Secrets And Lies

Last week we learned that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which purportedly acts as a check on United States government surveillance power — has instead approved steady increases in surveillance. The FISA court has expanded the government's power to spy on us structurally (by approving surveillance categorically rather than on a case-by-case basis) and substantively (by approving supposed Fourth Amendment exceptions based on the government's assertion of a special need):

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

Exactly how far has the FISA court gone in endorsing government spying, and what sorts of rationales has it used? The United States would prefer that you not know, and wants you to believe that you must not know, for the common good. Consider the United States' brief opposing the ACLU's request that the FISA Court release opinions discussing the scope of its own power under the PATRIOT Act:

if the Court were to find a First Amendment-based right of access to FISC opinions, the "greater risk of declassification and disclosure over Executive Branch objections" would have the potential to "chill the government's interactions with the Court." Id. at 496. This Court observed that such a "chilling effect could damage national security interests, if, for example, the government opted to forgo surveillance or search of legitimate targets in order to retain control of sensitive information that a FISA application would contain." Id. In addition, this Court found that in cases that are presented to the Court, "the free flow of information to the FISC that is needed for an ex parte proceeding to result in sound decisionmaking and effective oversight could also be threatened."

The United States government's requests to conduct surveillance beyond the traditionally understood confines of the Fourth Amendment depend on its assertion of special need. The United States government's requests to keep secret the targets of its spying, and how it is spying, and even the legal justifications for its spying, are all also premised on its assertion of special need. It appears the FISA court has been routinely accepting that assertion of special need.

There's a fundamental problem with that acceptance.

The United States government lies.

The people who represent the United States government lie.

In fact, the entire framework of secrecy and privilege is founded in lies by the United States. The state secret privilege — the half-century-old doctrine that holds that the government may ignore the rule of law by invocation of claims of secrecywas premised on a lie by the United States. This shouldn't surprise us. The United States government, through its employees, lies about a great many things. The United States government lies to us — perhaps giving us the "least untruthful" story — when we question its use of power, and then lies to us about having lied to us. The United States government lies to us about war, its purpose, and its progress. The United States government lies to us about its treatment of detainees and its justifications for that treatment. Nor are the lies all about "security." The United States government is the sort of entity — made up of the sort of people — that will tells impoverished black men that it is treating them for "bad blood" when it is actually experimentally observing their untreated syphilis.

Yet America's modern surveillance state — and the secrecy that cloaks it — is premised at every level upon the United States government saying "trust us." But how is it even minimally rational to do so? Would the United States government or its advocates repose trust in anyone who lies as frequently and unabashedly as they do? How can you trust an organization with a proven record of lying — an organization so devoted to lying that it seeks to enact rules explicitly permitting it to lie to us?

Our approach to the creeping security state cannot be premised on credulous acceptance of the government's claims of "special need." Accepting that means accepting the word of a proven liar as a justification to restrict our freedom.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Nicholas Weaver says

    Don't forget that in addition, these secret "court decisions" apparently also rely on redefining "relevant" to basically mean "anything", just as they've redefined "collect" to be "analyzed the data and pulled out actionable intelligence".

    So we have a secret court, with secret decisions on secret interpretations of the law using secret redefinitions of english words to secretly shred the 4th Amendment. And this is what the administration calls transparent.

  2. Nicholas Weaver says

    Oh, and don't forget, that at least one of the key decisions was not only secret, but so secret it was kept secret from the rest of the FISA court!.

  3. Andrew says

    Excellent article. After Sep 11th I began to be aware of dangerous leeway being given by a nation in shock to those who should never be left without real oversight. I hope that recent events are the pendulum swinging back again. Thank you for providing context.

  4. says

    "It's unfair to accuse the government of lying when they still have a chance to retract their statements."

    -Jen Psaki.

  5. Sami Liedes says

    Hmm, that seems chilling effect turned on its head to me ­– the government would be chilled from interacting with the secret court.

  6. Daniel Taylor says

    Of course, this is one of the cases where knee-jerk partisanism gets in the way of people banding together to force the government to do what is right.

    When these programs are enacted or pursued under a $PARTY President the $PARTY members are less than inclined to pursue aggressive measures because they trust "their man" and fear losing power to $OPPOSITION_PARTY.

    I have observed this happening in the US with both Republican and Democratic Presidents, and I have seen signs that a similar dynamic is at work in many other countries.

  7. amber says

    Governments are evil chaos. This is why they commit acts that are immoral, unethical, unjust, and illegal.

