back to article America restarts dodgy spying program – just as classified surveillance abuse memo emerges

The US Senate reauthorized a controversial NSA spying program on Thursday – and then, because it's 2018 and nothing matters any more, embarked on a partisan battle over a confidential memo that outlines Uncle Sam's alleged abuse of surveillance powers. The so-called section 702 FISA snooping system, renewed this week, has been …

      1. c1ue

        Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

        Era, remind me again:

        Which nation has grown 15x faster than the other over the past 33 years?

        And which nation has had the vast majority of its citizens' incomes flat to declining over the past 2 decades plus?

        "Freedom" evidently has a very high price.

        1. DeKrow

          Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

          I was informed it was a buck o five.

      2. DeKrow

        Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

        China is the asymptote to the US' trajectory

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

      "but last time I checked those organisations weren't firing off extradition requests all over the planet, kidnapping people off Italian streets or asserting that Chinese court orders supercede Irish data protection laws."

      Are you actually serious? The man accused of killing Alexander Litvinenko in London, Lugovoy, actually sits in the Russian parliament. China has been documented kidnapping people in Thailand, not to mention the leaned-on deportations of Taiwanese citizens in Kenya that look an awful lot like kidnap.

      So I don't know when you last checked, but you didn't do a very good job of it.

      1. Lysenko

        Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

        Are you actually serious? The man accused of killing Alexander Litvinenko in London, Lugovoy, actually sits in the Russian parliament.

        Reprehensible though that is, it is still a case of the Russian Government (probably) taking action against a Russian Citizen, albeit extra-territorially. I'm not defending that in any way, but it is markedly different to abducting a German citizen in Macedonia and torturing him in Afghanistan.

        Anything an elected government does to its own citizens (like lethal injections) has some potential cover of democracy and legality; extra-territorial actions against citizens of foreign countries have none.

        When you have an example of the FSB snatching a Frenchman with no connection to Russia off the streets of Lisbon and secretly flying him to a Syrian air force base and torturing him, then you'll have an equivalence to American lawlessness, not before.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

          "Reprehensible though that is, it is still a case of the Russian Government (probably) [a public enquiry concluded that this was true, beyond reasonable doubt, stop FUDding] taking action against a Russian Citizen, albeit extra-territorially. I'm not defending that in any way, but it is markedly different to abducting a German citizen in Macedonia and torturing him in Afghanistan.

          ...

          When you have an example of the FSB snatching a Frenchman with no connection to Russia off the streets of Lisbon and secretly flying him to a Syrian air force base and torturing him, then you'll have an equivalence to American lawlessness, not before."

          I gave several examples of the Chinese government doing exactly that. And if you think the death of Matthew Puncher (who investigated Litvinenko's murder) of multiple stab wounds was suicide, as it was ruled, then I have a bridge to sell you. It's amazing how many people commit suicide around the Russian government's actions, isn't it?

          Give it up. The Russian government murders dozens of people abroad, just accept that they and China are the worst major governments in the world. The US, UK, etc., aren't shining beacons of glory, but to pretend that Russia and China aren't beyond the pale is just ridiculous.

          "Anything an elected government does to its own citizens (like lethal injections) has some potential cover of democracy and legality; extra-territorial actions against citizens of foreign countries have none."

          Not really. You shouldn't get to run around the UK killing people. It's just not cricket. We have laws too.

      2. theDeathOfRats

        Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

        "... China has been documented kidnapping people in Thailand, not to mention..."

        Teacheeeer! But, they are, like, kidnapping peopleeee. Why can't I kidnap people tooooo!

        Sadly, this doesn't seem to be a joke so, no icon.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Good news for Yandex and AliBaba

      isk of FSB and PLA snooping of course, but last time I checked those organisations weren't firing off extradition requests all over the planet

      No - they (FSB) prefer slightly more... direct action.

      Polonium tea anyone?

  1. ST Silver badge
    Terminator

    There is literally nothing decent in this story

    A bit of historical context: Executive Order 12949.

    Read it, and read who issued it and signed it, and when. And then you'll get an idea for how long this has been going on, behind the scenes. Looooooooong before the USA PATRIOT Act.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: There is literally nothing decent in this story

      And then you'll get an idea for how long this has been going on, behind the scenes. Looooooooong before the USA PATRIOT Act.

