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back to article Senator: Surveillance state based on secret law 'has no place in America'

The US government has created "an always expanding, omnipresent surveillance state," according to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and if something isn't done, it may soon become impossible to dismantle. "If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live …

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sigh

Way to fight the good fight Mr. Wyden but after seeing Obama be even more extreme than Bush when it comes to this bullcrap I have to say you have your work cut out for you. They tell us how much better our government is than China's but its hard to see how two shitty parties that behave the same and are both bought off is much better than a single corrupt party.

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Re: sigh

Two identical but opposing parties maintains the illusion of a democracy.....

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Re: sigh

I don't like a lot of Wyden's politics but he has been talking about the runaway PATRIOT Act and insanely intrusive government surveillance for a few years now. So he gets points for that anyway.

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Re: sigh

"Way to fight the good fight Mr. Wyden"

Wyden is the same Google hireling who wants to expropriate musicians, photographers, artists, film makers, and other, for the sake of Page, Brin, Schmidt, and the other wealthy fascistic tech oligarchs. (Schmidt call himself and his cohorts "the Gang Of Four". It's not really a joke.)

And by the way, that's the same Google that has to be the biggest surveillance machine in the history of humanity.

Maybe Wyden thinks that if the NSA can't conduct surveillance directly, they will have to contract it out to other parties, like, oh, maybe Wyden's masters at Google: it appears that they've thought of a way to turn Snowden into a business opportunity.

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Meh

Re: sigh

They will shut him up when they find the dirt on him after a bit of secret surveillance.

He will tow the party line then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: tow the line

<pedant> "toe the line" </pedant>

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Mushroom

Re: sigh

"Surveillance state based on secret law 'has no place in America'"

Presumably the NSA will shortly be relocating to Guantanamo then to monitor from there...

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Only voters can change this, but...

Only voters can change this, but...

The rich and the corporation know that when they make it hard to earn a living, and create fear for the loss of food and shelter and health, then they can do what they like with politicians and the law.

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FAIL

Re: Only voters can change this, but...

> The rich and the corporation know

Yeah, yeah. It is always the "rich and the corporation" instead of power-hungry civil servants, the bipartisan consensus to have more of it, all the time and the fact that most people can't be arsed to check what is currently happening in the corridors of power as long as their home team of the double-faced monstrosity is currently at the control levers. Then you have guys like Ron Paul veering off the beaten path who then gets villified and cold-shouldered from "left" and "right" as the crazy uncle.

Notice how okay every Nazi trip of the administration has become with "liburls" since the Brown Changer has taken over from Coke Dude.

But there may be hope yet.

Also: "If Snowden is a traitor, how come everyone is suddenly discussing this?"

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Go

Re: Only voters can change this, but...

But at least it does seem that Snowden's actions are slowly but surely firing up a debate on the surveillance state. That at least this senator is calling into question the current state of affairs is remarkable. It has turned things upside down, with the traditional conservatards supporting the administration keeping the PRISM snooping powers even if said administration is a "liberal" one.

And now we all know why the Patriot Act was extended; PRISM would've had to be dismantled otherwise. Hopefully we will actually see this change in the following years.

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Unhappy

Re: Only voters can change this, but...

That only works if the real terrorists who use fear and loathing to manipulate the population are recognized for what they are. Unfortunately since they have the triumvirate of the podium of the media, considerable majorities in both the House and Senate and control the Executive branch that isn't likely to happen any time soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only voters can change this, but...

Considering that the Republican party is controlled by the Tea Party who is owned by the Koch brothers and other big business interests, it should be no surprise to discover that the US Government is owned by big business interests. Also if you want an eye opener, google how many Congressmen are millionaires and how many became millionaires after being elected. The US government has been sold to the highest bidder.

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Big Brother

It's a bit late, don't you think?

@Senator Wyden - >"If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it"

Hate to break it to you Senator, but this crap has been going on in the "Land of the Free" for at least 150 years. President Lincoln approved Secretary of War Edward Stanton to tap the country's telegraph lines by re-routing the main lines through Stanton's office starting in 1862 (see NY Times, "Lincoln's Surveillance State", July 5, 2013). The FBI started politically repressive surveillance from its very beginning, in 1908, approved repeatedly by Congress and Presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Read about COINTELPRO and FBI surveillance and repression of political parties and African American groups throughout the 1900's.

