back to article National Security Letters ruled unconstitutional

A federal court judge has ruled that National Security Letters (NSLs) – the controversial, ultra-clandestine surveillance tools used by the FBI to gather information on individuals – are unconstitutional and must be halted. In a ruling issued on Thursday, Judge Susan Illston of the US District Court in San Francisco found that …

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NSL's Hells's Bells?

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/03/05/google_national_security_letters/

Maybe someone showed the Judge my solution, which I had posited around 2001 or 2002, when writing a business plan for a coffee shop:

“ Here is how to find out the numbers, some day...

Get on the board of a company. BEFORE the company is formed, and therefor, theoreticallly has had no known reason to be sent an NSL:

First, ensure that prospective and new hires are squeaky clean and can pass a TWIC or at least get a passport, pass a bonding insurance background check, and has no criminal record that would trigger an NSL. It's discrimminatory, but, oh whelllll.

Demand that everyday, when factual, the web site counter shows:

-- Number of NSLs received today/yesterday: 0/0

When there is a day one is received, just don't put a number. Skip that day.

-- Number of NSLs received applying to citizens/non-citizens: 0/0

When there is a day one is received, just don't put a number. Skip that day.

-- Number of NSLs received applying to exec types/non-exec types: 0/0

When there is a day one is received, just don't put a number. Skip that day. Could be trouble, tho, if there are only a few in that category, they vanish, and people start talking and confirming theories....

-- Number of NSLs received today/yesterday/in advance of business formation, telling us to take down this site counter: >1/1/1”

I am not suggesting divulve the specifics of an NSL, but, nobody can expect the existence to remain secret.

Next task: find out how many people were economically harmed or bankrupted, and how many violated potentially harmless portions of an NSL, but ended up in prison.

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Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

That was tried and lost 50years by the AA

When speed traps were first introduced it was illegal to warn people about them (we didn't need anti-terrorist rules then) . So the AA came up with the idea that they would not salute if there a trap ahead - it was ruled that a passive signal was signalling the presence of a speed trap

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

Next task: find out how many people were economically harmed or bankrupted, and how many violated potentially harmless portions of an NSL, but ended up in prison.

I wouldn't cry victory too soon. As far as I can see, the abuse is so widespread that it is entirely feasible that the magic "national security" meme will eventually emerge in this saga, after which all bets are off. If judicial honesty would really apply you would not have a Guantanamo Bay either. Too many snouts in the trough, and too many to hang if this sets through, so I would err towards the side of realism/pessimism here.

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Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

Well, in the case of speeders, they do the speeding willfully, wantonly, and wholly deserving of losing their vehicles when caught. Enabling them to speed and avoid speed traps is tantamount to letting them have open season to commit reckless manslaughter.

OTOH, most businesses that are caught up in these NSL probably are not front operations for AQ or other terror organizations. Issuing an NSL to a company, and then threatening the hell out of it could rightly make some subjected business owners extraordinarily peeved and make them challenge the legality of such letters. Theoretically, any company hit with an NSL might go into paranoia mode, unnecessarily do its own investigations, and then fire people, or it might just fire people and say it is related to an investigation into the company and they cannot talk about it. Assuming, that is, "performance" or "downsizing" are not used as excuses (which, really, would be the safer cover stories).

Now, I'll grant you the benefit of the doubt that 70% of NSL went to scam/illegit import/export operations, marriage arrangements and visa fraud operations, and so on, and that maybe 30$ went to firms that unwittinly hired undetected terror agents.

Now, I would dare say, again, it is time to biometricallly identify every last man, woman, and child in the USA (South Korea is a "democratic nation", and it does so) to verify nationality, to verify work eligibility, and to verify tax-payment or compliance. Those who cannot establish validity to be in the US could enter an appeals process, and various options toward provisional residency might be political, religious, or sexual, or health persecution reasons. However, I suspect that a lot of people not validly here in the USA might have such illegal connections as to complicate things for a LOT of polical party leaders who are on the take. Hence, all the judicial and legislative ass-covering decisions over legality and constitutionality of various rulings and letters. Just my take on things...

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Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

Depends upon the district. Many police departments regard speed traps as a handy money-maker, and so position them in areas where people are likely to speed but pose no risk of an accident, such as at the bottom of a straight hill - drivers pick up a little speed on the way down, enough to go over the limit. The same thing happened for a time with speed cameras here in the UK, until public outrage pushed the practice out of favor.

