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Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
On December 31, 2009, three provisions of "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001," aka the "PATRIOT Act" sunset and expire.
Bills to reauthorize or amend these three provisions have been moving through the Congressional Judiciary Committees in the past two months.
The three sections are:
SEC. 206. ROVING SURVEILLANCE AUTHORITY UNDER THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT OF 1978.
Section 105(c)(2)(B) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1805(c)(2)(B)) is amended by inserting 'or in circumstances where the Court finds that the actions of the target of the application may have the effect of thwarting the identification of a specified person, such other persons,' after 'specified person'.
This is also known as "the John Doe" provision.
SEC. 215. ACCESS TO RECORDS AND OTHER ITEMS UNDER THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT.
Also known as the section dealing with "national security letters," by which:
The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities [....]
The third is:
SEC. 805. MATERIAL SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM.
What are these about, and why should we care?, you ask.
National Security Letters (NSLs). The FBI uses NSLs to compel internet service providers, libraries, banks, and credit reporting companies to turn over sensitive information about their customers and patrons. Using this data, the government can compile vast dossiers about innocent people. Government reports confirm that upwards of 50,000 of these secret record demands go out each year. In response to an ACLU lawsuit (Doe v. Holder), the Second Circuit Court of Appeal struck down as unconstitutional the part of the NSL law that gives the FBI the power to prohibit NSL recipients from telling anyone that the government has secretly requested customer Internet records.
Material Support Statute. This provision criminalizes providing "material support" to terrorists, defined as providing any tangible or intangible good, service or advice to a terrorist or designated group. As amended by the Patriot Act and other laws since September 11, this section criminalizes a wide array of activities, regardless of whether they actually or intentionally further terrorist goals or organizations. Federal courts have struck portions of the statute as unconstitutional and a number of cases have been dismissed or ended in mistrial.
FISA Amendments Act of 2008. This past summer, Congress passed a law to permit the government to conduct warrantless and suspicion-less dragnet collection of U.S. residents' international telephone calls and e-mails. This too must be amended to provide meaningful privacy protections and judicial oversight of the government's intrusive surveillance power.
Through NSLs the FBI can compile vast dossiers about innocent people and obtain sensitive information such as the web sites a person visits, a list of e-mail addresses with which a person has corresponded, or even unmask the identity of a person who has posted anonymous speech on a political website.
The provision also allows the FBI to forbid or "gag" anyone who receives an NSL from telling anyone about the record demand. Since the Patriot Act was authorized in 2001, further relaxing restrictions on the FBI's use of the power, the number of NSLs issued has seen an astronomical increase.
The Justice Department's Inspector General has reported that between 2003 and 2006, the FBI issued nearly 200,000 NSLs. The inspector General has also found serious FBI abuses of the NSL power.
* Submitted 2,074 applications in 2005 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for wiretapping and searches of spies and terrorists. (1,758 in 2004)
* 2 of those were withdrawn before the court ruled. One was modified and resubmitted and approved by the court). (3 withdrawn, 1 re-submitted 2004)
* 2,072 were approved by the secret FISA court, but 61 were substantially modified. (1754 approved, 94 modified in 2004)
We have no reason as yet to think the Obama Administration is doing better.
Julian Sanchez last week looked at an example from 2005 of very funny business with an NSL.
There have been two main bills introduced to "reform" the problems in these three sunsetting provisions of the "PATRIOT Act," as well as several other problematic aspects of both the "PATRIOT Act" and subsequent surveillance law revisions, including the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which you'll recall gave the telecoms immunity from lawsuits, and which Senator Obama voted for.
U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have introduced legislation to fix problems with surveillance laws that threaten the rights and liberties of American citizens. The Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act would reform the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act and other surveillance authorities to protect Americans’ constitutional rights, while preserving the powers of our government to fight terrorism.
The JUSTICE Act reforms include more effective checks on government searches of Americans’ personal records, the “sneak and peek” search provision of the PATRIOT Act, “John Doe” roving wiretaps and other overbroad authorities. The bill will also reform the FISA Amendments Act, passed last year, by repealing the retroactive immunity provision, preventing “bulk collection” of the contents of Americans’ international communications, and prohibiting “reverse targeting” of innocent Americans. And the bill enables better oversight of the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) after the Department of Justice Inspector General issued reports detailing the misuse and abuse of the NSLs. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, September 23rd, on reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.
