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back to article Jackboot dangled over NSA's throat for US spy dragnet outrage

The US House of Representatives will vote today on axing funding for controversial eavesdropping projects run by the NSA and other spooks. The politicians will be asked to approve an amendment that will prevent Uncle Sam's spies from snooping on Americans en masse. While the NSA is under fire for hoovering up foreigners' private …

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'Informed open or deliberative'? A blunt approach?

It was the blunt approach after 9/11 that gave us the PATRIOT act to begin with, when congress showed all the collective backbone of a jellyfish, preferring instead to cave in to fear and panic, and that was hardly informed, open or deliberative either...

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Well done this guy!

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Land of the...?

Land of the Free, Home of the ... weenies. 9/11 was horrific, and the response was 'save us! save us! take all our liberties and rights but just make us s-a-f-e!!!' Because nothing makes you safer than cringing. It could have been the USA's finest hour. Instead, we sold ourselves out.

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It was the blunt approach after 9/11 that gave us the PATRIOT act to begin with, when congress showed all the collective backbone of a jellyfish, preferring instead to cave in to fear and panic, and that was hardly informed, open or deliberative either...

Agreed. Are you now arguing that they should do the same again?

Reread Representative Amash's own words. They are clearly designed to inspire the same type of fear and panic (albeit directed elsewhere) that, as you rightly point out, caused this mess in the first place.

Shouldn't our governance be driven by more rational words, thought and behavior? Or do you believe we should fight fire with fire until the whole country burns?

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Are you now arguing that they should do the same again?

On the contrary: Representative Amash is trying to undo a previous blunt-force approach.

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Agreed. Are you now arguing that they should do the same again?

No. I'm suggesting they should scrap the whole mess and try again. If the extensive spying is really needed then it should not be so difficult to justify both to the public and the politicians. After all he's following the political process. Presumably the government will have their say too.

It's something I've asked my own MP about in the past in regards to the snooper's charter. The best I could get out of him was 'if you knew what I knew' which was of no help whatsoever. If it really is so absolutely necessary to have these powers then they shouldn't need to fall back on to the old 'trust us' excuse. The fact that they do and try and dress up this as a mere update of existing powers - and it is more than that - is rather telling.

Let them justify the powers that they expect to have for once.

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On the contrary: Representative Amash is trying to undo a previous blunt-force approach.

By using the same tactics.

Look at the recent history of legislation in the US. From 9/11 to the financial and automotive industry bailouts, from the debt ceiling to gun control, from health care to budget to immigration reform, every cause is treated as an "emergency" because those involved want to minimize rational debate.

THAT is a much greater national problem than any phone spying the NSA has been doing.

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"Or do you believe we should fight fire with fire until the whole country burns?"

I'm ready with the marshmallows...

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@ Steve Knox: I agree with yours and Vimes' assessments of the fear mongering in general, but a quick perusal of the man's wikipedia page shows that my initial gut feeling that was similar to your assessment is wrong. Amash has consistently pursued this tack and voted against the vast majority of his party on related matters. He has a Ron Paul-like take on these matters, so in this case we may not be able to tar him with the normal pol brush (he happens to have taken over for Paul as chair of the Liberty Caucus).

I have little opinion this way or that about said folks, but on such matters they are remarkably consistent and straightforward. I found the Washington elite comment provocative since he technically is one, but given the above facts, I'll chalk it up to something between not-too-unreasonable and above-average-political-theater. My own brain fart was that if he keeps it up, they will give him a nice committee spot to shut him up, but the Liberty thing makes that unlikely.

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FAIL

Pretty much figured that any number of people would have made this point before could get to it. That sentence sticks out from the moment you encounter it like your guts hanging from your own abdomen

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In other news closer to home:

"It is difficult to see why a small, rural town such as Royston requires cameras monitoring all traffic in and out of the town 24 hours a day," said Stephen Eckersley, the ICO's head of enforcement.

"The use of ANPR [automatic number plate recognition] cameras and other forms of surveillance must be proportionate to the problem it is trying to address.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23433138

If memory serves the inquest into the 7/7 bombings clearly stated that it was highly unlikely that having access to any additional data would have made the blindest bit of difference. It would be interesting to hear somebody from GCHQ explain why they think the blanket hovering of data is proportionate given the apparently limited usefulness of such information.

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I'm fairly sure GCHQ would say

We are GCHQ.

We don't "justify"

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ANPR could have stopped the 7/7

It would have allowed the police to detect that possible northerners were entering the Southern Co-Prosperity Zone - and they could have been herded back to their northern hovels.

