John McCain

What Are You, a Terrorist?

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During the last year the focus of the debate about amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that cooperated with President Bush's illegal post-9/11 program of warrantless wiretaps. But the scandal from now on will be what's legal. Although Democrats, including Barack Obama, made a big show of resisting the immunity provision, they seemed resigned from the beginning to surrendering the privacy of Americans' international communications. Under the newly revised FISA, only the executive branch's good faith and competence will protect innocent people from warrantless snooping. Which is fine, if you assume that government officials never have bad motives and never make mistakes. According to Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), The New York Times reports, "there is nothing to fear in the bill…'unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.'"

Bond seems to speak for most Americans. The most common reader response I get when I write about this subject is, "What makes you think the government is interested in spying on you? Get over yourself!" The second most common response is, "What are you, a terrorist?"

Polling on this issue suggests that framing it the way Bond does makes a big difference. An August 2007 ICR poll commissioned by Democrats.com told respondents, "President Bush wants the power to wiretap the phone calls and emails of Americans without a search warrant from a judge." Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) disapproved, 60 percent strongly. A January 2006 ABC News poll, by contrast, told respondents, "The National Security Agency has been investigating people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so." Asked whether "this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval" was "an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism," 56 percent said it was acceptable.

Just saying terrorism, it seems, makes concerns about civil liberties disappear. Notably, of the two major-party presidential candidates, it was Obama, the one who supposedly is more sensitive to civil liberties (having taught constitutional law and all), who voted for the FISA amendments. McCain supports the bill too, but he was too busy campaigning to cast a vote, and he knew it wouldn't be close. The Senate vote was 69 to 28, which means senators are even more eager than their constituents to let the government spy at will. Only on terrorists, of course.

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  1. McCain supports the bill too, but he was too busy campaigning to cast a vote, and he knew it wouldn’t be close.

    Man, would it be sweet if MY company would give ME a year of paid leave to actively seek a new job.

  2. The US Dictatorship is clearly OUT OF CONTROL. If the Sheeple don’t STAND UP and take back what was once theirs, it will be lost forever.

    JT
    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  3. Obama cleverly realizes that when he’s president he’d also like to spy on his enemies (not to mention his friends.)

  4. So…Nixon was right? When the president does it, it’s not a crime.

  5. God, I fucking hate those 69 Senators.

  6. Once a power is given, it is rarely returned. I have no doubt that this authority will be abused shortly after approval.

  7. Domestic spying you can believe in!

  8. Laws are for restraining people not acting in my ill-considered, short-term self-interest. Of course they can violate the rights of people I hypothetically dislike!

  9. Although Democrats, including Barack Obama, made a big show of resisting the immunity provision, they seemed resigned from the beginning to surrendering the privacy of Americans’ international communications.

    But not Mrs. Clinton. She voted against it. Not sure, but she may not have flip-flopped on the issue either. Anyway, she voted against it.

    In other news, the woman with the ‘most’ popular votes in the Democrat party voted against the most recent FISA bill. I wonder what a good topic for their convention could be . . .

  10. Barr? anyone? anyone? Barr? Barr?

  11. (Employing my best Barney the Dinosaur voice):

    “The government is your FRIEND”.

  12. But not Mrs. Clinton. She voted against it. Not sure, but she may not have flip-flopped on the issue either. Anyway, she voted against it.

    Yes but if she was the nominee do you think she would have voted against it?

    She wasn’t out there championing the issue at all nor did she give any support to Feingold and Dodd, and her surrogates were penning OP/EDs praising Obama for his Sistah Soulja Moment where he stood up to the extreme left of his party. Check out Lanny Davis’ (a hard core Clintonite) OP/ED in the Chicago Sun-Times : http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/1044160,CST-EDT-open08x.article

  13. What Are You, a Terrorist?

    The person on the reason staff who meets that description is mister tax-out-the-ass Steve.

    The rest can be a bit loud on things, but not really terrorists in any stretch of the word.

  14. Sexist, misogynistic ChicagoTom oppressor of womyn,

    Yes but if she was the nominee do you think she would have voted against it?

    Of course! And she would have made a roar too.

  15. But not Mrs. Clinton. She voted against it. Not sure, but she may not have flip-flopped on the issue either. Anyway, she voted against it.

    I noticed this too. I fully believe that had she been the nominee that Clinton would have voted exactly like Obama, but as it stands it’s a win for her.

  16. From Lew Rockwell

    “All it took for Obama to become less civil libertarian than Hillary was getting the nomination. What will he do as president?”

  17. I frankly could care less about what the polls say. It would be nice if Reason would actually say what the FISA agreement does, so love it or hate people could at least have an intelligent conversation about it.

    This does not relate to wiretapping in the conventional sense. What this is about is NSA algorythems and datamining. What the NSA does, and they are hooked in to everything, is use complex computer programs that search through the data on e-mails and phone calls from the US to overseas and those overseas calls and e-mails that transit through a server in the US. Out of this comes a few thousand calls or e-mails a year that might be interesting. They are then analyzed and of those only about five or ten are ever interesting enough to get a full out FISA warrent.

