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The NSA Wiretapping Story Nobody Wanted 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the since-privacy-is-such-a-minor-issue dept.
CWmike writes "They sometimes call national security the third rail of politics. Touch it and, politically, you're dead. The cliché doesn't seem far off the mark after reading Mark Klein's new book, Wiring up the Big Brother Machine ... and Fighting It. It's an account of his experiences as the whistleblower who exposed a secret room at a Folsom Street facility in San Francisco that was apparently used to monitor the Internet communications of ordinary Americans. Amazingly, however, nobody wanted to hear his story. In his book he talks about meetings with reporters and privacy groups that went nowhere until a fateful January 20, 2006 meeting with Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Bankston was preparing a lawsuit that he hoped would put a stop to the wiretap program, and Klein was just the kind of witness the EFF was looking for. He spoke with Robert McMillan for an interview."
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The NSA Wiretapping Story Nobody Wanted

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  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @05:26AM (#28739325) Homepage Journal
    Apparently, even President Obama doesn't want to hear complaints about the warrantless wiretaps. The Computerworld story provides a convenient link titled "Obama administration defends Bush wiretapping [computerworld.com]"

    While campaigning against President George W. Bush, Barack Obama had pledged that there would be "no more wiretapping of American citizens," but Obama's administration has continued to use many of his predecessor's arguments when it comes to warrantless wiretapping.

    Ok, perhaps the reporter of that story got a few of the facts wrong. (George W. Bush != John McCain)

    Seth

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by tnok85 (1434319)

      Ok, perhaps the reporter of that story got a few of the facts wrong. (George W. Bush != John McCain)

      Obama did not have to defeat McCain - or whatever Republican got the nomination, for that matter - he only needed to defeat Bush.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by jonwil (467024)

      With regards to the back flip carried out by Obama when he became president (where he changed from opposing the wiretaps to supporting them), the logical explanation is that when he became president the NSA showed him details of the wiretapping and possibly also showed him examples of things the NSA has intercepted via the wiretapping that has in some way benefited the national security of the nation or helped in the war on terror. Having seen that this wiretapping is actually producing beneficial results,

      • by crazyjimmy (927974) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:57AM (#28740051)

        With regards to the back flip carried out by Obama when he became president (where he changed from opposing the wiretaps to supporting them), the logical explanation is that when he became president the NSA showed him details of the wiretapping and possibly also showed him examples of things the NSA has intercepted via the wiretapping that has in some way benefited the national security of the nation or helped in the war on terror. Having seen that this wiretapping is actually producing beneficial results, he would then be more inclined to keep it going so it can keep producing these results.

        Or perhaps the NSA offered to post transcripts of every embarrassing conversation Obama had ever had.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday July 18, 2009 @09:22AM (#28740181) Homepage Journal

        With regards to the back flip carried out by Obama when he became president (where he changed from opposing the wiretaps to supporting them)

        There was no such flip. Obama ALWAYS supported warrantless wiretaps. How do I know? He voted for telecoms immunity. He had some bullshit excuse about it, but no excuse is possible. Believing Obama was ever against those wiretaps is fucking stupid. Check the voting record, understand that you have been duped, and move on.

        Obama supported these wiretaps before [sfgate.com] becoming president:

        The law that Congress passed last summer, with the support of then-Sen. Barack Obama, authorized the wiretap program and sought to dismiss lawsuits against companies that had participated.

        Believing politicians' campaign promises only makes YOU an idiot. It says nothing about them.

        • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:41AM (#28741141)
          Actually he voted against immunity for telecoms but the amendment failed (see the post below).

          http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/11/obama.netroots/index.html [cnn.com]

          What's even more frightening is that they modded you informative when it's public record that he voted to strip the immunity provisions out although the amendment failed.

          Yes, he did vote for the larger bill with the amendments that basically put the warrant requirements back in for any American they may have eavesdropped on whether on US soil or abroad.
          • What's even more frightening is that they modded you informative when it's public record that he voted to strip the immunity provisions out although the amendment failed.

            What's sad is that you're such a dupe.

            That amendment was NEVER going to pass, EVERYONE knew it. Except, apparently, you. Obama can safely be assumed to be not that stupid.

            Nobody with two brain cells to rub together believed that shit about "but I'm so surprised the amendment didn't pass!"

            • by bar-agent (698856)

              That amendment was NEVER going to pass, EVERYONE knew it. Except, apparently, you. Obama can safely be assumed to be not that stupid.

