Oh thank god, all branches are providing oversight. So it's just as harmless as all those other programs being overseen by all branches of government.
Congress passes these laws in a hurry, trying to limit public debate as much as possible. Judges get pressed into signing whatever NSA/FBI wants them to sign (there was no denied FISA "general warrant" denied in 2011 and 2012, and probably none before either), and of course the president can't be trusted with this. He's in charge of it all.
People keep talking about separation of powers because it was once a good solution to a problem that no longer exists.
But "American Democracy is terrible, but it is the best we've got"? That's a new one to me.
* IRS targeting of section-504 nonprofits
* the National Labor Relations Board's apparent failure to comply with rulings suggesting that their recess appointments were irregular and that they do not legally have a quorum
* the Department of Health and Human Services and its campaign to make Catholic institutions pay for birth control and abortions
* irregularities in the bankruptcy process around the auto bailouts
* et cetera.
Given that limitation, I believe it is possible for your argument to be regarded as meaningful. :)
Politics is more than a left right axis.
Spies have been sent into peaceful anti-war groups.
That's been going on ever since the time of Martin Luther King Jr, and maybe before then.
Probably in reference to the labs of an author of a well-known pair of oddly titled chemistry books being raided.
"if anybody in government wanted to go further than just that top-line data and wanted to, for example, listen to Jackie Calmes’s phone call, they’d have to go back to a federal judge and — and — and indicate why, in fact, they were doing further — further probing."
Great. So they can't listen to your phone call, unless they indicate why they want to listen to your phone call. I'm sure everyone involved in this program was cherry-picked to ensure that no one says "no" to any of these requests. Oh, and I'm sure all the logs (who asked who for permission, what the reasons were, which requests were granted or denied, etc.) are also conveniently "classified," which you should remember is different than "secret."
Don't conflate FISC warrants issued for criminal investigations. FISC is barely even a speedbump when it comes to this sort of surveillance.
What's deeply ironic about the outrage here is that FISC was created as an extra layer to safeguard privacy. FISC warrants give law enforcement officials permission to initiate an investigation, not to access information that would otherwise require an Article III warrant.
Wasn't there reports that warrantless wiretapping is widespread?
They may not be listening to everybody's "phone calls", but how about activists, dissidents, whistleblowers, etc phone calls? How about people active in grassroots campaigns, from OWS to ecology, etc? How about people that work at EFF? What about journalists that are preparing a government corruption story, etc?
Heck, they had files one mile long for people like ...John Lennon and MLK, back in the sixties/seventies.
Well, it does seem like most folks are primarily concerned that they will be listening to your phone calls. So maybe it doesn't make you feel better, but maybe it wasn't targeted at you.
(I know, as if that makes anything better!)
The Verizon FISC order addresses only metadata. The PRISM presentation indicates that among the data captured from the providers involved in PRISM is VOIP data, which, would seem to be call contents.
In real life terms, it's like posting an NSA agent in every house in America, who promises to keep his eyes closed. Of course, he can hear everything you're saying, but he promises not to tell anyone unless you say something elsewhere that would give them cause to.
Assuming you found one who bucked the trend and wasn't bankrupt of responsibility already, what could he actually do?
Not to mention the cost of running an agency that has not even once caught a terrorist.
This is Penn register information, that is what it's referred to as in public laws.
In aggregate it can be used to draw connections between people, such as people talking to those who are committed to doing us harm. That is what public comments on these programs have said and that is true.
But clearly telephone numbers are identifying information, unless they are hashing them prior to building their graphs, but if that is the case why not say that?
His speech also conflates "federal courts", with "FISA court", which implies review by the independent judicial branch.
As it happens, I'm from Europe, and one thing I do miss about the EU is that citizens of that territory enjoy a explicit and robust constitutional right to privacy that does not exist in the US, not to mention a unilateral right of access to and control over their personal data in both governmental and commercial spheres. I have called on many occasions for an amendment to the US Constitution that would confer such rights on Americans instead of relying on the vague and implicit 'discovery' of a privacy right that did not exist before 1965 and which could be taken away as easily as it was given.
