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Senate Blocks Patriot Act Extension (npr.org)
227 points by sinak on May 23, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

The Senate struggled to prevent an interruption in critical government surveillance programs early Saturday

That is a very strange way to start this article. Consider to what type of government, activity of this sort(unencumbered spying on all of its citizens) would be 'critical.' Is that the type of government you believe the United States has or should have?

Then after making this strange statement and providing no support for it, the article actually goes on to refute the claim. If nearly half of the senators are against it, then it is surely not very 'critical,' is it?

Maybe instead of 'critical,' the author meant to say 'much criticized.'

It's written by Ken Dilanian, who was accused of being a CIA lackey: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/04/former-l-times..., caught falsifying facts in the CIA's favor and left the LA Times: http://www.nationofchange.org/la-times-reporter-caught-falsi...

Seeing the guy enthusiastically shake his pom-poms for #team-surveillance is a no-brainer.

note: the article at AP, with author credit, is here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/60c0d988801742cf96cf8d725466c... ... AP gives the publisher the right to modify an article. Doing a fold -w 20 -s allows you to diff them and see the changes. Here they are: http://getpostdelete.com/ap-fold-20.txt and http://getpostdelete.com/npr-fold-20.txt

I'm not surprised. I was about to say "What else would you expect from NPR?"

People need to start realizing that journalism as reporting is dead and it's now journalism as consumption and thought control.

Some further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessary_Illusions

You are not helping.

Are there useful lists (metadata, hah) on publishers, sites, channels, journalists and co. that help navigate these murky waters? What's the best practice on dealing with this problem? How should one inform oneself and decide on how much time to spend on cross-checking communications for these conscious or unconscious biases and influences?

What's the best practice on dealing with this problem?

Just don't be naive.

How should one inform oneself and decide on how much time to spend on cross-checking communications for these conscious or unconscious biases and influences?

Take in everything you read, but don't believe any of it unless it's a primary source or someone who you personally find trustworthy. Choose your battles wisely. You won't get to the bottom of everything because life is short.

In short, the best defense is being skeptical but still entertaining of everything you hear/read.

> Just don't be naive.

I do sometimes wonder where all these strawmen you find are who go around believing everything they read without passing it through their own internal bullshit filters. These people must be massive clods, barely able to make it through the day without throwing away all their money on television informercials. Even some of the least intelligent people I have ever known have notions of "some info good, some info bad," even if I usually disagree with which is which.

> In short, the best defense is being skeptical but still entertaining of everything you hear/read.

Except you just said journalism is dead and everything we hear and read is thought control.

Every time I hear someone rallying against these complete simpletons which they seem to think they are surrounded by, I can't shake the feeling they're just shouting at a mirror.

Sourcewatch (HTTP://sourcewatch.org/) is a good start. Tends more toward AGW and ALEC.

I'd say this is a joke, but you've got a caveat. Since you're being serious, I'm even more concerned.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy organization based in Madison, Wisconsin

CMD was founded in 1993 by progressive writer John Stauber in Madison, Wisconsin.

I'm going to guess that this "watchdog" only calls out spin and corruption in some cases but not others. Even the watchdogs are suspect. Just follow the people and follow the money and if you're a grown-up you'll realize that pretty much all news is either propaganda, entertainment, or both.

No joke. My point being that SourceWatch takes a collaborative, wiki-based approach to looking at sources (of varying stripes), their bias and associations. As an approach, it's a reasonable start.

If you've got any specific beefs with SourceWatch based on the information presented, state them.

What I find most useful about SW is in tracking associations and relationships between sources and groups / organizations / funders. Not proof positive but often enough to confirm hunches and suspicions.

There are a number of other media watchdogs:

FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: http://fair.org/ Produces Counterspin radio program: http://fair.org/counterspin-radio/

Sunlight Foundation (associated with Sourcewatch / CMD)

ThinkProgress: liberal political blog (given to outrage posts) http://thinkprogress.org/

On the Media is a weekly program produced by WNYC covering media generally, including both intentional and systemic bias (e.g., see their "consumers' guide to breaking news" guides). http://onthemedia.org/

Accuracy in Media, a conservative media watchdog.

