Debate over NSA collecting information … can the media begin to report substantively?!!

7 Jun

So this business of the NSA collecting data should come as no surprise to anyone. The media is having a field day! The issue is whether or not the intel community is doing this legally. Has the FISA court done anything illegal? The court is guided by a set of rules that are mean to be transparent, known to the non-intel world, and approved by Congress. Did they follow these rules when allowing the NSA to collect what it collected? Did they restrict the use of that data appropriately? These are the questions — remember after 9-11 when everyone was asking (with outrage) why we had not connected the dots, but back to my area of concern…

CNN has pulled out their favorite privacy pundit – Jim Harper from the CATO Institute. Jim is well spoken, and very learned in the field of privacy and policy. However, he makes a statement in this interview that I find incredible – he says that collecting all the data from every American’s phone calls “can’t possibly be useful for link-based investigation.” Really, I cannot think of a better way of using phone call data than in linked based analysis. Methinks you need to stick with policy Jim!! Anyone out there care to explain this comment?

As a matter of policy, there are probably some questions to be answered.  The FISA courts have been criticized for approving everything without question. I would like the news agencies to focus on that, and whether or not the court is working as envisioned to protect our privacy.

Have a look at this post that is homeland security oriented – they are harvesting things differently here, but… same privacy concerns.


2 Responses to “Debate over NSA collecting information … can the media begin to report substantively?!!”

  1. benwright99 June 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    We should only be thankful that the public/news debate has NOT progressed to the details of the analytical methods and related data requirements and capabilities. Quite impossible for a public forum!

    In rereading Jim Harper’s statement closely, it does seem to make sense in the literal reading of “collecting all of the data from every American’s phone calls….”. The emphasis being on the word “all”. In fact NSA spokespersons have made a point of stating that only metadata is being harvested…. which is a bit misleading. As we know, the metadata is sufficient to permit thorough link analysis. I can only assume that Mr. Harper’s comment was directed at collecting “all” the call data, since as pointed out by Analytical Tern, it is the metadata that is ideal for this purpose and “all” the call data is not required. At any rate, the linked parties of interest can easily be identified after analysis.

    In order to answer the questions of “substance” as proposed by Analytical Tern (e.g. whether the FISA court has exceeded its legal authority, etc.), Congress should, as suggested by Jim Harper, be more transparent about the oversight of these activities, and we, the people, need to hold Congress accountable to execute the oversight obligations with which they were entrusted when we elected them.

    • analyticaltern June 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Good points – If all you did was watch the CNN broadcast, you would walk away with a very different understanding – How many of the general public are going to research things to understand the nuances of what was being done – or said.

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