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NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show (2013) (washingtonpost.com)
386 points by randomname2 on June 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 172 comments

The thing that bothers me most about this as a European is; I have zero say in this, in the US you can strike out against surveillance, you can write to senators, protest against terrible legislation. Actually have a voice, however faint it is. Whereas I don't get a say but the exact same treatment from your country. The Five Eyes have made me paranoid and the only escape seems to be downgrading your phone to a brick and carrying it in a Faraday cage. We may as well just go back to plain old telephones.

I was happy to see the disgust people had for the CIA black sites operated in other countries when that came to light during the Bush presidency. Not because of the torture, but because people here expected alleged terrorists to have the same rights as detained American citizens. I feel this is important to note, because we have a large population of young voters who I feel have concern for everyone - not just the US. This is very different from how my grandparents vote and I do think it's split along generational lines. In regards to overreaching surveillance: It's not ideal, but we over here do think of you when we vote.. I do.

Remember that outrage over the Patriot act abuses? Obama 2008 platform promised to restore the Constitution:

> We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. We reject torture. We reject sweeping claims of "inherent" presidential power. We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years. We will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine duly enacted law. And we will ensure that law-abiding Americans of any origin, including Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, do not become the scapegoats of national security fears.

but as we have seen, every word of this has been reversed. I don't trust either party at this point. Both are scalp deep in this.


That's part of the reason I spend every political conversation discussing the merits of a multiparty (not biparty) system.

Pretty sure I've convinced at least a handful of people to vote Gary Johnson as a protest vote. Though personally I'm all about that #Snowden2016

I don't think a responsible person can possibly vote for a major party candidate. Doing so just results in the same powerful interests remaining entrenched.

There's always the "oh no what if so and so gets elected" but it always turns out that any major party candidate does pretty much the same stuff once elected. Obama continued and extended the Bush Doctrine on foreign affairs, for example.

All first past the post systems like we have in the US will trend towards a two-party system. It sucks because voting third party just takes votes away from the major party candidate that most closely represents your views. To maximize your influence you have to hold your nose and vote for the major party candidate that most closely represents your views...


Perhaps that is true in terms of maximizing your influence in the next election.

But to maximize your influence over a longer time period, you should vote for the third party candidate that most closely matches your views.

Then, when the major party candidate you would have resorted to loses, the post mortem reveals votes lost to the candidate you voted for, and in the subsequent election the major party adapts its platform to win some of those lost votes.

If politicians expected voters to vote on principle and to hold them accountable, we'd have an entirely different sort of politicians.

> But to maximize your influence over a longer time period, you should vote for the third party candidate that most closely matches your views.

That might, arguably, resemble truth if the details of the political system itself were guaranteed stable over time and not subject to alteration by the same people who gain power over other policies through electoral victories. But, in the real world, to maximize your influence over a long-time period, you should organize and advocate for both electoral reform and the minor party you most prefer during periods between elections (the former to work to mitigate the perverse effects of the existing system, the second to maximize the likelihood that, in the next election, the competitive major parties -- which can change over time -- will include the party you most prefer.)

But, once its clear who the major candidates are in the present election, you should still generally vote for the one least harmful to your interests if they win.

> If politicians expected voters to vote on principle and to hold them accountable, we'd have an entirely different sort of politicians.

With no changes to the electoral system, what we'd have with that is "major" parties representing even smaller pluralities (well, technically, only the biggest would be a plurality), and more negative campaigning directed by each major candidate at getting voters best served by the other to not vote for them to "hold them accountable" for something. Which is a change of degree, not kind, from what we have now.

> you should organize and advocate for both electoral reform and the minor party you most prefer during periods between elections

I totally agree with this.

>Once its clear who the major candidates are in the present election, you should still generally vote for the one least harmful to your interests

I don't agree with this, because the platform-creation calculus of the major parties is to ignore interest groups that will not abandon ship.

As H's platform makes clear, when there is sufficient loyalty, it's in the best interest of the candidate to edge as close as possible to the opposing party's platform, to attract as many swing voters as possible.

I'm pretty morally opposed to voting for a ruler I don't personally support. At least if Hillary decides she wants to break some more laws I have the excuse I didn't support her at any point.

Unfortunately, with Trump (if he's elected), there's a chance not supporting him would mean I'm imprisoned so... you win some, you lose some.

