the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

NSA – Balancing the Risk

Posted by Jeff Id on June 13, 2013

The NSA has been tracking details of every phone call and email by every American for years.   I have no doubt that this is the case.  Yes, this is in violation of the fourth amendment which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, 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.

I know people rightfully blame both parties, although we should remember which one is in power when the “loophole” in the patriot act was taken advantage of.  There are still differences worth noting between political views.  However, despite the future blame-game the loophole isn’t specific to the patriot act and it wasn’t even really created by the patriot act.  The actual loophole is that a secret court can approve things by any convenient interpretation of nearly every applicable law is able to provide a legal basis for whatever goal a political party in power has in mind.  When you give your power away to governments, elected or not, you are guaranteed to get corruption.  People want … period.  Whether that corrupts their decisions is up to them and no “party” or person is immune.

This not-really-secret court is designed to approve search warrants by the federal government.  It operates without public review, and the approval of a warrant requires little effort for the truly overworked federal judges.  When a ruling for a search warrant is rejected, a reason must be given by the first judge which requires a lot of work.  Rejected applications then pass up the chain for review again by a panel of judges.  So the federal agents who apply, get two chances to have their motion approved.  Interestingly, the article claims that no request for a search warrant has been denied since 2002.

Basically, America has set up a false secret court, outside of the purview of even the powerful leftist media, for the explicit purpose of approving search warrants at a maximal rate.  Recently it was discovered, that the tired federal agents found their own loophole (judge) and simply issued blanket search warrants for the entire American republic.  The whole damned thing.

Why not?  It’s legal after all.  At least it is according to a certain political view and it saves money and time over the constant individual warrant approvals.

Despite Real Climate hopes, global warming politics are a symptom of the problem, not the center.  These two events have one similarity, layer after layer of expense based on exaggeration and unproven accusation.  It is flatly obvious now that giving others control over every detail your lives will result in an existence under the sole of their shoe.   It is a mathematical problem weighted against the individual and for the collective.

But there is a problem with all of my thoughts above that is worth some consideration.  I believe that this phone-search is likely one of the most effective anti-terrorist programs in the federal government.   Do you ever wonder how they find out about some of these weird bomb-plots or terrorists?   Like the FBI somehow hangs out with 100% of the bad guys to find the newly converted ones?  Basically, I believe with only tangential evidence that the programs for monitoring existed prior to the bulk warrant.   It just took more work then and the collected info wasn’t admissible in court.  How hard is it for our government to tap major land based phone lines.

This program clearly means that we have essentially become a herd of humans being hunted by NSA, FBI, CIA for the outliers.   They claim that they are only hunting the truly dangerous people today but does anyone know whether the FOX reporters phone conversations have been used to out anti-leftist informants? How about those who know or reveal the truth about Benghazi or fast and furious. If the IRS abused its power, why wouldn’t a far more secretive NSA group do the same?  Nobody is policing the police so it is unlikely that their powers aren’t regularly being abused.

Still, despite the obvious situation, gathering all phone records is a substantial component of our anti-terror defense.  Patterns in calls and emails reveal international connections, pending dangers and coordination between anti-US groups.  At the same time, we would be naive to assume that the information would not be used against the innocent for political purposes.   One thing is for certain, the United States Government is more powerful and more corrupt than any time in history.

In the balance, allowing this kind of power in their hands is more than a little foolish.  Not that being a fool ever stopped anyone from charging ahead.  As always, it isn’t up to me which way policy goes, but were it up to me, I would endeavor to create a more difficult and transparent warrant system which only allowed warrants for specific threats.   This would leave us more open to attacks by terrorists but the silent destruction of individuals lives has already been practiced by this government on a large scale for purely political purposes.  I believe the balance is worth the additional risk.

74 Responses to “NSA – Balancing the Risk”

  1. M Simon said

    I needed a topic for my ECN column. This looks like a good one. Thanks! You’ll get credit.

    http://www.ecnmag.com/tags/Blogs/M-Simon/

  2. RickA said

    Jeff:

    I have to disagree that the phone records portion of the NSA program violates the 4th amendment.

    Whos data is it anyway – yours or the phone companies?

    I submit that the phone call data is the phone companies data and not yours, even though about you.

    You allow them to gather it (for billing purposes) when you choose to use their network to place your call.

    However, the data is owned by the phone company (in my opinion).

    Most phone companies (maybe with the exception of Verizon) voluntarily turned over the records (which if it is their data, they have every right to do).

    And of course, we know the FISA court ordered Verizon to turn over its records.

    So Verizon has a right to complain about its 4th amendment rights – but if the court orders them turned over Verizon has to comply (which they did).

    Now the email is different (to me).

    If they are reading every email (still a big question), then that does violate the 4th amendment (in my opinion).

    The phone data is like the outside of an envelope. You tell the post office where to send your letter, and they know the postmark (date sent), the weight (the postage), who sent it (return address) and who you send it to.

    Lots of people see that data (on the envelope), so if the government wants to scan the envelope and keep that info – guess what – they can do that.

    I see the phone data similarly to the envelope data on the outside of the letter.

    What they cannot do is open the envelope and read the letter (or listen to the phone call) – without a search warrant.

    That is the line the 4th amendment draws, which requires the warrant.

    The same reasoning applies to credit card purchases, the amount of electricity you use, the amount of gas you use, the size of garbage can you use, etc. (even the movies you rent or stream).

    If a third party is providing a service (and haven’t promised not to disclose your data contractually), the data they collect about their service, for billing you, is their data – and they are free to turn it over to the government if they wish to (or by court order if the government can make out a case).

