Skip to comments.NSA Surveillance, If Ungentlemanly, Is Not Illegal
Posted on 06/13/2013 3:04:35 AM PDT by Kaslin
"Gentlemen do not read each other's mail." That's what Secretary of State Henry Stimson said to explain why he shut down the government's cryptanalysis operations in 1929.
Edward Snowden, who leaked National Security Agency surveillance projects to Britain's Guardian, evidently feels the same way.
"I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government," he explained, "to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
Some questions about this episode remain. How did a 29-year-old high school dropout get a $122,000 job with an NSA contractor? How did his job give him access to material including, he says, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Agency Court documents?
And why did he flee to China's Special Autonomous Region of Hong Kong and make his revelations just before the Sunnylands summit, where Barack Obama was preparing to complain to Xi Jinping about China's cyberwarfare attacks?
Oh, and now that he has checked out of his Hong Kong hotel, where has he gone?
All tantalizing questions. But some other questions that many are asking have clear answers.
Is the NRA surveillance of telephone records illegal? No, it has been authorized by the FISA Court under the FISA Act provisions passed by (a Democratic) Congress in 2008.
The NSA is not entitled to listen to the contents of specific phone calls. It has to go back to the FISA Court for permission to do that.
Under the Supreme Court's 1979 Smith v. Maryland decision, the government can collect evidence of phone numbers called, just as the government can read the addresses on the outside of an envelope.
Snowden presented no evidence that the NSA is abusing its powers by accessing the private information of those with obnoxious opinions. There is, so far anyway, no evidence of the kind of political targeting committed by the Internal Revenue Service.
Instead the NSA is looking for patterns of unusual behavior that might indicate calls to and from terrorists. This data mining relies on the use of algorithms sifting through Big Data, much like the data mining of Google and the Obama campaign.
Snowden also exposed the NSA's PRISM program, which does surveil the contents of messages -- but only of those of suspected terrorists in foreign countries.
During George W. Bush's administration, many journalists and Democrats assailed this as "domestic wiretapping." But the only time people here are surveiled is when they are in contact with terrorism suspects in foreign countries.
The right of the government to invade people's privacy outside the United States is, or should not be, in question.
You might think, as Henry Stimson did in 1929, that it's ungentlemanly. But as secretary of war between 1940 and 1946, Stimson was grateful for the code-breaking programs that enabled the United States and Britain to decrypt secret Japanese and German messages.
That code-breaking, as historians recounted long after the war, undoubtedly saved the lives of tens of thousands of Allied service members.
"The Constitution and U.S. laws," as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "are not a treaty with the universe; they protect U.S. citizens."
It is an interesting development that Barack Obama has continued and, Snowden asserts, strengthened programs that he denounced as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate.
As George W. Bush expected, Obama's views were evidently changed by the harrowing contents of the intelligence reports he receives each morning. There are people out there determined to harm us, and not just because they can't bear Bush's Texas drawl.
The Pew Research/Washington Post poll conducted June 7 to 9 found that by a 56 to 41 percent margin Americans found it "acceptable" that the "NSA has been getting secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism."
That's similar to the margin in a 2006 Pew poll on NSA "secretly listening in on phone calls and reading emails without court approval."
Those numbers are in line with changes in opinion over the last two decades.
With increased computer use, technology is seen as empowering individuals rather than Big Brother. And with an increased threat of terrorist attack, government surveillance is seen as protecting individuals.
In these circumstances most Americans seem willing to accept NSA surveillance programs that, if ungentlemanly, are not illegal.
ETFOOM? Isn’t this whole thing about the fact that spy agencies are specifically prohibited from domestic spying, from spying on their own citizens?
Not you too, Barone...
Perhaps not illegal, but certainly unconstitutional. Gentility is irrelevant when my rights are under attack.
Only amongst low-information citizens.
Actually, its only about the Fourth Amendment. But that’s plenty enough.
Know these little Eichmann’s by their words! Barone is an embarrassment to all thinking Americans.
Yup, I thought this was just as "screwy" as when Zippy said he was sending the FBI over to investigate Benghazi.
Barone appears to be a plagiarizer too. He begins his article talking about a British government official refusing to read other peoples’ mail. He basically stole that account with its corresponding analysis from a book that talked about the history of the M16, British secret intelligence agency. Did Barone cite this book in the article?
"Predictive modeling of meta-data."
We thought about it for a long time,
and when we had thought about it long enough,
we declared war on the Union.
Michael Barone may be correct as to the legality of this government data collection effort. But like Obama-care and the current immigration bill, the Patriot Act was a rush-job that was crammed thru Congress and has never received any real Constitutional challenges. So he & the Congressional leadership shouldn’t act all shocked when the public reacts negatively to the ham-handed way the Feds apply these powers.
I could easily see this scandal destroying what is left of the Republican Party. In the long run that might not be a bad thing. They don’t stand for much of anything at this point anyway.
The Dems may elect another president in a walk, but they may face a new political opposition party that could rapidly some of their safer voting blocs who are also concerned about Privacy. A political realignment is overdue in this country.
Mosques are excluded:
The core issue is that congress and several presidents have made egregious activity legal. Sure, it’s all legal, that’s the issue.
If something is unconstitutional, it is by definition illegal, since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
Stimson, who is quoted with citation in this article, worked for the US government.
You’re stretching the definition of plagiarism to a meaningless point.
The war going on now is domestic between the city consumers and the city-adverse producers. The wiretapping of citizen vs. citizen is intended to give the city dwellers the upper hand. And they need it because the producers can cut them off at any time. Wars are usually won by one side out-producing the other, and this war will be no contest.
If terrorists nuke NYC, LA, and Chicago, a strong argument could be made the USA would bounce back stronger than ever. Why are we destroying America in their name?
EXCLUSIVE: Stop-and-frisk lawsuit may lead to federal monitor for NYPD
NY Daily News | June 12, 2013 | JOHN MARZULLI , ROCCO PARASCANDOLA AND LARRY MCSHANE
Posted on 06/13/2013 12:41:43 AM PDT by neverdem
Obama’s Snooping Excludes Mosques
Posted on 06/12/2013 10:54:33 PM PDT by chessplayer
The equivalent I see to the NSA spying is as follows:
Imagine the cops coming to your house, completely searching it from top to bottom and catalog everything...all your clothing, furnishings, papers, prescription drug bottles, food, appliances, scan all your hard drives on all your computers, look behind the walls, above the ceilings, go through the attic, and the whole 9 yards.
When you ask to see their search warrant, the lead detective tells you that he doesn’t have one. “But don’t worry, we’re just going to take this inventory and store it at the precinct. We won’t actually look at the inventory unless we have a search warrant.”
“You should be happy because this will save us a whole bunch of time and you a whole lot of inconvenience if we ever suspect you of a crime in the future.”
I can’t imagine anybody feeling comfortable with that.
But yet libtards are perfectly OK if the government does a cyber-version of this and store the data at a yottabyte-sized data warehouse in Utah.
It may not be illegal, but it politically obtuse.
Mr. Barone, what part of the word "unreasonable" don't you understand?
The 1979 Smith v. Maryland decision you cite allows for the connection of a device to a telephone line to record the phone numbers of any calls made on that line without a warrant.
By its very nature (the limits of the technology), that device could only monitor a single telephone line.
The Smith v. Maryland decision has been used to justify the sort of massive all-inclusive monitoring that modern technology allows.
That decision might give you the legality you seek, but it sure doesn't give you the reasonability that the Constitution requires.
To use your post office analogy, of course they have to be able to read the address.
But to do what the NSA requires, they would have to record every address (delivery and return) on every piece of mail (billions per year) that they handle, including mail class, weight, date mailed, postage paid, and insurance information, and then turn that information over to a law enforcement agency.
Is that reasonable according to the 4th Amendment?
Michael Barone will be repeating the Gentleman meme right up until the Obama regime slides the blade between his ribs.
Obama does not play by the rules. We have already seen the definition of terrorism and religious extremism morphed to fit their objectives.
Each time there is a shooting/bombing, the liberal media scream it was the Tea Party, until they are proven wrong.
The Obama regime and the corrupt media desparately want their Reichstag fire so that the persecution of political enemies can begin.
Michael Barone has joined the useful idiots.
We've got military people shooting up bad guys from miles away using a joystick, f'rinstance.
So a geek who understands some of the flow chartiness of the workings of "programs" has a core set of values and ...
We frickin' PAY you ... !
Snowden's a hero.
That’s because they think it’s directed at us.
Just because congress has not passed any laws specifically prohibiting this kind of privacy intrusion does not make it legal. It was and is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land.
Barone is another beltway idiot who has no concept of limited government.
Yeah, I'll call bullshit on this one. Says who...? The the bureaucrats and politicians who were just cought lying to congress and the american people? The clown who wrote this should change is job title from columnist to government stenographer.
Another Big Government Republican propagandist heard from. Fox News was so ridiculous this morning that we turned off Fox & Friends. Brian Kilmeade was incensed that Snowden told the Chinese that we were spying on them. I’m sure theChiComs never suspected that.
The NSA spooks must have an interesting dossier on Roger Ailes.
Stick around until someone with an "r" next to their name is in the white house so what passes for "conservatives" these days can tag out the liberals and take their place in the ring making excuses for things like this.
michael is showing what he always was... a lying dim operative of the progressive party.
barone and carville... no difference.
What the hell has Barone been drinking or smoking lately? I guess he’s gotten so brainwashed that he’s forgotten we still have a Constitution
The republican party is already dead... it may be revived as the new Republican Party but it also my be replaced. What is there now will assume room temperature.
Smith v. Maryland. I disagree with the majority, but the case is described at the above link. We do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy on the phone numbers dialed - according to the Supremes. Therefore, the feds are permitted to collect all of those numbers. The Supremes were wrong on Dred Scott v. Sandford, on Plessy v. Ferguson, on Roe v. Wade, and on National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, and they were wrong on Smith v. Maryland too. I just hope the are willing to admit their mistakes in time.
Exactly, not illegal because congress passed an unconstitutional law making it legal. Unconstitutional= illegal in my book. These talking heads who support the patriot act stick it. I would rather fight these terrorists in the street than give the government these powers to potetially abuse us with. If these powers don’t exsist then there is a clear defining line were the government would be abusing its authority.
I have a small question
What do people want to do?
There are bad guys out there, we don’t know who they are, or what they are up to right now.
Given that this is true, and given that stopping them before they act is (at the risk of going way out on a limb) A Good Thing. Given Signals Intelligence is the best way to stop them...What do people want to do?
Please reality based ideas only.
Info gathering has a cost. When the cost drops, as is the case with computer sniffing, the balance between liberty and security needs to be reexamined.
Resource limitations, not Constitutional principles, is what prevented widespread snooping of this sort in 1979. Metadata analysis was not technically possible before the computer revolution, so its implications could not have been considered.
In 1979, the telephone system kept records of which line cards in a switch connected with other line cards in that switch or other switches. It was called SMDR (station message detail recording)and boiled down to essentially a record of circuit switching in the network .. this line card associated with the phone number XXX-XXXX connected with that line card with phone number xxx-xxxx. You couldn't know from that information the specific individual who placed the call, just that a call from that number happened at this specific time to this other number.
The metadata captured now from smart phones is much more involved, and given the nature of cellular and smart phones as personal devices tied to one individual, the data essentially shows your location at all times regardless of whether you are on a call or not, and all inbound and outbound communications whether voice or data are logged as well.
So the idea may be the same in principle but the type of data collected is much more personalized and involved.
Snowden is no Herbert Yardley.
When Herbert Yardley headed the American Black Chamber, there was no NSA or even laws forbidding such things.
I agree, of course, but that’s not how the USDOJ sees it.
Everything Hitler, Stalin, and Mao did was legal, too.
>>Exactly, not illegal because congress passed an unconstitutional law making it legal.
Yes, and upheld by the SCOTUS and enforced by the USDOJ.
I stand corrected. I returned home from the office to check the citation. The book “Defence of the Realm The Authorized History of M15” by Christopher Andrew does not have Stimson in the index. I still recall reading a similar passage though, but obviously it wasn’t in this book in regards to this book.
Under the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, infantcide is not just legal but a right.
Just because SCOTUS makes a ruling doesn't make it right.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was not “illegal” either. That act allowed Federal Marshals to force citizens to assist them in capturing runaway slaves.
Just because government gives itself permission to do something may make it legal in the sense that all three branches of government allow it. That doesn’t necessarily make it in harmony with the Constitution. The famous case, where the Supreme Court ruled that slaves were not Constitutional Persons, was 7 years later: Dred Scott v Sanford.
And while we are on the topic, don’t forget that one of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, signed the abominations collectively called the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), an act that which made illegal the publication of false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government or its officials.
Are we sufficiently close to losing so many of our UNALIENABLE rights that the risks posed by a Constitutional Convention are worth taking? I think so.
Barone is another Ivy Leaguer, who has as his motto: “Hooray for me, screw the rest of you.”
Same opinion as other Ivy Leaguers - like Michael Medved, who is openly ridiculing anyone who challenges the NSA snooping.
People should stop looking at political parties and start looking at the US political system as “them” and “us,” where “them” are the inbred elites who have attended tawny schools and lunch in fashionable restaurants in Boston, NYC, DC etc and sneer down their noses at the common riff-raff, who would be “us.”
You raise a point about the Ivy League elitist thing. I often had to interview these fools and the moment you trap them in a lie or dumbass contradiction, they use the same argument to respond: I graduated from an Ivy League school, where did you graduate from? I tell them I graduated from Thomas More College in Merrimack NH and scored the lowest GPA among my graduating class. Sometimes I like to stump them with my humility approach.
Is Barone really so naive as to think that the NSA isn't teeming with the same Democratic partisans which permeate every other department of the federal government? Laughable...
What utter, unconstitutional garbage.