[Photo: National Security Agency, Ft. Meade, MD via Wikimedia]

Jack Goldsmith and Susan Hennessey Run Cover for Those Giving Jeff Sessions Unreviewable Authority to Criminalize Dissent

I’m used to Susan Hennessey partnering with Ben Wittes to write apologies for NSA and FBI that ignore known facts. I’m a bit surprised that Jack Goldsmith did so in this defense of Democrats — like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi and nineteen Democratic Senators — who have voted to give Jeff Sessions unreviewable authority to criminalize dissent using certain privacy tools.

NSA did not fix “abouts” problems before the issues became public

There are numerous problems with this post. The one that irks me the most, however, is the claim that the “system itself” identified and addressed problems with “abouts” collection before they became public.

We acknowledge that the program has raised hard legal questions as well as difficult compliance issues, primarily involving “abouts” collection. But these problems were identified by the system itself, long before the issues became public, and the practices were fixed or terminated.

This claim, one I’ve corrected Hennessey for on numerous occasions on Twitter, is false, and should be retracted.

I say that with great confidence, because I wrote about the problems on August 11, 2016, well before NSA failed to disclose the full extent of the problems in an October 4, 2016 hearing, which led the worst FISC judge ever, Rosemary Collyer, to complain about NSA’s institutional “lack of candor.”

At the October 26, 2016 hearing, the Court ascribed the government’s failure to disclose those IG and OCO reviews at the October 4, 2016 hearing to an institutional “lack of candor” on NSA’s part and emphasized that “this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”

As a reminder, the problem (the FISC has) with “abouts” collection is not so much that it collected entirely domestic communications — that’s the complaint of the rest of us. It’s that NSA never ever complied with John Bates’ 2011 requirement that NSA not conduct back door searches on upstream collection, because it might result in searches of those entirely domestic communications. In my August 2016 post, I noted that reviewers kept discovering that NSA continued to do back door searches on upstream data in violation of that prohibition, and kept refusing to implement technical fixes to avoid them.

I also raised concerns about the oversight of 704/705(b), which is how the NSA first realized how badly non-compliant their upstream searches were, on May 13, 2016, That’s about when NSA first reported to DOJ “in May and June 2016” that “approximately eighty-five percent of” queries using a tool the NSA employs with 704/705b queries “were not compliant with the applicable minimization procedures.”

I’ll grant that I’m remarkably attentive to documents that get declassified years after the fact. But I’m nevertheless “the public.” If I’m identifying these problems — and NSA’s refusal to make the technical fixes to avoid them — before they get fully briefed to DOJ or FISC, then it is absolutely false to claim that “the system” fixed or terminated the problem long before they became public.

Again, Lawfare should issue a retraction for that claim.

Update, January 19: On Twitter yesterday, Hennessey claimed I misread this quote, and that her proof that the system works was that the NSA had gotten away with ignoring Bates’ orders for five years, but finally shut it down before the public learned that NSA had been ignoring FISC’s orders.

This is still factually false — as I responded to her, the NSA was still identifying problems for eight months after I wrote about the problems, even assuming it had found all of them by April 2017, which was the last declassified reporting on it. But her explanation actually makes the comment downright damning for the NSA. It suggests a lawyer who was at NSA during the period it was not in compliance believes that getting away with violating the Fourth Amendment for five years, but fixing it before documents released on a three year delay (and only because of Snowden) is a sign of a law-abiding agency.

A portrait of a guy who doesn’t know key details as a rigorous overseer

The fact that I was harping on the “abouts” problems before any overseers of the program managed to fully investigate and fix them by itself disproves the claims that Hennessey and Goldsmith make in their hagiography of Adam Schiff.

He is the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee and one of the most knowledgeable and informed members of Congress on intelligence matters. Schiff has not hesitated to be  when he sees fit. He has watched the 702 program up close over many years in classified settings in his oversight role. He knows well its virtues and its warts. We suppose it is possible that Schiff would vote to give the president, whose integrity he so obviously worries about, vast powers to spy on Americans in an abusive way. Given everything Schiff has publicly said and done over the last year, however, a much more plausible inference is that he knows not only how valuable the 702 program is but also how law-constrained and carefully controlled and monitored it is.

