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White House To Propose Ending NSA Phone Records Collection

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the kind-of-sort-of dept.

United States 208

The New York Times reported last night that the White House is planning to introduce a legislative package that would mostly end the NSA's bulk collection of phone records. Instead, phone companies would be required to hand over records up to "two hops" from a target number. Phone companies would be required to retain records for 18 months (already legally mandated) instead of the NSA storing records for five years. It does not appear that secret courts and secret orders from the court would be abolished, however. From the article: "The new type of surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said ... The administration’s proposal would also include a provision clarifying whether Section 215 of the Patriot Act, due to expire next year unless Congress reauthorizes it, may in the future be legitimately interpreted as allowing bulk data collection of telephone data. ... The proposal would not, however, affect other forms of bulk collection under the same provision."

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Sure (5, Insightful)

Stumbles (602007) | about 6 months ago | (#46572717)

This "call" no doubt falls into the same category of the Patriot Act Obama railed against as a Senator but has since expanded.

Re:Sure (4, Interesting)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 6 months ago | (#46572877)

And considering the long and illustrious history of the NSA flat out LYING to the American people, Congress, and even the President himself; I wouldn't trust them to actually implement any change even if Congress passed 100 laws mandating it and the President made a pinkie promise that they were going to follow them.

Shit, I wouldn't trust them if they told me if was daytime outside and my watch read 1 p.m.

Re:Sure (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46572957)

There must still be a way to mitigate the power they wield over the present surveillance state, or at the very least, they still suspect there is.

Otherwise, there would be no point in introducing this mollifying piece of legislation.

I suspect the upcoming need for reaffirmation of the Patriot Act may play a role in all this.

Re:Sure (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 6 months ago | (#46572981)

At this point, the NSA and CIA are so strong and so corrupt that the only way to ever clean them up would be to essentially gut them both completely, ban most of their leadership from government service, and basically start over.

Re:Sure (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46573047)

None of the 545 people responsible for everything that is allowed in this Country work at those two outfits.

Re:Sure (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46573045)

There is. Fire everyone involved. Close the facilities. Make them into museums for people to visit and see the follies of our past. That how this will eventually end anyway, it's just a matter of how bad we're going to let it get before we do it.

Re:Sure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573337)

Wishful thinking is such an effective stance. It really changes the world. Really!

Re:Re:Sure (1) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573709)

>Otherwise, there would be no point in introducing this mollifying piece of legislation.

Sure there is a point. If fact you made it your self, the point is simply to mollify the public, not to actually do anything. It is just something to push so that it can get on CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and all the sheep can sleep better at night. http://news-beta.slashdot.org/story/14/03/25/0347234/white-house-to-propose-ending-nsa-phone-records-collection#

Re:Sure (1)

Sir Foxx (755504) | about 6 months ago | (#46573791)

The only way you can stop this, ie the NSA, CIA, intrusion into American's personal lives, is to cutoff the money. There is no other way. As long as they can be funded, they will keep doing what they are doing.

Re:Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573897)

Until they use their influence to obtain money from elsewhere.

Re:Sure (1)

BreakBad (2955249) | about 6 months ago | (#46573111)

And considering the long and illustrious history of the NSA flat out LYING to the American people, Congress, and even the President himself; I wouldn't trust them to actually implement any change even if Congress passed 100 laws mandating it and the President made a pinkie promise that they were going to follow them.

Shit, I wouldn't trust them if they told me if was daytime outside and my watch read 1 p.m.

I was thinking about the same thing.

"Read my lips, NO NEW PHONE TAPS."

Re:Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573373)

If you like your old "PHONE TAP", you can keep it ;)

Re:Sure (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573075)

But look,we're going to downgrade our activities from Deplorable to Reprehensible!

Re:Sure (5, Insightful)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 6 months ago | (#46573139)

Or, more appropriately, the NSA is part of the executive branch.

Obama is the Chief Executive.

If he really wanted to stop this shit, he could issue an executive order stopping this shit. Congress never passed a law requiring the NSA to collect this data; Obama could stop this shit RIGHT NOW if he wanted to.

But he doesn't want to. He wants to pass the buck, and blame a gridlocked Congress when the House does what the House does - shitcan any proposed legislation coming from this White House.

This is just a cheap and cynical play to score some points before a midterm election. Obama has exactly zero intentions of actually shutting this down.

Re:Sure (4, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 6 months ago | (#46573249)

Obama is the Chief Executive.

If he really wanted to stop this shit, he could issue an executive order stopping this shit. Congress never passed a law requiring the NSA to collect this data; Obama could stop this shit RIGHT NOW if he wanted to.

