consultants are sandburs

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Senate bill is introduced with bipartisan support aimed at curbing NSA excesses, with a bandaid safeguard thought despite retaining the present secret court usage.

Strib carries the AP feed, here, stating in significant part:

Bill to end NSA's bulk collection of phone records put forward by bipartisan group of senators
By: DONNA CASSATA , AP - Updated: September 25, 2013 - 6:25 PM


WASHINGTON — Spying by the National Security Agency has cost the United States economically and angered allies, a bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday in unveiling legislation that would end the collection of millions of Americans' phone records and data on Internet usage.

Three Democrats — Oregon's Ron Wyden, Mark Udall of Colorado and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — and Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky outlined their legislation to end longstanding NSA surveillance practices and open up some of the actions of the secret federal court that reviews government surveillance requests.

The lawmakers argued that their bill is the appropriate response to disclosures this past summer about the sweeping surveillance programs — one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism.

Wyden said the programs and revelations have undercut U.S. businesses required to provide data to the intelligence community while infuriating foreign leaders. Earlier this week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff accused the United States of violating her country's sovereignty by sweeping up data from billions of telephone calls and emails that have passed through Brazil, including her own.

In protest, Rousseff scuttled a scheduled state visit to the United States.

"This is not a small hiccup," Wyden told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Efforts to rein in the once-secret surveillance programs have attracted an unusual coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans, pitting them against House and Senate leaders who have expressed strong support for the NSA programs.

The bipartisan group unveiled the bill on the eve of a Senate hearing with the nation's top intelligence officials, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, in hopes of jump-starting the debate over the programs.

"Americans with no link to terrorism or espionage should not have to worry that the NSA is vacuuming up their private information," Udall said.

The bill would change current law to prohibit the bulk collect of Americans' phone records and their communications data. The government could still obtain records of anyone suspected of terrorism or espionage and of an individual in contact with a suspected terrorist or spy.

Paul said he didn't understand how a "warrant that has 10 million unnamed people, all customers of Verizon" is consistent with the Constitution.

The legislation also would establish an independent, constitutional advocate to argue against the government in the secret Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court and require the attorney general to declassify court opinions that address significant interpretations of the Constitution or current law.

Blumenthal, who served as Connecticut's attorney general, said secret courts were one of the reasons the colonists rebelled against the British government.

President Barack Obama has said he might be open to setting up public advocates who could oppose government lawyers at Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court proceedings. But the administration continues to argue that the NSA programs are crucial tools in combatting terrorism.

The ombudsman thinking, a secret advocate representing you and me, get real. Yes, better than nothing and given the attitude of other politicians that the spying is good, it might be all sound reasoning folks can expect. But the evil is the government working in secret, and this adds another government official to the payroll with lassitude and co-option being the regular evils one can expect with the doors closed. More reassuring, if passed, is the above language, "require the attorney general to declassify court opinions that address significant interpretations of the Constitution or current law," but when it's the Attorney General making the decision of what's "significant," things degenerate to same old, same old, seen before to not really work. The AG is tasked with avoiding wretched excess now, in going to the secret court for secret orders to do mischief in secret via secret people on secret payrolls; and that's not really worked out in super trouble-free fashion. So, go figure.

I read somewhere that the likelihood is greater of your being killed by lightning than being killed by a terrorist, and each is very low. Perhaps the distinguished pair, Clapper and Alexander have some (of course secret) data collection goals to curb lightning. Massive collection of weather data, specific to your own back yard (didn't you notice the sensors being installed or was that done one time when you took the kids to a soccer game). That's needed since lightning can strike anywhere, and it only has to strike once, whereas we must be vigilant in efforts to curb lightning strikes with an aim to win every time. A needed ongoing War on Lightning. Likely there is a secret presidential order about starting and funding the War on Lightning, one dating from one of the Bush eras, Clinton or Reagan, but not from early post-Watergate since that era dealt with secret White House enemy lists and such. Not that it generated any learning curve, just that a mood then prevailed, briefly, before a return to business as usual.

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