Trust and Secrecy Don’t Mix


Jonah Goldberg:

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor (he put away the “Blind Sheikh” who masterminded the first World Trade Center bombing), makes a strong case that the NSA program is not only legal, important, and necessary, but also that the outrage over these revelations is overblown. Phone records — as opposed to the content of phone conversations — are not private under the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, the “meta-data” collected by the NSA is essential for tracking terrorists’ patterns before they attack.

After every terrorist attack, everyone always asks, “Why didn’t the government connect the dots?” Well, what the NSA is doing is connecting dots. Moreover, McCarthy notes in his National Review Online article, this is no rogue operation. It’s true, every branch of government was kept in the loop. Congressional leadership was briefed. The administration sought these warrants from a judge. This isn’t a scandal so much as it is a controversy over a legal policy. To which I say, fair enough.

For McCarthy, the “problem here is not government power. It is the government officials we’ve elected to wield it.” In the wake of the still-unfolding IRS scandal, the Benghazi debacle, and the myriad failures of the hapless Eric Holder Justice Department, Americans rightly don’t trust these guys to color within the lines, as it were.

Still, I think McCarthy’s missing something. No, I don’t have much confidence in this administration. But I don’t have an abundance of confidence in government generally. That’s one of the things I love about America: The default position is to be skeptical of government, no matter who’s in charge.

Suppose I told you that you need to give me your life savings. It’s very important. I can’t explain why, or tell you what I’m gonna do with it. You just have to trust me, it’s for your own good. Bring it to me in cash – small bills only.

Would you do it? For your sake, I hope not. Knowing me (and I know me pretty well) you would never see that money again.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that this NSA program really is legal, important, and necessary. How could we implement it in such a way as to ensure that the power and information gained were not abused?

We trust the government with our snail mail, don’t we? There is a lot of private stuff in some of those envelopes. But postal employees wear uniforms, they work out of marked trucks and offices, and there are a whole bunch of special laws against tampering or stealing mail. Most importantly, it’s all public. Not the contents of our mail, but the process.

If I was gonna agree to this NSA program (and I’m not saying I would) then I would have to be assured that the program was tightly regulated to prevent abuse. But I wouldn’t take anyone’s word for it. How can we trust them if they won’t tell us what they’re doing?

The reasons given for all the secrecy are bullshit. The terrorists know we monitor the phones. Any criminal with half a brain (and terrorists are criminals) should assume that their phones are tapped. If you are trying to hide from the government, talking on the phone to your known associates is like sending up a flare.

Even if the terrorists were jabbering away on their phones like teenaged girls that still doesn’t explain why they need my phone data. Or yours.

Obama said he welcomes this debate. Fine. The ball is in your court, Mr. President. Convince me.

But don’t ask me to trust you.

Here’s why:

Defenders of the American government’s online spying program known as “PRISM” claimed Friday that the suddenly controversial secret effort had saved New York City’s subways from a 2009 terrorist plot led by a young Afghan-American, Najibullah Zazi.

But British and American legal documents from 2010 and 2011 contradict that claim, which appears to be the latest in a long line of attempts to defend secret programs by making, at best, misleading claims that they were central to stopping terror plots. While the court documents don’t exclude the possibility that PRISM was somehow employed in the Zazi case, the documents show that old-fashioned police work, not data mining, was the tool that led counterterrorism agents to arrest Zazi. The public documents confirm doubts raised by the blogger Marcy Wheeler and the AP’s Adam Goldman, and call into question a defense of PRISM first floated by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, who suggested that PRISM had stopped a key terror plot.

I don’t make a habit of trusting people who lie to me.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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76 Responses to Trust and Secrecy Don’t Mix

    • leslie says:

      Frankly, I don’t need ^that^ to prove to me bronco is worse than Bush. I saw it before 2008 with my own eyes.
      It still just burns to know that every little lie from bronco, et al, still means next to nothing to the koolaid slurping obots.

  1. myiq2xu says:

    Jack Shafer:

    Faster than you can say evaporation-condensation-precipitation, I expect this week’s exposés to produce additional investigations that will produce more leaks and further scoops about our digital records. This will now fuel new cycles of reporting, leaks and scoops — and another, and another — as new sources are cultivated and reportorial scraps gathering mold in journalists’ notebooks gain new relevance and help break stories.

    Greenwald’s storm will continue to rage because, I suspect, the story won’t be limited to just phone records or Web data. Ultimately, it will be about the government’s pursuit of all the digital breadcrumbs we produce as necessary byproducts of day-to-day life — and phone records and Web data are just a small part.

