U.S. Senate panel passes plan to continue mass surveillance; Apple, other tech firms, civil-liberties groups oppose

“The Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation on Thursday that would tighten controls on the government’s sweeping electronic eavesdropping programs but allow them to continue,” Patricia Zengerle and Joseph Menn report for Reuters. “In a classified hearing, the panel voted 11-4 for a measure that puts new limits on what intelligence agencies can do with bulk communications records and imposes a five-year limit on how long they can be retained.”

“Despite growing national concern about surveillance, the “FISA Improvements Act” would not eliminate programs that became public this year after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents describing how the government collects far more internet and telephone data than previously known,” Zengerle and Menn report. “If approved by the full Senate and the House and signed by the president, the act would require the special court that oversees the collection programs to designate outside officials to provide independent perspective and assist in reviewing matters that present novel or significant interpretations of the law. It also requires Senate confirmation of the NSA director and inspector general.”

“The bill ran into immediate opposition from technology companies, civil-liberties groups and another chairman in the majority Democratic Senate. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner this week introduced a bill to end what they termed the government’s “dragnet collection” of information,” Zengerle and Menn report. “A critical role in the debate may be played by Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and other big technology companies, which have been whipsawed by intelligence agency collection of their data and the concerns of users, especially those overseas with little protection from U.S. spying. On Thursday, those three companies, joined by Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc and AOL Inc, wrote to Leahy and other members of Congress to ‘applaud’ the contributions of his bill.”

Zengerle and Menn report, “They repeated earlier calls that they be allowed to disclose the scope of their cooperation, adding that ‘our companies believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms.’ The tech companies’ anger mounted after a report in Wednesday’s Washington Post that the NSA had intercepted massive internal transfers of Google and Yahoo data overseas.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: United States Constitution, Amendment IV:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Join The Electronic Frontier Foundation in calling for a full congressional investigation here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
U.S. NSA secretly infiltrated Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say – October 30, 2013
Obama administration decides NSA spying is ‘essential,’ but oversight of NSA is not – October 8, 2013
Apple’s iPhone 5s with Touch ID seen as protection against U.S. NSA – September 16, 2013
German government: Windows 8 contains U.S. NSA snooping back doors; too dangerous to use – August 23, 2013
Report: NSA can see 75% of U.S. Web traffic, can snare emails – August 21, 2013
NSA can read email, online chats, track Web browsing without warrant, documents leaked by Edward Snowden show – July 31, 2013
Momentum builds against U.S. government surveillance – July 29, 2013
U.S. House rejects effort to curb NSA surveillance powers, 205-217 – July 24, 2013
Obama administration scrambles to shut down imminent U.S. House vote to defund NSA spying – July 24, 2013
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013
Apple, Google, dozens of others push Obama administration to disclose U.S. surveillance requests – July 19, 2013
Secret court agrees to allow Yahoo to reveal its fight against U.S. government PRISM requests – July 16, 2013
How Microsoft handed U.S. NSA, FBI, CIA access to users’ encrypted video, audio, and text communications – July 11, 2013
DuckDuckGo search engine surges 33% in wake of PRISM scandal – June 20, 2013
Yahoo: Since December 2012, we have received up to 13,000 U.S. gov’t requests for customer data – June 18, 2013
Apple: Since December 2012, we have received U.S. gov’t requests for customer data for up to 10,000 accounts – June 17, 2013
Nine companies, including Apple, tied to PRISM, Obama to be smacked with class-action lawsuit – June 12, 2013
U.S. lawmakers urge review of ‘Prism’ domestic spying, Patriot Act – June 10, 2013
PRISM: Do Apple, Google, Facebook have an ethical obligation not to spy on users? – June 8, 2013
Plausible deniability: The strange and unbelievable similarities in the Apple, Google, and Facebook PRISM denials – June 7, 2013
Google’s Larry Page on government eavesdropping: ‘We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday’ – June 7, 2013
Seecrypt app lets iPhone, Android users keep voice calls, text messages away from carriers, government eyes and ears – June 7, 2013
Obama administration defends PRISM data-collection as legal anti-terrorism tool – June 7, 2013
Facebook, Google, Yahoo join Apple in sort-of denying PRISM involvement – June 7, 2013
Report: Intelligence program gives U.S. government direct access to customer data on Apple servers; Apple denies – June 6, 2013

