Sen. Lindsey Graham, Verizon Customer: I'm GLAD The NSA Is Harvesting My Data. Because Terrorists.

from the My-Life-As-An-Open-Book,-by-John-Q.-Public dept

Whenever overreaching surveillance comes to light, whether it’s a national security agency or local law enforcement operating the dragnet, there’s always one person who will toss out one of these two worn out, used up, dripping-in-paternal-condescension phrases in defense of the privacy abusers.

1. If you’ve got nothing to hide, what are you worried about?
2. Because terrorism/crime/drugs/child porn.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, usually a critic of the current administration, tends to fall back in line with his allegiances to George W. Bush’s overreaching policies during events like these. If it has anything to do with terrorism, Graham is there to back up the abusers, no matter which party has control of the White House. (You may recall Graham’s recent support of the FBI’s decision to not inform Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his Miranda rights.)

Graham made an appearance on Fox & Friends the morning after news of the NSA’s massive data haul broke. He starts out by invoking the most holy of political rhetorical devices: fighting terrorism.

“I’m glad the NSA is trying to find out what the terrorists are up to overseas and in our country,” Graham said Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends.”

He followed it up with his particular spin on the “nothing to hide; nothing to fear” argument defuser.

As a customer of Verizon, the subject of the court order, Graham said he and others had nothing to worry about.

“I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to the terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So we don’t have anything to worry about.”

A member of the government informing the public that he has no problem with the public handing over things to the government. How refreshing!

There’s a big “if” in his second sentence and that part worries people nearly as much as the general idea of national security/investigative agencies hoovering up all the data they can get ahold of.

“If the government is going to make sure that they try…” We, the people, have received no assurances to that effect. Sure, those involved directly and those defending these court orders are all stating publicly that the data is perfectly safe in their hands and won’t be abused in the slightest (and quite possibly isn’t actually happening at all), but the last dozen years or so have produced much more evidence to the contrary.

As far as he knows, Graham isn’t talking to terrorists. But there’s really no reason for anyone to believe the NSA and FBI are only interested in terrorists. The NSA may be trying to root out and punish whistleblowers. The FBI may be looking for any phone that’s come within 500 feet of a mosque.

As for telling us that we have nothing to fear and, therefore, nothing to hide? Here’s the problem with that argument. First off, if I’m not talking to terrorists, why is my data being grabbed along with potential suspects? This is still an anti-terrorism thing, right?

[Sidebar: I don’t think I could really say I definitely don’t communicate with terrorists. I don’t have any friends or acquaintances who display an inordinate fascination with terrorism. On the other hand, if they were terrorists, I would imagine that part of their life is pretty well compartmentalized and that there’s more to their life than terrorism 24/7. So… unlike Graham, I’m not going to say I don’t talk to terrorists. Ultimately, this shouldn’t matter, but Graham seems to think it does.]

Second: I am getting pretty sick and tired of talking heads trying to mollify us by informing us that we have nothing to fear because we have nothing to hide, especially since this phrase is only put into play after the government’s encroachment has effectively removed the “hide” option. It’s not so much that we have “nothing to hide.” It’s that we don’t have a choice. The government exposes us and then pats us on the head and tells us it will all be alright — because we’re innocent. (And yet somehow still subject to the same treatment as the guilty…)

Third, I’m glad you’re glad that we’re fighting terrorism by using everyone’s data, Lindsey. Since the President has informed us that Congress holds the keys to this whole debacle (in a roundabout way), maybe you could stop assuring us that everything’s OK (as long as you’re not a terrorist and/or talking to one!) and that we should all aspire to be good little nothing-to-hide citizens, and start rolling back this ongoing, ever-expanding encroachment on our rights and liberty. Maybe start by asking why, if you don’t “talk to terrorists,” is your data being gathered in the name of fighting terrorists?

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Comments on “Sen. Lindsey Graham, Verizon Customer: I'm GLAD The NSA Is Harvesting My Data. Because Terrorists.”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: He's not allone...unfortunately

In most cases they don’t care because they could never imagine being under the microscope themselves, it’s always ‘bad people’ who get their information scooped up, never ‘innocent people’.

