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[liberationtech] Why we can't go back to business as usual post-PRISM.

Aaron Greenspan greensp at stanford.edu
Mon Jun 10 00:03:20 PDT 2013


All,

I am still trying to digest the full significance of everything that has been disclosed and discussed in the past 72 hours, but the issues that I keep coming back to in my head, and which I will likely write more about, are:

1. This scandal, and the financial crisis that happened not long after it really began, represent major situations where all three branches of government failed, both in their own capacities, and in their role as checks on the other branches of government.
2. President Obama's defense of PRISM as being court-sanctioned, "entirely consistent with what we would do, for example, in a criminal investigation," is so blatantly disingenuous that it truly staggers me. Criminal investigations do not take place in secret courts that issue secret orders. Some do involve documents under seal, but to argue, as Obama did, that the FISC is just like any other court is just wrong. Secondly, (and I have read this point elsewhere), his implication that members of Congress should have just spoken up if they were concerned, when doing so would have been considered a crime of the highest order, is unbelievable. (If you missed it, his speech on PRISM is transcribed here: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/06/07/transcript-what-obama-said-on-nsa-controversy/.)

Generally, I am not surprised by any of this. I, like many, already knew that Palantir does work for the NSA, that the NSA oversteps its reach regularly, and that government is severely broken. I don't have a cell phone and never have, this type of scenario being a major reason why.

But to hear the President of the United States--and not George W. Bush--defend such brazenly unconstitutional activities is deeply, deeply disturbing to me, and leaves me feeling as though the nation has finally completed its slide into a larger-than-average third-world autocracy, run by small-minded men who mainly fear the unknown. Given that I'm a person who asks a lot of questions, it makes me incredibly anxious knowing for certain that I live there.

Aaron


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