Thursday, June 6, 2013

Two thoughts on the Verizon call spying

Story here.

1. Screw you Obama. Most of what Glenn Greenwald publishes is ranting about stuff that's well within the rule of law but which he can make a buck whining about. This, from what little I know right now, is different and extremely troubling. Despite all the rumblings about impeachable offenses in the past that IMO didn't have much to them, this seems like a genuinely impeachable offense. Hopefully we'll get the sort of coverage and digging on this that we got on the (relative*) non-issues of the past several weeks.

2. Completely aside from the constitutional questions, this does make me wonder what is going on. What's nice is that at least this went through a FISA court and there is some argument for why the metadata is OK. That's what those courts are there for - because covert operations do need to happen and they do need judicial oversight. Maybe there will be a judicial review of this action and some of this will be settled out. But aside from that I'm curious why they're doing this surveillance. It covered a very specific few month period. The constitutionalist in me is very angry at Obama right now. The practically minded person is wondering what sort of activities inspired the broad sweep in the first place. Are they worried about sleeper cells or something? That's the sort of thing that would inspire this type of intelligence gathering, after all.

* - Of course I think the Benghazi attack and the IRS scandal are important - I just mean they don't present the presidential or constitutional problems that this does.

35 comments:

  1. On #2 - my point basically being that I don't think Obama is doing this because he's Big Brother and wants to control us. I think he's doing this because there is a credible reason for heightened intelligence gathering and he has just walked over the bill of rights in reaction to that. The "walking over the bill of rights" part is troubling, but the "credible reason for heightened intelligence gathering" is troubling too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does this mean that you agree with the arguments found in Daniel Ellsberg's 2002 book, Secrets?

      http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Memoir-Vietnam-Pentagon-Papers/dp/0142003425

      In addition to being a Harvard-trained economist specializing in decision theory, he also worked for the RAND Corporation and was a military risk analyst with close connections to the executive branch.

      Delete
  2. I've never seen any evidence that this sort of surveillance ever stopped after the "Echelon" business years ago. I've known someone who designed parts for the earlier surveillance systems. They were a big challenge to design and make.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I doubt that this is either a constitutional problem or an impeachable offense. Don't get me wrong, I'm much more angry and offended than usual. But my understanding is that SCOTUS has generally held that because your call records are held by 3rd parties, you do not have a 4th amendment privacy interest in them. It's messed up, but I believe consistent with the text of the 4th amendment which is badly in need of some updating. (It's nuts we haven't tweaked the text of the bill of rights in so long, but that's a little out of scope here)

    As for the time limit on the order, it may be misleading. It may simply be that they couldn't get an order to hand over records in perpetuity and that have been getting those records for years with the FISA court approving a new order every 3 months. That wouldn't be too surprising actually. While the FISA court is about as subject to capture as can be, (they only ever hear the government's arguments and hear them as often as the government cares to apply with as many variations as the government wishes to try) they would be reluctant I imagine to issue an order authorizing this kind of surveillance in perpetuity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I disagree with the holding of the SCOTUS' 1976 ruling (see _U.S. v. Miller_), PrometheeFeu is right here. Third party records are subject to much lower Fourth Amendment protection re: searches than other types of records.

      The larger problem is that our electronic communications are subject to a plethora of varying standards depending on the sorts of platform in use, etc. That won't change until the Congress decides to do something about it.

      Julian Sanchez discusses this issue at some length here before a Senate committee: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xl1b3e_julian-sanchez-discusses-electronic-privacy_news#.UbDVqJywUdg

      Delete
    2. And... I was right. This has been going on for 7 years and Congress knows about it. Also, screw Feinstein can be added to the list:

      http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/dianne-feinstein-on-nsa-its-called-protecting-america-92340.html

      Delete
  4. Please let me know if you're looking for a article author for your blog. You have some really great articles and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd really like to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.

    Please blast me an email if interested. Thank you!

    My web page ... right here

    ReplyDelete
  5. Daniel can you expand on point 1? I appreciate your view as a counterbalance to people like Greenwald and I'd like to know what it is about this story that has you so troubled.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Trying to guess what Obama is about is difficult because he is damn lacking in judgment and is surrounded by people who surpass him at that lack of talent. Nonetheless I will try to help you along.