32 Comments

  1. that is all well and good – mighty fine sentiments on behalf of mr. apple and others.

    now do something about it !

    design and code and develop encryption algorithims that will prevent the riech haupt sicherheit amt from tapping into our e-mail and communications.

    you have the resources, the money and the talent. stand up for us. and yourselves. if every communications company and internet service provider and tech company says NO to government snooping – what are they going to do, drive you out of business? i seriously doubt it.

    i am neither anti government nor some right wing nutjob, just a regular person who puts his faith in the fourth amendment. this intrusive foolishness has to stop.

      1. … ya THINK that’s (“It is beyond wrong”) what he meant when he said “this intrusive foolishness has to stop”?
        Nothing like PROVING you are an ignorant, bigoted, idiot!
        This may not be Apple-related, but I think it’s deserving of discussion here. As long as the discussion does NOT include clueless name-calling.
        What the heck is wrong with getting a WARRANT prior to a search?

  2. It’s pretty clear to see that this just a further descent into a paranoid terroristic state. As it follows the pathway of the Zune and is no no longer worthy of the free wold values of liberty and safety the next thing one would expect to see is pretty obvious: The United Hates of Amurderca.

    Too bad the citizens don’t have the intestinal fortitude and spinal fluid to do something about it. Then again it shows exactly what happens when you have such a weak and immoral society.

    Still there is a bright side, they still look way way way better than those Anustralians.

    1. “Too bad the citizens don’t have the intestinal fortitude and spinal fluid to do something about it”

      Are you waiting for me to do something about it? I thought you were going to do something? Thanks in advance!

      1. It would be much more valuable to see the citizens themselves do something about their country while there is still time.
        Insofar as me doing something about it, it’s not my country, far be it to have the situation fixed by outsiders, that is unless they become an external threat. So far, it is more of a mild annoyance.

        1. I am a citizen and I hate what is going on, so what should I do? Your comment suggests that there is something that we should be doing that we are not doing. Nothing is being done because none of us knows what to do about it. If you know what it is that we should do then tell us, otherwise you will have to include yourself in the list of people who are doing nothing.

          1. Dear Confused,
            Here’s a suggestion; as you live in what is nominally a democracy, and you have a vote, I respectfully suggest that you use that vote, and do something about electing representatives who will bring the likes of the NSA and others who are spending vast amounts of your taxpayer dollars on building their own data collection centres to heel.
            Retreating to the Ozarks with a pickup full of AR15’s and ammunition, and a natty line in Woodland camo gear isn’t a viable option.
            Not when the big boys have Global Hawk and Reaper drones…

            1. I vote and so do millions of people. The problem is our elected officials are not required to tell the truth when they run for election, and they are not required to do what they promised if and when they do get in office. So if my only option is voting for somebody who can say and do anything he wants anyway, then I think we found the reason why voting is not fixing the problem. In fact as long as we continue to believe that voting is the answer, this problem will continue.

              I think we need a better solution even though I have no idea what it is.

          2. Your comment is appreciated and well taken. Rorschach has suggested some good ideas and I could add consulting with legal experts, writing a letter to your government representative and transforming your vote into a voice. Peaceful protest and all the pressure you can muster with the international community as they are not pleased either.

            The values I have read about within your constitution are good, but only if they are followed and enforced. When those that violate them (like Nixon and Kissinger with Pinochet, the real 9-11, like G. W. Bush who allows for state sanctioned torture, not to mention the totally immoral and unethical invasion of Iraq) are not held accountable, well you get that loss of liberty and safety. Your race to boost up your national security has come at a cost of global security. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a country that spies on it’s friends, removes a legally elected foreign government, ignores the white flag, condones and participates in torture, invades other countries on whim is attempting to become a threat to global security.

