Since last week, it's been said that we need to have a debate over the NSA and its practices of government surveillance. I would like to have that debate. I would like to have that debate based upon things other than paranoia and fear.
In order to do so, I would like to make it clear that I am not sitting here defending nor negating what is happening. Discussing what is actually
happening does not equal acceptance.
I believe that Edward Snowden's story is suspect. Daniel Ellsberg calls him a hero and identifies with him
-- but here is the rub: Ellsberg at the very least tried to tell administration and elected officials about the Pentagon papers
-- Snowden didn't even bother trying with the information he had. Instead, he went to Hong Kong while still in the employ of Booz Allen Hamilton. He was there when the Washington Post and the Guardian published their stories about the NSA programs, Verizon and PRISM. What we learned a few days later was that he had contacted a filmmaker in JANUARY. January
. If reports are correct (and so far I have no reason t believe otherwise), that's about two months before he started to work at Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH). Glenn Greenwald has stated that Snowden contacted him in February regarding this. That is about a month before he started to work at BAH
Ironically, if one goes back to the original Guardian interview -- HE HIMSELF said he wanted to be a whistleblower in 2008.
The problem is: he wasn't a whistleblower. He decided to take information: 5 years after he said he wanted to be a whistleblower and 4 years after he left the CIA
Among his claims is that that he had -- and I quote: ďfull access to the rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station we have, what their missions are and so forth.Ē
That's a pretty big claim; it's also one that I am not sure is truthful. I'm not the only one
It's a big leap from stealing classified PowerPoint slides to wire tapping phones and accessing dossiers for spies and other agency personal. And the NSA presumably segmented access to very sensitive data says Williamson.
"I have access to lots and lots of confidential documents here at my company, but I'm not allowed to change how the network runs," Williamson says. "He (Snowden) may have had access to PowerPoint slides, but not necessarily have control of all those other systems.
"What we don't know is how broad that leak really was. From a national security point of view, that's where I would want to go back and take a hard look at the veracity of his statements."
Dr. Mike Lloyd, chief technology officer of Red Seal Networks, notes that unverified claims are just that Ė unverified.
"Hackers have always had a strong tendency to brag, and since so much of the activity is hard to trace, they also tend to exaggerate," Lloyd says.
People like myself and others have been accused of essentially attacking the messenger for questioning the veracity and legitimacy of the Snowden Leak. From there it is often conflated with comments like this:
IF my government is collecting my words, my electronic activity and my email...WITHOUT A WARRANT mind you... and with no conceivable reason to do so.... WHY are people so hell bent on judging the guy who TOLD YOU ... with sufficient proof that our gov't was forced to not lie.
Just wondering why THAT is not the outrage?
Well then, let's talk about warrants
Hearing about FISA in a vacuum without any other information would probably cause most people to believe that FISA has the strong potential to violate the fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In fact, FISA was created to strengthen the fourth amendment and I will explain how.
FISA was created by Ted Kennedy for two reasons. First, it was created as a response to President Nixon using warrantless wiretaps and other searches to target political opponents and activist groups. The other reason it was created was made clear by one of the US Court of appeals decisions that affirmed the constitutionality of FISA, and that is the 1984 US v Duggan decision. Part of the Duggan decision reads:
Prior to the enactment of FISA, virtually every court that had addressed the issue had concluded that the President had the inherent power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information, and that such surveillance constituted an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.
The Duggan decision goes on to list six or seven other appeals court decisions where courts concluded that the President has the inherent power to conduct this kind of warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information.
Senator Kennedy and President Carter did not like the idea of warrantless wiretapping even though it was judged in the case of foreign espionage and terrorism to be Constitutional Öso they created FISA which requires the Justice Department and intelligence agencies of the executive branch to get a judge to sign off on a warrant in order to conduct these surveillances. It also gives a number of congressional committees the ability to look over these warrants.
Critics point out that the judges almost always sign off on FISA warrants. Thatís right. They sign off because as pointed out in the Duggan decision, appeals courts have already ruled many times that the President has the right to conduct this surveillance and that this surveillance does not violate the fourth amendment provided that the ultimate target of the investigation is a foreign sponsored entity or terrorist organization. FISA does provide additional rules as to how these activities are to be done and also restricts how long the justice department and intelligence agencies can hold onto the acquired information before they must dispose of it.
It is fair to say that at this point, FISA and the courts that oversee it have become too powerful. This is a Fourth Amendment issue indeed, but as with all amendments, this one is not as black and white as many would like for it to be
. When it comes to phone communications, it is even murkier: In 1979, the Supreme court ruled on a case known as Smith V. Maryland. the findings?
Installation and use of a pen register by the telephone company, at the behest of the government, to record the telephone numbers dialed from a private residence is not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979) (concluding that the defendant did not likely have an expectation of privacy in the numbers he dialed, but even if he did, such expectation was unreasonable).
It appears that once your information leaves your home, you have lost some of your claims to privacy regarding it. This isn't hyperbole or what ifs'
-- it is the way the law has been interpreted by the United States Supreme court. And here's the thing: the Smith V Maryland case? That is meta-data that they are talking about
But since the 1979 ruling in Smith v. Maryland it has been well settled that the government does not need a warrant to look at phone records ó information about, say, the duration and direction of calls that companies routinely gather from their customers, who therefore have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
To the extent that the NSA is gathering only ďmetadataĒ about peopleís phone calls and their activities on social media, Smith v. Maryland is on the governmentís side.
True, the FISA court works in secret ó not ideal for a purist civil libertarian. But remember that the court was established as a remedy for the unchecked executive-branch snooping of the 1960s and 1970s, and that it was further empowered under the 2008 amendments to remedy perceived excesses of the George W. Bush administration.
Metadata and private content travel together on the Internet, so itís technically easy to look at the latter after accumulating the former. But the 2008 statute requires the government to take steps ó known as ďminimizationĒ ó to limit warrantless access to private data.
Maybe those procedures are routinely violated. Yet for all his claimed knowledge of wrongdoing, leaker Edward Snowden has yet to specify a single such instance.
We should have a discussion about what the government is doing in our name -- to be honest we HAVE been having this discussion all along. What I am not willing to do is blindly side with libertarian ideology, to be quite honest. I am certainly not going to take the word of one man who is disgruntled and declaring that his actions were done in the name of protecting America.
There is opinion, and there are facts. We should question things, not just the government but also where and who regarding the giving & taking of information. A debate requires not only the desire to change hearts and minds of others; but also the ability to have our hearts and minds changed. It appears as though people who don't want Eric Snowden scrutinized also believe him at face value. There is a tendency from some Snowden supporters, (much like the supporters of Bradley Manning, Wikileaks/Assange and Anonymous) that assume the Government is bad and refute scrutinization of the actions done by the likes of those listed above as impeccable and unimpeachable. If that is the case, we have a far bigger problem in our nation than the NSA. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don't want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive. - Albert Camus