    First, the effort appears likely to be an act of desperation. It is simply too easy for people to communicate w/o detection, with a little planning. A and B can just pay cash for two Wal-Mart drop phones. Or, you just write comments in a simple code on a foolish economics blog, like this one.

    What it looks like is that the Gov't has some Verizon network numbers and it wants to see where are the rest of the nodes to the net work it has found.

    What makes this fun is that the bad guys can make us waste millions by simply using decoy calls. Hitler, remember, fell for Patton's rubber tanks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm not sure how something can be an impeachable offense when it has been repeatedly authorized and reauthorized by every branch of government. What do you think is unconstitutional or impeachable about this? I think it's consistent with a bad law, but it's a bad law that has been overwhelmingly passed every time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. Well I never said he would be impeached.
      2. It's an unreasonable search without a warrant - I do acknowledge PromeTheeFeu's caveats on that argument. I'm not a lawyer, so I find that interesting, relevant, and I don't know what to do with it. I'm ultimately not going to be bringing the impeachment charges so I don't have to know - but that was what I had in mind. I may be wrong.
      3. Aside from the law, there's also the facts - and like I said in the post this is based on what little we know and that I hope we learn more. This is where Congress needs the massive oversight hearings, etc. (and likely will have them).

      Even if its not, in fact, impeachable, this is still a policy decision we can vehemently oppose. If you are looking through phone records you need to have a specific reason for doing it approved by a judge. You don't just download the entire country's phone records.

      Delete
    2. Take this as my response to RAB and others above too, obviously.

      Delete
    3. Well, "a policy decision we can vehemently oppose" is quite a bit different that "a genuinely impeachable offense," is it not? I think it kind of trivializes the impeachment process to suggest that we should impeach people for policies we oppose when those policies are consistent with congressional law and a judge's decision. But that's just me.

      Delete
    4. re: "I think it kind of trivializes the impeachment process to suggest that we should impeach people for policies we oppose when those policies are consistent with congressional law and a judge's decision."

      I'd agree - but then I never suggested that did I? My reasons for impeachment were that it was unconstitutional, not that it was a bad policy choice. Then I said that even if you were right on the constitutional question (doesn't really matter what the other branches say - that doesn't make something constitutional), it's still a bad policy decision.

      Delete
    5. Dan, there is no search of you, when the Gov't asks Verizon for its business records. Sans a privilege, like attorney client, doctor patient, what you say to anyone is not privileged. The gov't is free to ask Verizon for the info and Verizon could give the info, sans your agreement.

      The entire purpose of the law is to prevent competition by carriers over privacy. Because of the law, ATT can not sell you service on the promise it will not release your data but the evil Verizon will.

      Verizon could object but the "letter," better word would be a forward looking subpoena, but the letter is based on some minimal showing and Verizon has same problem, as who called who is not private for the callers know, in addition to Verizon.

      Delete
  8. Oh Daniel, your disdain for Glenn Greenwald is sort of like a reductio ad absurdum of your contrarianism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now you're just stringing phrases together.

      I don't think I'm that contrarian. I'm fairly mainstream/center of the road in most of what I think and say I think. I might sound like a contrarian if I'm talking to one though. But I don't go around making evaluations of what I think based on being shocking or contrary to someone.

      Delete
    2. I agree Koen. His views of Glenn are kind of bizarre.

      Delete
  9. I know, that's what makes your contrarianism so interesting and at times like these, so bizarre: especially in the case of politics (and especially in the case of foreign policy and civil liberties) your desire or instinct to be mainstream at all costs and despite all reason culminates in your disdain for Glenn Greenwald.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean, to write this "Most of what Glenn Greenwald publishes is ranting about stuff that's well within the rule of law but which he can make a buck whining about." about Greenwald, how you can characterize Greenwald's work in this way just boggles the mind.