Just so.

Recently, Congress got upset when it discovered that the CIA was monitoring their use of a certain computer.

When the congresscritters (who were Dems) started yelling about it, Obama's response was that he was going to remain "neutral" in this argument between CIA and Congress.

So, the head guy in the Executive Branch, when the Executive Branch gets into a shouting match with the Legislative Branch is going to be NEUTRAL???

He's either in favour of the CIA behaving as it did (whether the CIA is right or wrong in this case is not relevant), or he's not really in charge of his own branch of government.

Which, in either case, makes him a (let's keep this polite) less-than-good President.

Re:Sure (1)

Nephandus (2953269) | about 6 months ago | (#46573989)

Try ungood...

Re:Sure (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574241)

Nope.
He is stay neutral on the spat between the two groups. He is not stay neutral in the surveillance.

http://www.washingtontimes.com... [washingtontimes.com]

"He's either in favour of the CIA behaving as it did"
He has been very clear he is not in favor of the type of behavior the CIA is accused of.

"r he's not really in charge of his own branch of government."
of course he is.

Here is a 3rd choice: It's fucking complicated.

Re:Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46574541)

He's either in favour of the CIA behaving as it did (whether the CIA is right or wrong in this case is not relevant), or he's not really in charge of his own branch of government.

Which, in either case, makes him a (let's keep this polite) less-than-good President.

When JFK had been president for as long as Obama has been, he was already dead for three years. And that was way too convenient for the CIA.

Re:Sure (1)

Trashcan Romeo (2675341) | about 6 months ago | (#46573963)

At this point, I'd expect nothing less from him. But isn't it silly to complain about the NSA? We have reached the point in our slide into fascism that the government loudly proclaims the "right" to - and in at least several cases that we know of - actually has executed American citizens without trial. (Including a 16 year old kid from Denver whose "crime" was having the wrong father.) To complain that such a regime is also spying on your communications is a bit like complaining that one's torturer has bad breath.

Re:Sure (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574105)

Data collect has real and useful uses and contrary to /. ignorance, data collection can help against a variety of crimes.
Just blankly not allowing any surveillance would be stupid.
Yes it needs to be limited, but the exact line is hard to find.

Re:Sure (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | about 6 months ago | (#46574305)

How about we start with just not renewing the PATRIOT act. That would probably still leave plenty of room for way over line surveillance but it would be a good start.

911 was a decade and a half ago, we don't need it anymore; because the only reason we ever needed it was a purely psychological one where people had to feel the government was "doing something".

Re:Sure (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 6 months ago | (#46574113)

Hey now! Lets not be so cynical! It could have something to do with the revelations a few weeks ago that the intelligence community spied on and tried to intimidate the Senate oversight of the CIA.

I mean, yeah, obviously it's not to actually do anything that will benefit you or I or ACTUALLY reduce big brother's spying ability, just saying it might ALSO be to give Feinstein cover to drop the issue! That's not completely selfish!

(In case it's not clear to anyone this early in the morning, the above post was sarcastic)

Were Obama to tell me it's sunny out.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573655)

Were Obama to tell me it's sunny outside, I'd immediately look out the window to check.

And I'd expect to see rain.

Re:Sure (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 6 months ago | (#46573899)

Its a shame rather than listen to what they say people don't look at his voting record.

Had anyone bothered to have actually done so, they would have seen that what he says and what he does/votes are pretty much polar opposites and have been since his first day in the senate.

He's pretty transparent if you open your eyes.

Re:Sure (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574265)

That's blatantly false.

Name something he said he would do, and didn't try?
Either he did it, or it was blocked.

Re:Sure (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 6 months ago | (#46574159)

Or more recently (2009), the decision to release photos of the abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan in compliance with a court order, and then two weeks later saying "Oh nevermind, we're going to do the exact opposite." The Intercept [firstlook.org] has a good writeup of that.

They aren't ending anything (5, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46572723)

The New York Times reported last night that the White House is planning to introduce a legislative package that would mostly end the NSA's bulk collection of phone records.

They have no intention of ending it, they just are forcing others to do it for them. Basically instead of you and I paying for the NSA to spy on us with tax dollars were going to pay the NSA to spy on us with our phone bills instead. Just because they privatize the burden of data collection doesn't mean they are ending anything.

Instead, phone companies would be required to hand over records up to "two hops" from a target number.

What this means in practice is that if you and I both call FedEx that is considered a "hop" and now our numbers are linked. They essentially can use any commonly called number to get to anyone else and you can cover a HUGE percentage of the population with a few common phone numbers. This is a "limitation" that really isn't a limitation.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572781)

I imagine the mode bacon number for any two telephone numbers in the US is 2.

Re:Agreed (2)

Entropius (188861) | about 6 months ago | (#46573129)

Because everyone, rich or poor, East or West, has wound up waiting on hold with Comcast Customer Service for an hour to get told for the Nth time to reboot their router.

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573849)

There's an odd bit of irony that everyone in the USA is 2 steps from each other because everyone is one step from 'Bob' the Indian tech support guy for all ISPs.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

Agares (1890982) | about 6 months ago | (#46572801)

I knew there would be some sort of loop hole. I never stoppped to think about a large corporation being counted in these hops.

Degrees of separation (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46573419)

I knew there would be some sort of loop hole. I never stoppped to think about a large corporation being counted in these hops.

Yeah, I didn't think of it either. Someone on NPR pointed this out the other day. Used to be they were allowed to go 3 hops but even without commonly called numbers 3 hops will get you to a HUGE number of people. (potentially 390,625 if my math is right) Now it is just 2 hops but when you include commonly called numbers like big corporations or government agencies like the IRS will get you pretty much to anyone. Hell, think about even something like your local pizza shop and how many people call them.

Re:Degrees of separation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573765)

How many people do telemarketers connect?

Telemarketers as connectors (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46574245)

How many people do telemarketers connect?

Outstanding question. My guess is a huge number.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#46572833)

Forget FedEx. You call your phone company to set up service, that's a hop. Anyone else who calls that number, getting a phone service set up, is now within two hops.

Genius.

Re:They aren't ending anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573199)

This logic needs to be thrown in the white houses face

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

jomegat (706411) | about 6 months ago | (#46573237)

Not to mention if you call your voicemail.

Re:They aren't ending anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572933)

Even when they say the "NSA" will stop phone record collection, that could just mean some other gov't agency is going to collect it instead like DHS or CIA. Only this time they will make sure the program is double top secret.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

crashcy (2839507) | about 6 months ago | (#46573059)

If you have no one to call, you have nothing to fear.

It gets lonely though.

Re:They aren't ending anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46574077)

Quiet loner. Inherently dangerous!

If you haven't done anything wrong then that makes you sneaky as well!

Re:They aren't ending anything (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 6 months ago | (#46573459)

Just because they privatize the burden of data collection doesn't mean they are ending anything.

No, I think that depending on the implementation, it's a huge difference. I honestly don't have a problem with law enforcement collecting phone records, so long as they are able to get a warrant that is in keeping with the 4th amendment. I also don't have a problem with them saying to phone providers, "You must keep the phone records we might solicit for a period of X months, in case we do solicit them, and you must have the infrastructure to provide that information in a timely manner." Assuming it's easy, reasonable, and effective for phone carriers to do that, I don't really have a problem with the idea.

And I do think there's a huge difference between that and the NSA collecting the data themselves. The problem I have with the NSA spying is specifically that they collect and store this information on their own servers. The metaphor I've used to describe my problem with the NSA wiretapping is that the physical equivalent would be as though they regularly rifled through your belongings and recorded potential evidence, and then say, "But that's not a 4th amendment violation because we promise not to look at or think about this evidence unless we think you've done something wrong!" To that I say, no, you need to get the warrant first, and then you can collect evidence. You can't collect evidence first and then later get a warrant to use that evidence, since that system is too easy to abuse.

Of course, they should still have to get a real warrant, and not through some secret court where the charges and proceedings are all hidden from the public.

Re:They aren't ending anything (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46573861)

I honestly don't have a problem with law enforcement collecting phone records, so long as they are able to get a warrant that is in keeping with the 4th amendment.

I do when they don't have a specific reason to collect them given that the government has proven all too willing to circumvent or even flat ignore the 4th amendment. The reason to collect the records has to come before the collection of the records and that reason should be vetted by a court that is answerable to the electorate rather than some secret court with no accountability whatsoever. If they want to provide some evidence that what they are doing is helpful to national security then they can release that information and we can let the electorate debate the issue. Otherwise the default answer should be "no you can't have it".

Assuming it's easy, reasonable, and effective for phone carriers to do that, I don't really have a problem with the idea.

It isn't as easy for the phone companies as one might think. My father used to work in engineering for AT&T so I've been in a bunch of central offices with him. Not all the phone companies equipment is digital and some is positively antiquated. Ever wonder why you still need to dial a 1 before a lot of long distance numbers? That's a hold over from obsolete technology (it connects you to an outside circuit) but isn't actually necessary with digital switches. The reason we still do it is because central offices often still have a lot of old gear that has not yet been replaced because it works fine. It's slowly being replaced but the key word is slowly. Plus collecting this data isn't cheap and having the staff to respond to the inevitable flood of inquiries isn't cheap either.

