Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies

The practice, which the bureau says is vital to counterterrorism efforts, casts a much wider net than previously disclosed, newly released documents show.

Comments: 190

  1. Big Brother is watching us.

  2. @MIMA Big Brother and all of his siblings, cousins, and the entire family tree.

  3. If we just had all of the hay, we’d know exactly where the needles are. They’re right there in the hay.

  4. The "Freedom Act" in yet another insult to the people once touted as a way to get terrorists when in reality it's just another way to control us. IF IF IF our lousy law enforcement was ever serious about money going to terrorists the big Dick cheney would not have made real estate transactions secret and we all know that's where the big big money goes to hide yet this draconian law simply ignores real estate.Why? Why do land owners get exempted from income tax?

  5. Following the horrific events of 9/11 our immediate reaction was to enact quick legislation to "prevent" any such further attacks. The Department of Homeland Security was created. The TSA was created. And the Patriot Act was enacted. Since 9/11 various of these have been challenged for their procedures or constitutionality. While the Patriot Act remains in place - for the most part - anyone who doesn't think this legislation was an attempt to circumvent the 4th and 5th Amendments is drinking the Kool-Aid. We gave up our rights to privacy when the Patriot Act was enacted, and we've done so every time modifications or continuations have come up for a vote in Congress.

  6. @Dave B Some saw 9/11 as the opportunity they needed to enact all kinds of legislation with far-reaching consequences, not all of them fit for public disclosure.

  7. @Dave B It is amusing how often the right to privacy -- a right not enumerated in the Constitution -- is claimed by folks that spill their private information online. David B, I'll check out your Facebook page for additional detail.

  8. Sir: if you are not engaged in illegal or illicit activity, then what exactly is it that you are worried about? Do you honestly think that the US government gives a hoot about you?

  9. If you ever needed more reasons to safeguard your personal privacy from the corporate world, this is it. I can only assume it starts out like this and ends up as something that our government agencies use routinely with absolute impunity.

  10. @David R Exactly correct. If something exists it will be used. That is axiomatic. It's up to us to do whatever we can to protect ourselves.

  11. Yes, with absolute impunity: especially if you are in regular contact with the Taliban, Hezbollah, Russian and Chinese intelligence services, and the Iranian Qods force. 

  12. @David H Right, because governments and politicians have always shown that they can be trusted to use technologies for morally pure and righteous purposes.

  13. It's laughable that a country with Citizens United, superPacs & super delegates thinks Facebook ads from Russia have ruined its democracy. Russia as a threat is a huge cash cow for the military industrial congressional complex & surveillance state. It justifies the censorship of voices that don't conform to the self-serving narratives of the U.S. corporate state & NATO.

  14. "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." was meant to be warning, not a "Authoritarianism For Dummies" how to manual... The erosion of faith in institutions is growing and we'll founded. We are the cavalry we have been waiting for yet more citizens gather to storm Area 51 then storm the White House. As the adage predicts, we do indeed live in interesting times...

  15. What’s to stop a renegade official from giving away secrets for financial gains?

  16. @John Renegade? This information is already shared with credit bureaus.

  17. To believe this is about terrorism is to deny all available evidence. Just two of many contrary facts: 1) If our safety was paramount, why hundreds of billions on foreign terrorism? 9/11 took fewer lives than car crashes that week, and records show the majority of foreign terrorist arrests were sting operations created by the FBI using borderline mentally ill people who would have done nothing otherwise. 2) If losing just a handful of lives justified hundreds of billions and the shredding of our Constitution, the federal government might have done something about lead in Flint, or medication prices for the poor, or regulation of poisons in our food. Obviously, terrorism isn’t a big threat, and keeping Americans safe isn’t a priority. So?

  18. @Yoshi But the government's oppressive anti-"terrorism" actions have been extremely effective to protect us from terrorizing attacks by wild lions and the terror from being trampled by herds of wild elephants.....not a single such "terrorist" act has occurred since we abandoned the Bill of Rights to pass the Patriot Ace et seq.

  19. Secret courts, secret court orders, and even secret subpoenas without no court approval whatsoever. The founders must be turning over in their graves. How sincere do you think the politicians really are when they "investigate" Facebook and other social media when the government is secretly receiving all the spy data that these companies collect on us? I laugh every time I go for medical service and they give me a HIPPA privacy notice. The truth is that every government cop, security agent, and persecutor has secret access to more of my medical information than I am allowed to see.

  20. @AACNY Yes, and the partisans of both parties will behave as they normally do....the Democrat partisans will claim that it is only those evil Republicans who act badly, and the Republican partisans will claim that it is only those evil Democrats who act badly.

  21. Does anybody know what happens when a NSL is issued under false pretenses? What’s the punishment? Is the target notified? I had a professor in a cybersecurity class I was taking tell us a story about a friend of his who worked at a telecom. The friend received a NSL targeting someone. The friend pushed back on the NSL, turns out it the target was an ex of the government agent who submitted the NSL. This type of behavior seems to happen enough that the term LOVEINT is used for it. I’m sure this type of behavior has occurred for a long time, but the scope and amount of information available these days is staggering. It is truly scary to think about all that information being used by a jealous ex or obsessed suitor.

  22. So what. It is a digital world no privacy anymore. Everybody’s data on multiple sites on the web anyhow. Just use Mylife or Truthfinder and you see.

  23. @lieberma It doesn't have to be this way, legislation could fix this to some extent. I'll give an example of why this is an issue: What if someone scoured all your posts and found some discussion that might upset a far right group or far left group. They then re-posted that information and included all your personal info (phone # and address) and your families info on that shady groups forum/twitter/group etc. Now you get to enjoy threats, doxing, and possibly physical harm for just expressing an idea. But "So what" right?

  24. "while helping to clear the innocent of suspicion." This is laughable. Once the letter is issued to any institution, the suspicion has been activated and remains. This is nothing new, just exposes how broad the reach. Now its even much easier: if you are online or your phone is on, you are being watched and monitored.

  25. My initial reaction to this news was anger--"how dare they" etc. Especially given the history of abuse we've seen from the FBI and other intel and enforcement agencies. But in fact we do need intelligence on terrorism. The problem is making sure it is lawful, and that violators or folks who engage in warrantless activities are dealt with properly. But given the environment of lawlessness and utter contempt for procedure, due process, etc. that we've seen in the past 10 or 20 years, I'm doubtful that these activities will be done lawfully, and that violators will in fact be subject to the law.

  26. The question that has to be asked, is this truly to prevent terrorism or is this Trump using the D.O.J. resources to spy on his and the 1%'s business enemies. This administration thinks it's above the law so we need a huge amount of oversight to keep it in check.

