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NSA Metadata Collection Program Has Stopped Zero Attacks 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the raise-your-hand-if-you're-surprised dept.
Antipater writes "According to a member of the White House panel that recently called for the NSA's metadata-collection program to be curtailed, that program has not stopped any terrorist actions at all. This runs counter to the stories we've heard for months, which claimed as many as fifty prevented attacks. 'Stone declined to comment on the accuracy of public statements by U.S. intelligence officials about the telephone collection program, but said that when they referred to successes they seemed to be mixing the results of domestic metadata collection with the intelligence derived from the separate, and less controversial, NSA program, known as 702, to intercept communications overseas.'"
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NSA Metadata Collection Program Has Stopped Zero Attacks

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  • by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve AT hiresteve DOT com> on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:25PM (#45748757) Homepage

    You mean the lying liars who lie for a living... lied?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sorta... the 702 program did catch some (apparently ~50). The 215 program has caught 0. 702 and 215 are the same program just segmented along foreign and domestic lines. The 215 program apparently caught 0 because they actually do not have enough data. As apparently the smaller phone companies were like 'you are going to pay for that right?' The NSA decided not to pay. (hey I read the article :))

      The way I read that was they wanted more money to buy more data. Nevermind all that constitution stuff and

      • Mod parent down. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:16PM (#45749209)

        These programs caught no one. Until full analyses of the cases have been released, by no stretch of the imagination can you say that anyone was "caught." The best that the government "ABC/XYZ" organizations can do is entrap old, stupid people and paranoid schizophrenics whom they give the "bomb material" to. Don't give credit where it is not deserved, shill.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Shill? All I did was regurgitate the article. You missed the 'apparently'. Which in my terms means maybe they did maybe the didnt. Personally I think they didnt... But it matters not one iota what I think.

          However, you want to treat it emotionally. I want to know what they really did or didnt do. Unfortunately they are a secret org only beholden to a secret committee in congress and a secret court and a secret guy in the employe of the president. So getting any sort of what they did out of them is qu

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phrostie (121428)

        so do we still need the new 1.2 billion USD data centers?

        http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/57281931-90/agency-center-changes-data.html.csp [sltrib.com]

        • Either that or a hell of a lot of rocks to protect us against more tiger attacks.

    • The surprise is that they didn't lie. They could have said it did stop an attack but its a secret.
      • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:48PM (#45748957)

        They could have said it did stop an attack but its a secret.

        That's essentially EXACTLY what they said. They claimed several prevented attacks but refused to provide details.

        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:19PM (#45749231)

          They claimed several prevented attacks but refused to provide details.

          And given the way they publicise the "attacks" that they "stop" which are really just an informant giving fake bombs/weapons to some nut job ... you know they'd be shouting any successes from every rooftop they could get to. They'd be doing the talk show circuit and hosting their own news conferences.

          The first problem is that the kind of "terrorism" that they want to focus on is almost non-existant in the USofA. The real terrorists had one huge success and that's all.

          The second problem is that the real terrorists don't spend time gossipping on the phone with all their terrorist friends. Yes, it is a way to map out a social network. But this isn't Facebook. Sam the suicide does not have to call Bill the bomb every Tuesday at 7 to chat.

          The metadata and phone location are useful for reconstructing the final days and those contacts AFTER an attack. And they don't need years of data for that. Or even months.

          • Actually, they have had one huge success, and one moderate sized, but rather stunning, success. Or, did you forget the Boston Marathon?

            And, the killer is, that both of those WERE successes for the bad guys. Our guys bumbled around like clueless fools, almost close enough to be counted among the victims.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BSAtHome (455370)

      Yes, but it did not hurt the bottom line. The NSA has prevented many, many economic failures. Terrorists are so last decade. The real value is in the economic edge you can blackmail from all others.

      • by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve AT hiresteve DOT com> on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:45PM (#45748933) Homepage

        Tell that to Boeing, who just lost a major deal with Brazil [reuters.com] over this.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:05PM (#45749103)

          Morons. Really. Both the Captain Kirk wannabees that run the agency and their private sector "partners". Besides Boeing, we now find out that IBM hid a couple of billion in lost business with China stemming from the Snowden leaks from their shareholders. This just underscores for me that the people running things got where they are through a combination of luck and ruthlessness rather than smarts and discipline. Those of us old enough to have lived through the Cold War pretty quickly made the connection between what our government has been up to now and what went on in the police states on the other side of the Iron Curtain (although perhaps not with the same sense of dejavu that Angela Merkel does). That anyone involved in this still has not been impeached or fired is probably an indication of how far gone we are.

        • by rnturn (11092) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:14PM (#45749193)

          It certainly is somewhat surprising that the security community and the State Department didn't foresee something like this happening as a result of the spying. How large their blinders must be to have missed this.

