Sen. Leahy - NSA Surveillance Effectiveness Is Not the Point

Big BrotherThe scope of the national security state's surveillance activities is becoming depressingly ever more "transparent." But not because the National Security Agency or the Obama Administration are more forthcoming, but because their hands are being forced by telltale leaks from Edward Snowden about the sorry details of their massive intrusions into the private lives of Americans. As Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) pointed out during a hearing yesterday: 

“I don’t want transparency only when it’s convenient to the government,” Franken said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, he added, “has known for weeks that this hearing was coming and ODNI released this only in the minutes before this hearing began. That doesn’t engender trust.”

For his part Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted at the hearing:

The phone records of all of us in this room reside in an NSA database.  I have said repeatedly that just because we have the ability to collect huge amounts of data does not mean that we should be doing so.  In fact, it has been reported that the bulk collection of Internet metadata was shut down because it failed to produce meaningful intelligence.  We need to take an equally close look at the phone records program.  If this program is not effective, it must end.  And so far, I am not convinced by what I have seen.

I don't give two damns about the senator's judgement with regard to the spying program's effectiveness. It would be even more "effective" if we all were required to wear geolocation monitors that uploaded our recorded conversations to a database that could be queried by federal agents when "something goes wrong." Effectiveness of surveillance is not the point; violation of our constitutional rights is. According to the Fourth Amendment:

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.

That's as much "transparency" as we need to defend our country and preserve our liberty. The government needs to be "transparent" to the citizenry, not vice versa as the NSA and its defenders evidently believe.

Disclosure: I am not a constitutional legal scholar, just fed up. End of rant today.

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  • Aresen||

    So, not only are they ignoring the 4th Amendment, they are doing so ineffectively?

    Trust government to fuck up fucking you up.

  • Damned Fool||

    It would be even more "effective" if we all were required to wear geolocation monitors that uploaded our recorded conversations to a database that could be queried by federal agents when "something goes wrong."

    I really think people on this site may want to stop giving them ideas. After all, they're reading.

  • Tim||

    "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."

    The NSA is full of mathematical geniuses and code hackers but none of them seem to understand that paragraph.

  • Boomer||

    All except Edward Snowden...

  • wareagle||

    and look how he's being treated.

  • bmp1701||

    The brilliant minds at SCOTUS already fed 4th Amendment privacy through a blender with their rulings on private information held by third parties.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I'm OK with your phone records being the "property" of your provider. I am OK with Squealer Wireless spilling its guts to Uncle Sam without a warrant. I don't have to do business with them, and if they violate MY privacy, I will sue. But if I prefer to deal with Clandestine Cellular, who states in their privacy agreement with me that they will respect my privacy and not release my records without my permission or a legal warrant that clears fourth amendment hurdles, can CC refuse a court order to produce my records on fourth amendment grounds?

  • ||

    I'll take as much security as you can give me and not violate my rights. ANY of my rights. Past that, I'll take my chances.

  • G-dub||

    But you don't speak for the widows and orphans. What about them, huh?!!!!

  • ||

    I thought we ate them already?

  • UnCivilServant||

    They're a renewable resource - more just keep getting generated.

  • Paul.||

    In fact, it has been reported that the bulk collection of Internet metadata was shut down because it failed to produce meaningful intelligence.

    According to some nice Federal Officers, they catch one terrorist a week with internet metadata.

  • Raston Bot||

    No, Ron, it's okay because General Alexander said hackers can go work for the NSA to improve federal mass surveillance of everyone and everything.

  • Paul.||

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses

    TL;DR

    /NSA

  • The Late P Brooks||

    unreasonable searches and seizures

    But what is unreasonable about listening to every conversation and monitoring every form of communication if your stated purpose is preventing teh ARMEGEDDATASROPHEEEEZ?

    What could be more reasonable than that?

  • wwhorton||

    Ok, agreed that the effectiveness of unconstitutional surveillance is a moot point, but if I'm driving a Yugo and want a Bugatti, a modded Accord V6 is an improvement, even if it's not a sports car. I'm just a little surprised that it's taken this long for the old-school Left to come out against these programs. I expect Pelosi and Co. to fully support this shit, but the Frank Capra Dems should be the first to the barricades on this sort of thing.

  • Paul.||

    You can say that again.

  • wwhorton||

    Ok, agreed that the effectiveness of unconstitutional surveillance is a moot point, but if I'm driving a Yugo and want a Bugatti, a modded Accord V6 is an improvement, even if it's not a sports car. I'm just a little surprised that it's taken this long for the old-school Left to come out against these programs. I expect Pelosi and Co. to fully support this shit, but the Frank Capra Dems should be the first to the barricades on this sort of thing.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    You might want to note that senators, whatever you think of them, are duly elected representatives with constitutional authority. The NSA is not authorized anywhere in the constitution, and wasn't elected by anyone.

    I'll give you three guesses who's going to win this tug of war. So much for the Constitution.

  • Paul.||

    Unfortunately, that goes for nearly every federal agency from the IRS on down to the EPA, SEC, NHTSA or the FEC.

    Appointed bureaucrats passing laws was so far off the founders' radar, it's not even funny.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    That's the point. You don't live under a constitutional government, and you never have. You live under a government of beaurocrats that aren't elected, can't be fired, and are pretty much unaccountable. The part of government that you can actually influence through voting does little besides provide entertainment. Crying about your constitutional rights is an anachronism. The beaurocracy isn't accountable to any constitutional restraint.

  • Paul.||

    They're above politics!

  • robc||

    I don't give two damns about the senator's judgement with regard to the spying program's effectiveness.

    Exactly. Ends never justify means. Utilitarianism is evil.

  • angus||

    Usefulness is evil?

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    I have a hard time seeing anything by Leahy and not immmediately thinking of Lahey:

    "The phone records of all of us in this room reside in an shit database. I have said repeatedly that just because we have the ability to collect huge amounts of shit does not mean that we should be doing so. All this shit flows through the phones and ends up in a big pile of shit in the National Shit Agency, where the corn is sifted out of the shit into a giant, monumental shit harvest. The NSA is one giant shit combine collecting shit for the biggest shit silo that's ever been hit by a shit tornado."

  • Zeb||

    Shitavist.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I prefer this in the original Marklarian.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    People who crave and wield power seem to be the same all over: essentially, gangsters, though some may be more intelligent and/or benevolent than others. They also seem to like to "play" with each other, and they especially like to play the same power games.

    Unfortunately, the Constitution requires our power elite to play a different game, by different rules. They don't like it, and they do everything they can to play "their" natural game, instead of ours, though the more clever among them are good at disingenuously explaining how what they do IS playing "our" game by "our" rules. Now and then, however, they are caught lying or misleading the public, reminding us that "our" game is difficult to play, and also fundamentally uninteresting to those who primarily seek power.

    When caught, they whine about the pain of their punishments, like the patient in the joke who complains that "it hurts when I do this." Dr. WeThePeople, of course, should respond with, "well then, don't DO it!" But instead of requiring government to find ways and means that respect our rights and maximize our liberty, we have largely acquiesced to the power elite's usurpations (and some people have even invited them!). I hope that, if Bailey is fed up, millions of others are, too. Americans have many times shown themselves ready and willing to travel around the world and fight to defend and promote liberty. If we can be as serious in our resolve to protect liberty here at home, I think we can win.

  • Jose Chung||

    Never, ever, EVER trust a pragmatist; you can't put anything past a person for whom the ends justify the means.

  • maureen||

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