  27. @BTO It’s laughable that you equate Trump with the FBI here. If anything, the FBI is more likely to gather information about Trump then on his behalf.

  28. There should be a law that prohibits other laws from being named the opposite of what they are intended for. "Freedom Act" should not be the name for a law that capitulates to the permanently lost status of freedoms, protections and liberties we once had. We have zero reasons to trust our government.

  29. Sounds like "1984" doesn't it?

  30. "The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed . . . They don’t require a judge’s approval and usually come with a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. Almost seems as if the ghost of J. Edgar still walks the halls of the F.B.I. building. I have always believed that if I've done nothing wrong or illegal, I have nothing to worry about. That's my spin. Apparently, the F.B.I. can spin anything they like without consequences or worse yet, justification or cause. Thank you for this illuminating information.

  31. "I have always believed that if I've done nothing wrong or illegal, I have nothing to worry about." That's exactly the attitude that will convict you. If a cop is talking to you, he is gathering evidence against you.

  32. @Marge Keller "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." – Cardinal Richelieu

  33. The fundamental question here is not that the agencies have access to our data, it is whether we trust them with that data I can see that this is a liberal issue. I also hear conservatives complain about gun registries used by the government to go after people with guns so they are opposed to a lot of background checks. They are also against the government managing anything including healthcare and seem to be constantly afraid of government tyranny. If there is bipartisan agreement on not trusting the government, how is it that these laws allowing them access to our data allowed to pass?

  34. When so-called representative government and its agencies, all of its agencies, including law enforcement agencies, is not independently monitored and directed, by the masses, the people it is supposed to represent, such government eventually becomes authoritarian, and instead of serving the people it begins to rule them in accordance with the desires and wishes of the few, the wealthiest elites and the corporations these elites control. This is the America we now live in, its people deliberately divided along political, racial, and religious lines, monitored 24/7/365, essentially living in an Orwellian dystopia, their perceptions completed managed, a kind of subjugation, heavily taxed, barely living on wages which provide for a basic existence, denied the wherewithal to organize and resist. This state of being began in earnest here in America with the 1981 election of Ronald Reagan, signifying the birth of modern conservatism, and in just over three decades we find ourselves effectively living in near totalitarianism, ruled by Trump and his Republican partners, with the Republican-Lite Pelosi Schumer democrats waiting in the wings, the fail-safe option, ready with their incrementalism, just in case the hardcore Trumpists are delivered a setback. We did it to ourselves; the opportunity to reclaim our destiny exists in the personas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; failure to elect either as our 46th President will end the American dream.

  35. @Mel Farrell None of the candidates from either party has the will to push legislation that will end corporate money and limit max contributions. Until that happens, you will not see congress get behind real change.

  36. It is time for business in general, the communications companies and the personal data a collection companies, thousands of them - to either voluntarily cease their data collection, or be closed down by law. If advertisers, retail companies and political operations were not so enamored of holding personal files on each and every one of us - made possible because neither the Internet nor laws were designed with personal security in mind, federal agencies would not have a treasure trove of data to collect. It isn’t “tech” companies that are the problem - aside from the few which have designed “back doors” for scooping data out of their equipment and those which do nothing when holes are discovered, the computer/communications hardware industry is usually not to blame. The ethicality bankrupt credit data collectors, list sellers, almost always partially criminal robo-call data collection operations are examples of things that need to be blocked by law. Almost every retail business needs to be ordered by law to end collection of a single bit more data than is needed to do business. And Internet Service Providers must be ordered to operate in the best interest of the individual - rather than themselves - it will be tough, they make additional dollars on every customer spying on their activities. The Internet itself was never meant to be the prime system for supplying every bit of communications - from moving phone calls to cable TV programs. Past time for redesign.

  37. It doesnt even work for sales to have a personal file on every single person in the U.S. It is not even a sales play to drive sales bc our companies don't make build or sell anything... our stock market is not being propped up by sales... by by the spying on its own citizens and dark deals w the gov ? Facebook and Google are vendors to the FBI and the CIA.. but the joke from the free market liberal perspective is that there is no good business reason to have this kind of data on people.. they cannot use this to sell this is not how you get a consensual deal or sale...

  38. @Eatoin Shrdlu It is not legal for corporate to collect info on U.S. citizens. It violates their constitutionally protected rights to privacy. Our global companies are unconstitutional in the U.S. This needs to go. They need to be shut down and broken up. the 18th C U.S. was never meant to house these kind of large companies that violate the rights of their own citizens. They need to be shut down ... Our stock market, our U.S. companies are large companies violate our constitution. Our constitutionally protect rights or at least those of the white -and now black -men whose data they are collecting..

  39. It is indisputable that a permanent "gag" order would violate the 1st Amendment. But even worse it that the NSL are a blatent violation of the 4th Amendment rights of AMERICAN CITIZENS. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." To get a WARRANT the Framers of the 4th Amendment expected there to be a hearing in open court wherein the target could protest the issuance of the warrant in the first place. There were NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE SECRET TRIALS AND SEARCHES! That was one of the charges made against the King in the lead up to the Declaration of Independence None of this should even apply to a NON-CITIZEN. So, the first thing that Congress MUST do is limit NSL to ONLY NON-CITIZENS. Next would be to specifically reguire ABSOLUTE COMPLIANCE with the 4th Amendment for ALL survielance and searches of American Citizens. But. Nether the christacrats nor the National Socialists will do this because both are desperate to be able to secret survielance of each other and the deep state FIB/CIA what the power to disrupt the election of someone they don't support as demonstrated by the FIB giving Hillary a pass on the Emails while getting NSL's to spy on the Trump campaign.

  40. @Blank Ballot Our companies, almost all of our publicly traded companies violate our constitutional rights or at least those of white and black men.. they are unconstitutional and illegal... Our gov is also unconstitutional... just wow...

  41. Is Equifax not quickly becoming one of the most distrusted brand names in America?

  42. If people don’t like the service Equifax provides, they should close their accounts and go somewhere else. Choose another credit rating provider.

  43. It appears that the FBI is getting data about everyone. We had hoped that the fishing expedition would only involve Republicans. All Democrats are law abiding.

  44. @Richard Wright Also why the FBI.. if this is what the FBI is.. and the constant use of them for the abuse of women without and ERA in our constitution.. let us get rid of the FBI... Do we really need an FBI or CIA under the U.S. constitution ... the FBI and CIA Are also probably unconstitutional as are most heavily militarized police forces in the U.S. at this time.. as is the military industrial complex... unconstitutional to u.s. citizens... to its own people... let alone what it is to the rest of the world...

