On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up the new surveillance bill that passed the intelligence committee. One feature that certain Senate Democrats -- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, for instance -- want to clarify is the procedure for minimization. That's the privacy protection whereby the NSA has to remove identifying characteristics of U.S. citizens whose communications get swept up in a net of warrantless surveillance. In light of Kerr's little-noticed remarks, that's not surprising: minimization is all about anonymity, and it's been a key component of surveillance law for decades.
Here's Kerr's definition of privacy:
Instead, privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured. And it is that framework that we need to grow and nourish and adjust as our cultures change.
The CIA director is currently at war with his inspector general. Most members of the Senate and House intelligence committees had no idea that the president's warrantless surveillance efforts existed before The New York Times broke that story. At least one member of the president's intelligence civil liberties and oversight board has resigned, calling the effort a joke.
Meanwhile, $10 in TPM fun-bucks to the first reader who can make sense of this somewhat unclear parable from Kerr:
Too often, privacy has been equated with anonymity; and it's an idea that is deeply rooted in American culture. The Lone Ranger wore a mask but Tonto didn't seem to need one even though he did the dirty work for free. You'd think he would probably need one even more.
Update: Reader BP, consider your wallet full of TPM fun-bucks. BP writes:
The story behind the Kerr parable is he is apparently a fan of talented musicians. It's from a Lyle Lovett song called "If I Had a Boat"The mystery masked man was smart/
He got himself a tonto/
cause tonto did the dirty work for free/
But tonto he was smarter/
And one day said kemo sabe/
Kiss my ass I bought a boat/
Im going out to sea
Now, I'd like to think that Mr. Kerr could follow through and get out of town, but the odds are likely against me. Will the next Presidential Medal of Freedom winner please step forward?
A valiant and creative effort, but I have to admit I'm still a bit unclear about who the Lone Ranger is and who Tonto is in Kerr's metaphor. BP gets, say, half the TPM fun-bucks. And that means, gentle readers, that the remaining prize is still out there for you!