Indicrat on the NSA Survelliance Program

Below is the 60 Minutes expose on the NSA controversy. 60 Minutes dropped the ball in this story because they did not specifically ask if the NSA records and stores phone calls. The NSA says it does not listen to phone calls but it does record ALL of them. 60 Minutes did not get them to admit that. That is a crucial piece of information Americans should know. This applies to email and credit card purchases as well. As an Indicrat I think the metadata collection is necessary and constitutional, but the storage of recorded phone calls and email is not. It is unreasonable search and seizure as defined in the Bill of Rights. Imagine, if before the American revolution British authorities told Ben Franklin, "We are going to copy your private papers and store them, but we won't look at them." Would the framers of the constitution be okay with that?

As an Indicrat, the reason I'm okay with the metadata collection part of this can be explained by the following analogy...
Just as we have airspace through which planes connect people to different locations, we also have cyberspace through which telecommunications connect people's phone numbers.
With radar and GPS the FAA monitors pretty much all the planes in U.S. airspace for public safety. The air traffic controllers don't know, and don't care who is in those planes or what their business is. They simply make sure nothing goes awry. If a plane acts suspicious, goes into restricted airspace or has any problem at all, that's when the FAA zeros in on that specific plane and investigates. They are all over it like stink on a monkey. Just as FAA monitors air traffic, the NSA monitors telecommunications traffic. Just like the FAA does not know who is flying, the NSA does not know the names associated to any of the phone numbers that are connecting except the extremely small percentage of numbers that have been flagged as belonging to potential threats. When a number connects to something flagged, the NSA still can't find out the name on that person's account. They have to refer it to the FBI which investigates and procures a warrant.

Of course, a corrupt NSA agent could find out the person's name if they really wanted too, any private investigator can do that, but the point is - They have a protocol to follow.  As an Indicrat I'm interested in the efficacy of the protocol, not the tool, because the use of this tool (metadata collection) is unavoidable and inevitable. Eventually, Russia, China and many other countries will have the capability to collect all this data as well, if they don't already. Stopping the U.S. from collecting it is not going to help anything. The UK, an ally of the U.S. has a much more intrusive reach into their citizen's privacy and freedom than the U.S. So, what's to stop the UK from collecting this data? And, per some sort of agreement, turning it over to the NSA whenever they ask for it? The NSA could simply outsource the job to an ally if they had to.

The cat is out of the bag. The only thing we can do now is stop worrying about the tool and focus our energy on making sure the protocol is as transparent and as fail safe as possible. It will require constant vigilance. A vigilance that is no less constant than the FAA's.
When people say, "I don't want the NSA to have my information" that is akin to saying, "I don't want the FAA to know about the plane I'm flying in". Or, "I don't want NYC Police cameras catching me in Times Square". Is it really that big of a deal? ...It only is if we don't get the protocol right.

Examples of important protocols-

1. You may not have an expectation of privacy regarding your associations when a third party facilitates your associations. However, you do have an expectation of privacy regarding what transpires due to those associations. Two anonymous numbers or emails connecting might not be private because they are visible in the metadata, but what is said between those connections is private unless a warrant can be obtained. Credit card information is the same. Your card number may be seen in the metadata, but what you purchased may not be seen without a warrant.

2. Whistle blowers must have clear safe havens and protections to report abuses of the system. A whistle blower should never have an excuse to leave the country for fear of their safety.

3. Background vetting of people intended for security clearances must be far more stringent than what Eric Snowden had. Also, the vetting must ongoing throughout the career of those with security clearances.

Lastly, there are some who say this metadata collection is ineffective in catching the bad guys anyway. That is an obtuse thing to say unless you can see into the future. However, hindsight is very clear and it shows us that one of the 9/11 perpetrators that U.S. agents were trying to track would have easily been located in California with this metadata collection tool. The right people had no idea where he was, until it was too late. Was there other ways they could have nabbed him? Yes, but this tool could have increased the focus immensely. When you are dealing with a lot of white noise, you need all the specific data points you can get.

 PART 1 -

PART 2 -