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Thread: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    slate (michael kinsley):

    NSA metadata: Obama’s nonanswers to questions about government surveillance. - Slate Magazine

    non answers, meta answers

    The National Security Agency has been compiling a database of everyone’s phone records. But don’t worry. According to the Obama administration, it’s just “metadata.” “The information acquired does not include the content of any communications,” says White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Analysts can only search “phone numbers and durations of calls,” says President Obama. “They're not looking at content.” James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, likens it to reading the Dewey Decimal number on the cover of a library book. You’re not seeing what’s inside the book.

    In this context, meta means that the thing you’re talking about is really about something else. Metadata is “data that provides information about other data.” When Obama, Clapper, and other officials say they’re just collecting metadata, they’re basically saying it’s empty. It tells you that a call happened, but it doesn’t tell you what was said. It’s referential, derivative, hollow.

    Unfortunately, that’s also true of the administration’s statements about the NSA surveillance programs. Many Americans, upset about these programs, are asking how they work and what they reveal. Obama and his aides purport to answer these questions, but their replies are really just meta-answers. They don’t tell us what the programs do or where they stop. All they tell us, vaguely, is how the boundaries—whatever they are—are drawn.

    The administration says the programs are governed by a “robust legal regime,” “strict controls,” “strict restrictions,” and “very careful procedures and processes to ensure particularly that the privacy and civil liberties of Americans are protected.” The programs have “a whole range of safeguards,” says Obama. They’re “consistently subject to safeguards,” says Clapper. The NSA’s Internet monitoring program, for instance, follows “legislatively mandated procedures” that “are very precise.” But the law doesn’t specify these safeguards or procedures, and the administration doesn’t explain them. We’re told they’re precise, but we aren’t told precisely what they are.

    The procedures Obama and Clapper talk about aren’t procedures for using the data. They’re procedures for approving procedures for using the data. They’re metaprocedures. White House press secretary Jay Carney assures us that “there are procedures for both requirements for judicial consent and review and for congressional review,” as well as executive branch “procedures … for monitoring these programs.” Clapper says his office and the Justice Department give Congress “exhaustive semiannual reports assessing compliance with the targeting and minimization procedures.” The reports may be exhaustive, but the standards are completely unexplained. What exactly are the “targeting and minimization procedures”?

    Obama says there’s an “audit process.” That sounds great. What does the audit examine? According to the president, it ascertains whether “all the safeguards are being properly observed.” What are the safeguards? He doesn’t say. Clapper says the administration performs “regular on-site reviews of how Section 702 authorities are being implemented.” Cool. So how are those authorities being implemented? Again, no answer.

    Clapper loves to talk about specifics. He says we can trust the phone surveillance program because “the FISA court specifically approved this method of collection as lawful, subject to stringent restrictions.” For instance: “Only specially cleared counterterrorism personnel specifically trained in the court-approved procedures may even access the records.” What are these procedures and restrictions? He can’t tell us. “Orders that are issued by FISA judges are classified,” Earnest explains. “In terms of specific operational details, I just can't get into them.” Instead of specifics, we get vague assurances that the court orders and their implementation are precise.

    The other metaprocedure that’s supposed to keep NSA procedures tight, according to the administration, is “very robust congressional oversight.” Last week, Obama asserted that “every member of Congress has been briefed” on the phone surveillance program. When reporters pointed out that many members of Congress seemed unaware of it, the administration revised its language. “Members of Congress were briefed or had the opportunity to be briefed,” said Carney. Earnest cited a Justice Department letter about a document that had been sent to the congressional intelligence committees “to be made available to all members.” A letter referring to a document inviting the committees to refer the information to lawmakers. That’s two levels of meta.

    Obama’s favorite defense of the NSA is metademocracy: Congress is a surrogate for the people. “Your duly elected representatives have been consistently informed on exactly what we're doing,” he says. When informing 535 representatives is too dangerous, the administration informs just the intelligence committees or the gang of eight—the leaders of each party in each house, plus the intelligence committee chairmen and designated minority-party representatives from those committees. That’s four people duly elected by your duly elected representatives, plus four other people selected by those four people. Three more levels of meta.

    What exactly did the briefings cover? The White House says they addressed the “provisions” and “authorities” under which the NSA acts. That isn’t a briefing. It’s a metabriefing. Clapper says if any lawmaker “had asked for a specific briefing or follow-up questions, we certainly … would have responded.” To get the details, you have to know enough to ask.
    kinsley's crew continues

    the white house insists the nsa spy programs have been "publicly discussed in extensive public debate"

    but public debates, asserts slate, have centered around the patriot act proper, not about how the act was applied---"that's not transparency, it's metatransparency"

    the white house points to limits, 90 day windows and meta collection as opposed to outright eavesdropping---"metalimits," the savants at slate sigh

    clapper claims the fisa court requires "reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization”

    slate stubbornly asks: what’s reasonable suspicion? what level of facts? what degree of association?

    kinsley's kids conclude: "what we don’t need is more linguistic trickery, we can’t have a director of national intelligence who deceives himself and others about the meaning of the word collect, and we can’t have a president who substitutes procedural for substantive answers"

    "when reporters ask whether the nsa is operating under an unduly flexible interpretation of the law, the reply from the white house---it’s the view of the president that there is in place a very strict oversight regime---isn’t an answer, it’s a meta-answer"

    "give us the real thing"

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael66 View Post
    It's a question that is too much of a populist hot button issue for people to understand and think about before they jump to conclusions. It's shallow and kneejerk to react so strongly against the government on this issue.

