Judge Judy is clearly irascible, frequently wrong on the law while ignoring facts, and far too often seems to have as her sole purpose not to fairly judge a case but to simply humiliate the litigants and piss them off. One of her favorite expressions, invoked when she’s expressed her view of the case but a party seems to have missed the point is “Put your listening ears on.”
Well recent revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA), the spies whose secretive ways make the CIA look like neighborhood gossips by comparison, demonstrate that they have absolutely no compunctions about putting their listening ears on. In fact, they appear to never have them off.
Now the NSA’s performance during the Obama administration reveals that its actions have increasingly been more intrusive, tracking emails and other computer correspondence as well as building a metadata base of phone calls made by EVERYONE. All this without warrants or even a healthy suspicion of illegal activity by their targets. Of course their targets include you and me. I don’t know about you, but I believe the last plot I was involved in was throwing a surprise birthday party for my then wife in 1985.
But, no mind, the NSA has brought us closer and closer to Big Brother. I find fault with Obama for permitting this broadening of unwarranted and warrantless surveillance but in reality, the NSA has been conducting such activities since before Obama took office and the main difference might be the simple notion that technology keeps advancing at an alarming rate, thus increasing the possibility of more and more intrusiveness.
Then again, what we have learned by observing our spy complex over the years is that though the President…any President…is nominally in charge, these agencies have few reservations about going rogue and acting with no or at least dubious authorization.
Throw in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which dates back decades, its later revisions, and the Patriot Act in response to 9/11, and instead of fear and loathing in Las Vegas we have fear and intelligence gathering in our homes. Of course it behooves the spy-industrial-security complex to keep us scared shitless. Those in the government gain ever more power and those in the private sector bleed the public fisc while advising the government that terrorists lurk in every corner.
So the private guys build sales and profits by supplying the very goods and services that the private guys, in separate contracts, have recommended that the government utilize. All those “independent” security consultants are nothing but shills.
Now we have the case in which a federal judge attempts to put the brakes on the runaway train that the NSA has morphed into.
Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (a George W. Bush appointee) ruled today that the NSA is probably trampling the Constitution with its metadata base.
Emily Bazelon incisively explained this decision in Slate.
Let’s start with what the government is doing.At issue is the part of the Patriot Act, building on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that allows the government to collect an enormous trove of phone call metadata, and then query it based on an “identifier” phone number called a “seed.” A seed is a number associated with terrorist activity, based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion. Sounds OK so far. But wait: Once you’re an NSA agent with a seed, you can analyze all the numbers within three hops from that seed—meaning the numbers the seed called and received calls from, and the numbers connected to those numbers. Judge Leon points out that if one seed calls just 100 numbers in five years, and each of the numbers in the next two hops also connects with 100 numbers, the NSA can trawl through the metadata for 1 million phone numbers. And that’s got to be a low-ball estimate, since it doesn’t take into account the possibility that someone used one of those phone numbers to order from, say, Domino’s Pizza, allowing the NSA to vacuum up zillions of other callers. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/12/judge_richard_leon_rules_the_nsa_s_phone_record_collection_program_probably.html
Unfortunately Judge Leon strikes me as a lone wolf fighting against the tide of technical progress combined with fear-mongering about terrorism. Relatively few objections come from our citizens upon hearing these revelations. While it is easy to blame the President or Presidents under whom these offenses have occurred, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “the fault, dear Americans, lies not in our Presidents but within ourselves.”
I have noticed a tendency in our Commanders in Chief to exercise that power even if ill-advised. (http://umoc193.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=544&action=edit) Such power in practicality extends to matters that are not pure military in nature such as any matters of security.
If you object to the NSA actions have you also objected to the Bush wars? Have you also objected to the drone strikes killing “terrorists”? Have you objected to the establishment of and maintenance of the obscenity known as Guantanamo? Have you objected to the profiling of Muslims? Have you objected to any hint of further military action in the Middle East and North Africa? Have you objected to the uncovering of terrorist plots that really were fomented by undercover government agents? Have you objected to the needless and costly measures taken in the name of security that provide anything but?
If you cannot answer “yes” to each and every one of those questions please spare me the drama of your objections to bad NSA behavior. I may listen but those are crocodile tears I am shedding in sympathy.