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From the lead editorial in Wednesday's NY Times...

Mr. Obama’s Limits on Phone Records
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
NY TIMES
MARCH 25, 2014 (MARCH 26th EDITION)

If President Obama really wants to end the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, he doesn’t need to ask the permission of Congress, as he said on Tuesday he would do. He can just end it himself, immediately.

That’s what Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urged him to do. “The president could end bulk collection once and for all on Friday by not seeking reauthorization of this program,” Mr. Leahy said.

Ending bulk collection now wouldn’t undermine Mr. Obama’s proposal to Congress. In fact, if his promise is matched by the final details (which are not yet available), it could be an important and positive break from the widespread invasion of privacy secretly practiced by the National Security Agency for years. Getting a law to create strong judicial oversight of data collection would be a check on the ambitions of future presidents. But once the question is tossed into the maelstrom of Congress, where one party routinely opposes anything the president wants, the limits could be delayed, or diluted, or just killed.

And while lawmakers wring their hands, the invasion of privacy will continue…

…The immediate question, though, is why the president feels he needs to wait for Congress before stopping mass collection. As Mr. Obama said on Tuesday, because of Edward Snowden’s revelations, “we have to win back the trust not just of governments but, more important, of ordinary citizens.” Continuing the current surveillance program while lawmakers argue is not the way to begin winning back the country’s trust.

Let me be more precise with regard to the President’s stated intent to throw this matter back to the House of Representatives, where another version of the plan has been put forth by Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, the leading majority and minority members of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively.  

Better yet, I’ll let Marcy Wheeler explain how President Obama is, virtually, throwing this matter back to the foxes that are guarding the public's First and Fourth Amendment henhouse, where they intend to expand the government's surveillance powers, not curtail them...

NSA Bids to Expand Spying in Guise of ‘Fixing’ Phone Dragnet
Marcy Wheeler
Emptywheel Blog
Published March 24, 2014

Dutch Ruppersberger has provided Siobhan Gorman with details of his plan to “fix” the dragnet — including repeating the laughable claim that the “dragnet” (which she again doesn’t distinguish as solely the Section 215 data that makes up a small part of the larger dragnet) doesn’t include cell data.

Only, predictably, it’s not a “fix” of the phone dragnet at all, except insofar as NSA appears to be bidding to use it to do all the things they want to do with domestic dragnets but haven’t been able to do legally. Rather, it appears to be an attempt to outsource to telecoms some of the things the NSA hasn’t been able to do legally since 2009…

…This would, presumably, mean NSA still ends up with a corporate store, a collection of people against whom the NSA has absolutely not a shred of non-contact evidence, against whom they can use all their analytical toys, including searching of content.

Note, too, that this program uses the word “directive,” not query. Directive comes from the PRISM program, where the NSA gives providers generalized descriptions and from there have broad leeway to add new selectors. Until I hear differently, I’ll assume the same is true here: that this actually involves less individualized review before engaging in 2 degrees of Osama bin Laden.

The legislation seems ripe for inclusion of querying of Internet data (another area where the NSA could never do what it wanted to legally after 2009), given that it ties this program to “banning” (US collection of, but Gorman doesn’t say that either, maintaining her consistency in totally ignoring that EO 12333 collection makes up the greater part of bulk programs) Internet bulk data collection…

Here’s more from Marcy Wheeler on this developing travesty, from this afternoon…

RuppRogers Fake Dragnet Fix Would End (?) Bulk Firearm Record Collection, But Not Bulk Credit Card Record Collection
Marcy Wheeler
emptywheel
Published March 25, 2014

I’m just beginning to go through the House Intelligence Fake Dragnet Fix bill — what I will henceforth call the RuppRogers Fake Dragnet Fix.

It does have some improvements — the kind of bones you throw into a legislation to entice members of Congress to back what is in fact a broad expansion of surveillance

All this from a President who recently stated he was going to exercise the powers of his office to affect change, directly.

From where I’m sitting, tonight, this looks like a total cop-out. And, apparently, the editors of the NY Times and Senator Patrick Leahy are all but saying the same thing.

That didn’t take long.


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Earlier today, I covered this story in the following post: "Jaffer, Greenwald Remind Us of Blurred Lines Between Political Partisanship, Pragmatism and Hackery."


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Per numerous Kossacks in the comments, below...

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) have been the primary sponsors on Capitol Hill of The USA Freedom Act; with facts being contrary to typical misinformation from far too many rightwing, so-called "Democratic" commenters (one is too many, IMHO), below.

Here's Ann Burroughs, Chair of the Board of Amnesty International, commenting on why this community should be solidly behind this legislation...

In the Age of the Selfie, Privacy Still Paramount
Ann Burroughs
Chair of the Board of Directors, Amnesty International
Huffington Post
Posted: 03/18/2014 6:35 pm EDT Updated: 03/18/2014 6:59 pm EDT

As Americans and people around the world grow increasingly wary of the U.S. government's mass surveillance program, it is our obligation to speak up.

As a former prisoner of conscience in South Africa during the apartheid era, I know from personal experience just how important it is to protect our fundamental freedoms. And make no mistake: the right to privacy is absolutely fundamental to a free society. True, many of us broadcast selfies and personal details of our lives on social media every day. But that is our right and our choice. It does not give the government the right to collect and store every piece of data about us, without our consent.

The cost of widespread government surveillance is steep. The knowledge that everything we do can be monitored will change the way we act and what we say. This is how governments create a climate in which people fear the consequences of expressing themselves openly and worry their beliefs and activities can be used against them. It turns ordinary, waking life into an Orwellian nightmare. It undermines our rights to freedom of expression, information and association, which are essential to a democracy.

The sheer scale of mass surveillance challenges our basic human right to liberty…

…Elected officials should turn away from pushing legislation that jeopardizes fundamental liberties, and instead support the USA Freedom Act. Rather than exchanging freedom for safety, it guarantees that the two operate together, maintaining national security without sacrificing human rights. This USA Freedom Act isn't simply a reaction to NSA spying; it is a recommitment to protecting the right to privacy.


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