If you want people to start to care, bring up the fact that with how widespread the information gathering is it means there’s a good chance their private information could and is being gathered.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: He's not allone...unfortunately

Plenty of innocent people get their PUBLIC and third party information (all legal) scooped. Do you have an issue with law enforcement doing what they can to try to spot issues before they happen, rather than just showing up with the shovels and body bags to take away the results?

As always, you seem to think that the government is deathly interested in your visits to the local pot dispensary. They could care less, get over your self already.

New material? you should try it… the old “an innocent might get looked at” is silly. How many people driving the speed limit get checked by radar every day? Do you think that invasive too?

Lowestofthekeys (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: He's not allone...unfortunately

Law enforcement have to have warrants to wiretap people or listen in on them. That warrant is a justification for what they’re trying to prevent.

The NSA think they do not need warrants or oversight in how or what they’re collecting from people. A system like that has much more room to be abused.

Also, your analogy falls flat. Radar guns do not collect personal information, hence why what the NSA is doing is considered “invasive.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: He's not allone...unfortunately

Plenty of innocent people get their PUBLIC and third party information (all legal) scooped. Do you have an issue with law enforcement doing what they can to try to spot issues before they happen

I do have an issue with law enforcement (and private entities as well) combining all of our individual, public bits of information into a coherent picture of each of us and then mining that data, yes. That’s at least as invasive as if they just put cameras and microphones into all of our houses.

As always, you seem to think that the government is deathly interested in your visits to the local pot dispensary.

I suspect that this is nothing but an insult, but if you really think this sort of thing is the source of the objections, then you’re light years away from the point.

How many people driving the speed limit get checked by radar every day? Do you think that invasive too?

That’s a silly analogy. Let me improve it: If, when the speed radar is used, it also reports the license plate number of the car, the car’s location, time, and direction of travel into a database for future mining, then yes, that would be far too invasive.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: I have to laugh

He said, and I quote:

Because terrorism/crime/drugs/child porn.

He is downplaying any law or any legal action taken against any of this, because he somehow seems to think it’s all a reactionary way to limit his rights to be a pirate and wander around online being “anonymous”. It must be amazing to think that you personally are the reason why people are trying to sneak laws in under the guise of actually protecting the citizen of the country.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I have to laugh

You guys should really get some better material. Openly lying about the plainly stated words in an article that everybody can read on the same page is never going to work. Also, lying about the people who are reading your crap is never going to get any point across.

In case you’re merely stupid rather than deliberately lying – this article has nothing to do with piracy. The NSA harvesting of data has nothing to do with the boogeyman you pretend is hiding everywhere in order to remove peoples’ civil liberties. The article is merely pointing out that the boogeymen being used by Graham in this case are the more traditional ones used by people not trying to defend a broken business model.

Nothing in the article suggests that the things listed don’t exist, only that they’re the usual excuses trotted out when people want to erode your rights and privacy. You’re either a moron or an obsessed fool to bring piracy into any part of this debate – pick one. All the points stand even if piracy didn’t exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I have to laugh

You are thousands of times more likely to be killed by a car than a terrorist. Do we monitor the end points of all vehicular traffic to catch the bad drivers?

No, we damn well don’t. Why? Because it’s a risk we accept as part of our lives.

We’ve never had a chance to debate this, never had a chance to vote on it, never had it even raised as an issue. It just is because the people who say it is stand to benefit from that.

We also don’t track the end points of snail mail if we’re not doing that (heck weren’t there two attempts at Mr Obama’s life via this vector in the last month?) what excuse do we have to do the same with digital messages?

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: I have to laugh

@ AC: “We also don’t track the end points of snail mail if we’re not doing that” — HAH! You are WAY behind the times you live in, AC.

