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Three NSA Whistleblowers Back EFF's Lawsuit Over Government Spying Program (eff.org)
208 points by d0ne on July 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments



Rule of thumb. If ever the government claims state secrets, they are playing their, "We did something wrong, and would like to get out of jail free" card.

I know of a number of cases where state secrets was claimed, then later it was proven that there was no actual state secret proven. (Including the very first case where state secrets were used as a defense in a court room.) I know of no cases where state secrets were claimed, and then there turned out to be an actual state secret at issue.


This is such a powerful and often-(ab)used argument that it genuinely horrifies me. It seems these days just about anything the U.S. government does can be justified under a binding legal ruling of "top secret, we can't hear this in our courts. But trust us, it's cool."

Call me paranoid, but this is the reason I'm frightened of setting foot on U.S. soil.


You aren't paranoid. I packed up and left, leaving family, friends, job, and girlfriend all behind four years ago for this very reason.

It sucks. A lot. (And I still visit, even.)


Where do you live that's better?


Berlin.

Germany has a real economy, the Germans believe in good education (or at least skilled vocational training), there are tons of hackers, a great nightlife, and the rule of law.

A big one for me was that the cops here ignore people who aren't criminals. Coming from the USA it's like a breath of fresh air.


I think that, paradoxically, Hitler and the nazis helped make Germans an honest and decent people that care greatly about the law and taking care of minorities.

They've experienced what can happen if you don't.


Almost everything Hitler did was legal under German law. He just changed the laws first.

There is a section on the Wikipedia page about the USA PATRIOT Act that illustrates the parallels with the Reichstagsbrandverordnung (Reichstag Fire Decree).

The first section reads (translated):

"Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed."

Sound familiar?


The real economy part is absurd. America has a very real economy. It's the world's largest manufacturer (yes, larger than China).

There are more people working REAL jobs in America than the total number of people in Germany.

And you just insulted all of them.


He might be talking about one balanced in favour of manufacturing rather than banking & financial services, but that's just a guess.


Are there really tons of hackers (in the way SV or even Silicon Roundabout understands it) remember a lot of the cream of engineering grads and technicians all want to work at Audi et all and get an office with "Doktor" on the brass plate

And this is from experience in having to work with german parent companies on behalf of their uk subsidiaries on web/internet work.

Makes working with France Telecom in Agust seem childs play


You make it sound pretty good, but how does an American get a visa there?


hmm a country where the local government FFS has its own "secret police" and you have to register with the police when you move house.

You have heard of the recent fiasco where one of the local secret police forces manged to miss (for several years) a neo nazi group under its nose who killed several people form ethic minorities finally committing suicide


>you have to register with the police when you move house.

First of all, this is done by the government, not the police. Second of all, this happens in the US as well. It's just done passively, when you file your taxes instead of actively.


You have to register your SSN when you get your driver's license. Same thing, as your residence is on form 1040.

At least here the police are missing stuff. In the USA they just kill/beat/arrest unarmed folks.


I understand your sentiment, and realize that several govt organizations are likely operating illegally. But I find that as a somewhat poor rationale for moving to a different country. If anything, it would be even more possible/legal for the NSA to keep track of your internettings/going abouts if you are outside the country. I'm sure they have the ability to track you just as well overseas too.


And then they will lobby to pass a law to make everything illegal they've done over the past 5-10 years legal, and of course retroactively.


This is what happened. It was called the Protect America Act.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protect_America_Act_of_2007


Case in point: FISA. :-(



I know of no cases where state secrets were claimed, and then there turned out to be an actual state secret at issue.

Part of the reason for this is that the US, unlike the UK, does not have state secrets law, so there is no actual legal definition of a state secret in the US. It's just a couple of words lawyers mumble in hopes that a judge will defer to their desires not to confront some fact.


I wish the EFF good luck with this case. They are certainly going to need it! The change in US government attitudes regarding spying on its own citizens (at least publicly) during the last 10 years is chilling to say the least.


Don't 'wish'. Donate: https://supporters.eff.org/donate


Sorry, my response to the problem was to leave the US. But I still wish those of you living there (including all my family) good luck!


I sincerely commend the EFF for taking a stand to slow down the descent along the slippery slope of a 24x7x365 survelied society.

At this point however, it is probably a safe assumption: No matter what the NSA/NRO/CIA/DOJ or anyone else says, the US gov. in one form or another is monitoring every single Phone call, E-mail, Chat, Skype and any other form of electronic communication into and out of the USA. Also the location data that your cell phone leaks pretty much makes physical surveillance superfluous.

The Technology has been too cheaply available and the temptation too great for the truth to be anything else.

What the EFF should also be doing is launching a campaign to make end-to-end encryption the default everywhere. Every e-mail you write /Chat session/Skype session should be encrypted in transport for every one. Make the cost of doing this mass-surveillance so expensive that the Govt is forced to prioritize on the actual targets.


You presume that it's still expensive for the government to break AES.


I think that's a reasonable assumption. But even if it is wrong and the NSA has a shortcut.... And even if that shortcut affects all implementations of all cyphers....

1) expensive is still relative. Even if there is a short cut it may be only feasible to decrypt a small part of encrypted communications. So they may have to prioritize.

2) If everything is encrypted, they may still have to start somewhere.

so yeah, it's not a bad assumption even if it is wrong.

Speaking of which, https works with HN, not that this likely matters much.


What's the actual alternative to assuming that some kind of crypto is feasible ? Physics informs philosophy.


If they think this is necessary, then at the very least the legislative branch of government should sign this into law - just doing it is not how a democratic government is supposed to work.


Actually it's exactly how "democracy" is supposed to work - giving the masses the illusion of control over the autonomous government. If the public makes a stink, escalate to getting the approval of congress. If the public still complains, fall back on the rules and tell them they need to vote in different "representatives". Most likely somewhere during this multi-year process, the momentum of the outrage is lost and the issue goes away. And in the rare case that the public won't let go of a particular issue, multiple new corruptions have sprung up in the meantime.


I hope that this case brings new facts to lights. This stuff is too scary to be kept a secret.


This is the case of "We did something illegal, but it was really effective in treating X, so we should make it legal now."


If they manage to get the NSA off the backbones and repeal PATRIOT so the feds can't review my entire digital life in realtime with no warrant, I will move back to the USA.

(But of course not NYC where you are subject to illegal search just riding the subway.)

I ain't holdin' my breath. :(


If you're still talking to people in USA, especially through Skype, your conversations are probably already monitored [1]. I think NSA already has a (secret, illegal) mandate to monitor all American communications with any foreigners.

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/12/nsa_offers_billions_...

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9218002/Microsoft_see...


Oh, I know. :(

It sucks because I don't have any good ways of securely communicating with voice and/or video to people on mobile in the US. PGP, OTR, SSL, etc work well, but there aren't any good PGP or OTR clients for iPhone AFAIK.

I mostly just censor myself until I can speak to people in person, or communicate only unimportant things.


Throw your iPhone away as well.

Apple are bound by the PATRIOT act.


To what end? Location services? My residential address is on my form 1040. They already know. :)


Lame. You copy and paste between Hacker News and your twitter ;)




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