The loss of privacy and the collapse of creative ambiguity

by on June 8, 2013 at 7:46 am in Current Affairs, Law, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

Remember the regime of creative ambiguity when it came to Fed bailouts?  You kind of expected one, but weren’t totally sure what might come, and so the banking sector felt safe but not absolutely guaranteed on the side of the creditors.  Post-Lehman, those days seem to be over and now the moral hazard problem looms larger.

Perhaps we had a regime of creative ambiguity when it came to privacy and government surveillance.  You (or at least I) thought the government was spying on you, but there was some ambiguity as to how much.  You could acquiesce to the previous status quo, without fearing it would get worse, because it was not commonly recognized public knowledge that so much spying was going on.  Maybe you figured you could tolerate a 0.8 probability of that level of spying because there were checks on it becoming worse, more extensive, more selective, and so on.

But now that previous level of spying is common knowledge (or at least part of it is common knowledge, I suspect there are further revelations to come).  At the same time, the IRS, Verizon, and other scandals are common knowledge too, all of a sudden.

The old equilibrium is perhaps no longer stable.  People may even be fine with that level of spying, if they think it means fewer successful terror attacks.  But if they acquiesce to the previous level of spying too openly, the level of spying on them will get worse.  Which they do not want.

On top of all that, the common knowledge of the old spying also may make the old spying less effective in purely practical terms, as potential suspects adjust their behavior.  That also may lead a risk-averse government to pursue additional and more intrusive means of spying.

So if the status quo of a few weeks ago is no longer an equilibrium, what happens next?

I predict we will see more spying and more intrusive spying.  You should not think that recent events will simply cement a previous status quo in place, rather it moves us down a very particular path and probably makes the entire problem worse.  The age of creative ambiguity in surveillance is over and probably not for the better.

Edward Burke June 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

Wonder whether all these marvelous revelations will imperil Obama’s vaunted government-led “mapping-the-brain” initiative: such a wonderful scientific enterprise (just think of all the benefits waiting to be accrued!) holds every promise of further vitiating conventional, traditional, and quaint notions of subjectivity altogether. No privacy even on the inside if these geniuses persist, hunh?

James Fencil June 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

“Creative ambiguity” was intended to denote the mental condition wherein multiple, apparently conflicting, possibilities conduced to new and original (creative) explanations for the observed facts, as well as new and original guides for action. In this article mere uncertainty is elevated to the status of creative ambiguity. This is a harmless enough but nevertheless unseemly misuse of the original meaning of this term. It sounds sophisticated but it’s little better than the trendy use of “exponentially” to mean increased or “not so much” to mean less. We rightly expect better from Tyler.

Name withheld June 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

More spying is coming soon to a data center in Utah. Feds failed to build a super computer at Oak Ridge that could crack 128 bit encryption in real time so the decided to capture the internet and all data transmitted so they could crack what they want when they want. Since they don’t actually look at the data until they need it, they don’t consider it a seizure or a search. Nifty. Proceed on the internet with this knowledge and you will be fine. Eliminate the expectation if privacy, and the problems melt away.

Rahul June 8, 2013 at 10:37 am

How come there isn’t more of a market for real-time call encryption devices / software? With the amount of processing in a quad core phone is real-time software-based voice scrambling / unscrambling still out of reach? Any apps for that?

If not at software level, how about a market for cellphones that come with a hardware-based voice-scramble / descramble ASIC?

Of course, they can still have your metadata but your contents could stay out of reach. Is the market for SMS encryption apps going to take off? That sounds like a fairly trivial implementation. How to securely share initial keys might be a bit tricky though.

Claude Emer June 8, 2013 at 11:56 am

BlackBerry. I’ve always wondered if their troubles are really all market based. They do get accused a lot of being drug dealers’ and terrorists preferred cellphones.

I agree we should find more SW and hardware targeting privacy conscious people. I remember reading years ago that every company that makes encryption software is required to disclose its keys to the government to be able to sell here. Government is way ahead of us.

