Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Whistleblower Binney says the NSA has dossiers on nearly every US citizen (networkworld.com)
340 points by gasull on July 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 223 comments

Switzerland had a huge surveillance scandal during the 80's. It was named "Fichenskandal" or in English, "Secret files scandal".

More than 700'000 people or organizations were targeted, usually people on the left: unions, feminists, environmentalists etc.

A friend of my father runs an independent book store and he requested his files after the scandal was made public. He received a stack of paper over 10 inches high. The government pretty much had every part of his life on file. From mundane stuff to him participating in demonstrations (protesting for women's suffrage * , environmental issues). This is a guy who was never arrested in his life. Yet they had a record of pretty much everything.

This was in a time with limited technological capabilities.

In the 70's, the police probably took photographs of public gatherings and sent them to a special group which in turn had to identify the participants with the help of a magnifying glass and reference files.

Nowadays with have facial recognition techniques, cameras everywhere. Yes, this is some Public Enemy No. 1 shit, but it's a good time to be paranoid.

You can be sure that every form of electronic communication is in some form or another under surveillance by governments around the globe.

* Switzerland finally allowed women to vote in... drum roll... 1971.

I wanted to work for Cyc Corp. several years ago. They have an interesting software and before Watson, maybe the closest thing to AI that there is out there. IT took me some time to understand why it was so hard to be a candidate as a non-US citizen : it was later disclosed that they were participants in the Total Information Awareness project. Its purported goal was to have a ten-pages file on every human on the planet. It is not clear that it has been discontinued.

Is there a good reason for any country to have spies at all, especially for internal matters?

I feel that spying on other countries (let alone on own citizens) shouldn't exist at all, but it has become accepted by societies as something that the Governments just have to do, to "make their job easier", just like even FBI said recently that they'd prefer if they didn't need to get warrants, because it would make their job easier. Having a democracy and rights for people must be really tough on authorities, or at least that's how they sound.

I'm curious why you think international spying is unnecessary. Until countries cease to compete for limited resources, it seems to me like an inevitability.

This seems rather mercantilist. There are many island nations with little natural resources and little capacity for offensive intelligence gathering which are quite wealthy through trade alone.

I think here you're assuming wealth was the limited resource referred to, were it might be other things.

I can't think of something they can justifiably compete over, except security, in which case it's only jusitifable when the other party is initiating threats.

How about global clout?

That does not seem like a justifiable thing to compete over, to me.

Why should it be considered morally acceptable by those who vote? When have we had the opportunity to vote on it?

I understood mtgx's question to be based on practical grounds, not moral ones. But in answer to your question, I think of espionage as something akin to the military. Perhaps in an ideal world neither would be necessary, but unfortunately the world is not a utopia.

Thus, from a realistic standpoint, spying is sort of like doing market research for a startup. It allows you to make predictive decisions instead of reactive ones.

I agree with international spying. If the other countries don't allow you that information, you must spy to get that information. A scenario of nations having bad or inaccurate information about other countries, their status and their intentions can make the world a more dangerous place.

However domestic spying seems kind of silly. You should just be able to collect the information you need voluntarily through census and and surveys, without resorting to spying. If they refuse to provide the information, get a warrant.

I think of espionage as something akin to the military.

As far as I am concerned, the two are not simply akin but deeply intertwined. Espionage can greatly improve the effectiveness of your military.

de·moc·ra·cy /diˈmäkrəsē/ Noun:

1. A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

2. A state governed in such a way.

3. The cake is a lie.

The corporate/bureaucratic symbiosis means that spying on your citizens is seen as necessary to control the populace.

Then add in "terrorism", the war on drugs and child pornography (think of the children!) as excuses for these actions and the game is won.

I remember going to a demo against the fiches. I had a sign with a fish on it. The fish was crossed out. I was five.

But, seriously: the impulse to keep files on "internal enemies" is strong in any state, but it's come to the fore in a scary way in the last decade.

"Switzerland finally allowed women to vote in... drum roll... 1971." the last canton to allow women to vote was forced to do it as late as 1990 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appenzell_Innerrhoden

If this is true doesn't it mean that Bin Laden won the war on terror?

