Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Block NSA funding for collecting the call records of all Americans (defundthensa.com)
482 points by sinak on July 23, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 220 comments

Important point:

(This point was made clear in the actual page, but some of the comments suggest that not everyone understood it.)

The title to this posting (and the name of the website) are misleading. This is not a proposal to block funding for the NSA. And that's good, because such a proposal would have NO chance of passing, and would probably be a bad idea anyhow. Instead, this is a proposal to block funding for NSA collecting records on American citizens that are not being investigated. Which is a much more reasonable position.

Unfortunately, even if NSA stopped all domestic spying, the fact that they have programs like PRISM that silently turn any US company into a snitch for the US military means that the US internet industry has suffered an irreparable blow.

Obama getting on national TV and saying "we only target foreign entities" is the worst possible thing that could have happened. Even if all of this stuff works, the spying on foreigners via compelling US service providers to wiretap them is sufficient to end the internet industry in the USA as we know it.

It should be banning surveillance of anyone not under active investigation, not simply domestically.

Why? Persons who are not US citizens who are not on US territory aren't given protections under our constitution. What's the reasoning behind this? Surveillance serves a national interest for the US, and while there ought to be limitations for domestic surveillance, I don't see why those ought to exist for foreigners in other countries.

There is an ethical argument that the morality of a government's actions doesn't change because of the nationality of those actions' benefactors or victims. Therefore if it isn't moral to perform dragnet surveillance on the U.S. population, then it isn't moral to do so on foreign populations either.

There is another ethical argument that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us (i.e. the Golden Rule). If the U.S. doesn't want foreign governments performing dragnet surveillance on them, then the U.S. shouldn't perform dragnet surveillance on other countries.

There is a policy argument that dragnet surveillance, when combined with foreign information sharing agreements, is effectively an unintended loophole. For example, assume British intelligence performs dragnet surveillance on the U.S. and vice versa. When these hypothetical findings are shared, it negates the perceived limitations on domestic surveillance.

There is an economic argument that if U.S. companies cannot be trusted to protect the privacy of their customers, foreign markets will become closed to them either via customer choice or even foreign government regulation.

> then it isn't moral to do so on foreign populations either.

Since when was the last time US government or its Military branch thought or cared about what's moral and what's not?

Long story short: the major reason why they can get away with drones flying over foreign soil with lethal weapon is because american media barely reports on it. My hunch is that there are deals done behind closed doors; deals maybe NOT purely illegal but unethical for sure. For example: do not report on drone strikes and Lockheed Martin will advertise their jet fighters in your newspaper for $10MM per year. It happened before (hint: that advertise has no reason to exist; you won't and you can't just pick up your phone and call Lockheed to order a jetfighter yourself).

I am sure some small newspaper somewhere is alarming public on drones killing innocent people on foreign soil, but again, they are "too small to succeed".

And further: the only reason you don't have droned killing americans on american soil is the eventual unleash of bashing that media would do. Agai, nothing to do with morality. While far away they can get away with it, however here at home it would be hard to stop the news.

http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2013/07/22/leaked-pakistan-... informs about number of people including children killed by drones.

http://news.yahoo.com/faa-warns-public-against-shooting-guns... has information regarding drones used in USA.

Speaking of which, has anyone put together a list of potential non US alternatives for commonly used services?

First, the Constitution itself doesn't say that only U.S. citizens in U.S. territory enjoy its protections. And the Declaration of Independence (which is not legally binding the way the Constitution is, but should give an idea of the mindset of the time) states all men are created equal.

Second, if we believe ideologically that privacy is a human right that should be protected, it is hypocritical to then say "Oh, but only for Americans. Everyone else can go fuck themselves." and it weakens the arguments for privacy in America as well as U.S. attempts to encourage other countries to protect privacy and other civil rights.

> First, the Constitution itself doesn't say that only U.S. citizens in U.S. territory enjoy its protections.

If the Constitution said: "people in France owe us taxes" would that be valid and binding? Of course not. American law cannot impose obligations on the French, and reciprocally, American law cannot give rights to the French. The Constitution is law, and American law extends to American soil and American citizens abroad. That's the nature of law.

> And the Declaration of Independence (which is not legally binding the way the Constitution is, but should give an idea of the mindset of the time) states all men are created equal.

To get a full idea of the "mindset of the time" the Declaration of Independence used flowery language like "all men are created equal" but the Constitution enshrined slavery into law for another generation and set up a system of government where only white, landowning males could vote. If the founders didn't think that blacks or women born on U.S. soil had rights under the Constitution, why on earth would you assume they thought anyone not born on U.S. soil would have rights?

>If the Constitution said: "people in France owe us taxes" would that be valid and binding?

Yes, because the text would be a grant of power to the US federal government to try and collect taxes from the people of France. Such text says absolutely nothing about the rights or obligations of the people of France.

Likewise the Constitution does not "give rights" to people, except insofar as it prohibits/mandates actions of the Federal and/or State governments.

The Constitution limits the abilities of the U.S. government. When people say Constitutional rights should apply outside of the U.S. as well, they mean those limitations should apply to the U.S. government in their dealings with people outside of the U.S.

Just because it isn't recognized or judicial law doesn't mean it's meaningless. The statement that "all men are created equal" is a dictum and a recognition that despite the freedoms a person is afforded by their place of residence, the United States recognizes their right to their freedom. This has been the foundation of American foreign policy (with hit-or-miss adherence to its message).

Yes, the US does not have jurisprudence over French law, but if the French were to become a violent, repressive dictatorship, we've stated our moral obligations, which are aligned with aiding the French people.

France became a violent, repressive dictatorship very soon after U.S. independence, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and we did nothing.

So I know it is not nor has it ever been legally binding, but what are your thoughts on the UDHR with regards to this discussion? Is it just a document of pretty words to disregard when convenient, or does it hold any signifigance?

Article 12 states that:

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Like most UN declarations, it's meaningless. Among other things, it guarantees:

Article 23: unions; Article 24: leisure and paid holidays; Article 25: food, clothing, housing, medical care, unemployment benefits, sickness and disability benefits, old age benefits; Article 26: free education.

None of these things are recognized as "rights" in the U.S. The U.S. has assiduously avoided being bound by international tribunals, and thus nothing in the UNDHR can be enforced as a right against the U.S., and nothing that can't be enforced merits the name "right."

The UNDHR was an aspirational document that was conceived at a time before it was realized how awful an idea it was to enter into an international union with all of the nations of the world, and before Americans fully appreciated how unwilling they were to cede any sovereignty to an international body.

> First, the Constitution itself doesn't say that only U.S. citizens in U.S. territory enjoy its protections.

The Constitution itself doesn't say a lot about hardly anything. I just looked at it (the real thing) the other day, it's even shorter than it seems at first from looking at it online.

In the event, the courts have consistently ruled that Constitutional protections are not completely binding everywhere in the world, even protections included in the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment specifically does not apply outside U.S. borders, for example, even though it does apply to anyone in U.S. borders (not just U.S. citizens).

> And the Declaration of Independence (which is not legally binding the way the Constitution is, but should give an idea of the mindset of the time) states all men are created equal.

I don't think this really helps your argument. The mindset of the time were the Negroes were not even men, for example, and they certainly had no 'right' to privacy according to those who issued the Declaration.

So I'm sympathetic to the point. I think we need to change something to bring our law in accordance with norms we'd expect for the Internet. But just pointing to the 'Charters of Freedom' will not help your argument (others have tried and failed), and they don't mean today what you think they mean.

> Why?

Because there's nothing inherently special about the humans born inside of the imaginary lines that comprise the US borders that entitles them to privacy denied to others.

In short, none of us are free until all of us are equal.

Also, in the off chance you don't give a shit about basic human dignity for those filthy foreigners: it's also simply bad business. It puts all US internet companies at a huge starting disadvantage against internet companies in countries which don't force private organizations to silently spy for their national militaries by default.

> Because there's nothing inherently special about the humans born inside of the imaginary lines that comprise the US borders that entitles them to privacy denied to others.

The fact that the borders of nations are arbitrary and drawn by humans makes them no less real or important - it definitely doesn't make them imaginary. To say otherwise is incredibly naive, as well as deeply ignorant of history and the political realities in the world.

> Also, in the off chance you don't give a shit about basic human dignity for those filthy foreigners

Do you really need to include this kind of bullshit in your response?

Here, let me remove it for him:

It's also simply bad business. It puts all US internet companies at a huge starting disadvantage against internet companies in countries which don't force private organizations to silently spy for their national militaries by default.

Feel free to retort, once again.

Personally, the "we only spy on non-Americans!" bit bothers me because my wife is permanent resident, not a US citizen. Should I be concerned about the distinction? What privacy is she afforded? Should I be concerned that my communication with a non-citizen makes me 'fair game' as well?

I think this line is just to appease the American public. It's been made clear the lines of right-and-wrong, legal-and-illegal are blurry.

> It's also simply bad business. It puts all US internet companies at a huge starting disadvantage against internet companies in countries which don't force private organizations to silently spy for their national militaries by default.

