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Thursday, June 06, 2013

What should be a scandal and won’t be

Guardian - NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian: 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.
“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,” Greenwald reports. “The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.” So a tiny shred of respect for privacy remains, but this should strike anyone as troubling. As under the Bush administration, the government is spying on citizens — without warrant or even any demonstrable cause for suspicion.

But it won’t get much of a rise out of Washington — even from the scandal-mongering GOP — because Washington is complicit here. This is all extremely legal and above board, thanks to the PATRIOT Act. The neocons pushed for a post-9/11 surveillance state and they got one. You won’t see many of them complaining about it now.

“Given that this will rightly generate a lot of questions today, Congressional Dems and Republicans alike who criticize the news need to be asked why they support the Patriot Act, given that the court order in question explicitly relies on it,” writes Greg Sargent.

Kevin Drum is somewhat more damning, writing with withering sarcasm, “Obviously I’m missing something. After Democrats caved on the surveillance bill in 2007, I simply assumed that this kind of massive data mining of telephone metadata was going to continue forever and everyone knew it. But Glenn suggests that, in fact, this is something surprising. So I guess I assumed wrong.”

Of course, not every critic of this move will be a hypocrite — but those non-hypocritical voices will be the ones Republicans painted as wild-eyed leftist terrorist sympathizers back in the day. And they’re the only ones you should pay any attention to. Like the AP phone records controversy, I doubt anyone else will give this much more attention other than a reaction.

After all, they were all for it before.

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