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November 7, 2002
1:20 PM   Subscribe

The Patriot Act. Ashcrft's TIPS program. FBI surveying your Public Library consumption history. Freedom in America isn't what it used to be, and in most cases, the changes have been foisted on the public, sans referendum.
Have you heard the name Lt. General Michael V. Hayden before? Probably not. Probably cuz he's king spook. aka Director fo the National Security Agency.
Here's a transcript of his testimony before congress about pre and post 9/11 national security issues.
Its a really scary read. Why? Because his assessment comes across as more level headed, even handed and realistic on this prime topic than the President and everyone in congress put together. (YMMV)
Who'd a thunkit?
Briefly, he tells Congress "that they can best help him by going back to their constituents and finding out where the public wants to draw the line between liberty and safety.” More importantly, he talks to the people about security, not at them. Where's the line gotta be? [found on /.]
posted by BentPenguin (28 comments total)

 
[more inside] would have been nice

that is all...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2002


Actually, I'd agree with that sentiment somewhat. Right now, there's no dialogue whatsoever, and people don't feel safer, really, but aren't aware of the liberties they've traded away. There's no discussion of oversight which is the essential concept here.

If this dialogue were to come about, people would at least know there's a trade being made. That by itself might mobilize at least some marginal segment of the population -- and most importantly, when the trades were made, people would be aware enough that they might remember, someday, to trade them back.

There really are some liberties I'm willing to give up to increase my margin of safety. Gun ownership? No. Gun licensing? Yes, if done right. Access to information? No. Letting others know what information I'm accessing? Maybe... assuming there's accountability for the process. I could go on, but the principle's there. Tradeoffs are a real part of engineering, and they're a real part of life. A government that doesn't touch the really important stuff and remains accountable is acceptable to me.

Of course, the problem here is that we have a citizenry that would have trouble holding a housecat accountable...
posted by namespan at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2002


bush etal are already way over the line. and with thier new "mandate", they'll erase the friggin' line.
posted by quonsar at 1:35 PM on November 7, 2002


Before we see all the walls crumbling, slow down. Take for ecample the invasion of privacy in libraries. Turns out the reporter made bad error and when I wrote to him he sent me the note from FBI that said that they were going in to one spcific library to look at computers because that was were a hacker had done his work to steal from companies. I had the note (email) directly from the reporter, who is to say the least, a bit shamefaced.
As for NSA, they have been around many years and I recall them from when I did a stint in the military.
The problem is that such agencies are now thinking of possibly doing work internally in our country rather than being as they had been restricted to outside the country.
posted by Postroad at 1:40 PM on November 7, 2002


It seems disingenuous (at best) to ask for a public mandate to determine the boundaries of our privacy. Those have historically been determined by the Constitution and the judges who interpret it.

For Congress to try to determine "where the public wants to draw the line between liberty and safety," as the Lt. General jingoistically puts it, and for them to act on that determination, would be to circumvent due process and undermine the Constitution. Wouldn't it?
posted by busbyism at 1:51 PM on November 7, 2002


The constitution doesn't mention a right to privacy... its creation in legal thinking is a product of a) laws passed by Congress and state legislatures, and b) the rulings of judges, who are often swayed by the beliefs about privacy held by the populace at large. So while the judges and the spirit of the Constitution shouldn't be kept out of the process, its not unrealistic to see the issue of the privacy/security tradeoff influenced (though not necessarily determined) by a societal dialogue.
posted by Locke at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2002


busbyism is right. The limits of personal liberty are not matters of political debate: they are set forth, rather, in the Bill of Rights. The will of the majority matters not in these issues, since the minority will always be protected by the Constitution. It's unclear why Hayden does not seem to be aware of this; like busbyism, I would chalk it up to disingenuousness or outright demagoguery.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2002


What Steve_at_Linwood said.
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on November 7, 2002


That was the wordiest FPP I've seen in a long time (including my own). Next time, try something along the lines of "Transcript of NSA Director Michael Hayden's testimony before Congress about pre- and post-Sept. 11 security issues."
posted by oissubke at 1:59 PM on November 7, 2002


I don't see how any of the things in the PATRIOT act will demonstrably affect my personal safety and well being. I can see how they can be abused to keep tabs on my public and private behavior though. Then again, I'm often seen as a cantankerous idealist who just doesn't understand the Real World.