    There are a couple of interesting issues about this. First, what the hell are the algorythms and who is writing them or keeping any oversight of them? If done properly, most people are not going to care that they are running them. If they are abused that is a different story. Second, where is the protection against this being used in other crimes. The 4th Amendment says “reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the purpose and benefits of the government actions versus the intrusion. I don’t think running algorythms on e-mails and phones is too much of an intrusion if the purpose is to prevent actual real no shit international terrorism. If it is to stop ordinary crime or drug dealing or child porn, then I say no. I don’t want this stuff ever used in that context. Sadly, it probably will in no small measure because no one has ever framed the debate properly. Instead of pissing your pants screaming “no wiretapping”, civil libertarians after 9-11 should have done a tactical retreat. They should have said that terrorism is a big threat and we are willing to make reasonable accomodations to fight it. But drugs and porn and ordinary crime is not terorism and these methods are not reasonable to stop them. That would have put them in a very strong position. Then no one could have said “what are you a terrorist” or any other bullshit. It would have taken terrorism out of the debate and made it about crime. The fact is that a majority of the people don’t give a shit if the NSA is listening in on their phone calls, much less running algorythms if actually relates to stopping terrorism. That arguement was lost on 9-11 and it wasn’t going to be won. What could have been won was the argument to keep this from being a typical law enforcement tool. Now, that arguement has been lost to and I have no doubt that it is just a matter of time before this becomes SOP for law enforcement of all matters.

  18. First, what the hell are the algorythms and who is writing them or keeping any oversight of them?

    Evil Corporate Overlord Defense Contractors, of course.

    MUHAHAHA!

  19. Has anyone seen my nuts?
    Jesse, did you clip my nuts?

  20. We need some sort of anti-9/11 to set things right. You know, some crazed, suicidal Muslims save five thousand Americans’ lives and we go back to normal.

    Remember 11/9!

  21. What’s the prior precedent for “retroactive immunity”?

  22. It’s akin to pardoning draft dodgers, except that this is law, not the pardon power.

  23. “Instead of pissing your pants screaming “no wiretapping”, civil libertarians after 9-11 should have done a tactical retreat.”

    Funny how the real pants-wetters (“please, please wire-tap my phone to keep me safe from terrorists”) frequently slander those of us who care about the erosion of our civil rights with ridiculous ad hominem and strawman characterizations.

    “Amendment IV
    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.”

    “algorythms” [sic] which search through everyone’s emails and phone calls are not by any definition “reasonable” and plainly violate the fourth amendment

  24. Barack | July 10, 2008, 12:11pm | #,

    I believe Mrs. Clinton may be thinking about handing them to you in Denver.

  25. People that are against what they consider unjust laws are always treated this way.If you against the drug war,you must be a druggie.Same for oppressive DUI laws and enforcement.It’s also used in economics when talking welfare or taxes.Never mind so called ‘global warming’.Of course,I always thought only crooks needed immunity.

  26. I want to cut his nuts off.

  27. “President Bush wants the power to wiretap the phone calls and emails of Americans without a search warrant from a judge.” Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) disapproved, 60 percent strongly.

    “The National Security Agency has been investigating people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so.” Asked whether “this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval” was “an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism,” 56 percent said it was acceptable.

    It’s the same goddam question. And I’m considered arrogant when I assert that people are just fucking stupid.

  28. For my money everything related to wiretapping news has seemed more political than anything else. Sure, we don’t want the government tapping our phones without a warrant, but regardless of what the law actually is, are there any libertarians out there who actually trust the intelligence community to actually follow it. I’m willing to bet that government spying, legal and illegal, has been a fact for a long time, going much further back than the war on terror.

    I’ll be worried when the 4th amendment is actually gutted and illegal and unconstitutional spying is used to convict Americans of crimes. Until that point, color me unconcerned and uninterested.

  29. Garrett J,

    But we should eliminate the borders so everybody can be Americans.

    [above spoken in total stoner voice in a cafe right before a poetry slam]

  30. John,

    The problem with ceding these powers to the government to fight “terrorism” is that terrorism has no clear cut legal definition. The executive branch has the sole determining authority of which groups are terrorist and what acts are considered terrorism. So if some functionary in the State Dept. decides a group is terrorists, all due process goes out the fuckin’ window. Surely you can see how this might concern some of us?

  31. “We need some sort of anti-9/11 to set things right. You know, some crazed, suicidal Muslims save five thousand Americans’ lives and we go back to normal.”

    Bizarro 9/11?

  32. To Whom It May Concern:

    Senator Obama did not merely run away from his prior vow to filibuster, he voted for cloture, preventing anybody else from filibustering.

    Go wipe that stuff off your chin.

  33. “What makes you think the government is interested in spying on you? Get over yourself!”

    What makes you think the terrorists are after you? Get over yourself

  34. So you are saying that if the Japanese had managed to land troops on the west coast in WW2 that FDR would have had to get a warrant to eavesdrop on their communications??

  35. So you are saying that if the Japanese had managed to land troops on the west coast in WW2 that FDR would have had to get a warrant to eavesdrop on their communications??

    Of course FDR wouldn’t, but Harding and Ike would need one if it happened on their watch.

  36. Tester voted “nay”!

    I’m going to send him a thank you note.

  37. So you are saying that if the Japanese had managed to land troops on the west coast in WW2 that FDR would have had to get a warrant to eavesdrop on their communications??

    Last I checked there is no territory of the United States being occupied by Al-Qaida.

  38. We need some sort of anti-9/11 to set things right. You know, some crazed, suicidal Muslims save five thousand Americans’ lives and we go back to normal.

