Today Rand Paul launched a class action lawsuit against the NSA:
"In 2013, the revelation that the National Security Agency was collecting and storing the metadata from the phone calls and e-mails of millions of American citizens -- without any suspicion of criminal activity -- served as a striking wake-up call for the country. Americans do not like to think of their government as some Orwellian leviathan, engaging in surveillance tactics that we only expect to see in oppressive autocracies. That such surveillance could be going on in what is ostensibly the freest nation in the world is a chilling thought indeed... For all these reasons, we have elected to file a class action suit on behalf of all Americans whose rights have been violated by the NSA's unconstitutional spying programs. We are requesting a ruling confirming that the blanket collection of Americans' telephone metadata without reasonable cause violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and requiring that these programs be halted immediately and that all previously collected data be purged from government databases. It's time to hold government officials accountable for their habitual trampling on the Constitution and on our rights as individuals. Our case will be an important step down the road of restoring our Constitution and reining in our own overreaching federal government."For anyone so inclined, the complaint is a long, legalistic, but interesting read:
The Dividist is IN. Not sure if signing the form makes us a party to Rand Paul's class action lawsuit or a potential donor, or political spam fodder or all of the above. But we're in, nevertheless.
Yesterday saw "The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance" on-line protest. We also signed up on that website. Clicked the banner, sent automatic e-mails and placed a call to my congresscritter in D.C. Posted the graphic here and linked to the site:
There was a mixed bag of sponsors including libertarians, privacy advocates, liberals, occupiers, civil liberty advocates, and internet mega-corporations. Brian Fung of WaPo sorts it out:WHAT WE CAN DO -"Congress is considering two major bills.The USA Freedom Act curtails NSA surveillance abuses.The FISA Improvements Act attempts to legalize bulk data collection of phone records.We need to tell Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act and amend it to make it even stronger."
The day before yesterday Glenn Greenwald unveiled the preview version of his new investigative journalism platform Intercept. Arguably, Greenwald's website will be the most significant of the three events this week in the fight to restore some semblance of the protections afforded by the 4th Amendment. Greenwald is the journalist most closely associated with and a primary conduit for Eric Snowden's revelations of NSA data collection programs targeting Americans."In December," wrote Susan Molinari, Google's VP of public policy, "we unveiled a set of government surveillance reform principles that address many of the recent concerns around government surveillance. In Congress, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.) have introduced legislation — the USA Freedom Act — that would codify many of these principles."
As much as today's protests resemble the SOPA/PIPA battle of 2012 in that they oppose an alleged governmental injustice, the so-called "Day We Fight Back" is also about advancing a concrete proposal. That's an important step. From what we know about Occupy Wall Street and other distributed movements, the inability to coalesce around a policy idea makes it much harder for a protest to sustain itself over time. As with any political campaign, people switch off when they lose confidence in what a movement (or a candidate) stands for. It's not enough to know what it stands against."
You don't have to like Edward Snowden. You don't have to respect him for what he did. But you do have to acknowledge that our national conversation about what we have lost and the consequent opportunity to restrain our burgeoning surveillance state is due primarily to his actions. For that we owe him a debt of gratitude.
Our history shows that surveillance abuse by the federal government is never corrected until we Americans have our collective noses rubbed in it, get angry, and demand action. Intelligence agency reform does not happen by itself in Washington D.C. These revelations are a necessary if not sufficient condition to find the path to salvage our constitutional protections. Intercept is the most likely vehicle to deliver the kind of revelation that will continue to fuel the outrage.
Thus far Intercept has photographically presented the massive infrastructure we are funding to maintain the surveillance state and made the connection between NSA surveillance and our growing assassination program. Greenwald continues to document the extent to which the Obama administration stands on the shoulders of the expansive Bush/Cheney unitary executive expansion and uses identical claims to push executive power higher and further:
"James Clapper is saying exactly what Dick Cheney and George Bush before him said, and those three said what John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger said before them about Ellsberg. It’s all spouted with no evidence. It’s rote and reflexive. It’s designed to smear and fear-monger. As Professor Ludlow notes, “Fear is even used to prevent us from questioning the decisions supposedly being made for our safety.” Maybe it’s time for journalists to cease being the leading advocates for state secrecy and instead take seriously their claimed role as watchdogs. At the very least, demand evidence before these sorts of highly predictable, cliched attacks are heralded as something to be taken seriously."Hopefully, Intercept will continue to show the way.
As the constitutional scholar Yogi Berra once said "It is deja vu all over again". This abuse and overreach was perfectly predictable. The slippery slope was easy to see. The historical analogs were easy to find.
Six year ago - Many of the same people and organizations associated with the events this week, including Greenwald, Paul, the ACLU and EFF, warned of exactly what we are seeing now when the FISA "reforms" were passed in July 2008. Passed with the flip-flopped vote of Senator Barack Obama and signed by President George W. Bush. Even the Dividist could see this coming. This from our July 10, 2008 post commenting on FISA passing with modifications that opened the door to the very NSA abuses we are learning about now:
"This really is a black mark, not only on Democrats, but on the Congress, and the history of the United States." - Russ Feingold"Feingold expresses a hope that a future Congress will take this up and restore our Fourth Amendment protections. You tell me - What do you think the likelihood that any President or Congress will voluntarily reopen this political can of worms? I actually believe it will happen, but not without a powerful catalyst, and it won't be pretty. It will happen only after the inevitable abuse of these new powers are revealed to the American people. Why inevitable? Because every single expansion of government power over citizens is ultimately abused by those entrusted with that power. I don't know when that will happen, but I know it will happen.
The Dividist was a great deal more optimistic six years ago than he is now. But we have a chance now to take steps to reverse this headlong rush to a surveillance state. Edward Snowden gave us this chance. At some point every American simply needs to decide for themselves what kind of a country they want this to be. Do we want to be a country ruled by fear? Or do we want the country entrusted to us by the founders with guaranteed individual rights and freedoms protected from arbitrary government search, seizure, and censorship. It is our choice. Let's not blow it.Outrage over executive branch abuse of eavesdropping and domestic surveillance was the reason for the original FISA legislation in 1978. When FISA was modified by the Patriot Act, the loosened restrictions were immediately abused by the FBI, and that abuse continued for years. With these even looser restrictions, there will be more abuse. It is only a question of time, a question of how the abuse will be revealed, and a question of how badly and how many Americans must be hurt before enough outrage forces Congress to act. Perhaps the abuse will happen under President Obama. Perhaps the abuse will happen under President McCain. Perhaps it will happen under a President four or eight or twelve years from now. It will happen."