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Headmaster

Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

"When speed traps were first introduced it was illegal to warn people about them (we didn't need anti-terrorist rules then) . So the AA came up with the idea that they would not salute if there a trap ahead - it was ruled that a passive signal was signalling the presence of a speed trap"

You're about 50 years too late.

That dates from the days when the UK speed limit was about 20mph. IE the early 1900s.

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Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

"wholly deserving of losing their vehicles when caught."

Yes: Clearly the fine for exceeding the speed-limit by 5mph should be essentially a variable-price fine with an approximate value of between £1000 and £1,000,000.

"Those who cannot establish validity to be in the US could enter an appeals process"

Like all those non-Native Americans who came in with guns and took their jobs. Out with you, illegal immigrant!

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Re: NSL's Hells's Bells?

"Now, I would dare say, again, it is time to biometricallly identify every last man, woman, and child in the USA (South Korea is a "democratic nation", and it does so) to verify nationality, to verify work eligibility, and to verify tax-payment or compliance."

I'm going to run the risk of being called out on Godwin's Law here, and state that this sort of thing has been tried before, and it didn't end well for the perpetrators.

As for South Korea, I'm going to call you out on this one, and ask for the evidence that this is happening, because I strongly suspect you are talking out of your anus. Maybe you are confusing The People's Republic of Korea (South Korea) with the wonderfully ironically named Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).

I'm also going to take the opportunity to remind you that your country is populated almost entirely with immigrants, so your xenophobic stance is invalid on those grounds also.

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Damn constituion

See that's the problem with having a constitution.

Here in the mother of the land of the free you simply introduce an administrative order without requiring a vote in parliament for our own RIP act and make the provisions secret.

Of course if you don't like it you can always complain to the same police that enforce it - it's a pity we don't have any judges that are independant

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FAIL

Re: Damn constituion

".....it's a pity we don't have any judges that are independant." Sorry to disturb your popularist bleating, but the current problems we have in offloading that scumbag Abu Qatada back to Jordan just go to show that not only is our judiciary quite independent but also that the UK Government's powers are not unemcumbered nor unchecked.

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Re: Damn constituion

current problems we have in offloading that scumbag Abu Qatada back to Jordan

That guy who's never been convicted of anything in this country? What a bitch it is that our judiciary process doesn't come down on people who haven't been proven guilty of anything.

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Re: Greg Re: Damn constituion

".....That guy who's never been convicted of anything in this country?....." Nice little qualification there, "in our country" - he has already been tried and convicted in Jordan.

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Re: Damn constituion @YAAc

"- it's a pity we don't have any judges that are independant." I can't decide if you are trying to be ironic with that comment, but I downvoted you just in case you aren't. There is absolutely *NO* (did I emphasise that sufficiently?) that the UK judiciary as a whole are anything other than independent of government and Parliament in terms of their judgments. There have been some questions as to their politics, being white male barristers for so long, but, if you had any clue about English Legal History, certainly over the last 50 years, you will find that ministers have regularly criticised the judiciary because decisions went against what the government of the day wanted.

Note that I do not speak of the future - the new Court structures, and the potential for "affirmative action" to hurry people who are not white males into judicial positions raises the spectre of political interference and a more tractable judiciary - and I do have serious worries about where we are going.

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Stop

Re: Damn constituion

"Of course if you don't like it you can always complain to the same police that enforce it - it's a pity we don't have any judges that are independant"

Independent of what? The police? Parliament?

Clearly, you don't understand the legal system of your own country.

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Re: Greg Damn constituion

".....That guy who's never been convicted of anything in this country?....." Nice little qualification there, "in our country" - he has already been tried and convicted in Jordan.

Oh, well that's alright then. If he was convicted in Jordan, a country where torture for confessions and in prisons is pretty widespread, then that should totally count as a conviction under our laws.

Fail yourself.

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FAIL

Re: Greg J Preece Re: Greg Damn constituion

".....If he was convicted in Jordan, a country where torture for confessions and in prisons is pretty widespread....." So, that begs the question, can you prove that all the evidence against Abu Quackers was obtained through torture? Otherwise you're saying the equivalent of ALL prisoners in the UK should be freed because a copper might have leaned on a witness in some completely unrelated case at some point in the past. Don't worry, I don't blame you for your fail, it should really be applied to your parents, your teachers, your peers, the people that spoonfed you that line about Abu Quackers being all cuddly and his conviction in Jordan so unfair.....

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Methinks it most certainly be so .... and IT does raise some uncomfortable, unpleasant questions ...