Sure, assuming that the US is the only country that would be involved in such activity.

> Personally, the "we only spy on non-Americans!" bit bothers me because my wife is permanent resident, not a US citizen. Should I be concerned about the distinction? What privacy is she afforded?

She's treated the same as a US citizen would be. The law covers US persons, which include green card holders.

I'm not saying the whole NSA/PRISM story isn't concerning. Just that the idea of limiting the NSA's(and, presumably, other agencies) surveillance on foreign individuals who are specifically under investigation (whatever that means, the OP wasn't specific) is a non sequitur idea that finds no meaningful support in our constitution.

Countries are just arbitrary divisions. Just because you are born in a certain geographic region doesn't mean you are the property of the government of that region. Every person is a human being with inherent rights and freedoms.

You think we are all equal, but Americans are just more equal than others?

Dividing people is counter productive and antiquated. We are all unified as citizens of Earth and denizens of the internet.

> We are all unified as citizens of Earth and denizens of the internet.

That's something we would all probably like, but that's not actually true to this point. Today we can't even keep $FOOs from killing $BARs (or other $FOOs) when they're in the same national boundary, so why would you pretend the world is something other than what it actually is?

FWIW I think the U.S. needs to normalize how it conducts surveillance with other nations and political entities, but I don't think that should apply to everyone. Instead it should be dependent on bilateral treaty (we won't spy or do this list of things to you, without arranging with your Foreign Ministry, and you won't do those things to us without arranging with our Dept. of State).

> we won't spy or do this list of things to you, without arranging with your Foreign Ministry, and you won't do those things to us without arranging with our Dept. of State

During the Bush years, I recall reading that the US had (secret) bilateral agreements with the UK, wherein the Brits would spy on the Americans for the US govt and the US would spy on the Britons for the UK govt. This was supposedly a way of working around legislation governing domestic surveillance.

I've no idea if this is actually true or not, but perhaps bilateral agreements aren't necessarily better.

Hell, it probably is true. But it is something that can and should be covered an agreement. The alternative is no agreement and the status quo of nations spying on each other, and citizens getting caught up in the crossfire since we now all share the same Internet.

> Countries are just arbitrary divisions.

No, they're not. People in China will not fight and die to defend your freedom, but people in Nebraska will.

There is a real world outside the internet, and in that real world countries and national boundaries are tremendously important.

This doesn't address the parent's point.

First, the context of the parent's comment about countries being arbitrary divisions was clearly with regard to human rights.

Secondly, your argument is completely circular. That people in Nebraska will defend your freedom does not make national divisions any less arbitrary. It simply means that those who would do so have bought into the arbitrary divisions. So, you are effectively saying that if we can get people to believe in those arbitrary divisions, then they are not arbitrary.

Each country expects other governments to spy on them, but when you start requiring American companies to help the intelligence agencies do their jobs, it leaves little reason for anyone to do business with American companies.

Also, as Obama has stated (intensely dislike many of his policies, but on this occasion he's right), it's a given that espionage is conducted in order to discover political/military secrets, but that's completely different from conducting industrial espionage against commercial organizations, or individual espionage against private citizens. I know that he personally is a hypocrite for saying this while PRISM exists, but that doesn't mean that the statement itself was wrong.

> Each country expects other governments to spy on them, but when you start requiring American companies to help the intelligence agencies do their jobs, it leaves little reason for anyone to do business with American companies.

This is largely orthogonal to the issue of whether or not the NSA ought to be barred from spying on foreign individuals unless that person is specifically under suspicion of some sort.

Everyone's giving you the high-and-mighty ethical arguments, I'll give you the rational self-interest argument.

US internet companies need the freedom to do business with overseas clients without those clients assuming their communication will be spied on. If you start spying on foreigners using American services you hurt the providers of those services, you hurt their ability to get customers.

A compelling argument. But it's predicated on the assumption that US corporations are somehow unique in terms of the relationship they have with the local intelligence agencies, and I don't know that that's a reasonable.

Because people, world-wide, have the right to their own privacy. I'm talking a fundamental human right. Not legalese.

Because I, as a voting US Citizen, believe we should extend a great deal of rights to non-citizens. Fourth amendment and due process in particular.

American companies such as Facebook and Google are under EU laws when operating in the EU. Handing over all this private information about EU citizens is illegal according to EU laws. So PRISM will cause problems for American companies because they will not be able to operate outside the US without getting fined.

That is the economic side of things. Then there is the other aspect that it is going to ruin relationship with allied countries. We have had to put up with a lot of shit from the US, and this feels like the final straw.

Sneak is speaking specifically about the impact on the US IT industry. As an American IT worker, I agree. "Not subject to US jurisdiction" is becoming a feature.

Many reasons, but one that I haven't seen mentioned is that it's a slippery slope.

Whatever we allow them to do to non-U.S. citizens can and will likely be turned against U.S. citizens. Their simple argument is that the terrorists walk among us, and are thus indistinguishable from American citizens. So, they must now cast a wider net that includes Americans.

We have already seen them use this rationale and, in fact, it is part of what got us here today.

Setting the human rights issues aside, here's a compelling practical reason: spying on other countries can be a side-step towards domestic spying. By spying on China, we can also capture any data they've captured on us, without circumventing any laws prohibiting spying on citizens.

It wouldn't take long before this devolved to backdoor deals with allies; we spy on Germany, Germany spies on us, and we each "accidentally" get to scoop up data on our own citizens. (Of course, this is already happening now; they just don't have to lean on it as heavily, since most of the countries in question are spying domestically with impunity.)

Well, does that mean that every other country in the world is well within its rights to spy on every US citizen? I am sure no other country's constitution stipulates protections for US citizens either.

> Well, does that mean that every other country in the world is well within its rights to spy on every US citizen?

Yes, that's exactly what it means. This is how governments operate, all over the world, and it's been like this for centuries, if not longer.

They are and many do.

We should have several tiers; I'm fine with essentially unlimited spying on foreign governments and intelligence agents, terrorist groups, etc. Some spying on foreign companies in defense or infrastructure, and stuff like OSINT on foreign companies/organizations/people in general.

The bar for spying on purely private foreign citizens should be high, but not quite as high as on US persons -- maybe going 3 hops at a basic level internationally (i.e. Bin Laden's courier's maid) vs. 2 hops for US persons (McVeigh's maid, but not his maid's mom).

The bar for spying domestically should be very high, and essentially limited to counterintelligence on USG employees and contractors, agents of foreign powers, and maybe certain classes of domestic terrorist; everything else should be handled under regular law enforcement.

Absent a declaration of war...

Also important: money is fungible. To block funding for a particular activity is to say that Congress appropriates money per activity. I don’t think that’s the case, but would happily be corrected.

So a law that states ‘here’s your money, but you’re not allowed to use it for x’ seems toothless in the extreme. It’s words on a page.

Keep in mind also that the NSA is close to lawless, so any room for interpretation will gut the intent. If it’s words on a page, it’s room for interpretation.

The only actual solution is to actually reduce the NSA’s budget, substantially. Is that in this bill?

I don't know. If we say "Here is your money; you can't use it for X" and the next whistleblower shows that they are nonetheless using it for X means they're misappropriating government funds, and people can go to jail for that.

> Also important: money is fungible.

Yes and no. Congress can specifically prevent agencies from spending money on given activities with riders on budget bills. Evading such a ban would be a bigger deal than the current story, if only because congress would have explicitly stated tha such activities may not be conducted with congressionally provided funds. Assuming word of the program got out.

This is already thought about. You are hardly the first one to realize that funds can be spent on things other than what they were appropriated for. Look up the Anti-Deficiency Act.

But we're still using that word "collect" which they have re-defined to be useless to stop (a normal concept of) collection: https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/wordgames#collect

I'm not sure that this bill would change anything they're doing.

Just for the record, this will not help. There are a lot of foreigners who will still be under surveillance and I am pretty sure they will start seeking ways to pull their data away from US soil.

This is something real, tangible, and valuable that we can all actually do. All of this month I have felt powerless. This is something within everyone's power to do, and it can definitely help start the ball rolling back the way it came.

It is pretty unfortunate that there is such a short window of time in which this information can be disseminated. I can imagine if there were a bit more time, this could really spread over the whole Web, as the SOPA outroar did. Anyway, we have to do the best we can, with the time we have.

I disagree, it is not something real or tangible. I'm all for defunding NSA, but it's not like a regular business which you can boycott by not giving them money. You have to go and ask permission from the government to not give the money (which they previously extracted from you by force for the "good of society") to some of the government agencies. It's pretty much like going to NSA itself and ask them to defund themselves. Voting is just a suggestion, it's not binding. Presidential candidates promise stuff, get votes and then are not obliged to deliver what was promised. It works the same way in every country today.

Real and tangible way to defund NSA is this:

1. Withhold your taxes.

2. Protect yourself against the police and the military who will try to extract them by force (possibly by having crowdfunded guards).

