Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What—or Who—Matters

"With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)" (LA Times)
Run a secret pen register on the entire U.S. population, collecting records of what number called what number when? No problem.

Monitor phone calls of millions of ordinary people in France, Germany, Spain? No problem.

Intercept and listen to phone calls by anyone in the U.S. who there is any basis, however flimsy, for maybe possibly connecting to international terrorism? No problem.

Do all of this under secret interpretations of the relevant law by government lawyers? No problem.

Listen in on the phone calls of important people, people like her? That is an entirely different matter that clearly calls for a Senate investigation.


Power Child said...

What do you think of Pat Buchanan's latest piece in which he asks (somewhat rhetorically) whether the US government does this to protect us or just because it can?

Laird said...

I think this falls under the category of Henry Stimson's famous remark "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." Diane Feinstein considers herself above the rest of us, and apparently grants that same status to her peers in other nations. The rest of us don't merit that courtesy, though.

No FISA Court case has ever been appealed to the Supreme Court, for the simple reason that no one other than the government is a party to its cases and thus no one has standing to challenge them. It's a classic Catch-22 situation. The whole FISA Court system is probably unconstitutional, and certainly many of its rulings are grossly and blatantly in violation of the 4th Amendment, but no one can ever challenge them. There is no place in this country for secret courts issuing secret rulings. We now live in a police state.

Patrick Sullivan said...


'...from a study of the NSA’s Boundless Informant programme, first revealed in June by the Guardian. The UK-based newspaper published a “global heat map” from which America’s electronic spies can quantify the flow of information collected. According to Cryptome, the number of phone calls spied on by the NSA in just one month was 124.8 billion worldwide, including the United States.'

The numbers involved mean that no one was 'spied on'.

jimbino said...

There's hardly anything of value in this country left to defend. We are caught up in a video game, merely torturing and killing people around the world for entertainment.

Sad that we won almost all the battles for human rights but lost the war. We beat the Nazis and the Commies and now we are they.

lelnet said...

Of course, the extra irony is that "important people" have no realistic expectation of not being spied on. High government officials are _always_ targeted by other governments' spy agencies. This is perfectly normal and expected. Indeed, fully half the official mission of the NSA is designed to cope with precisely this problem (everyone in the world is trying to spy on us all the time) by keeping government communications securely encrypted.

We spy on them, they spy on us, everybody tries not to get caught at any specific act of espionage, but the fact that it's going on isn't remotely a secret.

The only genuinely newsworthy bits have always been the extent to which this spying is directed against ordinary people...and even more particularly, against American citizens.

Power Child said...


Another newsworthy bit, but one that seldom makes the news, is the extent to which our spying infrastructure is at the end of the day used for Israeli intelligence.

Chris H said...

To be completely fair, there's pretty much a zero percent chance any of the major European leaders are terrorists or terrorist collaborators, so by that measure it could be argued that this is improper use of a counter-terrorism project. Of course, if you target millions of people approximately zero percent of THAT group will be terrorists or terrorist collaborators, but I suppose that the chances of a random non-European world leader being affiliated with a terrorist organization under US definitions is higher than the converse being so.

Anonymous said...

have you seen this Mr. Friedman http://freepatriot.org/2013/10/26/houston-neighborhood-goes-private-security-cuts-crime/ ??? is your vision coming true?

susupply said...

'... there's pretty much a zero percent chance any of the major European leaders are terrorists or terrorist collaborators....'

Anyone remember Gunter Guillaume?

Jonathan said...

In the same way, politicians usually frown on the idea of trying to kill enemy politicians during a war; even though they are generally the people most responsible for starting and overseeing the war.

Politicians of all countries reckon they belong to a club; the rest of us aren't members.

Tibor said...

Jonathan: I think it is practical for them to "belong to the club". It is so much a peer solidarity rather than following her own self interest. If it is ok to spy on foreing politicians it might soon be ok to spy on local ones as well and she clearly does not want that.

An alternative explanation is that she does not care about spying on Merkel and others either, but for diplomatic reasons she simply needs to say a bunch of stuff that make her look like she does. After all, she can't just say "This lousy job of not covering it up well enough calls for a senate investigation" :)

I think the reality is a mixture of those two.