..... for one to ignore at one's peril, for with perverse human nature being the way that it is, will one certainly be used and abused by IT if one rolls over and refuses or is disenabled or even unable to think freely for oneself and others of one's ilk *

A federal court judge has ruled that National Security Letters (NSLs) – the controversial, ultra-clandestine surveillance tools used by the FBI to gather information on individuals – are unconstitutional and must be halted.

Whenever unconstitutional, would compliance with and/or sending of them be a treasonous act and aiding the enemy?

It is therefore one's patriotic duty and fully lawful to both ignore and reveal the instruction and prohibition transmitted and/or received and rejected unaccepted as unacceptable and illegal and unlawful?

* :-) Take heart and encouragement bravehearts though, for all of that was the case then, and this is now, and things have changed with those of such a freely thinking for oneself and others ilk in CyberIntelAIgent Command and Creative Control of Computers and Communications.

Capiche, El Reg? What are you waiting for? An engraved analogue invitation? What's IT to be with y'all ..... Follow the Madding Crowd and Stormy Clouds with IT .... or Lead them in Pacts with AI Packet Feeds and NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT Seeds. ......... for the Novel Plantations and Noble Gatherings that Rule Stealth Sublimely in Perfectly Poised Reigns with Advanced Invisible Reins on Anonymous IntelAIgently Designed Systems in Absolute Power Packs ...... AIRAIDS APPs

Per Ardua ad MetaAstraData and all that sort of thing in a novel phorm of that sort of former Master Piloted thing.

Something for Hammond to try and implausibly deny or explain, or ignore commenting on whilst grinding the MOD organ ... and in so doing prove that intelligence service provision has deserted petty party politics for more exalted and enlightening fields of mass communication ....... Fab Fabless Virtually Real Edutainment.

Wish you were here and/or there too, UAREHERE? No problem. Dollar$ are perfectly acceptable and always most welcome.

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Re: Methinks it most certainly be so ....

As are Yen, Roubles, Renminbi, Pounds Sterling, Euro and all manner of other magic confetti for that particular and peculiar matter for the truth to be told. Why discriminate whenever being inclusive is so much more rewarding.

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Let me be the first ...

... to welcome our new democratic overlords.

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WTF?

Huh? WTF is going on?

First the FCC thinks about cracking down on political robocallers and now whiffs of judicial sanity indicating the Judicial branch isn't just an executive lap dog. Dear FSM, have I been touched by a noodly appendage and I'm actually hallucinating?

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Re: Huh? WTF is going on?

The US had a regime change.

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Thumb Up

Re: The US had a regime change.

Some wrinkly Sith Senator got thrown down a shaft?

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Big Brother

Re: Huh? WTF is going on?

Don't count your chickens on this one, but I think it IS starting to sink in with congresscritters that there's no such thing as a safe seat when you make a career of breaking stuff while in office.

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Re: The US had a regime change.

A few did.

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Re: Huh? WTF is going on?

Wouldn't mind political robo-callers. Only get them for a few short periods a year, and it tells me who to vote against. (oh, you interrupted my day with your inane political garbage? you're clearly an self absorbed, git. You lost my vote.)

I would like them to get rid of the damn credit-scam calls. "This is rachel from card services...." "which card are you with?" "all of them." (seriously, the one time I took the time to go to a real person, that was the best lie they could come up with. At least come up with a PLAUSIBLE lie) I get so many of these. They all have faked caller ID.

I think that anyone sending a incorrect caller ID should be fined 10k (1/2 the fine should be paid to the victim). If that person cannot be located, the fine should be paid by the telco that sent the ID. These all come from PBXes on multiline services (which are allowed to send their own caller ID). I have a strange feeling a way of narrowing down where they are would be implemented in short order if telcos had to pay up for not having it.

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Black Helicopters

Guilty, until proven dead.

The Kafka Bill will replace it, whereby it becomes a capital offence to think bad things about the Stasi or the Politburo.

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Re: Guilty, until proven dead.

Can't they just put the fraternity on "double-secret probation"?

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Big Brother

Ruling overturned by SCOTUS in 3...2...1...

Because "Government of the People, by the Priveliged, for the Corporate."

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Anonymous Coward

Actually, No

The security letter's do not violate law and this judicial decision will be overturned on appeal. Her basis for allging these letters violate law is incorrect.

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Re: Actually, No

While I do not in any way question your authority for your making such a statement, please cite your basis.