3. Switch from using US Dollar as most of the money government generates comes from inflation (gov sells "bonds" that it will never repay in exchange for new money). Since all national currencies are inflationary and controlled by similar institutions all over the world, only Bitcoin is a good alternative. Or gold, if we can protect the vaults properly and build trust in a company that keeps it (but history shows it doesn't work).

4. Pay only what you think is fair and where you think it's fair. E.g. if you like social security, pay there directly as much as you want.

Only voluntary payments will guarantee that people who you don't like get as much money as someone is willing to give them explicitly and voluntarily. You should not ask for permission to not participate in what you don't approve.

> 1. Withhold your taxes.

> 2. Protect yourself against the police and the military who will try to extract them by force (possibly by having crowdfunded guards).

> 3. Switch from using US Dollar as most of the money government generates comes from inflation (gov sells "bonds" that it will never repay in exchange for new money). Since all national currencies are inflationary and controlled by similar institutions all over the world, only Bitcoin is a good alternative. Or gold, if we can protect the vaults properly and build trust in a company that keeps it (but history shows it doesn't work).

> 4. Pay only what you think is fair and where you think it's fair. E.g. if you like social security, pay there directly as much as you want.

So the solution of breaking free from the NSA and problems of US gov't is to isolate yourself and recreate the exact same systems in miniature?

Government != society. By not allowing any excuse for violence (including self-defence) and seeking voluntary arrangement with people around you to protect yourselves you are not isolating yourself. On contrary, you solve the social problem socially, not brutally like today with government.

Are you proposing that it isn't okay to use violence to defend yourself- but that it is okay to make "voluntary arrangement with the people around you" to use violence to protect you? So then it is okay for me to use violence to protect a neighbor, but not to protect myself?

I'm confused at what you are trying to advocate here?

Wait, you intend to take away my right to defend myself too? Fuck that, me being defenseless ended circa high school. Never again.

You don't have any rights. These are just unproven words or bribes given to you by the people with power.

Of course, you'd have to protect yourself when attacked, no question about it. But it's not a moral choice, it's an extreme case where you don't have any choice. So I'm not going to prove any libertarian rights platform based on right to self-defense. Without government, rights will appear in a form of voluntary agreement in parts of society on what's acceptable and what's not. E.g. if in Texas it's acceptable to kill trespassers without asking question, then so be it. I don't like this rule, so I'd just avoid being in Texas. But neither my opinion, nor cowboy's opinion create any globally applicable rights. I just don't want some mafia to take over people living in Texas and dictate them what they can or cannot do. They'd better decide themselves and smoothly adjust as new people arrive or get born there.

If you make this a choice between the surveillance super state and anarchy, you'll get the super state. Everyone knows we need some kind of government.

It's definitely hard to imagine the NSA being defunded, but that is rooted in a culture that is less concerned with government compliance with law and more with "reasonable" outcomes. The inability to control institutions, and the establishment of those institutions as powers in their own right, is the logical consequence.

Everyone knows we need some kind of government.

That depends on either your definition of government or everyone.

Everyone knows we need some kind of government

I don't. Many people I know don't either. So what if we don't really need any kind of government?

I think that we would still have governments because organizing into collectives to assert power and control resources is inevitable as long as inequalities between people and scarcity of resources exist.

I hear Somalia is nice this time of year.

So violence in Somalia is not acceptable to you, but allowing your government a lot of violence is acceptable? If people in Somalia cannot find out a way to avoid violence it does not mean it's not possible in principle, or that government is somehow "good".

Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, etc.

I love white people who are satiated by the blessings of good government that they can talk, without irony, about how they don't need government. I don't meet many anarchists from my part of the world...

The state of human nature is lawlessness and violence. The only thing keeping society from collapsing into the hell that people in those countries live with is the collective force of the majority asserted through government.

Anarchy sounds dandy until a bunch of people realize that in the absence of the overwhelming power of the state, all it takes is a gang of a dozen people to terrorize their neighbors, taking from them whatever they want. Morality doesn't prevent that. The only thing that prevents that is a bigger group of men, with guns. At first those groups of men were warlords, who eventually became kings, and ultimately we decided we should be able to vote for them. History of civilization in a nutshell.

It takes considerably more than "government". It takes a society, with culture and virtues and churches and economy and civic institutions and traditions. There many places in the world that have actual elections were those elections are used by some factions to abuse others. There are still more where decent democracies ultimately collapsed.

Democratic government, government by discourse and persuasion, is a remarkable achievement of a society. It is maintained and supported and continued by that society. There is nothing inevitable about it.

You're right that it does take more than government. The western world enjoys not just (relatively) good government, but a virtuous culture and people. But government by itself can be better than culture by itself. I'd imagine a lot of Iraqis miss the strong but dictatorial government under Saddam as compared to the weak but democratic government they have now. Basic security is a higher need (in the Maslovian sense) than self determination. That is the history of the world, after all. People embraced the kings that saved them from the petty warlords and criminals long before they instituted democratic government.

I saw this comic on the internet once.

It shows this skinny nerd getting beat up by a tattooed thug. With a caption that says something like "This is your anarchist utopia: getting beat up like you were in middle school over and over and over again."

It was awesome (and phrased in a slightly more clever way than I can remember). I really wish I could find it again, but I can't seem too even after trying many times.

Maybe I'm sensitive about it. When I was young, in Bangladesh, we had a house in the capital city. It was surrounded by a concrete wall with broken glass on top and had an iron gate. We once had a bus full of robbers try to break down the gate. They harassed us for 30-40 minutes before the police finally came (apparently this story could have also taken place in Detroit).

I'm as skeptical of the Po Po as the next guy, but the alternative isn't sunshine and rainbows.

My government has not once engaged in violence to me or my family.

The one possible exception is my sister (I wasn't there when she was arrested), but you steal $10,000 worth of silver from an in-law to feed your drug habit and I can't say I'd be surprised that the government gets involved.

P.S. On that note, how does anarchy account for thieves?

Did you pay taxes lately? Have you ever been disappointed by what government does with your taxes? Why haven't you tried to withhold your participation by not paying taxes? E.g. if you dislike the war in Iraq, what stopped you from not paying a part of your taxes? Also, even if you are hard-core fan of taxation, your neighbour may be not. If he also disagrees with the gov on the same matter as you, but decides to withhold some amount of taxes, would you call the cops to arrest him? Or will you let him do his thing and be disappointed if cops find out? Either way, you will notice there is violence behind taxation.

Anarchy is not some structure imposed on people. When I advocate for non-violent solutions, it's not me who needs to prove anything. It's the advocates of violence need to prove why all of a sudden generally undesirable violence becomes totally valid when done by a man in a special costume.

You yourself live 95% of your life in anarchy. You voluntary interact with people you like and avoid people you dislike. You avoid bad districts, you put locks on your bike, purchase insurance, enjoy security video cameras. Ultimately, with modern technology, people can be ostracized economically without any violence whatsoever. You'd need violent action only in extreme case of personal assault, but that's outside of morality. Morality is needed to avoid such situations in the first place.

Like you just said, the government can already generally enforce their laws just fine without violence.

If you go try to beat up the policeman when they come at you with a signed warrant, or ever point a gun in their direction, then don't be surprised when they don't decide to just roll over and die. This is, again, consonant with you mention about personal assault.

But don't try to brush away the question: What does an anarchist propose to do about thieves? Rapists? Murderers? Apparently your answer will not involve violence and will involve sterning telling people to be moral to each other. But I'm not worried about people who are moral, I'm worried about people who aren't.

The tremendous success of governments over the past several thousand years, as well as the even greater success of democratic governments over the past several hundred doesn't count as evidence in their favor?

> My government has not once engaged in violence to me or my family.

What happens if you don't pay taxes?

The government will get violent.

No, they'll garnish my wages. That doesn't require violence at all, the banks and/or my employer will be quite happy to comply.

No, they'll send men with guns to imprison you.

They might have hundreds of years ago. But nowadays they won't (though if I refuse to file taxes things may be different).

Let's not forget that other governments have helped to turn Somalia into what it is today.

> Protect yourself against the police and the military who will try to extract them by force (possibly by having crowdfunded guards).

Yeah, that's not going to happen. "Protect yourself" in this case translates to "ensure your rapid death in a SWAT assault". Security guards aren't going to fight a warrant for your arrest, and mercenaries will just die in the assault.

Why wouldn't a boycott work? Instead of signing petitions that won't change a thing, try something that actually requires some real effort and look for alternatives to the current tech giants. For starters, stop using Facebook (gasp).

When they realize that cooperating with the NSA will severely damage their reputation, they'll think twice before handing over user data this easily. Not to mention that if they realize their users are migrating, they might start lobbying against the NSA.

This seems to be spot on. As unorganized individuals (or even somewhat organized individuals) it will be much harder for us to protest the actions of the government then if we had some billion dollar companies' corporate lobbyists out there every day talking to the actual senators on our behalf.

