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Obama’s NSA phone surveillance called “shockingly broad”

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 10:03 pm - June 6, 2013.
Filed under: Obama Watch,War On Terror

Michelle Malkin has a must-read post on NSA phone surveillance of Americans (a subject that I touched upon in an earlier footnote).

She starts by reminding about the NSA phone surveillance of the Bush administration:

The Bush NSA’s special collections program grew in early 2002 after the CIA started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah. The CIA seized the terrorists’ computers, cellphones and personal phone directories. NSA surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible. As a result of Bush NSA work,the terrorist plot involving convicted al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris was uncovered — possibly saving untold lives…

Normally, the government obtains court orders to monitor such information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But the window of opportunity to exploit the names, numbers, and addresses of those associated with the top terrorist leaders was obviously small…

So the Bush administration had the NSA track Americans’ overseas phone calls, insofar as captured terrorist phone numbers might show up. But the Obama administration? Not so much…err, so little:

The new Obama order covers not only phone calls overseas with the specific goal of counterterrorism surveillance, but all domestic calls by Verizon customers over at least a three-month period.

[Malkin now links/quotes an article at Politico:] Trevor Timm, a digital rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the order “shockingly broad.” …The “top secret” order issued in April by a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the request of the FBI instructs the telecommunications giant Verizon to provide the NSA with daily reports of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

I’m willing to preserve our counter-terrorism efforts. And I don’t know much about the legal ins/outs of all this. But, all domestic calls by Verizon customers? Sheesh! This surely goes beyond the Bush NSA surveillance that the public debated in 2005-6.

So, it’s worth discussing the rightness (or wrongness) of the broadened surveillance. The more so if (note IF) the War on Terror is over, as some international observers thought Obama to be implying in his speech last week.

By way of counterpoint, Senator Feinstein implies that the broadened phone surveillance did start under Bush, in 2007. But that still wouldn’t make it right. Or make it anything that the public has approved, because we haven’t learned about the broadened efforts (or been able to debate them) until now.

As always, please feel free to post whatever more you know about this issue, in the comments.

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17 Comments

  1. [...] Obama’s NSA phone surveillance called “shockingly broad” [...]

    Pingback by Religio-Political Talk (RPT) Differences Are Important — June 6, 2013 @ 11:04 pm - June 6, 2013

  2. Since you asked for whatever else we might know, well, for starters, it is a LOT broader than just Verizon. We’re talking about all cell calls and lots of internet companies, as well.

    Comment by Kurt — June 7, 2013 @ 12:07 am - June 7, 2013

  3. I remember the left all a twitter about GWB spying on americans (always small letters when the left says it) when it was only if those folks were calling a monitored number (Say KSM) and then they went and got a post call warrant,
    Now there were issues with the wording of the Patriot Act that was allowing this, and I always follow the “Would you trust the opposing Party to have this power?” to define whether a law is good or not. P.A. falls under the “As written, NO!” and darned if 0bama hasn’t gone and proved even the most paranoid Ronulan and Evangelical Libertarian right by making a decently executed but poorly worded program into stuff making Nixon look like a piker. While he has a way to go to beat FDR (at least 0bama hasn’t incarcerated citizens in the thousands for being from a certain part of the planet in ancestry … yet), I am starting to wonder if he will manage to top him.

    Comment by JP Kalishek — June 7, 2013 @ 12:08 am - June 7, 2013

  4. Nothing will come of this because the ENTIRE Congress, both Houses, are complicit in this from the very beginning. Who would hold hearings?

    – The very Members of Congress and the Senate the signed-off every three-months the Oversight re-authorization for the last four Sessions of Congress?
    – The Federal Courts that signed the FISA Warrants?
    – The Administration and DoJ that administer the program?

    Again I point to the similarities and alarming parallels to Weimar Germany, Spring 1933. The difference? …The US Constitution in flames and not the Reichstag.

    And exactly what are the 10,000 intelligence-analysts of the NSA analyzing? …And whom?

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — June 7, 2013 @ 12:59 am - June 7, 2013

  5. The NSA looking at phone records is about stopping terrorism. That’s the whole point of the NSA.

    After the Boston Bomber bombed Boston, a number of Republicans asked why the intelligence agencies didn’t know he was a terrorist threat earlier. How would intel know if they don’t have the tools to know?

    A few days ago, Obama gave a terrorism speech, and he was criticized for downplaying the threat of terrorism. If terrorism isn’t a threat, I guess we don’t need the NSA to monitor terrorism? Is that your thinking?

    You could go with the lame argument, “What if Bush did it?” We already know what the result would be if Bush did it: Conservative supported the Bush NSA wiretapping people because they wanted to STOP TERRORIST PLOTS. The threat of terrorism didn’t disappear when Obama got elected. It was a good idea then, and it is a good idea now.

    Comment by Mitch — June 7, 2013 @ 1:44 am - June 7, 2013

  6. It begs the question; is it actually stopping terrorism—or just an Orwellian wet-dream for faceless, unaccountable drones??

    After the Boston Bomber bombed Boston, a number of Republicans asked why the intelligence agencies didn’t know he was a terrorist threat earlier. How would intel know if they don’t have the tools to know?

    Demonstrably it didn’t prevent the Boston Bombers’ success. Even with red-flags from the Russians.
    US Army Maj. Nidal wasn’t stopped despite plenty of red-flags either.
    And the “Shoe Bomber” wasn’t stopped by the TSA, nor by strip-searching little old ladies or forcing people to dump-out their shampoos.

