Monday, July 7, 2014

Is No One Prepared to Collar the NSA and Its Zealous Overeach?

Photo: Edward Snowden receives his ACLU card.
Edward Snowden, a true patriot, receives his ACLU card from Anthony Romero.

Does the NSA even understand the meaning of the 4th amendment? Does Congress? Especially the weasel rats that signed onto the FISA Amendments Act of 2008  which ratified and expanded the warrantless surveillance program originating under Bush Jr. But rather than adhering to their sworn oaths to protect and defend the Constitution , these vermin rats legalized Bush's transgressions - thereby setting the stage for the latest outrages.

For those who may not have been paying attention, a 4-month investigation by the WaPo has found that ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks. In other words, the so-called protective surveillance is merely an extended fishing expedition that often scarfs up incidental private material of average Americans.

Most pertinent: Nine of 10 internet account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

What sort of stuff was caught? According to the Post:

"Medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.   Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops."

Can this even be believed? I mean, this is insight into an agency gone rogue and even crazy!

Taken together, the files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge. One program, code-named PRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks. According to the Post:

"No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but also from people who may cross a target’s path."

Let's also reference here the basis of how this crap evolved, and make reference here to Jim Sensenbrenner who co-authored the Patriot Act (with Patrick Leahy). In the Summer 2014 issue of the ACLU STAND magazine, Sensenbrenner writes:

"Section 215 was intended to give the government the ability to secure 'any tangible thing' connected to specific terrorism investigations. As is now common knowledge, the Bush and Obama administrations took the limited power Congress intended and went rogue. If we had known during any subsequent re-authorizations what we now know about Section 215's blatant misinterpretation, Congress would have allowed it to sunset.  And if it's not fixed by the 2015 re-authorization, Congress will.

The basic idea behind the American search and seizure law is that you can't investigate unless you can first provide at least some articulable reason to do so. Investigations just can't be arbitrary. The government's definition, on the other hand, is the very definition of arbitrary. "

Thus Snowden's revelations have consistently shown the extent of overreach by the NSA in its illegal mass surveillance, via assorted programs including PRISM, XKeyscore and MUSCULAR. Congress refuses to act in a substantial and coherent way (with the exception of the USA Freedom Act- which trolls like Feinstein have vowed to gut) because they see an advantage in looking the other way. Besides, most are cowards and don't want to be criticized as "unpatriotic" by the FOXite orbit.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court. For collection under PRISM and Upstream rules, analysts must state a reasonable belief that the target has information of value about a foreign government, a terrorist organization or the spread of nonconventional weapons.

But the indiscriminate NSA net discloses "warrants based on probable cause" are mostly a contrived fiction. Most  of the people caught up in those programs were not the targets and would not lawfully qualify as such. “Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, but in other contexts the U.S. government works harder to limit and discard irrelevant data. In criminal wiretaps, for example, the FBI is supposed to stop listening to a call if a suspect’s wife or child is using the phone. Why does the NSA get a pass or take a pass? Because as Sensenbrenner notes: "the Bush and Obama administrations took the limited power Congress intended and went rogue".

Worse, many congress critters and Senators have since signed on to this perfidy and encouraged even stronger surveillance.  Recall back in November, Feinstein tabled her own bill to counter the USA Freedom Act of Sensenbrenner and Leahy. It basically codified the ability of the National Security Agency to search its troves of foreign phone and email communications for Americans’ information, and permit law enforcement agencies to search the vast databases as well. In effect, it would both make permanent a loophole permitting the NSA to search for Americans’ identifying information without a warrant – and, formalize an ambiguity that might allow the FBI, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies to do the same thing.

In other words, it's surveillance on PCP plus crack. Multiplied "warrants" issued, all without proper cause, since such cause (under the 4th) must be attached to individual warrants. You simply cannot extract individual cause or guilt from mass, warrantless search. Once you cross that boundary you go over the precipice and become - if not already - a fascist surveillance state.  According to Michelle Richardson, the surveillance lobbyist for the ACLU:

"For the first time, the statute would explicitly allow the government to proactively search through the NSA data troves of information without a warrant.   It may also expand current practices by allowing law enforcement to directly access US person information that was nominally collected for foreign intelligence purposes. This fourth amendment back door needs to be closed, not written into stone.”

And yet, fellow citizens, that is what we are on the verge of, unless courageous people dedicated to the Constitution act and stand up on principle.

The problem is that as the hysteria over the ISIS group in Iraq increases, and "national security" again instills fear in too many, more congress critters may prefer to opt for "security" than civil liberty. In other words, another round of terrorist fear may well spark even more draconian national security dragnets with more Americans caught up in the web.

Obviously, many Americans are simply too lame or dumb to care.  And probably see nothing wrong in the Post's revelations. Wives picked up in skimpy Victoria's Secret lingerie  posing on their beds, or toddlers frolicking in bathtubs? No problem! These mock  'Muricans will simply lay down like dogs and say 'I  just wanna  be made safe from Baghdadi and ISIS, so do it some more!"   Which shows they have no grasp of the 4th amendment and probably don't deserve liberty in any case. They are an affront to what my Revolutionary War ancestor Conrad Brumbaugh fought for.

Worse, they are like the 'good Germans' who looked the other way as Hitler's Gestapo collected information on all their friends and neighbors - and they even provided extra help. Sadly, we have to share the country with these security lap dogs, as we do Neoliberal traitors to the Constitution like Dianna Feinstein and Lindsey Graham.

The true citizen can only hope that at some stage a real patriot -  or preferably patriots - stands with Edward Snowden to help collar the NSA nuts gone wild, and steer this nation back to surveillance sobriety and temperance. If not, the last vestiges of privacy will soon be a long lost memory never to be resurrected again. We will then be on our way to mutating to a full fascist state.

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