    Nothing will bring things back to normal. The people who believe in the “Global War on Terror” have their new life cause and won’t be giving it up anytime soon. And the government loves it, as these fools will give the government more and more power to fight this “Global War”.

  39. Just saying terrorism, it seems, makes concerns about civil liberties disappear.

    You’re just now learning that? Government folk have known it forever, though sometimes they’ve used “communism”, “immigrants”, or “bogeyman” or some other such nonsense in place of “terrorism”. Fear is the greatest tool government wields, especially when it presents itself as the only protection from that which they tell you to fear.

  40. “Last I checked there is no territory of the United States being occupied by Al-Qaida.”

    Aren’t you forgetting that area in the Middle East that has our oil?

  41. We need a War on Tyranny.

  42. Come, Lamar, that’s unfair. While I’m all for South Iraqota, or, at least, Kurdlahoma, it’s not accurate to call the area “U.S. territory.” We’re just borrowing it.

  43. It’s the same goddam question.

    J sub D, no it is not. The first does not mention that one side of the communications is overseas. Whether you find the overseas component an important distinction or not, many people do.

    Many libertarians that I talk to argue strongly that better searches of all foreign shipments/luggage is an acceptable approach to the terrorist threat, while monitoring phone numbers is not (how this became known as wiretapping I do not understand). On the other hand, they feel that searches of shipments/luggage within the US is not acceptable.

    I agree with John, we should be arguing for or against this bill for what it is, both immunity and what limits should be on pen register taps as well as wiretaps.

  44. “Of course FDR wouldn’t, but Harding and Ike would need one if it happened on their watch.”

    Histor-owned.

  45. “So if some functionary in the State Dept. decides a group is terrorists, all due process goes out the fuckin’ window. Surely you can see how this might concern some of us?”

    I certainly understand those concerns. At the same time, you have to live with the political reality. You were not going to win that agrument with the public. Why not try to limit the damage and restrict it as much as possible? As it is, it is a matter of time before the FBI starts doing the same thing in regard to every crime imaginable if they haven’t already.

    As far as abuse goes, when this stuff starts being used to listen into political advasaries, ala RFK wiretaping MLK, or being used as evidence in criminal court, I will be worried. Until then I really don’t care.

  46. Garrett J | July 10, 2008, 12:22pm | #
    I’ll be worried when the 4th amendment is actually gutted and illegal and unconstitutional spying is used to convict Americans of crimes. Until that point, color me unconcerned and uninterested.

    So you must be worried day and night. Unless of course you think that warrantless spying searches by trained dogs and heat sensors on private property is A-Ok.

    This is little different except that it involves communications that route through another country. The internet topography is such that being in Boston, reading an email written in Toledo may actually have been routed (originated to the NSA) through Canada and we all know those Canucks are bomb wielding maniacs.

    Nobody has yet convinced me that FISA is too onerous, too time consuming, too much of a burden that ignoring it has actually, you know, resulted in a single thwarted terrorist attempt that couldn’t have been intercepted via legal channels. But then I guess I am just a “pants pissing” civil libertarian.

  47. John | July 10, 2008, 1:14pm | #
    As far as abuse goes, when this stuff starts being used to listen into political advasaries, ala RFK wiretaping MLK, or being used as evidence in criminal court, I will be worried. Until then I really don’t care.

    Secret, warrantless wiretapping by it’s nature is, well, secret dumbass. For a lawyer, you are one thick, and trusting sumbitch.

  48. Kwix,

    If it is such a secret how do you know about it and why are you telling every Enemy of America, both foreign and domestic? HUH? HUH? HUH?

  49. “Secret, warrantless wiretapping by it’s nature is, well, secret dumbass. For a lawyer, you are one thick, and trusting sumbitch.”

    Yeah and you are fucking troll. Congress sure as hell knows about it. Further, the intelligence oversight committees have the ability to look at any of the wiretaping. So does the GAO and the IG. If they were using it to listen to Obama’s phone calls, I think we would know about it. If they are doing so and hiding it from Congress, then passing a law telling them to stop isn’t going to stop them.

    For a troll you are about as moronic as I would expect you to be.

  50. Sadly, it probably will in no small measure because no one has ever framed the debate properly. Instead of pissing your pants screaming “no wiretapping”, civil libertarians after 9-11 should have done a tactical retreat. They should have said that terrorism is a big threat and we are willing to make reasonable accomodations to fight it.

    I thought the fucking ridiculous amount of money that goes into the DOD from my paycheck was enough REASONABLE FUCKING ACCOMMODATION.

  51. “I thought the fucking ridiculous amount of money that goes into the DOD from my paycheck was enough REASONABLE FUCKING ACCOMMODATION.”

    Well, unless you want to start shooting anyone who comes across the border or just kill every Muslim in the world, that is not how you fight terrorism. The fact is people are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people. Now, maybe using NSA algorithms is going too far under the 4th Amendment. Maybe it is not. That is the debate. But the fact that you already gave at the office to DOD, doesn’t mean shit one way or the other.

  52. I don’t mind being spied on. Makes me feel important.
    I just have to remember never, ever to mention Plan 47-Q.

  53. The fact is people are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.

    [Citation Needed]

  54. ed,

    If they spy on me I ask them to show me a copy of the 27B/6. Sometimes it sends them into convulsions.

  55. Bingo,

    Here you go.

    The fact is people are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.*

    *People are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.