Plus, I’m not sure why they think that Schiff’s attempt to fix the Section 215 phone dragnet only after Edward Snowden made it public proves that Schiff “never hesitated to be critical of intelligence community practices.” On the contrary, it proves that he did hesitate to do so before excessive programs became public.

The distinction is utterly critical given something I’ve pointed out about this bill. The bill itself is an admission that the intelligence community is out of control, and that congressional overseers can’t get information they need to adequately oversee the program without demanding it in legislation. That’s because it requires the IC to provide information on two practices that Congress cannot be deemed competent to legislate on without having answers about first.

For example, the bill requires an IG Report on how FBI queries raw data.

(b) MATTERS INCLUDED.—The report under subsection (a) shall include, at a minimum, an assessment of the following:

(1) The interpretations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, respectively, relating to the querying procedures adopted under subsection (f) of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1881a(f)), as added by section 101.

[snip]

(6) The scope of access by the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to information obtained pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), including with respect to information acquired under subsection (a) of such section 702 based on queries conducted by the criminal division.

(7) The frequency and nature of the reviews conducted by the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence relating to the compliance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with such querying procedures.

I have explained (and I know Hennessey regards this as a problem too) that since 2012, FBI has devolved its access to raw 702 data to field offices. The FBI already conducted far, far less oversight of the back door searches it conducts than NSA does. But because the DOJ/DNI 702 review teams visit only a fraction of the FBI field offices with each review, and because FBI’s querying system doesn’t collect enough information to do oversight remotely, it is possible that the offices that are least familiar with 702 requirements are — for the smaller number of 702 queries they conduct — getting the least oversight.

You can’t pass a bill that effectively blesses FBI’s use of back door searches on Americans about whom it has no evidence of any wrongdoing, while admitting you don’t know how FBI conducts those back door searches, and make any claim to conduct adequate oversight. Rather, the bill permits FBI to continue practices it has stubbornly refused to brief Congress on, rather than demanding that FBI brief Congress first, so Congress can impose any restrictions that might be necessary to adequately protect Americans.

The bill also requires a briefing within six months to explain how DOJ complies with FISA’s legally mandated notice requirements (because notice under 702 is treated as notice under 106(c), this covers 702 surveillance as well).

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall provide to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary and the Select 10 Committee on Intelligence of the Senate a briefing with respect to how the Department of Justice interprets the requirements under sections 106(c), 305(d), and 405(c) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 14 U.S.C. 1806(c), 1825(d), and 1845(c)) to notify an aggrieved person under such sections of the use of information obtained or derived from electronic surveillance, physical search, or the use of a pen register or trap and trace device. The briefing shall focus on how the Department interprets the phrase ‘‘obtained or derived from’’ in such sections.

The public treatment of DOJ’s serial, obvious failures to give notice to defendants is a nifty trick. When DOJ fails to give notice, it clearly violates the law, but notice is not included in minimization procedure review, so therefore is not reviewed by the FISC. When surveillance boosters like Hennessey and Goldsmith say there have never been any willful violations of the law, they manage to ignore the notice violations that have allowed some pretty problematic practices to avoid judicial oversight only because by breaking the law DOJ ensures no court will find them to be breaking the law.

Catch 22: Heads legal violations never get reviewed by a court, tails surveillance boosters can claim the surveillance has a clean bill of health.

Again, this is a known, egregious problem with the implementation of 702.

But rather than do the obvious thing as part of what this post dubs “robust democratic deliberation,” which is to demand answers about how notice is (not) given and require DOJ to fix it as part of the bill, the bill instead simply requires DOJ to provide the information that Congress needs to do basic oversight six months after reauthorization, which effectively punts fixing the problem six years down the road.

How many Chinese-American scientists will be improperly prosecuted because FBI is technically inane in those 6 years, because a bunch of California legislators like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Dianne Feinstein chose to punt on basic oversight?

