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May 22 2015

A False Victory?

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to lose his bid for a two month extension of Patriot Act bulk data collection authority set to expire June 1st and will be forced to accept the language of the House USA Freedom Act.  While you might be tempted to celebrate, this is not the victory it may seem.

One of the principal reasons the Second Circuit ruled the actions of the NSA and FBI illegal is that there was no evidence in the Congressional Record that legislators intended the kind of universal surveillance that was being practiced.  One can now hardly argue about Congressional intent under the USA Freedom Act.

The USA Freedom Act does hardly anything at all about bulk collection.  It simply transfers the record keeping responsibility from the NSA to private companies and mandates a FISA warrant (notoriously easy to get) be obtained.  The vast majority of bulk data collection doesn’t even take place under the authority of Section 215.  Instead the Stasi Surveillance State relies on the broader powers of the FBI and Executive Order 12333.

Moreover, as has been shown time and time again, bulk data collection is ineffective

“[T]he agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information,” the DoJ report found.

And yet-

Section 215 of the Patriot Act – which the NSA has relied on to operate its bulk phone records collection program – also allows the FBI to collect a variety of records from hotels, rental car companies and libraries during the course of an investigation.

“If we lose that authority – which I don’t think is controversial with folks – that is a big problem,” Comey said. “Because we will find ourselves in circumstances where we can’t use a grand jury subpoena and we can’t use a national security letter,” he added, referring to two other means of collecting information.

Ahem, bullshit.

You’re damn right that collecting “records from hotels, rental car companies and libraries” “is controversial with folks”.  If you don’t think so, you think wrong.  As for “can’t use a grand jury subpoena and we can’t use a national security letter”, the FBI gets the wholesale discount rate.  They can get either one as easy as they can scratch their nose.

The reason they don’t want to get one is that then there would be a record.

Let us more closely examine this part of the IG’s Report-

the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information

Do you know how cops solve most of their cases?  Snitches.  Do you know how the Stasi maintained its Police/Surveillance State?  Informants.  Simply put they fish around until they find something of sufficient embarrassment to blackmail someone, anyone, and then use them to finger the person they “know” is guilty but are too lazy to prove it through real evidence.

“Corroborate other information”?  Backward construction.  I have this evidence I can’t use in a Court because I obtained it illegally, but now that I know you done it, I’ll go back and find something I can and pretend my illegal actions had nothing to do with it.

Move along.

There was a time when something was better than nothing, when a USA Freedom Act was better that the rampant lawlessness and Unconstitutionality of our Intelligence Agencies run amok.  That was before the Second Circuit Court ruling.

Now nothing is better than something.  Let the Patriot Act die.

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