            So you have the choice of doing it yourselves and reaping the benefits for generations to come, or having it done for you.

            I am a citizen and I hate what is going on, so what should I do? Your comment suggests that there is something that we should be doing that we are not doing. Nothing is being done because none of us knows what to do about it. If you know what it is that we should do then tell us, otherwise you will have to include yourself in the list of people who are doing nothing.

            1. To tell you the truth, the Constitution is out of date. We had Congress and and the electoral college at a time when traveling to Washington on horse back was an impossible task for a society. Today with the internet, something needs to be re-thought. I think we need another Thomas Jefferson moment where we start over and create a new Constitution that is updated for the times that we live in. Until that happens (and maybe it will take another 100 years) we will continue to flounder and cast non-sensical votes for non-sensical people on both sides of the isle. –in fact this whole Republican/Democrat thing is getting old.

              So if we really want to fix this problem and make a change, we should all get together and start over. More than two hundred years is enough time for our Constitution to run. It’s better days are behind it now.

          3. Direct action gets the goods. Get in the streets. Politicians and the corporate media always downplay the effectiveness of physical actions, but look at how violently the state attacked Occupy Wall Street. Ever wonder why? It’s because people meeting in person and taking direct action is the only credible non-violent threat to the current corporate takeover of our government.
            Also, you should check out Rootstrikers.org – they are working to change the way political campaigns are funded. The money it takes to buy an election is a BIG part of what has so horribly corrupted our system.

  3. This is simple:
    The US Senate, US House of Representatives and US President have NO ability or right to override the US Constitution at any time for any reason. A new constitutional amendment, approved by the two thirds of BOTH houses as well as two thirds of ALL the states, as clearly written in Article V of the US Constitution:

    The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…

    http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/articlev.htm

    IOW: The ongoing ‘“dragnet collection” of information’ is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and all attempts by either the executive or legislative branches of the US government to pretend or legislate otherwise are ILLEGAL and TREASONOUS.

    I.E. IASSOTS 😛

    1. I think a lot of citizens would agree with you that this dragnet approach appears to be unconstitutional. Ranting about it on MDN, however, will not change it. You’ll need to get someone to bring it into the court system. And be prepared for a very long, protracted, and expensive fight, because only the Supreme Court would be able to settle the question for now. Or get a truly national groundswell opinion of such strength that our representatives and senators became fearful that they would be turned out of office if they didn’t take action to stop it. Good luck with that.

      1. Dragnet surveillance isn’t a matter of appearing to be anything but treason.

        And YES, ranting about it everywhere possible DOES change it. Note the link I provided. It’s called EDUCATION and INFORMATION.

        As for the court system: The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) have already filed lawsuits months ago. I support both organizations.

        As for groundswell: I am no marketing expert. I have no idea how to wake up the sleeping sheeple other than to speak up everywhere possible, and I do. My senators and congressman know exactly my opinion.

        What’s required is booting out BOTH the Republicans and Democrats as they are BOTH guilty of this crime. When dumbass Obama leaves office we’ll have had 16 years of surveillance crimes by our own government against the citizens it is sworn to protect. As I say: Shot by both sides.

        It’s time for the third parties to rise and boot the old criminal guard out of office. How about a REPRESENTATIVE party? Imagine that. /rant

        Time to chant my mantra and turn into floating lotus flower… 😉

        1. I hate to say it, you and I aren’t so far apart. I also support the ACLU and EFF. And I hope they are successful.

          I WISH we could turn most of the current politicians out, but I’m not hopeful that enough of the rest of the American People will actually get off their butts when it comes time to vote and actually demand a change.

          I’m not opposed to ranting, either. I just not too sure about MDN as an effective forum.

          Thanks for the link. I clicked through.

        2. There are people who value privacy and hate big brother/ nanny state/crony capitalism stuff on both sides of the Liberal-Conservative divide.

