Daily Meme: Stopping the NSA Madness This March

  • In January, President Obama gave a speech at the Justice Department that was basically an acknowledgement that the shady ex-girlfriend stuff that the NSA has been doing to Americans, like going through our phone records and mining our internet activity, was indeed pretty damn shady. He promised, in that vague way that politicians do, to take some action.
  • Well, this week is action central! On Friday, the court order that authorizes the NSA's current data-collection program expires, and the administration wants to initiate a new process, via legislation, that would, in the words of Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian, "significantly curtail the practice [of mass phone data monitoring] but lower the legal standards for the collection of such information."
  • The New York Times has the details: "The N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order."
  • Meanwhile, the Republican chair and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee have introduced their own bill, which would not require the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve individual requests for phone records. Instead, as Politico reports, "the House measure would allow the government to begin collecting targeted phone records after submitting a request to the court, which a judge would review 'promptly.' Under the House plan, the court would also review NSA phone records surveillance as a whole on an annual basis." 
  • In case you were wondering, yes, Senator Rand Paul is brushing his shoulder off on this one: I don’t want to take all the credit for ending this, but I think our lawsuit had something to do with bringing the president to the table.” (The lawsuit in question is this one, which Paul filed against the NSA in February and which some people think he stole, but that's another story.)
  • But lest we think this legislation marks the end of spying-on-citizens shenanigans, I would direct you to the fact that Senator Diane Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, publically accused the CIA this month of illegally searching Senate computers and computer systems. 
  • Democracy is a strange and wondrous thing, ain't it?

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