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Letter to "Extended Family" Assures That NSA Will "Weather This Storm" 286

Posted by timothy
from the hello-mother-hello-father-nsa-reads-hiawatha dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The National Security Agency sent a letter to its employees, affiliates and contractors to reassure them that the NSA is not really an abusive and unchecked spying agency engaged in illegal activity." Whatever you think of the commentary, you can read the original, attached to the linked story.
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Letter to "Extended Family" Assures That NSA Will "Weather This Storm"

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  • by ameyer17 (935373) <slashdot@ameyer17.com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:47PM (#44913369) Homepage

    Seriously, though, just because you say it doesn't make it true.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:03PM (#44913459)

      This sounds more like they're saying "Don't worry, everything is fine. The US people are too spineless to jeopardize and of our business arrangements."

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @08:05PM (#44914451)
        Spineless? I take great offense to that! We have PLENTY of spine! It's ATTENTION SPAN that we... oh my gosh! Did you hear about the navy yard shootings? Was I saying something? I think it was about Syria and NASA...
        • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @08:10PM (#44914469) Homepage

          People have plenty of attention span, the media on the otherhand has none. Heard much of anything about the majority of the democrats walking out of the Benghazi hearings because they refused to listen to witness testimony?

          • I'd argue it's results that count. If action is only taken based on what the media is reporting on, and the media reports only on things for a few days no matter how important they are, then the nation has an attention span even if people remember the NSA thing.
            • by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @09:59PM (#44914973) Homepage

              They also don't have the intelligence to realise that the NSA is just the tech guy. They do the hacking but they are not the ones issuing the instructions for what to go for or the ones doing the data storage and consolidation. They do not call it the 'Central' intelligence agency for nothing. Right now in the foreground exposed for what is was doing is the NSA but make no mistake this is all the CIA's doing and they were the ones doing the nasty with all the private data they go from the NSA, the tech guy.

              Still not one political demand to uncover where the data went and what was done with it. The CIA has had deep control of the US government for decades and has been deeply political both within the US and overseas. Want to look at why the NSA went so far off the rails, look no further than the CIA.

              • by erikkemperman (252014) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @05:03AM (#44916503)

                I have no idea if what you suggest is true, that NSA is just the go-to bunch of nerds for CIA. Actually more likely there would be several puppet masters. Some military intelligence outfits, certainly. And FBI and DEA came up recently as well. Big US Corporations? It would seem so.

                But regardless, I don't agree, if that is even what you were implying, that we should therefore not criticize said nerds for facilitating so willingly. Some of whom surely frequent /. ... Not cool, guys.

                Of course every bit of understanding about who really calls the shots is welcome. But don't underestimate the extent to which a colossal bureaucracies can go off the rails by their own self sustained momentum.

    • by tysonedwards (969693) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:12PM (#44913505)
      Of course they aren't an abusive and unchecked spying agency engaged in illegal activity.
      What is all this attention that they are under now if not being checked upon?
      • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:35PM (#44913635) Journal
        Checked implies the oversight actually has teeth for enforcing policy/law. The token oversight given to the NSA reports to... the NSA.
        • by Bartles (1198017) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @06:57PM (#44914049)
          I'm really getting sick of this. All it would take to stop all of this is a phone call from the President, who has sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. People need to start blaming the person responsible, not some stupid bureaucracy.
          • by kav2k (1545689) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @08:19PM (#44914505)

            And all it takes is a phone call from the NSA to leak some juicy blackmail on the President into the media.
            This is all interconnected pretty nicely, I'm afraid.

          • by artor3 (1344997)

            And what should he say on that phone call? "Don't be evil"?

            This is not a binary issue. There's a whole lot of ground between the status quo and "DISBAND EVERYTHING!!!" What, exactly, should he say on that phone call? I guarantee, that whatever your answer, there will be a hundred million outraged people demanding that he do less, and another hundred million demanding he do more.