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — June 7, 2013 @ 2:55 am - June 7, 2013

  7. Oh, and meanwhile the China, Inc. and the Peoples Liberation Army’s hackers’ army is cleaning-out every bank, university, big pharma and defense contractors’ servers and pirating every possible intellectual property, trade secret and advanced industrial-process they can ferret out.

    Maybe the NSA is too-busy reading e-mails and listening-in on the wrong “Enemy of the (American) People”?

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — June 7, 2013 @ 3:03 am - June 7, 2013

  8. Mitch, you’ve seemingly ignored the point that the NSA surveillance we’re talking about now, goes well beyond the more narrowly-tailored surveillance that conservatives (and some liberals) were OK with Bush’s NSA doing.

    Also, remember that the NSA is traditionally part of the White House. (Unlike State, Defense, Homeland Security, FBI and CIA.) In fact, Obama has just given an especially non-credible political hack the job of leading the NSA.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 7, 2013 @ 3:05 am - June 7, 2013

  9. ILC, Mitch didn’t ignore it at all, it simply doesn’t suit the “But Bush!” narrative being pushed.

    And, hey, maybe if the Obama Administration had been trying to actually stop TERRORISM, instead of using the IRS, EPA, and DOJ as cudgels on political opposition, they might have actually stopped the Boston Bombers.

    Then again, didn’t Obama pretty much say that the War on Terror was over, and there are no terror cells in the Western Hemisphere? So why do any of this? Oh, right, because it was always about power, and Leftists will continue to lie about it.

    Comment by acethepug — June 7, 2013 @ 6:29 am - June 7, 2013

  10. I don’t frankly give a shit about who started this. I only know I don’t approve of the government sneaking any secret crap into play without the consent of the people.

    Comment by My Sharia Moor — June 7, 2013 @ 6:47 am - June 7, 2013

  11. The thing to remember about Mitch and the other Obama bootlickers is that they don’t see this as a problem because they *like* the way the Mugabe Regime is using Government power to harass, intimidate, and silence people they don’t agree with.

    We look at the IRS harassing Tea Party activists, or the FBI hounding Gibson Guitars, or the DoJ spying on FoxNews reporters and we see outrageous abuses of power. But Mitch (and mikey, and rusty, and the other members of the cult) see their Dear Leader putting a boot to the throat of people they don’t like, and they think that is awesome.

    When someone like Mitch says that all of this is about “stopping terrorism,” remember that the progressive left has already designated the Tea Parties and the NRA as “terrorist groups.”

    Comment by V the K — June 7, 2013 @ 7:43 am - June 7, 2013

  12. “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…. unless they are Tea Partiers, NRA members, or other enemies of the Progressive State” — 4th Amendment to the Constitution as Amended by Barack H. Mugabe.

    Comment by V the K — June 7, 2013 @ 8:15 am - June 7, 2013

  13. Exactly, V the K.

    Mitch will support whatever Mugabe does because Mitch is a welfare pig and irrational bigot who sees government’s job as punishing those he dislikes and filling his trough with slop.

    And even better for Mugabe, Mitch has been effectively emasculated by the left’s constant shrieking that black skin is always right and thus will go through the most hilarious gyrations to justify Mugabe’s actions.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — June 7, 2013 @ 8:43 am - June 7, 2013

  14. Yeah, remember the hissy-fits from leftist progressives when the Bush Regime was trying to spy on foreign terrorists? Yet, how does the progressive left react when the targets are Gibson Guitars, the Koch Brothers, or the Tea Party? “They had it coming.”

    Comment by V the K — June 7, 2013 @ 9:15 am - June 7, 2013

  15. Yeah, remember the hissy-fits from leftist progressives when the Bush Regime was trying to spy on foreign terrorists? Yet, how does the progressive left react when the targets are Gibson Guitars, the Koch Brothers, or the Tea Party? “They had it coming.”

    Comment by V the K — June 7, 2013 @ 9:15 am – June 7, 2013

    Tells you something, doesn’t it, V the K?

    The Obama Party thinks al-Qaeda terrorists have more rights of due process and equal treatment under the law than political dissidents.

    But that’s typical. The Obama Party thinks illegal immigrants are more entitled to welfare and jobs than are American citizens.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — June 7, 2013 @ 1:56 pm - June 7, 2013

  16. Since you asked for whatever else we might know, well, for starters, it is a LOT broader than just Verizon. We’re talking about all cell calls and lots of internet companies, as well.

    Comment by Kurt — June 7, 2013 @ 12:07 am – June 7, 2013

    A point of clarification. The ACLU reports that the company target of the calls in The Guardian UK story was Verizon Business Network Services. Of course, we don’t know if that was the only company or if other companies were shaken down in order to provide data, as revealing information about the request is itself a criminal act.

    Nonetheless, it’s important to note that Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless are two separate companies. The former is a Baby Bell successor company and provides landline/dial tone, long distance, and business services and the latter is jointly owned by the former and Vodaphone PLC providing cellular communications.

    Comment by RSG — June 8, 2013 @ 4:27 am - June 8, 2013

  17. Vodaphone PLC

    The actual company name is Vodafone Group Plc.

    Comment by RSG — June 8, 2013 @ 7:12 pm - June 8, 2013

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