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United States Government Privacy Politics

National Intelligence Director Seeks Expansion of Spy Powers 346

Erris writes "The Bush administration is seeking even less judicial oversight for their spying efforts both here and abroad. An AP story is discussing proposed changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act proposed by National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. 'The changes McConnell is seeking mostly affect a cloak-and-dagger category of warrants used to investigate suspected spies, terrorists and other national security threats. The court-approved surveillance could include planting listening devices and hidden cameras, searching luggage and breaking into homes to make copies of computer hard drives.' One of their specific goals is prosecution immunity for communications companies who comply with the program, a sheild for groups that violate privacy laws in turning over information to the NSA. The article notes that 'Critics question whether the changes are needed and worry about what the Bush administration has in store, given a rash of allegations about domestic surveillance and abuse of power.'"
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National Intelligence Director Seeks Expansion of Spy Powers

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  • by computational super ( 740265 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:59PM (#18705359)

    I've often wondered - suppose they surveil a house, assume nobody's home, and break in ("legally", if not justifiably). Now, if you were home, just sleeping when they broke in, and you snuck up and attacked the person you thought was an intruder - are you guilty of assaulting a police officer? I fear that the answer would be yes...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:02PM (#18705419)
    I for one will take a decrease in national security if it means that my privacy remains intact.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:04PM (#18705465)
    Related to your question, what about states like Texas where you're allowed to use deadly force to defend yourself / family if you catch an intruder in your home? I imagine that as usual, federal law would trump state laws, and an otherwise self-defense case would be considered murder of a federal agent.
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:13PM (#18705603) Homepage Journal
    At the risk of going completely offtopic, can you elaborate on what led you to vote for Bush in 2004?

    I can completely understand why a Republican would vote for Bush over Gore in 2000. But part of what made Democrats so suicidally distraught after the November 2004 was that they were sure that nobody, not even John Kerry, could lose to Bush after the PATRIOT Act, Abu Ghraib, etc.

    So I'm curious about what made you change your mind between then and now.
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:17PM (#18705651)
    I ultimately voted for Kerry, but I practically had to force my hand down on the lever like Dr. Strangelove.

    Kerry was such... a... tool. And his rhetoric since the election has me unsure if we'd really have been better off with him instead of Bush. We certainly wouldn't have a democratic congress right now. If I didn't dislike Bush so much, I would have gone 3rd party.
  • by 70Bang ( 805280 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:19PM (#18705681)

    But have you given thought to the slippery slope?

    Those "powers" will be in place for the next White House occupant. And if you think they'll rescind them, regardless of the political leanings, you're sorely mistaken. They will only add to the tools they have available. Pre Homeland Security, the CIA had no jurisdiction in the US. Now that Homeland Security is in place, they can simply make a request of someone at a higher level who can pose it to someone who does have the authority, then throw it back over the wall for the CIA to use.

    Perhaps we need to heed Dr. Kurtzweil from the X-Files movie?

    ...during a vacation when everyone is away from home, a national emergency is declared, FEMA takes over...

    (Or should we be wearing tinfoil hats, waiting for the black helicopters?)

  • Even more (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HomelessInLaJolla ( 1026842 ) * <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:20PM (#18705691) Homepage Journal
    The politicians do care about witty words and self righteous indignation to the point where they want to promote the creation of even more forums where even more people can use even more witty words and express even more self righteous indignation because, as long as people are talking about it, they aren't actually doing anything about it--and that's what government is all about.

    I've already taken my stand and they made me homeless by treating me like a third class citizen on the job and then spreading enough garbage to prevent anyone else from wanting to employ me when I left.
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:22PM (#18705719)

    Wow, that's a first. The Bush administration usually just assumes expanded powers with less oversight, and then claim that they had those powers in the first place (followed by blaming the whistle blowers).

    Kinda makes you wonder what they're already doing this time . . .

  • by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:22PM (#18705741) Homepage
    I heard this guy on the radio complaining that this was characterized as them trying to get more power. He said they were just modernizing.

    Reminds me of another pile of BS [], the gist of which is that "modernizing the law" means surrendering quite a few more of your rights to the powers that be.
  • In 2004, my decision was between someone who was a little off on the margins and someone who I honestly couldn't pin down, and any time I did, I hated what he had to say.

    As much as people rail at Bush for being daddy's boy, Kerry made me believe MUCH more that he wanted power for the sake of power, and at the time, that looked like something worse.

    Since he was reelected though, it's like he misplaced his... humanity or something. He doesn't stand for what he did the first term, he doesn't stand for freedom or justice, he doesn't even seem to stand for the conservative principals that got him elected in the first place.

