Feinstein (Again) Says Metadata Program 'Is Not Surveillance'

from the you're-only-embarrassing-yourself,-Dianne dept

Senator Dianne Feinstein's war of words in defense of the NSA's programs continues, despite both the political tide and public favor shifting in the other direction. According to Feinstein, everyone is still suffering from some sort of mass delusion when it comes to the Section 215 program.

“It’s not a surveillance program, it’s a data-collection program,” she said while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Oh, but it's actually both. According to supporters of the NSA, metadata is just a bunch of anonymous numbers harvested in hopes of discovering needles. To those actually paying attention, metadata is a very efficient way to collect very personal information about someone. Just because it looks like data doesn't mean it's not surveillance. Let's not forget that metadata provides enough information to justify extrajudicial killings.

It's still surveillance. It just bears no resemblance to what spying used to mean. What the NSA has done is turn "surveillance" into something abstract, but equally invasive. It has eliminated the targeted nature of its classic definition and replaced it with servers full of data, all of it theoretically linked to another abstraction: "terrorism."

The headline says Feinstein "blasts" critics, but this sort of clueless pedantry doesn't actually "blast" anyone. Months after the defenders' assertions have been repeatedly dismantled (including two similar assertions by the senator), Feinstein's willingness to cling to a nostalgic view of surveillance could almost be termed "delightfully old school" -- if only she still didn't have at least one hand on the controls as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She also said she wasn't aware of another revelation released in conjunction with Glenn Greenwald's book on Snowden and the NSA.
In “No Place to Hide,” released last week, Greenwald said the U.S. government places surveillance tools in technology equipment to be sold abroad, an accusation the U.S. government often lobs at the Chinese government.

That program “does not sound familiar,” Feinstein said Sunday.
Well, I'm sure the NSA keeps secrets from even you, Dianne. And I'm sure the NSA is at least as surprised as you are that the information is now public. No one seems to be aware of some of the stuff that has been leaked, elements of which have escaped even the attention of those on the committees that have performed actual oversight, rather than just stood cheering on the sidelines.

Ultimately, whether it doesn't fit into Feinstein's dewy-eyed surveillance ideal or if it has escaped (read: been withheld from) her attention, she's behind it. Because without all of this, we're doomed.
“I know they will come after us if they can, I see the intelligence,” she said.

“Terror is not down in the world, it is up.”
If that's so, remind us again why all the surveillance and expansion of government powers is necessary. Because it doesn't seem to have improved anything.

Filed Under: dianne feinstein, metadata, nsa, section 215, surveillance

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  1. identicon
    Trevor, 21 May 2014 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What is surveillance?

    The part everyone is glossing over is the "Probable Cause" and "Particularly describing the place to be searched, and persons or things to be seized" section of the 4th Amendment.

    Yes, the Constitution BOTH grants power and rights and restricts power and rights, and the 4th Amendment is an example of a balance of that.

    However, the 4th Amendment indicates that a search is reasonable if supported by a warrant, which in turn is supported by probable cause and particularly describes what is to be taken and where it is likely located.

    The purpose of the 4th Amendment was to counter the "General Warrants" the Crown used against Colonists and regular Peasants to keep them in line. The 4th Amendment was a response to that system, and required the Warrants to be more than general.

    The problem today is that the secret courts and interpretations of law and NSA are in effect bringing back general warrants. What probable cause does the NSA have to collect all metadata on everyone? "They might be associated with terrorists" is too broad an explanation to pass as reasonable.

    Case law has shown that warrants require specificity. You can't get a warrant to search for a stolen car and use that warrant to look inside every drawer of a garage. You can only look where the car is likely to be. That's why warrants always include "and drug paraphernalia," because it is small and lets cops look through drawers for evidence.

    With the NSA, there is no specificity. The most specific they get is "People" and "Metadata." and then collect everything. It's like getting a warrant to look for a stolen house, and searching EVERY drawer in your apartment to find the house.

    That's the problem. It's not so much the definition of reasonableness, but more that the NSA does not have probable cause AND does not attempt to be specific about what it is searching for.

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