Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Operator? Information. Get me Obama on the line.

A journalism professor of mine at Louisiana State used to tell us that every time he made an international call, he'd always close with "And greetings to the good people at the NSA!"

Because, of course, everybody knew the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on most, if not all, overseas telephone calls in search of Russkie spies, pinko security threats or whatnot. It was the Cold War, after all.

Today, things are different. After more than a decade of the endless -- and endlessly amorphous -- War on Terror, we need to be closing every phone call with "And greetings to the good people at the NSA, the FBI and whomever else in the U.S. government might be listening in!"

As a convenience to its land-line and cellular customers, maybe Verizon could just insert that friendly "Greetings to our federal overlords!" into the metadata for every call it handles. That's because the NSA, on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is collecting data on every call the phone company handles -- which would be yours, if you're a customer.

And, as a courtesy to my friendly, neighborhood G-man, that Verizon cell-phone call made to the Mighty Favog by Abu Missus last night at 8:51 p.m., was to see whether I needed anything else from CVS. No radioactive iodine or ammonium nitrate was involved, I swear.

But if you show up at the door, I'm gonna lawyer up like a son of a bitch before you can ship me off to Guantanamo.

ANYWAY, confirmation of our present political-freedom-cannot-withstand-a-never-ending-state-of-war moment has been brought to you by The Guardian, the left-wing British daily. Not, I note, by any American newspaper -- liberal, conservative or conflicted:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI's request for its customers' records, or the court order itself.

"We decline comment," said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls".
I THINK we now understand exactly what all that "change" President Obama promised us in 2008 was all about.

It means that the New Boss is pretty much the same as the Old Boss, except that he's black, is from Chicago, plays basketball instead of riding a bicycle and is more better well-spoken. Frankly, it would take an extraordinary man to roll back the fascistic powers the modern American president has amassed since Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex back in 1960.

Barack Obama ain't that extraordinary. Like most of low-down, rotten humanity, the man craves power like a hog loves slop.

You might want to think about that before clamoring for yet another battle to fight on the global stage (Syria, anyone? Iran, perhaps?) -- yet another pretext to send more young Americans home in plastic bags, yet another pretext to turn you into a little bit more of a subject instead of a citizen.

And people were worried about "Obamacare."

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