    The fourth amendment really only talks about your papers and the stuff in your house and on your person – it says nothing about records third parties collect on you.

    The phone records are not on your person, they are not in your house – they are in somebody else’s house (the phone company’s house).

    Even if the fourth amendment covered these records (which I don’t believe it does – as to me)(but does as to the phone company records – which are their papers), is the gathering of this data unreasonable?

    The data is just the numbers, dates, time and duration – no names, no addresses (maybe location data for cell phones?).

    It is not being used to put together a case against Verizon – it will not be used in court – it is used to locate people to investigate based on patterns and connections with other phone numbers associated with terrorists.

    Anyway – just my opinion as a patent lawyer (I know not my area of law – but still I get to have an opinion).

    Rick

    • Jeff Condon said

      Good argument counselor. I think there are two weaknesses though. This is the very short version as I have things going on.

      First, you say that because the interaction with communications companies is a service, I cannot consider these interactions equivalent to the papers of the fourth amendment. How is that different from interaction with ANY business on Earth? I interact with many companies. Are these interactions automatically subject to review by government employees for whatever purpose? Is the fourth amendment reference to paper not equivalent to purchased transactions?

      A second and more serious problem with your interpretation is that you assume electronic communications are a choice. Clearly in our time, no other option for communication exists. What choice do we have other than electronic? If we interpret the fourth amendment as loosely as you suggest, all transactions by any person with another, monetary or not, are immediately subject to warrant-less government review. Finally, there are endless precedents for warrant requests of this type of information in the past. In your view, how is it that these warrant cases are no longer part of law?

      I like the discussion and hope to devote more time later.

      • RickA said

        If you do an electronic transaction, there are records on both sides.

        You have your records and they have theirs.

        The government cannot get your without a search warrant – but they can ask the company you interact with for a copy of their record.

        Whether the company can just give it is a function of what your contract with the company requires – but those contracts are pretty one sided and many deal with selling your data to third party marketers, not the government (to fight terrorism).

        Say you buy something from Amazon.com, and they email you a confirmation.

        You have a copy, which the government needs a search warrant to obtain (from you – because that is your paper).

        Amazon has a copy – which is their business record (that is their paper).

        Now the government needs a search warrant to get that from Amazon – or they can ask, and Amazon can provide it voluntarily.

        If Amazon wanted, they could tell the government the address of everybody they deliver ammo to.

        Now that would be bad for business (when leaked) – but it is their data, and if they didn’t contractually agree not to do this to their customers, they could tell the government everytime someone bought ammo.

        Electronic communications are everywhere – but you could encypt everything and only do business with companies who promise to keep records of your transactions confidential (absent a court order).

        At least that way, they shouldn’t turn records over voluntarily.

        So I agree with you about your records – but not about the companies records (which are theirs to do with what they want).

        It is my understanding that every phone company volunteered (after 9/11), except for Verizon.

        Maybe that is why there is a court order for Verizon (and maybe not for the others, we don’t know that yet).

        Rick

        • Jeff Condon said

          Nice argument Rick,

          ” but they can ask the company you interact with for a copy of their record.” — First a nitpick, my understanding is that it wasn’t an “ask”, it was a warrant.

          More importantly:

          Isn’t the company you communicate through the necessary facilitator of the record? An intermediary passing data which in this case “we the public” cannot reasonably avoid. (PhilJordan noted the same point below) This seems to me to be exactly the “paper” the fourth amendment refers to. It seems equivalent that federal mail should be freely searched under the criteria you have established. Is it somehow different when the federal government conveys the paper envelope information vs a private company or do you believe federal mail is freely accessible as a reasonable expectation of non-private communications?

          Regarding the fact that we only know about verizon and Internet monitoring, I have no reason to believe other companies were not also served but it really is a side issue.

          • Jeff Condon said

            Correction — a private company or do you believe federal mail should be freely accessible as a reasonable expectation of non-private communications?

          • RickA said

            Jeff:

            You are correct that as to Verizon it was not “ask” – but a warrant.

            I guess my point is that back in 2005 or 2006 we first found out about the phone record collection, and it was my understanding that only Verizon refused to cooperate.

            So I am assuming (and I could be wrong) that some companies volunteered their records and Verizon did not.

            My point is a broader one, in that whether you use AT&T or Verizon (etc.) the billing data they collect is their data, not yours.

            Once it is their data, then the government doesn’t need to come to you to get it, but instead can “ask” the phone company for it – and what they do in response is up to them.

            As to the Federal Mail – as I said above, they cannot open and read it without a warrant.

            But they can read the outside of the envelope (or scan it and keep a copy of the outside).

            In fact, they cannot deliver the piece of mail without reading the outside.

            Fedex or UPS cannot deliver a package without reading the outside either – so the Government could “ask” Fedex for a copy of all of its delivery records and it would be up to Fedex as to whether it would provide them or not.

          • Jeff Condon said

            The problem is that the government is collecting information on personal behavior, not ATT or Verison and monitoring it, while having no suspicion of those individuals whatsoever. The fact that the collection process involves a third party is aside from the point. Also, the “ask” is not a problem for me, it is the forced demand for information on the entirety of the American public which I disagree with.

          • Matthew W said

            Jeff Condon said
            June 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm
            ==================
            That is the major concern.
            All of the “evidence” that being collected and no crime was commited.