  45. @Richard I laughed at the stupidity of the statement that all Democrats are law abiding. A simple google search will show how patently absurd this is. However, I do applaud your honesty that you only want to target Republicans. It reinforces my belief that many on the Left are the truly intolerant hypocrites that they go to great lengths proclaiming that they are neither.

  46. Reading this article, Hoover, Nixon, enemies lists came to mind. It gives the British term, Hoovering, a whole new meaning.

  47. @Jo Williams It is like corporate is the new British empire... like we broke free from the British empire only to replace them with Facebook, Google... If Facebook and Google are the British empire to our americanness... they need to go..

  48. @interesting This is simply history repeating itself more or less. Read a bit on the British East India Company. They had their own military force (separate from England) with hundreds of thousands of troops. Until we limit campaign contributions to individuals (make PAC's illegal) and cap contributions at a very low level (I'd recommend $100 or less) our elected officials will continue to be fundraisers beholden to their major donors rather than problem solvers for their constituents. Over time every organization will have a bad leader, this is a given. That's why the US was founded with checks and balances and a bill or rights. We have been eroding those checks an balances for decades. It is time to remember that every citizen has rights for a reason. Secret subpoenas are UnAmerican.

  49. So much for the land of the free. The US is now a surveillance state, no different than China. At least in China they don’t act like they’re free whereas in the US we have this illusion of liberty which is nothing but a huge lie. Not sure which is worse.

  50. @Mike L Similar to how most in the Soviet Union knew that Pravda was just blatant state propaganda and ignored it accordingly, whereas here we have many who sincerely believe the lies and disinformation spread by right-wing outlets such as Fox News.

  51. Where am I? I don't recall leaving the USA but if that is indeed where I am, I no longer recognize my country. I feel more devastated by the day.

  52. I for one don't see the FBI as "the Government". I see them as very carefully selected men and women where ethics is one of the highest priorities in choosing them. I see them as an agency that keeps the Government in check (among many other things) because as we know, ethics is in short supply there. So I am sure they must have to really dig sometimes to get answers and if there are laws in place to allow them to do that they'll use them. I'm always saying thank God for the FBI or we'd be like so many other authoritarian autocratic societies where the government actually rules the intelligence agencies in everything they do. Is the FBI perfect, no. But I am so happy they are there.

  53. @C. Bernard Some of us are aware of an era when the FBI was more powerful than the Attorney General, and used that power to surveil civil rights leaders, all the while denying the existence of the mafia. It's unfortunate that so much knowledge has been forgotten.

  54. @C. Bernard The same FBI that spied on MLK & unions? What basis for such trust?

  55. @C. Bernard Who is keeping an eye on the FBI? What dire threats have the agency uncovered recently? Who "carefully selects" the people who are free to poke their noses into every facet of every citizen's life?

  56. In the name of national security, I have no problem with the government doing what is necessary to protect the country. On the other hand, we have to reach a balance to prevent government to abuse its power to benefit individual or particular group. The question is how do we do that? As the paper says that there are loopholes in the laws. Elected officials need to address the problems and fix them quick. Otherwise, there will be difference between us and China.

  57. I’m not afraid of ISIS, I’m afraid of my government.

  58. @Terrence Zehrer I feel your pain - it's a gamble just to start your car out there... Saw what happened when Rothstein crossed Webb...

  59. What makes America the greatest country? Well you can no longer claim ‘freedon’.

  60. The Freedom Act. Written down the hall from the Ministry of Love.

  61. But investigating the President and his administration, that’s apparently off limits...

  62. @Art123 ....and our so-called "leader" meets with our worst dictator enemies privately. What a combination: Trump, the "justice department" (l.c. intentionally), and FBI secret subpoenas.....! Trump isn't paying attention to subpoenas so why should honest American Corporations have to?

  63. @Art123 I can’t think of an anyone more politically connected and investigated than this President, yet no criminal charges, before or after the election. For all their collecting and investigating, it seems it only matters when it’s a threat to exposing the FBI’s insidious duplicity.

  64. This is closer to answering this question about why BigTech has been given such free reign and such anti-constitutional abilities in the U.S. at this time.. Why the Section 230 exemptions and the constant entertaining by Google exes In the Obama White House and now w current administration... having them on speed dial... Why would they be given so many rights that are unconstitutional and break so many libel laws, constitutional right-to-privacy laws, constitutional right to free press laws, why? Basically bc they are being used by the U.S. gov to spy on its own citizens and others. Why do we have Google, Facebook and Apple and these companies, Twitter? Why are they legally allowed to exist as top companies in the U.S. stock market at this time... basically bc the Gov is using them to spy on its own citizens and to rewrite the U.S. constitution into something that denies the right to privacy, the right to a free press, the right to competition and to say a free market that allows for entrepreneurship and not just monopolies that break antitrust norms of a truly liberal free-market society... the faster this gets documented the faster we can all get clear on why the 230 exemptions.. and the faster hopefully the states the states rights folks can take back the rights of the people...

  65. The huge number of requests suggests incompetence, risks going down millions of blind alleys, disrupting lives and wasting resources.

  66. I would argue that the huge number actually portends a significant threat to law-abiding American citizens from foreign agents and their terrorist proxies.

  67. @Gary If preventing foreign terrorism is the goal. If it is to collect data on the general public, it’s working perfectly.

  68. The scourge of technology is upon us. This is the new reality, Big Brother is truly watching you.

  69. Our founders understood power corrupts, having lived under a tyrant. Two hundred years later our Constitutional protections have failed us, and the Executive claims sovereign powers under the doctrine of the "unitary executive", including constant war powers over its citizens and the power to torture, unless found out and prevented by another branch of government. The solution to unlimited power- work in secret, don't leave evidence, and prevent testimony. Gerrymandering the Congress, voter suppression, and packing the courts with ideologues further ensures the coup's success. Muzzle the press and the end of democracy is complete;"Investigate" "conspirascists" as terrorists and mass surveillance icing on the cake. The detention camps are ready, but in the mean time, FBI "disruption" operations and "no-touch" torture will do.

  70. I'm more worried about the amount of data that these companies scoop up, then about what the federal government subpoenas. At least a judge has to sign off on a subpoena. There is no oversight of these companies whatsoever, and they can do whatever they want with the data.

  71. @Linda Read the third paragraph of the article again! There are NO judges approving these subpoenas and secrecy orders! Just a single FBI agent issues them.

