Is there such thing as a private email? Are there limits to what the government can access? From The Washington Post:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.


Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

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  1. On the one hand, the government is more than welcome to “watch [my] ideas form as [I] type”; that should be as entertaining and as informative as watching paint dry.

    On the other hand: this really isn’t funny at all, and I wish to hell we could dismantle the entire NSA surveillance apparatus and the whole “national security state”/Imperial Presidency along with it. Alas, the best for which we can hope is a kinder, gentler, more legally scrupulous Big Brother, with all the “i’s” dotted and all the “t’s” crossed in its FISA applications–that’s not what I thought I was voting for, but apparently it’s what I got.

  2. Jack is correct. But I’m not sure why there’s so much surprise. Thisprogram began back in 2001–see Suskind’s “One-Percent Doctrine.”

    Does anyone think–post-9/11–that any administration here on in will want less information? Even though it can actually make finding anyone in particular more difficult–the bigger the haystack, the more work finding the needle; or, as Silver puts it, the more noise, the harder to hear the signal.

    Imagine if any president were to cut back on surveillance, and then we had a major attack. How would the opposition party react? How would we all react?

    It would all be back within a month.

    Then we’d eventually again vote for “hope and change” without inquiring about what the change is precisely. And, eventually, the same potential scenario of cutting back, attack, etc.

    But because they know that, I suspect we’ll never see that “cuttting back.”

    As for Obama, like with all politicians, one needs to listen carefully. He said he was against stupid wars, not all wars. He said he was against illegal wiretapping, not wiretapping.

    If that’s that’s not what you thought you were voting for, I don’t think he’s to blame.

    He and his team–Holder, etc.–areas establishment as you can get, and that was evident from the beginning to all careful observers. For whatever reason, the hysteria of the D’Souza-ish right was mirrored by the naivete of sdome on the left, and they look for anyone but themselves to blame.

    Here’s the bumper sticker that was making the rounds among historians in 2008:×133.png

    Maybe that’s the moral of the story: Listen to the historians.

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