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Where were you on August 31, 2009? UPDATE

And what were you doing?  Most Americans are scratching their heads over revelations that the U.S. government in all of its branches has allowed data to be collected from our phones, e-mails, internet connections, and maybe credit cards. The government says it's necessary to protect us. Presumably from Terrorists. What exactly does it look like to be tracked. Well, we don't know because this all goes to a data dump for future investigations--if necessary.

But here's what it might look like: Malte Spitze, a politician from Germany's Green Party, sued Deutsche Telekom, for his records which Zeit on Line rendered into this fascinating graphic covering six months of his phone calls, e-mails, and internet connections. You can follow him from hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and as fast or slow as you please. Take a look.

As I recall Deutsche Telekom owns the U.S. cell phone company T-Mobile, though they have not been mentioned in the list of companies providing data.  HT: Pat Lang

 

UPDATE: Haaretz points to the Israeli connection in all of this. Plot thickens.

And the NY Times has this: Booz Alan is in charge of protecting NSA's secrets and making a lot of money: "Over the last decade, much of the company’s growth has come from selling expertise, technology and manpower to the National Security Agency  and other federal intelligence agencies. Booz Allen earned $1.3 billion, 23 percent of the company’s total revenue, from intelligence work during its most recent fiscal year."

Would you believe this if it were in an espionage novel: "the Obama administration’s chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen."

 

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Isn't one of the problems with the right of the government to view emails ultimately the problem of just what the ontological status of an email is?  They sound so wispy and ephemeral -- a here today gone tomorrow sort of thing, except for their shadowy copies lurking in a data dump.  What could they possibly BE that is simultaneously both trivial and yet so dangerous?  More important, how do they fit into the swamp that government must govern? 

 

I suspect that one of the reasons they're hard to deal with is because it's hard to locate them in the metaphysical zoo of matter, form, accident, substance, etc.  Yet we don't hesitate to say they are "material" for a "cause of action" in a court, that they are not "accidental" blips in the "virtual" land of the internet, but, rather, sometimes they are  "substantial" facts we must deal with.  They are very, very real.

 

Beyond trying to locate them in that zoo is the even more difficult question of the *content* which is their meaning.  How can such a wispy content be such a substantial moral issue?  They are, when push comes to shove, mainly just what some person has thought.  So the question becomes:  when does the government have a right to demand our very thoughts?  And that's one hell of a question.  The government rightly demands the thoughts when we file our income tax, when  bear witness in court, when sign our names to contracts, etcc. What is it about the content of  at least  some emails that make them proper objects of the government's interest?

 

Can this issue be described as one of a right not-to-speak,  a right not-to-be-known, a correlative right implied by the freedom of speech clause?  If so, when do we have a *right not-to-be known* as against the government's *right to know*?  I'm sure the answer, as usual, has something to do with the common good trumping our own small vanities and rightful desires to live at least some of our lives in private.  But where to draw the line?  Where does the right privacy stop and the common good begin?

MOS: Pray God, South Carolina hasn't drained the Southsider out of me yet!

I concede every case you cite.  I just won't make a rule from them.  They are the exceptions to the generally salutary progress of  American political life.  With Dr. King and my fellow southsider in the White House, I know that the arc of the moral (and, political) universe is long, but it bends toward justice.  People who know me would tell you I'm a bitter, bitter cynic (see also: Chicagoan).  But in matters of politics and history, as a matter of professional opinion, I'm content to take that long view.  

AO: Good questions. On the fly, I would conjecture that e-mails are the major correspondence form of our age; they are usually sent to a person or specific set of persons to communicate some particual matter. In that, they seem like letters.  Tweets, blogs, etc., are publicly available to anyone who wants them; in that they are different.

In any case, the government seems to be treating e-mails not as letters, but as ???what. Have they thought philosophically about this. Doubt it.

Off to dig out some more wormwood...flourishing in this rainy weather!

 

"As a practical matter, inasmuch as FISA is a "real" court, would an average citizen, like me, have recourse to appeal the court order that authorized the government collecting my personal, private information?  I assume that I'd have standing - I'm the victim here."

Great question, Jim P.  As I understand the system, ordinary citizens aren't really part of the adjunct-system of law which governs the NSA, etc.  And that is what so bad about it even from a theoretical point of view..  