The most egregious example of this, however, involves the government’s obstinate refusal to explain how many US persons are affected by 702. This bill also did not incorporate an HJC proposal requiring a count of how many Americans got referred for criminal prosecution off of 702 collection.

Letting Jeff Sessions criminalize dissent

That refusal — the refusal to even legislatively require the government to report on the impact of 702 surveillance on Americans, via incidental collection and/or criminal referral — brings us to the problem with this bill that opponents are all raising, but about which Hennessey and Goldsmith are inexcusably silent: the codification of giving Jeff Sessions unreviewable authority to determine what counts as a “criminal proceeding [that] affects, involves, or is related to the national security of the United States.”

Here’s how Hennessey and Goldsmith describe the impact of this program on Americans.

As Lawfare readers know, Section 702 authorizes the intelligence community to target the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside the United States for foreign intelligence purposes. It does not permit the intelligence community to target a U.S. person anywhere in the world. But it does permit incidental collection on U.S. persons, subject to strict rules about minimization and use.

Their silence about how the bill doesn’t deal with back door searches is problematic enough.

But they predictably, but problematically, make no mention of the way the bill codifies the use of 702 in domestic law enforcement under the Tor/VPN exception.

As I have laid out, in 2014 FISC created an exception to the rule that NSA must detask from a facility as soon as they learn that Americans are also using that facility. That exception applies to Tor and (though I understand this part even less) VPN servers — basically the kinds of privacy tools that criminals, spies, journalists, and dissidents might use to hide their online activities. NSA has to sort through what they collect on the back end, but along the way, they get to decide to keep any entirely domestic traffic they find has significant foreign intelligence purpose or is evidence of a crime, among other reasons. The bill even codifies 8 enumerated crimes under which they can keep such data. Some of those crimes — child porn and murder — make sense, but others — like transnational crime (including local drug dealers selling imported drugs) and CFAA (with its well-known propensity for abuse) pose more potential for abuse.

But it’s the unreviewable authority for Jeff Sessions bit that is the real problem.

We know, for example, that painting Black Lives Matter as a national security threat is key to the Trump-Sessions effort to criminalize race. We also know that Trump has accused his opponents of treason, all for making critical comments about Trump.

This bill gives Sessions unreviewable authority to decide that a BLM protest organized using or whistleblowing relying on Tor, discovered by collection done in the name of hunting Russian spies, can be referred for prosecution. The fact that the underlying data predicating any prosecution was obtained without a warrant under 702 would — in part because this bill doesn’t add teeth to FISA notice — ensure that courts would never learn the genesis of the prosecution. Even if a court somehow managed to do so, however, it could never deem the domestic surveillance unlawful because the bill gives Jeff Sessions the unreviewable authority to treat dissent as a national security threat.

This is such an obviously bad idea, and it is being supported by people who talk incessantly about the threat that Trump and Sessions present. Yet, rather than addressing the issue head on (which I doubt Hennessey could legally do in any case), they simply remain silent about what is the biggest complaint from privacy activists, that this gives a racist, vindictive Attorney General far more authority than he should have, and does so without fixing the inadequate protections for criminal defendants along the way.

I mean, I get that surveillance boosters who recognize the threat Trump and Sessions pose want to absolve themselves for giving Trump tools that can so obviously be abused.

But this attempt does so precisely by dodging the most obvious reasons for which boosters should be held to account.

Update: Changed post to note that just Trump has accused FBI Agents of treason, not Sessions, and not (yet) journalists.

Update: Here’s the roll call of the 65-34 vote passage of the bill. Democrats who voted in favor are:

  1. Carper
  2. Casey
  3. Cortez Masto
  4. Donnelly
  5. Duckworth
  6. Feinstein
  7. Hassan
  8. Heitkamp
  9. Jones
  10. Klobuchar
  11. Manchin
  12. McCaskill
  13. Nelson
  14. Peters
  15. Reed
  16. Schumer
  17. Shaheen
  18. Stabenow
  19. Warner
  20. Whitehouse

 

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

34 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    From the Hennessey and Goldsmith piece, speaking of Schiff:

    He is the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee and one of the most knowledgeable and informed members of Congress on intelligence matters.

