Yesterday’s post began to explore what Mom and Dad Normal learn from Mainstream Media about the NSA scandal, the Manning trial, and the Snowden debacle.
The NSA (National Security Agency) has been collecting all your phone and email “metadata” for years. Metadata is the To and From line on your calls and emails. This is a big “so what,” because as we all know from watching Law and Order, the police have always been able to get a list of your phone records. President Barack Obama explained that on MSM TV. It’s nothing to worry about.
Except: On Law and Order, the police have to have a reason to suspect you of committing a crime, and ask a judge to approve it, before they can get your metadata phone records. And it’s for a specific time period. The difference is that no judge is asked, it goes on for all time, and it includes everybody in the United States, not just people who are “those furriners.” (expression not mine, but something Mr and Mrs Normal were thinking. It is always important when staging oppression, to create an atmosphere of Us vs Them.)
Why does this matter? Hey, remember the time some Dad called up Target to complain that they were sending baby products ads to his teenage daughter? Guess who was in the know and who wasn’t, in that case.
Or, remember the time you were afraid you had caught a disease, and you called that clinic from another city? Or the time your teenager called the suicide hotline, but now she’s okay and she’s applying for nursing school? Or the time you had an affair, but no one ever found out, and it’s over now, so you want it to stay dead and buried? Or how about the time you didn’t have an affair, but you almost did, and the phone records make it look like you did? Dig deep in your head and far in your past, and you’ll find something.
Now, do you want that something to be memorialized in the Big Database in the Utah mountains, where some “mistake” could cause it to surface? What? That can’t happen, you say? The government will safeguard it?
Good grief, millions of employees of defense contractors have access to it, we all learned when Edward Snowden stuffed it on four laptops and it got sucked out of his laptops by the Chinese on his way out of Hong Kong, didn’t it? Don’t you know they have special vacuum cleaners for that purpose? Of course it’s not safe if it’s in a big database, no matter WHERE that database resides!
Bradley Manning uploaded the contents of a large database to Wikileaks. He’s on trial right now, by the way. Have you heard anything about that trial on MSM? Anything? No. But it’s a big deal. You can read the transcripts of the trial here:
Didn’t you learn that there is no real security on these databases when you started getting notices from your banks that they somehow let all your credit cards loose by accident? You do know that the reason they bothered to send you those letters was because they got the laws written so that sending you the letter was the limit of their liability, right? Or didn’t MSM mention that?
And it’s not just accidental release that is the danger. In fact, the bigger danger is not accidental, but intentional, release. The bigger danger is Targeting. Targeting is like Profiling, only more specific. Targeting means: YOUR world is destroyed, even if you are innocent.
So, the FBI accidentally discovered that Gen Petraeus was having an affair, while they were doing something else, the story on MSM says. Uh huh. Right. They didn’t check that Big Database in the Sky that the NSA has, or anything. Because that would be, like, you know, illegal.
Oh, wait, wait. My mistake. The NSA database is not illegal. There was a secret court, and a secret law, that you don’t know about, that made it legal. The President said. So it would not be illegal for the FBI to check this NSA database, because the database is legal.
In that case, one would think that the FBI did check it, wouldn’t they? Why would the FBI not check it, if it’s legal? Oh, what’s that I missed? It’s legal, but it’s secret. So the FBI wouldn’t check it because it’s secret. Except . . . now it’s not secret any more, so does that mean the FBI can check it now? It’s legal and it’s not secret, right? Or, hold on. Maybe it was never secret from the FBI? That’s it, yes. It was secret from you and me. It wasn’t secret from the FBI. They could check it all along.
Well, they can check it, but it’s only metadata, so they need more. That means, after the FBI checks it, they have to go to court to find out the rest. The content of the emails. So to get permission to read the content, which is already in the Big Database in Utah, the FBI has to go to the FISA court.
Here’s the big difference between FISA in action and warrants to obtain court records as we see it on Law and Order: All the data is already captured in the NSA database. All the content of the phone records are in there. In Law and Order, they are getting a court order to see the metadata (the FROM and TO.) They can’t see the content. But at the FISA court, the FBI and the NSA are asking permission to READ what has already been captured and stored in the database. And which, chances are, they’ve already read, without permission. (Get serious. You can’t fill out the court paperwork until you’re sure you actually want the material. Of course they read it first. )
The FISA court is the Foreign Intelligence Service Act court, established in 1978. Its purpose is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against foreign intelligence agents working inside the United States. The controversy comes in when Mom and Dad Normal realize that they are on the list of foreign intelligence agents working inside the United States. Because the FBI and the NSA have asked the FISA court to look at the content of their phone and email records. (Hey, wait a minute, Billy Bob says. How’d my name get on that furriners list?) You see, over the years, the FISA court, it seems, has developed a habit of approving 99.7% of all the requests it gets, and the court hearing, and its result, is kept secret. The court works in secret, hears only one side of the argument, and its results are secret. Whenever human beings do that, the result tends to favor the value system of the dominant tribe. The dominant tribe, in the case of the FISA court . . . aahh, you can figure that out. Anyhoo, whatever the NSA or the FBI asks, the FISA court says yes. This doesn’t bode well for high marks as an oversight check and balance.
As a result, the FISA court has determined that it is legal for the NSA to collect and store vast amounts of data on U.S. citizens, and review it without a warrant. That’s not the metadata, Mom and Dad Normal. It’s the content of your calls and your emails. Stored. In a Big Database. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. To ripen.
Next post: When the time is ripe, the SWAT team harvests YOUR data and stomps your world with a jack boot.
- Hints and Questions About the Secret Fourth Amendment Rulings of the FISA Court (volokh.com)
- FISA court renews US government surveillance (rt.com)
- Former judge admits flaws in secret court (news.yahoo.com)
- For all those who think collecting Metadata is no biggie (usahitman.com)
- The Talking Points for NSA’s Dragnet Don’t Hold Up (cato.org)
- Why the Metadata the NSA Has on You Matters (gizmodo.co.uk)