  56. Yeah and you are fucking troll. Congress sure as hell knows about it. Further, the intelligence oversight committees have the ability to look at any of the wiretaping. So does the GAO and the IG. If they were using it to listen to Obama’s phone calls, I think we would know about it. If they are doing so and hiding it from Congress, then passing a law telling them to stop isn’t going to stop them.

    I don’t think I have ever before been called a troll so thanks for being first on that if nothing else.

    Second, yes Congress was well informed that this operation occurring. At least “important members of congress” were. Of course, this same congress just voted to give immunity to corporations who helped so I trust them to use the power about as wisely as anything else they do.

    Your assertion that the IG and GAO has oversight of the program may well be correct but they don’t have any input into how it is run. The GAO is about as useless as a tit on a steer (the GAO’s rating of ONDCP being a prime example of just how effective the GAO’s input really is). In other words, so fucking what if there is “oversight” when all that really amounts to is briefing the President and “key” members of congress who have already opted to abuse the program in the first place. It’s called a closed feedback loop and in the political realm it is worthless.

    For all your name calling John, over the last three years that I have been reading your tripe you still have yet to show me where this program is actually doing a damn bit of good, particularly in light of how lenient FISA’s warrant issuance is. You claim that if the NSA were spying on Politicians we’d know about it. Well, if that’s the case then why don’t we know if it’s actually catching terrorists? Could it be that this program is not only illegal but also failing? I doubt the intelligence community would keep such successes secret.

    It seems to me that you are the pants-pissing one here, hoping that Uncle Sam will protect you from the evil Islamofascists by any means necessary and trusting him to tell you when it’s okay to stop hiding under your bed.

  57. The fact is people are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.

    Every fucking time I go to town, I have to climb over the heaped dead burnt bodies of terror victims; it’s getting so I dread going to the Post Office to pick up my mail. And you can hardly get into the grocery store they’re piled so high.

  58. You are right bingo it is all a myth. 9-11 never happened. It was really a ironic comedy put on by Borat and the ghost of Andy Kauffman. They did the same thing in London, Bali and Madrid. They are an amazing team really.

    That is the problem with debating this stuff. The truth is no one knows shit. Unless you have access to some pretty high level intelligence, you have no clue what the actual threat is and even then you might not because there is nothing perfect about intelligence. If the measures are effective, then there are not any attacks and Bingo gets to say “see there never was a threat” even though he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground about what threat actually is. If you fail and there are attacks, Bingo gets to talk about how you let the country down and all these people died.

    Clearly there is some risk of terrorism and when it happens the consequences are huge. Now it perfectly reasonable to say that that risk makes using this kind of technology ok under the 4th Amendment. We adjust the 4th Amendment to changing times and circumstance all the time. That is why it says “reasonable”. What is reasonable for this time and place may not be reasonable for another time and place. Had there been no Al Quada or 9-11, I would say this is not reasonable, but there was. That is why I would say it is not reasonable in pursuit of ordinary crime, just terrorism and for the purpose of collecting intel and stopping it.

    The issues here are what is the risk? How effective is this at actually reducing the risk? How intrusive is it? And how does the intrusion weigh against the benefit we get? No one on either side ever wants to talk about those questions. Instead they just bang their rattles and scream “you love terrorists” or “you are fascist and want to turn this place into a police state”. Neither side is particularly serious in my view. Worse still is that rather than tailored specific responses and accommodations to specific problems; we are being left with the stark choice of doing nothing or granting the government the power to use this stuff for anything and everything.

  59. Kwix,

    If you think that “important members of Congress” know that the NSA is being used for political purposes and out of the goodness of their hearts and love of Bush are not saying anything, you are a tinfoil hat wearing paranoid and there is no point in talking to you. If Bush really is using it for political purposes and not telling Congress, then he is an outright criminal and no law you pass is going to stop him and this whole debate is a waste of time because he is going to do what he wants regardless of the law. The debate is what should the law be, not what are they doing outside of the law. Until I see some evidence of it, I don’t beleive that they are using this for political purposes. Further, there is no way in hell the Democrats in Congress would have covered it up if they knew they were.

  60. And on this issue Kwix, you are a troll. You won’t seriously engage the issue and just whine.

  61. Kwix,

    Don’t call people names on here and then whine about being called them yourself. If you don’t like being called a troll, then don’t throw names at me.

  62. The fact is people are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.

    [Citation Needed]
    ————
    Bingo,

    Here you go.

    The fact is people are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.*

    *People are coming here, blending in and then trying to kill people.

    I’m not quite sure which one of these ought to be the thread-winner, but it’s certainly one of them.

  63. John, change your crap-stained underwear already, the whole terrorist bogeyman is over.

    To paraphrase J. Scalia, more Americans are going to die (and, in fact, have died for over two centuries) because of the Fourth Amendment. And the Fifth. And the whole “due process of law” thingee. We like it that way–it is the price of admission to a free society. Love it or leave it, you pansy.

  64. John | July 10, 2008, 2:29pm | #
    The debate is what should the law be…
    And on this issue Kwix, you are a troll. You won’t seriously engage the issue and just whine.

    Okay, I hate to do this but since you ignored The Innominate One further upthread I will have to quote the law to you, Mr. Lawyer Boi.

    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

    It doesn’t say shit about “citizens” or “Americans” it says “the people”. Now, given that the Constitution is only valid within the borders of the US, this means people within the borders of the US.

    As for “seriously engaging the issue”, how about you explain to me a)why FISA is onerous b)why the NSA opts not to seek warrants from the most lenient court in the land c)what good this program has done [citation needed].

