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Senate Passes Bill Renewing NSA's Internet Surveillance Program (reuters.com) 96

From a report: The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill to renew the National Security Agency's warrantless internet surveillance program for six years and with minimal changes, overcoming objections from civil liberties advocates that it did too little to safeguard the privacy of Americans. From a report on CNET: The programs, known as Prism and Upstream, allow the NSA to collect online communications of foreigners outside the US. Prism collects these communications from internet services, and Upstream taps into the internet's infrastructure to capture information in transit. Some communications from Americans and others in the US are collected in the process. The vote Thursday renews the programs for six years. The House approved a bill renewing the programs last week. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden first revealed the programs by leaking information about them to journalists in 2013. After the news coverage, the administration of President Barack Obama declassified much information about the programs.
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Senate Passes Bill Renewing NSA's Internet Surveillance Program

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  • Democracy theater (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2018 @02:55PM (#55954459)

    Is there anybody left at this point who actually believes that the US intelligence apparatus is governed by laws? They made it quite clear over the past couple decades that they can construct a legal fiction as needed to do whatever the fuck they want. Anything done in Congress is only a show for the public.

    The only recourse for "little people" is encryption, cryptocurrency, or anything else that has a chance of minimizing state power.

    • I actually do think they are governed by the law. The issue is open enforcement though.

      It's kind of hard to openly enforce laws within an organization that at it's heart is based on being secret. This means that it is very possible that they actually DO enforce the laws, but it isn't reported because it would disclose information best kept secret. So it's at least possible they are trying to follow the law, but just cannot talk about it.

      Your mileage may vary... But as always, conspiracy theories thrive

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The apparatus is governed by law only insofar as it is harder (though not impossible) to use illegally gathered intelligence against you in a court of law. The common way around this is parallel construction, but that can sometimes be problematic. So if they can, they'd prefer the intelligence to be legal, so they can use it as evidence when the time comes.

      • by ScienceofSpock ( 637158 ) <keith...greene@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:42PM (#55954927) Homepage

        The problem with this is that it renews a bill that legalizes many of those previously illegal gathering methods, and since this was done under the guise of "national security", those methods are not transparent. If they're not transparent, we have no recourse but to accept the government's word that they are necessary and work.

        I mean, more people were killed by toddlers in the US in 2015 than by terrorists, yet there are no new laws coming out to "protect" Americans from toddlers. But god damn, we need to snoop all your shit because "Oh no! teh terrorists!"

        I know people here have seen this enough, but it still rings true in my opinion: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Ben Franklin

        • by harrkev ( 623093 )

          I mean, more people were killed by toddlers in the US in 2015 than by terrorists

          We had thousands killed by only 19 terrorists in 2001.

          Nice, France: 86 people killed by a terrorist with a truck, and over 400 injured.

          We had a guy with terrorist leaning kill a few people with a truck only a couple of months ago. in New York.

          One difference is that toddlers generally don't set out to kill. Terrorists have the goal of killing as many people as they can. This country also has a LOT more toddlers than terrorists.

          • I get where you are coming from, and I acknowledge that terrorist attacks DO happen, however, the chance that you or I will get killed in one are statistically insignificant, and I don't think the government needs to spy on it's own citizens to combat it, even if it could guarantee ZERO terrorist related deaths (Which it can't).

            It's my belief that this warrantless spying has pretty close to no effect on terrorist activities, and even if it did, we cannot see that data because it's deemed sensitive to nation

            • by harrkev ( 623093 )

              I mostly agree with you. Note the final line of my original post:

              Still, this does not excuse FISA. I have no problems with the government spying, but why is it asking too much to just get a warrant?

              However, we have not had that many deaths due to either there not being much of a threat, or there is a larger threat than you realize, but the government has been effective at thwarting such attempts. I won't pretend to know the answer, but if the government CAN do something reasonable to prevent murders that

              • I think we basically agree, we just have some differences in semantics. I don't have a problem if the government wants to access the computer or other private records of a citizen, provided they get a proper warrant. I do not actually consider that spying. It means a judge agrees with the investigating body that said access is likely to provide information related to whatever case they are investigating, and provides an audit trail.

                I also agree that the government has had at least some success in thwarting

        • I mean, more people were killed by toddlers in the US in 2015 than by terrorists, yet there are no new laws coming out to "protect" Americans from toddlers.

