellent article on the latest breaking news in the NSA eavesdropping debacle:
NSA: They’re Listening In, Reading – WITHOUT Warrants – WITHOUT Breaking the Law

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.” If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee…

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

I noted there: The most disturbing part of this to me, is not that an analyst has the power and authority to eavesdrop on phone calls texts and emails without a warrant, for the sake of pursuing terrorists. What person in their right mind would try to eavesdrop on billions of calls from millions of people, many of which consisted of instructions to bring home milk, pick up Billie from soccer practice and OMG! Did you see the way that boy looked at me??!!??

But, as we learned with the IRS, these powers would then be subject to governmental and political abuse. "Enemies" of a particular party or those opposed to big government in general could be targeted, and it is the potential for abuse that is the most disturbing.

Most people have, perhaps a false sense, an expectation of privacy in their communications, whether it be phone, email or snail mail. No one expects the Postmaster to steam open letters at random to see what you had to say. Because intercepting electronic communication leaves fewer fingerprints, it may be a more insidious means of snooping.

The other expectation that people have, is that if the government suspects them of wrongdoing, there is a prescribed set of laws that govern the circumstances in which that privacy may be violated.

For the government to eavesdrop on presumably private conversations without a warrant, even for a supposedly good cause, is to turn the expectation of privacy, confidence in the rule of law and trust in government on their head.

Congress needs to act quickly to end these abuses.


  1. Most of us are aware that "snooping" is a necessity if we are to remain out of radical jihadists' crosshairs. However, ALL OF US, INCLUDING LIBERALS! KNOW THAT THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION AND ITS SUPPORTERS AND FOLLOWERS ARE AMORAL, which means snooping has taken on an entirely new meaning.
    The question is, can we count on Congress/Senate to actually act on our behalf, or is this just another football game?

    1. Espionage of one form or another has been around before there was a USA. But there have always been rules and protocols to observe.

      I might be tempted to buy the "ends justify the means" argument, if this administration had not already proven that they are willing to abuse power for the sake of political gain and if our current Attorney General wasn't such an incompetent scofflaw.

  2. Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive! - Sir Walter Scott,

    need to check some stuff...

    1. From the sound of it, I take it Sir Walter isn't employed by the current administration?