USA Surveillance. Maybe It’s Time To Thwart It!

Posted by · July 10, 2013 2:47 am

USA Surveillance

USA surveillance is at an all time high. The recent Snowden spill revealed what many privacy advocates have long suspected. The   keeps a record of all our cell phone calls and sent emails; photographs every snail mail sent through the United States Postal Service (USPS); has the ability to detain anyone indefinitely that is suspected of terrorist connections or activities (and also detain them without a trial); they can even get copies of all our records of the books that we check out from our local library  — again without a warrant, and with President Obama and his administration believing that all these programs are necessary

Necessary for what?

Is Obama and his administration drinking exorbitant liters of myopic-induced-Washington-Kool-aid? Seriously. What is their deal?

Obama said: My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances. The president said it was a “false choice” to say that American freedoms needed to be sacrificed in the goal of national security. “That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn’t the case … To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom.” He added that it was his job to “make sure that we’re making the right tradeoffs”. — | The Guardian

It’s His job to “make sure that we’re making the right trade offs”. Sure thing President Obama —disregard the US Constitution and our civil liberties and lead the once-strategically-aligned-chess-board into the epitome of mass constitutional slaughter. That’s a good chess move speech for players that depend upon limited moves simply because they lost their queen (early in the game).

But, It’s Top Secret!

USA- Surveillance Yes has been handing over all US customer phone record data to the  (National Security Agency) — under a secret court order that The Guardian disclosed last month. The secret order that dates back to April, requires Verizon to supply the NSA with millions of customer phone records on an ongoing, daily basis. Since the data is termed metadata and not communications; the NSA does not need a warrant to procure customer data, but, the order still smacks of government overreach. Metadata consists of data about data. Though telephony metadata does not include a customers identity or voice recording — it does include communications routing and session identifying information, trunk identifier, (along with IMSI, IMEI), and length, location, and time of calls. It obviously would not be difficult for the NSA to connect the dots to a specific individual via patterns in the data.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries. The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. — The Guardian | court order

Even Verizon is in Denial

As far back as 2006 — Verizon denied  giving customer information en masse to the NSA. You can rest assured that Verizon is not the only telecommunications giant to turn over customer data to the US government.

Gee. What is a US Citizen to do?

I spoke with two Experts-Exchange top dogs last night. Two guys that actually know what they are talking about, and whose opinions I trust. Great guys who often think out-of-the-box-type-stuff that may even piss some people off. The majority of the time  — these two guys are Spot on! No Dick orJane crap here; these two guys are always quite accurate when it gets down to dissecting Dick & Jane dialogues.

 Stone5150′s Take

Do you believe that ongoing US government surveillance is legal and vital to our national national security?

Nope, on both counts. Not legal. It violates 4th Amendment under illegal search and I think Benjamin Franklin said it best with these 2 quotes “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary security deserve neither” and “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins”. Basic personal liberty is vital for a free society to flourish.

In a nutshell: What is your take on PRISM, Boundless Informant, and Upstream (Programs such as Tempora)?

 It’s pretty much the same exact thing scammers and ID thieves do, just run by scary government agencies with sometimes cryptic 3 letter abbreviations.

Recently I spoke with random neighbors about Snowden’s revelations and whether it had an impact on how they choose to communicate digitally. It was my impression that most neighbors believed that the government is protecting them from terrorist attacks; so they are willing to give up privacy to be afforded these protections.

It’s astounding how little people understand about freedom anymore. The original and correct meaning has been replaced by a Team America style jingoism. [This video isNOT NSFW].

In the wake of all these revelations, is this type of government surveillance constitutional?

It’s in a hijacked version of it. Unfortunately this is nothing remotely new, yet people act like they’ve never seen or heard of it before. Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it ya know.

Netminder’s Take

Do you believe that ongoing US government surveillance is legal and vital to our national national security?

It’s legal because Congress voted for it and at least two Presidents have implemented it. It’s not Constitutional, in my view — but the distinction is important. Having said that, I don’t foresee the Supreme Court deciding to throw it out, because of the political composition of the current court. There’s no evidence I’ve seen that suggests that the warrantless surveillance of US citizens (AKA wholesale, indiscriminate, secret bugging of everyone) has made our country any more secure. There have been two major terrorist attacks in recent US history — Oklahoma City and September 11. In neither case did the acts themselves cause the general population to change its behavior or belief systems; all it did was cause the government — the people who are in power — to become paranoid and cause the rest of us to be first greatly inconvenienced and now spied upon. But that’s not because the citizens of the US were scared shitless; it’s because governments and governmental bureaucracies exist to control — and the Founding Fathers knew that better than anyone, because they’d just fought a war to be free of it — and those governments are horrified at the prospect of not being in control. The surveillance isn’t vital to the survival of the nation; it’s vital to the control by the existing people in control.

Do you believe that the US government (or any government) has the right to directly access the servers of major US service providers without the peoples knowledge or consent?

