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June 08, 2013

Moral Juxtaposition of the Day

Scenario 1: Hacker who participates in cyberattacks to uncover self-incriminating evidence from rapists stupid enough to brag about their misdeeds by cell phone and social media may well get more jail time than the low life criminals he targeted:

At first, [Lostutter] thought the FBI agent at the door was with FedEx. "As I open the door to greet the driver, approximately 12 FBI SWAT team agents jumped out of the truck, screaming for me to 'Get the fuck down!' with M-16 assault rifles and full riot gear, armed, safety off, pointed directly at my head," Lostutter wrote today on his blog. "I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house."

This is not the first time that actors on the periphery of this case have faced legal trouble. Earlier this year, First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza spoke to Reason TV about a whistleblowing Ohio blogger whom he successfully helped defend against defamation charges she faced after publishing commentary, photos, and social network posts related to the case.

Scenario 2: Liberal president who promised to restore the moral legitimacy squandered by the Evil BusHitler administration and protect America's civil rights draws up a Disposition Matrix for cyberattacks at home and abroad, where doing so would advance the administration's interests:

Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.

The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging".

It says the government will "identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power".

The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency.

The aim of the document was "to put in place tools and a framework to enable government to make decisions" on cyber actions, a senior administration official told the Guardian.

The administration published some declassified talking points from the directive in January 2013, but those did not mention the stepping up of America's offensive capability and the drawing up of a target list.

Remember: this is a guy who, as a Senator, proposed a law that would make what he's doing as president illegal:

[S]oon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law didn't just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn't need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.

Now, at times this issue has tended to degenerate into an "either-or" type of debate. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But that is a false choice. It asks too little of us and assumes too little about America.

What a difference an election makes. One day you're a Senator and everything looks like a "false choice". Pre-emptive military strikes and a vigorous unitary executive are dangerous and wrong, and the only thing standing between the America becoming the 4th Reich is an inexperienced junior senator from Illinois with big ears and an even bigger mouth.

Before you can say, "D'oh!", you wake up in the White House and realize you're the monster you spent all those years warning the nation about.

That lost moral legitimacy is getting harder and harder to find every day.

Posted by Cassandra at June 8, 2013 11:08 AM

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The hacker and the NSA apparently do the same thing: violate people's electronic privacy without a warrant. It's morally legitimate for the government to do it because, well, warrants are so 18th century. And it's morally appropriate for them to lie about it because, well, who expects the government to tell the truth?

But that hacker dude, he's going to do some hard time.

Posted by: Grim at June 8, 2013 12:52 PM

The hacker and the NSA have done a somewhat analogous thing. But is there a presumption of "electronic privacy"?

The Hacker penetrated a public website to get information that was being deliberately hidden to conceal a felony.

The NSA is collecting information in such a broad and sweeping matter from millions of people that aren't even "suspect", that have a normal expectation of privacy in their papers, communications, etc., that this exceeds and government legitimacy, unless the legitimacy is one of a police state. There is no more truth or lies, just the expediency of the State to maintain authority and control. It is up to the chattering classes to apologize and rationalize this.

The hacker will do a "tenner" in the "Gulag" for crimes against the state. He is a very small threat to the ability of the government to be the master of all information.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 8, 2013 02:56 PM

the hypocrisy of the left continues to astound.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at June 8, 2013 11:19 PM

I find it near impossible to understand the logic behind the NSA's defense of it's surveillance techniques. The critical filters that should be used would eliminate the need to monitor everyone in the U.S. to find the obvious targets through profiling. First, run the record of all recent muslim immigrants particularly from North Africa and anywhere near Chechnya. Cross check that with the Russians who were eager to tip the U.S. off about Tamarlan(e). Third, limit search to areas with muslim immigrants especially in gun free zones and, as a bonus filter, living in neighborhoods with universities or community colleges. By the way, if the NSA couldn't identify Tamerlan(e) (Boston) and Zawhiri (Santa Monica) why did they think they could identify one of their own? This version of the NSA is not up to the standards of analysis I would expect from NSA. Unless the political administrators of the NSA are motivated to do exactly what Snowden is leaking. They both have a motive in that scenario; NSA is in full CYA mode to protect POTUS while the other is an emboldened patriot exposing the truth based on his knowledge and experience. This story is not over.

