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NSA Official Disputes Chief's Claim That Agency Doesn't Collect American Data 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-have-you-been-talking-to? dept.
NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was playing a "word game" when he said the agency does not collect files on Americans according to William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA. Binney says the NSA does indeed collect e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it. "Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data," he said. "You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it's in place for people to look at."
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NSA Official Disputes Chief's Claim That Agency Doesn't Collect American Data

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  • Google... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:11AM (#40816449)
    would never do that :-)
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Google isn't run by the Government...

      • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:44AM (#40816679)

        The Government does not want Google to be run by the U.S. government. Keeping Google as a private corporation complicit to the whims of the Government allows the government of the USA to avoid the entanglements and restrictions of the Constitution.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        But they do work so well with the NSA.
        The NSA will not tell you how, why, when or ....
        http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/05/google-nsa-secrecy-upheld/ [wired.com]
      • Re:Google... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:56AM (#40817399) Journal

        Actually its better for the government that way as its not bound by the constitution and thus makes it easy for them to get data without any of those "pesky" rights getting in the way. We've seen for years that FISA is a "rubber stamp" court and by simply using someone like Google to collect the data they aren't subject to freedom of information requests.

        Frankly if groups like the NSA aren't so chummy with Google they have a "Google liaison" just to keep it nice and friendly I'd be amazed. Just the amount of data they gather on an average day would make J. Edgar green with envy, no way in hell the government just lets that amount of data slide without getting a peek, no way.

      • Google isn't run by the Government...

        Perhaps not, but if you don't think the intelligence community is keenly interested in the data Google collects, you need to adjust your paradigm.

  • That's a crime. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:14AM (#40816473) Journal

    Collecting e-mail without a warrant violates the fourth amendment. Any government official who does this or orders it done is violating the civil rights of both the sender and the addressee under color of authority. If we had a justice system in this country, they'd end up behind bars for that.

    -jcr

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:26AM (#40816575)

      Yes, you're 100% correct. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is stricter than previous law. It is expressly prohibited to target, collect, store, analyze, or disseminate the communications content of US Persons without a warrant.

      Your mistake is, apparently, believing that it's happening without any sort of proof.

      What we have done is shifted the notion of who is or isn't a US Person from the a place to a person.

      Before 9/11, we assumed anyone — or any traffic — inside the US was a US Person, and that anyone outside the US was fair game. After 9/11, and with the increasing levels of foreign traffic traveling over the internet instead of walkie-talkies in foreign countries, the IC, and NSA in particular, was in the difficult position of needing to target traffic within the US. A series of secret orders and stopgap legislation (like the temporary Protect America Act) supported this.

      The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 completely changes the pre-9/11 paradigm. Now an individual warrant is required to target a US Person anywhere on the globe, while foreign targets — even within the US — explicitly do NOT require a warrant. Foreign targets outside the US have never required a warrant, and shouldn't just because they or their traffic enter the US.

      Right now, this very second, government and law enforcement have all sorts of powers they can abuse, and they have since the founding of our nation. At the same time, intelligence operations require secrecy in order to be successful. Sun Tzu said this millennia ago, long before any construct of the US, much less the West, ever existed. Yet, instead of actually becoming informed about the purpose and function of our foreign intelligence activities, people choose to believe that our government is on a singular mission to spy on Americans illegally.

      If anyone claims to care about this topic at all:

      1. Read my other comment [slashdot.org] on this story
      2. Read former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden's 2006 remarks on this topic [fas.org] at the National Press Club (if you do nothing else, just read this)
      3. Watch this months-old National Geographic Documentary on NSA [youtube.com]
      4. Ask yourself if it really makes sense that hundreds, if not thousands, of professional civilian and military members of our government have so little regard for their fellow citizens that they are systematically violating both the letter and spirit of law and the Constitution, not just once or twice or a handful of times, but every single day, with respect to every single American — when NSA's primary purpose and reason for being is FOREIGN signals intelligence — while utterly ignoring the legitimate complexity and challenges of targeting foreign traffic, in real time, on equipment and networks within the United States.

      • Illegal Shmegal (Score:5, Informative)

        by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:38AM (#40816643)

        Technicalities like you are pointing out are certainly little more than a poor cover for breaking our own laws. As I just pointed out in this thread [slashdot.org], these people (as in NSA, financial and political elites, MIC etc) are no longer held accountable to the law [salon.com] of the land. The dont care that they are violating the fourth amendment, technicality or not... there are no repercussions for their illegal actions (other than some wining in some online forums and twitter - with no political consequences even for that).

        The past decade has witnessed the most severe crimes imaginable by political and financial elites: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, domestic spying perpetrated jointly by the government and the telecom industry without the warrants required by the criminal law, an aggressive war waged on another country that killed hundreds of thousands of people, massive financial fraud that came close to collapsing the world economy and which destroyed the economic security of tens of millions, and systematic foreclosure fraud that, by design, bombarded courts with fraudulent documents in order to seize homes without legal entitlement. These are not bad policies or mere immoral acts. They are plainly criminal, and yet – due to the precepts of elite immunity which were first explicitly embraced during Ford’s pardon of Nixon — none of those crimes has produced legal punishments.

        By very stark contrast, ordinary Americans are imprisoned more easily, for longer periods of time, and in greater numbers than any nation on earth. New legal classes of non-persons with no rights have been created over the last decade as well. Thus, over the same four decades that elite immunity has taken hold, the nation — namely,the same elite class that has aggressively vested itself with the right to act with impunity — has resorted to ever more merciless punishment schemes for ordinary Americans and others who are marginalized who, for multiple reasons, have very few defenses when the state targets them for punishment. While being rich and powerful has always been an advantage in the judicial system (and in all other aspects of American life), our political culture has now explicitly renounced the concept of equality of law, and it is thus now unabashedly clear that who you are is far more important than what you do.

      • by sjbe (173966) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:54AM (#40816763)

        Ask yourself if it really makes sense that hundreds, if not thousands, of professional civilian and military members of our government have so little regard for their fellow citizens that they are systematically violating both the letter and spirit of law and the Constitution

        It very much makes sense. We have fairly severe restrictions on our police forces and they regularly try and often succeed in circumventing them. The FBI has a decades long record of abusing the civil rights of US citizens. Every law enforcement and intelligence agency regularly chaffs against the restrictions placed on their power. Those same "professionals" you cite did nothing while our government condoned torture in clear violation of the spirit and letter of our laws. Why should I believe the NSA is any different? Those restrictions are inconvenient, expensive and it's not as if regular citizens can check their work to ensure they aren't breaking the rules. I believe they have power without sufficient accountability and that is almost certain to result in abuse of that power.

        Trust the NSA? No I don't trust the NSA, it's employees or any other branch of our government and that is the way it should bet. We have checks and balances because we KNOW we cannot trust them. Unchecked power absolutely will be abused. The real question is do we have sufficient oversight from congress or the judiciary? It's not clear that we do.

        • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:06AM (#40816895)

          This is a good comment. No, I don't think anyone is asking you to blindly trust NSA or any other element of government. But as government is ultimately here to serve the people, you can't exclusively have distrust of every single action government takes. Be cautious, be vigilant. But as I have said before, the mistake is believing that because there are some examples of abuse or mistakes — and there are plenty — that EVERY activity is intentional, systematic government abuse.

          The real question is do we have sufficient oversight from congress or the judiciary? It's not clear that we do.

          This is an excellent question, and one that has always been relevant to the Intelligence Community. Oversight of the IC has always been institutional oversight, not direct oversight by the public. But intelligence operations require secrecy to be effective — and that secrecy, especially in an open society, invites confusion, suspicion, misunderstanding, and distrust. So don't blindly "trust" NSA, but have the fortitude to thoroughly examine its purpose, missions, and history, and the challenges associated with executing its missions.

          • by http (589131)

            But as government is ultimately here to serve the people, you can't exclusively have distrust of every single action government takes.

            In the case of the NSA and the FBI at least, historical evidence shows American citizens would be wise to.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            15 years ago I might have said the same thing, but not anymore.

            15 years ago the government was not trying to extradite foreigners for civil (not criminal) allegations.

            15 years ago US citizens were not being unilaterally assassinated without appropriate legal redress.

            15 years ago I didn't have to worry about some unregulated domestic pseudo military institution stopping me on highways without cause.

            15 years ago we didn't have to deal with unfair and unreasonable searches and seizures every time you want to g

          • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Monday July 30, 2012 @12:18PM (#40819713)

            Be cautious, be vigilant. But as I have said before, the mistake is believing that because there are some examples of abuse or mistakes â" and there are plenty â" that EVERY activity is intentional, systematic government abuse.

            Pray tell; how is an ordinary US citizen supposed to be vigilant against those that hold all the cards and wield that power with absolutely no verifiable checks in place?

          • This is a good comment. No, I don't think anyone is asking you to blindly trust NSA or any other element of government. But as government is ultimately here to serve the people, you can't exclusively have distrust of every single action government takes.

            In theory or in practice? In theory, the government is here to serve the people. In modern America however, the government has been taken over by powerful private interests, through campaign contributions and other means, to use for their own purposes. This has been made clear by the fact that there are multiple cases of criminality that have been reported, and no one has been prosecuted for them

            This is an excellent question, and one that has always been relevant to the Intelligence Community. Oversight of the IC has always been institutional oversight, not direct oversight by the public. But intelligence operations require secrecy to be effective — and that secrecy, especially in an open society, invites confusion, suspicion, misunderstanding, and distrust. So don't blindly "trust" NSA, but have the fortitude to thoroughly examine its purpose, missions, and history, and the challenges associated with executing its missions.

            I think it's pretty easy to understand that an agency built on secrecy cannot be overseen effectively. How ar

      • by DCFusor (1763438)
        Gov pay you much for this astroturfing? I used to work in the 3 letter agencies, and I've seen dossiers. Nuff said. I've even seen the outside of mine, due to a mis-informed bunch of crap the .gov pulled on me...till they pulled it and rediscovered who I am and what I used to do - for them. I call total, utter BS.
      • your explanations are compelling, but since 95% of your comments are cut and pasted from your comments posted to TFA , it kinda makes you sound like youre on a PR mission. And that makes my tin foil hat vibrate.
        • Well, they're just as relevant, since it's the same article, and the same topic, and just wrote them yesterday.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Does it make sense that hundreds or thousands of professionals would have so little respect for their fellow citizens that they would systematically violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution? Does it matter that the purpose of the agency is specifically foreign signals intelligence?

        Perhaps. The people who believe that such a program is going on are the people who have seen what atrocities were wrought in our name - by equally professional members of the military and of the US civil government - in p

        • Does it make sense that hundreds or thousands of professionals would have so little respect for their fellow citizens that they would systematically violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution? Yep, pretty much. See here for quotable examples: http://www.twitter.com/gselevator [twitter.com]

      • by jcr (53032)

        The fourth amendment doesn't differentiate between American citizens and foreigners. FISA was always unconstitutional.

        -jcr

        • by drerwk (695572)

          The fourth amendment doesn't differentiate between American citizens and foreigners. FISA was always unconstitutional.

          -jcr

          The meaning seems plain to me. The first sentence of the constitution begins with "We the people of the United States...establish this Constitution for the United States of America.". The fourth amendment says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects...". In both cases it is the same people being referred to; the citizens of the United States.
          I don't think that the Constitution says much of anything about foreign people or non-citizens, but I'm happy to hear your

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Right now, this very second, government and law enforcement have all sorts of powers they can abuse

        Indeed. We should minimize those powers where we can, and apply as much oversight as possible where we can't.

        At the same time, intelligence operations require secrecy in order to be successful. Sun Tzu said this millennia ago,

        Secrecy is an effective tactic against the American people, as well as foreign enemies. Allowing secrecy leaves you vulnerable to the enemy within, who is always the more dangerous ene

    • by hey! (33014)

      Collecting e-mail without a warrant violates the fourth amendment.

      In *spirit* certainly. *Literally* -- maybe not. An email message is not literally your person, papers, home or effects. It's a stream of bits that you hand off to your mail provider with implicit permission to forward to other third parties as part of delivering the message to its ultimate recipients.

      That's why there's a Stored Communications Act [wikipedia.org], which provides much less protection for your emails than the 4th would (except in the 6th Circuit which ruled SCA's weaker protections unconstitutional [wikipedia.org] on 4th Am

  • by Mattygfunk1 (596840) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:15AM (#40816483)
    When did it become permissible to build data profiles on everyone, including your average law abiding citizen?

