surveillance, NSA, wiretap

listening in

It is bizarre that President Obama and other defenders of the NSA still pretend there have been zero examples of NSA employees abusing their power, even though abuses have already been documented. From Obama’s interview with CNN:

CUOMO: Especially when they hear that they are and mistakes are made. You know, it shakes your confidence.

OBAMA: Well — yeah, but I think it’s important — for example, this latest revelation that was made, what was learned was that NSA had inadvertently, accidentally pulled the e-mails of some Americans in violation of their own rules, because of technical problems that they didn’t realize. They presented those problems to the court. The court said, “This isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to have to improve the safeguards, given these technical problems.” That’s exactly what happened. So the point is, is that all these safeguards, checks, audits, oversight worked.

Now, I think there are legitimate concerns that people have that technology is moving so quick that, you know, at some point, does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place? And does some of these systems — do some of these systems end up being like a loaded gun out there that somebody at some future point could abuse? Because there are no allegations, and I am very confident — knowing the NSA and how they operate — that purposefully somebody is out there trying to abuse this program or listen in on people’s e-mail — or…

There have been allegations of abuse. Back in 2008 it was widely reported that NSA employees were listening to phone sex calls between American soldiers and their partners. NSA employees would save these calls and share them around for their own personal amusement. This is a textbook example of abuse. This is the kind of invasion of privacy that deeply concerns most Americans.

The most likely reasons we haven’t heard about more abuses is because the NSA is incredibly secretive, basically never audited, and the Obama administration has engaged in such an aggressive war on whistleblowers people are scared to come forward.

The lack of evidence is not the evidence of absence in this case. It is most likely just proof that Obama’s abuse of the Espionage Act is having the intended effect.

Photo by David Goehring under Creative Commons license