  8. MEP says


    The one trend that has been almost universal throughout all of US history is that the administration always tries to increase it's own power. This is precisely the reason why our government was set up with a system of checks and balances, because the executive branch is always at risk of becoming a tyranny, no matter what other philosophical tenants the current office holder may have. It's one of the lessons of history (the story which has been retold over and over since the earliest republics in human history) that our founders really took to heart.

    The creation of a secret court that has the power to essentially override the judicial branch in favor of executive power is the root of this problem. I know we can't challenge any FISA decision at the Supreme Court level because FISA has become effectively extra-judicial. But isn't it still possible to challenge the legislation that created FISA in the first place? Doesn't that seem like the most logical step? For some reason, I'm not hearing many commenters (in the world at large, not here) suggest that route, and I don't know why.

  9. James Pollock says

    It's not that Americans don't know about how useful telephone metadata is in tracking people's movements… TV cop shows have been illustrating it for them for years. They just don't seem to care.

  10. XS says

    Governments lie. From the biggest to the smallest.
    We should not be surprised. We should vote.

  11. Moebius Street says

    While I strongly disagree with it, I can understand why the gov't would claim that disclosures of *who* is being monitored, or *how* the monitoring is occurring, might be harmful.

    What I cannot imagine any rational for, is how it could be harmful to disclose the legal argument that allows the monitoring? How can pointing to a couple of SCOTUS decisions, and a few obscure laws, possibly help the (putative) bad guys?

    What's funny to me is how well this parallels the actual surveillance. The gov't says that much of the spying is OK because they're not capturing the *content* of the communications, only the metadata.

    Well, asking for the legal rationale is not disclosing the who's and how's it's really just asking for METADATA about the surveillance: why it's claimed to be legal.

    If the "metadata" is so important for the NSA to keep secret, why do they claim that it's OK for them to harvest our metadata?

  12. says


    It could simply be that we've accepted the dysfunctional state of Congress and do not perceive it as a method to solve problems any more. When the initial leaks broke, there was a pretty decent amount of clamor for something skin to the Church Committee. Congress is, after all, the proper body to address this problem.

    However, as the analysis has become more nuanced, folks seem to be discarding that option. I'm sure a huge degree of that comes from the silence of the Dems on this topic (as Daniel points out, the "team first" mentality is way over the top). Once you accept that Congress is simply broken, then any kind of solutions-first mentality moves on.

    Hell, even EPIC is trying to file a new case directly with the Supreme Court (!!) because they don't feel other courts have the authority to grant them the relief they seek.

    How will SCOTUS pass this "hot potato" back? They just punted a few months ago on the standing issue before this leaked, so it's not even really their turn any more. I'm not sure if we should get some more execs to lie to a panel next or if the next step is supposed to be some redacted/weasel-worded half documents being released. It's a tricky dance, this Failure -n- Blame Two-Step.

  13. Anonymous Coward says

    Excellent and heart-breaking article. This country needs more Ken Whites.

  14. NI says

    Even if the government were the paragon of truth-telling, "trust us" is pretty incompatible with the idea that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

    But that aside, here's what I don't understand: I would think that judges would care enough about not being lied to, that when the government gets caught doing it, they would impose sanctions heavy enough to deter it in the future. If I were a judge and a lawyer outright lied to me, I would be strongly tempted to suspend his or her license on the spot, and I wouldn't care if the attorney involved worked for the government.

    But for some reason, judges don't seem to care if the government lies to them. In my experience, calling the court's attention to government deception is greeted with yawns and "so-what"s. I just don't get why courts don't have enough concerns about their own institution to come down hard on deception.

  15. MEP says


    I get the uselessness of Congress. That part I understand fully. But there had to have been legislation at some point that made FISA a thing. Why can't we challenge that in the courts? We can't challenge the rulings directly in court, but we could challenge the existence of the court that makes those rulings, couldn't we? The legislation that created FISA is, by itself, unconstitutional. We should be able to find grounds to challenge it.

    But we aren't. So why? What piece of this puzzle am I missing?

  16. Steven H. says


    Problem is that you have to prove that you've been harmed by the law before you have standing to bring it to court.
    And when the actual effects of the law are all secret, it's hard to prove harm….

  17. James says

    Regarding the "Balance of Power" and "Checks and Balances" … techdirt has an article that pointed out that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court personally appoints the individual judges to the FISA court – so we have a political appointee with life tenure and no accountability appointing judges (many with prosecutorial backgrounds) to a secret court, with no appeal system in place.

