Why Won't NSA Defenders Publish Their Phone Records?

from the no-expectation-of-privacy dept

As various defenders of the NSA program keep insisting that there's nothing wrong with the data they're collecting because it's "just metadata," and "the Supreme Court has said there's no expectation of privacy in such metadata," it seems curious that none of those defenders seems willing to release their own such metadata. Former NSA and CIA boss, Michael Hayden (who led the warrantless wiretapping program) has written yet another less than honest op-ed piece for CNN arguing that the data collected is "like what is on an envelope." Of course, that's not even remotely true. Your phone (and email) metadata reveal a lot more info than what's on the outside of a mail envelope, in part because the usage is quite different. People make a lot more phone calls and send a lot more emails than postal mail -- and those calls and emails tend to be a lot more specific about their friends, lovers, family, interests and whatnot than any postal mail. Furthermore, the issue isn't just "one" envelope, but the fact that when you "collect it all," you can paint quite a picture of someone's life, including all sorts of private things.

Then you get people like Rep. Mike Rogers misleadingly claiming that the Supreme Court has said there's "no expectation of privacy in phone records." This is the same thing that former Bush speechwriter (and defender of jailing journalists and blatant censorship) Marc Thiessen argued on Twitter.

In response, we've got a simple question: if there's no expectation of privacy in metadata, and it's just like what's on the outside of envelope, when will Michael Hayden, Mike Rogers, Marc Thiessen and other defenders of the NSA program (James Clapper? Keith Alexander?) share their phone records for us to look through?

It's a simple request. Clearly they have no privacy interest (the Supreme Court said so!), so I don't see why they should refuse such a request. After all, it's "just metadata." And, yet, after asking both Thiessen and Rogers, neither seems inclined to share their phone records. It's almost like it's something that they (*gasp*!) might want to keep private.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    Metadata

    The metadata might explain why the NSA can command their support.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:46am

    If they have nothing to hide...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    pixelpusher220 (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Ok, envelopes it is

    So how do I have completely anonymous phone and email meta-data. Because I CAN send an envelope without any return address on it. Drop it in a random P.O Box and you simply don't have any way to tie it to me without opening it.

    Doesn't work for electronic communications unless you're saying we're allowed to encrypt everything...which apparently allows the NSA to store your data indefinitely.

    Oh and caller-id spoofing is technically illegal isn't it? According to the blank envelope concept though, it should be completely legal, no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:54am

    Like an envelope

    Aside from having a lot more information than what's on an envelope, there's another difference: opt-in. When you send a letter, you don't have to put any information at all on the outside aside from the destination address and stamp, so it's possible to send anonymous mail regardless of mail covers.

    Such an option is not available for phone calls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    Re: Ok, envelopes it is

    So how do I have completely anonymous phone and email meta-data


    Email is much easier than phone. There are many anonymous remailers that let you send untraceable email.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    antymat, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    It is all about accessibility.

    Like - sticking your photo in your big family photo album on your shelf vs. putting it on Facebook. The accessibility is much different.
    Same with the envelope analogy - since when does one need to put the sender address on it? The data accessibility again - of course, one can infer the sender; with e-mail and phone it is already there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Jul 26th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    It's simple...

    Why won't these hypocritical overlords publish their phone records?

    "Because shut up."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:00am

    Has anyone asked?

    Has anyone asked, say, Verizon for the metadata on their congresscritter's phone?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:02am

    well. this is a really hard question to answer! you dont think that just for a change, they may be lying, do you? perhaps there is more to this 'metadata' than they are letting on?? what do you reckon??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Re: Ok, envelopes it is.... paranoia version

    You are anonymous only so long as their are no finger prints or DNA traces on the outside of the envelope. Further you would have to make sure that the envelope cannot be opened enough to extract the contents, or insert a scanner without leaving signs of it being tampered with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Robert Doyle (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:12am

    Why isn't there a political paparazzi?

    I think the politicians need to be treated just like movie stars - then we can see what they really think about "privacy."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    McCrea (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    Even if...

    Even if it was just like the outside of an envelope, I wouldn't let anyone flip through all my mail to see who I may be (or maybe be NOT) in contact with.

    And my porn comes in discreet brown wrappings anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    The easy counter is that publicly with millions is quite different from one entity, no matter how evil. It's why I try to never state anything identifying here.

    But as you ALSO have a valid point that entitites have no right to your personal information and it IS an invasion, it applies equally to your precious Google!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Alt0, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    metadata metadata metadata

    I thought it was found out and subsequently admitted to that they capture and store a LOT more than metadata.
    Any conversation where a government official says metadata is just to have the public thinking along the lines of "that's all they have is metadata".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Re: Why isn't there a political paparazzi?

    Because no on wants to see an upskirt shot or a nip slip pic of Nancy Pelosi!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    your "easy" counter doesn't work. The Gov are trying to encourage data sharing, so once your data has been in the hands of the police, NSA and any other 3 letters you want we're probably talking about millions anyway.

    Also it's a good job you never post anything personally identifiable, I'm sure many people would love to use those details to inflict a small measure of revenge for the headaches through face-desks your posts cause.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:36am

    Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    "It's why I try to never state anything identifying here."

    ...or useful, for that matter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Re: Even if...

    And my porn comes in discreet brown wrappings anyway.