    It was Kerry that made me vote Bush. I voted for Bush and I'm a registered Libertarian... that should tell you something...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:28PM (#18705837)
    Plenty of people told you back in '04 that neither Kerry nor Bush was the lesser evil, and that the lesser of two evils is still evil. Why didn't you listen? Shit, why are you still talking about it like any vote changed anything? You're just hurting the possibility of true reform.
  • Remember RICO? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:33PM (#18705913)
    It was made LAW for the purpose of fighting organized crime. Opponents claimed that it could and would be used against others. They were right. Now, RICO is used about 10,000 times per year, primary to add additional funding to law enforcement budgets around the country. In one episode of "COPS", featuring the sheriff who went on to make police videos for TV, they met before hand to discuss how they were going to divide the "loot"...i.e., the property of the family they had targeted with the act. Even if it later turns out that they raided the wrong house the "police" aren't required to return the property they stole using RICO. In more than one instance the home
      owner being raided at 3:30AM thought buglers were invading his home and were shot dead when they brandished a pistol in hopes of scaring off the "buglers".

    The RICO act is being abused as badly as the police at the South Denver precinct abused their power, a couple decades ago. The police would roll up to a block in force, cordon it off to prevent pedestrian or car traffic, then proceed to a building in the middle of the block. There, they'd start hauling out property and putting it into the police van. Afterward, the owner was called and notified of the "theft". The property usually appeared in pawn shops later on, but no one was ever caught until someone with a movie camera filmed the whole thing from a third floor apartment across the street from the target building.

    Reducing accountability for using FISA will only INCREASE its abuse. Public prosecutors like Mike Nifong, and even politicians, would use the added spy powers to further their own goals and political ambitions.

    No one is safe from RICO abuse. No one will be safe from FISA abuse.

    The Constitution? What's that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:40PM (#18706031)
    I remember the Florida recounts, that Democrats were whining, and "Dear God, when will this END!?"

    I remember 9-11, and flying the biggest damn flag I could find.

    Then I remember rumors of war with Iraq, and thinking we'd never do that--it was just about the stupidest thing we could do right then.

    Then I remember them doing it, anyway.

    Then I remember Kerry vs. Bush, no great candidate on either side. I remember thinking it was his mess, and he should clean the damn thing up. Neither one was that great, right?

    Then I remember more Diebold scandals. I still feel like they're frauds.

    Then I remember Haliburton, we're paying them HOW MUCH!? As if we aren't far enough in debt.

    Then I remember oil companies posting record profits while the rest of us were suffering. I didn't buy the "War for Oil" bit at first--Saddam was a bad guy--but damn if the oil companies weren't out to screw us over. I still think he got what he deserved in the end, but I don't think it was worth it in terms of the lives lost, let alone the way we went about it.

    Then I remember Abu Garib... since when is America allowed to torture people!?

    Then I remember hearing that they were holding American citizens and suspending habeus corpus. Isn't that illegal? If not, it sure ought to be. Even terrorists deserve a fair trial. NO government should be allowed to lock people up and throw away the key. Although I admit that I might be inclined to bend that rule if the people who originally did it were charged with treason and thrown in prison without trial...

    Then I remember hearing that our own country was spying on us for no reason and suing to make sure we didn't hear about it.

    Then I remember them blowing up lite brites in Boston, and getting even stupider, rather than calming down with respect to stupid security theater measures. Mind you, I've only flown twice since 9-11 and NOT because I'm scared. At this point, I'd almost rather walk than deal with airport "security" that's stupid, reactive and pointless.

    Then I remember a few other things, but mostly I remember getting so pissed at the Republican party that I turned my back on it and helped vote their ass out of congress in the mid term elections.

    I suspect other people may have similar stories.
  • by Lurker2288 ( 995635 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:43PM (#18706095)
    Even if there were no political parties, individual candidates would still favor middle-of-the-road approaches because they generally appeal to the largest number of voters. Depending on the size of different interest groups (say, environmentalists) you may be able to pull more votes by taking a strong stance on a limited scope issue, but another candidate might still beat you by taking a position halfway between the extreme and the middle.

    As for the electoral college Arguments for, arguments against. Beats the hell out of me. If politicians weren't universally so terrible, the voting system might not matter so much.

    I like Lewis Black's quote: "In my lifetime, we've gone from Eisenhower to George W. Bush. We've gone from John F. Kennedy to Al Gore. If this is evolution, I believe that in 12 years, we'll be voting for plants."
  • Balance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:06PM (#18706545) Journal

    First of all, this site is not typically representative of the general population so opinions expressed here are often skewed.

    Second, what many people don't remember is that when we had the attacks on September 11, a large vocal fraction of the population screamed "Government, please do something to make us feel like this won't ever happen again."

    The result of that is the government says, "Ok, that means you'll have to let us take some of your freedoms, because in order to check and see if someone might do these Bad Things, we have to be able to learn about them without them knowing that they are being examined."

    Which is actually the only way you could even attempt to prevent such things from happening. The problem is that people are now starting to realize that hey, that's not really fun, but we still don't want to have some Bad People come in and mess us up.

    You really have to find balance and pick your posion: you can either live with freedoms and protection from unannounced surveillance with the real risk of unwanted activity, or you can give up freedom and allow such "nasty" governmental behavior with the very small additional security that gives.

    There is no practical way to have both security and freedom; they are diametrically opposed concepts by definition.

  • by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:38PM (#18707037) Homepage Journal
    Since he was reelected though, it's like he misplaced his... humanity or something. He doesn't stand for what he did the first term, he doesn't stand for freedom or justice, he doesn't even seem to stand for the conservative principals that got him elected in the first place.