    Investigating "terrorists" is one thing, but openly (or in this case secretively) spying on everyone is now considered ok by those in charge?

    The "system" is corrupt.
    • When? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eightbitgnosis (1571875) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:17AM (#40816509) Homepage
      9/11/2001
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:16AM (#40816495)

    The ridiculousness here is that anyone believes that NSA actually has a "dossier" on all Americans — or even cares about Americans at all, given that its sole purpose for existence is foreign signals intelligence as exponentially increasing amounts of foreign traffic travel through networks, systems, and infrastructure on US soil. All of those foreign linguists must be for illegally spying on Americans!

    Basically what you're saying is, you'd prefer to believe, without proof, allegations that the NSA is illegally dragnet-spying on ALL Americans, and has been doing so for more than a decade, which would involve at the very LEAST hundreds, and more likely thousands, of civilian and military NSA employees, all of whom don't mind that they're directly violating the Constitution, but only one guy who hasn't been at NSA in over a decade is telling you "the truth"? That really seems plausible to you?

    When the Terrorist Surveillance Program was revealed by the New York Times in 2005, it only touched on numbers of Americans in the hundreds, who had direct communications with individuals tied to terrorism, was authorized by the President under Article II under the AUMF, and was renewed and briefed to Congress every 45 days — and this was four years AFTER Binney claimed NSA was already dragnet-wiretapping ALL Americans.

    Never mind that restrictions on US Persons are constantly drilled into civilian and military intelligence professionals every day. Never mind the complex procedures the IC maintains specifically to NOT target or collect on Americans. Never mind that the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is stricter than previous law.

    What we have done is shifted the notion of who is or isn't a US Person from the a place to a person.

    Before 9/11, we assumed anyone — or any traffic — inside the US was a US Person, and that anyone outside the US was fair game. After 9/11, and with the increasing levels of foreign traffic traveling over the internet instead of walkie-talkies in foreign countries, the IC, and NSA in particular, was in the difficult position of needing to target traffic within the US. A series of secret orders and stopgap legislation (like the temporary Protect America Act) supported this.

    The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 completely changes the pre-9/11 paradigm. Now an individual warrant is required to target a US Person anywhere on the globe, while foreign targets — even within the US — explicitly do NOT require a warrant. Foreign targets outside the US have never required a warrant, and shouldn't just because they or their traffic enter the US.

    For anyone who claims to care about this topic at all, I urge you to read "REMARKS BY GENERAL MICHAEL V. HAYDEN" [fas.org], which is former NSA and CIA directory General Michael Hayden's remarks before the National Press Club in 2006. This was still pre-FISA Amendments Act of 2008, but it gives a (very) clear picture of what the landscape and our challenges was, and still are. Also, if you care at all about what NSA does, this excellent and very recent National Geographic documentary [youtube.com] is as close as you're going to get in an unclassified context.

    A key excerpt from General Hayden's speech is included below, but again, if you purport to care about this issue at all, I urge you to read the entire speech and the Q&A, and reflect on the fact that it's not possible given the secrecy of intelligence work for NSA to "prove" that it *isn't* doing something. Oversight of the IC comes from the executive (the President), legislative (Intelligence Committees of both houses of Congress and FISA legislation), and judicial (FISC) branches. That's how oversight of the Intelligence Community has always occurred.

    The trouble is the mistaken and misguided belief that if there has ever been an example of abuse, or a mistake, then ALL activity MUST be abuse. If you choose to believe that the United S

    • by o_ferguson (836655) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:19AM (#40816517)
      I spotted the fed!
    • ..and have a search for that.

      that's the word games played, they don't have a file, but can create one on demand.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      The ridiculousness here is that anyone believes that NSA actually has a "dossier" on all Americans — or even cares about Americans at all, given that its sole purpose for existence is foreign signals intelligence as exponentially increasing amounts of foreign traffic travel through networks, systems, and infrastructure on US soil.

      Do the pink unicorns poop rainbows in your world...?

    • by Johann Lau (1040920) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:43AM (#40816673) Homepage Journal

      What gets me every single time is how Americans seem to have no problem with the whole "foreigners are fair game" stuff.