    I have engaged the issue full front, I have quoted the supreme law of the land and I am awaiting your response to my questions. I expect it will be more of the same whining shit you have given for the last three years but perhaps this time you will surprise me.

    Perhaps someday you will realize that you can’t give Big Brother one of your rights and not expect him to take the others. Until that day arrives little man, you have some growing up to do.

  65. it’s getting so I dread going to the Post Office to pick up my mail.

    You know, they can deliver that to you. Added bonus, you can get the drop on the Postal worker if he decides to go Postal.

  66. 69-28? Hmmm, I remember the vote to continue funding the Iraq war also was opposed by 28 senators.

    The same ones?

  67. prolefeed,

    50/50 chance that you are correct 😉

  68. John:

    I’m not saying its a myth, the World Trade Center attacks (can we stop referring to it by its fucking DATE already?) did happen and were a national tragedy. However, as a red-blooded American with a set of testicles, I’m not giving up any of my goddamn freedoms because something bad happened.

    We aren’t at war with any nation, we don’t have a foreign nation occupying our soil, and we are certainly not in existential danger from a bunch of backwards camelfuckers with a chip on their soldier.

    Grow a pair and stop crying for big daddy gubmint to protect you from the monster under your bed.

  69. Henry,

    I love how people like you that are in no position of responsibility and are unlikly to ever be in any danger from anything are so quick to dismiss the dangers of terrorism. Easy for you to say, if you are wrong and there is a major attack and a few thousand or more dead, no one will hold you responsibile. I can of see where the people who would be held responsible look at it differently. Fuck you die this is a free country just isn’t an answer. More importantly, it is not an answer anyone who is not a nut is going to take.

  70. Guy Montag | July 10, 2008, 2:49pm | #
    prolefeed,

    50/50 chance that you are correct

    [citation needed]

  71. Soldier = shoulder, damn typos

  72. Y’know why we can’t have a discussion of this, John?

    The issues here are what is the risk?
    That’s classified.
    How effective is this at actually reducing the risk?
    So’s that.
    How intrusive is it?
    And that.
    And how does the intrusion weigh against the benefit we get?
    And this as well.

    No one on either side ever wants to talk about those questions.

    I’d be more than happy to discuss it, but since nobody in the government wants to show any data, or proof of effectiveness, or need, or any any justification whatsoever besides “OMG! TERRORISTS!11!!” I’ve got to say no, you don’t get to do that. Unfortunately for me, the numbnuts we picked to uphold the Constitution are apparently incapable of reading the fucking document.

  73. Kwix, just a question for you-

    How important do you really think this issue is in the grand scheme of things? I mostly agree with you, in principle, but the issue really doesn’t rate highly for me. The war on drugs literally costs innocent American lives every year. And nanny laws like smoking bans and trans fat bans actually do restrict our freedom. While it sucks that the government may listen to our phone calls and read our e-mails, the end effect of such spying seems to me to be far less of a threat to our liberty.

    Given that we have an intricate spy community, I fully expect them to spy, regardless of what laws we actually have on the books. If we’re not seeing criminal prosecutions from unconstitutionally obtained evidence, how much, relatively, do we really need to worry?

  74. John, I live in one of the murder capitals of the good ol’ US of A, South Florida. If we had police state tactics, there would be a lot less murder–you know, the type of murder that actually kills 15,000+ Americans a year, here, as opposed to all your bogeymen. But, no thanks, I say–just as I say “no thanks” to the surveillance state you apparently crave.

    What is a cowardly phony like you doing on this site anyway? I don’t deny your right to be here, but I just question your reason for doing so.

  75. Kwix,

    Sorry, don’t need a cite since the question was binary. It is either true or not, thus 50/50 chance of being correct.

    If asked in a different way then I would have to ask the folks who still do a lot of stats around here what the probability of 1 in 28 Senators being different in sets of 28.

    Now, if the votes were seperated by 100 years, the chance of them being the same 28 would be 0.

  76. I see it must be a full moon tonight based on the comments I see here regarding the government’s efforts to protect the American people.

    Now I’m sure the commenters are all law enforcement, national security, military types or at the very least have spent years in these particular branches with a full understanding of the issues involved.

    So we get highly specific terms like “bogeymen” which is a classified term in the echo chamber to ensure any threat is frivolous. Just move along.

    Such inspid comments deserve the James E McGreevey Award for Honesty and Awareness.
    Then something called T also demonstrates his objections in extremely concrete terms. Unfortunately the tapping of phones for national security reasons has been sanctioned by our justice system for over forty years. Since this does not involve innocent little grandmas one wonders what the hollering is about.

    Which is more evil, tapping the phone calls of foreign terrorists and their allie or having every American wage earner surrender every detail of their earnings and assets to the federal government.

    Apparently the braying, chinless wonders of the Left find one quite acceptable and the other a threat to liberty. And this describes the facist mind quite completely.

  77. Garrett J,
    The issue of legally ingrained yet blatantly illegal spying is not exceptionally high on my list, other than it is just another example of “warrantless searches” that are becoming more pervasive in today’s society. I agree that the WOD and all of it’s attendant breaches of liberty is, without a doubt, a far more pressing matter in the lives of the average citizen.

