Know Your Surveillance Programs

The NSA has four data collection programs.  Two collect “metadata,” and they are MAINWAY for phones and MARINA for the Internet.  The other two collect content, and they are NUCLEON for phone calls and PRISM for the Internet.

For more, see “U.S. surveillance architecture includes collection of revealing Internet, phone metadata,” Barton Gellman, WaPo

Shoot the Messenger

So the broad reaction in Congress, both Dem and GOP, to Edward Snowden’s leaks is not that we need less spying on us, it’s that we need less contractor access to classified info.

For more, see “A Promise of Changes For Access to Secrets,” David E. Sanger and Jeremy W. Peters, NYT

I Doubt We’re Up to This Moment

This feels like a big moment to me, these Edward Snowden leaks, a moment when we have to make decisions that aren’t based, for either Dems or Republicans, on how we feel about President Obama.  I don’t feel that we are up to it.  After 9/11, I believe that members of both parties in Congress acted in good faith, really just wanting to do the right thing so that we wouldn’t get attacked again.  You can say they went too far with the Patriot Act, but if they did, I believe their motives were honest, maybe based too much on raw emotion, but not based on partisan politics.

I believe our current Congress has a lot more crazy people in it than the Congress sitting in the fall of 2001.  I have much less confidence in them to even try to act out of principle, much less reach the right result.

I worry that we can’t have a real debate because some Dems will rally uncritically around the President simply because he is so hated by the other side and so under siege on the IRS, Benghazi, Obamacare, AP/James Rosen, immigration, etc.     I worry that the libertarian wing of the GOP, the Rand Paul types, will use this as an excuse to make some of their more outlandish theories and beliefs part of the mainstream.

This is a moment ripe for a shift in thinking and policy one way or the other, either to accept and ratify all this post-9/11 stuff for the foreseeable future or to say, “Whoa, this tradeoff doesn’t make sense” and roll some of it back.  I just hope that the wrong people don’t control the outcome of that shift.

Quote of the Day

“The possibility of a broad government sweep of domestic telephone data in pursuit of potential terrorists has long been suspected by civil liberties advocates and even hinted at by members of Congress.”

“Documents Point To Effort By U.S. To Get Web Data,” Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt, NYT

I think anyone who has been paying attention over the years and taken note of the grumbling about Section 215 of the Patriot Act has no reason to be surprised about the release of a specific classified FISA order to Verizon.  Agree with it or not, it’s no shocker.

As for Prism, the program getting Internet information rather than phone records, if it’s true that the government is looking only at communications by foreigners who are overseas, I’d be upset if they weren‘t doing this.  To me, this seems essential to keeping us safe.


No Distortion Too Blatantly False

Mitt and the GOP are showing that no lie is too contemptible for them to spread.

President Obama recently talked about how business owners benefit from infrastructure, like the roads that allow their customers to drive to them, or the Internet that allows their customers to shop online.

Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”  It is clear the President isn’t saying you didn’t build your business, he’s saying you didn’t build the infrastructure that supports it.  Watched or read in context, “that” references our infrastructure, not your business.

But what’s context to his desperate opponents, who are coming to the sad, slow recognition that their own candidate is fatally flawed?  From Fox News to conservative bloggers and pundits to Mittens himself, GOP/conservative land is pouncing on Obama to express their gleeful outrage that he’s anti-business and anti-capitalist, that he made a completely nonsensical statement that business owners don’t build their businesses.

Obama isn’t the one spouting nonsense.  That would be Mittens, arguing that he shouldn’t release more tax returns because Teresa Heinz Kerry didn’t release hers, arguing that he had nothing to do with Bain after February 1999, even though he was president, CEO, and sole owner.