"We're losing money here, we really need you to vote like this and then we can give you a ton of money for your next campaign. If not, well, we'll fund that other guy and he'll get a bunch of rave press and you'll get a bunch of attack ads during the next election, what do you say Senator?"

Boycotting government is what I was talking about. The problem is to protect yourself and your property against coercion.

No one "cooperates" with NSA. Companies would have their bank accounts and other property seized if they don't obey orders. Even if some court later decides to return their property, company would already be fatally harmed. If you want to continue your business, you must comply.

> most of the money government generates comes from inflation

I don't believe this. And if it is true then witholding your taxes won't help. The people losing money to inflation would probably stop buying bonds if inflation ate into their returns.

I found this Wikipedia article on tax resistance to be full of interesting information.


The principled/safe way to withhold your taxes is to just not generate much income.

I still feel powerless, but of course, that's because I'm not a US citizen (though my children are, but they cannot yet speak), while my communications are also spied on by the NSA.

I hope you'll be able to make a difference. Good luck on this.

It sounds so surreal that I'm having to type this out this way, but: If you're on U.S. soil the 4th Amendment applies to you, no matter what your citizenship is.

Actually you aren't powerless. You phone still works and you can call a senator. I don't know the legal ramifications of neglecting to mention that you aren't a member of the voting citizenry.

I cannot imagine there could exist legal ramifications for such an act. Perhaps if our senators hear from good citizens abroad who just wish not to be spied upon it will also weigh upon their conscience.

I don't know if I'm okay with non-Americans trying to interfere with our political process. They're certainly entitled to call, I suppose, but I hope our senators ignore them.

Yeah! That'll work! Just like the Occupy movement.

Will there be beer?

Well now, I live in the UK.

We don't have a written constitution, so the Powers That Be don't have to hack the legal system in quite the same way as as they do in the US (secret courts, secret injunctions, requirements for industry leaders to deny activity &c).

However, we have absolutely no oversight and no way to gain oversight of the agencies that purport to be acting for our protection. It is difficult even to find out how much we are paying for these agencies. As our Prime Minister has recently demonstrated, our elective representatives have very little understanding of how the Internet actually works. There is a cross party consensus that the 'legal framework' is adequate. Maybe it is, but we don't know, and have no way of knowing.

So I'd suggest taking what action you can within your system, because at least you have some avenues for change.

Saying you have absolutely no oversight in the UK is not true. I recently read David Omand's "Securing the State" which is the most informative book I have found on how to integrate secret intelligence into a democratic society. Most of the analysis in the book focuses on the UK system as he is a longtime member of the UK intelligence community. There is a detailed discussion of how to meet the challenges of keeping a secret intelligence system accountable while maintaining its secrecy. Specifically see your JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee) and its history of post-portem analysis after notable incidents such as the Iraq WMD misread. That was about political influence into the workings of intelligence, scope overreach is of course the issue of the day but presumably they could take a crack at it.

In fact I have come to believe that your system is more well-managed than ours here in the US partially because it is a smaller country and hence easier to keep track of. See the Washington Post's article (before Snowden's revelations) on the mushrooming growth of myriad, largely redundant secret intelligence groups dispersed throughout various US agencies: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articl...

"...David Omand's "Securing the State"..."

I shall add that to the summer reading list. I'm still dubious about how much accountability there actually is. For instance, the quote below is from a (generally favourable) Amazon review of the book referenced

"The book is a bit weak in the realm of intelligence collection, but this is because this is a very sensitive area and Sir David was clearly trying to avoid stepping on toes."

We are good at 'sensitive areas' in the UK.

"...the mushrooming growth of myriad, largely redundant secret intelligence groups..."

I suspect we have some of those as well but as projects/units within the main agencies.

I hope you'll be downvoted to hell.

HN should be about constructive criticism. We're all intelligent people, we can all tear down anything we put our mind at, but that doesn't mean that we should, or we wouldn't leave our house every day.

I know I'm a cynic and it's a bad habit I'm trying to change, maybe you should try too.

We'll there is some merit to his comment(Despite the sarcasm). We have seen so many of these types of petitions/movements recently, only to be totally ignored by the gubment.

If at first you don't succeed...

Do you imagine your comment constructive?

If it can prevent the next wiseass from spouting his mouth, yes.

Just a quick note to add that this was built over the course of 5 hours by four developers as part of http://taskforce.is, which was pretty much assembled here on Hacker News.

Please take a few minutes to call. It's amazing how low conversion rates are on calling campaigns like this one - a factor of 100 lower than email asks - but this is really critical. We only have one day to make this happen.

If you're interested in helping with campaigns like this in the future, you can sign up here: http://sina.is/rritf.html

A big thanks to Thomas Davis, Jens Nockert, and Beau Gunderson for building the site.

I just called.

A feature that would be really nice: A way for me to give them my email address and zip code and then get an email when vote results are posted with how my Representative voted.

That's a really good idea.

I would strongly recommend including an auto email form. Maybe not as powerful as a phone calll, but conversions will be much higher

"Form e-mails" to representatives are pretty much completely ignored, as I understand it. Does it really matter if "x" percent converted if it has zero effect anyway?

Best of luck and god speed with this initiative. Were I a US citizen, I would be calling my representative.

No, no, a thousand times no. Hey, I'm the biggest fan of anonymity and privacy you can find. This is not an answer. It's an emotional over-reaction.

Countries need intelligence agencies -- they are the best way NOT to fight future wars. SIGINT is a useful function when used against foreign leaders. It's just a terrible idea when used against the population as a whole. Separate the parts that work and are useful from the parts that are destroying the country. Just don't lump it all together.

Unilaterally disarming is not a way forward. The only thing you accomplish by doing that is allowing dozens of other countries to spy on you without your knowledge. How is that a solution? These movements are in real danger of becoming "useful idiots" for others who wish us harm [1]

The only solution here is parity, i.e., whatever blanket surveillance is going on by corporations and the government regarding every citizen should be available to all citizens. This policy would naturally severely limit these kinds of operations without asking us to make broad decisions about delicate matters.

If you insist on defunding something, de-fund and kill the TSA. Then eliminate DHS and have the work go back to the separate agencies. But don't take a flamethrower to something which has a useful, important purpose because the politicians changed their mission to something terrible.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

Read the website. Despite the name, it is not about defunding the entire nsa, but instead about removing the authorization and funding for blanket data collection

You understand that my argument was not against all blanket data collection by the NSA, right? In many cases it might still work. That's the entire point: this issue does not reduce to simple answers, only shared values that can then discuss depending on the particular situation.

Address-to-address SIGiNT, two hops out, with only the address and time? I might could get behind that -- as long as I had that data also.

This discussion is not about surveillance. We are going to have that anyway. All this does is give it to every other country but us. This discussion is about priviledge -- who gets access to what?

Apologies for reaction to the link bait title, but that doesn't change the point I'm making.

We elected Bush in 2004 when he had Tom Ridge upping the terror alert every week before the election. It never seemed to go down. But it always managed to go up to red every week.

I think we have hit the point that you can't really roll anything back. If you do and 9/11 v.2.0 happens you are politically screwed. And, unfortunately, it is all about the next election and soccer moms.

"We elected Bush in 2004 when he had Tom Ridge upping the terror alert every week before the election."

You hit the nail right on the head. The problem in America isn't the politicians, it's the people.

If Obama would do what he promised he would do, we would be in a better situation right now (about the PATRIOT Act, Guantanamo, etc..)

I do honestly believe that he wanted to do the right thing. But once he got more info he had to change his mind. For all I know they prevent 1 attack per week. I have no clue. So I think we need to have the security verses privacy debate. If the country is like my sister she thinks she doesn't do anything and will pick security every time. She has three kids that love soccer.

Instead of voting to block funding for programs, why not repeal the laws that enable those programs in the first place? I don't understand this logic.

The laws do NOT enable the programs. The laws had specific clauses stating that they could not be used for this sort of widespread surveillance of innocent citizens. But the administration has an "interpretation" of the laws which apparently is at odds with the plain text of the law. I can't say HOW they came by this interpretation, because the interpretation of the law is secret. (Yeah... really.)

So maybe the power of the purse will still be effective. We can hope.

Or Congress could pass new laws that remove any ambiguity that allows for a different "interpretation" than what was intended.

Even so, they are doing it this way because it is a late amendment to the directly related Defense Appropriations Bill. They can hardly stick clarifications to the Patriot Act on to it. It would be great to "treat the cause, not the symptoms", but they didn't have the immediate opportunity to do that.

Because that would be a concrete step that would actually change something and would be a clear signal as to how each representative stands on the issue of unlimited domestic surveillance.

How can you repeal secret laws? There were report so secret laws and secret interpretations being used for 'justification' of unconstitutional activities.

Looks good, is to the point, very convenient -- tells you what to say, who to say it to.

Wonderful job guys. I think this is going to be a pretty effective grassroots campaign.

This won't work. Even if they defund the existing programs, the IC will just change the codenames and move them around between departments, as they did with TIA. The technology will live on.