Also Media Research center (conservative)

RationalWiki isn't specifically a media watchdog but tends to debunk flawed logic (on both the right and left). It itself was a response to Conservopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservapedia

RW's SW page gives a reasonable assessment of SW's strengths and weaknesses: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/SourceWatch

Contrast AIM: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Accuracy_in_Media

Finally: reality has a well-known liberal bias, as a wise man once counseled a former appointed President of the United States.

Not to mention that according to Chris Soghoian from ACLU, last year only 5 out of 180 FISA orders were authorized by 215 - the rest were authorized by other programs.

So this "critical" program represents only like ~3% of the government's surveillance programs. After all we only are talking about "phone records" here. Most records would likely come from Internet communications these days and there are likely programs that include capturing the content as well.


"McConnell announced that the Senate would return from its break on Sunday, May 31, just a few hours before the midnight deadline. McConnell called it "one more opportunity to act responsibly."


So it's not over until the fat lady sings.

> only 5 out of 180 FISA orders were authorized by 215

If you have a statute that you believe allows you to surveil the entire population, how many orders does that require? As opposed to ones that require some standard of suspicion for an individual or group.

I don't mean to imply there aren't other programs or theories of authority, but that this statistics tells you exactly nothing about the importance of a particular provision.

Your story checks out, how depressing: FISC 5/180[0]

[0] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/05/why_the_curre...

> After all we only are talking about "phone records" here

Phone records are the most publicized example of Section 215 in use, but the section is worded to apply to any "tangible thing."

Another manipulation is equating "illegal NSA spying" with "collection of phone records"

Does this bill just target the phone record collection, while it gets subtly branded as a fix to everything Snowden revealed? Is it a law against illegal things?

The phone record collection has already been ruled unconstitutional, so they concoct a congressional debate on it. They sacrifice a program that was already killed in the courts, and distract from everything else.

Unrelated, but are you WilfredR on disquis? http://www.npr.org/2015/05/23/408927009/senate-blocks-patrio...

Why would you ask that? It seems rude to link up peoples' disparate online accounts.

>Why would you ask that?

Maybe because the two comments are verbatim and posted at roughly the same time?

If OP didn't want there to be a connection between the two accounts, they shouldn't have copy-pasted content between them.

You've described that they can be linked. But what value does that provide to post it here?

Agree, the language was very conflicting throughout.

This is in large part thanks to Rand Paul.

It's the only thing on his homepage.


Too bad the electorate (whose opinions are primarily shaped by the government-friendly/hysteria-driven mass media) will dismiss him as an anti-american fringe kook, even though that label couldn't be further from the truth. Freedom implies we must tolerate some of his views and actually help him enact some of his policies.

Tolerating some of his views, yes. Electing him President of the United States of America, not a fucking chance.

I'll take this comment and my comment score (which I admit is probably due to lack of eloquence) as evidence to support my claim.

People really like their freedoms. Others', not so much.

I'm a staunch social democrat, and I could not sing Rand Paul's praises enough right now. I wholeheartedly appreciate him standing up for our rights.

I don't agree with the vast majority of his platform, but on this issue we violently agree.

I haven't heard him say anything like "I hate America" or "I'm opposed to America" so anti-American, no. Fringe, oh yes. Kook, I don't need to apply such a vague pejorative.

Fortunately, most Americans recognize that most of his policies, if enacted, would only make life worse for the vast majority of us--the stopped clock is right twice a day, but we don't rely on it the rest of the time.

Which policies, and how?

The whole "not really a filibuster" thing fell pretty flat, didn't it?

What started as (what may well have been) a publicity tactic turned into one of the most effective parliamentary maneuvers of the session.

NPR tried really hard to take him down. I thought it was going to be effective but it seems like he still got his point across.

All the Democrat Senators voted in favor. Why do the Democrats want NSA bulk spying?http://politics.nytimes.com/congress/votes/114/senate/1/194

Because that was the Democrat approach (USA FREEDOM Act) to doing this. Most of the Democrats naturally voted against the Republican approach:


It's less about policy than politics, as you'd probably expect.

That was simply a vote to extend the current program by two months:

"That was immediately followed by rejection of a two-month extension to the existing programs. The vote was 45-54, again short of the 60-vote threshold."

I think it's pretty clear the policy was they don't want an extension of the Patriot Act, which I think is a good thing. I also think there is a lot of confusion here, everything I've read about the USA Freedom Act seems pretty sensible and addresses privacy concerns. It completely changes how the NSA could gain access to phone records and bears no resemblance to the blanket powers the Patriot Act allowed.

I'm not sure, but it remains a pretty strong indicator of why we need good multipartisan cooperation in any good society.

Hey, everyone that voted for one of these Democratic bozos... you should take a moment to email your senator.

I think the headline here is misleading and focuses on the wrong vote. There were two votes here 1) to extend the Patriot Act by two months and 2) to pass the USA Freedom Act (which would supersede the Patriot Act).

The extension vote was opposed by Democrats and supported by most Republicans while the USA Freedom Act was supported by all democrats and opposed by most Republicans. While it is indeed good that the Patriot Act wasn't extended this is the consolation prize of the actual worse news that the USA Freedom Act didn't pass.

While the USA Freedom Act isn't perfect, and was weakened in the House [1], it is still far far better than the Patriot Act has meaningful reforms. It also still has the support of the EFF [1]. Overall, it's failure to pass is bad news and could lead to an even worse bill.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_Freedom_Act#Reaction

But this isn't a binary choice between the USA Freedom Act and the Patriot Act. From what I can see the best thing to do would be to let the Patriot Act expire and replace it with nothing. The government is very short on evidence the powers in that law have resulted in thwarted terrorist attacks.

It's not like sans Patriot FBI agents will sit around making paper airplanes.

Actually, EFF (and ACLU) pulled their support from USA Freedom after the Second Circuit court ruling [1]:

"In light of the Second Circuit’s decision, EFF asks Congress to strengthen its proposed reform of Section 215, the USA Freedom Act. Pending those improvements, EFF is withdrawing our support of the bill. We’re urging Congress to roll the draft back to the stronger and meaningful reforms included in the 2013 version of USA Freedom and affirmatively embrace the Second Circuit’s opinion on the limits of Section 215."

And, your link [1] is to a discussion of last year's version of the USA Freedom Act.

It's important to note that the opposition to the USA Freedom Act contains two distinct factions: The so called "defense hawks" led by Mitch McConnell, who want to renew section 215 Patriot Act (that is to say they want bulk collection to continue) and the Rand Paul camp, who say that the USA Freedom act doesn't go far enough and are happy to let section 215 lapse without any replacement.

They block it until they stop blocking it. Often these things are media feeding highlights, with the dirty approvals done quietly at the 11th hour, when the press won't report.

I hope fervently it DOES get stopped, but watch this play out.

You're right that this will probably happen, however now it will be very, very difficult to do it without an amendment process which forces Senators to go on record vis a vis some very specific proposals.

Phone surveillance doesn't have to be un-blocked in this bill. It can be quietly un-blocked as a rider/addendum to some "must-pass" bill right before a long break -- de rigueur for the Senate.

Eh... a federal appeals court ruled the Patriot Act illegal:


Why is Congress even considering extending an illegal program?

That court decided that some of the surveillance that the government has been doing wasn't actually authorized by the Patriot Act. It didn't decide that no law could ever authorize that kind of surveillance.

