Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Just A Piece of Paper

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (June 10, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old geek, has lit a firestorm across the country, and, potentially, around the world with his revelations on the NSA and its contractor's massive spying operation on Americans.  Members of the Senate and the White House have admitted the operation, but assure us that it's for own good because terrorism.  Right.

From Jon Healey's column in the Los Angeles Times:

Reaction has been predictably mixed and extreme, with Fox News analyst Ralph Peters calling for Snowden to be executed and previous national security whistle-blowers, Ellsberg included, practically calling for a statue to be erected in his honor. Some cyber civil libertarians argue that the revelations should cause heads to roll within the administration because they appear to have lied to Congress about the surveillance; the Electronic Frontier Federation wants Congress to appoint a blue-ribbon panel to "conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities ... [and] make changes in the law to stop the spying and ensure that it does not happen again."

One interesting question, though, is whether Snowden is entitled to protection as a whistle-blower. The administration argues that its data-gathering efforts on phone networks and online have all fallen within the bounds of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In fact, the hoovering of data from phone companies has been done under the auspices of regular orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If that's true -- and granted, that's a sizable "if" -- Snowden has disclosed things that the government has been doing legally.   [Emphasis added]

So, does that make everything OK?  Hardly.   Conor Friedersdorf points out the flaws inherent in such a rationale in a marvelous article in The Atlantic (and you should read the whole article).

What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants -- to use power oppressively and unjustly -- to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could've scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we're counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after.  [Emphasis added]

I don't know that I consider Bush and Obama angelic in their zeal for collecting clouds of data on us, but at this point it appears they, at least, believe they have the authority to do so.  So does that leave us with no recourse at all?

I'm not sure, but I have some ideas on how to hammer home our disgust.  I recommend a variation of the kingbirding tactic.   They want data?  Then let's give it to them, tons and tons of it.

I suggest you call your congresscritters, all three of them, especially if Verizon is your carrier.  Then I would follow it up with an email to each.  Complain politely about the wiping out of our 4th Amendment rights and urge them to repeal the Patriot Acts.

I suggest you visit political blogs like Hullabaloo and Eschaton several times each hour.  Leave comments voicing your displeasure with our own government spying on us, especially by using an outside contractor.

I suggest you respond to each and every poll you come across on line, like the one which appears in the Times article mentioned above.  If you can, visit it multiple times and vote each time.

And I suggest you sign every petition opposing this gross violation of our rights like the one up at the White House site for citizen petitions.  Especially that one.

Look, what are they going to do to us for our acts of civil disobedience?  Take away all of our birthdays?  I don't think so.

I know I feel better for having done all of these things, and I think you just might as well.

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Blogger John Gardner said...

The kingbirding tactic would be my recommendation as well.

If they really are only collecting metadata, we all should create mail filtering rules that just automatically delete messages that contain some set of keywords, and then set up mails to automatically get sent to everyone in our addressbook several times a day. If they aren't reading content, they won't delete the record of the mails being sent, just that suddenly everyone is sending orders of magnitude more mail to everyone they know... :D

what scares me is the (supposed) vast numbers of people (near 50%?!) who support this kind of BS going on. I think it is because they don't understand how much you can learn about a person, and the conversations that are probably going on just by knowing who is participating and in what order...

9:40 AM  
Blogger John Gardner said...

oh, and a followup about the pardon thing:

I don't think that's gonna happen, unless they're also going to pardon Bradley Manning.

Snowden did leak classified information, and that's by definition either treason or espionage, depending who you leaked to first...

what he did might be morally right, but a lot of people go to jail for doing the morally right thing.

heck, even people like Alan Turing haven't been posthumously pardoned by the UK for simply being gay...

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear President Jeb Bush is going to sell access of the database to corporations in order to reduce the national debt.


4:57 PM  

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