Snowden Rebuts Sen. Feinstein's Claims That The NSA's Metadata Collection Is 'Not Surveillance'

from the yeah,-i-know.-and-a-collection-is-not-a-collection.-got-it. dept

Ed Snowden has briefly stepped up to the mic to rebut Dianne Feinstein's claims that the NSA's bulk phone records collections are "not surveillance." While he didn't specifically name Feinstein, it's pretty clear who his comments are directed towards, what with the senator putting in overtime over the past few weeks defending the agency's cherished but useless Section 215 collections haystacks that are definitely not collections (according to the Intelligence Dictionary.)

"Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands," Snowden said in a statement Thursday.

"Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong."
Her op-ed for the USA Today stated the following:
The call-records program is not surveillance.
Why is it not surveillance? Feinstein claimed, in direct contradiction to someone who's seen most of the inner workings of the agency's programs, that because it doesn't sweep up communications or names, it isn't surveillance. Also, she pointed out that surveillance or not, it's legal. So there.

Maybe Feinstein considers the term "surveillance" to mean something closer to the old school interpretation -- shadowy figures in unmarked vans wearing headphones and peering through binoculars.

Of course, this kind of surveillance contained many elements completely eliminated by the combination of the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and a very charitable reading of the Third Party Doctrine. You know, the sort of stuff those shadowy men used to utilize: warrants, targeted investigations, reasonable suspicion, a grudging working relationship with the Fourth Amendment…

That's all gone now. The courts have declared that sweeping up business records on millions of Americans is no more a violation of the Fourth Amendment than gathering metadata on a single person. The NSA has warped the definition of "surveillance" just as surely as they've warped the definition of "relevant." The wholesale, untargeted gathering of millions of "transactions" from internet and phone activity doesn't seem to resemble what anyone might historically think of as "surveillance," but it's surveillance nonetheless.

Sure, the NSA may not look at everything it gathers, but it has the capability to do so and it shows no interest in letting any of its dragnets be taken out of commission. The NSA's defenders downplay the agency's many intrusions by first playing the "legal" and "oversight" cards and, when those fail to impress, belittle their critics by trotting out condescending statements like, "The NSA isn't interested in Grandma's birthday phone call or the cat videos you email to your friends."

Well, no shit. We're hardly interested in that, either. We're not worried about the NSA looking through tons of inane interactions. We know it doesn't have the time or inclination to do so. We're more concerned it's looking at the stuff it finds interesting and amassing databases full of "suspicious" persons by relying on algorithms and keywords -- a fallible process that robs everything of context and turns slightly pointed hay into the needles it so desperately needs to justify its existence.

What makes this even more frightening is that the agency then hands this unfiltered, untargeted, massive collection of data off to other agencies, not only in the US but in other countries, subjecting innocent Americans' data to new algorithms, keywords and mentalities, increasing the possibility of false positives.

But what we're mainly concerned about is the fact that an agency that claims its doing this to combat terrorism can't seem to come up with much evidence that its programs are working. The NSA has deprived us of civil liberties while delivering next to nothing in terms of security. Americans have been sold out to a data-hungry beast, and even if it's not officially "surveillance," it's still completely unacceptable.

Filed Under: bulk collection, dianne feinstein, ed snowden, nsa, nsa surveillance, surveillance


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  1. identicon
    Capt. Gary Kassbaum M.M., 26 Oct 2013 @ 9:01am

    NSA Surveillance

    Security Motive Derivative
    The last commentators dissertation is 'spot on'. Information "increasing the possibility of false positives" is a bit of an understatement. I, as a Canadian Gov`t official was targeted,drugged, assaulted and micro-chipped, while attending a 3 day conference - Washington-Arlington 2005- I`ve have never had even a misdemeanor. The cover-up process must be a big part of the NSA`s budget or the budgets of over-zealous agencies involved....a case of `not enough terrorists``, so in order to to stay in practice we`ll target just about anything that even `hearsay` information falsely interpreted qualifies. Going over telephone message databases and picking one out ones that appears suspicious; without being in the moment or seeing the whole context, that telephone message now warrants action. As such, non-lethal harassment can now become much more sinister to semi-lethal harassment; `semi` infers a corporate conscience of letting the targeted person live- ``just in case we made a mistake``- and then spend a lot of time and money covering up the `collateral damage done. In essence the due process of law has been subverted
    I believe the damage done to both Canada and the United States by this `wired-up`approach is more than any ji-hadists ever dreamed of. Whatever happened to `probable cause``, protection of the individual under all the Constitutional Amendments and The Charter Of Rights and Freedoms......questions, questions..questions deliberately unanswered. Those working in the relevant agencies like to go home at night thinking `ve protected my country another day, deliberately- consciously or unconsciously oblivious to the risks of collateral damage to possibly hundreds of thousands of innocent people - marching us ominously toward a `fear`society``. This spreading `security sensitivity` is more than paranoia, its almost like a disease taking away the joys of normal life and living from those most affected. When one organization becomes so large and remotely untouchable; with hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect conscripts working in all kinds of jobs across N. America secretly aligned `to the cause``- G-D help us when these indoctrinated and brainwashed security advocates become armed and receive their marching orders when martial law is declared or any other drastic political reason warranting it.
    G-D Bless Canada and The United States.

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