There is a fundamental problem here of conflict of systems, and i use the term "system" in a technical philosophical sense as a set of ordered elements governed by a set of rules.  Theoretically, the Constitution is the over=arching set of rules/laws governing us, the ultimate elements of the U. S., i.e., you and me.  But the NSA adjunct-system of law, though it purportedly is guaranteed by the Constitution (its having been established by the federal legislature) really is inconsistent with the Constitution.  In other words, there is a self-contradiction involved in the Constitution's allowing non-Constitutional or extra-Constitutional actions which are against the Constitution's laws. 

I don't see any rational way t o solve the problem except for the Constitution to admit let's call them "vigilantee" actions which run counter to the Constitution in some extraordinary circumstances.  But we'll have to recognize that those actions, such as violating the right to privacy of terrorists, are in fact vigillantee, i.e., outside the usual law.  

"As a practical matter, inasmuch as FISA is a "real" court, would an average citizen, like me, have recourse to appeal the court order that authorized the government collecting my personal, private information?  I assume that I'd have standing - I'm the victim here."

Great question, Jim P.  As I understand the system, ordinary citizens aren't really part of the adjunct-system of law which governs the NSA, etc.  And that is what so bad about it even from a theoretical point of view..  

There is a fundamental problem here of conflict of systems, and i use the term "system" in a technical philosophical sense as a set of ordered elements governed by a set of rules.  Theoretically, the Constitution is the over=arching set of rules/laws governing us, the ultimate elements of the U. S., i.e., you and me.  But the NSA adjunct-system of law, though it purportedly is guaranteed by the Constitution (its having been established by the federal legislature) really is inconsistent with the Constitution.  In other words, there is a self-contradiction involved in the Constitution's allowing non-Constitutional or extra-Constitutional actions which are against the Constitution's laws. 

I don't see any rational way t o solve the problem except for the Constitution to admit let's call them "vigilantee" actions which run counter to the Constitution in some extraordinary circumstances.  But we'll have to recognize that those actions, such as violating the right to privacy of terrorists, are in fact vigillantee, i.e., outside the usual law.  

I reject all reductions of government to a mere contract.

The only oath or covenant I made was to my wife. I have not made any oath of office nor pledged allegiance (I have issues with the forced indoctrination of American kids being coerced to make such a pledge in public school btw). Oh, when i was a cub and a scout, I did promise that I would do my duty to God and the Queen, do my best to help others and know and obey the scout law. Not sure how binding that is but those are the only two oaths I ever recall taking. But I volunteered for that and that pledge was not imposed by the school.

I am loyal to the people of  Canada but not the institutions. Those institutions are all provisional and not divinely inspired.

Also, the only oath that some Americans take are the oath of office whereby they swear to defend the consitution of the United States, part of which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

We should worry more about politician's infidelity to this oath rather than their marriage oath!

 

 

 

As a Millennial, I find the hyperbolic hyperventilation of this conversation to be entertaining. I'd posit that there's a reason you have not seen (outside the domain of techie twitter feeds and civil rights activists' blogs) nearly so forceful an expression of surprise, indignation, and outrage among those of us born after 1980. 

Of COURSE NSA and other intelligence agencies are monitoring our electronic communications... that's literally their raison d'etre. 

Nearly every thoughtful person I know understands intuitively that our digitized thoughts and pixelated images are subject to precisely this sort of surveillance. Again, I point you to David Simon's excellent, excellent piece, which I exhort you all to read. 

Steven --

 

Was there any influence of the "social contract" theory on the Constitution?  It seems to me that, given what little I know of Madison and Jefferson, the Constitution appeals more to natural law theory.  Though they wouldn't deny that each individual does bind him/her self to a particular nation and its laws, in the case of the U. S. the basic law is founded on natural law.

 

By the way, Madison is my favorite among the founding fathers.  Far and away the wisest of them.  Jefferson follows in second place.  Sure, George Washington was a phenomenal leader but not much on theory. None of them were like that greedy slug of a Ben Franklin whose telos was property.  Granted,  like the libertarians he did appreciate freedom -- freedom to get richer.