    Lemme fix that for you...

    Since he was reelected though, it's like he doesn't care what the voters think/believe/expect of him.

    That's the rub about a president's second term, he has no incentive to keep the people happy or content, No reason to listen to critics.

    All of the seeds of discontent were there in the first term. Disregard for disparate views, Policy crafted by corporations, Media blaming. Incompetent appointments, Fiscal Insanity. Myopic Foreign Policy, (I could go on for 3 yrs) They were just ignored, Republicans would rather betray their own ideals then vote against a republican for president. Fortunately, we only have 648 days left. Ugggghhhh that is forever and another war away.

  • by cyphercell ( 843398 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:47PM (#18707189) Homepage Journal

    Republicans would rather betray their own ideals then vote against a republican for president.

    I find this to be the most sickening reality in our democracy. It's not fiscal policy vs improved healthcare, it's red states vs blue states. I find this state of affairs thoroughly disgusting.

  • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:53PM (#18707269) Homepage Journal
    Do you remember the anthrax that was mailed to certain senators and news anchors? I wonder where the investigation is at this point. After six years, they should be close to solving this, right?
  • by suitepotato ( 863945 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:54PM (#18707275)
    But have you given thought to the slippery slope?

    Those "powers" will be in place for the next White House occupant.

    I've said this for years and no one ever believes it. They believe the liberal claptrap that only Republicans ever violate our rights and the principles of this nation. NO SUCH THING IS TRUE. ALL politicians seek to conserve power to themselves, to attract power to themselves, to serve themselves. It is simply that the liberals have a better sounding pile of claptrap to sell. The end result is always the same: every weakening of our system in favor of statism over the individual results in an opening to further weaken it by the next opportunistic self-aggrandizing set of idiots.

    The liberals are anti-porn for the political correctness angle from their feminist branch. The conservatives are anti-porn from the moral correctness angle from their fundamentalist branch. BOTH sides have horribly anti-freedom ideas that have great amounts in common and they all boil down to them, the politically avaricious, being in power and us being with none. And they do it by selling us fear. Fear of terrorism, fear of sexism, fear of immorality, fear of racism, fear, fear, fear. Above all, they sell us a way to avoid taking responsibility for our lives. They sell us guilt. They sell us the idea that the world is full of evil things, that we caused it all, and that if we just hand over the power to them, they will hide our guilt, at least until the next time they need to use it against us.

    Global warming, pornography, tobacco, crime, hunger, terrorism, etc. You name it, everything brought to you in the way of rule by crisis and fear thereof is a an evil lie and myth wrapped in convenient facts and seasoned with half-truths from someone else's point of view.

    They sell us temporary absolution and enable self-denial.

    We don't take care of our kids, teach them about sex and death and the world, and we let the state raise them in the public schools. We let the television raise them at home. And we encourage each other to believe that we do the best job possible under impossible conditions with their tacit cooperation. We simply find scapegoats de jure to blame for it not actually working right. We clap ourselves on the back saying the spate of Internet predators is someone else's fault and not that we have handed off our nation to a Lord of the Flies existance. All in the name of we the people not holding on to the responsibility that goes with the power of individual will and self determination and they the avaricious gaining the power, for if you will not accept the responsibility, you will not hold the power with which it goes.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:58PM (#18707351) Homepage Journal
    "Even if there were no political parties, individual candidates would still favor middle-of-the-road approaches because they generally appeal to the largest number of voters. "

    If ONLY we could get a candidate that was more middle of the road. It seems that all we get lately are those on the fringe elements on both sides to choose from. The extreme right-wing has hijacked the Reps....and the Dems, well, c'mon look who they have to run the party..Dean. They seem to be run by the far left extreme.

    I wish somewhere we could get a candidate with a realistic chance of winning...some one fiscally conservative, and moderate socially, for smaller and less intrusive govt.

    While I'm at it.....I'd like a pony too.


  • Yeah... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:13PM (#18707711)
    And I remember the media just going along with the notion that it would look like flour in an envelope. I haven't the foggiest what it'd look like, but some part of me really doubts that a letter with anthrax would actually look like that (my bet: you don't see any spores at all) and I have no way to test it. I'm sure as hell not going to try.

    So now were scared of flour, sugar, etc. FLOUR! When 99% of the responses to it have been hoaxes, and we never did find out what happened the few times someone DID die of anthrax. For all I know, they were doing something classified, had an accident, and the government blamed it on terrorists rather than admit otherwise. I mean, why would they stop after killing so few people? There's a lot there that doesn't make any sense to me, and I don't know if we'll ever know the whole story.

    But I bet even a single person could shut down Boston, again, with little more than freebie sugar packets. And that kind of induced cowardice disgusts me. The damn terrorists should be running scared, not America!
  • by jaywee ( 542660 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @04:37PM (#18708193)
    No, they buckled at the first sign of Anthrax in their offices. Do you even remember that? Conveniently mailed to congress during passage of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. Strange no suspect was ever found... One (as a non-US citizen) would believe that given country should go full strength after someone who is after their own legislature.

"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire