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New Bill Would Declassify FISC Opinions 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-a-look dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "A group of eight senators from both parties have introduced a new bill that would require the attorney general to declassify as many of the rulings of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as possible as a way of bringing into the sunlight much of the law and opinion that guides the government's surveillance efforts. Under the terms of the proposed law, the Justice Department would be required to declassify major FISC opinions as a way to give Americans a view into how the federal government is using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Patriot Act. If the attorney general determines that a specific ruling can't be declassified without endangering national security, he can declassify a summary of it. If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret."
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New Bill Would Declassify FISC Opinions

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  • I can see it now... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coId fjord (2949869) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:05AM (#43994053)

    If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

    That's just pathetic. Give them the opportunity to hide their wrongdoings and that's exactly what they will do. The "national security" excuses need to stop.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Your position is no better than "We can't tell you anything", just on the opposite extreme.
      National security is no mere excuse.

      • by coId fjord (2949869) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:26AM (#43994205)

        Your position is no better than "We can't tell you anything", just on the opposite extreme.

        Actually, assuming that the government is doing wrong is much better.

        With that said, I only meant that they use that excuse to cover up their wrongdoings, not that there's never a legitimate threat. Problem is, the ones who decide it's a matter of national security seem to love abusing that little power they have.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        National security is no mere excuse.

        Yes it is. National security only matters to the extent that the people say it matters, since the purpose of government is to do what the people want. If the people say that their right to privacy is more important than national security, then it's more important than national security, and that's all there is to it.

        ...and that's not even what people are saying. All we're saying is that there are surely better ways to protect national security than spying on everyone, and that the NSA should concentrate

        • The governments position is that the American public is too stupid to understand the tradeoff's, and will make the wrong choice, therefore they must be kept from making the decision.

        • And what is more offensive is that they aren't even denying spying on all the US's allies.

          As an Aussie, Obama didn't say anything to try and make us feel better. In fact he confirmed everything that we didn't want to be true.
          A requirement of 51% 'foreignness'? I will always show up as 100% foreign.

      • How come we've only needed that excuse in times of war, and the last 12 years?

        • There might be an answer for that.

          SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES. [gpo.gov]

          (a) In General.--That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

          That document was issued after this series of events:

          1996 Bin Laden's Fatwa [pbs.org] - Text of the fatwa, or declaration of war, by Osama bin Laden first published in Al Quds Al Arabi

          1998 Bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya [nytimes.com] - 224 dead, est. 4,000 injured, both embassies heavily damaged

          2000 Photo: USS Cole [washingtonpost.com] - Video USS Cole [cbsnews.com] - 17 dead, 39 injured, major damage to destroyer

          2001 9/11 attacks [telegraph.co.uk] - 2,973 dead. Two skyscra

          • Let me know when Congress declares war and makes it legal.

            Otherwise, try to stop pissing off the rest of the world and it won't blow up in your own face so much. Pun most definitely intended.

            • Let me know when Congress declares war and makes it legal.

              The Authorization For Use Of United States Armed Forces is legally equivalent to a declaration of war. That's long settled law. It's legal.

              Otherwise, try to stop pissing off the rest of the world and it won't blow up in your own face so much.

              That won't help with al Qaida since like many people around the world they have their own values and goals unrelated to anything the US has done or will do. Al Qaida's goal is to restore the Islamic Caliphate dissolved in 1923 with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, instill an extremist Islamist government in Muslim countries, and conquer the entire world so it is ruled

              • If by 'long settled', you mean since 2001, then fine. And if you mean legal, you mean that Congress waived it's constitutional war-making authority, then sure.
                As the lone protestor in Congress stated:
                “It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events — anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Con

                • If by 'long settled', you mean since 2001, then fine.

                  Sorry, but the Supreme Court ruled on that question long before 2001.

                  And if you mean legal, you mean that Congress waived it's constitutional war-making authority, then sure.

                  No, it exercised that power and authorized the use of military force to purse the conflict with al Qaida.

                  As the lone protestor in Congress stated:

                  Did the declarations of war against Germany, Japan, and Italy limit combat operations to only the interior of those countries? Or did American forces fight them wherever in the world they were found?

                  As for Bin Laden. Uh, no. Al Qaida just wants the US out of the middle east. Like most Americans do.

                  Your information appears to be incomplete.

                  The Future of Terrorism: What al-Qaida Really Wants [spiegel.de]
                  Full text: bin Laden's 'letter to America' [guardian.co.uk]

                  (Q2) As for the second question that we want to answer: What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?

                  (1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.

                  T

      • by ggpauly (263626)

        Your position is no better than "We can't tell you anything", just on the opposite extreme.
        National security is no mere excuse.

        Not only is it no mere excuse, it's often an outright lie, for example when it was argued to the US Supreme Court, and first upheld by that court, that a State Secrets Executive Privilege exists in the constitution:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Reynolds#Subsequent_declassification_of_documents [wikipedia.org]

        Do something people! You, do something!

        • National security is no mere excuse.

          Not only is it no mere excuse, it's often an outright lie,

          Tell it to the dead and their families.

          2001 9/11 attacks [telegraph.co.uk] - 2,973 dead. Two skyscraper towers destroyed, heavy damage to Pentagon.
          Estimated damage to US economy: ~ $100,000,000,000.

          • by TheCarp (96830)

            Ok i am sitting down.... please.... I would LOVE to hear your description of how this is relevant to the discussion. Do you propose that 9/11 was the result of the public having too much information about surveillance? Was there an exposed secret court opinion or wrongfully exposed document the root cause of 9/11?

            Please, educate us, you clearly know something we don't.

            • Although its possible that I may know things you don't, I can at least read my own posts. If you read my post it is clear that I was responding specifically to the assertion that national security, "Not only is it no mere excuse, it's often an outright lie."

              There are many frivolous arguments being made about national security on Slashdot. Thoughtless exposure of intelligence programs can seriously undermine or negate their value possibly leading to a major failure. Major national security failures can ha

              • by TheCarp (96830)

                Al queda, whatever it does, is not a serious existential threat. They are, at best, a criminal group, and should be treated as such. I am far more afraid of policies that allow the government to work in secret.

                Governments making secret rules and compiling databases on everyone are FAR more dangerous to our security than ANY external group. Secret rules, and secret courts are a gross insult to everything this country CLAIMS to stand for. What protects us from overuse of this information? What protects us fro

              • by ggpauly (263626)

                @cold fjord:

                Some politicians and CIA/NSA people use a foul mixture of fear and lies to advance a totalitarian agenda.

                The wikipedia article cited (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Reynolds#Subsequent_declassification_of_documents) illustrates this, in that the original claim, in modern times, of a National Security privilege was based on a lie and powered by fear.

                Other examples are the sinking of the Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and Iraq WMDs. Hitler stirred up Germany this way, and Nor

      • by nip1024 (977084) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:33AM (#43996385)
        America runs on a series of checks and balances: congress can create a law and the president can sign it or override it with a veto; if the president vetoes it, then an overwhelming vote in congress can override the veto; if a bill is passed in congress and the president signs it into law then the supreme court can still strike it down if it isn't constitutional; and if all of these things fail, Americans can vote people into office whose ideas are more closely aligned with their own.

        However, if the American people are denied the very knowledge that their government is acting in a way anathema to the interests of a free society, we cannot make a knowledgeable decision when we vote. The penultimate check and balance Americans have at their disposal will be based on opinions created with misinformation or no knowledge at all of what their chosen representative's are actually doing.

        The American public cannot be left in the dark and still make informed decisions when we choose the people to represent us in government.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

      That's just pathetic. Give them the opportunity to hide their wrongdoings and that's exactly what they will do. The "national security" excuses need to stop.

      Exactly. All of this secrecy is the result of self-importance that those in the government feel about themselves. We, in the USA, need to get back to where we have the attitude that the government serves the people. The president is an employee, not a king. That's true for the Congress as well. Somehow, they've all forgotten that they're not special. Any American can do their job. All of this secret service protection has made them cowards.

    • How about forced declassification of any policy/program involving more than, say, 5000 people. That way actions on targetted individuals stay secret but actions on a populace (local or foreign) must be made known.
      • I like that, but how do you count the people involved? If they were targeting Bin Laden but wanted to wire tap someone here in the US to get intel and there are 3 phones believed to belong to that person, but 1 of then in a household with 5 people living there and one is a pay phone, how many people are involved in that? 1? 1 plus however many people they call or get called by? 6? 6 + people called? I think that kind of metric would need to be worked out in detail because beforehand because they will use it

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Made even more egregious by the fact that somehow, the Attorney General of the United States is STILL Eric Holder, even after he dropped voter intimidation charges because, and I'm paraphrasing here, "This voter intimidation isn't as bad as previous voter intimidation" (Guess which party the voter intimidation favored?), he gave guns to Mexican Drug Cartels, was held in contempt by the US Congress (Seriously, how bad do you have to be for CONGRESS to hold you in contempt?), and on top of that, has completel
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tnk1 (899206)

      Maintaining operational security is an excellent reason.

      However, I agree that this catch-all heading they call "National Security" isn't the same thing. It's more like a label for getting away with covering things up.

      I am NOT in favor of what Snowden did, and I think he should be tried, and if found guilty, sent to jail for what he did. Nevertheless, there is a culture of slapping a classification on stuff that doesn't need that sort of classification. And there is a tendency to hide behind that classifi

      • by NatasRevol (731260) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:05AM (#43995155) Journal

        It was classified because spying on all of America was illegal regardless of the three letter group doing it, but especially the NSA.

        Is it illegal to break classification on something that is illegal?

      • I am NOT in favor of what Snowden did, and I think he should be tried, and if found guilty, sent to jail for what he did.

        Why? I appreciate it very much when people reveal our government's wrongdoings. I don't believe it should be a crime if a whistle blower reveals that the government violated the very same constitution it is supposed to uphold.

        • I can't help but agree. What he did certainly damaged the government but I don't see how the *citizenry* or the union itself has been substantively damaged -- quite the opposite, in fact. Our rights aren't subject to abrogation by arbitrary laws; they are inalienable. What the government has been doing may be "legal" only by virtue of passage of laws that are in direct conflict with the Constitution. As far as I'm concerned those laws aren't valid -- the Constitution has supremacy.

          Snowden's releases so far

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          In the military you have the right, even the duty, to refuse an illegal order. However, when you refuse an illegal order, your superior may not agree and have you punished. If that happens, you then you demand a court-martial to resolve the issue and that is where you can be acquitted with honor. And a court of law is where this belongs.

          If Snowden thinks what he did was legal, he needs to turn himself in and fight this one in court. If he knows what he did was illegal, but he thinks he did "the right th

          • What Snowden should have done from the start was to go to the Inspector General, and then to Congress if he had a concern.

          • he's hiding because he broke the law and he knows it.

            I honestly couldn't care less if he broke the law or not; that is not my concern.

            If the law is not enforced, then anyone who finds it fashionable to leak stories like this will be inclined to do so.

            And the ones who don't actually reveal any wrongdoings would be punished. There is no problem there; we have too many secrets as it is.

            In this case, I don't believe that this was his only option for getting this in front those who could change things.

            Really? At every opportunity they refuse to give out any information; court rulings, decisions, and even the existence of various programs. There wasn't much else to do.

            • by tnk1 (899206)

              As someone pointed out, there are Inspector Generals, there is Congress itself, which he believed the NSA was lying to.

              If Congress was really being lied to, don't you think they want to know about it?

              • As someone pointed out, there are Inspector Generals

                Who more than likely would just trot out the same tired old "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" mantra.

                If Congress was really being lied to, don't you think they want to know about it?

                Given the fact that our liberties have been continually eroded in the name of fighting terrorism, I seriously think the only reason these people care is because it's Obama who's president. Had it never came to light, I don't think they'd do anything.

                Without this information, voters can't make informed choices.