But I admit THIS was news to me, it’s such a giant pile of nearly useless data that I wouldn’t have guessed they’d actually do it:

Ricin Suspect Was Tracked Via Mail Scanners
Feds: Postal Service photographs every piece of mail it processes

According to FBI Agent James Spiropoulos, investigators accessed a Postal Service computer system that ?incorporates a Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program which photographs and captures an image of every mail piece that is processed.? Agents were able to obtain front and back images of about 20 mail pieces that had been processed ?immediately before the mail piece addressed to Mayor Bloomberg.?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I have to laugh

Oh well I learned something today…

Still, having a record of the fronts and backs of letters and complying with a court order after a crime isn’t in the same league as was I was suggesting.

Regardless Blue, thank you for the knowledge. I think we’re up to 3 constructive posts from you now. Keep it up and we’ll get you a gold star.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: I have to laugh

I want to live in your world Tim where none of the terrorists exist,

For all practical purposes you ARE living in that world.

The chances of being a victim of terrorism are vanishingly small.

Extreme measures might have seen for public safety during the second world war in Britain – when the bombs were being dropped and killing nearly 1000 people per day but even then wiser councils saw that bombing of civilian targets was at best a waste of military resources and at worst a public relations disaster that only spurred tose under attack to greater efforts.

Thos who say “because terrorism” should relaise that their response is exactly what the terrorists want and playing into their hands.

The best response to terrorism is to do absolutely nothing!
(including the media not reporting on it).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I have to laugh

I hear they are making progress on measuring thoughts too…

Somewhere you have to draw the line for privacy, right to speak and right to face your accuser (since unreasonable searches and seizures do not exist). When you accept 360 surveillance on the internet, your right to the above mentioned is at stake every time you utter your opinion.

Of course secret services need a higher degree of information access to effectively operate, but logging this much and with little specificity? I think you would do fine in Libanon. I hear that Bouteflika in Algeria and al-Bashir in Sudan are interested in those opinion and how you get people to agree with them!

Anonymous Coward says:

How many stopped

I really wonder how many terrorists have they stopped. So far there’s been three failed attempts that failed because of technical reasons or civilian intervention (shoe bomber, underwear bomber, time square car bomber) and one that succeeded (marathon bombers), plus a slew of invented terrorists where the FBI had a plant and pretty much pushed the people into a plot. Have there been any where it was a real plot, with real devices, that were stopped because of this surveillance?

out_of_the_blue says:

Okay, so start your "rolling back" with Google!

Noscript (remove Google from whitelist) and a hosts file to block all its parasites. Get latter at:

Mike and minions continually avoid applying their arguments to Google: as with outright gov’t spying, Google’s spying is difficult to avoid, doesn’t require your consent, feeds into the surveillance state — and at best, is used to better annoy you with advertising.

It’s the same thing, and you now can’t deny that every bit of data that Google has on you is instantly available without warrant to NSA. You can’t be a “little bit” surveilled for allegedly just “commercial” purposes and keep your privacy. It’s too lucrative to corporate interests and too tempting to gov’t.

We CAN roll back the invasion of privacy, it’s NOT inevitable technology that we must all adjust to by giving up all privacy. Ban Google Glass for a start, it’s clearly a step too far.

… If they’ve convince you this is normal, they’ve won against you. If they convince enough people it’s normal to be spied on by your government, they’ll win against everyone. They’ll win against autonomy, against self-direction, against all the decent human values. They’ll do what Stalin’s state couldn’t do because the technology didn’t exist then. Don’t enable this by accepting the unacceptable as inevitable!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Okay, so start your "rolling back" with Google!

Do you even read techdirt at all? If you did you’d note the tone is not uniform pro-google.

AAnd you just proved why big business is not as much a threat as big goverment: you can choose to live a google free life, but you can’t just as easily choose another goverment

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay, so start your "rolling back" with Google!

As much as it pains me to admit it, OOTB actually has a point this time. ‘course, he’s ignoring the fact that Google’s spying is far easier to defeat than government’s stuff, but still. No point in giving Google any data when it’s all going to end up in NSA’s hands.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

How many calls to hookers do they have on you Senator, or are you really this thick all on your own?

