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The NSA: Never Not Watching

timothy posted about a year ago | from the nice-wolfie-niiiiice-wolfie dept.

United States 568

Trailrunner7 writes "For many observers of the privacy and surveillance landscape, the revelation by The Guardian that the FBI received a warrant from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to require Verizon to turn over to the National Security Agency piles of call metadata on all calls on its network probably felt like someone telling them that water is wet. There have been any number of signals in the last few years that this kind of surveillance and data collection was going on, little indications that the United States government was not just spying on its own citizens, but doing so on a scale that would dwarf anything that all but the most paranoid would imagine." And now the Obama administration has defended the practice as a "critical tool."

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I would have had a frsoty post (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43927899)

But the NSA intercepted the packets and caused a bit of latency..

Re:I would have had a frsoty post (0)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43927951)

Nope you succeeded. They Accelerated it along the tubes for you giving you first priority for your world changing views. Of course because you are just demonstrating their power and influence.

P.S. fuck this country, I was recently googling how to allegedly emigrate without "sanction" and where too. I hope they saw.

P.S.P.S. I know I am barred from participating in government, law, or military service. There is NOTHING I can do for you people except rant and troll and flame the fucking system.

Constitution (5, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43927911)

It's what authorizes legitimate government. Anyone think this is authorized? 4th amendment? Anyone?

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.

Re:Constitution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43927989)

I would like to ask that before anybody goes off on a pseudo-rage rant about this.... Take just a second and read about what must be done in order to use FISA data in a criminal prosecution of a US citizen.

Not that this whole situation is trivial... It's just not really as bad as some FUD mongers are making it out to be.

Re:Constitution (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#43928115)

Regardless, "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." This is a lot broader net than any constitutional warrant. I don't see anything in that clause describing this widespread of a search as valid for a warrant to be issued per the protections described in the fourth amendment.

Re:Constitution (5, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43928201)

NSA Warrant Submission:

Place to be searched: Verizon Databases
Things to be seized: Everything

--------------------

Warrant issued.

Your Friend,
Judge Rubberstamp

Re:Constitution (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43928303)

"no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation"

It's long past time to divest Judge Rubberstamp of his position. The government does not have probable cause for such a search.

Congressperson Rubberstamp should go as well. Unfortunately, the populace is stupid, and so we will continue to see such erosion of privacy based upon the flimsiest of disingenuous excuses.

Re:Constitution (-1, Redundant)

jmsp (1987118) | about a year ago | (#43928349)

Thank you for the healthy laughs I had. Wish I could give you "+5 Funny"...

PS: "Judge Rubberstamp" really cracked me up.

FUD is dead - fred (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928411)

I would like to ask that before anybody goes off on a pseudo-rage rant about this.... Take just a second and read about what must be done in order to use FISA data in a criminal prosecution of a US citizen.

Not that this whole situation is trivial... It's just not really as bad as some FUD mongers are making it out to be.

Ok FUD is dead. It's been so overused that it has no meaning - meaning, FUD is used as an implicit ad hominem now. OK?

Also,

Take just a second and read about what must be done in order to use FISA data in a criminal prosecution of a US citizen

Like what?!?

We have seen over the last few years the SCOTUS back up the cops just about every time. Ask me when they didn't, and I'd be hard pressed to find an example. For cases of where they OKay'd what the cops did just requires hitting the Slashdot "older" articles button at the bottom there.

We need to get into out heads that we need - MUST- question authority EVERY time and hold their feet to the fire.

Ask them WHY are you doing what you are doing and JUSTIFY IT.

Blanket statements of "War on Drugs" or War on Terrorism" or "THink of the Children" CANNOT and MUST NOT be an excuse.

Speaking as someone who voted for Obama - I am PISSED!

And to head off the "YOu should have voted for Romney" guys - Fuck you! It would be more of the same times 911. I was HOPING that the BLACK dude would stick to the MAN but he IS the MAN.

Re:Constitution (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43928005)

If Verizon agreed to hand over the records (as it appears they did), there's no 4th-amendment violation, at least under current Supreme Court interpretations, because the records are considered to be owned by Verizon (not you), so their consent is sufficient. They're the ones that have a 4th-amendment right against unreasonable search & seizure of their records. So if Verizon refused to hand over the records, that would be another story.

Re:Constitution (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43928139)

If Verizon agreed to hand over the records

Verizon got informed that they were required to comply, I don't think there was much room for them to disagree.

When someone comes to you with a National Security Letter (or whatever they're called), you don't even have the legal right to tell someone about it without facing (probably secret) charges.

But, I gotta say, you make it sound even more depressing -- we're not spying on you, we're asking them to provide us with information about you.

Re:Constitution (4, Insightful)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about a year ago | (#43928313)

They may choose to disagree with a NSL, and go to court, of course. But being a "free country", corporations are not obliged to do so. They simply have no clear moral or legal responsibility to protect their corporate property, such that you will feel happy about your privacy.

Really, this is nothing. What about the corporate-owned property called your credit card records? That is up for sale, it is only not easily available because the banks know this stuff is valuable, and they plan on getting their piece of the big data-informed commerce pie by holding tight. But they are allowed to sell it to the gov't for nothing, if they so choose.

Re:Constitution (0)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43928389)

Well then let's class-action lawsuit them into hell.

Re:Constitution (2, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43928343)

"Would you please provide X" is not an "ask" when it is followed by a directly associated "or you'll go to jail."

Re:Constitution (5, Insightful)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#43928263)

They didn't agree, they were forced. They were even advised that seeking a lawyer's advice before complying would be a crime.

You got to wonder, if they had quietly refused, what would have happened to them? After all, trying them in public could compromise the secrecy of this order. Even punishing them would be tricky, you couldn't tell anyone why you were doing it. What would the family get to hear? "My son the Verizon employee is in prison for disobeying unspecified secret orders"? or simply "One day, my son disappeared at work and hasn't been seen since" ?

Is that the future in the US? It is unless they change course on these insane secrecy demands, because it's simply not possible to implement without such measures as soon as anyone stands up to it.

Re:Constitution (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43928317)

If Verizon agreed to hand over the records (as it appears they did)

Coercion is not "agreement."

Re:Constitution (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#43928017)

My first question would be WHY do these have to be SECRET? If there's a legitimate need for the government to access them then why not be open about it?

Fascism begins when the efficiency of the Government becomes more important than the Rights of the People.

Re:Constitution (2, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#43928301)

Because telling Bin Laden the date and time we were coming for him probably isn't a good idea?

Some things must be secret. A perfectly open democracy wouldn't get a lot done - just look at Congress and ask yourself why a lot of the stuff that *does* get done is primarily negotiated in closed rooms.

There needs to be a balance and I fully agree that balance is wildly off after 9/11. Too many judges aren't telling the Gov't to f'off when they play the 'national secrets' card. Congress is *supposed* to have oversight of the FISA court, but as noted above, grandstanding on all sides renders that pretty ineffective.

Re:Constitution (4, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year ago | (#43928367)

just look at Congress and ask yourself why a lot of the stuff that *does* get done is primarily negotiated in closed rooms.

That's exactly the problem.

Re:Constitution (1)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#43928381)

Because telling Bin Laden the date and time we were coming for him probably isn't a good idea?

Seriously? You think that the NSA had metadata on bin Laden's calls? But not the content of those calls?

Re:Constitution (4, Insightful)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#43928307)

They see public opinion as just another battlefield. Truths that may lead the people to oppose "necessary" action, e.g. wars, will be suppressed. Government embarrassment is a grave threat to national security that cannot be tolerated.

They've dug themselves so deep into authoritarianism that they see no safe way out, and so they just have to keep digging.

Re:Constitution (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43928021)

IIRC courts have ruled in the past that metadata does not require a warrant. Of course, this brouhaha might create some political impetus to change that.

Re:Constitution (0)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43928077)

Back when the courts ruled this it was hard to collect that metadata on every single person on the planet.

Now it seems like its a possibility. Or at least large swaths of the population. And to easily rank and filter it by association. Making useful maps of who doesn't like who were they live and how they are organized. Making shit like IRS targeting be able to go far beyond single non-profit organizations.

