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Court Allowed NSA To Spy On All But 4 Countries 242

Posted by timothy
from the under-color-of-official-right dept.
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes A court permitted the NSA to collect information about governments in 193 countries and foreign institutions like the World Bank, according to a secret document the Washington Post published Monday. The certification issued by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2010 shows the NSA has the authority to "intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets, but any communications about its targets as well," according to the Post's report. Only four countries in the world — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — were exempt from the agreement, due to existing no-spying agreements that the Post highlights in this document about the group of countries, known as "Five Eyes" with the U.S.
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Court Allowed NSA To Spy On All But 4 Countries

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  • Uh... Yeah? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CajunArson (465943) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @07:46AM (#47359019) Journal

    Sorry, but I'm not going to get my panties in a bind that the NSA is spying on other countries' governments considering:
          1. That's the NSA's freakin' job.
          2. Anybody who thinks that the only country in the world that spies is the U.S. is either an idiot or a liar.

    • You don't suspect that the NSA may have taken advantage of the...creative flexibility... offered by the authorization to collect "not just the communications of its overseas targets, but any communications about its targets as well"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1. That's the NSA's freakin' job.

      I'm just doing my job! That makes it okay!

      Not everyone believes that we should be spying on allies and non-hostile countries.

      2. Anybody who thinks that the only country in the world that spies is the U.S. is either an idiot or a liar.

      Anyone who thinks that "Everybody else is doing it!" is a valid justification is an idiot or a liar. By the way, that's very likely a straw man, as I've seen no one actually claim no other country is doing it. The thing is... get ready for it... no one cares! It's irrelevant!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:02AM (#47359157)

      Sure most countries spy... But not anywhere near the level NSA does it at... I have never heard of other countries that put bugs in UN offices of other countries etc...

      Known incidents of countries spying on the UN:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

      Also, using diplomats for regular spying is just evil...

    • Re:Uh... Yeah? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:11AM (#47359217)

      Full disclosure: I am not a US citizen and live in the UK.

      I think everybody understands that it's the NSA's job, like any intelligence agency's, to spy for certain purposes. Problem is what one accepts as "certain purposes." If the NSA does spying necessary to, let's say, avoid terrorist attacks, fight organised crime, ensure US military secrets, etc., hardly anybody would complain I guess. But the NSA is spying indiscriminately on virtually anybody (unless you're covered by the Five-Eyes-No-Spy-Agreement)! So, high-tech corporations in let's say Japan or private citizens in let's say France might ask themselves, why is the NSA spying on them? I think you will find that very few countries in the world go to that extreme. And the few that might (let's say Russia or China) are generally not considered the "good guys".

    • Re:Uh... Yeah? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:25AM (#47359339)

      Forcing Microsoft, Google, et al to spy for the NSA, using secret orders from a secret court, seems rather more problematic.

    • Re:Uh... Yeah? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by erikkemperman (252014) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:30AM (#47359371)

      Your panties aside, the whole problem here is that NSA is using "national security" as reason for a whole bunch of other things. Like economic, diplomatic and industrial espionage. Which is definitely not the NSA's job, no matter how liberally we interpret their mandate. Expand the acronym, there's a bit of a hint in there.

      Explain to me why spying on, say, Angela Merkel or the entire Copenhagen or G20 summits is related to US national security and maybe I'll see your point.

      You are probably correct that other countries do similar things (China and Russia come to mind) but you seem to be clueless to the difference in scale.

      Finally, your sig: you disbelieve AGW arguments because you think Al Gore is a hypocrite? You're right about that last bit, but the conclusion, to put it mildly, does not follow.

      • Your panties aside, the whole problem here is that NSA is using "national security" as reason for a whole bunch of other things.

        Unfortunately, it's been that way since the State Secrets doctrine was created [wikipedia.org].

