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Employee Morale Is Suffering At the NSA 841

Posted by samzenpus
from the turn-that-frown-upside-down dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post that morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency's surveillance activities and officials are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support. 'It is not clear whether or when Obama might travel the 23 miles up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to visit Fort Meade, the NSA's headquarters in Maryland,' writes Nakashima, 'but agency employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.' Though Obama has asserted that the NSA's collection of virtually all Americans' phone records is lawful and has saved lives, the administration has not endorsed legislation that would codify it. And his recent statements suggest Obama thinks some of the NSA's activities should be constrained. 'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. 'They feel they've been hung out to dry, and they're right.' Former officials note how President George W. Bush paid a visit to the NSA in January 2006, in the wake of revelations by the New York Times that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. soil beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on morale was tremendous,' Brenner said. 'There's been nothing like that from this White House.' Morale is 'bad overall' says another former NSA official. 'It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'"
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Employee Morale Is Suffering At the NSA

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  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:31PM (#45635023)
    I would say these are exactly the sorts of questions we should be asking, and they should be able to answer.
  • one could wish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:32PM (#45635027)
    That Obama would condemn and stop being ambivalent, but I suppose letting them stew is enough.
  • by willoughby (1367773) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:36PM (#45635045)

    Well, I sure missed *that* call.

  • by chihowa (366380) * on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:36PM (#45635049)

    Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'

    So, they're hoping that the public approval of the president will keep them from having to come up with an answer to that question?

    I guess nothing alleviates the need for thoughtful introspection like a big pat on the head from the master.

  • problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:36PM (#45635053) Journal
    The problem is, no one has a clue what the NSA is doing. Even if they are the kind of people who would normally support spying for defense purposes, it's not even clear what defensive purposes the NSA is serving.

    When Obama defends the NSA spying programs, he says, "If we're gonna do a good job preventing a terrorist attack in this country, a weapon of mass destruction getting on the New York subway system, et cetera, we do want to keep eyes on some bad actors."

    OK, but that's not very convincing, especially when a few months ago Obama was saying the war on terror is over [usnews.com].
  • by fred911 (83970) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:40PM (#45635067)

    You must have a spine.

  • GOOD. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:40PM (#45635073) Journal

    Violating the constitution SHOULD make you feel like shit.

    Hint to NSA minions who want to redeem themselves: there is no apology more sincere than hara-kiri. Spill your guts, and we might forgive you.

    -jcr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:43PM (#45635085)

    Sure, Obama should take the heat, and certainly he is standing up for them in my experience.

    But it's hard to buy the narrative of NSA employees and leadership as innocent victims. They are following poilcy, but Obama doesn't personally design and approve all activities of the million person, trillion dollar executive branch. Much of their activity is of their own design and initiative.

    They may be unhappy but they need to stop targeting it at someone else. They are responsible. Perhaps they should feel a little guilty that Snowdon was the only one with the nerve to act responsibly.

  • by melchoir55 (218842) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:50PM (#45635111)

    'It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'"

    Were they my neighbors, I would be asking the same thing.

    Were they my friends, I would shun them.

    Were they my significant other, I would leave them.

    The notion in the USA that the minions are innocent and "just following orders" is ridiculous. Unless conscripted (which these people are not), they are as complicit as their masters. These people are damaging the USA in profound ways. They deserve it to be uncomfortable every step of the way.

  • Re:one could wish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:51PM (#45635127)

    You're really that blind to what kind of sociopath is in the White House today, aren't you? Funny, Slashdotters are so fast to call CEOs sociopaths at the drop of a hat and yet the most powerful man in the world is looked on with sympathy as if he was an unwitting victim of the very system he helped establish and personally has near total control over.
     
    I guess you really can get drunk off of Kool-Aid.

  • Guilt (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterprimate (2679747) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:53PM (#45635139)

    ... It kind of happens when you are found out for conspiracy against the people you are meant to serve and protect.

    It's called having a conscience. Or lack of, since morale is only suffering after you've been caught.

  • by Desler (1608317) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:54PM (#45635153)

    Especially when the US didn't accept such logic in the Nuremberg Trials. "Just following orders" does not excuse things.

  • Re:GOOD. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:55PM (#45635159) Journal

    Iagree that violating the Constitutionshould absolutely make somebody feel like shit -- but unless the person is an unrepentant killer, telling them to commit suicide isn't cool. Isay that not so much for them, but because I've known a few people that lost someone they cared about that way, and wouldn't wish the pain I saw on anyone unless they were genuinely horrible people themselves. Hell, one of my exes intermittently fought off suicidal depression, and Iwouldn't wish the terror it put me through on anyone remotely decent.

  • It's a trap. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:58PM (#45635187)

    I have a friend who got audited one time; the IRS found a minor problem and my friend simply offered to pay the penalty on the spot (it was very minor, like a couple hundred dollars for an improper deduction or something). The IRS auditor told him to sit down and shut up so that he could berate him. My friend wasn't going to have any of that and simply left the IRS office. He never heard from them again about the supposed improper deduction and wasn't asked to pay.

    They are just biding their time until the penalties compound enough for them to simultaneously garnish his wages and seize his house.

  • Re:problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @07:59PM (#45635195)

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    People thinking they are so holy that their shit doesn't stink is the problem and always has been.

    You realize the NSA could be controlling US politics right now like J Edgar Hoover and we'd have no clue?

    I don't give a fuck "what type of people" they are. You shouldn't either.

  • by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:04PM (#45635223)

    'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006.

    Maybe you haven't been listening to the reaction Joel, but NOBODY APPROVES of your stupid fucking agency and the stupid fucking things they do. Except perhaps your authoritarian, imperialist, warmonger friends in Congress (Feinstein and the like).

    You probably won't realize why this is happening until you figure out how to admit how utterly fucking wrong you are. It's YOUR FAULT that your agency (and all other intelligence agencies) are hated because you decided to run out of control without a single shred of oversight. Don't blame this embarrassing atrocity on any one else.

  • Funny... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eggplant62 (120514) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:08PM (#45635265)

    I remember this really old adage that my mom used to tell me... Something about reaping or sowing or some shit. Been a while since I heard that one.

  • Re:problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Exitar (809068) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:10PM (#45635275)

    Especially since they were spying leaders all around the world, and that seems hardly related to terrorism prevention.
    Or did they actually believe that Angela Merkel could have wanted to place a weapon of mass destruction in New York subway system?

  • Need to know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GumphMaster (772693) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:12PM (#45635287)

    NSA employees operate in a strictly compartmentalised environment where the need to know is enforced. Some people are in positions of extreme trust, but the vast majority are not. We all need to understand that the revelations coming from Snowden's leaks are just as surprising to the vast majority of NSA employees as they are to the public at large. A good number of these people will be equally dismayed at the actions of their employer. We don't need to hound the individuals. The organisation is fair game though.

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:14PM (#45635295)
    Everyone is seizing on this "why are you spying on grandma?" line and saying 'Damn right they should be ashamed and demoralized, stupid jackboots!'

    Except the NSA has something like 30,000 people. It's hardly as though every one of them are involved in monitoring US civilian communications. Maybe, just maybe, some of them are demoralized because they have not a damn thing to do with anything in the news, yet they're being treated like demons.

    They're not the KKK, they're not the Westboro Baptist Church. The agency has redeeming qualities, and being a security organization there are probably *thousands* of them who know nothing more about these surveillance programs than we know. I'd be upset, too, if people were asking me to answer for something I knew absolutely nothing about simply because a huge division of my company two floors down were assholes.

    Stop lumping them all together as one giant boogeyman. Look for the people responsible rather than naming the entire agency an inscrutible, invisible hand with nefarious intentions.
  • Re:problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:14PM (#45635297)

    you miss the obvious: if you have a war, you can 'use up' a lot of your war toys and get brand new shiny (more expensive) ones from your Uncle.

    suppliers just LOVE that. and suppliers are the biggest supporters of elected officials.

  • by npridgeon (784063) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:16PM (#45635317)
    Don't do bad shit, so you don't have to feel bad about it.
  • by some old guy (674482) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:20PM (#45635355)

    The bastards got caught, and the poor little dears are upset..

    Fuck 'em.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:23PM (#45635381) Homepage Journal

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrOZllbNarw [youtube.com]

    (notice how much hasn't changed in 15 years)

  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:41PM (#45635463) Journal

    People comitted suicide from dealing with us even when doing so made no sense; they simply let their ignorant fears of the Big Bad put them in a bad place, mentally.

    When a parade of kooks and idiots testified to Congress in 1998 that we were all baby-eating monsters, NO ONE stood up for us. Horrific legislation that left the agency permanently hamstrung resulted.

    I don't know how you missed this while working there, but the IRS deliberately cultivates that reputation. They WANT to be known as baby-eating killers, they want people to fear dealing with them so much that they don't even risk anything which could result in an audit even if it's 100% legal. The IRS has been doing government by terrorism for a very long time now, and it's quite effective.

    Every so often the people get uppity, so the IRS has to pull something like holding day care students hostage until the parents pay the school's taxes. That usually works.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:42PM (#45635473)

    The answer is that since WWII signals intelligence has played a more and more important role in the way governments address issues of national security. In the past this kind of large scale surveillance didn't happen because it wasn't possible. Now that it is, it constitutes a powerful tool that if used properly can allow government agents to anticipate attacks and other criminal activities.

    Citizens are rightly concerned that this kind of surveillance may be misused to settle personal vendettas or attack opponents the establishment. However, these concerns can only be addressed by requiring more transparency and public review of how the programs are used. If we were to roll back the programs themselves it would give terrorist organizations and foreign governments a distinct advantage in signals intelligence.

  • Re:Zero sympathy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:49PM (#45635513)

    The problem is that they're not feeling bad. They're upset that the President is not loudly congratulating them of their complete contempt for the constitution.

  • Re:one could wish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:50PM (#45635521)

    That Obama would condemn and stop being ambivalent, but I suppose letting them stew is enough.

    Obama isn't "ambivalent" about the NSA or its programs: he is responsible for them and has for many years.

    What you perceive as "ambivalence" is just his difficulty in figuring out how to blame Republicans or corporations for yet another one of his policy disasters.

  • Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chewbacon (797801) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:54PM (#45635557)

    To the disgruntled NSA employees: you feel this way because you know what you're doing would have our founding fathers rolling in their graves! Take a stand, dammit. While easier for me to say than you to do, quit your job if it sounds wrong and send a clear message that this violation of privacy and more is wrong and you won't have any party of it. I bet then you could sleep better at night about your professional life, but maybe not as far as paying your bills.

  • Re:one could wish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @08:54PM (#45635565)

    You really think this is down to Obama. That if there was another suit in the Whitehouse things would be any different.

    You really don't get it do you? You must have some strange notion that democracies are run on behalf of the people or something. In fact all political systems are an elite fucking over every one else. The different flavours of political system just define how the people choose who does the fucking over. And the intensity of the fucking over defines how often that choice is made.

    The problem that the world faces is that the media conspires to hide the extent of the fucking over, and modern technology seeks to limit the peoples ability to make a choice.

  • by RubberChainsaw (669667) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:02PM (#45635629)
    I give my information to Google willingly. The NSA, on the other hand, takes my information from me without recourse. The gap between the two entities is wide enough that I feel vastly more animosity towards the NSA.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:16PM (#45635745)

    They've been upset for a long time, about doing secret, unapproved missions. It's a snowden LEAK that make their discontent ... public knowledge.

    Meh. I disagree - I think most NSA employees love that they get to do something really james-bond-ish, get a blank-check budget, and have essentially unlimited power over everyone else. There is no doubt a strong voyeuristic angle to the whole thing. They're also, by and large, getting paid obscene amounts of money.

    I've met a number of people who work government jobs with clearances and they all act so goddamn smug about it, I've wanted to punch them in the mouth.

    I think they were all quite happy nobody knew the power they had; they were "getting away with it." Now that we do, they're demoralized because they don't get to lord over us with the mystique. Plus, robbing the cookie jar isn't fun when everyone sees you do it.

    Fuck 'em. I hope the place becomes a miserable place to work and the whole thing falls apart at the seams.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:20PM (#45635783) Homepage

    Exactly, and furthermore: the snubbing, the low morale, the personal insults -- couldn't happen to a more deserving group of scum. If they want not to be considered scum, they need to quit and get a valuable, or at least a "not harmful" job. But when a person acts like Stasi, her or she should expect to be treated like shit, because it is well desrved, even if just following orders.

  • Re:problem is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sique (173459) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:22PM (#45635799) Homepage
    And nevertheless, the spying is illegal in the country you are spying on. The NSA doesn't violate any U.S. laws by spying on Angela Merkel, but it does violate German law (actually, it violates section 99 StGB [dejure.org] for those wanting to look it up). And the same is true for the other direction, the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) spying on U.S. politicians is illegal in the U.S..
  • Re: All Feds. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:24PM (#45635815)

    Best of luck surviving the plane crash caused by the pilot getting food poisoning while flying through a toxic industrial waste cloud when attempting an emergency landing on an unmaintained Eisenhower-era highway overpass after losing contact with air traffic control because Verizon decided to take over the frequency band.
    I'm sure that's what the framers intended.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:28PM (#45635831)

    If we were to roll back the programs themselves it would give terrorist organizations and foreign governments a distinct advantage in signals intelligence.

    Yeah, the bogeymen might get us. Can't have that.

  • Re:All Feds. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:28PM (#45635835) Homepage

    "vilification ... sadly"

    Why sadly? Seriously -- here you have a group of people doing everything in their power to undermine core American values in very salient and massive ways. They fucking deserve to be vilified. Because they're traitorous fucking villains.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:32PM (#45635849)

    Except "terrorism" is the least thing it is being used for and, as per the president's own speeches, it is being used for things like "protecting America's economic advantage".

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish@info.gmail@com> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:40PM (#45635889)

    This isn't going to be a popular opinion, but I think following orders is a valid defense.

    It wasn't real popular with the judges at Nuremberg, either. Just so you know.

  • by thrich81 (1357561) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:41PM (#45635897)

    The reason the NSA metastasized into what it is now is because that is what the American people wanted. After (and before) the 9/11 attacks they wanted government protection from the big bad world. Why did the Bush administration go nuts after 9/11 (Gitmo, rendition, etc)? -- it's because they knew they could stand the heat from the pundits and legal beagles who said a lot of it was illegal. And they also knew that the Bush administration would not have survived another 9/11 style attack. Same for the Obama administration -- they cannot tolerate a big attack on Americans as long as the Republicans will claim it was "lax vigilance" which allowed it (look at the insanity over Benghazi and that was only four Americans in a foreign country!). So the rational actor in that case errs all the way on the side of preventing another terrorist incident no matter the legality or cost to civil liberties. Same for the NSA now -- if the US suffers another big attack then there will be 290 million (out of about 300 million) Americans blaming the NSA for letting it happen and demanding that the NSA do "whatever it takes" to prevent another. This is irregardless of the facts of the situation. That is just the way it is. You won't fix that anytime soon. As time goes on without an attack we can get some more oversight of the NSA, perhaps, but in the big scheme of things it's not going to change until the American public gets a lot better at risk estimation, which they never will. If you don't like it -- tough, and no place else in the world is any better -- the foreigners don't have any better governments and for most of them it's a lot worse. Life isn't fair -- you were born to live in the 21st century, not the paradise of liberty which the 18th and 19th centuries were (yeah right!); or you can try living completely off the grid like it was the 18th century, for a fun time. Or you can accept that (in the Democracies, at least) the jack booted thugs aren't likely to kick your door in tonight and try to get policies changed over time, through voting and persuasion of others in the public and your government.

  • by icebike (68054) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:42PM (#45635909)

    If you re-read his post, he never actually said that, he was more or less suggesting that SHOULD be their story

    At least, that had better be the story. Because anything else is just a bunch of rich kids whining that they've been outed

    Seriously, how can an educated person go to work each day, knowing they are violating civil rights of everyone in the country (not to mention the world) and still feel good about their job? They job demands bunch of deluded true believers or people simple without ethics.

    Even if every single one of them goes to work each day determined to PERSONALLY not do any evil with the information they have at hand, they have to know its not that way at every desk.

    That they are "dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support" should be their clue that its time to look for honest work.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:43PM (#45635915) Homepage

    'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006.

    Which "public" was that? Spying on foreign leaders, collecting unlimited data on US citizens, tracking cell phones...I think I'm seeing the problem. They know they're doing wrong and still feel justified. Now they want the president to make them feel better.

    It's like the phone companies wanting retroactive immunity for cooperating with spying. They want Congress to pass new laws making everything they've done legal.

    Nevermind all the spying didn't stop the Boston Marathon bombers or the Sandy Hook shooter or any of the more common threats.

    Maybe they deserve to feel bad.

  • Re:problem is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ewieling (90662) <[ten.llunved] [ta] [resu]> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:45PM (#45635933)

    You realize the NSA could be controlling US politics right now like J Edgar Hoover and we'd have no clue?

    Considering the surveillance capabilities of the NSA, the lack of oversight, and that power always corrupts, I think we should assume the NSA is influencing politics in ways which benefit the NSA or specific people within the NSA. I suspect the NSA's main concern regarding this is making sure there is no proof.

  • by icebike (68054) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:51PM (#45635963)

    But that takes a conspiracy, doesn't it? The stuff the NSA does is dependent on everyone involved being comfortable with what they're doing. That may not be the same as what we're comfortable with, but there has to be an internal narrative that supports the action and that's shared by the people acting on that narrative.

    A conspiracy of ONE, as Snowden clearly demonstrated.

    And if you believe this agency is above tipping the party that promises them the most, about the activities of the others, you are sadly mistaken. Emails with opposition talking points mysteriously appearing in inboxes? That would Never happen, right?

  • Re:one could wish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:51PM (#45635969) Homepage

    Senator Obama spent of all of 2007 lying his ass off. He has taken every single one of GWB's radical policies, and cemented them as the new normal. It is shocking to realize that we could have a president more cynical and abusive to American values than GWB was, but Obama proves we are just beginning to plumb those depths.

  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:54PM (#45635985)

    I have gotten fines from the IRS, and it was always because I missed something and it was my fault. Sometimes it took a little work to figure out what the problem was, and even called them up when I was trying to figure it out. The people were never rude and always helpful.

    Was I happy with it? No, who really wants to admit they made a mistake and have to pay to fix it? No many people, but you know what? I sucked up my ego, which all it really was, and admitted my mistake and paid up.

    For all the scorn people heap on the IRS, they do a very good job, especially considering all the crap they get from anyone who seems them as an easy dog to kick.

  • by LVSlushdat (854194) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:00PM (#45636019)

    ....In addition, if 'the whole thing falls apart' then we as a nation are fucked.

    As far as I'm concerned "we as a nation" ARE ALREADY fucked... When both parties shit on the Constitution, and any amount of truth from the government is non-existant, we are swirling down the toilet... I'm a Army vet, and love this country and the Constitution, and before anybody decides to label me, I AM NOT A REPUBLICAN, NOT A DEMOCRAT, NOT A LIBERTARIAN, I AM AN AMERICAN!!. What is happening to the country I love makes me absolutely sick... Frankly, I'm glad I'm in my 60s, and not a young'un anymore, as I don't want to see where this country will be in 10-20 years.....

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@jws[ ]he.com ['myt' in gap]> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:01PM (#45636031) Homepage Journal

        Here's my "Are You Fucking Kidding Me"(tm) list.

        1) Employees at the agency that is chartered to be the most secretive agency the US government has is telling the press they aren't happy?

        2) They want the President to visit because they've been doing their jobs, and it made the news?

        3) They want a pitty party because a contractor has been leaking information? The fucking NSA? Let a contractor leak anything? They let a contractor walk away with classified documents? How is he still alive?

        4) Are they not being paid for their jobs?

        5) Were they under some insane misconception about what their job would be when they were hired? It's one of the largest intelligence agencies in the world. What did they think they were getting hired for? Play solitaire and collect paychecks?

        This story makes me think that next week we'll be hearing about massive layoffs, and new openings with the agency.

  • Poor babies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rigel47 (2991727) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:18PM (#45636143)
    Or should I say poor little treasonous babies. You actively participate in the desecration of the Constitution and then you feel all pouty that America is unhappy when it finds out?

    Guess what, bitches, America doesn't need your uber algorithms, satellites, or any other fancy toys. You (the intel community) has demonstrated that you can't handle HUMAN INT (see: 9/11, boston bombers) so stop claiming you need this geek starship of SIGINT to protect us little lambs. Losers.
  • by schnell (163007) <me&schnell,net> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:20PM (#45636157) Homepage

    Don't do bad shit, so you don't have to feel bad about it.

    Disclaimer: I am writing this as someone who believes that the current US scope of electronic snooping is improperly controlled, far out of bounds, and wholly counterproductive.

    From reading the comments here so far, I have come to realize that there is a major "culture gap" between the people who comment on Slashdot and those who work in places like the NSA, the US military, the police or other "authority" organizations. Being (apparently) one of the few people in the former category who also knows and admires friends in the latter category, I thought it might be useful to attempt to explain the cultural gap that otherwise prevents the two groups from understanding each other.

    Most employed Americans - including nearly all Slashdotters - have a job. They may like it or hate it, but they fundamentally view themselves as free agents within an economy where their employer wants to get the most work out of them for the least money, and they want to get the most happiness for the least work. Employer/employee loyalty is not particularly important (except where it is grudgingly mandated through unions, which dulls the "free agent" concept as well). Work is what they do to provide for themselves and not their "calling."

    Some employed Americans believe themselves instead to have a calling of national service, such as military personnel, or employees of other national-security related agencies. (A similar argument for a "calling" as employment could be made for teachers, firemen, police, community volunteers, etc.) They forego monetary or other opportunity in the belief that the work they are doing to serve their country is a "higher calling" that makes the trade-offs worthwhile. An important difference between "national service" callings vs. some others is an implicit understanding of a military-style discipline - the military does not work if the captain says "let's attack hill X" and the private decides to shoot at hill Y instead.

    This is not an attempt to absolve "but I vas only taking orders, herr prosecutor!" behavior. These people still maintain an individual conscience and are willing to exercise it. But by and large, there is a trust that individual employees have (necessarily) only a limited view of the big picture, and the responsibility for figuring out what's right or wrong to do is being shouldered by the executive-level ranks who do actually have the big picture. (For example, you wouldn't want an individual CIA analyst to say "I won't put surveillance on this address" because it's a US address when they don't have the full picture that it's being used by a foreign agent.)

    Far too long story short - NSA employees don't feel like their work is spying on Grandma. They think their work is very valuable, and it's spying on potential terrorists or otherwise giving the US political leadership all the data it needs about what is going on anywhere else in the world.. They are not going to spend their time reading up on every secret court ruling about what is or isn't kosher spying - most of them don't have access to all the information anyway! They feel hung out to dry because the senior government officials who they trusted to answer "is this OK?" said "yes" and then didn't back them up when an angry US and world public said, 'WTF?'"

    You may agree, you may not agree. Apologies for any misrepresentations to the people I am speaking on behalf of. But I thought it might be useful for most Slashdotters to at least hear the thinking of the people on the "other side" and why it may not be a cut-and-dried issue.

  • by MetricT (128876) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:22PM (#45636175) Homepage

    I made a $3 mistake on my income tax return (Scottrade updated my tax info *after* I'd sent mine in, but they didn't notify me).

    The IRS apparently took that as an excuse to torment me for most of a year. I got audit for the above $3 claim, as well as for "falsely claiming that I was due a tax deduction for student loans" (I took some night classes at the local community college). Apparently that $3 claim was justification for a fishing expedition.

    First time, I take an entire day off to redo my taxes, discover that I have made a $3 error, cut them a $3 check, and sent them the 1098-T from the college to prove that the other claim is false.

    Couple months later, they send me the exact same form. I again take another day off to recompute my taxes (I was correct), and again send them the same 1098-T info that they requested.

    Third time, I told that I will be taken to court because I haven't provided the proof required. I take yet *another* day off to go to the local IRS office in Nashville and sit down with a lady to explain that I've already sent the 1098-T form in.

    She logs into her computer, turns it toward me, and starts hitting page-down. "We don't have any record that you sent it in." I see it flash by and tap on the screen. "Yes you did, it was just on your screen a second ago." She pages up and stares at it in silence for 2-3 minutes. "Well I just don't understand that."

    Great. So now that the IRS knows I've sent it in, we can put this whole misunderstanding behind us, right? "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do to fix this". My choices were pay it off, send an appeal to the IRS, and hope that suddenly grow a brain after the **4th** time, or go to tax court, lose yet another day's salary, and hope the judge was smarter than the IRS. So I paid.

    The IRS's excruciatingly, devastatingly, mind-numbing incompetence cost me roughly $1000 in lost salary for a $3 difference. And the whole collective IRS can go pleasure itself with a saguaro cactus.

  • by Redmancometh (2676319) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:22PM (#45636179)

    They shouldn't get paid a single red cent of MY money to spy on me. They should be thrown in prison for treason for a year at the bottom and life at the top.

  • Re:problem is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:29PM (#45636203)

    I salute your commitment to the democratic values of free, fair, and open debate, and opposition to censorship. We all benefit from a free and open exchange of ideas, views, and supporting evidence.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:33PM (#45636211)

    Also in the news, Nixon was channeled by a medium. Allegedly he claimed his only crime was that he was ahead of his time.

  • by memnock (466995) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:20PM (#45636487)

    If these people are as good as all the stories say they are, and I'm not saying they aren't, you have to wonder, and worry a little, where they will end up. Are they just moving over to a former contracting company and doing the same thing? If so, would that really hamper the NSA? It probably means that former NSA employee, now NSA contractor, is doing the same thing, only getting more money. That doesn't really do anything to rein in the NSA's activity via attrition.

    I doubt those former employees will leave the field altogether, since they're probably aces in the field. I'm sure they have ND clauses and other restrictions, but that doesn't mean the security apparatus will shrink a whole lot.

  • by strikethree (811449) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:20PM (#45636493) Journal

    Stop lumping them all together as one giant boogeyman.

