Wednesday, June 19, 2013

They’re Listening In, Well Kinda Sort Of

I’ve been thinking about this since the story broke about the NSA collecting data on all of us. But then again there’s nothing to be concerned about. The administration has assured us this is all legal. They informed Congress after all and Congress will monitor the program to make sure it is all legal. I almost fell out of my chair laughing at that one.

Eric Cantor’s reaction shows how concerned everyone should be
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Congress enacted legislation authorizing broader information-gathering powers in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and it “was done in a constitutional manner.”

But now, Cantor tells CBS “This Morning,” many lawmakers “don’t know what happened and we’ve got to find out.”

Yes, maybe instead of trying for the umpteenth time to repeal the Affordable Care Act you might actually try and do your job. This response is supposed to make me feel better about what the NSA is doing. Here’s the number two Republican in the House and he sounds completely clueless as to what’s going on. I might also add Cantor is a long time supporter of the Patriot Act who doesn’t seem to understand what the damn Act says or authorizes.

There’s an excellent article from the Post that answers some basic questions on what the NSA is doing.

An important point in the article:

The program appears to be based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to obtain business records that are relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation. That’s a pretty permissive standard, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that Congress intended to authorize information requests relevant to a specific terrorism investigation. Hoovering up the phone records of every person in the United States seems inconsistent with that requirement. We can’t all be terrorism suspects.

The major suppliers (Yahoo being the latest) of this data the phone companies and internet providers are now asking to be able to release more information on what the government asks be turned over:

Yahoo’s call for the United States to allow companies to disclose more information on FISA requests comes after similar calls from Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google in the wake of news reports outlining a National Security Agency surveillance program that uses data from these consumer tech companies. In recent days, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have also released broad information on how many national-security related requests they’ve received from the U.S. government.

The president has said: also categorically denied that the NSA can listen to U.S. citizens’ telephone calls or target their e-mails without obtaining a court warrant.

The assurances from the government from the president on down don’t really reassure me all that much. This is a massive amount of information that the government will hold on for forever. Who knows what new technology down the road will come along and be able to extract even more information from this data.

If nothing else there needs to be a discussion on just what the NSA is doing. The exact details do not need to be discussed but the general outline needs to be described. This will allow the people to understand exactly what data the government is going after. The line of "trust us" is just not going to work. We’ve been down that road before and it lead to a huge disaster called Iraq. Let’s not repeat the same mistake.

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