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Great commentary from some of the smartest guys around.

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Really great article about the NSA’s overreach by The Guardian: Time to tame the NSA behemoth trampling our rights

One of my favorite paragraphs from the piece provides a great teaser:

“We have learned that in pursuit of its bureaucratic mission to obtain signals intelligence in a pervasively networked world, the NSA has mounted a systematic campaign against the foundations of American power: constitutional checks and balances, technological leadership, and market entrepreneurship. The NSA scandal is no longer about privacy, or a particular violation of constitutional or legislative obligations. The American body politic is suffering a severe case of auto-immune disease: our defense system is attacking other critical systems of our body.”

I keep wishing the defenders of our fourth amendment rights were as loud, as well organized, and as well funded as those that defend our second amendment rights.  I also can’t help but think about the probability of dying from a terrorist attack as compared to say a car accident, heart disease, or gun violence.  It is a minuscule probability at best – so why undermine the constitution over it? (as if there is ever a good reason to undermine the constitution – give me liberty or give me death!)  I get angry thinking of all the men and women that have died defending our constitution and how quickly those that have sworn to defend it subvert it.

For a long recap of how the NSA and America’s broader security apparatus have violated our rights see New NSA Revelations Are Breaking Every Day

If reading isn’t your thing there is a great Frontline episode available online called Top Secret America

Both articles were found via The Big Picture

Excerpts from Bob Dylan’s Let Me Die In My Footsteps .  This song was written in the early 1960s – seems we’re yet to learn our lesson.

There’s been rumors of war and wars that have been
The meaning of life has been lost in the wind
And some people thinkin’ that the end is close by
“Stead of learnin’ to live they are learning to die.

I don’t know if I’m smart but I think I can see
When someone is pullin’ the wool over me
And if this war comes and death’s all around
Let me die on this land ‘fore I die underground.

There’s always been people that have to cause fear
They’ve been talking of the war now for many long years
I have read all their statements and I’ve not said a word
But now Lawd God, let my poor voice be heard.

If I had rubies and riches and crowns
I’d buy the whole world and change things around
I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea
For they are mistakes of a past history.

Seth_Klarman_Views_(24_pgs) June 2013

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while – I can’t remember where I came across this or who I owe credit to for originally posting this but thank you.  This is probably the best piece I’ve read all summer, maybe all year.

For this blog post I originally started jotting down excerpts from this speech that resonated with me.  I quickly realized that I was writing down everything – literally re-transcribing the entire speech.  I would have copied and pasted the whole thing for you, dear reader, but this appears to be a scanned copy of a printed document.

Anyway, give it a read – don’t be daunted by the 24 pages, it’s actually a very quick read and it is well worth your time.

Enjoy.

If you can’t laugh at the subversion of our basic liberties what can you laugh at?  The recent leak of the NSA’s secret PRISM program has elicited quite a response – especially the poor presentation value of their “pitch” slides.  Seriously, if you’re asking for $20M a year of taxpayer money at least jazz up your powerpoint a bit.

 

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Declaration of Independence In Congress, July 4, 1776

I think the news breaking about the NSA’s PRISM program is pretty scary.  This type of abuse is truly the biggest threat to the country and the liberties we hold dear that I can think of.  It seems like everyone kind of expected this type of surveillance was taking place but now that we’ve been confronted with some hard evidence it becomes harder to just write it off.  This is truly an Orwellian nightmare come true.

Obama – what part of “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” do you not understand?

I was thinking about this yesterday and I was trying to come up with an analogous 1776 version of this story.  It would basically involve the British having a central processing center for all written communications and papers (kind of like the postal service but you can’t avoid it).  But instead of just receiving and distributing the mail it made a copy of every document that passed through and kept that document on file forever – for the king or his agents to review at their pleasure.  Images of red coats sitting in a row reading and transcribing letters with their feather pens should be coming to mind.  Wouldn’t that have been outrageous?  Do you think the founding fathers would have listed that as one of their grievances in the Declaration of Independence?  I digress…

There is a great op-ed piece in the Guardian by Daniel Ellsberg that is worth a read – below is an excerpt.  It’s also worth nothing that Ellsberg thinks this is the most important leak in American history; even more important than the Pentagon Papers that were leaked 40 years ago.  (side note: at least the UK’s free press is looking out for our rights and liberties – thanks, we owe you one)

“But what is not legitimate is to use a secrecy system to hide programs that are blatantly unconstitutional in their breadth and potential abuse. Neither the president nor Congress as a whole may by themselves revoke the fourth amendment – and that’s why what Snowden has revealed so far was secret from the American people.

In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:

“I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America’s intelligence gathering capability – which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era – “at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left.”

That has now happened. That is what Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. The NSAFBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers over our own citizens that the Stasi – the secret police in the former “democratic republic” of East Germany – could scarcely have dreamed of. Snowden reveals that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America.”

Scary stuff indeed.  Hang on… someone’s at the door.