Since we’ve returned to caring about being Surveilled…
Let’s climb into our time machine and travel all the way back to 2013, when we told you so.
An unprecedented, at least to me, move by No Such Agency has brought the Director to an open briefing on Capital Hill.
So I’m listening.
But, there are two things which I would like to hear…
Mr. Alexander is very careful to remind everyone paying attention, which appears to be very few, that the NSA does not listen to the content of these calls collected under this program.
I’d like to focus on the “…under this program.” part of his repeated statement and reassurance.
There are many programs within all government operations, many of which overlap. This is practiced for various reasons. Some of them funding, some of them compartmentalization. Some, simply because of turf and time on scene.
So, I would like to hear someone ask; “Mr. Director, is anyone at NSA listening to the content of the calls collected, or reading the e-mail and text messaging?”
Another aspect I find interesting is the “connection to a known, or suspected terrorist” requirement Mr. Alexander has reassured us exists prior to looking at your information.
On this I bring up Kevin Bacon. Yes, the actor.
There exists a mathematical formula which connects us all. It has been around for 80 years but has recently been popularized through something called the Kevin Bacon Game.
Read the last five words in the above sentence again. “…any person in the world.”
That would include Terrorist A-holes. Yep… if you’re just catching up, YOU are separated by the most horrible person on earth by only 6 degrees.
The exploration of the degrees of separation between individuals communication, or connections, is called “spidering“.
So, my next question would be; “Mr. Director, how many degrees of separation from the suspect do you find acceptable to explore? In other words, do you stop at say Two? Four? Six?”
Because stopping at “Six” means they have given themselves the authority to Spy on “…any person in the world.” (Even “Five” should make most of us physically ill… “Three” only marginally better.)
There is also the issue of freely denying that anyone can listen to your phone calls. I have seen this in practice first hand… when a suspect is apprehended, say a burglar, the police cannot legally go through his cell phone. Yet… they do. What “legally” means is whatever information found there is not admissible in court. It does not mean that some amazing physics come into play preventing the very action of going through the person’s cell phone. Remember folks, words mean things. The world becomes much clearer when you listen carefully.
Finally, I am intrigued by what is considered “civilian” over-sight. In this case, the “civilian” oversight is being performed by ex-military appointees. One might ask, is this a difference without a distinction? I understand the argument could be applied to the President on down, but those are elected positions. I would like to hear someone explore how Civilian oversight has any impact after the person performing that service has retired from a Government entity. In other words, once you’ve completed serving the Government Mission for many years you can take Retirement and then serve the Citizens interest by overseeing the very programs you may have been associated with the day before.
While I deeply respect those in the military as a rule, it does not change the fact that many of the most horrid Statists known to man have come directly from there. Seems like the checks and balances are not served in a way that is as reassuring as possible… at least to me.
It will be interesting to view the transcripts of this hearing once complete.
My overall feeling here is They are intentionally missing the point… as They know Domestic Spying IS the point, not catching Foreign Terrorist A-holes.
The Red Herring is the reiteration that all the information being used is Public and available to Private Companies, so No Problem. It is a blatant attempt to blur the definition of Public as it is meant. In this case, Public means out in the open… not Government Property. The fact the information is available to PRIVATE companies is irrelevant. If this information is truly “out there for all to see” then the Government should not need to demand it from any Private entity. But it is not… and the Government sees fit to use their power to compel certain Private entities to supply it to them.
All of our information is not available, nor should it be available, to GOVERNMENT without direct legal cause, free of Constitutional restriction. That is a very, very important distinction here in the “Freest Country on Earth”. (Damn that Constitution is SO restrictive… it tells them what they CAN’T do to us, but not what they CAN do to us…)
It’s amazing how quickly one sobers up when listening to our Spooks… Unless you’re an elected representative in the room with them, then it appears you fall asleep. (You’ll have to watch the hearing to see what I’m typing about here. I want you to watch, so I won’t ruin it by showing you.)
(Also! For the record, I love our Spooks. But much of what they do should stay, or be returned to being, illegal… just in case. I know this Borrows their argument about why they want to store all of OUR info… we might need their actions to have been illegal down the road. That’s a real check. And, they answer to us not the other way around.)