Rahul June 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

That key disclosure thing is not true; at least no longer. Lot’s of open source encryption out there and we’d know if the code had a backdoor. Besides you choose keys.

Claude Emer June 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

It is no longer true as of 2012, indeed.

Komori June 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

I don’t have a smartphone, so I’ve never looked into encryption apps for them, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t any.

The main problem keeping them from becoming common and widespread is that there really isn’t any simple key-exchange and control system. Managing encryption keys can be a fair bit of effort, and most people just won’t do it. Although, maybe these revelations will start to shift that.

Rahul June 9, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yes, managing keys manually would be a pain. But automating the key management seems book-keeping. Assuming a public-private-key protocols can be used for voice encryption. Then no initial secure, off-band channel is needed for key exchange.

Not sure if there’s any technical challenges.

Boonton June 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

Before 128 bit encryption there was what? Much more crappy encryption which could be cracked by any desktop computer….these days probably can be cracked by a well written smartphone app. Was that ‘search and seizure’ because anyone with a desktop (even the librarian at the Library of Congress) could use it to crack some poorly encrypted messages zipping around the internet?

Anyway it seems to me it’s easier to double down on encryption than cracking. 256 bit encryption or more would take less resources than cracking it, in other words.

Why Withheld Name June 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm

They know who you are anyway!

mw June 8, 2013 at 8:27 am

I see, the slippery slope. Let’s revisit this blog’s treatment of what many liberals see (and believe Republicans to secretly see) as an unambiguous slippery slope: the recent savage cuts to the least cuttable parts of the budget:

“A slightly different take would be this. Voters are getting more or less what they want, which is some spending restraint, mostly holding the line on taxes, not too much trust in government as a way of moving forward, and a love of entitlements…Relative to the quality of the preference inputs, we are getting a better outcome than one might otherwise have expected. After all, isn’t that what this country is really all about? We may not have the world’s best farinata, but let’s raise a toast to America once again.”

If THAT’S a good outcome relative to the preference inputs, then the spying is an OUTSTANDING outcome, given the unanimity of support from congressional representatives and the unanimity of approval from judicial reviews.

So we’re left asking: what makes this a slippery slope while the trillions in discretionary cuts, which Republicans give every sign of wanting to expand at every opportunity, simply a toast-worthy American democratic equilibrium?

mike June 8, 2013 at 10:04 am

Maybe because privacy has some positive utility value, while government does not?

mulp June 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

You mean like increasing the likelihood your legs are blown off or you die on a quick morning flight crashing into a skyscraper?

Unless you are willing to say that your chance of being killed by a Muslim needs to be at least as high as being killed by a Christian or at least not a Muslim with a gun and lots of bullets, you are going to demand the government spy on anyone who scares you and everyone else based on some vague criteria.

Of course with the idea that you would never be seen as scary by someone.

Let’s say you got out of Soviet commie oppression during Ronnie’s cold war surge to destroy the evil empire – you are obviously someone who hates America and the freedom you got from being given refuge in the USA that sought to liberate you from your oppression. Right? You obviously oppose Russian oppression which makes you a terrorist who hates America, especially if you are Caucasian.

We do not see anyone picketing demanding the scary people be given the full liberty to plot to kill Americans because our Constitution stands for prosecuting only crimes committed, not thought about.

mike June 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Whoa, take your meds buddy.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:16 am

“Let’s revisit this blog’s treatment of what many liberals see (and believe Republicans to secretly see) as an unambiguous slippery slope: the recent savage cuts to the least cuttable parts of the budget:”

Let’s not. Let’s say if the government has time to be doing all kinds of nefarious activities let’s keep cutting until they get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Claudia June 8, 2013 at 8:36 am

Whatever you want to call it. I would argue nothing much has changed. People tend to fear things they cannot control, while constantly handing control over to others. There’s your ambiguity … it’s human, not government-specific. I know I have written a pesky email when the recipient walks over to my office to respond in person (all our emails are saved forever). Emails I write intentionally, though sometimes with too little thought to one person can cause me headaches when they get forwarded to another person. I do not need the NSA to ruin my life … I do that quite well on my own.

