“Fort Meade has 18 acres of mainframe computers underground.
You’re talking to your wife on the phone and you use the word ‘bomb,’ ‘president,’ ‘Allah,’ any of a hundred keywords, the computer recognizes it, automatically records it, red-flags it for analysis.
That was 20 years ago.”
— Former CIA Agent Brill, ‘Enemy of the State‘ (1998)
And that Will Smith movie was made nearly 20 years ago — they need to update/reboot it to encompass the horror surveillance-technology has allowed in that stretch of time.
However, the whole affair is just to fight terror, or as George Jr.’s former communications director, Nicolle Wallace, blubbered-out this morning: â€œTheyâ€™re not looking for your home shopping history. Theyâ€™re looking for people who are making contact with foreign terrorists…If youâ€™re not reading about recipes for homemade bombsâ€¦then donâ€™t worry about it.â€
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper,Â denounced the ‘leaks‘ of the NSA programs “reprehensible,” and cried the disclousure would do “…potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm…”Â to state security.
(Illustration found here).
In history, there’s always that first step toward any kind of bad shit, but it’s nearly always, too, expressed in the matters of security — we must fight those who do us harm. The late Osama bin Laden’s best move was having an asshole like George W. Bush as president in September 2001, because the thought of fear scares Americans more than the reality behind the fear.
A couple of years ago,Â the Washington Post did a series of stories on the humongous growth of the US intelligence-gathering apparatus since 9/11, so much so, the info/data collected is beyond the scope of a human being:
In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials — called Super Users — have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities.
But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.
“I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it.
The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes.
Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ”Stop!” in frustration.
“I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.
Computers, do, however.
Megan Garber atÂ The Atlantic offers a nice, little FAQ on the surveillance/snooping, especially this:
So the Fourth Amendment generally requires that the government obtain a warrant when it’s seeking private information about individual citizens.
And the warrant, in turn, should be granted based on probable cause.
There’s a slight exception to that broad approach, though.
Many Supreme Court rulings have held that you don’t have a reasonable to privacy when it comes, specifically, to information you share with a third party.
And the courts have now applied that standard to other areas.
Which generally makes sense, except for one substantial tension.
As David Cole, a Georgetown law professor who focuses on national security and constitutional law, told me: “Basically, everything you do now shares information with a third party.”
The numbers you dial on the phone, the amount of time you spend on the phone, the location from which you make a phone call — all of that, because of how our technologies and businesses are structured, is de facto shared with the third party that is your phone company.
And the rub, as Cole explains it, is that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t limit the government’s ability to obtain any of that third-party information.
Bank records, credit card records, Internet searches: none of that, on its own, has protection under the Constitution.
So there you have it, the first rung.
The US ain’t the Lone Ranger in this type shit — a new UN report (pdf) reveals ‘everybody’s doin’ it‘ and most are worse.
Also via The Atlantic:
In the worst cases, countries are actually listening in on their own citizens, remotely hacking into their computers and turning on Web cameras, or logging in and intercepting Skype calls.
Some activists in Bahrain and elsewhere, for example, have been targeted through phishing emails, sent by regimes, which pack a software that allows access to emails, online chats, and any documents saved on the computer when an email attachment is opened.
With that, the NSA can only know who you called, for how long, and possibly where your cell phone was at the time of the call. (Which, of course, is already plenty jarring.)
But countless other Western nations engage in similar types of low-level spying, the UN found.
The NSA’s style of “mandatory data retention” is a major way in which states are increasingly keeping track of online and phone conversations, including by forcing third-party private sector companies to store information they wouldn’t normally collect.
“Today’s news shows that massive surveillance can no longer be said to be the realm of authoritarian regimes, and is part of an alarming trend worldwide,” wrote the group Privacy International, a group that supports limits on surveillance, on their blog today.
The U.S., like other countries, has argued that the information they’ve gathered through call records helps keep people safe, with one official telling the Washington Post that such surveillance “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”
In the midst of all that Orwellian, state-sponsored spying via whistleblowers, comes another conspiracy to cartel our private desires — via Canada’s Financial Post:
Two of the worldâ€™s largest chocolate companies are among those facing criminal charges for allegedly conspiring to fix the price of chocolatey treats across Canada.
Criminal charges have been laid against candy makers NestlÃ© Canada Inc. and Mars Canada Inc., and ITWAL Limited, a national network of independent wholesale distributors, after the competition bureau referred its evidence to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
Canadian consumers â€” who buy billions of dollars worth of chocolate each year â€” may never have gotten a whiff of the case if it wasnâ€™t for a whistle-blower within the industry.
Blowing the criminal whistle seems to be the only venue for justice nowadays — or not.
The biggest loser in all this — beyond us regular Americans — is President Obama, who has now moved beyond just being a disappointing president to one approaching asshole status, like, maybe, ah, George Jr., or maybe even, dare we say his name, Richard Nixon?
And although I agree withÂ the New York Times that Obama in matters of transparency and accountability has ‘now lost all credibility‘ in trying to convey a sense of compassion with a citizen’s privacy,Â this video from 2008 unleashed alarm bells in my mainframe that this guy is all flash, but with no real, human substance.
Everybody should be concerned if not worried — Alfred E. Neuman be we not.