back to article There's a battle on over two US spying laws: One allows snooping on citizens – one bans it

A battle has broken out in US Congress over a controversial spying program. Two competing pieces of draft legislation have been pushed into the lawmaking process: one that would officially endorse domestic spying, and a second that would explicitly ban it. The Senate Intelligence Committee is behind the first, which would …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    No problem

    The question is resolved in a 3rd secret law that you don't know about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No problem

      A long time ago I had a personal colo server on a 100mbs connection in the UK which was very fast for the time. I decided to put a TOR node on it. Within a few weeks the security services were monitoring it by intercepting the traffic locally. I wasn't supposed to know of course but without going into how, I know 100% for sure that was what happened.... So of course they still do that...

  2. Adam 1

    truly Orwellian

    "USA Liberty Act"

    Those words don't mean what you seem to think they do. Or if they do, then the DPRK really is a democratic people's republic.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: truly Orwellian

      As a rough guide the more patriotic sounding the bill - the more evil it is

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: truly Orwellian

        In the US, "liberty" is a shibboleth of fascists.

  3. Nick Z

    There is a saying, "Don't do unto others that which you don't want to be done to yourself."

    Americans broke this rule when they established a double standard, one for themselves and another one for foreigners.

    And now everybody is a foreigner as far as US intelligence agencies are concerned.

    It was a foot in the door to do something unethical. And once this became acceptable, then it wasn't so hard to move it a little further and include everybody.

    1. veti Silver badge


      It's not just that it's a foot in the door. The US constitution itself recognises that - except for a few extremely specific, limited purposes - it's inherently unjust to treat "citizens" any differently from "non-citizens".

      The 14th amendment says "No state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." And the Supreme Court says (historically, at least) that this provision also binds the federal government.

      I've always thought this is the provision that's meant to discourage the citizenry from fascism. If there is anything that an American agent, on American soil, can lawfully do to an illegal immigrant or a foreign spy, then they can also do it to a born citizen.

      After all - in practice, exactly how are they supposed to tell the difference anyway?

  4. tekHedd

    A difficult question

    Congress must answer the vitally important question: will the NSA and FBI be secretly spying on all Americans all the time legally, or just secretly illegally?

    Because with zero oversight and demonization of whistleblowers, it's a bunch of hot air.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: A difficult question

      If it is illegal it makes using it difficult in a court case because of something called a search warrant. Currently, the Nine Seniles have allowed these rather dubious searches to stand. It would be nice if they still had the mentally ability to comprehend what the Bill of Rights says, but that is pipe dream on a good day.

      1. Tom 38
        Black Helicopters

        Re: A difficult question

        If it is illegal it makes using it difficult in a court case because of something called a search warrant.

        Parallel construction - "Look here for your probable cause"

    2. Mark 85

      Re: A difficult question

      Since this isn't (or appear to be) and either/or situation... pass both of them. The advantages are: It will give the TLA's a choice. It'll tie the courts up for years while allowing the TLA's to run amok. And lastly, every CongressCritter can proclaim at election time that they were for security because "terrorists".

  5. Jonbays

    "Think of the children" and "terrorists" always a good reason to spy on your own citizens and once you have the data well it can only get abused for more and more "good reasons". Of course if you arent allowed to spy on your own citizens then you can always ask your "good friends" to do it for you too.

  6. Khaptain Silver badge

    What does the president say

    I can only presume that El Trump has done his fair share of collecting information on his business enemies. So for him at least it will be quite normal, hence I imagine that he will personally not object to spying on one's own people.

    The administration wants to keep their data secret but not yours.

    It will also be interesting to see what comes out in the Kennedy papers...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What does the president say

      I can only presume that El Trump has done his fair share of collecting information on his business enemies. So for him at least it will be quite normal, hence I imagine that he will personally not object to spying on one's own people.

      Hmm. Given the way he (mis)handles actionable intelligence I don't think so. Intel reports are usually typed, I have yet to see anyone translating that into the cartoon format that Trump seems to need to comprehend it (I would love it for him to proclaim "Nobody knew that intelligence could be so difficult" because that would apply in more ways than one :) ).

      If anything, authorising the agencies to spy on citizens will directly impact his own activities - he's not going to be President forever (thankfully) and authorising this means that he loses the ability to hide any (more) dodgy dealings. From what I have picked yup from the ongoing Russia investigation, his little hands aren't clean enough to risk that.

      That said, I am willing to bet that that bill will be filled with exception clauses like "not applicable to billionaires, people in government, people called Trump and any stray Russians dealing with the Trump family"..

  7. Harry Stottle

    I refer my honourable friends to my previous answer...

    Surveillance of citizens is indeed a problem, but not THE problem.

    This answer applies just as much - if not more - to those carrying out the surveillance of citizens, as to the Cops the comment was triggered by...

  8. Speltier


    Just have your neighbors in the 5 eyes spy for you-- and reciprocate.

  9. Tikimon

    Painful to have your illusions revealed, isn't it?

    We could believe our governments really weren't as bad as the old Stasi for decades. Problem is, it was simply impractical to run a Stasi without people noticing the pervasive spying activities. That spying had to be done in person more often than not, required lots of operatives. It was impossible to Get Away With It back then.

    Now it's very different. A few mouse clicks by a single cop can steal millions of data records, which are helpfully gathered in insecure silos by misguided tech companies (who believe Big Data is the future). Nobody has to visit and break in or tap the phone anymore. It all happens behind the scenes. The public bits are made secret by threats from the cops.

    So now, freed from the physical constraints of raiding file cabinets, the cops are running WILD doing everything they would have if they had only been able to 20 years ago. They were ALWAYS nasty backstabbing bastards, they simply didn't have easy databases to raid and store and search against.

    The implication is that the cops will run amok being as illegal as they can manage. Period. The very bodies tasked to protect our rights are leading the charge to destroy those rights. There's no stopping them, and the only ones who might could help us - the tech industry - are instead racing headlong to IOT spying which will give the cops more ways to spy on us.

    Because Fishing Expedition database queries are always easier than fighting crime.

  10. Stevie


    Oooooooh I wonder which law will be passed ...

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