Wednesday, July 3, 2013

NSA and Security, Again

Or: What I knew, what I thought I knew, and what I really didn't know.

I have, since at least 1999, worked with companies that are internationally distributed.  This means, I regularly have correspondence with people in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Poland, Singapore and the United Kingdom.  Some of these folks, I have become friends with, so I have had personal correspondence with people in these countries, both paper and electronic.

I have known about the existence of the NSA since the 80s.  They are, of course, prominently featured in political dramas (Tom Clancy's works, for example).  The technology suggested in such entertainment has long been "accelerated technology", but I never for a moment assumed that it was all fiction.

That is, I have long known that the NSA knows who I am.  There's a huge amount of the population, of course, that has to correspond with people in foreign countries, but it is a small percentage of people in comparison to the whole US population.  Domestically, the USA is not in the NSA charter, but in talking with another country, I figured that I would be fair game in the context of those conversations, on a technicality.

Of course, then 2001 happened, and everything went haywire.  Homeland security, the merger of the intelligence services, a new era of inter-agency cooperation, all in the name of security.

In 2002, it turned out that the FISA court had found out that the FBI was breaching the provisions of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, by lying to the court, and they issued a rare public opinion, to try to stop it.

In December of 2005, the New York Times broke a story that the Bush Administration had unilaterally authorized spying on US citizens' phone calls without any court oversight at all.  I wrote a blog entry in direct reaction to that at the time.

Well, it's 8 years later, the NSA has actually vastly expanded the project that was started in 2002, and seems to have no shame about it.  Probably because nobody cared in 2005, or because nobody noticed, and this time the FISA court seems to issue ever renewing blanket warrants for everything.

The revelations that have come out of this have been deeply surprising in some ways, and sad.  Mostly sad.  I could point you to resources, but if you haven't looked it up yet, I highly doubt my blog will convince you.  I will, though, leave you with a quote from one of the US founding fathers.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
 -- Benjamin Franklin

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