I could plausibly justify it when the NSA (a department of the DoD) was solely focused on national security (assuming the NSA's self-imposed controls, protocols, procedures, etc were implemented and executed as the NSA Director claimed).
Now national security resources are being retasked to fight another failed prohibition. The US Federal Government's failed drug policies are as much a threat to US national security as foreign drug cartels are. Re-legalize narcotics, redirect enforcement and imprisonment funding to rehab, education, abd.
I'm under the impression that the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies are extremely good at drumming up scary daily reports which wear down any president's resolve.
In October, 2007 he had promised to filibuster any attempt to give telecoms retroactive immunity.
So this counts in my book as his first broken campaign promise, and proof that he hoped to continue warrantless wiretapping before he became President.
Most of IC guys are careerists. Presidents come and go, which makes me think the DoD has a lot of practice at scaring novice presidents into accomplishing their policy goals.
Does it really matter when he decided to take this course of action? I think what matters is that he did.
>I'm under the impression that the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies are extremely good at drumming up scary daily reports which wear down any president's resolve.
That's no excuse, it doesn't justify his actions. Obama was selected from a country of 300 million people to lead the nation, it's perfectly justifiable to expect for him to be above being manipulated by "scary daily reports".
And here he is, step by step turning the US into an Orwellian police state (God, I wish this was hyperbole).
Also, I seriously doubt the NSA has been bugging Obama for permission to hand over their data to various LE agencies.
I would hope a President (or any politician really) would feel free to change their mind as they're presented with evidence they weren't previously familiar with. Or maybe their own priorities have even changed 8 years later and that's influenced their change of heart. That sort of thing happens.
Just because I might disagree with their conclusion or interpretation doesn't mean they shouldn't be free to reevaluate.
One of the most hollow, worthless political insults is to call someone a "flip flopper" IMO. It panders to ignorance. I want politicians to be persuaded by the facts. To not be zealous idealogues.
It's not like he has to promise anything...
CA politics seems to have trouble with referendums. I want the President to feel like they have a duty to make unpopular decisions sometimes.
I live on the other side of the world in Australia... and I am STILL getting BOMBARDED with this constant cycle of election crap going on in the USA due to how much the US media drives advertising.
Its just crazy... You guys have way bigger problems than the whole "the people think POTUS is in charge, but congress is actually meant to be in charge", it starts with the fact none of your politicians have enough time to do their fucking jobs due to all the campaigning.
Now, there could be the argument that being a professional politician was never supposed to be a thing, but any hope for that is dead and gone, probably before Washington set the precedent of stepping down after two terms.
The point, and this is important, is that the NSA not only has the real technical capability to fully monitor any number of up-and-coming senators, but there are no checks and balances in order for us to know that they HAVEN'T targeted and subsequently blackmailed him.
Technology has made it easy to target and monitor anyone that has the possibility of making a noticeable impact on the system. The people that control the system at that point in time, are then able to embrace, extinguish or "redirect" any outside risk to their power base.
Total surveillance makes this process simple. Not only can you start to weed out the bad apples, but you can also start to automate the process. Slowly you can train the system to spot the risks. He who controls the surveillance, then controls everyone else.
With complete storage archives of all the data, you can also backtrack on flagged entities and see their entire history. Imagine being presented with a blackmail dossier that listed (with photographic / video evidence) your youthful escapades during your school and university years. "I did not inhale!". "Oh yes you did Mr President, and here's a HD video of it".
The NSA have taken the worst that the internet had to offer and weaponised it against all citizens - both foreign and domestic.
A general problem with conspiracy theories is that they require some number of people to keep quiet regarding the matter. However, in an environment where keeping quiet is a core, institutionalized requirement, conspiracies become much less hard to believe (or at least consider).
I don't have a problem seeing this one as a real possibility.
(Yes, I know this means most recent Presidents and current candidates are not qualified to be President. But does that really shock you?)
My fear is this will be done through CISA, as I expected it would be. That would give them the excuse to say it's legal.
Some interesting facts:
"The total budget of the DEA from 1972 to 2014, according to the agency website, was $50.6 billion." So in 40 years 51 billion dollars, or a billion dollars per year.
"In 2005, the DEA seized a reported $1.4 billion in drug trade related assets and $477 million worth of drugs. According to the White House's Office of Drug Control Policy, the total value of all of the drugs sold in the U.S. is as much as $64 billion a year"
So basically they are robbing poor and not really making any dent in the drug trade.
"Here's an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.
Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion."
do privatized for-profit prisons have a gov't lobby to help fill their cells to max capacity?
Largest by total number by a huge margin (2.2 million, with the next largest being China with 1.7 million), but we've fallen to the #2 spot when measured per capita. Newly #1 there is Seychelles with about 700 prisoners out of a population of 90,000.
They want plausible deniability. If it works, Congress can claim they reduced crime. If it fails, they can blame the President failing to properly oversee his people.
They have literally no incentive to get involved.
When I exceed the speed limit and get caught I get a speeding ticket. To enforce the law we put police in strategic spots and give them the tools to enforce the law. We should have similar policing of federal agencies.
It's reactive, but hey you don't get a ticket for "conspiracy to speed".
There isn't a lot of piercing of the corporate veil happening in gov't agencies though. As in people getting arrested.
But at the same time, if you work at the FBI, want to try something, and your lawyers say it's legal... Should you go to jail? Should the lawyer?
Sending the person in jail doesn't really help much, but forcing the agency to adopt new postures could help more. We could do both as well, but what does throwing the person in jail really accomplish, apart from giving people a sense of vindication?
They are only ever question way later into the legal process (sometimes over a year afterwards) and always with a different judge and circumstances.
Law enforcement have a far easier job getting it approved than it is for defendants to question it's legitamcy. And even if it is ruled illegal the wiretap still happened and the defendants privacy was still unduly violated. But there is almost never any repercussions outside of the potentially losing a legal case against a defendant.
The chains of responsibility between where decision-making takes place and scrutiny is made are very disconnected.
It creates an incentive for individuals not to do things that would land them in jail.
I don't have the right answer on oversight and enforcement but I would love for agencies of the executive branch to act within the confines of the law and stop acting like breaking into our lives is just part of protecting us.
Agency A inspects agency B, agency B inspects C, C inspects A. That way B can't threaten A.
As a bonus it really set's things up so they get antagonistic with each other.
For some reason there's a lot of leeway for the government to push boundaries in this regard. The running outcome is that if something was not expressly illegal then there's no prosecution but a slap on the wrist. The judicial branch should start taking a much harder line against overreach; they should begin operating the other way: if it's a case of citizen rights and privacy then it's not legal unless it's expressly legal.
It makes sense that if some harm keeps getting committed then someone should do something about it. But if that's not the case, then it does not justify any action from the government. Like in Mexico the drug war, sure go after the major drug kingpins using totalitarian systems. But to put this on petty criminals, small time crooks, etc. that's just horrible.
Petty criminals and small time crooks are often the ones that make life hardest for people, especially the poor who live in the neighborhoods where these guys operate.
When I lived in Wilmington, DE (a pretty run down post-industrial city), our favorite restaurant was run by an elderly Indian couple. But it was in a terrible neighborhood, and one day their house was broken into. These sweet, hard-working people were violated, and by who? Not some kingpin. By some "small time crook." Should he not be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?
Would cover your case.
Keep in mind that we have the precedent of innocent unless proven guilty in the US, so the suspected drug kingpin, terrorist, or serial killer is just as innocent as the suspected bubble-gum thief.
Our system, while admittedly imperfect, prioritizes protecting the innocent over punishing the guilty (obviously it's more complicated than that, but that's the core)
But, I would agree that there is lots of leeway with this because of things that seem illegal under an interpretation of the law but the judicial may aid in reversing that thinking. Which would likely end up affecting the related law in some way.
Your last few sentences I totally agree with.
Thank goodness for Snowden or we'd probably have none of these cases going to trial. In many ways you can see agencies stopping the <shady thing> instead of taking it to court. They do that because if they lose then it becomes actually illegal and the power grab gets harder.
But there is precedent for just "surveillance". In your own words, there's precedent for murder - would I be fine if I were the first "mass murderer"?
Q: So what in a sense you’re saying is that there are certain situations…where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.
NIXON: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
Q: By definition.
NIXON: Exactly, exactly.
David Frost: ...Would you say that there are certain situations - and the Huston Plan was one of them - where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation, and do something illegal?
Richard Nixon: Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
Frost: By definition.
Nixon: Exactly, exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law. Otherwise they're in an impossible position.
Frost: The point is: the dividing line is the president's judgment?
Nixon: Yes, and, so that one does not get the impression that a president can run amok in this country and get away with it, we have to have in mind that a president has to come up before the electorate. We also have to have in mind that a president has to get appropriations from the Congress. We have to have in mind, for example, that as far as the CIA's covert operations are concerned, as far as the FBI's covert operations are concerned, through the years, they have been disclosed on a very, very limited basis to trusted members of Congress.
 - http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/sep/07/greatinte...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Frost
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Nixon
Nothing makes the police sound like fascist paramilitary thugs faster than "covert operations".
This kind of statement has always bothered me - some actions are clearly against a plain reading of a law long before a court has anything to say on the matter.
It's kind of like the torture thing (excuse me, "enhanced interrogation"). It's plainly against the law, but your counsel has a novel legal theory about how black is actually white, up is down, etc. The person who would prosecute you for violating that law is the one you appointed, or possibly Congress if they felt like impeaching you. But... nothing happens. People argue about whether what you did is really right, or if torture is actually torture, and life goes on.
This is a voluntary reduction. Neither the judge nor the prosecutors authorizing the "likely illegal" wiretaps have been charged with any wrongdoing.
There is nothing in place to prevent a similar thing from occurring again.
In short, if this isn't punished, why won't it happen repeatedly?
(1) By definition, if the law provides no remedy, there is no legal recourse;
(2) The law often provides remedies, either specific to the violation or more general, but there may be difficulties in securing them (e.g., many violations of people's rights are, in fact, crimes by government agents. However, prosecutors are unlikely to pursue such crimes, especially if they were in support of executive policy rather than a rogue -- with respect to the leadership -- agent. Many also would generally open up civil liability under generally-applicable principals of law, but public officers and the public entities they work for may be able to assert various forms of governmental immunity to such liability.)
Ultimately, the remedies for bad behavior by government often must be political, rather than legal.
It's possible that there's another law dealing with the execution of duties, similar to "honest services fraud".
I'm not saying that it exists, but I disagree that it's impossible by definition.
I do take your second point, though.
I was taking that as a case of the law providing a remedy for the offense in question, as part of some more general provision, so I think that our disagreement here is mostly just semantics rather than substance.
There's no reason it won't happen repeatedly. In fact it has been happening since at least Hoover's years...
It isn't punished, and it does happen repeatedly.
A bill by US lawmakers, set for release in March, could require encrypted devices to be able to give un-encrypted data to law enforcement. Feinstein says the bill is "coming along ... some people are making it a lot harder than we think it needs to be". An alternate proposal is also on the table