It reminds me of little kids fighting, getting in each others face and shouting "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you!"
Because there's a huge material difference, maybe?
I think the spirit of why the privacy of the content of my conversation is important equally applies to any information about that conversation. If my conversation is privileged, why shouldn't my meta-data be? What's the difference?
If AT&T provided a service that cataloged and tagged my conversation for retrieval based on analysis of the content (and I opted into this) would that meta-data also be available to the government?
Mom: Who was that on the phone?
You: My (girl|boy)friend.
Mom: What exactly did you talk about?
But, I think there is a "huge material difference" between a parents right to know who their kids are talking to and a governments right to know who I am talking to.
To put it another way: is this a form of blocking the assembly of people? If I meet in private with a group of people does the government have a right to know all of the meta data about the conversation such as who was present, when they arrived and left, etc? In this hypothetical, I'm assuming we are convening on private property and not a public sidewalk. If we met in private does the government have the right to compel the doorman to reveal these details indiscriminately?
If the British had known the names, arrival times, etc. of those meetings, even without knowing the content, it is very likely that our nation would never have been born.
Of course they do.
No, there isn't. Children are not a parent's private property.
Mom: I see here from looking at the phone bill that you were talking for your (girl|boy)friend.
Mom: What exactly did you talk about?
You: I'm not telling!
The metadata isn't your information, it's the phone company's. The conversation is yours.
I honestly don't get this exception that's made for metadata where the phone company is concerned.
Because the metadata is information that the phone company has to know in order to provide you the service and to bill you for it, and therefore cannot be information in which the parties to the conversation have an expectation of privacy.
The content of the conversation, OTOH, is not information that the company needs to have to provide and bill for the service, and therefore can still be information in which the participants have a legal expectation of privacy.
This doesn't follow. If you are suing/being sued, your lawyer needs to know everything about your case to mount a proper offense/defense, but you still have an expectation of privacy. Similarly, your doctor needs to know everything about your medical history in order to treat you, yet you have an expectation of privacy there as well.
You are mistakenly inferring the wrong general principles from special cases that are well-known because they are exceptions to, rather than illustrations of, the generally-applicable rules.
> If you are suing/being sued, your lawyer needs to know everything about your case to mount a proper offense/defense, but you still have an expectation of privacy.
That expectation of privacy is created by the (well established at the time of the Constitution) common law lawyer/client privilege, it is not a generally applicable privilege that applies to commercial relationships and creates an expectation of privacy within those relationships. So, yes, there is an expectation of privacy here which has significance under the fourth amendment, but it is not one which extends to other business relationships like those between a telephone customer and their carrier.
> Similarly, your doctor needs to know everything about your medical history in order to treat you, yet you have an expectation of privacy there as well.
Again, doctor/patient privilege is a special case (which is why we talk about "doctor/patient confidentiality" and "lawyer/client confidentiality" and not a general privilege attached to commercial exchanges.)
The existence of these special cases demonstrates that a loss of the expectation privacy does not inherently occur when one entrusts another entity with some detail of their lives.
The extent to which commercial relationships pervade our lives is, in my opinion, just cause to expand the boundaries of a reasonable expectation of privacy. The lack of transparency in how companies handle customer data, what data is retained, etc., especially for non-technical users, is further reason to codify clear rights to privacy instead of relying upon impenetrable common law precedent.
I would really like for someone to provide a good answer to this question.
It is provided to the phone company for the purpose of them acting on it to provide service, and with the knowledge that they will routinely track it, whether or not it is related to billing.
> I would really like for someone to provide a good answer to this question.
That is the actual basis of the legal distinction, whether or not you think it is a "good answer". See Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979).
Calls between me and my wife when I'm out of town? You could guess what we're talking about, but I don't want you to listen in.