    And every other parcel comes with supplier branding, which means the purpose of discreet brown wrappings is defeated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Re: Ok, envelopes it is

    Oh and caller-id spoofing is technically illegal isn't it?


    No, it's not, depending on how you use it.

    But the thing about caller ID is that there really two different caller ID systems, the one that consumers use and the real one (ANI) that the phone company uses to identify numbers for billing purposes, for calling 911, etc. The former is not considered mission critical for anybody and can be spoofed. The latter cannot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    File a FOIA, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 9:58am

    File a FOIA request to publish their metadata.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    File a FOIA for the Info and Publish it PLEASE!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:16am

    But if the NSA has our data (meta or otherwise) and either uses or doesn't use it, it's still not public record. You are basically asking for these NSA defenders' phone data to become public record by getting it and sharing it with the world.

    Now, if we say that we are going to store the phone data on a server somewhere and not actually use it for anything *wink*, thereby not actually "collecting" the data, then we have a shot here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Ron Burgundy, Information Anarchist, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    This just in... When asked why their own metadata is deemed private, Congressmen uniformly pointed "down there" and shook their heads. Mr. Weiner's weiner did not immediately respond to our request for comment though we all expect an issue in short order.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:22am

    i'll fuckin tell ya why

    cause a angry mob will find out the exact locations and go and pillage the joints these fucktards hail from

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re: Even if...

    I usually get two or three packages a week, and only a small minority of them (I'm looking at you, Amazon) have supplier branding on the outside. Mostly, they're just plain brown boxes or envelopes with a shipping label slapped on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    Keeping private, private

    Encrypt message. Embed it in a photo using steganography. Post photo on facebook page. Nicely hidden in plain sight!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 10:45am

    Fantastic

    Just think of what we could do with our senators and representatives phones records. I'm just drooling with anticipation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    anonymouse, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:10am

    Re: Metadata

    Maybe we should all be demanding to see the metadata of the politicians , seeing that it is not secret and does not reveal much info. I mean if we could see Boners records we might see 100 calls to big oil ceo's before a vote is due....could be really interesting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:19am

    "...when will Michael Hayden, Mike Rogers, Marc Thiessen and other defenders of the NSA program (James Clapper? Keith Alexander?) share their phone records for us to look through?"

    They don't have to give up their phone records, because they are all exempt of the warrant-less, unconstitutional and illegal NSA spy drag-net. There's an exemption written into the Spy Law for Congress and other federal agencies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:24am

    Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    You leave plenty of identifying traces here, you'd just whine if anyone revealed they know it. Impotent ranting about a private entity that allows opt-out doesnt deflect from the real issue here - an issue you insist on avoiding because it doesn't allow for idiotic attacks against someone you're obsessed with. Instead of impotent whining and lying, maybe the truth is something you should address for once?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!


    I've heard rumors that Mike has around 2,000 browser tabs open at any given time.

    Maybe Mike should share his browser history with Blue and while he's going through them all we can have a brief respite from Blue's usual inane ramblings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:30am

    Re: Congress et al

    Well, since the NSA is hoovering up all phone metadata, I suspect that our Congresstwerps are getting hoovered as well. I'm just waiting for someone to tap into that data trove and start showing just who our "representatives" are conspiring with!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Simple Mind (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Even if...

    There are two ways to interpret this. One is that you are a major sex pervert. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Why isn't there a political paparazzi?

    Dude I am not going to sleep for the next week with that picture in my head ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    I've heard rumors that Mike has around 2,000 browser tabs open at any given time.


    Eh, don't think I've ever gotten it above 1,400. Right now have about 1,200.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    Well Ok. Still a pretty crazy number.

    I'm not sure I've ever had more than 50 open at the same time. You ever get freaked out by random audio from any of those tabs?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    George Samaras, Jul 26th, 2013 @ 12:15pm

    Hypocrisy

    I am surprised that this surprises you ... It is no different than the 2nd amendment proponents not allowing firearms in Congressional chambers. It is the old adage: i am in charge, so do as I say, not as I do ... As long as our fellow citizens keep voting them in, they are going to keep believing in a double standard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Even if...

    I just have hobbies that require regular parts and supplies. That I'm a sex pervert doesn't affect my mail flow. I have the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Simple Mind (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Even if...

    I sometimes get boxes of model airplane parts directly from China. This probably means I am on a watch list as a potential international terrrist. Ridiculous!

    On the other hand, it is a good idea to watch me if you actually are a corrupt govt. Because I only respect authority that respects my rights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 26th, 2013 @ 11:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    I'm not sure I've ever had more than 50 open at the same time. You ever get freaked out by random audio from any of those tabs?

    Yes. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday during a similar conversation, that's when I know it's time for a coffee break (or, well, a break of some sort, since I'm not a big coffee drinker).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2013 @ 9:29pm

    Re: Re: Ok, envelopes it is

    > There are many anonymous remailers
    > that let you send untraceable email.

    That's true in theory, but the anonymity is based on there being a minimum level of traffic through these remailers, so that traffic analysis won't give a lot of information by correlating inputs and outputs.

    Of course, the NSA exposure has probably increased the use of these remailers by an order of magnitude, so that's another way in which the NSA has lost out. I wonder what's up with Tor usage, also.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:12am

    Re: So, Mike, share with us your browsing history from Google!

    >It's why I try to never state anything identifying here.

    Too late. Everyone identifies you as an idiot and a lunatic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This