Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Your Government Is Phone Tapping An Entire Nation. Are You Okay With This?

 

shutterstock_90519055As of 2013, the United States government “has been recording and storing nearly all the domestic (and international) phone calls from two or more target countries as of 2013.” If anybody had any doubts, the good people of WikiLeaks, who are doing God’s work, revealed that one of those countries is Afghanistan.

Your government is phone tapping an entire country’s worth of phones. This program, they claim, is vital, to keeping our drone wars going.

So, in order to keep a war going that we shouldn’t be in anymore, in a place we shouldn’t be involved anymore, we — you and I — are doing this. Privacy is a fundamental human right. We are violating the fundamental human rights of an entire nation of people, in order to keep a war going in a place we shouldn’t be in, to accomplish… what exactly?

Are you okay with this? If so, why? And if you’re going to defend it, please tell me what part of the Constitution allows this? Tell me what concept of human rights allows this? Why should a government, any government, have this power? Is this what limited government means to you? Phone tapping an entire nation of people? And what is the limiting principle here?

And for a bonus: What’s the point again?

There are 117 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Interesting questions.

    • #1
    • May 27, 2014, at 11:40 AM PDT
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  2. Jason Rudert Member

    There is no limiting principle. Our security apparatus was put on autopilot at the beginning of the war on terror and it will continue to expand it reach because no one in any position to do so, dares to look at the benefits vs the costs. The limits of our government, at least in this sphere, are now bounded only by the technologies involved.

    • #2
    • May 27, 2014, at 11:45 AM PDT
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  3. Tuck Inactive

    I posted about this when I learned they were recording every phone call in the Bahamas.

    We’re at war in Afghanistan. I think that gives the NSA and the military broad latitude. I also think that the Constitution protects American citizens only, and not everyone else. (They can protect their own human rights, it’s not our job.)

    I would suspect, however, that if the average Afghan thought they could get rid of the Taliban by having their phone tapped 24/7 by the Americans, they’d be all for it. They’re quite happy that we’re in there with a physical presence, as shown by the fact that most of them aren’t shooting at us like they did the Soviets.

    The biggest problem I have with these NSA programs (those outside the US) is that they seem to be of questionable efficacy. Recording all the phone calls in the Bahamas doesn’t seem to have made a dent in the War on Drugs (or the War on Terror), and our President is doing his best to lose the war in Afghanistan. The NSA doesn’t appear to have been of much help there, either.

    So it appears to be a big waste of time: yet another out-of-control, ungoverned Federal boondoggle.

    The fact that I have to pay for this nonsense is a violation of my human rights, and I care a lot more about that…

    • #3
    • May 27, 2014, at 12:47 PM PDT
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  4. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    We have the right to kill Afghans who align with the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda. You’re concerned about the tapping of phone calls in what is for all intents and purposes an occupied territory?

    I have news for you: Your phone calls, internet activity and other communications are monitored by your phone company and ISP, and various other nations are desperately trying to spy on our nation every single hour of every day. Is the People’s Republic of China violating your human rights when they try to do these things?

    Is this not just an expression of our technological superiority? It is an impressive display of technological spycraft, and I for one have no interest in our nation unilaterally disarming in this latest front.

    Are you also opposed to our nation possessing a credible anti-ballistic missile shield because it could in principle allow us to strike other nations with ICBMs with relative impunity?

    As to the Constitutional question – there is none. The Constitution doesn’t apply to non-citizens. As to their human rights – this is war. We can’t vivisect them, but we can kill them, so monitoring their phone calls is weak tea.

    • #4
    • May 27, 2014, at 1:10 PM PDT
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  5. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    a) Recording and analyzing foreign signals is a pretty well-recognized function of government. I know of no international treaty that prohibits the practice. I consider it a diplomatic matter between nations, rather than a moral transgression.

    b) If we’re talking about wireless telephone signals, it’s totally fair game. Signals broadcast wirelessly are not private, by any stretch of the imagination, and never have been. Encrypt your signals if you don’t want other people listening in.

    c) If the NSA is truly technically capable of recording all the wired, domestic telephone traffic of a foreign country, that tells me that the country in question has incredibly poor telecom security, and that the traffic is almost certainly being recorded by lots of other countries as well.

    • #5
    • May 27, 2014, at 1:31 PM PDT
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  6. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Fred Cole:

    Privacy is a fundamental human right. 

    Also this. Really? Where is that spelled out? I can’t find the word “privacy” anywhere in the Bill of Rights. It can’t be found anywhere in the text. The closest thing is the Fourth Amendment.

    The Fourth Amendment says:

    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.