Basically it's not easy, I'm not convinced it's reasonable and we have no way to determine if it is effective.

And I do think there's a huge difference between that and the NSA collecting the data themselves

I think it is going to be a distinction with little practical difference. The phone companies have been nothing if not pliable on this issue, the FISA court appears to only possess a stamp made of rubber, and practically speaking with the 2 hops rule they can get to almost anyone thanks to commonly called numbers. So they get a "warrant" and call AT&T and say "give me every bit of data within 2 hops of Joe Schmoe". Unless Joe Schmoe is a hermit, odds are that is going to be a huge amount of data because in most cases Joe will have called utilities, customer service numbers, pizza shops, etc, all of which will get you to a very large number of people.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 6 months ago | (#46574317)

I do when they don't have a specific reason to collect them given that the government has proven all too willing to circumvent or even flat ignore the 4th amendment.

Notice the second clause to that sentence that you quoted? "...so long as they are able to get a warrant that is in keeping with the 4th amendment." What I'm saying is I don't have a problem with the FBI or local police department tapping phones or gathering phone records, so long as they are following traditional 4th amendment rules. That includes that they need to have a specific target and that they're investigating for a specific crime.

It isn't as easy for the phone companies as one might think.

Yet they're already providing the records, so it can't be as hard as you're making it sound. Part of the reason I put in that condition is that I don't think the same rules translate very well to email, where tracking and storing email might create an undue burden for some providers. However, there are many circumstances where the government already requires organizations to keep email and chat logs for some retention periods.

I think it is going to be a distinction with little practical difference.

If the NSA has to go through two other entities (a court and a private business) in order to get the information, then it greatly increases the difficulty of abuse. It may not make a difference for when the NSA is operating within the rules, but it makes it harder to break the rules, which is largely what we want.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#46574513)

so long as they are able to get a warrant that is in keeping with the 4th amendment.

Oh I saw this and I agree with you but I simply don't think it is going to happen. What we have is a secret agency, conducting secret surveillance, "overseen" by a secret court, with secret findings that are never made public. There is at no step in the process any transparency or accountability to the electorate and I strongly doubt that is going to change in the near future. Congress is too concerned with getting re-elected to be willing to appear "soft on terrorism", the administration has no reason to want to relinquish their new found power and the judiciary has so far been toothless on the matter.

Yet they're already providing the records, so it can't be as hard as you're making it sound.

Granted there is plenty of data there but there are a lot of pieces required that will require meaningful investment. Like I said it's not particularly easy, I definitely don't think it is reasonable, and we cannot determine the effectiveness of the program because there is no public accountability and no likely prospects of getting it anytime soon.

If the NSA has to go through two other entities (a court and a private business) in order to get the information, then it greatly increases the difficulty of abuse.

The court they have to go through has been shown to be a rubber stamp court and there is little evidence that AT&T/Verizon/etc are willing to put themselves on the line to protect their customers. I don't think there is going to be much in the way of practical safeguards. In theory you are right but I'm dubious it will be any different in practice.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

lonOtter (3587393) | about 6 months ago | (#46573865)

I also don't have a problem with them saying to phone providers, "You must keep the phone records we might solicit for a period of X months, in case we do solicit them, and you must have the infrastructure to provide that information in a timely manner."

Well, I do. It's their equipment, and if they want to provide extra privacy for their customers (or just don't want the data), then let them get rid of it. If this makes investigations nearly impossible, then good.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

lonOtter (3587393) | about 6 months ago | (#46573891)

Also, if they have the data, and the rules change in the future, you can bet the phone company will just hand it over. I seriously doubt the government will let all that data go to waste. Best to get rid of it.

Re:They aren't ending anything (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 6 months ago | (#46574007)

What this means in practice is that if you and I both call FedEx that is considered a "hop" and now our numbers are linked. They essentially can use any commonly called number to get to anyone else and you can cover a HUGE percentage of the population with a few common phone numbers. This is a "limitation" that really isn't a limitation.

Yes, A warrant should be limited to all the records of calls a particular "target" is making and receiving. If these records indicate a pattern of activity then investigate who the person is communicating with and then get an additional warrant if necessary.

Again we are talking about the US here, where the constitutional rule of law should apply.

Still properly tantamount to investigation without (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572729)

I was in the US embassy a while ago to pick up a work visa.

There was a quote from one of the founding fathers, John Adams;

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

There is nothing safe about the Government having this power *because* it is the Government.

Status quo? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 6 months ago | (#46572733)

So, this new proposal changes where the records are stored, and not much else? The NSA can still get anything it wants with a warrant from a secret court, but now they won't have to go to the trouble of gathering the data directly.

Plus there's the bit where this new proposal would codify the legality of what the NSA has been doing (and will continue to do).

So about the only real functional change will be that the phone companies will be required to do the work for the NSA, plus the NSA will get a pass from the courts on the legality of the whole business, once it's declared legal by Congress.

Re:Status quo? (1)

coofercat (719737) | about 6 months ago | (#46572875)

...and all that spare compute/storage capacity they get by out-sourcing the data collection can be put to other "good" uses.

Re:Status quo? (1)

usuallylost (2468686) | about 6 months ago | (#46572947)

Congress appears to have declared it legal when they reauthorized the patriot act. Whether they want to admit it or not. All the statements to the contrary look to be members of congress trying to cover their asses now that the public knows and is upset. As far as I can tell nobody at the NSA is any kind of legal jeopardy over the current program. Presumably they might be subject to a challenge on fourth amendment grounds. This proposal might even be an attempt to head off that possibility.

From the article it appears that there are several changes in the proposal, that if they really do them, would benefit the public. One is that they will no longer have direct custody of the records. The second is that the retention period goes from 5 years to 18 months. The third is they are going to have to get warrants for individual searches instead of blanket warrants for "All of Verizon's customers" for example. It also limits the warrants to 2 hops where as they supposedly go out three hops now. As far as it goes this proposal would be a good thing. What they are talking about here is more along the lines of traditional wire tap rules compared to total surveillance we have today. I'll take that change if I can get it. That is the real trick will any of this really be done or is this a PR stunt?

The other issue brought up in this article is that they aren't changing anything about other forms of bulk data collection. With the example being given of the CIA collecting information on all money transfers. I am not at all sure that is reasonable either. Personally I am suspicious of anything that starts with the word "bulk collection of data". At the very least I'd like to see some sign of real oversight and a serious justification of anything like that.

Re:Status quo? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46573061)

Actually, it collects more data for them. Currently they only have data collection at most of the major Telcos. There are hundreds of smaller telcos in the country they likely have very little info on. This would require ALL data be collected and available via API to them. This will get them more data, quicker, at less cost and reduce and, more importantly make it totally legal. Win Win for the NSA.

Re:Status quo? (1)

quarterbuck (1268694) | about 6 months ago | (#46573239)

I believe the big change is that there are individual orders required for each user.
So if an over-reaching operator tries to collect data on his ex-gf / political opponent etc. there will be a paper trail. I don't think this will be an actual court order, it might be an administrative one, but it is still an improvement.

Re:Status quo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573563)

So, this new proposal changes where the records are stored, and not much else? The NSA can still get anything it wants with a warrant from a secret court, but now they won't have to go to the trouble of gathering the data directly.

"We weren't really interested in the phone calls as we were every packet of data that flows over the internet. Oh, wait, the phone system is now TCP/IP on the back end anyways..."

Re:Status quo? (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 6 months ago | (#46574073)

Plus there's the bit where this new proposal would codify the legality of what the NSA has been doing (and will continue to do).

This is what concerns me.

Obama has all the authority he needs to end the bulk data collection programs right now by executive order, yet he is keeping the program(s?) active as leverage to get some further extension of the provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire in 2015.

The most offensive Patriot Act provisions are set to expire in 2015 with no action by Congress. That is just next year. We can wait a year for the restoration of the rule of constitutional law and don't have to make this deal with the devil now.

Re:Status quo? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574333)

It limits the time, and forces the NSA to go through channels instead of keeping everything internal.
It's a good balance, not grate, but good.

Talk is cheap (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 6 months ago | (#46572741)

This proposal will get a lot of publicity.

The "rejected" vote will come after the next elections and will be played down by the media...

Re: Talk is cheap (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574347)

of course it will, becasue t will be shot down by the pubs. like these changes usually are. Of course they will lock it down and everyone will blame Obama and completely ignore the fact of who actual stopped the vote.

The 'Stop everything and blame Obama' tactic is working wonders.

And I propose the NSA and the President... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572749)

...kiss my ass.

Why the focus on some archaic communication tool? (2)

ron_ivi (607351) | about 6 months ago | (#46572759)

Why all the focus on some archaic form of communication that's more a historical curiosity a few old people cling to than a relevant tool? I guess politicians are such old people? It'd be more interesting if they proposed a law to end bulk collection of Internet traffic.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 6 months ago | (#46572809)

That's funny. I could have sworn one of the hottest technologies around was a thing called a "cellphone".