  72. @Linda Hi Linda. Thanks so much for reading. You raise a point I have always found interesting — whether government or corporate collection and use of data causes more concern. But I'd like to point out one thing, which is that these particular types of subpoenas don't require judicial approval. There are multiple types of subpoenas, and these are a special "administrative" type used in a national security context.

  73. I've always assumed personal data on me was gathered to somewhat beyond the point of absurdity. When my father received a relatively minor presidential appointment in 1963 (I was then a college student) he was questioned about a summer job he'd had as a college student in 1933, and he was presented with a list of all the demonstrations I'd been in as a college student (mainly, against atmospheric nuclear testing). During his service a presidential appointee, his home phone was tapped by the FBI (he had a policy disagreement with Bobby) . These things are nothing new. I simply decided to live my life and never run for political office.

  74. Oh, my goodness! Can't corporate America do something about this since they own they Congress?

  75. @george eliot But you see, in the end, although they influence mightily, corporate America does not own the Congress. The individual voters do. Please vote.

  76. Do we have to subsidize this spying and the expensive storage of data with our taxes?

  77. Funny, they, all that data and they can't come up with Trump's tax returns.

  78. Always cracks me up when people rail against big government without realizing that 90% of the world’s internet flows through servers and infrastructure owned by like 5 companies. And then they’re shocked, SHOCKED to learn that the mega corporations that they put all of their faith in turn out to be more corrupt than the government.

  79. @Austin Ouellette They are the de facto government.

  80. Just finished reading Snowden's memoir. He's a true hero, a word I shudder to ever use, and for good reason. Unfortunately, the twin desires of both commerce and governmental control will undermine his massive sacrifice, which has had some real regulatory and legislative changes, but how deep and how real, one can easily guess. But he refused to be a Good German, whatever the costs. His now-wife may be even more impressive than he. Read the book, especially the people below who, appallingly, are apparently OK living in a sort-of, for-now benevolent totalitarian state, or one well on the way to that. I know: knowing snark ("Oh, who cares? It's always been like this?") covers both ignorance and, worse, understanding. The go-to tone of the postmodern Good German.

  81. @Doug Tarnopol Question for you, Doug. When reading Snowden's memoir, did he explain the "millions" of pages of documents that he released? How could one man read all of those documents and make the determination that each page that was released was free of critical confidential government information? The simple fact is that he didn't. Whether Snowden did the right thing to "alert" us of what was happening is one thing. The fact that he was beyond careless and criminally negligent in releasing documents that he couldn't have read in full is not heroic and put us all at risk.

  82. Now Trump inherits this power. Sleep well kids.

  83. The concept of "Privacy" is a joke in the 21st Century with the easy availability through the internet of private information to any talented hacker whether for good or evil. It is almost quaint that the FBI actually uses subpoenas rather than just hacking sources, like the Russians and the 300 lb nerd sitting on his bed.

  84. All of this invasive nonsense surely traces back to 9-11. We lost far more than two huge buildings and thousands of lives that day. On 9-11 and the days after we gave up so many of our constitutionally protected freedoms to privacy and person. Our government chose to use fear to eat away at our freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism. We started multiple wars in Afghanistan and Iraq too - under the banner of fear. Every time I go through an airport now I’m rudely treated by surly TSA officers who demand I take off my shoes and pat me down like a criminal. All from 9-11. Fear is a powerful motivator. After 9-11 our country embraced fear and allowed the government to abandon infringe in our basic liberties in the name of ? Once we gave away these freedoms & rights, now we won’t get them back. It’s wrong. The USA is lost.

  85. Lately, I tend to worry and question those running the country more than ordinary American citizens.

  86. While day to day Americans are increasingly subject to secret access to their most personal data in order to combat terrorism - all pre authorized by Congress - that same Congress continually refuses to enact simple measures to regulate and track the sale of potentially deadly weapons often used in domestic terror assaults. Something is seriously out of whack.

  87. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  88. @AdAbsurdum What has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

  89. Disinfo. Baseless assertion.

  90. @AACNY See you can be funny.

  91. I wish you had found out how many terrorists were identified and stopped, and how many innocent Americans surveilled. I thought the surveillance of American citizens had stopped.

  92. One more notch on the gun of politicizing another "independent" agency. Personal data at the FBI available on request from any devious and charlatan operative who feels the necessity to target real or imaginary enemies of an "aggrieved" Executive and/or, state apparatus. 1984 again, and again ad infinitum and nauseum.

  93. Oh, come on, could legislation with names like "Patriot Act" and "USA Freedom" really be used to collect information about American citizens without their knowledge or consent? And we can't blame this on Trump. The credit goes to both W and Obama. We allow terrorists to win when we impose gag orders to enforce the secrecy of domestic surveillance. This is exactly what terrorists want.

  94. No snark; can you please list specific points that Informed your conclusion? I see a broadside conclusion but no factual data to base it on.

  95. Orwell was prescient far beyond what he could even imagine.

  96. You worry about the American judiciary reviewing your data but yet you eagerly hand it over to private corporations in silicon valley that are heavily underwritten by foreign investment?

  97. Poindexter and Rumsfeld must be so pleased. Total Information Awareness is a reality.

  98. Well, really! The FBI is probably reading this column and taking names of its commenters right now! Oh, the horror! If I can travel safely by air, live safely in a major city, and in general go about my life without worry about being slaughtered by madmen -- go ahead, look me up, FBI. You're the good guys, I'm on your side. To do complain about this phantom of "privacy invasion" and demand the FBI stop monitoring potential threats verges on aiding and abetting our enemies.

  99. We seem to forget that the government has a track record of using force against people for existing in certain demographic categories, and that we live in a time where white nationalism seems to be gaining a great deal of traction world wide - including in our own country and our own government. And that law enforcement and military persons have insane rates of domestic abuse. So yeah, let’s just hand over the power to the government, military, and law enforcement to decide who the enemy is, let them track that enemy with no oversight. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope the enemy isn’t us.

  100. "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." - A. Moore.

  101. Most of the comments here are focused on individual privacy, but I think everyone is skipping over a quick point. If the suspected terrorists are alerted every time the FBI subpoenas their account, aren't they going to know they are under investigation and do a better job covering their tracks? The number of subpoenas seems pretty small, so it doesn't really seem like the FBI is going after John Q. Public in Podunk, Indiana or vacuuming up Google's entire database. If you really want to be concerned about data, watch The Great Hack. It's the private companies that are offering "free" services you need to be concerned about.

  102. The rumors about J Edgar Hoover aside; why do we allow an agency the man created and used to run a Shadow Federal Government via blackmail to continue to do exactly as it always has? Comey was the most recent director to show his true face in telling us we do not have a right to privacy while saying "trust me". How can we trust the man who intentionally ensured DJT would be our president today by taking corrupt actions against agency policy twice? All of our agencies have too much authority and the people running them demonstrate this as they use that authority as if it were power over others whom they politically or intellectually disagree with. They like all illegitimate actors usually allege something criminal about the victim.

  103. I worked in IT for 35 years. The enormous amount of data collected is useless when it comes to discovering a terrorist plot. Algorithms to parse the data or discover meaningful trends in a timely matter don’t exist and never will. it can,however, be effectively be used to go after a particular person.

  104. And that is precisely the point. A particular person. I dare say that nobody commenting today on this article falls into that category.

  105. In the old days, it was sufficient for law-enforcement to obtain a search warrant to gain access to a personal residence where there might be suspicion of illegal activity. Today, the “personal residence” where illegal activity is being planned, conceived, and executed is more likely to be found in virtual space And I personally do not believe that under any circumstances should those suspected of wishing to harm us be alerted in advance in anyway, shape, or form. I am extremely thankful to the government and to the FBI in particular for using every tool of their disposal to protect law abiding American citizens from those who would kill us, including the recently reported Hezbollah member who was taking building measurements and scouting bombing targets at Time square. To those of you who disagree, I relate the following conversation I had with my 85-year-old mother-in-law after passage of the Patriot act. She said to me that she did not want the FBI knowing what books she checked out of the library. I replied that the only way the FBI would take interest in her is if she made periodic cell phone calls to a cave in Waziristan province or the southern suburbs of Beirut.

  106. @David H The ol' "if you don't have anything to hide" argument misses the point. If an entity, especially a government, has sufficient personal data on populations, then those populations can be manipulated. The nothing-to-hide argument rests on the assumption that there are always good actors and good intentions when history shows that where there is potential for abuse, there will be abuse. We have a right to privacy under the law. We have an obligation to fight for it.

  107. @Kevin Manufacturing Consent -- is still valid read today.

  108. @David H How does one convince someone else of something they have put the full weight of their faith and belief in is not actually a real thing? The things you speak of are not real in the way you are imagining. In the first instance you mention those things you go on to say are in "virtual space, today" were still in virtual space then, the mind. But the real problem here is not evidence or the search warrants it is the very same magical sort of faith and belief you are engaged in embracing being the basis of FBI work. In those days before people could use the internet to store what they formerly stored in their minds consuming a lot of time and effort on their part which they will do again if necessary, the FBI actually did some real investigative police work which did not require constant trickery and deceit. In fact deceit was one of the things all right minded folks looked down upon. Oh yea the other glaring fault in your logic is that you are assuming guilt as the basis of the justification for what you are declaring support for and so is the FBI. if they had knowledge certain of guilt we would not be having this conversation as they would have the evidence they needed for warrants and arrests.

  109. The major difference between - say - Google, and the FBI, is that only the FBI can put you in jail. At least so far, anyway. Google knows way more about all of us than the FBI ever will, without ever asking our permission, or giving us any control over or insight into how our data is collected and sold. We have more to worry about from corporate surveillance than from government surveillance, until the day comes when both forms or surveillance are merged.

  110. If you use the Google chrome browser, you can adjust settings that will prevent the browser from recording your Internet history. For example, if you are a Civil War buff, and enjoy watching YouTube videos about the Civil War, YouTube will collect data on your video watching habits, unless you adjust that particular setting. One can also spend three dollars a month and have access to a virtual private network, which provides a considerable deal of security and prevents snooping from Google and other companies. Finally, one can exercise self discipline and simply not click on any ads that appear in any browser of any kind. Personally, I have a browser for shopping, a browser for reading news, and a browser for email. None of the three communicate with each other. Combined with a VPN, I feel relatively secure that I am not being monitored by Google, although to be quite frank, I could not care less if I was.

  111. there's a lot of churn on the topic of surveillance and privacy, much of it uninformed or alarmist. the first factual hurdle for critics to clear is to publicize cases where the surveillance capabilities of FBI, NSA, other federal or state agencies have resulted in individual harm, wrongful conviction or other injustice. in the two decades since 9/11, i have not seen a single such case brought to light. instead, since 9/11 there has been no successful terrorist conspiracy in our territories, although there have been many instances of domestic terrorism by people who left red flags in text messages, online forums, gun transactions and personal behavior. clearly there isn't a dragnet over the whole population, even when that might save lives. in a growing global population of 7.7 billion and the welter of modern communications, "privacy" is a concept that requires serious rethinking. after all, we call pummeling a keyboard commentary into a fringe online forum "social" behavior, a laughable corruption of the received meaning of the term. our heads are still stuck in the 20th century. eric schmidt, former CEO of google, suggested "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to worry about." as a former internet data executive myself, i'd add this corollary: the poorly regulated transnational corporations know about and exploit far more of your online behavior than any government agency. if you're concerned about privacy, focus on them first.

  112. The fact that so few people care about a right to privacy when it comes to the government boggles my mind. Like, aren’t we gonna at least pretend that we are aiming for democratic systems? No?

  113. @Alison Berreman Stasi is coming

  114. And yet I recall when people laughed at me when I raised questions and concerns over "Smart" phones, "Smart" TVs and the cloud-based voice service of Alexa and Echo. I try and not be paranoid, but after reading articles like this one and well as past articles about our conversations being recorded by the devices above, I can fully understand why people decide to get off the grid completely - all their transactions are done either in cash or via a Currency Exchange, burner phones are bought by the dozen, and hoddies, big hats and sun glasses are worn outside where camera facial recognition is in play.

  115. big BUSINESS cutting wires to microphones and cameras in gadgets you mention

  116. @Marge Keller It is not paranoid or even an assumption of guilt. It is simply prudent to take precaution to prevent the inevitable bad actors we all know exist among us from acting badly as best we can. It's like wearing your seat belt in the car, a prudent precaution in case of an accident. Our government used to be built upon this common sense principle.

  117. I cannot fully understand that. I simply do not comprehend what people are worried about if they obey the law and comport themselves in accordance with established social norms.. Which, incidentally, means refraining from plotting terrorist actions in Internet chat rooms.

  118. Gee. In my day, the FBI just tapped our phone, moved our next door neighbors into a downtown hotel so they could watch and listen 24/7, and put dog poop just outside our apartment door. Low tech, but true.

