Thursday, 13 June 2013

"I know the calls you made last summer"

Their concerns for privacy seem well founded
The title of today's post is a parody of the movie title I Know What You Did last Summer, a suspense horror in which a mysterious antagonist takes revenge on a bunch of teenagers. And somehow the tone seems to suit the NSA's snooping into the lives of ordinary American citizens.

Revelations by the ex-CIA administrator/analyst,  Edward Snowden, appear to have nudged the house of cards that was the legality of the programme. Under American law no one had legal standing to challenge the programme or it legality because no one who had been targeted by knew they were targets. But the revelations mean every American can now claim standing, and the ACLU have already file suit against the NSA. Searches without reasonable cause or legally warrented by a judge are required under the American Constitution's 4th ammendent and federal law. Now that the legal standing issue has been pierced, short of changing the constitution and federal law NSA's Prism program is in violation of the principle of "unreasonable search and seizure" enshrined in the constitution and law.

The full video of Edward Snowden's interview with the Guardian:

Even the secret Pfizer courts, in previous judgements express opinions characterising this program as barely legal. Palantir corporation, 3news revealed have an office in Wellington. John Key admits that he knows them.  What is more interesting perhaps is a comment from Palantir's CEO "We are the best that money can buy, feels good to be gangstas." Palantir is one of three security contractors who conspired to use technology available to them against commercial and political adversaries.

Palantir's "Prism" software "consolidates" online activity and phone call data to create a picture of what people are doing. Connecting the dots so to speak.  This is the technological version of much that was hated, feared and loathed about the Stazi, for both the citizen's who lived it, others to whom the story of their vaults of "intelligence" gathered by informants. Surely then, they too said "If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

In the best possible world this would not be a problem, but consider this: Your resident's association needs a new venue for monthly meetings, organising gardening competitions, street parties, organising submissions on local council rates/property taxes, charity drives, etc. But since the local catholic chapel has been sold to a property developer to pay fines and couselling for the victims of a fiddly priest the only suitable location is a local Mosk. So for several years you phone in and arrange booking times have your usual meetings it is all in a good cause.  But a young man has taken a liking to fundamentalist Islamic dogma and has attempted or done something stupid, perhaps like the Boston bombing. Questions are raised, about the Imam his teaching and preaching, and your connection with them, perhaps when the Imam was busy or away he arranged for the young to open and close the Mosk for your group, and a few weeks ago a meeting had to be reschedule to make room for a wedding reception. "The gardening competition is a cover to get Ammonium phosphate, Admit it ! You helped him build the bomb! We have the phone calls, the emails, of secret meetings, Just admit it and we will go easy on you, or you'll be looking at 25 years in super max."

This essence of this fictional scenario, actions of innocent peaceful citizens being viewed with suspicion as the actions of criminals, has played out in explosive fashion in many incidents through history as authoritarian governments work too hard to control the people they should be serving.

Yes, I'm trolling the NSA with this post.

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