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NSA Official Disputes Chief's Claim That Agency Doesn't Collect American Data 214

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was playing a "word game" when he said the agency does not collect files on Americans according to William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA. Binney says the NSA does indeed collect e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it. "Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data," he said. "You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it's in place for people to look at."
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NSA Official Disputes Chief's Claim That Agency Doesn't Collect American Data

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  • When? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eightbitgnosis ( 1571875 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:17AM (#40816509) Homepage
  • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:23AM (#40816549)

    The worst thing Google will deliver is laser-guided advertisements.
    The worst thing NSA will deliver is laser-guided bombs.

  • Re:Google... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:38AM (#40816641)

    The NSA does not drop bombs or make bombs or have anything to do with bombs. Sorry, chief.

  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:43AM (#40816673) Homepage Journal

    What gets me every single time is how Americans seem to have no problem with the whole "foreigners are fair game" stuff.

    I beg your fucking pardon? If you breed and keep institutions with that sort of double standard, don't be surprised when that double standard gets turned on you, is what I'm thinking.

  • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:44AM (#40816679)

    The Government does not want Google to be run by the U.S. government. Keeping Google as a private corporation complicit to the whims of the Government allows the government of the USA to avoid the entanglements and restrictions of the Constitution.

  • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:55AM (#40816767)

    The Stasi doesn't man the wall or shoot at people trying to cross the wall. Sorry chief.

    The Gestapo doesn't run concentration camps or has anything to do with concentration camps. Sorry chief.

    The NSA doesn't do rendition or has anything to do with rendition. Sorry chief.

  • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:57AM (#40816799)
    This. A hundred times this. Now y'all go and look up the definition of the word "fascism" and ask yourself if this is a trend you want to see continue.
  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @09:16AM (#40816997) Homepage Journal

    Furthermore, it's not a double standard â" if the Constitution applied, in a practical sense, to everyone on the globe, what is the purpose for national borders?

    Because that makes the difference between values and hypocrisy. The constitution mentions god-given, inalienable rights. Those are by definition held by everybody, or nobody. You play "yes, but" games with it, you loose the whole thing.

    Also, you say that like the purpose for national borders is holy and overrides anything else? Not that I'm against borders, to me they're like fire safety doors... don't put all eggs in one basket. But ideally, there'd be hundreds of souvereign nations, and each would afford more or less the same protections to their inhabitants. And yes, someone might then ask "why even consider them distinct", to which the answer is "why not?" :P

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @09:17AM (#40817007)

    The trouble is the mistaken and misguided belief that if there has ever been an example of abuse, or a mistake, then ALL activity MUST be abuse.

    Nice strawman. The problem is that sometimes there is ALWAYS the potential for abuse and sometimes there actually are abuses. Thus we need oversight and lots of it. No rational person is claiming everything the NSA has done is abuse or in error. But only a naive fool would assume that the NSA is an entity to be trusted.

    Look, NSA intercepts communications, and it does so for only one purpose -- to protect the lives, the liberties and the well-being of the citizens of the United States from those who would do us harm

    You cannot possibly know that with any actual certainty. However even if true, that does not mean that US citizens cannot be abused by the actions of the NSA in the process. We locked up thousands of innocent citizens of Japanese descent in the 1940s in the name of "protecting" US citizens. There are almost countless examples of our law enforcement and government agencies abusing citizens with all the good intentions in the world. Martin Luther King was considered extremely dangerous by the FBI. Our government has a LONG track record of abusing citizens even when they have the best of intentions and that's even taking into account that the US government is relatively benign and benevolent compared with some of the other governments out there. (it could be a lot worse) Believing the only purpose of the NSA and it's employees is to protect US citizens is naive on the face of it. And even it if were true, it doesn't mean that bad things won't happen to people who do not deserve it.

    It's a question drilled into every employee of NSA from day one, and it shapes every decision about how NSA operates.

    Even if true (and I very much doubt that it is) that means precisely nothing. People do all sorts of evil things while thinking they are doing the right thing. Laws get followed that are bad laws. Don't get me wrong, I think the NSA or an organization similar to it serves an important purpose. But I don't really care at all what comes out of the mouths of the people in charge of it. What they are doing has the potential to both violate the law and to result in real and tangible harm to the rights, person and property of US citizens and that is worthy of serious concern.

  • by sFurbo ( 1361249 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @09:35AM (#40817169)

    if the Constitution applied, in a practical sense, to everyone on the globe, what is the purpose for national borders?

    To delineate who gets the postive rights secured by the rest of the US laws, as opposed to the negative rights from the constitution. To keep people not wanted in the US out of the US. To delineate who has to pay US tax. There are plenty of other uses for national borders than to delineate who gets a certain set of rights.

    Why should a US court decide whether the Intelligence Community can target a Chinese military communications hub, or an al Qaeda satellite phone?

    Because the intelligence community in question operates on US soil, and is thus held accountable to the US courts. Or do you think they should have the right to arbitrarily kill foreigners in the US as well? Because the intelligence community in question is part of the US government, and is thus bound by the statutes limiting what the US government can do, including the constitution.

  • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Monday July 30, 2012 @09:38AM (#40817195)

    Whether there's a real distinction depends on whether Google is sharing its data with the NSA. If Google collects data and voluntarily turns it over to the NSA without a warrant, no law is broken, because Google is allowed to do whatever it wants with its data. And that results in the same practical effect as would've been the case if the NSA collected the data itself.

    If you want to keep the two distinct, we need laws limiting what companies like Google are allowed to do with their data, such as when they're allowed to share it with the government.

  • Re:Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @11:33AM (#40818469) Homepage

    And keep in mind - without intending to Godwin this discussion - that IBM had dealings with the Nazis in Germany before the war helping them gather information on their citizens. Not saying anything like that about the US Gov't-Google relationship, just that companies gathering or processing government information on their citizens can go horribly wrong :P

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @11:37AM (#40818509) Journal

    Basically what you're saying is, you'd prefer to believe, without proof, allegations that the NSA is illegally dragnet-spying on ALL Americans,

    As a technical matter, how does the wiretap apparatus distinguish American packets from foreign packets without reading the American packets?

    Claiming that you can listen to foreigners without also listening to Americans is so technically implausible it's ludicrous on its face.

    And we exist in a political culture that distrusts two things most of all: power and secrecy.

    That you can even claim this with a straight face is proof that you are completely disingenouous. We have the most powerful, and most secretive government the United States has ever had. And there is ZERO political momentum in the other direction.

  • Re:Google... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @12:09PM (#40818867)

    The Gestapo doesn't run concentration camps or has anything to do with concentration camps. Sorry chief.

    If you think the Gestapo and NSA are in any way comparable, you at least need to read the Wikipedia page on the Gestapo, chief.

    And by chief, I mean "dumbass."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @12:41PM (#40819273)

    15 years ago I might have said the same thing, but not anymore.

    15 years ago the government was not trying to extradite foreigners for civil (not criminal) allegations.

    15 years ago US citizens were not being unilaterally assassinated without appropriate legal redress.

    15 years ago I didn't have to worry about some unregulated domestic pseudo military institution stopping me on highways without cause.

    15 years ago we didn't have to deal with unfair and unreasonable searches and seizures every time you want to get on a plane.

    The landscape is different. I don't have a grudge against the NSA, but I do not trust the government anymore like I used to. Also, don't call me a tea partier because my desired solution isn't to eliminate the government, but to change the way it operates--to make it more answerable, and more removed from corporate interests.

    The key think to remember in all of this is power differential. The government has more power than an individual citizen. In exchange, we expect complete transparency.

    Maybe intelligence has always been a bit secret, but my feeling is that if there's one whiff they're doing anything questionable, they should lose all of the privilege of that secrecy in order to maintain accountability. "This is the way it's always been" isn't an excuse for throwing away accountability.

  • Re:Google... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @01:03PM (#40819531)

    Yo, thanks for the tip.
    If you like Wikipedia I can strongly recommend looking up "Ich habe es nicht gewusst", "Befehl ist befehl" and the Nuremberg trials while you're at it.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @01:18PM (#40819713)

    Be cautious, be vigilant. But as I have said before, the mistake is believing that because there are some examples of abuse or mistakes â" and there are plenty â" that EVERY activity is intentional, systematic government abuse.

    Pray tell; how is an ordinary US citizen supposed to be vigilant against those that hold all the cards and wield that power with absolutely no verifiable checks in place?

  • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @01:26PM (#40819837)
    It is unfortunate that we have reached a point where we expect and accept that our government officials lie to us. We accept it as a necessary evil in a dangerous world. And yet, it is the very people who lie to us who tell us what a dangerous world it is. The American people have lost control of their government.
  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:11PM (#40820321)

    Okay, lets work with your assumption that NSA are just a bunch of "Good guys". We have the DOJ and ATF which sell guns illegally to drug gangs in Mexico, costing at least hundreds of innocent lives. We have the GSA, FEMA, and CIA framing people in the US that question the current establishment or bring up issues with accountability. Then we have the DOD which is authorizing and committing assassinations at the Presidents request. We have the DEA and ATF raiding legal establishments(CA Medical Marijuana, Organic Produce/Farms), and ignoring real crimes. We have a Fed that refuses to close borders and allows illegal entry in to the country, and usurps the States right to defend itself. We have the CIA and DOD facilitating revolts in the Middle East, and openly advocating that they are. We have CIA puppet companies creating propaganda (Kony 2012). We have laws being passed with clearly harmful passages (HB 1540) that deny the Constitution. Hell I could do this all day..

    Then we have a Media that reports nothing. Then we have private companies that commit illegal acts and receive no punishment. We have a Supreme court that stated that "Corporations are People" and "News is not News, it's Entertainment" so there is no need to tell people the truth, States have no rights, and refuses to hear a case on "Idea Patents".

    Do you see how even if this one little thing about the NSA being "good guys" is true, the point is moot? The whole system is currently fucking haywire. Even if they are "good guys" their work is being used by the "bad guys" that currently have the US tilted nearly upside down.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky