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New Bill Would Declassify FISC Opinions

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the have-a-look dept.

United States 130

Trailrunner7 writes "A group of eight senators from both parties have introduced a new bill that would require the attorney general to declassify as many of the rulings of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as possible as a way of bringing into the sunlight much of the law and opinion that guides the government's surveillance efforts. Under the terms of the proposed law, the Justice Department would be required to declassify major FISC opinions as a way to give Americans a view into how the federal government is using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Patriot Act. If the attorney general determines that a specific ruling can't be declassified without endangering national security, he can declassify a summary of it. If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret."

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130 comments

I can see it now... (4, Interesting)

coId fjord (2949869) | about 10 months ago | (#43994053)

If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

That's just pathetic. Give them the opportunity to hide their wrongdoings and that's exactly what they will do. The "national security" excuses need to stop.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994121)

Your position is no better than "We can't tell you anything", just on the opposite extreme.
National security is no mere excuse.

Re:I can see it now... (4, Insightful)

coId fjord (2949869) | about 10 months ago | (#43994205)

Your position is no better than "We can't tell you anything", just on the opposite extreme.

Actually, assuming that the government is doing wrong is much better.

With that said, I only meant that they use that excuse to cover up their wrongdoings, not that there's never a legitimate threat. Problem is, the ones who decide it's a matter of national security seem to love abusing that little power they have.

Re:I can see it now... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994665)

National security is no mere excuse.

Yes it is. National security only matters to the extent that the people say it matters, since the purpose of government is to do what the people want. If the people say that their right to privacy is more important than national security, then it's more important than national security, and that's all there is to it.

...and that's not even what people are saying. All we're saying is that there are surely better ways to protect national security than spying on everyone, and that the NSA should concentrate its efforts on methods that don't involve violating the bill of rights.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996261)

"...since the purpose of government is to do what the people want."

No, it isn't. Not the US govt anyway. The purpose of our govt is to secure our lives, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That's it. You can read the document yourself - I forget what its called but it basically sets down for anyone to read it why our govt was established and what authority it has to carry out its job.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 10 months ago | (#43997817)

The governments position is that the American public is too stupid to understand the tradeoff's, and will make the wrong choice, therefore they must be kept from making the decision.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43997953)

Well, it is true that the American public is incredibly stupid, but that doesn't justify the government's evil behavior.

Re:I can see it now... (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 10 months ago | (#43995107)

How come we've only needed that excuse in times of war, and the last 12 years?

Re:I can see it now... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 10 months ago | (#43998491)

There might be an answer for that.

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES. [gpo.gov]

(a) In General.--That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

That document was issued after this series of events:

1996 Bin Laden's Fatwa [pbs.org] - Text of the fatwa, or declaration of war, by Osama bin Laden first published in Al Quds Al Arabi

1998 Bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya [nytimes.com] - 224 dead, est. 4,000 injured, both embassies heavily damaged

2000 Photo: USS Cole [washingtonpost.com] - Video USS Cole [cbsnews.com] - 17 dead, 39 injured, major damage to destroyer

2001 9/11 attacks [telegraph.co.uk] - 2,973 dead. Two skyscraper towers destroyed, heavy damage to Pentagon.
Estimated damage to US economy: ~ $100,000,000.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

ggpauly (263626) | about 10 months ago | (#43996073)

Your position is no better than "We can't tell you anything", just on the opposite extreme.
National security is no mere excuse.

Not only is it no mere excuse, it's often an outright lie, for example when it was argued to the US Supreme Court, and first upheld by that court, that a State Secrets Executive Privilege exists in the constitution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Reynolds#Subsequent_declassification_of_documents [wikipedia.org]

Do something people! You, do something!

Re:I can see it now... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 10 months ago | (#43998553)

National security is no mere excuse.

Not only is it no mere excuse, it's often an outright lie,

Tell it to the dead and their families.

2001 9/11 attacks [telegraph.co.uk] - 2,973 dead. Two skyscraper towers destroyed, heavy damage to Pentagon.
Estimated damage to US economy: ~ $100,000,000,000.

Re:I can see it now... (5, Insightful)

nip1024 (977084) | about 10 months ago | (#43996385)

America runs on a series of checks and balances: congress can create a law and the president can sign it or override it with a veto; if the president vetoes it, then an overwhelming vote in congress can override the veto; if a bill is passed in congress and the president signs it into law then the supreme court can still strike it down if it isn't constitutional; and if all of these things fail, Americans can vote people into office whose ideas are more closely aligned with their own.

However, if the American people are denied the very knowledge that their government is acting in a way anathema to the interests of a free society, we cannot make a knowledgeable decision when we vote. The penultimate check and balance Americans have at their disposal will be based on opinions created with misinformation or no knowledge at all of what their chosen representative's are actually doing.

The American public cannot be left in the dark and still make informed decisions when we choose the people to represent us in government.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994127)

If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

That's just pathetic. Give them the opportunity to hide their wrongdoings and that's exactly what they will do. The "national security" excuses need to stop.

Exactly. All of this secrecy is the result of self-importance that those in the government feel about themselves. We, in the USA, need to get back to where we have the attitude that the government serves the people. The president is an employee, not a king. That's true for the Congress as well. Somehow, they've all forgotten that they're not special. Any American can do their job. All of this secret service protection has made them cowards.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

thereitis (2355426) | about 10 months ago | (#43994287)

How about forced declassification of any policy/program involving more than, say, 5000 people. That way actions on targetted individuals stay secret but actions on a populace (local or foreign) must be made known.

Re:I can see it now... (2)

nextekcarl (1402899) | about 10 months ago | (#43994477)

I like that, but how do you count the people involved? If they were targeting Bin Laden but wanted to wire tap someone here in the US to get intel and there are 3 phones believed to belong to that person, but 1 of then in a household with 5 people living there and one is a pay phone, how many people are involved in that? 1? 1 plus however many people they call or get called by? 6? 6 + people called? I think that kind of metric would need to be worked out in detail because beforehand because they will use it against this sort of thing.

And the FBI routinely ignores requires that are difficult to comply with (or at least used to). I recall a news story back several years ago about a requirement that after a certain period of time they were (maybe not now, I have no idea) required to notified people who had their conversations recorded after a certain period of time if charges were not brought against them. In the case of payphones, they didn't know how to contact most of those people, so they did nothing. They didn't post a sign at the payphone, made no attempt to contact the other end of the call (they had the number dialed at least) because they said it was too troublesome. I had no idea the law just allowed them to ignore portions that were too troublesome to deal with.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994635)

Made even more egregious by the fact that somehow, the Attorney General of the United States is STILL Eric Holder, even after he dropped voter intimidation charges because, and I'm paraphrasing here, "This voter intimidation isn't as bad as previous voter intimidation" (Guess which party the voter intimidation favored?), he gave guns to Mexican Drug Cartels, was held in contempt by the US Congress (Seriously, how bad do you have to be for CONGRESS to hold you in contempt?), and on top of that, has completely and utterly failed to prosecute a single bank for any of their numerous crimes and justified it by saying that prosecuting the banks could bankrupt them and threaten the economy. Seriously.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our current Attourney General, Eric Holder!

Re:I can see it now... (1, Informative)

tnk1 (899206) | about 10 months ago | (#43995055)

Maintaining operational security is an excellent reason.

However, I agree that this catch-all heading they call "National Security" isn't the same thing. It's more like a label for getting away with covering things up.

I am NOT in favor of what Snowden did, and I think he should be tried, and if found guilty, sent to jail for what he did. Nevertheless, there is a culture of slapping a classification on stuff that doesn't need that sort of classification. And there is a tendency to hide behind that classification. That needs to stop.

If something actually needs to be Top Secret, then it does need to remain protected, but that sort of classification needs to be reserved for something that either will risk lives, or substantially give away capabilities that we have which no one at all knows about. And let's face it, if you were surprised about any of these "revelations", I am not sure what cave you have been living in since the 1970s. Everyone knows what the NSA does and basically how they do it, especially the Chinese and Russians, but certainly the terrorists too.

Hold leakers responsible for their actions, but fix the classification system too.

Re:I can see it now... (4, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 10 months ago | (#43995155)

It was classified because spying on all of America was illegal regardless of the three letter group doing it, but especially the NSA.

Is it illegal to break classification on something that is illegal?

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43997469)

It was classified because spying on all of America was illegal regardless of the three letter group doing it, but especially the NSA.

It was classified because it was politically unpopular. I don't see any reason it wasn't legal. NSA can't target Americans without suspicion. No one was targeted. Everyone was spied on. NSA can't listen to the content of calls without suspicion. Only the "outside of the envelope" was looked at. The phone company can sell this information to anyone they want. What numbers a phone called and for how long is not considered private information.

Don't get me wrong, I believe this should be illegal, but it isn't and there are many court cases allowing this kind of thing.

By the the way, they can also get credit card records. The companies sell them, so they aren't private.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 10 months ago | (#43997555)

No one was targeted. Everyone was spied on.

No one was targeted except everyone? Yeah, that's illegal. Thus, classified.

Also, metadata is just as valuable as actual data, if not moreso. Which is why they collect it.

Re:I can see it now... (2)

coId fjord (2949869) | about 10 months ago | (#43995213)

I am NOT in favor of what Snowden did, and I think he should be tried, and if found guilty, sent to jail for what he did.

Why? I appreciate it very much when people reveal our government's wrongdoings. I don't believe it should be a crime if a whistle blower reveals that the government violated the very same constitution it is supposed to uphold.

Re:I can see it now... (2)

chiefmojorising (114811) | about 10 months ago | (#43996699)

I can't help but agree. What he did certainly damaged the government but I don't see how the *citizenry* or the union itself has been substantively damaged -- quite the opposite, in fact. Our rights aren't subject to abrogation by arbitrary laws; they are inalienable. What the government has been doing may be "legal" only by virtue of passage of laws that are in direct conflict with the Constitution. As far as I'm concerned those laws aren't valid -- the Constitution has supremacy.