    The Fourth amendment says nothing about insubstantial electromagnetic radiation that your cell phone generates, frankly. And the People in question in this statement? Not Pashtuns in the Hindu Kush. Some dude (who is a citizen) in Chicago has these rights – but not Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

    • #6
    • May 27, 2014, at 2:03 PM PDT
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  7. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yeah…I’m pretty much okay with spying on a nation’s citizens with a history of supporting terrorism that resulted in the death of thousands of Americans and other nationalities in this country and abroad. Any other questions?

    • #7
    • May 27, 2014, at 2:18 PM PDT
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  8. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “If anybody had any doubts, today the good people of WikiLeaks, who are doing God’s work, revealed that one of those countries is Afghanistan.”

    Really, Fred? Did you have an epiphany?

    • #8
    • May 27, 2014, at 2:21 PM PDT
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  9. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Majestyk
    Fred Cole:

    Privacy is a fundamental human right.

    Also this. Really? Where is that spelled out? I can’t find the word “privacy” anywhere in the Bill of Rights. It can’t be found anywhere in the text. The closest thing is the Fourth Amendment.

    Perhaps Mr. Cole is referring to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    I was not personally aware, however, that the UDHR was the last word on such matters.

    • #9
    • May 27, 2014, at 2:29 PM PDT
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  10. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Majestyk Fred Cole:

    Privacy is a fundamental human right.

    Also this. Really? Where is that spelled out? I can’t find the word “privacy” anywhere in the Bill of Rights. It can’t be found anywhere in the text. The closest thing is the Fourth Amendment.

    Perhaps Mr. Cole is referring to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    I was not personally aware, however, that the UDHR was the last word on such matters.

    Perhaps…but we were attacked, weren’t we? We are still under constant threat from terror attacks from bad actors in Afghanistan, aren’t we? Maybe some who still have ties to al Qaeda. The attacks on 9/11 were a declaration of war, were they not? Should we consider them anything less? Are we really concerned about violating this accord by listening for or examining data for terror threats on our country? Will the UN protect America from harm? Do pigs fly?

    • #10
    • May 27, 2014, at 2:46 PM PDT
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  11. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Majestyk:

    We have the right to kill Afghans who align with the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda. You’re concerned about the tapping of phone calls in what is for all intents and purposes an occupied territory?

    Afghanistan is a county of 250,000 square miles with a population of 30,000,000. We have about 30,000 troops there. I wouldn’t call it an occupied country. Not occupied by us anyway.

    Look, we’re not talking about signals intelligence from specific known people, we’re talking about tapping and recording every phone call in the country. That’s a difference in scale.

    • #11
    • May 27, 2014, at 2:59 PM PDT
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  12. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Majestyk:

    Also this. Really? Where is that spelled out? I can’t find the word “privacy” anywhere in the Bill of Rights. It can’t be found anywhere in the text. The closest thing is the Fourth Amendment.

    The Fourth Amendment says:

    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.

    Well, when I asked about constitutionality, I was talking about the constitutionality of tapping the phones of an entire nation of people. But let’s talk about the 4th amendment for a moment. You added emphasis to the word unreasonable. Do you think its reasonable and record the calls of an entire nation?

    • #12
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:03 PM PDT
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  13. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Brian Watt:

    We are still under constant threat from terror attacks from bad actors in Afghanistan, aren’t we? 

    Excuse me, but are we?

    Under constant threat?
    From terror attacks?
    From bad actors in Afghanistan?

    I’m sorry, but with all due respect, each part of that breaks down. No, we, the we you used was we, the United States of America, “we were attacked”, are not under constant threat.

    No. Look, I’m sorry, but this kind of over-the-top rhetoric needs to be challenged. We were attacked thirteen years ago, by an organization that doesn’t really exist anymore, because everyone who was part of it is long dead.

    The leader who green lit and financed it is dead. The guy who planned it is in our island gulag. Everybody else is either dead or locked away. No, we are not under constant threat.

    • #13
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:10 PM PDT
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  14. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Brian Watt:

    “If anybody had any doubts, today the good people of WikiLeaks, who are doing God’s work, revealed that one of those countries is Afghanistan.”

    Really, Fred? Did you have an epiphany?

     It is a turn of phrase.

    • #14
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:11 PM PDT
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  15. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Majestyk:

    Are you also opposed to our nation possessing a credible anti-ballistic missile shield because it could in principle allow us to strike other nations with ICBMs with relative impunity?

    How does an anti-ballistic missile shield violate others’ human rights?

    • #15
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:14 PM PDT
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  16. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Majestyk:

     As to their human rights – this is war. We can’t vivisect them, but we can kill them, so monitoring their phone calls is weak tea.

    But see, we can’t kill them. We can target specific targets and kill those people. But we can’t carpet bomb the entire county. We can’t invade and slaughtered every individual in every city and hamlet.
    Yes, I suppose “this is war” so “we can kill them”, but not systematically, not ubiquitously, so your comparison kind of falls apart.

    • #16
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:17 PM PDT
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  17. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole

    Misthiocracy:

    Perhaps Mr. Cole is referring to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    I was not personally aware, however, that the UDHR was the last word on such matters.

    We used to care about things like that. The United States used to be the leader in world on human rights. We used to stand for the rights and dignity of the individual. Our Declaration of Independence, the aspirational document, the statement of our fundamental principles, was universal to all men.

    I suppose you’re right. I suppose we’re under no obligation to respect the human rights of individuals in other countries. But we’re supposed to be better than that.

    • #17
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:21 PM PDT
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  18. Mendel Member
    MendelJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fred, you do your argument no favors by conflating this issue with rights.

    As mentioned above, the Constitution does not protect foreigners living abroad, and the international definitions of rights are controversial to say the least. Your argument would be much stronger if you addressed the prudence of tapping an entire countrys phones, not the legality of it.

    And on the notion of prudence, I am inclined to agree with you, to an extent. I have no problem with tapping the phones of an entire country with which we are at war. I do have a problem, however, with the idea that we are still in a state of “war” with Afghanistan despite the fact that no one on either side can name a feasible objective or actionable criteria for victory.

    • #18
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:26 PM PDT
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  19. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Fred Cole:

    Well, when I asked about constitutionality, I was talking about the constitutionality of tapping the phones of an entire nation of people. But let’s talk about the 4th amendment for a moment. You added emphasis to the word unreasonable. Do you think its reasonable and record the calls of an entire nation?

    Yes. Especially when that nation is populated by howling Islamist savages. I’d be willing to bet that we’re doing something similar with Iran, North Korea and any other hot spot in the world.

    I also responded that those people have no reasonable expectation of protections offered to OUR citizens under OUR Constitution. They aren’t American Citizens and aren’t subject to our laws or jurisdiction. As to whether they have a right to be upset about it – they ought to petition their government to get us to stop. I would tell them: Good luck. The reason we’ve done this is because a) we feel like need to and b) because we can and there’s nothing they can do to stop us.

    If you wish to keep something private today you should write a letter.

    • #19
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:29 PM PDT
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  20. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Fred said:

    The United States used to be the leader in world on human rights. We used to stand for the rights and dignity of the individual. Our Declaration of Independence, the aspirational document, the statement of our fundamental principles, was universal to all men.

    I suppose you’re right. I suppose we’re under no obligation to respect the human rights of individuals in other countries. But we’re supposed to be better than that.

    To which I say: Bull.

    I frequently part company with many people on the Right who want to treat our history as a hagiography. This nation has done great and noble things. We’ve also done terrible and savage things – not with joy, but out of necessity.

    Do you think that the human rights of the citizens of Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Tokyo were the paramount concern of the men who planned and carried out the annihilation of those cities (not just in their names mind you, but in all of our names)?

    Your outrage over phone tapping is penny ante in comparison to some of the things this country has done which were spectacularly dreadful, yet nonetheless: Justifiable.

    • #20
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:34 PM PDT
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  21. Jason Rudert Member

    If we’re monitoring all these calls, when did it start? And if we’ve been doing it since a long time ago, why weren’t we any better at sorting out the bad guys from the normal people in Afghanistan?

    • #21
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:36 PM PDT
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  22. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Fred:

    How does an anti-ballistic missile shield violate others’ human rights?

    It doesn’t. And neither does tapping their phones. They both serve a similar purpose: the detection and prevention of mass-casualty attacks by foreigners upon Americans and our allies.

    That’s where your outrage falls apart. We probably don’t need to have as many troops on the ground because of our superior command and control, and yes – superior intelligence. There are plenty of places in Afghanistan where we don’t bother sending troops for a variety of reasons (I have this on good authority from an officer who recently returned) but we nonetheless know what is going on there without having boots on the ground. This is but one of the tools that enables that intelligence.

    • #22
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:41 PM PDT
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  23. Mendel Member
    MendelJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jason Rudert:

    If we’re monitoring all these calls, when did it start? And if we’ve been doing it since a long time ago, why weren’t we any better at sorting out the bad guys from the normal people in Afghanistan?

     It would be useful in these conversations if we could separate ethical from efficacious.

    Just because a tactic is ethical does not mean it will bring us any further. Yet arguments both for and against phone tapping (or waterboarding, or any other controversial methods) always conflate the two, and even use one as causality for the other.

    So for instance, I find waterboarding justifiable in some extreme situations – but I doubt that it is very useful against truly hardened ideological terrorists.