              So, what, your position is that a good (but futile) deed does not count in a person's favor?
              Not a big fan of "dreaming the impossible dream?"

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                So, what, your position is that a good (but futile) deed does not count in a person's favor?

                That is a gross misrepresentation of my position. My position is that Obama knew that amendment had no chance in hell to pass, and thus his act of voting for the bill when he knew that the telecoms would be granted immunity is not an act of good, but one of evil.

                Not a big fan of "dreaming the impossible dream?"

                I'm a realist, which means that while I might like to alter the current power structure to the point where it would be essentially unrecognizable, feed the hungry and save the whales, I know that the Republicans and Democrats are both essentially co

                • by bar-agent (698856)

                  Further, I believe the system is designed to prevent an idealistic president from actually making a large direct difference. The place where the president is in a position to influence the nation is not one of policy, in which he is typically forced to follow policy, but in attitude. First Lady Michelle Obama's installation of an organic garden at the white house reminds me of past events in a way that perfectly illustrates what I'm talking about here.

                  I agree, and think it's for the best. If I don't agree w

                  • by drinkypoo (153816)

                    A gross misstatement? Really? Obama knew the amendment wasn't going to pass, but he put it out there anyway. That's the good but futile deed.

                    I disagree; you have to take intent into account. If he knew that there was no way it would pass, then it's not a good deed! It's neutral at best, and misdirection (i.e. a kind of lie) is a more likely description of what occurred.

                    Better enough for Obama to vote for it, anyway, and if you want to call that vote evil, that's fine, but it doesn't invalidate the earlier act of good, which you seem to be saying.

                    No, there is no act of good. My point is that there was no act of good. Obama even pledged to filibuster to support the amendment, and failed to do so. Voting for the amendment became an act of evil when he used it to excuse voting for the bill, because it made it clear that's why

                • by shentino (1139071)
                  Maybe he liked the warrant provision more than he hated the immunity provision.

                  Sounds like a case of making lemonade out of lemons.
              • by witherstaff (713820) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @02:19PM (#28742299) Homepage

                Dodd made a proposal to filibuster the immunity and the other Dem candidates pledged support [dailykos.com]. Then Clinton, Obama, etc forgot their pledge as no such filibuster occurred. Dodd was left standing in the cold (I joined his email list because of his stance on this issue).

                I can't say Obama's vote on a failed amendment counts as positive at all as there would be no need for such an amendment if he had lived up to his pledge. Weaseling out of a promise of support and then doing a less than half hearted attempt at saving face is politics as normal,wheres the change?

              • by plnix0 (807376)
                His was point was that it was "safe" for Obama to vote the amendment, since it wasn't going to pass anyway. Obama got the best of both worlds: the amendment didn't pass, and politically he looked good because he voted for it. This is a well known feature of how Congress operates.
          • by The Moof (859402) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @02:41PM (#28742473)
            Yea, and apparently he didn't feel it was that important since he still voted the bill through with the immunity intact. http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=9490&type=category&category=13 [votesmart.org]
          • by shma (863063)
            Do you even read the fucking articles you post before you lie about what they say? Or even the damn title?

            Obama's surveillance vote spurs blogging backlash:Sen. Barack Obama's vote for a federal surveillance law that he had previously opposed has sparked a backlash from his online advocates, who had energized his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

            Money Quote:

            The Senate voted Wednesday on the bill updating FISA -- which had a provision to shield telecommunications companies that had cooperated in the surveillance. Obama joined the 68 other senators who voted to send the bill to the president's desk.

            I don't give two shits about what failed amendments he voted for. In the end he was asked to vote on a bill that offered immunity for telcos and he did. If he cared the least bit about keeping the telecoms accountable, he would have voted against the bill itself. End of discussion.

            What's even more frightening is that they modded you informative when it's public record that he voted to strip the immunity provisions out although the amendment failed.

            What's frightening is that there are 4 people who modded you up without reading the article you posted.

          • Congratulations, you spotted the bullshit excuse drinkypoo was referring to. He voted against a measure that wouldn't pass anyway, then when it came back around in a form that *would* pass, he voted *for* it.
        • by centuren (106470)

          There was no such flip. Obama ALWAYS supported warrantless wiretaps.