Reading the paper I see nothing in it that convinces me of the sincerity of the poster's statement of an open dialogue with the public. Looks more like an intro speech before a Congressional hearing; be polite, non-confrontational and ask for more money while praising your agency's actions. Some of the verbiage is mildly interesting (attacking the problem with a vengeance for example) in the context of the thesis. That a conclusion mentions a dialogue with those involved is a common rhetorical method.

While the NSA is necessarily shrouded in secrecy I see no impetus on the part of the Bush Administration to discuss anything - in fact just the opposite as information is restricted.

I'm sure the General believes he is doing the best for the safety of the US. I just don't agree that it is the best approach. I would love to see an interested American public debate the trade offs already given and those proposed even if I would not agree with many of them.
posted by infowar at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2002


and in most cases, the changes have been foisted on the public, sans referendum.

...which is exactly how it should be. This is a representative democracy. Most Americans can't be bothered to take an active interest in political affairs, so we elect people who are interested in political affairs, and whose opinions we trust, to vote on such issues.

Representative democracy allows the decisions to be made by people who actually read, understand, and discuss proposed legislation. To bypass that system (especially on something as important as the programs you listed) in order to have the issue decided by Joe "Sure, I'll vote for that" Sixpack would be absurd.
posted by oissubke at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2002


Postroad, as I understand it the NSA's mandate is to work internally within the continental US specifically. Wasn't it created to fill the gaps that were created by the CIA's only being able to work outside the US?
posted by luriete at 2:36 PM on November 7, 2002


So while the judges and the spirit of the Constitution shouldn't be kept out of the process, its not unrealistic to see the issue of the privacy/security tradeoff influenced (though not necessarily determined) by a societal dialogue.

Except that this isn't just about privacy, it's about government restrictions on all kinds of actual enumerated rights. Say what you want about whether the fourteenth amendment contains a right to privacy; the constitution most definitely sets out rights for speech, assembly, and security in one's person. The Constitution also places important restrictions on the procedure government may use to lock people up. Privacy is often the strawman, let's not forget the more substantial rights we might be giving up as well.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:56 PM on November 7, 2002


Representative democracy ostensibly allows the decisions to be made by people who actually read, understand, and discuss proposed legislation.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:59 PM on November 7, 2002


...which is exactly how it should be. This is a representative democracy.

But these days, representation without incorporation, or at the very least, campaign donation, just isn't what it used to be.
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:17 PM on November 7, 2002


I wouldn't count on Americans rejecting such a referendum on the PATRIOT act anyway. Among certain circles Bush and Ashcroft are vilified for what they're doing to Americans' civil rights. This is the side of the fence I generally sit on. But most americans just need to be shown a few state-sponsored TV ads featuring a few planes flying into buildings and some mugshots of scary-looking, too-brown-for-comfort terrorists and they'll vote for pretty much anything.

Americans are by no means unique in this respect, and I'm not bashing the country specifically. At least they didn't nearly elect Jean-Marie La Pen :)
posted by Space Coyote at 3:50 PM on November 7, 2002


What languagehat said.
posted by DBAPaul at 4:11 PM on November 7, 2002


The constitution doesn't mention a right to privacy... its creation in legal thinking is a product of a) laws passed by Congress and state legislatures, and b) the rulings of judges, who are often swayed by the beliefs about privacy held by the populace at large.

You're right that the Constitution does not mention a right of privacy, but wrong about the rest. The right of privacy was found in the penumbra. Basically, if you look at all the Bill of Rights, the right of privacy sort of emanates from the rest. Critics would call this "pulling it out of your ass." Stare decisis being what it is, the right or privacy isn't going anywhere soon. And I'm not altogether unhappy about that. But it's pretty weak legal reasoning.
posted by probablysteve at 4:46 PM on November 7, 2002


This recent New Republic article addresses the problems the NSA has had with data analysis and collection with respect to Al Qaeda.

