At 12:01 this morning, thanks to that villain Randy Paul and, to a lesser extent, the guy who told us about it, the US government lost its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk. The Patriot Act has expired. I assume you are reading this from the point of a scimitar, at the other end of which gibbers a bearded zealot. Perhaps you have already become an ISIS or, worse, a copyright infringer. Perhaps you are one of the handful of Americans who remain free, for now. Don’t panic. Probably, most major US cities will be anthraxed between now and lunch on Tuesday. But the strong can survive. You just need to take a few precautions.
Good news, you
guys terrorists: the foreign intelligence surveillance court order that authorizes the NSA to collect calling data on every American expires Friday. Also, ambiguous news, you guys: President Obama plans to ask FISA to extend the program for another 90 days, but he will also ask Congress to end it. The secret domestic surveillance program that for the last decade has been totally legal and okay will go away now that we know about it. I’m pretty sure that means the terrorists won. Thanks a lot, Edward Snowden.
Yesterday, Dianne Feinstein told the Senate that the CIA had hacked into and deleted files from computers the Intelligence Committee used to investigate agency waterboarding and interrogation techniques, calling the spying a “defining moment” in the oversight of American intelligence. It sure felt that way. Back when
whistleblower traitor Edward Snowden revealed that the agencies were spying on the American people, Feinstein vigorously defended the secret electronic surveillance as an indispensable tool in the fight against terrorism. Later, when we learned that the NSA and CIA had also spied on foreign heads of state including Angela Merkel, our elected representatives lost their minds—a hypocrisy Snowden identified in Feinstein again yesterday. Call it the Merkel Effect.
Perhaps this was massive, world-interrupting news yesterday and I slept/vomited through it, but a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against broad federal collection of cell phone data, saying that the program “surely” infringes on the Fourth Amendment. Blanket domestic surveillance from the NSA is by no means over, but it seems likely to suffer a serious blow in the next six months. DC District Court Judge Richard Leon stayed his injunction to allow the federal government time to appeal—something it almost certainly will do, so business as
usual recently revealed by a dude who has to hide in Russia. But Leon also called the programs “almost Orwellian” and said James Madison would be “aghast” if he knew about it. He meant to say “a ghost.”
I don’t know about you—because what am I, the NSA?—but I worry that blanket domestic surveillance will be a problem because the federal government could use it for evil. Recent developments suggest that I may have overlooked another possibility: blanket surveillance could be a problem because the government will use it to waste vast quantities of money and time. I refer, of course, to the news that intelligence agencies are monitoring Second Life and World of Warcraft. Props to Mose for the link. The NSA, FBI and CIA believe that terrorists and other international criminals could use online multiplayer games to secretly communicate with one another and exchange resources. In fact, terrorists are most likely to use World of Warcraft to get called fags by 14 year-olds in Ohio. It’s a real misunderstanding.