Nothing to worry about with the NSA?

Do you feel that democracy is slipping away? If not, consider three  new  stories out this morning. David Sanger and Thom Shanker of the New York Times:

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

Okay, so even if you keep your computer off the internet, the feds can spy on you. But there's ntohgin to worry about, right? After all, those special courts exist to protect our privacy rights - you know, those rights found in the penumbra of the Constitution that make it OK to kill a baby before it is born. You are perfectly safe, as long as you aren't a terrorist. But Stephen Braun and Kimberly Dozier of AP write:

The U.S. judiciary told Congress on Tuesday it opposes the idea of having an independent privacy advocate on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, while members of Congress lauded the idea at a Capitol Hill hearing.

Speaking for the entire U.S. judiciary, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying that appointing an independent advocate to the secret surveillance court is unnecessary and possibly counterproductive, and he slammed other key reforms as adding too heavy a caseload to the secret court's work. In FISA court hearings, judges only hear from the government seeking a spy warrant.

Bates said opening the proceeding to an advocate for privacy in general - who would never meet the suspect or be able to defend the charges against him - wouldn't create the kind of back and forth seen in open criminal or civil court proceedings.

OK, even if you don't have the right to counsel in a judicial procedure, despite what the Constitution says, we can rely on Congress to protect our interests. Right? Mario Trujillo reports for The Hill:

NSA can't say if it collected data on lawmakers, officials

The National Security Agency said it is lawfully unable to search its database to determine if it has swept up phone records from members of Congress or other elected officials. 

NSA Director Keith Alexander said, however, nothing the agency does can be fairly described as "spying on Members of Congress" or U.S. politicians, according to a letter dated Jan. 10.

The director said the agency could not cull its database because it can only access records that are reasonably suspected to be linked to a foreign terrorist group. 

"For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without that predicate," Alexander said. 

But what can lawfully be done is not always what IS done. Edward Snowden demonstrated that spooks spied on their ex-girlfriends, so we can't really rely on the law as our guardian.

If you're not scared, you aren't paying attention.

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