  119. @Marian Feinberg I was raised on five different continents in multiple countries. There were places my family refused to say anything of consequence on a telephone. America is one of those places. Almost every American of any even vaguely possible consequence and their neighbours were illegally wiretapped during the Hoover years, right along with criminals. As you say - nothing has changed but the technology - which ensures they collect far more information than they possibly could from individual ‘phone calls. Since its inception, the FBI has notoriously flagrantly and arrogantly ignored the Fourth Amendment. It wasn’t until The Patriot Act that it began to do so under cover of “law”. The FBI should have no authority to surveil without warrants. The Patriot Act was a war powers act which must be repealed in its entirety in peacetime.

  120. America gave up its rights to privacy when it went to Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, etc., etc., etc. How many commercials do you see every day that seem aimed at you? Who knows how many children you have and what their sexes are? How many ads do you get from Kay Jewelers after buying an anniversary ring for your wife from Zales? Face it folks; you relinquished your rights to privacy with the first order you placed on Amazon or the first time you liked someone on Facebook. Here's the really scary part. All that information is available not only to the FBI and U.S. commercial entities but it's also available to the GRB, today's Russian equivalent of the Soviet KGB, ISIS, and every other malfactor in the world. Run a security report on yourself by any of dozens of online companies specializing in those services. Your criminal record shows every speeding ticket you ever had, your addresses and telephone numbers you've had since the first lease or agreement you ever signed, your marriages and divorces, even the names and addresses of every child molester or sex offender in your county. Face it, the FBI's access to your data searching for possible terrorist activity is the least of your problems and you're the ones who made all that information available publicly to everyone. You're the sources of your own problems. Get over it.

  121. @Angelsea Thanks for saving me the time to write the same thing. It's ridiculous that some people complaining about this are the same people who still have a Facebook account after multiple data breaches and lies. Americans say that they care about privacy, but I'll believe it when Facebook's stock price falls off a cliff.

  122. Yet somehow Trump was able to launder all that money for decades

  123. I once was fired from a job I'd just begun when a report came to the desk of my supervisor from Experian showing that I had a large outstanding debt, when I had stated on my application that I was debt-free. Though I finally got the credit agency -- and their co-idiots -- to correct my account, the employer was not interested in having me back. Just one tiny, unimportant, wee bit sad tale in the FBI's wonderful record of rounding up all of America's fearsome enemies.

  124. I find it amusing that you think that accuracy of your credit report is somehow the responsibility of someone other than yourself.

  125. And yet fully investigating the serious charges against Brett Kavanaugh? Oh my goodness that woulda taken those hardworking gumshoes too long to do dontcha know.

  126. This is so not new. Terrible, but not new.

  127. The cow has already left the barn and it’s time for the next chapter.

  128. We see increasing levels of criminality in all branches of government but the FBI is concerned about getting information on private citizens. I guess it will be necessary to suppress truth and silence some voices as we move toward our new fascist authoritarian state.

  129. Sooo....when DOJ declares mass shootings terrorism, as is loudly clamored for after each event, what Americans may be under surveillance under these laws? Who'll decide? What environmentalists when protests are declared terrorism? What anti trump protesters? This is about more, much, much more than ISIS. Terrifying.

  130. USA government seem to be in lock step with China. Welcome to the surveillance state.

  131. Everyone with a cell phone is carrying a surveillance device around, voluntarily, all day long. Millennials will be manipulated into further nonsensical political posturing, while the government remains inert in the face of a howling citizenry. And Russian psy-ops have made us all hate one another with a burning intensity.

  132. And gun owners don't want to register their guns and do background checks.

  133. Agents working criminal cases obtain subpoenas. Agents working terrorism and foreign counter intelligence obtain NSLs from the SAC. Majority of NSLs gather info to determine if a "subject" or his/her contacts are involved in illegal activity. If so then a criminal case may be opened. Most cases are close with no further action warranted though all info is on file and in data bases. This is to protect the national security of the USA. Objections to these procedures are ridiculous.

  134. Facebook and Google probably know more about everyone than the FBI ever will but the difference is they don't care to bother securing the information to protect Americans and the FBI does.

  135. In olden days telephone lines had to be identified, tapped and listened to by living human beings (even if it was via a tape recorder). Artificial intelligence and data recorders make it so much easier.

  136. Comey and McCabe, darlings of the NYT and CNN, have plenty to explain!

  137. "...clear the innocent of suspicion." That's the FBI for yah. Who cares about 'innocent until proven guilty"? Just grab 'em all.

  138. Privacy? What privacy?! We don’t need no stinkin’ rights!!!!!!

  139. Want to understand how it works? Listen to Brian Williams interview Snowdon about the internet and the power that they posses. You might ask yourself Are you supportive of a government that spies on you? OR The person who educated you about what the government was up to?

  140. So in the end Snowden did a good thing to alert the world.

  141. What has gone unnoticed is the FBI's use of Craigslist & other Internet job boards to post fake "Help Wanted" ads to collect information on immigrants. Note To Reporters: Dig deeper and push your FBI sources in Philadelphia for more info on this illegal practice.

  142. so Jordan, Collins, Ghomert and others in their tried will scream about Comey and McCabe and the abusive FBI but nary a word from them will be heard about this

  143. Absolutely zero surprise.

  144. Time for Snowden as director of the NSA.

  145. This appears totally consistent with right-wing, Fascist style dictatorship 'government'. National security, or stereotypical 'nationalistic insecurity'?

  146. I discuss this type of activity with students in my university’s Business Ethics class. The general consensus is that while personal privacy violations are a concern, the safety of Americans is more paramount. Despite the behavior of the current administration, there is hope that intelligence agencies will do the right thing. This may be a naive conclusion on their part, but what other choice is there?

  147. @Michael Ask your students how many personal privacy violations are OK before the safety of Americans is on the brink of being wiped out. Ask, too, what gives them hope that the agencies -- and their human workers -- will do the right thing. Invite someone whose privacy was invaded to describe what that was like.

  148. @Michael Is that why mass shootings occur every month? Because the gathering of data from everywhere is used to protect the "safety" of Americans? It's a ridiculous argument to say that we must necessarily reach and accept naive conclusions just because we don't have a "choice". People always have a choice to accept tyranny.

  149. @Michael Sounds like a shallow discussion. At a minimum would requiring a judge to sign off on a subpoena really impact our safety? Does EVERY subpoena REALLY need to have a gag order or be classified? If you look at the top causes of death/injury in the US, is terrorism what we should really be tackling so aggressively? Hopefully you have a discussion on fear vs quantifiable reality. Please remind your students that there are a percentage of people in every private or public organization (at any level) doing the wrong thing. That why we have laws and oversight to protect our freedom.

  150. I understand and appreciate the role of the F.B.I. Where I find them or any agency crossing the line is when "They don’t require a judge’s approval" for "a variety of information, including usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases". Anytime my personal information could be gathered and scrutinized "legally" all the while the F.B.I. are allowed to hide their motives or rationale behind "a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy" I have to wonder why this is permitted. I never did Facebook or Twitter or any of those social medias because I never fully trusted them but in my own backyard, everything I have done that includes IP addresses and records of purchases are fair game for investigation for whatever reason the F.B.I. may think they have. I guess even commenting in the NYT is open season and fair game for the F.B.I. to scrutinize. WOW - what a dangerous and ugly turn this country has made.

  151. Marge, with all due respect, the FBI is simply not interested in your online purchases. Anymore than they are interested in what books my mother-in-law used to check out from her local public library.. That is not what the story is all about.  I promise you that law-enforcement has much bigger, scarier, and meaner fish to fry.

  152. @Marge Keller I think the turn began when they gave guns to the FBI.

  153. It seems to be a natural way of thinking for law enforcement, as with foreign-oriented national security agencies, to feel that they can't do their jobs unless they know everything about everyone. These sorts of orders on all providers of communication guarantee that they'll have more information than they can review properly, and that unavoidably some information will be picked to look at and not others. No person's or software's judgment is anywhere near perfect, so there's a guarantee that the FBI will get unbalanced information, while missing out on things they need.

  154. @Stephen Merritt I wouldn't blame law enforcement, they're just trying to do their difficult job and they need data. The blame is 100% on Google for collecting this data in the first place. It's none of their business where you go and what you do. They're supposed to be just selling you a product. Would we be ok with Nike or Adidas putting tracking software in our sneakers?

  155. “they need data...” A simple statement and conclusion. All too easy to agree with. CAVEAT: as one chooses to proceed from collecting relevant data, to analyzing it appropriately, and then to deriving generalizable information, transmuting questioned-KNOWING to necessary UNDERSTANDING, and, so very rarely to WISDOM-associated Judgements, Decisions & Implementations, from which one learns- “Fail[ing] better” each time, there are many unknowns; uncertainties; unexpecteds; random outcome; outliers; lack of mythical total control, notwithstanding one’s efforts; timely or not. “they need data?” In our toxic WE-“they” violating-enabled culture what do WE need in order to...?

  156. There be no house so mean that the King himself may enter save with a warrant signed by a judge said Lord Chief Justice Coke in James Bagg's case. Lord Coke also established the principle of judicial review enunciated by Mr. Chief Justice in Marshall v. Madison, that " It is a proposition too plain to be contested, that the constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it."

  157. I worked for the US intelligence community for 45 years, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are so very fortunate as a country to have professionals working in that bureaucracy who respect our privacy, respect the law, serve with distinction and often a great sacrifice, and have absolutely no interest in harming or manipulating innocent people. These people represent, for good reason, a tiny fraction of the overall US population, and they are entrusted with our nation’s secrets. Many people commenting here today seem to believe that our government simply runs amok. Nothing could be further from the truth. Americans as a whole simply have no idea what sort of threats we face as a country, internally or externally. This is by design, of course, because our government is populated by experienced officials who are wise enough to know that fear of terror — real or imagined — has the potential to paralyze our economy and our way of life. Another way to think about this: we are surrounded by vast oceans to the east and west, and friendly neighbors to our north and south. As a people, we have never known invasion or occupation. 9/11 was, In the grand scheme of 20th and 21st century world history, a relatively minor wake up call. My personal belief is that the small sacrifices we make today will ensure sure that we continue to enjoy our enviable way of life for the for seeable future.

  158. @David H David H--I believe, as you state, that most of the agents in the intelligence community are professional and respectful of the law. But some are not. There is, of course, the case of J. Edgar Hoover and his accumulation of data on politicians so he could control them. But even today we have intelligence officials saying that any form of protest could be considered terrorism. Or that these national security letters can be used for non-terrorism cases such as drug trafficking or money laundering, or whatever. And we have surveillance and investigation of just about any protest that somebody with money doesn't like--anti-war protest, environmental protest, workers' rights protests. So I am more cautious than you about how these surveillance powers are used and abused.

  159. @David H As a people there is no sacrifice, just government sponsored peeping Toms with enviable pay checks, expense accounts, and pensions.

  160. And believe me John, we thank you for your tax dollars, without which any of the perks you refer to would be available.

  161. Interestingly, the RW is only concerned about secret FISA filings and none of those that effect working folks. why is that? /s

  162. This is what happens when you have bad leadership at an agency like the FBI. They get lazy and corrupt. Time to clean house.

  163. "Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, said that the company tried to “vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement.” He added that it handed over identifying information only “where legally required.”" But gee, it couldn't be legally required if you didn't collect it in the first place, could it? Why do these companies track us and collect our data? Why do we allow it? A phone should just be a phone!!

  164. We can not trust a Justice system directed by Trump and his associates. Trump was mentored by Roy Cohn who was Joe McCarthy’s “ right “ hand man.

  165. I understand the general concern, but the article does not do a good job of describing why the use of these letters increased. After 9/11, the government was criticized for not uncovering the plot. These subpoenas are now used as part of terrorism investigations. So the government will be criticized if it misses another plot, people may die etc. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that thinks the invasive techniques are better than not knowing. While there may be potential for abuse, public safety trumps privacy.

  166. Look at our history: domestic surveillance has focused on the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the environmental movement. Why does anyone think this has anything to do with foreign terrorism, which takes fewer lives than almost any other way of dying?

  167. The paternalistic attitude with the false premise that our government will never do any wrong combined with the enormous volume of these letters is nauseating. The so called Patriot Act needs revising, and I hope this comes to pass soon. Sure, do your work, FBI, but have an impartial, changing, judge review each and every one for the basis that warrants have been issued in the past. The cloak of secrecy which is thrown over the perpetual sealing of these letters also needs to go. Even the article on how a thermonuclear weapon works was left to be published after the threat of revealing more than already had been revealed was raised on both sides. If a private individual gets one of these letters and is forbidden from revealing or discussing it, what good is there in that level of permanent secrecy. We need a Snowden dump of information to see just how pervasive, and with millions of letters it so seems, how little good these things do.

  168. Remember when James Comey said the Trump administration was so disorganized, the FBI was able to do things, “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with under a different administration?" We liked Comey back then because he was so anti-Trump. But at what cost? With our Congress and country as divided as it now, what do you think the FBI is doing and getting away with?

  169. And this is why I teach classes on how to protect yourself from things of this nature by providing them with fake information and using tactics that garble traffic. Like privately made VPNS that they have not broken yet. Just be careful and things like this are not a worry. Its the fact that we stopped teaching the basic rules of safety on the internet. Now people give their privacy away for free.