Now more to the point: the government for a long time has collected information (with the public’s knowledge) that individual’s consider sensitive and private. I have worked with SSA earnings records and the hoop jumping to get income histories is high (IRS tax records is nearly impossible to do research on) and the high bar makes a lot of sense. The government generally collects information for a mundane purpose … to enforce the law and guide policy. There are more creative, money-making, power-grubbing things the government could do with the information it has long had, but except in some rare, sad cases it does not.

It’s not the spying or collecting of our info that freaks people out so much as how it gets used. And we know no more about the use of our internet communications than we did before. Our collective paranoia will move on to something else soon … bird flu anyone?

Shane M June 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

+1 re:”It’s not the spying or collecting of our info that freaks people out so much as how it gets used.”

Ciprian Pater June 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm

By all means, Claudia is right, in contrast to a “probable” Bird Flu pandemic in the near future, and all our collective need for survival that will manifest in a real time fear…. Privacy issues pose a mere “talking subject” concerning a possible asserted continuation of society/civilization as we know it…as being a vital issue that we wish or wish not that it should function across the earth only to the extent such that we can unfold as individuals…

But hey, you can easily focus on pandemic preparedness to a maximum by phasing out your old life, cut the cord, move into a forest cabin and slowly reach a fully self sustainable way of life, far away and detached from modern life. Then per say, your privacy needs will indeed be fully met and even over exceeded, expect from the occasional flyby of drones or satellite zoom-in to locate and see your s…. ass from the heavens above as you try to survive to your best abilities. Well well, everything in its time right?

Bill June 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

You are assuming facts not in evidence when you open your piece claiming that the government is spying on you.

From the public reports, what they are doing is having the metadata saved. If there is a reason to look at YOU, they need a FISA court order to go further.

What is more interesting is that YOU may be spying on us: if a site places cookies on my computer, it is spying on me. In fact, what disturbs me more is how much data private parties collect, sell, and share as vendors. There are many purchasers of this far more revealing private data than metadata which can individually be analyzed with a court order.

In the future we will be paying for privacy–with software features, with time to put them in place–when we thought privacy was ours. But, we sold that privacy right a long time ago when we clicked on a website that placed tracking cookies.

Do you have cookies on your website?

prior_approval June 8, 2013 at 9:14 am

Does your browser allow cookies?

Or HTTP referer? – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_referer

And to be honest – I think this web site finds HTTP referer information of considerably more value than cookies, and likely on par with the IP address itself. We certainly did, more than a decade ago (when the NSA was monitoring all Internet communications it could access – back in the days when a significant fraction of global Internet traffic went through a few points, such as MAE-East and MAE-West).

john personna June 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

The charge in evidence is that Verizon supplied “All call detail records or “telephony metadata” created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” That is enough to make a personal travel history for every Verizon wireless customer.

In answer to that we’ve had executives from Google and Facebook saying “we didn’t do anything that crazy.”

It is a gray area how crazy they got, and what if any barriers they perceive. Certainly Google could decide to be as accommodating as Verizion, right?

prior_approval June 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

Traffic analysis is much more valuable than traffic contents, in almost all cases.

Unfortunately, most people don’t even understand what traffic analysis is, or why the timing and amount of pizza deliveries to specific locations can be considered a fine example of it.

e3pi June 8, 2013 at 9:56 am

Supposing traffic analysis is more valuable. If so, then Fort Meade has an unprecedented fire storm of traffic onto itself with blow-back scrutiny and public outrage in only the last couple days. Valuable NOT.

Jamie June 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

Go ask a cop if they would rather have comprehensive data on the comings and goings and details of the comms of all people in contact with a suspect without their conversations, or comprehensive transcriptions of conversations without the information about who-what-when-with whom.

Derek June 8, 2013 at 10:48 am

Sure. But these data guys aren’t cops watching an individual or group that they know are involved in something nefarious. They are mining data for patterns that would suggest a threat.

john personna June 8, 2013 at 11:21 am

Once you have a full copy of the Verizion data you can do anything. You might argue that NSA’s short term interests are not in building maps about individuals, but why not? Wouldn’t that be helpful with terror suspects?