In the article, the author talks about the fact that Al Qaeda's even aware of the way we collect and process data and has shown that it can manipulate the system to its advantage. Which means we may be fooled into answering the wrong question when the head of the NSA asks us to decide where we want the line between liberty and safety. Because giving the NSA more power may not give us any more safety at all if what we truly need is not more electronic surveillance, but something like more human intelligence, as the author points out near the end.
posted by pitchblende at 4:48 PM on November 7, 2002


Basically, if you look at all the Bill of Rights, the right of privacy sort of emanates from the rest.

Yes, see the FindLaw annotations on the Ninth Amendment for more about these emanations. Why does everybody forget about this nice and messy amendment?
posted by spacehug at 5:52 PM on November 7, 2002


Why does everybody forget about this nice and messy amendment?

Not to mention the fourteenth amendment (although it only applies literally to state action, not federal).
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:01 PM on November 7, 2002


It's gotten to the point that whenever I see "scary" in a post here, I can almost without error infer that it is a liberal talking about the Bush administration. Is Metafilter becoming the Free Republic of the Bush years?
posted by paleocon at 6:54 PM on November 7, 2002


whist at university, my social theory prof had an interesting story about one of his teachers. we shall call my teachers teacher...Mr. X.

"The Picture"
X was a U of Chicago radical, sweetheart of a guy from what teach said. Anywho, Mr. X requested his F.B.I. file when the F.O.I. act was passed. Mr. X waited 3 and half years or so for this file. When he finally got his file it was stated by an agent that...
"Mr. X was observed handing out FULL copies of Hegels 'Phenomenology of Mind' to students on campus grounds, many copies in fact."

whats wrong with this picture.

when i worked at university library, if a fed asked me about someone, i probably would have been the subject of an investigation meself.

Clavdivs: "Mr. B?, great guy, why you wanna know, is this about the nuclear reactor in his barn. can i see you badge. can i photo copy it? I see your a size 7 shoe. I will have to talk my superiors and consult my accountant/lawyer. wanna a pretzel. nice tie. can i see your gun. do you use magnum ammunition. want some tea. I'm reading about chemicals, chemicals can be fun. could you wait a moment, i have to use the bathroom."

but i see the government has a point to some degree after 9/11. but it seems that most libraries have computerized records, cannot they just access them through whateversoftwareallowsthentodoso?

well, here is my current checked out pubic library book list.

'Counterattack' -Dobson and Payne.
'The Coming conflict with China'- Bernstein and Munro.
'See No Evil'-Robert Baer (bless him)
'In the name of Osama bin Laden'- Roland Jacquard.
'6 Nightmares'-Anthony Lake.
'Breakdown'- Bill Gertz.

'Terrorism, Asymmetric warfare and weapons of Mass destruction'- Anthony "Slugworth" Cordesman (uncanny resemblance don't you think)

'Business Handbook on Terrorism security and survival'- Gerry Thomas.
'1984 and beyond'- Nigel Calder.
'Casey'-Joseph Persico.
'Betrayal'- Wiener, Johnston, and Lewis. (about Aldrich Ames)
'The Bureau and the Mole'- David Vise.

plus some cds on arabic music. On VHS, an 'Inspector Morse' episode and a few of Ted Turners documentaries on the cold war.
oh and 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator' for the little one.

In the article, the author talks about the fact that Al Qaeda's even aware of the way we collect and process data and has shown that it can manipulate the system to its advantage.

there is a therory that the stuff that that scum Hanssen sold to the russians, concerning NSA collection methods, may be part of the blame.
posted by clavdivs at 7:05 PM on November 7, 2002


"Freedom is how free your opponent is"

-Rosa Luxembourg.
posted by clavdivs at 7:09 PM on November 7, 2002


Sadly, NSA had no SIGINT suggesting that al-Qa'ida was specifically targeting New York and Washington, D.c., or even that it was planning an attack on U.S. soil. Indeed, NSA had no knowledge before September 11th that any of the attackers were in the United States.