Steven --

 

Was there any influence of the "social contract" theory on the Constitution?  It seems to me that, given what little I know of Madison and Jefferson, the Constitution appeals more to natural law theory.  Though they wouldn't deny that each individual does bind him/her self to a particular nation and its laws, in the case of the U. S. the basic law is founded on natural law.

 

By the way, Madison is my favorite among the founding fathers.  Far and away the wisest of them.  Jefferson follows in second place.  Sure, George Washington was a phenomenal leader but not much on theory. None of them were like that greedy slug of a Ben Franklin whose telos was property.  Granted,  like the libertarians he did appreciate freedom -- freedom to get richer.

I know that the arc of the moral (and, political) universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

But why must that be so?

(a) Historical determinism

(b) Human nature

(c) The laws of physics

(d) Kismet

(e) Divine intervention

(f) The vigilance of an informed electorate

(g) Constitutional checks and balances

(h) It needn't be so

I reject (a) thru (d) as explanations.  (e) is inscrutable.  (f) and (g) probably are necessary but not sufficient.  The best answer, it seems to me, is (h).  Or, to give a more complete answer: we do our best with (f) and (g) while recognizing the reality of (h), which motivates us to pray for (e).

 

Michael Bayer: It seems David Simon has had another thought or two on this: http://davidsimon.com/nsa-and-fisa-commentary-calling-it/

Here are the Chicago Tribune's editors on this issue.  Istm pretty sensible.

 

 

JP,

I dont think you have standing in the FISA court.  In fact, you would not even know the warrant was issued because the entire process is kept secret. 

From Wikipedia

Each application for one of these surveillance warrants (called a FISA warrant) is made before an individual judge of the court. Like a grand jury, the court is not an adversarial court: the federal government is the only party to its proceedings...

It is also rare for FISA warrant requests to be turned down by the court. Through the end of 2004, 18,761 warrants were granted, while just five were rejected (many sources say four)...

Bruce, thanks.  I see the FISA also established its own court of appeals, the Review Court.  I bet I don't have standing there, either.  Whether it would flow from there up through the normal Federal appeals pathway, is not clear to me.

It occurs to me that none of us would have standing in the FISA court to challenge any of this.  As a legal matter, we're not involved.  Really.  We all signed customer agreements giving up our privacy to Verizon (or, whomever).  Case closed.  The warrant wasn't served on any of us because, as I've been saying, it's not our property that we're talking about.  The records that have been delivered to NSA are the wholly-owned, free-and-clear property of Verizon.  We have no claim whatever, at all.  If we did, we would have been served warrants.  I don't have one because I have no ownership over the information at all.

Jim--I believe in (e) and (g), in that order.  I really like (f), but I never depend on it.  As a more direct reply, faith obliges me to believe that the Kingdom is brought forth incrementally each day.  That doesn't mean that 'every day, in every way, things are getting better and better.'  But it does mean that the long arc traces the order of history, aiming at the Transcendent Source of that order.  

George--You can think that, and I have no quarrel with anything you want to think.  But it's not an expression of anything in the Catholic tradition.  You began by suggesting we might reconcile Catholicism to libertarianism.  We just keep finding new reasons why we can't.  In a way, that leads me to....

Ann--We get into real trouble whenever we try to say that the constitutional founding was influenced by natural law, or the Enlightenment.  The truth is something closer to both-and-neither, I think.  There are heavy imprints of the natural law tradition on Madison's thinking.  At the same time, Madison's Notes on the Convention quote John Rutledge (representing South Carolina!) as saying that "religion and humanity" had "nothing" to do with the constitutional debate.  "Interest alone is the governing principle of nations," he added.  That's a principle soaked in the Scottish Enlightenment, even if Rutledge was using that principle to keep the convention from getting in the way of the slave trade.  Jefferson was a more typical Enlightenment figure, though he wasn't at the convention.  The point is that almost every point of view was represented in our founding.  Those various perspectives conflicted at the convention, and even more in the ugly politics of the early federal period.  I always think the reason our system works so well is because it managed to catch pieces of the natural law tradition and the Enlightenment, and to hold them together in dynamic tension that still exists.  That's the genius of the American system--not just the Enlightenment or the natural law tradition.  But, finally, there is the history of the American founding and then there is the Catholic political tradition.  No matter what some members of the USCCB tell you, they are distinct.  Libertarianism fits quite well into that Enlightenment strand of the American tradition.  But it clashes hopelessly with the other.

