Five dumb things that NSA apologists should really stop saying

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has rounded up the five most discredited arguments advanced by apologists for NSA spying, including "The NSA has Stopped 54 Terrorist Attacks with Mass Spying"; Just collecting call detail records isn’t a big deal"; "There Have Been No Abuses of Power"; "Invading Privacy is Okay Because It’s Done to Prevent Terrorist Attacks"; and "There’s Plenty of Oversight From Congress, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and Agency Watchdogs." Each of these claims is meticulously debunked in the post.

2. Just collecting call detail records isn’t a big deal.

The discredited claim

The argument goes like this: Metadata can’t be privacy invasive, isn’t very useful and therefore its collection isn’t dangerous—so the Constitution shouldn’t protect it. Even the President said, “what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content”—as if that means there is no privacy protection for this information.

Why it’s not credible:

As former director of the NSA and CIA Michael Hayden recently admitted: “We kill people based on metadata.” And former NSA General Counsel Stu Baker said: “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.”

In fact, a Stanford study this year demonstrated exactly what you can reconstruct using metadata: “We were able to infer medical conditions, firearm ownership, and more, using solely phone metadata.” Metadata can show what your religion is, if you went to get an abortion, and other incredibly private details of your life.

The Top 5 Claims That Defenders of the NSA Have to Stop Making to Remain Credible [Cindy Cohn and Nadia Kayyali/EFF]

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