I don't think legislation is the solution to this though. The spying is done because it //can// be done. By using a web application administered by somebody else you have implicitly given them your access logs.
The right solution is more along the lines of bringing the power home, or friendly neighborhood colocation locations. If the Internet has 1M servers, they can monitor transmission at the large ones. If the Internet had 1B servers on it, they wouldn't be able to handle.
 Talk by Eben Moglen about the Feedombox: http://youtu.be/gORNmfpD0ak?t=1m23s
So, this is about CDRs- Call Detail Records. They are the atomic unit of all mobile telecommunications. There's no billing, no provisioning of data or anything without them. These are the most fundamental log files of all your mobile activity. They are in a sense, the primary key needed to enumerate all of your transactions.
An excruciating level of detail on what a CDR can include can be found here:
Our president is using weasel words. Yes, obtaining CDRs isn't the same as obtaining your texts or your voicemail, but once you have them, you have everything you need for obtaining the content through subpoena. So, from here, we jump to this:
"We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. Its not necessarily something that the FBI's going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation or the questioning of her."
Our political leaders are not worth defending any more. The whole system is corrupt. Everyone in office needs to be ejected, followed by the comprehensive removal of non-political government leadership. This country has beached itself.
Hint: it's always been possible to get nearly any piece of information with a subpoena or a warrant. The 4th amendment protects against unreasonable searches not searches period. And a subpoena or a warrant is by definition a reasonable search.
There is nothing weasel-y about this language.
We're pretty far beyond "trust, but verify" territory here.
Make an argument!
> And by the way, with respect to my concerns about privacy issues, I will leave this office at some point, sometime in the last — next 3 1/2 years, and after that, I will be a private citizen. And I suspect that, you know, on — on a list of people who might be targeted, you know, so that somebody could read their emails or — or listen to their phone calls, I’d probably be pretty high on that list. So it’s not as if I don’t have a personal interest in making sure my privacy is protected.
Kind of the ultimate abuse would be some future presidential candidate's records being gone through and perhaps in his youth he had some questionable friends or something. Our politics and politicians are not nearly civil enough to have these kinds of tools and information available. It's basically just a hope and a wish that the NSA folks with access take their jobs seriously and take the nation's security seriously and that they are otherwise trustworthy about it. Not long after 9/11, anthrax, anthrax that originated in a top secret US defense lab was sent to politicians in DC... In Fort Hood Texas, a member of the US military, a guy they vetted and indoctrinated, went through their background checks and they accepted shot up a bunch of people.. These were trusted people with trusted access.
The knives are already out, should we shut this stuff down, as soon as there is another terrorist anything the other side will use it for political gain. How do you undo it?
I'm taking a wild guess, but I doubt that presidents get bumped down to "average dude" status by intelligence agencies after they leave office.
Isn't that exactly his point? After he leaves office, he will be very high on "List of people to snoop"?
I'm not trying to defend the government, but genuinely ask, 'How would you do it?'
Burning the whole village to save it, cure worse than the disease, cutting noses to spite faces, and all that.
Because history, that's why. FISA -- in its original form, not the "War on Terror"-era "FISA Amendments Act" -- was a limitation on government surveillance power which criminalized all sorts of surveillance except in very narrow circumstances, that was adopted not because of theoretical concerns but because of widespread, notorious, abuse of the national security intelligence-gathering capabilities of the US government for political purposes by the executive branch of the United States government, particularly during the Nixon Administration.
These limitations were weakened through the FISA Amendments Act on the excuse that the limitations were "hamstringing" our intelligence agencies and jeopardizing our national security (after it became publicly clear that, in fact, the limitations were being widely ignored, and the current administration wanted legal cover for actions that it was already undertaking despite the law), and, hey, look what we see -- massive, unfocussed, broad-spectrum surveillance of exactly the type we were assured wouldn't happen if we loosened the reins a bit so that the executive branch had the tools it supposedly needed to focus on direct threats from terrorists without overly burdensome constraints.
