Posts Tagged surveillance

NSA Spying Is Shielded From Public Or Judicial Scrutiny By Smoke And Mirrors

In this video, Woolsey was given ample opportunity to respond to the concerns being raised and unlike his conduct on the subject of firearms laws, Peirs Morgan made no attempt to interrupt or badger Woolsey despite being plainly hostile to the nature of the answers Woolsey was giving him. I was pleasantly shocked by Morgan’s conduct, it being consistent with that of a responsible host of a talk show focusing on matters of political importance.

Woolsey twice refused to address the question posed to him regarding the constitutionality of the NSA intelligence gathering activities exposed by snowden preferring to talk about “Balancing these two very important interests” (Security and Liberty). His response focused on a number of factors;

  1. The NSA program was put together by America’s elected representatives
  2. It had been upheld by the courts
  3. It is monitored by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
  4. It is monitored by the Attorney General and officials in the Executive branch
  5. It has been “systematically supported” by the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein

These matters are, with the exception of point 2, completely irrelevant. The Constitution of the United States of America defines the limits of America’s elected representatives, of the Attorney General and any official in the executive branch and of members of the legislature such as Senator Feinstein. The fourth amendment specifies a boundary beyond which these people may not go regardless of any countervailing considerations. Put very simply, the federal government of the United States of America may not violate the fourth amendment. The balancing of interests referred to by former Director of Central Intelligence Woolsey is moot, the government of the United States may not balance the constitution against any other consideration. It is simultaneously the source of and the limit on, their authority.

Which brings us to point 2. As I mentioned earlier, this is the only cogent point in his entire response and his failure to focus on it, rather than raising an array of other, irrelevant considerations, illustrates the weakness of this argument. When he says that the intelligence gathering operations of the NSA have been upheld by the courts, this is smoke and mirrors. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a body that conducts its deliberations in secret and the victims of NSA surveillence are unable to present arguments before this court; This means that the only persons or entities able to influence the outcome of this “courts” deliberations are those with interests that conflict with the subjects of that surveillance. This does not describe a court of law. In fact, the inability of the persons being deprived of liberties protected by the fourth amendment to make their case before this court is itself a clear violation of the fifth amendment.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that the ACLU has no standing to challenge NSA surveillance as there is no evidence that the ACLU has been or is being monitored by the NSA. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court is therefore completely protected from review by higher courts by the inability of the subjects of it’s rulings to so much as be aware that there was to be a ruling at all.

Although Woolsey’s response suggests he is unaware of how the United States Constitution limits the power of the government, this would be an absurd assumption. It is impossible to imagine that he could be unaware that one cannot balance security against the supreme law of the land and that all federal law must be made pursuant to the Constitution of the United States of America. I can only conclude that his attempt to mislead the public is not a simple misunderstanding of the constitution, but malicious; an attempt to shield a program unauthorized by the constitution from public scrutiny.


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Failure On So Many Levels

Recently in Canada, a Muslim man was arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist on the basis of a text message in which he encourages colleagues to “blow away” the competition”.  There are any number of problems here which I’ll briefly skim over, beginning with, how did the authorities come to be in possession of this mans private communications and once in possession of that communication, why did they choose to skip straight from suspicion to arrest without bothering to conduct even the most cursory investigation into the nature and circumstances of his communication?

My answer to both questions is that government is stupid.  OK, so I’m summarizing here because there’s something else going on here that I find more interesting.  If you read the article linked above, you will notice that it does not include the full text of the SMS that piqued the interest of the aforementioned stupid government functionaries.  The further into the article that I got, the more glaring that omission became.  By the time I had finished reading the article, I was firmly convinced that there was something in the SMS that the author of the article did not want me to know.

Sure enough, at a french language website called “Aufait” there is an article which contains the full text: “Salem, je serai à New York le 25 janvier, on va exploser ACN, si vous avez des contacts référez-les moi” Or, as Google translate  would have it, “Salem, I will be in New York on January 25, ACN is going to explode, if you have contacts refer the me”

Now, I’m not saying that this message should have prompted the response that it did, indeed, the response by officials was absurd and over the top.  However, assuming that I had come into possession of this communication, I would want to investigate the context in which the statement was made.  But all of this is just government doing it’s usual bang up job of convincing intelligent people that government sucks.

What really interests me here, is the number of people who managed to read the Yahoo News article not only without realizing that something had been left out, but thinking that it had not been left out.  Three people responding to the Slashdot article responding to a person asking what the text of the message was, insisted (in two out of three cases casting aspersions on the questioners intelligence for even asking) that the text of the message was in the article going on to point out that it contained the word “exploser”.  Three people, readers of a website aimed at reasonably intelligent people, managed to read the entire article and were fooled into thinking that crucial information was in the article when all that they had been given was a single word out of a sentence of more than 20 words.

Quite frankly, I’m aghast.  I cannot comprehend how a person could get to the end of the Yahoo News article without getting the feeling that the author was trying put one over on him.  This is a failure of skepticism which I simply don’t understand.

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