Friday, January 01, 2016

few things as satisfying as hearing that pig squeal when he gets caught under the gate...,


theintercept |  What happened to all the dismissive lectures about how if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide? Is that still applicable? Or is it that these members of the U.S. Congress who conspired with Netanyahu and AIPAC over how to sabotage the U.S. government’s Iran Deal feel they did do something wrong and are angry about having been monitored for that reason?

I’ve always argued that on the spectrum of spying stories, revelations about targeting foreign leaders is the least important, since that is the most justifiable type of espionage. Whether the U.S. should be surveilling the private conversations of officials of allied democracies is certainly worth debating, but, as I argued in my 2014 book, those “revelations … are less significant than the agency’s warrantless mass surveillance of whole populations” since “countries have spied on heads of state for centuries, including allies.”

But here, the NSA did not merely listen to the conversations of Netanyahu and his top aides, but also members of the U.S. Congress as they spoke with him. And not for the first time: “In one previously undisclosed episode, the NSA tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant,” the New York Times reported in 2009.

The NSA justifies such warrantless eavesdropping on Americans as “incidental collection.” That is the term used when it spies on the conversations of American citizens without warrants, but claims those Americans weren’t “targeted,” but rather just so happened to be speaking to one of the agency’s foreign targets (warrants are needed only to target U.S. persons, not foreign nationals outside of the U.S.).

This claim of “incidental collection” has always been deceitful, designed to mask the fact that the NSA does indeed frequently spy on the conversations of American citizens without warrants of any kind. Indeed, as I detailed here, the 2008 FISA law enacted by Congress had as one of its principal, explicit purposes allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans’ conversations without warrants of any kind. “The principal purpose of the 2008 law was to make it possible for the government to collect Americans’ international communications — and to collect those communications without reference to whether any party to those communications was doing anything illegal,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said.  “And a lot of the government’s advocacy is meant to obscure this fact, but it’s a crucial one: The government doesn’t need to ‘target’ Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications.”  Fist tap Dale.