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They'd probably say we don't, but we can't stop politicians from believing it.

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Anonymous Coward

God I love the Justification....

"US chief spook: Look, we only want to spy on 6.66 BEELLLION of you"... "US spy-boss James Clapper has once again emerged from the shadows to insist that America's global-spanning web surveillance programme is lawful and only targets foreigners."

Lawful in US laws only!!! To the Big Bully--- How lawful is it to the rest of the rock Mr. Clapper?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: God I love the Justification....

"Lawful in US laws only!!!"

There are other laws? WTF?

</sarc>

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Holmes

Re: God I love the Justification....

"What is this 'Rest of World' of which you speak?"

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Big Brother

Re: God I love the Justification....

"Are you a foreigner?"

"No."

"Can you prove it?"

"No."

"Then we assume that you are."

This approach is also a reason why immigration policies really need to be less hysterical. Introduce rules that are "supposed" to be used only on people from abroad and apply them to everyone just in case they might not be telling the truth.

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Re: God I love the Justification....

That's the reason for the increased use of metal detectors in public buildings

If you can fit your gut through the gates AND you aren't carrying a gun - you obviously aren't a true American

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Joke

Re: God I love the Justification....

"What is this 'Rest of World' of which you speak?"

"Canada?"

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Re: God I love the Justification....

"Canada?"

That's a village in Kansas.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: God I love the Justification....

and north America is a ruined farm in s yorks. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:North_America_Farm_ruins.jpg

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Pint

Re: That's a village in Kansas.

Phew, good cover. We didn't need that getting out, eh?

Your loyal service to the Great White North will be rewarded with free beer for life. Sadly, it is a secret law and YBMV (the B is for Beerage).

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Hope this stupidity is defeated

It's amazing how naive people are when it comes to the operations of the world and their security.

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Re: Hope this stupidity is defeated

Perhaps, but maybe that's because we aren't given the information to be other than "naive". It seems to me that we have a small set of people who have set up their idea " the operations of the world and their security", and don't actually want to see how the rest of us view the world.

To put it another way - I don't want the world run by a bunch of paranoids who think they know better what is good for the rest of us than we do. If there is significant risk from somewhere, everyone should know about it so that proper oversight can be made of political and other action. I do not consider that there is any risk from any other government or other organisation that requires action so quickly that it cannot be properly debated. I do not live in fear.

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WTF?

Talk about brass neck ..

"This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation," it added.

As if the original implementation was the product of open informed debate ?

A dictionary definition of "Chutzpah"

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Anonymous Coward

Do you think it will ever stop?

I don't!

The reality is we are now all guilty, so govs can use any tech to spy and record our actions.

90% of the public are not intelligent enough to consider just how depraved this action is.

Protecting me from terrorism/criminal investigations is not a good enough excuse to spy on me and record my actions, never mind all of the advertising tracking thats is done!

Where is my voice? Ignored! So much for beloved democracy!

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Anonymous Coward

Do you think it will ever stop?

It will all stop after world war 3 or a bunch of civil wars. I don't know if any humans will be left to enjoy the new found 'freedom' though.

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Boffin

Re: Do you think it will ever stop?

well, of course it will end after WW3, it's hard to spy on other people when the only technology you have are sticks and stones (and no, I don't mean the new gadgets from the fruity company)...

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Anonymous Coward

4 huge data centers

When they defunded TIA, first they renamed it from TOTAL information awareness, to 'TERRORISM information awareness', but it still got defunded in 2004

TIA was effectively this same program delayed until 2007 when the Telcos got immunity and NSA became above the law.

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/07/02/before-prism-there-was-total-information-awareness/

The thing about these programs is create huge data centers visible from space and its difficult to do them in secret without somebody noticing these huge data centers.

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Rather than 'Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act' they should have called it 'Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Telecommunication Examination Directive'. Has a nice ring to it.

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Unhappy

@Alpha Tony

"Rather than 'Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act' they should have called it 'Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Telecommunication Examination Directive'. Has a nice ring to it."

Well, isn't that what they are doing?

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Anonymous Coward

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Telecommunication Examination Directive

Has a nice ring to it.

Yup, I saw what you did there :)

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Sil

A few good men

Thank God for a few good men, long live the 4th

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Re: A few good men

Except that the 4th amendment has already been attacked. Live within 100 miles of the border or coast? Then the 4th amendment doesn't exist according to the US DHS.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/02/electronics-border-seizures/

Of course they expect people to ignore that most of the largest centres of population exist within that 100 mile zone.

