A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
No doubt this will be appealed, but you know it is not that long ago that the Bush administration claimed that even reporting on this practice was aiding and abetting terrorism. Guess they've got some 'splainin to do.Glenn Greenwald, as usual, has the scoop.
Note his comment that the opinion does not rule on the constitutionality of data-mining, on the grounds that it has not been publicly confirmed (Bush confirmed the existence of the warrantless wiretapping program himself). This is disappointing. Data-mining is an incredibly invasive means of surveillance because it sifts through everybody's data, whether guilty or not, in order to find the guilty. This takes time and resources, and subjects the vast, vast majority of innocent people to scrutiny at the expense of the 1 in a million who are possibly guilty, as well as giving rise to "false positives."
John Allen Paulos, a mathematician at Temple University explains:
Even if the probability that the purported terrorist profile is accurate were an astonishing 99 percent (if someone has terrorist ties, the profile will pick him or her out 99 percent of the time, and, for ease of computation, if someone does not have such ties, the profile will pick him or her out only 1 percent of the time), most of the hits would be false positives.
For illustration, let's further assume that one out of a million American residents has terrorist ties — that's approximately 300 people — and the profile will pick out 99 percent, or 297 of them. Great. But what of the approximately 300 million innocent Americans? The profile will also pick out 1 percent of them, “only” 3 million false positives, innocent people who will be caught up in a Kafkaesque dragnet.