Thursday, May 07, 2015

2nd Circuit throws a curve at the NSA today; could Snowden return?; Senate looks at radical recruiting on social media


The Second Circuit has ruled that the NSA’s phone metadata surveillance program is not authorized by the Patriot Act.  NBC News has a typical news story from New York, here.   The court seems to invite Congress to make the NSA’s authority more explicit when it must consider renewing the Patriot Act in June.
 
The case is ACLU v. Clapper and the opinion is here
   
In March, CNN had reported on a possible deal with the DOJ to let Edward Snowden return to the US, link here. It would be very difficult for the government to gain a meaningful conviction in a trial.  Snowden, the star of “Citizenfour” (Movies, Oct. 27, 2014), is charismatic, honest and likable.  He is somewhat like a heterosexual version of Alan Turing.
  
Today, terrorism expert Peter Bergen testified before a Senate Homeland Security committee on the use of social media by enemies overseas (especially connected to ISIL or other groups connected to “radical Islam”) to recruit impressionable teenagers or young adults (especially young women, lately) into radical behavior.


The ABC video ask, how disillusioned does a person need to be in order to be recruited into radicalism?  My own experience in the early 1970s sitting in sometimes on the “radical Left” suggests there is more discontent than the “establishment” realizes.  But religious radicalism (which occurs mainly “on the right” with Christian fundamentalism but really seems connected in many ways to the former Soviet Union and the left when it comes to radical Islam – even given the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan) takes ideology out of the more familiar concerns with fairness. 

Twitter (and Facebook) often close accounts that seem to be used for this purpose, which then soon open again under different handles, but it does take time for the new accounts to get followers.  On the other hand, the government can monitor these accounts for possible domestic plots.  This would not violate user privacy to the extent that users allow their social media accounts to be public (as many users do).  It becomes more dicey when account postings are supposed to be visible only to friends or followers.  



Update: May 8

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports a decision in the 11th Circuit in Miami, en banc, 9-2, in U.S. vs. Davis, that citizens can presume no right to privacy in cell phone location data held by third parties, story by Cindy Cohn and Hanni Fakhoury, link here

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