November 30, 2015–So here we are, on the cusp of the demise of the National Security Agency’s blanket eavesdropping. At midnight tonight the most recent federal law takes effect. The phone companies, not the NSA, will now hold on to your telephony data, with the spooks only able to access it by warrant.
Of course, the changes are primarily cosmetic. The security services can still call up your data. The most significant changes are three: the phone companies will not preserve the data as long as the NSA was doing; the spooks are enjoined from going beyond two “jumps” in seeing who’s talking to whom; and, without direct possession of the database, the spooks will no longer be able to play different association games at a whim.
We’ll see how this plays out.
Already–as you’ll have read here–our top spies are exploiting the Paris attacks to assert, without furnishing any concrete evidence to that effect, that rules are tying their hands. In previous posts I’ve asked the question of whom they think they’re working for. Let me add here that our fearless (fearful?) leaders also seem to have forgotten that rulemaking is standard in a democracy, and following the rules must be the essence of the operation of a spy agency in a democratic nation. If we discover later on–most likely through a whistleblower–that our spooks have conspired to recreate their database by means of “strategic” subpoenas designed to get hands on slices of the database that can then be melded together, we will know a conspiracy took place to evade the new restrictions, paltry though they may be. Stay tuned.