      Delete
    2. But I don't have an instinct to be "mainstream at all costs". What are you talking about? I desire to call things as I see them. Against your charge of contrarianism, I point out that in a lot of cases I'm pretty mainstream. It's not like I pick out oddball views to be contrary about. As far as foreign policy - do you really think my view on drones or Guantanamo, for example, is a mainstream one? Clearly I'm willing to break with the mainstream when I think it's wrong. There's no special virtue in mainstream thinking, after all.

      You can change your pseudonym, but I guess you can't change the low-content swipes at people, huh?

      Delete
  10. "But I don't have an instinct to be "mainstream at all costs". What are you talking about? I desire to call things as I see them. Against your charge of contrarianism, I point out that in a lot of cases I'm pretty mainstream."
    Again, that was exactly my point, your contrarianism is of the mainstream kind (the way that becomes contrarian is because you operate in an environment with quite a lot of (civil and other) libertarians (and Austrians)).

    The way you often (though not always) interpret what krugman says in the most charitable way while doing the opposite for what somebody like Bob Murphy or Don Boudreaux or Rand Paul or Ron Paul writes I would also count as a form of contrarianism in this respect. Admittedly, I think you are sincere in many of these cases and the contrarianism is more instinctual or habitual, but at other times it seems to be done with the intent to provoke / troll (I've pointed out such examples in the past) )

    "As far as foreign policy - do you really think my view on drones or Guantanamo, for example, is a mainstream one?"
    Yes re your position on drones (and on e.g. the respective moralities of terrorism and the US government's and the US public's response to it). I don't know enough about your position on Guantanamo. I know your position on enemy combatants and think that's a fairly mainstream one (and one highly problematic for civil libertarians since the whole world is declared a battlefield and the war seems to be perpetual (yes, I know, Obama made a nice speech about its not being perpetual). I do remember a post of yours wherein you criticize Greenwald's position re Guantanamo without realizing that Greenwald had exactly written extensively about that what you claimed he didn't seem to consider:

    You wrote "Does he [Greenwald] even consider, in writing this, that maybe the mere presence of a military prison in Cuba isn't what bothered us about Guantanamo! Maybe what actually bothered us was the denial of habeas corpus, the torture, essentially the denial of constitutional and human rights! Funny idea, isn't it? That someone might actually care about what happens at Guantanamo a little more than whether it's located overseas or within U.S. borders." http://factsandotherstubbornthings.blogspot.ca/2012/02/brief-word-on-glenn-greenwald.html

    I mean, to even think that Greenwald didn't consider this and would not wholeheartedly agrees with it is bizarre.

    "It's not like I pick out oddball views to be contrary about."
    See above, re your contrarianism being of the mainstream kind and re some of your defenses of Krugman an attacks on people like the Pauls.

    "but I guess you can't change the low-content swipes at people, huh?"
    This is coming from somebody who wrote about Glenn Greenwald "Most of what Glenn Greenwald publishes is ranting about stuff that's well within the rule of law but which he can make a buck whining about."

    So you characterize his arguments as 'rants' and his motives as 'wanting to make a buck'. How's that for a low-content swipe? and you write that most of what he writes about is stuff that's well within the rule of law' which is a) doubtful, b) if true, not necessarily relevant as Greenwald's point is exactly that the law and especially the interpretation and application thereof have become perverted)

    Anyway, this discussion reminds me why our previous discussions were mostly unproductive and why both you and I seemed to prefer I stop commenting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you just mean I'll hold a contrary opinion regardless of popularity if I think it's right, then you're right.

      If you are saying I adopt contrary views to be contrary and not out of a reasonable evaluation of the facts and arguments (what you seem to be getting at in the second paragraph), you're wrong.

      I've written at length about what I do and don't like about Greenwald's actual arguments. There's noting wrong with me summarizing my take on him in a post, is there? Does everything I say about Greenwald have to be point-by-point? Am I not free to form opinions of people?

      Delete
    2. "If you are saying I adopt contrary views to be contrary and not out of a reasonable evaluation of the facts and arguments (what you seem to be getting at in the second paragraph), you're wrong."
      I disagree, and have given examples of this in the past.


