I'm not a criminal law attorney so I have no idea whether the NSA's seizing all of Verizon's customer records is unconstitutional (fwiw, the steadfast likes of John Yoo and Andy McCarthy see nothing wrong). And, maybe there's some logical rationale for the newly revealed (but years' long) effort to poke through the servers of some of the internet's biggest names, but I've got a more basic question: is any of this data mining accomplishing anything?
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.I ask whether any of this is accomplishing anything because you may have noticed that, despite all of this intensive trolling through phone records and internet searches, two kids from Chechnya - one of whom had even been in contact with the DHS and FBI - managed to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon without much trouble. The Tsaernovs seem to have spent a lot of time on the phone and on the 'net, but still managed to slip through.
I haven't normally gone along with the black helicopter/Parallax View approach to issues like this, but after the IRS scandal, I literally do not trust the gov't at all. Sure, everyone's talking about how there are all these protections, and the searches are focused on "patterns" and the like; but isn't that what the IRS was doing? Plugging search terms like "Patriot" and "9/12" into their computers to better target the people they wanted to target? Seems like whatever the NSA guys were doing could just as easily been turned towards that direction without much trouble.
(plus, we are still being treated to 2012 election post-mortems featuring Democrat operatives crowing about how their data-mining efforts helped them to better target voters. Data mining, you say? And how do we know you also weren't using data mining to target your political enemies?)
As usual, Obama defenders are falling back on their first refuge: this program started under Bush. But, my memory was that Dems were calling for impeachment and worse - remember all of those assassination fantasies? - when the original NSA program was revealed by the NY Times. Now, Obama has taken the Bush-era data mining efforts and exploded them.
Either this stuff is dangerous and unconstitutional or it's not, but it looks like to the left "unconstitutional" really means "didn't go far enough."