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Wyden: How We Forced The NSA To Curtail Email Spying Programs

Memo Pad Newsmaker Memo Politics

Wyden: How We Forced The NSA To Curtail Email Spying Programs


In recent months, Senator Ron Wyden has emerged again as one of the most trenchant and persistent critics of the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency and the secrecy policies of the Obama administration. He voted for the original PATRIOT Act but now, along with Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), is seeking to amend it. On Wednesday, editor-in-chief Joe Conason spoke with the Oregon Democrat about secrecy, intelligence, the Snowden case, and how to curb abuses without compromising national security.

Joe Conason: I’d like to begin by asking where would you as a responsible legislator — and somebody who has a broad overview of this problem — draw the constitutional line on surveillance of American citizens?

Senator Ron Wyden: This is a hugely important question…So much of what passes for so-called debate is, “So Ron, where would you draw the line between protecting security and protecting privacy?” And I feel very strongly that to frame the discussion that way is to have a discussion about false choices where, in effect, Americans are asked, “So, do you want to either be safe, or do you want to be free?” The truth is, responsible public policy makes it possible to protect both. What you’ve got to do is make it a priority, and I don’t think our government has done a particularly good job of doing that over the past decade. Fortunately what has happened, particularly in the last eight weeks or so, is the landscape has started to shift significantly. I see that on the basis of such developments as the latest Quinnipiac poll, which shows a dramatic shift in terms of people’s concern about their liberties being encroached upon. I hear it at town hall meetings. I hear it at senior citizen centers, and I can tell you, Joe, eight weeks ago people didn’t come up to me at the barbershop and ask me about the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] law.

Conason: When George W. Bush was president, I wrote a book saying basically what you’re saying now, that we shouldn’t have to make that false choice — that choice is being imposed on us by Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney. Now we have President Obama, a constitutional scholar whom everybody believed saw things more that way, yet nothing has changed, and it seems that the government is still imposing that choice on us. So how do we achieve security without compromising civil liberties?

Wyden: Let’s take an example. Instead of these false choices and some of the policies they produce — like this idea of bulk collection of the phone records of millions of law-abiding Americans — I think there ought to be PATRIOT Act reforms along the lines of what Senator [Mark] Udall [D-CO] and I have proposed…If you have reasonable suspicion that someone is a terrorist, you can get their phone records and the phone records of those associated with them, so there’s a connection to terror. And if you have reasonable suspicion to believe that such an individual is connected to terror, you can go to the FISA court and get the ability to obtain their records. That’s an example of the way in which you ensure both liberty and security, and you address the question that you’re talking about as opposed to the status quo which, I think, is really infringing on the rights of every man and woman in the country.

Conason: Do you agree, though, that the government needs to maintain some secrets, some classified information?  I know everybody agrees classification is overly broad, sometimes ridiculous now, but the government has to keep some things secret. No?

Wyden: Your question is also right at the heart of the debate. The key distinction here is to understand there is a difference between secret operations and secret law. Secret operations, which are essentially involving the sources and methods that are used by those in the intelligence community that are on the front lines trying to keep our people safe — it’s critically important that they not be divulged, that people understand that that’s off limits. Because those secret operations rely, in fact, on making sure that those who do not wish us well aren’t aware of those operations. But secret operations and secret law are very different things, and what has been at the heart of what Senator Udall and I have been saying. Secret law is wrong. Our laws are supposed to be public.

But the reality is, as I tell Oregonians all the time, today in America there are essentially two PATRIOT Acts. There’s the one that you can read on your laptop — the public one — and then there is another secret interpretation of the law, and the secret interpretation is remarkably different from the public interpretation, and suffice it to say when people until recently read the statute, the PATRIOT Act statute, and particularly section 215, there was nothing in there that resembled the ability of the government to go out and collect millions and millions of phone records on law-abiding persons. That’s because there is a gap between essentially what the public thinks the law is and what the secret law is.

So on the question of secrecy, you bet. To ensure that the courageous men and women who work in the intelligence field can take steps to protect our country at a dangerous time, their operations need to be kept secret, but there is a very significant difference between secret operations and secret law.

And let me give you an example. The FISA law, the original law really came out of the ’70s, the height of the Cold War, and so obviously we’re trying to deal with the Soviets’ tremendous drumbeat of concern about it, and I guess somebody could have said at that time, “Well, let’s just keep the FISA law secret back when we’re writing this thing, because that way the Soviets wouldn’t have any idea what we were up to in terms of, again, the law with respect to surveillance.” But there at the height of the Cold War, nobody seems to have thought for a second about the idea of keeping the entire law secret, because that’s not the way we do it in our country.

Conason: So if the government needs to maintain some secrets, including not just operations but also some diplomatic communications and so forth, what should happen to somebody like Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning, who are government employees or contractors who revealed this kind of information? Should they be prosecuted?

Wyden: Well, let me talk to you about Mr. Snowden first, and then I want to get into the question of the contractors, because they’re two separate kinds of issues. I have a very strong policy that when somebody has been charged criminally — and Mr. Snowden has been charged with espionage, of course — I don’t comment on that, because that is a criminal investigation. From a policy standpoint, it is in my view representative of the problem that this debate was started by Mr. Snowden as opposed to the Congress and the elected officials of this country.

As you know, there has been an explosion in the growth of the contractors. It’s hard to even get the numbers of how many contractors there are, and the reliance of the intelligence community on contractors is an area that clearly needs to be investigated and examined carefully. I reached the judgment that there are certainly jobs where you can argue it’s appropriate to use a contractor, but I don’t think contractors should ever, ever be performing inherently governmental functions. For example, I was an early opponent of the CIA’s use of contractors to conduct interrogations of prisoners, and my view is when the Intelligence Committee’s interrogation report eventually gets declassified, I think Americans are going to see that it was a mistake to use contractors for those interrogations.


  1. Dominick Vila July 25, 2013

    Rep. Wyden is correct in pointing out that the debate should not be limited to two choices: protecting our national security or protecting our right to privacy. Both can coexist if honest efforts are made to ensure a less intrusive but determined government. Unfortunately, our debates are often held based on extremes rather than what is best for us as a country and as a society. I support the Patriot Act, and the need for domestic and international surveillance because I am convinced that the threat of terrorism is real, and that our government has the obligation to ensure our national security is not compromised. That doesn’t mean, we should abandon all our rights and allow anyone, our government or special interests, to take advantage of the chaos that has prevailed throughout the world since at least 9/11/01 to achieve their narrow goals.
    Regarding Mr. Snowden, I have to admit that I have no sympathy whatsoever for him. A man who violates the confidence extended to him when he got a high security clearance and was allowed access to information and resources critical to our national security, and who instead of adhering to establishes policies downloads classified information on four laptops, flees the country, and shares some of our most sensitive capabilities with countries that don’t hold is in high regard is a traitor. Period.

    1. Austin July 25, 2013

      How interesting, then you have no problem with the government prying into every thing in your life and everyone else’s life. There are no secrets except the ones that the government says they need to hide from you cause you dont know better. he was reporting on OUR government SPYING on US, its own citizens, not for any laws WE have broken, but just because it can. I am of the Mind that our Government is turning into our OVERLORDS, but that is just my opinion, please keep your head in the sand, you look natural that way

      1. Dominick Vila July 25, 2013

        At the risk of being called naïve, or invited to keep my head in the sand, I honestly believe that neither the NSA nor any other U.S. intelligence agency is interested in our e-mails, phone conversations, or even our viopinions. Their focus and charter is limited to identifying potential threats to our national security, and considering what has happened in the not too distant past, I support them wholeheartedly.
        As for Mr. Snowden, the information he downloaded on his laptops go well beyond trivial matters. It includes highly classified information that, if released to the public and, especially, to our foes, will compromise our security and enable competitors and/or enemies of the United States to improve their ability to compete against us more effectively, gain access to American government and corporate systems, and compromise our security. This imbecile is anything but a hero. He is a traitor and should be treated accordingly.

        1. WhutHeSaid July 26, 2013

          So let me ask you this question: Consider the people listed below:

          1. Michele Bachman.
          2. Allen West.
          3. Richard Cheney.
          4. Edward Snowden.

          Would you trust each and every one of these people with you and your family’s most private information, completely satisfied that it would never ever be mishandled in any way?

          If you cannot answer yes, then you have revealed that you don’t believe your own argument. Each and every person in this list was or is in a position to abuse the private information of American citizens. Why should we throw up our hands and say we believe our government will always do the right thing and wouldn’t be interested in putting said information to I’ll use when we know that we will always have people llike these in the ranks?

          We need laws and safeguards – not fawning adoration masquerading as patriotism.

          1. Dominick Vila July 26, 2013

            There is no evidence whatsoever than any of the people above, or other politicians, have been reviewing our private information. Due to lack of technological capabilities the NSA has no choice but to monitor the origin and destination of all phone calls, their duration, and e-mails with certain words in them that require closer scrutiny. The goal is to prevent more terrorist attacks and threats against our interests and national security, not to steal my wife’s secret chocolate chip cookies recipe.