      "I've written at length about what I do and don't like about Greenwald's actual arguments."
      Actually, what I've noticed is that unlike some of your very informative and useful and insightful econ posts, your posts on Greenwald are typically remarkably lacking in content and high in dismissiveness.

      "There's noting wrong with me summarizing my take on him in a post, is there?"
      Nope. it is though when you don't actually substantiate that opinion elsewhere though, which I think is the case here.

      "Does everything I say about Greenwald have to be point-by-point?"
      No. Where did you get that idea? (hey, does Greenwald too get to use the defense of Í don't have to give extensive factual evidence in every single post when I have given that evidence in many previous posts' defense in response to your point here http://factsandotherstubbornthings.blogspot.ca/2013/05/glenn-greenwald-is-ideologue-that-often.html )

      "Am I not free to form opinions of people?"
      That's exactly right, Daniel. That's exactly what I meant: you are not free to form opinions of people.

      Delete
    3. OK please stop trolling. If you want to write comment after comment about how awful I am, go start your own blog and write all about it and I promise I'll studiously ignore it.

      Delete
  11. First Obama lost Chris Matthews, now Daniel Kuehn? It's over, Mr. President.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The danger here is really the temptation to do more with the data. Maybe the search warrant limits what can be done with the data.

    Assuming the data for each call or text message is the two telephone numbers, the date, time and length of the call, and which cell towers (if any) were involved for each of the telephones you could use the database to identify the composition of criminal organizations, identify some drug users, identify prostitutes and people who use the services of prostitutes, and gain insight into whether two people are having an affair. If you were hunting a fugitive, you might look at the telephone records of all of his known friends and relatives for insight into where he might be. The real danger is that the data might be used for inappropriate domestic purposes. (If the data were being used, in contravention of the terms of the search warrant, to target the private lives of political opponents - now that might be an impeachable offense.)

    ReplyDelete
  13. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/06/nsa-numbers/?cid=8624954

    ~Thanks to the Guardian’s scoop, we now know definitively just how misleading these numbers are. You see, while the feds are required to disclose the number of orders they apply for and receive (almost always the same number, by the way), they aren’t required to say how many people are targeted in each order. So a single order issued to Verizon Business Solutions in April covered metadata for every phone call made by every customer. That’s from one order out of what will probably be about 200 reported in next year’s numbers.~

    The Guardian undermined the claims made by the administration in other words.

    Why do politicos lie like this? http://www.amazon.com/Why-Leaders-Lie-International-Politics/dp/0199758735

    ReplyDelete
  14. "Most of what Glenn Greenwald publishes is ranting about stuff that's well within the rule of law but which he can make a buck whining about."

    Or, just maybe, there are a plethora of things "within the rule of law" in post 9-11 America that are still bloody wrong, and Greenwald has every right to rant on them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nobody's saying he doesn't have a right - don't make that grade-school mistake on your debut in the comment section, Sam.

      Delete
    2. I don't mean a legal or even moral right, that was clumsily worded on my part. I mean he is *justified* in my view in many of the complaints that you seem to dismiss on the grounds that they are "within the rule of law." I don't feel he does it to "make a buck." I think he sees real moral problems worth identifying.

      Delete
    3. Sam,

      The comment looks like a very strange version of poisoning the well.

      Delete
  15. Just so that you know, these orders last for a duration of 3 months and are renewed every quarter. They have been issuing these orders since about 2006-2007 or thereabouts.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It seems odd to describe a secret court granting sweeping orders of a generic kind as constitutional.

    Originally the US Constitution was based on common Law. All common Law courts were public, the procedure adversarial, and the citizen and the Crown on a footing of equality. I do not see how the recent developments going back to the state secrets decision in was it 1954? can be considered consistent with the common Law.

    ReplyDelete
  17. What is Lol...? Every thing you want in Lol and Troll, Now you Get all in one Network, ThatIsLol.. Lol Pictures, Lol Videos, Lol Peoples, Funny Peoples, Troll Images, troll pictures, funny pictures, Facebook pictures, facebook funny pictures, facebook lol pictures, Funny videos and Much More only Laughing out of Laughing
    lolsgag.com

    ReplyDelete

All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.