            You can disagree with his policies, and voice your disagreement, and vote accordingly, and encourage others to do the same. Bu

            • I don't know what he should say, but I'm pretty sure the reply would be something along the lines of "You want that, do you? Well, of course, you have the power to do that, but wouldn't it be a shame if $dirty_secret was leaked to the media because we cannot ensure security when you cut our freedom to do whatever we damn well want to do?"

            • by sjames (1099)

              He could start with "immediately delete all metadata for calls inside the United States unless you have actual evidence that one party is not a U.S. Citizen".

              Next step, "Do not share any information you gather with any other agency unless at least one party is a foreign national.

              There are plenty who will argue that the above is not enough, but it is at least a move in the right direction while the less clear cases are weighed carefully.

          • The prez, like any politician, first and foremost wants to stay in office. Something that's kinda hard to do if you try to control the entity that has the highest chance to have any and all kind of dirt on you.

            Do the math...

      • by flyneye (84093)

        I picture Bart Simpson with pie all over his face saying " I didn't do it man".

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      yeah but if you just sent a letter to some girl saying that you don't have a 3 foot penis she might just start believing that you have a 3 foot penis.. or the very least a 1.5 foot penis.*

      their stance is that because they're not getting prosecuted they're legit. because fuck, that's all it's down to...

      *)this does not constitute as legal advice on how to get laid.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:53PM (#44913745)

      Hitler's minions thought they were okay because they were just doing their job, also.

      That didn't help them much when it came time to hand out the war-crimes awards.

      Just something the NSA folks might want to think about. They also might want to take a gander at the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights. Read them all, including Amendment X. Unless they are too stupid to live, comprehending the meaning isn't particularly difficult - assume the words mean what they say they mean, no matter how many corrupt and pompous judges and bureaucrats there are trying to "reinterpret" words to make all the criminality okay.

      There may be an accounting, eventually. Eventually may come sooner than later.

      • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @08:12PM (#44914481) Homepage

        Constitution? What's that? Oh you mean that banned document that you can't hand out on some university campuses anymore?

      • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @09:23PM (#44914797) Journal

        Many critiques of the war crimes tribunals after WWII, including the chief prosecutor who was a judge but never had a law degree, claim the prosecutions were ex post facto law (law after the fact) and the trials constituted a victors justice.

        I'm not saying they didn't deserve what they got, but lets not pretend it was all on the up and up when comparing it to other things we find horrible too.

        As for the reinterpretations of the US constitution, it is an artifact of the liberal agenda (Roosevelt fought for it to preserve a lot of his unconstitutional new deal programs). They first attempted to amend the US constitution by interpreting wordings out of context and extending government reach and powers by construing meaning beyond what was traditionally present in it. This is because there was no support for legitimately amending the constitution to their favor. Unfortunately, their short sightedness has missed the problem of "if they can do it, others can too" so now it is a common thing to do by any political ideology and it seems to have no bounds as long as it can advance someone's cause.

        It is a sad day when the US constituion is reinterpreted in order to get around the limitations it imposes on government. This is true whether you like one, some or all of the reinterpretations or none of them at all.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @11:17PM (#44915299)

        Hitler's minions thought they were okay because they were just doing their job, also.

        That didn't help them much when it came time to hand out the war-crimes awards.

        Just something the NSA folks might want to think about. They also might want to take a gander at the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights. Read them all, including Amendment X.

        Bear in mind that there are two different things NSA does/did, with very different implications.

        1) They weakened cryptographic standards. This deserves all the criticism you're dishing out.

        2) They researched how to break crypto. This is completely within their (and anyone else's) right to do. The alternative viewpoint - that merely trying to break crypto should be illegal - is exactly what the MPAA and RIAA have been trying to foist upon us with the draconian provisions in the DMCA prohibiting breaking DRM.

    • You have completely missed the point.

      This is an encoded message. The NSA are good at this.

