web analytics
May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Government Snooping

The unauthorized release last week of the text of a four-page order issued by a federal judge sitting on the special FISA national security court has unleashed a torrent of controversy over possible governmental overreaching.

The FISA court was established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to evaluate surveillance requests by the federal government; the order in question, issued at the behest of the FBI, directed Verizon Business Network Services to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

Apparently the order is silent as to whether it applies to the actual content of the communications. And it was unclear as to whether similar orders applied to other telecommunications carriers, though it seems highly likely. The confusion is heightened by the fact that the order itself prohibits any recipient from discussing its existence, and so representatives of Verizon and other telecommunications carriers refused to comment to reporters.

The release of the order led to disclosures that under the so-called Prism program the NSA has also secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans and access to e-mails, videos and other data of foreigners from nine U.S. Internet companies, even when they involve American citizens.

Simply put, it now appears likely that federal authorities routinely collect information on virtually all communications on the part of Americans, whether or not they are connected to a national security investigation.

President Obama has attempted to tamp town the ensuing furor by acknowledging the intrusions on the privacy of Americans but characterizing them as “modest encroachments” that “were worth doing” in order to protect the country, characterizing them as a necessary “tradeoff.”

He also said the NSA telephone surveillance program collects phone numbers and the duration of calls but not the content and insisted that the Internet surveillance program targets only foreigners living abroad, not Americans.

Just the same, what would have seemed like hair-raising science fiction only a few years ago has become the reality we now live with.

As New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau put it, “a revolution in software technology that allows for the highly automated and instantaneous analysis of enormous volumes of digital information has transformed the NSA, turning it into the virtual landlord of the digital assets of Americans and foreigners alike. The new technology has, for the first time, given America’s spies the ability to track the activities and movements of people almost anywhere in the world without actually watching them or listening to their conversations.”

It is still far too early to come to any real conclusions about what the Obama administration has been up to here. The likelihood is that at worst it is extending what was already being done during the Bush administration. But the secrecy shrouding the issue will make it difficult if not impossible to get at the truth. As noted, companies receiving a FISA order are barred from discussing it. Moreover, the FISA court does not release the text of its decisions implementing the language of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. So we are governed by the secret applications of a law we are not permitted to review.

There are, however, some possible concerns apparent even now. It was an article of faith that J. Edgar Hoover was able to stay on as director of the FBI for nearly half a century largely because he maintained secret files – all right, dirt – on politicians. It is not hard to envision elected officials and bureaucratic hacks gaining access to the unimaginable amount of information now under the jurisdiction of the executive branch and using it to intimidate political opponents in a Hoover-like manner.

In addition, our criminal justice system does not allow for the introduction of evidence secured through an unlawful search. That is, there must be a warrant based on a prosecutorial claim of probable cause that a specific crime was or is about to be committed. It seems this requirement may well become a relic of the past as the legal and routine scooping up of vast stores of information will make virtually all evidence presumptively admissible.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Government Snooping”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?
Israel Rejects as ‘False’ UJA Federation’s Claims about Israel Parade ‘Inclusion’
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

For a peace treaty with the PA, half the Israeli public would agree to divide the Jerusalem

As for the president’s new, softer tone vis-à-vis Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel, this is most likely being driven by the results of the recent Israeli election.

What especially appeals to us is his grand – some critics would say extravagant –view of what the borders of Israel should look like.

There was something else of great importance in play – something we would have liked to see him take into account before deciding to stand with the boycotters.

The establishment of Hebrew University was a cause much beloved to Einstein who in 1923, during what would be his only trip to Eretz Yisrael, delivered the university’s inaugural lecture on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) and, discussing the theory of relativity, spoke the first few sentences of his address in Hebrew.

The Golden Square wanted Germany to destroy the British and Jewish presence in their country. The Third Reich craved what was beneath the ground – oil.

Ida Nudel’s account of how the Soviets persecuted and punished her was far worse than imagined.

Swim4Sadna is an annual event benefiting Sadna, an integrative special-ed community in Gush Etzion

Prof. Wistrich, was THE foremost historian of anti-Semitism; committed spokesman & advocate of Jewry

Jewish Voices for Peace’s 2015 Haggadah is a blatant anti-Israel screed crying, “L’chayim to BDS!”

On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process

Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria

Netanyahu so disdains Shaked’s appointment he completely ignored her after the swearing-in ceremony

More Articles from Editorial Board

There was something else of great importance in play – something we would have liked to see him take into account before deciding to stand with the boycotters.

“Let’s get something straight so we don’t kid each other…[the Iranians] already have paved a path to a bomb’s worth of material,” said Mr. Biden. “Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal.”

Beyond the particulars of this tragic death, however, we should all be concerned about the possibility that a criminal prosecution in a major American city is being driven by fear of mobs in the street.

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.

More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.

For our community, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record will doubtless attract the most attention. And it is a most interesting one.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/government-snooping/2013/06/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: