Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Verizon Domestic/Foreign Surveillance Thing

1) The story in the Guardian reads more like Ackerman than Greenwald, so it wouldn't surprise me if  Ackerman re-wrote (rather than simply edited) Greenwald's initial piece in order to make it journalistically concise and coherent.

2) This is obviously the biggest story of the day and quite a coup for the Guardian. That so many of us were already well-aware of the existence of massive domestic surveillance (it goes well beyond the confines of this particular Order, after all) just goes to show that no matter how allegedly "secret" all this stuff is, it's also common knowledge. It is one of those "secrets" that's meant to be known widely in any case.

3) Getting hold of an actual FISA court order is rather unusual. Given the nearly paranoiac stance of the White House toward leaks that it doesn't control, this incident will no doubt have extended and lasting repercussions, repercussions that cannot yet be predicted fully.

4) Many are already claiming this is only the tip of the iceberg, that in fact all phone calls and emails are being hoovered up and stored for future reference and possible use, and this has been going on for many years. Make of it what you will. What makes this breathless revelation different is that it is based on the actual order from the FISA Court.

5) The court order makes government possession of these data perfectly legal. All the telecoms routinely keep this information as a matter of course in doing their business. It may not be desirable for the government to have these data, but once the court orders it, there is no illegality on the part of the government in possessing this information. Indeed, the government can and does purchase all kinds of supposedly private data from other entities all the time. By these means, the government can find out just about anything about anyone just about any time it wants to. There is no legal impediment to the government's doing this.

6) I've seen quite a few defenses of corporate surveillance of individuals and groups -- as opposed to government surveillance -- on the theory that you, the individual or group under corporate surveillance, can withdraw your permission to be surveilled and decamp. Once you have done so, the corporation has no recourse and can neither apprehend nor jail you for your refusal. This is absurd to the nth degree. Anyone who truly believes that somehow corporate surveillance is benign or that individuals/groups can avoid it (by "refusing permission") is an idiot. And anyone who believes that government is not the tool of corporate interests is beyond redemption. Anyone who believes there is only a "voluntary" association between the individual/group and corporate interests or that government and corporate interests do not overlap and coincide more and more fully simply does not live in the real world.

7) The only thing that appears to be new in this story is that it is based on an actual FISA court order, not on anonymous statements from "those familiar with the FISA courts." The surveillance certainly isn't new. For days recently we were treated to the incessant whining of the media over FBI surveillance of reporters. This was the Worst Thing Evah! When people like me pointed out that everyone was under similar surveillance, and it was pretty galling that media claimed some kind of exemption while apparently caring not at all about all the rest of those being surveilled, we were met with collective yawns and pish-tushes. Now that the story has broken in the Guardian that everyone (Well, all Verizon customers in a certain jurisdiction)  are being surveilled, suddenly it's Important, the Worst Thing Evah! Utterly without irony. It only goes to show how easily some audiences can be manipulated by the right triggers...

8) It appears that much of DC is now running around screaming because The Sekrit Is OUT!!! Oh noes! Except for Little Lindsey, who proclaims on C-Span that he's fine with it. Carry on.

What a day.

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