More than two parties is not that great either. At least here in the USA you need to win a majority of the electoral college to win the presidency or else congress will elect one for you.

unfortunately you're part of a minority. The mere fact that the election will happen between Clinton and Trump makes me think that mass surveillance and lack of respect for other countries are going to continue and probably worsen.

Clinton: http://time.com/4150694/hillary-clinton-calls-for-more-surve...

Trump (not that it's really necessary): http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/26167...

> “We have to stop jihadists from radicalizing new recruits in person and through social media chat rooms, and what’s called the dark web,” Clinton said.

> Clinton said she would ask technology companies in Silicon Valley to expand their oversight of posts that could be used to radicalize recruits. Tech companies, she said, should enforce strong service agreements and track questionable content.

She scares me as much as Trump.

I'm hesitant to consider the next presidential election's results as a harbinger of the state of politics during the 2020 or 2024 races.

The Baby Boomer generation's influence is waning and I'm optimistic that the next generations who did not grow up in a period of extreme mutual distrust like we saw post-WW2 and during the Cold War will be better suited to lead.

It's going to take us, as a global group of people on the planet, a long time to unwind a lot of the hawkish and nationalist policies that have evolved over the past 150 years. Certainly there will be periods where charismatic leaders with latent agendas drag us backwards and temper the progress, but ultimately if each successive generation is even just a bit more inclusive and globally considerate than the last, we'll find a way to make this work.

That sounds nice. It won't happen, but it sounds nice.

Every generation has felt they could do things better than the previous (old people shouldn't be allowed to vote has been stated lately), until they learn what it was the previous generation had to deal with. The mutual distrust among certain parties do go away after time, look at all the countries that were at war in WW2 that are now allies. But there is always somebody that jumps in to take advantage of the newfound peace and harmony to further their agenda. Sometimes it leads to a return of mistrust, sometimes it leads to war.

What you are describing is every agency of authority agreeing with each other across numerous nation-states, economies, cultures, and more. Some of which are directly opposed to each other, possibly violently.

The human race is simply not ready for that level of cooperation and will not for a very long time. Losing sight of that will only lead to hardship and suffering. Likely the only way for such a thing to happen is for it to be forced among people with violence. Then that status maintained for multiple generations until the old ways have been forgotten.

But your way is a nice thought and should be attempted at least.

1) Global trade was not as established prior to WWII - there is a market incentive to maintain alliances. We don't even have the production means to make everything we need anymore - we're too inter-dependent.

2) Facebook and Snapchat and other social venues made possible by the Internet make it hard to sew mutual distrust among the nations of the world. If the Cold War happened today we'd see the propaganda from both sides on Twitter - I think it would be harder to mislead people with 2+ perspectives.

Every generation does think it can do better than the last - but I personally think there are a few major differences to set us apart. :>

> old people shouldn't be allowed to vote has been stated lately

Really? I'd be interested to see a source on that. Not questioning the validity, I so many of these college aged kids calling for restrictions on speech and political organization of people they disagree with. I'm not surprised that this would come up.

Looks like we can expect a mommy-state as much as we can expect a liberalization of out-dated baby boomer policies.

I've seen it in connection with the Britain leaving the EU vote.

I wasn't implying I've seen it here, so I hope it didn't come across that way.

You know Hillary is a bad idea when Trump is a more considerate choice in terms of security policies and also not being bound to campaign funders' priorities, despite his otherwise out-of-this-world views on important topics. Trump said he'd like to pull out troops from places like Europe, which makes one believe he wants to concentrate on local issues.

I think it's age more than generational. Every generation is idealistic in youth. By the time you've lived 50 or 60 years you see that you cannot wish the world to be the way you want it to be, and things are more complicated than they seemed when you were 22.

To some extent, sure. But also I've noticed that easy, cheap global communication enabled by the web and similar technologies has given people wider access to info and viewpoints from around the world whereas in past generations, you had to study abroad or live in a cosmopolitan city to get a lot of that.

I don't mean to suggest that provincialism is dead and buried but I do think that a 20-year-old today has much greater odds of at least being aware of the views and outlooks of people in other parts of the world than a 20-year old in 1970 or 1980.

That doesn't necessarily make them wiser.

Once you've reached 50 or 60, you don't want to risk your house price, your stock value, or that job that you worked for a quarter of a century getting up to. With little working time left, you're not likely to recover. So you rationalize your self-interest with generalized vagaries when what you really want is for things to stay how they are for your own safety.

