Friday, June 14, 2013

The NSA and the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

We've all seen the cop/ courtroom dramas, right, where a typo on a search warrant, or an overzealous police officer finds conclusive evidence of a person's guilt, but because a proper warrant wasn't served, all of the evidence discovered on that search, and even evidence that was discovered later as a result of the search have to be excluded from trial as inadmissible? Keep that in mind.

The NSA has been keeping records on...everybody it seems. Without any of those pesky warrants that civil libertarians and Fourth Amendment seem to call for. Defendants of the administration and the status quo, tell us that it's only "metadata", that no one is actually listening to our calls, so it's no big deal! (It disturbs me slightly that I had never really heard the term “metadata” before last week but yet, my spell checker has no problem understanding it at all!)

But, is it? A big deal, I mean? One proponent tried to compare the metadata to...the Dewey Decimal System. They go into your library, but don't read any of the books. They just copy down the Dewey Decimal information from the spines of the books. And they tell us that all they're only looking for "patterns". See? Harmless? One question: who gave you permission to go into my library? If you entered someone's house without a warrant, and you discover a "pattern" of books that looks suspicious, then you want to go out and get a real warrant and see if you can prosecute that person. But even if they found a copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, Earth in the Balance, Mein Kampf and Bill Ayers' autobiography, "Guilty as Sin, But Free as a Bird", the pattern is a result of the initial illegal search. And who determines what the pattern is? Or how many different patterns you look for? One for Islamofascists and another for Tea Party contributors to Ted Cruz? There may be a pattern in someone's books, but unless they invite you into the library, you're limited to what you can see through the window.

But, this "metadata" is just being broadcast into the air, isn't it? So, just anyone could pick it up? Well, for starters, no. My phone company has the infrastructure and, by the way, my permission to collect that data as a means of providing my cell phone service. However, when I was signing up for my last cell phone, I don't remember checking any box that said, "Do we have your permission to share your data indiscriminately with any government agency that requests it?" Did you?

There is an expectation of privacy with the people I do business with. If I were suspected of a crime and the government wanted to subpoena my financial records, they could see what I have been charging on my Visa, Am Ex and Mastercards. But, absent a warrant, I expect my financial records to be as private as my phone.

Some of us even expect our email to be private! Well, don't you know, they tell us, that even the Post Office scans and photographs every piece of mail, front and back that it handles? No expectation of privacy there! Well, for starters, no, I didn't know that! But still, my expectation of privacy is that anything on the inside of the envelope is safe from prying eyes...of course, unless you get a warrant first! Knock yourself out reading my postcards, but the content of letters is supposed to be protected by federal law. Which used to mean something in this country.

And it is true that Google and other providers of "free" email accounts scan the emails searching for key words, for advertising purposes. But, it's obviously an automatic system, because some of the ads that appear, based on certain keywords are almost comical. So why, an advocate for the devil might ask, do you object to the government doing something similar but for a nobler purpose of keeping us all safe? Well, Google doesn't have the power of government to come after me if I email a history buff about the "pickle switch" on the WWII Norden bomb sight (Yikes! There's that word!), and I don't click on a corresponding display ad for Vlasic pickles, which pops up.

And it seems to me that an important component of the metadata is being downplayed, and that is the ability to know exactly where your cell phone is every minute it is turned on. If you're silly enough to carry it with you at all times, oddly enough, they'll know where you are, too!

Cell phones constantly "ping" the nearest tower, whenever they're turned on, because, they’re basically insecure. (Think of them as unweaned puppies, or Democrats!) That's why all the savvy bad guys on TV take the batteries out of their cells or throw them away, so they can't be tracked. So, as you, Joe or Jane American, sit there in your bedroom or study, Somewhere, USA, and make a call, the phone company (and now the government) knows exactly where you are, because it knows what towers you are using. You get in your car and drive to SomeOther Town, the phone company knows which towers you are passing and which towers are at your point of arrival. They obviously do it for billing purposes, and compare the aggregate number of minutes you used, on all their towers, against your monthly plan. The phone company really doesn’t care which towers you use, so long as they get paid. Where you are when you make your call is part of your “metadata”. I wonder if those who say they are not bothered by this have considered the implications of Big Brother knowing where you are at all times?

For instance, I have one of those Fastrak toll transponders on my car. Every time I cross a toll bridge, it records where I am, what time I went by and charges my account. By my choosing. If I don’t want it to talk to anyone, I can lock it away in a small box, far from the light of day, HBO, and human contact. A few years back, Cal Trans wanted to do a traffic flow survey, utilizing the transponders that so many Bay Areans (Aryans*?) had in use. There was quite a hue and cry against it. Even though the survey was reportedly benign in scope (“That’s what they always say,” –my black helicopter* guy), a majority of people did not want the “government”, or anything like it, following their every move. The government accessing your metadata is like that survey, only on steroids.