What would the "JUSTICE Act" have done? A lot and a little. A lot of good, and still only revising the "PATRIOT Act" very little, indeed.
Infuriatingly, but utterly unsurprisingly, the proposed minor changes of the "JUSTICE Act" are far too radical for the Obama Administration, and much of the the Congress, and so Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judicary Committee proposed yet far thinner soup: the "USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009."
Let's look at the "radical" proposed improvements of the Feingold, et al, "JUSTICE ACT":
[...] Title I – Reasonable Safeguards to Protect the Privacy of Americans’ Records
Sections 101-106 – National Security Letters
The bill rewrites the National Security Letter (NSL) statutes to ensure the FBI can obtain basic information without a court order, but also adds reasonable safeguards to ensure NSLs are only used to obtain records of people who have some connection to terrorism or espionage, and to provide meaningful, constitutionally sound judicial review of NSLs and associated gag orders.
Section 107 – Section 215 Orders
The bill would reauthorize the use of Section 215 business records orders under FISA, but with additional checks and balances to ensure these orders are only used to obtain records of people who have some connection to terrorism or espionage, and to provide meaningful, constitutionally sound judicial review of Section 215 orders and associated gag orders.
This is elementary stuff, these proposed Section NSL changes: National Security Letters shouldn't be used in mere criminal investigations.
Who would object to such a clarified restriction, which was supposed to be inherent in the first place? And who would object to judicial review, particularly of the unprecedented gag orders constraining telling anyone you've gotten an NSL letter?
Repeat: gag orders wouldn't be eliminated. The bill merely requires judicial review.
Next, "sneak and peek" searches, where the FBI or other agency breaks into your home or business, searches it, and leaves without you ever being informed, wouldn't be eliminated -- such searches would remain perfectly legal! -- but they'd be restricted to terrorism investigations.
[...] Section 201 – “Sneak & Peek” Searches
The bill would retain the Patriot Act’s authorization of “sneak and peek” criminal searches but eliminate the overbroad catch-all provision that allows these secret searches in virtually any criminal case. It would shorten the presumptive time limits for notification, and create a statutory exclusionary rule.
Is this objectionable to any reader? Or should we just do away with the Fourth Amendment entirely?
The Feingold "JUSTICE Act" would have made a number of small changes in the FISA law: too many to list here, but one of the more significant would have been:
[...] Section 301 – FISA Roving Wiretaps
The bill would reauthorize roving FISA wiretaps, but eliminate the possibility of “John Doe” roving wiretaps that identify neither the person nor the phone to be wiretapped. It would require agents to ascertain the presence of the target of a roving wiretap before beginning surveillance.
[...] The extraordinary tools available to investigators under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed over 30 years ago in response to revelations of endemic executive abuse of spying powers, were originally designed to cover only "agents of foreign powers." The PATRIOT Act's "lone wolf" provision severed that necessary link for the first time, authorizing FISA spying within the United States on any "non-U.S. person" who "engages in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor," and allowing the statute's definition of an "agent of a foreign power" to apply to suspects who, well, aren't. Justice Department officials say they've never used that power, but they'd like to keep it the arsenal just in case.
As with so many of the post-9/11 intelligence reforms, the lone wolf provision has its genesis in the misguided assumption that every intelligence failure is evidence that investigators need more power.
Courts have generally been extraordinarily deferential to the executive in the realm of foreign intelligence, and have suggested that the Fourth Amendment's protections against warrantless searches apply only weakly, if at all, in this context. But when it comes to domestic national security investigations, a unanimous Supreme Court has ruled that the usual restrictions remain largely intact. The court clearly saw the involvement of a "foreign power" as providing the distinction between the world of the criminal law's Fourth Amendment protections and the hazy arena where the executive enjoys far greater latitude. The "lone wolf" provision recklessly blurs that line, defying the common sense meaning of an "agent of a foreign power," and giving investigations that belong in the first world a dubious statutory foothold in the second.
Justice Department officials have suggested that the definition would cover a suspect who "self-radicalizes by means of information and training provided by a variety of international terrorist groups via the Internet," making a Web browser the distinction between a domestic threat and an international one. Activities "in preparation" for terrorism, according to the legislative history, may include the provision of "personnel, training, funding, or other means" for an attack.
