The fallout from the NSA scandal continues to build. Let’s hope it gathers sufficient momentum to force reforms (although I won’t hold my breath that they’ll be sufficient, or go far enough, to reverse the trashing of our Constitution that’s already taken place. Stronger measures will be needed for that.) Professor Yochai Benkler makes an excellent case for such reforms in the Guardian. Here’s an excerpt.
The spate of new NSA disclosures substantially raises the stakes of this debate. We now know that the intelligence establishment systematically undermines oversight by lying to both Congress and the courts. We know that the NSA infiltrates internet standard-setting processes to security protocols that make surveillance harder. We know that the NSA uses persuasion, subterfuge, and legal coercion to distort software and hardware product design by commercial companies.
We have learned that in pursuit of its bureaucratic mission to obtain signals intelligence in a pervasively networked world, the NSA has mounted a systematic campaign against the foundations of American power: constitutional checks and balances, technological leadership, and market entrepreneurship. The NSA scandal is no longer about privacy, or a particular violation of constitutional or legislative obligations. The American body politic is suffering a severe case of auto-immune disease: our defense system is attacking other critical systems of our body.
. . .
Given the persistent lying and strategic errors of judgment that this week’s revelations disclosed, the NSA needs to be put into receivership. Insiders, beginning at the very top, need to be removed and excluded from the restructuring process. Their expertise led to this mess, and would be a hindrance, not a help, in cleaning it up. We need a forceful, truly independent outsider, with strong, direct congressional support, who would recruit former insider-dissenters like Thomas Drake or William Binney to reveal where the bodies are buried.
Anything short of root-and-branch reconstruction will be serving weak tea to a patient with a debilitating auto-immune disease.
There’s more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
Also connected to the NSA scandal:
- The head of the NSA built an ‘Information Dominance Center’ modeled after the bridge of the fictional Star Trek’s spaceship Enterprise. Why does such megalomania not surprise me in such an individual?
- One of his predecessors has claimed that ‘terrorists love using Gmail‘ – which is, of course, completely unprovable, and sounds like a tailor-made excuse for the NSA to intercept, analyze and indefinitely store every Gmail message, whether connected to terrorism or not.
- The FBI has admitted it took control of the supposedly confidential servers of the TOR anonymizing Web hosting service, then downloaded malware to clients enabling it to track them and monitor their Internet activities – whether or not they were involved in anything illegal. So much for the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, if crimes were committed using those servers while the FBI controlled them – for example, the exchange of child pornography between pedophiles – that makes the FBI an accessory to those crimes. Do you think anyone at the agency will ever be charged with such an offense? Dream on . . .
- The US government wants to include ‘social and behavioral’ data in everyone’s online medical records. Gee, do you really think we can trust them with that? In the light of everything else we’ve learned – the IRS abuse of the tax system to harass opponents of the current Administration, the NSA’s colossal overreach of its authority and blatant disregard of the Constitution, and so on – I personally wouldn’t trust Big Brother any further than I can throw him . . . and that’s not very far at all. I agree with XBradTC’s observation:
So will our medical records, available to anyone who can breach a Federal system (a challenge for “black hats” roughly equivalent to tic-tac-toe), or to the Federal Government for the taking, contain information as to whether or not we belong to shooting ranges? Have purchased firearms? Attended Tea Party rallies? How we voted? Where our campaign contributions went? Home-schooled our children? Or, in turn, have been home-schooled? In short, will our medical records be flagged if we exhibit behavior counter to what is Government-approved conduct? If so, will that subject us to “medical” restrictions and classifications that will be held against us for things like job applications, firearms purchases, or make us the subject of “audits”? Will our health records containing information the Government considers pejorative be considered “prior history” disclosure if we find ourselves on trial?
Is there, with this Administration in particular, a solitary reason to believe otherwise? Given the widespread violations of our Fourth Amendment rights by the NSA under this Administration, the malfeasance and deliberate misconduct of the Justice Department, the militarizing (and increasing hostility toward citizens) of our nation’s police forces, the course we are currently steering makes using such a seemingly-innocuous initiative an instrument for political strong-arming and punishment of opposition all but certain.
In another privacy-related matter, it seems that New York City toll passes are being used to track motorists elsewhere in the city as well – without so much as a ‘by your leave’ or any hint from the toll authorities that this is being done. Again, so much for privacy. I wonder whether any other locations are doing the same thing, either with NYC toll passes or with their own equivalents? And who said it was OK to violate our privacy in this way in the first place?
Makes you wonder what those 70+ Federal agencies with armed officers, all with powers of arrest, are really up to . . . doesn’t it?