      What the message ACTUALLY says is:

      MSG
      Don't worry about this rubbish with the plebs - its business as usual.
      EOM

      Very simple really.

    • I have nothing personal against the NSA; but I'll verify the letter with the one posted on Wiki Leaks.
    • by slick7 (1703596)
      Liar, liar pants around your ankles, on fire.
    • by BlueStrat (756137) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @09:55PM (#44914951)

      Seriously, though, just because you say it doesn't make it true.

      The simple fact that they felt it necessary, despite how self-incriminating it appears, for them to send out such a letter to their own people in essence, says many volumes about how much trust one should put in the NSA's "assurances".

      The NSA is going to have to engage heavily in blackmailing politicians, because nearly everyone...(D), (R), conservatives, liberals, politicians, journalists, progressives, capitalists, socialists, and communists...have realized that the NSA doesn't make any distinctions whatsoever concerning whose data they slurp up and whether or not it might be used for blackmail or for setting them up for a lengthy prison sentence if it becomes expedient for the government to make someone "go away", short of outright State-ordered murder.

      Pay no attention to anything the NSA or the politicians say. Watch what they do, instead.

      Strat

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:48PM (#44913373)

    Actions speak much, much louder.

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:54PM (#44913393)
    I guess that makes them Big Brother in law.
    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:19PM (#44913549)

      It's more like a Mafia Family, in the Tony Soprano sense of the word.

      Actually, the tone of "Weather This Storm" letter sounds more like a radio broadcast, live, from the Führer's Bunker in Berlin, in late April 1945.

      Maybe the NSA has some Wunderwaffen in their pockets, like V-3s and V-4s that will ensure their victory in their quest to destroy Americans' trust in their government, and rid the land of the yoke of that pesky Constitution and Bill of Rights.

      . . . and they would have succeeded, if it wasn't for you meddling kids of Slashdot . . .

    • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:41PM (#44913667)

      I guess that makes them Big Brother in law.

      I prefer the term "Big Sister" -- Think about it: Who's more likely to keep a bunch of detailed records of all goings on, then get pissed off and throw a fit when someone leaks her diary?

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:54PM (#44913395) Journal

    Not surprised. Not surprised at all.

    -jcr

  • by The_Star_Child (2660919) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:56PM (#44913411)
    Acknowledging the problem doesn't exist, it most certainly does.
  • Snowjob (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:57PM (#44913421)

    >>> It was intended to reassure them that the NSA is not really the abusive and unchecked spying agency engaged in illegal activity that someone reading former NSA contractor Edward Snowdenâ(TM)s disclosures might think...

    Uhh what? Snowden just released existing documents, he didn't create them.
    It stands to reason that the NSA should be judged exactly by their actions, i.e. the content of the documents they themselves created.

  • by d33tah (2722297) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:58PM (#44913425)
    Of course they're not "engaged in illegal activity". They control the law.
  • I am sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:58PM (#44913427)

    I am sure that the NSA sees itself as the good guy, and I am sure it does serve some useful, protective services. However, if those services come at the expense of civil liberties then the price is too high. And if it comes at a small cost to civil liberty, then it won't be too much longer until the bureaucracy feeds on itself until the small infractions become large ones.

  • by klingens (147173) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#44913433)

    Of course the NSA will weather it, will continue to exist and will continue to spy. For them it's a (short) embarrassing time after which the news media will forget them and all will be the same for them again.

    The ones who pay for this are the US IT companies which will be distrusted world wide and the US government (politicians, diplomats, secretary of state, etc) who will be distrusted even by their closest allies. US companies will notice it in the long term bottom line e.g. when big foreign companies won't outsource to a US company. The public will forget the scandal soon like they forgot Echelon, the big companies who have actual trade secrets however won't, and if they do they will probably regret it soon when their secrets aren't secret anymore and their US competitors magically know everything they do. These losses are however far in the future: more than a quarter away so they will be denied, at least publically and especially by the ones responsible: the politicians.