>Whereas I don't get a say but the exact same treatment from your country.

The NSA works with the 5 eyes to gather data on you. If you want to stop the NSA from spying on you, vote in your democratic country to remove yourselves from our intelligence agreements.

It doesn't necessarily mean the NSA won't spy on you, but it does mean it will be technically illegal for them to do so, so they probably won't do it unless they actually care about you.

I don't see that it would make said spying illegal under US law, and those are the only laws I expect NSA to fear enough to even bother subverting.

Not that I disagree with the suggestion to put pressure on the partners though.

Interactions with foreign parties is rarely enforced through domestic law (in this sense). It's the job of your government to protect you from foreign governments. Your government having intelligence agreements with our government is them saying to you they don't value your privacy enough to protect it.

Reminds me of a humorous saying I read somewhere. Roughly: Move to the U.S., because the only thing worse than living there is being subjected to its foreign policy.

Is there any reason to believe that no European countries do this kind of thing? Relative to national budgets, this kind of stuff can't cost that much. Dunno where the EU is on their EU-level army right now, but it'd stand to reason that a EU-security org would do exactly this kind of stuff. The UK certainly has no qualms about it.

Even the US's allies will try stunts as bad as false flag bombings[1]. So it's not like they can only monitor non-allies. So they can't shut down spying, and perhaps it just becomes a never-ending escalation of power then. Might as well grab all data. I don't like it, but I can understand how they might arrive at that position.

Probably the only hope is to outlaw this worldwide, perhaps in some human rights kind of thing, then actually apply punishment for those caught. That seems unlikely to really work though. Even now, we have countries that steal nuclear tech and don't get punished - few will view spying as worse than that.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavon_Affair

Quite the opposite - GCHQ in the UK is just one agency that, from available evidence, is very probably doing the same things against its own people and those of the rest of Europe.

The American outage at the NSA is entirely correct. The European histrionics are mostly yank-bashing with a side of whistling in the dark.

> The European histrionics are mostly yank-bashing with a side of whistling in the dark

If I recall correctly, there was much in the media around the time of the Arab Spring about UK and German companies selling the tools of mass surveillance to governments that were less than friendly to their residents. It's easier to point a finger at the US than to acknowledge that the major European governments are usually deeply involved in the same activities and equally responsible for much of the conflict we see in the world today via the legacy of colonialism and actions such as the Sykes–Picot Agreement.

Yep. Of course, the US government has been involved in helping friendly tyrannical regimes monitor their citizens. It's not that anyone's hands are clean, it's that castigating a scapegoat is the comfortable alternative to doing anything about these issues.

Donate to EFF [0]. They have enough willingness and power given enough supporters to change the situation.

[0] https://supporters.eff.org/donate

Thanks for the suggestion. Already do. Best thing I can do to influence any sort of change.

Partly true. Europeans have fairly good opportunities to influence domestic and regional issues. Probably better than the in the US. For instance look at how the data retention directive was invalidated [0]. That said, support for US misconduct in Europe is still surprisingly strong. From US companies paying less tax than European counterparts to blatant spying or kidnapping. I'm not sure what the answer here is other than being more aware of our own interests as persons, nations and regions.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Retention_Directive

> From US companies paying less tax than European counterparts to blatant spying or kidnapping.

It's a little naive to assume that European countries do not have similar banking issues. Between Switzerland, London, the Channel Islands, Monaco, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands there is more than enough dodgy banking to compete with the US

Likewise with spying and kidnapping - the major European powers have been playing those "games" (and worse) since long before 1776. Extraordinary rendition did not happen without the knowledge of European governments and the UK in particular has a long association with many of the countries where those picked up were interrogated/tortured in.

You can try to get your domestic spooks gang up with other EU spooks to stop colluding with the NSA. The agencies use intelligence as currency and you can apply sanctions this way.

Carrying this info in cleartext across tappable international cables is pretty close to giving a free pass to spooks. Telecom regulators are enabling this because they're against/indifferent about strong encryption.

Actually Congress already made laws bounding NSA behavior and mission but they are operating outside the law. They are a self serving criminal enterprise at this point.

Time-proven way of influencing decisions made by other countries is having a strong army. Recently it has gone slightly out of fashion, but the general principle still holds. Those without power are not reckoned with.

and then what? Declare war on the US?