    What bothers me isn’t that we have a spy network or that they are most likely spying on American citizens without probable cause. It’s that people like John view it as perfectly acceptable and something that not only should be tolerated but embraced. It’s like saying that drug smuggling checkpoints, while illegal on the face, are really something that we should accept “for the greater good of America”. Sorry, but I can’t accept either.

    That we don’t have people being arrested and tried based on evidence so obtained* does make it a lower priority but by no means is it benign. Like any cancer, you treat the large, aggressive and life threatening tumors first but always keep an eye on the smaller ones. No matter what, you don’t accept them as “a normal part of life”.

    Ultimately, I view terrorism as so low on my totem pole that I don’t understand why the government, much less the average citizen, worries about it so. For Christ’s sake, more people die in auto accidents in any given month than died in the WTC incident. None of those deaths are any less tragic, are they? You don’t see Congress, the NSA, the President, or the public, jumping through hoops to install secret cameras into every car just to see who might be a reckless driver.

    *It is possible that illegally obtained evidence could be used to obtain warrants that then lead to court admissible evidence. Of course, since the exact content obtained by the NSA program is kept secret, no one can prove otherwise.

  78. “As for “seriously engaging the issue”, how about you explain to me a)why FISA is onerous b)why the NSA opts not to seek warrants from the most lenient court in the land c)what good this program has done [citation needed].”

    Actually FISA is not that onerous in a lot of ways. A lot of the whining from FBI has to do with their incompetence. I disagree with the provisions of this bill that allow the FBI to listen for a week without getting a FISA warrant. That is just bending the rules rather than telling FBI to stop being so incompetent.

    The problem is that FISA is not onerous if you know what you want to listen to. But if you know what you want to listen to, you know who the terrorist is or the suspect is and the problem is solved. But who do you want to listen to? What they are doing is using data mining to figure out who they might want to listen to and then using the information from the data mining to get a FISA warrant. If you get rid of the data mining, then you really have no way to ever get probable cause to get a warrant. The data mining stuff is really amazing pretty effective at finding things. It is also something that the law has never contemplated before. Is a computer reading bits of data the same thing as a cop listening to your phone? No it isn’t. It is a different sort of intrusion. It is still an intrusion, but not the same thing as a traditional wiretap.

    The second problem is what about overseas phone calls that are routed through the US? Before this bill, you had to get a FISA warrant to listen into anything that happened to come through a US router. I don’t buy that. The 4th Amendment protects people. A foreign party should not get protection just because his call happens to route through the US.

    Ultimately, I don’t think the data mining is that big of an intrusion. I think it is similar to bomb sniffing dogs at airports. It is a search and an intrusion but a small one and one whose benefits justify the nature of the intrusion. I would say this only with regards to terrorism issues. I don’t think the danger from child porn or drugs rises to that level.

    You may disagree with that. Who knows maybe you are right. It is a judgment call. But it is not nearly as clear cut as the people at Reason make it out to be.

  79. Damn, sounds like an Alternet thread…heheheh

  80. “What bothers me isn’t that we have a spy network or that they are most likely spying on American citizens without probable cause.”

    You throw these terms around like “spying” like you know what they mean. In broad terms the government “spys” on you all the time. Try depositing over 10K in the bank sometime without the IRS knowing about it. Try putting some plastic explosives in your bag and going to the airport. Even under the strictest reading of the 4th Amendment, some level of government intrusion has always been allowed without probable cause depending on the level of the intrusion and the government purpose for doing so. How does data mining rise to a level beyond those intrusions that already exist? You say that terrorism is not a threat and I hope you are right. But the fact is that a lot of people disagree with you and there is no guarantee you are right. We don’t know what the risk fully is. I don’t see data mining as being that big of an intrusion. It is a hell of a lot less of an intrusion than telling me what the contents of my garbage can be, something the environmentalists love, or telling me what jokes I can tell at work, something sexual harassment law already does. And it is an intrusion that actually addresses a real problem.

  81. As for “seriously engaging the issue”, how about you explain to me a)why FISA is onerous b)why the NSA opts not to seek warrants from the most lenient court in the land c)what good this program has done [citation needed].

    Kwix, if I follow you correctly, you are saying that the old FISA laws were sufficient for determining what required a warrant and what did not. I do not believe it did.

    My legal research skills are not strong, but it appears to me that the old laws did not discuss pen register taps (collection of meta data, such as phone numbers). Traditionally the standard for collecting pen register data is much lower. It also was written at a time when a communications within a foreign country did not leave the country, so by definition any tap of a communication within the country was only done on that countries equipment.

    These days a communications in which both ends are within a foreign country may pass through equipment owned by a US company.

    If I understand the what has been reported, the Bush administration (reasonably I think) interpreted the old laws as saying foreign pen register data for communications that passed through US equipment did not require a warrant. The reality is you could argue all day about how the law applied, but it really was not covered.

    The new law is explicit, if one end of the communications is in the US, or involves a US person it requires a warrant. This clarification seems like a good thing to me.

    See here and here.

  82. “””This is little different except that it involves communications that route through another country.”””

    I seriously doubt that is true. We only know they installed equipment that does something that was unlawful.

    To Continue using that equipment, the Bush admin needed congress to give telcos immunity for the installation of said equipment. Then, anything the equipment was meant to do will be covered by the immunity. Such as spy ad hoc on any piece of data the equipment was meant to catch or provide access to.

    “”””What Are You, a Terrorist?”””

    No, I’m a freedom loving person who respects our Constitution. Why can’t you be one too?

