... and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
July 28, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has supposedly started holding closed door meetings on extending the FISA Amendment Act to again extend the NSA's domestic warrantless wiretapping program.

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall are trying to ammend the amendment with :
In democratic societies, citizens rightly expect that their government will not arbitrarily keep information secret from the public but instead will act with secrecy only in certain limited circumstances.
Anyone who missed the backstory may checkout the FISA or wiretapping tags. Wyden showed up on the blue recently for working against the Protect-IP Act.
posted by jeffburdges (37 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
There comes a point where it's more expensive not to spy on everyone, i.e. where the costs of selection exceed the costs of global collection.
posted by effugas at 5:40 PM on July 28, 2011

"warrantees" = "warrantless" ?
posted by grobstein at 5:41 PM on July 28, 2011

they can't call it the panopticon because that would be mostly camera feeds, and that's not what they want, not really

perhaps omniscion
posted by LogicalDash at 5:48 PM on July 28, 2011

If there is an effort to rush the FISA Amendment Act through now, this amendment might be designed to either force the other senators to delay, or else risk voting against an obviously good amendment and even damaging the law's constitutionality.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:49 PM on July 28, 2011

I still remember being told in grade school that the Soviets were evil because they spied wholesale on their populace (that, and they imprisoned people without trial and tortured them).
posted by mullingitover at 5:51 PM on July 28, 2011 [40 favorites]

Surely this.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:52 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know this is a naive question, but what is the point of all this? Let us assume that there's a Bad Guy in the U.S. - doesn't the BG already assume that the FBI/CIA/SecurityDeathStar is monitoring everything like crazy, warrants or not? How many scandals does it take, where the FBI/SDS is exposed as yet again illegally spying on random Americans, before any prospective Bad Guys with half a brain assume that this is an ongoing activity? I would imagine, that a Bad Guy would assume maximum caution under any circumstances.

So the only people who would be affected by expanding warrantless tapping would be ordinary folks caught up in relentless fishing expeditions.

People frequently assume - especially those who are in the security business, or just LEOs - that any curtailment of police powers is an automatic win for the criminal. And so, for example, LEOs were opposed to things like Miranda Warnings. But the reality is, that far from these limits being a hindrance to investigations, it is a boon. Because now the investigator has to do a bit more work to firm up the evidence - and perhaps dig deeper - if it needs to be presented to a judge who has to OK it. It cuts out a lot of sloppy police work. That's exactly how it's worked out whenever comparisons were made with before and after situations.

One of the hallmarks of police forces in countries that don't have protections for suspects, is low quality of work by the investigators and a lot of resort to "beating it out" of the suspect, with a resultant massive false positives.

The natural tendency of any security apparatus is: "put no limits on us; give us everything" - but just as with an alcoholic, that's not in the interest of the police themselves, and even less in the interest of a civil society.

So who is going to take a principled stand for the civil rights of ordinary citizens not being some kind of conspiracy by liberals to make it hard to catch criminals/terrorists? Which politician is going to stand up and say that constantly expanding the powers of the security apparatus, while simultaneously easing accountability, is making us less secure rather than more? Never mind, don't answer - it will be neither a Democrat, nor Republican.
posted by VikingSword at 5:58 PM on July 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

I think all Americans should help the government's efforts to spy on its citizens by regularly sending their dirty underwear to the NSA.
posted by grounded at 6:01 PM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

There comes a point where it's more expensive not to spy on everyone, i.e. where the costs of selection exceed the costs of global collection.

I'm generally of the opinion that the overhead required for Civil Liberties is an acceptable cost.
posted by Chipmazing at 6:12 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sadly I think most of America now expects that their government is spying on them all the time. Like when the Secret Service questioned a 13 year old kid about a Facebook post, the question of how they found that particular needle in the haystack never came up in the media.

Obama's failure to push back against the surveillance state -- even going so far as to prosecute the whistleblowers as spies -- and thus validate the Bush policies will go down as one of his biggest failures, at least in my book.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:17 PM on July 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

Something, something, something, Room 641-A
posted by Room 641-A at 6:21 PM on July 28, 2011

Interesting case about the 13 year old. Most likly the post was saw by others and someone finally said "Smiley, should we call the F.B.I., No Edgar, the Secret Service." Once something is lodged, it is investigated though it should have been done with parents present, sometimes a simple clarification talk may be in order like a moment alone as to make the "suspect" more comfortable without freaked out parents pacing.

The continuence of the domestic terrorism/ VISA court does not suprise me, seems to be a DOJ buttcovering tactic and a continued reason to drop a pearl in whatever the warrant (says) with "more controlled" execution.

Ah Room 641-A, the days of the secret low numbered rooms:)

Now Room 40, those were the days. Ink and blotter, the smell of Tesla winning, the struggle for budget, fending off the boss's disdain for something needed.

thankless job I'd say.
posted by clavdivs at 6:45 PM on July 28, 2011

Why does the senate hate freedom so much?
posted by el io at 6:50 PM on July 28, 2011

What I always wonder about with this kind of thing is, who has the time to look through all the information? Searches this widespread have to create mountains of data. I know that when I'm editing something and I start looking at the footage people ask how long it's going to take. I tell them it's close to real time. You can scan some fast but you'll look at some parts two or three times. No way to speed things up unless you know exactly what you're looking for and where to find it. If they're going to use some criteria to begin looking at the data, why not selectively collect the data using those same criteria?