Of course not. The point is to have a strong BATNA, as negotiations people put it. The USA is actually a great example of this principle. Their military spending is the biggest in the world. What for? Do they intend to eradicate all other nations so that only Americans remain? I hope not. More probably, they spend all these resources because they don't like it when other nations tell them what to do.

I think our military power has evolved from the post war arms race into a pro-trade insurance policy.

how do you think they enforce those policies? economic colonialism is only worth it if you stay in control after development

What's the difference really between a "faint voice" and no voice at all? What's the point of wasting breath if you get no influence?

Lots of faint voices, put together, can actually make quite a noise.

...or make you think you have done something useful.

The "Brexit" stats have clearly shown that UK would have remained in the EU if the "millenials" had really made use of their right to vote.

The "old" generation (voting to leave the EU) clearly understands the value of their vote(s).

Something that's always bothered me about people who complain about low voter turnout among young demographics in the US is that young people are the least likely to be able to make it to the polls. In the US, election days are like any other- your employer is required to accommodate your vote, but in practice, younger demographics are much more likely to be working multiple shit jobs with bosses who treat them like disposable labor and couldn't care less about their rights. There are initiatives in many places to literally ship retired voters to the polls so they can vote, but our government seems to make it difficult for working people to vote. Or, while we're at it, take advantage of any other government service like the DMV, post office, etc that are only open during business hours.

Are election days national holidays in the UK?

I really like that idea. It should also cause businesses to push for LIMITING the number of voting holidays so that things are bundled up properly.

Voter turnout was at record levels. It's not obvious that greater turnout of "millennials" specifically was likely to happen. Typically it's difficult to ensure that one kind of voter turns out without also increasing the rate of turnout for other kinds of voters as well.

But voter turnout for younger people (18 to 24) was less than 40%.

If they'd had 75% turnout they may have swung the election.

In mid 2013 there were about 5.8m people between 18 and 24.

Just because those young who voted does not mean that those young that did not vote, would vote the same.

I would assume that is not the case here, but its something to consider.

>> "In mid 2013 there were about 5.8m people between 18 and 24."

Which is what percentage of the voting population?

Mid 2013 there were 51.8m people aged between 18 and 89.

If we assume all of them can vote 5.8m is 11% of 51.8m.

Total votes on either side were roughly 16 vs 17.5 million.

This was the biggest problem with the referendum: apathy from the younger voters.

You're asuming that the ones that didn't vote would have the same distribution as those that did.

Instead, maybe they actually were apathic, and their votes would be roughly 50-50 - so Leave could still win.

I'm going by, admittedly lousy, polling which consistently shows young people prefered remain.

To me, the vote was actually non-binary.

There were the Remain votes, the Leave votes, but then there the Protest votes -- which from my perspective were votes that said "I want to Remain, but dammit I don't like how things are going right now".

And a fourth one: integrate with the EU entirely (adopt the euro, etc.)

    > as a European is; I have zero say in this
While I don't like this, since when have foreign citizens ever had a say in a country's espionage and military programs?

That's actually fairly common. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Versailles#Military_... for an example.

Using the Treaty of Versailles as an example makes no sense. Are you suggesting war?

Why doesn't it make sense? Admittedly, it is a rather blatant example of what the parent comment asked for, but because it is so blatant it is also pretty uncontroversial that what happened was precisely foreign citizens having a say in the military program of another nation.

Ok, here is another example for you, not involving open warfare: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferatio...

> Why doesn't it make sense?

Because it is a treaty that was implemented after a World War? Circumstances of implementation matter. It is also a great example of a treaty that backfired and led to another war due to its sanctions end results. I'll also say you're stretching the analogy of a treaty as a way for a foreign citizen to have a say in another nations affairs. Technically correct but I don't think that really gets at "foreign citizen not of the ruling class of another country influencing another countries military programs (note no espionage examples)" Unless you're looking at a vassal state I don't see it happening.

The non proliferation treaty is similarly a poor example as it was multiple nations deciding in their interests to stay on top with nuclear weapons and not allow more. What would better convince people would be another country impacting another countries military program negatively, not for mutual gain.

The grandparent comment was referring to influencing the NSA surveillance of foreign countries. Guess what, as an American I have no say over the spy agencies of France, or any multitude of agencies either. The NSA just has been doing a better job at it for numerous historical reasons. I'm not condoning it but so far you've not really provided a convincing argument that foreign citizens can influence other countries espionage agencies.