There is a fucking blacklist blackballing anyone from employment in this fucking country. And unless you are lucky and the small guy who is barely struggling to hold on to their business has room for you you are FUCKED. Or unless you have very specific skills like construction or are part of your own good o'le boy network.

People who aren't networked. Low skill or unskilled. And generally have not fucked up, but are looked down apon by the "Bilderbergs" are fucking screwed and tatood.

Might as well give everyone gold fucking stars to wear on their shirt collars.

Re:Constitution (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928031)

...particularly describing the ... things to be seized.

But, it's not seizure if they just take a copy (just like it's not theft if I just download a copy ;-)

Re:Constitution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928061)

The problem with this situation is that none of the things being seized fall under 'persons, houses, papers, or effects'. The items in question are technically the data logged by a business describing the operation of their systems. The fact that this data pertains to the persons and their effects is inconsequential, as they are not the ones recording or in possession of the data.

Re:Constitution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928179)

Great argument. Be sure to bring that up when the system collapses. It's bullshit and anyone defending the practice is part of the problem. Whatever, I don't have kids. Good luck for those that do. Looking your children in the eye, knowing that you let the country they were born into turn to crap. Feel good about yourself.

Re:Constitution (1)

jameshofo (1454841) | about a year ago | (#43928093)

It has nothing to do wtih your rights because they're requesting it from a company that holds the information about you, kinda like the information VISA holds on your transaction data, you may have bought and paid for that but you dont ownt he info....

Re:Constitution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928383)

supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I the President, affirm under Oath, that someone, somewhere is probably doing something illegal and the entire country, the people in it and their electronic data will be reasonably searched.

Re:Constitution (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#43928441)

I don't even understand why any of this is necessary to debate. Isn't the CIA and NSA forbidden from spying on American citizens? How are we even overlooking this, you know, pretty fucking primary element and just jumping on to other defenses?

zionists and nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43927915)

run the world

and they want to know everything about you

seems all the politicos are in favor (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43927931)

And now the Obama administration has defended the practice as a "critical tool."

Not only is the Executive branch in favor, but there's strong bipartisan support in the Legislative branch: immediately after this leak, both parties' ranking members on the Senate Intelligence Committee (Dianne Feinstein for the Democrats, Saxby Chambliss for the Republicans) held a press conference [washingtonpost.com] to defend the necessity of this kind of dragnet surveillance, and to claim that it's not a big deal since it's "just" metadata.

Re:seems all the politicos are in favor (5, Informative)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#43928337)

From that article:

This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

Lawful is not the same as Constitutional. I'm pretty sure that our Founding Fathers would NOT have supported this.

As you know, this is just metadata.

If it is "just" anything then why are you so concerned about collecting it?

The information goes into a database, ...

That's even worse. They're COMPILING information about citizens without even having a "reasonable suspicion" about those citizens.

... the metadata, but cannot be accessed without whatâ(TM)s called, and I quote, "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity.

Who cares? If there is "reasonable, articulable suspicion" THEN you go after the records. With a WARRANT. And the warrant IDENTIFIES those SPECIFIC people you have a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" of.

As you know, and Iâ(TM)ve pointed out many times, there have been approximately 100 plots and also arrests made since 2009 by the FBI.

Go on ...

I do not know to what extent metadata was used or if it was used, but I do know this: ...

If YOU do not know then who DOES know?

And if YOU do not know then YOU should not be trying to IMPLY that there is any link between collecting this information and cracking any plots.

I do not know to what extent metadata was used or if it was used, but I do know this: That terrorists will come after us if they can and the only thing we have to deter this is good intelligence.

More of our people die when their own family kills them than die from "terrorists" in the US.

If "the only thing" that will protect us from these "terrorists" is collecting information on our own citizens then I am willing to take that risk.

Re:seems all the politicos are in favor (3, Interesting)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#43928357)

This is why I'm in favor of states' rights.

Obama and Bush are both good people. We handed them power based on the assumption that they are good people. But what if the next President, or the one after that, or the one after that, is the next Hitler or Stalin in waiting?

