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Surveillance Watchdog Concludes Metadata Program Is Illegal, "Should End" 138

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-now-or-have-you-ever-been dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Three out of five PCLOB board members are in agreement: The NSA spy programs are illegal.. Unfortunately, these lawyers are not in a position to act or make any changes, only to advise congress and the president. Could this be the start of change to come? 'According to leaked copies of a forthcoming report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), the government's metadata collection program "lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.'" Not surprisingly, the Obama administration disagrees.
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Surveillance Watchdog Concludes Metadata Program Is Illegal, "Should End"

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  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:20PM (#46048147)
    Surveillance Watchdog Concludes Metadata Program Is Illegal, "Should End"

    Any rational person with half a brain would come to the same conclusion.
  • Illegal eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:21PM (#46048155) Journal

    So it's illegal. So I guess someone's going to go to prison for the crime then.

    Uh...

    ba-dum-tschhh....?

    It's really sad that the idea of widespread illegalactivities by the government yielding prison sentences for those involved is a joke. But that half ounce of pot you got caught with...

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:23PM (#46048167)

    Since it has already passed muster with the courts, Congress, and President, I doubt there will be much outcome. They are advisors, not "deciders."

  • Three out of five? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:27PM (#46048189) Homepage

    Three out of five PCLOB board members are in agreement: The NSA spy programs are illegal. ... Could this be the start of change to come?

    Indeed. Expect the government to replace one PCLOB member.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:30PM (#46048209) Journal

    From a higher level, metadata, who calls whom, and when, would have been used to round up the Founding Fathers. Had they still managed to be successful, they would have forbidden that to government without warrant.

    It's really that damned simple, people.

  • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:48PM (#46048365)

    "Any rational person with half a brain would come to the same conclusion."

    The real question is, how did people like that manage to get onto an oversight board?

  • by Professr3 (670356) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:49PM (#46048369)
    That's probably why they picked this one instead...
  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:55PM (#46048415)

    There are many who will despair that reports like this will get ignored. What I think we can learn from history is that big legal and social changes in the United States don't happen overnight. It takes a long time to build the political will to fix a broken system. We saw that with the civil rights movement, we're seeing it now (in my humble opinion) with marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage.

    Even though the agency that issued this report has no authority, it's one more source of media coverage, one more expert opinion saying the surveillance programs are un-American. What we need are years, not months, of frequent and critical media coverage. That is what change looks like.

    I know the NSA's abuses can't end soon enough. The democratic process makes wise decisions slowly and foolish decisions instantly. Keep the pressure on, and give it time.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:56PM (#46048433) Homepage

    Which means sooner or later they will be doing this for people who disagree politically, or who oppose funding increases, or just because they can.

    When your state security can put anybody on the radar of law enforcement and conceal their involvement, then it will be abused, and possibly for personal gain (your ex's new husband needs some closer scrutiny maybe?)

    This just smacks of some of the worst of McCarthyism where lives can be ruined because someone decides it's convenient.

    You don't have a free society when you can be subject to trumped up charges used to mask the real reasons. But increasingly, 'free' is irrelevant under the program of "appearing safe".

    Oh, we see you criticized our agency ... let's see what we can dig up, oooh, says here you're having an affair, that should be enough to discredit you and draw attention away from us.

  • by thewebsiteisdown (1397957) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:57PM (#46048439)
    Consider for a moment your standard, run of the mill credit report that is easily obtainable by just about anybody. It contains an actual chronological record of anything you do from a financial standpoint, but the metadata that is able to be gleaned from it tells a much more invasive story about you than just who you called and when. It tells me the kind of car you drive, the amount of money you make, the kind of neighborhood you live in, I know where you work, where your kids go to school. I can even make a pretty good estimate on if you are having marital problems. This data collection has been going on for decades, without your consent, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can't even own the data about yourself, and others are both allowed and encouraged to make money off said information, mostly be way of penalizing you if they don't like what it says. Where is the outrage? Where is the oversight? Is it because one dataset is owned by corporate pimps and the other is owned by the government? I personally don't give a shit if the NSA knows who I called. The furniture store down the street can spend $7 and find out all about my medical procedure from 2007, and absolutely anything else about my life they care to look into within about 30 seconds. We conceded privacy for the sake of convenience a long, long time ago.
  • by mi (197448) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:57PM (#46048451) Homepage

    lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.

    A thing like this ought to be legal or illegal regardless of whether it is useful or not... So, though I'm glad they've reached this conclusion, I'm hesitant to rejoice — if these are the standards to apply, we may have something horribly invasive coming in the future, which will survive legal scrutiny because it will be useful, even if otherwise illegal...

  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrBigInThePants (624986) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:58PM (#46048453)

    But it wont.

    Because this has always been more about control than effectiveness.

    At some point they will (if not already) start using this information for nefarious purposes such as squashing dissent, manipulation and blackmail and corporate gain. Most likely to tell the police robots which citizen to arrest and torture next.

    And when that joyous time comes the NSA will be ready and waiting...

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:10PM (#46048637)

    even if it isn't legal, it's Too Important to stop doing it.

    I am sick and tired of hearing the Government say this. Usefulness is not a valid criterium for arguing the Constitutionality of a law!

    Even the board's statement (quoted in the summary" that the spying "has shown only limited value" is a non-sequitur and should not have been mentioned because doing so lends credibility to the false premise that usefulness is relevant.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:49PM (#46049217)

    Places in the world that haven't moved towards these directions don't have any issue with the government watching over us.

    Nonsense. If your government is made up of imperfect humans--and all of them are, obviously--then it is a serious issue when the government collects private information of this nature on almost all of its citizens. The fact that some people have no problem with it just means they're naive. "It can't happen here!" Oh, yes it can. Your government is just as human as anyone else's. If you're doing something the government doesn't like, and they have this type of surveillance, then you will likely become a target, and be in trouble.

    Privacy is always relevant.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:58PM (#46049367)

    Only if you choose to ask the furniture store to give you furniture without you paying for it can they pull your credit. If you ask them to front you some furniture, they can see what happened to other people who loaned you money. My credit report is almost empty, it lists a car loan and that's about it. Nobody sees my report because I don't go around asking people to let me spend money I don't have.

    Contrast this with the government. They have thousands of records on me, every phone call I've ever made or received. All of my emails. There's no way to opt out. If I tried hard enough to get away from their prying, they have squadrons of heavily armed men to send after me.

    See the difference?

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:35PM (#46049863)

    No actually the fact that it is possible to use private information to harm typical citizens is a sign that we need to clean up out legal and social system because we obviously don't actually like our laws and customs.

    It will *always* be possible, because it is *always* possible for the government to be corrupt. It doesn't matter how much you change your legal and social systems; human corruption will always be with us.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:35PM (#46052835)

    By handling them exactly the same way NAZIs get handled today: approving their parade permits and ignoring them otherwise. And then, if anybody -- NAZI or otherwise -- commits a crime, prosecute them for that crime according to normal judicial procedure.

    Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Norway, by the way, were a Hell of a lot closer to Germany than the US was, both culturally and geographically, and also did not have the same tradition and laws of freedom that we had. Very little about their experience would have been applicable.

When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. -- James H. Boren

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