NSA’s “zombie dragnet” still bulk collecting our phone data


While TV talking heads tell us to fear hackers accessing government records…

The leading civil liberties group in the United States has requested a federal court to stop the National Security Agency from collecting Americans’ phone data in bulk through the end of the year.

While the surveillance dragnet was phased out by Congress and Barack Obama last month, an American Civil Liberties Union suit seeks to end a twilight, zombie period of the same US phone records collection, slated under the new law to last six months.

“Today the government is continuing – after a brief suspension – to collect Americans’ call records in bulk on the purported authority of precisely the same statutory language this court has already concluded does not permit it,” the ACLU writes in a motion filed on Tuesday before the second circuit court of appeals.

The venue is significant. On 7 May, as Congress debated ending the domestic phone-records collection, the second circuit ruled the collection was illegal. Yet it did not order Obama’s administration to cease the bulk collection, writing that a preferable option would be to stay out of the unfolding legislative battle over the future scope of US surveillance.

That debate ended on 2 June with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which reinstated expired provisions of the Patriot Act that the government had since 2006 relied upon – erroneously, in the second circuit’s view – for the bulk collection. Yet it ended the NSA’s bulk US phone records collection and created a new mechanism for the NSA to gather “call data records” from telecoms pursuant to a court order.

Within hours of signing the bill, Obama requested that the secret surveillance panel known as the Fisa court reinstate the dragnet, relying on a provision permitting a six-month “transition” period. Judge Michael Mosman granted the request on 29 June.

The ACLU, which was the plaintiff in the case the second circuit decided, has indicated since the Fisa court began considering resumption of the dragnet that it would seek an injunction.

Its major contention in support of the requested injunction is that despite the Freedom Act’s provision for a transition period, the underlying law authorizing the bulk surveillance remains the same Patriot Act provisions that the second circuit held do not justify the NSA phone-records collection.

Obama dare not say the program works. He’s admitted it doesn’t.

That still didn’t stop him supporting reauthorization. That didn’t stop Congress authorizing the imitation – with puerile footnotes. The usual coalition of conservative Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats plus out-and-out cowards rolled over in predictable “patriotic” style.

5 thoughts on “NSA’s “zombie dragnet” still bulk collecting our phone data

  1. Gotcha says:

    How the NSA Accesses Smartphone Data (2013) http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/how-the-nsa-spies-on-smartphones-including-the-blackberry-a-921161.html “…For an agency like the NSA, the data storage units are a goldmine, combining in a single device almost all the information that would interest an intelligence agency: social contacts, details about the user’s behavior and location, interests (through search terms, for example), photos and sometimes credit card numbers and passwords.
    …In three consecutive transparencies, the authors of the [NSA} presentation draw a comparison with “1984,” George Orwell’s classic novel about a surveillance state, revealing the agency’s current view of smartphones and their users. “Who knew in 1984 that this would be Big Brother …” the authors ask, in reference to a photo of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. And commenting on photos of enthusiastic Apple customers and iPhone users, the NSA writes: “… and the zombies would be paying customers?”

  2. Usual Suspect says:

    “Here’s one dirty little secret about the revelations of domestic spying at the National Security Agency: Had Edward Snowden not embarked on a madcap escape that mashed up plot elements from Catch Me If You Can, The Fugitive, the O.J. Bronco chase, and “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?,” the story would be over. The leaker’s flight path, with the Feds and the press in farcical flat-footed pursuit, captured far more of the public’s attention than the ­substance of his leaks. That’s not his fault. The public was not much interested in the leaks in the first place. It was already moving on to Paula Deen.” Frank Rich, June 2013 “When Privacy Jumped The Shark” (and ceased to be important to most Americans).

  3. Kidnapping says:

    Meet the NSA’s Creepy Cartoon Mascots : The agency’s unsettling Website for kids boasts a growing roster of anthropomorphic snoops http://warisboring.com/articles/meet-the-nsas-creepy-cartoon-mascots/ “…The surveillance agency has a history of pushing elaborate cartoon mascots on children. It’s produced coloring books and a kid-friendly Website. The mascots scamper the hall of the NSA’s Cryptological Museum in Maryland. The agency seems to really want kids to think of spooks … as friends. “It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up!” the site declares. Below that is a list of different careers at the NSA. There are seven in total, and each of the nine CryptoKids has already chosen one of them.” As per the mention in this article, see also the “Bestiary of Intelligence” @ http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a30276/the-cia-monster-manual/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.