Your government is free to negotiate whatever treaties are acceptable under its laws and the U.S. Constitution; you have whatever voice in your own government that your laws give you.

It makes literally no sense to me that a government would have any more concern for another government's citizen than that other government has incentivised it to.

I don't believe a government can have concern for its own citizens if it does not have concern for people outside of its own borders.

And just wait for the TTIP outcome..

You can write to your MEP and ask for clarification on what are they doing in order to protect you from, what essentially amounts to, a hostile act from foreign power. Twist is they are working with them.

You may have a say on how your government uses the data collected by the US.

Snarky, and not helpful.

They share data between governments to avoid local privacy laws... I think that the laws need to be updated to reflect that.

Come join our Country as the 51st state.

I feel the same about the KGB and China's spy agencies. How come I have no say in how they operate?

The KGB and spy agencies of old used to need to assign agents to sit outside your house to watch you.

The NSA is a different breed of agency, who can now record whatever everyone reads, hears or says and keep these records almost forever.

The CIA/NSA of old had to do similar things. Do you not think China or Russia are doing similar things? I'm sure theres a reason Huawei equipment has been blocked in US, UK, and even some Indian contracts.

Has nothing to do with my point.

What point do you think you're making?

KGB doesn't exist for more than 25 years. Checking your facts would be a first step, i guess.

Fine, substitute FSB if you must..now back to the point of the comment..

That's what they want you to think!

Man I will forever be grateful for the eye opening insights Snowden has provided to us. I now check for https and use tor and always block cookies. How is there not a monument in every city dedicated to this hero?

So you think using any of that protects you from the Chinese, KGB, etc.? Did you forget to block localStorage, too?

What's with the attitude? Calm down. They've only said they're more careful online (a good thing), not that they're actively trying to avoid government-level surveillance.

The KGB ceased to exist in 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union, a full three years before HTTPS was invented.



KGB/FSB are interchangeable. I don't think this pedantry invalidates his point. The reality is that if the US is caught doing something you can bet other countries are doing the same, and if not more, considering how little oversight autocratic states have. This is basic game theory and how countries handle foreign relations. Hell, Putin murders journalists on a whim. That's a far cry from cellphone tracking.

I wonder if Putin looked up to Stalin

well actions speak louder than anything, so I would say yes, with a 21st century approach (better PR)

Has nothing to do with my point. Quit pretending the Russians don't have a spy agency.

We are supposed to fear the Chinese? Russians? The citizens of those nations should perhaps fear those governments, but the typical American has nothing whatsoever to fear from them.

Maybe if you're trying to make a point about spy agencies, you should learn what they're called first.

How would America respond if it found out that say the UK is tracking cellphones worldwide, except for British subjects of course, but including all Americans on American soil?

They probably are, so the NSA can request such data from them if they need it.



And so on.

I feel that it's reasonable to expect that Russian, Chinese, and EU members are tracking American activities worldwide. It would be a failure of their various institutions to not track and influence nations and institutions with world-relevant power or influence. This includes both monitoring and more aggressive attacks.

I also feel that as an individual person, I have no defense against this, partly because it's generally easier to attack a system than to defend it, partly because of the asymmetry of costs in defense vs attack leading to the lack of business or personal justification for effective defense spending, and partly because electronic monitoring and attacks are difficult to investigate by their international nature.

So if American institutions discovered some attack, they would release the information with proper political timing to influence national narrative, thereby inflating their agency importance, or it may further some group goals, the news media may proliferate and bark about it, and no national administration, including the American one, would be surprised at all. It would not update anyone's view of the world in any way.

We'd dump your tea out in the harbor again.

That would be called a cyber attack, and the group responsible would be portrayed as an "evil" group.

2 weights, 2 measures...

our NSA would negotiate to exchange datasets with you.

Why would America assume anything else?

The USG would call it terrorism.

Apart from the political conversation I've always tried to encourage a technical conversation about how our mobile phone infrastructure is really terrible for privacy on many levels.

CCC events have had many presentations about this in the last few years, about IMSI catchers and mobile crypto attacks and abusing roaming mechanisms and databases. And it seems there's more where that came from; the system is wide open in many respects to exploitation by a sophisticated attacker, governmental or not. (I read somewhere that people in China are buying and deploying IMSI catchers in order to send SMS spam to passersby.)

