June 6, 2013 at 11:58 am #179001
Might be in a tad of hot water, as I understand the patriot act, No one is allowed to discuss this kind of thing in ANY format….
Wonder what the motivation would/could possibly be!
What I wouldn’t give for at least some transparency by all involved!
From the Guardian:
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms 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.
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 disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.
June 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm #179018
More information and some commentary from Infosecurity Magazine
‘Beyond Orwellian’ – the FBI and NSA spy on all Americans
The Guardian newspaper has exposed a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ‘top secret’ order requiring Verizon to provide the NSA with all ‘telephony metadata’ for communications within the USA and between the USA and abroad.
The Guardian invited the White House, the NSA and the Justice Department to comment prior to publication of its report. All declined. Verizon, which is prohibited from disclosing either the FBI request or the order, responded “We decline comment.”
Telephony metadata is effectively the ‘traffic data’ described and sought by the UK’s Communications Data Bill: it is everything, including mobile phone location data, barring the actual content of the communication (which requires a separate court order in the US, and would require similar under the Communications Data Bill). The FISC order, requested by the FBI, is granted under 50 USC § 1861; otherwise known as section 215 of the Patriot Act.
June 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm #179016
As easy as it can be to get very anxious about things like this, I suppose it bears noting that “big data”, such as you describe, also provides baseline information, against which conspicuous patterns can be validly compared, and identified. No one is interested in, nor has the resources to examine, the banal and commonplace, but they need to know what the banal and commonplace looks like, on average, in order to recognize what is truly exceptional.
In a sense, it is analogous to highway safety checks. I would imagine that every officer out on the highway, stopping every vehicle to verify the driver isn’t impaired and that all applicable seatbelts are in use, assumes that 99% of the vehicles they poke their heads into are just fine and not really worthy of inspecting. But that doesn’t stop us in the driver’s seat from feeling “What are they stopping ME for? What did I do wrong?”.
Being a grain of sand in “big data” doesn’t necessarily stop those sand grains from feeling like they are under the microscope. Naturally, I recognize the difference between being a sand grain in the big data of Wal-Mart, Google, or your credit-card company, and being part of the big data of an organism that has much greater legal power to interfere with your life. Realistically, the risk is itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny small, but I understand why people feel like it isn’t.
June 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm #179014
Would offer that with the new technology the ability to examine ALL data has dramaticaly improved…
“If you haven’t done anything wrong you have nothing to worry about” which I believe is what you are saying in comparing checking phone records to highway safety checks, has some validity but would offer that those who might have been doing something wrong ( unrelated to the checking) have at least something to worry about not the least of which is their loss of right to illegal searching, freedom of speech etc.
June 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm #179012
Oh we’ve seen a number of high-profile he-spoke-to-a-guy-that-knows-a-guy-that-is-connected-to-this-other-guy-that-once-worked-with-this-other-guy cases here, that ended up with someone being rendered and tortured in Syrian jails on very specious and tangential grounds, or placed on no-fly lists for reasons they can’t understand or find out about. So I’m as concerned about the potential gravity of big-data-in-big-machines errors as anyone. But there is hypothetical loss of rights in the abstract (i.e., a point of principle), and actual probability of loss of actual rights. The one is a source of irritation, and the other a source of worry. I can see where one might be irritated, but I don’t see nearly as much reason to worry.
But that’s me. I’m the kind who’ll take a personal cheque from someone with a bloody knife in their hand that keeps looking over their shoulder for the cops. 🙂 I’m also reading Dan Kahnemann’s book, and a little sensitized these days to the errors in probability judgments that people regularly make.
June 6, 2013 at 6:48 pm #179010
This “story” has truly gone viral, even my facebook account which worries it self about mostly rather mundane things (pictures of dogs, new self-potraits, rather cute if stupid jokes etc..)
Probably the most telling article was this one from the Washington Post
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the court order, issued in April, appears to be “the exact three-month renewal” of the program that has been underway for the past seven years. She said the program is “lawful.”
June 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm #179008
Incidentally, it might interest you to know that when we engage in any surveys of public servants up here in the frozen north, one of the requrements of any survey software and its use is that it cannot touch American servers at any point, lest it become subject to the Patriot Act, and in so doing, contravene the Canadian Privacy Act. Just one of those weird little cross-border things one never really thinks about.
June 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm #179006
David B. GrinbergParticipant
Don’t mess with Dianne, she knows her stuff.
June 7, 2013 at 9:14 am #179003
Perhaps the final word THIS time on the impact of the Patriot Act on Americans:
DNI Statement on Recent Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information
The highest priority of the Intelligence Community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyze and understand information related to potential threats to our national security.
The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation.
The article omits key information regarding how a classified intelligence collection program is used to prevent terrorist attacks and the numerous safeguards that protect privacy and civil liberties.
I believe it is important for the American people to understand the limits of this targeted counterterrorism program and the principles that govern its use. In order to provide a more thorough understanding of the program, I have directed that certain information related to the “business records” provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act be declassified and immediately released to the public.
The following important facts explain the purpose and limitations of the program:
The judicial order that was disclosed in the press is used to support a sensitive intelligence collection operation, on which members of Congress have been fully and repeatedly briefed. The classified program has been authorized by all three branches of the Government.
Although this program has been properly classified, the leak of one order, without any context, has created a misleading impression of how it operates. Accordingly, we have determined to declassify certain limited information about this program.
The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone’s phone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber. The only type of information acquired under the Court’s order is telephony metadata, such as telephone numbers dialed and length of calls.
The collection is broad in scope because more narrow collection would limit our ability to screen for and identify terrorism-related communications. Acquiring this information allows us to make connections related to terrorist activities over time. The FISA Court specifically approved this method of collection as lawful, subject to stringent restrictions.
The information acquired has been part of an overall strategy to protect the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it may assist counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities.
There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which ensures that those activities comply with the Constitution and laws and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties. The program at issue here is conducted under authority granted by Congress and is authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). By statute, the Court is empowered to determine the legality of the program.
By order of the FISC, the Government is prohibited from indiscriminately sifting through the telephony metadata acquired under the program. All information that is acquired under this program is subject to strict, court-imposed restrictions on review and handling. The court only allows the data to be queried when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization. Only specially cleared counterterrorism personnel specifically trained in the Court-approved procedures may even access the records.
All information that is acquired under this order is subject to strict restrictions on handling and is overseen by the Department of Justice and the FISA Court. Only a very small fraction of the records are ever reviewed because the vast majority of the data is not responsive to any terrorism-related query.
The Court reviews the program approximately every 90 days. DOJ conducts rigorous oversight of the handling of the data received to ensure the applicable restrictions are followed. In addition, DOJ and ODNI regularly review the program implementation to ensure it continues to comply with the law.
The Patriot Act was signed into law in October 2001 and included authority to compel production of business records and other tangible things relevant to an authorized national security investigation with the approval of the FISC. This provision has subsequently been reauthorized over the course of two Administrations – in 2006 and in 2011. It has been an important investigative tool that has been used over the course of two Administrations, with the authorization and oversight of the FISC and the Congress.
Discussing programs like this publicly will have an impact on the behavior of our adversaries and make it more difficult for us to understand their intentions. Surveillance programs like this one are consistently subject to safeguards that are designed to strike the appropriate balance between national security interests and civil liberties and privacy concerns. I believe it is important to address the misleading impression left by the article and to reassure the American people that the Intelligence Community is committed to respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all American citizens.
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