    Here's the question I've been asking for a couple of weeks: What's a concerned American to do? Who is the figurehead to serve as a rallying point and focus for the disappointment and rage that so many feel?

    The Civil Rights movement had MLK Jr. and Malcolm X, along with may others. Suffragists had Susan B Anthony. Watergate had Woodward and Bernstein. The Pentagon Papers had Daniel Ellsberg.

    Reddit tried, with "Restore the Fourth," but I didn't see a single mention on any major news outlet about the protests – and many of the photos I did see were of the obvious jesters who took advantage of a bit of limelight to shame the effort with sophomoric "humor."

    I vote. I've written and called my elected representatives. I'm not active on Facebook or Twitter (and I don't really think those are effective, until the grassroots begin growing).

    Who will be a spokesman? Where is the catalyst that allows the discontent to crystallize into a movement that actually makes a difference?

  18. says

    Also, regarding the Chief Justice appointing the judges on FISC: does anyone else find that a little odd? I mean, I don't recall it being in his job description. His job is to lead the Supreme Court and understand how the cases before him should be decided based on his interpretation of the Constitution, current laws, etc. I don't see personnel decisions as being anywhere close to that.

    It would be like having Peyton Manning also be in charge of directing his team's draft. I'm sure the guy knows a ton about chucking a football down the field and reading opposing defenses, but he's not exactly an expert at understanding the nuances behind hiring decisions.

  19. Erik Carlseen says

    Seems like the "Special needs" decision was a "Skynet moment" for the US government.

  20. JP Lewicke says

    Hi Ken,

    What do you think about the fact that the FISA Court is not an Article III court? If I'm representative of most people, I sort of assumed that the FISA Court was a regularly appointed court that happened to handle confidential material. The large differences between Article I tribunals and Article III courts could use some explanation and publicity, so that the false veneer of legitimacy they get from being a "court" can be stripped away from the public's eyes.

  21. George William Herbert says

    All the judges are sitting US circuit or possibly appeals judges from around the country; it's not like they haven't been approved by the normal approval mechanisms.

    The FISA job is on top of their existing main judicial work.

    I don't think that the idea of having a secretive FISA is bad, but a secretive FISA making policy is horrible (as opposed to, being specialists in top secret foreign intelligence related warrants).

  22. MEP says

    I think the idea of a secretive FISA is bad. We have, in place already, a fairly robust set of protocols for dealing with law-enforcement requests. The conceit behind FISA is that we have a whole lot of national security secrets that could be exposed if we go through the proper judicial channels so we need a new judicial channel to funnel that stuff through.

    But that conceit is pretty weak when we see the evidence provided by the Wikileaks Afghanistan files or in almost any case where someone files a FOIA request and gets actual documents. The precedent of our government trying to keep anything and everything secret from the electorate, regardless of its actual value, is pretty strong at this point in time. Accepting that conceit for the purpose of creating a secret court that gets to file secret rulings in secret proceedings to determine when it is or is not acceptable to spy on citizens (and so far, it's always acceptable) is going too far, regardless of who the judges are or how they got there.

    As far as proving harm in order to bring the original legislation before the Supremes, any grounds for a class action on behalf of the American people? (Too simple, I know. Oh well.)

  23. Moebius Street says


    We can't challenge the rulings directly in court, but we could challenge the existence of the court that makes those rulings, couldn't we?

    Well, who is "we" here? The folks responsible for legislation is the Congress; the federal government that is. If they were to challenge this, it would amount to surrendering some of the powers that they've accreted. Why would they want to do that?

    @JP Lewicke:

    What do you think about the fact that the FISA Court is not an Article III court?

    This means that officers of the judicial branch are acting as agents of the legislative branch. Doesn't this violate separation of powers? (I seem to remember some tinfoil hat comments way back when about Hillary Clinton being both a senator and a secretary of state; but this seems rather more egregious than that, which was just a transient condition)

  24. says

    The Supremes do not have original jurisdiction over FISA, but they would have appellate jurisdiction unless Congress created an exception for FISA. Assuming the possibility of an appeal, who would have both the standing and the will to do so?

    An individual would have to show either injury in fact caused by the surveillance and remediable by its elimination, or show some indirect adverse effect on people like that individual, or perhaps have standing accorded by law–something Congress obviously hasn't done.

    Congress is empowered to create lower courts. Congress defined and created the FISA court and, presumably, continues to desire it… and the power it affords.

