The Planes Have Ears

While a bunch of nationalists continue to call Snowden a traitor and demand he return to the United States for execution the rest of us are looking at the material he provided about the criminal organization he worked for as a contractor. Through the information he provided we’ve learned a great deal about how the National Security Agency (NSA) has been abusing its power to surveil the American public. Whether on the ground, on the sea, or in the air the NSA is spying on you:

IN THE TROVE of documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a treasure. It begins with a riddle: “What do the President of Pakistan, a cigar smuggler, an arms dealer, a counterterrorism target, and a combatting proliferation target have in common? They all used their everyday GSM phone during a flight.”

This riddle appeared in 2010 in SIDtoday, the internal newsletter of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, or SID, and it was classified “top secret.” It announced the emergence of a new field of espionage that had not yet been explored: the interception of data from phone calls made on board civil aircraft. In a separate internal document from a year earlier, the NSA reported that 50,000 people had already used their mobile phones in flight as of December 2008, a figure that rose to 100,000 by February 2009. The NSA attributed the increase to “more planes equipped with in-flight GSM capability, less fear that a plane will crash due to making/receiving a call, not as expensive as people thought.” The sky seemed to belong to the agency.

In a 2012 presentation, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA, in turn disclosed a program called “Southwinds,” which was used to gather all the cellular activity, voice communication, data, metadata, and content of calls on board commercial aircraft. The document, designated “top secret strap,” one of the highest British classification levels, said the program was still restricted to the regions covered by satellites from British telecommunications provider Inmarsat: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

I vaguely remember something about some bill listing some supposed rights. If I remember correctly one of the items on that list mentioned something about a right to being protected from unwarranted searches.

Anybody who is even moderately well read on history knows that national surveillance apparatuses are generally developed under the guise of surveilling external threats but always end up being used to surveil the nation’s own people. This is why privacy advocates tend to have a zero tolerance policy in regards to national surveillance efforts. It is also why only a fool would support such efforts.

What Snowden did wasn’t traitorous, it was an attempt to bring some accountability to the unaccountable. The NSA has been performing untargeted searches. Untargeted searches necessarily means no warrants have been issued, which means these searches of the American people are in violation of the language of the Fourth Amendment. This is why it amuses me when self-proclaimed constitutionalists call for Snowden’s head. It is also why I’m amused by people who claim that the Constitution is a protection against the government’s power. To quote Lysander Spooner, “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”

One thought on “The Planes Have Ears”

  1. If everyone employed by the dozens of spy agencies were fired or otherwise definitively stopped from further predations, the world would be a better place.

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