                • by tnk1 (899206)

                  The amusing thing is, if anyone asked anyone I know if the NSA had all our phone records before this, I think almost everyone I know would have said, "yeah, of course they do."

                  So, I am struggling to figure out how this has informed anyone of something they didn't already know. I think everybody thinks they're supposed to be extra mad at this, like if there was Don't Ask, Don't Tell going on.

                  On some level, I guess I'm glad it's getting some air time, because it would have been really dumb for Snowden to hav

                  • The amusing thing is, if anyone asked anyone I know if the NSA had all our phone records before this, I think almost everyone I know would have said, "yeah, of course they do."

                    But no concrete evidence. You also forget that most people are morons.

                    So, I am struggling to figure out how this has informed anyone of something they didn't already know.

                    Because it wasn't as established as it is now.

                  • You know the information I would like to get? Just why Obama is acting almost exactly like Bush. I really want to know the answer, although I suspect I already know it.

                    I think this post [slashdot.org] covers a lot of ground there, although it is aimed at answering a slightly different question.

                    I did another post that was more spot on, but the basic idea is pretty much there.

            • I honestly couldn't care less if he broke the law or not; that is not my concern.

              So you don't support the rule of law then?

              And the ones who don't actually reveal any wrongdoings would be punished. There is no problem there; we have too many secrets as it is.

              Wrongdoing is legally defined. You just indicated that you don't care about law breaking, but now you do? Which is it? On what basis is what you call "wrongdoing" to be determined if it is not done legally? Whimsy?

              There are laws and regulations that govern the handling of classified information for the government. Those laws and regulations shouldn't just be violated, they should be changed if change is needed. But until they are changed, they should be complie

              • So you don't support the rule of law then?

                I don't care about unjust laws, no.

                Wrongdoing is legally defined.

                Morality is not dictated by law. I am not talking about silly legal definitions.

                That is a ridiculous, and has no bearing on the options available to Snowden. He could have gone to the Inspector General, or to Congress. It is Congress that would have to change the laws in any event. It is Congress that changes the laws if need be. That is how the democratic process works.

                Right... more or less the same people who allow travesties such as the TSA to exist. Good luck with that.

                That said, I feel the public has a right to know about this so they can make informed choices when voting.

    • If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

      That's just pathetic. Give them the opportunity to hide their wrongdoings and that's exactly what they will do. The "national security" excuses need to stop.

      So do you think there is no reason to be concerned about protecting critical intelligence sources and methods, or the identities of informants? Once those are compromised they may lose some or even all of their value. No reason to be concerned about helping foreign powers and terrorist groups identify gaps in security and opportunities to exploit? Do you think America's adversaries should know exactly what American intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies will and won't do? Why provide the enem

      • So do you think there is no reason to be concerned about protecting critical intelligence sources and methods, or the identities of informants?

        Not overly concerned, no.

        Since 9/11 there have been a number of attacks and attempted attacks

        Very few people here care, you'll find; I certainly don't.

        What value do you put on the lives of ordinary Americans?

        Less than I place on freedom and privacy. Whatever happened to being home of the brave and land of the free? If we want to live up to that, shouldn't we at least give the appearance that we're willing to die to preserve our freedoms?

        Besides, no one here thinks that nothing should be done about terrorism. They should use methods that don't involve violating the constitution or violating just about everyone's privacy; both of t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "We worked as hard as we could, here's what can be declassified: [list] [/list]"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This won't change cases that are not brought to the court, which is where most of the sausage is made.

  • Explain... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:13AM (#43994099)

    If the attorney general determines that a specific ruling can't be declassified without endangering national security, he can declassify a summary of it. If even that isn't possible, then the AG would need to explain specifically why the opinion needs to be kept secret.