          2. WhutHeSaid July 26, 2013

            Stop using silly examples to answer serious questions. Since I’m not interested in your wife’s cookie recipe either, you should feel save posting your bank account number and SSN here in this forum. If not, tell us all why not.

          3. Dominick Vila July 26, 2013

            Neither our elected officials nor the NSA officers that conduct surveillance, gather, and investigate certain types of information are interested in our bank accounts or SSN. Their charter and focus is to catch people that represent a threat to our country, regardless of whether they live in the USA or overseas.

            I understand the importance of protecting our rights and freedoms, and I have no problem with those who feel those rights are being undermined and compromised, but what can be important to preserve them than to ensure they are not threatened by people determined to cause as much harm to us as possible?

          4. WhutHeSaid July 26, 2013

            Since you appear to believe that you know what people who have access to our personal information are interested in, perhaps you should have warned us all about Edward Snowden.

            I’ll tell you what I think: I think that you have absolutely no idea whatsoever what people who gain access to this information want or may want in the future, say, if they find themselves in a financial bind or some similar circumstance. You didn’t even know who Edward Snowden was before he went public, so as far as you were concerned he was just another government ‘angel’ among the vast gaggle of ‘angels’ (a/k/a real people with real people flaws) with access to private information.

            I noticed that you sidestepped two questions more than once:

            1. Why won’t you post your SSN and bank account number here in this forum when you have no evidence that anyone will be interested in this information?

            2. Do you trust Dick Cheney, Michele Bachman, Allen West, and Edward Snowden — all people who have or had access to private information of vast numbers of Americans — to handle that information correctly and ethically?

            You are doing an admirable job of defeating your own argument. It’s especially telling when you avoid the tough questions that go right to the heart of your argument.

          5. greghilbert July 27, 2013

            WhutHeSaid, I admire your tenacity, but preachers of blind support of Obama are preachers of blind support of Obama. I am willing to guarantee that in the unlikely event a Repub gains the White House in 2016 and does exactly what Obama does now with respect to the domestic police state and perpetual war against terror, the same preacher of blind support of Obama will be here screaming bloody murder about it. More so if it were a fiend like Nixon using the police state of 2016 like Nixon used IRS and FBI in 1972 to silence and punish his Dem enemies. More so if it were a Bush-Cheney-Nixon hybrid using a “national security emergency” pretext to declare martial law under Homeland Security, which Neo-Con Repubs and Obama assert a POSUS is authorized to do.

          6. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

            That’s the reason I ask the question about Cheney, Bachman, West, and Snowden. If you’ve noticed, that question always goes conveniently unanswered or is indirectly answered with some vague spiel about ‘there is no evidence that these people reviewed our information’. The hard one for them to answer is, of course, the one about Snowden himself. They bitterly castigate him as the most horrible person alive — a traitor — yet this same person was one of those government employees with access to all of this private data who would never, ever (according to them) think of doing anything wrong with it.

          7. Independent1 July 27, 2013

            WhutHeSaid: what you’re missing in all your narrative is COMMON SENSE. You’re missing the fact that there are 2.4 billion, that’s billion like in lots of millions, of phone calls made in America each day. And you’re missing the fact that there are 294 billion emails sent back and forth each day within just the U.S. And you’re missing that the charge of NSA is to FIND A NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK. NSA’s charge is to locate a hundred or maybe far less phone calls and emails each day that may present a threat to America’s security. Now if you believe that NSA can do that by simply panning thru 2.4 billion phone calls and 294 billion emails each day – you’re far too delusional to even be posting on this blog thread. NSA CANNOT be willy nilly listening to 2.4 billion phone calls and jotting down just any piece of information they hear – and had they been doing this over the past 6 plus years, and have used any of the information they’ve gathered, are you also clueless enough to believe that we wouldn’t have heard about that already with the 24/7 sensationalist media lurking around.
            It’s people like yourself, who are totally paranoid and delusional who are one of the biggest threats to America’s security.

          8. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

            No, it’s government groupies like you, who are barely intelligent enough to send the government your panties in an effort to express your fawning admiration who are the dangerous nitwits.

            Listen, you dolt: The Internet contains FAR more voluminous data than contained in all of America’s phone calls, yet people still manage to hack into what they want — including the NSA. Does this jar your lonely brain cell into realizing what a stupid point you are making?

          9. greghilbert July 27, 2013

            Yes, I get that. “They” will not concede the vulnerability of the system that Snowden proved, nor the inevitability it will be used for ill purpose, which their own castigation of Snowden also proves. Out there, a majority of citizens comprised of Dems, Repubs and independents of every stripe get it. They believe NSA domestic surveillance has gone too far and want it reigned in. Obama provably doesn’t, and neither do neo-con Repubs. In here, on this post and thread, the audience is small because many Obama-Dem supporters are embarrassed by Obama’s position and so avoid the subject. Most commenting on this thread are people convinced Obama can do no wrong. On almost every post, Dominic is the first to comment and he champions support of Obama. Nothing you can say will dislodge him from espousing what translates to blind loyalty to Obama.
            He will find a way to justify and rationalize it, for fear of undermining Obama and his own position as Obama’s leading champion on NM. Blind allegiance is a sad and tragic thing. I can only say I’m glad there are citizens like you who refuse to give it to anyone, including those you may generally support or agree with. I wish more had refused to give it to Bush and Cheney.

          10. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 28, 2013

            For some reason, I tend to get the feeling that your concern about the government may be more personal than one would think. There is no such thing as an organization that won’t have one or more individual that won’t be trustworthy, however that is usually the exception rather than the rule. We can’t paint the government with the same broad brush as we used to identify Mr. Snowden. As I said before, we are justified to question our governmental officials, however that should be done with those that are elected more than those that want to serve as a public employee. I joined the military, not because I wanted to be a hero, (and trust me, I was not), but because I wanted to serve my country in a positive way. Most of those that take that oath of office is there simply for that reason. Now, was there some traitors in the military? Yes history support’s that assumption, but do we dismiss the good of the many because of the faults of the few? I think not!

            I allow my bank to collect my Social Security Number and even the PIN number to access my money, do we believe that everyone that works in the bank is trustworthy? We love to use straw-men when we ask some of these questions, questions that can not be answered with any degree of surety.

            I worked for the US General Services Administration for ten years and I saw myself as a steward of the Tax Payers dollars, but I worked alongside others that saw our budget as an ATM Machine for personal gains. Working through my managers, I was able to identify some of those individuals and had them removed from positions of responsibility.

            Mr. Reagan said; “trust but verify” and I totally believe in that view and when we find a problem we need to restrict their access or eliminate them from the system. There are no simple answers and I would be foolish to try a present one, but more than someone listening in on my sexual exploits or in my case, lack thereof, I am more concerned about public safety on all levels of government and anyone that does not think what Mr. Snowden did exposed to our enemies a process that they can now establish countermeasures to circumvent is simply being naive. Reporting what he found is not the issue, the fact that he did it in a country that can be seen as one of our enemies is the issue.

            In response to the four names you listed; just think that stupid is as stupid does. I don’t disagree with your view fully, I just think that if we don’t trust the process to correct these issues, we are already loosing the war that would keep our nation safe. Oh and I don’t know of any FEMA Prison Camps, how can that be kept secret and how we listen in on American’s can’t? I think we tend to believe what we want to believe and dismiss what we don’t. So forgive me if I just dismiss this FEMA Prison thing.

          11. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            I don’t defend what Snowden did and I never said he was a hero for doing it. I believe he should be brought to trial and his guilt or innocence decided by a jury as our laws proscribe. Nevertheless, the information that he made public caused quite a stir among friendly governments and American citizens alike.

            I have never advocated anything other than exercising great care and enacting safeguards to prevent abuse of Americans’ private information. What I vehemently disagree with are the people who show scorn and contempt for the Bill of Rights — particularly the 4th Amendment. In my view these people normally fall into one of three groups:

            1. People who have never had a bad experience with government overreach, possibly BECAUSE they have enjoyed the very protections for which they show contempt.
            2. People who blindly support everything that President Obama does, and somehow see concern for the 4th Amendment as an attack on Obama.
            3. Current or former government employees who arrogantly think they know better than the ‘little people’.

            I support almost everything that Obama does, but not blindly. When he does something I don’t agree with I will frankly say so. But I don’t consider this an issue with Obama, rather, I consider it an issue with our intelligence services and the related congressional oversight of those agencies. As the chief executive branch official ultimately responsible for national defense, I fully expect Obama or any other President to use the tools they have at their disposal and even push the envelope at times. It’s supposed to be Congress that reigns them in when they go too far.

            I agree that a democracy can have secrets but that democratic laws should never be secret. If we start making laws in secret then we are no longer even pretending to be a democracy.

            Even though I mostly support what Obama does, I personally see those who blindly support Obama without even thinking about the actual issues as every bit as bad as the belligerent Tea Bigots who oppose everything Obama does without even considering the issues.