          It's definitely natural to look to the President to lead the way on this (or not), but it seems like people generally leave out the role of Congress. I'm no expert, but shouldn't congressional oversight be a major player (if not THE major player) in matters like this? I know the DoJ falls under the Executive branch, but Congress has appointed special investigators in the past, IIRC.

          In any case, Congress definitely has a role to play. As the warrant-less domestic wiretapping was known for some time under Pre

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            There was no such flip. Obama ALWAYS supported warrantless wiretaps.

            It's definitely natural to look to the President to lead the way on this (or not), but it seems like people generally leave out the role of Congress.

            I stopped reading your comment right here, because Obama was a member of congress when he voted to support warrantless wiretaps.

      • Having seen that this wiretapping is actually producing beneficial results, he would then be more inclined to keep it going so it can keep producing these results

        Obama is bright guy but, Blackberry aside, let's not kid ourselves that he understands technology any better than the normal user. The national security apparatus is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the government, military, and private sector. You better believe they are skilled at scaring the s

      • Objection! Citation needed, and suspiciously close to empty right wing rhetoric. I think that it is much more likely that exposure of the illegal program would give operational details of legal, necessary programs. This would explain the actions of an obviously thoughtful man. Whatever the reason, he's still WRONG. The 4th amendment is non-negotiable and is VERY clear. I accept FISA as a necessary evil in cases of extreme national security (as defined in the Constitution; threat of invasion or rebellion).

      • by radtea (464814)

        and possibly also showed him examples of things the NSA has intercepted via the wiretapping that has in some way benefited the national security of the nation or helped in the war on terror.

        Explain to me again how violating the Constitution increases "the national security of the nation"?

    • Odd word choice there. One would think the President of the United States of America would be the most obvious person who doesn't want to hear complaints about warrantless wiretaps.
    • It's no surprise that he supports warrantless wiretaps. He did by his actions while he was running for office, no matter what he SAID.

      I suppose that he's better than his opposition would have been. But there's no way to prove this, and that's definitely faint praise.

  • Poor CWmike. He took an effort to write such a nice summary and now no one is going to read it. Hey, did I just see a see a new article? Must be my eyes playing tricks on me...
  • by billmarrs (97555) * on Saturday July 18, 2009 @05:37AM (#28739371) Homepage

    It was called "The Spy Factory".
    Here's a transcript (search for "Folsom" 4/5ths down the page):
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3602_spyfactory.html [pbs.org]

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @05:52AM (#28739431) Journal

    TFA:

    "Secretly authorized in 2002, the program lets the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitor telephone conversations and e-mail messages of people inside the U.S. to identify suspected terrorists."

    Hmm. I don't think this is accurate, in the sense that it implies that *intra-U.S.* calls were subject to monitoring. If I understand correctly, it was calls *coming in* to the United States, from individuals or organizations believed to have ties with terrorism.

    I'm not certain about this though. If I'm wrong, feel free to set me straight.

        - AJ

    Addendum: As I read further, I see this guy is the kind who is going to have a lot of fans on /., but I wonder. This, for example: "I was very worried. The Bush administration was capable of very crazy things and illegal things. I knew they were doing torture. And I knew they had taken into custody and jailed people who were citizens of the United States ... and just thrown them away in a brig with no trial and no charges. "

    The Bush administration was not, to my knowledge, grabbing Americans off the street and "disappearing" them. Was this in fact the case, outside this guy's fevered dreams?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by tnok85 (1434319)
      Dude, you'd better be careful with this stuff. I know a guy named Jack who got "disappeared" in Alaska recently after posting some controversial stuff on /.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:09AM (#28739491)

      That was a lie promulgated by the Bush administration [youtube.com]. The device copied _all_ communication that traveled through this facility, [eff.org] domestic and foreign. There is good evidence also that this wasn't the only place were AT&T, or other carriers, were imposing dragnet surveillance.

    • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:14AM (#28739501)

      You're right on both parts, essentially. I think they also were monitoring calls originating in the US that were made to foreign numbers they believed to have ties with terrorism, too, but honestly it's hard to really figure out what the truth is and was with so much fear-mongering and hyperbole going on.

      Oh, and the program itself wasn't really new, it's been around forever. Bush & Co. just tweaked the rules around a little bit -- a move that I think was less about invading the privacy of Americans (which they've been able to do for several decades now) and more a matter of removing a bottleneck. The whole secret wiretap deal has to be approved by a secret court, I think there's a 24 or 48 hour window in which they can start a wiretap and then seek approval by this secret court. Well, in the wake of 9/11, they were using this quite a bit, and I'm of the belief that they circumvented the court not because they wanted to be Big Brother but because they knew that most these wiretaps would NOT result in any information but felt that at the time it was best to cast as wide a net as possible, immediately, and later worry about narrowing things down from "possible" to "likely".

