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Just because They Can . . .

A commenter at DailyKos on my previous post on drawing the line in identifying whistle blowers said, among other things:

What I really find interesting is that Greenwald isn’t even allegeding [sic] any wrong doing or illegal activity, just that the NSA ‘has the capability’ well no shit sherlock the government could do lots of things that doesn’t mean it does or will.

I gave the following answer to that claim.

I don’t think you’re paying attention. The Snowden revelations have made clear that Administration intelligence officials have lied to the Congress. They’ve also made clear that searches being carried out by lower-level techies go way beyond what the law allows. That’s illegal activity. Also, the potential for illegal activity, along with the thousands of low level functionaries having access to the NSA tools makes it virtually certain that those tools are being abused right now, everyday.

And finally, the fact that NSA has the capability to commit unconstitutional searches and seizures certainly does mean that, very probably, its functionaries would do so in the future, and that we must ask the question “Is the risk of ongoing and future wholesale violations of the constitution using the capabilities NSA has developed, worth it, in return for the additional safety that may or may not result from using these tools?”

I’ve posed and answered a similar question here. My answer is no, it is far from worth it. It is a travesty. It is cowardly. And it will, in a brief time, result in the end of democracy.

Another commenter on my post added an August 1 PBS video of Judy Woodruff segment to the discussion. The video also added to my answer to the first commenter’s conjecture that can doesn’t allow us to conclude that they do or will. The video featured whistle blower William Binney, with Russell Tice also setting context.

This reinforces the point that violations of the Constitution and the boundaries of NSA’s authority under the Patriot Act have been occurring for years and certainly are being PLANNED FOR in the future in connection with the new NSA data center under construction.

At about 7 minutes into the video, Binney says outright that this dragnet surveillance isn’t even necessary to protect us and that the examples of successful protection given by the NSA have all been from investigations involving what he calls the “zone of suspicion.” That zone includes the limited social network of the external terrorist, the person he/she calls in the US (1st degree of separation), and the persons called by she/he (second degree of separation.)

So, previous cases and successes provide no clear reason or justification for the view that the NSA’s violation of the limits of the Patriot Act was necessary or desirable. And given the obvious risk it poses to our democracy NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional dragnet surveillance activities need to be stopped right now along with implementation of its new data center.

(Cross-posted from

Photo from Social Innovation Camp licensed under Creative Commons

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Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D. is Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director and co-Instructor of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program, as well as Director of KMCI’s synchronous, real-time Distance Learning Program. He is also CKO of Executive Information Systems, Inc. a Knowledge and Information Management Consultancy.

Joe is author or co-author of more than 150 articles, white papers, and reports, as well as the following book-length publications: Knowledge Management and Risk Management; A Business Fable, UK: Ark Group, 2008, Risk Intelligence Metrics: An Adaptive Metrics Center Industry Report, Wilmington, DE: KMCI Online Press, 2006, “Has Knowledge management been Done,” Special Issue of The Learning Organization: An International Journal, 12, no. 2, April, 2005, Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management, Burlington, MA: KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003; Key Issues in The New Knowledge Management, Burlington, MA: KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003, and Excerpt # 1 from The Open Enterprise, Wilmington, DE: KMCI Online Press, 2003.

Joe is also developer of the web sites,,, and the blog “All Life is Problem Solving” at, and He has taught Political Science at the Graduate and Undergraduate Levels, and has a BA from Cornell University in Government, and MA and Ph.D. degrees in Comparative Politics and International Relations from Michigan State University.