The judge in question may, or may not, after something called 'judicial process' (you may have heard of it) be over-ruled. However, said judge was appointed to her position based on, or at least probably based on in part, a combination of academic study, judicial experience and respect from her peers.

The authority behind your absolute statement that she is at fault is based... um... on.... er....?

If the statement was not, in fact, intended to be authoritative, the addition of 'I believe' at the beginning might be worth considering.

Er - or so I believe :-).

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Headmaster

Re: Actually, No

If the care you took when typing "letter's" reflects the care you took with your legal analysis, I'd suggest you review your work. Better yet, post it here and we'll review it for you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually, No

Saying so doesn't necessarily make it so. Care to elaborate?

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Re: Actually, No

Fair's fair, Steve. I always get my legal advice from greengrocers.

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@Peladon Re: Actually, No

How about a cursory reading of the US Constitution?

The US Congress does in fact posses the ability to create new courts and funnel certain types of cases to those courts. That's essentially what they did with this law.

Furthermore, the claim of damages is specious at best. Given the way the law is written, the letters in question are going to third parties, not the targets of the investigations. As third parties who are essentially being asked to testify against the target, they are unlikely to have protections against self-incrimination. On the other hand, revealing even the existence of such a letter can clearly undermine the work of collecting information to apprehend and prosecute the subject.

Whether or not such policies are wise for a democratic republic is certainly a good question. And I would feel better if there were a more rigorous court reviewing the requests. However, they are quite constitutional.

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WTF?

"Actually, No"

[citation needed]

Have you got any basis for that, or are you just assuming that your opinion is cast-iron and that your understanding of the specific facts of the case and the intricicies of the law are better than the presiding judge's.

Obviously, you've already read the presented cases and her ruling on the matter and cross-indexed it with Precedent, right? Or are you just pulling your answer out of the opinion column of a newspaper which supports your existing political viewpoint.

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Rule of law

Amazing ruling! After a decade of ignoring the rule of law, separation of powers, habeas corpus, international law, ... is this really the turning point? Electing a new government didn't seem to change much, so I am carefully pessimistic, but I really, really hope that this ruling is upheld!

Land of the brave and free? Lets keep hoping.

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New Rules and Regs not at all like the Old Rules and Regs? Change Non Believers can Rely On! :-)

Rule of law... Amazing ruling! After a decade of ignoring the rule of law, separation of powers, habeas corpus, international law, ... is this really the turning point? Electing a new government didn't seem to change much, so I am carefully pessimistic, but I really, really hope that this ruling is upheld!

Land of the brave and free? Lets keep hoping. .... Schultz Posted Saturday 16th March 2013 11:09 GMT

There is more than just hope readily available and HyperRadioProActive, Schultz.

From: amfM

Date: Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Subject: Changed Days and Zerodays for Beta Times in SMARTR Spaces and Fab Fabless Places

To: jya at pipeline dot com

Changed Days and Zerodays for Beta Times in SMARTR Spaces and Fab Fabless Places

Hi, John,

There's an interesting parallel and more than just engaging singularity in what can be read in the short introduction to "Securing Cyberspace: Identifying Key Actors in Hacker Communities" ….. http://cryptome.org/2013/03/key-hackers.pdf …. and the alien Registered opinion and Alternative New Orderly Wwworld View for New Worldly Orders boldly sharing AI with Definite Vision, and selflessly provided here for forum discussion/comment/agreement/disagreement ….. http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/03/16/national_security_letters_banned/#c_1763448

And it does illustrate quite dramatically and very clearly the difficulty, and some would even be more truthful and posit the impossibility that existing systems most definitely have in maintaining and sustaining any semblance of power/virtual command and remote control for future order in orders, in a compromised status quo model based upon old analogue disciplines and the securing and exclusive use of secrets and inequitable positions of leverage, as such novel matters with revisionary protocols and advanced programming as have emerged and are continuing to emerge and rapidly develop, are in the most part, way beyond the ken of the establishment and incumbent power elite drivers/drives, and considerably more sophisticated than has ever before been imagined.

As to whether there should be any rational concern for the situation to be considered dangerous and/or destructive and disruptive, rather than radically different and fundamentally constructive and reconstructive, is something upon which others will most probably waste vast resources and not an inconsiderable amount of timed and billed effort in this virtual space place, pondering on and reacting to.

Some folk are/may be just such slow learners as to be almost regarded as retarded and/or incapable of progressing further into novel fields of greater awareness and more civilised engagement with advancing intelligence services and programs.