            Your assertion that there will always be stinkers in the government ranks is exactly my point. Because this is so we should always be vigilant about how much power we give to our government — especially when it comes to secret activities. It’s a difficult balance, but it can be done if we aren’t lazy about it.

            Finally, my right to express my opinion is one that I thoroughly enjoy. This too is a part of the US Bill of Rights. I don’t take it lightly when other people would attempt to encroach upon my rights without a good reason. In this case I am perfectly willing to listen to logical reasoning and different opinions, but contempt for my view is not something that I will tolerate without a response. I don’t suffer fools gladly, and my response will be colorful in direct proportion to the foolishness and contempt directed at my views.

          12. greghilbert July 30, 2013

            “…we are justified to question our governmental officials, however that should be done with those that are elected…”

            A number of those that are elected are telling us that what they DO know and CAN reveal is that officials are lying to them and the public, that they cannot penetrate the secrecy walls to get at the complete facts, not even the secret interpretation of public law under which NSA CLAIMS it operates. Further, those same elected and all other elected are reminding us that if they reveal ANY secret part of what they do know, they — like every citizen or recipient of an secret-court order to turn over to NSA information on any or all citizens or the means to collect it — are subject to life imprisonment for treason.

            I want the Fourth Amendment enforced.

          13. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 30, 2013

            For the life of me, I can’t connect what you are talking about on this response with my response to you. Sorry, but if I recall you were talking about racial issues, now you are off on the forth amendment, stay focused and we can talk, but I don’t plat the game of duck and dodge to keep something going just to satisfy your anti government rant. I also have issues with the government, however until we follow the present day law, we can’t ever hope to enforce laws that for most politicians have no real meaning. That should be clear by they way they respond to letters written to them.

          14. greghilbert July 30, 2013

            I am sorry you cannot “connect” my response to what you said even though I began by quoting what you said and focused my response on it. Nowhere on this page have I talked about racial issues. My issues are not with government but with people elected and appointed to run it. I perceive you to be a “civil” and reasonable person. We see things differently and no doubt disagree about most things relating to the Patriot Act and secret NSA domestic surveillance. Let’s just leave it at that, as I like you believe there are better uses of my time.

          15. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 30, 2013

            Back in the last administration, I spoke clearly about how I felt about the Patriot act. I knew then that it would allow the Government a chance to look into our private lives and I posted a comment back then that I thought it was opening a Pandora’s box. Of course most of the people here did not see that posting because I was not a member of this forum. I spent more than 30 years working for the government in some capacity and more than twenty five of those years I maintained a clearance sightly above what most know as Top Secret. Therefore I understand how our classified information is to be protected. My feel on Mr. Snowden is that he should have processed the information through the authorities that are in place to check on these things. You see, I did serve in the military and I know what the impact of telling our secrets to the enemy can have on the lives of our troops. Of course I care about our privacy, but the safety of our fighting personnel is what is most important to me. That is why I think we still need a draft because it will cause everyone to serve in some capacity. Maybe then we will think twice about starting wars or getting involved in them in the first place.

            All of that aside; I find that we try to use the term whistle blower when someone acts to disclose governmental activities and when it does not deal with national security activities, I fully concur. But when someone steals information that took four computers to capture and then turn it over to the public, not On American soil but of all places in China and then run to Russia, that person can only be seen as a traitor in my eyes. Were he and I in combat and he did that, I would have taken the chance of a trial and would have simply killed him. If he is so sure that what he did was the right thing, then he should have stayed in American at the very least and dealt with the courts. Our sons and daughters put on the uniforms of this nation to defend it from all enemies, not just those with whom we don’t like. Some of them live right here in this country, plotting in the mountains and woods against this country. I say if you want to fight a war, we already have enough to fight without plotting against our own people, and while I don’t want them to know when or if I am cheating on my wife, I have very little fear of them exposing what I might say. I still don’t like the law, never did and never will, but after watching the people of this nation access blame whenever something goes wrong anywhere in this country, I do have to ask should our government do to keep us safe? We can’t have it both ways, a strong defense and an expectation of total privacy. We are quick to provoke the constitution when we feel that our rights have been challenged yet we are quick to ask our leaders how did they miss the signs of an incident.

            Finally, I have no problem with Mr. Snowden finding something that he thought was wrong and reporting it, but the oath he took was very clear and he took it freely. And maybe our elected officials can’t be trusted either, but without rules we have a problem, and that problem in this case was a rouge agent that I believe had no interest in stopping something he thought was a problem, but someone who stole their way into our most secretive agency with the intent of embarrassing, first this administration and secondly this nation itself. For the first, I can forgive him due to his politics but for the second, he can’t be forgiven because he exposed all of his fellow citizens just make a point that could have been processed through the channels that already exists. We will be years recovering from this and I fear that we all will live to suffer some negative impact because of it.

            As for the message I sent you, I am sorry but the attached message was one concerning something I had responded concerning race and I was at a loss connecting how they were related. For that I am sorry I reacted without researching.

          16. greghilbert July 30, 2013

            I take your sincerity and honorability and former level of security clearance at face value. I don’t want it both ways. Govt cannot keep us safe from 100% of all threats, not even such as it itself imported that killed innocents at the Boston Marathon. I accept that. I want Pandora’s box slammed closed to secret domestic surveillance by the Fourth Amendment.

          17. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

            That’s the reason I ask the question about Cheney, Bachman, West, and Snowden. If you’ve noticed, that question always goes conveniently unanswered or is indirectly answered with some vague spiel about ‘there is no evidence that these people reviewed our information’. The hard one for them to answer is, of course, the one about Snowden himself. They bitterly castigate him as the most horrible person alive — a traitor — yet this same person was one of those government employees with access to all of this private data who would never, ever (according to them) think of doing anything wrong with it.

          18. Dominick Vila July 27, 2013

            Here is my answer to your two questions:

            1. Because nobody in forums like this have been vetted and/or being monitored to minimize the probability of wrongdoing. The background and actions of people with high security clearances are investigated and verified before they are given the applicable security clearances. Mine was and so were the background of those that worked for me. I never worked at any of our intelligence agencies, but I did have access and worked in areas where the surnames of people were never revealed, where we were not allowed to take notes, and where we could not enter or leave without the necessary security clearance. Needless to say, sometimes things don’t go the way they are designed to go, the Snowden incident is a case in point, but that does not mean the overwhelming majority of people working with classified information are not their job and are not committed to our national security and our well being. People like you are doing a great disservice to our country when you criticize those who often put their lives on the line to ensure our country, our interests, and our rights are preserved.
            2. I disagree with most of the policies and actions embraced by the politicians you mentioned, but I don’t believe they had access or used private information related to individuals, other than those suspected to be members of terrorist groups.

          19. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

            And I say YOU are the one doing a disservice to our country. This country was founded with certain unique principles in mind — one of them being the very important concept of individual freedom and privacy. It is so important that it is the subject of a whole series of Constitutional amendments known as the ‘Bill of Rights’. Nowhere do these documents say that we are free from unreasonable search and seizure ‘except when trying to prevent terrorist attack or ‘when Dominick Vila becomes fearful or lazy’.

            You finally admitted that Snowden destroys your argument about a government full of angels as opposed to real people with real people flaws. Where there is one there will be more than one. But I want to hear you say that you would trust Michele Bachman, Allan West and Dick Cheney with you and everyone else’s most private data, so just say it. If you think they didn’t have access to some of the private information of individuals then you can tell us why this is so.

          20. Dominick Vila July 27, 2013

            I never said our government or any other institution, in both the public and private sectors, are full of angels. What I said, and I repeat, is that the overwhelming majority of people working in our intelligence agencies are honest, committed, and hard working individuals who dedicate their lives to protect us from harm. By the way, doing everything possible to guarantee our national security is one of the most important obligations for a President and, for that matter, the citizenry. Taking steps to minimize the probability of more 9/11s has little to do with laziness or cowardice, that is our duty. Obviously, those whose logic is influenced and limited to utopian ideals don’t see that way.
            No, I would not trust the politicians you mentioned, and for that matter any politician, with my private information. That is why there are policies in place to prevent that from happening. The reason this is such a hot issue is because people like you are determined to use hyperbole and unfounded assumptions to insinuate that programs designed and used to find terrorists and enemies of the United States are actually being used to spy on innocent Americans and steal information that is in no way related to their stated goals.
            In any case, I have better things to do at the moment (walk m pooch and get ready to work in the yard).

          21. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

            Given the sheer volume of your posts in The National Memo, I’m certain that you have better things to do.

            Truthfully, though, I normally agree with your posts. On this issue I do not. That you don’t trust the Michele Bachmans and Allan Wests of the world either just serves to illuminate the fact that I am not spouting utopian philosophies but instead very real practical concerns.

            I use hyperbole no more than you. Beware of dismissing the opinions of others when those opinions are backed up by logical reasoning and historical fact. That would be the mark of a fool — and I don’t believe you to be a fool.