Every time I go to the airport I think this. Those full body scanners? Thanks to Bin Laden, now you practically get strip searched for every flight. You have to take off your shoes. You cannot take drinks on a plane.

You then have everyone on edge no matter where you go. You and a friend play CounterStrike. You get on the bus and start talking about good locations to plant the bomb. You will probably be wrestled to the floor by some over-zealous commuter.

It doesn't surprise me if this is true. The US attitude to privacy and civil rights have been becoming more like China's every year since 2001.

Muslim here.

I never understood both sides and their actions. I mean I find both Islamic fundamentalism and American actions all round globe both equally dumb.

I don't think OBL ever had it as an explicit aim to pull down US militarily or culturally transform US into a Islamic state. That is impossible, and I assume somebody like him already understood that. I guess his aim was to drag US into a war and then reduce them to a state USSR, now russia was in 1990 post Afghanistan war. Long wars benefit nobody. They are a huge drain on man power, economy and morale of a nation. Its actually surprising that US fell for it. I was expecting more of a Intelligence based response where the CIA would hunt him down and kill him, instead of wasting trillions dollars.

On the other hand. Afghans seem to be very stubborn people. They don't give up easily no matter how shitty state they are in. Its just in their blood and culture to not accept foreign occupation over them. Even the British that had the entire Indian subcontinent under them couldn't conquer them. In the recent history alone, every body knows what has happened of USSR after going there. So no matter how bad the Taliban is, they still consider them as their own country men compared to Americans who actually released them from their bondage.

As a moderate muslim, I feel bad every time I'm pulled up for an ideology which I have nothing to do with. I've been a subject of religious discrimination many times since 911. I've been asked to come for extra rounds for job interviews, pulled up separately and checked at building security points, had troubles to open bank accounts, asked to delay visa filing for visiting abroad etc innumerable number of times. I feel having an arabicized name a huge liability to carry, a kind of burden for which you have to pay no matter even if you have nothing to do with their ideology.

On the other hand I see so much turmoil in the west, due to the war ordinary people like me having to pay for no mistake of theirs. Wars, economics crisis etc.

When I look at all this, I can't help but wonder that perpetrators of these crimes actually won.

Its actually surprising that US fell for it.

The US didn't fall for anything - 9/11 was an opportunity to advance military goals in the Middle East. We planned to invade Afghanistan before the event[1]. About three weeks afterward this plan was expanded to include seven countries in ten years ("Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran")[2]. Some of those were accomplished by the "Arab Spring", but the State Department wasn't uninvolved in that and asked twitter to reschedule maintenance so that it would be "an effective communications tool" during the 2009 Iranian election[3].

The only confusing actor is Bin Laden, who attacked a superpower that had already expressed a desire to invade his people.

[1 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1550366.stm]

[2 http://www.salon.com/2007/10/12/wesley_clark/]

[3 http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/16/us-iran-election-t...]

I agree for the most part, with a minor disagreement on the following statement:

>The only confusing actor is Bin Laden, who attacked a superpower that had already expressed a desire to invade his people.

The superpower was already occupying much of his people through puppet dictators; the Saudi, Egyptian, Yemeni, Bahraini, Jordanian and Lebanese for example. Israel was created out as a "Jewish state" on 78% of Palestine while the population of Palestine was still only 34% Jewish after mass-migration campaign of the 1900s (1905 Jewish population of Palestine was 3%) but their bombings on Palestinian villagers successfully cleansed some 80% of the native population. The refugees still aren't allowed to return while any Jew (born Jewish or converted) can instantly migrate to Palestine and get a US-subsidized home in a Jewish only settlement.

The US diplomatic, monetary and military support for this 60+ year old occupation and denial of injustice was a major motivation for Osama.

Every year the US and Israel vote against this UNGA resolution while the rest of the whole world votes for a peaceful settlement (i.e. normalization of relations and recognition of Israel in return for a Palestinian state on 22% of original Palestine and a symbolic return of some refugees, some compensation for the rest of the refugees, which would give Israel the chance to preserve a Jewish majority rather than equal rights for all). https://www.google.com/search?q=peaceful+settlement+of+the+q...