    The technical term for this is “very low bar.”

    “Given everything Schiff has publicly said and done over the last year . . .” it seems equally plausible that an alternative explanation for Schiff’s vote is that he realizes that there’s no way he can convince enough of his colleagues to see the problems of giving this kind of power to the executive branch, and rather than engage in a quasi-public fight where he can’t make his most powerful arguments in front of cameras, he bit his tongue in order to try a different approach.

    From Marcy:

    The bill itself is an admission that the intelligence community is out of control, and that congressional overseers can’t get information they need to adequately oversee the program without demanding it in legislation.

    Put this in bold, ALL CAPS, and underline it.

    Given the aforementioned very low bar, however, I doubt that putative Congressional overseers would understand even this argument.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Would nineteen Republican Senators vote to give Alan Grayson such unreviewable authority if he were Attorney General for Bernie Sanders? Or Bill Black? If the answer is no, those nineteen Democratic Senators should reverse their position.

    • bmaz says:

      They might! It is easy to get buffaloed by the “NatSec” community and purpose. Everything is right about this post, yet the fact that a certain set of Dems voted this way is not surprising in the least. This could have been, and pretty much was, seen coming from twenty miles away. May not make it more palatable, but there it is. I actually thought, for once, one of Pat Leahy’s gratuitous press releases was fairly helpful in this context:

      In about an hour, the members of this body will vote whether or not to cut off debate and block any amendments on a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation that fails to reform one of our most important surveillance tools.  Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act was intended to provide for vast and powerful surveillance of foreigners overseas.  And it does.  But the fact that it is an effective surveillance tool used against foreigners abroad is not what you will hear concern about today.

      You will hear concern that Section 702 has also become an unexpected and powerful domestic surveillance tool, allowing the government to search for Americans’ emails and other substantive communications without a warrant—the so-called backdoor loophole.  That is a Fourth Amendment problem. The legislation we are voting on today, authored by the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-Ca.), contains what its supporters portray as a fig leaf of reform.

      But in fact this legislation makes a bad problem worse.  I will oppose cutting off debate on this bill, and I strongly urge my fellow Senators to do the same.  On such a critical surveillance tool, senators should be afforded the opportunity to debate the constitutional implications and offer amendments to improve the bill. But the Majority Leader has provided us no such opportunity, and he now intends to deny us even the opportunity to offer any amendments.

      Senator Lee and I are filing several amendments to improve this bill, including our USA Liberty Act, a Senate companion to a bill that was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee in a strong, bipartisan vote.  Our amendment offers a sensible compromise that would protect national security while also protecting Americans’ civil liberties.

      I also strongly support a warrant requirement based on Senator Feinstein’s amendment in the Senate Intelligence Committee that would close the backdoor loophole.  These amendments, and others offered by Senators Paul and Wyden and others, deserve a vote.  And that is all I am asking for today.

      Instead, the only bill we are voting on today, the Nunes bill, fails to comply with a fundamental constitutional imperative.  Do not be deceived by the sham warrant contained in the Nunes bill.  Its exemptions are so large as to render it meaningless.  The bill would require a warrant only during the final stage of a criminal investigation, and only when the government believes national security or risk to life or bodily harm are not implicated at some undefined point in time.  In all other cases, and at previous points in an investigation, the government can search for an American’s information in the Section 702 database just frequently and casually as Americans use Google.

      Yet, even if it is completely ineffectual, the Nunes bill has a warrant requirement.  That means the sponsors of this flawed legislation acknowledge that some sort of warrant is required to protect Americans’ privacy when Section 702 is used.  They recognize that searching through a vast database of Americans’ communications can trigger Fourth Amendment protections, at least when it is convenient for the government.                                                                                                       
      The problem is, the Constitution does not only apply when it is convenient.  When a Fourth Amendment interest is implicated, the government needs to obtain a warrant.  The Fourth Amendment either applies, or it does not.  Apparently even the sponsors of the Nunes bill now agree that the Fourth Amendment applies; the only question is whether we have a real warrant requirement, or a warrant in name only.

