These “post-9/11” days I feel both old-fashioned and bitchy, but I’ll strike a new optimism and call for the impeachment of the president, now that the National Security Agency has joined the dark and douchbag side – like the South Korean pond scum at NIS, et al. – andis monitoring and recording Americans’…ummm, “metadata”.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.
“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.
The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.
The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.
The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.
While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.
It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.
Orin Kerr argues, that this revelation is “a very big deal”, yet “we don’t yet have substantial certainty that the facts are what they have been reported to be.”
I’m going to assume the absolutist mantle, and say, enough is enough. This is the time when the country needs the libertarian fringe and its true conservatives.
Given Greenwald’s report, this all sounds eerily familiar. We now have confirmation that Obama has continued, if not expanded, that exact sort of egregious surveillance program. In fact, as Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez told Greenwald, this Obama incident perhaps goes further with an “extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.”
This latest example of Obama overreach is sure to rankle the feathers of conservatives already rightfully disturbed by the DOJ’s extensive snooping on journalists and the IRS’s intentional targeting of tea party organizations. While many of these same conservatives were rah-rah’ing the expansion of the NSA and United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court during the Bush years, it is a pleasant change to see them finally care about FISA. Welcome aboard.
Now it’s up to the liberals who rightly lauded Obama’s anti-FISA stance in 2008 to swallow their pride as well and take a stand against this administration’s overreach, despite what they might see as partisan opportunism coming from the right.
As the last 13 years have proven, regardless of who is in the White House the security state will continue to expand. And it will take some hypocrisy on both sides to finally end it.
The United States Constitution stipulates, in Article 2, Section 4, that a president is impeachable “…for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Then House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford once officially remarked that “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” meant “…whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” I think this qualifies. The revelation calls into question even more fundamentally than President Richard M. Nixon’s transgressions, and definitely the partisan-infected tactics of the impeachments of Andre Johnson and William J. Clinton, a sweeping insult against the rule of law and the moral principle of individual privacy. The executive is thoroughly abusing its powers because it is either too lazy or incompetent to do its job, and is most probably corrupted by those who themselves have resorted to co-opting executive agencies for their enrichment and empowerment in a Federal machine that has become a disorganized monster.
Progressives, liberals, and Democrats need to put aside partisan pettiness and forge a compromise with the same crackpots hollering for impeachment for spurious charges, like Benghazi or the IRS, and reassert Congressional authority constructively.
Judging by the order (and not the media coverage about the order), it seems to have an end date of July 19, sucking up data for the three months before. That would make its effective start date April 19, which is the day Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested in Boston. Not saying there’s a link, but the timing might turn out not to be coincidental.
No one will respond to this by voting out their representatives or Senators during the next election because, despite the temporary outcry, Americans (including the Congressmen and Senators who tried to add amendments) don’t care about this very much.
Tea Party fundamentalists might chafe at doing something for the good the society, but the adults should just let them bloviate and rant for the home crowd, as if they were blowing up the government. The truth is, someone has to save the government, and even irresponsible, crazy southerners are useful now.