Snowdon voted/donated Ron Paul for president.. maybe he thinks China welcomes libertarians.  [even if MOS says Hong Kong is not really China]  He bets the Chinese welcomes libertarians [not]  

 " There are heavy imprints of the natural law tradition on Madison's thinking.  At the same time, Madison's Notes on the Convention quote John Rutledge (representing South Carolina!) as saying that "religion and humanity" had "nothing" to do with the constitutional debate.  "Interest alone is the governing principle of nations," he added."

 

Steven -

I agree with the first sentence, but if the Convention wasn't concerned with the humanity of the colonists, then what was it about?  I wonder what he meant exactly by quoting that text of Routledge.  And when he said "interest alone is the governing principle of nations" was he describing facts or was he describing what ought to be?  I doubt that he meant that as some simple  normative statement.  (Not that I've read much Madison, mind  you.)

 

I apologize for my duplicate posts above.  i can't figure out how they happened.  Can someone explain what I'm probably doing wrong so I can stop?

 

 

 We all signed customer agreements giving up our privacy to Verizon (or, whomever).

 

Not really.  We signed customer service agreements which provide for these companies to respond to subponeas from the government.  The companies cant just give out the information to anyone.  But the government has set up a process where we have no way to contest the government's claim nor even any knowledge that they have subponeaed our phone records.  The whole process is completely antithethical to the fourth amendment, which requires real evidence of a crime, not some hoped for ability to prevent one.  

Rutledge was throwing water on appeals to natural law, religion, and altruism against slavery. He was trying to quell the idea of a moral order being behind the Constitution because that would tend to work against the peculiar institution.. The appeal to interest was to say that dollars and cents, any advantage, determines the conduct of states, not dewey-eyed, sentimental notions of doing the right thing. Madison wasn't really quoting Rutledge. The Notes on the Convention are literally that--Madison's notes on what was said by the delegates during the debate on the Constitution. I call attention only to highlight a diversity of viewpoints among the framers. More than just the natural law or the Enlightenment, a whole range of opinions was present at the founding.

From The Guardian, today:

Edward Snowden explosive NSA leaks have US in damage control mode

Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who revealed secrets of the Vietnam war through the so-called Pentagon Papers in 1971, described Snowden's leak as even more important and perhaps the most significant leak in American history.

In London, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, was forced to defend the UK's use of intelligence gathered by the US. Other European leaders also voiced concern.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is expected to grill Obama next week, during a much-awaited summit in Berlin. Peter Schaar, Germany's federal data protection commissioner, told the Guardian it was unacceptable for the US authorities to have access to EU citizens' data, and that the level of protection is lower than that guaranteed to US citizens.

Steven ==

Thanks for your always informative replies.  Also, thanks for the bit about Jefferson not being a member of the Convention.  I had assumed he had.  Hmm.  We do supply our own historical details, don't we.  

We all signed customer agreements giving up our privacy to Verizon (or, whomever).  Case closed.  The warrant wasn't served on any of us because, as I've been saying, it's not our property that we're talking about.  The records that have been delivered to NSA are the wholly-owned, free-and-clear property of Verizon.  We have no claim whatever, at all.

 

While I'm too lazy to search out my cell phone contract, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that it contains some consumer privacy protections.  I don't think Verizon or whomever can post the details or content of my cell phone calls on its website for the whole world to see.  The spirit of those protections is that my private business still "belongs" to me, even though the bits and bytes of that business are in Verizon's custody, and so Verizon needs to take reasonable precautions to keep my private business confidential.

I'm sure that the contractual (and statutory) consumer privacy protections would include an exception that allows Verizon or whomever to turn over my records to the government, pursuant to a court order.  And presumably that is precisely how the NSA was able to obtain possession of the data - the federal government went to a FISA court and requested it.  So all parties complied with their contractual and statutory obligations.

 But nobody is claiming that the data was obtained illegally.  That is not the issue.  The core issue is that the law that enabled Verizon, Facebook, Google, Comcast, et al to turn my electronic records to the government is unjust.  The government exceptions to privacy protections were written with the expectation that for that exception to be triggered, the government would need to go to a court and justify a warrant for my records by meeting a particular threshold of credible suspicion about me.  Pretty clearly, that hasn't happened here.  To the best of my knowledge, I'm not a terrorist suspect and haven't engaged in any behavior that would make the federal government suspect that I am.  And yet my records have been turned over.