Snowden's releases so far have been quite targeted, not the same firehose of the Manning releases; I do put them in different categories. What he's released pierces straight into the heart of tyranny, though I expect all it'll take is an Extra Special Episode of Honey Boo-Boo and the public will forget all about this and put their heads back in the sand. I fear that the longer we let things like this go on the less opportunity we'll have to check it without bloodshed, but then I'm something of a cynic.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

tnk1 (899206) | about 10 months ago | (#43998255)

In the military you have the right, even the duty, to refuse an illegal order. However, when you refuse an illegal order, your superior may not agree and have you punished. If that happens, you then you demand a court-martial to resolve the issue and that is where you can be acquitted with honor. And a court of law is where this belongs.

If Snowden thinks what he did was legal, he needs to turn himself in and fight this one in court. If he knows what he did was illegal, but he thinks he did "the right thing", he still might want to fight that one in court to let it get out.

Right now, he's not hiding because there is a crack assassination squad looking for him, he's hiding because he broke the law and he knows it.

The reason that these hurdles exist is so that the law is maintained. If the law is not enforced, then anyone who finds it fashionable to leak stories like this will be inclined to do so. I do believe that laws about classified material exist for a good reason, even if I think we need to classify with more care.

Leaking should be the last step, not the first one. In this case, I don't believe that this was his only option for getting this in front those who could change things. I can certainly be wrong, but I don't I am.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43998587)

and that is where you can be acquitted with honor.

lol

And a court of law is where this belongs.

A kangaroo court is where it would end up.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 10 months ago | (#43998629)

What Snowden should have done from the start was to go to the Inspector General, and then to Congress if he had a concern.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

coId fjord (2949869) | about 10 months ago | (#43998695)

he's hiding because he broke the law and he knows it.

I honestly couldn't care less if he broke the law or not; that is not my concern.

If the law is not enforced, then anyone who finds it fashionable to leak stories like this will be inclined to do so.

And the ones who don't actually reveal any wrongdoings would be punished. There is no problem there; we have too many secrets as it is.

In this case, I don't believe that this was his only option for getting this in front those who could change things.

Really? At every opportunity they refuse to give out any information; court rulings, decisions, and even the existence of various programs. There wasn't much else to do.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

tnk1 (899206) | about 10 months ago | (#43998735)

As someone pointed out, there are Inspector Generals, there is Congress itself, which he believed the NSA was lying to.

If Congress was really being lied to, don't you think they want to know about it?

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43997827)

No, it's not an "excellent reason".

The whole anonymity of large hierarchies and groups is a pillar of the growing trend of willful dog-eat-dog anti-sociality. If a politician had to look his constituents in the eyes while doing what he does, he could never be that much of a dick. Nobody of us would. They would kick his ass!
Nations, companies and the like only exist, because we didn't have the ability to do it right. They are crutches.
Nowadays, with our computers, we can easily create dynamic webs of trust, liquid direct democracy, with all the bells and whistles! A skilled programmer would need less than a month to create the core software. Including formal testing (think quickcheck2) and a rock-solid design. I know, because I'm studying this for more than a decade now. The core concepts fit into a 100-300-line Haskell module. (Depending on the boilerplate.)

The whole concept of "nations" and similar large groups is not valid anymore.
We need to find who we *personally* trust again. And who to trust on who to trust. Etc. Our tribal villages have become too big, and we all seem to have forgotten that personal trust must be the case for our rulers too.

And there is no such thing as trust in somebody you can't look in the eyes or punch in the face.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

tnk1 (899206) | about 10 months ago | (#43998353)

If I made an honest decision that annoyed someone easily enraged, do I now have to deal with being beaten up by that person? Ridiculous.

I'm all in favor of local government where ever it is possible to use it, but you've completely lost me when it comes to brutalizing people who make decisions. All that means is that the guy who can protect himself best gets to do what he likes.

Congratulations, you've reinvented feudalism.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995777)

There should be different types of national security considered as well. Financial security (the country doesn't spiral into debt that it can't get out of), educational security (in that the next generation has a bright future ahead), and I'm sure you can think of more. Security against terrorists should be just one aspect of national security.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 10 months ago | (#43998213)

If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

That's just pathetic. Give them the opportunity to hide their wrongdoings and that's exactly what they will do. The "national security" excuses need to stop.

So do you think there is no reason to be concerned about protecting critical intelligence sources and methods, or the identities of informants? Once those are compromised they may lose some or even all of their value. No reason to be concerned about helping foreign powers and terrorist groups identify gaps in security and opportunities to exploit? Do you think America's adversaries should know exactly what American intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies will and won't do? Why provide the enemy shortcuts in planning an attack?

Since 9/11 there have been a number of attacks and attempted attacks [slashdot.org], and hundreds of arrests and convictions for terrorism related offenses, including both planned and attempted vehicle bombings intended to inflict mass casualties.