They have the right to do it (see the above paragraph) until the US Supreme Court tells them they don’t, but if I’m a lawyer for the ISPs, I’m going to start looking at a modern day interpretation of the Third Amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. Requiring a private party (the ISPs’) to make available their belongings (the information they gather for fully legal, albeit pretty underhanded reasons) for the benefit of the government without consent (and not only that, but the ISPs’ legally can’t even say that it’s been required of them), when we’re not at war (despite the “war” on terrorism, Congress hasn’t declared war on anyone since 1941) is prohibited by the Constitution. It’s also not very good for the big ISPs’ to cooperate; I know I’m seriously considering going to a small, local provider because I don’t have a lot of faith in Comcast; it won’t be good for the Microsofts and Facebooks of the world to have their customers thinking that everything they post will wind up on some government server to be scanned. But that doesn’t mean that some of the ISPs’ (like AT&T, for example) won’t cooperate; some will. And when they do, citizens get screwed.

In a nutshell: What is your take on PRISM, Boundless Informant, and Upstream (Programs such as Tempora)?

PRISM: Simply put, PRISM is a project of the federal government, authorized during the Bush administration, that allowed the NSA to secretly demand and acquire the telecommunications logs of customers of major communications companies. The big misconception is that the NSA had the actual telephone conversations; what they have is the logs, BUT they also have electronic information, like emails and text messages. However, through the use of the data contained in the logs, the NSA is able to pretty accurately develop a portrait of a customer’s activities and associates. Boundless Informant is the data analysis system the NSA uses to sort through all the data collected through PRISM and other programs like it. Upstream programs are ones that affect data before it gets to you. The usual metaphor is a river; your computer program doesn’t care what happens upstream from you. One notorious example of Upstream programming is the collection in San Francisco of AT&T’s data for the NSA. What made it notorious was that it was done by (and with the apparently enthusiastic cooperation of) AT&T, who kept it a secret from their customers. The NSA didn’t care what AT&T had to do to get the data — just that it got the data. Tempora is a program run by the British government that does much the same kinds of things for Britain as PRISM does for the US. What makes Tempora nasty is that the British government is forbidden (like the US government is forbidden) from collecting certain kinds of information on its citizens — but the US government can spy on whoever it wants to if the subject isn’t a US citizen… and if the US government decides to share that information with the British, it’s perfectly legal for the British government to have the data — even if it is illegal for the government to gather the information. The same is true with the information the British gather and share with the US. Consider also that there’s nothing either country considers illegal about tapping electronic traffic coming into the countries. Since there aren’t really THAT many cables coming into either, and since both are major recipients of traffic, then tapping that incoming traffic can, when analyzed, tell you a lot about the person who sent it, not to mention the person receiving it.

Recently I spoke with random neighbors about Snowden’s revelations and whether it had an impact on how they choose to communicate digitally. It was my impression that most neighbors believed that the government is protecting them from terrorist attacks; so they are willing to give up privacy to be afforded these protections?

Personally, I’m not wiling to give up my privacy (even though there’s no guarantee of it in the Constitution) or freedom based on someone else’s fears of what some unknown person might or might not be possibly maybe thinking of doing at some point in the future. I don’t consider screening of airplane passengers to be a bad thing; I consider the US government’s implementation of it — the TSA, arbitrary rules, lousy use of technology, and so on — to be annoying, irresponsible and largely ineffective. If the government thinks that I’m doing something criminally detrimental to the security of the country, then convince a judge of it, get a warrant, and tap my phone and internet connection — and then apologize to me for being so damned stupid afterwards. Franklin noted “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I couldn’t put it any better myself.

In the wake of all these revelations, is this type of government surveillance constitutional?

Strictly speaking, there’s little question that the surveillance of US citizens by the US government without a warrant (or even with a secretly issued warrant) is unconstitutional. Then again, I don’t see any prohibitions on the possession of drugs in the Constitution either, but the federal government (in apparent violation of the Tenth Amendment) has laws that they use to punish the states who don’t toe the line on them, so the fact that something is or might be unconstitutional has never stopped the federal government (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marbury_v._Madison re: the second and third presidents of the US); they started almost immediately. But I suspect that most people you talk to will think the government is protecting us, so it’s okay to break the law.

Thwart USA Surveillance

When government gets too big for it’s britches — it’s up to us to us take back control. Obviously, we can’t rely upon a consistent trail of half truths, back stabbing political rhetoric, and two-faced whispered assurances from a slew of forked government tongues. USA Today recently listed online privacy tools that can curtail PRISM tracking. Mobile apps likeWickrSilent Circle, RedPhone and Text Secure [by Open Systems] — can secure mobile communications in both text and voice. Masking your IP, ditching tech giants such as Google and Facebook, utilizing DuckDuckGo when conducting online searches, and using services that are free of NSA interference, and Cocoon browsing are a few of the ways that you can thwart USA surveillance technologies.

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