As they have misused all of the other tools they have access to, are you more or less upset if they start matching your call records with known meth dealers?

At what point do you have something to hide Senator, open your entire life up and let us look. Be that poster child, to refuse to offer up this level of transparency should raise serious concerns about your patriotism.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Indeed, for any, like him, who say that they have no problem with increased surveillance like this because they ‘have nothing to hide’, I say:

Lead by example

-Make public all correspondence, including email, phone calls, or snail mail letters, personal or otherwise, including who it is going to, when it is sent, and what is in it.

-Make public their itinerary and location at all times, so that anyone can, at any point, know exactly where they are and what they are doing.

-Make public any records related to them, both current and past, including records of what they spend and where, and where their money comes from.

-Allow public access to any phones or computers they own, so that anyone is able to see what is on them at any time.

And the best part, as TAC points out above, is that due to them always excusing such surveillance measures as acceptable due to their ‘goals’ of ‘stopping terrorism/child porn/crime’, refusal or even objection would mean that they not only support those illegal actions, it would also highly suggest that they are involved in them, because as they are always saying, ‘If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.’

cosmicrat (profile) says:

Easy for him to say that

It’s also pretty disingenuous for a Senator to say that. One of the the things many people fear is overzealous prosecution, being railroaded, being shaken down by the authorities on a pretext. A high profile public figure, however, has a good degree of effective immunity from frivolous or nuisance prosecution.

Travis (profile) says:


Shouldn’t turnabout be fair play? If the Government has nothing to fear, and nothing to hide, why haven’t they come out with this years ago and just let us know they were doing this instead of constantly hiding it? The mere fact they were straight out lying means they knew what they were doing was wrong, they’re afraid of the consequences and now they’re trying to mollify the American public.

All in all, despite this whistleblower, I highly doubt anything will change.

Shon Gale (profile) says:

Like I always said they need 2 elections for every Senator and Congressperson, 1 for the state they are from and 1 to see if they are even compatible to the rest of the country. I guarantee you under that system there would be No BOehNER, No Cantor and definitely No Graham.
Remember that the child porn excuse is what they use in China to stop internet freedom. I haven’t seen any child porn. Is there anyone you know worried about child porn, is it in your every day conversation? None of the people I have ever met would do something so disgusting and if I ever found one in my neighborhood I would terminate it, and I would never serve a day in jail. I don’t need the government to monitor my email to do that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: embarassed in SC

Typical of the South Carolina?

Took a good walk this morning, and as I rounded a corner, I heard the sharp “Thump” of a light field artillery piece. Then, a little bit later, I heard the rolling rattle-crack-pop of musketry fire. Skirmishers?not fired in volley. Echoing off the hills on the other side of the creek.

We live right nearby a National Park. So that’s actually not as unusual as it might sound to some folks. It is tourist season.

My mind’s wandering… what were talking we about again? South Carolina?

Anonymous Coward says:

Every single one of us has something to hide, people saying the contrary are either stupid or deceiving.

There is nobody under this sun that has done nothing wrong knowingly or otherwise.

If we start putting people under the microscope a lot of shit will come out and create a lot of problems, this is why it will be used selectively to go after people who are a nuisance to the government, which is a very subtle way of saying. Stay in line or face the hammer.

The Real Michael says:

The government’s snooping programs were not designed to “catch terrorists.” They were designed to spy on Americans so that in the future they can identify people by their habits, political affiliation, religious views, etc., segment them into groups and then demonize them. What they desire most is to disarm the public, so that they can do away with the Constitution and consolidate authority.

Chris Brand says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And there’s the answer – we clearly need to either be able to “opt-out” of this surveillance or to choose to “opt-in”. Just get the NSA to have either a whitelist or a blacklist and check against that before they collect anything. All the people who think that this dragnet makes them safer can opt in, and people who think they do have something to hide can opt out (or not opt in).
While we’re at, it would probably be more efficient to crowdsource the analysis. After all, we know that everyone who’s data has been collected has nothing to hide, so just make it all public and get the public to help find the terrorists.
Sounds to me like a system like that would make everyone happy and likely cost less, too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sen. Lindsey Graham is part of the problem

Sen. Lindsey Graham is not upholding his oath to defend and protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC.

