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Spying On THe Home Front

  1. May 16, 2007 #1
    PBS Frontline opend the whole can of worms last night, with Spying On The Home Front.

    If I thought this massive domestic surveillance program would work I could accept it.

    From my point of view the current methods being used to collect information needed to prevent a terrorist act includes too much room for human error and abuse.

    The program may be viewed on-line. It is conviently available in short segements.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/homefront/view/
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2007 #2
    Last edited: May 17, 2007
  4. May 17, 2007 #3
    the program shows quite well how much more power has been given to the federal government in regards to monitor the activities of the population. it seems strange to me though the number of people who have an attitude of "im not a terrorist, so i have no reason to be concern if the government monitors my phone and tracks where i go". the reason why these practices by government were restricted was because the government abused these powers, yet somehow the current government is considered to be moral and competent enough to not abuse these powers.

    how outrageous would it be if the attorney generals fired by alberto gonzales were fired because of an anti-bush agenda they expressed on a monitored phone?
     
  5. May 17, 2007 #4
    They are involved in total data mining. They know how much money you owe on credit cards, how much money you have in the bank, and what kind of car you drive.

    TIA was refused funding by congress and was slammed by the DOD Inspector General, so where is it now? It is a dark program within the NSA.

    http://foi.missouri.edu/totalinfoaware/2004-033.pdf
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2007
  6. May 17, 2007 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Recently I talked about this with my brother-in-law who is a big Bush supporter, and he explained it all to me. You see, as long as my life has not been directly affected, I shouldn't worry about it.
     
  7. May 17, 2007 #6

    Does your brother in law realise that if ChoicePoint loses a computer disk someone in Nigeria may end up using his credit card to make a donation to Hillary Clinton.:biggrin:
     
  8. May 18, 2007 #7

    russ_watters

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    That doesn't make a whole lot of sense and we've had this discussion enough times that you should at least understand the opposing point of view by now. That says, there are always people who support issues from afar. It is the same phenomena as NIMBYism. From the article:
    Why does that change anything? The guy knows he did nothing wrong and was simply part of a data-mining operation that ultimately would simply ignore him, so what is the problem? But a counterexample...

    I just so happen to have a good personal (and much more direct than data mining) example of this issue that I'd be interested in hearing opinions about how people would act in the same scenario:

    I've had a land-line in my house for 8 months now and ever since I got it, I've been getting phone calls from creditors of the previous owner of the number. They have largely died-down (due partly to me calling the companies and telling them to desist). I've also received perhaps two dozen messages (I'm never home when they call) from a caller (I think it is always the same one) from Jordan. Usually it is once every other week or so, but after getting three in one week a few weeks ago, I had Verizon trace the call. I think I did the trace a couple of days before that terrorist cell was rolled-up in NJ, but called them to follow-up a day or two after.

    After talking to Verizon, I called the FBI, then sent them an email with a description of what happened and sound clips of four of the messages for translation/analysis. I haven't heard back from them.

    My primary motivation for pursuing this was just getting the calls to stop, but they made me vaguely uneasy - you'd think after 6 months or so, they'd figure out they had the wrong number. I do, after all, identify myself (in English) in the outgoing message. Perhaps it is a criminal (well - at the very least, the owner of my phone number was a deadbeat) who thinks the outgoing message is a cover. Perhaps it is a parent looking for a lost (adult) child. Either way, I consider it worthy of investigation.

    I don't necessarily expect to hear back from the FBI unless they want to confiscate my answering machine, but if they translated it and found something interesting, I may already have a tap on my phone line. I'm fine with that - I all but invited them to do it in my email. So this opens me up to whatever Big Brother-ist potential abuses you guys are afraid of. I've been explicit in other threads and I really mean what I say: If the FBI thinks it would be helpful, they are more than welcome to tap my phone and besides curiosity, I don't care if they tell me or not. I have nothing to hide and nothing/no reason to fear. The vague big-brother-ism fears people talk about here are just not something that I'm concerned about. A large part of the reason for that is because of how unimportant I am. devil-fire mentioned the Gonzales issue - powerful people use their resources to go after powerful people. They have no reason to use them to go after me. I'm so unimportant, they don't even know who I am.