    So who or what has standing to call for a review of FISA's activities, and what would the likely vehicle of the objection be?

  25. Matthew Cline says

    What I cannot imagine any rational for, is how it could be harmful to disclose the legal argument that allows the monitoring? How can pointing to a couple of SCOTUS decisions, and a few obscure laws, possibly help the (putative) bad guys?

    Rationalization #1: if the bad guys see references to (say) tapping voice communications, they'll infer that voice communications are being monitored and use something else.

    Rationalization #2: if the bad guys know the legal rationale behind the spying, they'll figure out a loophole and structure their communications to take advantage of the loophole, thus making it illegal for them to be spied upon.

  26. George William Herbert says

    MEP writes:
    "But that conceit is pretty weak when we see the evidence provided by the Wikileaks Afghanistan files or in almost any case where someone files a FOIA request and gets actual documents"

    Nothing in Wikileaks files was anything like what FISA was set up to do. Please do your homework.

    FISA pre 9/11 had a very different role and was arguably appropriate to its task.

  27. Nicholas Weaver says

    One other thing which has been getting less coverage in the US (but a lot in China) is the NSA's offensive operations (hacking instead of wiretapping).

    How would we react if the Chinese, or the Israelis, or the French, went ahead and hacked MIT? Hacked Verizon to get all text messages?

  28. En Passant says

    The stupidest thing about massive communications surveillance is that any "bad guys" who aren't box of rocks stupid can defeat or seriously impede most every message discovery/recovery and traffic analysis in most any medium. They just have to use the right means. And the right means are mostly readily available.

    Massive surveillance is only going to catch two categories of people:

    First, "bad guys" who are so stupid or ignorant they couldn't successfully plot their way out of a wet paper bag;

    Second, ordinary people who happen to say politically incorrect things, or talk to the "wrong" people, or piss off politically connected people.

    The first category is low hanging fruit, useful only for "we caught some bad guys" propaganda. The second is every other citizen who thought he lived in a free society with rights actually honored by government.

    Who the spying government (any spying government) actually wants to catch is left as an exercise for the reader. There are benefits to government for catching either category, propaganda fodder or elimination of political "enemies".

    No incumbent government needs to catch any actually dangerous "bad guys" for massive surveillance to be useful to it.

  29. James Pollock says

    "Massive surveillance is only going to catch two categories of people:
    First, "bad guys" who are so stupid or ignorant they couldn't successfully plot their way out of a wet paper bag;"

    You don't have to be that sophisticated to kill or injure a bunch of people. I'm OK in general with law enforcement targeting crimes committed by stupid people; that category covers the majority of crimes and criminals.

    For all the talk about trading liberty for security, we all do it. We give the police the power to stop us if there's probable cause, for example. The difference is that when we KNOW what freedom we're being asked to trade for what security, we can make decisions about what freedoms we're prepared to curtail or surrender; we can advocate and politick for change if the bargain isn't one we prefer. If the details of what freedoms are being limited are hidden, we don't know if the bargain is one we're OK with, AND we don't know if it's being abused in ways we don't agree with. (Should the IRS carefully examine the applications of organizations that are applying for a tax-free status? Yes. Should they more more scrutinized because of the groups' ideology? Maybe… if their ideology is that the tax-free system should be gamed, for example, then yes. Should they be more scrutined because they are opposed to the current occupants of the White House and various seats in Congress? No.)

  30. says

    Well, if you check my TL on Twitter (@utlaw92) you will find at least one Obama supporter accusing me of being a "conservatard" (I am a bleeding heart liberal) and some writer accusing me of not knowing what I'm talking about. All because I properly pointed out that what Snowden did was not treason as defined in the Constitution. It appears some people are willing to just throw that "damned piece of paper" away in the name of security, and that is sad.

  31. A Random Brit says

    I believe that every government that has ever existed has lied to the general population. That's just as true for the 1st. Dynasty Egyptian government around 4000BC up to and including every country in existence today. Lying by government is not another face of American exceptionalism.

    Furthermore, I would argue that every manager who has a significant number of direct reports lies in the course of their work. Sometimes lying is necessary to get the job done – managers lie to motivate their people, to prevent them becoming demotivated, or to avoid awkward issues, or to disguise a mistake or some other level of incompetence, or to improve their own standing. I believe that no manager will be successful without lying at some point.

    Many industries are built on the expectation of lying. Advertising and Public Relations, for example. Cynics might argue that politics is in this category.

    The US Government is made up of millions of people. Many, probably most, are good people – upstanding, hard working folk who are doing their best for the people they serve. I've come into contact with many of them and I've been impressed by their dedication. In the course of my work I've seen outstanding contributions by people in the USGS, NASA and several other federal agencies. These people don't deserve to be berated for what they do. It's likely that even the people in the NSA are working for a cause they believe in – the security of the country.

    I guess what I'm saying is that this article draws too broad a brush when defecating on the whole government (how's that for a mixed metaphor?). I also think that expecting any government not to lie is like expecting the sun to shine every day with no rainy days – if it happened, there would be other problems that be even worse.

  32. Personanongrata says

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.


  33. says

    If you are willing to trade freedom for security, you don't deserve either–Some old fogie from the 1700s.

  34. XS says

    Speaking as only one of the masses my question is, is it not unethical to lie? Should we not hold our elected leaders to a higher standard and when they fail that they be removed as quickly as possible?

  35. jim says

    "Trust but verify." If irony is appreciated here. The toothlessness of that adage is painfully obvious. Poindexter's TIA was axed by the Congress in 2003, but "they" never faltered. Now we've verified their untrustworthiness, and we we can't do anything about it.

  36. Kevin says

    @Nicholas Weaver

    How would we react if the Chinese, or the Israelis, or the French, went ahead and hacked MIT?

    Well, we probably wouldn't react at all, cause we wouldn't hear about it. I work at a US university which was recently hacked by the Chinese govt, and as far as I've seen, it never made the news.

  37. Kevin says

    @A Random Brit

    The US Government is made up of millions of people. Many, probably most, are good people – upstanding, hard working folk who are doing their best for the people they serve. I've come into contact with many of them and I've been impressed by their dedication.

    Holy shit…. so let me get this straight…. you hate America, but love its government?

    Scumbag @A_Random_Brit

  38. Steven H. says


    " All because I properly pointed out that what Snowden did was not treason as defined in the Constitution."

    Hmm, this sounds familiar. I've never yet posted Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution without rude responses…

  39. Jim Tyre says

    Folks may be interested in today's court ruling in Jewel v. NSA, one of our longstanding cases against the NSA and others on account of the domestic spying program.

    It's very technical, and it's inconsistent internally (compare, for example, page 18, which finds specifically that certain statutory claims are not killed off by sovereign immunity with page 25, which kills off all of our statutory claims on that basis). But lawyers and other masochists may wish to read it.

  40. tomvet475 says

    What puzzles me most about all this is that the SCOTUS justices who are going along with this mutilation of the 4th amendment are the most conservative, strict constructionist ones on the bench. All but one of the secret court judges appointed by Roberts were appointed by Rs to their day jobs and are equally conservative.

    The 4th amendment is very clear and succinct and does not appear to allow for any "special needs" exceptions. It is not ambiguous or hard to parse as, say, the second is. If there is some overriding reason for an exception, the path to this is obviously Article V. That, however, would take too long for the PTB and the bad guys could be long gone before anything ever happened on that front.

    Which, once again shows that this is not about "terrorists" at all, but about monitoring the rabble rousers and keeping them and any dissent which may ensue under very large thumbs. Naturally, they need to lie about this too.

  41. NI says

    Suppose someone invented a magic bullet that made all terrorism disappear tomorrow, so that there were no bad guys that needed spying on. Does anyone seriously think the government would then shut down its security apparatus? I don't.

  42. V says


    The US Government is made up of millions of people. Many, probably most, are good people – upstanding, hard working folk who are doing their best for the people they serve. I've come into contact with many of them and I've been impressed by their dedication.

    Holy shit…. so let me get this straight…. you hate America, but love its government?

    Am I correct in assuming that you base that conclusion in part on what Random Brit said in the comments of the 'On American Exceptionalism' post? You don't have to hate the USA to list its problems or criticize it.

    And Random Brit was talking about individuals in the USA government. I'm sure they can be pretty pleasant individuals, while collectively (as a government) being a ruthless uncaring self-serving jerk. There probably are lots of explanations for that; mob mentality, "doing their duty" and its cousin following orders, and so on.

  43. James Pollock says

    "If you are willing to trade freedom for security, you don't deserve either."
    You can say, that Darryl, but literally everybody does it. For example, you surrender your freedom to shoot your neighbor in exchange for the security of knowing that he's not allowed to shoot you, either.

  44. A Random Brit says

    @ Kevin

    So let me get this straight – it you criticize something it implies that you hate whatever you criticized. And because I pointed out some issues in a previous post you have decided that I hate the USA and call me a scumbag. Do you also have a bumper sticker saying "USA – love it or leave it"?