      • Re:Uh... Yeah? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @11:56AM (#47361307) Homepage

        The other big problem is that the NSA is destroying US company's credibility. No-one wants to buy Cisco networking gear because the NSA systematically infects their products with malware and even physically modifies them before they leave the country. No-one wants to store their data in Microsoft's cloud because the NSA has their grubby little fingers all over it. The entire US infosec industry is basically a joke now.

        Would you even want to buy or fly on a Dreamliner now? Maybe that sounds paranoid, but if the Snowden revelations have taught us anything it's that we were not paranoid enough and there are almost no limits to what the US considers acceptable.

    • Re:Uh... Yeah? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:37AM (#47359417)

      Sorry, but I'm not going to get my panties in a bind that the NSA is spying on other countries' governments considering:

            1. That's the NSA's freakin' job.

            2. Anybody who thinks that the only country in the world that spies is the U.S. is either an idiot or a liar.

      I'm sick of this inane, uninformed argument.
      1. It shouldn't be. That's why we're having this debate. It would be one thing if our government found evidence of something shifty going on... spied to confirm or refute that, and then took action. That's not what they are doing though. They're bugging every world leader, tapping the phones of damned near every citizen, reading our mail... this is Orwellian blanket surveillance which is a far cry from "Spying" This isn't "Spying" it's totalitarianism and it's wrong.

      2. Comparing what the rest of the world does to what the NSA does is a joke. Yes, they spy on us, but they're not intercepting ALL of our phone calls. How many countries do you think have the US presidents phone tapped? I bet it's just one... take a guess who I think that is.

      But lets assume for a second that the rest of the world had the NSA's capability and disregard for human dignity and privacy... I could go on and on about the moral implications and what not but the fact of the matter is this argument was resolved thousands of years ago with the simple line: "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" It's not a hard concept to grasp. WE are better than that. We don't need to do this. It's wrong, we all know it. It should stop immediately.

      • I could go on and on about the moral implications and what not but the fact of the matter is this argument was resolved thousands of years ago with the simple line: "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" It's not a hard concept to grasp. WE are better than that. We don't need to do this. It's wrong, we all know it. It should stop immediately.

        Wouldn't it be nice if our leaders considered what kind of world they're contributing to rather than just what they need to do to advance their "interests"?

      • 1. It shouldn't be. That's why we're having this debate. It would be one thing if our government found evidence of something shifty going on... spied to confirm or refute that, and then took action.

        I'm curious. How, exactly, are we supposed to "find evidence of something shifty going on" without, well, SPYING on people??

        • I'm curious. How, exactly, are we supposed to "find evidence of something shifty going on" without, well, SPYING on people??

          That is irrelevant.
          argumentum ad consequentiam [wikipedia.org]

          It's the same as asking: How are the police supposed to get "probable cause" for a warrant if they don't search your car first?!?

        • There are actually plenty of ways to get information outside of spying, and that's where practically all of the useful information comes from. It's called open source intelligence.
      • It would be one thing if our government found evidence of something shifty going on... spied to confirm or refute that, and then took action.

        They do that all the time. Some of it isn't even a secret. It's not just the NSA either. We have a huge intelligence system with many players and our foreign policy depends heavily on what it reports.

        They're bugging every world leader, tapping the phones of damned near every citizen, reading our mail... this is Orwellian blanket surveillance which is a far cry from "Spying" This isn't "Spying" it's totalitarianism and it's wrong.

        Here we agree though I think that most other countries would do the same if given the opportunity. Power corrupts and all that.

        Comparing what the rest of the world does to what the NSA does is a joke. Yes, they spy on us, but they're not intercepting ALL of our phone calls

        Only because they can not, not because they would not. I have no faith that most of the 95% of the world's population outside the US is really any different when handed such powerf

    • Re:Uh... Yeah? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spacepimp (664856) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:45AM (#47359487) Homepage

      We are spying on civilians irrespective of who they are, what they think and how they act. Indiscriminate spying on the citizens of another nation is not the sort of thing the US should be engaged in. It will only piss them off and turn them to hate us along with losing the favor of the rest of the national leaders of the world. We have become complete and utter assholes of a nation and people like you saying it is fine have no idea how rude and arrogant you are to the people of the world who have done nothing wrong.

    • Why is the USA not on the 'can't spy on' list?

    • by aepervius (535155)
      It is their frigging job yes.... But one has to wonder on the scope and breadth. Plus they got caught/whistleblowed. Both taken together make it for very difficult foreign relationship for the US for decade to come. But far more important for you, it might have an economical impact.
    • The summary sounds more broad than just spying on foreign governments in foreign lands if it involves US companies and any communications "about" its "targets". That language would allow keyword interception of all communications about a particular government or about the "IMF" or talking about the "World Bank". Literally those are the types of keywords they would enter in to the program to return all the results. What it allows is actually very useful... like gauging the sentiment of a population for it

      • by penix1 (722987)

        As I have said before, I don't believe the US constitution applies outside the borders of this country for non-citizens... so it isn't the same level of constitutional crisis that we have here at home with a widespread, ongoing and wholesale violation of the fourth amendment threatening the very fabric of our society.,

        Yet we have a whole war going on in Afghanistan by applying American laws on foreign citizens.

        By your definition the US has no need of its extradition treaties since American laws don't apply

        • by bigpat (158134)

          Yet we have a whole war going on in Afghanistan by applying American laws on foreign citizens.

          By your definition the US has no need of its extradition treaties since American laws don't apply to "non-citizens".

          That is a stretch argument. I didn't say that US Laws don't apply to non-citizens when they commit certain crimes, I was talking about Constitutional protections which restrain government action here in the US, but should only restrain US action if there is a treaty or other law restraining US action abroad.

      • The US Constitution is what charters the US Government, and so binds it for everything it does. What part of "make no law" do we not understand? And if Congress has no law authorizing the action, the executive branch can't act, except take the census which the Constitution authorizes without any act of Congress.

        Otherwise, look what happens: The US can't spy on its own citizens, but Britain can spy on US citizens, so let's go ask the British government for what data they have on our target citizen!

    • by fredrated (639554)

      2. Anybody who thinks that the only country in the world that spies is the U.S. is either an idiot or a liar.

      Ah yes, the 'everybody does it' defense. Thst's always good for a laugh.

  • Agreement?? (Score:2, Troll)

    by scsirob (246572)

    "Only four countries in the world — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — were exempt from the agreement"

    So, did the 193 sovereign countries all agree to be spied upon? Or did one American tell another American that they had every right to do so.

    • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @07:55AM (#47359083) Journal
      Well, they did not send an X-Do-Not-Spy HTTP header, so they obviously agreed.
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        In all seriousness, Britain had an intelligence-sharing agreement with the US whereby GCHQ would hand over its own extensive snooping results, so the NSA didn't need to spy on the UK anyway.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Ummm..... Just what do you think nations do? There is not a single nation that does not spy on some other nation.
      Sweden, Germany, France, and the UK all have special SIGINT aircraft. The US, China, Russia, Israel, the EU, Pakistan, and India all have spysats.
      What are you 12 or have you never read any history?

    • by louic (1841824)
      This agreement just means they have to spy even more secretly.
    • "Only four countries in the world — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — were exempt from the agreement"

      So, did the 193 sovereign countries all agree to be spied upon? Or did one American tell another American that they had every right to do so.

      This guy can answer that question:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • It's a freaking clandestine service, yea it's their job to spy on other nations. How else do you insure that Iran is not making icbm's? ask them nicly?

      • It's a freaking clandestine service, yea it's their job to spy on other nations. How else do you insure that Iran is not making icbm's? ask them nicly?

        But we're not talking about Iran are we? Iran's shown themselves to be a direct and obvious threat to the united states. I've no problem with tapping the phones of Irans leaders. The NSA is recording the private phone calls of the citizens of Canada... Mexico, England, Germany... That's not spying, that's a very insulting invasion of privacy... and whats worse, this horrible invasion of privacy that alienates our alies has absolutely no value to the NSA at all.

