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Wikileaks and Anonymous Join Forces Against US Intelligence Community 268

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-our-powers-combine dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "The most recent bombshell of confidential documents dropped by infamous watchdog organization Wikileaks is already looking to have an enormous impact on our understanding of government security practices. Specifically, intimate details on the long-suspected fact that the U.S. has been paying a whole lot of money to have private corporations spy on citizens, activists and other groups and individuals on their ever-expanding, McCarthy-style naughty list. But perhaps more importantly, the docs demonstrate something very interesting about the nature of U.S. government intelligence: They haven't really got much of it."
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Wikileaks and Anonymous Join Forces Against US Intelligence Community

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:08PM (#39203419)

    Stratfor is a PRIVATE company. The fact that they "spy" on activists or whatever their corporate clients pay them to do has ZERO to do with US intelligence agencies. To be explicit: the "US" is NOT paying private companies to "spy" on activists. That information does not cross over, and the Intelligence Community is not authorized to collect on US Persons, except where allowed by law or authorized by a properly adjudicated warrant from a court of law. I know people on Slashdot don't like to believe this, and prefer to imagine that the sole purpose of the Intelligence Community is spying on our own citizens instead of, you know, doing the jobs they've been charged to do.

    Terrible article and summary. F.

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:18PM (#39203507) Homepage Journal

    Apparently you didn't read the article, so you may want to reduce that last sentence to "terrible summary." TFA is about how some of the work Stratfor has done is total crap, and how the intelligence budget is nothing but cronyism hidden behind classification. Their surveillance on the Yes Men, for example, goes no further than publicly-available information provided by the Yes Men, and a substantial chunk of other work is just Google Translate output on news articles.

    Reminder: any time you see a budget increase for defence purposes, there's some kind of pork or corruption behind it.

  • Re:McCarthy (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:30PM (#39203571) Homepage Journal
    Summary writer probably meant "McCarthyism," Which is (and has been for quite some time) the accepted term for "the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence." [wikipedia.org]

    Also, you're dead wrong in your statement that

    McCarthy never did anything involving citizens

    Unless, of course, you believe taking a position in the U.S. State Department involves surrendering citizenship (Hint: it doesn't).

  • Re:McCarthy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:33PM (#39203589)
    It's called McCarthyism [wikipedia.org] for a reason. When you're the most famous and prominent person pushing a particular agenda then there's a serious possibility that the whole movement is going to become identified with you and vice versa. It doesn't really matter now which groups of people were on McCarthy's particular list, he popularized the whole "i've got a list of the bad people" thing.

    (Well okay, maybe he needs to split that particular honor with Santa Claus.)
  • by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity AT sbcglobal DOT net> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:38PM (#39203611) Homepage Journal

    Uhm... maybe that's because Stratfor is not an "intelligence" agency in the same way that the FBI or CIA are. They're just a private company trying to make a buck by selling their opinions.

    They're basically Rivals.com, but focused on politics rather than sports. And about as much a part of the US intelligence structure as Rivals.com is.

    That's why folks like AC above and myself are shaking our collective heads, wondering when Allen Funt is going to jump out from behind Julian Assange and shout, "Surprise!"

  • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:42PM (#39203657) Homepage Journal
    . The article states:

    In one example, emails reveal that Stratfor had been tracking the political performance art collective The Yes Men, a group famous for impersonating politicians and corporate representatives in order to showcase the absurdity and corruption present within powerful institutions. But “tracking” in this case merely involved selling the government a list of public appearances planned by the group’s members.

    but the very page they link to [wikileaks.org] in that quote has the "Yes Men Monitoring" related emails being sent to:

    mkolleth@dow.com, sbwheeler@dow.com, tomm_sprick@yahoo.com, mediarelations@unioncarbide.com, CMKnochel@dow.com

    none of which suggest that they are "selling the government" this information.

  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:10PM (#39203879) Homepage Journal

    Mundane stuff is how you catch the existence of secret stuff. By sifting through a lot of boring sounding data and making connections, things that don't add up are seen, and the right questions to ask are found.

    Not too surprisingly, government security people know this, which is why so much mundane shit is classified: to cover up the stuff that really should be secret.

