back to article Critical US mass spying program scrutiny lost amid partisan nonsense

In two weeks, a US law authorizing one of Uncle Sam's crucial mass snooping programs will expire. The man with the power to green-light the surveillance of any individual in the world, as part of said program, appeared in front of the US House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. Such fortunate timing for some much-needed …

  1. Youngone Silver badge

    Controlled by Who?

    I am pretty sure the NSA, and probably other agencies will continue to do what they want, without effective oversight regardless of what the law says. If challenged they will obfuscate (highly dubious interpretations of the law that they themselves developed sounds exactly like obfuscation).

    It's not like any of this data gathering can stop people attempting to explode bombs in subways, so why do they bother?

    It might just come down to empire building among the various secret police forces proliferating in the US, after all, even if the programmes might be illegal, they still need a lot of money to keep alive don't they?

    1. ST Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Controlled by Who?

      > [ ... ] NSA, and probably other agencies will continue to do what they want, without effective oversight regardless of what the law says

      The reality is that current law allows NSA to do exactly what they are doing. The popular meme that NSA is constantly and consistently breaking US law is just that: a popular meme with no basis in fact. It's simply not true.

      You may not like reading what I wrote, but the facts are the facts.

      How much do you want to bet that Section 702 will be re-authorized?

  2. DougS Silver badge

    The deadline was extended until April

    So they don't need to act on it in the next couple weeks.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: The deadline was extended until April

      RTFA

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The deadline was extended until April

      It was not extended. It is a position expressed by NSA and CIA top brass based on a rather interesting interpretation of the Patriot act and the FISA statutes in it.

      If the Congress fails to re-authorize by end of year and they actually use this "extension" a court case is inevitable it is likely to be a court case which NSA and CIA will lose (unfortunately, with no consequences for the people who will sign the orders).

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: The deadline was extended until April

        You have a lot more faith in the courts to restrict creative interpretations of the law by the executive branch than I do, I guess.

      2. ST Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: The deadline was extended until April

        > a court case is inevitable it is likely to be a court case which NSA and CIA will lose

        ROFLMAO!

        There is a difference between your own personal mythology and facts. Not on this board, where opinions and wishful thinking are the same thing as facts, apparently.

        How much do you wanna bet there won't be a court case?

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    I sense that the honorable Deputy Attorney General believes in the "if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with bullshit" approach. He's obviously playing follow the leader at this point.

  4. captain_solo

    I guess we can wait a few more weeks before pasting this fig leaf back on.

    No one seems to care and the junk has been waving in the breeze for a while now. They don't even try to argue it being constitutional anymore, just "we need it for safety" and think that will get it by.

    Given the careless handling and how misuse of this capability to go after political rivals has been actually done, forget hypotheticals, it is a serious breach of the public trust that long term cannot be ignored.

    Was it foolish to think that getting all this stuff out in the open would lead to it being dealt with and curtailed? There are very few lawmakers who care about this, and that should scare we the people.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    So this BS has to go on for another 4 months for this to expire?

    Unless someone challenges this BS.

  6. JohnFen Silver badge

    Changes nothing

    The program was fully operational before it was made legal, and it will remain fully operational even if it is no longer legal. The law is meaningless.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Changes nothing

      No, they are fully obeying the law - but you don't have clearance to know anything about it. The law is classified so I can't show it to you.

  7. sloshnmosh
    Thumb Up

    I'm so sick...

    ..of all this personal data collection!

    We have a right to privacy and not have all our personal details vacuumed up and stored on some database somewhere.

    Hold that thought, I'll be back in a minute to discuss this more...

    (I just saw something cool that I need to upload to my Facebook page)

    1. Florida1920 Silver badge

      Re: I'm so sick...

      (I just saw something cool that I need to upload to my Facebook page)
      What you upload to Facebook is protected by the First Amendment. What you choose to not make public is protected by the Fourth Amendment. At least that's how it's supposed to work.

      1. 2Nick3

        Re: I'm so sick...

