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NSA collected 500M U.S. call records in 2017, a sharp rise: official report (reuters.com)
633 points by Jerry2 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 339 comments



Automatically collecting everyone's cell phone data, has software automatically installed in Smart TV's everywhere, monitors your online footprint (emails, social media[of course]). All those warning from Snowden all those secret software reveals from wikileaks an untold amount of funding from congress with virtually no oversight. And yet tons of bad things keep happening to regular citizens in the US. What exactly does the NSA do? Whom are they protecting? Cause it sure is not the average citizen. Just a random venting from a pissed of copper-top battery.


> Whom are they protecting? Cause it sure is not the average citizen.

But was there ever any indication to the contrary? How did we as Americans convert to the myth that our government, let alone our "intelligence" agencies, have any inclination to protect us or advance our interests? That has never been their practice ever.

Our government spent the better part of a century not only allowing 3.5 million of us to live in slavery, but actively facilitating and promoting it. Even after it finally put an end to this practice de jurie, it immediately allowed us to be enslaved as "prisoners", and today 2 million of us are in that situation.

I don't mean to bring up such generic anarchism here, but I think it's sharply relevant when considering questions like, "why do the CIA and NSA behave the way they do?" They were created and charged to do it. It's their job. We can debate about how best to end that job, but I really don't think it's reasonable to suggest that they ever had some high-minded democratic purpose.


I believe they behave the way they do because this is their strategy by design. I feel that during the Cold War strategists realized that being a democracy is a vulnerability. Were the soviets actually willing to go there and exploit it by manipulating the American public? Who knows. But that’s not how military strategy is created.


The Russians and Chinese manipulate the American public every day all day. Not to mention the Americans and Western Europeans with money and influence whose interests align with theirs. How do you think we ended up with president chump?


And likewise, the Americans do their best to manipulate the public of dozens of other countries, daily.

The shocking thing to Americans is they thought they were too powerful to ever be on the receiving end.


This. After WW2 US has been doing adventures through illegal interventions in Asia and Latin America all with disastrous consequences. This is just Karma payback.


> The Russians and Chinese manipulate the American public every day all day

So does our media, government agencies, NGOs, Canada, Britain, Israel and many european nations. But lets scapegoat the russians and the chinese.

> How do you think we ended up with president chump?

Certainly not because of the chinese or europeans. The chinese and europeans wanted hillary to win.

Let me ask, did the chinese and russians get obama elected? I love how easily people are brainwashed by the media. They say something and the mindless just repeat it.


How do you think we ended up with president chump?

No. The alternative is a crook.


...well, it's possible that that's part of the manipulation too.


And Trump isn't a crook? lol


It's not really an alternative if Trump is also a crook, which he is.


i dont think these problems started during the cold war.

much earlier... i think it began when the federal power began to chip away at the state power.

theres no vulnerability in having a friendly northern ally, no eastwest neighbors, and a subjugation economy to the south. the vulnerability is internal, to the thinkers and activists... so lets keep them chained by debt & chasing tail & feeling scared


"When the federal power began to chip away at state power"

This has been a thing since the Constitution was ratified.


I think this is attributing too much agency to "government". Voters wanted slavery, and so public officials supported it. Voters wanted wars and a surveillance state after 9/11. Etc. (Same goes for the good things that the public sector does, of course)

Yes there is inertia and self-perpetuation, like in any organisations, but not overwhelmingly much.


>I think this is attributing too much agency to "government". Voters wanted slavery, and so public officials supported it.

The voters vote what they're told to -- and they're told to by those in power who can pay for campaigns, have their pals in party positions, etc.

Plus, the voters get all kinds of stuff that benefit the powerful that they never explicitly asked or voted for, and that were never on any platform. Even whole wars can be promoted onto them...

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/posters-sold-world-wa...

Besides, there were tons of dirt poor whites picking cotton in the South. And they had no slaves, the were closer to slaves themselves...

It's more poor vs rich, than white vs black. Even if poor whites were also racist, those plantations weren't owned by poor white folk either...


Taking this view lets the voters off the hook too easily. Citizens often genuinely want things that are bad for a bunch of other people. Look at the immigration/refugee related polling for example. Or climate change inaction.

Sure the public opinion is affected by PR efforts, but people still possess facilities for critical thinking, and everyone knows to be critical about political claims rather than take them at face value.


>Taking this view lets the voters off the hook too easily. Citizens often genuinely want things that are bad for a bunch of other people. Look at the immigration/refugee related polling for example. Or climate change inaction.

Voters might want lots of things, but do they get them though, when those things don't align with what those in power want?


The truth is that not "everyone" knows to be critical about political nonsense. Plus, most people I encounter in this state of PA have no idea what the term "critical thinking" implies; let alone deliberately practice it. PA is in the dark ages compared to Seattle. It's extremely sad to see.


Hate to break it to you but critical thinking is just as lacking in progressive urban areas. Seattle, Boston, Denver, NYC, (let alone the valley) are chock full of idiots who do not think about how public policy impacts anyone but themselves. You just don't judge as critically when it's your people.


yah, but the Steelers! did u see that game last weekend?

/s


> voters vote what they're told to

who's "they"?


I think that the syntactic structure makes it pretty clear that "they" refers to the voters.


i think i was unclear in what i meant - who are the people telling the voters what to do?


Broadly, those with power and money. Having enough money to lobby congress is one manifestation of that. Having enough money to wage large multichannel PR campaigns on the population is another. Funding think tanks, funding PACs, ownership of or influence over the major media outlets.

People with this kind of power and money form a series of formal and informal interlocking networks, and often interests align across most or all of those networks. Tax cuts for the rich and for corporations is perhaps the most obvious one. Pushing for war might be a bit less unanimous, but wars do produce near-immediate profits for the military-industrial complex and those invested in it, and potential future business opportunities for other sectors (for example if the war results in regime change, which leads to an opening of previously closed markets, the sale of state-owned businesses and assets, etc).


I think it's patently clear who is telling the voters how to vote. People usually call those by "the media" or something like that.

It is also clear who is telling the media what to say.

The one thing that is not clear at all is how much the media actually influence voters. I don't think there's as much influence as the OP was trying to convey, but well, as I said, this is not clear.


Well, those with power and money and lobbyists and politicians in their pockets and mass media...

From Murdoch to Bezos and NRA...


I know that's right.


This seems like a differently-worded variant of "we get the government we vote for." But that conclusion has been convincingly rejected by sound political science for quite a while now.

The policy preferences of the voting constituency in any given national election are not strongly correlated to policy results. This is shown convincingly in Benjamin Ginsberg's book, "Do Elections Matter?" I strongly recommend this book - after reading it, you will never again try to explain away an act of government by attributing it to voter sentiment.

It is a difficult-to-deny fact that, in the USA, the government frequently and quietly advances policies which do not appear to be derived from any kind electoral mandate, nor are favored by a substantial portion of the electorate.


Government represents the interests of capital, not of ordinary people.


I'm interested in the concept but do you have a suggestion for a book published more recently? "Do Elections Matter?" was published almost 30 years ago.


Well, there's [1], but see also references in this Vox article, which hedges that somewhat: [2]

[1] https://www.vox.com/2016/5/9/11502464/gilens-page-oligarchy-... [2] https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/fi...


It's not exactly the same idea. But of course I would be interested in hearing if the referenced book could explain away my observations of government/popular opinion alignment in the issues discussed. Random chance is of course one possibility.


I am not so sure about that. Did voters ever vote on the surveillance state? Wars like Iraq, Vietnam, etc, were created by lies that would not exist without this agency. The WMD lies and Gulf of Tonkin lies have been well documented in respectable news outlets, so it is not like these are at all conspiracy theories.

Yesterday was May 4th, the anniversary of when the agency in government murdered unarmed, peaceful war protestors at Kent State, then 11 days later bayonetted about a dozen peaceful war protestors at University of New Mexico.

These are not things free people compelled their government to do.


I'm sure we both know that voters vote for representatives, not laws, so that question is not applicable. But in general, there has been popular support for things like "patriot act", and wars, as measured in polls.


There has also been even more support for the opposite, so that's just more sophistry.