John June 8, 2013 at 10:35 am

I do agree that the level of private collection of internet behavior is disturbing there are options to limit the tracking cookies — not always easy but anyone concerned can do a pretty good job of preventing it. Not much you can do with regard to the server side tracking other than ask and hope they stop.

Similarly, you’re correct that assumptions are being made, but they are not unrealistic assumption without any prior precedence to point to. It’s far from clear to me that we’ve got the whole story and I find the claim that what is being collected is of value in identifying any potential terrorist — there’s simply too much noise in that type data.

I wonder if you’d be more worried about government spying on it’s citizens if you were required to provide the post office a copy of all your mail. You might say, well that’s just silly, that would never happen. But that is exactly what happens with email — and possibly blog comments, tweets, FB posts and the like (not sure about these) — ISP must hold logged messages (not merely smtp headers) for something like 7 years. Why is email different from first class (or even bulk) letters? They are both reasonably considered private communications others are not entitled to open and read but one can be collected is a very hidden manner while the other would be rather obvious (and already had laws in place to protect the status of private communications that the government had to protect.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:16 am

Bill,

please

Bill June 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

Andrew,

Thank you.

Handle June 8, 2013 at 9:15 am

Put this into a measurable wager and I’ll take the side that maps onto: “Nothing much changes.” Time is always the great resolver of the tension between public squeamishness about privacy and public demand of their government’s omnipotence / omnicompetence and always in the direction of higher empowerment of our higher power.

Even when you look back at the few Historical instances of push-back (i.e. Church Commission, FISA, etc.), it didn’t take long for those charged with accomplishing their mission to find the template and perfect boilerplate to master (read: neutralize) “the reformed system”.

99.9% of Warrants, FISA requests, etc. are granted automatically on this basis. To the extent they introduce friction or delay, it’s always a rationale for bigger budgets and more personnel. And when they can’t be, the Third Party Doctrine comes into play. Or *something* will come into play.

Like a packet of information on the internet – take out a hub and it doesn’t matter, it finds the path of lease resistance to route around the problem. That’s Bureaucracy.

What happens is a great news-cycle / legislative-cycle public agitprop show. Maybe somebody even signs some unread piece of paper after the show, and bureaucrats treat the piece of paper seriously and think they adhere to it with fear. And then they find that pattern of actual practice which is effectively a loophole without seeming like a loophole and route around the “reform”.

Alexei Sadeski June 8, 2013 at 9:18 am

Tyler is one hell of a blogger, I tell you what.

Jean June 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

Well, I think he’s killed Google and Facebook.

prior_approval June 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

‘The loss of privacy and the collapse of creative ambiguity’

What a title – the privacy was lost long ago, it is only the revelation of that reality which is driving the current discussion. The creative ambiguity involved having people believe something other than the reality.

Here is a very late 80s/very early 90s anecdote, GMU specific. At the time, someone had planted a couple of pipe bombs on campus, and the campus police were very interested in catching the person involved. Writing an article about it, one of the investigators remarked that the time to completely trace a call was seven seconds – in other words, if your call lasted longer than seven seconds, the location was known.

The time to locate was not so stunning – the insistence that this information was strictly confidential, and was in no way to be shared beyond official circles, was. What a lot of people don’t realize is just how much is actually known by those whose job it then becomes to not report it (or how tempting it can be to be an insider, without thinking much about the cost of that status). In my case, I would not have been fired or anything if the article had been written to include that fact – instead, that article would never have published with that information.

The same applies, with differing contours, involving anything which can be described as news media in the U.S.

Much more is known about what is going on than most people will learn in the media. This is the starting point – one that a typical Carter era American citizen took for granted.

Which is why a B movie actor was elected to play the role of president, ushering in an era designed to help bury any memories of a time when it was the citizens doing the monitoring of government communications, and not the other way round.

