James Clapper Says 'Peace Of Mind' Trumps Effectiveness In Evaluating NSA Surveillance

from the do-these-guys-listen-to-themselves? dept

In yet another Congressional hearing concerning the intelligence community last week, Senator Patrick Leahy finally got the heads of the intelligence community to admit what many of us had been pointing out for a while: that there’s no evidence that the key NSA programs up for debate have ever actually been necessary in stopping terrorist attacks. While NSA supporters like Congressional Rep. Joe Heck have flat out lied, in claiming that Section 215 of the Patriot Act had thwarted “54 terrorist plots,” during this particular testimony, Leahy got James Clapper and Keith Alexander to admit that, at best, the program had really only been involved in stopping one “terrorist event” in the US, and that “event” wasn’t a plot, but rather a cab driver in San Diego sending some money to a terrorist group in Somalia.

But the really incredible part was that confessed liar to Congress, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, tried to defend all this, arguing that figuring out whether or not these surveillance programs were actually necessary or useful in stopping terrorist plots was the wrong metric. Instead, he made up his own metric. The “peace of mind” metric:

There’s another metric I would use; let’s call it the “peace of mind metric”. In the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, we were able to use these tools to determine whether there was, or was not, a subsequent plot in NYC.

Of course, we’ve already discussed how utterly ridiculous this argument is when President Obama himself used the “post-Boston” lack of other plots as support for NSA surveillance. It’s quite incredible when you argue that the absence of additional attacks that never existed in the first place is somehow a “victory” for surveillance efforts.

But, really, this “peace of mind” metric is worth exploring, because it’s basically the same thing as “the dictator’s creed.” Clapper’s argument is that he can ignore the Constitution, because it might make you feel safer. As Julian Sanchez argued when Clapper made this statement, under the “peace of mind metric” because of the lack of additional threats, it automatically means that every innocent person’s records are “relevant,” since they help prove the lack of an additional threat. Just think for a second how insane that is. Sanchez takes the analogy further:

Let’s try it for warrants: There’s always probable cause to believe a search will produce evidence of guilt OR reassure us of innocence.

The more you think about the insidious nature of such a metric, the worse and worse you realize it is. If the government considers evidence of innocence to be relevant and necessary for “peace of mind” then there is no 4th Amendment any more and there is no privacy. At all. The government, using this made up metric, can argue that any search is warranted because it’s “just making sure you’re not a threat.”

That’s not the standard. That’s not the metric. It’s completely unconstitutional.

So, again, we have to ask: how the hell is James Clapper still employed as the Director of National Intelligence?

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Comments on “James Clapper Says 'Peace Of Mind' Trumps Effectiveness In Evaluating NSA Surveillance”

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60 Comments
beltorak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, it does not. Because you are not an American citizen, you don’t deserve the basic human right to privacy nor the dignity it entails. In fact, I invite you over to our great country so you can be so privileged as to have our illustrious leaders personally spit in your non-human face. You should be thankful we let you talk on the Internet at all.

/putting-words-in-my-government’s-mouth

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I never said I was EXPECTING that to happen. I’m not dillusional. I was merely stating that if “peace of mind” is the goal, that would be a means of accomplishing it for me personally as someone who values the principles set forth by our Constitution. However, if this outcome is to have any chance of happening, calls for this need to be repeated often and loudly by as many people as possible even if it is still very unlikely to occur.

Loki says:

Re: Re:

Well since he’s given us the metric, we might as well make good use of it.

Personally, my “peace of mind” would NOT be decreased in the slightest should these programs (and the politicians and lackeys supporting them) go away tomorrow, given that the odds of me being directly, or even indirectly, by some nebulous terrorist threat is remote enough to be essentially insignificant.

However, my “peace of mind” would actually be greatly increased if a bunch of government officials would breaking the law, redefining the law in violation of principles this country was founding on, and otherwise snooping on everyone instead of doing the jobs the were given.

Here’s an idea, instead of sticking their noses in everyone’s business, why don’t try try fixing the economy, providing real healthcare, quality jobs, and most of all actually making a real fucking budget.

Now THAT would give me “peace of mind”.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Doubly dubious

In the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, we were able to use these tools to determine whether there was, or was not, a subsequent plot in NYC.

Except it’s impossible to prove a negative, so the best he’s in fact saying is “With this massive invasion of privacy and violation of the constitution we can be reasonably sure that there’s probably not any other related pieces of the plot out there… until of course we get proved wrong by something we missed in the enormous haystack.”

Yeah, that’s a great justification… basically, “It doesn’t matter whether any of this stuff really does anything as long as we think we can convince people they are safe and we’re doing something with the enormous amounts of money we spend.”

saulgoode (profile) says:

There’s another metric I would use; let’s call it the “peace of mind metric”.