        • Re:Wait a second... (Score:5, Informative)

          by s.petry (762400) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:25PM (#45749277)

          As the AC says below, this is not the only victim but the first major one to be published in detail with the exact verbiage because of the NSA. This should also make you question all of these reports claiming "economic recovery" in the US. It was reported back in June when the leaks first came out that CISCO lost numerous contracts due to the NSA. [snark]But of course we are all just crazy conspiracy theorists, so the facts below are nothing more than racist attacks against Obama [/snark]

          https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/11/how-nsa-mass-surveillance-hurting-us-economy
          http://business.time.com/2013/12/10/nsa-spying-scandal-could-cost-u-s-tech-giants-billions/ [time.com]
          http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/07/nsa-snooping-could-cost-u-s-tech-companies-35-billion-over-three-years/ [washingtonpost.com]
          http://www.storyleak.com/nsa-spying-us-companies-billions-american-job-loss/ [storyleak.com]
          http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/infrastructure-as-a-service/nsas-prism-could-cost-us-cloud-companies-$45-billion/d/d-id/1111178 [informationweek.com]?

        • I thought that story was pretty damned hilarious. The guys who won the contract weren't even expecting it. Brazil's military didn't seem to expect it. The contract was a blatantly political statement, made by the chief politicians. "You rat bastards spy on us like we're the enemy, and you expect us to buy your over rated, over priced military hardware? Go insert your listening devices into your own orifices!"

        • Largely inconsequential since Boeing has more work than they can accomplish in 20 years as is. Put another way, they are not even remotely hurting for money. In fact, I will probably be picking up their stock on Monday.

    • You mean the lying liars who lie for a living... lied?

      I'm waiting for someone from the NSA to say "everything I say is a lie". How can you not use a classic like that?

  • I think I might have a heart attack and die, from not suprise.
    • by anagama (611277)

      What's particularly shocking about this report, is that everyone presumed that a bunch of hand picked insiders would come back with an "it's all good" report. That even the most NSA friendly review group possible is criticizing the NSA, actually is pretty surprising. Things must be really really bad.

      • by mmell (832646)
        "I'm not gonna sign that. You sign it."

        "I'm not gonna sign that. You sign it."

        *rewrite report and repeat*

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:28PM (#45748797)

    The NSA probed our anus and found shit. What else is new.

  • I doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoKaOi (1415755) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:32PM (#45748831)

    No politician that already has any real power is going to want to reign in the NSA. Politicians don't want to take anything like this back. If you're the one who does, and then an attack does happen, then regardless of whether or not it would have been prevented you're pretty much handing the next election to your opponent, who will claim that the attack was your fault because you were too soft.

    If you were a sociopath and cared only about your career rather than doing what's right (as a politician generally is by the time they get elected to an office where they have any real power), would you make a decision at work that had a finite chance of completely ruining your career?

    • by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve AT hiresteve DOT com> on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:42PM (#45748899) Homepage

      Not to be all conspiratorial, but I think it's been a while now since politicians were really in charge of this sort of thing.

      • by Etherwalk (681268)

        Not to be all conspiratorial, but I think it's been a while now since politicians were really in charge of this sort of thing.

        They are and they aren't. They rarely get involved--but if they really decide to get involved, they can do just about anything they want to the NSA. The problem is that they're not usually motivated to get involved. That's why having the tech lobby on the non-NSA side is important--even if you're in favor of lots of NSA data collection, you need countervailing forces to keep it in check.

      • by the_scoots (1595597) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:23PM (#45749265)

        Not to be all conspiratorial, but I think it's been a while now since politicians were really in charge of this sort of thing.

        Agreed. I would add, I doubt that anyone who's done the things you have to do to get elected at the national level wants to cross the folks that have access to potentially EVERY electronic piece of information generated by them, their family and staff in the last decade plus. Don't think for a minute that if someone like Feinstein got critical of their programs, some shady business dealings of her husband's or his associates wouldn't get laundered to FBI or others.

      • NoKaOi wrote:

        No politician that already has any real power is going to want to reign in the NSA.

        SteveFoerster replied:

        I think it's been a while now since politicians were really in charge of this sort of thing.

        Did anyone else spot that?

    • > you're pretty much handing the next election to your opponent, who will claim that the attack was your fault because you were too soft.

      I'd like you now to direct your attention to all the European countries previous victims of terrorism, and how their populations have typically understood that leaving the door slightly open to an attack was the price to pay, for their taxes going to more useful things than spying on everyone.

