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Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:39 AM

Why the Snowden Leak Is Such a Big Deal

First off, the Constitution is important. Even the President said he "welcomed" this discussion, though one wonders how seriously the President meant it. The smears against Snowden have already begun, and the DOJ has already launched a criminal probe targeting Snowden. Ultimately, I think this is a great discussion to have, and it is well-timed to minimize the damage that it might do to either Obama or the Democratic Party (after Obama's re-election, after his expected honeymoon period, and yet 17 months before the mid-term elections). I think Snowden and Greenwald timed this release very carefully and prudently. That said, the 4th Amendment matters to many, many Americans, and it's good to have this discussion.

Second, and more importantly, I don't think we have grasped, yet, the implications of the information Snowden released. So far, most of the discussion I have seen centers on whether the NSA's data-collection activities violate the rights of Americans. But what about the rights of the rest of the people in the world? What's most embarrassing, here, is that Snowden and Greenwald have just announced, to the entire world, that the U.S. has the capability (and assumes it has the right) to capture and record not only meta-data from phone calls but all digital information (from any source) that passes through internet servers in the United States. What's more, 4th Amendment protections do not apply to non-citizens, so the world now knows that we are recording all data that comes into the country (via phone or internet) and we reserve the right to look at any or all of it, for any reason, at any time, without any real oversight. Even if there is some kind of judicial or Congressional oversight, certainly foreign governments have no oversight capability in regards to this data.

This, I think, is enormous. I suspect our allies already knew about the program. We probably told them, but just because allied governments were advised, that does not mean that their citizens knew anything about it. Now they do. I have no idea what will happen as a result, but I think this is a very, very delicate time for the United States and for the world.

Just food for thought.



-Laelth

123 replies, 21151 views

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Arrow 123 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why the Snowden Leak Is Such a Big Deal (Original post)
Laelth Jun 2013 OP
randome Jun 2013 #1
Laelth Jun 2013 #2
JaneyVee Jun 2013 #3
Laelth Jun 2013 #5
JaneyVee Jun 2013 #12
Laelth Jun 2013 #60
Comrade Grumpy Jun 2013 #83
bvar22 Jun 2013 #100
Skittles Jun 2013 #112
NoMoreWarNow Jun 2013 #120
nineteen50 Jun 2013 #42
Laelth Jun 2013 #89
randome Jun 2013 #6
Laelth Jun 2013 #9
randome Jun 2013 #10
Laelth Jun 2013 #59
JDPriestly Jun 2013 #95
Laelth Jun 2013 #97
nashville_brook Jun 2013 #15
randome Jun 2013 #23
nineteen50 Jun 2013 #44
morningfog Jun 2013 #57
Summer Hathaway Jun 2013 #115
morningfog Jun 2013 #116
DirkGently Jun 2013 #26
randome Jun 2013 #27
DirkGently Jun 2013 #28
randome Jun 2013 #38
DirkGently Jun 2013 #48
randome Jun 2013 #49
morningfog Jun 2013 #56
randome Jun 2013 #65
morningfog Jun 2013 #73
corkhead Jun 2013 #64
randome Jun 2013 #66
indepat Jun 2013 #92
randome Jun 2013 #94
JDPriestly Jun 2013 #96
randome Jun 2013 #109
dkf Jun 2013 #103
HipChick Jun 2013 #4
Laelth Jun 2013 #7
Recursion Jun 2013 #67
Laelth Jun 2013 #69
Recursion Jun 2013 #70
muriel_volestrangler Jun 2013 #93
Laelth Jun 2013 #98
burnodo Jun 2013 #118
Laelth Jun 2013 #121
burnodo Jun 2013 #122
Laelth Jun 2013 #123
Generic Other Jun 2013 #8
Laelth Jun 2013 #110
reformist2 Jun 2013 #11
Laelth Jun 2013 #30
reformist2 Jun 2013 #41
Laelth Jun 2013 #50
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jun 2013 #13
JaneyVee Jun 2013 #14
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jun 2013 #72
nashville_brook Jun 2013 #17
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jun 2013 #76
Laelth Jun 2013 #90
Laelth Jun 2013 #18
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jun 2013 #75
Laelth Jun 2013 #77
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jun 2013 #82
Coyotl Jun 2013 #16
Laelth Jun 2013 #19
Major Nikon Jun 2013 #21
Coyotl Jun 2013 #22
Laelth Jun 2013 #25
JoePhilly Jun 2013 #31
Laelth Jun 2013 #34
nineteen50 Jun 2013 #51
Laelth Jun 2013 #24
davidpdx Jun 2013 #32
TheMadMonk Jun 2013 #46
Laelth Jun 2013 #52
Coyotl Jun 2013 #74
nineteen50 Jun 2013 #47
flamingdem Jun 2013 #68
kwolf68 Jun 2013 #104
Coyotl Jun 2013 #108
xchrom Jun 2013 #20
Laelth Jun 2013 #87
CanonRay Jun 2013 #29
BlueStreak Jun 2013 #33
Laelth Jun 2013 #35
BlueStreak Jun 2013 #39
Laelth Jun 2013 #43
Laelth Jun 2013 #45
BlueStreak Jun 2013 #78
Laelth Jun 2013 #80
Octafish Jun 2013 #36
Laelth Jun 2013 #99
Octafish Jun 2013 #105
FairWinds Jun 2013 #37
Laelth Jun 2013 #119
AAO Jun 2013 #40
morningfog Jun 2013 #58
TxVietVet Jun 2013 #53
Laelth Jun 2013 #54
sikofit3 Jun 2013 #55
Laelth Jun 2013 #84
sofa king Jun 2013 #61
Laelth Jun 2013 #71
sofa king Jun 2013 #79
Laelth Jun 2013 #81
Laelth Jun 2013 #88
roamer65 Jun 2013 #102
Tierra_y_Libertad Jun 2013 #62
Laelth Jun 2013 #63
woo me with science Jun 2013 #85
Laelth Jun 2013 #86
Sheri Jun 2013 #91
Laelth Jun 2013 #117
Aerows Jun 2013 #101
Laelth Jun 2013 #106
Aerows Jun 2013 #107
BelgianMadCow Jun 2013 #111
Laelth Jun 2013 #113
LVZ Jun 2013 #114

Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:44 AM

1. The government also has the capability of setting fire to your house.

 

There are laws to prevent this, though. And there are apparently laws regarding the collection of data for Americans. The FISA regulations -or laws or whatever they're properly called- are in respect to 'foreign' investigations.

Absent evidence to the contrary, why would anyone assume that the government is spying on every 300 million people in this country?

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:49 AM

2. Wow. Just wow.

No concern for how this might play out in the rest of the world and how non-Americans might respond?



-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:52 AM

3. They may respond with terrorist attacks, which is why there was probably a better way to achieve

 

the goal of debating and possibly reversing this program. Not saying there is a connection, but Kabul NATO got heavily bombarded yesterday. Not to mention it could trigger a terrorist attack from the right wing nut jobs already paranoid about Govt here in the US.

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Response to JaneyVee (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:55 AM

5. Too late now. The cat is out of the bag. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #5)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:05 AM

12. Yeah, meanwhile he flees to China and I'm living in the #1 terrorist target on planet Earth.

 

And have 2 little ones with me.

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Response to JaneyVee (Reply #12)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:14 AM

60. You may be right to be concerned.

It wasn't my intent to hit the panic button, but I suspect Secretary Kerry is a very busy man at the moment. Let us hope he can minimize the dangers posed by the release of this information.

While I support transparency, I do not deny that security is important and vital. That said, the Constitution is important too. I am hoping that Obama gets on top of this and uses it to his advantage.

-Laelth

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Response to JaneyVee (Reply #12)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 01:17 PM

83. "#1 terrorist target on planet Earth." Are you posting from Baghdad?

 

Because 500 people were killed in terror attacks in Iraq last month alone.

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #83)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 06:48 PM

100. Blinded by American Exceptionalism,

...and the great American obsession,
Its ALL about ME!

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Response to bvar22 (Reply #100)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:24 PM

112. CORRECT!!!

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Response to bvar22 (Reply #100)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 07:34 AM

120. exactly-- America is VERY safe overall. Don't give into the fear!

 

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Response to JaneyVee (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:15 AM

42. When all your actions are war like

there are consequences

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Response to nineteen50 (Reply #42)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 03:16 PM

89. I admit to a good deal of shame ...

... considering all the things the U.S. has done in my name since about 1995. That said, Obama is far better than Shrub.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:56 AM

6. That's for diplomats to worry about. Not me.

 

And of course none of this would be an issue if Snowden didn't pass national security documents to Greenwald.

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Response to randome (Reply #6)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:58 AM

9. Too late now. The cat's out of the bag.

No use crying over spilt milk. (It's funny how many cliches we have for this sentiment).

Not for you to worry about? Strange, you seem to be quite worried about this mess given your numerous posts on the subject.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #9)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:01 AM

10. It's an interesting news item.

 

I enjoy threads that have vociferous proponents on both sides of an issue. They help me clarify my own positions.

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Response to randome (Reply #10)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:04 AM

59. That it is. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:20 PM

95. I reported on the Austrian reaction from Der Standard,

a serious Austrian newspaper.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022986061

The French reaction in Le Monde seemed to me to be more just reporting on events. The comments were interesting. People were worried about their privacy on Facebook and other social networks.

To sum up the Austrian article, for about two years, the Europeans have been trying to negotiate an agreement under which Europeans would have to right to sue for privacy violations in American courts and under which American companies operating in Europe would have to follow European guidelines on protecting the privacy of information.

Also, I read somewhere that Angela Merkel is planning to discuss this issue with President Obama when he visits next week.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #95)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:31 PM

97. Thanks for that. I will take a look. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:16 AM

15. given your dim view of our rights -- why do want to live here?

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #15)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:31 AM

23. 'Rights' mean different things to different people.

 

We give them up in some manner every hour of every day.

What I really get tired of hearing, though, are amorphous phrases like 'tearing up the Constitution' or 'violating our rights', as if those were strictly facts and not opinions. Those phrases mean different things to different people, too.

Absent evidence to the contrary, I'm not going to assume that anyone is spying on me.

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Response to randome (Reply #23)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:18 AM

44. Ignorance is bliss and

knowledge is power

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Response to randome (Reply #23)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:54 AM

57. If you are a Verizon customer, you KNOW you are being spied on.

 

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Response to morningfog (Reply #57)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 02:11 AM

115. What constitutes 'spying'?

Everyone's phone service provider has their phone records. Is every provider 'spying' on their customers by virtue of having that information?