          Remember, it was Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders that got the Fed audited- a Libertarian Republican and a self proclaimed Socialist.
          Our founders knew that we had more in common than we have that divides us. The media and the career politicians work the divisive stuff to sell ads and gain campaign contributions.

          1. Did they vote against the Patriot Act? only 66 house members (Democrats comprising the overwhelming portion of dissent) and 1 senator said no. Even today hardly anyone is opposing.

          2. I often point out that how people think is never on a simple, 1-dimensional line. We are 3-D thinkers. We wish we could live the KISS principle all day long, but it’s just another excuse for ignorance.

            Of course there are issues that ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ share in the USA. It’s total baloney that ‘never the twain shall meet’.

            IOW: Kewl post.

  4. Go NSA! Time to teach the assbaby taker lib millennium slugs who voted for the Kenyan and who have run up the debt a lesson in reality. Carry your asses back to the stupid fuck Ivy League school where you came from!

  5. The sheer dispassionate response of our so called representatives to act against this abuse of power only leads me to believe that NSA spying on people is already paying off big time for them.

    You would think that even the most left wing zealot in Congress would have at least some sense of the dangers of stripping away an individual’s inherent right to privacy. You would think that the right wing hidebound conservatives would rally at such an obvious anti-freedom agenda, but nary a peep from any of them.

    I can only surmise that the NSA has the goods on almost all of them. The NSA knows who is bought and paid for, who bought them, who is sleeping with whom, who likes kiddie porn, who hasn’t come out, and so on, ironically demonstrating exactly why warrantless pal mal snooping is the most dangerous issue we face as a society today..

  6. i have a simple mind, so, this i don’t understand: if the executive branch can circumvent a congressional lawmaking body with miscellaneous little regulations ….if the executive branch can simply take a word, any word in an existing, expressly written law …of any existing law, and simply redefine a word, thereby, changing the law …what can’t they do. doesn’t this practice effectively make them tyrants ..and, if they’re tyrants, can not we the people take certain measures to protect the country against their tyranny. or am i really nothing more than just the stupid brunette my co-worker says i am cuz i can’t make sense of anything anymore. everything is upside down.

    1. the executive branch hasn’t circumvented any laws — read the Patriot Act and other laws to see the authorization that CONGRESS granted. There lies the problem.

      Any executive, of any party, in any organization, is always happy to use the full extent of the powers and resources granted to him. That’s why so many CEOs also finagle their way to becoming Chairman of the Board: essentially unfettered monarchical power within their organization.

  7. What’s the scary thing is, our elected officials are going along with this.

    On the one hand, it’s all hubbub-ub-ub, we need to look into this. When things calm down a little bit, they then vote for it.

    Look, it shouldn’t be about weather we want or don’t want surveillance. It’s should be about weather it was or wasn’t decided fairly. I think that if The People were to be able to choose, it would be seasonal as to if they agree with it or not. But if we continually undermine the electorate, then what value does The People hold?

    I must say, with all the hubbub, the US is not alone in it’s surveillance, if it’s as bad as we are to believe.. The UK and Russia (and I suspect much of Europe, and Middle East) and of course China, are doing the exact same thing. A lot of rhetoric is tossed about, (oh, how dare the Americans) but I think it’s public hypocrisy, because they have been doing it all along. Maybe they are even working together… Why not? Mutual interest is at hand. The amazing thing, the Internet made it all so easy. Data collection is the new “low hanging fruit.”

    The irony with Snowden… He’s a tool, and a bad one at that. “What new information can he let us know, this week?” I think some of it is made up, and he will continue to play his cards to gain attention. He was just a contract analyst. Russia doesn’t care, they will use him for their own benefit, not as a spy, but to make their own people afraid. That’s why he’s now working for InContact (ВКонтакте), a dog bone job.

  8. Apple supports Obama’s outrageous support of gay marriage and opposes his stance on spying? They sure don’t mind destroying the foundation of society — the marriage of one man and woman and their children born in wedlock! But when the government peeks into their sh*t, all hell breaks loose!

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