Communist China also has more than 3,000 front companies [bloomberg.com] in the US for gathering intelligence. Should they get to read all the inner details about American surveillance operations to better avoid detection and steal even more American secrets?

What value do you put on the lives of ordinary Americans?

I don't think you have this right. National security isn't just an "excuse." It helps keep Americans from being killed by the hundreds and thousands.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

coId fjord (2949869) | about 10 months ago | (#43998643)

So do you think there is no reason to be concerned about protecting critical intelligence sources and methods, or the identities of informants?

Not overly concerned, no.

Since 9/11 there have been a number of attacks and attempted attacks

Very few people here care, you'll find; I certainly don't.

What value do you put on the lives of ordinary Americans?

Less than I place on freedom and privacy. Whatever happened to being home of the brave and land of the free? If we want to live up to that, shouldn't we at least give the appearance that we're willing to die to preserve our freedoms?

Besides, no one here thinks that nothing should be done about terrorism. They should use methods that don't involve violating the constitution or violating just about everyone's privacy; both of those are ridiculous, and it's bad that they gathered all that data to begin with.

In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994065)

Make it look like you are doing something without actually doing anything. Typical congress.

As many as possible. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994073)

"We worked as hard as we could, here's what can be declassified: [list] [/list]"

Re:As many as possible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995609)

Actually, it's going to be a long list with lots of meaningful information:
Approved
Approved
Approved ....
Approved

a nice step but, won't change anything (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994083)

This won't change cases that are not brought to the court, which is where most of the sausage is made.

Re:a nice step but, won't change anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995351)

Agreed. This administration has already shown that it will expand on the already questionable acts that the previous administration used after 9/11. They are taking the most liberal interpretations they can of what the law means to justify their actions. I have no doubt that they feel "National Security" will allow them to side step this law as well.

Explain... (4, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 10 months ago | (#43994099)

If the attorney general determines that a specific ruling can't be declassified without endangering national security, he can declassify a summary of it. If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

And such explanations would probably look something like this: "Opinion number M-9458985 needs to be kept secret because [blacked-out] which is a very serious allegation that has been confirmed by [blacked-out] and [blacked-out] as well as the following independent intelligence sources: [blacked-out]. If this opinion were to be made public it could easily have the following horrible consequences: [blacked-out]"

Re:Explain... (4, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about 10 months ago | (#43994169)

More importantly, the law needs to be changed so that without the warrant, that specifically names the persons and places to be searched and the things to be seized they can't compel a search. What the NSA finds that's already in the open (e.g. a public profile on Facebook) is fair game. No warrant required because it's not an invasive search. But if they want your email or phone call records, they shouldn't be able to compel a search without a warrant that names you, issued upon probable cause that your email contains evidence of a specific crime. The 4th Amendment is really clear and Americans never gave the NSA or the FBI or anybody else permission to ignore it.

Here's hoping (2)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 10 months ago | (#43994275)

A law that makes clear that a person's phone number is a unique identifier, and ALL data relating to it is personal data as defined by the 4th Amendment would probably achieve this - though given the ability of lawyers to find holes, it may be too much to hope for.

Re:Explain... (1)

DworkinLV (716880) | about 10 months ago | (#43997421)

Unfortunately what will happen is this: Named person: Everyone Items to be searched: All Meta-data on phone calls See, they named the group to be searched, and what is to be searched. I know you meant specifically name the people, etc... But this is what will probably will continue to happen. Look at what has been defined as PII (Personally Identifying Information), it is narrowly defined. Never mind that the information combined together can make it fairly easy to identify who the records are attached to. I mean come on, how many people in zip code 89101-4523 have Fibromyalgia, Gout and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome #1 and have Blue-Cross Blue shield as their insurer. You aggregate the data together and combine with other Databases and voila, you can usually pick out a high percentage of patients.

Re:Explain... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 10 months ago | (#43998703)

I believe that legally, the phone records aren't yours, they are they are owned by the phone company. So the government isn't searching you, they are searching the phone company.

How many NSA staff are on Slashdot? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994115)

I see the rules on spying on Americans changed, with the argument that *some* non-Americans might be in America, hence we need to spy on all Americans.

I also see people push that agenda here, a bizarro world agenda IMHO.

So I believe that NSA limits on cyber-propaganda have been removed with the same argument.
i.e. "Foreigners are on slashdot, and our job is to promote our agenda to foreigners, so we can promote it on slashdot!"

Is that correct? We found out you guys were spreading propaganda, but we had 'assurances' it wouldn't target America. Now all 'assurances' are worthless it seems.

How many of you are there? How many mod points have you used pushing NSA agendas how many comments have written. Feel free to use AC, but as you know AC isn't AC these days.

Re:How many NSA staff are on Slashdot? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994309)

You're totally right when you say AC isn't really AC these days Piérre. Btw, how's the weather in Paris? And what about that rash you were having last week? Best regards.

Re:How many NSA staff are on Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43997609)

Me next. What's my name and location?

