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Just Because They Can . . .

letsgetitdone's picture

A commenter at DailyKos on my previous post on drawing the line in identifying whistle blowers said, among other things:

What I really find interesting is that Greenwald isn't even allegeding any wrong doing or illegal activity, just that the NSA 'has the capability' well no shit sherlock the government could do lots of things that doesn't mean it does or will.

I gave the following answer to that claim.

I don't think you're paying attention. The Snowden revelations have made clear that Administration intelligence officials have lied to the Congress. They've also made clear that searches being carried out by lower-level techies go way beyond what the law allows. That's illegal activity. Also, the potential for illegal activity, along with the thousands of low level functionaries having access to the NSA tools makes it virtually certain that those tools are being abused right now, everyday.

And finally, the fact that NSA has the capability to commit unconstitutional searches and seizures certainly does mean that, very probably, its functionaries would do so in the future, and that we must ask the question "Is the risk of ongoing and future wholesale violations of the constitution using the capabilities NSA has developed, worth it, in return for the additional safety that may or may not result from using these tools?"

I've posed and answered a similar question here. My answer is no, it is far from worth it. It is a travesty. It is cowardly. And it will, in a brief time, result in the end of democracy.

Another commenter on my post added an August 1 PBS video of Judy Woodruff segment to the discussion. The video also added to my answer to the first commenter's conjecture that can doesn't allow us to conclude that they do or will. The video featured whistle blower William Binney, with Russell Tice also setting context.

This reinforces the point that violations of the Constitution and the boundaries of NSA's authority under the Patriot Act have been occurring for years and certainly are being PLANNED FOR in the future in connection with the new NSA data center under construction.

At about 7 minutes into the video, Binney says outright that this dragnet surveillance isn't even necessary to protect us and that the examples of successful protection given by the NSA have all been from investigations involving what he calls the "zone of suspicion." That zone includes the limited social network of the external terrorist, the person he/she calls in the US (1st degree of separation), and the persons called by she/he (second degree of separation.)

So, previous cases and successes provide no clear reason or justification for the view that the NSA's violation of the limits of the Patriot Act was necessary or desirable. And given the obvious risk it poses to our democracy NSA's illegal and unconstitutional dragnet surveillance activities need to be stopped right now along with implementation of its new data center.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


Notorious P.A.T.'s picture
Submitted by Notorious P.A.T. on

" Greenwald isn't even allegeding any wrong doing or illegal activity"

Ah yes, everything that is legal is ethical. That old excuse.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

thank you for going over to the Big Cheeto. Arguing with them has value for the sake of lurkers and putting stuff on the record on a high traffic site. I gave up long ago.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

As with some of the other weird objections about this whole Snowden affair (e.g., “where do you draw the line?” from Piers Morgan, “China/Russia is worse than the US” and that has something to do with impugning Snowden in going to those places, from endless people), this one—“Greenwald isn't even [alleging] any [wrongdoing]”—is mind-numbing.

Let’s leave aside the points you’ve made that lying to Congress in and of itself constitutes wrongdoing and that the surveillance system revealed by Glenn Greenwald will, with high likelihood, be subject to abuse. What Greenwald has asserted countless times, in various ways, is

This development - the construction of a worldwide, ubiquitous electronic surveillance apparatus - is self-evidently newsworthy, extreme, and dangerous. It deserves transparency. People around the world have no idea that all of their telephonic and internet communications are being collected, stored and analyzed by a distant government. But that's exactly what is happening, in secrecy and with virtually no accountability. And it is inexorably growing, all in the dark. At the very least, it merits public understanding and debate. That is now possible thanks solely to these disclosures.

The fact that wrongdoing or illegal activity (or unconstitutional activity) has occurred or is very likely to occur (or both) is, of course, very important but that’s a separate issue. It’s sufficient that this surveillance apparatus be brought to light—which is exactly what Greenwald says he’s doing.