26 January 2012


"The Assembly also adopted by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 7 against ( Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 3 abstentions ( Cameroon, Canada, Tonga) (Annex IV), the resolution on the “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”."


Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine A/64/L.23 23 November 2009





Negative votes cast by… 2005


Israel, United States , Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau



Israel, United States , Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau



Israel, United States , Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau

I understand his impetus, but not his actions. It would be foolish to expect his actions to promote the Islamist cause, and in hindsight they are the worst possible actions one could take to advance his cause. However, given his connections to western intelligence agencies I don't think that he was acting on the behalf of Islam.

Indeed, killing civilians is not an "Islamist" act, Islam prohibits the killing of non-combatants even during war, 9/11 was not even an official war. It didn't help the Palestinian cause nor did it help the Afghans or Iraqis who got killed after that (even though no Afghans nor Iraqis had anything to do with 9/11).

>I don't think that he was acting on the behalf of Islam.

His acts were as much about Islam as Vietnam war or any American President's mass-murders were about Christianity. The US was supporting Osama and buddies to kill USSR by proxy. The US was also supporting Iraq's Saddam in 1980s to get rid of Iranian regime (after 1979 when Iranians toppled the 1953 US-UK-installed puppet King), the US continues to support Saudi misogynists who present their fanatic views as Islamist, Obama supported Islamists in Libya (even supported some Al-CIAda terrorists who were on US terror list) and now they are supporting the so-called Islamists in Syria.

Its actually surprising that US fell for it.

Yep. Bush would have been a hero if he hadn't fallen for it. Compassionate conservatism, expressed in Medicare Part C. Tax cuts combined with modest military expansion would have held the deficit in check.

But remember the pundits saying, "this one calles for boots on the ground"? Even Jon Stewart showed a clip of Bush or someone making a compassionate statement, and commented "you're killing my blood lust." And he meant it!

I don't guess Clinton wouldn't have fallen for it -- he didn't during all of OBL's significant attacks in the 90's.

What the hell are you talking about man? They bombed the crap out of Iraq during Clinton's term.. 93, 96, 98 And almost continuously from 99-01.

Richard Clark (who had worked for Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton) had the right idea of small targeted attacks rather than a widespread military invasion. He even warned the WH about al Qaeda months prior to 9/11, but he got demoted and vilified under Bush's administration and supporters.

I think the invasion of Afghanistan was inevitable, but not Iraq. Afghanistan was a big mistake (even Rthe USSR, with a land border, couldnt handle it) but Iraq was worse and bizarre.

>I think the invasion of Afghanistan was inevitable

Inevitable as in "in response to 9/11"? I don't think so, it was planned months, if not years before September 2001. [edit, corrected typo to 2001]


US planned war in Afghanistan long before September 11 By Patrick Martin 20 November 2001


Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK US 'planned attack on Taleban'

A former Pakistani diplomat has told the BBC that the US was planning military action against Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban even before last week's attacks.

Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, was told by senior American officials in mid-July that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26410.htm U.S. government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and recently posted on the website of the George Washington University National Security Archive shed some additional light on talks with the Taliban prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, including with regard to the repeated Taliban offers to hand over Osama bin Laden, and the role of Pakistan before and after the attacks.[1] ... It is already known that the U.S. had demanded in secret discussions with the Taliban that bin Laden be handed over for more than three years prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The talks continued “until just days before” the attacks, according to a Washington Post report the month following the attacks. But a compromise solution such as the above that would offer the Taliban a face-saving way out of the impasse was never seriously considered. Instead, “State Department officials refused to soften their demand that bin Laden face trial in the U.S. justice system.”


U.S. Rejects New Taliban Offer Oct. 1 [2001]

The United States today rejected yet another offer by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial in a third country if the U.S. presents evidence against bin Laden and stops air attacks. ... "There's no need to discuss it," Bush said. "We know he's guilty. Just turn him over. … There's nothing to negotiate about. They're harboring a terrorist and they need to turn him over."

Couldn't Osama claim that he knew there were criminals in those buildings that he attacked and that there is nothing to negotiate about?