I guess I must be old fashioned...

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#46572891)

The issue they're describing is to do with voice call records.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (2)

Tsingi (870990) | about 6 months ago | (#46572901)

Yes. It's a hot product because it does a lot more than make phone calls. It brings Internet communications to your shirt pocket.

I rarely use mine for phone calls.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 6 months ago | (#46573135)

So you are one of those people (a not insignificant number) who find it an affront to actually speak to another person and instead chose to send some multiple of 10 text messages back and forth over an extended period of time to accomplish what would take 30 seconds by voice.

How long before text messages too are viewed ask ickky?

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

Tsingi (870990) | about 6 months ago | (#46573371)

Am I 'one of those people'?
Our experiences differ. I prefer email. Text messages are for hooking up down town.
Are you 'one of those people' who think that anyone who doesn't do things the way you do them is 'one of those people'?
With a smart phone you can communicate how you like no matter which one of 'those people' you happen to be.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574373)

Voice calls interrupt, Text allows time for a response.

Or are you one of those people that demand everyone stop what they are doing so they can hold a 30 second conversation with you talking about what a few quick texts would get done?

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

mu51c10rd (187182) | about 6 months ago | (#46573345)

That's funny. I could have sworn one of the hottest technologies around was a thing called a "cellphone".

Which, oddly enough, are mostly used to play social games, store apps, browse the internet, and check emails/texts. Notice phone plans went to unlimited voice when the shift from voice calls to data usage happened? I still use the phone...but I admit it is mostly work related now...and I am too old to be part of "generation Y". Voice calls are going to voip or being replaced with social media and text messaging. It concerns me as well that the government can pay lip service to us and claim they won't collect the voice calls...while still collecting the internet and voip traffic.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (2)

Agares (1890982) | about 6 months ago | (#46572825)

Considering most people use smart phones these days "phone records collection" I am sure can mean a lot of things. Not just who you call, but what is on your phone as well I reckon.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

tsqr (808554) | about 6 months ago | (#46573411)

Why all the focus on some archaic form of communication that's more a historical curiosity a few old people cling to than a relevant tool?

Usage statistics [pewinternet.org] seem to say differently. The average adult (i.e., age 18 and over) cell phone owner makes or receives about 5 calls a day. People who send and receive lots of texts also make or receive a lot of phone calls. Cell phone ownership is heavily skewed toward the younger population, so it isn't a bunch of senior citizens making it look this way. With all due respect, perhaps you and your friends are outliers and a little out of touch with the real world.

Re:Why the focus on some archaic communication too (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 6 months ago | (#46574137)

Why all the focus on some archaic form of communication that's more a historical curiosity a few old people cling to than a relevant tool? I guess politicians are such old people? It'd be more interesting if they proposed a law to end bulk collection of Internet traffic.

Because the phone records program is not likely the only program, we haven't seen any confirmation that they are also collecting logs of Internet use and emails or text messages, but the same arguments (and legal precedent) apply to those "meta" records as apply to phone records. But it seems less threatening to people to talk about phone records than telling them that all your emails, text messages and Internet Activity are being monitored by the government also.

The phone "meta" data debate has always appeared to be a red herring to distract from the total surveillance of all communications that is now being established.

blanket warrant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572787)

so in other words they're proposing an ongoing blanket warrant in perpetuity. blanket warrants are explicitly unconstitutional though.

Bull fucking shit (4, Insightful)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | about 6 months ago | (#46572789)

These people -- the NSA, the House and Senate Intelligence Panels, and the President himself -- have LIED to the American people and our supposed allies at every possible turn during this process. They would have never even admitted these programs existed at all -- it was only Snowden's actions that forced their hands. Why the hell would anyone ever believe them now? We're to believe they're going to simply stop doing this? Without any real oversight or transparency? The sad thing is that most of my countrymen are stupid or apathetic enough (or both) to believe them.

Re:Bull fucking shit (4, Insightful)

Tsingi (870990) | about 6 months ago | (#46573009)

Pretty much.

Welcome to the latest and most provactive episode of: government v.s. the people.

Who does the government work for these days?

It's the beginning of the end.

Re:Bull fucking shit (2)

liquid_schwartz (530085) | about 6 months ago | (#46574087)

I'm going to call the statement "beginning of the end" optimistic. I think we're well past the beginning. I ask myself if we're still in the middle or if this drama is drawing to a close. But we're definitely past the beginning of the end.

Re:Bull fucking shit (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574383)

PLease show me were the president has lied?
hmm?

