US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it's important to understand that policy protection is no protection - policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection - a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the "widest allowable aperture," and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn't stop being protected communications just because of the IP they're tagged with.
More fundamentally, the "US Persons" protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal."
And now, here's Obama stammering out a defense of his spying apparatus to his own personal human pillow: (to be aired on PBS and CBS)
Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court…. The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee — but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.And then there was this weird comparison between drunk driving checkpoints and going through TSA airport security:
Barack Obama: Well, in the end, and what I’ve said, and I continue to believe, is that we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn’t the case…. And so that’s a tradeoff we make, the same way we make a tradeoff about drunk driving. We say, “Occasionally there are going to be checkpoints. They may be intrusive.” To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom. I don’t think anybody says we’re no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports.(Motor vehicle operation is to drunk checkpoints as passive airplane travel is to total body gropes and rapi-scans? I am not even going to try wrapping my head around that twisted logic. For one thing, police highway checkpoints actually do save us from the thousands of impaired drivers menacing our lives every single day. I'll have more to say about this in a later post. The TSA, on the other hand, is pure security theater, designed for intimidation of the populace.)
I also won't bother repeating all the hackneyed anti-Snowden talking points currently making the rounds in Pundit Land. But, as I wrote in response to one typical example in the New York Times,
I haven't seen this much vitriol leveled against defiant youth since the Vietnam War era, when denigrating anti-war demonstrators and draft dodgers became de rigueur for every self-respecting conservative, authoritarian and old fogey. And of course, for young Mitt Romney in his white shirt and tie, pranking the Stanford hippies for not mindlessly kowtowing to Old Glory.
Snowden correctly points out that the USA is spying on civilians everywhere -- who through no fault of their own, exist in the World is a Battlefield as declared by our creepy American exceptionalists. In the minds of the spymasters, we're all potential terrorists. We are all enemies of the state until proven otherwise -- not that they're bothering with such niceties as actual evidence. Just Google "Disposition Matrix" and "signature strikes".
Who cares about the inner workings of Snowden's psyche besides those who tremble at the upsetting of the status quo? What should be getting people upset is President Obama going on TV and oxymoronically telling Charlie Rose, that spying is ok as long as it's transparent.
Mendacity is fine as long as it's honest. Secrecy is great as long as we're open about it. Whistleblowing is noble as long as we don't embarrass the ruling elites in the process.Incidentally -- did you know you can now stream the movie versions of 1984 from such government-friendly sites as Amazon? Just think. Big Brother will be watching you as you watch Big Brother watching you.