Re: What About Deep Packet Inspection?
"What is to stop them (you know, THEM) from coercing all ISPs and backbone providers into letting them monitor the packets going through every single router, in particular the ones at the edge of the Internet?"
How about some of the IPs belonging to countries antagonistic to the west but lack the resources to crack the stuff themselves? They'll tweak the US just because they're the US, and once they lose track of the chain, it's hard to pick it up again in the noise, especially if the endpoint is outside their control. Another possibility is something like a dead-drop where the information is posted to some random location and the message of its location conveyed by some other means. There's more to the darknet than just TOR. Freenet may be too conspicuous due to its traffic usage, but perhaps a chan board or a stego'd image elsewhere.
"With the massive precautionary data collection, the authorities are taking the easy way out, to be sure, and it is being abused. So can be just back up the Patriot Act and its ilk a bit and go back to the days of having real judges issue real warrants?"
No, they won't be cause they're afraid the terrorists have subverted the judges or have placed moles within, such that the very ACT of obtaining the warrant tips them off and makes them scatter and hide or switch to an alternate line of communication they haven't traced. Then the warrant's meaningless because there's nothing to seize and no one to arrest anymore. IOW, the government has the EXACT SAME problem on THEIR end: keeping their raids secret until they actually go down, as any leak can give the game away.