The more powers we remove from our truest balance on the federal government, the individual governments of the many states and the well-known freedoms of the people, the more likely we prepare a power that can enslave us all or wipe humanity off earth.

The states need to stand up to this and enact constitutional change, in order to provide recourse against such acts and logistically enable that power to be used.

Re:seems all the politicos are in favor (3, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#43928365)

I want Dianne Feinsteins metadata, then. Shouldn't be a big issue, after all Malte Spitz [www.zeit.de] did it, and we didn't find out anything about him... except just about everything he did.

And even that was just the position data. It did not include who he called, it was just a simple newspaper (with limited resources) doing it, and it was not cross-checked with every other person in Germany.

call from tea partiers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43927943)

and republican donors, and climate skeptics, keystone supporters, etc.
And you thought Bush was bad, jokes on you.

Double plus good! (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43927947)

Seriously, I thought it was fairly common knowledge that the NSA had a 'who knows who' database sense before AT&T was broken up.

No matter how careful you are about not leaving tracks the government knows about who you are by who you regularly call.

For example, I've never been arrested. But the government knows I'm not a stinking law abider because, basically, none of the people I'm in regular contact with are god damn law abiders.

Re:Double plus good! (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43928111)

For example, I've never been arrested. But the government knows I'm not a stinking law abider because, basically, I exist and I'm not one of them.

FTFY

Re:Double plus good! (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43928371)

Even law abiders, can't. But they are trying, I'm not. I simply don't care, except to the extent I can get caught. Therefor I go in column B.

Obama? (3, Insightful)

Dripdry (1062282) | about a year ago | (#43927955)

Yeah, I think we know who the tool is.

Re:Obama? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928019)

This was almost what I posted. I figure it takes a tool to know a tool...

So much for freedom ... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43927963)

As someone who frequently gets accused of having the tinfoil hat on a little snug, this is pretty much the worst case scenario.

"We're going to monitor everything, and maybe we'll get lucky" -- and how long before the technology progresses to the point that they can come back and say "hey, we see from phone records you called this alleged drug dealer 5 years ago, so we'll be charging you".

If this isn't about as Orwellian as you can get, I don't know what would be. Give up all your freedoms so we can make sure you keep your freedom is a joke -- Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace.

America is quickly ceasing to be free. And I'm pretty sure this doesn't pass Constitutional muster -- everything nowadays is driven by "we have an opinion which says this is ok, so we're going to do it".

Re:So much for freedom ... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#43928397)

As someone who frequently gets accused of having the tinfoil hat on a little snug, this is pretty much the worst case scenario.

Your hat is still a bit snug. Worst case? Hardly. "Record all conversations between all US subscribers and anyone they call, as well as location and time, and provide that with subscriber names and addresses..." would be worse. "Secretly activate their camera and record video of them making the call..." would be a next step up.

"hey, we see from phone records you called this alleged drug dealer 5 years ago, so we'll be charging you".

With what? Making a phone call is not a crime. Five years ago? What's the statute of limitations on making a phone call in your universe? If the call was long distance, they've had this ability for decades. If they dump the data for the drug dealer, they'll see your call information. Have many people been arrested for making a phone call yet?

Now, that information may have been used to trigger an investigation of your contact with that drug dealer, but a simple phone call ("he advertised a bike on Craigslist ...") is not illegal.

what to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43927965)

The real question is now if the American people aim to do shit about it.

Re:what to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928173)

No. Who wants another Tianaman square in front of the capitol? The president won't even be there. He'll be golfing with his rich buddies. He'll get a txt on his fucking iphone about it and delete it. Someone will have a speech prepared for him for when he gets back, which he'll gladly get payed to orate.

Re:what to do (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43928359)

its ok, if he deletes the text it will still be available to him apparently!

Re:what to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928193)

F*ck off. I'm busy eating and watching American Idol.

That's it! (2, Insightful)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year ago | (#43927979)

We, the voters have a choice. Either start supporting ONLY politicians who fight back against this suppression of our Constitutional rights, or our Republic is doomed.

