The Bomb Drops

It looks like yesterday’s Verizon story was, as many suspected, the tip of the iceberg:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues. …

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

I have to put Sal 11000 Beta to bed so I commend you over to Hot Air’s coverage, which is extensive and troubling. This has been building up for over a decade and will culminate, this fall, in the construction of a facility that will basically store all internet communications.

Hope you like Big Brother. ‘Cuz we’re living it now.

Update: A few more thoughts. The story is still in breaking stages. Some government sources are claiming they are not, in fact, data mining. We’ll see what comes out. But let’s proceed with the idea that these reports are accurate — that meta-data on all communications is being stored and that actual data from computer communications is being monitored.

First, I think we need to appreciate just how deep the rabbit hole goes here. Consider that, earlier this week, the Supreme Court gave authorities permission to, upon any arrest, take your DNA and run it against a database of crimes. If the government really is storing all your internet communications (the technical challenges boggle the mind) then, upon arrest, they can search your internet record — which currently has no warrant protection — for anything. Did you send a nudie picture to someone when you were 15? Did you have an IRC where you talking about getting high? Did you get a pop-up window with cartoon porn in it? That’s all in play now.

Second, this thing has been created by both parties. It started in 2007 under George Bush and is reaching its apotheosis under Barack Obama. Neither party has seriously opposed any provision of the Patriot Act or supported any privacy protections. We are being double-teamed here, people.

Third, the usual suspects are emerging to claim that these programs are necessary and have probably already saved us from terrorism. I am highly dubious of this. We have seen this kind of thing before when Osama bin Laden was killed. Everyone who supported a questionable or illegal program claimed it played a key role. But moreover, is this a price we are willing to pay? To have all of our communications monitored? Are we willing to live Big Brother because somehow, somewhere, someone might set off a bomb? If you think it is worth it, please do not ever ever quote Benjamin Franklin on the subject of security and liberty.

Comments are closed.

  1. John Binder

    There is too much fear now days. Everyone seems to be afraid of a long list of things and are becoming much to willing to sacrifice our liberties for the sake of an unwarranted feeling of security.

    If you feel like being morbid you can walk into crowed of people look around you and realize that in a couple hundred years you and all of those people will be dead. Time is the greatest genocide, and I think all of us realize that on some level. So then, what is the point? There are many answers to this question, but I can’t believe the point of life is to be constantly afraid of our inevitable death.

    I believe in taking rational precautions, but at some point rational precautions can give over to an irrational need for control that starts to rob the value of the very thing it’s trying to protect. Lately it feels to me like we are heading towards such a point. A point where we can’t even buy a soda that is too big, and where the government invades the privacy of ordinary citizens on a massive scale.

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  2. Mississippi Yankee

    Have I ever mentioned how I don’t trust my government?

    And from whatever heavenly/hellish reward Lee is prolly laughing his ass off yelling “I toldya!!!”

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  3. stogy

    It seems the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has issued a press release saying that the Guardian and WP articles contained inaccuracies, and data collection is limited to non-US citizens outside the US:

    Section 702 is a provision of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.

    Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.

    This leads to more questions: if these people are phoning into the US, then are they still giving away data on the receiver of the call? Most of the incoming calls from abroad are going to be to US citizens, so how can any data collected be meaningful if it is limited only to the caller’s location and identity? And how do they actually know that they are only targeting non-Americans? What are these procedures and how are non-Americans identified? And if the procedures are so strict, how can it be that so many millions of calls have been tracked?

    The last part:

    The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.

    In other words, oversight be damned. You’re ours to protect, whatever you think about that.

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  4. Section8

    Obama has taken everything that was bad about Bush and has magnified it. The next asshole in charge will be worse until we put a stop to it. I’m still waiting for the leftist outrage and protesting in the streets since it’s only Republicans who will stick by their guy no matter what. Either way, this is an outrage, and the fact that both parties don’t give a shit is should make us all furious. We sit by and do nothing. Just fricken sad. Tell me the Soviets didn’t win the cold war. This is the shit we’d read back in the day about some tinpot dictatorship shit hole or authoritarian regime and say, “Man, I’m glad I don’t live there.” Of course it wasn’t Internet back then, but outrageous surveillance none the less.

    Also, how did phone tapping and Internet surveillance prevent the Boston bombings? It didn’t do shit. Hell, they didn’t even pay attention to the warnings other countries were sending us. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of this is used to track pot heads and people with political views that don’t fit those of whoever is looking at the data at any given moment.

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  5. Mississippi Yankee

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most of this is used to track pot heads and people with political views that don’t fit those of whoever is looking at the data at any given moment.

    Perhaps that the crux of the problem. The fact that you. or anyone, isn’t certain is defeatist at best.

    And WHY would YOU wait for “The next asshole in charge will be worse until we put a stop to it.”
    (You in the plural sense)

    As a counter-point to Hal’s previous post I’ve become damn near sure that Libertarianism is waiting for better men to change what they already know is wrong.

    Professional Fence-sitters.

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  6. AlexInCT

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most of this is used to track pot heads and people with political views that don’t fit those of whoever is looking at the data at any given moment.

    That’s precisely the problem. These statist fucks will always abuse the power for their own personal gains, under the delusion/illusion that it is being done for the greater good. Remember how the left constantly told us that evil Boosh would abuse whatever power he got, and then turn around and use it to target them? Shit, they made up a slew of such false stories that went nowhere. Now most of them can’t be bothered with their team doing it for real. What is clear however is that they accused Boosh of abusing power, because they know that if it was them, they would abuse it for real.

    And don’t be fooled by all the handwringing you see in the LSM right now. They have no intention of actually doing anything but pooh-pooh Team Blue and Obama. That’s because they are desperate to pretend they should still have credibility themselves, but they are not going to do their job and actually investigate and report, because they are far more afraid that they will then force action against Team Blue and Obama. This shit is the shills trying to help Team Blue do damage control.

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  7. ScottE

    Good thing this administration is above doing things like using the IRS to target political opponents, otherwise we might have something to worry about here.

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  8. Mississippi Yankee

    From a Yahoo news article

    President Barack Obama on Friday defiantly defended the government’s newly revealed telephone and Internet spying programs on grounds that Americans must tolerate what he dismissed as “modest encroachments on privacy” in the name of security.

    He is just daring someone, anyone, to DO something about it.
    President Biden doesn’t sound so bad to me anymore.

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