          I was going to jokingly suggest, "Don't give them any ideas!", but then I realized that they're more or less already laying the groundwork for an intelligence network that would cover that "threat" as well. See: Amazon Echo; Google Home; indoor security cameras with "smart" functionality; etc..

    • Is there anybody left at this point who actually believes that the US intelligence apparatus is governed by laws?

      If that's the case, why would they bother renewing the statutory authorization?

      And why would we bother fighting the renewal of the statutory authorization?

      The very fact that we are all debating the passage of a law seems to be a fairly strong indicator that the US intelligence apparatus is at least partially beholden to the authorization (or lack thereof) provided by the legislature.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @02:56PM (#55954469)

    Now you all can say the buck stops with the president.... I'm guessing he's going to sign it so get ready to blast away....

    All you who voted democratic though, remember that many in your party voted for this in the Senate... You might want to hold your Senator responsible if yours voted for this...In fact, PLEASE do that... ;)

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:21PM (#55954709)

      You still think you have two distinct parties in the US?

      Cute.

      • LOL.. Yea, it's more like four, but they are divided into two nearly equal groups we call Republicans and Democrats.

        There is the crazy ultra left which is about half of the democratic party and the bewildered left who are convinced by the rhetoric on the left, but don't really understand what all the hubbub is about. There is then the hard right folks, the strict constructionists and bill of rights type (think NRA and Tea Party, not the so called Neo-Nazis idiots) which constitutes a bit more than half o

      • by slick7 ( 1703596 )

        You still think you have two distinct parties in the US?

        Cute.

        Yes, we do; bought dog multimillionaires and one or two term politicians who do not get very far, unless of course they are very good at their jobs.

      • by youngone ( 975102 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @04:14PM (#55955193)

        You still think you have two distinct parties in the US?

        What I wonder about is why Americans think having two parties is normal and not to be questioned.

        The UK currently has 6 parties in it's parliament, and the tiny little country I live in, of only 4 million people, currently has 5 parties represented.
        Until recently we had as many as 8 parties but apparently the US, a country of 320,000,000 agree with each other to the extent that they only need two parties.
        Of course no-one does propaganda quite like the US.

        • You still think you have two distinct parties in the US?

          What I wonder about is why Americans think having two parties is normal and not to be questioned.

          The UK currently has 6 parties in it's parliament, and the tiny little country I live in, of only 4 million people, currently has 5 parties represented. Until recently we had as many as 8 parties but apparently the US, a country of 320,000,000 agree with each other to the extent that they only need two parties. Of course no-one does propaganda quite like the US.

          We have a totally different form of government too.. We don't have a parliament. We are a representative republic.

          Our framers pretty much set things up this way at the federal level in a way that favors two parties and we've basically been working this way for 230 years now. I'm not surprised that folks on the other side of the pond don't get how this works, most Americans don't quite understand it either. But it's set up for two parities. Now the parities HAVE changed a few times. It's not always bee

          • Our framers pretty much set things up this way at the federal level...

            Which is the problem as far as I can see. Your system is not nearly flexible enough, because you've written rules into your constitution so nothing changes. The easily corrupted 18th century system is still being used (and corrupted) in the 21 st century.
            Those of us who live in a former British Dominion are happy with the fact that we can change our voting system, which we have done to the benefit of the voters but not the politicians.

            I'm not surprised that folks on the other side of the pond don't get how this works.

            I'm not sure why you would think we don't understand the US system, it's not hard to follow, it's just that there are so many better ways of electing your government, and there are examples in use all over the world today, but you continue to put up with the gerrymandering and lobbying and riders being attached to bills and all the other graft and collusion and still feel like you might have some influence over those who rule you.
            It just proves that nobody quite does propaganda like the Americans I suppose.

            • LOL... Well, I guess we know why we had to fight that war with King George back in 1776 don't we... Us and the French sent you guys packing and it's worked out pretty well since, with the USA rising to be the single dominate world power and the UK falling from that position ending up way down on the list in 200 or so years.

              I actually believe you think your system is better, which is fine with me if you think that. For the USA, our system actually works, and has for a lot longer than yours, which has und

              • our system actually works,

                Does it? Who does it work for? You should have a look at this study. [bbc.com]
                Also, The Economist Intelligence Unit [cnbc.com] thinks you have some problems, so my opinion is not really what counts here.
                The point I was trying to make is that you have exactly the same system you had in 1776. Maybe it's time for a look at it.
                Also, I'm unsure why you think I'm in the UK, I never said I was. My country actually overhauled our voting system about 20 years ago, because we got sick of first-past-the-post governments being able

          • It has changed exactly once in those 200 years. It took 4 years of civil war to get it off the ground and ever since you had two increasingly identical parties.