Regards, and thanks for all the phishes,

amfM

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That's still a big "if". Citing "significant constitutional and national security issues," the judge has stayed her own ruling for 90 days or until the government appeals, whichever comes sooner. ®

Or to give the FBI time to get its last batch of them out.

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And across the pond

Prime Minister T Blair told us that the rules were to change.

So don't imagine that the UK is not a totalitarian state.

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Headmaster

>is verboten

First of all %99 of the time when the EFF wins and the US government loses even temporarily its a good thing. Second of all whats with the German word? Mixing English and German is frowned up even by the Germans. It makes the article feel like its written by some 17yo 1337 speak poster as opposed to a professional writer/journalist. What you couldn't work an uber in there as well while you were at it?

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Mixing languages

I wish it were frowned upon in Germany, but over there (country of my origin), it appears to be a rather big trend, replacing as many German words as you can with English words, but keeping the German grammar on those, which ultimately ends up in really really F'ed up words...

To top it of most can't even pronounce the words correctly, so half the time you won't even understand what they're on about :(

Even goes as far down as giving their kids combinations of some English names only to sound "good", so large it has its own "ism" now, "Chantalismus" in Germany, "Chantalism" after the name Chantalle.

German site, but the pics are enough: http://chantalismus.tumblr.com/

Facepalm, because that's what it is

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Sir

Next up, the Patriot Act.

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Re: Sir...Next up, the Patriot Act.

Which can not happen soon enough!!!

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Re: Sir Runcible Spoon

Whilst I would agree with the general sentiment, don't forget that NSLs have been around in one form or another since 1978. If we have to wait a similar time for the PATRIOT act to be properly looked at then we have another ~20 years to wait.

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Unhappy

That's USA PATRIOT act

Just a reminder

"Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism"

Or perhaps the spy-on-whoever-we-damm-well-please act might be more accurate (but just a little more scary to people concerned with civil liberties).

A neat demonstration that when some a***wipe wraps themselves in the flag and starts talking about "patriotism" you'd better listen very carefully (and check the contents of your wallet) to find out what kind of snake oil they are peddling.

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Happy

The Kool-Aid of "Things are Getting Better."

""Please, sir, I want some more."

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Anonymous Coward

And yet they can still violate the Constitution at will

The Constitution is not a part time document. All parts of it are inviolate. We don't get to choose what parts we support or deny, the document must be taken as a whole. Each piece, each word, strengthens and amplifies the others so that it interlocks together, providing a secure foundation for the principles of "Liberty and Justice for all". Selective interpretation of any law or rule is one of the most dangerous paths that you can take.

If you cannot understand this, then you are unqualified to make any changes to it or frankly even discuss the topic.

It was Bush 1 & 2 that started the serious devolution of our Constitutional principles, and now Obama, Cuomo, Feinstein and Bloomberg continue to chip a.way at the foundation. The end result will be a loss of Freedom, not just here in the USA but elsewhere in the called Democratic world.

Who, in fact are the real terrorists? Seems to me they must be the politicians!

If you give them an inch they take a mile every time.

Through the cultured ignorance perptrated by politicians and Hollywood, "the People" don't know that these are not the real leaders (or terrorists) of the world but only the Corporate Whipping Boys of those who tell them what to do.

There was one rule missing from the playbook that bears understanding, "They, who have all the cash; make the rules that everyone else has to play by.

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Re: And yet they can still violate the Constitution at will

It was Bush 1 & 2 that started the serious devolution of our Constitutional principles

I believe that the victims of McCarthyism during the 1950s would have something to say about that. And as previously mentioned NSLs have existed since 1978. Add to this the reasons for the likes of the FISA act to exist in the first place - *cough*Nixon*cough* - and you start to see a much older pattern of behaviour than just the last ~20 years.

Using a lie to justify war wasn't new when Iraq was invaded either. Remember Viet Nam and the Gulf of Tonkin? That was way back in 1964.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And yet they can still violate the Constitution at will

That was only one small paragraph in a bigger arguement.

Over half the people posting here were born well AFTER Vietnam and don't have a clue what McCarthy or Nixon did. I could have added the Rosenbergs too. I was born in 56 (they called back the draft when my number was 27) and was an astute history student so I did know about these travesties as well as several more.

How about Korea or the real truth about Pearl Harbor & WWII? Elected Criminals are everywhere in history.

To keep things simple I was trying to confine my arguement to RECENT history.

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Go

God willing this will last through the appeals process....

The people deserve to know what is being asked about members of society by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

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