  83. “””In broad terms the government “spys” on you all the time. Try depositing over 10K in the bank sometime without the IRS knowing about it.”””

    That’s observing, not spying. We know they observe these transactions, they have stated so. Spying implies that the target is unknowing of the observation. Big Brother wasn’t spying on Winston, Big Brother was observing his every move.

    I agree that if the NSA was using data for its publicly stated purpose, terrorism, I would not be concerned. But since when was government ever trustworthy? Not from day one. Since government is naturally not trust worthy, they shouldn’t have the ability without serious oversight.

  84. “””The new law is explicit, if one end of the communications is in the US, or involves a US person it requires a warrant. This clarification seems like a good thing to me.”””

    What makes you think the President will abide by the new law? The lesson learned from the Bush admin is to do what you want, bullshit the American public, get Congress to provide immunity for your illegal act.

  85. “I agree that if the NSA was using data for its publicly stated purpose, terrorism, I would not be concerned. But since when was government ever trustworthy? Not from day one. Since government is naturally not trust worthy, they shouldn’t have the ability without serious oversight.”

    I agree completely. That is why I think the civil libertarians dropped the ball on this one. They should never have fought the battle over data mining to stop terrorism. That debate was lost. They were not going to stop it from happening. What they should have done was reframe the debate and made it about oversight and use. They should have made a tactical retreat on the terrorism issue and insisted on this kind of technology only being used for the purpose of stopping terrorism and then subject to big oversight. What disturbs me about this is that I know it is only a matter of time before they start using it for ordinary crimes. It is just like the Patriot Act being used to go after drug dealers. DOJ can’t help itself.

    I am not a fan of this bill because of the lack of oversight and the lack of limitations on the use of data mining. But the problem is that Congress doesn’t want to use its oversight power. They don’t want to be responsible for anything. They would rather not know and then blame someone else later.

  86. You throw these terms around like “spying” like you know what they mean. In broad terms the government “spys” on you all the time. Try depositing over 10K in the bank sometime without the IRS knowing about it.

    This may be done, but it isn’t justified either. It too is another over-reaction to “terrorism” and money laundering fears. Indeed, it can be directly attributable to the War on Drugs.

    Try putting some plastic explosives in your bag and going to the airport.

    Apparently, even with a direct physical threat the government can’t do things right so why should I trust them to accurately interpret anything they mine out of the citizens data?

    Even under the strictest reading of the 4th Amendment, some level of government intrusion has always been allowed without probable cause depending on the level of the intrusion and the government purpose for doing so. How does data mining rise to a level beyond those intrusions that already exist?

    You claim this as if the courts never make an incorrect decision regarding constitutional interpretation, that they are willing to reverse incorrect decisions when necessary, even if it means returning power to the citizenry and that they don’t contradict themselves. I’m sorry, but I have to differ with you, see Wickard v. Filburn, and US v. Lopez against Gonzales v. Raich. Clearly, just because a portion of the constitution has been interpreted by the courts to mean something doesn’t necessarily make it just or correct. It makes it legal, not right.

    You say that terrorism is not a threat and I hope you are right.

    I said no such thing. I said it was far down on my totem pole of concerns, and it is, but there will always be terrorists and terrorism. I’d just rather that my government not be a participant.

    As for your statements regarding airport security. I have no problems with airlines protecting their property and their passengers from harm. That is bang up customer service. What we have now is Security Theatre. It’s a good show by the Government but nothing more. Little old ladies have their knitting needles taken away but bomb making materials pass right on through. If that same sort of cost/return benefit is acceptable within the NSA program, then no, I absolutely do not want them “spying” on citizens.

  87. I am not a fan of this bill because of the lack of oversight and the lack of limitations on the use of data mining. But the problem is that Congress doesn’t want to use its oversight power. They don’t want to be responsible for anything. They would rather not know and then blame someone else later.

    Plausible Deniability is the MO of all levels of government. It’s not just Congress. If this bill stated that there would be some form of oversight that’s fine in theory.
    The fact remains that such reports, positive or negative, would remain secret and classified. If the general public, and perhaps even less than “key” members of Congress can’t know whether or not the program is staying within it’s objective and is effective, how is it really oversight, particularly when the subject of the program is the citizenry?

  88. Then something called T also demonstrates his objections in extremely concrete terms.

    If you’re not sure what I am, how can you be sure I’m male?

    Moving right along, John,

    What disturbs me about this is that I know it is only a matter of time before they start using it for ordinary crimes. It is just like the Patriot Act being used to go after drug dealers. DOJ can’t help itself.

    I am not a fan of this bill because of the lack of oversight and the lack of limitations on the use of data mining.

    Well, we may come at it from different directions but at least we agree this bill is not anywhere near worth passing.

  89. What makes you think the President will abide by the new law?

    I do not know what they will do, but in a previous post, Jacob reported that the Bush administration changed its behavior when a court ruled that the administration was not correctly interpreting FISA law.

    If you assume that they will violate the law, wouldn’t you rather laws be clear, so it is easy to prosecute? Where laws are muddy, it is not fair to prosecute.

  90. “””How does data mining rise to a level beyond those intrusions that already exist?”””

    Reasonable is the word your missing. Well, the whole so called war on terror is absent that word in general. The question is it reasonable for the government to collect and datamine information for a very small threat. Terrorism is not a big threat at all, the hype would have you thinking otherwise but they need the hype for you to think what they are doing is reasonable. If you agree that the level of information collected and mined is reasonable for terrorism, it’s far more reasonable to use it to combat health problems and crime. I think that’s the governments view.

