“The most bizarre aspect of this spectacle
was that the Democrats who most aggressively defended Trump’s version of the surveillance
bill — the Democrats most eager to preserve Trump’s spying powers as virtually limitless
— were the very same Democratic House members who have become media stars this year by flamboyantly
denouncing Trump as a treasonous, lawless despot in front of every television camera
they could find.” The hypocrisy is so thick that it can only
be the result of a ‘yuge heroin problem’. It would be a good hypocrisy if the Dems wanted
to limit Trump’s powers they were willing to grant to Obama. But the fact they don’t
is even more upsetting. To shed some light on what’s going on in
case you don’t know, this is that time when your duly elected representatives obediently
vote to troll your 4th amendment into an oblivion. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
expires so before it does the Congress just needs to say they extend its life expectancy
by another 6 years. For the second time in a row. Whenever a bill strips away rights
of the people it’s always an extraordinary showcase of bipartisan collaboration.
The Act was passed under Bush in 2008 and it was first prolonged under Obama, breaking
his campaign promise to put an end to the mass surveillance of American people. And now Trump is on his way to become the next big brother. Or is he? You see it kind of seems that many Republican representatives seem to follow Trump’s Twitter
to find out how they should vote for things. And Trump seems to have a dissociative identity
disorder. There is this official personality of Trump, that’s supposed to represent his administration. This side of Trump supports mass surveillance without any reform that
would bring back protection of civil liberties. But the other side of Trump that goes to Twitter
and then instantly regrets it also seems to watch Fox&Friends. On this show Judge Napolitano
tried to talk some sense into Trump by criticizing his official statement supporting the spy
law, saying The Real Donald Trump then stood up, grabbed
his phone and tweeted: This is how the African-American was doing bad things
to me? Sad! This sparked so much confusion among the representatives. They started a chatter among each other. “‘Well fine, I’m voting
no then. If he doesn’t care, then I don’t care.” Adam Schiff even called for a delay on the votes to make sure they wouldn’t accidentally
turn it down. After all Trump’s tweet made it sound like the proposal came from the Democratic
Party that could somehow hurt their leader. The situation was heating up so much Paul
Ryan had to step in to talk Trump out of this. The conversation went something like this:
“Don, this is your bill. We give you more powers. You’ll enjoy this. Believe me!”
Then the Real Donald Trump went: “shit! Forget what I said, ok? We need it! Get smart!”
And the disaster was resolved. The vote passed the bill. For the next 6 years Trump will
have unchecked power over the warrantless mass surveillance, following the footsteps
of his predecessors. Thanks to the Democrats. And don’t even consider thinking FISA court
somehow reasonably limits the mass surveillance by the US Government.
Basically everything gets collected by the NSA programs (‘not wittingly’) before
anybody can even ask whether they should. Everything gets collected through various
programs. Prism partners with the tech giants to grant
NSA direct access to their databases. The Section 702 then allows for the bulk collection
of Internet traffic that they didn’t get from Prism partnerships.
If this doesn’t satisfy their collection fetish the NSA uses the Executive Order 12333
from Reagan (yes Reagan), to collect data that moves outside of the US. Some say that
this Cold-war era policy is what allowed for the mass surveillance of today. The ‘80s
were the worst. When companies transfer their data across
their international data centers the government gets a copy of that. But when Facebook or
Google sell your data with their advertising networks, this transfer of your private information
caught up by advertisers also travels outside of the US at some point during Internet exchange.
Each such data exchange means the NSA snatches your private info.
And don’t be fooled by the wording they use. They say they only go after foreign “targets”
but that’s not how this is used in reality. Section 702 is just an excuse to circumvent
the 4th amendment so that they don’t have to ask for warrants each time they wiretap
an American citizen. They don’t look at where communication takes
place geographically. Even when you talk to your friends over the
Internet who live right across the street, your Internet traffic channels around the
world before it reaches your contact. In the eyes of the NSA creeps this makes it a foreign
communication. They manage to do this with surgical precision
because the NSA taps directly into the backbone Internet infrastructure, like AT&T’s fiber
optic cables that carry Internet traffic. The law enforcement is completely free to
define what constitutes a “foreign intelligence information”. Each time they designate “target
selector” to certain data, all related communications is included in the search and seizure.
So when a law enforcement agent decides to look up an innocent American citizen, nobody
asks them any questions at that point because the data has already been collected and the
“national security” clause established. This “national security” clause and broad
application of the “foreign intelligence information” is what allows the law enforcement
to monitor innocent American citizens without a warrant.
The NSA databases from bulk collection are huge. So the FBI uses tools that by their
own words “makes it feel like searching Google”. An agent just types in someone’s
name and everything pops up. Literally everything. Private emails, private chat messages, all
of social media history, phone records, logs, metadata, photos, comments, likes… Everything
you do is there. This allows them to wiretap journalists who
report on foreign affairs, entrepreneurs expanding their business beyond the US borders, or ordinary
people interacting on forums and comment sections. Everybody on the Internet is guilty by association.
And now in your eyes you might think this is not an issue for you because you are a
good guy. But imagine you could sift through your entire online history. Everything you
ever said, wrote, posted… and you could have a look at a cherry picked profile of
the worst things you ever did on the Internet irrespective of context. And somebody takes
this profile of you to the Justice Department. Or it just so happens to get leaked. Such
an accidental thing that happens so frequently it got its own name – the “unmasking”.
Nobody is going to look at the context of your whole life. Judgments are going to be
made. Just take the example of how the Wall Street Journal managed to destroy Pewdiepie’s
career by cherry picking and fabricating stories about his content. Sure it was constructed,
and the Internet plebs stood behind him. But he lost his show and some important business
partnerships he was working on for years. Just imagine what the law enforcement can
do with unlimited access to everything you ever did in private thinking all along you
have nothing to hide (just like Pewdiepie thought nobody would take his jokes out of
context to damage his reputation). This is what the law enforcement and intelligence
do on daily basis but with what people do in private and not just publicly.
Legally they can’t use Section 702 to target purely domestic communications but they can
routinely do it through vague mechanisms of broad definitions and dragnet surveillance
programs. I am sure nothing bad can ever happen.
Privacy is not a partisan issue. Just like there are bipartisan efforts to revoke it,
there are bipartisan efforts to fight for it. Democratic senator from Oregon Ron Wyden
and Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul decided to filibuster the bill.
Shortly before the FISA extension vote, the House turned down a proposed amendment of
FISA that would have required a warrant each time law enforcement wanted to monitor US
citizens. This proposal was a result of a longterm cooperation between Republican from
Michigan Justin Amash and Democratic Representative Jon Conyers.
I am only going to say that free speech seems to be big in America, but privacy not so much.
If there was a bill that would somehow put barriers to free speech on a federal level,
it would probably spark a civil war. It’s almost as if the Bill of Rights was looked
at as a ranking of amendments, rather than taken as a whole where one can’t fare without
the other. Privacy is your own realm where you are free
to grow your nurture without the fear of judgment. If you can’t express yourself freely in your
private space how different is it going to be in public?