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Devil

Re: It's a bit late, don't you think?

@Andy Prough

Actually older than that, predating the telegraph. In-bound and out-bound mail was regularly opened, hand-copied, re-sealed and sent on from New York. And that dated from President George Washington. I'm not agreeing that this is Constitutional, far from it and I was oath-bound to defend it, but it is very old in the affairs of this nation.

I don't expect any of this to change in practice. It will probably return to the shadows until the next revelation that shivers the body politic, causes some grumbling, and that body goes into an occasionally fitful sleep. Again.

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Damn the patriot act!

It should never have been enacted in the first place. Our governors are quite proud of it, but when they are asked what these violations of principle have produced in the way of tangible results they cannot say a word about who was arrested, or executed or for what. As far as we can see, it has all been for naught. It has not prevented the Boston Marathon bombing and that took place after the Russian government told our government that the young men involved were already radicals that needed to be watched. Look what happened! Despite all of these alleged precautions and intrusions into our private affairs these bossturds are still eluding law enforcment. Why is that? Why is it still possible for this to be done? The answer is that there is no power on earth capable of PREVENTING ciminal behavior. It can only be deterred by prosecuting the criminals and it is only just to do that AFTER a crime has been committed. Preventative law enforcement is a myth dreamed up by Hollywood screenwriters, not something that can actually be put into practice and still have a free society after the implementation of the "preventative policies." If I am going to die, I want to die free and I already know that I will die from something eventually. The government, no matter how much money it is given or how much power it possesses cannot do anything to PREVENT a single death from old age or disease. So, in the end we must all realize that we are mortal and that our freedoms are worth dying for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn the patriot act!

Damn the patriot act!

It should never have been enacted in the first place.

I think it qualifies for the most misnamed law ever. It doesn't matter what corner of the rug I lift to look at the twitching bumps underneath, I only ever see UNpatriotic effects.

I see the US government aggressively acting against its citizens

I see a whitewash of harming people's rights

I see the US being labelled as a pariah

I see a MASSIVE loss of standing.

All of the above without a SINGLE terrorist involved.

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Facepalm

seriously?

"current law bars even members of Congress from publicly disclosing details of those programs."

If he had had the balls to stand up in the Senate and publicly announce it, do you really think they would have arrested and prosecuted him? This is just a convenient excuse for why he has done very little until Snowdon blew the whistle.

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Re: seriously?

I wondered about that, too. I assume that anything said in Congress would be protected by some kind of absolute privilege*. So he could expose any secret goings-on that he could find out about.

*To be honest, I don't know the US constitution, and I'm extrapolating from the British model. Statements made on the floor of either house of Parliament are privileged. Presumably the Official Secrets Act doesn't trump this privilege - how could it, when the Act is Parliament's creation.

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Re: seriously?

"[The Senators and Representatives] shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place." (US Constitution, Article I, Section VI)

I'm not a lawyer, but that would seem on its face to immunize a Senator or Representative who cared to make a speech about perceived government misdeeds, which I presume was the original intent.

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Re: seriously?

"[The Senators and Representatives] shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place." (US Constitution, Article I, Section VI)

I'm not a lawyer, but that would seem on its face to immunize a Senator or Representative who cared to make a speech about perceived government misdeeds, which I presume was the original intent.

I'm not so sure, it could be they'd get him under "Treason".

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Re: seriously?

Article III, Section III: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."

That's a pretty narrow definition. I take it to mean, among other things, that an action that gives aid and comfort to an enemy of the US cannot be classified as treason for that reason alone. A Senator or Representative surely could call out the Executive branch for alleged excesses without adhering to any "enemy". That might, in passing, comfort Al Qaeda, or even aid them, but it would not be treason.

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parliamentary privilege in Congress

Kubla Cant, there is a form of parliamentary privilege in Congress. Constitutionally, they “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place”. As long as his actions avoid the three forbidden cases above (and as long as the executive branch acts constitutionally), he need not worry about arrest for such actions.

In the case of the Official Secrets Act, the Act could trump that privilege; however, Parliament could repeal the Act if they weren’t content to abide by its limitations. In that sense, it would be similar to the European Communities Act 1972, by which Parliament limit themselves through the acceptance of the primacy of directly applicable EU laws over contradictory UK laws.

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the terrorists can never take your freedom...