      The secret court, of course, only would be able to review so many requests for secret wiretaps at once, and if you're looking at a list of 1,000 possibles and you think 100 of them are pretty likely, let's say it would take a week for a court (and you) to go through and decide which of those 1,000 were the ones you wanted.. well, I believe the idea was simply to not worry about the time limit due to the huge volume and keep all the wiretaps in place until some sort of review could be done, rather than potentially miss out on valuable information because of a paperwork bottleneck.

      Not that I really care for the idea of secret courts or meetings or wiretaps or anything, but overblown fearmongering and fingerpointing pisses me off even more. Especially when it's hypocritical fingerpointing. It's not like the democrats in power were oblivious to what was going on (see also, criticism of the information on WMDs before the Iraq War from the democrats when in fact they had access and agreed with the intelligence reports at the time.. fucking i'll-have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too bullshit).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ntk (974) *

        You're right on both parts, essentially. I think they also were monitoring calls originating in the US that were made to foreign numbers they believed to have ties with terrorism, too, but honestly it's hard to really figure out what the truth is and was with so much fear-mongering and hyperbole going on.

        No, the reason why it's hard to find out the truth is because the government has attempted to cloak the entire process under a "states secrets" privilege. When you decide, as the elected officials of the co

    • Domestic traffic too (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:59AM (#28739629)

      From EFF.org [eff.org]

      The undisputed documents show that AT&T installed a fiberoptic splitter at its facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco that makes copies of all emails, web browsing, and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers, and provides those copies to the NSA. This copying includes both domestic and international Internet activities of AT&T customers. As one expert observed, "this isn't a wiretap, it's a country-tap."

      Of course, we may never know all the details thanks to Bush, Obama and all the other assholes that voted for FISA2008 [wikipedia.org]:

      • Prohibits the individual states from investigating, sanctioning of, or requiring disclosure by complicit telecoms or other persons.
      • Protects telecommunications companies from lawsuits for "'past or future cooperation' with federal law enforcement authorities and will assist the intelligence community in determining the plans of terrorists."
    • by Repossessed (1117929) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @07:14AM (#28739669)

      I've spoken to a cop who was ordered to systematically search any Arabic persons and arrest any who didn't have proper ID in the months following 9/11. So yes, this was happening.

      • by d3ac0n (715594) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:17AM (#28739891)

        The ironic part of it is, all the 9/11 terrorists had proper ID along with full and legal documentation. So even if every law enforcement officer in the US been given those orders BEFORE 9/11 happened, they still would not have caught the hijackers.

        This just shows the general incompetence of government, and how the larger a government is the more likely it is to attract incompetents to it's rolls.

        Just another argument for the conservative ideal of smaller, more local, limited government.

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          This just shows the general incompetence of government

          No, it shows the general incompetence of law enforcement. So, are you proposing the government get out of the law enforcement and national defense business? Because that's pretty extreme even for you libertarians.

          how the larger a government is the more likely it is to attract incompetents to it's rolls.

          Huh? How does the failure of law enforcement in this case prove that "larger government .. is more likely ... to attract incompetents"? Unless you're

        • by evilviper (135110)

          This just shows the general incompetence of government, and how the larger a government is the more likely it is to attract incompetents to it's rolls.

          Yeah, nothing but top-rate individuals working for the governments of Somalia, Kenya, etc.

          Surely there's NEVER been any small-city government officials that were incompetent or corrupt... NEVER!

        • Why do you believe their purpose is what they claim it to be?

          Has the government been so honest with you in the past that you find it incomprehensible that they might be lying, and have different motives than those they claim?

          Does the representatives of government when dealing with other display such scrupulous honesty that you believe them when they say something you can't possibly check?

          They might just be being incompetent. I'm not at all certain that that's the way to bet.

          • by MadAhab (40080)

            In general, I find that government employees - not politicians, or any kind of elected official, mind you - tend to be lazy, rule-bound, and HONEST. This is in the US where low-level corruption and bribery is not very common. And certainly in comparison to people who have the opportunity to get a buck out of me. Business transactions of all kinds - Circuit City warranties, car mechanics, mortgage loans, the price of a donut at a local deli - all these things are subject to manipulation due to simple greed.

