In the Arena

The Civil-Liberties Freak-Out

We pretty much knew everything that has "broken" in the past week. The NSA has been involved in a legal data-mining operation for almost a decade.

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Glenn Greenwald / Laura Poitras / The Guardian / Reuters

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, in a still image taken from a video during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong on June 6, 2013

Unaccustomed as I am to agreeing with Marc Thiessen, hell has frozen over and he’s on the right track about the National Security Agency–leaks nonscandal.

First of all, we pretty much knew everything that has “broken” in the past week. The NSA has been involved in a legal data-mining operation for almost a decade. Its legality was clarified in the renewal of the Patriot Act, which I supported. It has been described, incorrectly, as electronic eavesdropping. What is really happening is that phone and Internet records are being scanned for patterns that might illuminate terrorist networks. If there is a need to actually eavesdrop, the government has to go to the FISA court for permission.

(MORE: Edward Snowden Comes Forward as NSA Whistle-Blower, Surfaces in Hong Kong)

Those who see the federal government as a vast corporate conspiracy or a criminal enterprise — in other words, paranoids of the left and right — are concerned about this. More moderate sorts should also have cause for concern — especially if a rogue government, like Nixon’s, were in power. We have to remain vigilant that the snooping stays within reasonable bounds; that’s why we have congressional oversight committees. And that’s where the paranoid tinge comes in: the FISA court, the congressional committees, the President and journalists like me are obviously incompetent or caught up in the conspiracy. Of course, there has been absolutely no evidence presented that the current parameters are unreasonable. Yes, I expect that some of my phone and e-mail traffic has been picked up in the data trawling. I travel fairly frequently to places like Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, the West Bank and the rest of the region; part of my job is to talk to partisans on all sides — and also to talk to sources in the U.S. military and intelligence communities. I have no problem with the government knowing that I’m doing my job.

I do have a problem with individuals like Bradley Manning divulging secrets that may well put lives in danger; his reckless actions require criminal sanction. I also have a problem with sources within the government who leak news that endangers the lives of U.S. intelligence assets overseas — the leaker or leakers who gave the Associated Press the story about the second undie bomber, for example. That leak compromised a highly sensitive operation that involved the Saudi bombmaker our government considers the most dangerous man in the world. (I think that the Department of Justice hounding the Fox News reporter, or any other journalist, was well over the line, though.)

(MORE: Obama Administration Declassifies Details on PRISM, Blasts ‘Reckless’ Media and Leakers)

This is a difficult issue and will become even more difficult in the future as technology becomes more sophisticated. I applaud civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald who draw our attention to it. But it is important to keep it in perspective. Far too many people get their notions of what our government is all about from Hollywood; the paranoid thriller is a wonderful form of entertainment, but it’s a fantasy. The idea that our government is some sort of conspiracy, that it’s a somehow foreign body intent on robbing us of our freedoms, is corrosive and dangerous to our democracy. This remains, and always will be, an extremely libertarian country; it’s encoded in our DNA. We now face a constant, low-level terrorist threat that needs to be monitored. A great many lives are potentially at stake … and our national security is more important than any marginal — indeed, mythical — rights that we may have conceded in the Patriot Act legislation. In the end, the slippery-slope, all-or-nothing arguments advanced by extreme civil libertarians bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the slippery-slope, all-or-nothing arguments advanced by the National Rifle Association.

LIST: The 10 Most Notorious Leakers

316 comments
lockwoodr7
lockwoodr7

Those gun and ammo purchases by the US Gov't are true. Klein calls that a conspiracy WITHOUT explaining why they were done. He is a half-ass journalist.

AleisterHermit
AleisterHermit

The people have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. "National Security" is just a convenient bogeyman.

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

As a rich white man, Joe Klein has no fear for his civil liberties being lost.

dawkinsjr
dawkinsjr

You flat out lied when you said atheists were not involved in the Oklahoma relief--several atheist/humanist groups were involved in such relief efforts--just check the Internet, Joe.

EugeMiller
EugeMiller

I have one word for you Klein...Brazil! Wait...I have another word...Religitard!