...only the politicians can do that.

What I cannot understand is how the majority of the public seem to be happy to have their rights, freedoms and privacy swept away because of this supposed 'terror threat'. It's a few guys with pipe bombs. I grew up with a belligerent USSR pointing 100s of nukes at us, and the very real threat of a surprise attack, accidental launch or some rogue general taking matters into his own hands which would have completely obliterated the whole country. And still the government never crushed civil liberties like it has in the past 10 years. This has nothing whatsoever to do with national security, and everything to do with keeping the prols in line as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the terrorists can never take your freedom...

"...only the politicians can do that."

While politicians are indeed the most likely danger to our freedom, you are incorrect that "the terrorists can never take your freedom" - their direct victims frequently end up less free (e.g. dead). They quite frequently kidnap and imprison people, and occasionally even video themselves beheading their victim to crown the "terror" part of their actions.

Perhaps: "the knee-jerk responses of politicians are a greater danger to our freedom than the terrorists themselves"

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A good moment to remember Franklin's words

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety"

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Unhappy

Re: A good moment to remember Franklin's words

""They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety""

True. And a better time to remember Edmund Burke's

"For evil to triumph it is only necessary that good men do nothing."

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Big Brother

@John Smith 19 - Re: A good moment to remember Franklin's words

But it's the politicians who are claiming that *they* are the "good men" and they are "doing something" by bringing in these laws.

Of course they don't *like* doing it, but it's for our own good, isn't it?

Perhaps it's time for the Goering quote...

"[...] voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

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Big Brother

Gardening Leave

One of the problems with these surveillance states is there are too many vested interests, not least of which is all the spooks who want their salaries, pensions, holidays in order to live. Dismantling the huge surveillance machine would result in many spooks out of work, which of course, they will do their best to resist.

Solution, gardening leave. Send 95% of them home on full pay, with pensions, holiday entitlements etc intact but insist they remain at home during office hours, doing no spying, for the rest of their working lives, unless they resign of course. Then close 95% of their offices, data centres etc. and save the the billions it costs to keep the infrastructure functioning - win win situation. By all means, keep a small, proportional, targeted, highly regulated and openly monitored surveillance operation, but get rid of the mass spying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gardening Leave

Nice idea, but I suspect they'd not so much prune the roses as plot a coup. I think they like the power at least as much as they like the perks.

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Anonymous Coward

Like many others in Congress, Wyden supported the Patriot Act and other national security legislation proposed in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. But he did so, he said, with the understanding that those laws had built-in expiration dates – dates that have since been extended several times without significant public discussion.

Yup, as I have said many, many times before, if anyone comes you with something that is "an emergency", "only temporarily" and doesn't offer you much time to read through it, you know:

- they have something to hide

- they are lying in your face.

QED. Again. Good on the guy that he highlights the lie of "temporary" legislation.

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Unhappy

Temporary

Like income tax in the UK was brought in for the war against Napoleon - but seems to have stuck

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Secret Laws

Just like those godless commie Russians used to have!

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reelection and profit motives trump rights

You don't even need a conspiracy for this downward spiral of a surveillance state, just the unhappy coincidence of politicians that are afraid to get blamed for the next attack, and technology firms getting rich selling the tools of big data and oppression. Capitalism, campaign finance, and your tax dollars at work...

Can you convince enough politicians that you will vote based on civil rights, and not on knee-jerk reactions to terror? And will you contribute more to their reelection campaigns than the surveillance lobbyists?

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Megaphone

Hey Register why not add a little AJAX to your website code to stop reloading the entire page just to vote !

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Unhappy

So that would be another person who did not read THE PATRIOT Act then ?

I'll note that FISA was established under Jimmy Carter in 1976. It's focus then was foreign governments and intelligence agencies, with some interest in terrorism.

Shrub signed off on a major upgrading and AFAIk that's when you could no longer even talk about its judgements.

BTW that one sided arguing of the case is exactly the process by which "super injunctions" have been awarded in the UK.

There is nocounter argument given (not that there is no argument, merely that those that could give it don't know it's happening)

Does this sound like the constitution you learned about in school?

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Finally one of them has the balls to stand up and disagree

I don't know this senator's political history is and I don't care. This is the true America, the one with the strength to acknowledge its mistakes and correct them.

