Obama Administration's Expansion Of Domestic Spying Powers Dwarfs The 'Good Old Days' Of Bush And John Yoo

from the a-backbone-too-far dept

I guess the real accomplishment of "The Most Transparent Administration" is how much it exposed Americans to domestic surveillance. I suppose that's its own form of "transparency."

Just Security's Patrick Toomey notes that this administration has embraced legal theories wilder and more expansive than those presented by John Yoo on behalf of the Bush administration. Yoo, despite his willingness to treat the collection of communications like a DUI checkpoint for terrorism, had his limits. This administration, however, has seen those limits and lowered them.

Like Yoo, the Obama administration has argued that Americans have a “greatly reduced” expectation of privacy in their international communications — so diminished, in fact, that no warrant is necessary for the government to intercept and search those communications. That might come as a surprise to the millions of Americans who regularly engage in personal or confidential communications with family, friends, business associates, and others overseas. When you pick up the phone to call a family member abroad, there is no reason to believe that your communication is any less private than calling a friend across town. The Supreme Court has certainly never said any such thing. Indeed, Yoo eventually admitted in his memo that the case law did not support the suspicionless interception of “the contents of telephone or other electronic communication[s]” — though he then proceeded to ignore his own conclusion.

But that has not stopped the government from making the same claims in the Section 702 cases now moving through the courts. The government has embraced Yoo’s position, arguing that the privacy interests of US persons in international communications are “significantly diminished, if not completely eliminated,” when those communications are sent to or from foreigners abroad.
Going further, this administration has decided to believe that any communication traveling outside of US borders is a communication with a foreigner, even if it's a domestic-to-domestic conversation taking an extremely circuitous route. If it crosses one of the overseas backbones the NSA has tapped into, it's fair game, no matter who the ultimate recipient of the communication actually is, or where they reside.

This is the NSA's upstream collection under Section 702, which now goes much, much further than Yoo's version ever did. Toomey notes Yoo assured FISA Court Judge Kollar-Cotelly that this collection was not the Bush administration giving itself permission to seize and search every international communication. But that's exactly how the Obama administration has chosen to interpret its powers.
As the ACLU recently explained in Wikimedia v. NSA, this surveillance is the digital analogue of having a government agent open every letter that comes through a mail processing center to read its contents before determining which letters to keep. In other words, today the Obama administration is defending surveillance that was a bridge too far for even John Yoo.
So, John Yoo, the architect of what was once thought to be the greatest expansion of government surveillance powers, is now just the guy who laid the foundation for the intelligence community today. What the Bush administration considered to be too far is the Obama administration's starting point. Considering the breathtaking reach of the NSA under this administration, it's hardly surprising a few leakers have taken it upon themselves to reveal to the public what's being done to them by their government in the name of national security.

Filed Under: civil liberties, john yoo, obama administration, president obama, privacy, surveillance


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  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 9:11am

    That was just pillow-talk, baby.

    I assume, at this point, that he didn't mean his administration would be transparent, but that he would work to make all of our lives transparent *to* this administration.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 9:14am

    He needs these powers to keep tabs on the Republicans

    Eventually, these kind of snooping powers will be used by the party in control to snoop on the other party and keep them from winning elections. This, if no other reason, should be reason enough to reject this kind of power.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:25am

      Re: He needs these powers to keep tabs on the Republicans

      This is why the parties are not really much different from each other. Both want money and power, they just disagree on how to enslave the retards dumb enough to continue voting for them.

      The only real difference is that the Republicans tend to be more honest about what they want while the Democrats lie about everything they can, easily fooling the younger and minority crowds quite readily. Of course this is not to diminish the stupidity of the Republican base but at least right now there is a serious split with the Republicans at least showing that we give a damn about corruption while the democrats just take which ever BITCH they get handed to them without much of a peep. The minorities are turning out to be slaves of their own accord. If I was black, I would be pretty damn pissed of at the Democrats for all of the lies and back stabbing and general idea that just because I am black means I need to fall in line what whatever the NAACP or the National Black Caucus says about politics.

      If trump runs as an independent I might vote for him. Not because I like Trump, he is every bit as shit as Bernie, Hillary, Cruz and the rest. I just think it is more important to see the Republican Party system fail!

      If you LIKE any candidate that is running, you are a sheeple! None of them give a shit about you or your miserable life! They are all super rich compared to the plebs and have no way to claim any reasonable connection or understanding to your plights! They are ALL pro police and surveillance state!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 11:28am

        Re: Re: He needs these powers to keep tabs on the Republicans

        If trump runs as an independent I might vote for him. Not because I like Trump, he is every bit as shit as Bernie, Hillary, Cruz and the rest. I just think it is more important to see the Republican Party system fail!

