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?

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  1. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Brian Watt:

    Fred – These people are either incredibly naive or deliberately dangerous. They either live in a fantasy world where nations don’t have designs to cripple or destroy this country or its allies by supporting acts of terror and allowing terrorists to flourish within their borders; or WikiLeaks is a covert KGB operation.

    More jujitsu there.  You’re playing loose and fast.  Now you’ve just conflated the nation of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and the KGB.

    One can accept that we live in a dangerous world but also accept that the mass violation of human rights that our government is perpetrating and the drone war this is enabling, is monstrously immoral. 

    • #61
  2. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Fred Cole:
    ….and the drone war this is enabling, is monstrously immoral.

    A bit off topic, but also stupidly self defeating.  The blood of the martyrs etc. 

    • #62
  3. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Fred Cole:

    Brian Watt:

    Fred – These people are either incredibly naive or deliberately dangerous. They either live in a fantasy world where nations don’t have designs to cripple or destroy this country or its allies by supporting acts of terror and allowing terrorists to flourish within their borders; or WikiLeaks is a covert KGB operation.

    More jujitsu there. You’re playing loose and fast. Now you’ve just conflated the nation of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and the KGB.

    One can accept that we live in a dangerous world but also accept that the mass violation of human rights that our government is perpetrating and the drone war this is enabling, is monstrously immoral.

     You can call it “conflating,” but I’d call it “connecting the dots.”  

    • #63
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    “Afghanistan” is not even a nation. It is a geographic region with a city-state that is told is rules it. It is a Western Construct.

    All nations are sovereign, but some are more sovereign than others. If they don’t like it, they can stop us. If they cannot stop us, tough cookies. We have the power  to *end* Islamic terrorism forever, but the cost in lives  of “the other” is higher than the Republic will endure. Yet you fret over phone tapping that only lets us find and kill mostly bad guys.

    You should rejoice that because of phone taps, we can find the right people to kill, and kill them with far less damage to innocents. Instead, you bitch about it like a highschool freshman worried about perfect morals.

    • #64
  5. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    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.

     This kind of over the top rhetoric needs to be challenged…

    • #65
  6. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    My opinion on this is simple:  the middle east is now, and ever shall be, a breeding ground for terrorists.  Somewhere in the 90s we stopped really paying attention to that.  Well, in fairness, it would seem that sometimes we pay attention, and sometimes we don’t.  In retrospect, we didn’t need a war, we just needed to pay attention.  We pay attention by using every tool we have to find out what is going on, and when, by whom, and put a stop to it.  Since we are today unwilling, it seems, to use bad guys to get our information, we tap everyone.  We have collectively agreed that we can’t profile anyone, which means we treat everyone as a potential terrorist.  I say lets go back to the old way.

    • #66
  7. user_7742 Inactive
    user_7742
    @BrianWatt

    Fred – You take it as a given that the use of drones is “monstrously immoral” but you’ve not made a compelling case for that. And monitoring communications is also immoral even if we have reason to believe that some in Afghanistan or other “victim” countries still have ties to terrorists. As a result you’re willing to concede that your own government is guilty of what? Monstrous evil? And therefore this justifies the purloining and publishing of classified military and intelligence material by those who wish to see America brought to heel in international courts? This righteous indignation that you have is misplaced. You may want to direct it at those who wish to bring America to its knees or eliminate it altogether.

    If you’ve read anything about how the Soviets used to feed and reward sympathetic Americans with the Party line to help spread their propaganda from the 1930s on, then you’ll note some stark similarities in the way the Wikileaks article is written. It reeks of Soviet-style propaganda that millions of young, naive Americans bought into wholesale. I’m not saying Wikileaks is a KGB (now FIS) operation…but it sure smells like one.

    • #67
  8. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Brian Watt:

    Fred –…

    If you’ve read anything about how the Soviets used to feed and reward sympathetic Americans with the Party line to help spread their propaganda from the 1930s on, then you’ll note some stark similarities in the way the Wikileaks article is written. It reeks of Soviet-style propaganda that millions of young, naive Americans bought into wholesale. I’m not saying Wikileaks is a KGB operation…but it sure smells like one.

    and a lot of old, naive Americans, too.  If Wikileaks is not a KGB operation, the KGB (or the FSB, or whatever you choose to call it) is lovin’ it.

