Prepare for company when making international calls

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From Kevin Drum:

If I’m reading this right, the White House appears to be confirming that it believes the new law explicitly allows eavesdropping not just on foreigners talking to foreigners, but also on Americans talking to foreigners. All they have to do is claim that the real target is the foreigner and that a “significant purpose” of the eavesdropping is related to intelligence gathering. Not terrorism, mind you, just intelligence generically. What’s more, they don’t even have to go to the minimal trouble of making that claim to a court. They can just make it and approve it themselves.

So that’s that. The government is now legally allowed to monitor all your calls overseas with only the most minimal oversight.

I don’t even know what to say.

UPDATE: There’s more here (linkage also via Kevin). For example:

The Democratic bill…and this is critical…explicitly excluded (1) communications with a U.S. person inside the United States and (2) communications in which all participants are in the United States. Thus, the bill provided protections against domestic surveillance. For these types of calls, the government needed an old-fashioned warrant. (The Democratic bill’s carve-out provisions are in Sec. 105B(c)(1)(A).)

The White House bill (pdf) — soon to be law — took a much different approach. It just flatly withdrew all of this surveillance from the FISA regime. More specifically, the bill (Sec. 105A) states that any “surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed” to be outside the United States is completely exempt from FISA (i.e., it’s not considered “electronic surveillance”). [Marty] Lederman spells all this out very well and in more detail, but the upshot is virtually anything — including calls inside the United States or involving U.S. citizens — is fair game.

On paper ballots


Mario Burgos has an excellent post online about ballots, re: the paper vs. electronic debate. He makes a good case, so I’m just going to quote a good chunk:

Why is it that when it comes to voting there seems to be only two camps? Either those wanting paper ballots or those wanting electronic voting? Why can’t we have both and make everyone happy?

Think about it?

An electronic ATM style touch screen voting machine that prints out a paper ballot that then can be visually verified by the voter before being fed into a paper scanning machine for a redundant tabulation. This way everyone is happy.

  1. Joe/Jane Voter knows that the machine registered his/her vote correctly.
  2. There is built in redundancy with machines checking machines.
  3. There is a paper trail in case of doubt.
  4. Neither partisan volunteers nor partisan clerk employees are trying to determine at 2:00 a.m. in the morning what someone “intended” by the strange illegible mark they put on a paper ballot.
  5. We are still able to use technology, so that we can have a true count on Election Night.

I think he’s right. Every election, I take my grandmother to vote early. She’s disabled, and needs help casting her ballot. It was much easier with the touchscreen machines, because she could read the names on the display without assistance.

At the same time, I think we need th redundancy of a paper trail. Why not use the best of both worlds?

There’s still some kinks to work out (I think we need open-source platforms for the machines) but, otherwise, the system should work.
(updated to include a link)

Progress Indeed

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Via atrios comes news that a federal judge ruled the NSA domestic spying program unconstitutional. So, chalk one up to the good guys in the “Preserving Freedom in America vs. Fearmongering” fight:

Fox News reports a federal district court in Detroit has ruled that the Bush administration’s NSA warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

A separate federal district court in San Francisco had previously rejected the administration’s argument that the courts could not hear the case due to a “state secrets” privilege. The lawsuits have alleged that NSA program violated the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as a number of federal statutes, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The defendants included AT&T and the federal government.