Having access to someone's personal info (which doctors, lawyers, banks, accountants, investment firms, etc. all have), does that mean they are 'spying' on you?

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Response to Summer Hathaway (Reply #115)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 06:39 AM

116. Of course not. The difference is consent and purpose.

 

You enter a contract with the service provider, not with the government.

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:37 AM

26. Well, our own "secret court" already ruled PRISM broke the law.


https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/06/government-says-secret-court-opinion-law-underlying-prism-program-needs-stay


So there is evidence they were violating the Constitution. The fact they managed to keep most people from understanding that by also ruling the decision saying it was illegal "secret" demonstrates how badly we need disclosure.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #26)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:42 AM

27. The case is still winding its way through the system.

 

I have no problem with how it ultimately turns out. The system doesn't work very well when someone passes classified information to a newspaper and there is no compelling 'emergency' to their action.

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Response to randome (Reply #27)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:46 AM

28. No. The ruling PRISM was illegal is done. What's "winding it's way through


the system" is the administration's argument that no one can ever review the ruling explaining how the Constitution was violated, and how the program has been changed so it's not illegal going forward.

It's like your accountant telling you he was caught embezzling your money, but it's okay now because he's changed his practices, so just let him keep handling your assets -- in secret.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #28)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:11 AM

38. I don't quite follow the article you linked to.

 

It doesn't directly say PRISM is unconstitutional, only one aspect of the FISA law as undertaken by the NSA.

But if PRISM is ruled unconstitutional, then of course it should be shut down.

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Response to randome (Reply #38)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:21 AM

48. In 2011, PRISM was found to be violating the Constitution.


We haven't heard much, or had any discussion, because all of that is part of the secret FISA court system.

EFF and others have been trying to get the ruling released, so we can at least all see how the law was being broken in the first place, and better understand what it is that has changed that the administration would contend now makes its activities legal.

But the administration has crafted (or adopted from the Bush administration) a legal argument that no court, anywhere -- including the FISA court itself -- has the authority to release a FISA ruling, even one that was about a violation of the law by the executive branch.

In a rare public filing in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Justice Department today urged continued secrecy for a 2011 FISC opinion that found the National Security Agency's surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act to be unconstitutional. Significantly, the surveillance at issue was carried out under the same controversial legal authority that underlies the NSA’s recently-revealed PRISM program.

EFF filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2012, seeking disclosure of the FISC ruling. Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall revealed the existence of the opinion, which found that collection activities under FISA Section 702 "circumvented the spirit of the law” and violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. But, at the time, the Senators were not permitted to discuss the details publicly. Section 702 has taken on new importance this week, as it appears to form the basis for the extensive PRISM surveillance program reported recently in the Guardian and the Washington Post.

The government sought to block EFF’s FOIA suit by arguing that only the FISC, itself, can release the opinion. In an effort to remove that roadblock, EFF filed a motion with the FISC on April 22 seeking the surveillance court’s consent to disclosure, should the document be found to be otherwise subject to release under FOIA. In its response filed with the FISC today, the government offers a circular argument, asserting that only the Executive Branch can de-classify the opinion, but that it is somehow prohibited by the FISC rules from doing so.


Which brings us back to the Bush Doctrine, which contends that, in matters the Executive deems to be of national security importance, the Executive can decide what is legal on its own, AND if the secret court system designed to oversee secret warrants finds it has misinterpreted or violated the law, NO ONE CAN EVER KNOW HOW.

What's interesting about the "leak" story is that the administration is now rushing to explain how PRISM works to refute the supposed details reported. Which already defeats its original position that we can't discuss PRISM or how PRISM was unconstitutional, and must take the Executive's word that they're now conducting only legal super-secret surveillance.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #48)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:25 AM

49. Snowden may have forced their hand on being more forthcoming.

 

I don't see that as a good move, however, while the legal maneuvering is still going on. But time will tell.

And thanks for the clarity.

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:54 AM

56. You are getting sloppy. Understandably, these are hard to blindly defend

 

US citizen customers of Verizon are not "foreign." Collection of all call data of all US customers every day is not a "foreign" investigation. It is a dragnet. It is data mining. A warrant ordering all the data of all the customers everyday is no different than warrantless collection of such data.

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Response to morningfog (Reply #56)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:43 AM

65. If you are looking for calling patterns, how would you pull only the numbers you want...

 

...without first knowing if they fit the pattern?

I think this is analogous to Verizon handing over, say, a detachable hard drive with the data on it, NSA runs a program to copy the numbers that fit the pattern and then...?

You can't selectively pull only the numbers you want if you don't know what numbers you want.

This is just a consequence of the Information Age. Enormous amounts of data are stored in very small places.

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Response to randome (Reply #65)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:18 PM

73. You start with a suspect or person of interest that you can

 

state a probable cause to need to monitor. Then, you can look at that person's call patterns. You can't go fishing and data mining of everyone. There is not probable cause that everyone is subject to being watched.

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:38 AM

64. It's not likely they can set fire to it with out your knowing about it. Besides, it would'nt be them

they would contract it out.

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Response to corkhead (Reply #64)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:45 AM

66. But they could do that at any time. The only thing that prevents them are laws.

 

To a certain extent, we do need to trust some of the bureaucracy. If we didn't, there would not be enough hours in the day to micro-manage the country.