The only way to really end these programs would be a full public debate followed by a statute that outright bans them. Anything less is a PR move.

In politics, partial victories can snowball. And vice versa: repeated loss teaches helplessness. The direct real effect of this would be small, but I'd expect it to be much more useful than a loss.

Added: If you read about Watergate, the scandal wasn't any one event or one reaction: it took over two years from the break-in to the resignation, and people weren't sitting still. Some of the important action was in Congress. (Admittedly it was a different country then.)

This isn't Watergate. There isn't widespread public outrage. If you want to change the policies, you'll need to generate or simulate that outrage first.

Watergate made barely a ripple at first, according to Woodward and Bernstein's book. It built up over time.

I was politically aware at the time, it was more than a ripple---burglary of the DNC headquarters meant something---but it wasn't big for a long time, and even longer before it became bipartisan.

This is the very first (recorded) vote on the issue; even if it were 100% symbolic, which way it goes, how many votes for it will make a difference going forward. And this is bipartisan from the beginning: in a Republican House, an heretofore obscure Republican is the sponsor with the very prominent Democrat John Conyers as the leading co-sponsor.

Thanks for the correction. I agree about the significance.

Even if it ultimately doesn't work, don't you think it's worth trying rather than just going around saying it won't work? It's likely going to be a long, slow process to change this, and we need all the wins we can get, if only to prevent apathy and show others who are on the fence that there's enough public outrage over this that they should get involved too. If we do manage to get it passed and then there are new leaks a few years down the road that they did what you describe—move the programs around and keep running them—I think that would cause far greater outrage, because Congress explicitly banned them from continuing the programs and they ignored it.

No. I don't think it's worth trying. If this is your goal, I think there are far more effective ways to go about it.

1. First, you'll need a political organization that is single-mindedly focused on this one issue. You'll need donors, professional lobbyists, a PR team, and a massive grassroots organization. Think Anti-Saloon League meets Rules for Radicals.

2. Then you focus on one or two elections of prominent politicians. Find someone vulnerable in the Senate. Then find an opponent that will vote against these policies, and win. That will put your group on the map in Washington.

3. Have your newly elected champion propose legislation that addresses policy avenues for which there is already support in Washington. I would focus on two areas: fixing the FISA court, and forming an investigatory committee.

Making the FISA court more than a rubber stamp will accomplish many of your goals in the short term. In brief, a few reforms that could go a long way would be the addition of attorneys appointed to oppose the government in motions, fair appointment process, and regularly publishing the findings of law of the court with the fact patterns redacted.

Forming an investigatory commission will accomplish your goals in the long term. A top to bottom review of the classified practices of the government, in both public and closed hearings, will bring the information up from the depths of the executive branch. Knowledge will breed more outrage, which will fuel both your political organization and grassroots efforts.

If you're successful, the result will look much like the Church Committee. Your ultimate goal should be to statutorily ban the programs, but you won't get there in one step, and certainly won't get close by cutting the funding to a few programs.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try, if this is your sincerely held belief. I'm simply saying that playing whack-a-mole with particular programs is a spectacularly ineffective way to pursue your goals.

I agree with you that those are all good ways to take action, but I disagree with you that this bill is not worth trying as well. This doesn't target specific NSA programs by name, but amends Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to forbid its use to collect records for people who are not subject to an investigation under that same Section. It's far from an end to domestic surveillance, but it's a significant limitation on the legality of what they're currently doing. Why should we have to elect new people to Congress before taking any further action when we have members of Congress pushing good and legitimate measures already? Should more be done in addition to this? Absolutely. I think it's completely asinine to say that this is a worthless measure, however, and that no one should even try.

Amending 215 isn't much good with FISA 702 collection methods still in place, so yes, this bill is useless.

You need new elected representatives because thus far no representative in any election in any district has ever lost an election over this surveillance. Unless and until that happens, the massive forces arrayed against you will sway the votes every time.

This movement lacks support, funding, vision, and credibility. It is at best a placebo that bleeds public motivation, so in many ways it is in fact worse than useless.

215 and 702 do different things. It is misleading to say that limiting 215 is pointless because 702 is still in place. Yes, both should be limited. But limiting one as a start is better than limiting nothing.

The NSA director has called a classified emergency briefing for Congress to lobby against them voting on this bill, so they seem more troubled by it passing than you do. Which makes me wonder what your true intent is in encouraging people to not support this.


Think through the problem.

1. FISA Court precedent has already created a rather broad exception to the Fourth Amendment. Even without 215 most domestic surveillance could be brought under other statutory authority. The end-run around the Fourth is the hard part, not the statutory grant of permission.

2. The NSA Director would never allow any bill limiting his agency's powers to be considered in any way without protesting.

3. If you repeal that portion of the Patriot Act, which again you won't because you haven't done the necessary groundwork, most of the gathering done under 215 could be done under 702 given the "two to three hops" justification.

4. The NSA and the FISA court don't consider mere interception of communication to meet the definition of "collection," meaning gathering all of the nation's communications neither requires statutory approval nor invokes Constitutional scrutiny.

You're treating your adversary as if it's passive, and can't adapt other legal tools to serve this purpose. Loss of this one provision is meaningless in the scope of the agency's powers.

Finally, you're ignoring the most crucial part of the counterargument. Public opprobrium is a scarce resource that must be marshaled and treated as such. Every action that you take must be calculated to make maximum use of that resource, or you're simply squandering it.

I have no dog in this fight. I see the advantages and disadvantages of both positions. Seeing either side employ sub-optimal tactics is what bothers me.

If you're going to take on the best funded, most powerful, and most covert organization in the history of the planet, you better come with more firepower than this.

Do we really believe that "a vote" can change such things? Do we really believe that we can avoid such situations (= non-transparent governments) within the current system?

I mean, when did you actually vote FOR the NSA funding in the first place so that you can now believe that you can defund it by voting against?

Nearly everything that the NSA does is Top Secret, so can we claim to know anything about its activities? Why do we believe that we have the power to defund it, when we don't actually know where it gets its money, or how much it receives? Are posters here aware that the CIA has long been accused of being involved in the global drug trade, as a means of self-financing and leveraging power?

Despite the recent revelations having vindicated the world's tin-foil-hats, we still seem to collectively lack the stomach for darker conspiratorial notions. To be in step with reality, it may be important to build up a bit of tolerance. I'm not making any claims (because I just don't know), but I see absolutely no reason to assume that democratic process applies to these agencies. They may have gone rogue; they may have always been rogue. Their global network may be the actual, de-facto world government. Would it really surprise anyone at this point if a convincing leak exposed such notions? What would we do then?

Let's stop imagining that Law will take care of this problem so we can at least assume a proper direction for our efforts. Which is to say, let's dispense with some of our convenience and fashions and start writing software the right way -- the paranoid way.

To quote the eternal R. Buckminster Fuller:

"In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete."

The NSA is the heart of the intelligence gathering apparatus of the US Military Industrial Complex. Like it or not, this bill will pass either tomorrow or another day, tacked on to another bill. It is strategic to the military and the country.

There is no way in hell, this bill will not pass. You can scream, occupy the streets, protest, do whatever but it will not change a thing. It will go through.

The US military Industrial Complex is vast. It lobby’s hard. To vote against it is to be called “un-American”- you know its BS but the talking heads will say it. Its powerful but that isn’t the point of this post.

Truthfully, our governments have been spying on us for a long time. My country, the UK was reading the mail and telegrams long before the US. Then it was listening and recording phone calls. This is just a step up. As technology increased capabilities, the net has grown wider. From ECHELON to this.

Civil liberties does not mean anything to them as the mindset has stayed the same no matter how much you may scream or complain, realistically it will not change a thing because at the end of the day, the country will have enemies and it needs an intelligence gathering capability. It won’t give a damn about our rights as it tries to secure itself.

Your post accomplishes nothing except to persuade people to give up the fight for civil liberties. You propose no solution or do you give any additional insight into developing a solution.

Regardless of your actual intentions, you might as well be performing psychological propaganda. It's not helpful.

Just a thought:

If people give up, the situation should get worse, and then people will act. It strikes me that we are not at enough of a tipping point yet. Giving up will get us to that tipping point quicker. People seem to tolerate a lot, until it gets excessive, well ,has an effect in their day to day lives. Right now, while what is happening is bad news, it doesn't touch most people's lives in a significant way, or a way they care about. Let the government run rampant, and we'll get to a tipping point quicker, then the majority will demand change.

Also, the government sees some decent, so it will slightly change things to bring the heat down a degree or two, but not fundamentally change anything at all. So it plays a game of whack a mole to keep the over all heat manageable, and this can go on for decades. All the time people are just tinkering at the edges keeping various groups vaguely happy. So no one really pushed for fundamental change.

So, why not just stand back and let the government hang it's self?

Yes, people will suffer, but world history tells us that nothing substantial changes with out some suffering.

Like I said, just a thought.

This is an old Marxist trope called "heighten the contradictions". I get the impression it hasn't historically led to better outcomes than working for improvement, though that's uh less than authoritative from me.