That's his response to the FIRST question. Is this guy a public relations officer or something? Is he referring to the specific meaning of SIGINT, or the official "what the NSA knows right now" memo? I live in my parents' basement and I knew Al Qaeda was planning an attack on U.S. soil. I didn't know it was called Al Qaeda, but you'd have to be locked in a shipping crate to not know. Jesus Christ...does the NSA just not give a shit about terrorism or something?

Relating to the comments about public libraries and the NSA being the stand-in for the CIA on American soil... As a freshman at the University of New Mexico, I found a business card-sized note in the front seat of my car. It had a phone number and something vague about making money. "Call this number for a job," or something like that. That note was from the CIA. It terrified me when I found out, so I don't know exactly what they wanted me to do. Maybe they just wanted me to join the Communist group on campus, which was pretty vocal. I don't want to be another Oswald!
posted by son_of_minya at 7:38 PM on November 7, 2002


Reading the transcript, I thought that just about everything Hayden said made sense, especially about the American people having to decide through the political branches of government what sort of tradeoff they are willing to make between security and civil liberties. That is one of the most cogent statements that has come out of the piles of "War on Terrorism" rhetoric, and it's sort of scary (sorry to invoke that word again) when the director of the NSA seems more level-headed than the president or the AG.

Although I suppose the only reason that seems scary is because the NSA immediately brings to mind such organizations as the Trilateral commission, the Skull and Bones, the Stonecutters, etc...

Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?

posted by singmesomething at 7:45 PM on November 7, 2002


"That note was from the CIA. It terrified me when I found out, so I don't know exactly what they wanted me to do. Maybe they just wanted me to join the Communist group on campus, which was pretty vocal. I don't want to be another Oswald!"

or from daddy vlad.
posted by clavdivs at 5:40 AM on November 8, 2002


I'm surprised that no one one this thread has brought up the (obvious) comparison between the more malign possibilities inherent in TIPS and the societal dysfunction of the Soviet Union during Stalin's purges.

A friend of mine, as an experiment in his college level history class, set up a "role playing" game which recreated the Purges. Students would take on the roles of party members, secret police , informants, and so on. My friend said that in a few cases he had to have private chats with some of the students (playing the role of secret police) who were becoming a little too caught up in their roles to the point that they started stalking their fellow classmates. The dynamics of this "role playing" evolved to mirror the actual course of the Soviet purges. ANYONE who stood out in any way - unusually loud, competent, flambouyant, intelligent, outspoken....whatever.....got hammered down and (usually) "purged" (which would have meant, in the actual Purges, either shot or sent, probably to die, in the infamous Gulags)

....by the way, there are still quite a few Russians who think highly of Stalin and are quite nostalgic about this era when millions of their fellow citizens were sent to their deaths and most Soviets lived in fear. The psychology of submission to a "strong" leader is a trait humans share with many of the other higher primates.

Then, of course, there is the famous "Prison Experiment" (and further such similar experiments - The Milgram Experiment, etc.)........

Point being: Many, even most humans WILL abuse powers over others, whether in highly assymetrical power relationships or through "secret informant" systems. It's just too easy to act out personal agendas when given such power over others.

So TIPS = "Climate of Fear"? Maybe....on the other side of the coin, technology is rapidly obliterating privacy anyway. BUT......I'd argue for a "democratization of anti-privacy" -- enough government transparency, for example, to prevent the worst abuses. That's what the FOI Act was supposed to do. We need analogous legislation for our era.

If we are, as in the Cold War, really in a struggle of "good against evil" (to quote GW Bush), then all spheres of life - public, private, cultural, religious, are drawn in and become battlegrounds...and "National Security" becomes a ravenous monster which, unchecked, devours up everything in it's path which we hold dear - civil liberties, rights, freedoms, privacies......

So....where to choose the point of balance in the equation - Al Qaeda cells vs. Stalinist Purges? And as advanced science and technology proliferate around the Globe and forge ahead (and ennable, eventually, far more destructive acts of terrorism than through the use of airplanes as bombs).....this question will only become more and more problematic.

*throws up hands in gesture of resigned confusion*
posted by troutfishing at 6:09 AM on November 8, 2002


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