SamSweden
SamSweden

Mr. Joe Klein : there is no proof what so ever that Snowden revelations did harm any one or did affect the security of the USA...and like Bradley Manning of Wikileaks, he did not sell any of his revelations to the ennemies of USA...Unfortunately and like the undemocratic countries of Syria, Egypt, Libya, Russia, China, to name a few, the US authorities are behaving exactly the same as these undemocratic coutries by wanting to put Snowden and Bradley Manning in prison . As a Swede and like the 500 millions citizens of the European Union and the citizens of the free world, we are thankful to Snowden for exposing the NSA illegal spying on our emails, phone calls and on our privacy...For us Snowden is an honest and couragous hero...To conclude : The NSA spying on their own US citziens within the boundaries of USA, maybe legal but the NSA spying on the citizens of the world outside USA is illegal and a breach of Internatioinal Laws...



Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/06/09/four-things-to-know-about-surveillance-leaker-edward-snowden/#ixzz2WGoJEJCG

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm

You supported the Patriot Act, Joe Klein?  That's as far as I need to read.  You're an authoritarian scum.  Time, and the rest of us, is much better for your termination, in any fashion imaginable.

SteveWhetstone
SteveWhetstone

Are foreign government intelligence services really the ones we are keeping secrets from?

I think interpol and the KGB already knew about PRISM.  The use of the word "secret" is misdirection since the evidence was available for any group with time and resources to find the hints and put the pieces together.  It's the American public and public opinion that is being kept "ignorant".

cooper1411
cooper1411

Mr./Ms. pffreier:  the operative words in the 4th amendment are: "...but upon probable cause..."

As Mr. Klein said, if there is a probable cause detected from the scanning of records, a court order would be necessary.  Acquiring data is NOT a 4th amendment violation; it has been outside the 4th amendment at least since Jimmy Carter.


pffreier
pffreier

Mr Klein, does the following text look familiar?

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."


jamesf161
jamesf161

Some amount of intelligence is needed, but we need to put it on a hell of a leash, and then take all of its clothes off and put in a park, then take turns staring at it so it doesn't do anything. The risks are great, so we must know what they are doing, and be able to monitor it, and have a great deal of oversight, using standard courts and treating it more like a standard criminal investigation, except possibly with some period of non-disclosure, but no more than a month.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Former Bush Official: Obama More Transparent Than We Were

"We should just take a sense of satisfaction that what we were doing, once candidate Obama became President Obama, he saw that these were of great value and frankly, were being very carefully done," Hayden said. "National security looks a little different from the Oval Office than it does from a hotel room in Iowa."

 "Frankly, the Obama administration was more transparent about this effort than we were in the Bush administration," he said. "I mean, they made this metadata collection activity available to all the members of Congress. Not just all the members of the intelligence committees."

Over the weekend, Hayden gave an interview with NPR attempting to explain how NSA surveillance was being used to fight terrorism. Hayden similarly told CNN on Wednesday that NSA surveillance of phone records had turned up a "series of terrorist reports" under his tenure.


JamesMoulton
JamesMoulton

I agree with Joe for the most part, but the price of Freedom is eternal vigilance.  We live in a world where 1 in 4 "Democracies" are clearly facades.  Let us be sure that ours does not become one of them. If over site is the key, this program should be administered by the DoJ through the FBI and not by the NSA which is largely exempt from Congressional over site.  Or better yet, Congress should pass laws which move the NSA back under the umbrella of Congressional over site where it (and all Federal agencies) belong.

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

Back in 2006, Joe Biden rightly spoke out against the NSA for monitoring phone calls of Americans. Now that he is a part of the power vacuum in Washington; it's totally ok to violate our privacy rights.  You can't be against, and then do it yourself, right? I guess all of us are making overseas calls to terrorists.

TendentiousFool
TendentiousFool

I love the "Yawn, we knew everything already...lives put in danger  
by revealing secrets" construct.

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

It's amazing, Klein speaks and Obamas words come out.. And he isn't even sitting on his lap

motley.crue.fan
motley.crue.fan

Klein, do you actually *read* the news at all?  How can anybody with even a shred of awareness of current events not see how dangerous our government has become, especially when it can enact secret laws, secret courts, and allow rogue agencies like the NSA to just "opt out" of acknowledging the Fourth Amendment?  

And note that just because Congress passed a law, does not mean something is "legal".  In this country, it is "We The People" who are the ultimate source of all political power, and WE are the final arbiters of what our government is allowed to do and what it isn't.  But when it hides its actions from us, cloaks them in darkness and shadow, and cowers behind a veil of secrecy, then we are denied our ability to maintain oversight over that government, and it escapes the accountability that is at the core of a democratic society.  

THIS is why Snowden's leak was absolutely appropriate and desirable.  Even congressional representatives are admitting that they didn't know what the NSA was doing, and we saw that James Clapper flat out lied to Congress when grilled on these very issues.  If it weren't for Edward Snowden, we still wouldn't know.   Snowden should be praised for taking a bold step to support democracy and freedom.

manapp99
manapp99

Klein was adamantly against government abuses back in the Bush days. Now he is adamantly for them. 

Mickey_Dugan
Mickey_Dugan

Joe Klein wants his nose snooping in your daughter's underwear. For national security.

OunceOflogic
OunceOflogic

No matter how blatant the abuses, we can always count on Joe Klein to justify them... IF a Democrat is in the white house.

eric_staats
eric_staats

"Those who see the federal government as a vast corporate conspiracy or a criminal enterprise — in other words, paranoids of the left and right — are concerned about this."

It's much more than just the "paranoids of the left and right" who are concerned about this. Rasmussen issued a report (the day before this article was published) that 59% of likely voters are opposed to the government's secret collection of the phone records  of millions of Americans. Only 26% are in favor of the notion. Tell me, what's more of a threat to American democracy: something that the majority of American citizens DO NOT support or the whistle-blower that gave Americans the information they needed to develop an informed opinion?

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/june_2013/59_oppose_government_s_secret_collecting_of_phone_records

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

Great Caesar's ghost! If you're a journalist and your first instinct is to trust the government, you're in the wrong line of work! We're supposed to be watchdogs, Mr. Klein, not lapdogs.

RickFischer
RickFischer

Rogue governments like Nixon's? Nothing during Nixon's administration matches the scale of the IRS harassment of Obama's enemies list. What Klein dismisses is the certainty that the vast databases collected and saved in Utah will be used by miscreants in government against their own enemies lists. The sheer number of abuses in only five years under Obama will convince everyone but a Democrat that government can't be trusted in the dark, out of sight. If this kind of data is necessary, let it be used where probable cause exists, and destroyed everywhere else. Vast databases on everyone are simply too dangerous to exist. 

Remember that in Obama's early elections, he won by underhandedly acquiring sealed dirt on his opponents and releasing it just before the elections. Only a fool would think that the Utah databases will not be used the same way. 

xyz
xyz

"We already knew..."

No, Joe Klein, many like me imagined that the NSA might be tracking ALL phone calls and online activity of Americans as well as foreigners, but Snowden is supplying proof of such activities, many actual and others proposed.

"We" now know a lot you still refuse to acknowledge, for example that the NSA is NOT LIMITED by courts and special permissions... they "self-certify" and can do almost anything they want with the information they gather, including it seems now actual audio of phone and internet calls, e-mails and social network data.

You STRAW MAN as overly paranoid (i.e. crazy) everyone who has legitimate concerns about this, including insiders like former high-level NSA official William Binney, who helped designed some of these systems and calls Snowden a hero, or Daniel Ellsberg, the man who did more than anyone to end the Vietnam War and who calls Snowden's leaks perhaps the most significant in US history.

I have NO doubt you'd be up there calling for Ellsberg's imprisonment back in the day and defending the govt's official versions about the wars in SE Asia. After all, BOTH political parties had supported them, and only crazy druggy hippies and communists feel otherwise.

I AGREE with you that far too many Americans get their views from Hollywood. Hollywood nearly ALWAYS shows US spies as the heroes, protecting us from mythological supervillian Dr Evils. (Partly because such films get free to use military hardware for free, another program you think is reasonable?)

But don't lie that you "applaud Greenwald for drawing attention" to the issues. You think the leaker should be in jail, and he is the one who is "drawing attention" (and hopefully reform) to this downward spiral to authoritarianism. Save your applause for him.


theseus32
theseus32

Op, are you paid by the government to be this freaking stupid? Or are you doing it for free.

Either way, this propaganda is delisious.

LeonardWaks
LeonardWaks

Right. Joe Klein and all of those wonderful folks in our government are protecting us. We should be happy. Unfortunately, a few sick, paranoid individuals object to the government secretly taking all of our private data, scanning and storing it. Its all classified, of course: otherwise we would know all about it and be thrilled with what a good job they are doing for us. And hey, there is that FISA court. That should make us feel terrific. I bet they hold the NSA's feet to the fire. Goody. But wait: he admired Glen Greenwald? Huh - isn't he that sicko paranoid who is out there aiding and abetting Ed Snowden?" Is Joe losing it? I'm a bit worried for him. But I'm not worried about our country because a deep libertarian streak is coded deed into our DNA. So we'd never let the government get away with spying on us in the first place. Never could happen. I am so relieved!

CliffNiesen
CliffNiesen

The only treason that is & was committed is by our nation that uses fear to make it alright to  eavesdrop on our nation. Look there are at least 10 cameras that are visible to the eye, there are much more. our cell phone are tapped, remember there was a big thing with cell phone companies that did not want to go along with it; my, my, do we have short memories. Drones that flay by,  satellite, helicopters that are now being used even in Broward county that was for the military but now aimed on us  Now, superhuman powers are closer to real life than you might think. Engineers have developed a new device, called the Xaver that can see straight through walls.

"It's designed to find people through walls and tell you where they are and how many there are," says engineer Robert Judd. The device can see through plaster, brick, even reinforced concrete. It quickly identifies who or what is in a room and what's happening behind the walls. The device sends out radio waves through a wall or door. The waves then bounce off objects in a room and bounce back to the device which creates an image of objects in a room -- moving flashes of light represent people or furniture in a room.

"It's not like opening a curtain and looking through a window, it's shadows, it's reflections that look like a cloud for instance."

The military and law enforcement agencies have orders in for the new technology. And seeing what's behind closed doors

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

If there's any treason it's right here:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

All of these f#@kers swore an oath.Period.

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

Klein is sitting there right now thinking, look at how many people disagree with me, that means I'm right.

hdc77494
hdc77494

Joe, youdo realize that the NSA is actually saving the records of every phone call,email, facebook post and credit card record for every individual in the country, to be accessed anytime in the future they so choose. Now what kind of damage could that database do to any citizen? All it takes is one disgruntled IT guy,and your personal records are available via google. Normal people have a problem with that, why don't you? Your dearprogressive savior is gone in three yearsand ghen the next administration has a copy. Besides, Obama told us he wouldn't do exactly what he's done. He lied yo all of us. The FISA court never says no, and no one can contest their decisions.

dadadav.decci1
dadadav.decci1

TSA NON SCANDAL.

What will take a liberal to call a scandal, a scandal? Benghazi... Bah, nothing to see there. AP , oh you guys are overdoing it..., IRS ... Silly TP you brought it to yourselves... Poor Issa. TSA reading everbody's everything... It is just for your safety...don't whine now!

So what will it take? Obama ordering the decapitation of snowden and the tea partiers? A recording of him ordering the assassination of some right wing journalist? Shutting down fox news for good? What?

I guess if we want to see a real damaging scandal on Obama, he will need to transport his dog on the roof of the car or show some pictures of him teasing a hippy. Apparently for liberals those are the only "scandals" that matter.

rgolds100
rgolds100

Joe Klein is probably just playing to the eavesdropping. Friendly articles will probably avoid leaks of personal information and an IRS audit.

ChicagoJohn
ChicagoJohn

Joe,
Can you save us all the trouble, and explain to us what you would actually qualify as a scandal?  Apparently, it has to actually involve the President, dead hookers, and a knife in the president's hand before you would find a scandal in this administration.

Even then, I presume your defense would be:
"The president is only following in JFKs footsteps with the hookers.  And not one of them has accused the president of having killed them..."

LarryKnight
LarryKnight

@SamSweden Thank you SamSweden, for providing an outsiders perspective.  The fact is that Mr. Klein speaks for a minority of U.S. citizens.  Mr. Klein is a small part of a much larger problem in the U.S. - it is called mainstream media.  Mr. Klein is not a journalist - he is a puppet - a minion of the U.S. equivalent of Joseph Goebbels.  He is being paid and played to carry the torch of social and government propaganda that promotes ethnocentric U.S. superiority, belying an intellectual scourge plaguing an intellectually bereft society.  The benefit to an intellectually deficient society working in a uni-polar international community, in which it also happens to be the beneficiary of hegemonic superiority, is that it can make the rules, but does not have to play by them.  The danger to the U.S. (and benefit of the global community) is that it can not last.  Until it collapses, many, both inside and outside the U.S., will suffer.  As a U.S. citizen, I can only apologize to you and the rest of the global community for our collective ignorance and the arrogance.  

MarcusMarik
MarcusMarik

<i>Hayden similarly told CNN on Wednesday that NSA surveillance of phone records had turned up a "series of terrorist reports" under his tenure.</i>

"Suddenly, early in the spring, an alarming thing was discovered. Snowball was secretly frequenting the farm by night! The animals were so disturbed that they could hardly sleep in their stalls. Every night, it was said, he came creeping in under cover of darkness and performed all kinds of mischief. He stole the corn, he upset the milk-pails, he broke the eggs, he trampled the seedbeds, he gnawed the bark off the fruit trees. Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal. The cows declared unanimously that Snowball crept into their stalls and milked them in their sleep. The rats, which had been troublesome that winter, were also said to be in league with Snowball."

--George Orwell, <i>Animal Farm</i>


gaguy1967
gaguy1967

The job of the journalist today is to protect the status who and defend the East coast RulingClass. Journalists in the MSM today are among the most corrupt members of society.

OldFashionedLiberal
OldFashionedLiberal

You don't know much history, do you? Nixon was a real threat to American liberties. Obama isn't, not because he's always right (he makes lots of mistakes in my opinion) but because he isn't nuts like Nixon.

SamSweden
SamSweden

Thank you LarryKnight for your response ! With the trouble times we live in today, where wars, intrigues, double standards of governments of the so called free world, including USA are the norms of the day...let us hope and pray that your next President and with a new US Adminidtration, will work "humbly" on bringing real peace to the world...

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@gaguy1967 I prefer to think of them as misguided, rather than corrupt. I don't think Mr. Klein is getting money in a bag under the table. Instead, I think he has been close to power for so long that he didn't realize that he got co-opted at some point. 

Read the post above again. He seems to believe sincerely that the government people in charge of secret spying -- presumably men and women he's known for years, and doubtless considers friends -- are a great group of guys and gals who can be trusted, because *he* trusts them. 

What he fails to realize is that A) his good buddy at the NSA might not do anything wrong to good ol' Joe, he might be less tolerant of suspiciously independent Perry in Metropolis. Or B) that Joe's good buddy won't be in that position forever, and some other guy, who might not be as trustworthy as Joe's good friend, will have that job. 

It is *inevitable* that this power will be abused. The Founding Fathers knew that unregulated power would necessarily become corrupt, so they instituted a system of checks and balances so that nobody gets everything they want all the time. The USA PATRIOT ACT has negated those checks & balances, by getting all three branches to sign off on it and then close their eyes. And, it would appear from this post, they've got the Washington press doing the same thing.

RickFischer
RickFischer

@OldFashionedLiberal Actually, Nixon only targeted a small list of specific people he called enemies. Obama targets entire groups of people: all Conservatives, all TEA party people, the rich, white men, gun owners,.... Obama can't give a speech without vilifying everyone who opposes him. If you think what Obama does is proper, would you still think so if the next president is Republican and does the same to your side of the spectrum? 

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

@mantisdragon91 @RickFischer  

Dragon, you always blame Bush..Really, come on man..Bush did this, Bush did that..Blah, blah, blah..That was so like 6 years ago..You have Kool-Aid on your chin, again..

manapp99
manapp99

@mantisdragon91 @RickFischer So are you saying it is ok then? Nothing like using past abuses to justify current ones. Why stop with Bush? Do you think government to have pure as the driven snow under Clinton? Really? 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@terryclifton1 @mantisdragon91 @RickFischer Remind us again Terry are the 4500 Americans still dead, did we get back the Trillions we spent and is the Middle East more or less stable since our invasion? And if I remember correctly the spying we are talking about was made legal by Bush as well. It seems you maybe the one with something on your chine left by the GOP, and it is much gooier than Kool-Aid.