        I think the point, or at least what I got from it, was that people cry out about their privacy then proceed to publicly post an incredible amount of personal data about themselves.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: I'm so sick...

          "people cry out about their privacy then proceed to publicly post an incredible amount of personal data"

          welcome to "teh intarwebs".

          Here's something fun: ~10 years ago I worked for a company that did business with a company in Russia. People from Russia would come visit the U.S.. I shared an office with 2 Russian engineers for a month or so. It was kinda fun trying to figure out what they were saying, as we were all working on the same project.

          What was funny is that they preferred using the ENGLISH version of Linux (and various software), as the Russian translations were ambiguous and often just wrong [the language is part of the reasons for that, I was told]. But they had Russian-made computers, which was interesting. I wouldn't mind buying one of those, if you could. Russia should export laptop computers, compete with China. and they'd probably be pre-loaded with Kaspersky software, etc. (or maybe come pre-loaded with LINUX ???)

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: I'm so sick...

          But surely the difference between voluntarily disclosing personal information and being spied on is clear and important to everybody. Right? Right?

          In other words, the fact that lots of people disclose personal information intentionally in public forums has exactly no bearing on whether or not it's OK to spy on people.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: I'm so sick...

            "In other words, the fact that lots of people disclose personal information intentionally in public forums has exactly no bearing on whether or not it's OK to spy on people"

            What about when the information posted was someone else's personal information?

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: I'm so sick...

              "What about when the information posted was someone else's personal information?"

              That's a terrible thing, but also not spying. Spying is specifically about the collection of information, not the dissemination of information.

  8. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Unhappy

    the so-called "partisan bickering"

    the so-called "partisan bickering" is REALLY about corruption within the department, and an exposure of how they (the FBI) used a FAKE DOSSIER (which is KNOWN to have been bought and paid for by the Democrat National Committee) as "evidence" to justify a FISA warrant to THEN "collect data" (aka SPY upon) the Trump campaign headquarters regarding "Rusian Meddling" in the 2016 election.

    But "the dossier" is KNOWN to have been a FAKE. But it was TREATED as if it were REAL, by PARTISAN members of the FBI and justice department, to "get Trump" in the subsequent Muller investigation into alleged Russian election meddling based on a FAKE "Russian dossier", by a renegade small number of Demo-Rat partisan "hacks" within the D.O.J. that are hell-bent on undermining the Trump presidency. And the Muller investigation has turned into a 'witch hunt' that's designed to simply "get Trump" on whatever they can possibly find (like some kind of rectal exam looking for poo).

    And THAT level of corruption, and the senior people involved, is a BIGGER scandal than Watergate EVER was!

    So yeah, ABUSE of FISA is a BIG deal when it comes to the gummint spying on citizens. We can't avoid THAT part of what's going on.

    And if the FBI and CIA want to spy on U.S. citizens WITHOUT the FISA warrant, that's even WORSE.

    But as for the data collection I agree: it needs to STOP. Any evidence collected on U.S. citizens without a warrant violates the Constitution and would without a doubt result in acquittals and overturned convictions in the appeals courts if a proper warrant is NOT obtained for any evidence that is used to convict a U.S. citizen of a crime. And "unmasking" of U.S. citizens via the FBI, CIA, NSA, or any other '3 letter agency" is EQUALLY un-Constitutional and in violation of the law, and several g-men HAVE illegally unmasked people, including members of Trump's campaign, in 2016. And that, too, needs an investigation.

    There's a stinky swamp at the U.S. Justice department, and it needs to be DRAINED. But don't think that the poignant questions from the Republican side of the isle are in any ways "partisan", except to uncover that DEMO-RAT partisanship has been driving the (now blatantly obvious) anti-Trump "resistance force" within the DOJ, and THAT is a serious violation of the law, and needs to be STOPPED immediately.

    1. jimdandy
      Windows

      Re: the so-called "partisan bickering"

      Hey BB - you are absolutely right on one thing: the FISA process is only about collecting data on American Citizens regardless of any legal warrants that should be necessary.

