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    I've looked through past hubski posts about surveillance, spying, NSA and such topics and come across several of your interesting, insightful and valuable comments, so I know you're knowledgeable about the topic,

Less smokeblowing, more snark. I'm a blowhard, not an unapologetic narcissist. ;-)

It isn't "dismissively defensive" it's "sardonically pessimistic." It's like this:

- in 2003 you find out that Ned S. Anderson had been fishing your credit card numbers for the past four years, probably with an illegal card reader. Unfortunately, Ned keeps everything he owns in a giant bank vault. Equally unfortunately, nobody has any ability to compel Ned to open the vault.

- In 2005 you lawyer up and demand that Ned stop fishing credit card numbers. Ned says he isn't and disputes whether he ever was, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Your lawyer says "we know you have that thing in your vault" and Ned says "there is no vault." It's obvious there is, but since nobody can get into the vault, it doesn't matter.

- In 2008 Ned motions that since there is no vault, your suit has no merit. The judge agrees as legally, whatever Ned says is true thanks to legislation passed to make Ned's job easier.

- In 2011 you present new evidence as to Ned's malfeasance without any mention of the vault. The judge agrees that since your argument is now vaultless, Ned has to answer - but Ned can still argue that you're asking to see inside the vault.

- In 2013 Ned's student Ed bails to russia with a bunch of photographs of the inside of the vault. Ned argues that Ed is a threat to the world and the world generally feels that Ned is shady...

- but you're still in a position of proving that Ned had a machine in his non-existent bank vault that he used to lift your credit cards in 2003. Everything that has happened since then isn't a part of your lawsuit except to demonstrate Ned's nasty tendencies to lift credit card numbers...

...and Ned has had eleven years to rearrange the vault, clear out the vault, build the vault, expand the vault, put a beer fridge in the vault, air-condition the vault and otherwise do whatever the fuck he wants to do inside the vault because "the vault" is an object that you aren't allowed to ask about by law.

Here's the thing: We don't even know how much money the NSA has. The "black budget" is opaque to anyone who isn't on the Security Council. We're talking about an organization that is fundamentally immune to congressional oversight - they don't give a flying fuck as to what the Judicial Branch says.

In order to get the NSA to toe the line, they need to be accountable to congress, and congress needs to be accountable to the voters. They aren't. At all. So a civil action involving warrantless wiretapping from before the Invasion of Iraq is theater of the highest order - the NSA pretends to fight it but regardless of the legal precedent set, there is absolutely no enforcement mechanism whatsoever to compel them to abide by any ruling.

I give money to the EFF. I'd love to see the NSA held to the same standards as the FBI. But I live in a world where it's common knowledge the CIA shapes elections in AUSTRALIA, I don't conflate desires for probabilities.