Releasing the process can be more damaging than releasing the data. The NY Times published leaked documents about the SWIFT program, which tracked terrorist finances, and this gave the bad guys insights into how to hide their money trails. Another revelation about cell phone tracking capabilities resulted in jihadis learning to use disposable phones.
Originally Posted by txradioguy
Actually, simply collecting the metadata for calls is not a Fourth Amendment violation. The relevant text of the amendment states that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Writing for the majority in United States Vs. Jones, Antonin Scalia explained that the rights protected by the Fourth Amendment are based on principles of property ownership, citing the English Common Law decision in Entick v. Carrington, in which Lord Camden's decision addressed the significance of property rights in search-and-seizure:
Originally Posted by Adam Wood
“[O]ur law holds the property of every man so sacred,that no man can set his foot upon his neighbour’s closewithout his leave; if he does he is a trespasser, though he does no damage at all; if he will tread upon hisneighbour’s ground, he must justify it by law.” Entick, supra, at 817.
Scalia then observes:
"The text of the Fourth Amendment reflects its close connection to property, since otherwise it would have referredsimply to “the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures”; the phrase “in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” would have been superfluous."
The later interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, which produced the standard of a "reasonable expectation of privacy" (United States V. Katz), does not abrogate the previous concept of invasion of privacy as a matter of trespass on private property, but adds to it. Therefore, the question becomes, does the government's action constitute a trespass on private property, and does its action violate a reasonable expectation of privacy? This is where the legal reasoning gets tricky, because the seizure of the records would have required a specific, not a general, warrant (general warrants, or Writs of Assistance, as the Crown called them, were the reason for the Fourth Amendment in the first place), unless Verizon volunteered the records without a warrant. The records are the property of Verizon, not the callers, and therefore it is up to Verizon to decide whether or not to cooperate. The government's possession of the data within those records, which is limited to information about the calls, but not the contents of the calls themselves, does not constitute a search or seizure of private property, nor is there an expectation of privacy with regard to the metadata (which, unlike the content of the calls, is logged by Verizon). The nineteenth century equivalent would be if a postmaster informed a police officer that a criminal suspect did, in fact, post a letter or package to a given address, but that the postmaster had no idea of the contents.
Now, just because the Fourth Amendment is silent on metadata does not mean that this is good policy, or that the Obama administration's breathtaking mendacity in denying the existence of the program to congress shouldn't be an issue, only that it may not be the the issue that the civil libertarians are talking about.
We have to be consistent here, and I admit to getting caught up in the outrage over the idea of the government collecting this information, especially in view of the IRS scandal and the administration's proven inclination to abuse information which it compells us to present under penalty of perjury, but we also need to know the legal and ethical issues and address them clearly. We can leave the hysterical posturing to DU.