We are told that all of this benign data of every number you call and every number that calls you and where you are when the calls take place will somehow help them in the war against terror. The fact that Obama wants to declare that war over and go back to the Bill Clinton model of treating terrorist acts as law enforcement problems, which didn't deter the second World Trade Center bombing after they put the bombers for the first on trial, is seemingly irrelevant. Call a terrorist mass murder "workplace violence" and, you've pretty much got it covered!

Which brings us back to the fruit of the poisonous tree. If Obama, his administration, and Kool-Aid consumers everywhere want to treat acts of terror as simple law breakers, and give Miranda rights to those you catch, using some pattern or formula they will have to give to defense counsel under discovery, don't you have to explain why you were in their library looking at their books?

At the first World Trade Center bombing trial, the defendants used the discovery process to learn how their communications had been intercepted. Don't you think the attorney for the first defendant, if any, brought to trial as a result of this data mining, wouldn't ask how his client came to the attention of the government in the first place? Can you say, "Exclusionary rule"?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Like Obama voters in 2008!

*Yikes, again!

Cross posted at LCR.


  1. good concept - I have link to you

    This photo blog explores the leaking concept of data mining and online profiling with Edward Snowden, Lindsay Mills, George Takei and Benjamin Franklin. Plus one sexy spy, Anna Chapman has come to visit

    1. And I've got you linked in the Best of the Web.

  2. I left this at Left Coast Rebel. Thank you for this article.
    "I am going to post this at PP - well, that doesn't look so neat - Proof Positive, then.
    This is spot on. I was so po'd with the disturbance in my yahoo mail Library that I changed my address to gmail. Doesn't help much, of course, but there are no pop-up ads, especially that ugly troll face used as a subliminal messenger! Lordie, how I hated that.
    The disclosure of the use of metadata, new for me, too, is appreciated. At least now we know that our data is being collected, in real life. And stored somewhere, in real life.
    If it were only a question of Homeland Security, I don't think I'd be adverse so much. But, that is not what happened to some of the data. The IRS used a certain type of information and skewed the elections. It was done deliberately.
    The troll used a certain type of information and stole the election.
    And someone out there, Clapper, Alexander, Muller, or whoever, wants me to believe that no one is looking at the info? Somebody needs to check the water cooler.
    On Thursday, Bret Baier did a segment on Prying on Eyes, in which someone laid out the process of how the data was mined by Dem election workers in order to manipulate certain voters. It was done in the AFL-CIO building.
    Someone had access to the necessary information, and went for it.
    I have changed my mind. When someone uses information collected by an entity and then uses it to foil and bring down our country, which is being done right as I write this, then NO! NO! I don't want my info collected.
    A couple of years ago I was on Facebook, and left. I tried to delete myself, and couldn't. My being a member even for a short time, was used as a number when the IPO was made two years ago. I was used. My person was manipulated, and I was po'd.
    I have tried to find that segment of Special Report for 6.13.13, but can't. I believe that when people really, I mean REALLY look at this segment and see what the possibilities are for tanking this country, it's vomit time!
    I'm not good at op-eds, or I would hunker down and scratch one out, so I leave it to others, but the more people read yours, and respond and pass them along, maybe some of those manipulated uninformeds will actually pay attention. The subhuman inhabiting our White House is a very bad specimen.
    I am thanking the person in the IRS who began this adventure into the malfeasance of big government, and the subsequent discovery of the poisonous activities of not only the IRS, but also the collection and use of information to steal a National Election.

    1. "If it were only a question of Homeland Security..." Even then, it might be dubious, but understandable. But with an administration that is demonstrating the largest abuses of power in the nation's history, coupled with the fact that all their "pattern searching" failed to thwart the Boston Marathon bombers, among others, and Obama's own assertions that the "war" on terror is winding down, where is the need to collect billions of pieces of information on hundreds of millions of Americans?

    2. BTW, that Special Report may be here: , but it's broken up into 30 sec. clips.

  3. Linked in my latest Proof.


    1. Thanks, Maggie! Readers, if you've read don this far, then click over to Dame Maggie's piece: NSA: They’re Listening In, Reading – WITHOUT Warrants – WITHOUT Breaking the Law,

      It just keeps getting worse.

  4. I think we underestimate just how closely we are watched by the government. Of course, they are doing it for our own good, what with all the terrorists running around, blowing things up. I sure am glad they watch the right-wing conservatives closely. Especially those Tea Party folks. You never know what they are going to do next.

    While they are doing that, they conveintly forget the fact that the majority of terrorist attacks in the entire world are perpetrated by Muslim males, ie. Islamic terrorists. But never mine them, the government is busy watching the Tea Party.

    1. I don't think the government is watching us too closely. But, then, Eric Holder did send me an email about the typo in my last comment!

      I understand that mosques are specifically excluded from government surveillance programs. Wouldn't want to "profile" or anything dastardly like that!

    2. Yes, they are specifically excluded from surveillance, unless it is approved by a special committee within the DOJ.

    3. Do you recall the tune the British pipers played at their surrender at Yorktown? "The World Turned Upside Down".