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Meanwhile Verizon Wireless spins its wheels looking to minimize brand damage

The Obama administration, which pens such promises as "Government Should be Transparent", offered nary a hint that up to 121 million Americans (on Verizon's network) could be being spied on a "daily basis" under court order by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).  The revelation of its massive, secret, and utterly non-transparent domestic snooping program leaked via a British newspaper -- The Guardian.

I. Some (D)s and (R)s Have Obama's Back on Spying Issue

In the wake of the administration's latest scandal, some U.S. Senators are defending the program, which allows the NSA to spy on law abiding citizens en masse without obtaining separate warrants.  The ranking Democrat and Republican members of the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence both praised the program as "lawful" and said the intelligence agencies had briefed Congress on their actions, which were kept secret from the citizens who voted them into office.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) comments, "As far as I know this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court under the business records section of the Patriot Act.  Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.  [Terrorists] will come after us if they can and the only thing that we have to deter this is good intelligence to understand that a plot has been hatched and to get there before they get to us"

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Geor.) comments, "This is nothing new.  It has proved meritorious because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years."

Dianne Feinstein
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D; left) and Saxby Chambliss (R) both endorse the massive spying program. [Image Source: AP]

He dismisses the data collected -- such as locations of citizens and the numbers they call -- as "simply" metadata.

The Senators comments offer a hint of truth -- the program is thought to have been going on since 2006, when it first leaked in a USA Today report.  At the time it was merely a rumor -- no court order had leaked in full.  Some dismissed the report as "paranoia".  Today we know it to be accurate, thanks to more leaks.

II. Others on Both Sides are Outraged

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) have taken a far different view of the program, which they were legally unable to discuss until now under government secrecy laws.  In a 2012 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Sens. Wyden and Udall complain, "We believe that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted [the PATRIOT Act]."

Ron Paul debates Obama
Ron Paul says that the spying was "certainly not patriotic" and was a victory for terrorists.
[Image Source: AP]

Rep. Ron Paul, a long time advocate for Constitutional freedoms, issued a statement condemning the program:

I wish I could say I was shocked at the reports the NSA is secretly spying on the private phone calls of millions of Verizon customers. However, this is a predictable result of a government that continues to erode our liberties while promising some glimmering hope of security.

The Fourth Amendment is clear; it says we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, and that all warrants must have probable cause.

I opposed and continue to oppose the Patriot Act because I believe it throws the Fourth Amendment right out the window. It is certainly not patriotic to support warrantless wiretaps, blanket ‘metadata’ collection, and spying on innocent American citizens.

Unfortunately, what is worse than the reports, is knowing that politicians of both parties will continue to defend this practice as necessary to supposedly keep us ‘safe’. We do not have to sacrifice our liberties for security. At times like this, the question must be asked, ‘if we are willing to change our way of life and our very definition of freedom while tolerating the invasive searches at our airports and now of our phone calls, have the terrorists already won?

The seizures were authorized by the Oct. 2001 USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act, and the Bush administration repurposed the NSA to its new role of spying on Americans.  Specifically the "business records" (50 U.S.C. § 1861) section of the PATRIOT Act gave the feds the ammo to seize these records from the private sector.

Experts close to Congress say that hearings on the topic will likely be held, but they are unlikely to dent the steel facade of the PATRIOT Act.  Ultimately, they expect the issue to die down as citizens grow accustomed to the new reality that they are being monitored.

III. Verizon Confirms Snooping Occurred

Another major development was Verizon Wireless -- the joint subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc.'s (LON:VOD) -- issuing an internal statement aimed at damage control.

In a "private" memo to employees, which of course leaked, the Verizon general counsel Randy Milch comments:

You may have seen stories in the news about a top secret order Verizon allegedly received to produce certain calling information to the U.S. Government.

We have no comment on the accuracy of The Guardian newspaper story or the documents referenced, but a few items in these stories are important. The alleged court order that The Guardian published on its website contains language that compels Verizon to respond, forbids Verizon from revealing the order’s existence and excludes from production the ‘content of any communication … or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer.'

But Verizon gives as close as it legally can to a confirmation, writing:

[If we] were to receive such an order, we would be required to comply.

Verizon is reportedly irked at the Obama administration for potentially damaging its business due to the report that singles it out in the spying scandal.  The nation's largest carrier is reportedly circling its wagons, pressuring administration officials to give some sort of a public show of support to the carrier.

Verizon executives
Verizon is pushing the feds to defend its image. [Image Source: Julie Jacobson/AP]

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is already examining ways to bring legal actions against the government.  The EFF's Cindy Cohn comments, "Nothing in the PATRIOT Act says that millions of innocent Americans can have their phone records turned over to the government."