    No. Not until they quit their jobs at the NSA. Once they quit, IF they can prove they had no knowledge, I will forgive them. Until then, fuck them ALL.

  • by Subm (79417) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:27PM (#45636543)

    the NSA sent Grassley a letter with details of the 12 LOVEINT incidents it has uncovered since 2003.

    The NSA self-reporting 12 incidents is like finding 12 cockroaches in your pantry. You know there are uncountably more scurrying around.

    Except for one thing. The cockroaches aren't nearly as disgusting.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:43PM (#45636615) Homepage Journal

    Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'

    So, they're hoping that the public approval of the president will keep them from having to come up with an answer to that question?

    The answer to that question is obvious. Here's what they say "We aren't spying on Grandma. Sure, we're gathering up her information along with all the rest, but we don't actually look at it, or use it. And we can't be selective about what we grab, because then we'd sometimes miss stuff that's important. So need to continue grabbing everything, just in case, but, really we're nice people and we would only use it to help the American people. Okay, so there's the occasional bad apple who abuses it (e.g. LOVEINT), but we try to find them and get rid of them."

    Does getting that answer make you feel any better about it? Probably not. It doesn't make me feel any better, even though I can see clear as day how a bunch of well-intentioned, hard-working people could follow this particular road right into massive surveillance hell, fully convinced that they're doing the right thing. From their perspective, it's easy to see that they are only doing good things, if we'd only just trust them. From our perspective, we can't know what they are or are not doing, and they're doing it without our permission and in contravention of our most fundamental law, no matter how they try to split hairs.

  • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:05AM (#45636727) Homepage

    I hope you can also see the problem. Sure the best (those with honesty, integrity and loyalty to their country and fellow citizens and fortunately the brightest) but that will basically leave behind the sick perverts, psychopaths and the politically corrupt. Those are the ass hats that took the NSA down that route and they will be the only ones left. Now that is going to be a huge problem and pretty much the exact same problem that manifested at the CIA, where the best left leaving behind the corrupt who then privatised and contracted out intelligence services as retirement plans for themselves, billions blown on make believe for profit misinformation.

    This directly fuelled a war with misinformation, where billions of dollars was siphoned off to ex-CIA now private contractors and major military industrial complex corporations. It is easy to guess what they new CIA will become, a blatant corporate intelligence service. With out honest people, it will become as bad as you can imagine.

  • Re:problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Torodung (31985) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:57AM (#45636925) Journal

    Even more fundamentally obvious, the number of toys and troops, and their vast overarching deployments, creates an atmosphere that inevitably leads to wars. This is opportunity presenting itself to the military, and wars of opportunity. Let alone how it benefits the military industrial complex to have our military in such positions of opportunity.

    If we have troops deployed globally, as we do now, the likelihood of elective war, even global war, goes up exponentially. It's what keeps such military geopolitics sustainable. In short: Weapons have a tendency to go off. It's what defines them as weapons. The idea of a deterrent force is an oxymoron and a myth.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:25AM (#45637029)

    The story of your friend needs some more details.

    If a final report from a Tax Compliance Officer (the people who audit you in the office) is for a net tax increase and the taxpayer doesn't wait around, it will be mailed out for a signature. Thus, I doubt your friend; his story is very low-percentage.

    Of course, there is that low percentage. If the amount is low enough, the TCO and their manager may decide to close the case with no further work (called a "Survey"; there are several sub-types) which means that they just dump it back into the central files because the cost of processing the new assessment is more than the IRS could collect.

    That power-tripping you referred to? People who screw up on their taxes and get a lecture along the lines of "You did this wrong. Please don't do it again." will frequently perceive that as a power trip. The IRS looks at it as an educational opportunity.

    I suspect the real truth of this story is somewhere in between.

  • Re:one could wish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frobnicator (565869) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:45AM (#45637099) Journal

    This is not exactly what you said, but the fact is that representatives in democracies are at least chosen by the people, and their continuing re-election is subject to the approval of those same people. The fact that those people make terrible choices (or at least ones you don't agree with) does not make democracy any less a government by, for and of "the people." You seem to think the system is rigged in some way, when it's really not. People who have a viewpoint - left, right, rich people, unions, whoever - spend money to convince others of that viewpoint, good or bad. If you don't like the way that people voted or who they elected, then maybe you should get more involved with ensuring that your viewpoint gets more votes.

    Reminds me of a much more succinct quote:

    "Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?" she asked. "A Republic, madam..." Franklin quickly answered, "if you can keep it."

    Sadly it ever more frequently appears our Constitution is dangling by threads over a flame.

    November's election our city had 24% voter turnout. It was considered a high turnout because of a bond issue. I call it a pathetically low turnout, indicative of the reason why our government is not what we want, but what we collectively are deserving.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:50AM (#45637125) Journal

    "publicly approved intelligence missions"

    I'm not sure 'publicly' is being used correctly here, as the public certainly has NOT approved these missions.

    Most people (IMHO) would agree with "secretly approved intelligence missions" or "intelligence missions approved by the white house".

    Nevermind that the administration has only CLAIMED these massive data gathering operations have resulted in discovering up to 2 (two) instances that might have been terrorist plots of some kind and maybe provided some information helpful to a couple dozen of other investigations (which were initiated and driven by intelligence NOT derived from these mass data gathering operations).

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:54AM (#45637139)

    We did give up for a while after 9/11, but it's not permanent, bad government never is.

    But I think it shows that most people are unintelligent and easily manipulated that they'd so readily give up their freedoms in exchange for safety, real or not. Even if the fear is weakening, this is a recurring problem that we'll see time and time again. People, by and large, do not learn from history.

  • by Urkki (668283) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:03AM (#45637351)

    This is not just a problem with NSA. Knowing that my taxes are used for bombing villages in Pakistan is a little unsettling.

    Well, there are just two quick ways to stop that. First, stop paying taxes, which has the downside of radically reduced quality of life. Second, move somewhere where your taxes are not used on bombing villages in Pakistan, which has the downside that you can no longer feel patriotic about being an American.

    Then there are slower ways: Become rich enough so you can avoid paying taxes. Do a democratic change of politicians by making people of America vote differently. Start a traditional revolution (for NSA: just listing this option here for completeness, and not advocating it in any way, please!).

  • by hairyfish (1653411) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:52AM (#45637521)

    In the niche I was in, everyone pretended it was about patriotism and national service. But if you looked at what actually drove the decisions, it was mostly about money, spiced up a little bit with vicarious violence.

    I've worked in a few government agencies, some of them requiring security clearance, and my experience has been that for 99% of people I met it was about money, job security or pension plan. My family is knee deep military including service in most major conflicts and after WW2 it was never about service, just a way to make a living that was the best option on the table at the time. In fact I'd go so far as to say I've never met one person that join the public service for patriotism (outside of grandfathers signing up to kill Hitler). WW2 gets a special mention because it was the last war the west fought that actually risked our way of life. That was the last great cause, since then it has just been politics, money and corruption.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:52AM (#45638201)

    They shouldn't get paid a single red cent of MY money to spy on me. They should be thrown in prison for treason for a year at the bottom and life at the top.

    Hopefully your sentiments are the same for the elected officials who told NSA to do this. From what I've read, this wasn't some rogue NSA operation. It was fully endorsed by Congress and the White House (both Bush and Obama). Now that it's gone public and sentiment is decidedly against it, the politicians are in full CYA-mode, dumping all the fallout from this squarely on the NSA when it was in fact the elected officials who initiated it. As much as I detest Feinstein's support for this surveillance program, at least she's being honest and up front about her support for it. Not hiding and pretending not to have had any part in it in the hopes that the public won't notice their role come next election.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @08:11AM (#45638243)

    Actually you should feel bad. Excusing one sort of violence for another is inexcusable, especially under the faux guise of protecting your sovereignty against terrorists.
    Not long ago the USA still labelled Nelson Mandela a terrorist. Now I'm not saying that fundamentalist Jihadi's are not terrorists, but it is rather more obvious that the USA hasn't got the best record in making this distinction and that it should probably not be allowed to make that call and to act upon it.
    Secondly, it's debatable if the USA is really protecting it's sovereign borders or merely it's "colonial" assets. This is backed up by the fact that for the last couple of decades, the USA has felt that the way to insure it's own sovereignty was to undermine and eradicate others. Now the history books are littered with examples where nations felt this way and thought it just to suppress other sovereign nations for the benefit of itself. These nations have traditionally often been labelled "the baddies".
    So every time that, with any random precision, violence is undertaken on foreign territory, you should feel bad, because you are an apologist for an aggressor state who seem to be hell bend on blurring the line between terrorist and freedom fighter.

    And if push comes to shove, Europe will side with Russia, India and China. Hello NSA ! (President, bomb, Embassy, AK47, Washington).. Another server meltdown....

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