TL;DR - Get a warrant!
posted by DaddyNewt at 6:57 PM on July 28, 2011

How is it this garbage piece of legislation--which almost everyone thinks is unconstitutional, because it is--gets rubber stamped again and again, and yet, congress can't even get its act together enough to authorize paying its damn bills?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:03 PM on July 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I know this is a naive question, but what is the point of all this?


There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
posted by Trurl at 7:17 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is the Hope and Change we all voted for in 2008 ... right?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:12 PM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've been trying for a couple of hours to express how sad this all makes me, but my arm is in a sling and I'm not supposed to be typing so let me just say this all makes me very, very sad.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:24 PM on July 28, 2011

Has anyone designed an application and/or javascript page that creates random suspicious traffic? You might launch it using computer clusters, coffee shop wifi, or even a botnet. After that, you'd try finding enough 'clean' volunteers to run the application indefinitely.

In fact, you could probably develop a javascript library that functions as almost a drop in replacement for json, but encodes javascript objects to resemble discussions of illegal activities on multiple ports. Any ajax site that employs it makes all it's users send hoards of very suspicious packets, probably emails.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:44 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It appears that JS/HTML5 Websockets begin their connections using HTTP, making them less suspicious looking and making a pure javascript solution harder.

Instead, you'd want a java application that first encrypted the AJAX request to make it harder to spot, built a suspicious looking email discussing drugs, islam, politicians, monuments, etc., and sent that message to the servers port 25. Your server's port 25 might look like a very restricted mail server, but a sever there it decodes the ajax request, and delivers it to the web server.

Even better, you might build a bittorrent extension that encodes peer2peer messages similarly.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:10 PM on July 28, 2011

Meanwhile anyone planning serious mischief would simply, as the 9/11 terrorists did, not use the internet or phones to do their planning.
posted by mullingitover at 9:22 PM on July 28, 2011

We're talking about an open source library that slowly makes inroads into the server market after all, meaning the NSA has all the time in the world. That's fine.

We'd simply send the message that "if you spy on us all then we might make your day job harder." In fact, one might even make it effective enough that the NSA doesn't want to tell congress whether it's effective, maybe giving some congress critters real pause.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:38 PM on July 28, 2011

When Wyden and Udall asked the government whether it thinks it has the authority to collect geolocation information on Americans (and if so, to stipulate the source of that authority) the DNI responded that that information is classified.

"Uhm, Mr. President, do the people have a legal right to demand a recall election?"
"Sorry, I can't tell you that."
"OK Mr. President. But ... can the people vote?"
"I'll have to turn that question over to our blue ribbon commission on Uncovering US History, Angela."
posted by Twang at 12:05 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is the Hope and Change we all voted for in 2008 ... right?

Well, seriously, what did you expect? "Hope" and "Change" simultaneously mean nothing at all and something different to anyone. Greatest marketing campaign ever created.

I look at the old threads everywhere about obama being elected and just laugh.
posted by palbo at 2:34 AM on July 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is a great outsourcing opportunity! There are all kinds of News of the World 'journalists' who now need work and have some skill in this area...
posted by srboisvert at 5:07 AM on July 29, 2011

Say what you will, but from the get-go, the rest of the Dems in the legislature who are actually in a position to implement the president's proposals have balked, stalled, and otherwise undermined the intent of the POTUS. Remember how during the midterms, Obama didn't seem all that committed and enthusiastic about the congress himself? Well, to me that seemed like a pretty clear signal they weren't on the same page. But then we elected lunatics instead.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:08 AM on July 29, 2011

Via secrecy news - "Handling of Drake Leak Case was “Unconscionable,” Court Said"
The government's treatment of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake was abusive and akin to acts of British tyranny in pre-Revolutionary War days, said Judge Richard D. Bennett at the July 15 sentencing hearing which concluded the Drake case, one of the Obama Administration's record number of anti-"leak" prosecutions. A transcript (pdf) of that hearing was prepared at the request of Secrecy News. (...)
posted by HLD at 10:16 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Obama really should clean house at the DOJ. And Holder should provide better leadership there. Holder's been a disappointment to me. There are some very valid criticisms to be made of how the DOJ has been operating under his lead. I think Obama's failures in this area stem partly from his having too much faith in the process (I suspect he's sort of a true-believer in the American legal system in his own way) and partly from a conviction that his hands are tied politically after the Democrats made such a big political stink over Bush's firing of all those DOJ attorneys. But his record in this area is not one I'll defend very far. Holder and/or the president are definitely due some criticism here.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:18 AM on July 29, 2011

"If the Court has questions about the classified information in the record, we are prepared to address those questions in an appropriate secure environment with only the judges, cleared court personnel, and the attorneys for the government present" LOL
posted by jeffburdges at 7:56 PM on August 7, 2011

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