It will take time, it won't be easy, but the road has now changed. Snowden was the first step, Wyden is now the second. The ball is rolling and we can hope that true Freedom will once again be had by all.

Plus, we can now finally lay to rest that argument about whether or not Snowden was a traitor. He was not.

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Anonymous Coward

Gag orders

Start by ending these entirely and you may just have a slim chance of ripping open any cracks that appear in the surveillance state and letting some light in. This goes far beyond government; remember Trafigura? Corporations are as much in love with anything that covers their shenanigans as spooks, and have close to the same capacity for evil. The gag order is as antithetical to the continuation of democracy as it comes, trebly so when the order itself cannot legally be revealed, and we can't keep relying on Italian newspapers to keep us abreast of who's hiding what on our patch.

Nice to see someone elected, in some respects at least, taking their oath seriously.

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Re: Gag orders

If it isn't public, it isn't rule of law.

If the court doesn't hear from both sides, there's no judgement.

Just sayin'...

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Nice idea, in theory

""If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it," Wyden said..."

Who is this "we" of whom you speak, Senator?

1. The American people, who have no power or influence and about whom no one in Washington gives a rat's ass?

2. Congress, which passed the surveillance laws and has agreed that the President can do anything he wants?

3. The Supreme Court, which has also agreed that the President can do anything he wants?

4. The wealthy corporate interests that actually run the USA, who have gone to great lengths (and even spent some of their own money from time to time) setting up the surveillance state?

5. The President... ahahahahahahahahahaha stop it you're killing me...

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Anonymous Coward

Just an illusion

These talking heads know full well that surveillance is necessary for national security but they don't want voters to boot their worthless arses, so they pretend to be enraged by national security measures.

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Re: Just an illusion

quote: "These talking heads know full well that surveillance is necessary for national security"

As written, I agree. However update it to read "know full well that blanket surveillance with 24/7 monitoring of all citizens is necessary for national security" and I'll take exception to that.

Which is what this argument is all about, basically. We were under the impression that government surveillance was in specific cases, which were being requested based upon prior evidence and had to be approved prior to enactment. Apparently that is not the case though, and people are getting a little jumpy to find that out.

These general public know full well that blanket 24/7 surveillance of citizens with no oversight required is necessary for a police state. It seems like they have no interest living in a police state.

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Devil

Now is the time for all good men....

To come to the aid of their country (and Constitution)!

FWIW, this is exactly the reason why our Forefathers were wise enough to include the Second Amendment that Obama, Schumer, Bloomberg, Cuomo are trying to render impotent before the Nation wises up and removes this "Unjust and Tyranical Goverment" and it's treasonous politicians from power. Hopefully without force...but hey shit happens.

Interesting fact: Watch the Army recruiting commercial where the soldiers says they "will uphold and protect the Constitution" and the next soldier says they will "obey the orders of their commanding officer without question".

According to what I have been told they are already being indoctrinated with the belief that even the Armed Services are above the Constitution and the concept of Posse Comitatus whereby the military CANNOT be used against the citizens of this country. Let us hope that those soldiers are smart enough to understand the difference between right and wrong.

That indoctrination now includes the training for and directives to fire upon US civilians when commanded to do so, which is against the Constitutional powers of any politician or military officer.

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Stop

Re: Now is the time for all good men....

Absent documentation, we are entitled to dismiss this as nonsense. The current oath of enlistment for the uniformed services except the National Guard reads:

"I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Its wording has been unchanged since 1962 and its sense has been unchanged since 1789. The corresponding National Guard is substantially the same except for appropriate references to the state and substitution of the law for the UCMJ.

The US government has exceeded what I think the Constitution allows, and may have exceeded the intent of those Senators and Representatives who actually read the PATRIOT Act before passing it and twice extending and enhancing it, but that is not of itself reason to think the military services are at all likely to be deployed against the citizens, or that they would follow orders to do so if they were.

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"If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it..."

...or die regretting it, same thing really.

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Anonymous Coward

Not so fast.

Don't act so surprised Senator, you have had years to put an end to the nonsense going on, and if you think performing a little good deed which you are expected to do anyway, is somehow going to excuse you lack of actions, you are sadely mistaken.

You are just as guilty, and will be held just as accountable.

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They say one thing and do another ....

They say they are using surveillance to catch criminals and terrorists, but far to ofter they use it for political reasons.

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