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Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications

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Some relevant cost estimates from the Internet Archive blogs:
Cost to Store All US Phonecalls Made in a Year in Cloud Storage so it could be Datamined

The only cure I can see is to neuter the beast: take away its strength. And the way to do that is to shrink it, so it's no longer the 800-lb gorilla that can push everyone around.
-CWuestefeld (June 15, 2013, 09:10 AM)
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Sounds good - but like putting the proverbial bell on the cat - exactly how do you accomplish that?

You have a government that has gradually centralized all real power in the Executive Branch. And this Executive Branch has become increasingly uncontrollable due to it's assumption of unprecedented privileges and its deliberate defiance of any attempts to enforce a workable system of checks and balances over it.

You also have a "representative" Legislative Branch that no longer even feels the need to do more than pay lip service to the notion of acting on behalf of its electorate, let alone represent it.

You have a feckless and divided federal judiciary, burdened by age and a love of definition that borders on the pathological, that freely admits (often with a note of pride) how very little it understands about the many of the crucial things (education reform, software, patents, the Internet, modern communications, women, children, families, etc.) it so glibly rules on. And so often with such disastrous consequences.

Then you have an ever increasingly powerful, arrogant and secretive government bureaucracy - consisting of many obscurely named agencies - which also have their own enforcers in the form of duly sworn "agents"  (or independent security "consultants" and "contractors") who do what they're paid to do - with no questions asked. And this bureaucracy (which is not accountable to the electorate and is now becoming increasingly difficult to rein in because of it) has more and more come to believe that IT rather than the PEOPLE is what constitutes The United States of America.

So maybe I sound cynical, but what exactly can you do to shrink a monster that is incapable of internal reform - and is actively hostile towards any outside attempts reform it? Especially when it has access to guns, drones, wiretaps, secure communications, is willing to defy the elected branches of government when push comes to shove, and has a documented history of lying whenever asked an inconvenient question?

Walt Kelly absolutely nailed it back in 1971:

"It's a big problem." as my 5-year old niece likes to say.

So...anybody have any good workable ideas about how to fix this mess that wouldn't be interpreted as "seditious speech" under The Patriot Act? :huh:


Well, all I can offer is "proto-ideas".

1. "Feckless and Divided", but maybe the Judiciary is our first stop for hope. Legal precedent does work differently from both legislative and executive precedent. The latter two can just do absolutely whatever they want whenever they want. But the judges do get grumpy when someone violates precedent too badly. So occasionally a judge gets to lodge a nugget of precedent in the right direction. A nice simple example is the judge who got grumpy at Prenda Law. *Theoretically* the Judiciary can knock down both Exec and Legis side stuff with the "Unconstitutional Cannon". One problem is that if you misfire that cannon, it takes a long time to repair the damage. And figuratively they only get to fire it twice vs 100 proposed cases. So then they have to let a lot of stuff slide for another day. Sometimes they "code this" with a strange looking ruling that seems too narrow, but then a few of the smarter reporters have decoded it to say "we're with you, right idea, but one election cycle too early for the political gestalt. Watch this space in about three years." Meanwhile the "next level down" a "Federal Judge" can have a great time repairing medium sized problems, before the rather large wheelbased Powers of Mean finally encircle him/her and take the judge down.

2. "Sleeper Agent President (for good)"
Cynicism is what it is, but *theoretically* you do get a new chance for a new direction each eight years, if not each four years. (Incumbent effect.) So get one of those Big Dogs that we have "never heard of" who found out that he'll die of cancer in two years to blow out his entire fortune to fix the country, and then you do have about a 2 year window to go all Katrina on the establishment before anyone quite realizes what's going on. It's a Sacrificial President. He doesn't WANT to be re-elected.

The basic way that works is:
A. Executive Orders. The President "Says Things" and off they go to be done. So just go all Gambit from the comics and start wheeling out Exec Orders For Good. Someone in Congress will panic and try to make a bogus law to prevent "too many exec orders", but it will take them a long time to override a veto.

B. Sacrificial Political Capitol.
The things with this approach is, it basically works exactly once. Blast a broad swath of groundwork laws into place as fast as possible. Get the mood of the country excited that finally some stuff will change. Then get the mood of the country that any congressperson "Against Healing the Country" will get voted out.

It's a bit of a wild animal, but maybe we need a wild animal.

So... the other shoe drops.

NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants

On a very related note, here's a prime example of the problem with extensive 'databasing' done in the name of security and law enforcement. This is a classic case of "Who guards the guards?" And yet another example of how the NYPD has become somewhat notorious for circling the wagons whenever called to task for violating the very laws they are sworn to uphold. (They are not the only police agency that has done so either.)

This article from the Village Voice:

NYPD Sergeant Convicted of Misusing Terror Database Now "Integrity" Officer in Brooklyn Precinct
By Graham Rayman Fri., Jun. 14 2013 at 11:56 AM

Five years ago, NYPD Sergeant Haytham Khalil was indicted for illegally accessing the FBI criminal records and terrorism database on behalf of a friend in a child custody dispute. He pleaded guilty in 2009.

Today, Khalil not only is still with the police department, despite his conviction, but he is an integrity control officer in a Brooklyn precinct.

In sum, an officer convicted of abusing his position to access confidential information for a private purpose is now monitoring whether other officers are following the rules.

We asked the NYPD's public information office for comment, but received no response.

The National Crime Information Center maintains a database filled with sensitive information used by law enforcement agencies across the country in investigations.

Khalil, 37, of Brooklyn was convicted of using another sergeant's password to access the NCIC database and retrieved an entry which identified an individual as being on the terrorist watch list. He then sent that document to a female friend in a child custody dispute in Canada. That dispute was with a man who was being monitored by the feds. The friend then filed the document in court records in Canada.

Khalil pleaded to accessing a computer beyond his authority, a misdemeanor. He faced a maximum of one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. He was sentenced in 2009 to one year probation and a $500 fine.

Under state law, if he had pleaded guilty to a felony, he would have been fired. But since he pleaded to a misdemeanor, the NYPD could decide to keep him on the job.
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