NSA

The Time to Limit NSA Snooping Is Now

Reauthorizing an unamended PATRIOT Act would be reckless.

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When Congress passed the PATRIOT Act in 2001, it did not intend to authorize the indiscriminate collection of personal information about every American. But that is what Congress will be doing if it renews the law next month without changes aimed at protecting our privacy from an increasingly intrusive national security state.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which is scheduled to expire at the end of May, allows the FBI to obtain secret court orders demanding "any tangible things," including "books, records, papers, documents, and other items," that are "relevant" to a terrorism or espionage investigation. For years the Obama administration, with the blessing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, secretly read Section 215 as permitting the mass collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The NSA's phone-record dragnet was revealed in 2013, thanks to leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. At first President Obama said it was no big deal, but he changed his mind after polls showed Americans were increasingly skeptical of the program.

Obama now says the NSA does not need to routinely collect information on who called whom, when, and for how long. Instead it can ask phone companies for records tied to particular targets as the needs arises. The current approach, he concedes, needlessly jeopardizes Americans' privacy.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the main author of the PATRIOT Act, agrees. Sensenbrenner calls the NSA database "a gross invasion of privacy and a violation of Section 215," since "the phone records of innocent Americans do not relate to terrorism, and they are not reasonably likely to lead to information that relates to terrorism." 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is seeking his party's presidential nomination, has promised to end the NSA program on his first day in the White House, saying "our Founding Fathers would be mortified" by the mass collection of personal information. One of Paul's rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), also opposes the database.

Other Republican presidential contenders seem less concerned. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, calls NSA snooping "the best part of the Obama administration" and says he does not understand what the fuss is about.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says NSA critics like Paul are engaging in "esoteric, intellectual debates" and would see their error if they could just "sit across from the [9/11] widows and orphans and have that conversation." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) supports a "permanent extension" of the PATRIOT Act, making no mention of privacy protections.

That would be a mistake. The point of requiring periodic renewal of PATRIOT Act provisions such as Section 215 is to let Congress re-evaluate them based on new information.

Thanks to Snowden, legislators now know something most of them did not know the last time they voted to reauthorize Section 215: Based on an implausible yet court-endorsed understanding of the provision's relevance requirement, the executive branch sees it as a license to amass information about everyone. That license could easily be extended to other kinds of records held by third parties, including huge repositories of sensitive information stored on remote servers.

"Lawmakers in 2001 didn't set out to create a vast surveillance state," notes a coalition of 13 conservative and libertarian groups in a recent letter to Senate leaders. If legislators do not impose new restrictions now, the coalition warns, "Congress risks becoming subordinate to the Administration's creative reinterpretation….Today's domestic surveillance programs are just the tip of the iceberg compared to how the NSA could use its current authority."

That is not the only danger for Republicans who side with Bush and Christie instead of Paul and Cruz on this issue. According to survey data released by the Pew Research Center last month, 70 percent of Republicans say they are losing confidence in the NSA's surveillance programs, compared to 55 percent of Democrats. Legislators who sacrifice privacy on the altar of national security may pay a political price for their recklessness.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Instead it can ask phone companies for records tied to particular targets as the needs arises. The current approach, he concedes, needlessly jeopardizes Americans’ privacy.

    And, more importantly, doesn’t transfer data retention costs to the private sector.

    1. For Obama, change always has a silver lining.

  2. But Rudy says 911

    1. Yeah, so Christy’s response to complaints about the program’s ineffectiveness and gross violation of civil liberties is, “But…but… 9/11!”

      “Lisa, I would like to buy your rock.”

  3. For years the Obama administration, with the blessing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, secretly read Section 215 as permitting the mass collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency (NSA).

    Not to worry. I am sure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will find another section of the Patriot Act to do whatever the hell they want to.

  4. Has any NSA data ever been used to actually arrest someone? I’ve never seen it mentioned when these ragtag groups get arrested with these sting/entrapment operations.

    1. That’s because it’s super super secret.

      It’s very effective, just trust us. And give us more money and power.

      Love,
      The NSA

    2. Well, NSA data has been used to arrest drug dealers. And then they coach the DEA to come up with a ‘parallel’ line of evidence to avoid specifying the bust was based on illegal spying.

      1. Of Snowden’s revelations, this has been the most noxious. The program’s defenders use the bait-and-switch of claiming terrorism prevention whilst it really is just another bullshit weapon in the war on drugs.

        1. “Almost 90 Percent of All US Wiretaps Listen for Suspected Drug Deals”

          http://motherboard.vice.com/re…..drug-deals

    3. Has any NSA data ever been used to actually arrest someone? I’ve never seen it mentioned when these ragtag groups get arrested with these sting/entrapment operations.

      It is my understanding that they have used it to arrest drug dealers, but only after hiding that fact from judges, defense councils, etc.. So yes.

      1. Or what WTF and Charles said.

    4. Most likely it is only used to blackmail and threaten whoever the NSA and Obama administration considers their “enemy”. It is a digital Stasi not a tool to fight turrists.

  5. When Congress passed the PATRIOT Act in 2001, it did not intend to authorize the indiscriminate collection of personal information about every American.

    Yes it did. Why do you hate our heroes?

  6. “According to survey data released by the Pew Research Center last month, 70 percent of Republicans say they are losing confidence in the NSA’s surveillance programs, compared to 55 percent of Democrats.”

    Label me a cynic, but I’m comfortable predicting that the confidence will basically flip should a Republican become president.

    1. As a corollary of that, I cannot understand the willingness of Team Red to potentially hand these powers to Hillary Clinton. I’m sure Marco Rubio will suddenly find his inner civil libertarian should she win.