Posted by: vet66 at June 9, 2013 05:48 PM

I'm shocked I tell you (from IRS head's testimony - or was it Casablanca?) to possibly think that this NSA's problem is an administration attempt to take the focus off the IRS/EPA/Sebilius/Benghazi/Holder scandals - surely not?

Posted by: Grumpy Curmudgeon at June 10, 2013 06:26 AM

I am completely torn on the NSA thing. On the one hand, the idea that this meta-data does not constitute an intrusion into your privacy is laughable. Given a list of phone numbers and all the numbers that number called, I can cross reference that with a phone book and/or Google and find out who everyone on that list is. And if I have a specific target in mind (the RNC headquarters for example, or even an individual like a Senator's office) I can look them up, see who called them and who they called. And as the ACLU points out, you must admit, the blackmail possibilities for this are near limitless. Did someone in the house call a substance abuse hotline? A phone sex line? That information is all in the meta-data.

"But Mike, you ignorant wingnut, they said they'd have to get a warrant to find out who was associated with those numbers and to listen in!" To listen in? Sure. To find out who each number represents? Maybe officially, but you cannot tell me no one who has that list doesn't also know how to use a phone book. Or memory. How many of those involved in the project looked up their own home phone number? Either as a lark, or to check on who their spouse is calling? Don't tell me it never happened. I simply won't believe you.

But, on the other hand, I have a SERIOUS problem with the NSA "whistleblower" who outed himself today. He's fled to Hong Kong and is bravely telling the truth to power, or the press, about how bravely he decided that the American people had a right to know information he gave an oath not to divulge. Because he was "troubled" by it. Nice to know that he holds a declassification authority if he's "troubled" by something isn't it? That he's got the right to set his oaths (and the law) aside based upon his "feelings". And isn't it convenient for him that his brave truth telling happens after he's fled the country. Courage of his convictions and all that (while trying to avoid "conviction" in another sense).

All in all, I'm completely torn. The NSA program is neither harmless nor innocent in nature, but by the same token, it does not give this dude a right to violate his oaths. As for the hacker getting more jail time than the rapists, I've not seen anyone else notice that the rapists were tried as juveniles, and the hacker was 26 when he committed his crime. No, I have no sympathy for the rapists, but by the same token, I have no sympathy for vigilantism either. If we let this guy off because "his heart was in the right place" we're stating that it's ok for citizens to break laws in order to uphold the law. That's a bad precedent to have.

Posted by: MikeD at June 10, 2013 09:24 AM

"If we let this guy off because "his heart was in the right place" we're stating that it's ok for citizens to break laws in order to uphold the law. That's a bad precedent to have."

MikeD; I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you have just described the value system of progressives and liberals. Unless you were being sarcastic/humorous, I suggest you read Alynski's Rules for Radicals. It is a bad precedent and we already are witnessing it's destructive results. Knowing their strategy provides the opportunity to predict their attacks responding with point-by-point rebuttal.

Posted by: vet66 at June 10, 2013 02:01 PM

I was being neither sarcastic nor humorous. I believe you cannot allow someone to break the law in order to uphold it. I was taught that two wrongs do not make a right. Now, if the hacker goes to trial and a jury of his peers wish to exonerate him (deciding that his offense was justified) then I will honestly have no problem with that.

And that's what bothers me most about Snowden (the NSA leaker) fleeing the country. He is attempting to avoid justice. If he were truly interested in doing the right thing, he'd stand trial. And I would actually accept the outcome either way (if the jury decides his breach was justified, then that's fine; if not, then I'm ok with it as well). But by fleeing the country, he's subverting justice and that sticks in my craw.

Now, I have conspiracy minded friends who are telling me he HAD to flee, or the government would "disappear" him. I have worn myself out telling these people that they've read too many bad spy novels. We're a nation that can't even arrange for Nidal Hassan to "accidentally brutally cut off his own head while shaving", so what makes them think the government would have the stones to off this guy? Because he embarrassed President Xerxes? I tried explaining that once his name was out in public as the leaker, he became the safest person on the planet. Can you just imagine the uproar if he so much as chokes on a chicken bone at this point?

Posted by: MikeD at June 11, 2013 09:06 AM