      • OK S. said

        I think the standard used to be that electronic information had to be readily accessible to the general public before the government could access it without a warrant. But I don’t know. Especially now with the politicians’ (Dems & Reps) desire to control everybody and his dog.

        I wonder what financial liability would ensue a common carrier if they released private data without a warrant and that private information ended up in a business competitor’s or political opponent’s hands?

        Maybe a lawyer might happen by with enough sophistry ….

        • Berne Stober said

          I think the relevant case was SCrOTUS decision on Miller in 1976: “Justice Powell, in delivering the opinion of the Court, overturned the Appeals Court ruling, holding that the subpoenaed materials were business records of the banks, not respondent’s private papers. He wrote that because checks and deposit slips are not confidential information but are freely exposed to banks and their employees, there is no legitimate “expectation of privacy” in their contents. He further held that access to bank records do not require scrutiny equal to that necessary to obtain a search warrant.” From “http://www.fourthamendmentsummaries.com/” a great site where you can see exactly how our right to privacy is being protected by SCrOTUS.

          • Matthew W said

            The distinction (that it seems that Rick is missing) is that there needs to be a subject or person of interest to be investigated FIRST.

            Not the wholesale scooping up of private and personal data and then pretending that you can find criminal activity there.

          • In RickA’s defense, he actually has a strong case – at least from the government perspective. That is EXACTLY what the government will argue when it gets to SCOTUS. I can only hope there are enough intelligent minds left on the court when it happens that they slap them down. But as we saw with Obamacare, there are no guarantees.

          • RickA said

            Matthew W:

            No – I get your distinction.

            It is just that they only need a subject or person of interest if they want to get records from YOU – not business records about you from a third party.

            In other words – the fourth amendment doesn’t protect records about you – it only protects your records (in the sense the government needs a warrant to get your records).

            Once you get my point that these records are about you – but not your records – then I think you will see my point.

            1. If they are AT&T’s records, and they want to give them to the government, they can (ditto for VISA, FedEx, Amazon, etc.).
            2. If they are Verizon’s records, and Verizon doesn’t want to give them to up, and the government wants them – they can subpoena them and an article III court will decide if the government gets them (so far they get them).

            So the fourth amendment doesn’t protect YOU from government snooping via a 3rd parties records about you.

            Ask Clarence Thomas about his video rental records (for an analogy).

          • “So the fourth amendment doesn’t protect YOU from government snooping via a 3rd parties records about you.”

            Actually, the courts have ruled on that. And if the evidence is gathered as an AGENT of the government, then it is just as illegal. Basically Verizon is their agent, not a disinterested 3rd party.

          • RickA said

            True Phil. However, Verizon doesn’t gather the phone records as an agent of the government. It just wants to bill you for your phone calls.

            It does turn out that the Government finds these billing records useful, and so asked for them after 9/11 – and even subpoenaed them from some phone companies.

            But I don’t think the agency argument will work for billing records.

          • And that is where the court case comes in. By going for such a broad sweep of warrants, the government is forcing the Phone companies to ACT as agents. In other words, the phone companies are not doing it voluntarily, which is the test SCOTUS has used in the past.

          • Matthew W said

            RickA said
            June 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm
            ============================

            You bring up a great example that does not defend your case.

            The government had a compelling reason to access the video records for the nominee, but the scum sucking, bottom feeding, verminous, low life democrats did not have a valid reason to release it.

    • timg56 said

      Excellent argument Rick.

      I’m going to copy it and post it to my brother who was formerly a US attorney.

      I will say that it does not address Jeff’s point that we now have a situation where a secret court has granted broad warrant rights to the government for collecting information. Like Jeff I and conflicted, at least so far as the phone records information is concerned. In a world where ease of electronic communication allows for coordination of resources and support between a very few bad actors, I’m not certain that the information being collected (ie it not including content) represents any great infringement on my freedom, while very possibly being an effective tool at identifying and tracking said bad actors.

      • RickA said

        Yes – I have trouble with the secret court also.

        But lets pretend it is not secret – but public.

        So the government requests a subpoena from a public court to get all the email from a particular person, from say google mail or hotmail or whatever.

        They do that right now for criminal matters.

        The difference here is that they do not want terrorists to know they are doing it for particular individuals.

        Well it is to late for that now – so the reason for the secret FISA court is kind of moot now (everybody now knows the government is doing it for known or suspected terrorists).

        I guess it would still be nice not to to alert a particular terrorist (maybe they are new) that you know they are a terrorist and are monitoring their electronic records, by filing public papers for a subpoena (even going forward).

        But every terrorist now knows to encrypt their electronic communications – the cat is out of the bag now.

        • Rick – “But every terrorist now knows to encrypt their electronic communications – the cat is out of the bag now.”

          Bin laden told them that. He was caught not by communications, but by old fashion shoe leather. He KNEW not to use communications of an electronic nature. You are not going to catch any Bin Laden’s. Theoretically, you catch the Tsarnaevs. But as we see, the program is not being used for that.

  3. omanuel said

    Jeff, the current demise of modern science and society reflects two different views of events in July and August 1945:

    1. The insight of the first Japanese scientist [1] into the birth of the Solar System and the creation of its elements when viewing the ruins of Hiroshima in August 1945:

    “The sight before my eyes was just like the end of the world, but I also felt that the beginning of the world may have been just like this” [reference 1, p. 2].