          22. Dominick Vila July 27, 2013

            If you look at my posts, you will notice that I usually make them in spurts. I write them on line, often without proof reading, and I stop posting for several hours until I have time to resume this form of entertainment.
            I don’t disagree with the jest of you observation, which I interpret as the need to fight to preserve our values and ideals. The difference between my position on this issue and that of most Democrats is that I believe we must be willing to make concessions when the issue at hand involves compromising our national security.

      2. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 25, 2013

        Many of us, justifiably mistrust our government, however I also believe that anyone that thinks this just started is the one’s living with their heads in the sand. Ask yourself just one simple question; who was the first person we blamed when we were attacked on any given event? It was the inability of our government to protect us and of course we blamed those in power at the time. Spying is what government do, and they do it quite well. Opening ourselves up with new technologies only made it easier for them to locate the information. I wish I could find it, but I posted my disagreement with the new act after it was passed by the previous administration, not because I didn’t want them listening in on me, but because it was an intrusion into my life that maybe, just maybe I want to keep private. The FBI has had the ability to monitor us for years and this outrage will do very little to change anything. My problem with Mr. Snowden is he took an oath, the same oath I have taken more than once and he violated it for his own personal reasons and for that he needs to be punished. There were means for him to present this through the proper channels to the Congress where he would have been seen as a whistle blower, now he is just a traitor that has exposed, not information of what we were doing, but how we were doing it. That act alone has exposed our nation to enemies both overseas and locally. Anyone that does not believe that we have people inside our nation, even seen as loyal Americans, that is presently working to overthrow our government. For them it is not about who is in the White House, it is about the fact that it is simply the Government. I would present to everyone, an overthrown government will result in Civil War, a Civil War will result in Marshal Law, Marshal law will result in a Dictatorship, a dictator will seize absolute power, and finally Absolute power will corrupt the powerful absolutely. Just something to think about while we worry about who is really reading our private thoughts. I am more fearful of Mr. Snowden seeing my information than the Government, he has shown he can’t or won’t keep a secret.

        1. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

          One thing that you seem to overlook: Edward Snowden WAS a part of the government, so your claim that you fear him seeing your information more than the government doesn’t really make much sense.

          1. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 28, 2013

            It makes sense that he is an individual that would expose us to danger while working as a trusted agent of our government. I accept that he was working as a contractor for the Government, but he acted as an individual outside of that government. Trust me, I know that the White House can and has accessed my on-line information because I have applied for a position on their staff. I know that information is online that could prevent them from wanting me in a politically visible position and they have very quietly discarded my application without fanfare. So unlike many, I am not naive about the working of the government. I also know that other politicians would have seized on that information to hurt this administration. So for me it’s personal and I accept that as a result of my behavior, not the government.

            I think that overall the government is trustworthy.

          2. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            Yes, Snowden did act outside the authority he was given by the NSA. Yes, it’s true that the NSA does not condone his actions. But that’s exactly my point in all of this: He was a part of the government and was granted access to sensitive information, yet he ended up doing what HE wanted to do. Thus the current safeguards failed in this case.

            I don’t try to pretend that events like this will never happen. I’ve seen first-hand how people behave when they have access to classified information, and unsurprisingly they behave like people will with all of their different flaws and motivations. Does this mean that we shouldn’t trust anyone and give up on intelligence? No, but it does mean that we need to be vigilant.

            I don’t fear the government or believe in these ridiculous government conspiracy theories you hear the nutty Tea Bigots squawking about. But I still see the danger in allowing the government to go too far without the appropriate checks and balances. The danger from rogues is far more likely than any official government policy, but anyone who claims that the government doesn’t make plenty of mistakes in the use of their power is either a liar or a fool.

          3. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 28, 2013

            I have no problems with your way of thinking concerning the government. My issue is that the government is not some machine, it is a collection of individuals, some elected, some appointed and some simply because they turned in a pretty good resume. I was never elected but after I finished a twenty plus years in the Air Force where I was granted a clearance of Cosmic Top Secret Atomal, only one level of the Top Secret family that allows you access to “Need to know” information. I was happy that my country had faith enough in me to grant me their trust. Everyone does not have the outlook that they are going to work for the betterment of their nation; therefore some will come into a position with an agenda that may not be in the best interest of the nation. My response was that I trust my government with my information, (that is the overall institution of the government) but I can’t say that I trust every individual and Mr. Snowden proved that point to be valid.

            I trust the Red light at the intersection, but can I trust every driver to obey that light? I think not, that is why I always approach intersections with caution. I read your initial response and looked at it as an attack on myself as being naive on how Mr. Snowden was an employee of the government and how could I trust the government and not trust him as an employee of that government. First, he was not a government employee but was working as a contractor, people that I have never trusted within our government because they always presented themselves as being superior to the lowly governmental employee. Above that however; he took information and shared it with the world, not really looking at what the impact might be on our national defense. The information the government collected on me has been maintained in secret between them and those with whom I have shared it with. I believe that if someone like Mr. Snowden were to get their hands on the information, they would have no problem with sharing it with the world. That was my intent with my comment, Snowden the individual decided to share the information he had because (in my opinion) he wanted to hurt either the nation or this administration, in any case there was a better way to deal with it. When we deal in classified information, we tend to over classify on the side of caution. Yes a problem in my opinion, but who can look at a puzzle and decide what one piece is the most important? It is not until all of the pieces are in place that we get the picture and then we can start to identify what is important and unimportant. Mr. Snowden had the full picture and told the world. UN-American if you ask me. You mentioned blindly supporting President Obama, during my governmental career, I served every President from LBJ through Clinton without a break and believe me, I had problems with almost all of them, and Mr. Obama is no different. He is a politician and it is my opinion if a politician lips are moving, he is most likely lying, or as they call it “spinning”. But when it comes to my nation, I will fight to the death for it because no matter how I got here and no matter her history, it is my country and after traveling almost around the world, I find it to be the best damn nation on the planet. So, I say “love it or leave it” and now that Mr. Snowden is gone, I say good riddance.

          4. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            I agree with your observation that the government is a collection of individuals and not a machine — that’s been my point all along on this issue. A lot of the responses I get from some posters here accuse me of being paranoid, and criticize my view as being somehow damaging to our national security. I reject this simplistic and arrogant line of argument. It is not paranoid to be cognizant of the fact that the government is full of people with all of the usual people flaws, and to desire strict safeguards on the privacy of American citizens. This reasoning is in line with the US Bill of Rights, and I consider it extremely important for many different reasons.

            With respect to Mr. Snowden, I have to say that I don’t know what his intentions were in all of this, and I think that only a proper trial could answer all of the questions. I don’t think he’s a hero, and I’m pretty sure he committed some serious crimes. I don’t know whether he intentionally set out to damage US national security or if he was mostly a naive individual who became a pawn for more cynical and savvy individuals. I get the impression that he got in way over his head. I simply don’t know enough about the details, and I’m willing to bet that few people do.

            I share your cynicism regarding politicians, and I consider that all the more reason to be careful about erecting safeguards to government overreach. Even if one mostly trusts the current administration to behave ethically, there is no guarantee what the next might do. In addition to that, secret agencies can and do take on a life of their own despite the best intentions. I’m not a stranger to the atmosphere inside government agencies, and I’ve dealt with classified information myself in the past. My personal experiences with classified activities and the people who work on them convinced me more than anything else that stringent safeguards are just as important as vetting individuals. After all, every criminal at one time had a clean record and would pass any background investigation. Financial issues are the most common cause of problems in this area — not ideology — as all of the intelligence agencies themselves will tell you.

            So in summary I’m saying that I do not believe that the NSA is out to get us or even that government employees with access to sensitive information are untrustworthy for the most part. What I am saying is that people and their personal issues are the weakest link when it comes to preventing abuse of any secret be it a state secret or the SSN of an individual American — and the government is chock-full of people. Better to be careful and limit the government’s authority to information that’s demonstrably necessary and erect meaningful safeguards to prevent abuse. I don’t believe that this view is unreasonable or paranoid.

    2. Harold L. Harris, Sr. July 25, 2013

      I was about to write something but took the time to read your posting and I am happy that I did. There was nothing I could of said that you did not include in your comments and I can only add, I concur.

    3. Fern Woodfork July 27, 2013

      You Got That Right My Friend!! 🙂 I Totally Agree With You!!!