      I firmly believe a real warrant requirement need not put our national security at risk.  The reform proposals that I support contain well-trodden exemptions for exigent circumstances to allow for emergencies.  For these reasons and others, I strongly support a warrant requirement to close the backdoor loophole.  And I strongly believe that the Majority Leader should at least give us a vote.

      Until then, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to vote no on invoking cloture on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act.  Section 702 authorities can be temporarily extended on any Continuing Resolution, as they were in December.  And the FISA Court’s statutorily-authorized certifications that permit 702 surveillance will not expire until the end of April.

      We still have the time and ability to get this right.  The Majority Leader should do his part and allow members who care deeply about this issue to offer amendments before any long-term authorization.  Section 702 is an important tool, but this issue is far too important to rush through without adequate debate.  I firmly believe we can both protect our national security and the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.  This bill clearly falls short, and I will be voting “no.”

       

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bernie might persuade Ralph Nader to be his Attorney General.  How would the GOP and establishment Dems like him having the authority they’re about to give Confederate Jeff?

      Imagine the board room and banking crimes that an AG Nader, Grayson or Black would pursue using that authority.  They all have international and national security connections.

      Imagine the conspiracies to subvert the Constitution they might investigate in white shoe associations, conferences and clubs that are now off limits to gumshoes.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Hennessey and Goldsmith say there have never been any willful violations of the law”

    The willful ignorance in that statement on the part of Hennessey and Goldsmith would seem to require an apology from Lawfare, too.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Mr. Trump and his Republican Party allow the government to shut down, a step the president has often claimed he would welcome, their salaries won’t be paid either.  Their private medical clinics would shut down, as would the White House kitchen.

    Donald would have to buy his own Big Macs, and bring in his own generator to run his three bedtime televisions and recharge his phone. Plus Steve Miller’s salary goes poof.  Maybe that will bring Donald to his limited senses and allow the Dems and GOP to reach a reasonable deal.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Perhaps the Don thinks that shutting down the government is his best bet to shut down Mueller’s investigation.

      As for Trump’s fear that talking with Mueller might be a perjury trap, he can resolve that easily by not lying to Mueller.  No mean feat for an addicted serial liar.

      • Avattoir says:

        See here now: tinyurl.com/y935o9qr

        Back in the 1990s, I was peripherally involved with (not necessarily ‘in’) a beast something like the current OSC. AFAICT, neither of the 2 general shutdowns, the one in November 1995, then the one that straddled the period before Christmas to after New Year’s, had any effect on its operations.

        (Note that those 2 shutdowns together totaled under a month. I recall looking into how long that beast could continue ‘normal’ ops under a full shutdown; but I’m not confident my retained memory on that detail is particularly reliable. I was made aware of arrangements for replenishing those types of beasts on each of a quarterly, twice-yearly & annual basis; I’m aware of arguments that any such arrangement that envisioned revisiting funding in under a year didn’t comply with the legislation … that applied in those days.)

         

         

  5. Trevanion says:

    Very sad. Jack Goldsmith always seemed to have more self-awareness than such a display of cloying and articulation of untruths.  E.g., “…identified by the system itself”? Ouch

    • Avattoir says:

      Look at his professional experience: he’s never worked ‘the line’. His informational framework in government work was all from political appointees, desk commandos & reports prepared for being read outside the DoJ. I’d be surprised if an academic like him hadn’t heard stories of what actually happens, but entirely not surprised if he’s never been ‘formally’ or ‘officially’ informed of them.

      That said, there actually are a number of not-irrational (administratively speaking) rationales for how the notice requirement reads & why there’s no teeth to it. I’d expect a dialogue on these between, say, our fearless leader OTOH and Senator Whitehouse (who those posting here will have noticed voted Aye) on the other to involve discussion about at least some of those.

  6. Erin McJ says:

    The only sense I can make of Lawfare is that its chief writers simply can’t imagine that the Washington establishment — or what we are used to thinking of as such — might lose its struggle with Trump.