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:03 PM

92. Americans should have no worry assuming all involved, including contractors, are assiduously honest,

truthful, dependable, loyal, trustworthy, would never cheat, lie, or have an axe to grind, and are not greedy or larcenous.

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Response to indepat (Reply #92)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:07 PM

94. Like it or not, we would not be able to function without trusting the bureaucracy a little.

 

Absent evidence to the contrary, I'm not going to say I know better how the NSA or the FBI or anyone else should do their jobs. Again, absent evidence to the contrary. So far, all we have is Snowden's word and he is hiding somewhere in Hong Kong.

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Response to randome (Reply #94)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:28 PM

96. Trust has to be earned. So far our NSA has not proven its

trustworthiness, and this is another huge blow to the reputation of is integrity, its honesty and its support of the ideals of democracy. Once again, the NSA is on the outside looking in and while it may think that is its job, I think a lot of Americans feel that the NSA should be under he purview of our legal system, our courts and our law. It should be operating outside the Constitution which is the highest law of the land.

The Obama administration could end the controversy in the flick of a finger by just giving us the guidelines for all surveillance programs.

Sure. That would let the bad guys know how we catch them. But what is wrong with that? It might stop them from even trying. Obama promised transparency. Where is it?

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #96)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:46 PM

109. I would not have a problem with anything you suggested.

 

I do keep a certain level of trust in the agencies that operate outside my realm of expertise, though. I won't pretend to know what's best for intelligence services anymore than I would pretend to tell a fireman how to do his job.

Again, absent evidence to the contrary. I don't see that the NSA has betrayed my trust at this point. It may not be as open as I would like but that's not the same thing as being untrustworthy, IMO.

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Response to randome (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 06:51 PM

103. The government also has the capability of collecting all the data you've ever produced...

 

But we have the 4th amendment to prevent that...oh wait...

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:54 AM

4. The UK has been using Prism for years

so it's not like it's some US Centric secret

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Response to HipChick (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:56 AM

7. Indeed. As I said in the OP, we probably told our allies.

I was unaware that we allowed the UK to access the database, but, if that's true, it would not surprise me.

-Laelth

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Response to HipChick (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:48 AM

67. The level of surveillance in Europe would horrify most Americans

Cameras pretty much everywhere, and no 4th Amendment to begin with.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #67)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:56 AM

69. You're right, of course.

However, it's one thing when your own government has you under tight surveillance. It's completely different, I suspect, to learn that a foreign government is recording your online and telephone activity.

So far, I haven't had a chance to examine much of the coverage on this issue from Europe, but I will say this. Readers of the Guardian (in the comments section) are about 90%-10% pro-Snowden.

Here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #69)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:58 AM

70. If this gets other countries to move to a more decentralized Internet, great

That's been a weakness of the Internet's design since the beginning, that the US has too much control over it.

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Response to Laelth (Reply #69)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:07 PM

93. The UK govt is saying that it's not circumventing UK law by using PRISM

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22839090

and that it's following the proper rules when it gets information on Britons via it. Most of the rest of allies are worried by it:

World leaders seek answers on US collection of communication data

Data protection chiefs and analysts in EU, Pakistan, South Africa and Canada express concerns at revelations in leaks

Leading Europeans, from Angela Merkel down to information chiefs across the continent, are lining up to grill American counterparts on the Prism surveillance programmes, amid mounting fury that the private information of EU nationals will have been caught up in the data dragnet.

With Merkel set to bring up the issue with Barack Obama next week, and the European commission vice-president, Viviane Reding, eager to grill US officials at a meeting in Dublin on Friday, the issue looks set to dominate a week of summitry. Reding, who is responsible for data protection in Europe, is to seek clarification on whether the access to personal data in the Prism programme is limited to individual cases, is based on concrete suspicion or if wider sets of data are being accessed.

Peter Schaar, Germany's federal data protection commissioner, told the Guardian that it was unacceptable for the US authorities to have access to EU citizens' data and that the level of protection was lower than that guaranteed to US citizens.

"So far, the US has no adequate level of data protection guaranteed in law and with independent oversight, like in Europe," he told the Guardian. "It's essential for me that we cannot ignore anymore the question of what happens with the data of the private sector if it's collected by US or third-party companies and public authorities want to surveil this data.
...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/10/european-reaction-us-surveillance-revelations

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #93)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:39 PM

98. Excellent post. Thanks.

This excerpt is telling and somewhat representative:

Antonello Soro, head of the Italian data-protection authority, said he was "very concerned" by the consequences of the surveillance on the privacy of European and Italian citizens.

"A gathering of data of this capacity, so indiscriminate and generalised, going beyond any evidence of crime, would not be legal in Italy and, if it were to happen, would be contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation," he told the Guardian in a statement.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/10/european-reaction-us-surveillance-revelations


Land of the free, huh?

-Laelth

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Response to Recursion (Reply #67)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 06:53 AM

118. So...that makes it better?

 

Is the US better than Europe? Do you think our system is better than their system?

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Response to burnodo (Reply #118)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 08:15 AM

121. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I took no oath in regards to Europe. My comment, above, was merely intended to highlight the fact that the rest of the world does care about our data-collection activities, and most of them appear to be upset about it (thus their admiration for Snowden). As I said in a separate OP, President Obama would generate tremendous goodwill, globally and at home, if he were to come out against the collection of this data.

