Feinstein Releases Fake NSA Reform Bill, Actually Tries To Legalize Illegal NSA Bulk Data Collection

from the don't-buy-the-lies dept

Despite Dianne Feinstein’s supposed “conversion” earlier this week about the NSA being out of control with its spying, and the associated performance of NSA folks claiming that they were screwed, it’s quickly become apparent that this was all pure theater to make people think that real reform might be coming. Feinstein claimed she was shocked about this and called for a full investigation… and yet, just two days later, she held a markup of her planned “reform” bill for the collection of intelligence by the NSA (and held the markup in secret — because nothing says “let’s increase transparency of the NSA” like keeping the debates and votes secret). That bill was moved out of committee today by a vote of 11 to 4, leading Feinstein to release the bill with a bunch of misleading claptrap designed to make people think it’s real reform. It even confused some folks who know this stuff into thinking, after a quick first pass, that it “banned” the bulk data collection. And you might think that’s the case because her description says:

  • Prohibits the collection of bulk communication records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act except under specific procedures and restrictions set forth in the bill;
  • Establishes criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison for intentional unauthorized access to data acquired under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the United States;
  • Prohibits the bulk collection of the content of communications under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act;

Reading that, you might think it actually banned the bulk data collection that’s been reported on, but it does not. That “except under specific procedures and restrictions set forth in the bill” just takes the highly questionable reasoning of the FISA Court in approving the bulk data collection and makes that the “exception.” In other words, it does exactly the opposite of what Feinstein claims. Rather than banning bulk data collection, it legalizes it. That third point on the “content” is just a red herring — the same red herring that Feinstein and others have been waving about wildly for months, pretending people are upset about the collection of actual recordings, rather than the collection of metadata. She’s wrong. People are upset about the collection of metadata, which this legalizes.

Even more ridiculous, the focus (both in the marketing and the bill itself) on collection of content “under Section 215” is another red herring, since it appears that much of that collection actually happens under other programs anyway. So this doesn’t change a damn thing.

Other supposed “changes” in the bill — including limiting who can perform queries on the data, how many “hops” they can analyze and how long they can retain the data, all match with current practice and don’t change a thing. Even though James Clapper and Keith Alexander more or less seemed to concede at yesterday’s House hearing that they’d be okay with cutting back on the data retention from five to three years, this bill keeps it at five. There are a few other minor changes, but this bill is almost entirely as expected, simply codifying the status quo, even though Feinstein has insisted that it was legal all along. The one minor “concession” which many had expected — having a third party at the FISA Court who could fight for civil liberties — is watered down. Rather than an actual adversarial setup, with this person representing civil liberties, it’s set up as an appointed “amicus cureia” or “friend of the court,” where they basically just advise the court on the issue.

This bill is a farce, and made even more farcical by the misleading way in which Feinstein has presented it, pretending it bans bulk data collection when it actually legalizes it.

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Comments on “Feinstein Releases Fake NSA Reform Bill, Actually Tries To Legalize Illegal NSA Bulk Data Collection”

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Guardian says:

When does this become TREASON?

When does this become TREASON?

When does all this anti rights taking get to a point where its treason agaisnt the very people they are supposed to protect…

WHAT is the american definition of treason? Is it the guy that tells you your all being fucked ? Or is it the people that are fucking everyone?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: When does this become TREASON?

As awful as it is, it is not treason.

WHAT is the american definition of treason?

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

(US Constitution, Article 3, section 3)

Donglebert the Needlessly Obtuse says:

Re: Re: Re: When does this become TREASON?

In that (in my interpretation) the Second Amendment is there to allow people to bear arms to defend their freedom against the state, I was wondering the other day what the modern day version of arms would be.

Surely it could easily be argued that it’s computing hardware and software? Weren’t corporate strength cryptosystems declared munitions in the past? Surely malware and viruses would be considered munitions too?

So does the 2nd explicitly allow a US citizens to hack into government systems in order to defend the constitution?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: When does this become TREASON?

