For government and its intelligence apparatus, so-called metadata is only a Stasi state baby step.
December 31, 2013
The former boss of the CIA and the NSA, retired Gen. Michael Hayden, tells USA Today the Constitution and the Bill of Rights impede the smooth functioning of a Stasi police state. He said the NSA should not be required to seek court warrants in its widespread surveillance.
“Right now, since there have been no abuses and almost all the court decisions on this program have held that it’s constitutional, I really don’t know what problem we’re trying to solve by changing how we do this,” he said in reference to recommendations proposed by Obama’s task force on surveillance.
Hayden sidestepped a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon issued earlier this month. Leon, a Bush appointee, said “the almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979,” when the case of Smith v. Maryland presented before the Supreme Court permitted the government to collect data without a court warrant. “The notion that the Government could collect similar data on hundreds of millions of people and retain that data for a five-year period, updating it with new data every day in perpetuity, was at best, in 1979, the stuff of science fiction.”
For the government and its intelligence apparatus, so-called metadata is only a Stasi state baby step. Michael Morell, a former acting director of the CIA and a member of the task force, has recommended expanding the massive surveillance program to include email. “I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data,” he said last week. He believes listening in on telephone calls and reading the email of Americans will prevent another 9/11.
Prior to a ruling by U.S. District Judge William Paley on December 27 stating that the NSA’s rampant violations of the Fourth Amendment are legal, Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who is a member of a White House panel established to investigate NSA violations unearthed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, said evidence that massive surveillance prevents terrorist attacks is “very thin.”
Hayden said Snowden “stirred up the crowd” with his revelations about the NSA and Obama will need to show “some political courage” in order “to keep doing these things.”
During the interview, Hayden underplayed the constitutional ramifications of the NSA program. He said phone records are “far safer and privacy is far more secured with NSA holding the data than some third party.”
Hayden displayed remarkable ignorance of the Constitution and its underlying principles. “The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution is not an international treaty,” he said. For those who aren’t covered by its protections, he said, “if your communications contain information that make Americans more safe and more free, game on.”
The Fourth Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The language does not limit this protection to Americans. “The people are protected, not just the American people,” writes Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. “For the sake of reference, one need recall the statement in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal.’ Furthermore, all men are endowed by their Creator with rights, rights they enjoy as offspring of the Almighty. Thus, as there is no man, woman, or child that is not the creation of God, there is none of them that is not a beneficiary of the rights He bestowed upon them.”
In 1967, the Supreme Court overturned Olmstead v. United States, which ruled that the Fourth Amendment protects non-tangible possessions such as phone calls and electronic transmissions. An amendment added to the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 further eroded the Fourth Amendment, but the coup de grâce to liberty occurred in 2001 with the passage of the Patriot Act and its notorious Section 215 allowing the sharing of “any tangible thing” as part of a supposed terror investigation.
Hayden’s arrogant defense in favor of violating the Fourth Amendment will ultimately come back to haunt us, writes David Cole. “How would we feel if we had recently learned that France – or China – was collecting data on millions of Americans’ communications, or directly monitoring President Obama’s cell phone? If we extend no protection to other countries’ nationals, why should we expect them to respect our privacy rights? Thus, it’s in our own interest to identify some reciprocal principles to preserve privacy in the digital age,” he writes.
The Daily Beast, understandably, thinks Obama has a conscience and is something more than merely a stand-up teleprompter reader for the global elite. “Obama’s counterterrorism polices have continued to tug at his conscience. He has prodded his aides to re-address unfulfilled promises and occasionally chastised himself for not acting more in accordance with his personal convictions,” writes Daniel Klaidman for the Newsweek Daily Beast Company. “Before he left for Hawaii, the president was sending signals that government surveillance programs need an overhaul to restore the public’s faith on issues of national security.”
Obama’s tête-à-tête with the intelligence “community” prior to his choreographed response to increasingly vocal outrage will not result in significant, if any, reform. In order to ensure the Constitution is followed, the NSA would need to be dismantled, along with the CIA and the rest of the intelligence monolith that now exacts considerable control over a government that the establishment media laughingly insists represents the American people.
In the mid-1970s, when there was still a modicum of dignity in Congress, the Church Committee discovered and revealed Project Shamrock, an effort hatched in 1945 by the Armed Forces Security Agency and subsequently taken up by the NSA to conduct widespread surveillance on the international communications of American citizens. The committee discovered hundreds of instances of the CIA and the FBI conducting electronic surveillance without court ordered warrants.
Short of dismantling and outlawing the national security state and repealing in total the Patriot Act, anything Obama does following his vacation in Hawaii will be little more than Kabuki theater.