In principle, they shouldn't retain 30 days (1)

davecb (6526) | about 6 months ago | (#46572791)

Phone companies need call detail records ("CDR"s) to do their billing, which happens monthly. After thgat they have no business need for the data, and retaining it has been an "attractive nuisance", and tempted governments into demanding they hand it over.

The only good thing about this is the idea that, after getting a legal subpoena, the phone company will stream data about new calls. That's the valuable stuff when you're trying to catch a crook or spy, once you've identified them. Historical records are useful if you're trying to identify other possible crooks/spies, with some overlap between the two.

Re:In principle, they shouldn't retain 30 days (1)

davecb (6526) | about 6 months ago | (#46572799)

In the above title, I had said "> 30 days", but /. removed the greater-than symbol

Re:In principle, they shouldn't retain 30 days (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46573115)

Well, I hate the NSA... but you're wrong there. I work for a telco and am involved in Billing software. There's plenty of reason to keep data around for a while. Disputes, bankruptcies, etc... not everyone pays their bill every month you know. But keep in mind, the only records we keep on call data are calls that cost the customer or the company money. So collect calls... long distance... etc... Keep data on local calls? Yea right... that's not even possible given that most switches are leftover from the 70s and quite literally have proprietary 20 megabyte drives (not kidding at all) If we had them log all calls, all day, they'd fill up in minutes.

We get around the limits by having scrips log in and dump the data daily to a database. To collect everything would be insane... we'd be scraping the switch every 5min and they are NOT fast. To do what they are proposing we'd have to convert every small town switch to a newer "soft-switch" and that would be a very expensive, very complicated project that would involve hundreds of people. We'd need government grants I'd imagine as it would likely bankrupt most small Telcos. I think that even AT&T would balk at this. I doubt they capture any more data that we do. If this does go through and the feds fund the expansion, it'd improve the countries phone network considerably but it would also increase the NSA's data collection capability several orders of magnitude. They'd have EVERYTHING... not just those calls that generate revenue.

Re:In principle, they shouldn't retain 30 days (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 6 months ago | (#46573177)

Phone companies need call detail records ("CDR"s) to do their billing, which happens monthly. After thgat they have no business need for the data, and retaining it has been an "attractive nuisance", and tempted governments into demanding they hand it over.

They still need it for billing disputes and the like. And of course, if they're not doing "big data" analyses of their own for commercial purposes, they're a lot different than, say, Amazon.

There is a significant advantage to having those records in phone company hands instead of government ones. If you have direct on-line access to data, any idle thought you might come up with is pretty much instantly exploitable. If the government has to go through a process - even a rubber-stamp FISA court - that reduces their ability to do large amounts of mischief in a short amount of time.

Bad enough that AT&T itself can plunder the data, considering how obnoxious they are, but at least I can select a somewhat less annoying carrier.

It's a lot easier than finding a less annoying government.

Re:In principle, they shouldn't retain 30 days (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574403)

". After thgat[SIC] they have no business need for the data,"
actually they do.
People don't pay there bills? they need it. People refute their bill? they need it. Someone bring a law suite? they need it. Financial records? they need it.

Welcome to City 17 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572797)

Hail to our new Combine overlords

Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572913)

Why would you believe that?

Gitmo's still open, Patriot Act hasn't been repealed, nor can you keep your doctor or insurance plan.

I have one question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46572929)

Do you feel safer now?

Snowden (5, Insightful)

Major Blud (789630) | about 6 months ago | (#46572939)

This begs the quesion......if Snowden hadn't released this info, would this "change" be taking place? I wish I could say that this was an admission from the White House that what he did was right, but we know that's not the truth.

Re:Snowden (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 6 months ago | (#46573321)

It *raises* the question. "Begging the question" is different.

Sorry. Otherwise you make an excellent point.

Re:Snowden (2)

spacepimp (664856) | about 6 months ago | (#46573863)

These changes are an admission that what the US Government is doing is wrong. The US Citizens are pissed enough off that the President is trying to change face. This is a strong signal considering that a few months back, he said that nothing was being done without his knowledge and that it was all good and necessary.

That alone means that Snowdens revelations were shocking enough for PR stunts to be necessary. So yes, it means Snowden was correct. But I wouldn't hold my breath for a pardon.

Re: Snowden (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46574001)

I'm still thinking they sorta embraced Snowden because he allowed them (the NSA) to come out and tell "this is how we work. Get used to it, 'cause it's how things are going to be from now on". And believe it or not, you still read plenty of comments taking pride for living in such a fascist, controlling state.

Re:Snowden (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 6 months ago | (#46574209)

This begs the quesion......if Snowden hadn't released this info, would this "change" be taking place? I wish I could say that this was an admission from the White House that what he did was right, but we know that's not the truth.

The most egregious Patriot Act provisions are going to expire in 2015 and they faced growing opposition even before Snowden. If anything this proposal is Obama merely being opportunistic and trying to trick the public into believing that this is a "reform" when it is actually just their attempt to extend the business records collection provision of the Patriot Act and deflect attention away from the constitutional violations of the Obama administration.

PLANNING to introduce a LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE (1, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 6 months ago | (#46573003)

>> planning to introduce a legislative package

Since when did Obama think a lawful path through Congress was a good option? Wasn't he the guy who said he'd work around our elected representatives to mandate the important things on his agenda?

Oh...I see. This is just a "planning to" press release. In other words, this is a BS trial balloon designed to get people off his back about the NSA without actually changing anything.

Re:PLANNING to introduce a LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573431)

Wasn't he the guy who said he'd work around our elected representatives to mandate the important things on his agenda?

There's your problem. You assume this is one of those important things on his agenda.

Still not depressed yet? To most Americans, this isn't an important thing either.

Two Hops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573067)

[P]hone companies would be required to hand over records up to "two hops" from a target number.

Kevin Bacon is screwed.

Patriot act (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573095)

If they renew this thing I think it is time to remove the entire government and start over fresh. They obviously don't do anything but what the companies are paying them off for.

Why propose it? JUST DO IT (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 6 months ago | (#46573181)

The NSA is part of the executive branch. President Obama could shut down the whole thing and fire everyone involved without needing to go through Congress. What he needs a law for is to find another way to do exactly what they're doing now.

If you want me to actually believe that you're changing, just issue the shutdown order.

The constitution (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about 6 months ago | (#46573349)

I think the Constitution must be respected! As it is now - far too much of it has been hijacked by the current AND previous government laws, we - the people, have certain inalienable rights. The government, the lawmakers serve the people - not the other way around.

Re:The constitution (1)

spacepimp (664856) | about 6 months ago | (#46574067)

Part of the problem is that the people are completely willing to give away those rights like scared sheep. Thankfully the Constitution prevents the people from signing those rights away, but that doesn't prevent the Government from letting them give away these liberties nonetheless.

Re:The constitution (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46574427)

" Thankfully the Constitution prevents the people from signing those rights away"
it does no such thing.

The apathy of the american public is deafening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573553)

Do we all have a bit to much prozac in our water supply, so much that we idly sit by and allow our own government violate the rules that we are all expected to live by. How often do we forget that sometimes all it takes is one person to say no, not on my watch to change everything. Do you really think that all those people we now call hero's started off that way? This way of thinking has gone on way too long. we've been warned for so long that this was happening as the lines that we the people set have been stepped over time and time again. while a tragedy of significant proportion, 9/11 was a catalyst to the creation of the orwellian society we now live in. because with what amounts to a relative small number of deaths, the land of the brave was turned into the land of the afraid. The brave only die once, the afraid die a small death over and over again.

The technology in place to create what the NSA has done is impressive using any measuring stick one can think of. yet we still have this old and outdated method of electing our officials that works tirelessly to prevent people from the other party from having their vote heard and I don't know about you but when I vote I don't find myself looking at the positives of the candidate, but which one is is less horrible than the other. How about a no confidence vote that throws out the proposed candidates? ooh we couldn't do that because that might take control from those that want and need it so much and continues to allow a propagation of a system of justice that is anything but just.

are any of us willing to stand? because we can change everything, perhaps its just a matter of writing edward snowdens name on every ballot that comes your way? perhaps a small act of civil obedience is enough to change everything. let me know what you think and respond to this post

Did you vote for Obama? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573819)

Hah! And You all voted for Obama! Now what do you think about Romney?

Bait And Switch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46573971)

To Obama and his Federal Government the citizens of the United States of America are his greatest and most hated enemy.

In order for Obama to preserve his Federal Treasury the White House will require that all electronic devices communicate directly to the NSA for purposes of targeting, rendition, torture and killing at the discretion and pleasure of Obama. The new Federal program copies elements of Microsoft Windows Update and Guardian software without paying royalties to Microsoft.

This will allow the NSA to maximize it's resources to further Obama's cherished hope of transforming the contiguous United States of America into a Federal Maximum Security Facility for his pleasure.

Give me a break (2)

scrubed (3562787) | about 6 months ago | (#46574287)

I'm sure the NSA fully plans to adhere to these laws with zero oversight and their own personal secret court they use to fly in the face of democracy. They have such a proven track record in the past of adhering to laws and privacy.
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