Give them an inch and they will take a mile. That is how power-hungry tyrants interpret any law.
The PATRIOT Act and the FISA court led to the blanket wiretapping of every American citizen and a PRISM lens into all Internet activity for the NSA.
Now we are supposed to trust this Peeping Tom government by giving them more authority for “cybersecurity” with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)?
As George W. Bush once eloquently said with his patented deer-in-the-headlights conviction “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again, see.”
Oh, I bet the American people will get fooled again. But it’s not their fault. When authority figures tell bald-faced lies to the public, most people instinctively want to believe them because the majority of people are honest and perceive others to be honest.
Obama won the presidency promising to overturn Bush’s draconian destruction of civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. The majority of Americans took Obama at his word and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Until now.
Reuters reports today that the NSA spying scandal may “complicate” Obama’s agenda for cybersecurity:
Renewed concerns about the spy agency’s domestic surveillance programs could also hamper efforts to give it a broader role in defending the country’s infrastructure, and put pressure on lawmakers to update laws protecting online privacy, say congressional aides and defense and security experts.
“They’re going to make it harder to do the work that is now going on,” said former chief Pentagon weapons buyer Mike Wynne, who also served as Air Force secretary from 2005 to 2008.
Wynne said growing unease about domestic surveillance could have a chilling effect on proposed cyber legislation that calls for greater information-sharing between government and industry.
But this is laughable. The U.S. government already has been illegally using the authority in CISPA prior to it being codified into law. At least everything Hitler did was “legal” before he did it.
PRISM reportedly forces Internet companies to hand over information to the NSA and FBI. Some even allow a backdoor to their servers. This program has been in place for several years according to reports.
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PRISM: NSA Confirms It’s Spying, Using Secret Courts — But It’s All For Your Own Good
There have been two major leaks this past week that we want to talk about. First, news that Verizon turns over all phone call metadata — the numbers called, dialed, and the duration of the phone call in question — to the NSA. Second, news that the NSA has agreements with major tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, that require those companies to turn over information.
Every firm named in these slides has come out and said it does not reveal information about US citizens without an appropriate court order. The NSA has released a statement confirming this, saying: “It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.
“Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.”
This is true. It is also dangerously inaccurate. Let’s talk about why you should care about these policies and what the NSA is and isn’t saying. First, we’re going to hop back in history. Stick with me; it’s related. We’re hopping back to 1986 and the investigation into the loss of the space shuttle Challenger.
The Normalization of Deviance:
For those of you who don’t remember (or weren’t alive), the loss of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 was caused by the disintegration of an O-ring seal inside the solid rocket booster (SRB). Without a proper seal, hot gas inside the booster penetrated the side of the rocket, leading to a catastrophic explosion. This was far from an unknown possibility; NASA found evidence of O-ring erosion on the second space shuttle mission ever flown, in 1981. The flaw was labeled “Criticality 1″ meaning that a failure would destroy the Orbiter and kill the crew.
The night before the catastrophic launch, multiple engineers from Thiokol, the company that designed the flawed SRB system, called for NASA to push the launch back until the weather was warmer. The concern was that low temperatures would make it impossible for the O-ring to seal properly. NASA refused to delay and Thiokol withdrew the request. This, despite the fact that NASA’s own policies mandated against relying on a backup part in a “Criticality 1″ incident.
What does this have to do with the NSA? More than you might think. In the wake of the Challenger’s loss, it became apparent that multiple warnings and safety protocols had been de-emphasized precisely because launches continued to go smoothly. Procedures that deviated from recognized safety margins and limits became the accepted norm.
That’s precisely what’s happening here. When the Patriot Act passed in 2001, it did not lead to the immediate formation of a police state. What it did do was create a framework in which virtually any intrusion into civil liberties could be justified in the name of stopping terrorism. In the intervening 12 years, the courts have steadily widened the rights and powers of various investigatory agencies.
Courts have upheld the government’s argument that you cannot sue the government for warrantless wiretapping unless you can prove you were affected, and then upheld the government’s right not to tell you if it put you under surveillance. Absent a complete cock-up (as happened with warrantless GPS tapping), you have no standing to bring a lawsuit. Now we know Verizon gives the government data on all phone calls, foreign and domestic. PRISM gives the government the right to spy on all US Internet traffic routing through major service providers.
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Obama deflects criticism over NSA surveillance as Democrats sound alarm
Tech giants object to suggestions that they allowed government direct access to data while details of Prism program emerge
- guardian.co.uk, Saturday 8 June 2013 11.50 EDT
Obama said Friday privacy concerns also related to private corporations, which he said collect more data than the federal government. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
Barack Obama sought to stem the growing controversy over US surveillance program amid signs that a succession of revelations about federal spying on telephone and internet data is causing alarm in some sections of the Democratic party.
At the end of the first day of the his summit with the Chinese premier Xi Jinping in California, the president described disclosures about the National Security Agency’s access to telephone and internet data as “a very limited issue”.
However in comments that appeared more emollient than his remarks earlier in the day, when he criticised “leaks” and “hype” in the media, Obama tried to deflect criticism, saying internet privacy posed “broad implications for our society”. He said privacy concerns also related to private corporations, which he said collect more data than the federal government.
Meanwhile America’s tech giants bristled at the suggestions they had allowed the government direct access to their systems, as suggested by a top secret document prepared by the National Security Agency and published by the Guardian and the Washington Post.
With their credibility about privacy issues in sharp focus, technology companies said to be involved in the program, known as Prism, issued remarkably similar statements. They said they did not allow the government “direct access” to their systems, denied knowledge of the Prism program, and called for greater transparency.
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder and CEO, said: “Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers.” Google and Facebook insisted that they only turned over data when they received a court order, and frequently challenged them.
But the New York Times reported on Saturday that major tech firms, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, had co-operated with the NSA “at least a bit”.
It said that Facebook and Google – and possibly other companies – discussed with security officials the construction of secure portals, in some cases on the company’s servers, the article said. “Through these online rooms, the government would request data, companies would deposit it and the government would retrieve it,” the Times reported. Twitter is said to have declined to participate.
At the Sunnylands resort in California, Obama disputed the suggestion that recent disclosures had undermined his talks with premier Xi, saying US concerns over hacking alleged to be emanating from China, which the administration hoped to address at the summit, were distinct from the controversy surrounding NSA surveillance programs.
“I think it’s important … to distinguish between the deep concerns we have as a government around theft of intellectual property or hacking into systems that might disrupt those systems – whether it’s our financial systems, our critical infrastructure and so forth versus some of the issues that have been raised around NSA programs,” he said.
The president did not address the Guardian’s latest disclosure of a top-secret presidential order directing senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks.
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