There is little more that can be added to the whole unmasking scandal that surfaced during the waning of the Obama years and continued into the Trump administration.
The fact that both former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and former UN Ambassador Samantha Power had gone above and beyond the scope of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance proviso has been (and still is being) debated in ongoing investigations. This power allows those with national security access to “unmask” individuals suspected of endangering the health and welfare of Americans and their government.
In so doing, both Rice and Power looked into private communications between…well…just about anyone and members of the Trump campaign and administration, including Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.
There is small doubt in anyone's mind that this was all done at the direction of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama. Yet, no one has ever been held accountable.
Alternatively, the Bush 43 administration had to deal with the attack on September 11th (an anniversary quickly approaching) and following that horrific event, pivoted to both war and the Patriot Act, which, in oversimplified language, gave unprecedented power to the government to monitor all communications between Americans and anyone else.
All these powers were warned against by hawks such as Rand Paul, but that didn't seem to halt a government obsessed with knowing what you or I do in the privacy of our own lives.
In the recent spate of mass shootings, the Department of Justice (specifically ICE) has found yet another reason to spy on you. They are compelling both Google and Apple to turn over the names of over 10,000 users of a gun scope app known as Obsidian 4.
Own a rifle? Got a scope to go with it? The U.S. government might soon know who you are, where you live and how to reach you.
That’s because the government wants Apple and Google to hand over names, phone numbers and other identifying data of at least 10,000 users of a single gun scope app, Forbes has discovered. It’s an unprecedented move: Never before has a case been disclosed in which American investigators demanded personal data of users of a single app from Apple and Google. And never has an order been made public where the feds have asked the Silicon Valley giants for info on so many thousands of people in one go.
According to an application for a court order filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on September 5, investigators want information on users of Obsidian 4, a tool used to control rifle scopes made by night-vision specialist American Technologies Network Corp. The app allows gun owners to get a live stream, take video and calibrate their gun scope from an Android or iPhone device. According to the Google Play page for Obsidian 4, it has more than 10,000 downloads. Apple doesn’t provide download numbers, so it’s unclear how many iPhone owners could be swept up in this latest government data grab.
It’s unclear just whom ICE is investigating. No public charges have been filed related to the company or resellers of its weapons tools. Reports online have claimed ATN scopes were being used by the Taliban.
If the court signs off on the order, Apple and Google will be told to hand over not just the names of anyone who downloaded the scope app from August 1, 2017 to the current date, but their telephone numbers and IP addresses too, which could be used to determine the location of the user. The government also wants to know when users were operating the app.
Tor Ekeland, a privacy-focused lawyer, said it amounted to a “fishing expedition.”
He said there’s a long history of that kind of behavior from the U.S. government. And he warned that the government could apply this demand to other types of app, such as dating or health apps.
“There’s a more profound issue here with the government able to vacuum up a vast amount of data on people they have no reason to suspect have committed any crime. They don’t have any probable cause to investigate, but they’re getting access to data on them,” Ekeland added.
When we think about the outrage of this move by the federal government, it might also be wise to note that officials involved in both the implementation of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance laws assured critics that these powers and the collected data were merely to keep you, the American people, safe.
Are you feeling safe?
Image: ATN Corp