NSA Task Force Member Says Program Should Be Expanded Not Limited

220px-Michael_Morell,_December_2012Last week, I wrote about the dangers of tasks forces bearing gifts for civil libertarians and noted how Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program. One of those was former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell who served during the secret development and use of the program. Obviously, if he were to conclude that the program was illegal, it would have meant that he was part of the violations. Not only did the task force maintain the program was legal (in conflict with the recent ruling of a federal court), but now Morell has called not for the limitation of the program but its expansion. That is what President Obama considers a reformer in the national security field.

Morell gave an interview in the aftermath of the task force report that included a call for the expansion of the program to include emails. He also confirmed, as was stated in the earlier column, that the report actually did not include any substantial change for the program.

Morell stated “I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data. You can bet that the last thing a smart terrorist is going to do right now is call someone in the United States.” Well, yes, but the same discomfort is felt by citizens of the United States and others around the world. If you really want privacy, it appears that you had best use telepathy rather than telephony communications.

Morell also admitted that the telephone data program, conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” However that is no reason to end it and he insist that the “effectiveness we have seen to date is totally irrelevant to how effective it might be in the future.” Thus, remember that promise of how the panel balanced privacy and security? It turns out that even if a program is destroyed the expectation of privacy and not adding much to security, it should still be maintained in the possibility that it could produce better results some time in the future.

So Morell is saying that the reforms were not substantial, the program has not been that effective (consistent with the view of the federal court), and the program should be expanded. That is hardly what the media reported in the “sweeping” limits put on the NSA of course.

Source: National Journal

36 thoughts on “NSA Task Force Member Says Program Should Be Expanded Not Limited”

  1. Dale,

    Perhaps you’ll find the following article helpful:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/09/20/how_to_tell_your_mother_and_bosses_why_they_should_protest_surveillance.html by Dan Gillmor


    “Government’s surveillance of—and interference with—our communications is making you less safe.” When the National Security Agency deliberately sabotages key parts of the encryption infrastructure that protects communications, it’s opening doors for criminals, not just law enforcement. Imagine that the government required you to use a crummy lock on your front door, so that local police—and your local burglars—could easily enter your home.

    “You think you have nothing to hide? Great: Then you won’t mind if we install cameras around your home, including your bedroom and bathroom—and wear a camera and microphone as you go about your business outside—so other people can check on what you say and do at any time.” This may sound hyperbolic, but it’s not so much. Given the amount of our personal, business, and commercial lives that rely on digital communications, pervasive surveillance is already unveiling vast amounts of what we have rightly considered private in the past. If you are willing to go that far, it is not much further to have government spy on literally everything—because you never know when you might be suspected of something.

    “America is about openness and personal freedom, starting with freedom of speech.” Total surveillance makes us afraid to speak our minds—we censor our own speech—because we worry that some government agency will decide, however unjustly, that we are a threat.

    “The NSA has betrayed fundamental values of American liberty. What it is doing is un-American.” The Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is all about our belief that having liberty means taking some risks. For example, we allow some guilty people to go free in order to protect innocent people from being punished for crimes they didn’t commit. By collecting everyone’s communications, or key parts of them, the government has effectively repealed the Fourth Amendment. Do you believe in liberty?

    “The government has a back door into your online commerce and a master key to your computer.” If the government does, so do the smarter crooks. Feeling safer now?

    “Has any government gone down the path of total surveillance without turning into a totalitarian state?” Government surveillance of all communications inevitably will lead to government oversight of your life. Is that what you want?”

    End of excerpt

  2. Dale:

    Someone please explain to me what reasonable expectations of privacy are violated by monitoring in a data base who I call and who calls me and how long we talk. I just do not get it. But then maybe I am not trying to keep secret who I talk with.”

    Here is just one analysis

    It’s not particularly short. It contains many links to references in support of points.
    It deals with potential abuse and with legal/constitutional issues.

    Some extracts:

    “Tracking whom Americans are calling, for how long they speak, and from where, can reveal deeply personal information about an individual. Using such data, the government can discover intimate details about a person’s lifestyle and beliefs — political leanings and associations, medical issues, sexual orientation, habits of religious worship, and even marital infidelities. Daniel Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a privacy expert, likens this program to a Seurat painting. A single dot may seem like no big deal, but many together create a nuanced portrait.”
    “By contrast, recalling his involvement in the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, Max Frankel warned against trusting the government when assessing the NSA’s surreptitious and indiscriminate collection of metadata. According to Frankel, “Information that is gathered and managed in secret is a potent weapon — and the temptation to use it in political combat or the pursuit of crimes far removed from terrorism can be irresistible.”

    You have nothing to hide, so you have nothing to fear?
    That’s might be true so far.
    What about tomorrow, next year or in 10 years time?

    What if politics/society changed so much that even you started to object?
    You would then have something to hide from the people who ruled you.

    Have you had a good look at the “inadvertant misrepresentations” coming out of previous and current administrations.
    Would you really be happy for those kinds of people to know absolutely everything about your life, interests and contacts? You think they would never use that against you if you even annoyed them enough – never mind if they saw you and or contacts as a threat to their power?

    Quite apart from the Administration, who are these NSA analysts who have the ability to to view your life as if you were a laboratory specimen?
    Are they some specially-bred superhumans who would never stray from the path of goodness and honor?
    Are they just a different kind of cop? Y’know, the sort of cops often described in this blog and elsewhere….. who abuse their positions without a seconds hesitation knowing that the system will back them up if anyone dares to object.

    You feel that you have nothing to fear from mass surveillance.
    This is because you are innocent.

    I don’t mean the “not guilty” type of innocence.
    I mean the “haven’t thought it through in any detail” sort of innocence.

  3. Q U E S T I O N:
    What do you call a Senate Intelligence Committee that doesn’t question the liars but accepts the lie?

    “YES MEN”

  4. Recently, in our neighbor between the states, a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada was described as follows: “The ruling is a victory for sex workers seeking safer working conditions because it found that the laws violated the charter guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person.”

    It’s ironic that our Declaration of Independence, one of the USA charter documents, uses similar language, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – but the NSA et al seem to operate by a different philosophy as regards citizens of the USA regardless of their occupation.

    I’d like to throw this out for discussion. It seems to me, that from the mid 1960’s, that the USA has added a fourth branch of government (not mentioned in or approved by the Constitution) and that branch, a security state apparatus, formal and informal, seems to answer to none of the other branches. This ‘apparatus’ until recently has mostly operated in foreign policy affairs (mostly out of sight and out of mind, except for wars), but it now it seems to have expanded it’s focus into domestic affairs. This seems to me to put the USA at a crisis with one of two possibilities as outcomes : A) either a constitutional change of government which might produce more transparency or B) a continuation of things into a quasi dictatorship, which would be a negation of the Constitution. My question is: What Constitutional changes would have to occur to prevent a descent into a dictatorship (whether by an individual or a select oligarchy)?

  5. On reading this blog thread, it seemed appropriate to once again watch my DVD of “The President’s Analyst,” (James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, et al), Paramount Pictures, 1967.

    For those who do not remember, that movie ends with a non-extraordinary rendition of the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.”

    Presciently tragic comedic irony, anyone?

  6. The purpose of Obama is to make the illegal, “legal”. He has done this at every turn. This commission is a step along that path. Surveillance, now in the open, will be preserved not so much in secret but in the open. People like Dale will welcome it. Obama supporters will love, honor and obey it!

    I hate to tell Ms. Rice something she already knows but there were those pesky anthrax attacks after 9/11, you know, the ones that the FBI did a seance on and declared the dead guy guilty. Case closed.

    The limits of the govt.’s spying are clear, the Constitution. This may not change because of terrorism. And, e-mails have already been fully pre- read and logged.

    Harold Koh said Obama’s legal theories would all line up in the end and its purpose would become clear. Well, it’s clear. He should be impeached.

  7. Someone please explain to me what reasonable expectations of privacy are violated by monitoring in a data base who I call and who calls me and how long we talk. I just do not get it. But then maybe I am not trying to keep secret who I talk with.

  8. I think most of us want to see these issues properly adjudicated in a court of law.

    It is the administration that has used every technicality at its disposal to prevent these cases from going forward. It is the administration that has lied about NSA spying. It is NSA that has withheld data or lied to FISA judges.

    The actions of the administration ought to tells everything we need to know about the legality of these programs.

    And as data is released it becomes clear that administration’s claims of effectiveness for these programs are lies as well.

    The administration knows these programs cannot stand scrutiny and honest, objective evaluation. That is why the administration lies to the American public.

  9. Any ‘patriotic’ American who knows where any NDS agent’s house is….. Those houses are now a fair target for a nice barn-fire!

  10. Shorter Michael Morell:
    Must have more porn links.

    No credible threats thwarted!
    … But plenty of sexy info.

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