            • by HiThere (15173)

              Government employees, yes. Government spokesmen, no.

              Actually, most government employees that I've known have also not been lazy. Overworked is closer...though also not totally accurate. Overworked in certain particular areas would be more accurate. As is common in bureaucracies, the goals of the supervisors don't always fall in line with the job requirements. Somebody that you find lazy may just have written a 50 page memo on the paperclip supply. (OK, I chose that example to be humorous. It's also t

        • by MadAhab (40080)

          No, it's an argument for the limitations against government intrusion into private, God-given rights. And that hasn't been a topic of conservatives for 45 years.

          The founders understood that it was authority that needed limits - that's not the same as the scope of government. Conservatives seem to have a blind spot to the difference.

      • by kkissane (1029384)
        Who gave these orders? Some local commander who overstepped his/her bounds? or was this a national program?
      • by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @10:00AM (#28740425)

        I've spoken to a cop who was ordered to systematically search any Arabic persons and arrest any who didn't have proper ID in the months following 9/11. So yes, this was happening.

        Yuhuh. And Jesse Macbeth supposedly took part in the murder and rape of entire Iraqi villages. Of course, upon actual review of his record, it turns out he got booted out of the military before even completing basic training. He wasn't the only one, either - there are multiple examples of people claiming to be soldiers in order to tell insane stories about all the horrible things they've done. Not only are there at least 3 examples I can name off the top of my head, but those 3 are just the ones who managed to get enough media attention for everyone to hear about them. There are tens of thousands of people doing similar things who don't make the news.

        The moral of the story - don't believe everything you hear. Lots of people seek attention by pretending to be something they're not.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CajunArson (465943)

        Wow... Double Hearsay that we're supposed to believe without any evidence because... uh... we assume that Bush personally ordered individual cops all over the country to arrest people!

        A better explanation is that eihter: 1. you're just lying because you know it will get upmodded on Slashdot; 2. The cop was lying to you to make himself sound more badass; 3. Even if the cop wasn't lying, his police chief issued the order and was not operating under orders that came from Cheney's deathstar, despite what you wo

    • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:02AM (#28739841)

      Then you need to expand your knowledge. "The Dark Side", by Jane Mayer would be a good start, though I doubt highly that you will expend the effort, because it would threaten your narrow and comfortable view of the world.

      Your assumption that the Bush administration did not wipe it's ass with The Constitution of the United States deserves all the derision it is likely to get here on /., for it is utterly without supporting facts. Indeed, more than one U.S. citizen was detained and denied their rights as citizens with nothing more than the disingenuous process of a handful of lawyers drafting documents telling the President he could do pretty much anything he wanted when it came to "terrorists". Add to these few, (most of which, BTW, are probably quite guilty of the crimes they were suspected of), the thousands of other so-called "enemy combatants" who have also been denied their rights under U.S. and international law and you have an episode in U.S. history that is cause for national shame.

      Ours is a nation of laws. Those laws, and the principles of liberty and justice that are their underpinnings, recognize no exigency that justifies a government official systematically ignoring those laws. No, not one. And before you dream up some Jack Bauer hypothetical, ticking-clock scenario, read the first sentence in the paragraph again and note the word "systematically". I rather doubt that history nor the courts would judge anyone to harshly for taking whatever action was necessary in such a far-fetched scenario, but that facts are that such was not the scenario. There was only the realization that, despite abundant intelligence that would have pointed the way, the intelligence and law enforcement arms of our government failed badly in the days leading up to 9/11. With this realization came the almost paranoid conviction that "they will hit us again" and the panic-driven actions of a powerful few to prevent that at any cost. The subsequent list of failures to defend, and insults to, The Constitution are well documented and far too many to list here, but the do most certainly, include the illegal interception of the private communications of U.S. citizens. Seriously, put down the neo-con fanboy kool-aid, stop watching Fox News, and see for yourself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GearheadX (414240)

        You assume every administration doesn't wipe its ass with the Constitution in one way or another.

        • by Jawn98685 (687784)

          You assume every administration doesn't wipe its ass with the Constitution in one way or another.