Today is the 64th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's 1984. Support candidates who fight that suppression. Rand Paul is looking really good for 2016.

Re:That's it! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928089)

Shut up Randroid. Nobody cares about you.

Re:That's it! (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#43928169)

Rand Paul is looking really good for 2016.

I don't care for his free-trade fundamentalism, but at some point civil rights and liberties must take precedence over economic concerns (a job doesn't make one happy if it's in a hard-labor camp). I'm as glad to have had an opportunity to vote for him as I have been to vote against our senior senator.

Re:That's it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928419)

Rand Paul is looking really good for 2016

Is he running on the "Bat Shiat Crazy" ticket again?

Re:That's it! (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43928427)

You have the wrong attitude. Throw that "Republic" shit out. This is New Europe and we need 50 little states, not another Roman Empire (failed) or German Empire (failed) or Mongolian Empire (failed) or French Napoleonic Empire (failed) or Oceanic Empire (failing). Look at the European Union (failing) and you'll see the same shit.

Critical tools (5, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#43927981)

If our government believes throwing out the Constitution is what it takes to protect our nation from terrorist threats, I'm less scared of the terrorists than I am of the government.

Re:Critical tools (5, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#43928403)

You should be a lot more afraid of the government than of terrorists. Your probability of being affected by a terrorist attack is approximately zero (odds of being killed by terrorists are about one in 20 million [washingtonpost.com] for Americans). Your probability of being affected by your government is approximately one.

To clarify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43927985)

These have been requests for massive packets of communications from phone number to phone number, who is calling (or texting) whom. It is not the content of the messages. What is dangerous is whether they are confined to what they can do with that information, IE can they find out about frequency of my calls to my 900 number mistress and leverage/blackmail me? There are things that could be done with that information that I trust they do not intend, but nevertheless may allow to get out.

Critical Tool (5, Interesting)

gewalker (57809) | about a year ago | (#43927987)

In this case, the "critical tools" are Obama, Eric Holder, or who-ever is behind this large-scale invasion of privacy. I know plenty of people (mostly liberals) complained when the warrant-less wiretaps happened under Bush. It appears that these are considerably larger in scope.

Useful for detecting bribery (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43927991)

Now that this information is known to be collected, it should be subject to subpoena. One application is to detect bribery of politicians by correlating who they talk to, who they get contributions from, and their voting records. It should be possible to statistically demonstrate corruption with a specific confidence level using Bayesian statistics.

Politicians need to be informed of this option.

Leak (1)

nullchar (446050) | about a year ago | (#43928063)

Would be rad if someone leaked this, then we could all take a peek instead of just The Watchers.

Re:Leak (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928165)

I wonder, has anyone tried a FOIA request for it.

You wont get it, but it would be entertaining just to get a response on it.

Even a series of FOIA requests for the information on select individuals.

NSA or FB? (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#43928011)

I've heard people say repeatedly that complaints about privacy make little sense in the age of Facebook. After all, the line goes, when people willingly share so much about themselves on the internet why should the government requesting phone logs matter? You've nothing to hide, do you? At least, nothing you've not already shared on Facebook.

I've never joined Facebook because I find the whole system rather intrusive. But these days, being on FB is so expected that you can't even arrange an office party without having to confirm on FB. At some point it becomes a great inconvenience not being on FB. If I didn't dislike the hassle of FB (or its corporate) I might now even be willing to entertain the opposite of the above argument: When the government so regularly spies on all of your activities, no matter how private you might deem them, why should joining Facebook matter?

Re:NSA or FB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928413)

NSA is facebook and google. Those tools have uncovered a unheard of cornucopia of interdependencies. This is every dictators wet dream.

I guess it all boils down to, do you want to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Do you root for the underdog? Do you belong in a herd? Are you a rebel? Do you value your freedom and privacy?

As you say, it's baffling how you can't even take a shit these days without having a failbook account. Governmental organizations have fb pages, churches, NGOs and of course private enterprises.

But this all just means we have to fight back harder. We have to make noise, raise a stink. Point out the problems. We have to lead by example.