    The politicians will have a lot less trust and goodwill from their foreign counterparts, even and especially from allied countries.

    • I read somewhere that all NSA restrooms switched their toilet paper to Quilted Northern a couple years ago. Allegedly, the employees had grown so accustomed to wiping their rear ends with "the cloud" they refused to use anything less.
    • This is an inevitable consequence of conflict in values. This type of document is a reinforcement and no matter what anybody says, it serves its purpose. The government has become a cult in the same way as many other countries. Conditioning to be part of a specific group is a strong tool and always has been. Humans would likely not exist if there were not a natural tendency to operate in packs or troupes.
      You are right that others will pay the cost of this and that is the advantage of their being a member
  • I had not heard about this new style sheet standard [w3.org]. Do I need to start to use it on my web sites ? Does it protect my sensitive information from the commies/taliban/mafia/... ? Which browsers support it ?

  • Gee, I wonder why NSA employees are handing out printed copies of the letter instead of just emailing (or Facebook sharing) it to their family members?

    (There might be a lesson there for the rest of us.....)

    • by vux984 (928602)

      I assumed they'd just send an encrypted copy from the PotUS to the head of the UN via a secured line with the presumption that everyone in the NSA along with any contractors would read it as a matter of course...

      Obviously anyone who didn't get the memo just isn't doing their job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:07PM (#44913475)

    "In the coming weeks and months more stories will appear"

    In other words there's shit storm that's about to rain down on the NSA that will shake the organization to it's knees. And they know it.

    Weather this storm indeed.

    • by wjcofkc (964165)

      "In the coming weeks and months more stories will appear"

      In other words there's shit storm that's about to rain down on the NSA that will shake the organization to it's knees. And they know it.

      Weather this storm indeed.

      I hope.

  • To paraphrase... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoKaOi (1415755) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:14PM (#44913521)

    To paraphrase the letter:
    We're family, we love you, so you should love us. Everything said in the media (except for a few pundits who we are paying off) is lies, the leaks didn't really say what they said. Everything we do is legal because we have the power to define the meaning of legal as anything we do.

  • But is it genuine? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:17PM (#44913537)

    Has anybody verified this letter is real? I smell a hoax.

  • It's not about hundreds of honest agents and managers doing the right thing. It's about creating an apparatus where a rogue agent at the behest of some powerful politician can get lost among the many and spy on opponent politicians and their supporters.

    With easy to defeat or ignore technological barriers and just "you should go get approval first before you listen in", i.e. relying on agent honesty to Do The Right Thing, we've already lost. I keep bringing up the Watergate people -- these thugs, most of w

    • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:40PM (#44913661) Journal
      The mass surveillance apparatus which is unquestionably a violation of 4th amendment protections requires just a few more than 1 in 10,000 agents to carry out. There may very well be a large group of perfectly honest and upstanding agents in the NSA, but the corruption goes much deeper than a few rogue individuals. It goes to the very top, with the head of the NSA perjuring himself to Congress only very shortly before Snowden's documents started trickling out in the news.
    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      But the 0.1% is the leadership giving the orders to the rest.
  • FTA:

    "The NSA/CSS Memorial Wall lists the names of 171 cryptologists who have died in the line of duty since the Agency’s inception in 1952,” according to the letter.

    What does that even mean? People die while working for us and put their lives on the line every day so don’t even think about criticizing our role in government? Or, for the families who are questioning whether their loved one is now a forever disgraced government employee, do not worry because they are working on collecting

    • by Animats (122034) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @06:57PM (#44914053) Homepage

      "The NSA/CSS Memorial Wall lists the names of 171 cryptologists who have died in the line of duty since the Agency's inception in 1952," according to the letter.

      This refers to members of the US military doing cryptographic duty who died in the line of duty. Here's the list. [nsa.gov] Most died during the Cold War or in Vietnam. In recent years, in Afghanistan or Iraq. Only one civilian, Alan M. Blue, who was on the USS Liberty when the Israelis attacked it.