    Bottom line - don't assume that everyone is a squeamish as you are about this issue but just isn't thinking broadly about how they'd react to being in that situation. Clearly (from the quote in the article) some people are like that, but not all. There are people who think through the issues and act according to what they believe.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2007
  9. May 18, 2007 #8

    russ_watters

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    Something else from the article:
    Naive, emotional hippie crap. It has always been not just allowable but prudent to check everyone in many, many places/situations. Every bank you've been to in the past few decades has a dozen cameras tracking your every move and a Most Wanted poster for the staff to check your face against.

    Just because you exist and someone in law enforcement has looked at you, does not make you a suspect and regardless of the right to privacy in private, you certainly do not have a right to privacy in public. Eventually, the question of the FBI getting information from people like hotel managers will be moot, though. The traditional method of observation (beat cops) will be replaced by cameras performing the exact same task, but orders of magnitude more effectively. There won't be any need for the FBI to ask all the hotels in Vegas for guest lists - their cameras on the street will tell them everyone who stayed at the time they are interested in.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2007
  10. May 18, 2007 #9

    BobG

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    Ironically, if they pursued an anti-Bush agenda (or a pro-Bush agenda) as a US attorney, then they would deserve to be fired. There's no escaping a political influence completely, but the DoJ should be the least political branch of US government.

    This alone is reason enough to worry about giving too much power to whoever currently is in power. It may be more creative than taking your political opponents behind the barn and shooting them, but end result is still the same. You don't want to rely just on the integrity of people elected to office. There's a likelihood that you'll eventually get a person in office lacking in integrity.

    If all it takes to stay in power is to lack the integrity to refrain from abusing power, you're guaranteed to eventually wind up stuck forever with leaders that lack integrity.

    The rest, I'm always a little undecided on. There isn't a very rational reason for the average person to worry about the government following their daily activities if they're not doing something illegal or unethical, but the thought that they could is kind of unsettling. It almost raises a person's responsibility to make sure they carefully document their own activities just in case the government doesn't. Look how many murder suspects are freed as a more complete picture (via DNA evidence) is finally revealed. Mainly, it just raises an uncomfortable feeling of having your privacy invaded, whether that emotion is particularly rational or not.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2007
  11. May 18, 2007 #10

    russ_watters

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    Yes: I don't think Bush should have the power to order wire-taps (does he?), but I think my local FBI office should.
     
  12. May 18, 2007 #11

    russ_watters

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    Yes, it appears to me that the primary objection is simple emotional discomfort. IMO, that isn't a good enough reason to do/not do something like this.
     
  13. May 18, 2007 #12
    My position on this all along is that there is no guarantee that total data mining will work. It certainly didn't work in Las Vegas. Being this close to the ever increasing violence on the border I feel that I am more likely to be killed by a Mexican drug dealer than by a terrorist.

    This data mining is a "feel good" for the NSA, but IMO they are trying to do too much. They bought a lemon.

    In the end, there was no threat to Las Vegas. The whole thing came about due to an agency or possibly a civilian employee, making a mistake.

    I know, I Know, I can only assume someone made a mistake since the government agencies aren't disclosing anything except that there was no threat, but it is the only logical conclusion.
     
  14. May 23, 2007 #13
    The NSA and CIA should have the power to do whatever they want as long as they don't get caught in the act.
     
  15. May 23, 2007 #14
    you mean no moral limits?
     
  16. May 23, 2007 #15
    I mean do whatever it takes to get the job done. If they have to break the law, they should do it, but if they get caught of course they should have to answer to the law.

    The golden rule of the CIA: DON'T GET CAUGHT!
     
  17. May 23, 2007 #16

    russ_watters

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    I don't like calling it a mistake. It was a tip that didn't pan-out. I rather suspect upwards of 90% of all crime tips (such as mine, perhaps...) don't pan-out. So that isn't a good reason not to do it unless it virtually never succeeds.
     
  18. May 24, 2007 #17
    I was hesitant to use the word mistake. So I stated: "I can only assume that someone made a mistake." Of course, that could have been the wrong assumption. Regardless, there was a tremendous response to a false alarm.

    The whole scenario started with an assumed threat of a dirty bomb. The link below describes the nation wide response to the situation. The people called out to search for a dirty bomb did do a magnificent job.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A60519-2004Jan6?language=printer

    We are faced with the problem that al Qaeda has the capability of planting erroneous information. The current system will have to react to every instance of "electronic chatter". I do hope that the NSA has refined their methods a bit since the 04 New Years incident.

    I still have no confidence in the privately operated (Total Information Awareness) data mining concept.
     
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