Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Report on NSA Surveillance Illegalities Now Available

Snowden ObamaDer SpiegelThe Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board released this afternoon its report on the National Security Agency's bulk telephone surveillance program. A quick perusal suggests that the report could have a tremendously positive impact in the current debate over reining in the national security surveillance state. I have obviously not had time to read it all yet, but here is a particularly choice passage: 

Beyond such individual privacy intrusions, permitting the government to routinely collect the calling records of the entire nation fundamentally shifts the balance of power between the state and its citizens. With its powers of compulsion and criminal prosecution, the government poses unique threats to privacy when it collects data on its own citizens. Government collection of personal information on such a massive scale also courts the ever-present danger of “mission creep.” An even more compelling danger is that personal information collected by the government will be misused to harass, blackmail, or intimidate, or to single out for scrutiny particular individuals or groups. To be clear, the Board has seen no evidence suggesting that anything of the sort is occurring at the NSA and the agency’s incidents of non-compliance with the rules approved by the FISC have generally involved unintentional misuse. Yet, while the danger of abuse may seem remote, given historical abuse of personal information by the government during the twentieth century, the risk is more than merely theoretical.

Moreover, the bulk collection of telephone records can be expected to have a chilling effect on the free exercise of speech and association, because individuals and groups engaged in sensitive or controversial work have less reason to trust in the confidentiality of their relationships as revealed by their calling patterns. Inability to expect privacy vis-à-vis the government in one’s telephone communications means that people engaged in wholly lawful activities—but who for various reasons justifiably do not wish the government to know about their communications—must either forgo such activities, reduce their frequency, or take costly measures to hide them from government surveillance. The telephone records program thus hinders the ability of advocacy organizations to communicate confidentially with members, donors, legislators, whistleblowers, members of the public, and others. For similar reasons, awareness that a record of all telephone calls is stored in a government database may have debilitating consequences for communication between journalists and sources.

Could it be "game over" for domestic surveillance and NSA stooges in Congress?  I will say it again, "Thank You Edward Snowden."  For more background see my blogpost, "NSA Telephone Spying Is Illegal and Useless, Asserts Obama's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board."

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  • ||

    Could it be "game over" for domestic surveillance and NSA stooges in Congress?

    I would love to see that, Ron, but I just cannot see the current scum who are in power (Administration and Congress) giving up this power. They will scrabble for it tooth and nail solely on reflex. And they will be relentlessly egged on by the bureaucrats who actually exercise the power.

  • John||

    They are never going to stop. They think they can ride this out. And they may be right.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I doubt there will be any substantive legislative action as that would require too many people to admit they were wrong. But I'm willing to bet there will be some administrative changes to some of the rules, and maybe some new "oversight czar" (thank God that meme mostly ran its course).

    Most meaningful changes will probably have to wait until after the 2014 elections, if not 2016. We'll see how much of an issue it is by then.

  • John||

    It will take a committed effort on the part of Congress to reassert control in the form of something like the old Church Commission.

    I don't know if the institution of Congress is capable of such a thing anymore. But Congress could very easily put a stop to this via the power of the purse. They just need to start cutting off funding and these clowns will fall in line.

  • Ron Bailey||

    J: Don't give up. Just read thru Snowden's livechat from this afternoon - he hasn't.

  • Paul.||

    Yet, while the danger of abuse may seem remote, given historical abuse of personal information by the government during the twentieth century, the risk is more than merely theoretical.

    That's the money shot. Now, Progressives, do I have to re-explain why I bitched and moaned so loud about all the personal data you wanted to collect during the Census that had nothing to do with the number of people living in the house?

  • Paul.||

    Moreover, the bulk collection of telephone records can be expected to have a chilling effect on the free exercise of speech and association, because individuals and groups engaged in sensitive or controversial work have less reason to trust in the confidentiality of their relationships as revealed by their calling patterns.

    Money shot #2. The NSA and the government in general have claimed that none of this could have a chilling effect, then they turned around and without any irony whatsoever, claimed that Edward Snowden's revelations had a "chilling effect" on the speech of terrorists, driving them underground and making them harder to catch.

  • John||

    Mission creep is the most immediate and obvious danger. When the NSA stumbles upon evidence of crimes in this information, what is it supposed to do? If it doesn't turn it over to law enforcement, then it is effectively allowing crime to continue. If it does, we no longer have a 4th Amendment. What will start with rules about how the information can only be turned over only if there is a clear an present danger to life and limb will quickly be distorted with various exceptions to become effectively meaningless.

  • RBS||

    To be clear, the Board has seen no evidence suggesting that anything of the sort is occurring at the NSA and the agency’s incidents of non-compliance with the rules approved by the FISC have generally involved unintentional misuse

    Whatever you say.

  • John||

    I am sure they haven't seen any evidence of that. It is not like the NSA would have shown them the evidence if such evidence existed.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    Be sure to declare that as income on your 1080. There are people monitoring your online activities....

  • LynchPin1477||

    Inability to expect privacy vis-à-vis the government in one’s telephone communications means that people engaged in wholly lawful activities...

    Even if they are wholly unlawful, the government still needs a reason to go snooping around. But I'll take what I can get. This is a positive development.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    "I will say it again, "Thank You Edward Snowden.""

    I'll say it too: Thanks Ed.

  • RishJoMo||

    Roll Man Roofie is not goimng to liek that.

    www.Anon-Stuff.tk

  • Lucy121||

    Okay, so what about Google? Shouldn't Google's violations of our privacy be illegal? If you have a problem with how the NSA has violated our privacy, then you should also have a problem with how Google is destroying our privacy. Personally, I think everyone should start using privacy-based sites such as DuckDuckGo, Ravetree, HushMail, etc. The NSA is different because we don't really have a choice there, but we do have the freedom to choose whether or not we use Google, Facebook, etc.

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