      1. greghilbert July 28, 2013

        Yes, Yes, Round Up All These People Who Cry About Being Spy On!! Round Up All The Ones Who Say or Post Things I Don’t Like!!! They All Have Things to Hide, and Tell Everything On Themselves!!! Take Them All and Put Them In Prison!!! But Don’t Take Me Because I Am Glad You Spy on Them and I have Nothing to Hide!!!
        –Recapitulation of a comment in blind allegiance

        1. Fern Woodfork July 28, 2013

          Is Your Hair On Fire Too?? Troll!!! LOL

          1. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Yes, I Voted for Obama in 2008 and He Set My Hair On Fire in 2009 With The First of His Ongoing Betrayals. LOL. I Was Long Ago a Dem Campaign Coordinator and Officeholder. I Never Voted For a Repub and Never Would, So I Don’t Qualify as a Troll (!!!), But I Will Never Again Vote For a Dem Until Dems Rid Themselves of Leaders Like Obama Who Continue Perpetual War, Expand Police State, Coddle Banksters, Champion Free Trade Deals For Corporations, and Push Frack-for-Gas Madness That Sets USA Drinking Water on Fire Igniting More Hair. Blind Allegiance Cheerleader!!! LOL

          2. Fern Woodfork July 28, 2013

            You Voted For Obama Like I Voted For McCain And Palin!! LOL Tea Bagging Troll!! Lying Troll!! LOL

          3. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Liar Liar Your Pants Are On Fire!! LOL Yes I Did Vote For Obama in 2008 And That’s Why My Hair Has Been On Fire Since 2009!! And As a Blind-Allegiance Cheerleader, All You Can Do Is Falsely Paint ANY AND ALL Criticism of Obama as Coming from a Tea-Bag or Repub Troll!! There May Be Some, But I’m Not One of Them!!! LOL You Mean Well But Your Blazing Pants Drive More People Away With Their Hair Set Afire!!! LOL

          4. Fern Woodfork July 28, 2013

            Lying Troll!!

          5. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Blind-Allegiance Cheerleader Who Falsely Accuses Me Of Being a Lying Troll!!

          6. Fern Woodfork July 28, 2013

            Lying Tea Bagging Stalking Troll !! Here’s A Thought Why Don’t You Put Out That Fire On Your Head With Some Gasoline???

          7. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Yes, That’s Good, Let Any Readers Who Begin to Think For Themselves Question Whether They Are The Same Or Different Than A Blind-Allegiance Cheerleader Who Childishly Accuses Anyone Saying Anything Critical of Obama Of Being a Lying Troll!! PS I Will Not Consider Your Brilliant Gasoline Suggestion Until You Say LOL

          8. Fern Woodfork July 28, 2013

            Ignorant Ass Troll!! Go Fuck Yourself!! I Give Less Than A Damn!!! Get It Get A Life TROLL!!

          9. aprescoup July 28, 2013

            Actually, many T’baggers are against the bipartisan corporatist agenda, just as much as radical leftists, of whom Fern apparently has never heard.

            This makes her, indeed, a corporatist RNC shill, especially if we count the votes on every bit of corporate, lobbyist penned, legislation passed out of Congress and signed by Zero.

            Then there are all the Goldman Sachs thieves, the anti-labor Penny Pritzkers, pro Wall Street Mary joe Whites and slumlords like Valerie Jarred ( How Obama and Valerie Jarrett Helped Launch Their Political Careers in an Outrageous ‘Urban Renewal’ Scheme – http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/how-obama-and-valerie-jarrett-helped-launch-their-political-careers-outrageous-urban?paging=off) , to say nothing of the transparently neocon/neoliberal Rahm Emmanuel…

          10. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Aprescoup, it is pleasant surprise to see one who “gets it” venturing into a forum dominated by those of blind allegiance who do not. I rarely venture here, as one cannot make the blind “see”. However, knowing many part company with Obama (et al) over NSA and begin to wonder why his actions are exactly the same as Neo-Con Repubs want, I figured a few who skim the comments might further wonder why the same applies, for example, to Afghanistan war and cutting Social Security COLA, and begin to see how the duopoly operates. And how the blind-allegiance thing operates here on this post and thread of comments. I figure a few of the “awakening” readers will further think for themselves, even if they do not so comment or vote.
            Hence my willingness to reply to Fern, a way of getting others to see blind-allegiance cheerleaders for what they are, however well-intentioned they may be.

          11. aprescoup July 28, 2013


            I totally get it. Fern is a springboard for dispelling misinformation.

            I’m not even sure what the site is all about, just saw your comment in my dashboard and ventured forth.

            I’ve actually graduated myself to Breitbart’s site where, among hoards of unthinking idiots, a not an insubstantial number of them is actually willing and interested to find commonalities between the “extreme” left and themselves, as many are anti establishment corporatism, and cronyism.

            In fact, they, more than the liberals approve of Glenn Greenwald and Snowden, and want to see Clapper hauled off as a traitor. They see Paul Ryan and McCain as treasonous shills, and the RNC as their mortal enemies…it’s fascinating, and nothing like what sites like Alternet are projecting…


          12. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Thank you Aprescoup, I’ll make it a point to check out Breitbart, the reductio ad absurdum here having arrived at enough absurdum to awaken any not dead.

          13. Fern Woodfork July 30, 2013

            And You My Thug Is Just Another Lying Tea Bagging TROLL!! Why Don’t You And Your Butt Buddie greghilbert Go Back To Breitbart Web Site And STAY!!!!

          14. rustacus21 July 29, 2013

            … those pesky little betrayals… Damn them to hell, rite? Well, w/out a clearer perspective & memory, U must know the Prez was ‘betrayed’ by the bluedogs of his party in ’09, making it far harder to get “HIS” agenda going. Top that off w/the Citizens United fiasco & then the betrayal by voters in ’10, w/NOT granting him a Democratic Congress that would have, again, put “candidate” Obama’s policy priorities (halting the WARS, job creation, ending IMMEDIATELY, tax cuts for only the wealthy, criminalizing banking/investment criminality, boosting environmental preservation initiatives, oh & did I mention jobs?) front & center on “President” Obama list of initiatives. W/the money tyrants ordering his every move, it’s clear the Democratic Congress that never was, is the reason for U’r & many other American’s frustration. Otherwise, what’s Harry Reid’s deal? Why are so many other Dems nervously looking over their shoulders, even while they have the power & votes of the citizen majority validating ANY push toward a citizens agenda (vs. the money tyrant/bankster/free trade champion/perpetual war agenda)? The conservative agenda was been in force for 32 of the last 44 years (if including the Obama terms) & is a proven, total failure. It seems people like U would know this & not even attempt to cast disparagement’s on THIS Prez, under THESE circumstances, when U & ALL the rest of US should be anxious & ready to vote in a Liberal/Progressive Congress in next years election – under THESE or any other circumstances…

          15. greghilbert July 29, 2013

            Sure, corrupt and timid Dems in Congress aggravated the problem of decades of right-shifted transfer of wealth to the corporate and military police state elite. But Obama did not take to the bully pulpit in 2009 to rail against it. Indeed it was Wall St money that funded his win of the White House. He publicly complimented the banksters as “savvy businessmen” and said he did not begrudge them their wealth. Neither did he demand exercise of Congressional-majority power. Instead of championing “Medicare for All” he pushed a Repub privatization plan we now call Obamacare that has some positives but delivered us to a for-profit health insurance cartel monopoly. And it confused America and re-energized the right, with the 2010 consequence you cite. Tax policy? Not once has Obama ranted against the huge cut given the wealthy in 1981, nor has he ever reminded the public that TWO THIRDS of that huge cut is still in force. Further, it was Obama who acquiesced to the Repub narrative over debt, appointed SS hawks to a commission, and pushes a COLA cut rather than elimination of the withholding ceiling by which a wealthy with income of $100 million contributes no more than someone earning $113K. Obama. It was Obama who in 2011 quietly asked Congress to renew the Patriot Act without amendment, and quietly signed when it did. Obama could have ended the war in Afghanistan on his sole authority in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013, in recent years with strong-majority public support. It is Obama who didn’t. It is Obama secretly negotiating “NAFTA on steroids” for the benefit of global-corporate profiteers at further cost of domestic jobs. Obama is good at lip-service, cosmetic appeasement, and purely-social liberalism. But he betrays the same people socio-economically, and serves the money tyrants. We the 99% will never reverse the predations of the 1% openly championed by Repubs if we elect Dems not their opposite to the White House and Congress. Repubs dug in for strength in $ and propaganda power and fear of Tea Party. There is a need for a counter to Repubs and centrist, right-shifted and duplicitous Dems. It will not arise absent strong criticism from the left, and recognition that the whole of the duopoly is corrupted.

  2. ChristoD July 25, 2013

    Part of the fundamental issue is trust, or distrust, one has for our Fed. Govt. I have never suffered at the hands of the Fed….that I am a ware of….so I give them the benefit of the doubt. Having said that, I feel very comfortable that the use of this data collection is to do the right thing by getting the bad guys and leave the rest of us to live our lives as we choose. In this this day of extreme right wing ideology, I am more concerned with other more pressing issues like the incredible destructive power that their very small majority allows them to make in our political process. It outrages me that they can hold the majority hostage to their extremism. THAT is something that we should be concentrating on and take the phony outrage out of issues like this.

    1. ChristoD July 25, 2013

      I meant very small MINORITY not MAJORITY.