The beauty of the modern world is that the government does not have to violate the sanctity of your home or person to get tons of information about you. You freely give it away: to Google, AT&T, Facebook, etc. Nothing about the 4th amendment prohibits them from going and asking these entities for information they have about you or that you have shared with them.
This is much like if the NSA had an agent whose job it was to go through bank strongboxes - all of them - examining the contents and looking for things that are illegal. It is the bank's security that is violated, not your own, but it's still your "papers and effects" that are not secure against unreasonable searches.
I completely understand the judicial argument that has been made amounting to "Welp, it's on Google's servers, you don't have any right to control it anymore", but as far as the spirit of the Constitution goes, that's complete bunk, and I think that any reasonable, average person would agree with that sentiment. My data, stored on Google's servers, is mine, and is entrusted to them for safekeeping.
The government has managed to finagle its way into an interpretation of the Fourth that utterly defangs it. The purpose is "Hey, you can't go through peoples' stuff without judicial oversight", and that is clearly being violated as a matter of routine.
Second, you're wrong about the "spirit" of the 4th amendment being about the government not searching through your stuff. It's about not violating the sanctity of your home or person to do so. That's a very key distinction. Even in 1802, the government could, pursuant to a court order or even just consent, search through "your stuff" that you had left for safekeeping at a friend's house.
I think where this is sticking for me is the whole "consent" issue. I have a very difficult time believing that all the accused companies have voluntarily consented - without coercion - to NSA taps. If that's the case, then welp, all bets are off. I don't think that's the case, though - if it has happened, it is almost certainly under some sort of coercion, at which point it's very difficult to argue that this data is being given with free consent, and we're back to it effectively being seized via "consent" given under duress (which any court would strike down as not being consent at all!)
Regarding the language itself, the 4th says you have the right to be secure in your papers (personal data!) and effects (personal property) against search and seizure, not just the sanctity of your home and person. I would like to know how that is reconciled with modern legal interpretations - that seems like a big gaping hole to be filled.
Maybe I'm just naive and want to believe that things are better than they are. Maybe Google et al have just rolled over and happily handed over data. I really have a hard time believing that's the case. In either case, though, we have allegations of our government conducting wide-scale spying on its own citizens, by means of the seizure of those citizens' supposedly-private communications. Given a country that is supposed to uphold the values of liberty and individual freedom, that is extraordinarily distressing.
Duress is not coextensive with coercion. Consent can be valid even if it involves leverage (e.g. no government contracts for you unless you consent).
> Regarding the language itself, the 4th says you have the right to be secure in your papers (personal data!) and effects (personal property) against search and seizure, not just the sanctity of your home and person.
4th amendment interpretation does make the logical analog between "papers" and "files" or "data." But information that you've given over to others (e.g. files stored in your Drop Box) or information that was not even generated by you (e.g. server logs, call data records) is not your "personal data" whether it's ink on papyrus or bits.
What's tripping you up is the illusion of "network transparency." You might think of your gdrive as the same as your hard drive, but of course it's not. The difference between the two is nothing less than keeping information about your finances in your desk (where the 4th amendment protects it), and keeping that information in your accountant's office (where the 4th amendment does not protect it).
There's actually considerable current debate (and it will no doubt accelerate with the recent revelations) over the extent to which the "persons, houses, papers, and effects" part of the Fourth Amendment extends beyond ones physical body and tangible property, but its eminently clear that it does because the 4th Amendment is the basis of the general requirement of warrants for wiretaps, even when the wiretaps do not involve a "physical penetration of a constitutionally protected area". 
 Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)
When the government does want to be preventative, usually they just set up a fake terrorist who tries to recruit people into their fake plan, and then arrest those people when they agree. Of course, it's debatable whether they would have done anything at all without the fake terrorist, but it gets results!
