Spokesmen for the eavesdropping organizations reassured The Post that we shouldn’t bother our heads with all of this. They have “checks and balances built into our tools,” said one intelligence official.
Since the Snowden leaks began, the administration has adopted an interesting definition of that term. It used to be that “checks and balances” referred to one branch of the government checking and balancing the other branches — like the Supreme Court deciding whether laws are constitutional.
Now the NSA, the CIA and the White House use the term to refer to a secret organization reviewing the actions it has taken and deciding in secret by itself whether they were legal and constitutional.
— the New York Times, via Schneier on Security: NSA Harvesting Contact Lists
"Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote over a century ago about what he believed to be the most fundamental of rights, “the right to be left alone.” The NYPD’s surveillance program should make us question whether this right is no longer on the books. If you are taking your child to play soccer, if you are trying to feel less homesick by playing cricket, if you are watching a game at the local bar, you may have unwanted company. For the affected communities, it is a burden that speaks to the worst traditions of racism and collective punishment. If sports can’t be a place to actually exhale and relax, if our children become suspects just for signing up to play, then something is very wrong."
— Not a Game: How the NYPD Uses Sports for Surveillance | The Nation
Yes, it is like comparing apples and oranges. That is the point though. We have built two very different societies with two very different sets of values. Takeesha was born into a world with limited opportunities, one where the black market has filled the void. In her world transgressions are resolved via violence, not lawyers. The law as applied to her is simple and stark, with little wiggle room.
Mr one-glove was born into a world with many options. The laws of his land are open for interpretation, and with the right lawyer one can navigate in the vast grey area and never do anything wrong. The rules are often written by and for Mr one-glove and his friends.
— The wealthy ‘make mistakes’, the poor go to jail | Chris Arnade | Comment is free | theguardian.com
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state.
We need whistle-blowers.
— What We Don’t Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Do Know
Meritocracy is America’s foundational myth. If you work hard, society tells us, you’ll earn your place in the middle class. But any strawberry picker knows hard work alone is a fast road to nowhere. Similarly, we place our faith in education. Study, and the upper-middle class will be yours. Except the average student graduates $35,000 in debt.
My friends who came closest to attaining the American Dream did it by breaking the rules on how to get there. The standard plan—college to secure job to home you own—was either unattainable or a path to the American debt nightmare.
Those with money usually think they deserve it. But most people who make the world run—who care for kids, who grow food, who would rebuild after natural disasters and societal collapse—will never be rich, no matter how hard or well they work, because society is constructed with only so much room on top.
— Molly Crabapple - Filthy Lucre
That’s what’s scary about the Aaron Swartz indictment. He was indicted for wire-fraud for concealing his “true identity”, for doing what I do. But at no time was he asked for his true identity. His true identity was not needed to access the JSTOR documents. JSTOR allowed anybody from the MIT network to access their documents, and MIT allowed anybody to access their network without requiring identity.
Let me repeat that: nobody asked Aaron for his true identity, but he was indicted for wirefraud for concealing his true identity. He was indicted for doing the same things I do every day.
— Errata Security: I conceal my identity the same way Aaron was indicted for
"Defenders of the prosecution seem to think that anyone charged with a felony must somehow deserve punishment. That idea can only be sustained without actual exposure to the legal system. Yes, most of the time prosecutors do chase actual wrongdoers, but today our criminal laws are so expansive that most people of any vigor and spirit can be found to violate them in some way. Basically, under American law, anyone interesting is a felon. The prosecutors, not the law, decide who deserves punishment."
— Tim Wu, “How The Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz — And Us” (via quirksintech)