    2. B.September July 25, 2013

      I share most of your attitude, philosophy, sentiments and beliefs on this issue. We are no longer in the 18th, 19th or even 20th century … we are in the 21st Century and the founding fathers, in their wildest dreams could not have imagined the technology, cyber-space communications, Internet, personal computers, GPS, lap-tops, cell-phones or IPhones, satellites in space and etc.

      My understanding includes the
      1. Under the Obama administration, unlike the
      Bush administration, at least the NSA or whomever seeks and gets court orders/subpoenas
      from the legally established FISA court before they initiate the type of
      mass surveillance being discussed.

      2. They only search for numbers or emails that
      are communicating with terror suspects or ‘suspicious’ organizations or nations known to harbor and indulge anti-American terrorists … they gather bits of micro-data but numbers/email address and dates, times and with what number or email communicated but no listening or reading; then they initiate closer scrutiny (listening/recording & reading) of those involved in “suspicious” activity. Out of an adult population (18 and older) in the USA of about 220 million in 50 states and a couple territories, I doubt that amounts to 50,000 people.

      3. To date, to the best of my knowledge or recollection, no law-abiding ‘innocent’ US citizen or legal resident has come forward and complained of being ‘harmed’ in anyway by any NSA secret surveillance of this kind

      There has been public & private confidential testimony by top officials from the military, NSA, CIA, FBI and/or other federal law enforcement, homeland security or intelligent agencies that terror attacks have been foiled, disrupted and prevented on different occasions within the last nine years

      I am conflicted, because I am a deeply “private” person. BUT although I admire Sen. Wyden and appreciate his efforts, and I want the various branches of the federal government to protect my privacy and protect me from unwarranted searches and seizures, this is not what keeps me up at night or aggravates me.

      I am angry at how financial institutions, Internet service providers, retail
      stores, non-profit charitable organizations, and various groups and
      institutions in the private sector take my personal information & contact
      data and shopping habits and personal interests and market it for a profit and
      have all types of robo solicitation and marketing callers calling me day and
      night and weekends and sending junk mail … and these organization (with whom I have no relationship) even know my full name, address and phone!

      Hey Congress! Investigate and outlaw that while you are at it!

    3. eYeDEF July 28, 2013

      Hi ChristoD. I’m just curious whether you’re only willing to “give them the benefit of the doubt” because the executive branch is currently under an administration you feel more comfortable with? Since you’re quite cognizant of the dangers of this small minority of extremists and their ability to successfully hijack our political process with seeming impunity, I ask you to consider what you think might happen when the next republican administration comes to power that appoints officials from some of these groups to key positions in their new administration to bring that faction of the conservative wing into their coalition. These types of ideologues appear more than willing to use whatever is at their disposal to accomplish their goals, the ends truly justifies whatever means, democracy be damned, as they appear more interested in tyranny so long as they get to play the tyrants. Do you not see the implicit dangers that the lack of checks and balances also has on our democratic process? When a FISA court rubber stamps 99.99% of all warrant requests that come their way, that essentially means there is no accountability at all. And when the gov has a copy of every word you’ve uttered on every call you’ve made or communication you’ve typed, digital trail of purchase receipts of everything you’ve bought, banking & credit records, and even medical records as PRISM was designed to swoop up on every single person … when there is no accountability and no way for a guy like Wyden to warn the public, it’s just a matter of time before it’s abused and when it is, it will threaten the very fabric of our democracy. That is NOT hyperbole. You know about rampant abuses by J Edgar Hoover. No accountability guarantees the next Hoover will be from NSA. Or think of sleazy tactics of Nixon and his group of crack thugs he used to get dirty jobs done to blackmail people. If another Nixon were elected he wouldn’t even NEED to have a secret crack team to break in and record anybody as it could all be done with 100% legitimacy now. That *should* concern you.

      1. Independent1 July 28, 2013

        “And when the gov has a copy of every word you’ve uttered on every call you’ve made…” What utter garbage and nonsense. The government has NO SUCH THING!! Just what do you think the government would do with 2.4 billion phone calls a day (most of them of nothing but jibberish value); and 294 billion emails a day (the majority of them nonsensical juvenile renderings)???? Just project those numbers for one week – 17 billion phone calls 99.999% of them of totally worthless value and 2.5 trillion emails 99.999% of them of totally worthless value. Using even one ounce of common sense – how do you think the government would even approach to going through all this???
        Wake up!! The only actual communication data the government is recording is from calls and emails that ARE SUSPECT!! And something has to trigger that SUSPECT!! Like people calling overseas to areas where terrorists are active, or sending emails to those locations. Or calls being made from or to telephone numbers that CIA and FBI intelligence has informed NSA to monitor. Or meta data (just the pattern of calls) has created some reason for NSA to checkout the actual calling or email information. When are people like you going to start using some common sense – what you’re suggesting is pure nonsense. The waste of resources and time would be enormous and actually totally undoable if the government was trying to do what the FANTASIES IN YOUR MIND suggest.

        1. eYeDEF July 28, 2013

          Sorry but you’ve got your facts wrong. I work in information security and I’ve been following this NSA project since its inception when it first proposed to congress as Total Information Awareness (TIA) in 2002. Look it up. The project has since undergone a number of name changes and what we see now from Snowden’s releases is the end result … it’s called PRISM now. The idea is to be able to track and have a complete history on every single individual. Have you bothered following the news? I suggest you read up on it in the Guardian. The NSA’s gargantuan data centers out on Utah were built with this in mind. I suggest you get up to speed, this is not science fiction.

          1. Independent1 July 28, 2013

            Here are some explanations of the PRISM process which makes it fairly clear that what’s really happening is that the NSA is screening information and recording for analysis transmissions that are suspect of terriorist activities – although mass data may be intercepted – it’s SUSPECT information that is being RETAINED:

            According to The Washington Post, the intelligence analysts search PRISM data using terms intended to identify suspicious communications of targets whom the analysts suspect with at least 51 percent confidence to not be U.S. citizens, but in the process, communication data of some U.S. citizens are also collected unintentionally. (The NSA is not, intentionally recording phone messages and emails from U.S. citizens unless they are suspect of terrorist activities.)

            This further clarifies that:

            During a House Judiciary hearing on domestic spying on July 17, 2013 John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations. “Hops” refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.[36][37] NSA officials had said previously that data mining was limited to two hops, but Inglis suggested that the Foreign Intelligence Secret Court as allowed for data analysis extending “two or three hops”.[38]

            The NSA analysts ARE NOT monitoring or recording for further use individual’s transactions THAT ARE NOT SUSPECT of some for of illegal activity.

          2. eYeDEF July 28, 2013

            Of course a human is not going to be listening to every single call. What you’re suggesting is preposterous as that’s not even logistically possible and I’m not sure HOW you would come to delude yourself in thinking anyone here was even thinking or suggesting such an impossibility. That’s what computing power and data storage is for, to store your information for easy access and future analysis. And not surprisingly you’ve still got a number of your facts wrong. The way PRISM works is by analysis of big data, with the emphasis on BIG. I’m familiar with the type of software they’re using for this kind of data analysis as the earlier Bush era NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake had described being opposed to its all encompassing data points requirement and had instead advocated for a far more streamlined and targeted program based on need to know. He was overruled and prosecuted instead. It’s NOT just the suspect info that’s been retained. FYI you don’t demand Verizon turn over their ENTIRE CUSTOMER DATABASE as was revealed in June if you’re just going after a handful of terrorists. That doesn’t even pass the laugh test. They’ve already broadened the scope of how they intend to use this data to track and pursue other types of crime aside from just terrorism. So the trillion dollar question that our “democracy” hinges on becomes where does it end? Without accountability and transparency, the answer is that it doesn’t. And with NSA and intel heads already on record as having perjured themselves to our elected reps in congress as to how much data they were gathering and what they were retaining only a rube would take anything they say at face value even if they were to go before congress again and categorically deny retaining anyone elses info except terrorism suspects, but they haven’t done that nor will they. The FISA court and its 99.99% rubber stamp track record of approving requests made by NSA, plus the fact that the perjuring members remain comfortably in their jobs, demonstrates that there is NO OVERSIGHT OR ACCOUNTABILITY.

            I also suggest you get up to speed on their data collection practices before trying to lecture anyone on the “impossibility” of storing everyone’s data. Just a few years ago IBM built the largest data drive on record with ability to store 120 petabytes of data, that’s 120 million gigs to be used with quantum supercomputing to analyze real world data. It’s well understood in my field who their “unnamed client” was they were building that for. This article even mentioned how they keep five years worth of metadata. So you think they just keep those five years worth of data on the terrorists and just discard the rest? Well how would they know what to keep and what to discard? Once again your claim again doesn’t even pass the most basic precepts of common sense. The NSA also deploys other methods of data snooping outside of what’s been revealed they do “lawfully” under PRISM. They’re also involved in upstream data surveillance on a massive scale that was described by an AT&T whistleblower back in ’06 for which evidence exists continues to this very day. There was a good article in Pro Publica about it recently, I suggest you read it.

          3. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            Thank you for attempting to educate others in a forum stacked against it. No doubt you are aware of dispute between IBM and Amazon over $600 Million CIA contract for cloud computing, and are also aware that NSA has role in the surveillance-related computing capabilities of all intelligence agencies incl CIA and FBI, and that NSA is building a mega-mega-capacity facility in Colorado. All such foregoing translate to collection and storage of unimaginably massive dossiers on every citizen, updated continuously in real time, searchable by more criteria than Google has keywords. All operating in secret, every person and entity subject to secret orders to supply information, subject to life imprisonment for revealing any part of it. Truly Orwellian.

          4. Independent1 July 28, 2013

            A lot of verbiage to basically prove nothing. PRISM has been doing its thing for over six years and there hasn’t been even one news item about anyone ever claiming that the NSA is spying on them. No one has filed a suit against the NSA for having stolen any of their privacy – AND YOU KNOW WHY ALL THIS IS??? Because the NSA ISN’T SPYING ON ANYONE UNLESS THEY’RE SUSPECTED OF SOME KIND OF ILLEGAL ACTIVITY!!! THAT’S WHY!! So all your BS is just that BS. And keep in mind that the people working at the NSA are not your every day run of the mill employees that you find at the local grocery store or even phone company. Everyone that works at the NSA has been cleared for a TOP SECRET security clearance. So although that process is not 100% fool proof (as proven by traitors like Snowden), It does create an organization where the vast majority of the people that are there are there to do their jobs and not go around stealing other people’s information. So you can go on with your paranoia, but I’m sorry, I’m not listenting to a word of it until YOU PROVE TO ME THAT SOMEONE, ANYONE HAS BEEN HARMED BY WHAT THE NSA IS DOING!!!

            There’s one thing that I CAN GUARANTEE YOU, although I can’t put a number on it, many American lives have been saved over the past decade because of what the NSA is doing. OF THAT YOU CAN BE SURE!!!!!!

          5. eYeDEF July 30, 2013

            Ah, I think I’m finally starting to understand what the reasons are behind your belligerent ignorance. You lack the education and understanding of history to recognize that unchecked power is certain to be abused. Our founding fathers recognized this concept very well even if you don’t. This is why they founded our government on the concept of “checks and balances” rather than “blind trust of government”. I encourage you to get some historical perspective. But allow me to explain a concept to you that I’m sure you’ll struggle with but you’ll need to understand if you ever want to improve. If tomorrow my personal and private communications for a day are recorded by gov. it doesn’t matter if they never record me again. My 4th amendment right to be secure in my “person, paper, and effects” have been abridged. What the gov is doing is unconstitutional. If someone broke into your house while you weren’t there, even if nothing was taken your personal space would still have been violated. Same concept.

            So you unsurprisingly still don’t have your facts right. Check out the lawsuits by those who have been harmed. You could start with Jewel v NSA and go from there.

      2. ChristoD July 28, 2013

        Hi back to you eYeDEF. You raise a very good point. In reality I am referring to THIS administration. I do, in fact, trust that what the President is doing is honorable and safe but COULD be, and in all likelihood would be, abused under Republicans regardless of who would be in office. Since we have had a very UNhealthy dose of what would happen under the last neo-con loaded Republican administration, I shudder to think that I would support their over-the-top brand of government, or in their case, LACK of government as they demonstrated, through the Securities and Exchange Commission by looking the other way while we were being set up for a national financial disaster. I believe we would see, as we are seeing now, a constant attempt to roll back legislation they do not support by using whatever means they deem appropriate. I also believe we would see a ‘we know better than you do’ mindset ala Dick ‘The asshole’ Cheney displayed to our detriment. So, your point is well taken. I guess I just have to hope they keep shooting themselves in their collective extreme right feet to maintain my support for the Fed Govt as I have noted.

  3. greghilbert July 25, 2013

    I think NM has done great disservice publishing an email subject line and article headline that read as follows:
    “Why the NASA Stopped Tracking Your Emails”
    “Wyden: How We Forced the NSA to Curtail Email Spying Programs”

    Here’s the pertinent part of what Wyden actually said in the interview:
    “Conason: Well, we know they’re looking at emails, too, and the question is [whether they’ve been] storing emails.
    Wyden: Well, there was an important development with respect to emails on that. This has now been declassified, but Senator Udall and I pushed very hard inside the Intelligence Committee to make the case that the bulk collection of the email records invaded people’s privacy and was not effectual. And the Obama administration a few weeks ago said that they had closed the program down for what they called operational reasons.”

    In other words, Obama only CLAIMS to have only PAUSED the program, and only “for operational reasons.”

    The law has not been changed. Policy has not changed. Capability has not changed. Funding for it has not changed. Storage of what has already been collected has not changed. Intent to resume collection when “operational” difficulties have been resolved has not changed. Obama’s leadership of police-state violations of the 4th amendment has not changed. Blind allegiance to whatever Obama says and does by the majority of commenters on this site has not changed. If it were a Romney in the White House saying and doing exactly the same as Obama on this subject, all would rightly be screaming bloody murder about it, AND proclaiming Snowden a hero.

    1. guest July 25, 2013

      Again – Obama did not create this – it was created by Bush (your hero) remember? The Patriot Act? Bush set this whole thing in progress by ignoring the fact that Bin Ladden’s men were going to crash planes into our buildings (which he knew well in advance and planned nothing to stop it – but actually his administration encouraged it on after it started!). Again – you are blaming the wrong person. The Patriot Act was meant to take away rights and freedoms – and it has been working very well since it’s creation. And Obama did NOT create the DHS either as he has been blamed in the past for – THAT was also a Bush creation as a reaction to 9/11 – again something he COULD have prevented from happening.

      1. greghilbert July 25, 2013

        You perfectly prove my point. Bush is not my hero. He was the enemy of just about everything I stand for. I’m more than happy to blame him for all he started. Trouble is, you do not want to blame Obama for continuing and even expanding what Bush started. Worse, you do not even exhibit awareness of what all those things are. If I troubled to enumerate them you would find a way to refuse to see them. As but one example, in 2011 Obama signed without protest the re-authorization of the Patriot Act. As another, it is Obama that asserts he has the authority to declare a “national security emergency” suspending the constitution and imposing martial law under the authority of Homeland Security. Repub neo-cons have applauded him in public for it. Allegiance has its place. Blind allegiance has none, but you give it.

        1. greghilbert July 27, 2013

          Every down-vote proves my point. Please go find more blind-allegiance down-voters to further prove it.

        2. Independent1 July 28, 2013

          It’s got nothing to do with blind allegiance – it’s all about survival and plain COMMON SENSE!!!!!!!!

          1. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            And now comes common sense (!!!!!!!) arguing there is secret evidence that NSA has saved some lives in the last 10 years. OK, let’s say that’s true. Common sense says that if we prioritize saving lives, vastly more lives would have been saved had we spent $100 Billion on any number of other causes of premature death in the USA. Common sense dictates attention to NSA’s own reciprocal admission that even when associated with as much Defense and Homeland Security spending as the entire rest of the world, it will fail to prevent many terrorist attacks every year.

          2. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            You are wasting your time with Independent1, who simply craves the personal attention of government employees. I suspect that the NSA receives several pairs of Independent1’s panties every month, along with scented love letters and a few photos of genitalia thrown in.

  4. ThomasBonsell July 26, 2013

    While being an outstanding senator on most issues, Wyden is naive on this one.

    There is no way NSA could suspect anyone of being related to terrorist activities without NSA having the capabilities of discovering who that might be. And its method of finding terrorist suspect is the very program Wyden is interested in shutting down.

    And the very program he complains about DOES protect your privacy because it involves only telephone numbers, the date of a call and the length of the call. No content is involved. That means your privacy is more compromised by the information in a telephone company white pages than it is with this NSA program.

    Use some grade school math and find out how high a stack of papers would be if printed out on regular letter-size paper. Too much to use.

    The only way that information can be recorded is on computer discs, and no human eye will ever see the information. Those discs are run through the most-powerful computers on Earth, which will eliminate all domestic traffic. Your privacy is secured. They will reduce the list down to a few suspected connections (maybe a few dozen or hundred) which will all have a foreign component.

    In the end, no American is being spied on.

    1. WhutHeSaid July 26, 2013

      Utter bullshit.

      I personally have the capability to scan billions of phone calls for anything I want. It’s called a computer. We don’t inscribe information on stone tablets or reams of paper anymore — welcome to the 21st century.

      For your information, computers do exactly what they’re told — they don’t have a conscience or morals (at least not yet). That’s exactly the issue with Mr. Snowden, who used a computer to do things with classified information that drives you government groupies crazy.

      Just because you used to work for the NSA means virtually nothing. You never knew what everyone associated with the NSA was doing when you were there, and now that you are no longer there it’s even more true.

      Why you are trying to sell people a load of horse-shit is beyond me, but I for one am not buying it.

      1. ThomasBonsell July 27, 2013

        And you having absolutely no experience or knowledge about anything a US intelligence agency does or how it can protect your privacy think you know all there is to know.That is the utter bullshit. You know nothing. And you rely on someone who also knows nothing for your “information.”

        As I said, and as you inadvertently corroborated, this vast amount of data can’t be stored on paper because of its volume, therefore it is stored on computer discs, (just as I said) and that means no human eye will see any data until the computer is through sifting the billions of records down to a suspicious few.

        Do some thinking.

        1. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

          “Do some thinking”? Oh, that hurts — you big NSA bully!

          Honestly — are you really a stand-up comedian? How would you know what experience I have?

          And for the record, that vast amount of data CAN be stored on paper (or, presumably, stone tablets) if we really wanted to waste all those trees (or stones). We just don’t do things that way in 2013. So I’ve corroborated nothing.

          Why don’t you just teach us all the true meaning of ‘intelligence’ and tell us all just why it is impossible for somebody to ‘see’ personal data that the NSA chooses to store (or even just scan) when we know that data that is just as voluminous is hacked every day? Show us that superior NSA-employee intellect.

          1. Independent1 July 27, 2013

            As you worry your head off about all this keep in mind what you’re missing: what you’re missing in all your narrative is COMMON SENSE. You’re missing the fact that there are 2.4 billion, that’s billion like in lots of millions, of phone calls made in America each day. And you’re missing the fact that there are 294 billion emails sent back and forth each day within just the U.S. And you’re missing that the charge of NSA is to FIND A NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK. NSA’s charge is to locate a hundred or maybe far less phone calls and emails each day that may present a threat to America’s security. Now if you believe that NSA can do that by simply panning thru 2.4 billion phone calls and 294 billion emails each day – you’re far too delusional to even be posting on this blog thread. NSA CANNOT be willy nilly listening to 2.4 billion phone calls and jotting down just any piece of information they hear – and had they been doing this over the past 6 plus years, and have used any of the information they’ve gathered, are you also clueless enough to believe that we wouldn’t have heard about that already with the 24/7 sensationalist media lurking around.
            It’s people like yourself, who are totally paranoid and delusional who are one of the biggest threats to America’s security.

          2. WhutHeSaid July 27, 2013

            Stop repeating yourself. Your post was clueless enough the first time. People use computers to scan and hack larger volumes of data than this daily.

            You can send the government your soiled panties if you wish to let them know how much you adore them — I don’t care. You can even take you and your family to the nearest government office an offer yourself up for cavity searches as often as you wish — that’s also your business. But I don’t need MY private information being intercepted and/or stored by my own government without solid justification and safeguards against abuse. That’s MY business, you moron.

          3. Independent1 July 27, 2013

            Keep on with your paranoia – you apparently enjoy getting yourself worked up about it. But I’ll guarantee you, that you have a far higher probabiltiy of a bored information operator working for your local phone company plugging into one of your calls, or gaining information about you, than a NSA operator doing that. And the probablity of a NSA operator taping your phone calls is probably less remote than you winning the Powerball lottery. But then if you have to worry about something – why not!!!

          4. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            I’m not worked up at all – that’s your delusion.

            The likelihood of the NSA or any other agency uncovering a terrorist plot by scanning the phone metadata and/or emails of ordinary Americans is far less than your chances of winning the Powerball lottery on consecutive draws, but the likelihood of somebody misusing that information in some way approaches 100% if we do not enact stringent safeguards and limits.

            The majority of Americans agree with my view, so I have no doubt that this kind of activity will be curtailed in the very near future. But don’t worry — you can still send your panties to government employees and write them love letters whenever you wish, and visit them in person to submit you and your family to cavity searches whenever you feel an urgent need to do so. Perhaps you can start sexting NSA employees to satisfy your need for personal scrutiny by the government without the expense of actually driving to their location, dropping your bloomers, and bending over.

          5. ThomasBonsell July 27, 2013

            You are so correct. What is missing in these paranoids’ delusion is that only 250 analysts are assigned to this task, meaning it would be physically impossible to do anything because of the vast amount of material, none of which consists to telephone conversation.

            What we have going here is another definition of insanity:the total ignoramus arguing with the expert and thinking he is making any sense.

          6. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            I’m guessing that you consider yourself the ‘expert’ of whom you speak. You’ve never proven yourself to be an expert at anything as far as I’m concerned. What you have proven is that former NSA employees can be just as pompous and arrogant as anyone else. It’s almost as if ex-employees of the NSA are mere mortals like the rest of the population, with all of the usual flaws and weaknesses of anyone else. Imagine that.

        2. greghilbert July 27, 2013

          I know enough about storing and processing vast amounts of computer data to say unequivocally that your comment reveals you know nothing about the technology or process employed by NSA. Millions of computer-science students and internet and systems techies would see it in a heartbeat, as soon as they read your claim “it is stored on computer discs”, but also upon reading your claim “no human eye will see any data until the computer is through sifting the billions of records down to a suspicious few”. Both claims are so laughable I will not waste my time explaining why, but I’m not laughing. I remember how Nixon used the FBI and IRS to surveil and punish his Dem enemies in 1972. How he would have loved to have the vast power of today’s NSA at his disposal in “legal” secrecy, complete with a law delivering life imprisonment to anyone revealing any part of what it secretly did or even tried to do at his “legally” secret behest.

          Be aware that the staunchest defenders of Obama on this subject are Neo-Con Republicans you would say are the root of all evil and not to be trusted.

    2. greghilbert July 27, 2013

      You said something astonishing: “There is no way NSA could suspect anyone of being related to terrorist
      activities without NSA having the capabilities of discovering who that
      might be.” Such witch-hunting — searching the person, house, papers and effects of a citizen without probable cause — is exactly what the Fourth Amendment prohibits.
      You said something absurd: “no human eye will ever see the information”.
      You said something Orwellian: “no American is being spied on”.

      1. ThomasBonsell July 27, 2013

        I know what the Fourth Amendment is all about; that was my area of expertise in graduate school in one of America’s elite universities.

        This progrsm does not engage in “witch-hunting — searching the person, house, papers and effects of a citizen without probable cause” because there is no searching of person, house, papers and effect. There is only scanning of phone records–NO CONTENT INVOLVED–in order to discover a handful of suspects, who would be subject to scrutiny.

        Only then does the government get a Fourth Amendment warrant to search the handful of suspects; not everyone as you seem to be suggesting.

        And what I said is totally correct; no human eye will see the data on computer discs until that handful of suspects is revealed, and only those few suspects’ data will be seen..

        Your paranoia is out of control.

        1. Independent1 July 27, 2013

          What’s unfortunate Thomas is that we appear to have a few legislators that are as paranoid and uniformed about what’s going on as the general American public. It doesn’t help that we have these legislators making these absurd accusations about what the NSA is doing. I’m a bit surprised that the intelligence community hasn’t done a better job of educating these legislators about just how confined the data searching really is – as you’ve described it.

          1. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

            Say, I have an idea: You could send Pompous Tom your panties every month to satisfy your craving for government employee scrutiny. Is a former NSA lackey good enough to satisfy your need for submission, or must they be currently on the payroll? Pompous Tom could perform especially invasive cavity searches of you and your family members without wasting my tax dollars. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

        2. greghilbert July 28, 2013

          And now comes the person who claimed to know the technology and process NSA employs — and who proved by his own laughable description of it that he did not — claiming graduate-level expertise in the Fourth Amendment attained at an “elite” university. And again he reveals he has no such expertise by making the laughable claim NSA surveillance (of phone and all internet communication) does “no searching of person, house, papers and effects”.
          And he concludes saying I am paranoid.
          This is the man who earlier wrote “While being an outstanding senator on most issues, Wyden is naive on this one.”

          Beam me up Scottie, and be quick about it. I’ve had all I can take awhile of observing blind allegiance to Obama, which now extends to perpetual war and the domestic police state.

          1. ThomasBonsell July 28, 2013

            Wrong again,

            My allegiance isn’t to Obama; it’s to truth and reality.

            You should try a bit of either, because it appears you think your wild assumptions based on no knowledge is superior to other people’s first-hand experience and ability to analyze data at hand and come to a logical conclusion.

          2. greghilbert July 28, 2013

            OK, your allegiance is not to Obama but to NSA and your view of yourself as a superior NSA elite who knows what’s best for all of the several hundred million who are not, even though the majority of us disagree. I get it. Now please stop interfering with Scottie’s attempt to beam me up.

        3. WhutHeSaid July 28, 2013

          How do you know what the program entails? As I understand it you are an former employee — not a current one. Even when you were employed by the NSA, are you arrogant enough to believe that you knew everything that everyone working for the NSA was doing? You aren’t an ‘expert’ — you’re a pompous charlatan.

  5. Silver Fang July 26, 2013

    We just have to assume that everything we post online is being monitored. Even if the NSA program were to be defunded, it would continue in another form.

  6. tdm3624 July 26, 2013

    One thing I do like about this issue is how it brings together people from both the Democrat and Republican camps who are concerned about privacy rights.


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