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Whistleblower: NSA Has All of Your Email 478

Posted by timothy
from the well-most-of-it dept.
mspohr writes with this excerpt from Democracy Now!: "National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion 'transactions' — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander's assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens." The parts about National Security Letters in particular are chilling, even though the issue is not new.
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Whistleblower: NSA Has All of Your Email

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  • easy way to find out (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 21, 2012 @07:44AM (#39755149)

    send an email between two accounts only you use with fake plans for a terrorist attack...if you get arrested then we'll know they were reading it. (tell somebody you're going to do it just in case you disappear in the night).

    Still sometimes I think the government puts out these rumors on purpose to make everyone scared and think they are more powerful than they really are. I mean if the government "knows all" they when did Sept. 11th happen? Why do Mexican drug cartels ship billions of dollars of Cocaine across the border every year? I think they float these rumors on purpose to keep us scared.

  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @07:45AM (#39755161)
    Protest like they did in Canada. Send the Ministers and your government representatives including the White House everything. For days they CCed them on every email, posted what they are doing to their members twitter accounts. After several days of having the Parliamentary mail and web servers taken to their knees the bill they were trying to introduce was 'sent to committee' (killed). People can make a difference
  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zico (14255) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @08:01AM (#39755225)

    Bush went to war against Iraq, Obama got us out. Can you see the wee-bit of difference there? I can and I'm voting for Obama.

    There was a set timeline on exiting Iraq, and yes he did keep to that timeline..... Somewhat. There are still many thousands of troops, and workers living inside of the Iraq embassy, whish is larger than the Vatican. If you're voting for Obama because of that, you better take a good look at Ron Paul. Since these wars are undeclared, and illegal, as president Ron Paul will IMMEDIATELY one day one, bring every foreign troop back home.

  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NeverSuchBefore (2613927) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @08:23AM (#39755333)

    NDAA, continued surveillance, complete disregard for the constitution... hm, nope. Not much difference there. Seems like he just pulled out when it was convenient to do so.

  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday April 21, 2012 @08:28AM (#39755353) Homepage

    Bush went to war against Iraq, Obama got us out. Can you see the wee-bit of difference there? I can and I'm voting for Obama.

    This notion you have is so misinformed it's appalling.

    Obama did not leave, Obama got booted. Dec. 2011 marked the end of the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by GWB. SOFA prevented the Iraqi government from local prosecution of US troops for crimes committed in Iraq. Prior to the expiration of SOFA, Obama tried to get it extended so that the troops could stay longer and avoid any risk of prosecution. Obama failed in those negotiations, in large part because the war crimes confirmed in the WikiLeaks cache, made it politically impossible for Iraqi politicians to extend SOFA.

    In other words, you are giving Obama credit for ending the war in Iraq when he tried to EXTEND it. To put this in Slashdot car analogy form, that's like giving a drunk driver accolades for not killing anyone while driving home, despite being blitzed and despite intentionally swerving at oncoming traffic. That's not laudable, it's despicable even if the drunk accidentally missed everyone.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/obama-iraq_n_1032507.html [huffingtonpost.com]

    Finally, if Bradley Manning was the source behind the wikileaks cache, rather than the torture and persecution he is receiving under Obama, he should get a fucking Nobel because it is HE who got us out of Iraq.

    http://www.salon.com/2011/10/23/wikileaks_cables_and_the_iraq_war/singleton/ [salon.com]

    If you're going to vote for Obama, and you really believe he's some sort of peace loving socialist, consider some of the issues here: http://nothingchanged.org/ [nothingchanged.org]

  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 21, 2012 @08:52AM (#39755529)

    Right now I'd probably vote for Obama too - but only in the sense that it feels like a slightly lesser of the evils.

    Vote for a third party or bust. Anything else is in itself evil.

  • Re:Encrypt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @08:55AM (#39755547)

    Http is more and more replaced by https (even Facebook and Google do it now). Ssh is commonplace, encrypted VPN too, torrent traffic can be encrypted, etc. At a transport level encryption is making steady inroads, and is far from stagnant.

    On the other hand, for e-mails, it's not that easy. This is end-user level, and there is a good reason why it's stagnant. It's too technical for the general public to do properly, especially the key exchange with the other parties. And you have to do that over and over again, for every single e-mail contact you have. And in my case, that's easily a couple hundred. That's a bother.

    If we want encryption in e-mail, then we need a major e-mail client to implement its use transparently, and by default urge users to create a PGP key for their mail. Then the mail client needs a protocol to exchange keys securely with new contacts, to collect all the keys you may need to send encrypted mail to those contacts.

    And now the real fun thing: how to keep your secret key, secret? It's not a one-time key (like ssh uses). It's a permanent key; and you will have to cherish it to be able to decrypt old e-mails unless you store them decrypted on your computer. Have your secret key compromised and you're SOL.

    If you can solve all that, you could become rich. Or at least help us all have encrypted e-mail.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @08:56AM (#39755555) Homepage Journal

    look, despite their international treaties they(american government) consider it legal to spy, torture, detain without reason or with reason anyone they please - but that getaway for free card isn't for everyone, which makes it complex and generally makes some of their international operations the clusterfucks they are, it's not like they even know when they're working under authorization or not and asking for it would affect it like the cat in the box. they don't really give a shit about international law.. just like they don't give a shit about the spirit of the domestic law, guantanamo being a prime example. "hey we can't hold these people as prisoners, it's against our laws. but hey what if we kept them as prisoners IN CUBA??" and so they're now in a clusterfuck situation from which they have no legal exit - such interpretation of "the rules" wouldn't be allowed in schoolyard games even.

    but if you could prove that google is doing behind the scenes work to enable interception of your emails - or if they know beyond doubt that their ssl's are no good, you could sue google successfully.

  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 21, 2012 @09:00AM (#39755587)
    In good conscience I could probably only vote for myself. My policies would be the least evil and I agree with 100% of them. But, since I won't win the election, it is useless to vote for myself. So, I need to pick someone who can win and cast my vote to help ensure that they do win. Doing otherwise is just throwing a vote in the garbage instead of the ballot box. It isn't evil to vote against the worst evil. The other day they had the results of a poll of Romney vs. Obama and it was 46% to 46%. Perhaps the other 8% voted for me. But from those numbers you can see there are a lot of people out there that you need to go vote against (whether you are for Romney or for Obama). Voting for a third party doesn't really help.
  • Re:Think Big (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @09:29AM (#39755731)

    Intercepting and storing all this communication is the really easy part.

    Making sense of it; finding interesting connections; that's the really hard part.

    Now the probable justification would be "for the terrorists" which means you almost instantly have to branch out of the US, and intercept far more than just internal communication. And both possible and actual connections increase exponentially with the volume.

    I very much remember a Dutch supermarket introducing their discount card some 20 years ago. They openly stated that they wanted to track what people bought (linking separate purchases through this discount card), in order to put products that were often bought in tandem closer together in the shelves. Better for sales, convenient for customers.

    A few years later the card was cancelled. It didn't have the desired result. Sure they got a huge database of linked purchases, but they did not manage to get any useful connections out of it. And that was a relatively limited scope (just the products they sold and maybe a few million cards issued), well defined and easily parsable data (product bar code numbers; no fuzzy communication), and looking for specific connections only (products bought together frequently). Yet they didn't manage to do it.

    Sure computing has advanced, US government has possibly more resources, but also the problem is so much more complex in both size and scope. It uses fuzzy human communication, not even necessarily in English, can be any language. Looking for connections - but not knowing in advance what kind of connections. In an immense database: hundreds of millions of e-mail accounts, hundreds of millions of telephone subscriptions, each producing many data points every single day. Trigger by keywords? Well good luck making them general enough to catch who you want, and specific enough to not be drowned in noise.

    Only retroactively it may have some use. See who a suspect talked to, and when, can be valuable for investigations. But there surely are other and possibly easier ways to do the same: call up telephone records from their telco, analyse contents on their computer, etc.

    Is the story true or not? Can't say. It's unbelievable enough to be true.

    Is such a database, if it exists, useful? Probably; but I doubt it's worth the effort.

  • Re:honestly... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @09:32AM (#39755747)

    I am not a criminal, but yes I do this on a daily basis. And I strongly suspect most people do. Not everything that's sensitive, is criminal in nature.

    It's commonplace to communicate about business dealings by e-mail; also the sensitive ones. E-mail is just too convenient to stop using the moment something may be sensitive; actually that's a reason to not stop using it, as e-mail at least leaves a written record, allowing you to look back in discussions to see what was agreed upon (or not).

  • Re:Fort Meade (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @09:34AM (#39755759) Homepage

    > Where did the get the computational power ...

    Some of these stories are probably apocryphal, and most are exaggerated. Example: I remember in the early 80's people claiming that the Keyhole satellites could "read the surgeon general's warning on a pack of cigarettes." Ummm ... not quite. They were very, very good and had outstanding optics, but they weren't THAT good. More like, "I can tell that you're a white male, approx 6' in height, holding a pack of cigarettes and driving a gray BMW."

    So it is with government computers. Part of the answer is that "warehouse" thing. Seymour Cray's primary customer was the federal government, and he was well ahead of his time. IBM also custom-made some stuff for the government. Size didn't matter, so who cared if it drew more power than an entire city, required a million tons of cooling and filled aircraft hangars? :)

    I doubt if NSA was able to recognize complete conversations 20 years ago, but the stories that I heard (I lived next to Ft. Bragg most of my life, home of the 82nd and the Delta Force, and had friends who worked there) were that they could (1) target specific conversations and (2) look for keywords, at which point, a human operator would listen to the tape and/or take a closer look.