    Bank records, credit history, travel records, credit card records, EZPass data, GPS phone data, license-plate reader databases, Social Security and Internal Revenue Service records, facial-recognition databases at the Department of Motor Vehicles and elsewhere, even 7-Eleven surveillance videos comprise information lodes that are of equal or greater value to the national security establishment than phone and Web files. It doesn’t sound paranoid to conclude that the government has reused, or will reuse, the interpretation of the Patriot Act it presented to the secret FISA court in its phone record and Prism data requests to grab these other data troves.

    Lest I sound like a Fourth Amendment hysteric, I understand there’s nothing automatically sacrosanct about any of the digital trails we leave behind. Lawful subpoenas can liberate all sorts records about you, electronic or otherwise.

    What’s breathtaking about these two government surveillance programs that the Guardian and the Washington Post have revealed is that they’re vast collections of data about hundreds of millions of people suspected of no wrongdoing and not part of any civil action. Defending the phone-record cull, National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper explained this week that smaller sets of information aren’t very useful in screening for and identifying “terrorism-related communications,” hence all must collected.

    Besides, as the government and its supporters insist, phone-record metadata does not include the names of individuals or organizations connected to the phone numbers (and government eavesdropping isn’t part of the operation).

    I won’t belabor the point made better in scores of venues this week about how massive phone-record sets can be manipulated to produce revelatory information about individuals. Not even a saint could resist the siren call to combine data sets and use them in impermissible ways for “the good of the people.”

    Even before governments start to combine data, it knows too much about you. Once it gets started, it can know practically everything worth knowing. A former NSA employee captured the grand scheme succinctly last year when he told Wired magazine, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

  2. myiq2xu says:
  3. myiq2xu says:

    Kimberly Strassel:

    Aug. 9, 2010: In Texas, President Obama for the first time publicly names a group he is obsessed with—Americans for Prosperity (founded by the Koch Brothers)—and warns about conservative groups. Taking up a cry that had until then largely been confined to left-wing media and activists, he says: “Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads . . . And they don’t have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation.”

    Aug. 11: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sends out a fundraising email warning about “Karl Rove-inspired shadow groups.”

    Aug. 21: Mr. Obama devotes his weekly radio address to the threat of “attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names. We don’t know who’s behind these ads and we don’t know who’s paying for them. . . . You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation. . . . The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.”

    Week of Aug. 23: The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer authors a hit piece on the Koch brothers, entitled “Covert Operations,” in which she accuses them of funding “political front groups.” The piece repeats the White House theme, with Ms. Mayer claiming the Kochs have created “slippery organizations with generic-sounding names” that have “made it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington.”

    Aug. 27: White House economist Austan Goolsbee, in a background briefing with reporters, accuses Koch industries of being a pass-through entity that does “not pay corporate income tax.” The Treasury inspector general investigates how it is that Mr. Goolsbee might have confidential tax information. The report has never been released.

    This same week, the Democratic Party files a complaint with the IRS claiming the Americans for Prosperity Foundation is violating its tax-exempt status.

    Sept. 2: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warns on its website that the Kochs have “funneled their money into right-wing shadow groups.”

    Sept. 16: Mr. Obama, in Connecticut, repeats that a “foreign-controlled entity” might be funding “millions of dollars of attack ads.” Four days later, in Philadelphia, he again says the problem is that “nobody knows” who is behind conservative groups.

    Sept. 21: Sam Stein, in his Huffington Post article “Obama, Dems Try to Make Shadowy Conservative Groups a Problem for Conservatives,” writes that a “senior administration official” had “urged a small gathering of reporters to start writing on what he deemed ‘the most insidious power grab that we have seen in a very long time.’ ”

    Sept. 22: In New York City, Mr. Obama warns that conservative groups “pose as non-for-profit, social welfare and trade groups,” even though they are “guided by seasoned Republican political operatives” who might be funded by a “foreign-controlled corporation.”

    Sept. 26: On ABC’s “This Week,” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod declares outright that the “benign-sounding Americans for Prosperity, the American Crossroads Fund” are “front groups for foreign-controlled companies.”

    Sept. 28: The president, in Wisconsin, again warns about conservative organizations “posing as nonprofit groups.” Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, writes to the IRS demanding it investigate nonprofits. The letter names conservative organizations.

    On Oct. 14, Mr. Obama calls these groups “a problem for democracy.” On Oct. 22, he slams those who “hide behind these front groups.” On Oct. 25, he upgrades them to a “threat to our democracy.” On Oct. 26, he decries groups engaged in “unsupervised spending.”

    These were not off-the-cuff remarks. They were repeated by the White House and echoed by its allies in campaign events, emails, social media and TV ads. The president of the United States spent months warning the country that “shadowy,” conservative “front” groups—”posing” as tax-exempt entities and illegally controlled by “foreign” players—were engaged in “unsupervised” spending that posed a “threat” to democracy. Yet we are to believe that a few rogue IRS employees just happened during that time to begin systematically targeting conservative groups? A mere coincidence that among the things the IRS demanded of these groups were “copies of any contracts with and training materials provided by Americans for Prosperity”?