        You're not alone in this sentiment. The most important outcome in this election will be if We the People can get up off our lazy, distracted asses and prevent any of the "establishment/plutocrat/oligarch/0.001%" approved candidates from being elected. A vote for Sanders or Trump shouldn't be considered an endorsement for either, but instead a condemnation of the rigged, massively corrupt, poker game that is running full speed to rob us of our freedoms and fortunes.

        In this presidential election, it's much more important who you don't vote for than who you do. If you like the direction this country is headed (e.g., endless war, totalitarian police state, trade agreements giving corporations power over nations, ever more invasive corporate/state surveillance, massive income inequalities, etc.), then by all means vote for Hillary or whoever the Republicans pull out of their ass to "save us" from the evil Trump.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 9:15am

    This administration has made people everywhere less safe and secure in their desire for personal wealth and power at the expense of their oaths, and fellow citizens.

    Obama certainly proved to be an enemy of America in my opinion. He used and abused his position to profit for himself.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:29am

      Re:

      Bush helped a lot with the creation of DHS/TSA & the Patriot Act.

      Not to put all of the blame on bush, because there were more than enough demotards voting yes to the bullshit spewing from the Bush administration.

      They are all traitors to the American People!

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

  • icon
    Adam (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 9:55am

    Exhibit A

    ..this is the purest example of the give an inch take a mile theory the gov't follows daily. When someone says, "yeah, we should break all privacy laws because, you know, it's ONE terrorists cell phone.." they really get this behavior from the gov't.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 9:56am

    There are no differences between the political parties in the U.S.!

    NONE. If you believe there are real differences in how they govern, then God help you. If republicans and democrats aren't the same, explain why Obama continues the policies of Bush who continued the policies of Clinton who continued the polices of Bush!

    The only differences are in the perceived positions the parties take on social issues. Issues that should remain subjective, personal positions & philosophies that ought not be legislated, yet somehow become public issues which are exploited to create tribal feuding. We are being divided and conquered by our own government to distract us from the shady shit they're doing.

    Presidents come and go, but nothing changes. Elites don't want a change. I mean, why else the backlash against Trump and Sanders? God, I'd love to see a third party ticket with those two as running mates....

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 11:46am

      Re: There are no differences between the political parties in the U.S.!

      That. So much that.

      It's become like some pathetic game of "good cop - bad cop" being perpetrated on the voters (and it's getting harder and harder to tell who's they want us to believe is the good cop). At this point, I think it's safe to lump in "Democrat vs. Republican" with race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. as just another wedge issue our "leaders" use on us to divide and conquer.

      It's beyond me how any non-elite voter still believes that either party represents their best interests.

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

  • icon
    AricTheRed (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:10am

    Shame!

    Shame on you John Yoo,

    and Barrack Obama too!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:12am

    what they meant to say...

    it was a simple oversight in proofreading the Transparency section. They had "administration" but they meant "constituents".

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/01/20/change-has-come-whitehousegov

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:28am

    It has been said before: no terrorist will harm the US as much as morons like Yoo and the Government itself.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:38am

      Re:

      The correct way to say it is this.

      I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

      ~Thomas Jefferson

      Government is the greatest enemy of Civilization, should you choose to form one, be sure that it is wearing the shackles for if it does not, then they shall place them on you instead!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 10:49am

    yes, and ms clinton will have you know that a vote for her is a vote for another four years.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2016 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      Precisely. And yet the other option is either as bad as she is or worse (Trump comes to mind here).

      I've said before, you need more political parties and some heavy reform of your political system (assuming you are American). I've been thinking that allowing political parties to go for the executive and legislative seem to create pretty hard problems but I honestly can't find a way out. You could make it so parties on the executive leadership cannot own more than x% of the legislative and judges can't have any ties with parties but it would be impractical I guess.

      Still, while it is kind of different here. We have a partisan polarity but there are other parties that make things a tad better than in the us but we are still seeing the polarization here with a third, large party, acting as the prostitute that goes with whoever pays (ie: who is in power).

      Note: prostitution is a much better and noble job than politics these days it seems. My apologies if any sex worker is offended by the analogy.

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

  • identicon
    Constitution, 12 Apr 2016 @ 11:34am

    I am dying. Please help.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2016 @ 2:53pm

    Just imagine how much more it will be expanded if Trump or Clinton are the next president. It would not surprise me if Trump tried to make it so every house had to be wired with surveillance cameras w/sound that sent everything in real time back to the NSA.

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

  • icon
    NitroLab (profile), 7 May 2016 @ 8:16pm

    Where's all of the liberals that foamed at the mouth over Yoo and Bush at now?

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

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 8 May 2016 @ 2:28am

      Re:

      The same place all the conservatives were when Yoo was writing memos justifying torturing people to death, and Bush was signing off on that torture.

      Surely liberals are as entitled to ignore atrocities when the sign on the desk says Democrat, just as the conservatives were proud to ignore atrocities committed when the sign on the desk said Republican. "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." -Luke 6:42

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


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