        • The article specifically says that there's four countries the NSA hasn't spied on, and you included two of them in your comment.

          • Yes, because the reason that we aren't spying on them is because they are co-conspirators in our spying (five eyes). Our combined spying apparatus are thus spying on the whole world.
            • If you want to know if someone who's spying on you is a Canadian, just ask him. If he replies "Yes I am, but I'm sorry about it, eh?", you'll know he's Canadian.

          • The article specifically says that there's four countries the NSA hasn't spied on, and you included two of them in your comment.

            No, it didn't The article said very specifically "A court permitted the NSA to..." yada yada...

            That means the NSA has blanket jurisdiction to spy on those countries. It does not mean the NSA isn't spying on the remaining 4. They would either need other justification (another ruling or legal opinion) or they could just be doing it and ignoring the law. Something they've clearly demonstrated they have no problem doing. I included them intentionally. I believe in basket ball it's called "Drawing the foul" :-)

        • The NSA is recording the private phone calls of the citizens of Canada... Mexico, England, Germany... That's not spying, that's a very insulting invasion of privacy... and whats worse, this horrible invasion of privacy that alienates our alies has absolutely no value to the NSA at all.

          Let me preface what I'm about to say by stating that the NSA has shown itself to be clumsy and irresponsible in their surveillance tactics especially towards our allies. I seriously doubt that much of their actions in cases like spying on Angela Merkel etc have any tangible value to our nation. That said:

          You think that there is no one in any of those countries that wishes to do the US harm? Remember that prior to 9/11 the biggest terrorist incident on US soil was planned and executed by a US citizen. Yo

    • Re:Agreement?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @11:31AM (#47361095)

      The USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are all members of ECHELON and so already share mutual intercepted data, i.e. the NSA does not need to spy on these ....

  • It's a scandal that there are countries the NSA isn't allowed to spy on. What if the terrorists are hiding there?
    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      It's a scandal that there are countries the NSA isn't allowed to spy on. What if the terrorists are hiding there?

      "What if"! That's exactly what a terrorist would say! Terrorists are OBVIOUSLY hiding there:

      A - Terrorists are hiding everywhere.
      B - Countries are a place.
      Ergo, by A and B, terrorists are hiding there!

      This is so obvious that the only explanation that makes any sense is that the terrorists that are hiding inside the Court have make a terrorist modification of the sentence to allow this terrorist plot to go on.

    • It's a scandal that there are countries the NSA isn't allowed to spy on. What if the terrorists are hiding there?

      "intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets, but any communications about its targets as well,"

      i.e. They're even spying on the countries we have anti-spy agreements with. Nothing to worry about.

    • It's not that they don't spy on them (USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) it's that they have agreed not to spy directly on them, just to spy on their links to other countries and terrorism ...

      So they will not spy on you if :
      you live in one of these countries,
      and you have no links to any of the other countries
      and you have no links to terrorism
      and you have no links to anyone who has any links to terrorism
      and you have no links to anyone who has any links to any one with links to terrorism
      and you

  • by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:01AM (#47359153) Homepage Journal
    The real question is, did they spy on Djibouti?
  • Color me suprised. Not. In all fairness I want all the other countries spy agencies to release a list of countries they spy in (in particular the national intelligence services of China, Russia, France, England, Germany and Israel). I bet you it would be a pretty similiar list.....
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:32AM (#47359377)

      I don't think any of those countries have secret courts that force local businesses to do the spying for them, though. Maybe Russia and China, and probably (to pick one not on your list) Iran.

      Seems like a club the US should join, right?

      • Secret courts? If you know about them how are they secret? FISA courts have not been secret since it's inception. And why should the US surrender it's capabilities just to give Russia or China an advantage of any type? All this hyperventilating about foreign intelligence gathering is being done without putting the entire matter in it's proper context. Without context all the arguments against the US are hypocritical and meaningless.

