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NSA Head Asks How To Spy Without Collecting Metadata 509

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-and-your-connected-dots-can-shove-off dept.
jfruh writes "NSA Director Keith Alexander, testifying before the Senate this week, got weirdly petulant, asking his critics how he was supposed to do his job without collecting metadata on American communications. 'If we can come up with a better way, we ought to put it on the table and argue our way through it,' he said. 'There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots.' He also implied that major U.S. tech companies might have greater capacities than his organizations, and that they should help him out with new ideas."
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NSA Head Asks How To Spy Without Collecting Metadata

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  • Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by craigminah (1885846) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:02PM (#45680683)
    Is he doesn't know how to do his job without violating all our rights then he should be replaced.
    • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eriklou (1027240) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:05PM (#45680709)

      Came to say this...
      Time to hire people that can actually think outside of the box. Problem with that is they'd be too smart to take the job.

      • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:18PM (#45680843)

        That is the cynicism that gives Americans what they have now. If every American actually felt there was a problem it would stop. The problem is that Americans condone this behavior as a general populace. So you get what you vote for. It is like the stat, "oh I hate Congress, but my guy is doing just fine, the others are the problem." RIGHT!!! It is always the OTHER...

        • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:26PM (#45680941)

          The problem is that Americans condone this behavior as a general populace..

          It's more along the lines of not understanding fully whats going on and people feeling powerless to do anything about it.

          • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:29PM (#45680987)

            From what I've seen, people are either apathetic or support it. As it turns out, people in the "land of the free" don't actually care about freedom all that much.

            • by jader3rd (2222716) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:33PM (#45681893)

              From what I've seen, people are either apathetic or support it. As it turns out, people in the "land of the free" don't actually care about freedom all that much.

              It's because that by and large the status quo has been awesome for so long that we'd rather have continuity than freedom++.

          • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

            by dnavid (2842431) on Friday December 13, 2013 @04:30PM (#45683823)

            The problem is that Americans condone this behavior as a general populace..

            It's more along the lines of not understanding fully whats going on and people feeling powerless to do anything about it.

            The problem goes farther back than that. Post 9/11, people were outraged that the government didn't do enough to prevent the 9/11 attacks when it was "obvious" the terrorists involved were a threat. The NSA's "job" wasn't always to perform threat detection: its original job was to secure the communications of the United States and to perform counter-intelligence operations. The NSA and other intelligence agencies perform the level of surveillance they do because we *told* them to do so, in the post 9/11 world. We told them it was their fault 9/11 happened, and it was their responsibility to ensure it doesn't happen again.

            Our problem is that they believed us. And when you think its your job to prevent thousands of people from being murdered, lots of things seem much less important when weighed against that responsibility.

            Its not enough to just say "stop violating my rights and privacy." We have to clearly define again what the responsibilities of the government actually are to protect us from such threats, and what risks we're willing to accept and not bitch about. Otherwise we'll just bounce endlessly between being outraged at what the government does and outraged at what the government fails to do. We have to choose, and honor that choice. We have to push to unwind the progressive increase in surveillance *and* not punish the government when that lack of surveillance fails to prevent a bad thing. We must support both the good that choice grants and the bad that choice generates.

            We have to do something ultimately few people are genuinely willing to do. We have to tell the government they aren't responsible for preventing every single bad thing in the world. That is the only way we can revoke their right to do whatever it takes to attempt to achieve that impossible goal. Until we do, they will likely continue to push the envelope of what is legal. And collecting metadata is not clear-cut illegal. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled it legal in the past. But even if we pass a law making it illegal, so long as the people who work at these intelligence agencies believe the American people have made it their legal and moral responsibility to do *everything* possible to prevent catastrophes, they will always find a way to push the envelope.

            If I'm being honest with myself, if I was told that, so would I.

        • by 605dave (722736)

          To a certain extent I agree with you, but I would point out that there hasn't been a major election since the majority of this news broke. It will be interesting to see how much of a role these issues will play in the next election cycle.

        • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:00PM (#45682215)

          My guy is the one telling them to stop. I should vote him out? In fact both of my senators are part of major consumer protections and privacy initiatives. Other people vote in stupid ideologues. I honestly don't mind smart ones, but when you're voting for people who think women parts have rape defense mechanisms, that's not on me. When you have people that block functioning government because they disagree with government, what the heck does that have to do with me who votes in people to make government better? when you have party members on national television that they are trying to stop blacks from voting because it prevents democrats from voting, please again tell me how I am supposed to fix other people voting for intellectual midgets? This isn't to say all the people on my side are smart or all the people on the other are dumb, but right now, the preponderance of bad rests with the anti-science, fox new watching part of the country.

      • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:32PM (#45681019) Journal

        Outside the box, how about inside the box!

        What is wrong with good old fashion detective work? You get tips from people you follow them up, you listen to truly public chatter learn who the malcontents are and infiltrate their groups, etc.

        All things police and spy agencies have been doing as long as they have existed and it worked without with to a large degree without global privacy shredding mass data collection. Is it likely to be as "effective" my guess is probably not as effective as mass surveillance can be but then again there is little evidence to suggest the the mass surveillance has worked so well, I mean people are still going abroad to meet with terror organizations come home and then sneak bombs on planes; they have just failed to detonate.

        Its a question of finding balance: risks, costs, and rewards. The real solution is we need to start getting rational about that.

        • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ai4px (1244212) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:50PM (#45681243)
          Old fashioned detective work? Surely you jest. (Stop calling me shirley). You actually expect that we can do real detective work when we can't profile people? The PC crowd keeps poking at us when we look at a given group, say, arab men ages 18 to 40. So in order to show how "fair" we are, we need to look at everyone's metadata. After the have the data, we can filter it as we see fit and no one will know we're profiling. Oddly enough, when looking for a needle in a haystack, you need more hay.
          • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:4, Informative)

            by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:00PM (#45681393)

            Old fashioned detective work? Surely you jest. (Stop calling me shirley). You actually expect that we can do real detective work when we can't profile people? The PC crowd keeps poking at us when we look at a given group, say, arab men ages 18 to 40. So in order to show how "fair" we are, we need to look at everyone's metadata. After the have the data, we can filter it as we see fit and no one will know we're profiling. Oddly enough, when looking for a needle in a haystack, you need more hay.

            Profiling is just another form of indiscriminate metadata.

            To do a really effective job, pay attention to the people, not the groups. Not every Muslim out there is "Death to America". Not every Anglo-Saxon granny is "Apple Pie". Tim McVeigh was as white-bread USA as anyone, but if the proper people had been listening to him, he would have had a lot more trouble doing what he did. Otherwise you're just playing the odds.

            • by sjbe (173966) on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:15PM (#45682367)

              Profiling is just another form of indiscriminate metadata.

              "Profiling" is a form of rational statistical analysis with a big social problem attached. If you have a known population of people with a propensity to behave in a certain way, then the rational thing to do is to look closely at that population. It is no different analytically than observing that white people are more prone to sunburns and thus have higher rates of skin cancer. If I worked for El Al Airlines security, it would be stupid to not look a little closer at people of Arab descent from a security standpoint because there is a known threat from some portion of that population. It doesn't mean that all Arabs are a threat (most are not) but it does make for a smaller haystack to search through. Profiling by itself is simply a rational form of analysis BUT there is a big problem with using it for policing purposes.

              The problem with profiling is that it becomes a cover for overt racism. I know very few black people who have not at some point been harassed by police for no reason other than the color of their skin. Sometimes people do behave in ways that should draw attention from law enforcement but it has to be more than solely the color of one's skin or country of origin.

        • by cHALiTO (101461)

          Do you really think mass surveillance has anything to do with "terror" instead of mainly industrial espionage to boost your country's (and campaign contributor's) business.

      • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:47PM (#45681185) Journal

        Here's out of the box thinking. How about we all admit that even with near-total surveillance, something like the Boston Marathon attack can still happen, and that there is a finite limit to the safety even the most expansive surveillance regime can supply, and therefore stop pursuing goals whose ultimate destination is reduced liberties with little in the way of reduction in risk.

    • Bingo. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:12PM (#45680781)

      Constitution first. If you can't do what you are trying to justify within the bounds of that very plain-language document, then you DO NOT DO IT.

      It would be easy to stamp out all domestic abuse. Just post a federal officer in every couples' bedroom.

      Same applies for violent crime with firearms; turn every home upside down and confiscate every firearm you find. If any "missed" or hidden turn up later, immediate death penalty. Possession or use after this point - also immediate death penalty.

      It would sure make the cops' jobs easier! We should totally do that! Except it's flagrantly in violation of both the spirit and the word of the Constitution - just like the NSA's metadata dragnets - so too fucking bad.

      Do your jobs above board, according to the law. You know, those pesky things you make and ignore, but we serfs have to follow? Those.

    • by fredrated (639554)

      First post and best suggestion. You win.

    • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:20PM (#45680871)

      The real question: How was he doing his job before? Or is he saying the NSA has been useless for the past 60 years, and only now is viable since everyone started carrying a real-time GPS tracker?
      In that case, do we get our tax dollars back?

    • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dywolf (2673597) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:26PM (#45680955)

      Then you are short sighted and not admitting reality.
      and do not think i am a supporter of the rampant NSA spying.
      But let's be real, and think about it.
      (And refrain from hyperbole such as "all our rights")

      This entire issue is once again the conflict between two competeing ideals that we ahve, and we want both to be true at the same time.
      Like it or not, old unverified quotes aside, people want both liberty AND security. (why else do we have laws and police and military?)

      The truth is, no intelligence work can occur without "metadata" (as a concept, not just related to digital tech), which is basically just circumstantial evidence in the digital realm. it may not prove a link, but it does indicate worth look (much like the correlation/causation saw). metadata can indicate if something needs a further look, or not.

      I am not against the collection of data from an individual, targeted with reason, and with proper due process, such as a warrant. The potential can analysed, and then dismissed or acted on further. If dismissed, the data is flushed and not retained. That is reasonable and even normal.

      And I believe the Admiral is being disengenuous when he says they cant function without the collection of metadata.
      I believe that his implied intent, what he really means, is that they cant function without colelction of everyones data, all the time, and that is what he's trying to preserve. Essentially, a lie of omission.

      I believe that to be wrong, and harmful.
      The problem isnt the mere collection of metadata.
      The problem is the collection of metadata ON EVERYONE ALL THE TIME, without cause or due process, and the permanent retention of that data.
      Blanket collection and the mentality of "everyone is a suspect" is the problem.

      • by Wookact (2804191) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:08PM (#45681531)
        You cannot have complete security and freedom. You may want your cake and to eat it to, but it is impossible. Since providing complete security is impossible all by itself, I choose freedom. I believe the only reasonable compromise is that the government can monitor Americans only with a court order. There is no need to spy on grandma, and it is a waste of resources with no tangible benefit anyways.
        • You cannot have complete security and freedom. You may want your cake and to eat it to, but it is impossible. Since providing complete security is impossible all by itself, I choose freedom. I believe the only reasonable compromise is that the government can monitor Americans only with a court order. There is no need to spy on grandma, and it is a waste of resources with no tangible benefit anyways.

          It's ridiculous that you're presenting this as a dichotomy. It's false. Why were there so few attacks on the US prior to 9/11 and so few afterwards despite the rash of changes to how we collected information on all Americans?

          From what I can tell, security is orthogonal to privacy. Security is doing proper detective work, targeted information collection, and

          No one is saying that we should throw away the logs and make everything anonymous (well, not very many people). What is at issue is that these logs ar

    • How does Constitution work? How crime get prosecuted? You want to do your job and collect data to catch crooks, you target someone specific, you get a warrant, you make the requests through the carriers, and you do it like it's always been done. Thanks for your utter disregard for all of our rights, you fucking jackhole.

    • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:43PM (#45681145) Journal

      No, it means he should be fired and NOT replaced.

    • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:40PM (#45681973) Homepage Journal


      Is he doesn't know how to do his job without violating all our rights then he should be replaced.

      He doesn't even know what the job is, apparently - "connect the dots" is an absurd metaphor, and doesn't work [schneier.com] in the real world.

      It sounds like he's not even qualified. Metadata equals surveillance, and he's pretending that it's somehow strange that people don't expect their government to surveil their ever action.

    • Transparency (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjbe (173966) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:59PM (#45682199)

      Is he doesn't know how to do his job without violating all our rights then he should be replaced.

      The problem isn't with the mere fact that the NSA is looking for people with bad intentions. That by itself is fine up to a point. The problem is that the NSA and congress and the executive branch refuse to have an adult discussion with the electorate about boundaries and the fact that the NSA presently is not answerable to the electorate. "Trust us" is not remotely sufficient assurance that the NSA is not abusing their power, especially when every indication is that they are behaving badly.

      Some surveillance is reasonable and appropriate but there are boundaries beyond which the government should not step without extremely strict oversight. We have the fourth amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches precisely because governments have a hard time restraining themselves. Ensuring judicial oversight is inconvenient for the government and that is precisely the point of that judicial oversight. Governments have proven time and again that they will abuse power. We understand the need for some reasonable surveillance but that doesn't mean we can or should give carte-blanche to the NSA to do whatever the hell they want. The electorate should have a say in exactly what constitutes "reasonable".