      But if you really believe that this is political, then you do not know much about law enforcement in any other state than your own. Cops (of whatever flavor) just want to know how far they can go, and how much extra work it will take. Too much work? - put that on the back burner. Free license from the Feds? Go for it! Every district needs more funding!

      Especially if they can do that nifty trick where they suck up all the possible property, vehicles, bank accounts, etc under RICO. OF course, if nothing goes forward they'll give that all back, right? Wrong. They keep it, and it helps fund other fine law enforcement services.

      You're not just talking about a lefty-leaning government are you Bob? Because if you thought your buddy Obama and his good friend Eric H, had a hard-on for us God-fearing Americans and our guns just wait until the next version shows up. We might just be invited to become our very own local Militia (under Federal Guidelines, of course) and we can learn to do double duty at sporting events, City Council meetings, and other subversive and risky situations.

      I really don't think that anybody with more than a dozen functioning brain cells and a small smattering of American history knowledge would jump at that opportunity.

      Or so I hope.

    2. unwarranted triumphalism

      Re: the so-called "partisan bickering"

      It's like you're posting from a mirror universe. Is your agonizer working correctly, crewman?

    3. Comments are attributed to your handle
      FAIL

      Re: the so-called "partisan bickering"

      "...which is KNOWN to have been bought and paid for by the Democrat National Committee..."

      You do realize that it was originally funded by The Washington Free Beacon, although yes the DNC did pick up the tab after WFB lost interest.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: the so-called "partisan bickering"

        "the DNC did pick up the tab after WFB lost interest."

        interesting detail. I was unaware of that part. Also worthy of mention, the involvement by the Clinton campaign [which I did not mention earlier]. It was supposed to be part of an 'October Surprise' type of dirt on Trump, after all, along with the allegations of sexual stuff, etc. [business as usual in the world of filthy politics].

        I mean - seriously - hiring Russian hookers in a Russian hotel to PEE ON A BED that Obaka had slept in?

        Although it WOULD be funny, in a way...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My take on spying

    IMO All evidences from spying should be illegal. End of story. They shouldn't be allow in the court. If they are presented, the case should be dismissed. No spying warranties should be allowed. Even soft evidence should be at lower priority especially in the age of fake information.

    But I won't ban spying, sole because it is not practical at this time. There's just too many ways for information to leak around including those people who directly gave their piracy to big brothers (looking at you Google, FB).

    Nonetheless, this could potentially force those law enforcement to put in hard work to get physical evidence instead of cheap trick metadata, which makes it fairer to the people and especially to the innocent.

    Example one, Guy P is watch child porn and NSA porn website caught it. They can't arrest him with it. However, they could use him to trace back to the child porn maker Guy K and the victims. If they interview with the victims (physical evidence), they can get a warranty and arrest Guy K.

    Example two, Guy C is selling illegal stuff online and NSA porn website caught it (don't ask). They can't arrest him with it. However, they could trace the time Guy C will drop or trade the physical stuff and get drops of evidence at the location. If they get the evidence, they can arrest Guy C.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: My take on spying

      "All evidences from spying should be illegal"

      True. And it should NOT justify a search warrant. [it COULD, however, be 'probable cause' for police action, particularly in the prevention of a crime - a fine line to walk, yeah, but could be justifiable].

      The problem with post-9/11 thinking is the PARANOIA and the willing accomplices in gummint, because too many people are willing to give up their rights and freedom for even a SLIVER of a sense of security.

      I miss just walking into an airport, buying a ticket, getting on the first plane that 'goes there', and going someplace just because I wanted to [without the lines and taking off my belt and almost losing my pants EVERY! TIME! because I have no ass, and the shoe removal, etc.] I've done that sort of thing a few times, in the past. Not any more.

      But yeah. If you are convicted because of spying, or warrants granted because of spying, you should get off on appeal. If the spying led to additional police investigations (not the actual search warrants) that were INITIATED because of the spying, I'm willing to allow it.