And to see just how savage the U.S. has decided to be in preventing that era from ever returning, do keep in mind that Wikileaks was more or less a private enterprise Church Committee – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Committee ( ‘The Church Committee was the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) in 1975. A precursor to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the committee investigated intelligence gathering for illegality by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after certain activities had been revealed by the Watergate affair.’)

Chip June 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

Why would people be okay with an increased level of domestic spying at the same time the president is telling the country the war on terror is ending?

There’s a disconnect here. To put it mildly.

And coupled with the IRS revelations – and the pending oversight of Obamacare by this same IRS – people aren’t likely to be okay with anything the government is doing.

Well, one hopes so anyway.

David Curran June 8, 2013 at 10:12 am

I cannot find much literature on what you can find just from who calls who when. There is this one paper
“Predicting customer churn in mobile networks through analysis of
social groups” https://www.siam.org/proceedings//datamining/2010/dm10_064_richtery.pdf

You can predict people leaving the network based on their friends. Any other proven inferences you can draw?

John Tyrnel June 8, 2013 at 10:14 am

I used to read far left magazine in the late 1970′s. Even back then, there stories about how the NSA was using telephone companies to spy on Americans.

Derek June 8, 2013 at 10:38 am

I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Big data is about as useful as big economics. It is an attempt to know and control the world from an air conditioned office somewhere within commuting distance from the nicer neighborhoods near washington.

There its too much information. It is only useful if you act on it. If you sell pizzas, the more sales leads means more pizza sales. If you are looking for a security threat, on any given day you would have millions of potential leads, the vast majority being akin to some kid who makes a pop tart gun. If you tighten up your filter then you miss the real stuff. The folks that you depend on to follow up leads are both smarter than you in what counts and already overworked, so you will get prompt cooperation once from the smart ones, a couple of times from the brown nosed fools.

And back in the real world more evidence of the decline of the us. I opened up a cabinet on some equipment I installed and found that the technology, the real value was made in asia, all that was done in the us was bend some tin. No vaunted american design made elsewhere. Better ideas with better execution at a better price. Another us industry getting their clocks cleaned. This is what happens when you buy yourself out of an economic correction.

Claudia June 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Derek, I agree with your first two paragraphs, in substance if not tone. I am not sure that I do ‘big economics’ but I spend a lot of time filtering economic information from a far to mixed success. There’s so much noise in the information world that we create our own private, or ambiguous spaces.

I firmly believe in freedom of speech and I don’t see its threat here. The ability to control your audience is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for freedom of speech. Most of us navigate a daily life with high costs to certain kinds of speech … not imposed by the government but by our peers. I may well be missing something in this debate.

8 June 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

What changed is three-fold. First, America can no longer single out enemies due to multiculturalism. What’s happening today isn’t too different from what communists faced in previous generations. But back then, the government singled them out. Now, the enemy is a minority, and singling out groups of people is unacceptable (or not letting them come into the U.S.). Therefore, everyone has their rights violated. See: TSA patdowns.

Second, there is no specific enemy for the same reason, instead it’s “terrorism.” Anyone can be guilty of terrorism. The government now keeps a log of all Internet activity. As we saw with Le Pen in France, if the government wants it can probably grandfather in your lawbreaking. Let’s say a future government decides anti-war or abortion protests equal terrorism. They go back into their Internet log, have data on you organizing protests, using inflammatory language, etc. Conspiracy!. Let the round ups begin!

Third, the government has already declared war on its enemies. Not communists, fascists, or drug cartels. People like Michael Burry, who wrote an op ed criticizing the Fed for not seeing the housing bubble. IRS and FBI went after him. Some Tea Party organizers have gotten the quinella: IRS, ATF, FBI, OSHA and EPA. So you have a government with all your info, willing to unleash multiple agencies on ordinary Americans who aren’t a violent threat.

“King George ain’t got nothin’ on me!”

curmudgeonly troll June 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

Why can’t creative ambiguity end with transparency and common sense? Why can’t we be confident that people who violate the accepted status quo will pay consequences?

yi June 8, 2013 at 11:10 am

This was all predictable once America voted in the liberal fascist traitor Obama.

The problem with the Left is their lack of human decency.