        • Let's say we can the NSA and China and Russia get those 'advantages.' Will that affect average citizens in a meaningful way? Probably not.
          • by c6gunner (950153)

            Let's say we can the NSA and China and Russia get those 'advantages.' Will that affect average citizens in a meaningful way? Probably not.

            They might the whole internet.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          And I assume the only proper context is one in which this sort of behaviour is normalised? From where I'm standing, the context makes it looks like both an abhorrent abuse of power against both our ostensible allies and our own citizens and a depressingly widespread one.

  • The cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:47AM (#47359515)

    I submitted this as a story a while back but it never got picked up:
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/93f6... [ft.com]

    Germany dropped a US carrier (Verizon) over the NSA issue.
    The worst part about this whole thing is the spying is worthless. The NSA is alienating our allies, driving away customers from US businesses all so the NSA can record the phone calls of little old ladies talking about bridge.

    • Re:The cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zocalo (252965) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:59AM (#47359633) Homepage
      Worthless is right. It's supposedly to prevent terrorism (at least that's how the proponents of wholesale data capture usually justify it), which would typically be a small cell of individuals looking to strike a handful of small high value targets. Yet despite having access to every single phone call in Iraq plus, no doubt, a whole array of other sources of intelligence the NSA appears to have been caught completely unaware by a major military offensive involving thousands that has effectively overrun about a third of the major towns and cities in the country. Missing the odd needle in the haystack would perhaps be excusable, but they pretty much overlooked the entire hayfield on that one.

      Even so, I'm betting they'll use that as an excuse to justify collecting more than just metadata, which is now demonstrably not up to the job, rather than scrapping the whole expensive business and working out what sources of methods might actually give tangible results and using those instead.
    • by GungaDan (195739)

      Oh my god! The little old ladies are going to blow up a bridge!

  • So I noticed they didn't say the USA was one of the countries the NSA can't spy on, so I guess nothing is changing?

    • Re:But not the USA? (Score:4, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @11:16AM (#47360987) Homepage Journal

      So I noticed they didn't say the USA was one of the countries the NSA can't spy on, so I guess nothing is changing?

      Sorry to drag out the UID, but this all goes back to the Echelon stories we were discussing here in the 90's. The same group of countries has agreements to spy on each others' citizens for the sake of circumventing their local laws. One presumes this is why GCHQ figures so prominently in the Snowden revelations.

      Even that the NSA is not legally allowed to spy on US citizens does not matter, nor do any of the current Congressional posturings about stopping them from doing so.

      We're back to the beginning again, but this time the enemies of liberty are two orders of magnitude more well-equipped. The slope is not a good one.

  • Are you saying that there's at least one law that the NSA isn't too big to obey?
  • by jeffasselin (566598) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ednilocamroc]> on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @09:46AM (#47360141) Journal

    As a Canadian, the good news is that the NSA doesn't spy on us.

    The bad news is that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spies on us and shares everything with the NSA anyway.

    • by sjbe (173966)

      As a Canadian, the good news is that the NSA doesn't spy on us.

      Yes they do. Probably not very intensely but I don't have any doubt that the NSA handles some amount of SigInt that comes from Canada. We're not very worried about Canada attacking the US. Mostly folks in the US are worried about individuals with ill intent and drug traffickers transiting into the US through Canada.

      The bad news is that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spies on us and shares everything with the NSA anyway.

      There is that too... Sigh...

  • Domestic spying on local nationals was forbidden in the agreement, but intelligence gathering on each other was permitted and also intelligence sharing. The agreement was formally called UKUSA [wikipedia.org], but also known as SIGINT and Echelon. It had been going on for a long time when I read came across it in the '90's. Finally it's common knowledge and people are as apethetic as ever.

    It makes a mockery of our "freedom and democracy" in these 5 countries and I weep for what we used to be and have incrementally lost fo

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