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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.
  • Not possible. (Score:5, Insightful)

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

    He means, how can I spy without spying?

    You can't.

  • 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: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.

  • 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?".

  • 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.

  • 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:


    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.

  • 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 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. []

    Thanks for making it easy.

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

    by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@yah o o .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...

  • Just Stop! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:23PM (#45680907)

    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.
  • 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: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.

  • 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.

  • 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 jcr (53032) <> on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:30PM (#45681005) Journal

    If his job is to prevent terrorism, he's right... he can't do that without a substantial surveillance dragnet that tramples the 4th Amendment.

    He can't do it with that dragnet, either. All this NSA dragnet shit was in place for YEARS at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, and it wasn't worth shit.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:51PM (#45681259) Homepage
    How is that supposed to be logically consistent?

    Or are you saying that you support the NSA not because they're doing the right thing, but merely because their actions [supposedly] benefit you [Americans] while harming those you don't care about [foreigners]?

    I take it you don't subscribe to the Golden Rule (ethic of reciprocity), which has been expressed by Luke (6:31 "Do to others as you would have them do to you."), Confucius ("Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."), and Plato (" has been shown that to injure anyone is never just anywhere.").

    This indicates a lack of empathy, and suggests that you may be on the autism spectrum or suffering from sociopathy.
  • 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.

  • Re:Bingo. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday December 13, 2013 @12:56PM (#45681337) Journal

    The People are the Militia, this is already established. This was the Minutemen view, average people to be "ready at a minute's notice". This requires regulation (order, not codes of laws). When read with this understanding, it is almost an imperative of the people to be armed, and ready to revolt against tyranny, at a moment's notice. The state no longer fears the populace, because the populace has become dependent upon the state. We already have the most of the necessary ingredients for tyranny in place. The last bit is taking away the rest of the arms the people have. AND you have the people (a large number) clamoring for "Assault Weapons Ban", "Hand gun ban" at every tragedy.

    Thus, the old quote "They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

    Tyranny, creeps and sneaks upon us and before we know it, we've voted in a tyrant who will not cede power ever. The left feared tyranny under GWB, and the right fears it under BHO, the problem is, both are only partially correct. They miss the point, the ingredients already exist. They hate the other guy's tyrant, but do not rightfully fear their own.

  • 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.

  • 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?
  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex&project-retrograde,com> on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:17PM (#45681651) Homepage

    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. []

    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. [] 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. [] 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

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

    by spacepimp (664856) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:29PM (#45681835) Homepage

    Cell phone call and location data is not part of the internet. Nor are your purchasing habits. Tracking GPS data and cellular location is also not part of the internet or communication. They take it none the less.
    They are following much more than communications they are tracking your existence.

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

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:31PM (#45681873) Journal

    I'm sorry, you see a difference between Socialism and socialism slow? Because I don't. The two parties are more closely aligned than either of them admit. To the point where I can't tell the difference sometimes. GWB was worse than BHO, except on the things BHO is worse on, than GWB. In both cases, we haven't stopped the "worse" of either, and haven't held on to the "good" side of either.

    The only difference is the rate we progress towards tyranny.

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

    by erikkemperman (252014) on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:39PM (#45681965)

    It will be interesting to see how much of a role these issues will play in the next election cycle.

    For that to work, though, there will have to be at least one party who makes it an issue to curb this nonsense. I for one am not holding my breath.

  • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:43PM (#45682017)

    I feel I must emphasize on this: it's all theory, I don't take any sides, but I can imagine different outcomes.

    Totalitarian FUD is totalitarian FUD, whether you call it "theory" or not.

    What is not theory is that we lived the "other outcome" from 1776 to mid-2001, and the terrorism rate was just fine.

    (Note that the terrorism rate continued to be just fine since then; it was the "other outcome" interval that ended.)

  • by therealkevinkretz (1585825) * on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:43PM (#45682023)

    What a dolt.

    You don't own the phone lines, either, or the Postal Service, right? But (landline) phone calls, and (snail-) mailed correspondence are long understood to have First and Fourth Amendment protections.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @01:44PM (#45682047)

    Hey here's some REALLY out of the box thinking.
    Why not have a foreign policy that isn't riddled with imperialist psychopathy.

  • 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.

  • by swilver (617741) on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:09PM (#45682307)

    You got Choice B wrong.

    It is:

    Choice B: Live in a less free country that pretends to be less vulnerable to a surprise attack.

  • 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.

  • Re:Then Fire Him (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:31PM (#45682545)

    And a catholic who advocated, and participated in, local terrorism. You don't hear these politicians or "real americans" declaring every catholic a terrorist, do you? Had McVeigh been a muslim, or some other non-christian based religion, it would be mentioned every time his name was.

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

    by lister king of smeg (2481612) on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:39PM (#45682621)

    you listen to truly public chatter

    Good luck defining that.

    its not that hard.

    slashdot or other forum == public
    my xmpp sessions == private
    public irc == public
    voip == private
    publicly open chat room == public
    facebook chat == private
    anything on facebook marked as friends only or private == private
    anything on facebook marked as public or everyone == public
    twitter == public
    email == private

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

    by aztracker1 (702135) on Friday December 13, 2013 @04:23PM (#45683765) Homepage
    I just want the gun toting libertarians and the pot smoking libertarians along with the tea party guys, and the occupiers to all come together.. toss out the vegans and religious nuts, and you'd get some pretty strong coverage with about 95% agreement.
  • 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.

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

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday December 13, 2013 @04:46PM (#45683981)

    We're now asking them to stop doing something they've been doing for decades.

    Good. The amount of time they've been infringing upon people's freedoms is irrelevant to whether or not they should stop.

    And it's not that they don't know how to do their jobs properly; they just don't want to.

    The problem isn't so much that the data is being collected.

    I believe you are wrong, as I think the mere collection of this data is an abuse in and of itself. No amount of oversight would change my opinion.

  • 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.

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

    by Livius (318358) on Friday December 13, 2013 @09:56PM (#45686321)

    Close. The freedoms they hate Americans for are the freedoms Americans think are theirs and no-one else's.

"If I do not want others to quote me, I do not speak." -- Phil Wayne