Roy June 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

This was inevitable, my grandfather would say, since FDR led his socialist coup(is it any wonder my mother embraced the left). Of course I could say, a la Jonah Goldberg that:

This was inevitable once America voted in the proto fascist traitor Woodrow Wilson.

Charles Evans Hughes forever!

Or if we could blame TR, or maybe Mr. Lincoln who founded the Secret Service. But I will single out Count Joseph Anton Pergen, who founded the first modern centralized secret police system, complete with organized dosdiers in 18th century Austria solely out of bureaucratic empire building. At least no one not named Habsurg can be blamed for voting for him.

Joe Smith June 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

I for one consider it unfortunate that the information about PRISM and the Verizon meta data became public. We would have been better off not knowing. (And I believe that telephone meta data has some potentially very powerful uses. My unfinished novel, written in 1994 and sitting in a drawer someplace, was all about using telephone meta data to fight terrorism.)

Edward Burke June 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Distinguishing telephony metadata from internet trafficking data might be useful in one respect: internet culture is the marketplace of exhibitionism. “Privacy” is exactly what the internet is not about: or, “privacy” in internet domains is exactly as virtual as the internet’s other pretensions.

Joe Smith June 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

When you make a cell phone call your cell phone broad casts radio waves identifying you, the person you are talking to and what is being said. Every person within a mile or two is flooded with the radiation of your call. Every person within a mile or two could pluck your call from the ether with the right equipment. In what sense do you think you are entitled to privacy when you are imposing the radiation of your cell phone call on me? A cell phone call is the electromagnetic equivalent of a conversation on a bus full of people. :-)

Edward Burke June 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Damned good thing I’ve never owned or operated a cell phone, in which case. (Yes, I’m one of the only three people on the planet without a cell phone, a cell phone contract, and a cell phone provideer, and BOY AM I HAPPY!!! :D)

Joe Smith June 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Edward – one of the uses of the Meta data (combined with other data sets) would be to identify unusual behavior like “not owning a cell phone” – sort of a “dog that didn’t bark” analysis. By not having a cellphone you may have set yourself up for special attention. :-)

Edward Burke June 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I don’t have cable or satellite or antenna for my TV, either (DVD player only). I’m also a heavy book buyer, by industry standards (let’s just say dozens of titles a year), but I no longer subscribe to any newspaper, journal, or magazine. These “unusual behaviors” might ought to provoke close attention, yet I watch movies, read, and scoff at the internet without molestation, a side benefit of being a mere provincial, perhaps possibly maybe. –WOOF! There goes a black helicopter!

Claude Emer June 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

The Internet is public but does it have to be? If someone came up with a way to encrypt every data packet and hide every IP address, would that be illegal? Why isn’t that available? What if government required every ISP to “anonymize” our internet usage the way they require car companies to raise their gas mileage? In the case of the Internet, t’s pretty clear government doesn’t believe we’re entitled to privacy. It’s the backdoor for their access.

Yes, our phone conversations are transmitted over the air but they are encrypted. There’s at least an attempt to protect our privacy. There are all kinds of regulations regarding what spectrums are available for use and it’s even illegal to buy equipment that can listen to forbidden spectrums.

dearieme June 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

“I suspect there are further revelations to come”: “suspect” as in “am pretty bloody certain”, I hope.

Tell me, how likely is it that the courts will restrain this sort of thing when the judges’ phone calls and e-mails have all been subject to it too?
Or the Congress?

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:19 am

They aren’t even real judges and Congress isn’t even really involved. Maybe even the president, although he now wants to make it an issue of trusting all three branches of government…the dope.

Bill June 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

This is an interesting Coasian question:

Back in the day when we had long distance telephone bills, and ATT kept a copy of the bill, the government could subpoena the bill to find out who you called on long distance.

Today, the government could require that the carrier retain for a period of time the calling history of all its customers, so that it could subpoena the data if it needed it for an investigation. Would the carrier demand payment for storage? Or, would the alternative be that the government acquire the metadata today, and store it, subject to having a court order grant access to individual records? I suspect people feel more comfortable with one approach than another. Why?