    This newspaper reported Thursday that Cincinnati IRS employees are now telling investigators that they took their orders from Washington. For anyone with a memory of 2010 politics, that was obvious from the start.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Never could understand the left’s obsession with the Koch brothers other than they’re rich, create jobs and rebuild treasured cultural venues. Soros on the other hand ….

      • Mary says:

        I never could understand a President of the United States willfully and publicly humiliating Supreme Court members during a State of the Union address. It was very unsettling.

        But I guess we all know those Dem Senators and Congressmen who jumped to their feet , practically pointing at the SC judges and jeering like an angry mob, knew what the DNC talking points were going to be.

        It’s disgusting.

  4. votermom says:

    The problem with secret programs:
    These defenders of PRISM – how do we know they are not being blackmailed into support by info gleaned from PRISM?

  5. myiq2xu says:

    (My uncle told me that joke)

  6. driguana says:

    Love this, too…..this guy is a piece of work….
    Definitely can’t stand to listen to him and now it is hard to even look at him…yes, Your Fraudulence!

  7. myiq2xu says:
    • wmcb says:

    • SHV says:

      “Dear Obama’s favorite media hack-loyalists:”
      They have already dug up the “fact” that Glen is (gasp) “very” Gay and lives in Brazil with his spouse/boy friend or what ever.

      • wmcb says:

        The Progs will do/say anything to destroy opponents. They will be just as nasty, racist, homophobic, sexist as they need to be, all while proclaiming their “support” for those groups.

        They have one overriding principle: their own growing power. All the rest is convenient lip service to keep those votes.

      • myiq2xu says:

        They must have cracked Wikipedia for that deep dark secret.

  8. votermom says:

  9. votermom says:

  10. votermom says:

  11. votermom says:

  12. DeniseVB says:

    Here’s a little sugar, Rand Paul, to go with your morning cuppa ….. from July,2012 …..

  13. 1539days says:

    Data mining is a supremely bad way of preventing a terrorist attack. The volume of data is too big to create connections. It can only reveal a trail of evidence, something that can be done by a subpoena of specific records the telecoms keep after the fact.

    While policing is important, punishment is the cornerstone of adherence to laws. For example, if the US had nuked (or used fuel air bombs that have the same, non-radioactive effect) a blanketed area where bin Laden was and killed tens of thousands of Afghans, the middle eastern government tacitly supporting AL-Qaeda might have ended their relationships. It also would have ultimately saved lives compared to the number of deaths in the War on Terror.

    As much as we would like to prevent crime even domestically, harsh sentences are what keep people from considering crimes.

  14. DeniseVB says:

    For your second cuppa, a little – “a liberal’s view of Obama”

  15. lildoggy4u says:

    Everybody remembers that we’re building the largest building complex in history for our Homeland Security Headquarters. Did you know who got the 1 billion dollar IT contract for it? That would be General Dynamics.
    Hopefully, this will help them offset the fine they received in 2008 –
    ” On August 19, 2008, GD agreed to pay $4 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the US Government claiming a GD unit fraudulently billed the government for defectively manufactured parts used in US military aircraft and submarines”.

    • wmcb says:

      General Dynamics, and their Crown family, go way back with Obama. They’ve been bankrolling him since Chicago.

    • wmcb says:

      General Dynamics is the one that Ayers father sat on the board. It is also the company that was in charge of “updating” passport security systems at the time of that curious passport tampering incident. The one where the guy ended up dead.

    • DeniseVB says:

      I think we need to get rid of DHS not make it stronger. TSA can easily be privatized, Fema needs to go back to being a cabinet position and all those other groups under that umbrella should go back to where they came from 😀 Jnap is filling all her positions with unqualified women and minorities per instruction from Obama so his voters have jobs to make money to donate to him. It’s a sham. <——-NSA should already know this !

    • wmcb says:

      Obama is not smart enough to do all he has done. He was hand-picked and groomed from the get go. If the press had dug into Chicago background instead of going all swoony, that would have become clear.

      • SHV says:

        For whatever his faults, Clinton overcame the Kennedy/DNC establishment and “won” the Presidency. Obama was selected because he is a corrupt, sociopathic, fraud.

        Obama isn’t the real problem, it’s the people who selected him. Obama is the headache, when the problem is a brain tumor.

      • piper says:

        Have been saying that for a long time. For a guy who is supposedly brilliant how come he can never say anything cogent without his teleprompter. Look at the other day in California, he fumbled and bumbled when his teleprompter misfired and the ‘smartest man ever’ had to wait until an aide brought him ‘his speech.’ Must have made Soros and Ayers proud of their man.

      • Constance says:

        I agree, Obama is a well groomed and chosen puppet of someone who couldn’t win an election.

