Domestic Spying Is Dangerous to Freedom

DHS, the DoJ, the DoD, the DEA, the CIA, the IRS, and the FBI are all in on it.

How is it that the government can charge Edward Snowden with espionage for telling a journalist that the feds have been spying on all Americans and many of our allies, but the NSA itself, in a public relations campaign intended to win support for its lawlessness, can reveal secrets and do so with impunity? That question goes to the heart of the rule of law in a free society.

Since Snowden's June 6th revelations about massive NSA spying, we have learned that all Americans who communicate via telephone or the Internet (who doesn't?) have had all of their communications swept up by the federal government for two-plus years. The government initially claimed that the NSA has gathered only telephone numbers and billing data. Now we know that the NSA has captured and stored the content of trillions of telephone conversations, texts and emails, and can access that content at the press of a few computer keys. All of this happened in the dark, with the permission of President Obama, with the knowledge and consent of fewer than 20 members of Congress who were forbidden from doing anything about it by the laws they themselves had written, and based on secret legal arguments accepted by a secret court that keeps its records secret even from the judges who sit on the court.

This massive spying -- metadata gathering, as the NSA calls it -- was also done notwithstanding statements NSA officials made in public under oath and in secret classified briefings to Congress, which effectively denied it. The denials were in one case admitted to -- "least untruthful," as the director of national intelligence later called his own testimony. Then, when even members of Congress who usually support a muscular national security apparatus realized that they, too, had been lied to by the NSA, the NSA responded with its own leaks.

It has leaked, for example, that as a consequence of its spying it has prevented at least 50 foreign-originated plots from harming Americans. It eventually backed off that number and declined to reveal with specificity what it independently learned and how that knowledge foiled the plots. But we do know that its colleagues in the FBI were participants in many of those plots, which means they weren't real plots at all -- just government stings going after dopes and dupes.

Last week, the NSA leaked that it captured actionable intelligence of grave and imminent danger to our embassies in the Middle East. The implication it wants you to draw here is that because it caught al-Qaida operatives talking in code in Yemen about deadly deeds they plan to perpetrate in the Arabian Peninsula, somehow the NSA's spying on 300 million innocent Americans is constitutional, lawful, effective and therefore worth the loss of freedom.

Earlier this week, we learned that other federal agencies of alphabet nomenclature -- the DHS, the DoJ, the DoD, the DEA, the CIA, the IRS, the FBI -- all want access to the NSA's database, and it has shared some of it with most of them. Also this week, former DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agents, claiming this has been going on for at least a decade, acknowledged that the DEA regularly receives raw data from the NSA and uses that data to commence criminal investigations.

Down the slippery slope we go.

The whole NSA spying apparatus was sold to Congress as a limited mechanism for combating foreign terrorists. How putting the intimate thoughts of all Americans who use telephones and the Internet under the federal microscope helps to fight foreign terrorists has never been explained in a public court -- only in a secret one. But using this extra-constitutional means to fight crime brings us closer to a Soviet-style and value-free police state.

The Constitution intentionally has placed values in the path of law enforcement and national security so as to maintain our natural rights. Those values are generally articulated throughout the Constitution and specifically addressed in the Fourth Amendment. The linchpin of those values is the natural right to be left alone. All persons -- even bad guys -- have that inalienable right, and the government may only invade that right when it can identify a bad guy and articulate the probable cause it has to believe he is committing criminal acts. The rest of us -- those for whom there is no probable cause of criminal acts -- retain that right, and it cannot be taken away from us by the supine acquiescence of Congress or an unnamed judge in a secret court. That constitutional requirement -- and that requirement alone -- has kept Americans free from Soviet-style persecutions.

Now comes Obama, who is quarterbacking the most massive end run around the Constitution in modern times by invading everyone's right to be left alone in the name of national security, but in reality for any governmental purpose the government wishes. And for the unfortunate people whose criminal prosecutions have commenced from the NSA's supposedly anti-terror spying, the feds are refusing to reveal to lawyers what the source of the negative information against them was. That, of course, violates the constitutionally protected right to confront all of one's accusers, especially those who have been paid for their accusations.

What's going on here?

It is painfully obvious that the government is not troubled by its own violation of the Constitution. The people in the government who have done this are far more concerned with their retention of power than they are with protecting our personal liberties. That explains their perverse view that when Snowden frustrates them with a whistle-blowing leak, he can be prosecuted, but when they rebut him with their own leaks, they are to be lauded. That is not the rule of law in a free society.

What will the NSA spies seek next? Our passwords? We already know the answer to that one. They asked for them last week.

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  • Live Free or Diet||

    NSA has captured and stored the content of trillions of telephone conversations, texts and emails, and can access that content at the press of a few computer keys.

    Most of them being my daughter and her friends talking about boys.

  • ||

    How can you comment on this? We're fucked and there's nothing we can do about it.

  • Doctor Whom||

    It's happening under Team Blue and Barack H. Jesus, so it's necessary to protect us from something very bad. Once a Republican is President, it'll constitute our being fucked.

  • Ramjet||

    This.

  • sarcasmic||

    The United States has become that which it fought against in the Cold War.

  • Drake||

    Absolutely - only the initials are different. NVK, KBG, ATF, DEA - all the same to me.

  • Floridian||

    Alright, enough is enough. Who wants to chip in a few bucks to buy an island in the Caribbean so we can try libertopia for real? Hell if Vegas can make money in the desert I'm sure a profit can be turned in the Atlantic. Kochs, Bezos are you listening?

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Kochs, Bezos are you listening?

    Libertopia will begin with it's own set of benefactors?

  • Floridian||

    Yes? I don't understand the question.

  • BardMetal||

    Me and some friends of mine talked about invading the tiny micro-nation of Sealand once. We figured a few unarmed Brits would be no match for us. Of course we had been drinking heavily at the time.

  • jester||

    The Department of Just(trust)Us. How's that working?

  • Loki||

    What will the NSA spies seek next? Our passwords? We already know the answer to that one. They asked for them last week.

    *spit take* Wait, what the fucking fuck?!

    FTA:

    "I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."

    A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"

    At which point the feds probably respond "That can be arranged."

  • marie||

    "We push back."

    I wish that were reassuring.

  • GHCro||

    It's clear that the government is out of control and can't/won't be stopped. They're not going to give up all that data - and the power it gives them. I see self-help as our best defense to keep us safe from the people supposed to keep us safe.

    We need to give them as tiny a digital footprint as possible. Start using encryption. Start surfing the Internet through VPNs. Start taking files off Dropbox, Instagram, iCloud etc and putting them in a CloudLocker, the private cloud you keep in your house where they still need a warrant and probable cause that you're a bad guy. I'm hoping we're going to see a barrage of new tools like these to help preserve what little of our privacy is left.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    This. We've been living in the era of high-tech samizdat for a while, so anyone who's concerned about security has plenty of tools--open-source, free, or otherwise--at his disposal.

    That won't help the 95% of schlubs who wind up having thousands of blackmail-worthy text messages and web histories stored and digitally inspected by the NSA, but if the NSA and Obama survive this shitstorm, it'll be hard to say that they're not getting the government they deserve.

  • VicRattlehead||

    nope we need a massive disinformation campaign, millions of facebook twitter and google pages of our lives with completely contradicting information and nothing more than pure fantasy and lies, even dating profiles make hundreds of em hundreds of email accounts the more the better the crazier it sounds the more amusing when the gestapo agent is forced to filter through hundreds of sites with nothing matching anything. encrypt your truth but place the lies everywhere you can as many times as you can visit the pages to keep em current they will fail due to the sheer size of it and collapse under their own weight and uselessness or you can pretend that voting is still a real thing

  • dbobway||

    NO, Fuck them!

    WE gotta' just get louder and fight! Till the SWAT team shows up!

  • VicRattlehead||

    "Justice system? is there really justice in the system, or is it "just us" in the system?"- Corporate Avenger from Web of Lies

    Thought this summed up my thoughts so i figured I'd share it. Also if they want to start combating terrorism they could listen to Walid Shoebat detail out how almost every Muslim charity organization is involved with terror organizations yet they receive tax exemptions, and the IRS is worried about targeting us nasty Libertarians that want to leave everyone alone and the conservatives. No doubt in my mind anymore this is a dictatorship and the supreme chancellor has yet to reveal himself for BO is just a worthless know nothing pawn who cant even tell you what cities are on the gulf coast.

  • PhillyGuard||

    Unfortunately, as we contemplate the liberty-for-security bargain we're being offered by our governments, the human brain is wired to make a terrible miscalculation:
    --"This is Your Brain on Terrorism" http://libertymcg.com/2013/07/.....terrorism/

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