For those of you just joining us, there have been two big revelations about the NSA’s data-mining efforts since Wednesday, both reported by the Guardian.
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largesttelecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
And the second:
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
A few things to keep in mind: Technically the latter only applies to foreign nationals living outside the U.S.—keeping tabs on which is the NSA’s job description—but it seems impossible to separate one from the other. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the tech companies’ denials that they cooperated. As for the collection of phone records, it’s probably safe to assume that this is going on with most major providers.
In a press conference today, during which he took one question from the press–“because I don’t want the whole day to just be a bleeding press conference”–the president tried to reassure Americans that the NSA is full of really good people who would never in a million years think about violating your Fourth Amendment rights, and that “You can’t have 100% security and then 100% privacy.” From the AP report:
In his first comments since the programs were publicly revealed this week, Obama says safeguards are in place. He says nobody is listening to the content of phone calls. And he says the internet targeting is aimed at foreign nationals, not American citizens.
Obama says he increased some of the “safeguards” on the programs after taking office. And he believes they help his administration stop terrorist attacks.
From a political standpoint, these massive data collection efforts the administration’s stated commitment to ending the war on terror pretty hard to believe. They also contradict the president’s former views—he sponsored the SAFE Act, which would have banned them, and talked frequently about the “false choice” of liberty or security during campaigns.
The New York Times‘ editorial board wrote that after these revelations, “the administration has lost all credibility,” a line they later narrowed to say “on this issue.” Everybody but the Wall Street Journal seems upset about it.
Rep Sensenbrenner, author of the PATRIOT Act, said in a statement that he’s “extremely troubled by the FBI [and NSA, here’s an explanation why]’s interpretation of this legislation. While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses.” But he was the one who pushed for the more expansive language, and Conor Friedersdorf tries to get him to just admit he was wrong in the first place.
– Rick Perlstein with some comparisons to operations Shamrock and Minaret.
– Glenn Greenwald et. al. on the history of the NSA
– Jesse Walker has some “Whiz Kids” clips where the NSA makes an appearance, because everything else about this is depressing.
– DNI James Clapper takes issue with the Guardian and the Post’s reporting, says leaks damage national security.
– Will Saletan says stop freaking out.
– David Freddoso on what should change