That argument is here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022979078

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #121)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 08:18 AM

122. Hi

 

I wasn't't responding to you. My point to Recursion was it doesn't matter what Europe does with its civil liberties. It matters what Americans do based on the system we purport to have.

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Response to burnodo (Reply #122)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 08:28 AM

123. Whoops. Sorry, but thanks for the kick. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:57 AM

8. Like all my foreign relatives are using a jail telephone to talk to me

and the jailer is breathing down my neck.

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Response to Generic Other (Reply #8)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:58 PM

110. Good analogy. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:03 AM

11. It's also important because he makes it *real* - now people are interested and will follow the story

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Response to reformist2 (Reply #11)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:55 AM

30. It's an important discussion for us to have.

It may be the case that creeping fascism and the surveillance state have already won, and that it's too late to go back. Perhaps the NSA simply can not be stopped.

But it's only going to get worse from here unless the NSA's activities are either completely stopped or significantly curtailed now. That makes this the best, and perhaps last, chance we are going to have to slow or stop the growth of the police state.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #30)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:13 AM

41. It's not too late to cut way back on internet/phone use. I think it's the only solution, actually.


The NSA's dream is that we all spend all our lives online. If we ever reversed course and started, you know, actually talking in real life, away from their eavesdropping ears, they would freak out.

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Response to reformist2 (Reply #41)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:27 AM

50. I suppose.

Frankly, I think we're far too addicted to the internet now. I don't see us giving it up.

What I do see, however, is a very real possibility that the rest of the world (or big chunks of it) may sever their ties to the US internet unless we change course dramatically in regards to our handling of all the data we have been collecting.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:07 AM

13. Someone leaked this information to Greenwald. We all should be concerned about that.

 

But from the looks of it, we're just looking for ways to beat up on the president. What else is new?

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Response to Liberal_Stalwart71 (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:16 AM

14. No one seems concerned that a person who lives in a foreign country now holds classified info.

 

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Response to JaneyVee (Reply #14)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:18 PM

72. Exactly!! That's what is so disconcerning. We're not paying attention to the real story here.

 

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Response to Liberal_Stalwart71 (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:20 AM

17. i think Obama would agree that the Constitution is bigger than he is.

The president can choose to change this as he campaigned on -- or he can take the heat for not doing anything to protect the Constitution from dismantlement. It's his choice.

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #17)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:24 PM

76. He agrees and so do I. Unlike others who somehow think that the president's intentions are evil

 

or that he is corrupt, I truly believe that he is trying to do the right thing...at least wants to do the right thing. And who's to say that he's not putting in the work to find out what happened and correct it?

I just don't think he's the horrible, evil, Bush-like figure that so many here and elsewhere are painting him to be.

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #17)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 04:00 PM

90. +1 Well said. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Liberal_Stalwart71 (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:21 AM

18. I have no desire to "beat up" on the President.

I voted for Obama twice. His justice department just intervened in a local issue that is near and dear to my heart. I have gripes about Obama, but I certainly prefer him running the Executive Branch (as opposed to Mitt Romney).

This is not about the President to me, and I suspect I am not alone in that sentiment.

Why, I wonder, is everything about the President to some posters here?



-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #18)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:21 PM

75. Yep. You've been around long enough to know that it's ALWAYS about the president...

 

...even when it shouldn't be.

My general point, as some have also noted, that the real story about this guy having classified information. To me, that's a bigger worry and a larger fish to fry.

What I'm seeing all over DU, the liberal bloggosphere and the Corporate-run media is that somehow, some way, Obama should be impeached; he is worse than Bush (note the morphing of Obama and Bush photo released last week); or something that he did or didn't do.

I don't always make it about Obama. Those folks on BOTH sides of the ideological spectrum seem to make it about him.

I wish it were more about the case. I wish it were more about the dysfunction of our government. I wish it were more about the real issues and not about demonizing (or glorifying, if that's the case) one man.

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Response to Liberal_Stalwart71 (Reply #75)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:30 PM

77. The right wants to make it about Obama, no doubt.

It is disturbing that Snowden had this data to release, but that's the angle of this story that has me quite cautious. I have no idea how he got it, nor do I have any idea how vulnerable the data may be. On this topic, I really do need to see some more facts before I chime in.

Nevertheless, I hear you, and I share your concerns about potentially lax security.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #77)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 01:09 PM

82. I work for the federal government, so believe me, I'm very concerned about security.

 

I respond to these posts using my own personal computer. It's been a concern long before Obama entered the stage.

But you're right: I have to read up more on the details. I don't know what to believe, really. All the details aren't out yet and we're still learning more about what happened.

I wish there were more folks around here who are as reasoned and fair-minded as you. So many react in a knee-jerk fashion before the facts even come out.

Why not wait until those facts are clear and not tainted either by the administration, the corporate media, or the naysayers who just want someone to point the finger act.

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:18 AM

16. You are quite mistaken.

 

First, the revelations are NOT news. You can read all about it in the DU archives from 2007-2009.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=2980746

Anyone in the world with an internet connection could know all the details about the myriad programs, of which PRISM is just one and the NSA just one of the agencies.