    • #23
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:43 PM PDT
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  24. Jason Rudert Member

    Also, @Majestyk, I agree with your arguments about our past, and @Fred, I don’t particularly feel like we’re under any obligation to be “better than this.” We’re not that nice of a country. However, when these things come up it makes me wonder:

    What else are they doing that we don’t know about?

    Is this just practice for when they start doing it here?
    What bothers me is that the only public discussion of these things, and whatever limits might be appropriate, or in line with whatever values we do have, only comes when Wikileaks ruptures our secrecy.

    • #24
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:44 PM PDT
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  25. Jason Rudert Member

    Mendel:

     

    It would be useful in these conversations if we could separate ethical from efficacious.

    Just because a tactic is ethical does not mean it will bring us any further. Yet arguments both for and against phone tapping (or waterboarding, or any other controversial methods) always conflate the two, and even use one as causality for the other.

    So for instance, I find waterboarding justifiable in some extreme situations – but I doubt that it is very useful against truly hardened ideological terrorists.

     I think the two should be conflated, at least somewhat. Because the argument that has been made by the security state since ’01 is that we have to exchange freedom, convenience, privacy, norms of decent behavior–and certainly piles and piles of money–in exchange for security. So what are we giving up, and what are we actually getting? If eleven years after 9/11, our government couldn’t stop Dzhokar Tsarnaev even though he all but had “terrorist” tattooed on his forehead, why all the new security measures? Because they sure aren’t any good for stopping terrorists>

    • #25
    • May 27, 2014, at 3:55 PM PDT
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  26. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    Fred Cole: Look, we’re not talking about signals intelligence from specific known people, we’re talking about tapping and recording every phone call in the country. That’s a difference in scale.

     But is it a moral difference? Your criticism has been couched in terms of morality.

    • #26
    • May 27, 2014, at 4:19 PM PDT
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  27. Barkha Herman Inactive

    I have a neighbor who has a daughter is one week older than my son. Throughout her K-12 years, she got to cut school on the drop of a hat. She is as intelligent and as diligent as my kids, but all through her life, she was taught (by actions not speech) to never place importance on education.

    She started college the same time as my son did, and pretty much dropped out in the first semester. She had some merit based grants from the state. All gone. The surprise to me was not that she dropped out (though I was disappointed), it was when the mother could not figure out why she did not value education?

    It’s the same with many conservative / Republicans. Liberty (including the right to privacy) is not an after thought. Our Government, under both parties in the recent past (only to set context) has treated liberty / privacy as a privilege. So, there are many in this country and abroad who do not buy the liberty rhetoric.

    An argument is not going to fix it. The lack of outrage over it is disheartening.

    • #27
    • May 27, 2014, at 4:22 PM PDT
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  28. Z in MT Member

    Yeah I am ok with it. I would be ok with it if we were monitoring all of Canada’s phone calls. I am also largely ok with the Snowden revealed activities of the NSA as long as the information is never used to prosecute or otherwise deny the rights and equal protection of US citizens. I do agree however that it is a very dangerous tool for the government to have, which means that we always have to be diligent in making sure the tool is not used improperly.

    • #28
    • May 27, 2014, at 4:47 PM PDT
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  29. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fred Cole:

    Brian Watt:

    We are still under constant threat from terror attacks from bad actors in Afghanistan, aren’t we?

    Excuse me, but are we?

    Under constant threat? From terror attacks? From bad actors in Afghanistan?

    I’m sorry, but with all due respect, each part of that breaks down. No, we, the we you used was we, the United States of America, “we were attacked”, are not under constant threat.

    No. Look, I’m sorry, but this kind of over-the-top rhetoric needs to be challenged. We were attacked thirteen years ago, by an organization that doesn’t really exist anymore, because everyone who was part of it is long dead.

    … No, we are not under constant threat.

    Silly me. I thought our military personnel in Afghanistan have still recently suffered casualties and injury from IEDs and occasional attacks on US personnel in the country in the last year or two. And you’re convinced that the Taliban in Afghanistan has no further links or ties with al Qaeda? On what do you base this?

    • #29
    • May 27, 2014, at 4:47 PM PDT
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  30. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fred Cole: Everybody else is either dead or locked away. No, we are not under constant threat.

     Then please tell the nice peace-loving people in Afghanistan to stop planting IEDs or firing on our troops. 

    Fred – I’m not sure what’s driving your outrage on this issue. Do you think that once we leave Afghanistan that there will be no need to monitor the communications in the country in any way? Should we just take their word that certan Afhani factions would never launch another attack against the United States, our allies or our interests either on our shores or in the region? Can you describe for us what measures, if any, you would engage in to monitor the factions within this country? I really am curious how you would deal with this. Or if you think we have absolutely nothing to fear from anyone in Afghanistan. 

    • #30
    • May 27, 2014, at 5:13 PM PDT
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