Some of the privacy problems are a result of economic factors including backwards compatibility and international compatibility goals. Some of the bad decisions for privacy were made by or at the behest of intelligence agencies, and some of those decisions are continuing to be made in standards bodies that deal with mobile communications security. Ross Anderson described some spy agency influence in early GSM crypto conversations (which is one reason A5/1 is so weak), and it's still happening at ETSI now.

I support political criticism of surveillance activities, but at moments when people feel overwhelmed and powerless, there is another front, which is trying to clean up the security posture of mobile communications infrastructure, or provide better alternatives to it.

We can find lots of reasons why this is hard ("Bellhead" communities are much less ideologically committed to privacy and opposed to surveillance; communications infrastructure is highly regulated in many places, and it's hard to get access to radiofrequency spectrum; people want worldwide compatibility; there's a huge installed base on both the client and server sides; many of the infrastructure providers around the world are directly beneficially owned by governments; spy agencies do actively try to influence standards-setting in this area, plus sabotaging implementations and stealing private key material) and it's probably going to stay hard. But maybe some of the people reading this are going to some day be tech billionaires or working in or running companies that have significant influence in the telecommunications space, and be in a position to personally make future generations of communication technology take privacy and security seriously.

> The NSA cannot know in advance which tiny fraction of 1 percent of the records it may need, so it collects and keeps as many as it can — 27 terabytes [...] The location programs have brought in such volumes of information, according to a May 2012 internal NSA briefing, that they are “outpacing our ability to ingest, process and store” data

27TB doesn't sound much, even by 2012 standards. The article doesn't specify if this is the total size, just the delta over some period of time, or something entirely different? Certainly not something NSA would "struggle to ingest"?

Well if each (lat,lon,cell#,imei) record takes, say, 500 bytes and they take a measurement every minute, 27TB is enough to record every American for 4 months. That's pretty hefty surveillance even if the raw size doesn't impress.

I don't dispute that, but instead the tone of the article that makes it sound as if it's such a huge quantity of data that NSA is struggling (or was struggling) to capture it all.

I agree that 27Tb doesn't sound too big for the NSA, but perhaps they are doing very deep and involved "processing" on the data, making the output size orders of magnitude larger than the input size.

Better give them more budget, then they will be able to handle all the data!

Okay I hate to be the one to break the news to everybody here, but if you have a GSM phone this is quite trivial to do.

The NSA hasn't done anything groundbreaking here, except maybe a Google search.

It's not about whether the achievement is groundbreaking in a technological sense, but whether this is a reasonable, defensible, sane, or even merely legal, program.

> if you have a GSM phone this is quite trivial to do.

If you have a face, it's quite trivial to be punched in it. That doesn't make it okay for someone to punch it, much less legal.

A measured reaction? Good God! We can't have that.

Sorry to disapoint. Please resume panic

This shows clearly that Putin is a dictator, that China is communist and that the USA spys the entire world to protect its citizens freedom. /s

The "communist country" has a capitalist economy.

The "free country" has total electronic surveillance.

The "federation" is run like an empire in a dictator-like fashion.

And north korea, the "democratic republic", is the most oppressive regime in the world.

What a world we live in.

Seems like labels are not always telling the truth. It's a bit like in the supermarket, if something is called 'Premium' it's often nothing like that.

Total electronic surveillance seems to be the international norm at this point. Disgusting, disheartening, and disillusioning, but true. I've come across the phrase 'surveillance capitalism' to describe the present world order and it seems pretty spot on to me.

doublespeak has always been a thing.


Your comments here have been breaking the HN guidelines. We ban accounts that do that. Please (re-)read the rules and post civilly and substantively from now on, or not at all.



Also, please don't use multiple accounts to comment regularly.

You're being downvoted because you're going on an opinionated rant. There is however a term coined to engage discussion about the totalitarian actuality of extremely large democracies.[0]

The issue is, when you invoke the name people laugh you off as a conspiracy theorist.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism

I'm on mobile and don't have any links handy, but it's fairly well known that you can ostensibly track every. single. handset. in the world if you can gain access to any one carrier's infrastructure. You can bet every spy agency from every country is doing this.