      I beg your fucking pardon? If you breed and keep institutions with that sort of double standard, don't be surprised when that double standard gets turned on you, is what I'm thinking.

      • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:57AM (#40816787)

        It's fine to take issue with it, but that's how it's always been — this isn't a new construct in foreign intelligence. For as long as the US Intelligence Community has existed, foreign targets have NEVER required a warrant, because foreign targets are not seen by the law or the courts to have Fourth Amendment protections under the Constitution.

        I repeat: this is not new and this is not "post-9/11". Make no mistake, foreign targets are still TARGETED. The US doesn't just eavesdrop on foreign targets for the hell of it — a target is picked after analysis of intelligence, which may identify more targets, which feed into the next "loop" of the intelligence process. It's not some kind of dragnet.

        However, to pick out communications from anywhere in real time, which is the ideal state that even NSA admits it is trying to reach, you must necessarily have the ability to, well, pick out communications from anywhere in real time. To quote former DIRNSA Michael Hayden: [fas.org] "NSA needed the power to pick out the one, and the discipline to leave the others alone."

        Furthermore, it's not a double standard — if the Constitution applied, in a practical sense, to everyone on the globe, what is the purpose for national borders? Why should a US court decide whether the Intelligence Community can target a Chinese military communications hub, or an al Qaeda satellite phone? Moreover, even if a warrant WAS required, the capability and infrastructure to capture the communications must still exist!

        Every single capability that government or law enforcement has, or has ever had, can be abused. History tells us as much. Every single one of them can be turned against innocents. Every. Single. One. What stops that? Oversight and the law. We do not have direct oversight of intelligence, only institutional oversight by proxy. But that's not new, either. We constantly strive for the right level of government power vs. checks on that power.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Johann Lau (1040920)

          Furthermore, it's not a double standard â" if the Constitution applied, in a practical sense, to everyone on the globe, what is the purpose for national borders?

          Because that makes the difference between values and hypocrisy. The constitution mentions god-given, inalienable rights. Those are by definition held by everybody, or nobody. You play "yes, but" games with it, you loose the whole thing.

          Also, you say that like the purpose for national borders is holy and overrides anything else? Not that I'm aga

          • by drerwk (695572) on Monday July 30, 2012 @11:17AM (#40818977) Homepage

            ...The constitution mentions god-given, inalienable rights. Those are by definition held by everybody, or nobody. You play "yes, but" games with it, you loose the whole thing...

            Can you point to where the Constitution mentions God? I'm not recalling the mention. The Constitution: The first sentence of the constitution begins with "We the people of the United States...establish this Constitution for the United States of America.". The fourth amendment says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects...". In both cases it is the same people being referred to; the citizens of the United States. I don't think that the Constitution says much of anything about foreign people or non-citizens, but I'm happy to hear your counter argument.

            The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies:... We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

            The Constitution of the United Sates and The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies are not the same document.

            • You're right, I mixed those two up. That's kind of a bummer :( I guess that means as long as the people go along with it, *everything* is fine.

              But still... if you, for whatever reason, consider yourself worthy of, uhm, a certain dignity, then why not extend that to others, regardless of how their own government treats them? Fuck a legal mandate, I'm talking about being able to look into the mirror. If the constitution doesn't cover that, that just means it's mediocre -- so if it's based on the people, make

            • Hey wait, I found something.. what doth thou say to this?

              http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3012981&cid=40819945 [slashdot.org]

        • by stanlyb (1839382)
          To answer your question, if an alien person resides inside the USA's border, he is supposed to abide to the laws of USA. Which means he has the same obligations, and the same rights (except voting of course). BUT, if you do insist that he has no rights, only obligations, then what to tell you man, you need to repeat Grade 1. 10 times. And the take that damn logic exam.
          Nevertheless, spying over foreign, in his country, is violation of HIS rights in HIS country. Which is, let me be straight, CRIMINAL activi
        • by sFurbo (1361249) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:35AM (#40817169)

          if the Constitution applied, in a practical sense, to everyone on the globe, what is the purpose for national borders?

          To delineate who gets the postive rights secured by the rest of the US laws, as opposed to the negative rights from the constitution. To keep people not wanted in the US out of the US. To delineate who has to pay US tax. There are plenty of other uses for national borders than to delineate who gets a certain set of rights.