I don't have a failbook account and I use no google's services. You can too. Please do, for your sake and mine.

Be Paranoid, be very paranoid... (3, Insightful)

pubwvj (1045960) | about a year ago | (#43928013)

Because frankly, it isn't paranoia.

Assume all communications are open to government, and corporate, snooping unless you're whispering in someone's ear, and pssst... between you and me, I don't trust you.

Re:Be Paranoid, be very paranoid... (2)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43928213)

Thats not the problem. The problem is that our taxpayer money is going to the funding of this project and its being done by the wrong assholes and we are SANCTIONING it.

There's a difference between a crooked street and a crooked street with a crooked cop on every corner that you were TAXED to fucking pay for. They have better places to spend this money. It is not keeping us safe. It is dividing the American public against each other and making people extremely pissed off and paranoid.

It is costing you an arm and a leg. They had to build this into the infrastructure and regulate it and certify it. And they PAY people to do this to you. This isn't just some random interception because communications were insecure. It is a planned attack.

The real Critical Tool (-1, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#43928015)

Anyone who voted for Obama (or any Democrat) instead of Libertarian or Green.

Thanks suckers!

Re: The real Critical Tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928067)

Yeah, thanks for being anti-Republican bigots assholes.

Re:The real Critical Tool (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#43928091)

The "instead of Libertarian or Green" is a saving grace. It would be naive to suggest that voting (R) rather than (D) would get you anything different.

(Full disclosure [why not? NSA knows it anyway]: I'm registered as an (R) so I can vote in primaries in my red state, but I've never voted (R) in a presidential election. I cannot justify voting for either head of the beast, as much as I might loath whichever one is in power at a time.)

Of course it's a critical tool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928025)

...but for what diabolical purpose? That's the reason to be concerned.

Spending (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928027)

The ultimate goal of any police state is merely to justify more spending and expand the business of government. Power and control are merely the stepping stones to riches, not a goal in itself. Many people have trouble accepting this, because they focus on the injustice and assume that injustice is the goal. Or they focus on the power and control and assume that power and control are the goals. Or they focus on the failures and assume that the "intentions" are correct but the "implementation" is wrong.

On the contrary, intentions are the smokescreen, power is the stepping stone, injustice is the "collaterage damage", and money is the goal.

Don't worry - be happy! It's only metadata! (4, Insightful)

mveloso (325617) | about a year ago | (#43928037)

Metadata isn't data - it's data about your data. So it's not really subject to protection, because it's not what you're doing, it's information about what you're doing. It's not an illegal search, because we just want to know about what you're doing, not what you're actually doing. OK?

It's not like we're listening in on your calls, we're just watching to whom and when you call. I mean, it's not like we're doing a database join to find out who's on the other end of the call. That would be an invasion of your privacy. It's just their phone number, IMEI, network identifier, and the start/end geopoints. That's OK. I mean if your parents were at home they could see your phone bill and see who you called too. So we're like your parents that way. We would't give that data to another agency either. Well, unless they asked for it. But they probably won't do that.

So you see, you really have nothing to worry about. It's not a violation of your rights, it's a strengthening of your rights. Because like other government agencies, we only have your best interests at heart. Well other agencies that aren't the IRS. But you know what I mean.

Re:Don't worry - be happy! It's only metadata! (1)

Silver Surfer 1 (193024) | about a year ago | (#43928227)

The article says that Verizon telecommunications (landline/internet) was the company handing out the meta data. Verizon and Verizon wireless are 2 separate company's. The pre paid is a spin off as well.

There is no confirmation that Verizon wireless has handed out any meta call data to date. That being said I would imagine that all telecommunications company's have handed over everything the government has asked for in my opinion.

Critical tool, eh? (1)

Pollux (102520) | about a year ago | (#43928043)

I would consider the 4th Amendment a critical tool as well. I guess it's just a matter of choosing which tool is right for the job.

A police state, the USA ? (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#43928045)

No, not yet. A surveillance state already ? Sure enough.

How NSA was able to do this (5, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#43928053)

they joined the Verizon Share Everything plan.