While it's difficult to be an unwitting "member" of a terror group, nothing in the law requires that the contribution a lone wolf makes to terror activities be a knowing one. And while definitions of an "agent of a foreign power" applicable to citizens explicitly prohibit investigations conducted wholly on the basis of protected First Amendment activities, PATRIOT appears to permit "lone wolves" to be targeted merely on the basis of advocacy. Finally, while the criminal law requires "preparation" for terrorism to include a "substantial step" in the direction of carrying out an attack, the Justice Department has suggested that FISA's definition does not. Thus, not only may lone wolf suspects be monitored despite the absence of ties to a terror group, they may not even need to be engaged in criminal conduct.
So if you or anyone you have contact with "advocate" anything the FBI or another agency finds suspicious, hey, that's enough to get not just you wiretapped, but roving wiretaps instituted that need not identify you specifically, nor any specific phone, but if you happen to use one of those phones, or have any contact at all with anyone engaged in such suspicious advocacy, well, prepare for government agents enjoying all your "private" communications.
Sanchez further explains the abuses, and why the law, as per the "JUSTICE Act," should be curtailed. Among other aspects:
[...] Yet on the basis of such claims, a panicked Congress signed off on almost limitless authority to vacuum up international communications — authority that we already know has resulted in systematic "overcollection" of purely domestic conversations, and even resulted in the interception of former President Bill Clinton's e-mails.
In theory, the purpose of building "sunset" provisions into these new powers was to allow — indeed, to force — Congress to consider what changes might be needed in the event of such misuse. Given the incredible secrecy of intelligence investigations, this would be a dubious check even under ideal circumstances. But what's truly astonishing is that even known abuses don't seem to have given legislators second thoughts about resisting administration demands.
Among the reforms in Feingold's JUSTICE Act was a measure requiring targets of "roving" wiretaps to be identified, as is required under criminal wiretap statutes, rather than merely described. Unlike criminal taps, FISA eavesdropping tends to be extraordinarily broad, with any innocent communications picked up "minimized" later. Yet "minimization," the legal procedures meant to protect the privacy of innocent Americans when their communications are swept up in a FISA wiretap, does not mean deletion. In a 2003 case, US v. Sattar, prosecutors submitted 5,175 recordings made under FISA that had not been "minimized." Yet, faced with disclosure obligations at trial, it turned out that they were able to produce a far greater volume of recordings: more than 85,000 audio files.
Given that breadth, the risks inherent in "John Doe" warrants, which neither name a specific phone line or Internet account in advance nor identify a target, are obvious. Indeed, a 2005 Inspector General report on the FBI's translation backlogs revealed that among the eighty-seven years' worth of foreign language material recorded FISA in 2004 alone — a tiny fraction of what the NSA collects — there were an undisclosed number of "collections of materials from the wrong sources due to technical
[...] Suppose, for instance, that a FISA warrant is issued for me, but investigators have somehow been unable to learn my identity. Among the data they have obtained for their description, however, are a photograph, a voiceprint from a recording of my phone conversation with a previous target, and the fact that I work at the Cato Institute. Now, this is surely sufficient to pick me out specifically for the purposes of a warrant initially meant for telephone or oral surveillance. The voiceprint can be used to pluck all and only my conversations from the calls on Cato’s lines. But a description sufficient to specify a unique target in that context may not be sufficient in the context of, say, Internet surveillance, as certain elements of the description become irrelevant, and the remaining threaten to cover a much larger pool of people. Alternatively, if someone has a very unusual regional dialect, that may be sufficiently specific to pinpoint their voice in one location or community using a looser matching algorithm (perhaps because there is no actual recording, or it is brief or of low quality), but insufficient if they travel to another location where many more people have similar accents.
We also know that individuals can often be uniquely identified by their pattern of social or communicative connections. For instance, researchers have found that they can take a completely anonymized “graph” of the social connections on a site like Facebook—basically giving everyone a name instead of a number, but preserving the pattern of who is friends with whom—and then use that graph to relink the numbers to names using the data of a different but overlapping social network like Flickr or Twitter. We know the same can be (and is) done with calling records—since in a sense your phone bill is a picture of another kind of social network. Using such methods of pattern analysis, investigators might determine when a new “burner” phone is being used by the same person they’d previously been targeting at another number, even if most or all of his contacts have alsoswitched phone numbers. Since, recall, the “person” who is the “target” of FISA surveillance may be a “group” or other “entity,” and since I don’t think Al Qaeda issues membership cards, the “description” of the target might consist of a pattern of connections thought to reliably distinguish those who are part of the group from those who merely have some casual link to another member.