Iraq war and patrioct act both saw more support than opposition in polls, when they happened (law passed, invasion was started).

Wars did get less popular when they went badly, so you can argue that they would have been shorter if public officials would have retreated when polls turned against them. But that's a separate discussion.


polls are stated in such a way ... theyre part of the control


Voters wanted Iraq War when they voted Bush in 2004.

I remember those "love it or leave it" years well.


> Voters wanted wars and a surveillance state after 9/11.

It could be argued that voters were manipulated towards that point of view.


Watch zeitgeist on YouTube and you can discover the true story of what occurred on 9/11.


> But was there ever any indication to the contrary? How did we as Americans convert to the myth that our government, let alone our "intelligence" agencies, have any inclination to protect us or advance our interests?

I don't think this is giving public servants enough credit. Politicians are a little more self-serving than those working in the agencies, so don't paint all public servants with the same brush. The problem is that what public servants believe is in the public interest just doesn't align with what you believe is in the public interest. There's always going to be a little give and take like this, and this evolution is what makes democratic societies effective.

That said, there can't be any given and take without oversight, and that's the real problem here. No doubt NSA employees believe what they're doing is important and effective, but is it really? That's a debate we simply can't have because of the secrecy, and public trust in these institutions has eroded sufficiently, possibly with good reason, that the public can't simply have faith in the NSA.


A "paperclip maximizer" of sorts?


If your comment is meant to be sarcastic, then I am failing to see it...

Could you explain what you mean by enslaving as prisoner? So you would let a rapist free or what?


No no, I'm just pointing out that the 13th amendment to the Constitution didn't outlaw slavery entirely, but instead a clause literally beginning with the word "except" - can you imagine? "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except ..." It's candor and obfuscation at the very same time.

Here's the rest of the text:

"...as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

So now, today, we have more black men under the supervision of the "criminal justice system" (which, like the NSA, is not now and have never been truly tasked with achieving its formal goals) than were enslaved in 1860.


One of the most ridiculous manifestations of this is at this prison called "Angola" in Louisiana which is literally built on a cotton field and has forced prisoners to pick cotton since around 1880.

https://mic.com/articles/88461/a-modern-day-slave-plantation...

edit: another link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_State_Penitentiary


Seriously man. Imagine for a moment that Germany still had capital punishment. And they decided to use the gas chamber to administer it. I think it's the same level of insensitivity at work with the US continuing Angola as a cotton plantation in the name of administering "criminal justice." Like, have we no shame at all? Do we not care at all about what we did and the spiritual consequences of allowing its imagine to continue?

Also: good to see you. :-)


That doesn't seem to be true at all: Wikipedia says there was around 4 million slaves in the 1860 census while the total number of incarcerated Americans in 2010 doesnt reach 2.5 millions.


I didn't say total slaves vs. total prisoners - I said black men.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/michelle-alexander...

edit: I can't imagine why I'm being downvoted here. My statement was utterly correct, and when challenged I cited a credible source. What'd I do wrong?!


Although I tend to see most ultra-liberal conspiracy babble as nonsense, experience with my own psychology and observation of those around has led me to believe that white male fragility is a real thing. You're being downvoted because people on HN, who are by and large financially secure, well-educated technocrats (like myself!), feel like there's something deeply irritating about your post, whether or not it is statistically accurate.

I've had enough experience doing volunteer work with people trying to complete their GED in/after prison that - despite the fact that I despise ultra-left fresh-out-of-college political babble (it's so disconnected from reality and non-constructive that it's reasonable to squash it with the rest of the noise) - I do believe that there are deep structural injustices in American society, and we really don't have a coherent story for how to fix them.

That shift in attitude was born of experience that is not universally shared, though. Most people have their hobbies and their jobs and their families and their insecurities and their resentments, and they don't take kindly to strangers telling them that the American social structure that passively benefits them and makes their lifestyle possible is built in part on some very deep nastiness.

Which isn't to point fingers, or level blame, or shame anyone. Those are the rhetorical techniques of demagogues, and they have neither truth value nor do they tend to point society in a better direction. It's just to say that the psychological landscape is complicated.


You're right. Just look at all those men telling us they don't feel safe because of what someone wrote, that the work place needs to be more welcoming to them, that being told they're bossy or domineering is insulting, that having to defend themselves in public debate is unacceptable, that they shouldn't be expected to choose between career and family, and that male hygiene products should be paid for by the government because having a dick and balls is just such a burden.

Wait no, sorry, I got that backwards. It's feminist women who do the female equivalent of this. And who find it deeply irritating if you only imply men do not exist to serve at their beck and call, and have zero obligation to them even if they damsel.

And no, not all women. But definitely even some who do have all the power, money and influence they could want. So who's fragile? Or perhaps more accurately: who succeeds in using their facade of weakness as a lever of power, time and time again?

I don't mind admitting the world is not fair, but it takes a special kind of obliviousness to look at women's position in the West in the 21st century and still see a class of victims and men as the ones who need to suck in their gut and soldier on for once.


We've banned this account for using HN primarily for ideological battle. That's a serious abuse because it destroys the intellectual curiosity this place exists for.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


although I genuinely couldn't tell if the responder was being serious, I think it's a shame the account was banned. I respect the decision, but I think it's a mistake to equate incoherence with ideology.

I feel duty-bound to engage patiently with people with whom I disagree, but I understand that this might be inconsistent with the more general goal of running a forum.


It gets rather simple pretty quickly if you look at the site as a whole: accounts that repeatedly post like that one did have a destructive effect on the community, just like fire has on a town. We know it's mostly unintentional, but the flames don't burn less for that reason. We want the town to survive, so we can't let people do this here.

The analogy is good in another way too: we don't care what color the flames are, or what was used to start them. People sometimes complain that we moderate red flames more than blue and vice versa, but the issue is the same in both cases.


Thanks for the clarification, I respect your decision. Also thanks for what I imagine to be the rather thankless effort of moderating HN.


Okay. Since the original point — as I understood it — was on the deep seated, institutional racism, racial inequality and how we are oblivious to it — do you mind making your point a bit more clear?

I really don’t get what you are saying. I understand you have a point to make on whether or not women are the biggest victims today — but what is the link to the post?


It’s not about the fragility of liberal white males, it’s the fragility of government as a religion. It’s like asking Catholics to admit the atrocities in their history. Ever wonder why every crypto related article is met with disdain? It’s because their faith cannot tolerate questioning. The line between nationalism and religion is blurred intentionally.


the catholic church has literally said "we're sorry" for their history a bunch of times, for example for anti-semitism, the inquisition, behaviour against non catholics and religious wars.

If anything, the problem is they're very vague about stuff, and only admit guilt for their history, and not for present misbehaviour.


The article makes the claim for the year 1850, and your claim is for the year 1860. There were more slaves in 1860 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1860_United_States_Census) than in 1850 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1850_United_States_Census)

In 1860 there were 3,953,761 slaves counted in the census.

In 2016, if you count everyone under probation and parole in addition to those in jail and prison, the number is 6,613,500 (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus16.pdf)

If you assume 40% of them are black, like the article claims, the number comes out to 2,645,400. This is considerably less than the number of slaves in 1860, or 1850 for that matter.

If you have a source to back up your claim then you should post it. I'm actually curious what sources the author might have been using.

I don't think you're acting in bad faith, I think you just read that huffpost article and assumed it was correct. I just wanted to reply since you were curious about what you might have done wrong.


Yep, you're right - I was off by a decade.

I initially heard about this not from The New Jim Crow but from this (seemingly awesome) Brown University student:

http://www.politifact.com/rhode-island/statements/2014/dec/0...

...but if I'm doing the math correctly, it appears to hold even for 1860 for adult males.


Actually I see now that you specifically said 'black men', which is a different statistic, so I think you might be correct.


Jesus. They're criminals not slaves. Don't do the crime, don't do the time.

Look, I too watched 13th on Netflix. Black people are over-represented in violent crime like assault, murder and rape, and so are over-represented in prisons.


> Don't do the crime, don't do the time.

Isn't this materially the same as, "if you are black, and especially black and male, choose your diet according to what the government says you can put in your body?"

If "the crime" is ingesting cannabis, I do the crime all the freakin' time and I have never, ever imagined that I might suffer any consequence of it.

Is "Don't do the crime, don't do the time" a reasonable thing to say in an environment of such intense selective enforcement?


Where to begin?

> Isn't this materially the same as....

No it's not. Are you suggesting that because a crime is so prevalent it should be ignored? As long as a crime is a crime and people commit that crime you can expect consequences for that crime. We live in a nation of rules and laws.

Anyway let's visit the facts:

- 59% of black prisoners sentenced to more than 1 year in state prison were sentenced for a violent offense, not drug crimes.

- More than half of the extra prisoners added in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were imprisoned for violent crimes; two thirds were in for violent or property crimes. Only about a fifth of prison inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. Only a fraction of those for marijuana.

- Black Democrats and the NAACP were instrumental in enforcing tough sentences for drug crime as drugs were decimating their communities.

So violent crime is still the main reason for the incarceration rates. As for those incarcerated for drug crimes - perhaps there are too many imprisoned but it's mostly for selling hard drugs, not weed. And even if it was weed, it's not slavery.

> Is "Don't do the crime, don't do the time" a reasonable thing to say in an environment of such intense selective enforcement?

Yes, yes it is. And the 95% of blacks (and any race for that matter) that don't do drugs would agree.

http://www.drugwarfacts.org/node/876

http://rainystreets.wikity.cc/naacp-citizens-mobilization-ag...


Your argument would carry more weight if you weren't hung up solely on the weed angle. There are far more injustices than selective enforcement of weed offenses.

That said, it's hard to equate incarceration with slavery unless there's an economic benefit to the state in incarcerating prisoners. Is there?


> If you assume 40% of them are black, like the article claims, the number comes out to 2,645,400. This is considerably less than the number of slaves in 1860, or 1850 for that matter.

As far as I can tell, the tables in: "Recapitulation of the Tables of Population, Nativity, and Occupation" from[1] indicate that there were roughly 800.000 male slaves 15 years or older in 1860 - they're listed next to free coloureds" - but I find no indication about black/non-black slaves (I imagine there were some Native Americans, Chinese at least in non-insignificant number?).

I believe op was talking about adult black males.

On a side note, would be nice if this data was digitized properly and available for easy analysis? I couldn't find any indication that it is?

[1] https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/dec...


You didnt do nothing wrong. Welcome to 2018 hacker news! It hasnt been like this few years ago, now many times i start reading comments from the grayed out to regulars. And i upvoted all of your comments because they were right on the subject, informative, rich in facts and sources, and i genuinely learnt something new today.


They broke laws and are being punished as criminals. Many people of all races are punished in the same way.

I think drug laws in this country are way too harsh, but those are the laws. People should not break them if they don't want to be jailed.

Also slavery was a human problem for thousands of years, it took humanity collectively waking up to the evils of slavery to abolish it. Human governments the world over supported the instition in the past, and now they've evolved. Don't judge them today based on the mistakes of the past.


"I think drug laws in this country are way too harsh, but those are the laws. People should not break them if they don't want to be jailed."

This quote might be a defensible argument if the laws were applied equally in the United States. What has happened is that we have so many laws that the government doesn't even know how many laws there are anymore[0]. This has led to something called selective enforcement[1]. When everyone breaks the law, but you are twice as likely to be punished for it if you are one color vs another, then personal responsibility has very little to do with it. The government is setting up an environment where they can punish whomever they want, whenever they want, and then punishing the people they don't like for non law related reasons

[0]https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304319804576389... [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_enforcement


Come on now. What are you even talking about?

> People should not break them if they don't want to be jailed.

I'm white. That means I can smoke as much herb as I want and not even dream of entering the criminal justice system unless I'm extraordinarily unlucky. Moreover, I don't give a flying fuck what some politician in Washington has to say about my diet. I don't base what I put into my body on bad laws.

But if you are black, you have a much more difficult decision to make.

> now they've evolved. Don't judge them today based on the mistakes of the past.

If drug prohibition is the "evolved" form, then we still have a long way to go. That's the point.


You're suburban. Growing up poor and in a requisite poor area, plenty of your white friends will end up in prison and jail. A lot of mine did.


I'm with you, prohibition of weed is very backwards. But that's hardly slavery.


Drug prohibition is indeed slavery - in the case of the text of the 13th amendment, literally so.

Moving the bar from "you're enslaved based on your color" to, "you're enslaved based on your diet" is not much of a move.


That is the most niave understanding of government and racism.


How so? Economic circumstances negatively impact certain people more than others in the world but how are modern western governments perpetuating racism?


Come on man, your best advice to imprisoned black people is, "well, you shouldn't have chosen what to put in your own body" and you can't see your mistake?


If their diet is what is causing them to commit violent crimes, which is what the majority of prisoners are in for, not weed, then yeah, that diet is a problem. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-real-answer-to-...


The concept of prison the way we intend it is relatively new (let's say a couple of hundred years). So I am not surprised to see that there are still some references to slavery here and there, because that was actually the punishment back then.

The reason we have more blacks than white in prison is for dozens reasons:

- legacy - cultural differences - social injustice

Etc.

Don't solve problems, ignore them, expect that people behave the way you want, wait until someone screws up here and here, let it escalate, ignore again and/or apply short term solutions, mix all this stuff, fast forward all of it, and you have the current situation.

Just be lucky to be on the right side and have good parents.


I don't think a single iota of the prison disparity - not one - is attributable to "cultural differences". I also don't think that it is an accident. Drug prohibition was designed precisely - and initially sold expressly - as a way to control black and asian people, and later other people of color.

> Don't solve problems, ignore them, expect that people behave the way you want, wait until someone screws up here and here, let it escalate, ignore again and/or apply short term solutions, mix all this stuff, fast forward all of it, and you have the current situation.

I think that's pretty reasonable. That's pretty much the point I was trying to make about intelligence agencies as well.


>initially sold expressly - as a way to control black and asian people, and later other people of color.

Hippies too; that's why Nixon choose to schedule pot.

https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-rich...


That was much, much later. I'm talking about the legislative movement that culminated in the Harrison Narcotics Act.


Got a good link on that? I'm learning some stuff today. Thanks for trading internet points for the chance to teach me.


> Got a good link on that?

I'm sure I do, but I'm not sure exactly which point you're asking about here. :-)


I'll just Google --- you're a busy person.


This should be downvoted to oblivion. The only folks I've ever heard say black people's (we're not "blacks" BTW, we are actually people) problems are attributable to our culture ate racist shitbags. In order to believe that black people have some intrinsic culture of self destruction one would have to believe that culture evolves in some sort of vacuum. This couldn't be further from the truth when talking about African Americans. Black people have never been left to our own devices in this country. The government itself encoded ways to fuck with us and or minds from the very inception of this nation.

Even after we were freed there was Jim crow and the peonage system (I'm sure you'll have to look that up). Even after Jim crow there was red lining.

You don't have to be a history major to know that what your said is beyond dumb. I seriously hope you put a little more thought into the things you believe going forward.


I had to look it up..

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_economy

And in doing so I read this bit about "it may have had as much to do with spreading poverty around"

I presume that white people no longer having the black people to live off meant

A. white people had to do alot more work themselves, and

B. white people had to share much more of the available resources with black people

So that they actively participated in racism to keep more resources for themselves..

Is this a reasonable take on this?

This is the part from the Wikipedia cited above I am referring to..

"However, the African American struggle to earn economic parity, that had made progress during the first half century of the postbellum era, had largely been reversed during the second half. Legally, equality was assured, but that did little to actually promulgate equal conditions in daily life.

Some of the gains in the South's economic relation to the rest of the U.S. can be explained by population shifts to other regions; so, it may have had as much to do with spreading poverty around, as spreading wealth around."


You had to look up Jim Crow laws? If you are American then that is an active level of ignorance. It is taught in most schools systems as far as I am aware, and is frequently brought up in the news and other political commentary, especially in the context of any sort of checks on voter registration. I took OP's comment as you would have to look up the peonage system

If you are not American then it would be perfectly understandable to be unaware


Perhaps you misread; the looking-up wasn't for Jim Crow Laws, but the Jim Crow Economy, which is not taught in most school systems.


There's a lot of people in prison for things that they shouldn't be, like marijuana possession. Especially blacks and latinos. The US jails about 10 times more people than other developed nations - there's something very wrong with that picture. In the land of the free you actually have the least amount of people actually living free...


>Could you explain what you mean by enslaving as prisoner?

It means having 25% of the world's prison population but only 4% of the world's population.

It means being a prison state.

It means using BS reasons, like marijuana possession, to imprison a large part of your population.

It means predominantly giving long prison sentences for small offenses, just because of an "Old Testament" idea of revenge -- that is carried forward in the culture from the days of the nutty religious minorities that established the country.

It means having absurd legal constructs, like "3 strikes" laws.

It means exploiting prisoners for free labor, and having private prisons, and other such practices, and being the shame of the western world (and large part of the developing world) in this area.

It means people casually joking of people getting raped or attacked in your prisons.

It means still having the death penalty in 2018.

And other such things...


Prisoners are allowed to be slaves under the 13th amendment.

You don't have to free them to stop allowing slavery in prison.


I suspect that if prisoners are meaningfully unenslaved (ie, enjoy basic rights to body, fair wages, etc) that the system will suddenly realize that drugs aren't so bad after all.

As I matter of legislative priority, however, I think it makes sense to work in the direction direction, ie, to work toward ending drug prohibition with an aim to making a substantial dent in what slavery remains in the USA.



[flagged]


Eh? Did you click the link? It's non-fiction.


Read my comment above as an answer to yours. Sorry, but I don't like this sort of nonfictional books.

They kind of miss the point, in my opinion.


I sincerely doubt the argument that dragnet surveillance has no effect. I wish as soon as the information could be de-classified the NSA would publish about attacks it stopped. Doing so can expose sources and methods used to collect the information, so not everything would become known - but it would certainly help to benefit the agency and its credibility in the eyes of the governed.

That said, I don't want to live in a country that looks over my shoulder as I grow and mature my reasoning about the world. We need the ability to formulate our own opinions without feeling watched (because this leads to self-censorship!). Discourse is necessary for society to evolve. We wouldn't have things like interracial marriage without people taking unpopular ideas to market.

I just wish we could see the full benefits of both sides in this argument.


> I sincerely doubt the argument that dragnet surveillance has no effect.

It almost certainly does. Whilst congress makes some pretty ludicrously predictably bad decisions, there must be some reports of the NSA's effectiveness. It's just whom it benefits that's in doubt. Let's face it: the number of homicides in general absolutely dwarf the maximum potential of terrorist attacks without NSA intervention.

I would argue the purpose of the NSA as a system is what it does, not what it is claimed it does. It seems extremely unlikely to me that the NSA is even remotely about preventing terrorist attacks. With a more complete understanding of the state and its origins, it seems far more likely that the NSA is about protecting the state than the people. If it is protecting people, it is the people the state is there to protect.

I live in the UK where we get some limited news about attacks stopped by dragnet surveillance. We also have a culture where many are supportive of the security services no matter what they are doing and anybody who challenges this must be a terrorist or more recently a russian bot. Many of the cases that have been stopped seem incredibly unlikely to have yielded a viable attack. State press releases here are almost Verhoeven-esque propaganda, but in this case I really can't see what they stand gain by downplaying the allegedly plotted attacks the security services allegedly thwarted. Plus we will never know how many of these attacks were constructed by the state by means of entrapment.

If the NSA is not about preventing terrorism and never was, what is it about? Let's look at what it does: it surveils people and receives and shares information with other countries agencies. We know it attempts to render as much information transparent as it can, exploiting defective cryptosystems. Viewed from the perspective that it is a defence force for the state, it is effectively military. If you really believe the military is to protect you, and not the state, you've obviously never given much thought to the perversity of conscription.


> I live in the UK where we get some limited news about attacks stopped by dragnet surveillance.

But there's no way to verify this, correct? Like, they could have used human intelligence and simply reported that dragnet surveillance was the source.


> With a more complete understanding of the state and its origins, it seems far more likely that the NSA is about protecting the state than the people. If it is protecting people, it is the people the state is there to protect.

Yes, indeed.


i self censor because of dragnet surveillance


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FEMA camps dont exist


im actually bummed that ur comment got so mamy downvotes, and i don't disagree with u.


Looking at the benefits is the wrong way to solve a problem because it prioritizes the wrong thing: ends become an excuse for bad means.


I do agree that the negatives of dragnet surveillance disproportionately harms society - much greater than the net-positives. I just don't feel like we have enough transparency to correctly scale that bar graph.


How much more transparency do you desire? Personally I don't need any chart or measuring stick to show me what's dangerous.


I fully believe dragnet surveillance is dangerous. My point is, I can't just say "Dragnet surveillance is dangerous." A well-formed argument has citations and metrics and something to show relative scale. The people pushing for dragnet surveillance (those people in positions of authority) feel like they're keeping us safe and doing what needs to be done - and that we just don't understand. We need to KNOW exactly how much surveillance harms us - we cannot argue with blanket statements.


// A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.

“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News. “The results were very thin.” //

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/nsa-program-stopped-no-te...

"U.S. Mass Surveillance Has No Record Of Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless Of Snowden Leaks"

https://theintercept.com/2015/11/17/u-s-mass-surveillance-ha...


> What exactly does the NSA do?

It's a military signals-intelligence organization.

> Whom are they protecting?

It's hardly monolithic. Imagine Catch 22 on steroids. Likely each power center is primarily protecting itself, and its funding. Overall, they're protecting the military-industrial complex. The 1%. The powers that be.

Edit: Whoever pays the bills.


Good breakdown.


I don’t like the data collection either, but it’s impossible to know the untold disasters that it may or may not have prevented.

“Assume that a legislator with courage, influence, intellect, vision, and perseverance manages to enact a law that goes into universal effect and employment on September 10, 2001; it imposes the continuously locked bulletproof doors in every cockpit (at high costs to the struggling airlines)-just in case terrorists decide to use planes to attack the World Trade Center in New York City. I know this is lunacy, but it is just a thought experiment... The legislation is not a popular measure among the airline personnel, as it complicates their lives. But it would certainly have prevented 9/11.

The person who imposed locks on cockpit doors gets no statues in public squares, not so much as a quick mention of his contribution in his obituary. "Joe Smith, who helped avoid the disaster of 9/11, died of complications of liver disease." Seeing how superfluous his measure was, and how it squandered resources, the public, with great help from airline pilots, might well boot him out of office.”

-Quote from Taleb


> I don’t like the data collection either, but it’s impossible to know the untold disasters that it may or may not have prevented.

This is probably the most irresponsible and reckless statement a citizen of free of oppresion country can say.

Follow me here; taking your reasoning further here is my honest statement: i can bet my chopped off head that if we would have installed cameras and microphones in every single room in every single american househould, we would have avoid “intold disasters” that i can guarantee you, including but not limited to: burglaries, kidnappings, abductions, ilegal arms/drugs dealings, prostitutions, child trafficking and domestic abuse. At least! I really guarantee you that! Push the switch and count saved lives in tens of thausands!

I would rather live without my head than in such military orwellian state! Those who want temporary safety by giving away freedom.. so did one smart man said.


>it’s impossible to know the untold disasters that it may or may not have prevented.

We do know, however, the type of disasters that mass data collection has created in the past.

IBM's mass data processing technology was crucial to the operational efficiency of the Holocaust.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust


It is not impossible to know, at least partially. The Intercept has been publishing batches of their internal newsletters which includes examples of success stories.


Your message sounds kind of ominous but I'd like to point out hanlon's razor. The NSA sounds like another public sector organization that just tries to spend us much money as it can to justify itself getting so much money. The problem is when people with access to that information try to use it for their own personal gain, or when they use this information against anyone who speaks out against the NSA's ridiculous budget because they think that anyone who speaks out against the NSA obviously is a threat to National Security.

Both those things might have happened already.


I think it’s much simpler. They’re just trying to do their job and make it easier. A bigger budget is the means.



You need a brutish thug in your tribe/gang/Pantheon which you can count on to do dirty jobs. That's why the connection between organized crime and intelligence agencies has always been solid.