One challenge is that there is a great deal of other secret surveillance (beyond the collection of everyone's telephone calling records) that the government has also been doing under the Patriot Act. We still don't know what those programs are, but they may involve the collection of other complete databases about people's activity. Some of the efforts to extend this section of the Patriot Act might actually be inspired by those secret programs, without the proponents saying so (because the proponents don't want to talk about programs that haven't been disclosed).

Congress has a lot of choices about how to respond to the court decision, particularly because it wasn't on constitutional grounds. In this case both the court decision and the expiry of section 215 mean that Congress could protect privacy against secret surveillance, including programs we don't even know about yet, quite a bit by simply doing nothing.

Yay for the do nothing congress. Finally turns out useful.

If the option is do nothing or do things I don't like, I'll take the former.

RT is a Russian propaganda company and should never be quoted or used for a source.

added: to be fair, I fell for quoting/linking RT too when I first started seeing their articles - until I researched it a little

Yet nobody has any issues with the New York Times, even though they are the US' propaganda machine?

The New York Times is often far too deferent to the U.S. Government and a lot of people do knock them for it, but the difference between that and a state-run propaganda office like RT is pretty significant. See, for example, this: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/18/malaysia... where a RT reporter resigned on the spot because she was being forced to report facts that everyone knew were blatantly false. It sucks in both cases, but this is a whole different level of suck.

(Shrug) If you work for Fox News, you, too, are under orders to report things that are blatantly false. (Disagree? Then you need to explain why they felt it necessary to argue in court that they have the right to lie to their viewers and call it "News.")

Indeed, one should avoid quoting Fox News or using it as a source, too. (Although that name is an umbrella for a large number of 'products' - I would trust something written on foxnews.com more than whatever Hannity said in his daily primetime show.)

I don't disagree, but Snopes debunked that Fox News argued for the right to lie.


...And if you investigate her on-air quitting, you find out this:


That says more about the reporter than the news organization.

edit: downvote. All news organizations should have journalists as principled. All news orgs demand the same things.

would you say the difference quantitative or qualitative?

NY Times is owned/funded by the US government?

No, they aren't. But they don't need to be. Just because they aren't directly controlled on paper by the US gov't, it doesn't mean that they aren't just a tool for US gov't propaganda.

Distrust of the media is more crucial than ever for independent thought.

They are aligned with the capitalist pigdogs preventing our socialist utopia.

me and chomsky do, i bet you do too.

Not even for today's date, or for matters that can easily be verified from the public record, like this? That just sounds like counter-nationalism.


RT (founded as "Russia Today") is a Russian state-funded television network which runs cable and satellite television channels, as well as Internet content...

Look it up!

From RT: Senate passes bill granting Obama ‘fast-track’ TPP authority

This post you are replying to is about a Patriot Act extension, something very different.



I'm sorry, what are you saying?

He has 90% of a very valid point, which he then dilutes with 10% irrelevant kookery.

The Federal government has, indeed, used their (read: our) vast resources to maintain extensive files on many, if not all, of the people he mentioned. In some cases, like MLK's, they went well beyond simply "maintaining files."

Oddly, nobody who defends NSA spying ever seems to get around to defending these specific examples of the surveillance state gone berserk.

Your have a very valid point about "the surveillance state gone berserk".

However, for the names mentioned we should be casting aspersions on the FBI rather than the NSA. The FBI (mostly) are the ones responsible for spying on all those Americans.

Believe it or not, compared to the FBI the NSA are "the good guys"!

I don't see any particular reason to make a distinction between three-letter agencies, sorry.

Frankly, I don't really care that much if they spy on Marilyn Monroe or John Lennon or Richard Feynman or whoever. I care a LOT if they spy on senators, representatives, Presidents, diplomats, and judges, which is who they're spying on now, alongside the rest of us.

As a result, we risk creating a wholly unaccountable "shadow government" at a scale that even J. Edgar Hoover never dreamed of. The people who should be crying bloody murder are those politicians and judges. Why aren't they?

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