  • Writing to employees' families and referring to his organization as a "national treasure" both give off a sense of defensiveness. As another poster said, they will almost certainly weather the political storm and continue doing what they do, but this letter doesn't make them look any better.
  • Just admit that you have no concern for civilian privacy (whether they're American or otherwise), that you have no trepidation when it comes to breaking the rules and inventing your own, that you think you can decide what is right for yourselves when you know very well that it's wrong (and if you don't, that you need to go back to grade school philosophy), that you have no respect for the sovereignty of other groups and nations (many of which want to have nothing to do with you), and that you are a lying, s

  • shiny object (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:48PM (#44913715) Homepage Journal

    In 6 months we wont remember who the NSA is or what happened.

    Humans today have the attention span of a turnip.

  • Spin control (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @05:52PM (#44913739) Homepage Journal

    The NSA denied the spying flat out, until they were caught.

    The government claimed the court oversight was adequate, until FOI releases proved they're not.

    They said they were only using the surveillance data to catch terrorists, until it was revealed that the DEA was getting a feed.

    Why should anyone, even an NSA employee, believe anything these idiots have to say any more?

  • If anyone was thinking of breaking up with the NSA family, the letter states, “We want to put the information you are reading and hearing about in the press into context and reassure you that this Agency and its workforce are deserving and appreciative of your support.”

    Family == Mafia [*]

    [*] or used to be until the National Stasi Agency sullied the term ...

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @06:16PM (#44913845) Homepage Journal

    I hope that there are lots more courageous NSA employees and contractors who will stand up and be whistleblowers.

    They're probably our last best hope to turn back this police state.

  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @06:23PM (#44913881) Journal
    Looks like Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf (the Iraqi Information Minister during the second Gulf War) has snagged himself a new contract. WE ARE NOT SPYING ON ANY AMERICANS, AND THERE IS NO FAILURE OF OVERSIGHT.
  • by Goonie (8651) <robert.merkel@be ... ra.org minus bsd> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @06:43PM (#44913983) Homepage
    There is no legal impediment to the NSA collecting, logging, analyzing, and possibly mischaracterizing *everything* I do online, and sharing the results of that analysis with the relevant local cops. The constitutional protections extended to American citizens do not apply to foreigners, from those living in other Western democracies, to those living in countries controlled by various "our-sonnfabitches" that the USA has supported over the years. It's well documented that the CIA has, on a regular basis, interfered in the domestic politics of other countries around the world, including aiding politically convenient despots in enforcing repression. In the old days, the computational tools to surveil everyone in the world simply didn't exist, so the CIA and NSA were naturally limited in who they could bother. Now, such limits apply to a much lesser extent. In terms of the technical capability (and I'm not implying equality of motives) it's heading in the direction of what the Stasi could do - to every single person on the entire planet. And, sorry, I am *not* happy that the United States government has that kind of reach. And nor should you be.
  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @06:51PM (#44914029)
    stays together. Now let's all gather around the fireplace and take turns throwing copies of the Bill of Rights into the fire to stay warm.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The same basic questions about US law would have been placed in the ~1950-60-70-80-90~2000. Any individual would have just been reassured, reassessed and later promoted to a less legally challenging area.
      A few generations later the people doing the hiring and been re hired for contracting would have been more understanding of the role of global communications at a domestic level.
  • Really? A letter.

    'Cause, you know, I always figured that people could pretty much see for themselves and make up their own minds...

  • Every word they've said After Snowden has been public relations. "Our extended family" "sensationalized the leaks" "wrongly cast doubt" "more of a rogue element than a national treasure"

    "Denial, Anger, Acceptance" is the third episode of The Sopranos.

  • reassure them that the NSA is not really an abusive and unchecked spying agency engaged in illegal activity.

    I am so reassured now.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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