Apropos picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928081)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/expd/8964398709/

But it worked pretty well (4, Insightful)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about a year ago | (#43928105)

This large scale surveillance bullshit has been so useful against terrorism that nothing happened in Boston.
They've built something which is demonstrably (unable || unwilling) to do its job.
Whatever they say its job is.

Re:But it worked pretty well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928361)

My thoughts exactly. But if it was a Republican running for political office or a conservative non-profit applying to the IRS for tax exempt status, they'd find the information. Terrorists like Tsarnaev Bros? NAH.

You are actually not that special (-1, Troll)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about a year ago | (#43928117)

Read the subject title. Memorize it. Meditate upon it. Realize that even if people are watching you, they are probably bored stiff because you aren't actually that interesting. Move on with your life.

Re:You are actually not that special (4, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#43928253)

Of course they're bored stiff. That's not the point. My boring life is my own. I'm no man's slave; no man's property. Yet with so much surveillance over people, control becomes possible. We become an increasingly servile state as we become a police and surveillance state. Not because we're necessarily doing anything wrong, but precisely because we are watched. The whole world becomes Foucault's panopticon.

Re:You are actually not that special (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#43928267)

And then some false flag gets tripped and suddenly you're a public enemy. Because computers are never wrong. Especially theirs.

Re:You are actually not that special (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928385)

they are probably bored stiff because you aren't actually that interesting. Move on with your life.

How about I turn that around on you then? Why bother watching me if I am so dull? Why spend my tax dollars on it? Why is my phone company spending money to do this (in effect me paying for it with an upcharge on my bill at some point). In the off chance they might catch someone? Shouldnt these warrants be very narrow on what data to ask for and which data to get?

It is almost the same mentality as DRM and games. You are going to steal my game so I am going to make your computer suck so I can make sure you do not steal it. Yet the real people who want to get away with this sort of thing do it anyway.

The limits of trust (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#43928121)

And now the Obama administration has defended the practice as a "critical tool."

I might be willing to believe that if they would explain what they are doing and why and do so like we are all adults. Instead we get nonsense like the TSA claiming that someone is somehow going to blow up a plane with 4oz of liquid but it would be too dangerous to actually explain and details of this improbable threat to our safety. Frankly I just don't find their explanations (when they bother to provide them) satisfactory and so I'm forced to conclude that they are not acting in manner consistent with appropriate respect for my civil rights.

If there is a genuine threat out there I expect our government to explain what they are doing and why in terms that a reasonable adult can understand. I'm willing to extend some amount of trust to our elected leaders but that trust has very sharp limits and is contingent on continued evidence that they are behaving in a rational and respectful manner. I've seen rather little of that in recent days.

Re:The limits of trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928431)

That's the thing that really scares me. At least Hitler told everybody that he was going to do before he did it. Now they don't even tell you why they are amassing all this power.

Re:The limits of trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928435)

Unfortunately *our government* is the genuine threat.

Hope and Change Really ? (0)

Crashmarik (635988) | about a year ago | (#43928127)

OH my dear lord the only saving grace this administration has had is the laughter factor. Being able to laugh at all his supporters takes some of the edge off the miserable times he has perpetuated upon this nation.

Just for those that voted for him and reflexively hate Republicans.

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

Ronald Wilson Reagan-January 20, 1981

Re:Hope and Change Really ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928243)

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

-George W. Bush
http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040420-2.html

Conservatives and Gov't Snooping, Baffled (1, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43928147)

I'm curious why the vocal Tea Party doesn't trust the government on anything else, but doesn't seemed particularly bothered by the govt's growing domestic snooping. (Yes, they give it a passing mention every now and then, but never seem to push for change.)

I'm not criticizing here, I just want to know their reasoning on that. Are there any Tea Party members or defenders here who can comment on that?

Re:Conservatives and Gov't Snooping, Baffled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928249)

It's because they've been gutted and co-opted such as to only be vocal about the things that don't matter/won't change. Both pro-oligarchy parties (R/D) want this, so it's happening and anyone with a mainstream mouthpiece is keeping quiet, lest they lose their job.