      In a democracy the government is supposed to be ultimately answerable to the people. When you have a secretive branch of government, implementing secret policies, "overseen" by a secret (and apparently toothless) court, with secret findings that are never released to the public, then there is no way for the NSA to be answerable to the people. THAT is the problem.

  • Not possible. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Carrot007 (37198) <Carrot007NO@SPAMthewibblereport.co.uk> on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:04PM (#45680697) Homepage

    He means, how can I spy without spying?

    You can't.

    • That's the thing though. He's asking "How can I spy without spying on a particular subset of people I'm not supposed to spy on?"

      It's like asking "How can I put my clothes in the washer without putting my wool suit in the washer?" Especially since most of us are only worried about that one t-shirt with the mustard stain, it seems particularly inane.

      • by mi (197448)

        "How can I spy without spying on a particular subset of people I'm not supposed to spy on?"

        But that's the very rub... To even know, who to spy on, he has to spy on all. It used to be much harder to wage war and even to commit one-time atrocities — it used to require a state's backing. The pool of people to, possibly, have such a backing was relatively narrow.

        Not any more. Conventional explosives can be made cheaply and easily — the information on making them is easily transfered electronically

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:31PM (#45681015)

      Siri, find all the terrorists in the US.

  • duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:04PM (#45680699)

    you obtain the necessary warrant and then perform whatever action is necessary without breaking the law. was that so hard?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They aren't actually breaking the law now with metadata collection. The courts have ruled on that. You might wish they were, but they aren't.

      • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:25PM (#45680937) Homepage Journal

        They aren't actually breaking the law now with metadata collection. The courts have ruled on that. You might wish they were, but they aren't.

        If they're searching the communications (or "papers") of American citizens without a warrant, then they sure as hell are breaking the law, regardless of what some complicit, unconstitutional, kangaroo court has to say about the matter.

        • Re:duh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:47PM (#45681193)

          Your opinion of what breaking the law is is irrelevant. Even if you think it's a kangaroo court, it doesn't matter. Courts have ruled that many forms of metadata such as GPS locations and cell phone pickups and other such things are not private communication and thus do not require a warrant. Therefore it's not breaking the law.

          The very definition of "breaking the law" means doing something against what is written in the US Legal Code within the interpretations of the courts. By that definition, they are have not broken any law.

          • The very definition of "breaking the law" means doing something against what is written in the US Legal Code within the interpretations of the courts. By that definition, they are have not broken any law.

            Quiz time:

            1) What laws do the U.S. Code and the courts depend on for their claim to legitimacy?

            2) What would it mean if the courts ruled in violation of those laws?

            3) Have courts ever ruled incorrectly?

          • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Wookact (2804191) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:11PM (#45681563)
            Fine, its unconstitutional. Do you really need me to quote you the 4th?
    • I feel that I have to put up the disclaimers first:

      #1: I'm a theorist. Think of everything below strictly as theory.
      #2: I don't live in the US - so I see things with foreigner's eyes. If I'm missing something or there's something I misunderstand, then it's not intentional.

      With that being said...
      Obtaining the necessary warrant might prove to be impossible without obtaining communication-based proof beforehand. Today, they see that 555-0101 called some number from Afghanistan 2-3 times a week during the last

      • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:03PM (#45681453)

        Obtaining the necessary warrant might prove to be impossible without obtaining communication-based proof beforehand.

        Then the target of the investigation goes free. This is the correct and reasonable outcome, by design.

        But at the same time I can't figure a better way to prevent impactful, unlawful acts from happening (from terrorism to major drug smuggling and so on and so forth).

        Then you don't prevent them. That is the cost of living in a free country, and it's an entirely reasonable one, which I, for one, am perfectly happy to pay.

        And by "better" I don't necessarily mean "let's go full legal and there you have it" - that's probably way worse from an outcome perspective. What if (again, as I said above, theorizing here) the NSA stops collecting that data and within 3 years the amount of bombs going off increases tenfold, while at the same time drug usage increases by millions of souls, meat trafficking gets out of control, etc.? Then it will be widely regarded as being "the worst decision that could possibly be made".

        That is nothing more than a load of fear-mongering totalitarian bullshit, without a shred of evidence to support it. (In other words, it isn't even a theory -- it's a hypothesis, and an exceptionally poor one.)

        The higher national security, the greater the costs (and sacrifices of personal privacy). It's valid for pretty much every country in the world. A balance must be stricken, but weights on both platters are variable and subjective

        In the United States we already struck that balance (weighted strongly towards freedom at the expense of security). Attempting to change that balance without the consent of the people (expressed via amending the Constitution) is treason.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:05PM (#45680717) Homepage

    So instead of actually doing targeted investigations, you've decided that collecting everything about everybody is the best way to go about it, and if you happen to pick up unrelated stuff for which you had no probable cause, too bad.