[...] FISA wiretaps are covert; the targets typically will never learn that they occurred. FISA judges and legislators may be informed, at least in a summary way, about what surveillance was undertaken and what targeting methods were used, but especially if those methods are of the technologically sophisticated type I alluded to above, they are likely to have little choice but to defer to investigators on questions of their accuracy and specificity. Even assuming total honesty by the investigators, judges may not think to question whether a method of pattern analysis that is precise and accurate when applied (say) within a single city or metro area will be as precise at the national level, or whether, given changing social behavior, a method that was precise last year will also be precise next year. Does it matter if an Internet service initially used by a few thousands—including, perhaps, surveillance targets—comes to be embraced by millions?
What is absolutely essential to take away from this, though, is that these loose and lazy analogies to roving wiretaps in criminal investigations are utterly unhelpful in thinking about the specific problems of roving FISA surveillance.
This cries out for reform.
And, of course, all the info goes here, as James Bamford updates:
On a remote edge of Utah's dry and arid high desert, where temperatures often zoom past 100 degrees, hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build what may become America's equivalent of Jorge Luis Borges's "Library of Babel," a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous, where the entire world's knowledge is stored, but not a single word is understood. At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined.
Unlike Borges's "labyrinth of letters," this library expects few visitors. It's being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency—which is primarily responsible for "signals intelligence," the collection and analysis of various forms of communication—to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital "pocket litter." Lacking adequate space and power at its city-sized Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.
Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A clue comes from a recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank. "As the sensors associated with the various surveillance missions improve," says the report, referring to a variety of technical collection methods, "the data volumes are increasing with a projection that sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes (1024 Bytes) by 2015." Roughly equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text, numbers beyond Yottabytes haven't yet been named. Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite "libraries," the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be—or may one day become—a terrorist. In the NSA's world of automated surveillance on steroids, every bit has a history and every keystroke tells a story.
[...] The “sneak and peek” provision of the USA PATRIOT Act was used 1291 times in Fiscal Year 2008. Of those, it was used five times for “Terrorism” purposes. So, .0038% of the time, the “sneak and peek” provision was used to combat terrorism; which was, of course, the Act's original purpose. On the other end of the spectrum, it was used 843 times (65% of the time) for “drug offenses”. Clearly, this is a blatant violation of any interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, except where it's superseded by the USA PATRIOT Act.
See the full study done by the Administrative Office of United States Courts in July 2009 for details.
The last issues I'll cover regarding the proposed revisions the "JUSTICE Act" would have made are these two highly important changes:
[...] Section 501 – Domestic Terrorism
The Patriot Act’s overbroad definition of domestic terrorism could cover acts of civil disobedience by political organizations. The bill would limit the qualifying offenses for domestic terrorism to those that constitute a federal crime of terrorism.
Section 502 – Material Support
The bill would amend the overly broad criminal definition of material support for terrorism by specifying that a person must know or intend the support provided will be used for terrorist activity.
What crazy ideas are these?!
Again: the "PATRIOT Act" is supposed to be used to fight terrorism. It's not supposed to provide a grab bag of tools to be used against any criminal or every person.
Should this be controversial? Can anyone concerned with fighting terrorism explain the problem with these amendments?
What's wrong with Leahy's "Sunset Extension Act" (supported by the White House)?
[... The] bill, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the committee, passed with bipartisan support but has been denounced by civil liberties groups and privacy advocates.
Critics of the Leahy bill assert that the legislation does little to address the well known civil liberties concerns and extends sweeping law enforcement surveillance powers with little to no safeguards. For instance, as passed out of committee, the bill renews the roving "John Doe" wiretap authority that allows the federal government to obtain a wiretap order without the requirement to name the target or specify the phone lines and e-mail accounts to be monitored. Further, it offers little or no reform of other controversial Patriot Act provisions.