I agree with this 100% — however I’d find much greater peace of mind if an agency of my government wasn’t wasting billions of dollars subverting the efficacy of the greatest development of humankind ever and threatening the status of over 4 trillion dollars in annual global commerce (not to mention petty little things such as representative government and rights to privacy, free speech, and due process).

any moose cow word says:

Arguing that this is all needed for “piece of mind” is fundamentally a guilty until proven innocent paranoia that blankets the entire globe. Everyone must continually submit to these warrantless violations of our privacy to reaffirm our innocence every day. The constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence has never been more necessary till now.

Anonymous Coward says:

“In the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, we were able to use these tools to determine whether there was, or was not, a subsequent plot in NYC.”

So why didn’t all those tools determine there was a threat of the Boston Marathon being bombed? Isn’t that what those “tools” are meant to do?

I agree that is legitimatizes any law enforcement agency to do whatever it wants, including using drones for surveillance.

It makes me wonder if these arguements weren’t developed by the private prison industry to reassure their investors that business is booming even if a few illegals escape imprisonment due to reform.

Craig (profile) says:

End Days

At what point do the “terrorists” become less of a threat than the people calling them terrorists? It seems to me that we are in the hands of people who through cognitive dissonance or actual malicious intent desire to bring upon us what the “terrorists” had originally intended. Sort of like “you can’t do that but we sure can”.

More disturbing is the possibility that a sociopathic meme has infected our leaders to where they feel the justification of what they are doing really is the right answer to the problem, in the same way that someone would burn down their house in order to protect it from thieves.

And then there is the belief meme, Michele Bachmann anyone? If Jesus or God intends for there to be an apocalypse, “End Times” and Judgment Day perhaps it our destiny to make sure it happens…

Any way you look at it it’s bad news. We are truly our own worst enemy.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: End Days

Yeah, they completely blew past that point decades ago, the corrupt government in the US has been a greater threat to citizens both US and otherwise for decades now.

Terrorists can kill people, but then again so can peanuts. The proper response to both is take reasonable safety precautions and get on with your life, as living in fear of them is exactly what they are trying to achieve.

The government on the other hand can, will and has destroyed basic human rights, such as privacy, fair treatment under the law (including the right to a court case before punishment), and justifies their actions by constantly trying to keep people in a state of fear, so that they are willing to accept any encroachment of their rights if only they get to ‘feel’ safer.

At this point, if you define terrorism as ‘actions designed to bring a state of fear and panic in your target’, the government are the terrorists, the others are just amateurs.

any moose cow word says:

Re: Re:

Well, they think illegally assassinating US citizens is OK as long as it gives them “peace of mind”–they can always justify it by slapping on a “terrorist” charge postmortem. Since they’ve already set the legal precedent, and bureaucrats like Clapper definitely fit the definition of terrorist, it must be OK. It would certainly give the citizens of the world peace of mind when their reign as ended.

Anonymous Coward says:

But....

There’s another metric I would use; let’s call it the “peace of mind metric”. In the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, we were able to use these tools to determine whether there was, or was not, a subsequent plot in NYC.

BUT…you fail to mention how all this surveillance FAILED TO STOP THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING ITSELF!

So nice try, asshole, but it’s still a FAILURE!

Anonymous Coward says:

Peace of Mind = False Sense of Security

In my business, Fire Alarm & Security (Access Control, Intrusion Detection); this type of “Peace of Mind” is called a False Sense of Security and is a perfect setup for a lawsuit against our company. Once again, the government is shielded from the real world results of their incompetent actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“freedom is slavery” is probably not the best quote to re-enforce my comment as it part of the larger topic “can you truly be free in society that has rules of any kind?” but in this context I don’t think that its that relevant. more reference to the 1984 world that clapper seems intent of creating.

corwin155 (profile) says:

'Peace Of Mind'

Peace of mind comes from knowing every person who
1. isn’t happy that their government is spying on them
2. does something that they could patent wont because you can tell your friends in the military industrial complex corporations
3. are the NSA’s political enemies
4. have dirty little secrets that can be used against them
5. is born in the USA is a criminal from birth and you have secret laws and secret courts that make them so
6. isn’t in law enforcement thus exempt from the law and secret laws
7. you don’t like can and will be destroyed
8. can be water-boarded and thrown into a secret prison
9. can be assassinated if they refuse to do what you say
10. is part of the good ol boys in the NSA will be protected by the DOJ even when they lie to congress of the soon to be dictatorship of NAZI United Police State of America

The peace of mind of the dictatorship run by the NSA

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