Surveillance

Bulk Metadata Collection Is Dead! Long Live Bulk Metadata Collection!

The Obama administration praises death of program while requesting it to be renewed.

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Hilarity!
White House

Yesterday evening the White House put out a statement by President Barack Obama showing the administration's appreciation for the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which is intended to curtail (but not eliminate) bulk metadata collection from Americans' records that had been done under the PATRIOT Act. The statement said in part:

"Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures."

So, of course, The Guardian reports today that the administration is going to attempt to restart the very bulk collection of metadata that the president just said he is glad is about to be prohibited:

US officials confirmed to the Guardian that in the coming days they will ask a secret surveillance court to revive the program – deemed illegal by a federal appeals court – all in the name of "transitioning" the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called "call detail records" the government seeks to access.

The unconventional and unexpected legal circumstance depends on a section of the USA Freedom Act, which Obama signed into law on Tuesday, that provides a six-month grace period to prepare the surveillance and legal bureaucracies for a world in which the National Security Agency is no longer the repository of bulk US phone metadata.

During that time, the act's ban on bulk collection will not yet take effect.

Read the whole thing here. Remember what Sen. Rand Paul's objections brought us. Because Paul forced Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to sunset, the federal government wound down this particular bulk collection (or so we've been told). But now the administration wants to fire it all back up while the six-month transition takes place. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Paul's partner in forcing Section 215 to expire, is not impressed:

"I see no reason for the executive branch to restart bulk collection, even for a few months, and I urge them not to attempt to do so. This illegal dragnet surveillance violated Americans' rights for 14 years without making our country any safer, and the administration should leave it on the ash heap of history," Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee, told the Guardian on Wednesday.

A reminder: The Second Circuit ruled that Section 215 never authorized the level of metadata collection the National Security Agency (NSA) had implemented in the first place. But the court didn't demand any particular action from its ruling because the judges knew that Section 215 was set to expire, so they left it to Congress to decide how to approach it.

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  1. But the court didn’t not demand any particular action from its ruling because the judges new that Section 215 was set to expire and left it to Congress to decide how to approach it.

    Scott, I think you need to clean this sentence up a bit.

    1. I didn’t not fix this.

      1. I new you wouldn’t not fix it.

        1. A double negative epitomizes the metadata storage bullshit.

    2. I’m a little mystified by the court’s non-action here.

      If the bulk database was never authorized, it was illegal from day one. The court should have ordered the NSA to destroy the database, and present evidence, under oath, to the court that it had complied with this order.

      The court should have also ordered the NSA to cease all bulk collection unless and until Congress authorized it by statute.

      What the court did was more like publishing a letter to the editor, rather than an actual judicial decision.

      1. We wouldn’t be where we are today without court deference to the other branches, and the presumption of legality and goodwill given to every law, regulation, and government action.

        1. That’s the thing, though.

          They ruled that it wasn’t legal. And then did absolutely nothing to stop it or undo it.

          They gave the federal government permission to continue doing something that they had just ruled was illegal.

  2. It’s easy to sign reform legislation when you have no intention of limiting yourself in anyway. As scams go, the U.S. government is a good one. Heck, I’m still paying taxes to these guys!

    1. “The check is in the mail… Yes I know I said the same thing last month. What can I say? The Post Office is the bad guy here.”

    2. “You pay taxes because you want to, isn’t that true? You see value in the government services, and so you voluntarily pay for them. There is no coercion in tax collection and the US has a high tax compliance rate”.

      Well, that’s what a proggie told me a week ago, so it must be true.

      1. Go ahead, let me decide how much of my money the government gets.

        1. The government took the burden of decision-making off your tender shoulders and on to theirs. That’s just what they do for the huddled masses.

          1. I just want them to see how much I value their vital services.

  3. Obama believes that bulk metadata collection should be between a man and a woman.

    1. If you like your bulk metadata collection, you can keep your bulk metadata collection.

      1. Could we split the difference with his cult and crucify him? Not to death, just to the pain.

        1. Knock, knock.
          Who’s there?
          That cult you disparaged on Reason. We need a little chat . . .

    2. No, that’s not right. He changed his position on same-sex spying.

  4. So, of course, The Guardian reports today that the administration is going to attempt to restart the very bulk collection of metadata that the president just said he is glad is about to be prohibited:

    Now where did I put my surprised face? I know its around here somewhere…

    1. Yeah, this didn’t surprise me one bit. They’re gonna find some secret interpretation of some law somewhere, rubber stamped by a secret FISA court, and keep right on hoovering up the data, under the FYTW clause of the constitution.

      1. “It’s only illegal if you get caught… and punished.”

        or

        “Congress has made its decision. Now let them enforce it.”

  5. I for one welcome our ALT-TEXT hillarity!

  6. I mean, can anyone really be angry, upset or outraged with him at this point? He’s been exactly like this for 6 years, why on Earth would he develop a sense of shame, integrity or fidelity to country now?

    1. I’m really curious to see what he does post-presidency. I think he’ll be ignored if he tries to remain politically relevant, but he does have some adherents left. Perhaps a talk show? Maybe a revival of Captain Kangaroo?

      1. What’s wrong with the good old fashioned university speaking circuit? Pays excellent money, and it looks like Obama hasn’t lost a shred of support within the halls of higher academia.

        1. Maybe he could actually become a tenture-track professor and really be that constitutional scholar everyone pretends he is (as opposed to some unpublished, non-tenure-track hack). When that happens, he’ll suddenly realize the error in his ways and the philosophical underpinnings of the Constitution. On that day, he will publicly repudiate his presidency and publish a law review article on the illegalities of his administration.

          1. I would prefer if he’d just walk the earth like Kane from Kung Fu… getting into adventures ‘n shit.

            1. Would he wear a GoPro, so it could be a reality show? I wonder if he’d get a sex change if the ratings plummeted?

      2. I’m really curious to see what he does post-presidency.

        Organizing for America (pronounced “ofay”) has already been converted to his personal political machine. He’ll use it launder money for him, and to arrange ego-fluffing sessions in front of adoring crowds.

        1. Good point. Following the Clintons’ lead, unless that scam ever gets dealt with. Which I highly doubt.

          1. You haven’t arrived in DC politics until you’ve got a personal money political machine.

  7. The whole thing was to fake out the terrorists. They thought it ended…but it didn’t. Tomorrow we will all wake up with news that 100s of terrorists have been caught red handed.

  8. Yesterday evening the White House put out a statement by President Barack Obama showing the administration’s appreciation for the passage of the USA Freedom Act…

    “And we would also like to extend our appreciation to Edward Snowden for facilitating this return to constitutional practices.”

  9. including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters

    Runs it through the Obamaramaparser…..”I never said that I would stop it completely, just through the things that I mentioned. You call that lying through omission, but it’s not really a lie to a slimy, ego-maniacal pol like me.”

    and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.”

    “We’ll be even less transparent than before, which was pretty fucking opaque. We’ll call the new level ‘Biden Steel’.”

    1. Wait til they come up with the Pelosi partition or the Reid reinforcement…

    2. prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215,

      which never authorized it in the first place

      FISA pen registers,

      which I’m pretty sure don’t collect bulk data.

      and National Security Letters

      which I also think don’t authorize bulk data.

      He basically said that we aren’t going to collect bulk data under anything which has never authorized the collection of bulk data.

      Nicely parsed, JW.

  10. the federal government wound down this particular bulk collection (or so we’ve been told).

    “I’ll believe that when my shit turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbert.”

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