Leave Numbers-Based Suspicion To Vegas – Not The NSA, FBI and DOJ

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What does it mean to be “51 percent” certain that something is true? It means you’re more certain than not – but certainly not certain. It might mean you’re fine with admitting you’d been wrong, if it turns out the other 49 percent in that simplistic ratio proved correct.

When the National Security Agency (NSA) or a Federal law enforcement entity – whether it’s the Department of Justice, FBI or Department of homeland Security – starts querying its massive computer databases for specific “non-U.S. persons” as defined by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), all they need is a 51 percent suspicion that the person they’re about to secretly track online isn’t an American citizen.

From the original Washington Post story that revealed details about the NSA’s PRISM internet spy program:

Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to make quarterly reports of any accidental collection of U.S. content, but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”

Those of you who gamble: if an oddsmaker told you to bet your fortune because he was “51 percent sure” that your sports team would cover the spread, would you flinch when he told you the 49 percent of doubt was “nothing to worry about?”

When and if Congress revises the bevy of laws governing what the NSA, DOJ, FBI and DHS can and can’t do, it needs to leave numeric-based probability to the Vegas bookies – and leave it out of the burgeoning U.S. surveillance state.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • PhillyGuard

    Making an intelligent decision on liberty vs security first requires a rational assessment of the terror risk. Unfortunately, the human brain is wired to wildly miscalculate that risk. –> “This is Your Brain on Terrorism” http://bit.ly/162DtWE

  • Oldmonkey

    51% my tailpipe! It was bad enough protecting your personal information from Google and other data miners. Have family overseas, speak a second language, or don’t like Obama, and you are a target. If all of the above expect a swat team.

    • Wellarmed

      Agreed Oldmonkey. I happen to fit all three of your observations. I find it best to follow the Boy Scout Motto and be prepared. Whether it comes today or manana, today is just as good a day to die as tomorrow. Imagine what you would think if you had a family member working in the heart of the beast such as I?

      Coincidence? Not a chance. I do not believe in Heaven or Hell, but I do believe in Karma. Everything is for sale for the right price including ones soul. I find that those who make that trade sleep very well on pillows of cash right up to the point that it becomes worthless stuffing.

      No amount of cajoling will convince those that they have made a pact with the devil. Those ultimately willing to trade their freedom for economic security will receive neither. It may take time for this eventuality to come to fruition but rest assured that we as simple humans cannot escape our history.

      Best of luck too you.

      • Oldmonkey

        Which Beast?
        D.C. or California; got both which really sucks. You are right about Karma and there are several types: Individual, family, city, state, and country. Being a non-pacifist Buddhist, not only is there a reaction to every action, but many hells.

    • Wellarmed

      Agreed Oldmonkey. I happen to fit all three of your observations. I find it best to follow the Boy Scout Motto and be prepared. Whether it comes today or manana, today is just as good a day to die as tomorrow. Imagine what you would think if you had a family member working in the heart of the beast such as I?

      Coincidence? Not a chance. I do not believe in Heaven or Hell, but I do believe in Karma. Everything is for sale for the right price including ones soul. I find that those who make that trade sleep very well on pillows of cash right up to the point that it becomes worthless stuffing.

      No amount of cajoling will convince those that they have made a pact with the devil. Those ultimately willing to trade their freedom for economic security will receive neither. It may take time for this eventuality to come to fruition but rest assured that we as simple humans cannot escape our history.

      Best of luck too you.

  • billybob

    So if all of the 10 to 30 million illegals become Americans does that mean that all of the data on them will disappear? And if they are criminals in the eyes of these orgainzation now, does that mean that all of those criminal things that they did will be erased? How will they know who is an illegal? The government and administration has become a proponent for these folks. So I would suspect that all of the murders, pedophiles, sex offenders, and the rest of the garbage will cease to exist in their computers. If we had enforcement of existing laws we would know who is in this country from another country. We would have a handle on the exact location of this person. They would have ID’s to identify them and they would have restrictions on where they could go. Oh I forgot, we let them go anywhere! How dumb is that? It is far easier to sneak into this country than it is to get out of the country.

  • Ruth Lawler

    First name to go into the database of people who probably are not American citizens, based on 51 or 91% probability, is Barack Hussein Obama.

  • http://ccltgroup.webs.com Cynthia Howard

    All bets are off; the odds are not in our favor; the feds should not be infringing on our constitutional rights.

  • Wellarmed

    Well said Mr. Bullard!

  • IsThisAmerica

    I worry about everything said from D.C. It’s nothing but one big circus. And Carney is the ringleader.