      Not that long before, I was expecting Mr Washington or Mr Lincoln on the bottom for that length of 'Looooooong', that was only a 'Looong's worth.

      Someone must have told Mr Clinton it was a signature was required for Executive relief, or a young lady was kneeling under the table giving him an executive and he's have signed anything at that point.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: There is literally nothing decent in this story

      There is something decent, or their could be if there's recognition that some things might need to change. I think this is part "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", and part modern politics.

      In an ideal world. Law enforcement and the security services are given the tools they need to investigate breaches of laws created by politicians. Surveillance is part of that toolbox, and politicians should not be above the law. After all, they're eminently corruptable.

      But with great powers comes great responsibility, ie it needs watchmen who can impartially rule on legality, and the watchmen should be scrupulously neutral. Political fallout may be a consideration, but fundamental principle should be if laws have been broken or not.

      And now there's the indecent aspects of this story. So it seems senior law enforcement officials may have used their positions in an attempt to influence US elections to favor their candidate, and cover up illegal activity. Regardless of whether an American's tinged red or blue, this should be a problem. It's also not entirely suprising given senior Federal positions are often political appointments, so there's strong incentives to be partisan rather than neutral.

      Question is whether there's a willingness for the US to change, and for Americans to regain trust in their political system.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Get into IT AI ProgramMING with Mined IntelAIgent Network Games

    Wake up! Smell the Cocoa! The Rule is there are no Rules for Wannabe Rulers. And for Absolute Rule, No Wannabe Rulers.

    Do as you are told and/or mindlessly and mindfully programmed, and you are a follower of virtually anonymous leaders beyond your ken? Yes, you most certainly are.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    So much for the Land of the Free

    I pledge allegiance to the Flag

    of the United States of America,

    and to the Oligarchy for which it stands,

    one Nation under the NSA,

    lobbied for,

    with surveillance and snooping for all

  4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Dear America

    For your next president, choose a person who is honest, passably intelligent, willing to listen to advice, familiar with your Constitution, and fully persuaded of the need to uphold it.

    You have got one of those, haven't you?

    If they possess the aforementioned qualities, their political leanings don't actually matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear America

      Campaigning for Oprah already?

      Can't be as bad a the current POTUS IMHO.

      {This post probably breaks a number of US Laws that already apply to the whole planet}

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: Dear America

        Bernie Sanders 2020.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Dear America

      For your next president, choose a person who is honest, passably intelligent, willing to listen to advice, familiar with your Constitution, and fully persuaded of the need to uphold it.

      You have got one of those, haven't you?

      Paging Mr Diogenes. Will Mr Diogenes please bring his lamp to the US as soon as possible, and definitely before 2020.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Dear America

        For your next president, choose a person who is honest, passably intelligent, willing to listen to advice, familiar with your Constitution

        Siri for president ?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear America

      You have got one of those, haven't you?

      Things aren't better elsewhere. The UK has a gormless idiot without the slightest whiff of competence or judgement as prime minister, and regardless of the outcome of the next election will continue to have that situation. France is run by a disgusting opportunist. Most of southern Europe isn't run at all. German and Austria's political establishments are thrashing around trying to avoid the growth of right wing nationalism. Australia doesn't appear any better off than the UK in terms of privacy and common sense. The EU power brokers are nothing more that a club of fat old crooks lining their own pockets whilst trampling on the concept of democracy.

      All of this is about only two things, in the big picture: The dishonesty, self serving and functional failure of career politicians to serve their electors, and the negative impacts of corporate globalisation (de-industralisation, offshoring, migration, inequality).

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Dear America

        About the only political leadership who seem to be intent on actually leading their country are the Chinese !

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you've done nothing wrong then you've nothing to hide ..

    If you've done nothing wrong then you've nothing to hide, just who is going to protect us from you?

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Note the timing of the release of that document *very* carefully.

    Con-gresspeople seem to think this is OK as long as they "control" these people.

    They simply don't get it.

    No one controls data fetishists.

    You could make a case that for data fetishists "democracy," even of the kind practices in the US is the enemy.

    "How dare elected representatives ask how many US citizens we spy on, like they have some right to know such things.*"

    *As one of them might put it to their friends.

  7. teknopaul Silver badge

    if they can they do

    I have long held the opinion that if the government of any nation can do xx spying technique they are doing it.