    • #68
  9. user_7742 Inactive
    user_7742
    @BrianWatt

    Sandy:

    Brian Watt:

    Fred –…

    If you’ve read anything about how the Soviets used to feed and reward sympathetic Americans with the Party line to help spread their propaganda from the 1930s on, then you’ll note some stark similarities in the way the Wikileaks article is written. It reeks of Soviet-style propaganda that millions of young, naive Americans bought into wholesale. I’m not saying Wikileaks is a KGB operation…but it sure smells like one.

    and a lot of old, naive Americans, too. If Wikileaks is not a KGB operation, the KGB (or the FSB, or whatever you choose to call it) is lovin’ it.

     The letterheads have changed. The mission hasn’t. 

    • #69
  10. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Yep, I’m okay with it.

    • #70
  11. user_961 Member
    user_961
    @DuaneOyen

    If the personal privacy zealotry lobby had been around in 1939, we would have lost WWII.  This stuff is so tiring that real people don’t pay any attention to it, because it fails to allow for legitimate- and the GWOT is indeed legitimate- national security concerns.  

    These are issues because we don’t trust the Administration, not because the program (for Afghanistan?  That’s a problem?  Are you kidding me?) is evil. 

    Libertarians are not taken seriously because they have no sense of perspective whatever- everything seems to be black and white.  A shame, because we do need to exercise a proper watchdog role on the bureaucracy.

    • #71
  12. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    OK, sorry for coming to the debate late. I’m going to make a comment without reading the proceeding 71 comments.

    This is a direct response to Fred’s original post: Why do you think that Afghanis are entitled to privacy from American spy agencies?

    Seriously. Wikileaks is doing “God’s work”?!

    [Edited for CoC]

    • #72
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Fred Cole:

    Misthiocracy:

    Perhaps Mr. Cole is referring to 

    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.

     The US has never been much invested in the UDHR, a corrupt bargain with Stalin. The whole government funded maternity leave stuff just isn’t what America thinks of as a human right, and it never really pretended, perhaps excepting a brief moment in the 1970s when it became appealing to embarrass the Soviets.

    America cares about Constitutional rights, to a degree unparalleled on Earth (maybe excepting Japan). Those don’t apply here. America also cares about human welfare and promotes the kind of good that evil megalomaniacs like Assange oppose, like protection from totalitarian abuse. 

    • #73
  14. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Fred Cole:

    Brian Watt:

    Fred – These people are either incredibly naive or deliberately dangerous. They either live in a fantasy world where nations don’t have designs to cripple or destroy this country or its allies by supporting acts of terror and allowing terrorists to flourish within their borders; or WikiLeaks is a covert KGB operation.

    More jujitsu there. You’re playing loose and fast. Now you’ve just conflated the nation of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and the KGB.

    I don’t share Fred’s objection, but I do think that this is a poor formulation. There’s no reason to choose between WikiLeaks being a Russian operation and their believing insane things. Recall the last time round when Rothbard and pals supported the Soviet Union against the US. You can work for the Russians on the basis of deluded beliefs. 

    Fred, for instance, shares and supports Russian propagandists, because Fred is a Libertarian, and some Libertarians are Russian stooges (along with some Paleocons). Fred cannot see that Assange enabling Islamofascistic murders of innocents simultaneously supports Putin, the Taliban, and AQ, so he assumes that any such a union must be a rhetorical trick.

    • #74
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    “Afghanistan” is not even a nation. It is a geographic region with a city-state that is told is rules it. It is a Western Construct. 

    Afghanistan is not a Western Construct. Since Afghanistan revolted against Persian rule in 1709, at which point it had no Western neighbors, there is precisely one Western nation that has significantly impacted its borders, and that was the UK when it took a large chunk of Afghanistan and made it Pakistan.

    We have the power to *end* Islamic terrorism forever, but the cost in lives of “the other” is higher than the Republic will endure. Yet you fret over phone tapping that only lets us find and kill mostly bad guys.

     I don’t know what this means, but killing Afghans will never suffice to end Islamic terrorism, because many Islamic terrorists are not Afghans. Killing all Afghans, and all Saudis, and all Iraqis, and all Emiratis, and all Egyptians, and all Iranians, committing many, many holocausts worth of slaughter, would not end Islamic terrorism because many Islamic terrorists are not Afghan, Saudi, Iraqi, Emirati, Egyptian, or Iranian. The two things we can do are mitigate destructive ability (Iran’s nukes and AQ’s organization) and win hearts and minds. 

    • #75
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    Fred Cole: ….and the drone war this is enabling, is monstrously immoral.

    A bit off topic, but also stupidly self defeating. The blood of the martyrs etc.

