Showing posts with label FISA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FISA. Show all posts

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What do we know about NSA snooping?

Well, listening to the TV we don't know much.  Here is what they could do, especially after spending $1 billion on a fancy data center in Utah.
  They can capture and save the billing records of every phone call on the planet.  They call it "metadata", but it's the stuff of your phone bill, what numbers you called, how long you talked.  This allows the feds or other snoopers to go into the system with your phone number and learn all the other phone numbers you have called, going back a long time.  They claim it's just phone numbers, but that doesn't matter.  Put your own phone number into Google and Google will return your name and address.  You might have to pay a little money, but heh, the Feds have lots of money.   If the Feds have a phone number, they can get the name without much trouble.   I believe they used the system on the Boston bombers.  It fingered an old associate of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  The FBI interviewed the associate and shot him dead during the interview.  The FBI claimed self defense, the associate pulled a knife on them, they say.
    Speaking of the Boston Bombers, the FBI had a solid tip from the Russians that the older brother was a terrorist.  FBI claims to have interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but they didn't bother to pass the tip on to the local police, who usually have better local connections than Washington based FBI guys.  Nor did they bother to put Tamerlan on a no-fly list, and they let him fly to Russia and back, and hobnob with Chechen terrorists without tipping off the Russians.
   The Feds can read all your email, see what websites you visit, how often and how long, and see all your Facebook, Myspace and where ever postings.  If you post anything on suspicious websites, that makes you suspicious too.   
  I don't think they can tap (listen to conversations) on every phone on the planet, yet.
  NSA must have direct electronic connections into the phone system computers, as well as all the internet backbone companies.  I heard the back bone companies on TV deny this, but I don't believe them. 
   This "FISA" court which is supposed to be "overseeing" NSA, approved all but 10 of 1824 snooping requests. That isn't a court, that's a rubber stamp.
  I don't know where I stand on the NSA thing.  One on hand, being able to drop Osama bin Laden's phone number into the system and see every one he phoned is clearly useful.  On the other hand,  dropping the phone numbers of  anyone the administration dislikes, or conservative bloggers like me, into the system is scary.  Plus Osama Bin Ladin gave up using phones after the ever patriotic New York Times revealed that NSA was tapping his satellite phone.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No issues, Plead process to delay FISA bill

Lehrer Newshour did a piece on the failure of the US House to pass a new FISA bill. Steny Hoyer for the democrats and Somebody-or-other Hoogland (sp?) for the republicans got a solid bit of air time to explain their sides.
Democrat Hoyer didn't talk about issues he cared about, but he had a lot to say about "process". He had a lot of Not-Invented-Here talk, a lot of "we don't have all the paper work talk", more "we need more time" talk, but never did he mention the contents of the bill, or any problems with said content. In short he stalled, in public, on national TV. Made himself and his party look stuck on stupid.
Republican Hoogland did a little better. He explained that the telco's need immunity from law suits when they cooperate with intelligence agencies. If the telco's have to fight off 40 lawsuits for helping out, next time they won't help. Only the telco engineers know how to make the fancy electronic switches cough up the desired phone calls. Without telco support, intelligence agencies can't do anything. If the telco suits find out that cooperating just gets them in trouble, they will stop cooperating.
Hoogland failed to explain how the new bill was going to limit wire tapping to Al Quada terrorists and not authorize every two bit sheriff to tap any old phone just for the hell of it. All in all, a very poor public performance by both parties.

Update: Could it be that the trial lawyers want the opportunity to collect fees by suing the telcoes? After all the trial lawyers are one of the heaviest contributers to democratic campaigns.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Does Osama Bin Laden deserve any civil rights?

On one hand, I will go to any length to capture or kill terrorists. On the other hand, American citizens, like myself, deserve full protection from government prosecution. Does US law allow tougher treatment for terrorists than full US citizens? Should it? How do you distinguish between scumbag terrorists and virtuous citizens entitled to Miranda rights, habeas corpus, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, court appointed lawyers, and fair trials? Suppose the terrorist is a US citizen?

The Republicans attempted to make such a distinction in the FISA bill currently before the House. The Republicans planned to offer a motion that politically vulnerable Democrats would have a hard time voting against. The amendment would have said that nothing in the bill could limit surveillance of Osama bin Laden and terrorist organizations.

This would have established that Osama and terrorists get less protection than ordinary citizens. The democratic leadership didn't like this idea and the FISA bill has been pulled for rethink.

A reasonable compromise would allow FBI/CIA/NSA surveillance ( tap phones, read email, open US mail, demand billing records, hack into computers) of foreign (Russian) spies, members of terrorist outfits on the Attorney General's list, and foreign nationals on foreign soil without any sort of warrant. Surveillance of US citizens at home or abroad , and foreigners on US soil need a warrant from a court.