Releasing Terrorists While Spying on Us

Okay, so the Prez says it’s perfectly fine to release these five top Taliban terrorists.  But at the same time, the Prez says we’re in so much danger from the terrorists that he has to gather everybody’s phone calls and emails.

So all of us average, loyal Americans who are being watched constantly are a threat, but the real bad guys aren’t?

This inexcusable, incoherent policy gives us the worst of both worlds — putting our lives more at risk while taking away our rights.

How can anyone justify both the Taliban deal and the NSA surveillance?


After Snowden, We Get Snow Job

The House passed the USA FREEDOM Act today, which is supposed to fix the PATRIOT Act and rein in the NSA, but falls far short of what we need to get our rights back.  The vote was 303-121, with 179 Republicans and 124 Democrats in favor.  The bill now goes to the Senate, but I doubt it will get fixed enough to keep this from being a huge wasted opportunity to restore our privacy.

Here’s James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the chief sponsor of the bill:  “Let me be clear:  I wish this bill did more.  To my colleagues who lament the changes, I agree with you.  The privacy groups who are upset about lost provisions, I share your disappointment.”

Here’s Zoe Logren (D-California), who supported the bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee, but voted against the final bill:  “This is not the bill that was voted out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously.  Regrettably, we have learned that if we leave any ambiguity in the law [on bulk data collection], the intelligence agency will run a truck through that ambiguity.”

Companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook had supported the original bill, but did not support the final version, believing that it contains a loophole for government surveillance of our Internet data.

The bill also dropped the provision creating an independent public advocate at the FISA court.  It removed provisions about public reports from the government about its targeting activity and FISA court requests.

The bill requires phone companies to keep records for 18 months, with the NSA having to get a court order to access those records.


Quote of the Day

“[T]he administration wants to give the public ‘greater assurance,’ ‘greater confidence’ in the wake of a historic scandal.  It’s a game of political optics that asks for trust without structurally shifting the techniques of government that rightfully bred distrust when revealed.”

Natasha Lennard, “Obama’s NSA reforms:  The devil in the details,” Salon

Quote of the Day

“Snowden has enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had.  The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.”

Glenn Greenwald

Quote of the Day

“That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.”

Edward Snowden

Snowden has asked for temporary asylum in Russia until he can go to one of the Latin American countries that has offered him asylum.

If I were sentencing him here in the U. S., I think I would have a hard time doing more than a slap on the wrist.

Will Anything Change?

From “Edward Snowden’s nightmare comes true,” Philip Ewing, Politico:

“Snowden’s worst fear, by his own account, was that ‘nothing will change.’

“One month after the Guardian’s first story…there has been no public movement in Washington to stop the [FISA] court from issuing another such order.  Congress has no intelligence reform bill that wold rein in the phone-tracking, or Internet monitoring, or cyberattack-planning, or any of the other secret government workings that Snowden’s disclosures have revealed.

“There is no modern-day Sen. Frank Church ready to convene historic hearings about the intelligence community….  Far from having been surprised by Snowden’s disclosures, today’s intelligence committee leaders stepped right up to defend the NSA’s surveillance programs.  From Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, to Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, they’ve been nearly unanimous in their support.”

“One of the things for people who obsess about this stuff, like I do, is we don’t know what we’re buying and we don’t know what we’re paying for this service,” [University of Southern California law professor Jack] Lerner said.  We’re paying with our privacy, and we had a sense that we’re not paying very much…but we’re learning that maybe there is a cost, and maybe the cost is more than we thought it was.”

My strong sense at this point, with a lot more still to learn, is that we have gone overboard in the name of security at the expense of privacy.  We need a Frank Church to get us back in balance.