Elected officials in Washington seem to believe that people have forgotten about the extent of the NSA spying efforts and how much data is really collected. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) is one of those individuals as he has come out in support of the renewal of the PATRIOT Act as it stands, claiming that the only information being collected by the NSA is information already being held by phone companies – the phone numbers called, duration of the call and possibly location of the callers.
Sen. Cotton maintains that, because the Supreme Court has upheld the “constitutionality” of the NSA’s hoovering of data, all is well and individuals should not expect privacy in regards to phone call data. If what Sen. Cotton maintains is true, then why in the world did law enforcement agencies have to obtain a court order under the guidelines established by the Fourth Amendment to wiretap phones, obtain telephone records, and other “data” generated by the objects of their investigation? It was a long held practice before the advent of digital technology. As has been proven by documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the FISC approved the broadest of warrants that were general in scope to justify collection of data, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Sen. Cotton claimed that much of the debate over the reform or extension of the NSA’s controversial data collection was sparked by misinformation and misrepresentation of fact.
Cotton stated, “This is not a question of looking at the actual content of calls. And, the Constitution, as ruled by the Supreme Court, doesn’t give anyone a reasonable expectation of privacy in data that the telephone companies have always had – that they sell for marketing purposes.”
Cotton is citing the same Supreme Court that held Obamacare as constitutional.
But, is Cotton correct when he states that the “actual content of calls” are not being reviewed? It seems that XKeyscore answers the question of online data – analysts can read anyone’s email upon obtaining an email address. And what about Skype? Well that’s been addressed too when it was discovered that the NSA could wiretap Skype calls. That was done under a program called PRISM in which Microsoft handed the NSA the “key code” to tap Skype. NSA workers even admitted they “intercepted” and “eavesdropped” on average Americans stationed overseas who engaged in phone calls of a personal, private nature with loved ones. That same confession also applied to Skype calls and/or satellite phone calls.
Not surprisingly, the NSA can also listen to mobile phone conversations even when encrypted – the NSA admitted it outright. Granted, the NSA says it only “snoops” on foreign calls; but, would the NSA honestly admit they listened to domestic calls? All of this was flying under the radar until exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Guardian has the entire NSA files available on their website for anyone to read about and review which will blow Sen. Cotton’s argument right out of the water. And the provided links in this article makes it clear the spying apparatus gathers more data than that to which Sen. Cotton eludes.
Sen. Cotton maintains, “It is a simple fact that this program has helped detect plots or conduct investigations after the fact (emphasis mine). I can’t share all the details with you.”
Of course it has helped after the fact since it points you where to go in the quadrillions of pieces of information the NSA has “hoovered.”
But, where is this “proactive” prevention of terrorism that was used after 9/11 to enact the PATRIOT Act, which is everything but patriotic?
Sen. Cotton has an answer for that as well. “Can I say – can someone at the FBI or NSA say – this program is a silver bullet that has stopped a terrorist attack against America? I cannot say that. I also can say that about traditional human intelligence, or other signals intelligence.”
In other words, no amount of intelligence gathering can stop a terrorist attack, whether it be through the human domain or the digital domain of gathering up all this data. The only thing that can be said is it helps “after the fact.”
Cotton goes further to state, “That question misunderstands the nature of intelligence. To put it in non-intelligence terms: A symphony doesn’t have just horns or percussion, it takes all of them together to create a harmony. All the tools that our intelligence professionals have work together in concert and to deprive them of this critical tool would lead to attacks on the United States (emphasis mine).”
All of this “intelligence” was being gathered when the Boston Bombing occurred. Why did not all this “data gathering” prevent that attack or is that not considered an attack on the United States? And, there’s the Fort Hood shooting by an Islam extremist who happened to be an Army officer. Where was the “intelligence community” then? If, as Sen. Cotton claims, this data “helped detect plots,” surely the Fort Hood shooter left “clues” that would “trigger” something was amiss. Most recently, there is the terrorist shooting at Pamela Geller’s “Draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. So far, that is three major incidents that have “slipped” passed all those “intelligence professionals” who have all these tools in their toolbox. Of course, who can forget the “underwear bomber” and the “shoe bomber”? Oh that’s right, this only helps “after the fact.”
Let’s look at that “symphony” analogy Sen. Cotton references. The “symphony” follows music written on a page authored by a composer. The musicians follow the composer’s musical notes to produce “harmony.” The symphony is conducted by a director to keep everyone in the same tempo, harmony and key. Cotton’s “symphony” sounds a bit flat, disharmonious, and out of tempo. They are not following the music nor are they following the conductor. The conductor is the people and the music is the Constitution. What happens in a symphony when the players cannot follow the music or conductor?
Bottom line, Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, stood before the Senate and blatantly lied regarding NSA collection of data. The documentation proves it. He is one example of the type of Republicans that sit in both chambers of Congress.
Any data that is generated by anyone is now no longer considered private. It’s collected and archived for future use “after the fact.” As anyone knows, data can be manipulated to present a false narrative far from the truth. It’s a danger all Americans face – having your data manipulated to falsely accuse one of wrong-doing. Not only is your data no longer private, you no longer have control over your own body as road side strip searches are “policy” of some police departments with consequences for refusal and forced medical procedures are done for blood samples in cases of drunk driving in some states.
Many in both chambers of Congress, such as Sen. Cotton, are hoping Americans have “short memories.” Unfortunately, the Senator forgets about archived news reports and those of us who keep our information sources handy in case they are needed for future reference. Maybe he didn’t and is hoping that members of the Senate and the American people are too stupid to remember.
Either way, Sen. Cotton is among the many Republicans who advocate, just like the Democrats, for the continual “hoovering” of Americans’ private data and advocate for nothing to be held private, including your body, blood, and other body fluids. After all, it is the Supreme Court who has declared all NSA data gathering “constitutional.” According to Sen. Cotton, who are we simple US citizens to argue with that?