        • Constance says:

          Remember how they tried to market Michelle as the Hillary replacement to women voters. They started banging out twice a day fashion bulletins as if regular women give a rats ass about fashion or consider the First Lady to be a women’s representative or role model. It was a typically stunning miss by an ad campaign aimed at women by men.

        • Mary says:

          I was really offended by the “Michelle is soooo much like Jackie Kennedy” narrative. Srsly.

        • insanelysane says:

          Mary, I was deeply disgusted by the “Obama reminds us of our , brother/father,President John Kennedy. ”
          Imagine even saying that never mind actually thinking that.

  16. swanspirit says:

    OT . I am sure that NSA is already fully informed ; but for those of you who might wonder why I am MIA , I am enjoying a wonderful weekend at my daughters home . My grandaughter’s High School Graduation was Friday , I am so proud of her . it was a very small class , because her school is new and her class is the first graduating . It was so lovely and well done , and as small as it was , less than 300 ; the event itself was a real study in American families. I am enjoying myself thoroughly , spending time with my family , but am popping in from time to time to read and catch up . I miss posting but , I am reading and so very grateful to know you and be a part of this blog!

  17. HELENK says:

    this may seem off topic

    growth in home schooling outpacing public schools

    more people are waking up and want their kids educated not indoctrinated. that is a good sign for the future of this country

    their is very little trust in any government program today

    • Constance says:

      Home schooling is very popular in Washington and there are some very strong networks of people who support it. I’m sure those networks will come in handy at some point in the future.

  18. HELENK says:

    mystery deepens are tech behemoths participating in prism voluntarily?

    my grand daughter calls me electronically challenged so I do not understand the nuts and bolts of this program and could it be do without the cooperation of the tech behmoths

  19. DeniseVB says:

    Obama’s gift to the Chinese guy …..

  20. votermom says:

    Read this comment on reddit

    I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:
    1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.
    Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.
    With this tech in place, the government doesn’t have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you’re reporting on them to protect your dad.
    2) Let’s say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They’re shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won’t be responsible for anyone dying. That’s going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they’re next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.
    3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you’ve never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can’t say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn’t feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it’s infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.
    You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren’t home. You can’t reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven’t been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn’t there.
    4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It’s like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him “fuck you dude what are you laughing at can’t you see I’ve got a fucking wound on my leg?”
    “Sorry,” he says. “I just didn’t know anyone read the news anymore.” There haven’t been any real journalists for months. They’re all in jail.
    Everyone walking around is scared. They can’t talk to anyone else because they don’t know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they’re sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It’s always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.
    You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you’re basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can’t use a phone or email. You can’t get a job. You can’t even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don’t want to lose their jobs. They don’t want to be labeled as traitors.
    This all happened in the country where I live.
    You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.
    Maybe Obama won’t do it. Maybe the next guy won’t, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn’t about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it’s about your daughter or your son. We just don’t know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?
    You know for me, the reason I’m upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant “liberty and justice for all.” You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That’s what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren’t standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?
    Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?
    I didn’t make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn’t happen in America. But guess what? It’s starting to happen.
    I actually get really upset when people say “I don’t have anything to hide. Let them read everything.” People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.

    • HELENK says:

      thank you for this comment. I stole it . I really hope people read it and pay attention to it. this is what people from communists countries told me years ago. What they came to this country to escape

    • myiq2xu says:

      Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.

      We have Potemkin protests like OWS. They were never a threat to TPTB (despite what they think about themselves). They were a way to blow off energy in a way harmless to the establishment.

      The Tea Party OTOH, was a danger to TPTB so they had to go.

  21. HELENK says:

    just had a F-15 Eagle doing figure 8s over my house.
    backtrack is in Palm Springs and I live about 30 miles from there. What a feeling of freedom it must be to fly like that. Cloud dancing
    my neighbor told me what kind of plane it was

  22. HELENK says:

    for father’s day


    just because we need a short break

    • Constance says:

      That’s a great idea. Maybe a road trip to Portland is called for to pick up the ice cream. Some of those Voodoo doll doughnuts might be nice too.

  23. wmcb says:

  24. We need stuff like THIS:

  25. HELENK says:

    criminal investigation into NSA leaks to start. going after whistleblowers and the press

  26. Internal Exile says:

    Justin Raimondo of Antiwar-dot-com on “Police-State ‘Progressivism'”:

    I don’t agree with everything JR has ever said–he considers FDR a villain and thinks US participation in WW2 was unnecessary–but I agree with him most of the time.

  27. foxyladi14 says:

    A question Have we ever had
    An American POTUS with a dozen foreign siblings before this one?

  28. myiq2xu says:

    “During a Senate hearing yesterday, Senator John McCain said it was too hard to always have to update apps on his iPhone. No one has the heart to tell him the device he was holding was a garage door opener.” –Conan O’Brien

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