No offence is taken. I've been reading and studying Intelligence/espionage for a long time. Not the fancy James Bond stuff, just the boring average, mundane stuff of the past 100 years.

I offer no solution because quite frankly, there isn't one. Unless you want to shut down the US military's and civilian intelligence gathering capabilities, it's not going to happen. There will always be reading your mail and listening in to your phonecalls. It is not going to stop.

I am not for this, I love my privacy but I am simply pointing out what will happen, regardless of any action taken.

You're repeating yourself, and so I'll repeat myself: it's not helpful.

Unless you are prepared to give a mathematical proof of your claims, you ought to doubt them yourself. A priori, there is "no reason" (to mirror your argument) that life ought to have evolved 5 billion years ago on this planet.

Likewise, there are lots of tech projects aimed at countering this sort of thing; saying they won't succeed only makes the participants more determined. :) Propaganda is a double-edged sword.

So with that said, what would you recommend the average foreign citizen do?

I mean, every western country right now is a vassal to the states. I doubt my country can really go against US interests (Canada). Most educated people I talk to about these matters agree that the US is not a functioning democracy, but rather a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism

> I am not for this, I love my privacy but I am simply pointing out what will happen, regardless of any action taken.

Well if that's the case, what would you suggest a poor foreign person do?

This is what I don't understand. Why can't the US scale down this huge military complex? It has already served its purpose; it won World War II and defeated the Soviets in the defense budget chicken race, so how about calling mission accomplished and going home, now?

Considering how many Americans die of heart attacks, and how many in terrorist attacks, wouldn't giving your citizens an actual first-world health care system a much better use of these gigantic black budgets?

It's accurate though, isn't it.

In theory it sounds nice, but how many black ops and secret budgets already exist? "Defunding the NSA", will just mean its "official" budget will be cut, and under everyone's noses, they will keep being funded through secret budgets.

I'm not saying it shouldn't happen - eventually - but first the priority should be to repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, and end the secret FISA Court, or at least overhaul it in such a way that it's public, judges get elected in a much more democratic way than simply having one person naming them, as it is right now, and allow adversarial hearings, and for people to be able to use FOIA against this sort of spying.

If it's done on an American citizen (under a proper warrant - and not en masse), then that citizen should be able to request a FOIA for it, and get an almost completely unredacted document. If there's an investigation done on him currently, then at most he can get a few months delay, to a year. After that everyone should be able to use FOIA to get these documents.

I have a question.

It's pretty much a safe bet that the NSA runs Open Source Software. You can't do anything on the internet these days without using FLOSS.

I'm not an expert in software licenses but can't GNU, Linus, Mozilla and all other Open Source contributers revoke the NSA's license to use their software?

Surely Open Source licenses, just like any other license, can be revoked?

Clause 6 of the Open Source Definition ( http://opensource.org/osd-annotated ) states that open source software licenses cannot discriminate against fields of endeavor. That is, you can't state in your license that an abortion clinic / anti-abortion activists can't use the software and still call it open source.

Right. Because "open source" no longer fits, you'd need a new name for software released under the anti-surveillance license. "Freedom Software" instead of "Free Software" has a nice ring to it. :)

It's not open source if you specify who can and cannot use it. There was some bit of software years ago that had a clause like "no neonazis may use this software", and it got DQ'ed from Debian because that made it not free software.

It's a bit like free speech: you really want to be very, very careful about limiting what people can say.

That reminds me of this blog post – http://dev.hasenj.org/post/3272592502/ibm-and-its-minions

Not likely to happen - https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

> The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).

No, you can't revoke their license to use the software they already have, only them breaching the license would lose them the right to use it.

You could change the licensing so that they are not allowed to use future versions, but then that's no longer open source software. The open source definition[0] says:

"5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons."

The last issue you get with this idea is whether the NSA is the most unethical user of these pieces of software, I seriously doubt that is the case. Then you need to introduce clauses to ban everyone else who you feel doesn't behave in the manner you'd like. That'll be fun.

[0] http://opensource.org/osd-annotated

They they can't. Most (all?) of the opensource licenses do not have the "revokable clause" with them.

Ok. What happens if GNU decides to Fork the GPL v3 and call it "GPLv3+NSA Exception" and then relicense all their code to this new forked license?

A clause in this forked license is that the NSA can't use it.

That's an addition, not an exception. An exception would say "you must the GPL, unless you are/are doing xyz, in which case you can use abc license". You are saying "you can use the GPL, unless you are/are doing xyz, in which case you can't". That clause cannot legally be inserted in the GPL.

You cannot apply license _retroactively_. Once you release code version under a certain License, the License is associated with that version of the code.

They threw out the 4th amendment without notifying the public, do you really think any software license is going to make a difference?

Really, this is not the way to go

And besides, how would you audit it?!

Makes sense hn would too vote such a stupid idea. If it didn't exist already something like it would have to be created.

The Soviet Union went out of business in 1991. Why do we still have a mechanism that was built to target a closed totalitarian system armed with 20 megaton hydrogen bombs? The NSA is out of date and out of place.

=) This assumes you have correctly defined what"it" is and does? Or what current is? Current isn't on tv.

Remove the funding and they will get it from elsewhere; that 50 years worth of data just became market research.

Just called my representative! I spoke the receptionist, who was very nice. I told her repeatedly to support Representative Amash's amendment to HR-2397. She requested my full name, zip code, and email address. Happy to help, from Restore the Fourth San Francisco!

When I called in the first time, I got a busy line. When I called in a second time, I was directed to Nancy Pelosi's voice mail.

Hopefully, this means we are flooding the lines!

"The bill gives taxpayer money to fund defense programs, including NSA surveillance."

Why does it take money to defund an operation? Doesn't "defund" mean to not allocate money for.

Obama says he will veto. So what? If no money is allocated for said programs where is the budget for them coming from?

These NSA programs are only the tip of the iceberg of intrusions. <a href="The http://www.govexec.com/technology/2013/04/consumer-bureau-de... Credit Bureau</a> collects all financial data on US citizens and obamacare will be collecting and sharing everything medical with numerous federal agencies.


> remember that threats from the US are the only thing that prevents many countries from doing more horrible shit than they already do.

You mean horrible shit like drone strikes that kill innocent civilians, illegally detaining "terrorists" and torturing them, spying on the whole world, and commanding other countries to ground a president's plane? Is that the kind of shit "they" already do?

Nah bro they target civilians and blow them up en masse. If you had to pick the lesser of two evils, the answer is pretty clear I think.

I guess 100+ plus drone strikes y/y with civillian casualties isn't en masse?

Wasn't there a drone strike that killed over a hundred women and children at a school in pakistan?

And lets not forget Falujah. It was pretty much turned into Depleted Urainium wasteland... and theres a WHO report on that.

Sounds like those evils are brothers...

Suppose a Drone killed 3000 civilians with the intention of killing civilians (like Dresden or Tokyo bombings of WWII) then I'd say yeah, they're siblings but: Nah, civilians are collateral damage for drones, the goal was not to kill as many of them as possible and terrorize them. It was to eliminate particular individuals, so no it's not en masse.

If we take your 100 women and children (heh, nice) and say they were without a doubt killed by a drone and were killed intentionally as a target by the drones I would say: You're still off by an order of cardinality in comparison. So that's a bad comparison too.

Falujah, where there was a battle and there were actual enemy combatants in a stronghold city and you're complaining about the depleted uranium after the fact? Sure you could remove context to everything and you'll get exactly what you're saying: Drivel.

A WHO report? So? That assertion alone is supposed to do what, reinforce how deplorable Falujah is on account of the weapons used?

Tell ya what when you're in charge of arming your soldiers of your nation and someone says: "you can use depleted uranium to penetrate the armor of your enemies but it'll have negative effect on the environment, or you can use just lead with negligible armor piercing and minimal comparative environmental effect." You can pick the environmental choice and tell the dead parents and the dying soldiers you're responsible for that you didn't want to pick armor piercing rounds because you were trying to protect the future flora and fauna of a foreign land you don't have sovereignty over. Or you could tell them that you did everything in your power to do your job and service to the nation and it's people in arming the soldiers under your command and that the integrity of the environment of a city in Iraq was secondary to your concern over American lives.

Are you kidding? First, depleted uranium is not just about the "fauna and flora", it's about children being born with horrible birth defects and other untold human damage.

Secondly, your entire argument attempting to justify what we did in Iraq omits the most salient point: the fact that we shouldn't have been there in the first place. So, nothing we've done there is justified, including the death and maiming of our own soldiers.

Thirdly, you conveniently omit the hundreds of thousands or more of the innocent Iraqi civilians who were killed. I would say that people of Iraq certainly died en masse.

Your ignorance might be forgivable if you weren't so arrogant about it, and not so cavalier about human suffering and death.

The stock market doesn't get hacked? Are you kidding? Did I miss a /sarcasam tag? The stock market is a hack. If the stock market doesn't get technologically "hacked" it's only because it's so easy for the well-connected to hack already. And you want to make our government itself exactly that easy to hack?

