The NSA is taking liberties from us...

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(NOTE: After posting, this news just in.)

Since some readers were scandalized by Nelson Mandela's 1964 self-defense appearing here, maybe the anvil is hot and it's time to strike again giving readers another reason to believe David and I have turned into Commie-lovers.

Last night I read a long piece on the ten to fifteen year backstory to Edward Snowden's warnings that American citizens are routinely spied on by their government. The article titled, "State of Deception: Why won’t the President rein in the intelligence community?" by Ryan Lizza is a complicated story of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden's long and hard work defending American's civil liberties against the feds' fear-mongering espionage agencies that routinely dismiss the rulings of our Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) created to govern them. Lizza gives the history of the creation...

of FISC:

In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which forbade the intelligence agencies to spy on anyone in the U.S. unless they had probable cause to believe that the person was a “foreign power or the agent of a foreign power.” The law set up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and, in 1976, Congress created the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The N.S.A. and other spy agencies are instructed to keep the committee, as well as a similar one in the House, “fully and currently informed.”

Readers may remember this Baylyblog post from 2012. Keep in mind it was posted prior to Edward Snowden's release of tens of thousands of records of our government spying on us:

Last night, I read a story in Wired detailing how our government has thrown out legal checks against spying on citizens of these United States in its surveillance of phone conversations, e-mail, and everything digital. Specifically, the NSA is building huge buildings and working towards exaflop, zettaflop, and yottalop supercomputers to assist its normal work of spying on everyone and everything around the world, including you and me.

One of Wired's sources for the piece is William Binney who worked for decades at the top level of the super-secret NSA as a senior crypto-mathematician responsible "for automating the agency's worldwide eavesdropping network. ...the 68-year-old spent nearly four decades breaking codes and finding new ways to channel billions of private phone calls and email messages from around the world into the NSA's bulging databases. As chief and one of the two cofounders of the agency's Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center... Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program."

Binney states: "They violated the Constitution setting it up. But they didn't care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn't stay.

"Verizon was also a part of the program...and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency's domestic eavesdropping.

"That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five. So you're over a billion and a half calls a day."

Following the above quote, Wired reports, "Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security." Wired continues:

"Once the communications are intercepted and stored, the datamining begins."

"You can watch everybody all the time with transactions or travel or anything. ...Thus, as data like bookstore receipts, bank statements, and commuter toll records flow in, the NSA is able to paint a more and more detailed picture of someone's life. The NSA also has the capability to eavesdrop on phone calls directly and in real time."

Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters... Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together:

"We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state."

Of course, yesterday in a hearing on Capitol Hill where he was questioned concerning Wired's allegations, NSA chief Keith Alexander said no, no, never ever, and absolutely not.

Forbes concludes its report of Alexander's denial: "Don’t expect a more detailed response from the NSA to Bamford’s (Wired) story. The fact that Alexander doesn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the journalist who has written three definitive books on his agency’s history demonstrates how little accountability NSA feels to its critics. Instead, the agency’s parallel realities—one described from its official sources and another by the whistleblowers emerging from behind its classified walls—will likely keep diverging."

This was, as I said, some time before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA. From the beginning I've thought it likely he's a patriot, but this view has gotten little love from conservatives who, since 9/11, seem to have moved over to the liberal position that our freedoms and civil rights must be sacrificed in the interest of bodily safety and a sense of comfort and security. But back in 1755, Ben Franklin gave a wise warning:

They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

This is the key to understanding post-9/11 America and Christians must be wise enough to run from this Faustian bargain.

After posting the above article on Wired's piece on the NSA here on Baylyblog, a brother in Christ called and talked with David and me. He worked high up in the ranks of our military and he spent the phone call assuring us how completely safe Americans are from any threat of totalitarianism built upon information gathered through our government spying on its citizens. A key part of his argument was the aforementioned Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He was adamant that FISC carefully controlled all espionage keeping it far from any possible violation of our civil rights.

Events of the past year and a half have shown his confidence to be misplaced. It seems irrefutable that practices such as the bulk collection and analysis of metadata from both phone and internet communications has been done in almost complete disregard for FISC's orders and authority. Thus my view is that Edward Snowden was a faithful public servant who saw this hypocrisy and rebellion by the NSA and its allies and decided it must be stopped.

We may disagree with his method, but ask yourself what method you would choose to blow the whistle on the NSA?

Read the articles. Think carefully about the threat peeping toms working from secrecy and paid by ignorant taxpayers pose to our liberties, particularly when they report to men such as President Barack Obama and women such as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, California Senator Dianne Feinstein. (And yes, in a fit of political incorrectness, The New Yorker called her "chairman.")

Forbes reports today that Edward Snowden was respected by his peers, and that while doing a genius's work at NSA, he kept a copy of our U.S. Constitution on his desk to quote against practices ordered by his superiors that violated our civil rights. The article ends:

Snowden’s former colleague says that he or she has slowly come to understand Snowden’s decision to leak the NSA’s files. “I was shocked and betrayed when I first learned the news, but as more time passes I’m inclined to believe he really is trying to do the right thing and it’s not out of character for him. I don’t agree with his methods, but I understand why he did it,” he or she says. “I won’t call him a hero, but he’s sure as ____ no traitor.”

Time will tell, and I'm convinced the day will soon come when the combination of President Obama's hate crimes laws, the NSA's assurances to fearful citizens that all its work is for their safety, and the gagging of preachers by the R2K/Escondido "my country, right or wrong" ultra-patriots will prove to be the end of preaching against the heresies of feminism, homosexualism, and (always) repentance.

Indicative of the respect of those who worked with him and knew him, yesterday on 60 Minutes, Rick Ledgett, a spokesman for the group researching Snowden's whistleblowing, suggested they may recommend to their NSA peers that Snowden be brought in from the cold with an offer of immunity. Stay tuned.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!