Too much oversight/rule-pushing muzzles the potential of these guard dogs to act or intimidate. If you don't have these thugs in your gang, then other gangs that include them can take advantage of you. They are protecting the interests of the Gang-leader. They are not there to help old ladies cross the WWW. They are there to wiretap entire countries to capture contract fraud before it can damage the US economy (which impacts the average citizen). They capture gang infiltrators before they can do too much damage to the defensive and offensive capabilities of the gang. They make infrastructure to annihilate the communication capabilities of other gangs, should this need arise.

A gang without rule-skirting all-seeing thugs, Tricksters, and Peeping Toms will not stay on top.


Seeing the world in terms of who is "on top" is a big part of the problem.


That said. It is the way the world has always operated. Until one can separate themself from their ego, they will continue to be run by their ego.


As a matter of fact, the world has not "always operated" on Freudian terms, and my understanding is that those terms are essentially the COBOL of psychology by now anyway.


> That's why the connection between organized crime and intelligence agencies has always been solid.

What do you mean by this?


It was created to work on code-breaking during World War II and then formalized by Harry Truman as an official agency.

It was made to serve the military and in turn the American people but over time their mission has been perverted for the sake of security theater.


> And yet tons of bad things keep happening to regular citizens in the US.

The "War on Terror!"[0] is yet another way to funnel money to rich corporations. It is a money making machine and that's really all it is. More people die from choking in the U.S. each year than died from terrorism in at least the past 5 years. And yet, we've spent 100's of billions. The NSA is just a piece of that machine.

[0] I know you were being more general in your comment, I'm just pointing out a single reason.


For a second I thought you were talking about Google. Food for thought.


[flagged]


Isn't that a bit of a jump, and specifically called out in the quartz article as not true?

"Did the CIA directly fund the work of Brin and Page, and therefore create Google? No."


You should probably quote the article title too:

"Google’s true origin partly lies in CIA and NSA research grants for mass surveillance"

The gist I got from skimming it is that the CIA didn't "directly" fund them because that's handled by a differwnt group acting in their interest.


aka Google was _not_ founded by the CIA


And not only agency vs civilians but apparently the agency vs politicians in all areas of govt.


>"What does the NSA so? Who are they protecting?

You're comitting a logical fallacy. You think just because bad things sometimes do happen to US citizens that the NSA clearly isn't doing anything....

Clearly faulty logic. I'm glad the NSA exists because there are bad actors out there and we need informed law enforcement to protect us.


You're committing exactly the same logical fallacy.

You think just because it sometimes helps against bad actors that the NSA is a net force for good.


You're not the only one. What hurts the most for me is that I wrote my doctoral thesis on privacy back in 2003 and I touched on a number of these issues. 9/11 ruined my career, though. After 9/11, nobody wanted privacy or to even talk about privacy. I knew all this was going to happen. David Brin knew all this was going to happen, and so did a lot of other writers and pundits. And here we sit now, wondering what to do now that we have empowered a monster that without much more work is going to get us all killed.


> After 9/11, nobody wanted privacy or to even talk about privacy.

Yup! And not only did the NSA turn into a monster, but so did the TSA (or more aptly, that monster was created), the biggest theatre troupe on the planet, because that's all it is.

The most eye opening thing happened just recently to cement this in my mind. After the Superbowl parade in Philadelphia this year, I caught a ride from PHL to SFO. Basically everyone else in the world was leaving the same time as me, so there were lines stretched around the airport to get through security. The line for my terminal began in the parking structure.

So you know what they did? Of course you do. They relaxed all the rules and let everyone through metal detectors. Shoes on. Belts on. Liquids? Bring em through. Laptops and tablets, leave them in your bags. That giant invasive scanning machine? What do we have that for anyway? Step on through the metal detector, I don't have time to grope you today. It was the most fun I've had in an airport since 2001.

So let me get this straight. For years, I've been disrobing in public and subjecting myself to groping on the off-chance that someone might have a bomb tucked under their scrotum, yet on the BUSIEST DAY EVER it's okay to throw all those security protocols out the window.... why??

But no one questioned it then, in 2001 and the years thereafter, and no one is questioning it now.

Oh, and for anyone who's wondering, after processing a record number of passengers for that airport with absolutely no security screening, a total of zero (0) airlines were taken down that day.


> So let me get this straight. For years, I've been disrobing in public and subjecting myself to groping on the off-chance that someone might have a bomb tucked under their scrotum, yet on the BUSIEST DAY EVER it's okay to throw all those security protocols out the window.... why??

I get your point, but you are making a logical mistake here.

If a building shuts down it's fire warning systems and blocks the fire exits for a week because of some construction work, that doesn't mean that they should just be removed because obviously they are not needed.


>If a building shuts down it's fire warning systems and blocks the fire exits for a week because of some construction work, that doesn't mean that they should just be removed because obviously they are not needed.

Do fire alarms have a 95% failure rate? Because the TSA does.


Going on a tangent here...

I don't know the failure rate of building file alarms, but the damn ceiling alarms seem to have a failure rate of 99.99%. We don't use those in Europe, and every time I travel to the US I get frustrated beyond belief how they scream at me every time I cook or take a shower.


We use them in the UK, but they are sensitive to only smoke particles in the air and not heat.


I don't think it's quite the same as your analogy.

The reason we have to go through scanners and take off our shoes and get groped is because once upon a time, some bad actors got through security with contraband. We then decided we just had to spend millions upon millions of dollars, train thousands of people, and inconvenience and embarrass millions of passengers because if we didn't, more bad actors would get through with said contraband using the same methods.

So we closed a security hole. Except that same security hold is opened up again if enough travelers inundate the airport. Not just one security hole, but almost all of them. The entire purpose of the TSA. Conclusion - if you want to get contraband through security, just wait for the right day and the TSA will let you walk right through.


Arguably, the longer lines created a greater security risk, as we have learned in the middle east time and time again.

Lines are great targets.


People question the TSA all the time. No politician wants to touch it for fear of being “responsible” for an attack.


Were there dogs running up and down the lines? [0] This happened to me during the holidays and I, too, was surprised until I looked it up.

[0] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/09/21/tsa-dog-teams...


I'm surprised it took you all the way till the Superbowl.

I recall one of my first times through high security seeing a guy with lunch box getting thru next to metal detector. I quickly called TSA officer and told them there was a man going thru with a box. "Oh that's fine that's one of us". That was the whole reasoning; because some dude you don't even know his last name is "working for the agency" it means he is saint and would never harm the country. It blew my mind that day! That day I realized its all a carnival ponies show and another way to take away more tax payers funds.


> I'm surprised it took you all the way till the Superbowl.

Heh, yeah. I mean, I've been skeptical and critical of the TSA for a long time, but that event just seems like an very blatant admission from the TSA themselves that their entire existence is to act as a stone in water, diverting the flow but ultimately not blocking anything.


Facebook is reviving your career


[flagged]


>Like what? I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about here.

Uh, the constant mass shootings that have occurred over the past year wherein, 100% of the time, the perp was already known to police and FBI and had a very public troubling online presence detailing their years of mental instability and virulent racism?

>intelligence agencies don't talk about their activities, even their successes, for very good reason.

The hell are you talking about? The FBI is constantly publicly congratulating themselves when they "foil" a "plot" their agent provocateurs have cooked up.

https://citationsneeded.libsyn.com/ep-31-fake-isis-plots-and...

The NSA doesn't like to brag as much as the FBI does but they're clearly just as responsible for dropping the ball on domestic terrorism every other week when yet another mass shooting happens...


> The hell are you talking about?

Crossing into incivility like this isn't ok on HN and will eventually get you banned, so please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do this. Please don't do political flamewars on HN either.


So you're saying the NSA isn't spying on Americans effectively enough?


They have not justified the existence of these programs -- if they were efficacious they would still be wrong, in my opinion, but luckily for me my opinion never has to enter into it because as it stands it's just a double whammy of a 1) massively unethical 2) giant waste of money.

So yeah, even if #2 wasn't in play I'd still be against it.


> Uh, the constant mass shootings

I think your point is sound, but I'm not sure this is the best example. Regular shootings are causing a lot more deaths, although I doubt the NSA has any interest in stopping either one (and of course, their official charge doesn't include either one).


Right, but what else is the NSA ostensibly carrying out all this domestic espionage for if not to preempt domestic terrorism (which by and large has been dominated by mass shootings in recent years, it's been a bit since we had e.g. a bombing), which by all accounts is at its highest point in recent memory?


Yeah, I mean I'm with you, but again: the NSA is not charged with preventing domestic crimes. It's a foreign intelligence agency.


You two are talking past each other. Yes, the NSA is a foreign intelligence agency. But then why is it spying on citizens? Ostensibly to prevent bad things from happening. Yet bad things are happening, that could presumably be stopped with information gained from said spying. But no one is using the information that way. So why should we let them continue spying?

I think that sums it up.


I think there's another sliver to be added, though, because the NSA can still give the excuse that the answer to

> why is it spying on citizens

...is that it's doing that to prevent foreign attacks, not eg. mass shootings.

Furthermore, even if it were doing anything useful with its domestic spying, such as preventing domestic crime, obviously we'd all rather address plain ole' shootings, which take many more lives than mass shootings.


>but what else is the NSA ostensibly carrying out all this domestic espionage for if not to preempt domestic terrorism

Yeah... foreign terrorism only occurs when foreign entities stand at the border and throw things into our country. LMAO.


Is there a reason you're being so intentionally mean throughout this thread? Take a deep breath, maybe a quick walk around the block. Your points are being lost because your vitriol is so overpowering.


It's funny watching what is essentially the equivalent of the Yankees getting criticized for not scoring enough touchdowns this season by people who are dead serious and consider this topic of grave concern. If these people aren't even able to Google the NSA before venturing their opinion on something so complicated, then it seems unlikely just giving them the basic facts is actually going to do something. People should feel bad about this level of willful ignorance.


Hmmm. Well, to utilize your metaphor, maybe it's more like people asking the 1919 White Sox aren't scoring enough touchdowns.

On one hand, scoring touchdowns (in this metaphor, preventing domestic crime) isn't their charge.

But on the other, they are also engaged primarily in self-serving funny business instead of hitting home runs (ie, protecting people from foreign aggression and securing the telecommunications systems of the USA).


>they are also engaged primarily in self-serving funny business

Such as?


> NSA [is] just as responsible for dropping the ball on domestic terrorism every other week

Domestic terrorism isn't the NSA's purview. Their job is signals intelligence against the rest of the world.


Ummmmm. How do they achieve that by tapping 500 million local calls? Let me guess, the locals call rest of the world.


Their claim is that it's in order to listen to the conversations where a foreign person of interest is the other party. :)

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the surveillance either, but domestic terrorism isn't their job. Sure, if they notice something, they will pass it along, but it's not what they are looking for (I believe). If there's been a proverbial ball dropped, it's probably more accurate to blame the FBI than the NSA.


[flagged]


All of your "arguments" so far have been nothing but "you have no idea what you're talking about" and "you know nothing". Why not contribute some facts and rational arguments to the discussion?


Domestic mass shootings are no where even close to the NSA's mandate.

Intelligence agencies DO NOT trumpet triumphs.

The NSA is not the FBI.

There's no arguments to be made here, there's just ignorance of incontrovertible and uncontroversial facts which can be easily looked up.


What a horrendously condescending reply. If you want to do any one any good, the least you can do is elaborate.


What is the expectation here? The commenter has absolutely no idea what they are talking about. The arguments are being made are clearly without any understanding of how any intelligence agency operates, and absolute ignorance of the NSA's mandate, much less any actual data about its activities.

It's like reading a post by someone bitching about the modern Hollywood blockbuster culture by citing Superman's plot arc in the new Avengers movie, except that somehow it isn't a trolling attempt. What sort of attention does that blatant misconception and willful ignorance deserve?


Sure it's shallow and ill considered, but it's also a not uncommon view among a large part of the population. While a pro NSA voice is not common here, providing lucid counter arguments would allow all of us to view the augments and maybe learn how best to counter these types of assertions in other venues.


What is the expectation here?

What's yours? Is there something to gain from a post that effectively just says "you're wrong"?


Nice argument.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Agency

Try having even the tiniest bit of an idea what you are talking about.


You crossed into incivility repeatedly in this flamewar, and here you cross into outright bannable offense. Could you please not do this when commenting here? If someone else is completely wrong, and you react like this, all you do is make them seem more credible, and discredit what you know.

What would work much better is to wait until you can comment neutrally, and then comment neutrally with information we can all learn from.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


These people seem to think that the NSA is only collecting data to stop mass shootings and normal crimes.

The concept of using this data to stamp out more systematic terrorism, espionage and other nation state attacks doesn't occur to them.


How does keeping tabs on every phone call my ~85-year-old grandmother makes help keep the country secure?


If your grandmother worked somewhere with access to critical infrastructure or had access to IP that would be in our best interest to protect and she was for some reason in contact with terrorists or suspected foreign agents then it's useful information.

Keep in mind that they need court ordered approval to access the data so without that existing context it's off limits.

You should be more concerned with what your service providers and companies like Google or Facebook are doing with that data because they aren't limited by FISA courts.


OK then. And you believe that there are literally 500 million phones going to suspected terrorists in the US?

Also, I'd like to point out that the fisa courts do not limit anything. They are a rubber stamp, that never rejects anything.


As I understand it, to quote the article:

> 534 million records of phone calls and text messages

But we don't know how that breaks down to "phones" as you say. I don't even like to use my phone but I bet if you count my texts and calls in a year it would be in the 1000s of records.

No I don't believe that there are "500 million phones going to suspected terrorists in the US" but there may be 500 messages from individuals who have suspected connections to terrorists and foreign agents. And you would never know for sure unless you can look at their metadata to analyze those suspected connections.

You're right that the FISA approval rate is incredible. But it's still a record of requests made (which helps prevent abuse). and as I understand it that number of requests is only in the ~2000 range.

Again, it's a much better situation than the level of scrutiny you're holding to companies like Google/Facebook/Microsoft or ISPs. And those companies aren't even offering national security as a service.


Ah, so what you are saying is that with only 2000 Fisa requests they were able to get ALL that data?

I guess if you just make 1 fisa request that says "give me everything" then that's good enough, right?

At least with those other companies I have a choice to use them or not. If I don't like Google I can use duck duck go, or something else.

The government doesn't give me a choice of whether I am spied on or not.


It doesn't. They don't.


They really aren't. 500 million sounds like a lot, but it is very unlikely any call by anyone in your family is caught in this net. As someone pointed out, with 250 million people owning phones in this country, as well as vast networks of systematic and/or automated calling, the portion of calls actually being tracked here is pretty tiny.

It's also a situation where having useless data costs next to nothing (economically at least, philosophically is a different debate), but missing even a small detail could be critical.


We knew five years ago that the NSA was receiving "billions of [call detail] records ... per day", just indiscriminately collecting every CDR they could -- from everyone (including my grandma and yours), not just criminals or "terrorists" or whomever the latest bogeyman is.

I have no reason to believe that that has changed, that they have stopped collecting all of this data that is so easily available to them.

With that in mind, I do not believe that "it is very unlikely any call" by anyone in my family was included in the catch. I believe it very likely that many calls by many people in my family was -- and continues to be -- included in their "net".


Like, they are so ignorant that they don't even have the trivially basic information contained in the first paragraph of their wikipedia page. It's moronic.


We have not been made (substantially) safer. The trade was not worth it.

A town near me recently installed ANPR license plate readers. Their justification was to catch criminals, particularly those engaging in property crimes which were going unsolved.

Did ANPR help solve some property crimes? Almost certainly.

Were property crimes up significantly prior to the installation of the ANPR readers? No. Are they down significantly after? No.


>We have not been made (substantially) safer.

How do you know that?

>Were property crimes up significantly prior to the installation of the ANPR readers? No. Are they down significantly after? No.

I get that this comparison sounds similar, but it really doesn't make any sense. The most powerful nations in the world are constantly trying to gain as much access to our secure systems, communications, and infrastructure. Even though these efforts are almost entirely hidden from every level of the public, we still have plenty of stories of things like Stuxnet or the Chinese obtaining classified engineering data.

The NSA exists to combat this. They aren't fighting crime. They aren't fighting what is essentially an economically guaranteed statistical effect (property crime). They are an intelligence gathering and signal analysis agency tasked with thwarting foreign actors, which we know are actively pouring massive resources into activities hostile to us. That is why they exist, and that is why their successes (and failures) are almost entirely unknown to the general public.


Upvoted for making specific arguments rather than abusing people, like you did in some other parts of this thread.


Because it seemed like a legitimate misunderstanding rather than a complete unwillingness to even glance at the NSAs mandate.


Wasn't stuxnet created by the NSA?


IIRC yes. I also think I heard that Israel was involved. Anyway, who did it wasn't my point, my point was that all governments are engaged in this level of competition. The NSA exists (and has such a monstrous budget) because it is in constant, direct conflict with extremely capable and dangerous opponents. (not trying to pick out deranged criminals acting indepenedently from a crowd)


Wasn't the reporting about it being NSA + Israel all from Kaspersky or did any non-biased researchers confirm?


Yes and I imagine even having records on everyone wouldn’t be enough to catch all cases. Some of the recent offenders really seemed to only identify as problems during the act. No chance to stop them.


Thankfully, I’m not sure if this remains the case, I’ve read NSA salaries cap out around $150k for devs, so they might not have anybody competent enough to do anything with the data. I consider this a valid hypothesis


I don’t know if that salary cap is true, but these agencies have the option of hiring well-paid contractors from private firms.


There is always someone willing to do a job, but that is one where it doesn't matter how much they want to pay me. No thanks, I don't want to know what goes on if I can't talk about it.


There is, but if that person is doing the job and enough people say to them "hey I like your resume please let me double your salary" then the company isn't going to have great retention


Automatically collecting everyone's cell phone data, has software automatically installed in Smart TV's everywhere, monitors your online footprint (emails, social media[of course]).

According to all the documents published so far, the NSA does none of these except monitoring public social media posts.


You're right, although anecdotally speaking... every time I've turned on my Samsung TV for the past 10 months, it lists the USB port as the most recently used source on my TV. It never did this before.

That is extra strange since I've never used the USB port on my TV, and the TV has been installed rather high on a wall behind my desk since the day it arrived so it would be nearly impossible for my wife or small children to get at the USB port, let alone plug in a valid source... unless it was being used as an exploit by some software in the TV.

I'm not suggesting that is what is happening, however, it is suspicious as hell.


>According to all the documents published so far, the NSA does none of these except monitoring public social media posts.

From the first paragraph of the article linked here:

>The U.S. National Security Agency collected 534 million records of phone calls and text messages of Americans last year, more than triple gathered in 2016, a U.S. intelligence agency report released on Friday said.


That doesn't support any of GGP's statements now, does it? They merely collected the call times and numbers of a tiny fraction of the "billions" of calls placed per day in the US.


500M in all of 2017? Oh, come on!

We found out that Verizon -- just Verizon -- was handing over "phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily" in June 2013.

500M might be an official number that they're willing to release but (without any way to prove it, obviously) I'm certain that the REAL number is much, much higher.

For an organization who has vowed to "collect it all", it just doesn't seem likely that the NSA voluntarily went from "an estimated billions of records collected per day" to just 500M per year.

Or perhaps it's just 500M according to their own made up definition of "collect"?


>Or perhaps it's just 500M according to their own made up definition of "collect"?

This sounds like it's much closer to the truth. "It's not a collection until it comes up as a result in a search" would be about on par with the nonsense the NSA was claiming about what was considered searching data on American Citizens.


So we just need an analyst to search for “lol” or “:-)” and the number goes to 50 billion.


The NSA only counts data as collected once it was accessed by a human in a query... but they do have all the data.


Indeed. That was Clapper's cover for his perjury in front of Congress: "collected" records are labeled as such only after they are "returned as part of queries" -- which is not what people usually think "collected" means. Any normal person would consider all records potentially subject to queries have already been "collected" for that end, and should be counted as such.


If I started "collecting" stolen credit card numbers as a hobby, but not using them, did I collect any numbers? What if I only put them in a database and never run a select? I doubt that defense would hold up. I hate word games.


Welcome to newspeak.


From the article:

> The 2017 call records tally remained far less than an estimated billions of records collected per day under the NSA’s old bulk surveillance system, which was exposed by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.


Oh I read it. I just don't believe it.

After learning of their liberal use of the English language and how they have "re-defined" common words to suit their agenda, I believe very little of anything they say.


They've redefined nothing. See section 2 of https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Minimization%20Procedure.... All the definitions seem reasonable.

The definitions you're thinking of came from conspiracy theory blogs in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks, which proliferated because the numbers didn't add up when taken together with Greenwald's mistaken assertion that PRISM is a full-take program.


They could easily make it be an honest statement by simply having a different three-letter organization collecting the rest.


is that the organization that we don't know exist yet? a 2 letter name might work better... DB


Not sure if you're trying to reference something with suggestion of DB ?


Maybe it's 500M uniques?


500M calls. The number of unique phones is less.

The real question is what fraction of these calls had both parties inside the US. That's a different category than when one party is external/foreign — that's domestic espionage, which is a violation of law unless pre-authorized by the FISA court. THAT's the number I'd most like to know.


500 Million quries.


[flagged]


is this spam?


The NSA plays the "Kevin Bacon" game, where selectors target an individual, their friends, friends of friends (2 degrees of separation out, iirc.)

I suspect they're performing a full-take of the call contents as well, just not through the PINWALE/MARINA ingestion system. It's likely commingled with bulk traffic snarfed up by beam splitters at the telcos' NOCs, and separated on-demand from the TEMPORA buffer.

At this point, I'm jaded enough to domestic mass-surveillance, I just want my money's worth. Russia successfully implanted DarkEnergy on domestic SCADA, nation-wide. Do we have that capability abroad? Prioritize foreign retailiatory offense, please!

(hi @NSA if this shows up in XKS!)


> I suspect they're performing a full-take of the call contents as well, just not through the PINWALE/MARINA ingestion system.

What is the basis for this suspicion? If it were true, that's what people would have reported on from Snowden's millions of leaked documents instead of simply metadata (call data records).


"In the telcos, singlemode fiber is used to connect long distance switches, central offices and SLCs (subscriber loop carriers, small switches in pedestals in subdivisions or office parks or in the basement of a larger building). Practically every telco's network is now fiber optics except the connection to the home." [1]

Specifically, AT&T has transitioned its PSTN backbone fully to SIP, which is a form of VoIP: "AT&T will exchange SIP traffic at the access border controller layer (i.e. SBCs, more specifically Acme Packet SBCs) via IP handoff at a few "strategic locations," directly peering with a select number of Tier 1 carriers. AT&T will also provide transit and direct termination through its network and support all roaming traffic to interwork with other wireless carriers" [2]

So both voice and data are going over the same fiber lines, since it's all IP (which reduces costs considerably.) We know that Room 641A was one of many QUANTUM locations, where traffic was beam-split. [3]

It seems from [4], that we have confirmation that TURMOIL and INCENSER snarf up PSTN as well as IP. Since all of that was working well before 2010, and we know TEMPORA acts as a buffer for high-volume stuff (fed by the Narus machines), and voice is IP now because of SIP, I feel reasonably confident it's getting stored at some duration at the exchanges.

1. https://www.lanshack.com/fiber-optic-tutorial-network.aspx

2. http://sip-trunking.tmcnet.com/topics/enterprise-voip/articl...

3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A

4. https://electrospaces.blogspot.com/2014/11/incenser-or-how-n...


According to Snowden's documents, the NSA isn't collecting all data out of Room 641A, just data sent to or from specific foreign targets with surveillance court orders, contradicting your claim.


Could you provide a source for your claim? You can read about TEMPORA here [1], which contradicts you:

"We keep the full sessions for 3 working days and the metadata for 30."

