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[liberationtech] Spin alerts

Matthew Finkel matthew.finkel at
Mon Jun 10 21:28:26 PDT 2013

On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 11:03 PM, Todd Davies <davies at> wrote:

> Two issues that are tending to get conflated in the wider discourse about
> PRISM, Boundless Informant, etc. are:
> (1) Are these programs justifieid?
> (2) Was it justified to keep the existence of these programs secret?
> Snowden has said his primary judgment was about question (2), but
> proponents of surveillance are acting as if all we need to address is (1).
> This is an important distinction because even conservatives like David
> Brooks have said they think the existence of these programs should be
> public knowledge ("The secrecy of the program was a mistake. I agree with
> that." -**bb/politics/jan-june13/**
> politicalwrap_06-07.html#**transcript<>).
> How can this "mistake" be corrected without whistleblowers like Snowden,
> when Congressional oversight is as deferential as it is?
> On (1), there is a poll out today that focuses just on phone records,
> which the Washington Post headline summarizes as "Most Americans back NSA
> tracking phone records, prioritize probes over privacy" (
> http://www.washingtonpost.**com/politics/most-americans-**
> support-nsa-tracking-phone-**records-prioritize-**
> investigations-over-privacy/**2013/06/10/51e721d6-d204-11e2-**
> 9f1a-1a7cdee20287_story.html<>
> ).
> But once you read it, you see that these opinions depend heavily on
> whether the respondent's own party is in power:
> "In early 2006, 37 percent of Democrats found the agency’s activities
> acceptable; now nearly twice that number — 64 percent — say the use of
> telephone records is okay. By contrast, Republicans slumped from 75
> percent acceptable to 52 percent today."
> So rather than looking at overall public support at a given time, a better
> number to look at when assessing public support is the one from people
> whose party does not control the White House, averaged across different
> parties, which puts support well below 50% in this case. People don't get
> to remove the effects of their support for surveillance when presidents
> they don't trust take power.
> Todd

An interesting statistic will be the long-term outcome of this. The cat's
out of the bag regarding (2), and public opinion of (1) appears to vary,
but will the public's opinion now change because the idea is no longer
hyperbole and paranoia? And will this be true regardless of on which side
of the isle you expect your representative to sit?

Also, to whom and by what standards are these programs "justified"? We can
all hypothesize the reasoning that is being used: known terrorists,
suspected terrorist, enemies of the state, etc. But this is another piece
of the puzzle that is still secret. Sure, it's all in the interest of
national security, but we really have no idea where this line is drawn.
"Dianne Feinstein...went to the FISA court and asked that the FISA court
report more frequently, or at all, on what it is doing...and the court
refused. So, Clapper said that she's now asked him to report within a month
on ways where they could narrow the scope of what they're vacuuming up,
without hurting national security" says Andrea Mitchell. [0] I'm not
holding my breath. Note, also, that these requests are not regarding the
same subject matter. "What are you doing?" vs. "Tell us how can you 'spy'
less given that we don't know what you're doing." Great.

Remember, don't falsely yell "TERRORIST!" in a crowded theater, the
consequences could be worse than yelling "fire". [1]

[0] via Gregory Foster
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