This is largely hindsight bias--because we did go to war with Afghanistan in response to 9/11, you look back at planning prior to 9/11 and perceive it as proof that war with Afghanistan was inevitable.

Prior planning is not proof of future action. For instance the U.S. spent decades planning in great detail how to go to war with the USSR, but we never did it.

Put another way--every war-like situation the U.S. has ever entered was pre-planned to some extent. But we also planned for a great many wars that never happened.

I'm not arguing justice or decency. Simply that in response to the 9/11 attack the US was going to do something, and Afghanistan was that something. I think in pure pragmatic terms it was a stupid something.

From his own point of view. Osama had declared war on the US and picked what he considered to be strategic targets. In purely military terms I think he picked his targets very well.

Clinton would have done the same. 9/11 was much different than the attacks in the 90s.

Clinton would have attacked Afghanistan, sure. But would he have stayed in Afghanistan and/or attacked Iraq? Those are the two items that have cost dearly.

There were two big reasons reasons the US went into Iraq. One was Saddam Hussein and WMD. Everyone believed that he had them, and it's a matter of fact that he had used them in the past. Though they were never found, it's not illogical to believe that he was simply able to move them elsewhere or destroy them before they were discovered. And taking out his regime would remove a large destabilizing factor in that part of the world (in theory anyway).

The other reason was to create a local distraction. To keep "the terrorists" occupied, their violence and attacks confined to that part of the world, and not in the US. In that sense, they "fell for it" too.

If the public need for "revenge" had been satisfied by attacking Afghanistan, I think Clinton would have stopped there. He was not a risk-taker, and he was totally driven by polls.

This was the narrative toed by the Bush administration and Fox News, but many Americans and the international community by and large did not agree.

I think that's largely a case of selective memory. People often have a rosy memory of what they believed.

Bush said he had clear evidence of WMD's in Iraq, that he showed this to Blair and Blair confirmed. I think it would be fair to say that most people would agree that Hussein wanted WMD's.

So I think it's fair to think that most Americans and most in the international community believed that Iraq had WMD's. The argument was mostly over whether an invasion was an appropriate response.

It was only "crazies" who believed both that Bush lied and that he was able to either snooker Blair or convince him to join in the lie.

Sometimes the crazies are right, though.

I think the selective memory comes in when people claim that there weren't a huge number of people that thought and proclaimed loudly that the evidence was bunk at the time. It's the same type of historical retcon that happens when people say that no one could see the housing bubble coming, and that everyone during slavery/segregation thought black people were inferior, so no one should be judged terrible for it because they were "of their time."

The television was always sure that the war was necessary, that Powell's speech was coherent, and that the government always knows best because it has access to secret sources that it can't reveal and our best interests at heart. Of course, the television is also in the arms business.

Um... I was on anti Iraq war demos when I was 18, because it was obvious to me Saddam Hussein had no WMDs. And I was _not_ alone in this assumption:

"In London, at least 750,000 people demonstrated in what police called the city's largest demonstration ever." Source: http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2003/Protest-Iraq-War16feb03...

But I bet that most of those 750,000 believed that Iraq had WMD's of some sort, perhaps very limited in capability.

But they also believed that a war was an inappropriate response to the existence of those WMD's.

No, it was more or less assumed to be bollocks. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Blix#Iraq_disarmament_.27... for an idea of what we were hearing).

*Correction: and those who didn't assume it to be bollocks generally had not made up their mind one way or the other, and wanted the weapons inspectors to be given time to find out. When they were given the bum's rush out of Iraq by the Coalition, that persuaded many of the fence-sitters the skeptics were right.

> So I think it's fair to think that [...] most in the international community believed that Iraq had WMD's.

Hm... "A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven." - Jean Chretien, discussing what type of proof Canadian government wanted before assisting in a war with Iraq (which it ultimately did not)

I remember recently seeing polls that showed a large group of Americans still think (were brainwashed into thinking) that Iraq was largely responsible for 9-11.

Of course a (different?) large majority also believe the Earth is only around 10K years old.

So maybe selective/programmed memory is a more accurate term?

"...Everyone believed that he had them, and it's a matter of fact that he had used them in the past." - I am European and I clearly remember the feeling that the US openly manipulated the rest of the world. But it did not work, at least in Western EU, excluding UK.

Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_invasion_of_Iraq. There are lot of sources for some of the quotes that I will take here:

* "Four countries participated with troops during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 9 April 2003. These were the United States (148,000), United Kingdom (45,000), Australia (2,000), and Poland (194)." - So out of all the EU countries only UK and Poland went to the war.

* "The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada."

* "On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq war, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally."

Saddam was planning to sell his oil only in euros and bush and company could not stand for that.

Really? Are you talking about the Clinton whose sanctions killed half million Iraqi infants from 1991 to 1996 alone and his the secretary of state though the cost of sanctions was worth it? The Clinton who in 1998 knowingly bombed an aspirin factory in Sudan that supplied cheap medicines to millions of Africans?


Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

--60 Minutes (5/12/96)


But a British engineer, Thomas Carnaffin, who worked as a technical manager during the plant's construction between 1992 and 1996, emerged to tell reporters there was nothing secret or heavily guarded about the plant at all, and that he never saw any evidence of the production of an ingredient needed for nerve gas. The group that monitors compliance with the treaty banning chemical weapons announced that Empta did have legitimate commercial purposes in the manufacture of fungicides and antibiotics. The owner of the Shifa factory gave interviews in which he emphatically denied that the plant was used for anything other than pharmaceuticals, and there was never persuasive evidence to contradict his assertion. At the same time, members of the administration retreated from claims they made earlier that Osama bin Laden had what [Defense Secretary William] Cohen called "a financial interest in contributing to this particular facility." It turned out that no direct financial relationship between bin Laden and the plant could be established.

Nobody thinks of Clinton as committing us to the kind of war which drains our resources. Everyone thinks of Bush that way. Remember Bosnia? That was Clinton style.

>I don't think OBL ever had it as an explicit aim to pull down US militarily or culturally transform US into a Islamic state

Actually, if you read his letters, he did state some of these as his goals, but more importantly, his advisor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had this goal in mind, as it was made explicit in "The Shade of the Quran" by Sayyid Qatb who was Zawahiri's mentor in Egypt after they spent time in prison together.

"I was expecting more of a Intelligence based response where the CIA would hunt him down and kill him, instead of wasting trillions dollars."

You have to realize, while the money is wasted from the perspective of tax payers, it's a profit from the perspective of, say, weapons manufacturers (just taking those as an example).

Sure, they "wasted" money, that wasn't theirs, on things that enhanced their control. The time and resources of common people actually do get wasted, but other than that, the whole thing was and continues to be a success. Just don't lump a whole nation, the citizens and the policy makers, together. That can only lead to confusion. War is a racket, so is the war on terror - and if these fundamentalists didn't conveniently exist, others would have to be created.

Responding to update glanch that his profile is probably marked as a spammer and all comments made by him are greyed out (he probably is seeing them ok.

Begin quote:

glanch 35 minutes ago | link [dead]

"Fell for it"?

It's easy to "fall for it" when you are in the position to make a LOT of money for that fall. Cheney. Halliburton. Exclusive government contracts. Sickening.

"The War on Terror"

I wish that people would learn what "The War on Terror" really is.

The United States IS like other countries, including China, now and in the past.

In 2001 there was an event in the United States which was very similar to the 1933 Reichstag fire in Berlin. Very few people can accept that reality, so this comment will probably be buried.

I don't think people even know what a State is. The harsh truth is that the State is not your friend.

People are truly living in a make-believe fairy tale land.

Alternatively, if your post does get buried, it might be because you bald-faced assert that people who don't agree with you lack learning, can't accept reality, don't know what a state is, and are living in a make-believe fairy tale land.

In other words, "if you disagree, you're a big stoopid thicko". You're clearly not up for reasonable discussion, you're just soap-boxing.

Well, that and whining about the possibility of being buried, as some kind of reverse-psychology downmod defence.

You're right, that was an insulting way to put it. Sorry if I offended people unnecessarily.

I have made similar comments before, hoping for some type of discussion, and had my comment buried so that no one would even see it, which makes discussion impossible. So I was actually hoping that my comment would somehow remain visible.

