Once Again, Feds Found To Be Abusing Surveillance Procedures With Little Oversight

from the feeling-safer? dept

Every few months it seems that yet another report comes out saying that the various intelligence agencies have abused their powers to spy on people with little (or no) oversight. The latest such report, released thanks to a court battle by the ACLU explains (in heavily redacted terms) that there are still widespread abuses of the process of wiretapping people under the FISA law (though, it may not be quite as bad as in the past). Of course, the specific details are all redacted.

Separately, a Freedom of Information request by Chris Soghoian has turned up how the feds now regularly are tracking real-time info such as credit card transactions (as you make them) without first getting a court order. Apparently, the Justice Department is allowing agents to write their own subpoenas, and the only role a judge plays is in ordering that the surveillance not be disclosed. Once that happens, credit card companies, mobile operators, rental car companies and even retail stores with loyalty cards end up giving the government a direct, real-time feed. So, yes, the government may know about that giant bag of nacho chips you bought at Costco before you even make it home. Obviously, there may be good reasons for the government to want real-time info on certain people that they’re watching but doesn’t it seem a bit strange to avoid having to go to a judge and proving probable cause before being allowed to get that kind of info?

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Comments on “Once Again, Feds Found To Be Abusing Surveillance Procedures With Little Oversight”

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MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

Probable cause is a term invented by government agents to root out any possible terrorists or criminals. The only people who will ever complain about government agents not having probable cause are people who have something to hide and are therefore doing something wrong.

After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide, including the details of your sex life, your social security number, your bank account balances, you medical records, and what you think of your boss.


Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Can you imagine...

walking into work and telling the owner of the company “Hey, I get to know every little thing you do regarding your business and your personal life. But how dare you even think of telling anyone anything about me!”

Last I checked, the US Government is SUPPOSED to work for the citizens of this country. Yet, when Wikileaks or some other whistle blower brings forth information the roaches scatter under the lights and conspire in back rooms about what to do with the homeowners.

Lieberman’s attempt to pass legislation regarding the publishing of information is straight out of the 1950’s and the Joe McCarthy camp.

BuzzCoastin (profile) says:

Re: Re: just sayin

WikiLeaks has been around for years. The Iraq dump named names and yet, not one report of a death due to WikiLeaks. In the mean time we have the news of thousands of unreported deaths due to the US military; so in effect, nothing happened.

The last set of WikiLeaks cables shows the Afgan gov to be thoroughly corrupt and nothing has or will happen to change that.

just sayin

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Do you have the slightest evidence to back that up? Other that politicians caught with their trousers down and embarrassed who fall back on the first thing that comes to mind.

Most of the stuff released so far is the diplomatic equivalent of gossip. Useful stuff but not the sort of thing people get killed over Highly embarrassing until you understand that every government the world over does this sort of thing on a daily basis.

Even less embarrassing when you come to realize there aren’t many, if any secrets here and even less in the way of things everyone didn’t know already such as the Afgan government is corrupt from top to bottom and that the Pakistani military makes an unreliable ally at best and that Canada and Canadians as a whole have something of an inbred inferiority complex viz the USA and Europe and even Australia fer goodness sake!!! 🙂

just sayin’

Transbot9 (user link) says:

You know what?

Between irrisponsible federal abuses of power, the copious amounts of corporate spying that one has to pretty much agree to in order to do anything with smart phones, facebook, etc, the online corporate spying that happens with or without permission…I’m starting to not really care.

And while that is what these people want, in many cases I can’t do what I want to do or need to do without putting up with a lot of this bull, & I don’t really have time to go around fighting it.

Yeah Right says:

This disease has to be contained now

I’m a European, so I’m trying to tread carefully here. But really, the American people need to wake up to reality. How much further are you going to let your civil liberties be trodden upon?

Before you tell me to mind my own business, I wouldn’t bother to react if it weren’t for the following. The USG is actively exporting these appalling practices to the rest of the world, bribing and bullying each and every nation into submission.

Today we learned that several universities and the Library of Congress are preventing students and patrons from accessing the Wikileaks cables.

The deluge of Mike’s posts here over the last years are signaling a trend that is as alarming as it is surreal. What will it take for a critical mass of public opinion to demand an end to this slippery slope?

As Americans, will you take action now, or will you wait until every American that voices dissent is branded a threat to national security and harming US commercial interests?

BuzzCoastin (profile) says:

Re: This disease has to be contained now

It’s not that American’s don’t know what’s going on, but we frankly don’t know what to do about it. Revolution can be a messy business.

It’s not like we don’t bark a little while our testicles are being squeezed for safety. But in the long run we are bound up with mess for fear of losing our property, savings (if any), our social security and our jobs. Kinda like Germany 80 years ago.

I left the US 10 years ago because I saw this coming, but it’s hard to get beyond the reach of Uncle Sam, the gansta is everywhere.

Here’s an idea: let Europe come to our rescue.

Yeah Right says:

Re: Re: This disease has to be contained now

I am. As a European, I’m asking you to bark louder.

Badger your congressmen, again and again. React to press stories on newspaper forums. Rally your family, friends and colleagues. Contact the sources of liberty infringement directly, whether they be companies or public bodies and let them clearly know how you feel, anonymously or in name.