    2. The director of the Manhattan Project reported only destruction and death in the first atomic bomb explosion at Los Alamos, New Mexico, a month earlier on 16 July 1945:

    “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” and “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
    http://quotationsbook.com/quote/47841/ – sthash.zSTRKpVe.dpuf

    Kuroda became my research mentor in 1960 and assigned me this topic: “The origin of the solar system and its elements.” In hindsight, I now suspect that Kuroda knew the Sun’s origin, composition, source of energy and sphere of influence had been obscured after the Second World War out of fear and loathing that humans might use that forbidden knowledge to destroy life on Earth, as large sections of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed by atomic bomb explosions on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively.

    References:

    [1] P. K. Kuroda, The Origin of the Chemical Elements and the Oklo Phenomenon (Springer Publishing, 165 pages, 1982)

    • omanuel said

      NSA tracking of individuals and consensus government science are tyrannical actions of frightened world leaders:

      To hide the source of energy that destroyed Hiroshima on 6 Aug 1945, the UN was formed on 24 Oct 1945 and public-funded scientists were then given these options: Agree with these models or lose government funding:

      1. BBM (Big Bang Model) of hydrogen creation at the birth of the universe,
      2. SSM (Standard Solar Model) of hydrogen-filled stars heated by H-fusion,
      3. AGW / AGC Models of Anthropologic Global Warming and / or Cooling,
      4. Models of neutron stars as dead nuclear embers of burned-out stars, and
      5. The BHM (Black Hole Model) for storing imaginary stellar end products.

      The best available measurements and observations have falsified all five models as unscientific. That is why I agree with the candidate for Lt. Governor in Virginia on this matter:

      http://www.jacksonforlg.com/the-speech-that-rocked-virginia/

      It is time to throw off all government tyranny !

      With deep regrets,
      – Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • omanuel said

      I am in the process of writing a manuscript showing the experimental observations that falsify the above consensus (false tyrannical) models of reality.

      We will be traveling next week, but the paper will posted below for comments before submitting it for publication when we return.

      Oliver K. Manuel
      Omatumr@yahoo.com

    • omanuel said

      We live under the government George Orwell described. I completed enough of the paper to post it for your comments:

      Dear friends,

      Comments would be appreciated on a paper in progress, “Neutron repulsion: Source of life.” 

      https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10640850/Neutron_Repulsion-Source_of_Life.pdf

      I will be on vacation next week but able to receive comments sent to omatumr@yahoo.com

      Comments on personal bias or distortions would be especially helpful.  I hope to complete and submit the complete paper for publication when I return.

      Thanks for your assistance.

      With kind regards,
      – Oliver K. Manuel

    • omanuel said

      When I return from vacation next week, I hope to finish and submit a manuscript showing that:

      Well-intentioned. but foolish, international agreements to save mankind from the threat of nuclear annihilation – by obscuring the energy (E) stored as mass (m) in cores of atoms, planets, stars and galaxies – instead destroyed credibility in post-1945 world governments, the integrity of science and mankind’s inalienable right to self-govern.

      Recent government spying on citizens is as desperate as the actions of a drowning person. They will only hasten the end of this tragic drama.

      Grants and awards inflated the egos of post-WWII scientists, as invisible new clothes fooled the emperor in a classic fairy tale.  Ego deflation by acceptance of reality will restore sanity to society and destroy man’s dangerous illusion of control over Nature.

      I regret being so slow to decipher this post-1945 web of well-intentioned deceit.

      With deep regrets,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

      PS – These post-1945 discoveries will likely be confirmed:

      1. Two forms of one fundamental particle – the neutron and its expanded form, the hydrogen atom – comprise the whole universe. It is understandable by all.  This reality has been obscured by imaginary divisions of fundamental particles (quarks, gluons, God particles, etc.), elements (Ne-A, Ne-B, Ne-C, etc.) and processes (superheavy element fission and trapping of interstellar grains in meteorites). 

      2. Self-sustaining nuclear reactors operated on the early Earth.

      3. Nuclear reactors still operate in cores of some planets.

      4. Our elements were made in the Sun before it exploded to birth the solar system.

      5. The Sun’s core is a pulsar, energized by neutron repulsion. 

      6. “Cold” fusion is a viable energy source.

      These seven consensus models of reality will likely be falsified:

      1. The Standard Solar Model of Hydrogen-filled stars.

      2. Yukawa’s model of all attractive nuclear forces.

      3. Models of pulsars as dead embers of ordinary stars.

      4. Theoretical models of black holes.

      5. Sub-particles of neutrons & protons: quarks, gluons, etc.

      6. Oscillating solar neutrinos, and

      7. AGW/AGC models of global warming & cooling induced by humans.

      Oliver K. Manuel
      28 June 2013

  4. Genghis said

    It is clearly Constitutional for the Government to observe us. What is different here is that now the Government can comprehensively observe and permanently record in very accessable ways almost everything about us.

    I am almost at a loss as to where we have any privacy at all. With cameras recording who enters our homes, every form of communication monitored, medical records, employment records, travel records, expenditures, etc. etc. etc.

    • Genghis said

      Hmm, I was trying to get rid of the stupid Follow “the Air Vent” popup and accidentally posted that. Continuing on….

      With sophisticated data mining tools and a few reasonable guesses, there is literally nothing that is private anymore almost to the point of the government knowing what we are thinking.

      Will this information be abused by the Government? It already has been, and lives are being destroyed. Is it something that we need to worry about?There is nothing we can do about it, nothing at all, so why worry?

      Life is good.

  5. omanuel said

    Different perspectives on the source of energy (E) stored as mass (m) in cores of heavy atoms, some planets, ordinary stars and galaxies:

    1. Kuroda saw the potential for creation and birth
    2. Oppenheimer focused on destruction and death

    That energy source – neutron repulsion – is in fact the Creator, Destroyer and Sustainer of every atom, life and world – as is explained in other sections of the Bhagawad Gita

    Correction of link to Oppenheimer’s quote:

    http://quotationsbook.com/quote/47841/#sthash.zSTRKpVe.93Q8Gswg.dpbs

    http://quotationsbook.com/quote/47841/–sthash.zSTRKpVe.dpuf

    • omanuel said

      My apologizes, Jeff. The above was only intended to be a comment and correction on #3.

      The demise of modern science and society is the result of post-war policies based on the fears expressed by Oppenheimer, rather than on the hopes expressed by Kuroda. In the aftermath of WWII, world leaders tried to save the world from nuclear annihilation by forming the UN on 24 Oct 1945 and becoming rulers, rather than public servants, of the people.

      Now they are afraid of the people they subjugated by hiding the source of energy that is the Creator, Destroyer and Sustainer of every atom, life and world !

  6. PhilJourdan said

    2 things. Jeff, you have a typo in the first line (pone for phone).

    Second, RickA makes a good argument. But his efforts are thwarted by the government itself. The government has decreed that a phone in the home is no longer a luxury but a necessity. As a necessity, if you do not put one in, they will do it for you. They cannot then decree that what resides in your private residence, as a necessity is not yours. Indeed, while the phone company does have access to your records by the very mechanism of how it works, they are forbidden, by the fourth amendment, to use that information for any purposes other than in an aggregate to asses charges.

    In effect, the government has forced all people to place an eaves dropping device within their home for government purposes. There is no way to splice that other than a direct violation of the 4th amendment.

    • Jeff Condon said

      Thanks for the correction and I also like the argument you make. It is an interesting debate.

    • RickA said

      PhilJourdan:

      A phone may be a necessity – but required by the Government?

      I thought all kinds of people were getting rid of land lines?

      Do you really have to have a phone – by law?

      I am not sure that is correct.

      I also don’t know if I agree with you about the billing records only being used for billing purposes as being required by the 4th amendment.

      I think companies use billing records for business purposes all the time – and it doesn’t violate the 4th amendment.

      Example – the post office runs an analysis and notices a whole bunch of mail is going to a particular zip code – so they hire more mail carriers.

      Ditto for UPS or FedEx – same analysis.

      Are you telling me you don’t think FedEx can analyze its delivery data for any business purpose?

      If you agree it is their data (which is my position) – and assuming they have not contractually promised you they won’t turn over their delivery data to the government (without a search warrant), why cannot they turn it over voluntarily?

      Rick

      • The government, in 1986, classified it as a necessity. hence the precursor to Obamaphones was created (the $1 tax you see on every phone bill). In 2005, they expanded that to Cell Phones. So it does not matter if it is land or cell, the government has classified it as a necessity. if you do not have one, it will be given to you whether you like it or not (as long as you are receiving any government assistance).

        The government cannot force something on you that they will then use to spy on you. Well, they can if we throw out the constitution, and embrace the old Soviet Union. But that is what the government is now arguing. I do not think they are going to win the ACLU case.

        Had they kept their nose out of the homes, and kept “necessities” to food and shelter, they may have had a chance. But I doubt they will now. But with the current court, you never know.

      • Matthew W said

        “I think companies use billing records for business purposes all the time – and it doesn’t violate the 4th amendment.”

        STOP RIGHT THERE.
        The Constitution protects us from the GOVERNMENT, not businesses.
        Now, looking at your example:

        “Example – the post office runs an analysis and notices a whole bunch of mail is going to a particular zip code – so they hire more mail carriers.

        Ditto for UPS or FedEx – same analysis.

        Are you telling me you don’t think FedEx can analyze its delivery data for any business purpose?”

        This isn’t about what Fed Ex can do with your data, it’s about whether or not the federal government can take it and analyze it when they HAVE NO PROOF THAT THERE IS ILLEGAL ACTIVITY.

        The government is looking for something that they don’t know exists.

        • Matthew W – Good point. I forgot to address the distinction. When you sign a contract with a business, that is a private contract. Not a public one.

        • RickA said

          But can’t Fedex give their data to the Federal Government to analyze if they want to?

          Because a bunch of phone companies did that (I think).

          • Matthew W said

            “But can’t Fedex give their data to the Federal Government to analyze if they want to?”

            Why should they have it?

          • PhilJourdan said

            No, The Constitution does not forbid Fedex. It expressly forbids the government.

          • RickA said

            Matthew:

            Who is “they” – Fedex or the Government?

            Phil:

            I don’t see that in the constitution.

            Especially if the government doesn’t use a warrant – but asks for the data and it is offered voluntarily.

          • Rick – How about if they “voluntarily” ask you about a crime you are suspected of, without reading you your Miranda Rights? They are “forcing” nothing. They are merely “asking”.

            Think it will stand up in court? They are not legally allowed to “ask” for it. That is why they should not. That they have merely shows they are indeed being unconstitutional. Government is not business. Business can ask you just about anything – unless there is a law against it. Government cannot because the constitution restrains them, not business.

          • RickA said

            It happens all the time.

            If you are not arrested, but “asked” to come to the station for questioning – and you do not lawyer up, anything you volunteer can be admissible.

            Now, if they arrest you and do not read you yours rights, I think there can be trouble if you “volunteer” anything.

            But I have to say the article alleging the NSA is reading our emails and listening to our phone calls (cited somewhere on this thread) is very troubling – because it doesn’t sound like they need a warrant to do that.

            All of my comments have been limited to the phone companies data and not actually reading our email or listening to our phone calls (without a warrant).

          • Understood on the qualifications. We will only hold you to the meta data.

            But you still need your miranda rights read if they are going to question you. You CAN volunteer the information, but I see no volunteerism in this case. The companies were ordered. And you never had any choice.

  7. One of the truly great men of the 20th century was Harold S. Geneen who led the ITT corporation for many years. There are two books called “Management”. One was written by Peter Drucker and the other by Geneen & Moscow.

    Both books are well worth reading but I particularly recommend Geneen’s concept of “No Surprises”. He realized that the performance of every organization needs to be objectively assessed by people not under the control of the executives who run them. This is not easy to achieve.

    Large corporations such as ITT follow the organization model developed by Alfred P. Sloan and Pierre S. DuPont, called “Federal Decentralization”. Many divisions (profit centers) are presided over by powerful chief executives who want to shape the reports that are sent to headquarters.

    Geneen wanted to know what was really going on so he made the bean counters (accountants) independent of the chief executives.

    When it comes to government you need assessments from organizations that are not controlled by the “Executive Branch”. In a modern democracy a free press should perform this function by vigorously exposing executive branch failings such as corruption, waste and mis-managemenent.

    So what do you do when the so called “Free Press” can no longer be trusted? There is the non-partizan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) but it lacks teeth. It can expose problems but nobody gets fired or jailed.

    The government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is modeled on that of the USA. It has Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. It has an additional branch called the “Ministry of Audit” charged with keeping the other three branches honest. The MoA has teeth including death by firing squad for major abuses:

    http://www.cy.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=3161&CtNode=1770&mp=21

    • Matthew W said

      We have both the CBO and the GAO to hold the feds accountable, but if the liberal MSM doesn’t tell the leftist sheep when to be outraged about governmental transgressions, nothing happens.

  8. Matthew W said

    RickA said
    June 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm
    Matthew:

    Who is “they” – Fedex or the Government?

    Phil:

    I don’t see that in the constitution.

    Especially if the government doesn’t use a warrant – but asks for the data and it is offered voluntarily.

    ===========================
    Since Fed Ex already has their own data, they are not the “they”.

    Of course the Feds can ask for anything they want.

    The issue is “why should they have it”

    Every person reading this blog has not and will not commit a crime against the State.
    Why should third party record keepers give the Feds have any information about any of us?

    • Here is the fourth amendment to the US Constitution:
      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, 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.

      The NSA can do whatever it likes to people who are not US citizens but when they “search and sieze” without “probable cause” they are infringing the fourth amendment

  9. Bob said

    Jeff: This is a terrific article, and the issues are articulated well.

    RickA is technically right. Phone records belong to the phone company as they are records of transactions just your transactions with VISA or American Express. The phone companies and the credit card companies do not take lightly their responsibility to keep their customers’ data private. It is minimally a matter of sound business practice to keep customer info private, unless for marketing or other revenue purposes. It is revealing to read some of their privacy policies.

    When I worked for a telephone company, customer data was considered sacrosanct. Even though the telco owns the call records, they is still considered to be the customer’s property, also.

    As much as I hate regulation, we may need a telco HIPPA-type law to muzzle the actions of industry and government in delving into our personal lives. Personal liberty is basic to our culture, and it dismays me no end that our government can pick and choose who to harass with the IRS, based on political viewpoints.

  10. TerryMN said

    So much for the “just the metadata / outside of the envelope” line of bullshit:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57589495-38/nsa-admits-listening-to-u.s-phone-calls-without-warrants/

  11. Bob Koss said

    A guy at the Internet Archive made some assumptions and calculated the cost and space necessary to store a year of US phone calls. It is relatively cheap even if he might be off by a factor of 4.

    http://blog.archive.org/2013/06/15/cost-to-store-all-us-phonecalls-made-in-a-year-in-cloud-storage-so-it-could-be-datamined/

  12. hunter said

    The risk to us is the increasing politicization of the civil service and those who enable them.
    There is no way a secret court remains unsullied over time.
    There is no way that the efforts to dragnet all Americans is without opportunity cost in other areas of national security.
    An underlying and deeply disturbing trend in the last four years or so is the propensity to blame Americans who disagree with the current Administration for any failures of the Administration. The IRS abuse is a wake up call to anyone who can pay attention that the civil service will abuse their power to suppress or harass those with whom they disagree. Accepting this as the status quo only insures that the status quo will actually deteriorate a lot and probably pretty quickly.

  13. Bryan said

    Jeff Condon

    Several times I have tried to reply to Curt on thread ‘My apologies to readers’ but my posts do not appear?
    Why?

  14. hunter said

    The questino for me is not if the phone company collects simliar data for billing and network management purposes. That is a distraction. AT&T is not going to use the IRS, EPA, FBI, or incite local authorities to do things to me based on my phone use. Nor is the argument that “I am not doing anything wrong. I don’t care if the NSA tracks my calls” more than a distraction. The issue is that we have restricted the government from dragnet data trawling for good reason since the Constitution. One is that those gathering the data are human, and have their political passions and biases. Their being able to simply tap into what any of us do by the rubber stamp of a secret court has been proven to be too much temptation. The IRS abuses during the 2012 election of harassment of Tea Party and Romney supporters should be a wake up call to everyone. IRS staff leaked tax returns. IRS staff demanded private data to which they had no right. IRS staff suppressed the free speech of Americans on religious and political grounds.
    The NSA is not made up of people any different, no matter how hard they tell us otherwise. Snowden was a low level third party employee who was easily able to access information on Americans. He happened to have a conscience. What about someone even more fanatic with fewer scruples?
    The other problem of indiscrimante spying is that it wastes resources. Tehre are only so many hours in a day and so much data that can be screened. depending on this, as is apparently done, makes huge and dangerous assumptions about how bad guys behave.