How many sock puppets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994437)

Here I've found the link, where the military put out a quote request for sock puppet software, that would let an operative pretend to be 10 fake people:
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505124_162-43448728/so-why-does-the-air-force-want-hundreds-of-fake-online-identities-on-social-media-update/?tag=bnetdomain

(I see from the CBS news article, that they read Slashdot)

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/rep-peter-king-calls-for-arrest-of-glenn-greenwald-freedom-of-press-cherished-but-no-right-is-absolute/
I see Congressman Peter King threatening journalists with prosecution if they publish any more leaks. From this I know there are more leaks. You don't threaten journalists, if that is the totality of the scary news and threatening journalists won't make squat difference to the data Snowden has. If he leaks it, it won't matter if Wastington Post publishes it or not, unless its politically bad for you.

I see GCHQ similarly threatening journalists if they print more leaks (only in a more polite British way):
http://www.andmagazine.com/content/phoenix/13003.html

Go on, be a hero, leak. And if you don't know why, take a look at Peter King and choose sides.

Re:How many sock puppets? (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#43994499)

What's really sad is he knows no such prosecution is possible (barring journalists offering bribes, for example) yet his impulse is to jail journalists.

The founding fathers had their flaws, but people should kneel to their presience. Imagine the loopholes modern politicians would insert in a constitution to allow themselves trump power over freedom of speech, religion, and so on.

Re:How many sock puppets? (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about 10 months ago | (#43994557)

You need far fewer sock puppets if you place them at the right centrality [wikipedia.org] positions in the network. It makes COINTELPRO so much less expensive than actual agents.

It's bad you would need metadata from enough people and a supercomputer in Utah capable of crunching huge matrices to figure out where those places are.

Re:How many sock puppets? (1)

cffrost (885375) | about 10 months ago | (#43996159)

I see Congressman Peter King threatening journalists with prosecution if they publish any more leaks. From this I know there are more leaks. You don't threaten journalists, if that is the totality of the scary news and threatening journalists won't make squat difference to the data Snowden has. If he leaks it, it won't matter if Wastington Post publishes it or not, unless its politically bad for you.

[TL;DR [youtube.com]]: Following King's call for Greenwald's prosecution (based on King's allegation that Greenwald had threatened to leak the identities of CIA operatives, etc.), Greenwald was interviewed by Anderson Cooper — Cooper stated that they could find no quote or other evidence for King's allegation, and Greenwald said he believed that King has either fabricated or hallucinated Greenwald's alleged threats.

If King can't even be bothered to fact-check his own bullshit claims that he uses to call for further violations of the Constitution on national television, in my opinion he is unfit to hold public office.

What we need is information (-1, Flamebait)

Trailer Trash (60756) | about 10 months ago | (#43994117)

If you really want to make a change, let's pass a bill that would require the names and addresses of the judges in these "courts" to be made public information. Society needs to know who these people are so that they can be shunned by those around them, unwelcome in polite company.

Re:What we need is information (3)

Denogh (2024280) | about 10 months ago | (#43994181)

Their names are out there [fas.org]. Why do you need their addresses? Are you going to pay their families a visit at home? Is that in any way relevant to anything at all?

Re:What we need is information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996341)

Their names are out there [fas.org]. Why do you need their addresses? Are you going to pay their families a visit at home? Is that in any way relevant to anything at all?

The government keeps telling me that if I'm not doing anything wrong, I have nothing to hide. Well, I suppose that needn't apply to our betters in government, for anything they do must be right by definition.

they were sent down here to pacify us (2)

decora (1710862) | about 10 months ago | (#43994119)

this is essentially going to apply the bizarre "declassification" regime we currently have to FISA law. its ridiculous. go look, for example, at the Inspector General report on the NSA's Trailblazer/Thinthread programs. It is pages and pages and pages of blacked out paragraphs, with a little number in the margin indicating which Exception to the Freedom of Information law the government used in justifying the blackout.

It is ridiculous beyond ridiculos. These senators are cowards of the highest order.

Re:they were sent down here to pacify us (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#43994231)

These senators are cowards of the highest order.

These senators are quite brave compared to those senators that are going on talk shows defending spying on everybody.

Also, this kind of measure is not completely useless: It would inundate the agency with extra paperwork, meaning they'd have less time and money to spend on spying on all of us.

Re:they were sent down here to pacify us (1)

Holi (250190) | about 10 months ago | (#43994837)

How would making the FISC do more paperwork slow down the NSA. It's not like rubber stamping a warrant takes a lot of time.

Re:they were sent down here to pacify us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994989)

They'll just ask for, receive and print more money to make up for it the additional load. You know the game.
Sure this bill might help on the margins if it could even get the votes to pass (It only got 37 last time around) but don't expect a damn thing to change.

   

As An American (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 10 months ago | (#43994199)

I could care less about the FISC, how about some transparency as to how they are going to use my cell carriers metadata to prevent terror and not to spy on the citizens for no reason.

With the liberties the government is taking today I am surprised more people aren't shouting from soapboxes about it in the name of their childrens rights.

