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Monday, March 10, 2008

Constitution: NSA Craps On It

Looks like every organization in every arm of this current Misadministration takes its cue from Chimpy McDunce. If he's going to wipe his butt on the Constitution, they feel obliged to rush to do the same, in an attempt, we suppose, to prove their bona fides.

Today, for example, Raw Story tells us that the NSA is "quietly" expanding their surveillance of U.S. citizens.
"According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records,"
states an article by Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal. Note: You need to register to read the article.

The article goes on to say:
"The NSA receives this so-called 'transactional' data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected."
Note: Our emphasis, Ed. Since no one is monitoring the NSA's scrutiny of your information, we have no idea how they determine that a "link to al Qaeda" should be "suspected." Is it like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? If your roommate in college had a penpal who married a cousin of a German of Turkish origin whose grandfather came from the same village as a woman who is married to a man whose cousin-in-law is a member, are you automatically a suspect?

Bearing in mind that the U.S. Government currently has imprisoned some one per cent of its own citizens, and the privatization of prisons has proceeded apace, making the imprisoning of people a lucrative industry, do you really trust that your government is able and willing to search for terrorists without infringing on your Constitutional rights? After all, they're scrutinizing every damn thing you do, including your credit card transactions.

Is there anyone so virtuous among us that they can cast the first stone at transgressors and offenders and say to the spies, examine everything I've ever done, you won't find a trace of something even slightly illegal? And even if you are, you paragon of virtue, do you want your government going through all your private stuff? Your health records? Your email to you girlfriend or mistress? Your private slutty chats with guyfriends or girlfriends about the hot sex you had with that borderline perv you once knew? Are you sure that among the people you dated, or your friends or colleagues or neighbours there is absolutely no one who might have a criminal record? Whose conversations with you could be misconstrued?
"The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light," she continues. "They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements."


If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city -- for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans -- the government's spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.


Two current officials also said the NSA's current combination of programs now largely mirrors the former TIA project. But the NSA offers less privacy protection. TIA developers researched ways to limit the use of the system for broad searches of individuals' data, such as requiring intelligence officers to get leads from other sources first. The NSA effort lacks those controls, as well as controls that it developed in the 1990s for an earlier data-sweeping attempt.


NSA gets access to the flow of data from telecommunications switches through the FBI, according to current and former officials. It also has a partnership with FBI's Digital Collection system, providing access to Internet providers and other companies. The existence of a shadow hub to copy information about AT&T Corp. telecommunications in San Francisco is alleged in a lawsuit against AT&T filed by the civil-liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation, based on documents provided by a former AT&T official. In that lawsuit, a former technology adviser to the Federal Communications Commission says in a sworn declaration that there could be 15 to 20 such operations around the country.

The budget for the NSA's data-sifting effort is classified, but one official estimated it surpasses $1 billion. The FBI is requesting to nearly double the budget for the Digital Collection System in 2009, compared with last year, requesting $42 million. "Not only do demands for information continue to increase, but also the requirement to facilitate information sharing does," says a budget justification document, noting an "expansion of electronic surveillance activity in frequency, sophistication, and linguistic needs."
So we're paying over one billion dollars to scrutinize every Web site visit, telephone conversation, and email of Americans within the United States, and the FBI wants that budget doubled.

Wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective &mdash and less intrusive &mdash to monitor email, conversations, and Web sites to and from countries with known terrorist presences? And leave internal monitoring to that supervised by courts tasked with protecting the civil liberties of Americans? And we're not referring to the FISA courts, which have rubberstamped every request by the government for permission to spy on anybody. We're referring to some real goddamned respect for the Constitution.

Either it is our founding document and we obey it faithfully, or it's just a "goddamned piece of paper," per Chimpy McDunce, and we throw it away and start all over again. Which will it be, peoples?

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At 9:37 PM, Blogger Friend of TPC said...

Well, with so many Americans seeing terrorist behind every corner and so afraid of their own shadows they have to do laundry every time the sun shines, I'm not optimistic about the future of our liberties. It is no longer, give me liberty or give me death, or America, land of the free and home of the brave. Oh no. Not anymore. Now it's America, land of the scardy cats and home of the yellow bellied chickens.

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

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At 7:43 AM, Blogger fairlane said...

The interesting aspect of this "War on Terror," is the fact that the people who see the "Bogeyman" in every foreign face, and shrug their shoulders as Big Brother looms on the Horizon, live in states that would never be attacked.

Who would bomb Mississippi for example, or Alabama?

Hell, it might be an improvement.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Christopher Johnston said...

"Since no one is monitoring the NSA's scrutiny of your information"

The National Security Agency's job is to ensure national security. If someone was monitoring it and then sharing problems that they uncovered it would be very secure. The very freedom that people in the US are given is the same reason that some terrorist will come here to plan their attacks against us. They will wrap themselves in the protection the US Constitution provides and then use that protection to attack the very freedom it represents. Instead of complaining about the NSA violating peoples civil liberties come up with a better solution.

Fairlane, it appears from your blog that you live in Kentucky. I would hesitate to cast stones at Mississippi or Alabama before looking home first. Jackson, MS is the 5th fastest growing city in America and Alabama has a NASA facility with one of the largest wind tunnels in the world and it also had a Mercedes Benz plant. The only thing I can find in Kentucky worth talking about is the Corvette plant and neighboring museum in Bowling Green and a bunch of places that raise race horses.
I'm sure Kentucky has some redeeming qualities but there is quite a lot of good qualities along the gulf coast and don't be so quick to dismiss them.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger liquiddaddy said...

Once again, great post, Gato.

Feeling ya,


At 4:31 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Mr. Johnston, kindly unbunch your pantaloons and consider this: the Constitution explicitly states that the right of the people to be secure in their homes and persons against unwarranted search and seizure shall not be infringed; and no warrant shall issue except on probable cause to be determined by a judge with no stake in the outcome of such warrant.

Either we live by those words or we abandon the document altogether and quit pretending to be a democracy. If we descend to the level of our enemies, what difference is there between us and them?

Incidentally, Americans were not "given" freedoms. They fought a war against the vastly superior army of a despotic king and bought those freedoms &mdash as enshrined in the Constitution &mdash with their blood.

What kind of education are they giving people in schools these days, that you don't seem to know that?

PS: I believe you meant "[...] it would not be very secure." Moreover, you appear to assume that such scrutiny would be by all and sundry. Clearly, National Security monitoring must be performed by neutral officers of the law with security clearance and with no interest in the outcome of such monitoring.


At 4:35 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

FoTPC, yeah, you'd think they'd get tired of trying to wash the piss stains out of their pants.

fairlane, those least likely to be affected usually scream loudest. Look at all the chickenhawks yowling about what the military folks should do. Put them in the battlefield and they won't be able to run because they'll be crapping themselves too much.

Liquiddaddy, gracias!


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