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Former NSA Director: 'We Kill People Based On Metadata' 155

An anonymous reader writes "An article by David Cole at the NY Review of Books lays out why we should care as much about the collection of metadata as we do about the collection of the data itself. At a recent debate, General Michael Hayden, who formerly led both the NSA and the CIA, told Cole, 'we kill people based on metadata.' The statement is stark and descriptive: metadata isn't just part of the investigation. Sometimes it's the entire investigation. Cole talks about the USA Freedom Act, legislation that would limit the NSA's data collection powers if it passes. The bill contains several good steps in securing the privacy of citizens and restoring due process. But Cole says it 'only skims the surface.' He writes, 'It does not address, for example, the NSA's guerilla-like tactics of inserting vulnerabilities into computer software and drivers, to be exploited later to surreptitiously intercept private communications. It also focuses exclusively on reining in the NSA's direct spying on Americans. ... In the Internet era, it is increasingly common that everyone's communications cross national boundaries. That makes all of us vulnerable, for when the government collects data in bulk from people it believes are foreign nationals, it is almost certain to sweep up lots of communications in which Americans are involved.' He concludes, '[T]he biggest mistake any of us could make would be to conclude that this bill solves the problem.'"
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Former NSA Director: 'We Kill People Based On Metadata'

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  • by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <> on Saturday May 10, 2014 @07:10PM (#46969309)

    As Jefferson would say, only eternal vigilance can protect us.

  • Who cares (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2014 @07:12PM (#46969321)

    GHCHQ can monitor US citizens and then tell the NSA the stuff they need. What we need are spying restrictions to EVERYONE not just the americans. The only exception should areas where the US is at war.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2014 @07:30PM (#46969413)

    This new America that was invented by Bush and refined by Obama is nothing short of terrifying.

    I want leadership that cares about the people more than the whims of big business, and can provide meaningful change instead of "lightweight" legislation designed to appease a small segment of people superficially, such as drug legalization and immigration reform.

    Ending our pointless war on terror and dismantling the domestic spying program would be a huge step in the right direction. We can't justify either one of them at all, and both were developed as unworkable solutions to hypothetical problems. They cost too much, they hurt too many people, and they are ultimately pointless.

    Sad thing is, in the next election neither major party will have anyone to offer who is significantly different from what we've seen before. The Democrats will have a lukewarm nice guy who's soft on the major issues, and the Republicans will have a hard-right nutjob who talks directly to God. And the third parties will offer the same crackpots who have more interest in building marijuana dispensaries and legalizing ferret ownership than the hard issues that impact our rights, our privacy, and our way of life.

    Sucks when "None of the above" is the only option. I'll still vote Democrat because they are "less evil", but these days, not by very much at all...

  • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @07:34PM (#46969431)

    The only exception should areas where the US is at war.

    We're always at war. The war on drugs. The war on porn. The war on obesity.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @07:48PM (#46969489)
    Democrats have ruled for 14 of the past 22 years. How much time do they need?
  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @08:48PM (#46969763)

    Exactly. Bush wrote his Executive Orders in such a way that subsequent Presidents cannot undo them. This is 100% his fault and until Congress acts with a 2/3 majority, the NSA cannot stop it. Blaming Obama, who did not create this can cannot stop it, is unproductive. He has said many times that he does not support this. Why include him in your scorn when he agrees with the public that it should be stopped? That is unless you're a Republican, and you're trying to irrationally blame him.

    What the hell are you talking about? President Obama nullified Executive Order 13,233 [] He also reversed GWB's policy on stem cell research [] And he reversed E.O. 13201 [] Which was also an EO signed by GWB. I could go on, but it would be pointless, I'm sure

    It's very easy to include the president in anyone's scorn on this subject. One of the topics he campaigned under was the premise that EO abuse must be stopped. [] And yet if things aren't going the way he wants, or as quickly as he would like them to, all of the sudden use of the executive power is somehow warranted. []

    Like most/all politicians (both democrats and republicans) he agrees with the public when it's convenient. People in this country really need to get over this "us vs. them" mentality. It doesn't matter if you are a democrat or a republican. Black, white, yellow, red or purple. Gay, hetero, both, or neither. We are all americans. It's really sad to see us all at each others throats. We have been comfortable, and extremely safe (barring a few blips) for so long that we have started turning on each other. And our "leaders" have not helped the situation for quite some time now.

  • Re:Who cares (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2014 @09:01PM (#46969827)

    There is zero irony in your statement. In fact it's irrelevant. The criticism of the NSA is merely soup of the day, the criticism is really meant for the entire federal government. Between the 18 plus intelligence agencies, they certainly do drag people off the street. And people have been killed in the street. And "anonymous tips" sent down from on high, to the local bureaucratic layers at the state/county/city levels. They aren't going after bad guys ala "24", a television show, in which the dumbest "terrorist" was a million times more sophisticated then anyone that's been deterred in real life. They're not even stopping the neighborhood methheads, because those guys are found in low income neighborhoods, and they could give a shit less about low income areas. When you figure out the sham, and the costs, maybe you won't be posting the stupid shit that you do.

  • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rufty ( 37223 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @09:54PM (#46970033) Homepage
    We need a war on war.
  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @12:27AM (#46970567) Journal

    TFA is an off-kilter criticism

    1. Here's a way to head off alot of pointless banter on this issue:You're either a full pacifist or it's a question of **when** to use deadly force...that's first in any conversation about military action. You can't criticize just *one* military decision to kill without any context or comparison unless you are a 100% pacifist for all situations...because if you're not a total pacifist, then it's just a question of what conditions your think justify lethal force.

    2. In war, we kill on all kinds of imperfect data...**it's all we ever have**

    3. The US military can legal engage in lethal force without a formal declaration of war on another country by Congress.

    4. Both drones & piloted craft shoot missiles at enemies that cause collateral deaths, and any criticism of the use of either is a criticism of the use of both

    I'm sick of the banter & want real discussion on this issue

  • Re:Who cares (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @02:10AM (#46970771)

    yet. seriously, yet.

    if the NSA gets *really* good at intercepting all communication in and out of the US, the genie is out of the bottle, and suddenly the other spookier agencies have that same capability. Similarly corporations like Facebook or Google getting that capability, leads to the same result. And once it's there, there's no dismantling it. It will be a permanent fixture in our society until the day the sun goes nova.

    worse, and i think you're missing this really super crucial point -- just because people aren't getting disappeared 'today' does NOT mean they won't get disappeared tomorrow. 'Disappearing' is the most hyperbolic/tin-foil hat way of addressing the overreach, but regardless -- democracy is not compatible with total state surveillance. Freedom of speech is not compatible. We're being really really dumb about this whole thing, and seriously missing the god damn forest for the trees. FWIW: I won't Godwin the thread, but there was a definite progression in Nazi policies. They didn't start off with the final solution.

    By allowing the panopticon to be constructed in the first place, we're virtually assuring its use later on -- like literally every other governmental 'tool' its use will at first be controversial, then accepted, and then law enforcement/government/whoever will cry out that it's mandatory in order to keep us safe. Once we give these people a new tool, they will never, ever relinquish it. the only way to win is to prevent them from getting their grubby little mitts on it. But that's cool, google gives us maps and email, and the NSA protects us from cyber terrorists out of Russialand who want to hack our freedoms.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 11, 2014 @03:39AM (#46970923)

    The bigger discussion should be who's doing the killing, is it our professional military, civilian intelligence agencies (CIA, etc.), civilian law enforcement (DEA, etc.), or civilian contractors? The first step towards getting our military policy back on a sort-of moral foundation would be to reinstate the monopoly of the regular uniformed military on using lethal force in the name of national security. IMHO, there are just too many agencies using lethal force, each with their own ROE, chain of command, tactical priorities, etc.

    This former military officer (Iraq 2006-2008) has experienced first hand how external agencies have targeted individuals in his area or responsibility without coordinating with the ground commander. The results have been mistaken identity (killing the wrong person(s)), use of unnecessary force (if they just asked, we could have had him turn himself in), and having to deal with the negative second-order effects which made accomplishing our own mission more dangerous and difficult. Often the second order effects make the targeting not strategically worth while. But I would speculate that these questions tend to not get raised at the higher levels, where the mission is targeting and killing and not achieving some desired end state. At some point we need to ask ourselves, how old where theses targeted individuals on 9-11. Most were probably around six to ten years of age. We're killing them via drone because they became terrorists. They became terrorists in part because we killed their relatives, friends, etc. via drone, and now we're targeting them. It's a cycle that needs to be broken. The other priorities need to be helping these countries get their economies back on track and putting their young population back to school and work.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Sunday May 11, 2014 @04:22AM (#46970991) Homepage

    so what's the difference between the NSA's plan and Hydra's plan in Captain America Winter Soldier? absolutely nothing as far as i can tell. can anyone tell me if i am mistaken?

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