      The overreaction of the US, the terrorist paranoia down to the last moldy shac

      • Re:I doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bonehead (6382) on Friday December 20, 2013 @06:07PM (#45749661)

        Not to put too fine a point on it, but I find it interesting that so many are willing to sacrifice MY freedom in the interests of THEIR (illusion of) safety, then the safest (real safety) place I can think of would probably be an isolation cell inside a SuperMax prison. Barring any suicidal tendencies, you'd be pretty damn safe sitting in one of those rooms.

        Maybe we just need to divert some tax dollars to building "safe facilities" for the cowards who think they need to be protected from all of the dangers their imaginations cook up.

        • by geoskd (321194)

          Not to put too fine a point on it, but I find it interesting that so many are willing to sacrifice MY freedom in the interests of THEIR (illusion of) safety, then the safest (real safety) place I can think of would probably be an isolation cell inside a SuperMax prison. Barring any suicidal tendencies, you'd be pretty damn safe sitting in one of those rooms.

          Maybe we just need to divert some tax dollars to building "safe facilities" for the cowards who think they need to be protected from all of the dangers their imaginations cook up.

          We have many such places, and every so often, all of our elected officials are scurried into them. Now we just have to figure out how to keep them there...

    • by sjames (1099)

      So who's career ended over 9/11?

    • No politician that already has any real power is going to want to reign in the NSA.

      Anyone who is a lame-duck, destined for a career that doesn't involve holding office ought to be OK with it. You know, like a certain president...

    • by Minwee (522556)

      No politician that already has any real power is going to want to reign in the NSA.

      That word may not mean what you think it means.

      reign (v) reigned, reigning, reigns
      intr.v.
      1. To exercise sovereign power.
      2. To hold the title of monarch, but with limited authority.
      3. To be predominant or prevalent: Panic reigned as the fire spread.

      rain (v) rained, raining, rains
      v.intr.
      1. To fall in drops of water from the clouds.
      2. To fall like rain: Praise rained down on the composer.
      3. To release rain.
      v.tr.
      1. To send or pour down.
      2. To give abundantly; shower: rain gifts; rain curses upon

  • by DocSavage64109 (799754) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:37PM (#45748865)
    Apparently I'm the only one to think they were taking credit for stopping zero-day malware attacks.
  • by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:41PM (#45748885) Homepage
    Let's take them at their word and say that they did manage to stop 50 attacks. So that works out to about 4 attacks per year for the past 12 years. I will even give them the benefit that every attack would have killed as many people as the 9/11 attack. So that would give us somewhere around 13,000 people per year that would have been killed by these attacks. So without their violation of our rights terrorism would rank behind drug abuse [wikipedia.org] and we don't seem to care that much about drug abuse. Even if all 50 attacks happened this year and each one killed ~3000 people the body count would only be 150,000 and terrorism would come in at #2 between being a fat ass and being a smoker.

    Now in reality the number of attacks is probably much lower than the 50 they claim, and I would be willing to bet that at most a few dozen people would be killed in the most devastating of these attacks. So as others have pointed out before why are we wasting so much money and violating everyone's rights for something that is little more than a statistical anomaly.
    • So as others have pointed out before why are we wasting so much money and violating everyone's rights for something that is little more than a statistical anomaly.

      To be blunt- it is to help the rich and powerful to gain more money and power at the expense of the exploited powerless. With their current systems in place, they better and better entrench themselves in power. Using basically the same vertzezung style methods employed by the east german stasi. Everything else is the usual windowdressing of common authoritarianism. In other words, expounding on threat models that don't stand up to 'doing the math' as you took the effort to do. Thank you for your commen

      • Every time one of these agencies make these unbelievable claims I send off letters to my congress critters laying out these stats to point out why they should end these programs. Like you I know why they do these things but I try to get my supposed representatives to listen as well as anyone else who wants to try and work on their representatives but there are too many people who think there is a terrorist under every rock and behind every blade of grass.
      • since I misspelled "zersetzung" so badly, I'll take the opportunity to correct that, and spam the current wikipedia quote-
        "
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi -
        "
        Zersetzung
        This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2012)

        The Stasi perfected the technique of psychological harassment of perceived enemies known as Zersetzung (pronounced [z])

  • the separate, and less controversial, NSA program, known as 702, to intercept communications overseas

    Yeah, "less controversial" - unless you are, you know, part of the 95% of the world population that is outside of the US.

    Sheesh.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      The subtext is that it's less controversial among people who could possibly constrain the NSA's activities in this area, i.e. U.S. citizens & politicians.

    • You should feel grateful to your NSA overlords that you are even allowed to have communications at all.

  • by clovis (4684) * on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:43PM (#45748921)

    This is how the terror attacks were stopped:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6nW7XvTYn0 [youtube.com]

  • Red herring is red (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135)
    The collection of metadata wasn't supposed to stop attacks. It was supposed to help identify possible terrorists That would allow applying for further surveillance to stop any attack and help identify other terrorists who helped with an attack, especially a suicide attack.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      It went from "over 50" to "dozens" to "54" to "one or two"
      These are public statements from the head of the NSA and the head of national intelligence.
      Now we learned that the actual number of attacks prevented using their domestic data collection techniques is zero.

      How is it a red herring to criticize the government for the statements that they made?

    • by mveloso (325617) on Friday December 20, 2013 @06:07PM (#45749657)

      Program A was never designed to do B

      Program A was designed to do C, which could help in B

      So by saying that A didn't help B is incorrect. C didn't do B. A helped C as designed.

      This sort of retarded logic is all too common when technical people try and justify their failure.

      The program as a whole hasn't worked. The metadata collection is part of the program, and it may be doing great - but it's value is basically 0, because the program's value is 0.

      Of course we've spent billions of dollars on it with no real return. So there's that. It's kept a bunch of storage companies alive.

  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:53PM (#45749015)

    I didn't know people still flew Zero's.

    • They don't. There hasn't been a Zero attack since 1945. That's how effective the NSA's program has been!

      • by MRe_nl (306212)

        1942 / 1943 and Zero attacks, right in the nostalgia!
        http://www.youtube.com/v/FbUN5ITWQQo [youtube.com]

        • A great game, even if they were confused about what year the battle of Midway happened in (and also what planes could operate off of carriers...)

      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        I didn't know people still flew Zero's.

        They don't. There hasn't been a Zero attack since 1945. That's how effective the NSA's program has been!

        Well, not sure which side of "effective" this puts the NSA, but the disinformation campaign to lead people to think they've eliminated all the Zeros seems to be at least somewhat effective.

        http://youtu.be/UmUseKNrh6Q [youtu.be]

        Strat

  • Clearly they need to expand the the scope of their data harvesting programs. An example of why is that they didn't stop the Boston bombers (even after Russia warned the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 [boston.com]).

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:58PM (#45749045)

    Another way of phrasing this is that the NSA's metadata collection program, while admittedly not perfect, has met or exceeded the benchmarks set by peer agencies, such as the TSA.

  • by tippe (1136385) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:00PM (#45749065)

    That sounds scary as shit. Sounds like something Magneto would do. I don't know about you guys, but I'm sure glad the NSA is on my side. Keep up the good work, boys!

    • by Trepidity (597)

      The "Zero" refers to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, a suicide-bombing device that's been manufactured in large quantities, many of which are currently unaccounted for. A "Zero attack" is a common kind of suicide bomber strategy that's killed thousands of Americans. Here's some footage. [youtube.com] It's not as popular as it used to be, but we can't risk letting up our vigilance, of course.

  • Nearly one? (Score:4, Funny)

    by iamriley (51622) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:14PM (#45749183) Homepage

    Interviewer: Now tell me, what exactly are you doing?

    Spotter: Er well, I'm camel spotting. I'm spotting to see if there are any camels that I can spot, and put them down in my camel spotting book.

    Interviewer: Good. And how many camels have you spotted so far?

    Spotter: Oh, well so far Peter, up to the present moment, I've spotted nearly, ooh, nearly one.

    Interviewer: Nearly one?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RexQLrcqwc

  • which claimed as many as fifty prevented attacks

    Are you sure they didn't say "up to fifty prevented attacks"? Zero counts!

  • They are claiming that AT&T and Verizon's market share are dwarfed by 'bubba the goat's fancy magic wireless phone service'? I don''t think so.

  • RSA is complicit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday December 20, 2013 @06:16PM (#45749741) Homepage Journal

    Wait 'til you hear the one about RSA taking $10million from the NSA to promote vulnerable security.

    This is much much worse than many of us will admit. Despite all the other problems we face, this is the one that has to be tackled first. If we can't bring the out-of-control surveillance state to heel, nothing else can ever get really better.

    And don't buy for a second the Obama Administration's press release about their "reforms" of NSA data collection. They're just trying to head off the serious challenges that are about to start coming down from the courts and from congress.

    For a minute, I think we're going to have to put partisan politics aside to tackle this common threat: government surveillance.

  • When I read the headline, my brain filled in "-Day" because of everybody constantly pounding on the term "Zero Day" around here.

  • The NSA will announce that they've helped to capture those responsible for the recent Target debacle in an attempt to bolster their image.

  • Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Friday December 20, 2013 @07:08PM (#45750149) Homepage Journal
    The NSA metadata collection (and related programs, like weakening crypto [reuters.com]) is the attack. The damage done to the country is something that will become even more evident in the next months/years.
  • Gather even more data, I guess...

  • Any terrorists worth worrying about won't have trusted phone communications, no doubt on the rare occasions they actually use it for nefarious purposes they talk in code.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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