  15. Duster said

    Thanks to the ability of the government – in the form of the executive branch – to declares a “federal state of emergency,” the “loop holes” in the Patriot Act have been around and in use for decades. The constitution in fact explicitly allows the suspension of Habeas Corpus during emergencies.

    Echelon has been around far longer than PRISM and does much the same sort of thing. As far as I can see the sole point of FISA court-issued warrants is to insure that evidence collected is done so “legally,” if not strictly constitutionally. It’s kind of pointless to point fingers at either party since the practice has been around since Eisenhower and neither did a thing to protect individual liberty. They just gnaw away at opposite ends of the sausage. “Intelligence” is not necessarily useable in a court of law, but it can be actionable within the governmental state of mind that has been evolving since before World War I. But, if you start to feel the breath of lawyers on your neck, then a “legal” basis makes sense.

  16. patrioticduo said

    And here is why you accept the “risk” more than the specious claims of unverified bureaucratic sophistry. http://news.yahoo.com/nsa-claim-thwarted-nyse-plot-contradicted-court-documents-211252935–abc-news-topstories.html The government apparatus will make the claim that the NSA programs were successful but turns out, the programs had little if any benefit.

    • There are too many government games played to sort the truth. The reality is that we cannot and should not ever trust government. Anyone who thinks differently is a fool in my opinion. For every three great people in control of some aspect of your life, there is at least one asshole, and that is all it takes.

      Still, it is probably the most effective anti-terror program they have. In my opinion, I would rather have the terror.

      • patrioticduo said

        And the reason why Government grows and grows and grows is because there is not a single politician, no matter how highly principled that would utter these words “Still, it is probably the most effective anti-terror program they have. In my opinion, I would rather have the terror.”

      • Matthew W said

        This “data sweeping” is in no way an effective anti terrorism program.

  17. hunter said

    Patrioticduo,
    The choice is not “accept the complete invasion of privacy or terrorism”. That is a false choice, imho.
    The REAL choice is:
    “accept the status quo, an ineffectual insanely complex and expensive program that works no better than our present border security or the post office, or re-purpose and reform our tools of security to actually work.”
    A politican will figure this out, and soon.
    That person will do very well in the public square.
    We are clearly suffering from an oligarchic system that is making us less secure and offers tweedle dum and tweedle dee choices and ideas.
    We need knew ideas that focus on our real roots: Liberty in a Constitutional System which carefully and properly limits government and empowers the citizens as individuals.

  18. Anonymous said

    Jeff,

    However, despite the future blame-game the loophole isn’t specific to the patriot act and it wasn’t even really created by the patriot act. The actual loophole is that a secret court can approve things by any convenient interpretation of nearly every applicable law is able to provide a legal basis for whatever goal a political party in power has in mind.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m very surprised more people aren’t screaming about this.

  19. Mark Bofill said

    oops didn’t mean to be anonymous.

    Jeff,

    However, despite the future blame-game the loophole isn’t specific to the patriot act and it wasn’t even really created by the patriot act. The actual loophole is that a secret court can approve things by any convenient interpretation of nearly every applicable law is able to provide a legal basis for whatever goal a political party in power has in mind.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m very surprised more people aren’t screaming about this.

  20. hunter said

    Jef,
    Mark is correct about your summary. It is inevitable, especially now that there is a bipartisan circling of the wagons, that this FISA court secrecy system will diverge more and more from its real mission and start looking for more pesky out of line ingrate Americans to blame.

  21. Kenneth Fritsch said

    “In the balance, allowing this kind of power in their hands is more than a little foolish. Not that being a fool ever stopped anyone from charging ahead. As always, it isn’t up to me which way policy goes, but were it up to me, I would endeavor to create a more difficult and transparent warrant system which only allowed warrants for specific threats. This would leave us more open to attacks by terrorists but the silent destruction of individuals lives has already been practiced by this government on a large scale for purely political purposes. I believe the balance is worth the additional risk.”

    Jeff, as a libertarian, I agree with the essence of what you say here and would take your argument a step further.

    I shudder when I hear those of both major political parties continuing to plead for restrictions on our individual freedoms in the name of “saving just one person from a terrorist attack or domestic gun violence”. If we base our the limitations we put on government on that catchy phrase of saving just one person we will in the end have no individual freedoms. Considering gun violence and applying that (non) limitation criteria to individual freedoms whereby we, through changes in the constitution or by judicial edict or non involvement, decide that we can reduce gun violence to near zero by overriding the second and fourth amendments and allow the government to confiscate all guns by searching without a warrant. Notice at that point we have no protection from the “violence” that can applied by a government that has all monopoly power on the use of force with no recourse or protections for the individual.

    The fact that the actions of NSA could pass muster with our constitutional safe guards gives me no comfort and neither does the fact that many political and media liberals suddenly have no problem with these actions that they would have condemned under a Republican administration.

    • hunter said

      Kenneth,
      You have pegged it well.
      The FISA courts need to be shut down as presently constituted.
      They have already traveled far down the inevitable path from “well intentioned idea” to “self-protecting bureaucracy”.
      This system is not keeping us safer, it is not protecting our liberty, and it is not serving the public good.