            Not that it was any different before. Actually, it was more blatantly. The Democratic-Republicans of the pre-civil war era split into Democrats and Whigs, who ran the country 1829-1857.

            Hey, it's an improvement, at least now you have two parties that didn't start out as one.

        • And how much trouble is Your PM having forming a Majority government. Merkel is facing the same problem in Germany. We don't have that problem. We don't have to build coalition governments. Two parties (with many factions within) gives us greater stability.

          And we aren't locked to two parties, we actually have many parties, but most of them are small fringe groups not statistically large enough to deserve seats. And we don't play the coalition game, so if a party wants control they have to get a majorit
          • My Prime Minister formed a coalition with two other parties within a few weeks of the election we had, and it will be stable for the three years of her term, (probably).
            If the coalition does break down no-one will panic, we will have another election.
            I am not in the UK. Our Prime Minister has just announced she's pregnant, if that helps.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It is a 2 party system: The politicians and the rest of us.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @02:56PM (#55954477)
    if you want these overwhelmingly unpopular things to stop happening you need to show up at your primaries. For a lot of us the choices are a moderate Republican, a "Blue Dog" Democrat or an Independent with zero chance of winning. They way to change that is to vote in your primary.
    • by PoopJuggler ( 688445 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:05PM (#55954557)
      I would say that if you really want things to change, rid yourself of the belief that 3rd parties have "zero chance of winning". Vote for the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation. If you keep voting along R/D party lines, you're just part of the problem because neither of those parties is really interested in making the country better.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They should remove R/D from ballots.

      • because our system of government doesn't lend itself to them. The electoral college and Senate make it easy for the oligarchy to split the electorate down the middle and take control of the government. We'd need to switch to a parliamentary system to make their parties viable. That's tough to do because it means changing our constitution; and doing that while the oligarchy is in charge is a recipe for disaster. One we just adverted when the Dems took a few seats in the state legislature recently (making it
    • Or note that vast majority of the Democratic Senators didn't vote for this, and maybe realize that the "Blue Dog" Democrats you are blaming are actually mostly agreeing with the policies you want?
    • Getting rid of this horrid first past the post voting system is the only real way to fix things. Our representatives have no reason to represent us if our only choices are between bad, worse, and crazy.
    • OUST FEINSTEIN
    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      if you want these overwhelmingly unpopular things to stop happening you need to show up at your primaries. For a lot of us the choices are a moderate Republican, a "Blue Dog" Democrat or an Independent with zero chance of winning. They way to change that is to vote in your primary.

      Do you mean so we can play the same plurality game from a group of preselected winners? No thanks. Even if there was a secondary before the primary, it is turtles all the way down.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not unexpected, but disappointing.

  • sorry, I mean 'research contributions'. So: what do the senators get out of this ? Intelligence maybe; who on ?

    • Bribes? Probably not. Blackmail? Well...

      "Senator, do you remember where you were last Saturday? Well, we do..."

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Jobs for their voters in their state. Security work, landscaping, new power connection, new cooling water connections. Thats nice local jobs for voters in the growing domestic collect it all sector. Room 641A https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] upgrades all over the USA.
    • So: what do the senators get out of this ?

      Some of them actually believe it. For others, they get the appearance of being "tough on terrorists", which helps them in the next election.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2018 @03:06PM (#55954579)

    And then they wonder why the rest of us want to encrypt our comunications.. Idiots.

  • They are being watched as well.

  • The folks who still have access to the Snowden Files should release a few more in case the people have forgot why this legislation is such a bad idea.

  • "allow the NSA to collect online communications of foreigners outside the US. Prism collects these communications from internet services, and Upstream taps into the internet'"

    And who is shocked by this? Who thinks this is a bad idea? Many do, I'm less on the fence than many others.

    They are executing the mission they have been charged with by the government since its formation, and how many times can we point to and say this was enabled by illegal [something]? Malice, or intent to defraud, extort or harm someone has usually been a condition of charging someone with a crime. Let's fight for our rights! But make sure we know what we are fighting for, spinning wheel wastes energy o

  • by Agripa ( 139780 )

    Encrypt Absolutely Everything

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein

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