And once the data is collected and consolidated, I now need to rely on the good faith and the competence of the government, with its millions of employees, to protect my privacy.  A glance at any recent newspaper suggests that perhaps I have grounds for worry.

John Oliver's debut segment as Daily Show host last night does a nice job of summarizing the issues.

 

The FISA might be unjust, and if enough people agree then our system of government permits action.  I have no problem with that.  But, for now, the law is the law.  The reason that this scandal is a frustrated puppy chasing its tail is because it has nowhere to go.  There will be no congressional investigation, no grand jury, because there can't be.  Nothing illegal has happened.  (Except the leak.)

As for privacy policies, please do look here because you may find it instructive.  It reminds me of what my old mentor used to say about seeing a Customer's Bill of Rights hanging in his grocery store: it sent a chill down his spine because he knew that those "rights" were the whim of the manager or the company.  They could be changed overnight.

Here is a useful excerpt:

Except as explained in this Privacy Policy, in privacy policies for specific services, or in agreements with our customers, Verizon does not sell, license or share information that individually identifies our customers, people using our networks, or website visitors with others outside the Verizon family of companies for non-Verizon purposes without the consent of the person whose information will be shared

Reassuring, yes?  But on what foundation does this privacy policy stand?  Does it refer to statute law or regulation?  No.  These all are Verizon's own choices, gifts freely given or taken back.  Except where the policy refers to special protections for citizens of Arizona, California, or Ohio.  That's because those states have passed laws adding requirements.  But a federal framework?  No.

This, from the Federal Trade Commission webpage, might reassure you:

When companies tell consumers they will safeguard their personal information, the FTC can and does take law enforcement action to make sure that companies live up these promises.

But notice that the protection is only against companies breaking their own promises.  There is no FTC protection, apart from their enforcement of a company's own policy against the company.

Of course, as Verizon (and all the others) tell us in their privacy policy:

We reserve the right to make changes to this Privacy Policy

Has the chill gone down your spine yet?

 

AO @ 6/10, 10:52: Duplicate posts: Yes, I don't know why. I have complained to the PTB, and they promise to look into it. The delete function along with "close comments" has also been taken from us. Alas!

And apparently the "reply" function doesn't appear with the comment it is "replying" to.

The reason that this scandal is a frustrated puppy chasing its tail is because it has nowhere to go.  There will be no congressional investigation, no grand jury, because there can't be.  Nothing illegal has happened.  (Except the leak.)

Right.  I'm not sure that "scandal" is even the right word.  Our expectations have been set for a scandal  here because there is a string of other scandals in the news.  But this one does not fit the template: it doesn't fall along partisan fault lines, it doesn't lend itself even to superficial attribution to President Obama's administration, no laws have been broken.  Rather than "scandal", I think of it as "teaching moment": look what our Congress and our government have wrought in our name.  And you're quite right that we can do something about it if we wish.  Speaking for me: I wish.  Whether this news story will spur legislation, or spawn a national issue for a future election, is something I can't foresee.

Possibly the teaching moment could trigger litigation aimed at getting a federal court to overturn the parts of FISA that I termed unjust in a previous comment.  I don't know how someone would show injury, though.  But that's why we have 1 million+ clever lawyers.

 

A bit tangential but relevant to issue of privacy and the governments rights to access even public forms of communication like, arguably, Facebook is.

Government went too far in surveillance of First Nations advocate: report

Two government departments went too far in their monitoring of a First Nations children's advocate and her personal Facebook page, federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has found.

Stoddart was looking into a complaint filed by activist Cindy Blackstock, who is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, an organization fighting the federal government in court over First Nations child welfare programs.

The commissioner found that Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Justice seemed to violate the spirit of the Privacy Act when they compiled reams of information from Blackstock's personal Facebook page.

"It raises the question: who else?" said NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder.

Officials knew full well that they were delving into personal information, and not just Blackstock's thoughts on child welfare policy, the report states.

