Monday, August 19, 2013

The Obama Administration's Expansion of Domestic Surveillance...

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny

The Obama administration has legally justified the National Security Agency's collection of phone data from every American by citing a provision of the Patriot Act that applies to business records. Above, President Obama is seen at a news conference on Aug. 9 in which he discussed NSA surveillance and terrorist threats. (Drew Angerer / EPA )

The Congress, under President George W. Bush, on the heels of the 2001 - 911 terrorist attacks on American soil, ushered in a new and enhanced surveillance state. Upon enactment of the Patriot Act, bringing about the great expansion of the government intelligence bureaucracy that gave us the Department of Homeland Security, NSA, and TSA, we now find ourselves in the midst of a growing discussion/debate as to whether the government has crossed the line with it's super surveillance of every phone call made by individuals in the USA.

The machinations spawned by a Republican administration, are now being used the Obama administration has to violate our right to privacy. This expansion of power, a grave threat to all American's right to privacy was inevitable. However, it should be highlighted that regardless of the party sitting in the seat(s) of power abuses of the nature are witnessing are inevitable. Once granted sweeping powers government bureaucracies almost never give them up. Rather the abuse of power generally continues as a willing Congress finds ways to justify the expanded governmental powers. A republican President invited the abuse, a Democratic President grows the abuse.

Los Angeles Times - On Aug. 9, the Obama administration released a previously secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that it used to justify the bulk collection of every American's phone records. The strained reasoning in the 22-page memo won't survive long in public light, which is itself one of the strongest arguments for transparency in government. As the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

Recent revelations by the Washington Post emphasize the need for greater transparency. The National Security Agency failed to report privacy violations that are serious infringements of constitutional rights. Beyond these blatant violations, the foundation of the programs is itself illegal.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the collection of certain business records — in this case, phone records — when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records are relevant to an authorized investigation into international terrorism. The key legal term is "relevance."

Under this relevance standard, the administration has collected the details of every call made by every American, even though the overwhelming majority of these calls have nothing to do with terrorism. Since first learning of the program this spring, I have been a vocal critic of such dragnet collection as a gross invasion of privacy and a violation of Section 215.

The administration's memo begins by acknowledging that its interpretation of the statute is at odds with the plain meaning of "relevance." It argues there is a "particularized legal meaning" of relevance, but it ultimately concedes that it fails to meet this standard as well.

The legal definition grew out of case law related to grand jury subpoenas and civil discovery. In these areas, courts have adopted a somewhat broader concept of relevance, finding that documents can be relevant not only when they directly bear on the subject matter at hand but also when they could reasonably lead to other information that directly bears on that subject matter. Think of it as second-degree relevance.

The memo correctly points out that Congress was familiar with this legal standard when it adopted the Patriot Act and therefore intentionally invoked this legal interpretation when passing the act. That's true as far as it goes, but the administration's bulk-collection program goes far beyond this broader definition of relevance. The phone records of innocent Americans do not relate to terrorism, and they are not reasonably likely to lead to information that relates to terrorism. Put simply, the phone calls we make to our friends, families and business associates are private and have nothing to do with terrorism or the government's efforts to stop it. {Read More}
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Benjamin Franklin

Via: Memeorandum


  1. It's a shame Americans don't care much about this. The aftermath of 9/11 was a disaster for this country. We reacted all wrong in almost every imaginable way. At some point we need to get back to our senses. It will take more people talking about this to make it stop. It has to become a viable presidential issue. If we continue down this path, it will not end well.


  2. "A republican President invited the abuse, a Democratic President grows the abuse."

    I traced the origin of the founding of these instruments of state security to Truman. Who knows... it might go back further. But one thing I did not find: any President since Truman who scaled it back. They kept growing it.

    That does fit in with your "it should be highlighted that regardless of the party sitting in the seat(s) of power abuses of the nature are witnessing are inevitable." statement.

  3. And even on the torture issue, while, no, we may not water-boarding anymore, we're still sending them over to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and God only knows where else as part of a rendition policy that President Obama also seems to want to keep these days. Bush-Obama, no, there really aren't a lot of big differences betwixt 'em.

  4. You could say it started with Truman, but really it started with WW2. We never stood down, as a nation, as a people, as a military, after WW2. We are still, to this day, trapped in that wasteful, dangerous, unnecessary mindset. Sorta like 9/11.



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