Re:As An American (1)

cffrost (885375) | about 10 months ago | (#43996671)

I could care less about the FISC [...]

So do it, man. Why care more than you care? That's crazy.

With the liberties the government is taking today I am surprised more people aren't shouting from soapboxes about it in the name of their childrens rights.

Exactly; I brought up a similar point here the other day — why don't these "think of the children"-types ever think of the children being left with nothing but the ashes of our Constitution?

it does nothing (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 10 months ago | (#43994201)

so long as the government has classified documents they dont need to tell anyone anything.
so long as we have redaction, FOIA doesnt really mean anything
so long as the original requests are sealed, the opinions of a judge or judges are decontextualized and meaningless.
and none of this means anything at all once you learn the FISC never rejected a single request last year.

a normal, functioning state has no need for classification of anything really, but this isnt a normal functioning state. we have the worlds highest incarceration rate, we're guaranteed a brand new war every four years, we run torture camps, execute our own citizens without trial, and somehow react with incredulity when we find out our own citizens are either apathetic to democracy, or leak state secrets about our warcrimes or our domestic spy program.

we are the land of the free, so far as we are free to consume the product, and the home of the brave, so long as its state-sponsored.

Re:it does nothing (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994273)

a normal, functioning state has no need for classification of anything really

Your "normal" state is going to get its ass kicked in the next war....

Re:it does nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995321)

When the state can't keep it's classified documents (including weapons plans stolen by Chinese hackers) secret it's going to get it's ass kicked in the next war anyways. Besides, we haven't convincingly won any wars since WWII. We may have achieved our goals in a few since then, but they weren't lasting goals as we had to go back to clean up again. Having served I can tell you that the rules of engagement we force upon our soldiers do not reflect the mindset of our enemies and thus we come off as afraid to win anyways. Until we set our mind to get our hands dirty when we are forced into a war we will continue to come across as the country that doesn't have the heart to win.
 

Re:it does nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996997)

Your "normal" state is going to get its ass kicked in the next war....

A real war maybe, but asymmetric warfare isn't really about killing bad guys. That just makes more bad guys. Asymmetric warfare is about convincing the bad guys that we're the good guys. Secrecy and torture are not very affective for that. It wasn't the surge that ended the Iraq war, it was the fact we stopped calling everyone who wanted us out terrorists and started working with those same people.

Re:it does nothing (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 10 months ago | (#43994289)

a normal, functioning state has no need for classification of anything really, but this isnt a normal functioning state.

Yes, it does. New or developing military technologies, the identities of intelligence operatives in other states, government analyses of other states' military capabilities and the plans derived from them, onging operations that could be jeapardized by disclosure-all of these are things that should be classified because that classification saves lives. What shouldn't be classified is the reasoning and justification behind these actions. They should all at some point after they are concluded be unclassified, but to say a functioning state has no ned of classifcation is rediculous.

Political speech, commercial speech, celeb pics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994581)

"Yes, it does. New or developing military technologies," [secret weapons]
" the identities of intelligence operatives in other states," [secret people]
"government analyses of other states' military capabilities and the plans derived from them, " [secret war plans]
"onging operations that could be jeapardized by disclosure-all of these are things that should be classified because that classification saves lives." [secret wars]

We are always at war with [*.*].

The biggest European country being watched is Germany, are we at war with Germany? Because I missed the memo!

Re:it does nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995067)

Worse still is they've only rejected 11 out of 33,900+ in the last 30 years.

Re:it does nothing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995335)

Both sides use rejection rate to say good or bad things... but really, how can it be anything but meaningless? If they thought that more rejections would make it look better, they could always just request crazy stuff just to get the stats to look better.

Maybe the pendulum swings both ways after all (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#43995581)

Q: What do you call a law wherein Congress asserts its oversight authority and tells the executive branch "no, you can't do whatever you want, assholes."

A: A start.

Just make all phone record data public... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994209)

... so public interest groups can "connect the dots" on who are buddy-buddy. It would be interesting to know how politicians/judges/corporations cluster. Guilt by association for everyone!

Oh come on... (1)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 10 months ago | (#43994253)

No I can't tell you about the opinions for reasons that I can't tell you WILL be the inevitable outcome. FAR too little

No way Obama would sign this (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 10 months ago | (#43994269)

I bet the heads of the security/intelligence/law enforcement agencies (CIA, NSA etc) are already telling Obama at the regular national security briefings that making any of this public WILL compromise the ability for those agencies to catch the bad guys and prevent the next 9/11 or the next Boston Marathon.

Re:No way Obama would sign this (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 10 months ago | (#43994619)

And they're right in a twisted way. If we give the NSA and other intelligence/security/law enforcement agencies unlimited access to everything everyone is doing at every possible moment, they would be able to catch every criminal. (At least theoretically. In practice, they would be overwhelmed by the flood of data.) The problem isn't that cutting them off from this information makes their job harder, it's that there are good reasons why there are (or should be) limitations on what they are allowed to do. Ultimate power might allow you to stop all crime, but it can also lead to abuse of said power turning you into a criminal.