    And such explanations would probably look something like this: "Opinion number M-9458985 needs to be kept secret because [blacked-out] which is a very serious allegation that has been confirmed by [blacked-out] and [blacked-out] as well as the following independent intelligence sources: [blacked-out]. If this opinion were to be made public it could easily have the following horrible consequences: [blacked-out]"

    • Re:Explain... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shavano (2541114) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:22AM (#43994169)
      More importantly, the law needs to be changed so that without the warrant, that specifically names the persons and places to be searched and the things to be seized they can't compel a search. What the NSA finds that's already in the open (e.g. a public profile on Facebook) is fair game. No warrant required because it's not an invasive search. But if they want your email or phone call records, they shouldn't be able to compel a search without a warrant that names you, issued upon probable cause that your email contains evidence of a specific crime. The 4th Amendment is really clear and Americans never gave the NSA or the FBI or anybody else permission to ignore it.
      • A law that makes clear that a person's phone number is a unique identifier, and ALL data relating to it is personal data as defined by the 4th Amendment would probably achieve this - though given the ability of lawyers to find holes, it may be too much to hope for.
      • by DworkinLV (716880)
        Unfortunately what will happen is this: Named person: Everyone Items to be searched: All Meta-data on phone calls See, they named the group to be searched, and what is to be searched. I know you meant specifically name the people, etc... But this is what will probably will continue to happen. Look at what has been defined as PII (Personally Identifying Information), it is narrowly defined. Never mind that the information combined together can make it fairly easy to identify who the records are attach
      • I believe that legally, the phone records aren't yours, they are they are owned by the phone company. So the government isn't searching you, they are searching the phone company.

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          I believe that legally, the phone records aren't yours, they are they are owned by the phone company. So the government isn't searching you, they are searching the phone company.

          That's true. They can *ask* the phone company and the phone company can give it to them if they want to.. What they can't do is compel the phone company to hand over its records. Or rather, they can because the courts are issuing illegal warrants not supported by probable cause and way too broad to have anything to do with investigating crime. The question is, if the phone company had said, "No way, this warrant is illegal. It's a fishing expedition. Get a proper warrant that doesn't say you can have a

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      Every time I see a heavily redacted document like that, I can't help but pretend it's a madlib.

      "Opinion number M-9458985 needs to be kept secret because it would expose hillary clinton as being a militant lesbian feminist which is a very serious allegation that has been confirmed by Janet Reno and Madaline Allbright as well as the following independent intelligence sources: NSA, CIA, FBI, and select members of the LGBT community . If this opinion were to be made public it could easily have the following h

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I see the rules on spying on Americans changed, with the argument that *some* non-Americans might be in America, hence we need to spy on all Americans.

    I also see people push that agenda here, a bizarro world agenda IMHO.

    So I believe that NSA limits on cyber-propaganda have been removed with the same argument.
    i.e. "Foreigners are on slashdot, and our job is to promote our agenda to foreigners, so we can promote it on slashdot!"

    Is that correct? We found out you guys were spreading propaganda, but we had 'assu

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You're totally right when you say AC isn't really AC these days Piérre. Btw, how's the weather in Paris? And what about that rash you were having last week? Best regards.

  • by decora (1710862) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:16AM (#43994119) Journal

    this is essentially going to apply the bizarre "declassification" regime we currently have to FISA law. its ridiculous. go look, for example, at the Inspector General report on the NSA's Trailblazer/Thinthread programs. It is pages and pages and pages of blacked out paragraphs, with a little number in the margin indicating which Exception to the Freedom of Information law the government used in justifying the blackout.

    It is ridiculous beyond ridiculos. These senators are cowards of the highest order.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      These senators are cowards of the highest order.

      These senators are quite brave compared to those senators that are going on talk shows defending spying on everybody.

      Also, this kind of measure is not completely useless: It would inundate the agency with extra paperwork, meaning they'd have less time and money to spend on spying on all of us.

  • I could care less about the FISC, how about some transparency as to how they are going to use my cell carriers metadata to prevent terror and not to spy on the citizens for no reason.

    With the liberties the government is taking today I am surprised more people aren't shouting from soapboxes about it in the name of their childrens rights.
    • by cffrost (885375)

      I could care less about the FISC [...]

      So do it, man. Why care more than you care? That's crazy.