      On talk radio today the concept of 'unmasking' was brought back up again, and the idea that the FBI and other 3 letter agencies COULD (using their potential 'twisted interpretations' of the law) justify spying on U.S. citizens if they were in any way connected [even barely] to a foreign national. So let's say you do business with someone that has overseas connections, or talk on the phone to someone who occasionally talks on the phone to a foreign national (let's say). A 3 letter agency COULD try and justify spying on YOUR calls because of that 'once removed' foreign national, first spying on your friend and, consequently, YOU. If U.S. citizens are DELIBERATELY targeted in this manner, it's CLEARLY an abuse of the law that was intended to allow 'spying' on foreign nationals (for national security reasons, and that's SUPPOSED to be it).

      And THAT kind of ABUSE must STOP. But I don't want to stop all spying. Sometimes you just need to do it. The U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect citizens from "blanket searches" and "fishing expeditions" by requiring certain legal procedures (like search warrants), but when the laws get twisted by law enforcement to allow ABUSE, we become a "banana republic" or a fascist regime.

  10. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    But shirley...

    If it's okay for USians to intercept the communications of non-USians without a warrant (or even with one, as US courts and Govt have no jurisdiction outside the US, contrary to popular US Govt belief), then it's equally okay for non-USians to intercept the communications of USians. So presumably anyone hacking US computers (without actually changing things) is acting perfectly legally under non-US law. So no extradition for hacking?

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: But shirley...

      The fundamental point here is that if the Feds need a warrant to examine the communications of a US citizen, then they will also need exactly the same warrant to examine the communications of an Iranian or Russian or Saudi or whatever other citizen in the same place and time.

      It's called "equal protection of the laws", and it's guaranteed by the same constitution as the 4th amendment that everyone likes to bang on about.

      You need to decide, are you going to allow this thing or not? One thing you can't do, however, is allow it "only against foreigners".

  11. DCFusor Silver badge
    FAIL

    Wrong bias

    Hey, we yanks are in the midst of a 3 way civil war here, you don't understand.

    The so-called "IC" didn't get their way in the elections, and as a result the blow back is revealing serious corruption, and a distinct bias in matters that amount to sedition and treason. This all being masked by yes, partisanship, as though one side being "wrong" made the other "right". Both sides thing wrongly that they can overcome the corrupt bureaucracy, which is being seditious at the very least.

    While it's just about universally agreed that our current president is a buffon at best, it would pay to look past that long enough to note that serious crimes - THAT WERE ADMITTED TO - like rigging the primaries, pay for play, and malfeasance in office prior - are being ignored by the lap-dog media, while witch hunts by obviously biased and untruthful are going on - the partisans - both sides, are more interested in winning than in truth, as both are dirty as can be, right along with the 3rd side, the entrenched bureaucracy. That 3rd side, yeah, needs to be reigned in, fer sure. Is it going to happen? To a group who spy and have all the dirt - real or imaginary - on the very people in charge of oversight, who are in turn the only ones who really care about dirt about them being revealed? If you're holding your breath on that one, I won't even ask what color the sky is on your planet, I'd be more interested in how many suns are in your sky, cause you ain't from around here at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong bias

      "That 3rd side, yeah, needs to be reigned in, fer sure. Is it going to happen? To a group who spy and have all the dirt - real or imaginary - on the very people in charge of oversight, who are in turn the only ones who really care about dirt about them being revealed? "

      -=-=-=-

      Yep... dirt, like IRS forms the current Prez occupant submitted years ago. He wants to prevent it from disclosure, so he hasn't removed the IRS Commissioner, or prosecuted any IRS person. Best to keep them in place and his dirt private.

      Sen Wyden D-OR/Manhattan, had grilled Clapper relentlessly, got him to perjure (ahh, mis-speak) himself on all this data collection illegalities, back in the Obama years. Nothing happened then... "reigned in, fer sure" not gonna happen.

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