Re:Conservatives and Gov't Snooping, Baffled (1, Redundant)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43928401)

you are forgetting that the tea party has been silenced by the IRS... I wouldnt call myself a member by any means but i am on their side most of the time. There is zero excuse for this.

Re:Conservatives and Gov't Snooping, Baffled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928407)

Tea Party people are cool with anything so long as you frame it in the context of national security?

Surprise Surprise (4, Insightful)

fuzznutz (789413) | about a year ago | (#43928163)

"As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. "This renewal is carried out by the FISA court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress."

Finally, the truth wins out. All of us "gun lovers" have been trying to tell everyone that Dianne Feinstein is anti-freedom, anti-civil-rights, ant-privacy, and anti-American.

Re:Surprise Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928433)

Finally, the truth wins out. All of us "gun lovers" have been trying to tell everyone that Dianne Feinstein is anti-freedom, anti-civil-rights, ant-privacy, and anti-American.

SO you're going to shoot the messenger and vote for the people who started it again?

Once again (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a year ago | (#43928167)

Subjugation masquerading as protection. It's always the same, even if your cultural identity is based around worshipping the constitution.

They told me (1, Redundant)

AntiBasic (83586) | about a year ago | (#43928187)

They told me if I voted for Romney, we'd see this sort of thing... and they were right.

Don't beat them, join them!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928203)

Let's pool together and ask Verizon for the exact same data and see what happens. As the recent legal hack to get Indian test scores shows, the public processing and dissemination of data can be more effective tool for positive change than any private or secret analysis.
Our government - BY the people, FOR the people, OF the people.
Remember folks, WE ARE the people! That's our data they're playing with, and they are supposed to be working for us!

And? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928221)

AT&T was proved to be doing this years ago when that AT&T engineer blew the whistle. They ALL do it. Everything you do online is watched. Has been for decades.

The elephant in the room (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43928293)

These agencies were able to do all this through a secret court with a gag order. Why do they have a secret court available? What else can they request at this secret court? Black bags over suspected terrorist's heads?

Prediction: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928295)

I predict that the US will still be known as "The land of the free" (TM) long after it is anything but. Good luck to you. Good luck to us all, as we're probably not far behind...

Obama (5, Informative)

codepunk (167897) | about a year ago | (#43928327)

"You've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems," Obama said. "You should reject these voices. Because what these suggest is that somehow our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can't be trusted."

The suppressive minority do not rule the world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928335)

The suppressive minority do not rule the world.

Faith versus Reason (4, Informative)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about a year ago | (#43928353)

Some news sources have speculated that this program was related to the Boston Marathon Bombing [npr.org] . However The Washington Post [washingtonpost.com] sys that

... the order appears to be a routine renewal of a similar order first issued by the same court in 2006. The expert, who spoke on the condition
of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, said that the order is reissued routinely every 90 days and that it is not related to any particular investigation by the FBI or any other agency.

This particular order was classified as Top Secret/NoForn/SI. The routine nature of the order was likewise highly classified.

Ordinary people-- those not initiated into the orders of nobility associated with "clearances"-- cannot select their government based on real, verifiable information. They have no means to judge the effectiveness, or lack of effectiveness of their political candidates. Instead, they must have faith that their government is either incompetent, or competent.

Do you believe that your government is doing its best to protect you? Surely its effectiveness would be diminished if carefully guarded secrets like this got out, and were use by enemies of the nation and of the state?

Do you believe that the government is doing its best to cynically exploit the security apparatus for its own political benefit? Surely this is but the tip of the iceberg. Were it not for classification, the entire enterprise would be exposed as a cesspool of corruption and criminality.

But in the absence of good solid, reliable data, both of these viewpoints can be freely adopted by any voter who chooses to have an opinion on the matter. Instead of a mass of peoples carefully using their judgements to select the good leaders over the bad, the entire electorate, kept in ignorance, has been reduced to flipping coins.

Government, it seems, is to important to be left to the governed.

Maybe It's Necessary (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43928429)

But secret? No, I don't think so. Surveillance on this scale should be the subject of public debate.

Otherwise they don't have consent of the governed.

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