    Hey, when you have unlimited money and people crazier than Strangelove running the project, you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish. :)

  • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @09:55AM (#39755897)

    Let's be clear that this guy doesn't have access to any secret information. He's analyzing publicly available information and coming up with his own conclusions about the probable extent of the surveillance. He may well be right, but the summary makes it sound like he's the new Bradley Manning. Quoting:

    AMY GOODMAN: Where do you get the number 20 trillion?

    WILLIAM BINNEY: Just by the numbers of telecoms, it appears to me, from the questions that CNET posed to them in 2006, and they published the names and how—what the responses were. I looked at that and said that anybody that equivocated was participating, and then estimated from that the numbers of transactions. That, by the way, estimate only was involving phone calls and emails. It didn’t involve any queries on the net or any assembles—other—any financial transactions or credit card stuff, if they’re assembling that. I do not know that, OK.

  • Simply an excuse. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pigwiggle (882643) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @10:25AM (#39756117) Homepage

    The president has the power to veto any law congress has passed to limit his ability to deal with prisoners in Guantanamo. And he doesn't need congress' approval to move the 150+ detainees from Guantanamo to another facility - say Bagram, something he has already done to circumvent habeas - or give them due process or just *let them go*. The excuse, apparently, is that congress wont authorise special funds to deal with the prison and prisoners in the exact manner the president would like. But that is a far ways from keeping him from closing the camp. He could do so today.

  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flappinbooger (574405) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @11:09AM (#39756371) Homepage
    THIS

    Sure, I have political viewpoints that would probably agree more with the candidate than the incumbent, however deep down inside I know that it truly doesn't matter. There is so much blatantly open evidence that the POTUS is a figurehead for whichever power base installs them in WDC.

    I was once talking with someone who was ridiculously spazzing about the current president and it set me off. I said essentially that it doesn't really matter who the POTUS is and they might as well put Nancy Pelosi in there for all the difference it would make, just the color and speed of the handbasket, not the destination. He about had a stroke.

    I think the only candidate this time around who would be worth a hill of beans is Ron Paul.

    No, I'm not a rabid RP supporter or shill (check my posts and how long I've been on here) I'm just sayin. And notice how he gets no coverage and ridiculously low votes in spite of his actual real popularity with those sick of the BS from WDC.

    Anyway. Long story short I agree. The right/left foxnews/cnn rivalry is a distraction away from the actual important issues that get buried underneath the scandal of the week.
  • by xhrit (915936) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @02:41PM (#39757823) Journal
    Remember the whole "Freedom fries" thing? Most people think it was due to France not supporting the US in the 2nd Iraq war, but the truth is much different. The big media anti-French smear campaign started just one week after the French government accused the National Security Agency of using the Echelon spying apparatus to steal trade secrets from the French to give American corporations an advantage. Corporations, I might add, that were deeply involved in the development of Echalon.

    The truth is the government wanted 9/11 to happen, just like the government wants the billions of dollars of cocaine coming across the border each year. For more proof see Air America, Iran Contra, Operation Northwoods, Tripod II, etc, etc...the black market funds the black ops, which in turn provides false flag operations to generate support for direct intervention.
  • Re:anyone surprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... minus physicist> on Saturday April 21, 2012 @03:22PM (#39758047)
    You're assuming that all of the Democrats and the two Independents in the Senate who voted for the health care reform would also have voted for it if it included a public option. That's not guaranteed.

    The health care reform is incredibly good - prevent insurers from blocking patients due to pre-existing conditions, prevent insurers from imposing lifetime benefit caps, prevent insurers from putting more than 20% of their revenue towards expenses other than patient care, prevent insurers from charging higher prices for any pre-existing condition other than smoking, make it easier to qualify for Medicaid, subsidize health insurance costs for individuals and families that earn too much for Medicaid but less than 400% of the poverty level, and eventually all preventative care and checkups will not carry copays. That's pretty damn far from a public option and pretty damn far from ideal (specifically, it does very little to address costs - I have an indigent relative that spent 24 hours in a hospital because of appendicitis, he got served a $39,000 bill). But it's a damn sight better than the Republican solution - fuck the people that can't pay, let them die.

    I know the lesser of two evils argument is frustrating and unsatisfying. But if I'm going to choose between a roommate that steals my money and one that rapes my kids, I'm going to pick the thief every time. So I'm voting for Obama again. He's no better than Bush on civil liberties and foreign policy, but that doesn't mean he's the same as the party "Of the Oligarchy, By the Oligarchy, and For the Oligarchy", so I support him with a clear conscience.

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