    Slightly OT: did anyone else read that recent WaPo article about NSA brain drain with a small amount of dread? If we posit that those positions are going to be filled, they will presumably be filled with people willing to work for Trump. I suspect that trade won’t be in our favor.

  7. Avattoir says:

    See here now: tinyurl.com/y935o9qr

    Back in the 1990s, I was peripherally involved with (not necessarily ‘in’) a beast something like the current OSC. AFAICT, neither of the 2 general shutdowns, the one in November 1995, then the one that straddled the period before Christmas to after New Year’s, had any effect on its operations.

    (Note that those 2 shutdowns together totaled under a month. I recall looking into how long that beast could continue ‘normal’ ops under a full shutdown; but I’m not confident my retained memory on that detail is particularly reliable. I was made aware of arrangements for replenishing those types of beasts on each of a quarterly, twice-yearly & annual basis; I’m aware of arguments that any such arrangement that envisioned revisiting funding in under a year didn’t comply with the legislation … that applied in those days.)

  8. GKJames says:

    Maddening, in particular, is the refusal on the part of guys like Schiff and Warner to provide an honest explanation for their position. It’s not as if they’re oblivious to the reality of prosecutions on the basis of information collected without a warrant. What explains this? Are their presidential aspirations causing them to think, The IC might not help me get elected, but it sure can help me NOT get elected? Is it a cultural development where, by and large, the consensus on mass surveillance without a warrant has become accepted as just another landscape feature, such that there really is no difference between Republicans and Democrats? Or are these guys, like all legislators, so attuned to where the electorate is that they see no upside to harping on “technicalities” under the Constitution? Grim in all respects.

    Lastly, are the commonly heard references to opponents of 702 as being concerned with “privacy” — an innocuous-sounding term that people are used to hearing in connection with online merchants’ spamming them, rather than a bedrock Fourth Amendment issue with substantive deprivation-of-liberty implications — a misleading distraction?

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I suspect most congresscritters already feel that the 4th Amendment is history, and that it’s not worth rolling that snowball up hill again.  Not that any of them would acknowledge it.  Gotta keep us safe is a good excuse for any crap, especially when there is a black industry, unbeknownst to most taxpayers, that makes Carl Saganish amounts of money by ignoring it.

    • GKJames says:

      @earlofhuntingdon. Sure, but what it does that say about the public that’s ok with this, even if only tacitly? A public that, by the way, has no difficulty using force to deliver all this great democracy to other countries. Maybe it’s the gap between myth-based rhetoric and the grubby reality that’s the issue; if we’d just shut up about how noble and virtuous (not to mention exceptional) we are, it might be easier to accept.

      • Trip says:

        The public was indoctrinated into a nonchalant view of privacy through ‘free’ trade-offs with places like Facebook and search engines. Couple that with reality TV (watching people’s private lives who have no discernible connection to talent or merit), the popularity of oversharing naval-gazing writing, city-wide surveillance for safety from crimes, 9/11 fear-mongering, and the convenience of always being connected via cellphones (tracking everything, everywhere), and it’s not difficult to see how the populace was lulled into believing this is ‘normal’, especially those of an age who never knew true privacy to begin with. The constant refrain, since the beginning of this discussion, has been, “I’m not doing anything wrong, so it doesn’t matter”.  Naivete coupled with disinterest. When people are voluntarily publicly posting every meal or vacation, then they believe that their level of limited celebrity within a subgroup trumps any value of the private.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Most people don’t know about it, so they have no opinion about it.  And it doesn’t know a lot about our nearly 1000 foreign bases or how much our mythology varies from our point and shoot foreign policy.  Just as they didn’t know that My Lai wasn’t special, but damningly common, or about JFK’s illnesses or womanizing or Nixon’s lies, or why and for whose benefit we fomented a bloody coup in Chile, for example.

      A lifetime of indoctrination in school, at play, and at work does a good job inculcating the mythology.  As does the MSM.  As does the precariousness of work, of access to affordable education and healthcare.  Class warfare isn’t limited to economics.  Inculcating followership takes dedication.

      We could use another Pierre Bourdieu to help us understand and then challenge it, or ten of them.

