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?
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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