Sources: CNN, Ron Paul, EFF



Comments     Threshold


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Devil's advocate
By bug77 on 6/7/2013 8:03:32 AM , Rating: 3
Ron Paul is absolutely right, I won't dispute that.

But imagine for a second you were the FBI/NSA. How would you catch terrorists? Preferably, you'd have them under surveillance for a time, gather evidence and lock them up. But what if you don't have the luxury of time? What if you receive a tip about a few guy that are going to do something bad tomorrow? And no, you can't have a public debate about your methods either, because that will tell the bad guys exactly what they have to avoid to stay undetected.
Again, I'm not saying it's ok, just that there is a rationale behind all this.




RE: Devil's advocate
By Shadowmaster625 on 6/7/13, Rating: -1
RE: Devil's advocate
By karimtemple on 6/7/2013 8:18:26 AM , Rating: 5
There's a rationale behind the majority of heinous actions. There are even some fairly compelling rationales behind terrorism. You don't want to be in the "there's a rationale" boat.

To put things simply, 9/11 didn't happen because we didn't have the Patriot Act, it happened because we screwed up. It happened because more than one administration failed to properly execute on supplied intel. It happened because we stick our military up everybody's asses.


RE: Devil's advocate
By drewsup on 6/7/2013 8:24:10 AM , Rating: 5
Oh, you mean like the tips we recieved from Russia on the Boston
bomber? They outright WARNED us this guy was trouble, but the NSA was too busy tapping phone calls to grandma to take notice.
Want another, Ok.. the UK was equally warned about the 2 fanatics that beheaded the soldier 2 weeks ago.
I could go on, but the fact remains, the best intelligence is being ignored, while the wholesale raping of the constitution continues and anyone who dares speak against it is branded unpatriotic.
We KNOW who the terrorist are/will be, young Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 45, but as a nation we are too pussy whipped to say it out loud.


RE: Devil's advocate
By Myrandex on 6/7/2013 9:10:31 AM , Rating: 1
The Oklahoma City Bombing was not performed by anyone in the group of "young Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 45"...


RE: Devil's advocate
By SilthDraeth on 6/7/13, Rating: -1
RE: Devil's advocate
By BRB29 on 6/7/13, Rating: -1
RE: Devil's advocate
By drewsup on 6/8/2013 6:07:12 AM , Rating: 2
Ok you have one instance to call on,ONE, I have thousands of terrorist actions by Muslims around the world to back my position up. We are talking about a religion that can't even get along between the two major sects, Muslims kill Muslims all the time, have been since the 8th century, Ok,Christianity was not a whole lot better back then either, but we have outgrown the past differences. the Muslim religion is torn between trying to maintain 8th century thinking, and the modern world, the two are not compatible.
Don't even get me started on the uselessness of the Arab League, We should pull everything out of the middle east, let the chips fall where they may, then deal with leaders who are left in power, one way or another.


RE: Devil's advocate
By msheredy on 6/7/2013 11:19:06 AM , Rating: 2
Totally agree!

Where we (Americans) need to fix the terrorist threat is to stop pissing off other countries. Big Oil and Big Bank need to be all but diminished to keep the lobbying influences at bay.

Greed and a GOV that's bursting at the seams is driving this country into the ground.


RE: Devil's advocate
By BRB29 on 6/7/2013 11:29:52 AM , Rating: 2
That's what it seems like on the outside. These same terrorist organizations have aimed for the US well before the oil crisis.


RE: Devil's advocate
By wookie1 on 6/7/2013 1:11:49 PM , Rating: 2
Appeasing the terrorists will do nothing to eliminate the threat. They will always find a reason to fight us, even if we all became Muslim they would say that we aren't real Muslims.

It comes down to this, in order to be a martyr, there must be some huge enemy to fight. We make a good enemy. Appeasement sacrifices all of our freedoms for nothing in return.


RE: Devil's advocate
By msheredy on 6/7/2013 7:07:30 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think of it as appeasing the terrorists.

Would you want a foreign country coming in, setting up military bases, and propping up rulers that fit their need rather than ours? This is where I was getting at by "pissing off" cause we've been doing this far too often.


RE: Devil's advocate
By Reclaimer77 on 6/7/2013 7:18:32 PM , Rating: 2
Then how do you explain the Boston Marathon bombers? White kids from Russia becoming terrorists because they got involved with Islam. Nobody invaded their country or whatever apologist crap you're saying.

It's time to cut the crap and say what nobody wants to. The religion of Islam IS the problem.


RE: Devil's advocate
By bug77 on 6/9/2013 4:45:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Where we (Americans) need to fix the terrorist threat is to stop pissing off other countries.


Except that you can't. As long as you're top dog... haters gonna hate.


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