  91. “””If you assume that they will violate the law, wouldn’t you rather laws be clear, so it is easy to prosecute? Where laws are muddy, it is not fair to prosecute.”””

    Who would prosceute? The DOJ which republicans have aruged is open to politics. Congress? They provide immunity.

    Sure, I would say the laws should be clear. How do we know the current laws were not? Because Bush or ass kissing Senators said so? The Bush crew knows how to work the public, just say the old system is broken and we are going to die until it’s fix. Whether or not it’s really broken is irrelevant to them.

    It basically mean we’re screwed. Learn to love Little Brother, there is nothing you can do.

  92. Sure, I would say the laws should be clear. How do we know the current laws were not? Because Bush or ass kissing Senators said so?

    No, I know they are not clear because I have read them. Love it or hate it, the new law is much clearer.

  93. Terrorism = result of imperialism. Invade a country and you receive a lashback. America’s still paying for what it did in Afghanistan and with a failing war in Iraq, it’s heading towards collapse.

  94. “””No, I know they are not clear because I have read them. Love it or hate it, the new law is much clearer.”””

    How did you read the classified parts of the laws?

  95. First, thank you antiglobalist. You are precisely correct that terrorism is the result of imperialism, which makes the “War on Terror” futile, yet unavoidable, as long as we fail to adopt a non-imperialist foreign policy. In November, any vote cast for a candidate who will accept, maintain, or expand our imperialist policy is a vote for the inevitable, and probably imminent, collapse of this nation.

    Second, kwix wrote, “{The Constitution} doesn’t say shit about ‘citizens’ or ‘Americans’ it says ‘the people.’ Now, given that the Constitution is only valid within the borders of the US, this means people within the borders of the US.”

    Actually, “the people” is generally accepted to mean the same as “We the people,” i.e., citizens. Also, the Constitution doesn’t grant rights that are effective only within the borders of the nation. It recognizes rights that individuals have, primarily by the mechanism of prescribing or proscribing specific government behavior. Some people (especially those in government) like to think that those restrictions no longer apply when the government operates outside our borders, or when it deals with non-citizens, but that’s a total crock. If, for example, our government holds a (non-military) trial, anywhere in the world, the guarantees of counsel, facing one’s accusers and the damning evidence, no coercion to testify against oneself, etc., bind our government regardless of what local laws say (or even if there is no local law, as aboard a ship or airplane that is operating outside of any national territory), and regardless of the citizenship status of the accused.

    Finally, to those who say that the Executive Branch informed Congress (or at least its “important” members) about the covert surveillance activities, Senator Feingold painted a much different picture in a recent speech on the floor of the Senate, in opposition to the FISA Amendments bill. He basically said that the few people who got a peek at what the Executive was doing weren’t shown much, and that they were sworn to secrecy. He sits on relevant committees, and to the extent that he was one of the people who got peeks, he said what little he did see (which he couldn’t talk about in public) convinced him that the bill needed to be defeated. Now, it is up to the people to ensure that the Senators who voted for that unconstitutional bill are defeated the next time they run for office. They have proven their incompetence to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and if we let them get away with it, that will only encourage worse behavior — if not by the current perpetrators then by those who come after. Can you doubt it?

  96. James Anderson Merritt,
    Once again you have eloquently and succinctly stated what I could not manage to express in many words.

  97. Stuartl, I keed about secert laws, but what about this amendment to FISA that actually makes FISA clearer?

  98. Arlen Spector on the current law

    http://washingtonindependent.com/view/specter-warrantless

    “It’s very important that there be judicial review of what the phone companies have done,” Specter told a large audience gathered in Washington Monday for a conference of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It seems to me that it’d be very difficult to grant retroactive immunity when you don’t even know for sure what you’re giving retroactive immunity for.”

    And this is one of the ‘informed’ senators? (to John)

    my favorite quote

    “”Please,” Specter responded, “not so much applause when I tell you how inept Congress is.”

    tell me if he makes sense here

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=qfzp6UI_M8o

  99. “Just saying terrorism, it seems, makes concerns about civil liberties disappear.”

    Sullum reads the phrasing of those two questions and the only thing he sees as significantly different about them is the word “terrorism”?

    The first questions strongly implies that Americans are the targets of the warrantless surveillance and all communications with anyone are subject to it. The second narrows it to communications with foreigners while not suggesting much about which party is the target. It is hardly surprising that the groups questioned had rather different reactions to the two phrasings. It suggests that people have few qualms about the government reading foreigner’s mail, even if an American is at the other end of the line. Furthermore the first phrasing is at best nonspecific and hyperbolic, at worst, an unfair and dishonest way of framing the issue.

    “The Senate vote was 69 to 28, which means senators are even more eager than their constituents to let the government spy at will.”

    Exactly how does the new FISA let the government spy at will? Does it get rid of the necessity for warrants in all situations (foreign and domestic communications)? It is very difficult to take libertarian’s argument’s about this issue seriously when they keep hyperventilating about it like this. Is too much to ask for some thoughtfulness and logic?

  100. I tend to side with keeping civil liberties in tact, having a willingness to err on the side of caution rather than give gov’t another possibly Draconian power-play.

  101. Apologies for the misapplication of the word ‘Draconian’.

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