          I make no such assumption. Lincoln and FDR come immediately to mind. Nevertheless, I challenge you to submit any credible case from recent history, let's say as far back as Nixon, that represents a contempt and disregard for The Constitution anywhere near as egregious as that of the Bush/Cheney regime.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        specifically, the main lawyer was John Yoo. That nut job I think is now at stanford. The man should be expelled from the country. He is a "constitutional" scholar, except I'm not sure he ever read it. He wrote some of the original memos finding legal basis for torture, invasion of privacy and due process revocation. Frankly, I don't see how the man is asian. His father must have been hitler.

        • by Jawn98685 (687784)
          Yoo's name was attached to many of the most important briefs and memos, but it was David Addington, working on behalf of Cheney, who most directly put these disgraceful events in motion. Yoo is now at Berkeley (one notes with no small sense of irony).
    • by anegg (1390659) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:58AM (#28740067)

      "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/José_Padilla_(prisoner)" This was an American citizen grabbed off the street and "disappeared."

      We know all about this guy *now*, but we didn't when he was first grabbed... I'm more conservative than liberal, I voted for Bush both times, but I am not a fan of ignoring the foundation of American government, the Constitution of the United States of America. The Bush administration vastly overstepped the powers given to the Executive Branch of the federal government in the Constitution.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How can you complain?

        You got exactly what you voted for.

        Thanks

      • We know all about this guy *now*, but we didn't when he was first grabbed...

        What are you talking about? The very next day after his arrest, Ashcroft held a nationally-televised press conference. [cnn.com] Wolofwitz did one too [defenselink.mil] on the same day.

        Anyone with any critical thinking ability could see right through the BS in those press conferences and indeed when they finally figured out something to charge Padilla with it had absolutely nothing to do with any of the claims they made at the time of his arrest, ultimately he was convicted of nothing more than bearing ill-will towards the US.

    • by genner (694963)

      The Bush administration was not, to my knowledge, grabbing Americans off the street and "disappearing" them. Was this in fact the case, outside this guy's fevered dreams?

      Does it make you feel better that he has disappearing and torturing people in other countries instead?

    • by HiThere (15173)

      I've heard that "people who were citizens of the United States " just being disappeared happened, but the information wasn't even third hand. It's possible that it's true. If so, there's no evidence that it's stopped. (How could there be?)

      (OTOH, my "source" claimed that it was being done as a part of training "special forces". There wasn't even an allegation that it was condoned at higher than a company level. So even if it's true, it doesn't imply any approval by anyone from either the executive or th

  • by dnwq (910646) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:35AM (#28739563)
    Think about it this way. The news is public, now. Do you see any frothing outrage, outside of a few fringe activist groups? Outside of Slashdot? No?

    There doesn't seem to be any real interest now, so there definitely wouldn't be any then, in the with-us-or-against-us environment in the years immediately after 9/11. So how would a newspaper or media outlet gain by breaking the story? It'll just instantly lose all its government contacts, but not gain any new readership. Why would anyone publish it?
    • by D4C5CE (578304) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @07:10AM (#28739659)

      how would a newspaper or media outlet gain by breaking the story? It'll just instantly lose all its government contacts, but not gain any new readership

      How would it deserve keeping its present government contacts (while putting them to no use, let alone snitching whistleblowers to them!) and readers by holding back The News?!
      (Assuming a residual journalistic ethos defines the latter as more than "just the stuff to fill the space between the ads", as allegedly a Fleet Street media baron once put it...)

      Even with an anti-terror spin (and possibly actual arrests), e.g. of eavesdropping only on the bad guys (and "inevitably" listening in on everyone else in the process as well), the founders considered this issue important enough to merit a Fourth Amendment, which doesn't leave much leeway (or should we say: "weasel way"?) for a paper (especially with the profession's self-image of a Fourth Estate as part of democracy's "checks and balances") to decide on making it "non-news".

      The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

      Henry Louis Mencken

      • by Tiger4 (840741)

        How would it deserve keeping its present government contacts (while putting them to no use, let alone snitching whistleblowers to them!) and readers by holding back The News?!

        "Deserve"? What has that got to do with anything? Do you assume business practice is moderated by some kind of moral clockwork that encourages High Morality and discourages the Low? As we all know, business is far from that. You sell the people what they want to read. That may not be The Highest and Best Use of newsprint, but it will sell papers. Printing what they don't want to read puts you out of business. The course of action becomes relatively clear.

        • by mvdwege (243851)

          And yet, the toadies of the media barons keep telling us that they deserve massive handouts to survive, because they are so important as a check on government with their objectivity.

          Mart

        • Printing what the advertisers don't want the customers to read is not WIN either.

    • by metamatic (202216)

      There doesn't seem to be any real interest now, so there definitely wouldn't be any then, in the with-us-or-against-us environment in the years immediately after 9/11. So how would a newspaper or media outlet gain by breaking the story?

      If US media actually reported stories like this one, I would read US newspapers. They don't, which is why anybody with a brain goes to overseas media like The Guardian, The Independent, or BBC News. Which, in turn, is why US newspapers are going bust.

    • by rhizome (115711)

      It'll just instantly lose all its government contacts, but not gain any new readership.

      Well that's quite a bold prediction without any backup. There are several critical American reporters that disprove your prediction. Seymour Hersh, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, and more. There will always be political actors anxious to talk, just as there will always be journalistic suckups like David Gregory.

      Suffice it to say that the government needs the press more than the press needs it.

    • There are still a few news outlets that publish real news regardless of what any government or corporation might think. I highly suggest Harper's magazine (harpers.org). Fairly often they publish something that has me frothing at the mouth and ready to riot. Even for more benign stories they have some astounding journalism going on.
    • Because it is journalism's job to tell us important things and keep telling us important things, regardless of popular interest. These stories aren't important because of commercial market response. Placing commerce ahead of stories like these is what gets us to where we are now.

      The contacts mainstream media covets aren't worth much to begin with. Being a stenographer to power isn't doing journalism and as more media cover-ups, lies, and dismissals are exposed the public has no reason to trust the report

    • by sjames (1099)

      In other words, they're no longer a final check and balance of government, they are simply an extended propaganda arm and so should be ignored by one and all?

      In other words, if they DON'T publish such things, they lose their current sorry status as info-tainment and become just more "reality" television (assuming that hasn't already happened).

  • by D4C5CE (578304) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:36AM (#28739565)

    Klein: I really was panicking because [...] the government knew everything and probably knew my name, but I didn't have any publicity.
    IDGNS: The media merit a full chapter (entitled: 'Going Public vs. Media Chickens'). What happened there?
    Klein: [...] They were the first entity I'd given all the documents to. Then they talked to the government about it, and it turned out they were talking to not only the NSA director, but the director of national intelligence

    That much for the sad state of "the Fourth Estate, more important than them all" (Edmund Burke) ...

    It is a newspaper's duty to print the news and raise hell.

    Wilbur F. Storey, 1861

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:49AM (#28739599) Journal

    ... there is no way to detect common phrases and other seemingly normal communications that only the sender and receiver know the true meaning of.

    This common phrases and normal communications has long been used in such a manner of hiding the true meaning of communication. Even during slavery days there was teh underground rail road that used sing song in the cotton fields to pass messages along...

    The wiretapping went further than email and phone conversations but into tracking credit card purchases and other financial transactions.

    Given the ease of codifying communication so to be undetectable by the NSA (not to mention we don't have the computing power for analysis of the mass amount of such ongoing), there is one thing that could most certainly be done, instead.

    To determine what the public attitude was regarding such things as the war on Iraq and other bullshit and public reaction to the real pounding terrorizing acts by the Bush administration against and on the American public and Media (anthrax threats to whip the media into submission and "Clear Channel" network used)..

    If you know what the public is really thinking and you have control over the media to influence the public, you can pretty much control the public and even gain their support for the wrongs you intend to do and this is clearly evidenced with the Exposure of much of the crap the Bush Administration was up to.

  • Holy shit coverage. I've been wondering what happened to this story.

    It seems like every time we get into position to do something about government abuse of the people all coverage suddenly stops.

    • Re:Its about time. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday July 18, 2009 @09:28AM (#28740223) Homepage Journal

      It seems like every time we get into position to do something about government abuse of the people all coverage suddenly stops.

      Nobody in the US fucking cares. If this kind of thing happens in Spain or France (two nations with terrible records on privacy) then you'll see people rioting in the streets and throwing bricks through telecom windows.

      • But that rioting can't be accomplishing too much, because they are back next year doing it again. Granted I don't live in those countries so it's hard to judge the results, but throwing bricks just seems to be form of recreation in more socialist societies tolerated and maybe even encouraged by the government as a temporary outlet of frustration. The football riots seem to be more spirited than the political ones.
  • it's just me... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Mr_Nitro (1174707)
    or the amount of comments about this story it scarily low?? this is seriously disturbing ppl... you are being wiretrapped all the way warrantless like sheeps.. and you dont move a finger? that's really twisted imho. Remeber what good old Ben Franklin said about security and freedom.... We must be one of the most stupid type of 'thinking' alien specie tho... the one that lives in the same mudball and can't communicate because we don't even speak the same language (think of the embarrassment at the galaxy cou
    • by 3seas (184403)

      Maybe its because if they are looking for terrorist then those who are not, have no concern.