The question then becomes, how do you define an enemy? It seems to me that any government that

1) takes money out of my pocket to bail out fraudsters and criminals instead of spending (a much smaller amount of) my money to prosecute them and lock them up
2) speaks of strong values of transparency but persecutes whistleblowers instead of honoring them
3) seeks to illegally sign treaties that are opposed by its people and against their interest
4) actively works to undermine and remove legal protections for the traditional moral values that have made our country strong
5) notices fights between predatory banks and common people, and intervenes on the side of the banks
6) prints money at hyperinflationary rates
7) spies on its own people and then lies about it

…is an enemy of its people, and thus of the country, which is defined by the canonical document establishing this country as being comprised of “We The People”.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: When does this become TREASON?

legal defintion of Enemy: “By this term is understood the whole body of a nation at war with another. It also signifies a citizen or subject of such a nation, as when we say an alien enemy.”

And another term…

Aid and comfort: “Any act that deliberately strengthens or tends to strengthen enemies of the United States, or that weakens or tends to weaken the power of the United States to resist and attack such enemies is characterized as aid and comfort.”

In the latter, the key word is “deliberately”. It’s possible for far a given act to meet this definition when one person does it, and not when another does it, depending on their intention.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 When does this become TREASON?

Yeah, that’s the problem. When you define formal enemies exclusively as other nations, it ignores vast swaths of today’s reality. Today, the simple reality is that a lot of companies, and various entities within our own government, are openly at war with the American people. Their weapon of choice, though, is not physical force, but economic force, which is just as harmful but far more insidious.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 When does this become TREASON?

True, but technically the US has a potent instant-death weapon that can be used against corporations: we can revoke their corporate charter. A corporation is just a kind of license from the government, after all.

In the olden days, this power was used to stop companies that were acting against the public interest. That fell out of favor over the years, and is almost never done nowadays.

I think it should be brought back with a vengeance.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 When does this become TREASON?

I think it should be brought back with a vengeance.

I’d 100% agree with you… if the power to do so was in the hands of a body with some sort of track record nodding towards judgement, impartiality, objectiveness and due process. Unfortunately, if I read you right, it would be the US government… which is rather the opposite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: When does this become TREASON?

I would argue that Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Rogers meet this criterion with their testimonies in The Senate and Congress respectively. AS to how they’re giving aid and comfort, well, I’m fairly sure a remotely enterprising attorney could come up with a few reasons – after all, what’s good for the goose and all that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 When does this become TREASON?

At this point the government is clearly at war with the people. To them we are the enemy and they are to us. Feinstein is easily violating her oath and she is aiding the portion of the government that constitutes a domestic enemy in overthrowing our laws. This is why she has wanted the second amendment destroyed for so long, so that our other rights are easy pickings.

out_of_the_blue says:

How many times I've written here: actual is always opposite of stated.

That goes for politicians, gov’t at levels, NSA, Google, Facebook, and nearly every corporation about anything important. They’re all lying all the time because have a common agenda to gain more money and power; those are intrinsically corrupting.

The Rich will always seize more power until stopped. The only non-violent way to stop them is with steeply progressive tax rates, especially on unearned income.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It seems so much like a theater between Feinstein and the NSA. If it is, we will see NSA starting to shoot at the bill and calling it terrible. Feinstein will use that fake outrage to sell the bill as a far more moderate “compromise” than “the other extremely dangerous bills” getting thrown around and hope that the rest of the congress fall for it.

In reality the bill seems to be exactly what Mike claims here: A further extention of NSAs powers under a guise of strenghtening overview and weakening the most problematic parts of NSAs authorisation. In reality the law has become so complex that nobody understands it. How it is used is only for NSA to know and it is getting retold through several pieces of “command” before it reach a politicians ear. By that time, everyone relies on the papers from the immediate level below and with the caution on not being too specific towards FISA, it doesn’t take much of a leap to assume the same covers every aspect of the information chain. The greatest problems are the bad politicians in the committees and their lacking ability or willingness to strenghten communication through other channels and their acceptance of the extreme complexity obscurring reality!

Rapnel (profile) says:

Oh, I can see that this is getting better already. And so soon.

I don’t want that aged and tired mind, to even talk anymore much less offer up fucking bills on the very topic she’s failed at.

Congress – The Intel Chair – Oversight like a demented energizer rabbit dressed in black skins of other rabbits and a crushed in pumpkin head swinging a razor blade tambourine. Happy Halloween. TRICK! beeyotch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hmm, but the type of information is specifically “data acquired under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”, not information about FISA-authorized data-acquiring activity, which is what Snowden, Greenwald, etc. revealed. This part of the bill seems to be just about the people who looked up their exes in the system.

Trevor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s 10 years for “intentional unauthorized access to data acquired under the FISA Act…”

the kicker is “unauthorized access,” because “data acquired under FISA” would cover everything the NSA is storing/collecting.

Therefore, if this is passed and the NYT gets a hold of a document summarizing metadata of someone (or just a general group of people) they would technically be breaking this law (unauthorized access if leaked) and subject to 10 years.

And so would the person who leaked it. They constantly argue that “unauthorized access” includes going beyond your access level, even if you are authorized to search for, download, and print out information. That’s how they got Manning, and how they will try to get Snowden.

Trevor (profile) says:


“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

define “Defend”
define “Constitution”
define “enemies”
define “domestic”

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

Nazism, or National Socialism in full (German: Nationalsozialismus), is the ideology and practice associated with the 20th-century German Nazi Party and state as well as other related far-right groups. Usually characterised as a form of fascism that incorporates biological racism and antisemitism, Nazism originally developed from the influences of pan-Germanism, the V?lkisch German nationalist movement and the anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary culture in post-First World War Germany, which many Germans felt had been left humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles. Prior to the emergence of the Nazi Party, other right-wing figures had argued for a nationalist recasting of ?socialism?, as a reactionary alternative to both internationalist Marxist socialism and capitalism.

– Wikipedia

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

anonymouse (profile) says:

Senators and Congressmen in general,

are more concerned with bolstering their positions and circles of influence than they are with doing the job they were elected to do. it’s a natural consequence of the huge benefits (both social and economic) and kickbacks they receive in those elected positions.

the current trend is not good at all, but shouldn’t be surprising, considering that our populace (in general) becomes increasingly self-serving and insular with each generation. remember, these elected positions are filled from our own populace. they are a true representation of our integrity and willingness to serve.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

we should, um, make, like, a declaration, er sumpin...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

these traitorous scum go on for many more pages spewing revolting crap like this…
who would ever believe such tripe ? ? ?

art guerrilla
aka ann archy


Anonymous Coward says:

I said at the time she was reining it, gonna be working from the inside out! I wonder what idiots is cosponsoring it? Hayden, I suppose, backed up by Clapper and Alexander! I hope that it’s brought to light what she’s up to and she is challenged over it. The excuses should make interesting reading. Mind you, who honestly thought all this shit would go away without a fight from the lying fuckers who have been carrying it out?

Jason says:

Re: how can we recall this tainted senator?

There are website petitions, but no money backing up door to door recall efforts. So most of Californian are in the dark about what she is really doing.

Yet another thing that needs to be fixed in this nation. No money? No voice.

Recall? Please California, lets get one going for the sake of our freedom and nation.

That plus the rest of the nation demanding her resignation for dereliction of duty (failure to uphold her Oath of Office) can remove this stain on our nation.

THEN we can discuss a trial.

Marsha says:

We are out of our collective minds.

I read about this at breakfast this morning and almost spit my food clear across the table. Basically, forget the Constitution and its provisions about privacy. Nothing to see there, keep on walking. So let’s start from a massively illegal operation, make it legal and then move on from there. Oh, and let’s add in a 10 year prison sentence for anyone who tries to learn/understand the illegalities that we’re doing. Have we lost our collective minds?

Anonymous Coward says:

Feinstein Farce

The Senator is a clueless shill for the defense lobby and in particular the NSA.

Her proposed law is a farce and swindle. The lobby is simply, again, legalizing all the illegal stuff they did in the name of ensuring our rights and to provide security.

There are a dozen other bills floating around most with written the same way: Legalizing crime and Constitutional rape.

ImagineNation says:

Diane Feinstein

She disgusts me. For her to label herself as a Democrat is ludicrous and in itself is a crime, IMHO. She is also helping facilitate the privatization of the post office so that her husband can sell the properties in the PO’s extensive real estate portfolio for pennies on the dollar to their friends and campaign contributors via CBRE Richard Ellis Real Estate broker and make a boatload of cash. What is even more sad is that some of the properties are beautiful historic buildings that are irreplaceable.

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