          Why should a US court decide whether the Intelligence Community can target a Chinese military communications hub, or an al Qaeda satellite phone?

          Because the intelligence community in question operates on US soil, and is thus held accountable to the US courts. Or do you think they should have the right to arbitrarily kill foreigners in the US as well? Because the intelligence community in question is part of the US government, and is thus bound by the statutes limiting what the US government can do, including the constitution.

      • by jpapon (1877296)
        It's not really a double standard, it's just that the US treats all foreigners as potential enemies, and thus undeserving of privacy. This may be an antiquated way of thinking, but the US is certainly not the only country guilty of it, and it's somewhat reasonable given the scar that 9/11 left on the American psyche.

        Anyways, I agree that the US needs to move past its mentality that treats all foreigners as sub-humans who don't deserve all the rights that American citizens have. It's one of the more disgus

      • Yeah, because the USA is the only country who spies on foreigners.

    • Indeed, what about the Utah Data Center?

      After all, the agency that has been the chief codemaker and codebreaker, and now (as USCYBERCOM) also has the responsibility for all defensive and offensive cyber operations, can't possibly have a need for massive computing resources!

      To rehash things I have said recently elsewhere:

      People bring up examples like the Utah Data Center (formally known as the Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center) as "proof" that NSA "must" be collecting info

      • by stanlyb (1839382)
        The fact that you are years behind analyzing drones of data does not mean that you are years behind analyzing some individuals data......You see the logic, ain't you?
    • I find the repeated irrational argument that the "hundreds, and more likely thousands, of civilian and military NSA employees" couldn't possibly be evil enough to be helping to create profiles on Americans completely ridiculous.

      It doesn't take hundreds or thousands to do this, all it takes is a team of software engineers with access to all compiled information from those hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands if FBI, SS and such are included) of investigators or researchers.

      The majority of these wo
    • by sjbe (173966) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:17AM (#40817007)

      The trouble is the mistaken and misguided belief that if there has ever been an example of abuse, or a mistake, then ALL activity MUST be abuse.

      Nice strawman. The problem is that sometimes there is ALWAYS the potential for abuse and sometimes there actually are abuses. Thus we need oversight and lots of it. No rational person is claiming everything the NSA has done is abuse or in error. But only a naive fool would assume that the NSA is an entity to be trusted.

      Look, NSA intercepts communications, and it does so for only one purpose -- to protect the lives, the liberties and the well-being of the citizens of the United States from those who would do us harm

      You cannot possibly know that with any actual certainty. However even if true, that does not mean that US citizens cannot be abused by the actions of the NSA in the process. We locked up thousands of innocent citizens of Japanese descent in the 1940s in the name of "protecting" US citizens. There are almost countless examples of our law enforcement and government agencies abusing citizens with all the good intentions in the world. Martin Luther King was considered extremely dangerous by the FBI. Our government has a LONG track record of abusing citizens even when they have the best of intentions and that's even taking into account that the US government is relatively benign and benevolent compared with some of the other governments out there. (it could be a lot worse) Believing the only purpose of the NSA and it's employees is to protect US citizens is naive on the face of it. And even it if were true, it doesn't mean that bad things won't happen to people who do not deserve it.

      It's a question drilled into every employee of NSA from day one, and it shapes every decision about how NSA operates.

      Even if true (and I very much doubt that it is) that means precisely nothing. People do all sorts of evil things while thinking they are doing the right thing. Laws get followed that are bad laws. Don't get me wrong, I think the NSA or an organization similar to it serves an important purpose. But I don't really care at all what comes out of the mouths of the people in charge of it. What they are doing has the potential to both violate the law and to result in real and tangible harm to the rights, person and property of US citizens and that is worthy of serious concern.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The term "dossier" on all Americans could be seen as an East bloc paper folder with a number on a page linking it to a box full of audio tapes.
      The US gets past this legal and useless concept with a constant self healing realtime database.
      Dragnet-spying on ALL Americans is very legal and very easy. You see who called outside the USA or got a call from outside the USA. Then you compare the numbers used and voice prints.
      No dossier is created, just a fast passive random, non identifying search.
      If the num
    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday July 30, 2012 @10:37AM (#40818509) Journal

      Basically what you're saying is, you'd prefer to believe, without proof, allegations that the NSA is illegally dragnet-spying on ALL Americans,

      As a technical matter, how does the wiretap apparatus distinguish American packets from foreign packets without reading the American packets?