    The fact that it also covers up government wrong-doing, like spying on American citizens or massive government waste, is just a nice happy fringe benefit.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:32PM (#39204039)

    because you can't have it both ways.

    Nope. Wrong.
    I can have it both ways. You don't get to make those rules. Its way above your pay grade missie.

    Nothing seriously damaging was revealed, but that does not mean Manning did not engage in espionage or that he did not violate his duties as a soldier.

    No harm, no foul is not the rules you play by in the real world.

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:43PM (#39204129) Homepage Journal
    Agreed, Stratfor is hardly the biggest offence in terms of budget misappropriation, although the evidence is highly in favour of the 'no money should be spent on this at all' label, and suggests that the intelligence community is gathering huge amounts of unnecessary data because they have no idea what they need. (We have a similar problem in bioinformatics, but ours isn't caused by baseless paranoia.) Budget-wise, the really scary disasters are things like TRAILBLAZER [wikipedia.org] (also mentioned in the article) which are heavily protected from scrutiny through their deep classification. You might further find the connected story of Thomas Drake [newyorker.com] interesting.
  • by NormalVisual (565491) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:05PM (#39204279)
    Except we live in a society based on the rule of law.

    Yeah, that mattered a lot to the NSA in collusion with AT&T.
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:14PM (#39204327)

    "Collusion". LOL. Now then:

    Traffic metadata (things like email "envelope" information, source and destination IPs, etc.) has long been fair game without a warrant as the digital analogue of a "pen register" under Smith v. Maryland 442 US 735 (1979), and is part of the provision that supports lawful NSA data collection under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and other law, in conjunction with telecommunication operators like AT&T. The content of traffic of US Persons is NOT fair game, without a properly adjudicated warrant.

    The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, allows for foreign intelligence collection on non-US Persons without a warrant, no matter where the collection occurs. The longstanding Smith v. Maryland allows for the collection and examination of communications metadata without a warrant. The FISC ruling explicitly finds legal such collection under the now-sunset Protect America Act and the current FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

    In order to determine which traffic content may be collected for foreign intelligence purposes, the traffic metadata must be examined. Even when a target in question is a specific non-US Person of foreign intelligence interest, traffic metadata must first be examined in order to target that person! Because examining traffic metadata was found explicitly legal and Constitutional three decades ago by the United States Supreme Court, doing so in order to target legitimate foreign intelligence collection is a legal application in the digital world.

    The major issues for foreign SIGINT were twofold:

    - A lot of traffic is now digital versus analog, and cannot be targeted by aiming a directional antenna at a particular geographic locale. It is now traveling largely via things like fiber optic cables, intermixed with all manner of other communications. In order to target the collection, it is no longer a case of tapping a single landline telephone, or sitting on a Navy vessel offshore from some area of interest between individuals talking on two-way radios; it's finding that traffic in a sea of global digital communications.

    - Foreign communications of non-US Persons physically outside of the US was increasingly traveling through the US. Previously fair game for foreign intelligence collection throughout the history of such collection in the United States, it suddenly became off-limits without a warrant because it was incidentally routed through locations in the United States. Foreign intelligence collection on non-US Persons outside of the US does not require a warrant, and fundamentally still shouldn't simply because their traffic happens to enter the US.

    This was a case of changing technology necessitating an update to a law. A supermajority of both houses of Congress agreed. Some comments:

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein:

    "This bill, in some respects, improves even on the base bill, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It provides clear protections for U.S. persons both at home and abroad. It ensures that the Government cannot conduct electronic surveillance on an American anywhere in the world without a warrant. No legislation has done that up to this point."

    Then-DNI Mike McConnell:

    "Now here's the other thing that most Americans don't appreciate, haven't been exposed to. When we redid that law, the law now says any U.S. person, any U.S. person, that's targeted for foreign intelligence must be protected by a warrant anywhere on the globe. So we actually have a much more stringent law today protecting Americans and civil liberties."

    "The debate and the dilemma for us is how do you modernize that law for the modern age? And we debated. For two years we debated and we finally came to closure. The good news is when it was finally voted, two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate voted for it and here's what it says today: if it's a U.S. person anywhere in the globe, you must have a warrant."

    Unfortunately, this discussion is so mired in politics, pe

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