Here’s What the Richest Man in the World Thinks About Snowden and NSA Surveillance

So Bill Gates recently gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. The vast majority of the interview focused on his philanthropic efforts, with a particular focus on poverty and climate change. However, several questions were brought up on illegal NSA surveillance in general, and Edward Snowden in particular.

His answers reveal one of the biggest problems facing America today, which is the fact that the billionaire class as a whole does not question or rock the boat whatsoever. They criticize only when it is convenient or easy to do so, never putting themselves at risk for the sake of civil liberties and the Constitution.

In mosts cases, this is due to the fact that they themselves are the characters pulling the strings of the political class in Washington D.C. So when it comes down to it, their policies ultimately become our policies.

It is also important to note that Microsoft was a particularly eager participant in NSA spying from the very beginning. For example, according to the following PRISM slide provided by Edward Snowden, we see that Gates’ company was the first to become involved. In fact, they were participating a full six months before Yahoo!, while Apple didn’t join until a year after Steve Jobs died.

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What a tangled web we have weaved. Now from Rolling Stone:

Question: When people think about the cloud, it’s not only the accessibility of information and their documents that comes to mind, but also their privacy – or lack of it.

Gates: Should there be cameras everywhere in outdoor streets? My personal view is having cameras in inner cities is a very good thing. In the case of London, petty crime has gone down. They catch terrorists because of it. And if something really bad happens, most of the time you can figure out who did it. There’s a general view there that it’s not used to invade privacy in some way. Yet in an American city, in order to take advantage of that in the same way, you have to trust what this information is going to be used for.

Do they really catch terrorists because of it in London? Because in the U.S., the NSA chief already admitted that the entire spy program has stopped essentially zero terrorist attacks. It certainly didn’t stop the Boston bombings. So what are we giving up our privacy for exactly?

Question: Thanks to Edward Snowden, who has leaked tens of thousands of NSA documents, we are. Do you consider him a hero or a traitor?

Gates: I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn’t characterize him as a hero. If he wanted to raise the issues and stay in the country and engage in civil disobedience or something of that kind, or if he had been careful in terms of what he had released, then it would fit more of the model of “OK, I’m really trying to improve things.” You won’t find much admiration from me.

Sorry Billy boy, but we have had many whistleblowers in the past who went through the system and they ended up in jail or their lives were ruined. For example, the only person imprisoned for torture in the USA is the guy who exposed the torture program, John Kiriakou.

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Why the Collection of Metadata is a Very, Very Big Deal

Some people seemed strangely relieved in the wake of the NSA spying scandal when Obama said “no one is listening to your phone calls.” First of all, while they are clearly not listening to everyone’s phone calls, they certainly are listening to certain people’s calls and that isn’t acceptable in a free society.  Second of all, it’s pretty obvious that the one reason they aren’t listening to everyone’s calls is because it wouldn’t be practical or effective.  As Matt Blaze notes in this great article from Wired, the government isn’t primarily tracking metadata rather than content in an attempt to protect privacy, but rather because metadata is the most efficient and effective way in which to spy on and preempt domestic political dissent.  From Wired:

We now know that every day, U.S. phone companies quietly send the government a list of who called whom and when — “telephony metadata” — for every call made on their networks, because of a secret order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It turns out that this has been going on for seven years (and was even reported by USA Today then); the difference now is that the government — uncharacteristically for such a secret intelligence operation — quickly acknowledged the authenticity of the leaked order and the existence of the metadata collection program.

Should we be worried? At least “nobody is listening to our telephone calls” (so the president himself assured us). People breathed a sigh of relief since first learning of the surveillance because surely there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to such seemingly innocuous information — it’s just metadata, after all. Phew!

With today’s communications technology, is metadata really less revealing than content? Especially when we’re dealing with metadata at the scale that we now know the NSA and FBI are receiving?

Because at such a scale, people’s intuition about the relative invasiveness of content and metadata starts to fail them. Phone records can actually be more revealing than content when someone has as many records and as complete a set of them as the NSA does.

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Texas Fights Back Hard Against “Warrantless Cellphone Tracking”

So there are two bills under consideration in the Texas state legislature that could represent a huge victory for champions of privacy against the national surveillance state.  As such, we need to spread the word to as many people as possible and provide support to the activists in Texas that are leading the charge.  Obama’s ridiculously authoritarian Department of Justice believes that regular citizens have no expectation of privacy if we carry a GPS device on our cellphones.  Free human beings beg to differ.  From Slate:

According to the Department of Justice, cellphone users can be tracked without a warrant because “no reasonable expectation of privacy” applies to location data. But lawmakers in Texas disagree—and are proposing strict new tracking regulations that could place the state at the forefront of nationwide efforts to rein in government surveillance.

Two identical bills filed at the end of last month in the state House and Senate propose a series of amendments to the Texas code of criminal procedure. The bills, submitted by Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, and Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, would in all but exceptional cases require law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant to obtain cellphone location information—whether the phone is being tracked in real-time or retrospectively.

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Can the Cops Collect Your DNA? The Supreme Court is About to Decide…

There have been many interesting cases before the Supreme Court as of late, and the most recent one relates to whether or not police have the right to collect someone’s DNA upon arrest.  Justice Samuel Alito has called the case “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades.”  Given the Obama Administration’s complete contempt for civil liberties and The Constitution, they are siding with the state of Maryland in the case.  I am strongly opposed to the collection of DNA upon arrest for various reasons, but the primary one being that when you are arrested you are still presumed innocent.  I do not think an arrest (which could be wrongful) should allow the state to collect your genetic information.  From Bloomberg:

The U.S. Supreme Court, hearing what one justice said might be the biggest criminal procedure case in decades, considered overturning as many as 29 state and federal laws that allow the collection of DNA samples when a person is arrested.

In an hour-long argument full of rapid-fire questions, the justices debated whether the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches requires officials to wait until a person is convicted.

The ruling in the Maryland case will be the court’s first on the privacy of genetic information and may have implications for other cutting-edge police techniques in the future.

Several justices, including Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia, suggested they may cross the ideological lines that often divide the court. Scalia signaled his skepticism toward Maryland’s collection program immediately, scoffing when the state’s lawyer opened her argument by touting the 225 matches and 42 convictions the state had secured.

“I’ll bet you if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches and seizures, you’d get more convictions, too,” Scalia said. “That proves absolutely nothing.”

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Guess What? The Feds Claim Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking is Legal

Cell phones are tracking devices that make phone calls.
- Jacob Applebaum in this excellent article titled Leave Your Cell Phone at Home

So a recent article from Wired is interesting in that it is an offshoot from the recent judicial ruling that deemed it unconstitutional for police to place a GPS tracking device on someone’s car without a warrant.  The Feds weren’t too pleased with that decision so what have they decided to do?  They have decided to say that they don’t even need to use the GPS device because your cell phone can simply be used to monitor everywhere you go and clearly they don’t need a warrant for that.  Why?  Well…

The Obama administration told a federal court Tuesday that the public has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in cellphone location data, and hence the authorities may obtain documents detailing a person’s movements from wireless carriers without a probable-cause warrant.

“Defendant’s motion to suppress cell-site location records cannot succeed under any theory. To begin with, no reasonable expectation of privacy exists in the routine business records obtained from the wireless carrier in this case, both because they are third-party records and because in any event the cell-site location information obtained here is too imprecise to place a wireless phone inside a constitutionally protected space,” the administration wrote the federal judge presiding over the Jones re-trial.

I mean this is just absurd.  Sorry, but of course I assume that some government thug doesn’t have the right to track everywhere I go via my cell phone.  The fact that the administration is making this argument seem reasonable just goes to show you how far down the path to tyranny we have gone.  Seriously guys, is it really that hard to just get a warrant?

Read the full wired article here.

In Liberty,
Mike