From one eye-opening read to another. Bruce Schneier writes that Chris Soghoian of the ACLU explains why the current Patriot Act section 215 reform debate means virtually nothing thanks to countless other authorities and methodologies the intelligence community uses to spy on American citizens:
There were 180 orders authorized last year by the FISA Court under Section 215 — 180 orders issued by this court. Only five of those orders relate to the telephony metadata program. There are 175 orders about completely separate things. In six weeks, Congress will either reauthorize this statute or let it expire, and we’re having a debate — to the extent we’re even having a debate — but the debate that’s taking place is focused on five of the 180, and there’s no debate at all about the other 175 orders.
Now, Senator Wyden has said there are other bulk collection programs targeted at Americans that the public would be shocked to learn about. We don’t know, for example, how the government collects records from Internet providers. We don’t know how they get bulk metadata from tech companies about Americans. We don’t know how the American government gets calling card records.
If we take General Hayden at face value — and I think you’re an honest guy — if the purpose of the 215 program is to identify people who are calling Yemen and Pakistan and Somalia, where one end is in the United States, your average Somali-American is not calling Somalia from their land line phone or their cell phone for the simple reason that AT&T will charge them $7.00 a minute in long distance fees. The way that people in the diaspora call home — the way that people in the Somali or Yemeni community call their family and friends back home — they walk into convenience stores and they buy prepaid calling cards. That is how regular people make international long distance calls.
So the 215 program that has been disclosed publicly, the 215 program that is being debated publicly, is about records to major carriers like AT&T and Verizon. We have not had a debate about surveillance requests, bulk orders to calling card companies, to Skype, to voice over Internet protocol companies. Now, if NSA isn’t collecting those records, they’re not doing their job. I actually think that that’s where the most useful data is. But why are we having this debate about these records that don’t contain a lot of calls to Somalia when we should be having a debate about the records that do contain calls to Somalia and do contain records of e-mails and instant messages and searches and people posting inflammatory videos to YouTube?
Certainly the government is collecting that data, but we don’t know how they’re doing it, we don’t know at what scale they’re doing it, and we don’t know with which authority they’re doing it. And I think it is a farce to say that we’re having a debate about the surveillance authority when really, we’re just debating this very narrow usage of the statute.
People like Chris are highly important to the work being done to prevent further violations of American freedoms and privacy. Although al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden lost the battle, it seems they have won the war against the American way of life.
Americans have been brainwashed into believing this surveillance is helping catch terrorists when it fact it has had virtually zero impact on thwarting any tangible terror plots.