NSA: The “Half-Bacon Agency”

My mom’s in town, so I’ll be doing light posting over the next several days.

But I did want to emphasize the rather startling news that came out of yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee on the NSA spying programs.

NSA Director John Inglis revealed that the FISA Court permits the government to do three jumps from an initial number tied to a phone number reasonably believed to be tied to terrorism (or relevant to Iran, though that search criteria didn’t get mentioned at all in the parts of the hearing I watched).

Three degrees of separation!

Remember, some years ago, every single person in the US could be connected via six degrees — the old Kevin Bacon game. There’s some evidence that that number has become smaller — perhaps as small as 3 (I’ve seen more scientific numbers that say it is 4.5 or thereabouts).

In any case, if the US is using the excuse of terror to get three jumps deep into US person associations, then this program is even more intrusive then they’ve let on.

One thing I didn’t see disclosed yesterday? To what extent the government claims these 3- (or 2, which — IIRC — Deputy Attorney General James Cole said was their most productive layer) degrees of separation from someone claimed in an articulation not closely reviewed has ties to terrorism. Is talking to someone who talks to someone who talks to someone who is a terrorist used, in secret, to claim people are agents of a foreign power?

In any case, this means the NSA has been spending its time playing 3 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon in secret.

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15 Responses to NSA: The “Half-Bacon Agency”

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel .@NathanielDWhite For McConnell? Depends on whether journalists accurately report that Mitch set this up 2 weeks ago & reinforced last week
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bmaz RT @Pinetree_Girl: @bmaz @OKnox I think lawmakers adept at diversion from real issues. Public likes shiny objects. Has become inured to day…
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emptywheel If only Mitch McConnell hadn't decided to play chicken two weeks ago the Majority Leader might have Kept the Country Safe™
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis And that presumably also permits FBI to use additional authorities against them.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis Once dissidents w/guns are "terrorists" they and friends can be pursued very differently and underlying speech criminalized.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis No. It doesn't create a new offense. It creates a new way to dub dissidents "terrorists," w/all that connotes.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis But my big worry is that this would (if passed) let govt use possession as reason to call dissidents terrorists.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis That's also in Burr's bill. He increases penalties on both 2339B (FTO) and 2339A (terrorist via 2332 and other laws).
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bmaz RT @WHarkavy: @bmaz Rest of world has such a bigger impact from FIFA issues, and here we are doing this. Like Iraq, cynical ploy. Global st…
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis That's what my post says (3rd ¶). (Though that would mean the 2339 applies to it as well.) Seems horribly ripe for abuse.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis Bottom of page 65 here. https://t.co/L4BA0Xmi98 Section 204.
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emptywheel @ColMorrisDavis It's in his PATRIOT ACt replacement bill. It's in the Material Support extension section.
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