Re:No way Obama would sign this (1)

moeinvt (851793) | about 10 months ago | (#43996109)

Maybe if the government wasn't so busy spying on millions of Americans, they'd have time to pay attention to SPECIFIC intelligence.

e.g. Russian security services warning the government about the Boston bombers. Reports from an FBI field agent that men with Arab sounding names were taking flight lessons and weren't interested in the part of the curriculum that teaches you how to land.

Impeachment is the right solution (0)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 10 months ago | (#43994311)

Although most people assume its purpose is to address clear criminality, its use by the British Parliament from which it originates, was a means for the legislature to punish the executive when Parliament had had enough. Thus its use here against the boss of the NSA and above is entirely justified on that approach to the constitution - and they should be grateful that the constitution specifically bans bills of attainder http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bills_of_attainder [wikipedia.org] a much more entertaining prospect for those of us who enjoy public executions.... ;)

Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994355)

If you get some law signed, or executive decree, or a new president that promises less privacy, you know what will happen?

You'll get a terrorist attack in a major city. False flagged, or just let one slip through, but they'll make sure it happens, and suddenly all the opposition to electronic monitoring will vanish.

Look at us in England. Snoopers charter dropped and then less than a month later some guys - who had been contacted by the intelligence services - hatchet down some really nice and likable soldier.

Re:Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43997719)

Impossible. Defense contractors would NEVER attack US citizens to ensure their continued prosperity.

a good start but... (3, Insightful)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | about 10 months ago | (#43994367)

We need something more fundamental. Like it never being against the law to disclose information on crimes committed by intelligence agencies, and enforcement of existing laws once those crimes come to light: for example, Keith Alexander needs to be arrested for perjury. Perhaps we could bring back private prosecutions... that would certainly go a long way towards ensuring public officials are not above the law.

This more holistic approach is necessary because the usual suspects (CIA, NSA) and the usual frameworks (FISC) only capture a tiny fraction of what the intelligence community actually engages in. Take the NRO ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Reconnaissance_Office [wikipedia.org] ) for example. It has a comparable budget to the more well known agencies and they were even caught by the CIA to be squirrelling away extra money, presumably to finance black projects. They started in spy satellites but these days they appear to devote a significant portion of the resources towards hacking. They really put the NSA to shame when it comes to blackhat and grayhat activities, though good luck finding anyone to confirm that for you. Let's just say they appear to enjoy inspiring awe and fear in their employees, to the point where though I've met several people who worked for them I had to do a considerable amount of detective work and deduction to figure it out. And even then there was no explicit confirmation I was right, just a wry smile and a "I can neither confirm nor deny..."

And that's just an agency we know about. Like the NSA before it, the NRO used to be secret. And there remain still more secret intelligence agencies today, probably even more fearsome and powerful than the public ones. And if you think these guys go through FISC every time they feel the urge to skim through someone's inbox...

So, back to my original point: what we really need here is a mechanism to permit the discovery and prosecution of people who conceal crimes, both for the original crime and for the act of covering it up by claiming state secrets. Crimes like lying to congress under oath. Or spying on American citizens, without judicial oversight, in ways that would be illegal if a private citizen did it (which does not necessarily apply to PRISM but most certainly applies to other programs.)

I sense many pages blackened with redaction. (1)

spacepimp (664856) | about 10 months ago | (#43994415)

This is how we feel. The bits blocked are of national security concerns. Why does this change anything? Today they don't tell us based on security concerns. Tomorrow they they just give us redacted pages of no use and they are then in full compliance.

this FP for GNAA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994467)

ASSOCIATION OF of 0ser base for

And they *are* opinions ... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#43994509)

It is important to remember that the people who determine it is OK to do these kinds of things are rendering opinions.

This isn't an actual court, this isn't SCOTUS. This is a bunch of people who work for you, who are already in agreement with what you're trying to do, rendering an opinion than it's okay to do it.

So when Alberto Gonzales gave the opinion that habeus corpus wasn't really a thing ... it was only an opinion, but one which then got used as if it was lawful. It also demonstrated a shocking level of incompetence to be the Attorney General.

Just because you can get a couple of cronies on your legal staff to give you an opinion, that in no way makes it fact. Because if you're appointing cronies who think you can crap all over the Constitutional rights of people, you can get an 'opinion' which authorizes pretty much anything.

If you put a bunch of authoritarian pricks in a room and ask them to come up with an opinion about what they can get away with, they will come up with a decision you'd expect from a bunch of authoritarian pricks.

Catch-22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994599)

Its pretty bad when your "free" society has a real life version of "Catch-22". You can't know the "law" but it can be used against you at every turn. Make no mistake about it these days legal "opinions" are, at least in our screwed up justice system, laws. If they weren't police in various jurisdictions wouldn't be using "wiretapping" laws specifically written for phone conversations to arrest people for videotaping officers misdeeds.

