Ugh, the NSA “scandal” is already hurting my brain. The stupid burns! So here’s what you need to know about it:
1. Congress voted to legalize expansive surveillance powers in 2001 (The USA PATRIOT ACT), 2008 (retroactive immunity for warantless NSA wiretaps in the FISA Amendments Act), and in 2012 (renewing the FISA Amendments Act).
2. Congress declined to force administration transparency/honesty on secret interpretations of the law in 2001 (USA PATRIOT ACT), 2008 (NSA immunity), 2011 (the Wyden amendment to the NDAA, which would have required interpretations not be secret) & 2012 (the similar Markley amendment to the NDAA). Those last two actually got voted down, which means Congress voted to enable secret government legal interpretation.
3. All of the opprobrium you should feel at the government’s ridiculously broad surveillance powers needs to be directed at CONGRESS, which keeps approving them while voting they stay secret.
4. The NSA, despite the broad nature of its warrant request, did nothing illegal, and the supposed illegality of the FISC procedure has not been demonstrated.
5. The information the NSA is collecting is metadata, not content (like a wiretap), and not account names. Uncovering personally identifiable information would require separate warrants to do so. This was a pattern analysis, not really mass surveillance as we traditionally understand it. Anyone who calls this a “wiretap” is probably stupid or didn’t read the order.
6. Judging by the order (and not the media coverage about the order), it seems to have an end date of July 19, sucking up data for the three months before. That would make its effective start date April 19, which is the day Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested in Boston. Not saying there’s a link, but the timing might turn out not to be coincidental.
7. No one will respond to this by voting out their representatives or Senators during the next election because, despite the temporary outcry, Americans (including the Congressmen and Senators who tried to add amendments) don’t care about this very much.
8. None of you will stop voluntarily giving Verizon (or AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.) your personal information out of the fear that they might be legally compelled to hand it over to an intelligence agency through a legal process. Because, at the end of the day, you really don’t care about this very much either. At least, you don’t care enough to go out of your way to change it.
9. Tomorrow is going to be a very ugly day in the media and I’m really grateful I have meetings for most of it.