      1. Hand them? Hillary will just take them whether the Republicans like it or not. It’s not like they can do anything about a Democrat president when the Democrats refuse to hold one of their own accountable.

        1. My point was, why would you reauthorize this thing if Our Worst Nightmare might become president.

          Though I agree that she’ll probably just tell the NSA to do whatever the hell she feels like against her political opponents.

          1. Hey, the Republicans aren’t called The Stupid Party for nothing.

            1. Yes they are. If they were smart they’d charge a buck-oh-five to wear the label

          2. why reauthorize? Because govt agents seldom engage in dialing back their own power.

    2. The Democrats will also magically rediscover their ‘principled’ opposition to military action.

      1. And Civil Rights Abuses as well, among other things once important to them, WTF.
        I think it’s about “Team” for many on both sides of the statist coin. They simply flip their points of view depending upon whether or not their Team members are in power.

        1. Exactly right, the only thing that matters is what Team someone is on. Principals, not principles.

  7. Freedom isn’t free
    Yeah there’s a hefty fukkin’ fee

    1. Freedoms just another word
      for nothing left to lose.

  8. OT.

    That day, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw went on TV to defend the shooting.

    “Stop what you’re doing and comply with us,” he told reporters. “There’s nothing in the rules of engagement that says we have to put our lives in jeopardy to wait to find out what this is to get killed.”

    Lin was cleared to return to work four days later. Months later, investigators from the State Attorney’s Office and PBSO ruled the shooting justified.

    West Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola is suing the sheriff and the deputy on Stephens’ behalf. Scarola says he discovered issues with the deputy’s statements after requesting and viewing all the video and audio recordings from the incident.

    “There are no records of any commands ever made to Dontrell Stephens,” explained Scarola.

    “The deputy’s recorded statements following the shooting were absolutely false. Internal affairs completely ignored that evidence,” he said.

    http://www.abc15.com/news/nati…..bso-deputy

    1. “There’s nothing in the rules of engagement that says we have to put our lives in jeopardy to wait to find out what this is to get killed.”

      Rules of fucking engagement? These assholes really do think they are an occupying army in a war zone.

      1. I just read this story at CNN and, ironically, here’s a quote:

        “Unless somebody shoots at us, we ain’t shooting,” Jacobs told his crew.

        Holy cow, what a story.

        http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/29/…..index.html

        1. Awesome story. thanks…

      2. And guess who the enemy is.

    2. You are nuts. That is clearly an assault bicycle.

    3. Ah yes, the “Officer Safety!!!!!11!!!” argument. Just keep that one ready at all times.

    4. “Stop what you’re doing and comply with us,” he told reporters.

      There is a difference between a lawful order and an unlawful order. Well, in theory there is. In theory if a cop demands ID, but has no reason to suspect you’ve committed a crime or have warrants for your arrest, you are not legally obligated to comply. However if you refuse then you will be arrested, and if you resist then you will be beaten or killed. And nothing will happen to the cop because qualified immunity protects them from any consequences for abusing people who know the law.

      So in practice there really is no such thing as an unlawful order. If you don’t do jumping jacks or whatever it is that the cop demands, you will be arrested or even killed.

      So much for rule of law.

  9. “When Congress passed the PATRIOT Act in 2001, Jacob Sullum says, it did not intend to authorize the indiscriminate collection of personal information about every American.”

    Stop right there.

    1. To be fair, Suthenboy, the meaning could very well be “Congress did not intend to authorize the indiscriminate collection of personal information about ONLY every American.”

  10. allows the FBI to obtain secret court orders demanding “any tangible things”

    “tan?gi?ble (t?n?j?-b?l) adj. Discernible by the touch; palpable”

    Unlike, say, *electrons*.

    1. My tinfoil hat keeps the electrons from ever touching me. I made sure to ground it, too.

  11. Isn’t that jinni well out of the bottle? Hey, there’s guys working for the government, getting big bucks to listen and take notes! They’re important to national security! You want them fired from a job that pays twice what YOU get for actually working? You want their benefits cut from twice what yours are? You want their children to starve?

  12. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says NSA critics like Paul are engaging in “esoteric, intellectual debates” and would see their error if they could just “sit across from the [9/11] widows and orphans and have that conversation.”

    ——–

    Easy. Tell them that it’s much more effective to focus your limited resources on specific threats rather than stretching them and making it more likely you’ll miss something by investigating everybody.

  13. upto I looked at the receipt four $4773 , I didn’t believe that…my… mom in-law was realy receiving money parttime from there new laptop. . there aunts neighbour started doing this 4 only twenty one months and recently paid the dept on their villa and bourt a new Car
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  14. What a bunch of crap–you have no problems letting google, ebay, your phone company, and every other electronic connection you have to the world, collect, save and sell your lifes history, but you are worried the NSA may possibly do something illegal with that same info.

    1. Right, because a company that you voluntarily do business with is totally the same as an entity that can send large, armed men to break down your door and arrest or kill you.
      As odious as Walt Disney’s views were, it wasn’t the Disney company who invaded Poland and killed millions of people. (Sorry for Godwining up the thread, but sometimes it’s justified.)
      But yeah, business and government are exactly the same.

  15. my roomate’s half-sister makes $71 /hr on the computer . She has been laid off for 5 months but last month her pay was $17321 just working on the computer for a few hours
    …… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  16. my neighbor’s aunt makes $86 every hour on the internet . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her paycheck was $15501 just working on the internet for a few hours
    …… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

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