    Snowdon showed this to be a pretty solid stance to take now and going forward.

    Its useless to debate spying in the public space since it goes in private.

    Need to concentrate, not on making sure that they do not spy on you, but that thay cannot spy on you.

  8. 2StrokeRider

    As usual, a clueless "journalist" with an axe to grind and a flair for ignoring the facts. 18 Democrats and 41 Republicans voted for cloture, which closed debate and brought the bill to an almost guaranteed passing.

    There is a lot of blame in that swamp. The bill needed a complete overhaul, instead, Dems and Repubs alike voted to keep as is....fully knowing that the Obama administration had wildly abused it to spy on Trump.

    And if you think it's just US services spying on you, you're happily in your pod in the matrix. Me personally, don't do anything they care about. If you do, the onus on protecting your privacy is on you.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      A.N.Other Look at the Problem from the Alien Flip Side

      Me personally, don't do anything they care about. If you do, the onus on protecting your privacy is on you. ..... 2StrokeRider

      Do anything and/or everything they care about and the onus on protecting their privacy and your secrets is theirs, methinks.

      And, 2StrokeRider, just the fact that you visit and comment on threads which are sharing future secrets for meritocratic technocrats of a certain hue to exploit and expand upon, makes you a person of interest to be more closely surveilled because of what you will be having sight of.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      "if you think it's just US services spying on you"

      As an American, I don't think this for a minute. But honestly, I don't care nearly as much about being spied on by foreign states as I do about being spied on by the US government or corporations of any nationality.

      There's relatively low potential for harm to me if, say, China spies on me. There's a great deal of potential harm to me if the US government or any corporation does the same.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are they wasting time spying on the population when the real threat to world peace has always been the orange one they elected ?

  10. Jove Bronze badge

    Naive

    More from the naively altruistic.

    Not all are equal; the level of engagement with reality being the delimiter.

  11. alain williams Silver badge

    Presumably we are all safe for a few days ...

    while the government of the USA is in lock-down as the Senate did not pass the new budget. Thus everyone at the NSA has gone home.

    OK: I know, but it is nice to occasionally dream ...

  12. Mikel

    Responsible observation

    "That eavesdropping fits very squarely within the remit of FISA, which allows US spies to intercept the communications of American citizens if they are seen to be communicating with foreign intelligence targets."

    Yes. When foreign spies are conspiring with your political candidates to overthrow your government, that is squarely within the remit of the "National Security Agency" by definition.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Responsible observation

      It might be premature to describe what is publicly known as "foreign spies ... conspiring with your political candidates to overthrow your government." The last time I looked there were two indictments for activities unrelated to any political campaign that, in addition, took place well before the 2016 presidential election cycle began, and two for lying to FBI agents about activities that may be open to question but are not illegal on their face.

      There probably will be more to come, and some of it may go over the limit of what is legal. Technically, Flynn may have exposure here, but under a law on the books for over 200 years that, as far as I know, never has been used in a successful prosecution despite quite a few fairly recent opportunities. We certainly need to attend to this and let both the special prosecutor's and various congressional investigations run their respective courses., but constant whipping up of hysteria is unlikely to be beneficial.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Responsible observation

      Funny, there's zero evidence for any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and any Russians, and quite significant evidence that the Clinton campaign along with the FBI and the Obama administration colluded with Russians to rig the election and hence overthrow the government.

      Perhaps the surveillance should have been used to listen to what the Clinton campaign, Simpson of Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, and Bruce Ohr (and his wife who was employed by Fusion to work on the Trump "dossier"), Peter Strzok, Rod Rosenstein, and others in the FBI and DOJ were talking about, no ? And just what WAS that "insurance policy" that Strzok and others discussed with McCabe in the deputy director of the FBI's office - could it be a plan to invoke a special counsel enquiry into Russian collusion after the election ? Isn't that treason ?

      1. ST Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Responsible observation

        Speaking of Responsible observations:

        I have responsibly observed that, every time there's a bit a news that paint a negative or suspicious light on Trump, the Trump campaign, Trump campaign associates and their suspected connections to the Russian Government, or Russian Intelligence Services, there is a not insignificant number of very eager Anonymous Cowards who take it upon themselves to muddy the waters with blatant whatabout-ism efforts.

        Just a Responsible Observation.

        Insofar as why NSA was listening on Sergey Kislyak's phone, and why it intercepted communications between Kislyak and Michael T. Flynn: because that's why NSA was invented in the first place. That's their job.

  13. KYDBO

    We need the Bureau of Sabotage

    Time has long passed for such and entity.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the FBI used foreign-intelligence-gathering FISA laws to tap the communications of key Trump campaign staff who were in touch with Kremlin officials."

    I think you've got your allegations mixed up there Reg.

    Dems say FBI were spying on trump staff with links to Kremlin - although the only link published so far that I can find is Trump Jr turning up to a dodgy meeting with a Russian lawyer (who also had links to the dodgy dossier) which now apparently was all set up the Clinton/DNC.

    GOP say FBI were spying on Trump himself, authorised by Obama, based on evidence gathered in the dodgy dossier, which has now been widely discredited and may have actually have been commissioned by various bad actors (including the Clintons and McCain) purely for the purpose of being used as evidence to authorise the FISA spying on Trump.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Basically correct, if Trump was conspiring with Russians, where's the evidence ? It's been over a year since the election and nothing has emerged.

      The only demonstrated collusion is Fusion GPS paying Christopher Steele who paid Russian officials to produce a document apparently full of rubbish to attack Trump. Who paid for this ? Why, the Clinton campaign with a contribution from the Obama campaign fund and, apparently, the FBI itself contributed. Doesn't matter if you use cut-outs like a law firm (and claim it to be legal expenses); the dossier was collusion paid for by Clinton.

      And yes, full of rubbish, about the only thing "verified" in the dossier is the fact that Carter Page went to Moscow - and that is public information as he went to give a speech at a public forum. Michael Cohen did NOT go to Czechoslovakia, and the other "stuff", salicious and unverified as admitted by the FBI.

    2. PeterGriffin

      GOP/DNC can and will say anything to deflect and muddy the water. They have no idea what occurred and with no actual evidence in either direction - who to believe?

  15. DeKrow

    No longer recognise the US

    This is one of those logical fallacies, and I know it, but I still want to fall into it's trap:

    How can anyone take other US laws seriously, which deal with far more trivial matters such as copyright infringement, when the screw things up so terribadly on the important stuff?

    The US, in it's march towards fascism, may well find itself tripping and falling into anarchy.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: No longer recognise the US

      Remember the USA doesn't actually exist - it is all faked on a film set.

      The writers for this season do seem to have "jumped the shark" somewhat

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No longer recognise the US

      Copyright Infringement? Now known as piracy. We apparently think watching an illegally obtained movie is the moral equivalent iof boarding a vessel and slaughtering the crew.

  16. Dave 15

    And of course

    Doesnt matter if you dont charge someone you can still claim you were investigating one of those crimes... even though the person never had any remote connection to them.

    Typical politician mixed with the obnoxious turds that migrate towards 'law enforcement'. Frankly if would be lovely to have a massive space ship, put all politicians and law enforcement solicitor and lawyer types on it for a one way ticket to anywhere else in the universe.

  17. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Nice timing there.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cry more

    at least wolf whistling isn't a hate crime in the US

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: cry more

      Unlike crossing the road where you want to.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pathetic

    Mr McCarthy's "analysis" is, as always, an embarrassment for El Reg. Congress should release the report and let the public make up their own mind - maybe it will lead to a long overdue house cleaning.

  20. scrubber

    Osama bin Laden or the TLAs?

    Just remember folks, they attacked us for our freedoms.

  21. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    Trump is for smaller Government and less regulation so i couldn't see this passing...However, it does prevent terrorism, so he'll probably do as his advisors want and pass it.

  22. Wiltshire

    Breaking news ....

    FBI "Loses" Five Months Of Text Messages Between Anti-Trump Agents

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/more-texts-turned-over-fbi-agent-taken-off-161343170--politics.html

  23. peterm3
    Black Helicopters

    should we comment?

    Great article. Although as some of us are non-US citizens, what we say here is [content redacted]

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about time...

    ...that naïve and gullible hacks and the general public pull their heads out of their collective arses and get in touch with the reality that all countries use surveillance for security purposes. Those who object to being monitored should never leave their house, never use a TV and pretend they are safe and free from surveillance. In the real world surveillance is used by all countries to reduce crime and protect the populace as much as possible.

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