    • Kenneth,

      I completely agree and looking to the future I find myself incredibly depressed with the general ignorance of the population. Ignorant people have no understanding of what is happening to the world. It is to the incredible point where capitalism and business are anti-freedom and government is a pro-freedom entity. How the public got so screwed up is beyond me but we are about to agree to the import of tens of millions more uninformed voters and won’t have to worry about any conservative forms of governance for a long time. Letting the NSA get away with this is amazing What is more interesting is that the person who let the “news” out is being hunted by the government for revealing secrets, while the same government claims that the secrets themselves are within the constitutional rights of the government. If it is a constitutional right, how can it be a crime to reveal it?

      I suppose it is all for our own good though and we should just shut up, turn over the weapons and pay our “fair share” to the non-working, lazy, uneducated voters who think America means that they deserve equal quantities everything.

  22. omanuel said

    With your permission, Jeff, I would like to post a copy of the open message sent today (2 July 2013) to the Committee on Space Science and Technology of the United States House of Representatives:

    The United States House of Representatives
    Committee on Space Science and Technology
    Washington, DC, USA

    Greetings,

    RE: Open Message on the Corruption of Science:
    The Destruction of Inalienable Rights of Citizens

    Concern for our increasingly unstable society and for those trying to prevent it’s violent eruption by destroying basic constitutional rights of citizens would benefit from your active investigation and support, if confirmed, of one indisputable fact

    1. Supported by the best available scientific measurements and observations on rest masses, abundances and half-lives of atoms and elements in the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, meteorites, Mars and Jupiter;

    2. Consistent with the spiritual teachings of every major religion; and

    3. Hidden from the public after 1945 out of fear this information might be used to destroy life on Earth by nuclear annihilation:

    The core of the Sun is a pulsar that made our elements and gave explosive birth to the Solar System five billion years (5 Gyr) ago. Its source of energy – neutron repulsion – is the same energy that vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug 6 and 9, 1945 (and frightened world leaders into forming the United Nations on 24 Oct 1945 to save the world from nuclear annihilation). The Sun’s core is made of neutrons (n). An expanded neutron form – hydrogen atoms (1H) – pours from its atmosphere. Hydrogen and Helium are by-products of the production of solar energy. The most abundant atom in the Sun, iron-56 (56Fe), is the most stable combination of neutrons and hydrogen atoms. Other mixtures of neutrons and hydrogen atoms comprise every atom in the Solar System, as shown on the front cover of the Proceedings of the 1999 ACS Symposium on the Origin of Elements in the Solar System organized with help from the late Nobel Laureate Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg:

    Half-life measurements at Purdue suggest that other than gravitational, electrical, nuclear and magnetic force fields invisibly connect every atom to the pulsar and to each other over vast regions of space (greater than the combined volume of ten billion, billion Earths) that filled with debris from the explosive birth of the Solar System five billion years ago.

    Our fate and Earth’s constantly changing climate depend entirely on the pulsar that government scientists hid from the public after 1945.

    Copies of this message will be sent to individual members of Congress and to others concerned about the tension between US citizens and the US government, the corruption of government science, and the loss of basic constitutional rights of US citizens.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo
    PhD Nuclear Chemistry
    Postdoc Space Physics

    • omanuel said

      Second Open Message to the Space Science & Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives

      Another open message to members of the Space Science & Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives was posted at the top of my web page today to celebrate this,

      The 237th birthday of this once Great Nation, and to seek an end to

      Sixty-eight years (2013-1945 = 68 yrs) of deceptive government science.

      Comments, pro / con, would be appreciated.

      With kind regards,
      - Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

      http://www.omanuel.wordpress.com

  23. M Simon said

    Gave you some link love:

    http://www.ecnmag.com/blogs/2013/07/secret-courts-enable-electronic-surveillance

    • omanuel said

      Thanks for the links.

      Yes, deception of the public was adopted as government policy in 1945 to

      1. Save world leaders from death by nuclear annihilation, by

      2. Eliminating national boundaries and constitutions, and

      3. Using research funds and Nobel Prizes to block public access to the energy that destroyed Hitoshima and Nagasaki.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • omanuel said

        That sixty-eight year plan:

        1. United the world
        2. Reduced nationalism
        3. Destroyed the integrity of science
        4. Destroyed constitutional limits on government

        For the sake of society, we must forget retaliation and punishment and work together to restore integrity to science and government.

  24. omanuel said

    Amnesty International agreed that Edward Snowden acted in the public interest:

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/amnesty-international-ed-snowden-acted-in-public-interest/

  25. omanuel said

    Later today or tomorrow I hope to complete and submit to the Space Science & Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives a manuscript that explains the post-1945 destruction of the integrity of science and constitutional government.

    The paper will be posted in my dropbox and made available for any individual or organization to reproduce, republish, criticize or praise at will

    These are the conclusions:

    1. FEAR of nuclear annihilation, and
    2. REMORSE for using nuclear energy to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in early Aug 1945

    Convinced world leaders and leaders of the scientific community to:

    3. SACRIFICE the liberty of individuals
    4. FORM the United Nations on 24 October 1945
    5. COMPROMISE the integrity of government science
    6. ELIMINATE national boundaries and national constitutions

    I deeply regret that I was unable to decipher this information earlier.

    With deep regrets,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

    http://omanuel.wordpress.com/

    omatum@yahoo.com; 1-573-647-1377

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