Town Square

Mike and Dianne and Bernie and Rand

Original post made by Tom Cushing, Danville, on Jun 10, 2013

At long last, we’ve found an issue that can unite House Republican leader Mike Rogers with our own Senate stalwart Dianne Feinstein, as well as libertarian Sen. Rand Paul and uber-liberal Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders – albeit in opposite corners of a strange, new political bed. The disclosure that the Feds are compiling massive volumes of surveillance data on US citizens has prompted a much needed debate on the right to privacy in an internet-addled world. How that conversation is resolved will have much to do with the nation we become.

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Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Jun 11, 2013 at 7:39 am

Very well written, thought provoking analysis.

One question that I have not seen answered anywhere is did this program start with President Bush after 9-11, or did it start with President Obama? I would think that immediately after 9-11, there was a need to move quickly with programs to attempt to intercept additional terrorist plots, some which may have been quasi-legal, some which may have been completely illegal but driven by fear of the unknown and with a limited time span to quickly uncover additional terrorist plots.

I also think that when you have leaders of all political ideologies, from the far right to the far left, objecting to a program, there is a good chance the program needs to be eliminated as it clearly is pushing the envelope, ethically, morally, not to mention legally.

That being said, I would be much more upset if the actual content of the phone calls were being recorded, rather than listing the numbers you called and the length of the calls. I think I have a reasonable expectation of privacy as to the content of the calls, but as to the phone numbers I called and length of the call, those things appear on every standard phone bill and are seen by numerous phone company employees, so the expectation of privacy is much watered down.

I would also like more of an explanation from President Obama as to how effective this program really is at curbing and catching terrorist. Is this program really reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence to fight terrorism, or is it simply a fishing endeavor with the hope that somehow it leads to something of value?

Finally, like all programs, the devil is in the details, and it is only as good as the people working on it. All is takes is one bad apple to take arguably private information and use it for political, not national security reasons, and unfortunately history has shown that bad apples are often attracted to these type of programs.

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Posted by Dave
a resident of Danville
on Jun 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I think that we can reasonably expect that the government does record the content of both telephone calls and emails (including attachments), which are then scanned automatically by highly sophisticated software that searches for keywords and patterns. The content of those telephone conversations and emails that are culled out are then read/analyzed by government employees/contractors -- whether or not there is any "reasonable suspicion" that the sender or recipient had committed a crime.

So, even though not EVERY telephone conversation or email is "read/listened to," the government's denial is really just a matter of semantics.

We should be very concerned about this intrusion into our privacy.

The fact that the program operates almost entirely in secret has deprived us of our opportunity to challenge it, or even to exercise our democratic rights to petition our representatives for change.

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Posted by Salvatore
a resident of Diablo
on Jun 13, 2013 at 7:02 am

Since October 2011 the FBI has been banned from doing ANY of this on mosques!!! Partly why the marathon bombing brothers were not detected!

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Posted by Sal
a resident of Diablo
on Jun 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

Obama's Snooping Excludes Mosques, Missed Boston Bombers Web Link #IBDEditorials via @IBDinvestors

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Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Danville
on Jun 13, 2013 at 7:36 am

I believe Edward Snowden is a hero. The government is wrong and corrupt. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We've already seen so much grotesque abuse of power. Why hasn't anything been done about this? Google and those tech folks are lying - they don't have to give DIRECT ACCESS to the government to allow them access to their records. Anything with a power cable is hackable. Plus, the Internet runs over the government servers so let's not lie to each other. Full disclosure.

On a daily basis, American citizens are being treated like terrorists. When our children go to schools - metal detectors. When we enter the airport - take off shoes, metal detectors. When we enter hospitals, courtrooms, and schools you need to fill our a barrage of forms and complete physical exams and specimen samples (gets reported back to the government). Our police force are coming after citizens in droves to collect their funds for pensions - speeding tickets, vehicle searches, etc. Obama has not uttered one word of truth - nor have any of his political cronies. They are all bad. The political system is another government system where division and categorization should be stopped - no parties should mean less targeting, right?

Now, the government is spying on their citizens - all in the name of terrorism. I got an idea. How about we lock down our borders. Take our strong-able bodied prisoners and use them to build the infrastructure to support our borders. I believe we should take ownership and pride of being Americans. How about we unite with a plan?

- lock up borders
- stop government spending
- drop taxes to flat rate of 10%
- grant amnesty to all folks here and don't let anyone else in until we've resolved our internal issues
- balance the budget
- no more salaries for politicians or government representatives, it's a privilege to serve your country
- close down lots and lots of federal offices and programs which are wasteful, costly, and stupid
- no more CZARs
- no more cops and no more new laws. We have enough! Every citizen should have the right to arm themselves. Let's simplify. One law - don't hurt other people. You can't wait for cops to show up and half the time they just do paperwork and have no value. We should have the same rights as cops. We are all citizens under the constitution. Why does their title allow them to have additional perks and considered above the law? I want to be able to carry a gun too.
- every citizen should know their rights. The laws and punishments vary. There are so many laws not even the cops know them all so they pick only the ones they want to enforce. This is called persecution... Be careful when you leave your house. Know your rights.

Let's bring back pride in America. Pride in ourselves. Pride in each other. We are an amazing people with love in our hearts and respect for others. We can do a better job! I have young children and want only the best for them. We deserve better! We're definitely paying for it...

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Posted by spcwt
a resident of Danville
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Someday, we may not have a supreme leader as beneficent as our dear President Obama, who might abuse this spying apparatus.

(The previous sentence was written partly for the benefit of the NSA eavesdroppers who are no doubt monitoring this website, and partly written for comic effect).

The U.S. spends $80 billion per year on spying. That’s $80 billion (with a B) that can’t be used on deficit reduction, lowering taxes, or wasted on worthless liberal spending binges.

Both the fiscally responsible people of this country and the Obama spenders like Tom should agree that this $80 billion is best spent elsewhere.

Sadly, I expect this spy spending to continue unabated, as the bulk of Americans and people in Congress are a bunch mainstream Republicans and Democrats who are beholden to the military industrial complex and are ruled by fear rather than rational thought.

We can no longer rely on the Supreme Court to enforce our inalienable rights, one of which is to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. Bush, Obama and their crafty lawyers have whittled these rights away. They are now essentially meaningless.

I guess the best we can do is “enjoy the decline.”

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Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

All: This new column by Gail Collins (usually funny, but deadly serious here) demonstrates the downside of this kind of 'oversight.' As a father of daughters, who has never been to Spain either (but I have been to Oklahoma), these consequences are chilling. Web Link

Take a look!