Reform of National Security Letters (NSLs) was also limited in the legislation. NSLs are used by the Justice Department like subpoenas to seek information from companies, such as Internet service providers and phone companies, about their subscribers. The Feingold-Durbin bill had included increased standards for NSL issuance, limitations on the types of information that can be obtained by NSLs, limitations on non-disclosure orders for NSLs, and limits on emergency use of NSLs. The Leahy bill only requires that the government draft an internal statement showing that the information sought is somehow relevant to an investigation. Conversely, the Feingold-Durbin standard would require discussion of specific facts, a much more rigorous standard. However, the committee noted that the Obama administration supports a relevance standard like that found in the Leahy bill.
Some of the provisions to protect civil liberties that the administration opposed, such as the restrictions on NSLs, were proposals that Obama had supported as a senator. In particular, Obama had supported the SAFE Act (S. 737) in 2005 that attempted to reform Section 215 orders that require anyone to produce tangible records relevant to an investigation to protect against international terrorism, including business records. The SAFE Act had been unanimously reported by a Republican-controlled committee and included the requirement of a link between records sought and a terrorist or other agent of a foreign power. Durbin proposed an amendment to the Leahy bill that would have added this standard, but it was voted down due to the administration’s opposition.
Some committee members reacted negatively to the committee vote to accept the Leahy bill for Senate debate. Feingold expressed his disappointment in the final version of the bill. Feingold likened the Senate Judiciary Committee to a "Prosecutor’s Committee" and stated that the bill "falls well short of what the Congress must do to correct the problems with the Patriot Act." This position was echoed by some advocates, including Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, who proclaimed that "the opportunity for real reform will not come again anytime soon. Congress needs to do the right thing, even if Obama will not."
Some minor reforms were included the final Leahy bill. The bill included reforms for "sneak and peek" searches and requires the executive branch to issue procedures to minimize the use of NSLs. However, these changes were not enough to garner the support of Feingold or many of the civil liberties groups following the legislation.
Meanwhile, the press coverage of all this has generally stunk or been next to nonexistent.
Fox News and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal have done what you'd expect, of course, including the latter publishing a misleading op-ed by former Bush attorney general Michael Mukasey.
Marcy Wheeler has been doing 10,000 times better coverage at Emptywheel.
And now the battle goes to the House where House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) yesterday introduced the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009.
It's pretty much the same as the Feingold, et al, "JUSTICE ACT."
[...] authorize the Department of Justice Inspector General to investigate attorney misconduct within the Department of Justice. Under current law, all allegations of wrongdoing by the Department of Justice attorneys are required to be investigated by the by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, rather than the Inspector General. In contrast with the statutorily independent Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility is supervised by the Attorney General.
This limitation on authority does not exist for any other agency Inspector General. The Department of Justice Inspector General Authority Improvement Act of 2009 will make the authority of the Department of Justice Inspector General consistent with that of all other agencies and will prevent future abuses and politicization within the Department.
And the "The Inspector General Authority Improvement Act of 2009," which would:
[...] provide the Inspectors General of the various agencies the authority to issue subpoenas for the testimony of former employees or contractors as part of certain investigations. Under current law, a critical witness can avoid being interviewed by an Inspector General, and thus seriously impede an investigation, by simply resigning from the agency.
These loopholes badly need to be closed.
Now you know what to write and call your Representative about.
Before I finish this post, although it's digressive, in the spirit of Hilzoy and Katherine R., I'd like to at least mention that the Supreme Court on Tuesday:
[...] agreed to decide whether federal courts have the power to order prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay to be released into the United States.
The U.N.'s top investigator on torture and punishment called Tuesday for a new U.N. convention to protect the rights of detainees, saying many are held for years and sometimes for a lifetime in inhuman and degrading conditions.
The Conservative government faced new questions yesterday about what it knew about the alleged torture of Afghan prisoners after opposition parties pounced on an explosive new book by the former head of the Canadian Forces, Rick Hillier.
After published allegations of torture surfaced in 2007, Conservative ministers denied they had any previous knowledge of problems with the transfer of detainees. But Hillier now suggests he was aware of allegations possibly as early as 2006. He writes that he also warned officials in Ottawa that prisoner transfers would stop in the fall of 2007 unless inspectors visited Afghan jail continuously.