  10. TomA says:

    Why wait six more years in order to try for another legislative fix (which may neither occur nor result in a de facto improvement)? A massive public education campaign can help mitigate this problem beginning right now. This would do two things. First, people will be forewarned that Big Brother is always watching and consequently that will increase demand for efficacious privacy tools. And second, it will promote entrepreneurship to create those tools. And this need not be limited solely to encryption techniques. There are many ways to confound the peepers.

  11. bell says:

    “treat dissent as a national security threat.”

    “The bill itself is an admission that the intelligence community is out of control…”

    “give unreviewable authority to criminalize dissent.”

    “Changed post to note that just Trump has accused FBI Agents of treason, not Sessions, and not (yet) journalists.”

    just maybe trump is onto something… change the words “out of control” to “treason” and you’re their..

     

    • Trip says:

      Trump, if intercepted, was likely swept up in the legitimate collection portion (not in random strictly domestic collection), with individual foreign gov’t reps, who were already obviously on the radar. But I suppose we shall see.

      Wanting privacy for noncriminal citizenry doesn’t equate to “Trump is right” about his own circumstances.  Especially within the context that he advocated for foreign gov’t hacking and publishing of private citizen communications.

      • bell says:

        having a country free of 24/7 surveillance with oversight on these surveillance agencies – nsa/cia/fbi/google – etc. etc. – is moving in the right direction.. who is calling the shots in the usa at present? still looks like a plutocracy to me, in spite of it being promoted regularly as a democracy..

        • Trip says:

          Kleptocracy.  You have Nunes, who was a party to the campaign, investigating the investigators who are investigating him by virtue of his proximity and involvement. It doesn’t get any more authoritarian than that.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump, the anti-choice president, will be the first to attend the so-called March for Life [sic].  During his run for the presidency, Trump reportedly paid over 100 women to shut up about his sexual affairs with him.  (If any of those payments came from campaign funds, it would be illegal.)  Trump also reportedly does not wear a condom.  I wonder how many of his partners chose to have an abortion.

    Like so many things about Donald Trump, his hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    • Trip says:

      It’s vomit-inducing to even be contemplating this, but how does Trump reconcile being a “germaphobe” while not practicing safe sex (from germs)?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Phobia, rationality even, loses to pleasure much of the time.  That’s why there’s a Vegas.  That’s why there are a plethora of mini-Vegases sprouting up in the guise of casino “developments” in cash-strapped states around the country.

        Plus, Donald imagines himself as always coming out on top.  He wouldn’t consider not wearing a hat to be a risk.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Per bmaz’s twitter comment and elsewhere, I see that ICE is destroying caches of water and suppliers left to keep people from dying in the desert. And filming it for fun. To get even. To avoid boredom. I accept that many employees are good people, top people, but leadership seems to luxuriate in being cruel under the guise of enforcing the law. I would guess that’s what the rogue police officer says when he empties his clip into an unarmed man walking away from hm. Just enforcing the law, m’am.

    Nothing new here. A former director of the Federal Bureau of Prohibition’s director, the Germam-Swiss Harry Anslinger was pleased as punch to adulterate alcohol with lethal poisons. Anybody who drank it during Prohibition got what they deserved. Before that, he had worked in “various police functions’ in Venezuela, Germany and Japan. After that, he was director of the Bureau of Narcotics for over thirty years. A would be j. Edgar Hoover, he established the anti-drug and specifically anti-marijuana priorities that survive today. Yup. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  14. UserFriendly says:

    That is messed up. Would it be easier for them to collect data from a vpn that was used domestically or one to connect to an international server? Or does it just not matter at all because we live in an authoritarian hell hole with no such thing as privacy, civil liberties, or the bill of rights?

  15. TGuerrant says:

    DOJ’s contingency plan for the shutdown: https://www.justice.gov/jmd/page/file/1015676/download

    SCO is among the units declared “exempted” from the shutdown because funding’s not dependent upon an enacted appropriation (page 4 & 9). All FBI agents and support personnel in the field also exempted (page 9).

    (Site’s not letting me reply to specific comments so I can’t attach this to the relevant one above.)

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