Re:Catch-22 (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 10 months ago | (#43995287)

Its pretty bad when your "free" society has a real life version of "Catch-22". You can't know the "law" but it can be used against you at every turn. Make no mistake about it these days legal "opinions" are, at least in our screwed up justice system, laws. If they weren't police in various jurisdictions wouldn't be using "wiretapping" laws specifically written for phone conversations to arrest people for videotaping officers misdeeds.

While the law codes are atrocious: unorganized, poorly worded, sometimes contradictory...

Your statement is not really a catch-22 since you can technically "know" or learn the law. Nothing is stopping you, except for the desire to read a LOT of poorly-worded text. Or, in the case of guns, one can more easily focus on stuff related to gun ownership + sales.

A catch-22 is more of a paradox, and-or deadlock. For example: you can't do A without B, but ALSO can't do B without A.

You example is: You can't do A without knowing B... and you just didn't bother trying to learn B

Re:Catch-22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995941)

I think you missed the point, of course you can know the law, things thankfully have not gone that bad. But you can't know the "legal opinions" which are the governments interpretation of the law which is what this whole article/proposed law is about. If our justice system had common sense this would of course not be an issue, a law saying "breaking into a computer is a crime" would be obvious. Unfortunately we have a justice system that is completely crazy, where that law can be interpreted to mean "entering a computer system with a username and password given to you by the owner of that computer system and using it in a way that they do not like is a crime". While it is not exactly a catch-22, it is rather close. You can't know the legal opinions without being part of the system, you can't be part of the system without agreeing to keep the system secret.

Re:Catch-22 (1)

moeinvt (851793) | about 10 months ago | (#43996025)

The SCOTUS and a federal appeals court have both ruled:

-You can't sue the government (A) because you don't have the evidence (B) to prove their actions affected you.

- The government does not have to reveal their actions which affected you, so you can't obtain the evidence.

Maybe not a Catch-22, but you're still F***ed and have no legal recourse.

Re:Catch-22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996723)

I believe you forgot one,

-Even when the government ACCIDENTALLY SENDS YOU THE EVIDENCE you can't use it because its classified and should not have been sent to you.

Re:Catch-22 (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 10 months ago | (#43997667)

My response was to his first sentence. That it's a catch-22 because you can't know the law but it can be used against you.

Obviously, there are instances of actual catch-22's in the legal system. But that sentence by itself was not one of them.

Re:Catch-22 (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#43997879)

how can you know the law if the precedents are secret and they are the only way to know what the effective law is?

if it's illegal to not follow orders but the orders are illegal but it's also illegal to notify anyone of the illegal orders... but only one case of those will actually be prosecuted and hence be illegal in practice - but how the fuck you're supposed to know WHICH one of those routes is legal today?

It's about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43994759)

Guilty until proven innocent was used about government 'crimes'

What this proves (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43994811)

The fact that our government has reached the point where this is necessary is ironic in that it proves "we the people" are only in charge as much as the government says we are, undermining the very basis of our constitution. This is a band-aid on a gaping wound.

TFA does not even list the sponsors (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#43995529)

Here [senate.gov] are the eight senators who share my understanding of the Bill of Rights and had the backbone to sponsor this law:

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), accompanied by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR)

BTW I found that information with one Google search and two clicks, but apparently that was too much work for the author of TFA. Sad.

I also note that my senator is not one of the sponsors of this bill and I would be interested to hear her explanation why not. (I only have one senator right now. There's a special election coming up to fill the vacancy.)

Re:TFA does not even list the sponsors (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 10 months ago | (#43998309)

No, you have two senators right now. William "Mo" Cowan may be an interim senator, but he is still a senator for at least 12 more days.

I've got a better idea (1)

moeinvt (851793) | about 10 months ago | (#43996077)

Let's have all 50 states secede, close down the whole stinking, corrupt mess we call "the federal government" and start over with a new "United STATES of America"

The officials secrets act (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | about 10 months ago | (#43996091)

"The Official Secrets Act is not there to protect Secrets, it is there to protect Officials."
â" Sir Humphrey, Yes Minister

"That's another of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he's being charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act."
â" Bernard Woolley, Yes Minister

Uh, wrong default. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43997279)

It should be that they have to justify keeping it classified rather than having to put forth effort to declassify.

Won't happen, anyway.

There is no outside threat the threat of NSA, .. (1)

lew2048 (2571805) | about 10 months ago | (#43997453)

It is a common thing for countries to be dominated by their intelligence organizations. Even considering the deaths due to the tax burden and other side-effects of devoting wealth to NSA, CIA, FBI, DIA, and the other 60 or so intelligence groups, there is no external threat that has produced more deaths. Given that many of our 'external threats' are a direct consequence of previous actions of exactly those completely corrupt agenices, they should all be abolished immediately, the country will be safer and wealthier. Ditto for the Department of Justice, whose main work product has been memos justifying obvious violations of the Constitution. There is no conceivable 'reform' that would put them back in the Constitutional box, if they are allowed to declare any information top secret.
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