    For what it's worth, I have an American wife and three American children and I'm currently paying over $110k per year to put them through college. I certainly don't hate the USA – it's provide me with great benefits, not the least of which is being able to pay for first class education.

    However, I don't see the USA (or any country for that matter) as anywhere close to perfect. Pointing out imperfections is a valid first step to removing them. No criticism implies no improvement.

  45. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says

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    Check your local listings for…. wait, I almost forgot. We made extra room when we cancelled The Watchmen. Nobody watched those guys, amirite?

    So… ALL the channels, ALL the time!!

    Follow us on twitter.

  46. says

    I've said it before in other venues:

    Someone with a web store should start selling big rubber stamps that say "FISA: Approved!"

    I'm not sure how many people would get the "joke" in all its pathetic irony — it's a rubber stamp, get it? — but it might start catching the zietgiest if people started stamping all sorts of stuff with that slogan.

  47. a_random_guy says

    "I'm sure they can be pretty pleasant individuals, while collectively (as a government) being a ruthless uncaring self-serving…"

    This is exactly the problem. The people working for the government are just ordinary folk. A few are exceptional, a few are venal, most are just trying to get through the day. However, collectively, they have become evil. Whether it by spying on the whole of the American population, or by requiring magicians to submit disaster plans for their rabbits, the collective is out of control.

    I remember a woman being interviewed on television. The specifics of her case aren't relevant, what is important is that she was being royally screwed over by FEMA. She was in tears, and she said that the worst of it was that every individual person she dealt with was so nice. They all understood what FEMA was doing was wrong, and none of them were will or able to stand up to the behemoth they worked for. Just doing their duty.

    When someone does put it all on the line, to stand up to the behemoth, they are made to suffer for it: see Edward Snowdon, who has done exactly this.

  48. NSAknowsThisIPaddress says

    This was an excellent article. The lying is the key. The government cannot be trusted. I've probably had too many Cognacs and listened to "le chant des partisans" and "katusha" too many times already tonight, but I'll still say it: the secret courts ONLY make sense if 9/11 was not an inside job.

    I flirted with the conspiracy theories, and I eventually gave up on them because 1) a lot of the people pushing them are nutters, and 2) I could not conceive of evil being that evil. But our entire reasoning behind the FISA court *is* 9/11. That means 9/11 is the "raison d'être" but also the impetus and the justification for FISA; how "convenient." In the end, did we ever get satisfactory answers for all the 9/11 conspiracy questions–and I mean independently verified answers, not MSM dismissals? Because my reasons 1) and 2) do not preclude an actual conspiracy.

    I would so much like to live in a simpler world.

  49. Nik B. says

    That was really quite an excellent article Ken. I think that a more extended piece (almost like what you'd deliver as written testimony to Congress on the issue) would have been even more awesome and made for even better reading.

    I've known about FISC since before 9/11 so news of the Court wasn't really news to me just like "arguments" that boil down to "Aren't you a patriot? We're at war! What do you have to hide anyways?" no longer phase me.

    But I must admit that the blasé attitude of many (most?) Americans has made an impact on me. Can they really not see the problem here? Can they really not see that we aren't at the edge of a slippery slope, but sliding down and sliding down fast? I suspect that they don't, and I'm not sure whether I ought to feel sad or disgusted.

  50. Nick says

    Dammit Ken, be more afraid! Then you'll be too scared to care!

    Trust that they're saving us from things that we'd be afraid of if only we could know about them… Trust and fear…

  51. James Pollock says

    9/11 changed things because
    A) we'd assumed up to that point that terrorists were unable or unwilling to attack us at home. Sure, they'd target us and our interests when we ventured into their home (Marine barracks Beirut, Khobar Towers, USS Cole) but they'd never DARE to truly come at us at home.
    B) Terrorists had really never actively targeted the U.S…. they went after our allies, and then at us when we supported our allies (i.e., the IRA's problem was with England, not us; the various Arab nations problem is with Israel, not us. 9/11 came right out and said, "No, we're pissed at YOU, America."
    C) Terrorist activity wasn't really worrisome for Americans because it was happening somewhere else; we (like everybody else) are pretty good at ignoring problems until they affect us. Genocide somewhere? Meh. Poverty and starvation? Meh. Disease? Meh. Pretty white girl gone missing on a Caribbean vacation? Wall-to-wall coverage for days.