There Are Many Reasons Not To Give The NSA The Power To Spy On Your Info

from the here-are-just-a-few dept

We were just noting that the Senate is undergoing a fight concerning whether or not the Cybersecurity Act is going to go anywhere, with much of the fight being a tug of war over your privacy. Senators Franken, Paul and Schumer are supporting an amendment to add in more privacy protections. Senators McCain and Hutchison are looking to take away privacy protections and give the NSA much more power to violate your privacy and access your private info, with less oversight and without it having anything to do with cybersecurity.

The folks over at EFF have put together a nice list of reasons why the NSA cannot be trusted with your data. There are a bunch of reasons, but here are a few:
  • NSA has a dark history of violating Americans’ constitutional rights

    In the 1960’s, a Congressional investigation, led by four-term Senator Frank Church, found that the NSA had engaged in widespread and warrantless spying on Americans citizens. Church was so stunned at what he found, he remarked that the National Security Agency’s "capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything." (emphasis added) The investigation led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which provided stronger privacy protections for Americans’ communications—that is, until it was weakened by the USA-PATRIOT Act and other reactions to 9/11.

  • NSA has continued its warrantless wiretapping scandal

    In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the NSA set up a massive warrantless wiretapping program shortly after 9/11, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and several federal laws. This was later confirmed by virtually every major media organization in the country. It led to Congressional investigations and several ongoing lawsuits, including EFF’s. Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to grant telecom companies retroactive immunity for participating in illegal spying and severely weaken privacy safeguards for Americans communicating overseas.Since the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) passed, the NSA has continued collecting emails of Americans. A 2009 New York Times investigation described how a “significant and systemic” practice of "overcollection" of communications resulted in the NSA’s intercepting millions of purely domestic emails and phone calls between Americans. In addition, documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU, although heavily redacted, revealed "that violations [of the FAA and the Constitution] continued to occur on a regular basis through at least March 2010"— the last month anyone has public data for.

  • NSA recently admitted to violating the Constitution.

    Just last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence—which oversees the NSA—begrudgingly acknowledged that "on at least one occasion" the secret FISA court "held that some collection… used by the government was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment." Wired called it a "federal sidestep of a major section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," and it confirmed the many reports over the last few years: the NSA has violated the Constitution.

There are more where that came from. All of these, however, raise serious concerns about why Senators McCain and Huchison seem so eager to allow the NSA to abuse your privacy even more with their amendments. What are they thinking? The EFF has put together an action page asking you to contact your Senators (which you can do via a handy site set up by the American Library Association). The EFF site is also asking people to tweet to their Senators, using the hashtag #defendprivacy and has set up a nice tool to make that easier as well (at the "action page" link above).

In the meantime, we're still waiting for someone (anyone?) to tell us exactly why this bill is needed without resorting to hyperbole about planes falling out of the sky. If there's an existing problem with infosharing, what is it? What law, today, is blocking this kind of infosharing? Until the government can explain that, it seems weird that they're pushing for much greater spying power by the NSA and fewer privacy rights. How can they defend this when they can't even point to what the roadblocks are?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Violate the constitution?

    US Govt: YES, WE CAN!

    And pls don't try to put the blame on Obama or the Democrats. It's a generalized disease. Your politicians, with very few exceptions, either don't care about your Constitution anymore or are too clueless to see it's being and will be violated through these moronic bills.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      Agreed. What I don't understand is why organizations like the EFF are wasting everybody's time with suggestions of writing/emailing/contacting your senators. The few good ones are already fighting the good fight, and the rest are simply going to do what they need to in order to placate the general public when it becomes necessary.

      What these groups really need to be doing is helping to identify and promote viable candidates/parties outside the democratic-republican power structure.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:39am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, the current candidates see the EFF as part of the public. They can an should "waste" resources on that fight. And I don't think they should endorse any candidate directly or they'll fall in that partisan idiocy that seems to drive a large portion of the Americans. Maybe mention good moves by both Democrats and Republicans and giving those good moves good publicity would be more effective.

         

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        Dissenta (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 12:17am

        @anonymous coward

        I agree with your point. It's vitally important how we marshall our resources to respond to this massive surveillance that is rapidly being transformed into a "new normal" by "legalizing the illegal." Important not to waste our energy and time on a Congress that is virtually useless, esp since CU, and we DO need to develop parallel alternative political systems -- and fast. I worked on Jill Stein's campaign last year but commercial newsmedia largely ignored her and other third parties so they had a snowflake's chance because the public never heard of them, a simple way to control the public via newsmedia strangulation of information to maintain the two-party system (really one corporate party with two heads). Developing our own non-commercial newsmedia for dissemination of public information is vital, multiplying Democracy Now (for example), and greatly expanding public access TV with strong news programming like DN to educate the public. We know all this but must figure a way to act on it.

        Meanwhile, what do we mean by "privacy"? The term doesn't describe (to my satisfaction) the secret spying on communications that can lead to pre-emption of resistant action and suppression of protest in advance by shutting down groups. There's bedroom privacy, there are personal conversations, there's keeping my bank balance or medical records private, etc, and then there is the "privacy" of protesters' planning, to protect their planning from being pre-empted as soon as known by the police/military/corporate opposition. "Terrorists" are being substituted for "protesters" in the public mind. Mil-intel and police can surveil the phone and email exchanges and plans of protest/resistance groups and pre-empt their actions. Yet few in the press or on blogs are discussing this dimension of the corporate/NSA surveillance threat that can exercise control and pre-emptive suppression like the old Soviet Union or the old Third Reich. Why not?