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Re: A few good men

> Of course they expect people to ignore that most of the largest centres of population exist within that 100 mile zone.

As does about 80% of Canada's population.

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fireworks on the 4th

Vimes, the 4th amendment has been “attacked” since the Act of July 31, 1789, two years before the 4th amendment became part of the US constitution. Please see Anonymous Coward’s post on this topic here, and my two replies immediately following it. (Background context to my replies to Anonymous Coward can be found in my replies following Chris_Maresca’s post here.)

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Big Brother

Budget Cuts?

Remember, this is only the NSA's _public_ budget threatened with cuts.

Their "Black Budget"* will increase by 2x any cuts to compensate.

* Black Budget - Concealed funding ($20,000 for a toilet seat , etc)

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Anonymous Coward

Michigan Republican Justin Amash has some balls

Well he has balls, I'll grant him that.

That big database of everyone's communications contains *his* comms too. his families, his friends, his doctors, everything.

If they can't find enough dirt in that lot that can be used to smear him then he's a saint.

Same goes for everyone else in the House of Representatives, General Alexander has everything about you and can simply run queries on the data without requiring a warrant because it's all in his department under his control.

I hope you all have even 10% of the balls that Snowden had.

Because in Britain we have William Hague, whose signed off on mass surveillance, police, MPs, ministers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, the lot, all their data is captured and stuck in a database, and William Hague thinks that's fine and completely within the right to privacy because GCHQ are all saints and everyone they spy on is a potential terrorists.

I wish someone in the UK had the balls to stand up to to the NSA chief who told GCHQ to 'record it all' as if he was the boss.

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Re: Michigan Republican Justin Amash has some balls

If anyone found any damning dirt about him using this, he'd probably be happy if it were released since it would guarantee his amendment passes. The rest of congress would see that the government is willing to use this power against even THEM, and there's nothing quicker to get congress to act than to think the issues that the common man suffers from can also affect them. Or did you think it was a coincidence that congress passes a lot of laws that they except themselves from?

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Big Brother

All the justification we need

Because we can....

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Unhappy

"Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him."

Attributed to Cardinal Richleau, but probably coined by one of his staff.

And the NSA (or a reciprocal data sharing agreement with other agencies in other countries) had collected rather more than 6 lines.

Anyone think it's time to start going through those 360+ paragraphs of THE PATRIOT Act with a red pen?

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Re: "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him."

"Anyone think it's time to start going through those 360+ paragraphs of THE PATRIOT Act with a red pen?"

A big red "X" through them all?

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Unhappy

@hplasm

"A big red "X" through them all?"

Tempting admittedly but I think something a little more nuanced might get broader approval.

That way you've got more of a chance of getting the more SEL contingent ("America is under attack 24/7/365 from within and without. We must have this to stop another Boston").

Oh wait, they did have it before Boston. The SEL will argue that's because the surveillance was not extensive enough of course.

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Devil

Re: "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him." (@ John Smith 19)

Why a red pen? A welding torch would be better, IMHO.

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Re: "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him." (@ John Smith 19)

No, we will need all the welding torches we can muster to destroy the hardware which is being used by NSA - hopefully we will have sufficient acetylene to complete the job.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something to hang him." (@ John Smith 19)

That's unnecessary. Just give me the rigs for mining bitcoins. ;)

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Not quite

"The politicians will be asked to approve an amendment that will prevent Uncle Sam's spies from snooping on Americans en masse."

It won't prevent anything. It can only make certain activities illegal.

Since when did that stop the "intelligence community" doing anything?

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Meh

Re: Not quite

"It won't prevent anything. It can only make certain activities illegal."

Now, when your boss comes to you and tells you to commit an act you now know to be ilegal should you say a)Yes no problem or b)They've changed the rules and my pension is down the toilet if I agree to do this?

Actual formal illegality can have a calming effect on the men in the cubes who actually have to do this.

Not much, but some.

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I called my Congresswoman and asked her to support the amendment

She's a Democrat, so we'll see if she bucks our Deal Leader Obama over this one. And yes, I'd rather we have a real debate over this before we passed something like this, but our leaders don't seem to want a real debate. Mostly the President seems to be interested in calling for a debate where his administration games the rules so that the "con" side of the argument has no access to what is actually going on with these programs while the "pro" side invokes unverified conterterrorism successes and how if things are changed Osama Bin Laden will rise from the grave and run down Main Street USA strangling cute little kids and kicking puppies....

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