This article originally appeared in the 1.9.14 issue of Metroland
Edward Snowden and the NSA.
For years I’ve been writing about the privacy train leaving the station,
but even at my most cynical I couldn’t have imagined how bad things had
And though the Snowden leaks have
been happening for months now, I haven’t taken them up here until now.
Because the issues are too dense and I’m lazy, that’s why!
My go-to source for this sort of thing, the
fantastic site Techdirt
, has been
chronicling the whole messy affair in excruciating detail, so excruciating that
I’ve skipped over most of the posts because they made my head hurt.
Arcane laws, double-secret laws, secret
memos, secret courts, secret lawyers, redacted documents, long expositions on
the nature of metadata, urgh, spare me.
Let’s talk about evil record companies instead!
are hitting critical mass.
countries are mad at us for spying on them, at least they try to act mad until
it’s disclosed that they spy on other countries, too.
The NSA and other administration officials
have been caught repeatedly lying to Congress and to the press.
In the last couple of weeks, two federal
courts looking at roughly the same issues have come to polar opposite
conclusions regarding the constitutionality the NSA’s domestic spying
Meantime, the New York Times
last week called for the Obama Administration to provide “some form of
clemency” for Edward Snowden, the guy who leaked (and, apparently, continues to
leak) the information that exposed NSA’s shocking and nefarious activities, and
who is currently living in exile in Russia.
much here that it’s hard to know where to begin, so let’s start with the recent
In December, a federal
judge in Washington DC found that it was highly likely that NSA’s mass
collection of our phone records violated the 4th
guarantee of freedom from unreasonable searches.
The judge shot down many of the government’s
laughable arguments about things like how the plaintiffs lacked standing
because they couldn’t prove they’d actually been spied on, how the mass
collection of phone records legal because it was similar to the old pen
register surveillance technique cops have been using to track individuals (one
individual at a time) for years, and how the program had in fact stopped
terrorist attacks (it hasn’t).
decision is cleared-eyed and logical.
describes the government’s spying program as “Orwellian.”
week, a NYC federal judge came to the opposite conclusion.
The decision opens with a discussion of
impact of the 9/11 attacks, and then goes on for page after page uncritically
repeating, like a mynah bird, the government’s factual claims and legal
He relied on things like the
claim that NSA’s metadata program could have prevented the 9/11 attacks (which
is simply untrue), that the NSA doesn’t abuse its surveillance powers (it
does), that no one who is innocent has been harmed (which is irrelevant), and
that only a tiny number of people have been spied on (a claim that the DC judge
demolished in one paragraph).
wonders if the NYC judge even read the DC judge’s opinion.
One wonders if the NYC judge read anything
but the government’s brief.
event, both decisions are being appealed, and it’s likely that one or both
cases ends up at the Supreme Court.
Meantime, the NSA’s mass collection of data continues unabated.
stake here is, course, your privacy, of which you currently have very little.
Your phone today is more complex, more
versatile and more revealing that your phone was even five years ago.
You use it more, and you use it differently.
If the government jacks into your phone, even
just taking the most basic metadata, the government knows a whole lot about
And if your argument is “well, I
haven’t done anything wrong so I don’t care” I pity you, and suggest you move
to North Korea with Dennis Rodman.
if your argument is “marketers already know what I do online who cares if the
government tracks my calls”, I say this: the marketers track you to present to
you opportunities to buy stuff they know you want; that’s not why the
government is tracking you.
knows why the government is tracking you.
clownish shills for the NSA, including lawmakers from all over the political
spectrum, warn ominously that if we limit NSA’s reach, even a little, we’ll
open ourselves up to more terrorist attacks.
There’s no proof of that whatsoever, but even if it were true, it’s nonsensical.
There will be terrorist attacks in the
Period. The question is how much
of our freedom do we give up to try to stop them?
Hey, if every person in the Country were
assigned a full-time government chaperone maybe we could stop terrorism
Edward Snowden is a hero.
None of this
would be happening if it weren’t for him. Let him come home.
Paul Rapp is a local
intellectual property attorney who suggests you go see Trombone Shorty this