      Claiming that you can listen to foreigners without also listening to Americans is so technically implausible it's ludicrous on its face.

      And we exist in a political culture that distrusts two things most of all: power and secrecy.

      That you can even claim this with a straight face is proof that you are completely disingenouous. We have the most powerful, and most secretive government the United States has ever had. And there is ZERO political momentum in the other direction.

    • Well, it is difficult to classify people online as American and Non-American. So it is easier to keep a doiser on everyone, including all Americans.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:23AM (#40816547) Homepage Journal
    His whole insinuation is wrong, does he not realize that Americans do in fact live abroad? As such, even if we accept their position that they don't do any spying on domestic communications(which is hard to swallow to start with), I can guarantee that a lot of US citizens' communications still get caught in their net. Especially considering that Americans living abroad are much more likely to contact the US from abroad than basically anyone else, I am sure people like me who live overseas trip all sorts of traps.....

    But then again, top Republicans have called us "traitors" in the past, I guess they have no problem shitting all over our rights since we left the "land of the free".
  • I would like to visit the US for a scientific conference later this year. On social media, I have piled a lot of criticism on the TSA, on Apple and the lack of universal healthcare in the US.

    With very little stretch, the conclusion that an overzealous NSA employee, or user of the NSA database, could draw is that I am some sort of commie.

    I wonder if I'll be detained when I enter the US. That would be extremely inconvenient.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:48AM (#40816725)

      I don't know about your criticism of the TSA or healthcare, but speaking out against Apple is a serious offense.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      It depends on how your comments where logged.
      New US agencies need massive funding and crave to understand how the world and local US population feel about them.
      So massive daily searches are done to get a realistic understanding of any mention of their 'brand' via blogs, web 2.0.
      If found and your part of the world is friendly with the USA, your telco details might have been passed along.
      Nothing more done. Your request to join a "scientific conference" might trigger a review if your comments where noted
  • SMTPS needs to be adopted as the replacement for traditional SMTP. The fact that it's not could be coincidental or outside influences. All you'd really have to do is put it in as a requirement for PCI/HIPAA and the majority of big business would be forced to adopt it.
    • Many of those businesses are already required to use TLS, which while not SMTPS, it performs essentially the same role.

  • This is what governments do even in societies propagandized as free. Under the guise of protecting it's citizens from perceived evil, citizen's personal freedoms are eroded "for their own good". The price of a free society is evidently too costly to bear.
    • by cpghost (719344)
      The term "free" w.r.t. society and politics is overestimated. Widely overestimated. And mostly used in a demagogic way. At most, we could say to some societies are more free than others, but free societies per se don't exist. And w.r.t. western societies in general, they've become considerably less free in the wake of 9/11 (along with all other societies in the world). Most people may not notice a difference, but that's merely the frog being slowly boiled to death.
  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:04AM (#40816855)
    You'd think if they had this awesome system that kept a file on every one of us and everything we were searching for, surely that guy would have raised some red flags.
    • You'd think if they had this awesome system that kept a file on every one of us and everything we were searching for, surely that guy would have raised some red flags.

      Probably the only thing that keeps us from living in an Orwellian nightmare is the incompetence of government agencies when it comes to actually using the data they've collected. And, related to that, the fact that a lot of the "facts" on file are inaccurate.

      Which would be more comforting if it were not that the flip side of that coin is that while the guilty may go free, this same incompetence can impact the innocent.

      Innocent people have nothing to hide - the problem is the people who determine what "innoc

    • by X86Daddy (446356)

      TIN FOIL MODE ACTIVATE!

      Who benefits from the James Holmes massacre? What agenda gets pushed as a result of that act? How about "more spying on citizens is A-Okay, because it'll help prevent that stuff!" And/or Holmes wasn't going after the elite class, so they passed.

      Damn... that didn't even take a lot of tin foil to come up with and half-way consider.

  • The fact that I buy a lot of Salmon, kool-aid and unnecessary hand tools probably isn't going to tell them anything useful. Similarly, my age and health profile probably get me the "Old harmless cranky guy ranting" tag in the database.

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