Although those of us who understand the telecommunications business are not surprised, it would appear that the knowledge that the Federal Government has the usage details of your phone number and can read your email is a shocker to many people whose knowledge of telecom is that they know how to text their kids.
These must be the same people who never watched Law and Order very closely.
The fact is that any law enforcement agency can go to any telecom provider with an order to obtain your local usage details and get it. That goes back to the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. In 1999, the FCC allowed law enforcement agencies to have data relating to what cell was used for cellular conversations. The term “lud” was vastly overused in Law and Order. It stood for local usage detail and, essentially, it was your phone bill with every call on it. (We call that “metadata” today.)
Given today’s technology, getting that data is a couple of keystrokes on a computer terminal. Same for email and other types of network communications.
Here’s the more important question:
What exactly do you want to keep secret from who, and why do you want to keep it secret?
I suppose that the answer is obvious if you are a drug trafficker, are trading on inside information, or fixing sports events for crooked gamblers.
If you’re a crook, than you get no sympathy here. Civil liberties were not invented so you could cheat people with impunity and be protected from law enforcement.
But, let’s say you are planning a run for political office and you simply want to keep it a secret until you have to do something public. Or, you are having a marital spat which is none of anyone else’s business. Or you are a girl who just performed a sex act on a President and are telling a friend about it on a cell phone.
For email, you can use plenty of industrial strength encryption programs, which until 2000 were illegal to export, to encrypt your message. If the National Security Agency can crack PGP (which stands for Pretty Good Privacy), we’ll never know because they certainly won’t tell us; but you have to ask a basic question. Why would the NSA care about your email? They are there to protect us from external threats.
The real question is can the IRS crack encrypted emails or have access to your phone records? Or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Or the Fish and Game Service? Or OHSA? Or the EPS, the BLM or the Forest Service? Can they get access to the NSA’s database of cellular “luds”?
It is agencies like that which have law enforcement powers that are often misused that you don’t want snooping in your personal business.
Congress has created at least 4,450 Federal crimes, and some of them are pure bullcrap. In fact, some of those crimes are made up as the Eric Holders of the world go along. Ask Harvey Whittemore in Nevada who just got convicted of a “crime” which would have been completely legal had he only waited a few years for the Citizens’ United decision and structured his campaign contributions to Harry Reid through his own pac. He’s awaiting sentencing.
That’s what you have to worry about. If all of this information is kept strictly by the NSA and the CIA for anti-terror use, that’s one thing.
If the information is given to the Department of Justice so they could raid the Gibson Guitar Company over the source of some wood they use in making their classic guitars, that’s entirely another. And has anybody mentioned that Gibson seems to have been singled out? And has anybody mentioned that its CEO is a big GOP donor?
Now to the question of the disclosure of the NSA program.
Is Edward Snowden the traitor that Dick Cheney called him last week?
Yes, he is.
If he had really intended to blow a whistle, he would not be in communist China (which we used to call Red China) hiding from our law enforcement people.
He’s like the jerks who used to spit on our troops when they were returning from Viet Nam.
He probably put people in harm’s way, but we’ll never know. He needs to be in the same prison cell with the folks at the IRS who harassed tea party groups.
He’s not a saint, he’s not a patriot and he’s not very smart. He’s just like another traitor, Adam Gadahn, the American spokesman for al Qaeda.
He made some crack about it being an honor to be called a traitor by Dick Cheney. This from a punk who wasn’t even born when Cheney was serving at the highest levels of this nation’s government.
The takeaway from this is that every act needs a little cleaning up.
The NSA needs better security clearance procedures and maybe better contracting procedures to avoid clowns like Snowden.
The Department of Justice needs an independent prosecutor to look into the IRS and its own scandals to avoid clowns like Eric Holder.
But mostly, Barack Obama needs to make peace with the 60 per cent of Americans who are beginning to see him as the Richard Nixon of the 21st century. Or, he may well go the way of Nixon.