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Jan 17 2014

Fall Out

At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston. The group’s members included Paul Revere, and at night they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.

First Impressions, Obama’s Speech

By: emptywheel

Friday January 17, 2014 12:16 pm

Obama used the example of Paul Revere as an example of the importance of intelligence over the life of “our country.” Of course, Paul Revere is actually a better example that, if the Brits had done metadata analysis akin to what he preserved today, we would still be eating Kidney pies under British rule.

Obama made no mention, at all, of NSA’s weakening encryption and hoarding zero days. None.

With the sole exception of consulting with Congress on how to resolve the Section 215 dragnet (something that will happen during next year’s PATRIOT Act Reauthorization if not before) these changes are all Executive Branch self-limitations. Even the role of a FISC advocate fell by the wayside. In other words, while Obama did call for some useful changes (limiting the gag order on NSLs, adding limits on the way back door searches can be used for criminal investigations), they’re all self-limitations that can’t be enforced or overseen.

At one point, Obama justified our dragnet by saying we have special responsibilities as the only Superpower. Now, China is getting big enough they might object to that whole claim. More importantly, it demonstrates the degree to which a presumption of exceptionalism underlies our entire approach to spying.

ps. Should you not get the admittedly obscure reference, Fall Out is the title of the last episode of The Prisoner.

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