George D: I saw that story too and wondered why anyone would think Facebook is Private. Your life is out there if you put it out there. Same with Anthony Wiener's twitter pictures. What do people expect? Or should they expect?

And then: Glenn Greenwald claims to have much more info and documents. Does he? Or is this a bargaining chip for Snowden's asylum in Iceland? Russia (Putin has offered)? Getting to sound like a Pink Panther movie.

Margaret 

It is an interesting case study regarding privacy. I don't have Facebook but my understanding is that you have control over privacy settings and who may post or see your wall. Your "friends" cannot forward your content as far as I know.

With Twitter, which I do have, it is totally public as anybody can retweet your tweets to their followers and so on.

My comments on this site are completely public and I have no expectation of privacy regarding that.

Soi, I think the privacy commissioner got the distinction correct as far as government prying is concerned.

That said, as a prudential matter, I tell my daughter that her Facebbok entries leave a digital footprint which may be accessed by somebody in the future.

Also, in this instance, it appears that the government was moving beyond the scope of legitimate investigation into her advocacy efforts and obtaining personal details irrelevant to their investigation.

i believe we call that the sin of detraction!

George D: I don't do Facebook, or any other such; I don't do Linked-In, etc. I only do dotCommonweal. Like you, I know this is not private.

When you advise your daughter of her digital footprint, you seem to recognize the potential for hacking, access without permission, etc. Fuzzy boundary area it would seem though the decision in the case you cite found for the plaintiff--too late it appears.

I am dumbfounded at cell phone users who detail last night's encounter in loud voices walking down Broadway. Must be one of those millenials who are not fibbertigibbets about privacy!

I know of at least one person who was fired for posting an intemperate remark about the employer on Facebook. 

 

Her facebook was actually hacked. Somebody put all kinds of vile pictures and messages. It was awful and traumatizing for her. As it turns out, this practice is more common than you think. Facebook, btw, was just awful in providing technical or any other kind of support!! She e-mailed her account and explained and the guy actually e-mailed the password saying that he does this to people for kicks....and apologized. Needless to say, I turned it over to the police so that they could track the IP address. Not sure what the outcome was.

The solution to the problem (besides Facebook actually paying for effective anti-hacking software!!!) is to change your password frequently.

OR....to stay off facebook.

..not a fan of Facebook but what can a dad do...girls will be girls!!

but back on point

ACLU Files Suit Against NSA, Patriot Act Phone Surveillance

The ACLU press release also states that the type of personal data being collected through Section 215 of the Patriot Act constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Lastly, the ACLU complaint charges that the executive branch’s use of Section 215 violates the plain language of the statute itself. The statute requires that records seized under its authority be “relevant” to an authorized foreign-intelligence or terrorism investigation.

The ACLU has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which seeks the government’s “secret interpretation of the law.”

 

 

 

Referring to actions of the Bush administration, Representative Schief said this, which has not been contradicted:

"These extrajudicial actions are all the more troubling when one considers that there is a court empowered to review precisely such applications for domestic surveillance that could have been utilized but was not. Given the track record of this court, the FISA Court, of quickly approving Government requests and the power to seek post hoc approval where the urgency is still greater, there appears no policy justification for the administration's actions. And, thus, what may be illegal is also so plainly unnecessary. " http://www.progress.org/wiretapreport.htm

Set aside the illegal Bush administration actions and note what *IS* considered legal: obtain the evidence first and then get the warrant post hoc. And if you find out the evidence was unhelpful to a legal proceeding, just don't bring it into a legal proceeding. No harm, no foul (?!).

It is becoming evident that the NSA is recording (without analysing) everything they can get their hands on - all phone calls, all internet traffic - and going back to those recordings via internal search engines when some event makes them of interest. Only if the domestic services (e.g., FBI) feel that the data would be useful in a legal proceeding does the formality of a warrant ever arise, and, as has been widely reported, the FISA court has *never* denied such a warrant.

With this near-omniscience, we all become criminals - the book "Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent " is likely overstated, but with this sea of evidence, none of us remain out of prison except at the "mercy" of our surveillance state. Unbridled discretionary power by human beings inevitably leads to their corruption. This ocean of data overwhelms all human wisdom and humility.

Example: the CEO of Quest refused to participate in NSA data collection, and is now serving a six year sentence for "insider trading".

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