    Sorry buddy, but just because you can't figure out how to do your job without turning the country (and the entire world) into the worst sort of Big Brother environment is YOUR problem.

    And since you've decided that the easiest way to do this is to spy on the whole planet -- fuck you, because the rest of the world hasn't consented to that and doesn't give a shit about the challenges of you doing your job in compliance with the law.

    All I'm hearing is "waah, how are we supposed to spy on just some people without effort, warrants, probably cause, and following the law?".

    • I keep telling people that the ability to commit crime and get away with it is important. People need risk: They need the ability to perform an action and face a consequence. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe even rarely. The less we care, the lest risk. Oh you shoplifted a 35 cent stick of gum? Nobody saw? Nobody cares. We'd like to stop that but uh. You murdered some shopkeeper while robbing a convenience store? There are 16 federal investigators looking for you, your picture is everywhere, and the p

    • I'm sorry, I missed the part where you filtered the seven billion people on this earth down to those you choose to investigate without any initial data, but with a fixed budget.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:45PM (#45681169) Homepage

        I'm sorry, I missed the part where you filtered the seven billion people on this earth down to those you choose to investigate without any initial data, but with a fixed budget.

        7 billion people on the planet, 315 million or so Americans.

        How is this our problem? Are you asserting the wishes of 300 million people trump those of the rest of the world? That you're more important? That we should care more about your security than our rights?

        As I said, if another country was doing this to America on this scale, it would be deemed an act of war. And yet somehow Americans seem to think that it's OK when they do it.

  • "Metadata". I don't think that word means what you think it means.

  • Some Metadata (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:07PM (#45680727)

    Dammit I don't mind him getting the metadata he actually needs tp defend the United States. What I object to is the idea that he gets ALL the metadata without showing any need for the vast majority of it.

    The 4th Amendment was written with the express intent of forbidding general warrants. Yet that's what we have.

    Stop it.

  • Easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:08PM (#45680745) Journal

    This isn't even slightly hard.

    Step 1: Require that the companies collect the information and retain it.
    Step 2: Get a court order when you need to obtain information about a specific individual, and then obtain only that information.

    It's not the metadata that's the problem. It's the fact that you're in possession of it, not just for the people you're legitimately investigating, but for everybody, and the fact that with our legal system being as complex as it is, you can almost certainly find patterns sufficient to suspect any honest person of a crime.

    For example, I recently received an email about repairing strings of Christmas lights from someone whose last name is Snowden. Assuming that there's some relation, there's a good chance that my metadata is caught up in one of these f**king dragnets even though I have jack s**t to do with the guy who released confidential info from our government. There's no legitimate reason for them to study me—I'm pretty boring, frankly—but I would not be in the least bit surprised if it happened.

    • Re:Easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:25PM (#45680929)

      Step 1: Require that the companies collect the information and retain it.

      Which then is at the government's fingertips. How about we do no such thing?

    • by jbssm (961115)

      Step 1: Require that the companies collect the information and retain it.

      Sure, because the only thing I would like more than, for the US government to have access to all my online life, would be for a US corporation to have access to all my online life.

  • I wonder when... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    they will say, "We can't do our job without a camera in every home".

  • GET A WARRANT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:11PM (#45680765)

    Seriously, if you have a reason to suspect someone, you go ask a judge for a warrant to go spy on them. He might give it to you. After that you can spy on them.

    And let me make this perfectly clear:

    WITHOUT THE WARRANT, SPYING ON THEM IS ILLEGAL.

    And by and far spying on foreigners is ALSO ILLEGAL. At least, according to their laws. The same way that it's illegal for their citizens to spy on us according to our laws. Those laws are ignored when we are at war with them. Breaking the NAZI codes was a legit thing to do because we didn't give a flying fuck about their laws, you know, at the time. You're not supposed to treat US citizens like the enemy. We're at peace.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> We're at peace.

      I don't think thats even close to true, however I understand that it's a common misconception partly because the nature of the war we are in, and partly because the governments not only haven't officially declared war, none of them want to admit to the depth and scale of what is actually going on.

      All the evidence points to the fact that all the westernised countries (US, EU, Australia, Russia, China, even Africa) are actually conducting an all-out but undercover war against a very re

  • Bill Binney Interview on Real Time with Bill Maher [youtube.com]

    Because you fired the one guy who had your answer.
  • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:14PM (#45680807)

    So, despite its long and productive pre-history as a Black Chamber and special-ops division during the Cold War -- before the dawn of the Internet -- now the NSA claims that the only way they can do their job is to do things we find to be unacceptable.

    Turn. It. Off. [youtube.com]

    Thanks for making it easy.

  • by mjm1231 (751545) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:21PM (#45680873)

    If it can't be done without violating people's rights, then don't do it. It's really that simple.

  • by kjshark (312401) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:23PM (#45680905)

    "NSA Director Keith Alexander, testifying before the Senate this week admitted he's not qualified to protect us from terrorism." He said " I have a limited imagination and can only come up with one illegal solution to the problem". This is despite the fact that many terrorist plots have been discovered without violating rights, and his spying solution has failed to stop others. All he has is a hammer so every problem looks like a nail.

  • Just Stop! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902)

    Stop Spying.

  • Back up... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BringsApples (3418089) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:25PM (#45680935)
    Why does this have to be such an extreme set of operation? Why has America slipped into this great fear-based society, that must be constantly defended? If this guy's job is so hard, maybe we should start asking why the job is so hard, rather than how to do the job? Because it just may be that there is no answer for this question, it's the question that's the problem.
  • Freedom isn't free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doas777 (1138627) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:26PM (#45680951)

    The cost of freedom is that you must acknowledge that you must remain vulnerable to attack. Otherwise you destroy the freedom you are supposedly trying to protect.

    In this case, that the job exists at all is the problem. That makes the solution simple and elegant. The only remaining issue, is accepting that everytime somthing bad happens, we are necessarilly limited in our ability prevent it.

    The government cannot ever make me safe. all they can do is protect my liberties, and over the last 12 years they have been doing a piss-poor job of it.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:29PM (#45680983) Journal

    If his job can't be done without violating the fourth amendment, then his job should be eliminated.

    -jcr

  • Refactor the NSA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MagicM (85041) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:30PM (#45681001)

    Split the NSA into the Department of Big Brother and the New-NSA. Big Brother collects all the data and tracks everything about everyone, but the data is not query-able without a warrant (and all access is logged and reviewed, and abuse is actually penalized). Then the New-NSA can do their job the way they're supposed to, using warrants.

    • ... and then abolish the Department of Big Brother, right? 'Cause otherwise your proposal is evil and insane.

  • How do I... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:34PM (#45681035)

    While we're brainstorming on this, can someone tell me how to shoplift food without stealing it? Until we solve that problem, I'm going to have to continue to break the law to feed my Doritos addiction, but I really don't see any alternative.

  • by KDN (3283) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:44PM (#45681151)
    Gee, if we could put permanent police in every home in the USA we would reduce crime, but I think there is something unconstitutional about that. There are many options:
    • You have a list of suspects, tap those. And those around them, And maybe those around them. A heck of a lot less intrusive than taping the planet.
    • Pay the telecom people to store the data, and only get the data with a court order. This is similar to how the armed forces pay the airlines to have planes capable of being used by the military in a surge role, but normally run by the airlines.
    • Establish an outside entity. Outside entity will take real phone numbers and give back a unique hash. Telephone companies will send meta data to NSA, but will substitute these hash values for all telephone numbers. On court order, the outside entity will say "john terrorist has has 3141592". NSA will then do the proper searches, and say "we need the user for hash 12345, the outside firm will say its King Roland (spaceballs)". In this way, no single entity is able to abuse the system. They could collude, but it sets the bar higher.

    Now, will any of these solve the problem? No. Will it make everyone happy? No. Like always, security, like liberty. is a compromise.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:52PM (#45681275)

    "There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots."

    Given that the NSA utterly failed to "connect the dots" before Sept. 11, 2001, before the shoe bombing attempt, before the underwear bombing attempt, before the Times Square bombing attempt, before Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski and the Boston Marathon bombers, I would say the illegal methods by which trying to "connect the dots" aren't worth a damn, either. Not for their publicly-stated purpose of foreseeing a future terrorist attack.

    If he's talking about "connecting the dots" *after* an attack, then it should be pretty goddamn easy to get a warrant for that investigation.

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:17PM (#45681651)

    How am I supposed to spy if we don't collect data?

    The question assumes that spying is needed. This is an unproven assumption. We have no evidence the spying is needed or beneficial, it has been proven only harmful or at best useless.

    We're not threatened by other large nations because we have Mutually Assured Nuclear Destruction. Therefore the scaremongers had to invent a new bogieman: Terrorism. The threat is inconsequential. Falling in the bathtub is a greater threat to American lives than terrorism. You're about 4 times more likely to get struck by lightning than die in a terrorist attack. Accidents and Heart Disease kill FOUR HUNDRED TIMES more people EVERY YEAR than a 9/11 scale attack. When you compare the threat of terrorist attack to any other real threat to human lives their scaremongering doesn't match the facts. [cdc.gov]

    Six times more people die from the flu every year than a 9/11 scale attack. We need proportional protection. The budget to protect us from terrorists is out of control. The anti-terrorism budget should be AT MOST one sixth of the budget we spend on ant-flu or 1/200th of the anti-accident budget, 1/200th the anti-heart-disease budget. How much does the government spend to protect citizens from lightning attacks? Is it FOUR TIMES the NSA's budget?!

    The government needs no secrets. Our army is big enough and we are powerful enough that we need keep secret nothing. If nothing is secret, you need not fear spies, eh? They've taken the limited power we gave for them to have secrets, and used it against their own people to create a Stasi-like despotic apparatus -- The very thing our soldiers have fought against. Who will answer the call to fight for a government who's action has become indistinguishable from the enemy? The NSA has damaged us, stripped our honor, and shamed us in the world's eyes, our technology sector is suffering due to distrust. The NSA is a threat to national security.

    The people should KNOW they can trust their government. We must not allow them to keep secrets. No one has proved the secrets are needed. We are brave enough to risk 400 times the threat of a terrorist attack by driving to McDonald's for a kid's Happy Meal. The public shouldn't have to wear tinfoil hats fearing government spying of citizens unless the government is also handing out lightning insulation suits. [google.com] We should be able to prove their actions are not harmful to the people or violations of our constitution. We can't do this if there are secret unconstitutional actions.

    PRISM is not the first spying apparatus. There was Omnivore, Carnivore, ECHELON, Five-Eyes, and more. [wikipedia.org] Remember how the PATRIOT Act granted immunity to the ISPs retroactively for their assistance in violating the 4th amendment? Yes, remember BEFORE 9/11 how the NSA had secret rooms in telco buildings where all the fiber optics ran through -- Where it was apparently split by mirrors to create PRISM? BEFORE 9/11?!?!!?! OK, NSA. Your fucking move. Prove you are not fucking pointless, you fuckers had your decades of spying on all communications and you FUCKING FAILED to prevent the worst terrorist attack we've ever faced! We even gave you MORE powers and you FAILED again to prevent the Boston Marathon Bombing. The ball is in your court to stand down, the evidence is not in your favor, pushing the issue will get you eliminated for good.

    Expensive + Useless = Unnecessary; NSA == Unnecessary.
    I'm a scientist, so before we agree to continue funding for these expensive and pointless pork-spending protection systems, including the DHS, I need hard evidence that they are needed. As it stands the facts prove these expenses should be stripped from the budget and given to health care, and research, or at the very least, NASA. The biggest thre

  • Framing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:35PM (#45681917)

    Asking for "a better way to do X" presumes that X should be done to begin with.

    "Help us find a better way to torture prisoners!"

    Naturally the Senate didn't challenge him on this presumption just as it didn't hold him accountable for lying to them to begin with.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:37PM (#45682599)

    Get real. How else is this national conversation supposed to proceed ? OK so he got petulant- that is if we accept the editors editorializing on the facts- but so what? So the fuck what? This THIS is the back and forth we are desperately looking for and which we desperately, desperately need. Here it is. The director of the NSA openly soliciting for alternative ways to be effective and what does he get? A pile on of cynical snarky comments.

    What does that say? It says you have no idea how to help him do his job. You've got the inflammatory rhetoric and taking offense bases well covered but when it comes down to someone actually doing what you claim you want - solicit the public for input- *tap tap* you're found to be a little thin.

    Imagine his job. Anyone anywhere including malcontents in this nation (the US) could start putting together a doomsday microbe or nanobot or virus or whatever and anyone claiming that those things are possibilities either literally have no idea what they're talking about or have no grasp of the velocity of technology.

    All of human civilization has a problem that's completely sui generis to our times in both magnitude and difficulty. It's that the ascending vector of technological capability and the descending vector representing the number of people it takes to wield that technology in completely arbitrary ways are whizzing past each other with frightening magnitude.

    What are we going to do when all it takes to effect millions of billions of people is five or six like minded people? When the normal instinct for self preservation is absent in those five or six people? What happens when that describes the world ? How do we defend ourselves against that?

    The world , if humans and mammals generally are going to continue to exist on it, is going to have to radically reorg itself with respect to the Big Issues of security, privacy and liberty. Going forward as we always have is a prescription for self-annihilation.

    You may *think* the NSA is doing what it's doing because it's power mad and seeking fascist control over everyone - and that actually IS a danger , is just as Snowden termed it- "turnkey fascism" but in fact we have no evidence that they've involved themselves in running interference in the mundane affairs of making money and political freedoms excepting where they thought it intersected in national security , i.e. Wikileaks - an affair in which I think they took a very wrong turn BTW.

    No the reality is that whatever very real and very dangerous potential for turnkey fascism is implicit in the uber-surveillance they've implemented, it hasn't been realized and that's not their intention. Their intention is to keep very very very bad things from happening.

    So now you have the director of the NSA openly asking for assistance- whatever his tone (which you can imagine is rightly or wrongly likely semi-sarcastic just as your tone would be if some amateurs one day presumed to start telling you how to do your very complicated job) and what ideas do you have that aren't a form of pure rhetoric and which directly address the near-future calamity of Shiva-style power being accessible to any small group of lunatics.

    What we consider our privacy is its present form is not going to survive this century. That's a fact. Either we have some king of incredible transparency on demand for everyone everywhere including the government or we take seriously the notion that we need to change what human beings are and what they're inclined to.

    Neither of those really leaves much room for your freedom and liberty and self-determination and privacy as you understand them today.

    People in the Middle Ages never would have accepted modernity if through some miracle it were thrust upon them suddenly and en toto. They would have gladly died fighting against it. We moderns feel differently about things because we have a concept of our selves and our freedoms and responsibilities . What we have to realize is that w

    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday December 13, 2013 @05:00PM (#45684113)

      The director of the NSA openly soliciting for alternative ways to be effective and what does he get?
        A pile on of cynical snarky comments.

      No, the resounding reaction from Slashdot appears to be "GET A WARRANT", "STOP THE DRAGNET", and to stop the illegal wholesale spying on US citizens. Honestly and truly, that's not snark. I'm being serious here. He wants to do X but X is illegal. TOUGH SHIT.

      But you're right. Alternatives are good. How about:
      1) Accept some risk. No matter how much you strive for a 1984 panopticon, you'll never catch all the baddies.
      2) Stop dicking around in foreign affairs. This doesn't help you directly Mr. Alexander, but you could sure point out that the terrorists that flew planes into the world trade towers were from an organization that was trained by the CIA to fight asymmetrical warfare. And we haven't felt the last repercussions of Iraq yet.
      3) REQUEST that ISPs have a streamlined way to accept warrants and divert traffic to the authorities. While I'm against wholesale dragnets, I'm ok with judges giving out warrants where you can prove probable suspicion. For terrorist, all data in connection to the target could be gathered. This is the serious shit here that we pay you for. For other cases of, say, infringing IP law, selective warrants about what data would have to be handled, you know, selectively. And when you have that serious warrant, hell yeah, the ISPs should help you catch the bad guy. But I think that's the FBI's job, not the NSA's...
      4) Clarify the position of the NSA as war-time crypto breakers.

      You may *think* the NSA is doing what it's doing because it's power mad and seeking fascist control over everyone - and that actually IS a danger , is just as Snowden termed it- "turnkey fascism" but in fact we have no evidence that they've involved themselves in running interference in the mundane affairs of making money and political freedoms excepting where they thought it intersected in national security

      That part I actually agree with you. RIGHT NOW, their corruption and abuse of this system has been limited to some minor domestic affairs. But if you give a cop a power and you have little to no oversight to how he uses it, you JUST KNOW that eventually it'll be abused. Come on, learn a little something from history.

      Anyone anywhere including malcontents in this nation (the US) could start putting together a doomsday microbe or nanobot or virus

      First off, nanobot ANYTHING is still science fiction. Cool field of study, but not quite there yet.
      Second, doomsday microbes/viruses? Really? Anyone anywhere could just start doing this? Today? Are you fucking with me? Sure sure, the right people could go cultivate anthrax or make sarin gas, or just a hell of a lot of traditional explosives. But DOOMSDAY devices? This isn't a comic book kid. Rather than boot-stomp everyone who has that capability, how about we treat them with respect and give them a good life so they don't feel like taking us all down in a blaze of glory?

      Seriously, this sort of bullshit just kind of entirely negates your entire post. There's simply no need for the sort of radical changes you think we need to go through.

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