      Or maybe its not about terrorism at all and thats the problem with low response. Due failure to tell whats it's really about.

      Now if Americans knew the spying was so to manipulate Americans through the media (the wiretapping as the feed back mechanism)... then it might gather more attention.

      But when was the last time you read the "Declaration of independence"?
      As it says teh people will tolerate up to a point, such wro

      • by Mr_Nitro (1174707)
        oh please...do you seriously still believe all this terrorism bs?? soviet russia has fallen and now they need a new enemy...plain and simple. All this makes trillions of dollars move... and that's enough for many to lie and deceive unfortunately. The point after which ppl should start to rebel is passed since quite a while imho, what else do you need? a fully functional precrime dept? no thanks..
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @10:44AM (#28740745)

    While I do think there are benefits to this type of surveillance the risks for abuse are far too great. It's all too easy to take this sort of thing way too far, and unfortunately I think it's going to happen whether we like it or not. The government will simply be far more secretive about it. I think Obama is the sort of guy who will engage in these kinds of activities just as intensively as Bush, the difference is he'll be a lot more careful about keeping it quiet.

    The real concern I have is how people have grown extremely tolerant of what the government is doing now that we have a democrat as president. People who were rabidly anti-Bush for engaging in these activities, among other things, now blindly adore Obama and everything he does. That's the real danger, to blindly follow any leader and embrace everything he does because you believe he's on your side. When there are so-called journalists out there comparing Obama to god [youtube.com] I think there's cause for concern.

  • Ok, Slashdotters, put your money where your mouth is and start lobbying Slashdot to use https globally. I'll remain highly skeptical of all the talk talk talk around here until we actually do something about it.
    • by bughunter (10093)
      Or better yet, send your money to the EFF (see my sig), who DOES pay attention to abuses like illegal wiretapping.
  • Either that or the FBI could have bothered to check the phone book for the names and addresses of wanted terrorists that they knew to be living in the US.

  • Of course not. If someone contacts you ("you" being a member of the press) with information that just might be covered by secrecy/espionage laws, you'd be insane to look at it. The government could come down on you harder than the person who actually, stole, copied, or otherwise originally obtained the documents. Even if you have no idea what the status of that info is, the feds take the position that "you should have known better".

    In fact, the person who originally made off with said information may be in

  • This is why spy agencies co-operate with each other. If the CIA/FBI/NSA/??? want some information and they cannot get it legally, they can always get it from a foreign agency.
  • GodJesusBuddhaAllah help me, but I have to give the snakes over at Qwerst some credit. They are the only arm of the FCC's oligopoly who refused to set-up the monitoring services on their equipment/property.

    Strange things happen by random chance, I guess. Or maybe they thought it was a blatant trap/sting... they were new foreign owners taking over after a major scandal.
  • Read "The Puzzle Palace", the first book by James Bamford (and then you can read the rest of them). He's made a career of exposing the NSA. This first book was written at a time when congress critters would not even admit publicly that the NSA existed. Bamford provides a history of eavesdropping and spying by the USA and shows that illegal listening has been going on ever since there has been anything at all to listen to.
    For example, I recall that the first Western Union offices, those that were the termina

  • The Reality (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flameproof (1460175)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this just further proof of the systemic opinion that most Americans have that "it doesn't matter what you believe, only what lies you are willing to subscribe to"? From just casually spending the last 25 years of my life trying to impartially observe why it is that the vast majority of people in America are willing to tolerate a government that abuses it's authority and having heard over and over and over again replies to the effect of "eh - whatcanya' do?", the only conc
  • I'm way beyond the tinfoil skullcaps stage. It really doesn't matter to me if the feds want to park a block away in black vans deciphering my screen's radio haze. Good luck to them, and best wishes at the world's dullest job, but if they need to plant bugs the least they could do is debug their @#$%ing software. You expect that kind of crap from Microsoft — Bill Gates' entire fortune isn't worth the cost of a single nuclear aircraft carrier, after all, so he can't really afford QA. From the feds,

Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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