What is being fomented now is a new outrage front, the right-wing-nut amnesiacs who defended Bush no matter how illegal his actions are currently being whipped into an anti-Obama frenzy by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Rand Paul, and their ilk because the USA has a spy program (that could be used to take away their guns).

What is happening now is an orchestrated media show to hang Bush's spying programs on Obama as a lead up to the next election cycles.
The timing "is perfect" because it takes time to accomplish such a change in perceptions with constant reinforcement.

FACTS, not "Just food for thought. "

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:25 AM

19. Frankly, I hope you are right. That's better than the alternative.

Your suspicions about what is happening may be correct. Your suspicions, I note, are not FACTS, as you insist.

If this is just a big media ploy to damage Democrats, I think it was timed very poorly. Furthermore, I don't think it will work. If Obama plays it right, it could be a boon to Democrats, as I argued here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022979078

-Laelth

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:27 AM

21. The next thing you know there will be x-ray machines and pat downs at airports

And it will all be Obama's fault.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #21)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:31 AM

22. I don't always blame Obama

 





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Response to Coyotl (Reply #22)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:34 AM

25. For most of us, this isn't about Obama.

As I said elsewhere, I voted for Obama twice. His justice department just intervened in a local issue that is near and dear to my heart. I have gripes about Obama, but I certainly prefer him running the Executive Branch (as opposed to Mitt Romney).

This is not about the President to me, and I suspect I am not alone in that sentiment.

Why, I wonder, is everything about the President to some posters here?



-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #25)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:59 AM

31. Read the OPs that attack Obama endlessly here on DU.

And not just on this topic.

I suspect if one did a count, the OPs attacking Obama out number those in support, by about 3 or 4 to 1, if not higher.

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Response to JoePhilly (Reply #31)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:06 AM

34. There are some of those, yes.

And there's no doubt that Republicans are loving this. I hear you.

That said, I think the President could make some really good lemonade out of these lemons, as I argued here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022979078

I hope he seizes this opportunity.

-Laelth

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Response to JoePhilly (Reply #31)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:46 AM

51. He is the president

political attacks are park of the presidency. He doesn't seem unable to handle criticism.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #21)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:32 AM

24. Actually, the nudie scanners were Obama's doing.

Then he changed course. Now we have "almost-nudie" scanners. Obama wisely scaled back (a bit) government surveillance power in this area, and I am glad that he did.

I still resent the "almost-nudie" scanners and the pat downs. The best I can say is that it could be worse.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #24)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:00 AM

32. I went through airport security with a ankle boot almost 2 years ago

Two weeks before going to the US I broke my ankle. Like the numskull I am I walked on it for two days before I went to the doctor.

I flew from Seoul to San Francisco, San Francisco to Southern Oregon, Portland to San Francisco, San Francisco to Seoul, then about a week after I got back I flew from Seoul to Shanghai. All of this happened within a period of about a month.

When I went through I notified them immediately about my boot and told them they could do a pat down. With the boot, it was easier just to defer and let them do it then make a fuss and be uncomfortable. They let me sit on a chair and I just let them do their thing. I planned additional time just in case. Most of the time they just waved a wand over my boot. One time they tested it for explosives (which was actually kind of interesting because I was asking them about it).

(And don't ask me how the vacation went, it was terrible. I came down with pneumonia and was in the hospital for 5 days. I was like a walking disaster during that month.).

I think my boot should have gotten frequent flier miles.

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:20 AM

46. Well perhaps OBAMA should not have been so frigging stupid...

 

...as to take ownership of Bush's illegal baggage.

You know, people were warning this would happen way back when the silly bugger took office. So don't be so bloody surprised now.

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Response to TheMadMonk (Reply #46)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:47 AM

52. I still think he can make lemonade from this lemon.

He owns the mess now. He's the President, and he can't escape responsibility for it, but he could turn it to his advantage, as I argued here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022979078

-Laelth

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Response to TheMadMonk (Reply #46)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:20 PM

74. Congress did that, not Obama, when they passed retroactive immunity.

 

Albeit, it is worth the effort to look over Obama's voting record as a Senator.

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:21 AM

47. It wasn't right then

and it isn't right now.

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:52 AM

68. Agree with most of this Glenn Beck morphed into Greenwald

for the purposes of attacking Obama here.

But the idea of privatizing information gathering seems so heinous that this might be worth a frenzy.

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Response to Coyotl (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:10 PM

104. Yea if it's Bush's programs


And Obama does nothing to curtail them then he is culpable. The Bush stink now hangs around Obama's neck, because Obama allowed it to.

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Response to kwolf68 (Reply #104)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:41 PM

108. Let's see, to change the laws signed by Bush, Obama only needs the cooperation of Republicans

 

Yeah, that's going to happen

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:27 AM

20. du rec.

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Response to xchrom (Reply #20)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 02:06 PM

87. Thanks. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:52 AM

29. Another blow to the world's opinion of us

Land of the free? PRISM makes that a joke.

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:04 AM

33. It is an excellent point about our arrogance on the world stage

 

Much of the world, and many of our strongest allies do not believe this is necessary or even related to the "war on terror". We have seen over and over again where heavy-handed policies carried out by our right-wing politicians and the mega-corporations they support have been rejected by the Europeans.

That is probably one of the bigger reasons why our government is so super-secretive about it. It isn't about keeping the terrorists from knowing about it. They already figured out phone monitoring -- even the perfectly Constitutional phone monitoring -- was a hazard. And they take counter-measures already.

It would be very interesting to see all the State Department people shitting their pants this week trying to explain to Germany, France, and everybody else why we have their citizens under surveillance.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #33)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:09 AM

35. I suspect Secretary Kerry is very, very busy at the moment.

This is, in fact, a big deal.

I wish him well and hope he has enough diplomatic skill and tact to gracefully handle this delicate matter.

-Laelth


Edit:Laelth--forgot that we recently went through a key change at State (Kerry instead of Clinton). My bad.

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Response to Laelth (Reply #35)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:12 AM

39. You mean Kerry, right? But it is an interesting question about Clinton as well

 

She was in the middle of this for 4 years. We don't know how much of that she knew about, but probably had a pretty good idea.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #39)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:16 AM

43. Sorry. Yes, of course. Let me correct that, if I can.

My bad.

-Laelth

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #39)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:19 AM

45. I wonder whether her resignation had anything to do with this.

It's an interesting question, to be sure.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #45)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:37 PM

78. I doubt it. That would suppose that she is against it, and that is doubtful.

 

Government people are all for the authoritarian state. That's what gives them a very handsome living. Across the spectrum, they actually seem genuinely surprised that the people are offended by the magnitude and sheer arrogance of such a program. I don't think the thought ever even crossed their minds.

I don't expect this issue will resonate (in its present incarnation) at the time when Hillary is ready to start her campaign. But I do believe that we are looking at a major issue here that every candidate will have to be at least somewhat accountable for.

Right now, politicians are in a state of shock. They never expected to strike a nerve here. After all, the citizens had every opportunity to study the Patriot Act in detail, right?

In the next few weeks, we should see some of these politicians emerge from their bunkers and start to craft a new position publicly. Now is the time to really put the pressure on them.

It is not just the collection of the phone records, or the Internet monitoring. This is part and parcel of a totalitarian, fascist state that exists to feed vast amounts of money from the pockets of the commoners to the well-connected private companies, and specifically to their executives who are joined at the hip with the politicians. I see very little difference between this Big Data effort and the so-called "war on drugs" that has done absolutely noting to reduce Americans' addiction to drugs, but has generated enormous profits for the private prison industry.

Follow the money. In the American system, that will always lead you to the truth. Follow the money.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #78)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:41 PM

80. Spot on. I do not disagree with a word you wrote.



-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:09 AM

36. Democracy or Fascism

That's the choice: We the People are free to decide our government and its policies vs. Money is Speech (and Political Power) get to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want.

Snowden chose Democracy.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #36)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 06:36 PM

99. A much better choice, I think most of us would agree.

The question is whether all of this is coming too late.



-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #99)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:14 PM

105. The PTB are getting hot under the collar as we reach the Tipping Point or whatever it is.

The plan to make the planet into a China sweatshop may've been exposed, thanks in large part to a few brave whistleblowers and the millions who give a damn across the nation and around the world.

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:11 AM

37. Correction

 

The U.S. gummint can and does intercept all manner of data, INCLUDING that which does not pass "through internet servers in the United States". They have the capacity to intercept data transmissions just about anywhere on the planet, and they do.

". . the U.S. has the capability (and assumes it has the right) to capture and record not only meta-data from phone calls but all digital information (from any source) that passes through internet servers in the United States. What's more, 4th Amendment protections do not apply to non-citizens, so the world now knows that we are recording all data that comes into the country . ."

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Response to FairWinds (Reply #37)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 07:07 AM

119. On this topic (actual spying capability) I remain cautious.

We simply do not know how much data the NSA is collecting, nor do we know where they're getting it all from. I have no reason to doubt your claims, but I have little concrete evidence either way. Let us hope that this discussion provides some real revelations about the NSA's capabilities so that we can better judge whether the NSA's practices are worth the loss of freedom that they entail.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:12 AM

40. I guess Bradley will soon have some company...

 

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Response to AAO (Reply #40)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:55 AM

58. The stuggle 4 secrecy has already begun the character assassination of Snowden.

 

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:47 AM

53. The word "Echelon" ring a bell? This type of activity has been around for years.

The US and it's Anglo allies Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand have been doing this type of monitoring for many years.
When 911 happened, the conservanazis under bu$h knew they had a chance to get all the privacy issues out of the way to monitor the US' and the conservanazis political issues. If I remember, there was an incident where an ATT employee blew the whistle about the government had a secret room in San Francisco, CA where they were just dumping all the data to the NSA/government. Later after it all came to light, the government changed some of the laws including the Patriot Act to do this. BUT, the bu$h/cheney regime probably did THOUSANDS of unwarranted wiretaps until they got tired of the complaints of media that they gave up and used warrants (so bu$h/cheney said).

What I amazed by is that most of the people who complain about this must have been asleep during all this going on.

You have to assume that all your Internet activity and any broadcast communications is being monitored. BTW, many years ago, I was in the military branch of the NSA and have a little knowledge of how it's done. I'm no expert, but wake up, they ARE listening and have been for many, many years.

http://www.fas.org/irp/program/process/echelon.htm


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON

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Response to TxVietVet (Reply #53)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:52 AM

54. Perhaps so.

I have no reason to doubt your word regarding the claims you make in your post.

But isn't this a good time to talk about it? Isn't this, perhaps, the last, best chance we will ever have to curb this kind of activity? Shouldn't we do so?

As I said above, perhaps it's too late. Perhaps there's no going back. I don't know, but I do think Obama could turn this mess to his advantage, as I suggested here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022979078

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:53 AM

55. Well said

NT

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Response to sikofit3 (Reply #55)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 01:40 PM

84. Thanks. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:17 AM

61. The big deal is that the Chinese are better at espionage.

Look, not one of these disclosures is particularly new to anyone who has been reading this forum for the past ten years.

What is new is that the Chinese aren't putting up with the US noting Tienanmen Square and tisk-tisking them for human rights violations. Now, when we do that, they're making sure we see that our own emperor has no clothes, either.

Because this guy is already in China and under the protection of the Chinese, we can easily conclude the following:

1) This kid, knowingly or otherwise, was exploited and turned by Chinese intelligence. He could have gone to them after the fact but chances are much better that they were in control of the timing and extent of the disclosures;

2) The information he offered was insignificant and expendable to the Chinese, by comparison to all of the other venues of information collection they already have;

3) So instead they allowed their source to expose himself and used the information to embarrass the United States.

The genuinely important thing here is that the Chinese simply don't care what an NSA contractor knows, because they already know what he knows. So his information can be freely disclosed and squandered as a propaganda operation.

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Response to sofa king (Reply #61)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:12 PM

71. Very interesting perspective.

I doubt it is accidental that Snowden is in China, but I would hope that our espionage is better than theirs. I am fairly certain that we spend a lot more money on it.

-Laelth


Edit:Laelth--added a crucial qualifier.

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Response to Laelth (Reply #71)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:39 PM

79. What if we're spending the money....

... and they have free access to the results?

That was always one of the theoretical roadblocks to turning your nation into a police state and spying on your own citizens: the information you generate is of equal or greater value to your rivals, and can be used against you in a myriad of ways, if they can get to it, which apparently they can.

For example, the Chinese may have been led to this fellow by looking more closely at information from within NSA than NSA itself did, and getting to that guy first.

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Response to sofa king (Reply #79)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 01:07 PM

81. That's always a possibility.

That prospect is, in fact, quite disturbing.

The President is in China now to "discuss" Chinese hacking (presumably, among other things). One wonders what else has been hacked (beyond what we know already).

Thanks for the insight.

-Laelth

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Response to sofa king (Reply #79)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 02:18 PM

88. The new cover of Time seems prescient.



Disturbing.

-Laelth

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Response to sofa king (Reply #61)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 06:51 PM

102. I think the Chinese would let him expend the more general weaker intel.

My guess is that he probably has very detailed information on our programs relating to China. That is what won't get revealed and the what the Chinese really want.

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:21 AM

62. Unfortunately, some narcissistic troublemakers in Philadeplphia leaked the 4th Amendment.

 

Which has caused untold amounts of trouble to our government ever since.

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Response to Tierra_y_Libertad (Reply #62)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 11:24 AM

63. Hehe. Well said. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 02:00 PM

86. Be sure to read Daniel Ellsberg's editorial on the Snowden leak.

Ellsberg says, "In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an "executive coup" against the US constitution."

Here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/10/edward-snowden-united-stasi-america

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 04:50 PM

91. if we weren't so rich and powerful, we'd be shunned.

we'd be a pariah nation stat.

but we are rich and powerful. nobody can do anything about it, i don't think, not even China.

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Response to Sheri (Reply #91)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 06:48 AM

117. You may be right about that.

Still, I do worry about the image we project to the world. If we want to avoid future terrorist attacks, a less belligerent foreign policy might serve us well.

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 06:51 PM

101. Well here's to

 

some phenomenal apolgetics.

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Response to Aerows (Reply #101)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:33 PM

106. Thanks, I guess?

I appreciate the kick, regardless.



-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Reply #106)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:37 PM

107. You're welcome n/t

 

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:11 PM

111. Thank you for thinking about that litlle "rest of the world"

Highly appreciated. But I will seek out open source alternatives to all companies involved and to anything IT-related made or designed in the US, and promote them aggressively. I'm sure you understand.

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Response to BelgianMadCow (Reply #111)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:50 PM

113. I would not blame you one bit. n/t

-Laelth

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Response to Laelth (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:15 PM

114. ... echoes of George Orwell

http://hypercube.us/forum/index.php?topic=1526.msg11362#msg11362

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Edward-Snowden-Support-Page/341149745987400

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act."-George Orwell



“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites.

The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal.

We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

― George Orwell, 1984


The passage above clearly describes the odd mutation that has become the new Republican Party and a fair number of Democrats too.



http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/10/edward-snowden-united-stasi-america

from Daniel Ellsberg

In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:

"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America's intelligence gathering capability – which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era – "at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left."

That has now happened. That is what Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. The NSA, FBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers over our own citizens that the Stasi – the secret police in the former "democratic republic" of East Germany – could scarcely have dreamed of. Snowden reveals that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America.

So we have fallen into Senator Church's abyss. The questions now are whether he was right or wrong that there is no return from it, and whether that means that effective democracy will become impossible. A week ago, I would have found it hard to argue with pessimistic answers to those conclusions.

But with Edward Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage – in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself – I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss.

Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate the revelations by Snowden and, I hope, others to come might lead us to bring NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the bill of rights.

Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA's surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we're trying to protect.

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