Tuesday, June 3, 2014

#155 / Honey, I Shrunk The NSA

During Winter Quarter 2014, I taught a Legal Studies Class at UCSC, focusing on "Privacy, Technology, and Freedom." We read two federal trial court cases that examined the constitutionality of the NSA's massive data collection program, as that program has been revealed to the public by the document disclosures of Edward Snowden. 

One of the cases we studied concluded that the NSA's program of getting access to the metadata related to all telephone calls made within the United States is unconstitutional. The other case concluded that the program is legal and proper. Ultimately, it might be expected that the United States Supreme Court would decide which decision is correct. 

In the meantime, however, Congress has been considering action, and depending on the nature of any legislation ultimately adopted, the new and amended law might let the Supreme Court off the hook. Senator Dianne Feinstein has carried a bill that was generally thought to do nothing to restrict the NSA (and that, in fact, would seem to give it additional powers to spy on American citizens). A bill carried by Representative James Sensenbrenner was thought actually to impose some new limits. 

In an editorial in their Thursday, May 22, 2014 edition, The Wall Street Journal trumpets its approval of a projected vote in the House of Representatives, a vote that will, "after all surveillance hullabaloo ... [do] only minor damage to national security."

What The Journal means is that Congress will not restrict the ability of the NSA to collect data on everything we do. In fact, as The Journal notes, the government may be able to "construe the new selector language broadly and enable more spying."

That seems to be great news to The Wall Street Journal, and the title on their editorial is intended to be ironic: "Honey, I Shrunk The NSA [NOT]."

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