The only terrorists I see lately is the US Government violating the Bill of Rights daily. But he will not do anything about that because HE is part of the problem.

Vote this bum out of office next election!

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Letter from Pres. Obama

WASHINGTON ? Today, President Obama issued the following letter to all Verizon customers:

Dear Verizon Customers,

Yesterday it came to light that the National Security Agency has been collecting millions of phone records from you each and every day. Since that news was released, many of you have called the White House with questions and concerns about this new program. To save my time and yours, here are answers to three of the F.A.Q.s (Frequently Asked Questions) we?ve been hearing from you:

*1. Will I be charged extra for this service?*
I?m happy to say that the answer is no. While the harvesting and surveillance of your domestic phone calls were not a part of your original Verizon service contract, the National Security Agency is providing this service entirely free of charge.

*2. If I add a phone to my account, will those calls also be monitored?*
Once again, the answer is good news. If you want to add a child or any other family member to your Verizon account, their phone calls?whom they called, when, and the duration of the call?will all be monitored by the United States government, at no additional cost.

*3. Can the National Security Agency help me understand my Verizon bill?*
Unfortunately, no. The National Security Agency has tried, but failed, to understand Verizon?s bills. Please call Verizon customer service and follow the series of electronic prompts.

I hope I?ve helped clear up some of the confusion about this exciting new program. But if you have any further questions, please don?t hesitate to call the White House. Joe Biden is standing by.

God bless America,
President Obama

Alt0 says:

With the “Two Hop” policy used to monitor terrorist activity you DO NOT have to talk to terrorists to fall under suspicion. (Two Hop meaning they scrutinize a known terrorists contacts and also their contacts, contacts.)
This then means that. All the “innocent” kids who the younger brother {involved in the Boston Marathon bombings) was friends with during college, and then ALL of their friends who had never even met the subject.
Considering the “six degrees” concept (even with only this two degree policy)more than likely the Senator was also scrutinized at some point or another (even if he did not ever talk to a terrorist). And they only acknowledge the “two steps” considering the truthfulness lately it may very well be more.

Anonymous Coward says:

who the hell votes twats like this into such powerful positions? you would be better of with a fucking half wit representing you! this hasn’t been done because of, in case of or due to terrorism in any stretch of the imagination! this has been done to spy on USA citizens, no one else! and the worst part of this is that the US government keep condemning China for what they are allegedly doing! can that really be any worse than this? if the Chinese are hacking into the USA, they sure as hell aren’t interested in what you or i, as ordinary citizens are doing. at least they are after industry plans, secret government codes etc, things that are worth trying to get!

Max says:

You don't?

Tim, you might say you don’t talk to terrorists, but remember that the US government can apply the name ‘terrorist’ to just about anyone.

Did you interview a member of Anonymous for an article? Have you ever spoken with a member of the Occupy movement? Do you know anyone who has ever had something confiscated by TSA before boarding a plane? You may be talking to terrorists.

Remember kids, terrorists are everywhere, and only The Government can be trusted to tell you where they are. Be afraid.

Cowards Anonymous says:

Can you hear me now?

Sir Graham, I would like to ask you to put your money where your mouth is. Post your complete phone, internet, email logs online for the public to see. You are a public employee after all and you say you have nothing to hide, so let us judge for ourselves. We would be very interested to see what special interest groups you’ve been communicating with when and for how long.

Can you hear me now? Good!

GTC says:

to anonymous coward

Anonymous coward asked how many terror plots this program actually stopped? No one can say what this specific program’s role in any of these foiled plots were, but in 2007 the heritage foundation began collecting data on terrorism plots…..they say over 60 have been thwarted.

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