The only thing that will stop this trend is a massive public outcry. Don’t be fooled by small infringements, these will always lead on to larger ones later on.

As a nation, you are immensely powerful. You have to realize that this entails immense responsibilities.

The buck stops with all of you.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This disease has to be contained now

“You have to realize that this entails immense responsibilities.” We are a nation of entitlements without responsibility. Just look at our financial system based on the right to steal with NO responsibility for the consequences. And to think, the Government legitimized these actions by bailing them out with taxpayer $$$$. I guess crime pays.

Jordan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This disease has to be contained now

I am. As a European, I’m asking you to bark louder.

Badger your congressmen, again and again. React to press stories on newspaper forums. Rally your family, friends and colleagues. Contact the sources of liberty infringement directly, whether they be companies or public bodies and let them clearly know how you feel, anonymously or in name.

Sorry. Don’t make enough money to have a congressman. You’ll need to talk to a corporation if you would like them to change or do anything.

annon says:

and this is news?

I have lived under this assumption for years. Use cash. Its easy. Whatever the GOV admits to, assume its twice as bad, at least.

So if they admit to real-time tracking of transactions, what else might we assume the keep an eye on? Facebook? Cell phone locations? Web site visits? All those are as easy to track in real time as credit cards, and can often be far more telling.

So first you need a judge to write a subpoenas, then FBI agents, next it will be local police, and pretty soon, they wont even need subpoenas. Track it all, all the time.

For you nay sayers, I will save this post and put it up next time a liberty is eroded, substituting “real-time tracking of credit cards” for whatever new “freedom from” has been taken away. After five or six times… you will see what I am saying…

Anonymous Coward says:

I worked for the federal government and quit. I am not the whistle blower type but consider this…I worked for them for 7 months. I started working for the government as a Jesse Jackson supporting, Clinton voting, ACLU loving, want to make the world a better place law enforcement officer. I went from local law to federal law thinking it was a step up and an opportunity to serve the country. I left a completely skeptical, non government trusting, libertarian who changed his career path to engineering and got as far away from government as possible. I saw defense and prosecuting attorneys meeting to decide what was in their respectable career interests without regard for the law or the accused. I saw people dragged into the system that were led by the hand into breaking federal laws by officers. I heard many first hand accounts of officers stealing the property of an arrested person in a bragging fashion. Of course this was more than 15 years ago so I am sure it has gotten better…right? I am quite honestly afraid to tell people everything I witnessed but suffice to say that when I realized who was running the show, who tended to work in the government- I then realized the only hope was to make it as small as possible. I cannot even fathom what it will be like when that entitled attitude starts to impact the health care our sick mothers get. In a nutshell the government is its own organization- they have little interest in the taxpayers, the citizens, the laws, or anything else. They exist to get bigger, take more control, get more pay, and crush anyone who gets in the way. They have no oversight and do whatever they believe they can get away with both as people and as an institution. I knew very few who took their responsibilities to the public seriously and that is in the criminal justice system so you can only imagine the attitude everywhere else. They may have had worse grades than you in school and they may lack the ability or motivation or talent to get a job in the free sector but it does not stop them from thinking they know better than you. It takes very little time as a government employee to get this attitude and the unions washout those who don’t thinks otherwise as soon as possible. People who care about doing a good job and serving the public burn out quick in that environment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wait, you mean if I hang in here, things aren’t going to get better…..

As a disillusioned government employee (in the higher education sector, so we’re different, right?) I totally agree with the other coward.

Government has become an excuse for mediocrity, those who suggest better ways to do things are told, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” and can’t seem to answer the typical response of “Why?” (because that’s the way it’s done is the typical response to why they do things that way).

As a despair poster says:
Government, you think the problem’s bad, wait until you see our solution.
Along with:
Even if you are part of the solution, there’s great money to be made in prolonging the problem.

I’m not affiliated with them, but their posters wouldn’t be so funny if they weren’t so damn true….

RussK (profile) says:


Here in AZ (or is it OZ?) the police at every level are going after the “low hanging fruit” exemplified by the infamous Crime Suppression Sweeps that Brother Joe conducts. 100+ officers in the desert for a whole day to catch less than a dozen is not good use of resources and is going after those who aren’t dangerous.

Our outgoing AG had it right but no one is listening. He is interested in the organized crime and major criminals and doesn’t want to go after the weak and powerless just trying to get by. That didn’t get headlines; only the media whore Arpaio gets the TV time.

Anonymous Coward says:

What age were you born in? The feds have been abusing their power since I can remember and I just turned 64. Every generation has a reason for stealing our civil liberties. In my youth it was the Commies, now it is Terrorists. They always have a convenient enemy. They must know that their heavy handed approach to control is creating the problem.

You never could trust the federal government. They are not your friend. No government or government agency is your friend. They take your money, lock you up or pass laws that let the rich legally steal the rest of what you own. If your friend did that to you, I can guarantee you would fight and most likely it would get bloody.

My Granny gave me one piece of advice. ‘Stay away from Lawyers, Politicians and Police. They lie for a living.’.

A hand full of gimme and a mouth full of much obliged.

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