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 5:13pm

      Re:

      The blame belongs primarily on the people. If they want to keep taking it and taking it, it's on them.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 10:50am

    No reason needed

    "... we're still waiting for someone (anyone?) to tell us exactly why this bill is needed... "
    Because none of your business. WE will tell you what is necessary and appropriate to keep you safe. Don't worry your pretty little head.
    Sincerely, Your Government

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:02am

    NSA has a dark history of violating Americans’ constitutional rights

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:12am

    if they pointed to what the road blocks are, everybody would know. we cant have that now, can we!

     

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    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:44am

    Hold on a second. There's a request we stand up and help get a bill passed into law to prevent the NSA from spying on us.

    Hello? Is there anyone out there paying attention to the fact they're ignoring the laws already out there?

    Call me cynical to believe this bill won't be ignored as well.


    Here's a better idea: disband the NSA and the FBI. Then, form an institution under the direct leadership of the people.

    Otherwise, these requests waste my time.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 2:02pm

      Re:

      Here's a better idea: disband the NSA and the FBI. Then, form an institution under the direct leadership of the people.

      And exactly how would be possible? The direct leadership of what people?

       

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    gorehound (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:45am

    I am truly sick and tired of all these A-Holes in Government.
    We need to get a real third party going or we need to know who to Vote for who is not already been bought and sold.

     

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    Rapnel (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:50am

    just a couple of random, harmless thoughts

    "All of these, however, raise serious concerns about why Senators McCain and Huchison seem so eager to allow the NSA to abuse your privacy even more with their amendments. What are they thinking?"

    Because they're fucking scared. Pathetically fucking scared. And they want you to be just as scared, and, for the most part, they're doing a fantastic fucking job of it aren't they? Bogey-man this, bogey-man that, but, but really, there are THREATS!. No shit? No. There are threats and then there is fundamentalist bullshit.

    How about some god damn preparation, training, education and readiness?

    My government is already far, far too powerful and my representatives are far, far too old, too rich and/or too self-serving to give two shits about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights much less adequately represent.

    Protection! Security! How about you fuck the fuck off and let somebody blow my ass up and THEN tell me or any of my relatives that happened to miss the blast I told you so because I really, really do not want to have to "I told you so" about this overwhelmingly clear and consistent march towards fascism and the role reversal of serving government whims, tricks and treats.

    Fuck. Your. Security. Laws. and a bunch-o-others as well. You fat, greedy, mostly white, tax-teet suckling fuckers.

    I want good government not this reactionary craptastik display of 'fuck-all-y'all'ed-ness, all of this "I'm right and you're not" crap. Bitches.

    Drug laws - flawed.
    Defense budgets - flawed.
    "Morals" - fuck you and your feelings
    Education budget - ? they still have some budget?
    Health budget - Free market! (works good don't it - fucks)
    Infrastructure - well, if we need jobs apparently...

    Invest in our future or don't bloody bother with security and defense - invert that shit and get it right.

    In God We Trust - All Others We Monitor .. you guys thought that was a joke?

     

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    davebarnes (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:59am

    The NSA has always spied upon everyone

    I don't understand why anyone is talking about laws here.
    The NSA has always spied upon everyone and will continue to do so. The law is not relevant.

    Just remember, if you want a human a the NSA to read your email just insert weaponized anthrax into it somewhere.

     

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      johnny canada, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 12:13pm

      Re: The NSA has always spied upon everyone

      This is what to do

      Every email to your parents , kid or friends

      Subject line : Weaponized Anthrax

      Body :

      Just want to know if all is good at home....

      after a couple of million emails they may get the point.

      Not that they will stop.

       

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Do we have a third alternative?

    If the debate comes down to corporations on one side and the government on the other, I'm not sure I like the options.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jul 31st, 2012 @ 5:24pm

      Re: Do we have a third alternative?

      If corporations are themselves doing extensive data collection and peering into all aspects of our lives (e.g., location, purchasing, browsing, health, relationships), they don't have much credibility in my eyes.

      Like I said, if it comes down to government versus corporations, I pick neither.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 12:47pm

    They HAVE to do it!

    ...and they could tell you why, but then they'd have to kill you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 1:12pm

    It's all in the name...

    We should have realized this was coming when the NSA changed their name to "Network for Spying on Americans".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2012 @ 5:28pm

    The best way to protect the American people is to spy on the American people, why am i having a hard time getting that message across /s

     

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      Little Benny F., Jul 31st, 2012 @ 6:22pm

      Re:

      Something about freedom, security and sacrificing the first for the second.

      Eh, I'll think of something eventually

       

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    Michael, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 7:13am

    Spying is a hostile act, no matter who it is done to.

    If you peep into someone's house, you're a peeping tom.

    If you follow someone around, watching them, you're a stalker.

    If someone secretly infiltrates another nation's government in order to accumulate info, that person is a spy.

    If a government agency circumvents the Constitution and spies on its own citizens...

     

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    William Friedland, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    cyber security

    Check out some of the BS ammendments that have been added that have NOTHING TO DO WITH CYBER SECURITY!

     

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