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:22 am

It’s not that complicated. There is a difference between spying on people and getting a search warrant.

Can we get some lawyers in here. please?

dirk June 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm

“But if they acquiesce to the previous level of spying too openly, the level of spying on them will get worse. Which they do not want.”

How do you know what people don’t want? Seems possible that Americans love bullies. The bullies bully because the crowd delights in watching the target bullied.

The lack of outrage over this scandal (talking heads don’t count) demonstrates that Americans are willing to give up very many of their liberties without a fight.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:27 am

Or it’s a concentrated power issue, and it just so happens the NSA et. al. don’t even have the debate openly, and when they are exposed they invoke bogeymen that don’t even exist to get over on the vaguely aware moderate median voter.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:28 am

This is straight from my book: “moderates are as useless as tits on a bore hog.”

Claudia June 9, 2013 at 6:43 am

sometimes worth takes time to appear: http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/livestock-forums/pigs/174628-old-saying-worthless-teats-boar-not-true.html the status quo may not be ‘right’ but there’s a reason for it.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:50 am

Worthless to me. Relatively speaking.

And this issue is where people like Brooks are useless. Built into his “well, I don’t feel it’s a huge invasion of privacy nonsense (it is, of course)” is the assumption that for what he wrongly sees as a small cost and wrongly calls a zero cost is the assumption that there is any benefit when of course there is logically and empirically zero benefit.

Claudia June 9, 2013 at 7:01 am

anyone who helps you reinforce or better yet challenge your own thinking is useful. you disagree with Brooks, fine. the fact that we still voice differing opinions is a good sign. I see some competency in governments but I see a lot more spirit in individuals. but of course no one gets excited about everything.

Claude Emer June 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm
Alan June 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm

As a form of insurance, my future comments on MR will include a percentage praising Michele Malkin, the Keystone pipeline and Hayek.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:33 am

It’s a kind of ratchet effect: “The people can’t be allowed to know what we are doing because they wouldn’t understand” “The people want to undo centuries of legal custom based on the things we tell (scare) them….we have to give the people what they want.”

Show of hands of who here still wonders which way that goes?

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:43 am

So, in HERE, when I assert something like : The FBI has fabricated all domestic terrorism successes I get somewhere between “meh” to “show me” to “coward!” when in fact I’m obviously right. Is it this hopeless. Overseas we are killing more children with drones than high-ranking terrorists. Again, obvious. Here, we confiscate thousands of guns at airports and have not stopped ONE SINGLE ATTACK. Again, obvious. WTF is going on?

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:46 am

By “The FBI has fabricated all domestic terrorism successes” I obviously refer to FBI successful sting/entrapment operations. Nearly all terrorist attacks proceed to ‘success’ with near zero inhibition by the FBI or government, if not assistance- at obvious great cost to the citizens and their liberty.

Andrew' June 9, 2013 at 6:47 am

And this is the shit that people are focused on. You dolts think death panels are going to work?!?

Hopaulius June 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

It’s a mistake to keep the NSA’s data collection separate from the IRS’s targeting of conservative political groups. The government is already using data to exercise domestic political control by putting a finger on the scales of who gets to raise funds during an election cycle. And it’s not Republicans in general who were the targets, but Tea Party groups that want to limit government power.

RPLong June 10, 2013 at 8:30 am

Many of these comments are fascinating. I don’t think there’s any excuse for this kind of surveillance. But we see ordinarily smart people either (a) hand-waving it away as no big deal, (b) figuring out some way to blame the Rs or compare the whole matter to what the spooky corporations are also doing to you, or (c) otherwise making oneself comfortable with it.

It’s a very uncomfortable truth. I think a lot of these comments just reflect our desire to put ourselves at ease with something that we know is deeply, deeply disturbing.

I think tech will figure out a way around this. Lord knows the government is never at the cutting-edge of anything. But I think TC is right that we’ve disrupted the “cognitive equilibrium” if you will. Anyone who isn’t coming down in favor of extreme restrictions on the scope and power of government is basically willfully insane. IMHO.

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