Of course, it's debatable whether they would have done anything at all without the fake terrorist
Not often. If you read the transcripts of the recordings made in such cases (which are often attached to the indictment as evidence, or sometimes available in audio form), the sad fact is that some people run towards the honeypot at full speed. It's entrapment to encourage a reluctant or uncommitted person, but there are quite a few people who are eager to engage in such behavior.
The people shouldn't have to "trust" anything and surely not blindly. As is the case here. The people should KNOW about everything that is being done, and judge for themselves.
If the people have to ..."trust" their government ("Don't worry, we know what's best and we'll do it, we wont bother you with details, just trust us"), then we already have a huge problem here.
The government should represent the will of the people, transparently, openly, and under constant oversight of the citizenry -- not just of judges and congress. Trust should only come into play in very small doses into this.
Really? As if skilled terrorists chat their plans over the phone like casual people. They might get some young idiots, but nobody else. And those things are black swan events.
Furthermore, if every single government action was "disclosed to the public", there wouldn't even be more terrorists. People that get to be domestic terrorists would have less reasons to mistrust that open government. And the country wouldn't be made to invade, mess with other sovereign countries and get their people to seek revenge -- at least not without consensus.
True, but we also know the moral/ethics of those elected (and how their campaigns are funded).
We are a republic. The proper mechanism here is to hold our representatives accountable. To me it seems absurd to say that "everybody should KNOW" about every intelligence program.
"Honestly democrats, does Obama have to fuck your girlfriend for you to get mad?"
don't trust Congress?: √
don't trust what is called "due process and rule of law"?: √
I wonder what problems he thinks people will cause?
Petitions are ignored. Protests are relegated to "Free speech zones". People are taking on more debt than ever to live the "American Dream". Sounds like they have everything in control to me…
To elect somebody you trust.
This is a republic.
A major purpose of having new elections every 4 years (as opposed to life tenure) is to allow the people to periodically re-evaluate their trust decisions. What do you propose as the basis for that trust? Blind faith?
What's being suggested here is that elected representatives ought to be trusted by the public without access to the information necessary to verify that their trust has not been misplaced.
It's not like we're talking about specific information that was leaked. The mere fact that there exists such a broad surveillance program---authorized by Congress, the White House, and the FISC---was classified "top secret" and not scheduled to be declassified until decades later. The legally-enforced lack of accountability to the people for such a massive program undermines the legitimacy of a government that supposedly governs by the consent of the people.
For EU and rest of the world: Every message (email/IM,anything..) trough gmail, hotmail, AOL or facebook is stored by US Gov. and used as they see fit.
Why do you assume the 4th Amendment applies for foreign people? Is it because their data simply transits through the US (eg: to Facebook's servers)? Or is it because you expect the US Government to use that data to impose its laws and regulations selectively at its convenience (combating piracy)?
Because its a limitation on the power of the federal government that has no restrictions as to nationality of targets written in to it.
As for those living outside the US...
You should assume the US is recording all your calls. As well as China, England, Russia, Iran, France, and anyone else. The cyber world is spy v. spy. Large govt entities are collecting data on whoever/whatever they can. They are. Doesn't matter how benevolent you think they might be (or, even are). The big deal in the US is that it is spying on it's own citizens, which is a big big no no as far as the constitution and the mandate of the NSA are concerned.
This isn't it.
This is so far from it as to make a mockery of the principles that lay at the very foundations of our nation.
So if you're not collecting names, whose name goes on the warrant once suspicious is aroused?
I deleted my original comment because this is a bottom of the page thread that I think takes away from the larger debate. But since there's a reply now, I'll add it back in.
But how can a national discussion take place about a secret program??
He never addressed this issue of why the program needs to be secret in the first place.
This is pretty much how it starts. First the people accept small encroachments, then they're asked to accept slightly larger encroachments.
Eventually there is no privacy left.
isn't that wrong order or priorities exactly what the constitution should protect us from?
Yes, that makes it so much better.
Is this an impromptu speech? Why is he mumbling so much?