    To understand what I have said you will need to understand how you can't challenge a motherhood issue, and indeed understand what a motherhood issue even is. But I am challenging it even though it's like challenging motherhood.

    And so, in order to ever find out if I'm right on this you will have to wait perhaps a long time and then it won't even be satisfactorily answered. You see, if the terrorists were successful in detonating a nuclear device in one of America's big cities, the question would still not be answered. It would only be suspected that your NSA and other agencies that are charged with protecting your country have not been serving their intended purpose. That purpose is to keep America safe.

    And so, you can have it any way you want it, it's a decision for Americans. Only be completely aware of the choices you choose. You can tie the hands of your anti-terrorist government agencies all you like but you have to do it in an honest way and that can't be only in the interest of bucking everything a black president does.

    It's not an enviable position your country has put your fellow Americans into. But it 'is' the position now and there's nothing that can totally reverse it. You could only attempt to begin to reverse it. And that doesn't seem to be on the agenda of any American except perhaps Obama. Publicly at least, but not even publicly spoken by Obama simply because it wouldn't be politically correct to do so.
    The government, not the country, put the american people in the UNeviable position we are in now.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry David View Post
    The government, not the country, put the american people in the UNeviable position we are in now.
    To me, though, the government and the country are one and the same. At least to a great degree, not 100%.
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry David View Post
    The government, not the country, put the american people in the UNeviable position we are in now.
    No, the people are responsible. It could be said that a crass and uncaring attitude toward the well being of the people of ME countries is the cause. It's at least stated by Bin Laden that it's the cause and good ol Ron Paul repeats it.

    And so the only reiteration Americans need of what I consider a fact, is that they will sit on their hands and let it continue. Syria! Say it ain't so!

    Those who consider it not so can then take the responsibility of the future likelihood of another attack on the scale of 9/11 or even much worse. However, If you like to bet on such matters then you can choose to disregard the truth and depend on your country (government) being able to protect you in the future. If you are willing to take that chance then you may want to consider not stopping your NSA and other orgs. from spying on Americans.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    To me, though, the government and the country are one and the same. At least to a great degree, not 100%.
    I go with Thomas Paine: It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.

    But I know what you mean--it's connotation more than denotation, just semantics.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry David View Post
    I go with Thomas Paine: It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.

    But I know what you mean--it's connotation more than denotation, just semantics.
    Who among us would suggest that the German people weren't responsible for it's country's actions in WW2? Shall we put hypocrisy to the test now?

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael66 View Post
    No, the people are responsible. It could be said that a crass and uncaring attitude toward the well being of the people of ME countries is the cause. It's at least stated by Bin Laden that it's the cause and good ol Ron Paul repeats it.

    And so the only reiteration Americans need of what I consider a fact, is that they will sit on their hands and let it continue. Syria! Say it ain't so!

    Those who consider it not so can then take the responsibility of the future likelihood of another attack on the scale of 9/11 or even much worse. However, If you like to bet on such matters then you can choose to disregard the truth and depend on your country (government) being able to protect you in the future. If you are willing to take that chance then you may want to consider not stopping your NSA and other orgs. from spying on Americans.
    Well, I admit that the complacency of the american people is responsible for very much of the bad karma we are experiencing right now. Yes, it could be the fault of the american people.

    But I am able to remember that nobody amongst "the people" were reaching out for patriot act like legislation. Seems to me it was foisted upon us, with 95% or more of congresscritters admitting that they did not read and did not debate said legislation.

    So, a fair argument could be made that the offending legislation was foisted upon us by our illustrious leaders in Congress. Those with just enough malfeasance in office to pass legislation without even reading it. And then to renew it every few years afterwards.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael66 View Post
    Who among us would suggest that the German people weren't responsible for it's country's actions in WW2? Shall we put hypocrisy to the test now?
    It appears you have trouble distinguishing cart from horse.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    To me, though, the government and the country are one and the same. At least to a great degree, not 100%.
    To me, the People are the country, gov't is an unwanted but necessary appendage to organize interstate commerce and provide for our common defense.

    The individual colonies didn't want a country, they wanted to be on their own. Yet they all agreed England's tyranny was the greater evil, and so out of necessity, formed a nation.

    Power ascends from the people, to their local and state governments, then to federal... that it appears the other way around now is simply a clear illustration of how far off track we are.

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    Re: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

    Quote Originally Posted by Occam's Razor View Post
    To me, the People are the country, gov't is an unwanted but necessary appendage to organize interstate commerce and provide for our common defense.

    The individual colonies didn't want a country, they wanted to be on their own. Yet they all agreed England's tyranny was the greater evil, and so out of necessity, formed a nation.

    Power ascends from the people, to their local and state governments, then to federal... that it appears the other way around now is simply a clear illustration of how far off track we are.
    In a sense I agree, but I'll expand on what I meant. The people, the government, the country, are ALL one and the same. Each one influences, and is influenced by, the other two. None of the three exist in a vacuum. It's a three-legged chair.
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

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