Forcing the National Security Agency to give up control over its massive database of phone records would harm national security and endanger the privacy of millions of Americans, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller said Wednesday.
“While the president has made it clear that he understands our intelligence need for this data, I do not believe we can come up with a better alternative,” Rockefeller said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
“Here’s why: Practically, we do not have the technical capacity to do so. And, certainly, it is impossible to do so without the possibility of massive mistakes or catastrophic privacy violations.”
One of the most controversial revelations from the leaks by Edward Snowden is that the NSA collects records — such as phone numbers, call times, and call durations — on virtually all U.S. calls. In an attempt to ease the growing outrage over NSA surveillance, President Obama announced earlier this month that he asked Attorney General Eric Holder and top Intelligence officials to come up with a plan to give up control of the phone database.
It’s unclear how exactly the administration plans to continue mining the phone records while no longer controlling the database. One possibility is that a new private entity will hold the records and then give the NSA access to it. Another proposal would be to require the phone companies to maintain the records on behalf of the government.
But Rockefeller said it is an “impossibility” to create a new entity that could coordinate and handle billions of sensitive phone records safely. He also noted that the phone companies have no interest in becoming “agents” of the government.
“The telecom providers themselves do not want to do this, and for good reason,” he said. “Telecom companies do not take an oath — they are neither counterterrorism agencies nor privacy-protection organizations. They are businesses, and they are focused on rewarding their shareholders, not protecting privacy or national security.”
Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the telecommunications industry, said he has dealt with the phone companies enough to know not to trust them.
“I have served on the Commerce Committee for 30 years and know that telephone companies sometimes make empty promises about consumer protection and transparency,” he said. “Corporations core profit motives can, and sometimes have, trumped their holding to their own public commitments.”
The senator worried that keeping the sensitive records in the private sector could leave them vulnerable to hackers. He argued that the recent data breach at Target shows that only the government can be trusted with protecting such a massive trove of private data.
Rockefeller also argued that the NSA is subject to “stringent” audits and oversight to ensure that analysts don’t abuse their power to access private information without proper authorization. The private sector has no such protections, he said.
“I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about this,” Rockefeller emphasized.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted Rockefeller’s extensive experience dealing with telecommunications issues on the Commerce Committee.
“In my view, he knows what he’s talking about,” she said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”