To get a feeling for the size of the problem, the carrier logs all handset accesses on all transceivers. To do location tracking you have to get the carrier to give you access to those logs and you have to have the storage and processing to get finer-grained location based on overlapping transceiver accesses and precise times. It's a bit more than the carrier themselves would do for network quality monitoring, but not even 10X more. With this data your daily routine and divergence from that routine can be learned and detected. With this plus payment information, you've got enough to tell who is doing something interesting in real time.

If Americans (of which I am one) and the US government believe that it is self-evident that all men are created equal, then surely they should apply the principles that they have enshrined in their constitution to all equals when dealing with them, regardless of whether or not they are a US Citizen or where on earth they are.

I think a good number of us do and a good number do not. There is a world divide right now and you may have laid your finger on what the difference is. Ironically, those who believe all men are created equal are loathe to divide from the rest, so it's an awkward divide.

Not long ago you could buy SIM cards from kioskos, corner stores, etc. This is becoming increasingly rare, even in places with otherwise poor infrastructure. The shift was rapid but noticeable.

As soon as you start using them, that's when you become an interesting subject.

I've picked them up from Walmart. You can register them via Tor.

And why we still have terrorists?

Because terrorists establish normal-seeming patterns of movement that do not diverge from that pattern until it is too late.

Whereas if you take some time off from work to attend a protest, the FBI knows to come knocking on your door to ask pointed questions about your friends.

That's what's pernicious about these programs. They're not good enough to focus on terrorists, but there is plenty of fodder for harassment of protesters.

Also I'm thinking they don't use smartphones that leak all kinds of other data and instead cycle thorugh simple, cheap/pre-paid, disposable phones which would make establishing long-term patterns more difficult.

obviously because not enough resources were poured into these programs. /s

they are tracking our every single movement, and aspire to track our every single thought

we have a duty to resist this totalitarianism by any means possible or necessary; fascism is here, and free men can't delude themselves with hoping for gradual change to the contrary any further.

It's only going to get worse. At the moment it's "only" creepy but is already leading to self censorship. I'm not sure what the solution is, but any country with human rights as a true goal should be pushing encryption like there is no tomorrow.

How many government employees does it take to track and analyze my every movement?

A couple of engineers, depending on the situation.

So now they can detect the location of the "target" and send a drone to kill them from the convenience of their office, before going on lunch break.

This really sickens me. They are inferring so much and therefore many innocent people are and will suffer.

To me this system is pure evil however much the nsa try to sugar coat or spin it. Who gave them the right to do this, to track people around the world and in many cases perform extra judicial assassinations.

> Who gave them the right to do this

Before Snowden, themselves.

After Snowden, the silent citizens/voters that we are did (and continue to do).


Or sometimes wedding parties, such as one where the US government murdered 47 innocent people:



So two wrongs will somehow make things right?

not sure if you are just being a troll with that statement.

The loss of all innocent life is wrong, regardless of who the perpetrator is or the skin colour of the victim.

Its one thing for a terrorist to behave like a terrorist and another thing for a publicly financed government to behave like one

So the US should just sit back and take it?

We've banned this account for serial trolling. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com. You're not welcome, though, to just continue to make accounts to break HN's rules with.

I don't know how you see this as credible evidence. When she links her evidence of the report to the Intercept it links to another Huffington article talking about the Drone Papers. Could you explain how she came to ninety percent with the Drone Papers ?

How do you see anything as credible evidence unless you saw it yourself? HuffPo is a (reasonbly) credible new source that links to The Intercept that built its articles from the Drone Papers. I didn't go independently verify every fact in every article that contributed to the previous one I linked to.


Here. Is that sufficient, or would you like video evidence of every drone strike along with complete bios on everyone killed including family member testimonies about their selection for assassination?

Wikipedia is fine, but if you think HuffPo is credible you're living on another planet.

I said "reasonably." I at least followed the trail to The Intercept and figured the stat was in there somewhere.

Again, the first source Wiki provides goes to a 404 page (The Long War Journal). When it elaborates on the Stanford study on the Obama's administration claim on "single digit civilian casualties", it fails to mention that the study was only meant to endorse the Long War Journal's study, not provide the claim wrong.

"However, this does not represent new evidence. Stanford and NYU researchers made no attempt to offer new statistical analysis on the number of civilian casualties caused by drones. Rather, their report is essentially an extended endorsement of a database compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism" - foreignpolicy article third source

To the last thing you state , yes it shouldn't only be just that, but more evidence. Unfortunately, modern journalism can't provide us with those very important details, instead only off topic sources that really don't care if they are one hundred percent correct.


I remember clearly when we finally drone-bombed the 9/11 attackers to dust, what a glorious day that was. wait, what?

Has nothing to do with the point being made.

We went after the terrorists who perpetrated 911 because they killed innocent civilians.

We have killed many innocent civilians in the process. That is indefensible, no matter our goals.

You think war is clean and sanitary?

I think that America's anti-terrorism efforts are insufficiently discriminatory (in the sense that they're indiscriminate, not that they're racially discriminatory (which they also are, but for obvious and probably defensible reasons)) when selecting targets. We're probably doing more harm than good by driving innocents caught in the crossfire into the arms of the very anti-American organizations we meant to target.

I'm sorry this is just untrue. It would take 5 mins of research to realise how many innocent people have died due to extrajudicial drone attacks.

Generations of people categorised as "collateral damage" to me is evil.

Killing someone because they killed someone is an infinite loop.

So we shouldn't have done anything after all the major terror attacks in the past decade ? You need to elaborate more on your general point.

The burden of being virtuous is that you should not use the same methods that the vile used on you. Something needed to be done about the terror attacks. But that something shouldn't include torture and the summary execution of people.

I don't think we used the same barbaric methods. Terrorists have the intention of killing any nearby civilian , even if they are non government or military most of the time they play their attacks.

We just water boarded them and paraded them around naked in prison before sending them to a CIA black site in a foreign country where they were tortured to death.

By hey, we had paperwork and believed enhanced torture was a legal loophole.

(warning: anecdote)

I knew a guy who joined the US Marines and talked about how he wanted to "shoot towel heads." I don't believe that the US armed forces are purely virtuous at the top, bottom, or in between levels. There likely is a non-zero number of service men/women who get some sort of sick joy out of murdering non-Americans.

I heard they made a movie about that guy: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2179136/

So your saying that the whole United States Armed Forces is non virtuous, based on one guy you knew? This is a huge claim.

That's literally not what he said at all - he said "a non-zero number", meaning (i'm assuming here) an amount that exists but is difficult to quantify, yet not so low as to be completely ignored.

"I don't believe that the US armed forces are purely virtuous at the top, bottom, or in between levels.". I think the non-zero number could be upwards in the positive millions, according to this claim.

My tone above is clearly one of doubt, thus saying "just like there are some residents of middle eastern nations that want to kill American civilians, there are some Americans who want to kill middle eastern civilians."

> I don't believe that [they] are purely virtuous

The only claim I'm making is that there are members of the US military at all levels that don't have God-Like Perfect Morality.

>So we shouldn't have done anything..?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, I'm not saying we shouldn't do anything, though that might would be better than repeating ourselves over and over again in an infinite negative feedback loop, manufacturing that which we seek to eliminate. For every innocent life that has been taken a hundred revengeful combatants are born from that persons friends and family.

>The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

-Dr. King, Where Do We Go From Here? 1967


So we shouldn't have done anything after all the major terror attacks in the past decade ? You need to elaborate more on your general point.

We'd be a few trillion dollars ahead, and a lot of dead innocent civilians around the world would still be alive.

So: yeah, pretty much. Sometimes turning the other cheek actually is the optimal thing to do.

I am really amazed that more people are not outraged at this. When things like the Pentagon Papers came out or when Watergate hit the news, people reacted and change happened.

Today everything gets buried in a sea of noise and entertainment. Long term this cannot be good for the general health and welfare of society to not ponder on and discuss.

I wonder if they manage to track my cell phone more accurately than my cell phone manages to track itself.

My phone rarely seems to be sure what country it is in, let alone which town.

Simply lost count of the number of times I've been like, "yeah, I'm sure the weather is lovely where I was a week ago, but I'm more interested in where I am now".

Must be quite depressing for the NSA analysts stuck in their cubical watching people run around the world having fun while they stuff another donut down their fat american face.

Actually, most of the smartest people I've ever known have worked for NSA, in both analytical and other capacities. Some of the fittest, too, for "does century rides on the weekends for fun" values of "fit".

..And people ask me why I don't have a cellphone in 2016.

Please edit the title to reflect the fact that the article is dated December 2013.

Well, in fairness, that's actually more aligned with their actual mission, not to mention legal under American law.

This isn't great news as a non-American but from their perspective, surely this is just the NSA doing their job?

Right, so fuck the US even more.

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