      With the liberties the government is taking today I am surprised more people aren't shouting from soapboxes about it in the name of their childrens rights.

      Exactly; I brought up a similar point here the other day — why don't these "think of the children"-types ever think of the children being left with nothing but the ashes of our Constitution?

    • If the NSA don't tell people what they're capable of or their algorithms, the problem space for criminals becomes much larger than if they know they have to avoid doing X, Y, and Z in order to avoid getting caught. I'm not trying to defend this huge spying dragnet, but perhaps that's part of the thinking behind keeping it so secret. The IRS doesn't publish its algorithms to find tax cheats, either, otherwise it would be much easier to get away with it. You could call that security through obscurity, I su
  • it does nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:25AM (#43994201) Homepage

    so long as the government has classified documents they dont need to tell anyone anything.
    so long as we have redaction, FOIA doesnt really mean anything
    so long as the original requests are sealed, the opinions of a judge or judges are decontextualized and meaningless.
    and none of this means anything at all once you learn the FISC never rejected a single request last year.

    a normal, functioning state has no need for classification of anything really, but this isnt a normal functioning state. we have the worlds highest incarceration rate, we're guaranteed a brand new war every four years, we run torture camps, execute our own citizens without trial, and somehow react with incredulity when we find out our own citizens are either apathetic to democracy, or leak state secrets about our warcrimes or our domestic spy program.

    we are the land of the free, so far as we are free to consume the product, and the home of the brave, so long as its state-sponsored.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      a normal, functioning state has no need for classification of anything really

      Your "normal" state is going to get its ass kicked in the next war....

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      a normal, functioning state has no need for classification of anything really, but this isnt a normal functioning state.

      Yes, it does. New or developing military technologies, the identities of intelligence operatives in other states, government analyses of other states' military capabilities and the plans derived from them, onging operations that could be jeapardized by disclosure-all of these are things that should be classified because that classification saves lives. What shouldn't be classified is the reasoning and justification behind these actions. They should all at some point after they are concluded be unclassifi

    • Q: What do you call a law wherein Congress asserts its oversight authority and tells the executive branch "no, you can't do whatever you want, assholes."

      A: A start.

  • No I can't tell you about the opinions for reasons that I can't tell you WILL be the inevitable outcome. FAR too little
  • I bet the heads of the security/intelligence/law enforcement agencies (CIA, NSA etc) are already telling Obama at the regular national security briefings that making any of this public WILL compromise the ability for those agencies to catch the bad guys and prevent the next 9/11 or the next Boston Marathon.

    • And they're right in a twisted way. If we give the NSA and other intelligence/security/law enforcement agencies unlimited access to everything everyone is doing at every possible moment, they would be able to catch every criminal. (At least theoretically. In practice, they would be overwhelmed by the flood of data.) The problem isn't that cutting them off from this information makes their job harder, it's that there are good reasons why there are (or should be) limitations on what they are allowed to do

    • They already had these laws for over a decade - it didn't stop the Boston Marathon bombers.

    • by moeinvt (851793)

      Maybe if the government wasn't so busy spying on millions of Americans, they'd have time to pay attention to SPECIFIC intelligence.

      e.g. Russian security services warning the government about the Boston bombers. Reports from an FBI field agent that men with Arab sounding names were taking flight lessons and weren't interested in the part of the curriculum that teaches you how to land.

  • It's like walking against the traffic so you can see the car that's about to run you down.

  • Although most people assume its purpose is to address clear criminality, its use by the British Parliament from which it originates, was a means for the legislature to punish the executive when Parliament had had enough. Thus its use here against the boss of the NSA and above is entirely justified on that approach to the constitution - and they should be grateful that the constitution specifically bans bills of attainder http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bills_of_attainder [wikipedia.org] a much more entertaining prospect for t
  • by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @08:51AM (#43994367) Journal
    We need something more fundamental. Like it never being against the law to disclose information on crimes committed by intelligence agencies, and enforcement of existing laws once those crimes come to light: for example, Keith Alexander needs to be arrested for perjury. Perhaps we could bring back private prosecutions... that would certainly go a long way towards ensuring public officials are not above the law.

