Inside the Expanding Panopticon: Covert Legal Interpretation and Mass Surveillance

Presidio Modelo

Cuba's Presidio Modelo. Photo: Friman (CC)

Via the Internet Chronicle:

Government secrecy faced major public scrutiny this month, as a former National Security Agency mathematician’s claims to all-encompassing government surveillance did not line up with the NSA director’s public statements; and the American Civil Liberties Union found itself embroiled in controversies associated with what it contends are abuses of power by the executive branch, as well as local law enforcement.

Last month the American Civil Liberties Union asked for clarification of the meaning of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. DailyKos Blogger Joan McCarter writes: “The provision in question, [Section] 215, allows the government to gain access to records of citizens’ activities being held by a third party. It gives the FBI the power to force doctors, libraries, bookstores, universities and internet service providers, for example, to turn over records on their clients or customers.”

In a March letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, FBI’s special counsel Paul Colborn said, “We have searched the [Office of Legal Counsel's] files and found two documents that are responsive to your request. We are withholding the documents pursuant to [Freedom of Information Act] Exemption Five, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5). They are protected by the deliberative process privilege, and they are not appropriate for discretionary release.”

While the Obama administration feels that the public is entitled to an understanding of public law, its Department of Justice has said it does not feel that the public is entitled to a full understanding of its own interpretation of public law it enforces.

Alleged National Security Agency Surveillance of Virtually All Domestic Citizen Communications

A former senior NSA mathematician, William Binney, spoke to Democracy Now! and expounded upon claims he made to Wired magazine last month. Mr. Binney told Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. He said that “that [secret interpretation of Patriot Act Section 215] gives [the NSA] license to take all the commercially held data about us, which is exceedingly dangerous, because if you take that and put it into forms of graphing, which is building relationships or social networks for everybody, and then you watch it over time, you can build up knowledge about everyone in the country. And having that knowledge then allows them the ability to concoct all kinds of charges, if they want to target you.”

Read more at the Internet Chronicle

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  • Bags Groove

    Panopticon = Foucauldian social analysis.

    Michel Foucault = 99% Bullshit.

    • Andrew

      How’d you calculate that percentage?

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