The vast majority of Americans don't care about most issues. In fact, I would go so far as to speculate that there is no American who cares deeply about more than a handful of issues. But giving everyone a vote would give everyone the opportunity to sell that vote to the highest bidder, whether literally or figuratively.

You know who will vote on every single solitary proposal? Old people. Old people who think a monitor is a computer and the Internet is a series of tubes that young people use to give each other venereal diseases. As it stands today, we can shine light on corruption, Snowden helped with this. In a HUGE direct democracy, how would we even begin to figure out if someone had usurped control? Would it even be illegal to do so? Instead of writing letters to our representatives we'd all just end up sending daily letters to our grandparents begging them not to blindly do whatever Rupert Murdoch tells them to do.

No need to bring in the stock market. The issue at vote is clear: "Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act."

This is politics, they now make it explicitly illegal to do this. Clearly NSA and FISA need to alter their procedures IF this vote makes it.

Your reasoning is flawed as a false dichotomy.

Also "Don't take away their ability to wrong, lest someone else does the same wrongs or worse" is a strawman. Others are going to try to do bad things no matter what. Giving our government unethical powers to somehow overcome this is not OK.

The US isn't a direct democracy and, if I understand history correctly, that was on purpose and not just a matter of practicality. A direct democracy allows the majority to pass laws that benefit themselves while punishing the minority. We already have politicians passing ridiculous laws just to pander for votes; I can't see how it wouldn't be worse if the people being pandered to made the laws instead.

The internet has given us a front row seat to witness the fact that, regardless of which side of an issue they're on, there are a lot of people who don't arrive at their opinions through any sort of research, discussion, or consideration. This is probably confirmation bias on my part, but there seems to be a lot more people who'd vote how Wil Wheaton or Justin Bieber told them to than those who'd spend ten minutes reading a few different news sources about a particular ballot initiative to form their own opinion.

One would hope, if things were working ideally, that representatives in congress would consider the constitution, existing laws, and their constituents best interests when passing new laws. I'm not so naive to think that things are anywhere close to ideal, but I'm not sure that direct democracy is a better solution.

But which minority? The US founders clearly weren't talking about non-whites and women, who were property. Instead, the minority was the wealthy elites.

During the "Secret Debates of the Federal Convention" (where the windows were shut in the summer heat so those outside couldn't hear what was said), the Father of the Constitution, Madison, discussed the conflicting interests between "the day laborer" and "the man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage":

"In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. [...] Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/yates.asp)

More useful to read than the Federalist Papers, which are propaganda. (BTW, it may help to know that the senate originally wasn't open to popular election. That battle was finally won in 1913, with the 17th amendment.)

This is a straw man. The campaign is not to defund the entire NSA, it is to defund collection of records "that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215".

Exactly. The NSA can't use their funds however they feel like. They have to account to several governmental entities for their (secret) precise funding, and I doubt they would lie about it and take their resources from their useful tasks in order to reallocate them to spying on non-suspect citizens.

The problem is that ignorant masses can be easily tricked into voting particular way. Some would say that direct democracy simply would not work. But, well, look at Switzerland...

In the case of Obama, half of the population was tricked. And lots of us weren't ignorant - only HOPEful that he wasn't a complete and utter liar.

To this day, I don't think he was when he first got elected; but he did not have a real political powerbase in the party, and so didn't really make a difference when nominating members of his administration. He let the Clintonites run the show, and of course they dragged him down in the same way they've done his predecessors. He squandered his star-power in the first year (when powerful people were begging to take pictures with him) and that was it. After that, he pretty much ran things as "Clinton III & IV". In fact, Bill himself is now to Obama's left on various issues, at least going by his public statements.

This is the problem with voting "the New Man who will clear up Washington": it rarely ever happens. Because the difference is made every day, inch by inch, by a political machinery built by a number of cadres, and Obama's machinery was fundamentally the same as Clinton's (and Kerry's, i.e. the people complicit in 8 years of GWB regime). In that I hoped he'd make a difference. When I saw Dean had been pushed out, I knew the gig was up.

Still, even before his first day in office, at least he made a big difference in one particular field (desegregation), which was long overdue.

A direct democracy would probably be even more shortsighted than today's flawed system. It would almost certainly be hell on earth.

No, the answer is NOT direct democracy. For samples of what your average fellow human thinks about the world and whether you think it's a good idea to entrust them with governance, please search a random keyword on Twitter and see what you find. It will not be pretty.


I have no idea how we fix Congress. It is a totally corrupt mess that will viciously defend itself and try to prevent anything being changed that would threaten its self-perpetuation.

Obviously ending the nightmare that is Citizens United would be a start. And enacting other strict rules about campaign financing....

Didn't congress say no to funding the stealth MH-60 SOF variant and later see tail rotor of a stealth MH-60 SOF variant in someone's backyard in Abbottabad?

I think you're thinking of the Comanche helo. There's absolutely zero chance IMHO that Congress actually went out of their way to de-fund a fancy SOF toy.

I am almost positive it was the MH60. If my memory is correct: Congress did not defund it, they just did not authorize the funds to go forward with the plans to build a stealth MH60 SOF. Upon hearing the news the CIA said fuck it we have some black budget money we will pay for it. The next time congress heard about the program was news reports about a tail rotor from a stealth chopper in some guys yard in Abbottabad.

I called all three of my listed representatives - the phone was answered almost immediately.

It took less than 5 minutes of my time. It may even take you less. It was quite pleasant.

Do it now!

Agreed. The people you call know exactly what to expect and make it as quick and painless as possible. They're also very pleasant. I'm young and shy but this was probably the easiest social interaction I've ever done. Worth a shot, worth 30 seconds.

The best way to rein in the NSA is make it difficult or impossible for it to find and hire employees and contractors. Without people it cannot function.

Man, you should put a big "call with Twilio" button right on the page to dial straight out to the representatives then and there.

Not sure if this is good idea.

Their database may be worth too much on a commercial market, and what if they may be tempted to become self-funding.

More info - http://rules.house.gov/bill/hr-2397

Amendment #100

I wish there was an email option instead of having to call my congressman.

Their secret budget will see an increase if this happens...

I was shocked for a while, since I read it as defendthensa.

Oh snap - my rep proposed this bill. Cool!

LOL Fools

You know that the CIA run most of the drugs in and out of the great US. You know that they have massive surplus cash? Like so big they don't really know what to do with it

These 'government' bodies can and will exist without government. This is how they fund most if not all their black ops, that way nothing needs to be on the books.

if we stopped public money, I doubt it would even make a dent

This may sound farfetched, but it's not. If you're interested in learning more about the CIA and drugs, I recommend the following:

- The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy [1]

- Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn [2]

- Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond by Martin A. Lee [3]

[1] http://www.amazon.com/The-Politics-Heroin-Complicity-Global/...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Whiteout-The-CIA-Drugs-Press/dp/185984...

[3] http://www.amazon.com/Acid-Dreams-Complete-History-Sixties/d...

I'm glad to see someone else pointing this out. I did so myself here:


I want so suggest however, that you follow my lead in taking a sternly honest but less antagonistic approach to the topic. This reality implies a complete breakdown of democracy, which is terrifying. And while it may be true, we won't get far calling each other "fools", even if the effort is impotent.

Still, let me reiterate that I'm very glad you said it.

I think this is fighting the symptom rather than the cause. NSA is a symptom of a much larger problem, which is taxes. If you didn't have them, you wouldn't have to demand those things in the first place, because all the money you'd give would be given voluntarily and to organizations that you choose and think are important.

Meanwhile, back on Earth...

Taxes are the means of transferring worth to folks like firefighters, police officers, construction works etc... You know, the folks who hold up infrastructure and need to eat food and stuff. And I can count on one hand the number of people I've met who would donate to these institutions in this economy.

Now if there's a way to reroute existing tax funds that used to go to rubbish into things that are really necessary, I'm all ears. And there may just be a way to work out something that enough heckling of public officials may... just may... get off the ground.

Step 1: Earmarks are verboten. I've lost count of how many times I've seen a bill pass congress with a whole heap of pork-barrel nonsense (subsidies to shady companies anyone?) because some senator has to do a kickback to the folks who paid for his/her election.

Step 2: Every law that is to be passed is read out loud from front page to end in congress by a designated reader from each party. They may take turns if they're tired, but no one is allowed to leave, have bathroom breaks, nap, chat or be otherwise distracted.

You actually get to bloody know WTF you're passing. Someone raises a hand and goes, "hey, that's stupid!" Everyone stops and discusses what it is that's stupid and the thing gets amended on the spot.

Step 3: No consecutive reelections... for anything. No exceptions! The chance that you won't be here the next term is a damn good way to ensure people remember you for the right reasons in your current term so you can come back the term after that to finish what you started. It also takes away the incentive to seek office as a career. No, you get to government to serve. Now pick up a broom, damn it!