    This more holistic approach is necessary because the usual suspects (CIA, NSA) and the usual frameworks (FISC) only capture a tiny fraction of what the intelligence community actually engages in. Take the NRO ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Reconnaissance_Office [wikipedia.org] ) for example. It has a comparable budget to the more well known agencies and they were even caught by the CIA to be squirrelling away extra money, presumably to finance black projects. They started in spy satellites but these days they appear to devote a significant portion of the resources towards hacking. They really put the NSA to shame when it comes to blackhat and grayhat activities, though good luck finding anyone to confirm that for you. Let's just say they appear to enjoy inspiring awe and fear in their employees, to the point where though I've met several people who worked for them I had to do a considerable amount of detective work and deduction to figure it out. And even then there was no explicit confirmation I was right, just a wry smile and a "I can neither confirm nor deny..."

    And that's just an agency we know about. Like the NSA before it, the NRO used to be secret. And there remain still more secret intelligence agencies today, probably even more fearsome and powerful than the public ones. And if you think these guys go through FISC every time they feel the urge to skim through someone's inbox...

    So, back to my original point: what we really need here is a mechanism to permit the discovery and prosecution of people who conceal crimes, both for the original crime and for the act of covering it up by claiming state secrets. Crimes like lying to congress under oath. Or spying on American citizens, without judicial oversight, in ways that would be illegal if a private citizen did it (which does not necessarily apply to PRISM but most certainly applies to other programs.)
  • This is how we feel. The bits blocked are of national security concerns. Why does this change anything? Today they don't tell us based on security concerns. Tomorrow they they just give us redacted pages of no use and they are then in full compliance.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @09:09AM (#43994509) Homepage

    It is important to remember that the people who determine it is OK to do these kinds of things are rendering opinions.

    This isn't an actual court, this isn't SCOTUS. This is a bunch of people who work for you, who are already in agreement with what you're trying to do, rendering an opinion than it's okay to do it.

    So when Alberto Gonzales gave the opinion that habeus corpus wasn't really a thing ... it was only an opinion, but one which then got used as if it was lawful. It also demonstrated a shocking level of incompetence to be the Attorney General.

    Just because you can get a couple of cronies on your legal staff to give you an opinion, that in no way makes it fact. Because if you're appointing cronies who think you can crap all over the Constitutional rights of people, you can get an 'opinion' which authorizes pretty much anything.

    If you put a bunch of authoritarian pricks in a room and ask them to come up with an opinion about what they can get away with, they will come up with a decision you'd expect from a bunch of authoritarian pricks.

  • The fact that our government has reached the point where this is necessary is ironic in that it proves "we the people" are only in charge as much as the government says we are, undermining the very basis of our constitution. This is a band-aid on a gaping wound.

  • AG! You gotta lotta explaining to do!
  • Here [senate.gov] are the eight senators who share my understanding of the Bill of Rights and had the backbone to sponsor this law:

    Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), accompanied by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR)

    BTW I found that information with one Google search and two clicks, but apparently that was too much work for the author of TFA. Sad.

    I also note that my senator is not one of the sponsors of th

    • No, you have two senators right now. William "Mo" Cowan may be an interim senator, but he is still a senator for at least 12 more days.
  • Let's have all 50 states secede, close down the whole stinking, corrupt mess we call "the federal government" and start over with a new "United STATES of America"

  • "The Official Secrets Act is not there to protect Secrets, it is there to protect Officials."
    â" Sir Humphrey, Yes Minister

    "That's another of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he's being charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act."
    â" Bernard Woolley, Yes Minister

  • It is a common thing for countries to be dominated by their intelligence organizations. Even considering the deaths due to the tax burden and other side-effects of devoting wealth to NSA, CIA, FBI, DIA, and the other 60 or so intelligence groups, there is no external threat that has produced more deaths. Given that many of our 'external threats' are a direct consequence of previous actions of exactly those completely corrupt agenices, they should all be abolished immediately, the country will be safer and

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