     Drone warfare reduces the number of martyrs below traditional air strikes and missiles. It creates more than we’d create if we captured and interrogated more people, but it seems like the minimum cost for saving lives that exists within the current political reality. 
    As evidence that it works, take a look at Somalia, where the War on Terror is going magnificently. It turns out that there, violence, both drone and conventional, while shedding an awful lot of martyred blood, has been pretty non-self-defeating. 

    Alternatively, watch Nigeria, where it seems likely that US drones will be helpful to the government in quelling their revolt. 

    In some instances, drones have caused tremendous outrage, such as in Pakistan. I don’t know if you’d ban Somali drones, or only Pakistani drones, but I’m curious about what non-stupid alternative you’d replace them with. 
    Incidentally, if you come away from your reading with the belief that those highly learned and experienced individuals who disagree must do so because of stupidity, perhaps rethink your reading.

    • #76
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Fred Cole:

    Brian Watt:

    most of the intelligence community, the military and the national security experts disagree with you.

    If the intelligence community, the military and the national security experts disagree with me, then it sounds like I’m onto something.

    Because if the last decade is an indicator, they are all terrible at what they do.

     During the last decade, almost every serious terrorist plot against the US has been foiled, and innumerable foreign plots. The enemy has metamorphosed incredibly fast (ethnically, ideologically, and geographically), making human intelligence very hard to come by, but when the conflict has remained still, America has achieved some wonderful things, partly through superior intelligence. This helped a lot, for instance, with the Awakening. 

    Zafar:

    Well I hope whoever’s listening really understands Dari and Pashto this time…..

    (That’s another question. Who’s listening? US citizens? Pakistani mercenaries?)

     Not every enemy of civilization in Afghanistan is a local. Some of the important stuff is still in Arabic, and other languages (Sadly, sometimes English, although generally with superfluous “u”s. Still, yes, you’d hope that the last decade has increased the number of Pashto speakers. Happily, it’s my understanding that it has. 

    • #77
  18. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Salvatore Padula:

    Majestyk: Stop me if I’m wrong, but are you equating the indefinite detention of illegal combatants (as defined by the Geneva Convention, being as you like international treaties) to the treatment of dissenters in the Soviet Union with this jab? The Gulag wasn’t peopled by terrorists. It was peopled by political prisoners.

    Just wanted to second this point.

     I’d like to complain that it doesn’t go far enough. Guantanamo is marked by an extremely high level of solicitude for the welfare of its inmates, with many doctors and considerable medical resources backed up with large numbers of staff who devote considerable energies to protecting inmates from each other and otherwise guarding them from harm. They are treated in many respects far better than the average American is treated by his government. 

    The Gulags were not places where freedom of movement was restricted, but where the welfare of inmates was highly protected compared to the average Soviet citizen. That was the rest of the USSR (since the Gulags brought the average down). In the Gulag, GITMO concerns about the size of daily chocolate bar rations might have seemed like first world problems. 

    • #78
  19. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Majestyk: Also this.  Really?  Where is that spelled out?  I can’t find the word “privacy” anywhere in the Bill of Rights.

    I think the claim that, because the Constitution does not mention a right it does not exist, is wrongheaded.  Wasn’t the Constitution written to protect extant natural rights?  And, isn’t there a Ninth Amendment (I don’t care what Robert Bork said about it, or was that the Tenth)?

    I argued (tried, anyway) in http://ricochet.com/the-ninth-amendment-guarantees-an-indeterminate-sequence-of-rights/ that the Ninth protects an indeterminately-long list of individual rights.  You’d have to show that you can derive a right to privacy from the other rights, but it seems reasonable to me that this could be done.

    • #79
  20. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    In my opinion, one’s right to privacy rarely extends to electrons or photons that one transmits over wires that one does not own, and definitely does not extend to broadcasted radio signals.

    This is precisely why I use encryption as much as I can.

    • #80
  21. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Misthiocracy: This is precisely why I use encryption as much as I can.

    A hert asj haag tera T&3dH

    That never works out for me on Ricochet.  It usually gives me a 504 or a CoC.

    • #81
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Arahant:

    Misthiocracy: This is precisely why I use encryption as much as I can.

    A hert asj haag tera T&3dH

    That never works out for me on Ricochet. It usually gives me a 504 or a CoC.

    Well, Ricochet is not an SSL-enabled website. However, I do route my traffic to Ricochet through proxies, and of course I post using a pseudonym.

    • #82
  23. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Owen Findy:

    I argued (tried, anyway) in http://ricochet.com/the-ninth-amendment-guarantees-an-indeterminate-sequence-of-rights/ that the Ninth protects an indeterminately-long list of individual rights. You’d have to show that you can derive a right to privacy from the other rights, but it seems reasonable to me that this could be done.

     I would argue that you have a reasonable expectation of being left to the quiet enjoyment of your property or place of dwelling free from unreasonable government intrusion or bother by other people.

    The distinction I would draw is this: If you had a “right” to privacy, and were disrobing in front of your open window, the government would have to turn the head of any passersby away from your glorious, naked body.  As it is, people are free to look at what is presented to them in the form of electromagnetic radiation which leaves your home.  You are of course free to close the blinds.  Or build a Faraday Cage into your home to prevent leakage of electromagnetic signals.

    That doesn’t mean that a telescope is strictly speaking, fair game – but somebody has to catch you peeping first.

    • #83
  24. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Majestyk: I would argue that you have a reasonable expectation of being left to the quiet enjoyment of your property or place of dwelling free from unreasonable government intrusion or bother by other people. The distinction I would draw is this: If you had a “right” to privacy, and were disrobing in front of your open window, the government would have to turn the head of any passersby away from your glorious, naked body.

    Agreed. Any “right to privacy” is akin to the “right to pursue happiness”.

    Happiness is not guaranteed, only your pursuit of it.

    Privacy is not guaranteed, only your right to safeguard it. i.e. You have a right to close your blinds. You have a right to encrypt your signals. You have a right to route traffic through a proxy. Etc.

    All that being said, I still oppose telecom companies being forced to turn data over to the government. The data is the legal property of the company, IMHO, and should be protected from expropriation.

    In the case of recording foreign telephone calls, I could be persuaded that the telecom companies affected should have the right to sue, according to whatever anti-hacking statutes they have.

    • #84
  25. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Misthiocracy: In my opinion, one’s right to privacy rarely extends to electrons or photons that one transmits over wires that one does not own, and definitely does not extend to broadcasted radio signals.

    Hmmm, only wondering aloud; no idea whether this makes sense:  could the signal — the pattern which is born by the physical medium, but which is not the medium itself, but is the message created by the person speaking or texting — be owned by the person who created it?

    If so, maybe it’s reasonable to think that it ought to be — even though it seems not currently to be — protected by a system of rights and laws.

    • #85
  26. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Owen Findy:

    Majestyk:

    I think the claim that, because the Constitution does not mention a right it does not exist, is wrongheaded. Wasn’t the Constitution written to protect extant natural rights? And, isn’t there a Ninth Amendment (I don’t care what Robert Bork said about it, or was that the Tenth)?

    I argued (tried, anyway) in http://ricochet.com/the-ninth-amendment-guarantees-an-indeterminate-sequence-of-rights/ that the Ninth protects an indeterminately-long list of individual rights. You’d have to show that you can derive a right to privacy from the other rights, but it seems reasonable to me that this could be done.

     “I can imagine that someone might be able to argue something like X” is quite a long way from “This is why X is true”. Generally the 9th Privacy advocates get as far as the 4th Amendment and stop. There simply isn’t much of a right to privacy in scripture, canon law, Blackstone, or the other sources of rights pre-existing the Constitution. When “secret” or “clandestine”  appears in pre-Constitutional law, it usually denotes not a protected, but a prohibited activity.

    • #86
  27. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Albert Arthur:

    OK, sorry for coming to the debate late. I’m going to make a comment without reading the proceeding 71 comments.

    This is a direct response to Fred’s original post: Why do you think that Afghanis are entitled to privacy from American spy agencies?

    Seriously. Wikileaks is doing “God’s work”?!

    [Edited for CoC]

     What?! It’s a violation of the Code of Conduct to ask Fred what side he’s on?

    I want to know. What side is Fred on?

    I had also asked him what the [apparently an expletive…the one the starts with an “H”] was the matter with him.

    • #87
  28. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    Drone warfare reduces the number of martyrs below traditional air strikes and missiles. It creates more than we’d create if we captured and interrogated more people, but it seems like the minimum cost for saving lives that exists within the current political reality.

      

    I’m sure you’re right, but when it comes to winning hearts and minds that’s like being a little bit pregnant – the baby is still on its way.

    I wonder if winning hearts and minds is a realistic goal, in these circumstances.

    • #88
  29. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England
    Not every enemy of civilization in Afghanistan is a local.  

    Indeed!

    • #89
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Zafar: I wonder if winning hearts and minds is a realistic goal, in these circumstances.

     I’d settle for fear and respect.

    • #90
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