Internet Spying Same as Telegram Spying

As usual, Bruce Schneier gets it right:
Bush’s eavesdropping program was explicitly anticipated in 1978, and made illegal by FISA. There might not have been fax machines, or e-mail, or the Internet, but the NSA did the exact same thing with telegrams.
Project Shamrock, by Bruce Schneier, 29 December 2005
Two decades ago the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Sen. Frank Church determined that the National Security Agency (NSA) Project Shamrock, which intercepted telegrams and analyzed them, was inappropriate domestic spying. NSA terminated that program. Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), saying the executive had to get warrants for such sigint, and creating a FISA court to issue such warrants. This is the same court that the current administration bypassed, ordering the NSA to collect information without warrants on communications involving U.S. citizens in the U.S.

As Bruce points out, this isn’t about terrorism; it’s about the separation of powers mandated in the U.S. Constitution. What’s the point of fighting terrorists if you’re going to give away what you’re fighting for?


2 thoughts on “Internet Spying Same as Telegram Spying

  1. IB

    Everything I hear in the press says that the top secret data mining process must be illegal. Is there any argument for why the White house says it’s legal. Or an explanation of what could possibly be legal in that realm?

  2. John Quarterman

    The arguments I’ve seen from the White House seem to be:
    * We always get warrants. Except it turns out they don’t.
    * We’ve only got the NSA looking at communications from the U.S. to know problem people. Except it turns out NSA is looking at all international traffic.
    * Congress approved this as part of its grant of war powers. Except the Speaker of the House at that time says no we didn’t, and there’s no explicit language about that.
    * Power to do this is inherent in the office of Commander-in-Chief, and Congress can’t take it away. Except the Supreme Court addressed this issue decades ago and said it’s not true.
    * It’s necessary so we’re going to do it anyway. Perhaps it would be useful to review the oath of office that every president takes:
    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
    Note that last clause.

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