  170. In the name of transparency, and the 'need' to guarantee national security/interests/secrets, spying remains the order of the day. This is, most likely, occurring in all nations, in the name of sovereignty, but may be misused, especially in non-democratic societies...and without the knowledge of the affected parties (i.e. tech and banking). May we assume that nothing is entirely private, that any transaction beyond our own home is of public concern? And if so, ought we not be notified, made aware of, so to carry out our personal business in the open? Otherwise, being blackmailed may become a real concern. And if we private human beings are subject to open inquiry, why not the Executive in the White House when making promises, or breaking them, subject to a given behavior by a foreign agent? One can easily withhold information and/or aid...while support is sought for a hidden agenda (such as electoral benefits perhaps). What I'm saying is that, without supervision or basic rules of behavior, corruption shall enter the picture, a potentially dangerous move for all of us. This democracy depends on dialogue, and we the people ought to be entitled to know what's going on, right?

  171. Well, hasn’t the Supreme Court decided that companies ARE people?

  172. Would it be possible to vote to curb the surveillance industry? The FBI and other cloak and dagger government organizations have run amok and no politician, let alone the public, has the power to regulate surveillance and citizen abuse.

  173. The fact we even have secret courts that can have secret proceedings is disconcerting. Our elites have been out of control for well over twenty years, honestly they scare me as much as any other threat to our nation.

  174. The “secret courts” to which you allude are required because the material that is presented to them is classified. I understand from your comment that you have absolutely no experience in this realm. So of course “secret courts” seems like a scary notion to you. in fact, such courts are an indispensable requirement for the preservation of our way of life.

  175. Notice that the Constitution says that the government can only seize your personal information upon getting a warrant signed by a judge, based on probable cause. Obama, again, weakened controls over government spying, just in time to give control over to Trump, who thinks that We the People are his private servants. From Findlaw: "A subpoena... is court-ordered command that essentially requires you to do something, such as testify or present information that may help support the facts that are at issue in a pending case. The term "subpoena" literally means "under penalty". A person who receives a subpoena but does not comply with its terms may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, such as fines, jail time, or both." These subpoenas are not being issued by a court, and the idea that thousands of them can be accompanied by gag orders is not Constitutional, because you cannot defend yourself in court against something you are not allowed to talk about. It is activities like this that give Trump credibility when he attacks our premier counter-intelligence agency as "treasonous." If this was actually effective against terrorism, white supremacist terrorists wouldn't be committing 90% of the thousands of hate crimes every year, or 70% of mass murders. Protect the Constitution from the Right, and the "centrists" that compromise with them to weaken th Constitution. There are no actual moderates that want the government to weaken the Constitution.

  176. What else is new? They have been conducting massive surveillance on Americans since the 60’s and before. This is how they - the government - keep us “safe” - from terrorists, and from, their so called citizens.

  177. This might be the most disturbing news in modern history. No administration can be trusted with our personal data. This proves that no social media platform is "free."

  178. The most disturbing news in modern history? What about Russian interference in the 2016 US elections?

  179. Most nations have always attempted to influence in the politics of others,its nothing new. The US has a long history of doing this along with Russia. Influence can't be stopped. Ballot manipulation is the biggest concern.

  180. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would give up their freedom for security deserve neither.

  181. It is not necessarily that the FBI gathers information about people; of course it does. Rather how that is done. The 4th Amendment says I have a right to be "secure in my person, houses, papers, & effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." So it wants my papers & effects, go to a court show probable cause & get a search warrant. However, by circumventing my person-hood, by one more marginal invasion, one more vague intimation, we the people are diminished. Significantly, this activity is done in secret not to preserve the rights of people but to shield incompetence & avoid responsibility.

  182. It is not necessarily that the FBI gathers information about people; of course it does. Rather how that is done. The 4th Amendment says I have a right to be "secure in my person, houses, papers, & effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." So it wants my papers & effects, go to a court show probable cause & get a search warrant. However, by circumventing my person-hood, by one more marginal invasion, one more vague intimation, we the people are diminished. Significantly, this activity is done in secret not to preserve the rights of people but to shield incompetence & avoid responsibility.

  183. Our Congress needs to recognize the premise of our First Amendment: Americans have no duty to trust a government that does not trust them. We ought to trust our government for the same reason our government ought to trust us: at some point in our lifetime, we ought to know what the FBI and our other secret police are doing with what they know and do about us with our taxes. Our government agencies ought to have no perpetual secrets from we the people.

  184. @ Bayou Houma ...It's looking more and more like it's not "our Congress"....It's theirs.

  185. “NSLS are an indispensable investigate tool.” A brief, dramatic, almost poetic mantra! Some considerations: What have been its outcomes? What are the criteria being used for success; failure, irrelevance and even unexpected harms to...? In what ways has this complex process helped, and hindered, democratic values, norms, principle, and misused human and nonhuman resources? In what way(s) does the personal unaccountability of this system’s staff effect the ever-present culture of unaccountability by American policymakers- selected and elected- at ALL levels?

  186. The third-party doctrine needs to go. Our papers and effects aren't in our desk drawers anymore, they're on servers of companies like Google and AT&T. Judges need to get with the times and give our data fourth amendment protection.

  187. I’m typing this comment right now on a smart phone that is connected to a virtual private network, which in turn is telling the New York Times that my location is somewhere in the Midwest. In fact, I am in Washington DC. VPN access cost three dollars a month. See how easy it is to circumvent the “evil US government?”?

  188. Thank you everyone who voted for The Patriot Act, one of the earliest steps toward totalitarianism in the US. Yes, the terrorists did win.

  189. Globalization quasi open borders instant worldwide communication is a fertile ground for those with evil intent. The quaint notions of the Bill of Rights is now in the hands of those we must trust to protect us. Those gleaning all this infromation have to be of the highest moral character and eschew monetary gain or political advantage while focusing their task. If not our rights are doomed by a Fiat accompli. The 2 yr Steel dossier, collusion, leaks from FBI and intelligence scources Mueller machinations indicates were in deep trouble.

  190. One paragraph reads: "The Justice Department’s interpretation of those instructions has left many letters secret indefinitely. Department guidelines say the gag orders must be evaluated three years after an investigation starts and also when an investigation is closed. But a federal judge noted “several large loopholes,” suggesting that “a large swath” of gag orders might never be reviewed." "No one should be above the law" is not a principle of democratic government that We the People should just wish for. Prosecute and put a few of the responsible high-ranking Justice Department and F.B.I. personnel in prison for several years and this democracy will improve greatly.