...I'm sure someone else has some bright other ideas short of throwing out taxes, which functional societies will always have in some form until we throw out currency altogether.

>Taxes are the means of transferring worth to folks like firefighters, police officers, construction works etc... You know, the folks who hold up infrastructure and need to eat food and stuff. And I can count on one hand the number of people I've met who would donate to these institutions in this economy.

Yet people give money to institutions every day, voluntarily. Not to mention, plenty of construction projects exist outside of government, as does security. Clearly some institutions are of value to us. If we thought we were getting real value out of our tax payments, the government would not need to use threats against us to collect it. We'd line right up to give our money away.

>Now if there's a way to reroute existing tax funds that used to go to rubbish into things that are really necessary, I'm all ears. And there may just be a way to work out something that enough heckling of public officials may... just may... get off the ground.

And what, to you, are things that are "really necessary"? That's one of the things that grinds governments to a halt in democratic societies - the need to agree on how to spend other people's money. It is never pretty.

>Ambitious ideas for change that have no chance of getting traction.

Every new layer of legislation that gets added in the name of "accountability" does little more than add paperwork, costs, and personnel to the payrolls. Then we complain yet more about government waste and inefficiency. It always sounds nice to talk about how to hold the crooks in power to task, but they're still the ones in charge of enacting the laws.

>until we throw out currency altogether.

What was this "Earth" of which you spoke?

You are correct that taxes are means to finance good things too. But ask yourself this: can things you agree with be financed without simultaneously financing things you disagree with?

Police officers, firefighters, teachers... Could it be that we don't really need any government to finance them? The demand is there. Private companies will be more than happy to fill it. All the government does is pretends that those things can't be done without it and then uses some of the money collected to finance things it wants, but you disagree with.

Me and my friends will never stay in your way if you want to fund a firefighter or NSA, or local McDonalds. It's your choice, your property. Even if we don't like your lifestyle or disagree with your ideas. Will you give me the same respect to disagree with you and act upon my beliefs? Since I don't force you to pay for what I think is good, will you please allow me not to participate in things I don't approve of? If yes, then you should be against taxation. If no, will you employ violent action against me if I disagree with you and try to peacefully avoid certain things you like?

As long as you don't drink water from public infrastructure, use public Wi-Fi, get power from public lines, drive on public roads, get healthcare at public hospitals, ever call the public 911 line no matter how scary that burglar is, etc. etc. then sure dude, go nuts.

You have a logical fallacy right there.

First, see my replies to you on why government == violence.

Now imagine if I extract some money from you ("for the children") and provide you with some "service". Service could even be valuable to you. But if at some point you get disappointed at my actions and decide to protect yourself from my aggression, I'd educate your children that your family is using my service and must shut up and pay for it. How'd you like it when your child will call the cops because daddy is against schools and public wifi? Government is nothing different, just on a larger scale.

Taxes are the means of transferring worth to folks like firefighters, police officers, construction works etc... You know, the folks who hold up infrastructure and need to eat food and stuff. And I can count on one hand the number of people I've met who would donate to these institutions in this economy.

I think this is a misstatement. Taxes are not the means of transferring worth to those individual people, taxes are the means of paying for that very infrastructure.

Actually, the REAL problem is the ability of law enforcement to enforce court sentences.

Without that ability, taxes would be effectively eliminated, since you could just avoid paying them without ill effects.

Also most of the public enemies who currently prosper thanks to the protection of the corrupt legal system (patent trolls, monopolists, politicians, financial fraudsters, etc.) would be quickly eliminated by a bullet to the head from the first passerby.

So, let me get this straight: we abolish taxes, eliminate governments, and then ... paradise?

It depends on how you define paradise. If paradise is the same as now, but without massively killing population of foreign countries with drones, keeping people in prison without trial and massively spying on your own people, then yes, it's going to be paradise.

If your question is whether we can still have a civilized, stable and prosperous society, ask yourself would the demand for the good things that are currently provided by the government go? Would people still need roads and fire protection and security?

You need to wrestle with three issues:

- Preventing the emergence of warring factions [1]

- Enforcement of rules underlying market transactions (e.g., contract law, property rights, policing, etc.)

- Underinvestment in public goods, such as basic research and national defense [2]

There is zero evidence that these three things are addressable at scale without some type of government, although of course we are free to argue forever about the level of centralisation, marginal tax rates, precise scope of activities, and so on.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warlord

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good

This true seeker has some questions:

How do you deal with petty crime? It would be impractical to set up a temporary court for every theft.

How do you hold the criminals while they're prosecuted, if they're prosecuted? Anarchists generally don't like prisons. Do you have a jail as a temporary holding cell?

How do you stop external forces from taking over? As the old adage goes "If you want peace, prepare for war.".

Those questions already have great answers. I can probably only recommend you a couple of authors like David D. Friedman and Stefan Molyneux, they all address the questions you asked. In short, yes, there will be courts and prisons.

But in general, try to think of people from the middle ages wondering how would a country work without a king and what a crazy idea a democracy is. Or how stupid and primitive those troglodytes are for not believing in god. Or who's gonna pick cotton if we didn't have slaves. The problems you mention are not that difficult to solve. What's difficult is to show people that what they think is the best system out there is actually immoral.

>David D. Friedman and Stefan Molyneux

Any particular volumes?

This guy is nothing more than an extremist. Ask him about his prison system and I'm sure he'll parrot how privatized prisons are the solution to our woes. Alas, they aren't. Be weary of someone trying to tell you that if we just did X everything would be so much better.

There's a reason I described myself as a "true seeker".

"No theory, no ready-made system, no book that has ever been written will save the world. I cleave to no system. I am a true seeker." - Mikhail Bakunin

You're overestimating my risk for memetic infection and underestimating how much prior exposure I may have had to this subject. I often ask people for examples or book recommendations to learn more about them as much as I do to learn about a subject.[0]

Besides, it couldn't possibly be worse than Mussolini's autobiography.

[0]: An example. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6056707

The authors response was worth more to me than the response of other commentators because I find that socialists often like to say that X or Y society wasn't socialist. So as an exercise I asked what they consider a socialist society.

(And I was genuinely interested in what they had to say, so I wasn't lying.)

Just to clarify, I'm not a socialist by any measure, nor are the authors I mentioned.

I can't think of a better way to drive traffic to the authors that OP mentioned than to take this approach. You're going to make people wonder just what they're missing, if this stuff is so "extremist".

I'd be surprised if someone touting anarcho-capitalist politics would be in favour of private prisons, at least the flavour we're used to today, where governments pay companies to house inmates. There isn't anything particularly anarchist about such a thing.

Other comments made in this thread by snitko.

"Police officers, firefighters, teachers... Could it be that we don't really need any government to finance them? The demand is there. Private companies will be more than happy to fill it."

"I agree. Let's use Bitcoin. It's possible right here today and you don't give anyone a cut."

I hope people read the books OP mentioned. Anyone who advocates that we get rid police officers, firefighters, and teachers in place of private entities is an extremist. Plain and simple.

He mentions David D. Friedman and Stefan Molyneux whom are libertarians. It doesn't matter if the government is funding private prisons, private prisons have one goal and one goal only: to get as many prisoners as possible. They will do whatever they can to get more prisoners. They've permanently damaged families across the country. How would you fund prisons beyond taxes? Bill the prisoner? The family? What about someone who maintains their innocence? The point of the matter is that snitko has come into a thread and contributed absolutely nothing.

That's a very valid point about private prisons, but a completely wrong one. Let's think for a moment, would they indeed be acting the way you describe. To understand this, let's find out who funds private prisons. In the current system, a government does. Private prisons indeed have an incentive to keep prisoners for as long as possible to extract the maximum amount of money from the government. Since government doesn't spend its own money, it doesn't care nearly as much as each one of us would for every cent we have.

In a system I advocate, private prisons are, just like police and firefighters, funded by private citizens. A private citizen doesn't want to pay for the prisoner being held longer than it is truly required for him to become a decent member of the society again. If such a private prison decided to cheat its customers and extract more money by holding prisoners longer than needed, a customer may decide to stop paying it or switch to another prison (that is, switch to another protection agency). In many cases, people would not be send to prison at all, because it wouldn't be economically feasible from the protection agency customers point of view.

Now tell me, what's so extreme about my position? Why is it not reasonable?

"The Machinery Of Freedom" by David D. Friedman discusses many aspects of workings of a society without a government.

"Everyday Anarchy" by Stefan Molyneux demonstrates how we already live most of our lives in complete anarchy and how it actually works pretty good.

Both are available for free.

It's been working pretty well for Somalia I hear.

>which is taxes

Let's start with the possible, shall we?

I agree. Let's use Bitcoin. It's possible right here today and you don't give anyone a cut.

It's quite possible to not agree with the NSA or their interpretation of their mission and still believe in representative government.

Ask liberal, and one will say that world is much worse with taxes and govt intervention in the economy.

Other people may be tempted to talk about NSA as issue of civil liberties and govt supervision rather than economy though. Why not to fund EFF and civil liberties group instead?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact