FBI places most Americans under surveillance

Part of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order granted to the FBI on April 25, 2013.

The National Security Agency at the request of the FBI is keeping a record of everywhere you go and everyone you talk to at all times.

Since, as The Guardian reports, the government is collecting this information from all Verizon customers, it’s reasonable to assume that it is also doing so with every other telecommunications carrier. In other words, there’s little doubt that every single individual in this country who uses any form of electronic communication is under 24-hour-a-day surveillance.

The White House is hiding behind the word “metadata” as it attempts to defend its actions — on the assumption that most people will overlook the loss of privacy if they believe that the content of their conversations is not being recorded.

In reality, metadata is the information that is of greatest interest to a security state. How so? Imagine the converse. Suppose the NSA was recording the content of all communications but not the metadata. Suppose it could only gain access to the metadata under a specific search warrant. The government would always know everything that was being said but have no idea who was talking to who. It couldn’t engage in data mining, constructing social networks and most of the other features of a mass surveillance enterprise. It couldn’t utterly abandon the principle that criminal investigation needs to be constrained by reasonable suspicion and probably cause.

People who think that screening procedures by TSA agents are unreasonably intrusive should be even more concerned about the handling of their metadata.

It’s not just metadata; it’s my data. And it’s turning into the equivalent of a citizens’ bar code used not only by governments but also corporations who understand that information is power and thus resist whatever constraints are imposed on their ability to gather personal information as extensively and in as great detail as they can.

The Guardian reports: The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered. [Continue reading…]

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4 thoughts on “FBI places most Americans under surveillance

  1. Óscar Palacios

    A well-known fact in Mexican history, and one which we learn in school, is that Indians traded gold for things such as glass beads, mirrors and scissors. And that’s not to say that people were acting stupidly. One can easily imagine that they perceived those exchanges as beneficial.

    I think that all those nice free services, provided to us at no charge, such as all Google services, Twitter and Facebook, etc, are in fact a modern version of those glass beads. And we’re trading these nice services in exchange for the most detailed information about who we are, who we know, who we get along with; we’re giving away information about our *behavior*. And nothing is more important for governments. The most innocuous use of this information, and one that one can reasonably argue is ok, is to present to us publicity aimed at us, based on our preferences. I think it’s really great that if you like to watch Bach videos on Youtube, the next time you visit a lot of truly interesting new suggestions are presented to you.

    But we all know that governments and large corporations have very different agendas. Google is very aware, for example, that I’m a frequent visitor of this website. And I believe that eventually all meta data, from all services, will be very sophisticatedly cross-referenced. Governments and huge capitalists will have access to everything we do, to every place we go. Our mobile devices connect to cells. And I have no doubts that every single time our devices connect a new database entry is created. We’re leaving huge breadcrumbs about everything we do, every place we go. And algorithms are in the works to be able to cross reference everything: your facebook likes, your google searches, the cells your mobiles register to, your bank movements, etc.

    I feel that we are all sleep-walking collectively into a really bad authoritarian disaster.

  2. Norman

    Didn’t they make a movie about this with some famous actor who also had been a Governor of a Golden State? Oh yes, “The Terminator”, that was it wasn’t it? Ever wonder how this country seems to parity the movie industry? Too many questions, not enough answers.

  3. delia ruhe

    Can you imagine what would happen to you if some moron of a terror suspect misdialed and got your number instead?

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