Thursday, June 06, 2013

America, the Surveillance State


Dan Roberts & Spencer Ackerman, America's surveillance state: anger swells after data revelations The Guardian (online) (June 6, 2013).

Snippets:

"The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Wednesday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years.

"After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.

...

"Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".

"The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether 'US constitutional rights were secure'.

"He said: 'I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.'...


"[White House spokesman Josh Earnest said] the [FISA] order only relates to the so-called metadata surrounding phone calls rather than the content of the calls themselves. 'The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls,' Earnest said.

"'The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to call details, such as a telephone number or the length of a telephone call.'

"But such metadata can provide authorities with vast knowledge about a caller's identity. Particularly when cross-checked against other public records, the metadata can reveal someone's name, address, driver's licence, credit history, social security number and more. Government analysts would be able to work out whether the relationship between two people was ongoing, occasional or a one-off."

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Charles Savage & Edward Wyatt, U.S. Maintains Vast Database of Phone Calls, Lawmakers Say, NYTimes (June 6, 2013):

"As the scope of the government’s collection of logs of Americans’ domestic communications started to come into greater focus on Thursday, privacy groups erupted. Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union said that group — a client of Verizon’s business unit — was considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the 'dragnet' surveillance, and said liberals would be furious had such a program been disclosed under a Republican administration.

"'A pox on all the three houses of government,' he said. 'On Congress, for legislating such powers, on the FISA court for being such a paper tiger and rubber stamp, and on the Obama administration for not being true to its values.

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