The filtering you're talking about would happen in POKERFACE, which applies after intake into TEMPORA. Basically:

Backhaul -> TEMPORA (3 day buffer) -> POKERFACE (scrubs data by policy such as US citizen status) -> XKeyscore

1. http://www.spiegel.de/media/media-34103.pdf


TEMPORA is a GCHQ system, not an NSA system, and has nothing to do with Room 641A. Additionally, it cannot record all US phone conversations as you claimed because domestic phone calls do not leave the US.


Fair point, though we did get GCHQ's data.

Room 641A was part of the WINDSTOP programs run by SSO, comprised of MUSCULAR, INCENSER and DS-300. According to [1], the NSA mass-collects VoIP partly through XKEYSCORE, FALLOUT and TURMOIL (harvested from INCENSER/DS-300/others), and PSTN through LOPERS (though it's unclear if LOPERS ingests domestic (INCENSER) data or just Europe<->Asia (DANCINGOASIS) data.)

Incidentally, it's pretty impressive how much scale they handle. The DANCINGOASIS cable transfers 25Pb per day, while 3-6Pb were analyzed. And that's on a totally black op (no corporate knowledge) tap! Seriously cool.

1. https://electrospaces.blogspot.com/2014/05/nsas-largest-cabl...


> Fair point, though we did get GCHQ's data.

No, the US gets some of GCHQ's intelligence reports, not all of GCHQ'S data.

> According to [1], the NSA mass-collects VoIP partly through XKEYSCORE, FALLOUT and TURMOIL (harvested from INCENSER/DS-300/others), and PSTN through LOPERS (though it's unclear if LOPERS ingests domestic (INCENSER) data or just Europe<->Asia (DANCINGOASIS) data.)

Do you even read your own sources? INCENSER (https://electrospaces.blogspot.com/2014/11/incenser-or-how-n...) designates a cable that links Europe and Asia. None of the collection points you listed are domestic, and none of them collect comtents, only metadata. In Snowden's documents, the only contents that were collected were in regions hostile to the United States.

Read https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Minimization%20Procedure... for an executive summary of NSA data collection, which all of Snowden's documents agree with, once you understand what they say.


Here's a decent review. The sad that as time passes, the more normal this will seem to everybody.

https://www.propublica.org/article/nsa-data-collection-faq


Another good point: the NSA is allowed to keep encrypted data indefinitely, warrantlessly. Decryptions don't count as data - they're analysis of legally-stored encrypted info.

The A5/1 cipher has been totally pwned, without even needing a crib, but it's still used for voice traffic. The NSA is allowed to store and decrypt all of this, AFAICT, through this loophole.


This is both old (they no longer get all metadata, just the 500 million requested as described in today's article) and contradicts GGP's claim.


I guess we'll just have to wait for another whistleblower to confirm they are lying about it again. At least it isn't "wittingly."


Except they never lied about that according to Snowden's documents. They never recorded all domestic phone calls.



1. James Clapper is not in the NSA.

2. The NSA never recorded all domestic phone calls, and there is no evidence that they ever did, so neither Clapper nor the NSA lied about that.


> 1. James Clapper is not in the NSA.

It's true that James Clapper was not employed by the NSA at the time the question was asked. Are you suggesting that therefore he does not know the answer? If he does not know the answer then why did he answer the question?

> 2. The NSA never recorded all domestic phone calls, and there is no evidence that they ever did, so neither Clapper nor the NSA lied about that.

The question posed in the linked video clip is "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?".


> Are you suggesting that therefore he does not know the answer?

No, I'm asserting that any statements by Clapper can't show the NSA lying about anything any more than statements by Trump can show the NSA lying about anything because neither is part of the NSA.

> The question posed in the linked video clip is "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?".

And the video is irrelevant to the discussion both due to the point above and due to the discussion being about recording content of conversations, as I said in GGP.


Clapper was Director of National Intelligence, head of all American intelligence agencies. He may not have been in the NSA, but he definitely had the responsibility of oversight.


So does Trump, who lies more often and more egregiously. That doesn't change the fact that the NSA did not lie about its data collection practices.


I've been citing a lot of sources here. Can you clearly cite your assertion?

Over the past few weeks and several threads, you've consistently asserted that NSA/CIA don't bulk-collect Americans' data, with no citing proof. Did you fill out an SF-86 or something?


None of your sources support your claims. I've been pointing to the exact same sources.

I do not work for the US government any more than you work for the Kremlin. Obama called for a "thoughtful fact based debate" over government data collection policies in the wake of the Snowden leaks. By spreading nonsense, you are preventing that debate from occurring.


I guess that means no citations.


How about TFA for a citation? If you had read it, you would have known that the article you linked is no longer relevant.

How about the article you linked for a citation? If you had read the article you posted, you would have known that it doesn't support your full-take of content claim.

Exactly the same as with GGP, my citations are the articles that you and he posted.


IIRC it's 3 Kevin Bacons (degree of seperation), so almost everybody.

See the research on Six Degrees...


Clapper committed perjury and walked away a free man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=796gZxR9vVk



He probably celebrated heavy on March 18. That's when statue of limitation expired.

https://www.rt.com/usa/421041-clapper-perjury-congress-five-...

What a dirtbag.


If it's collecting this much stuff why not be useful and stop all these annoying phone scammers!


I don't think they have the authority to stop a private company's service (verizon, etc.). Also, they don't monitor the calls themselves, so it would be impossible to tell if it was a scammer until someone reported it, and blacklisting one-by-one will never be effective since they can just change the number.


Yeah, I'm sure it's impossible to guess who's a scammed based on meta-data... /s


Maybe that’s where the spike came from


"In a statement, Timothy Barrett, a spokesman at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the annual report, said the government “has not altered the manner in which it uses its authority to obtain call detail records.” "

This is the issue, this is all legal.


Does "collected" mean that these calls have been searched for criminal or terrorist activity? I recall that Clapper --or someone like him-- was using that distinction in order to claim that the NSA wasn't "collecting" the phone calls of US citizens.

edit: ah yes, it was Clapper; to Congress, in 2013. [1]

[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-11-17/lawmakers-re...


No, it means this is the number of records they got from the telecoms.


Actually, it means these records have been returned as part of queries.

We know the NSA collects closer to trillions of domestic records (from phone calls to text messages and emails) and brazenly lies about it to Congress.


> We know the NSA collects closer to trillions of domestic records (from phone calls to text messages and emails) and brazenly lies about it to Congress.

We know all of that to be false, according to Snowden's documents.


In the hunt for terrorist needles in the Internet haystack, the NSA is furiously piling on more hay.


Is there a chance, nay, is there not certainty, that some individual or group of persons in the NSA could or does, by selectively monitoring, personally gain tremendous wealth or influence? E.g., if I were an NSA employee and used my access to follow the phone calls of, say, the officers of Goldman-Sachs? What information, of financial value, could I possibly gain? What possibilities for gain await a a rogue organized group of such employees?


It is called Information Asymmetry[0] in Contract Theory.

NSA, KGB, FBI, Google, Facebook, any institution with access to large-scale privileged information– you name it, has at least one case to support the use of this advantage.

Perhaps Nixon and Hoover case is the most obvious one.[0]

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

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/1991/06/05/us/tape-shows-nixon-feare...


If you tried that, you would get a screen informing you that searching US Persons is forbidden. As it sounds intentional in your scenario, you would then be fired and be subject to further action.


willstrafach says: "if you tried that, you would get a screen informing you that searching US Persons is forbidden. As it sounds intentional in your scenario, you would then be fired and be subject to further action."

Nonsense!

Firstly if the bad guys had the assistance of a systems administrator, they could modify privilege levels to suit their needs. No warnings would be issued and no forbidden access would be noted or logged.

But more importantly, you speak as if there were only one way to "selectively monitor" or that, to monitor, one must use the programmed pathways into a system! But any decent system has realtime monitoring software, database patching tools and editors, realtime modification tools and in-house ad-hoc reporting software that is neither logged nor monitored. Furthermore, all systems have backups and backups can be stolen or copied. The backed up data can be restored and examined on systems other than the one from which it was collected.

Snowden accessed "secure" data w/o timely detection. IIRC he also claimed that, had he the desire, he could have listened in on White House phone conversations w/o detection.

This is all w/o the addition of rogue software/hardware or outside help. Were that available, the possible range of techniques would be much greater. You lack imagination.


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