This is really about what people believe, which isn't something you can reason about. You just can't reason someone into having different beliefs.

I think that for people to take on a radically different worldview usually requires some extraordinary circumstances, maybe some luck, and some type of emotional subconscious trigger.

Anyway, if you actually want to discuss it, which likely will go in circles since these are belief systems, what do you think a state is, or what the war on terror is?

Whoa!!! Hold on there a second:

"This is really about what people believe, which isn't something you can reason about."

I would hope that reason and logic take precedent over existing belief. At least among the somewhat rational subset of individuals that tend to lurk in these corners.

I would hope that reason and logic take precedent over existing belief. At least among the somewhat rational subset of individuals that tend to lurk in these corners.

Depends on what you mean by "belief"/ Some things that people refer to as "beliefs" are probably more properly called "principles". And if two people disagree on fundamental principles, it's hard for them to reach any sort of agreement, even if they both use rational reasoning and logic. They're starting from different places, and trying to go to a different place, and overlap may be rare.

Take, for example, somebody with a utilitarian "what matters most is the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people" view, vs. an individualist anarchist whose fundamental principle is "no one should use force or fraud to force someone to do something against their will."

On many issues, those two people just aren't going to be able to agree on much, even if they both use logically sound arguments.

Also, on a different note, there is research out there (I don't have citations at my fingertips, sorry) suggesting that it's pretty rare for people to change deeply held beliefs, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence. It seems to be a facet of human nature that we don't change beliefs very easily.

I think its possible for reason and logic to take precedent over existing belief, but like I said it takes extraordinary circumstances, no matter how rational you are.

That's just the nature of beliefs. They are default terminals in our reality comprehension frameworks. Not easily replaced.

You neglected to add those all important words "wake up sheeple".

You're making extraordinary claims regarding the parallels with the Reichtag fire. I won't ask for extraordinary evidence, just reasonable evidence.

You're making extraordinary claims regarding the parallels with the Reichtag fire. I won't ask for extraordinary evidence, just reasonable evidence.

The part I don't get is why it seems to matter so much whether 9/11 was an unexpected attack or a planned conspiracy, or whether it was anticipated but not orchestrated by the government. The effect is all that matters, and the effect was, in fact, exactly the same as the Reichstag fire... which is itself not universally agreed to have been sanctioned by the Nazis.

> the effect was, in fact, exactly the same as the Reichstag fire...

Really? Exactly the same? Socialists taking over and dismantling democracy?

I'm not a historian, but my understanding is that within the context of the Nazi's rise to power, they were actually a right wing party.

> The part I don't get is why it seems to matter so much

Oh, may be to start doing something to stop such horrible things from happening again. No?

But the acts perpetrated by the US in retaliation for 9/11 were far worse than the act itself. That would still be true regardless of whether or not the tinfoil-hat brigade is right.

It wsnt the NSDAP that set the fire it was a lone wolf (who was unfortuatly sufering from metal health issues).

Some Nazis on the night where terifed that it was the start of a counter revolution from the left - read Alex Kershaws Bio of Hitler.

You're making extraordinary claims regarding the parallels with the Reichtag fire. I won't ask for extraordinary evidence, just reasonable evidence.

Evidence of what, exactly? Comparing 9/11 to the Reichstag fire is an analogy, and - to anyone familiar with the history of both - the analogy seems to fit. No, the outcome here hasn't (yet) been as dramatic as electing a Hitler and establishing a Nazi empire. But the generalized point of "dramatic event seen as attack on country is used to justify expansion of government power, new limitations on civil liberties, etc." seems to clearly be common to both situations, no?

How about 1500+ experts including Registered Architects, Structural Engineers, Scientists, etc who are willing to go on camera and agree that there is no way the official story 9/11 is possible. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBCu_pvhnzQ

OK, I haven't personally checked into every one these guys, but every time I've seen a list like this, when anyone has bothered to actually check credentials on the people listed, it's turned out that they were either specialists in totally unrelated fields with little knowledge of building construction and collapse, or they were "professors" at Devry Institute or University of Phoenix, or they were total quacks, or they specialized in building stick built wood-frame construction single-family homes, which have almost nothing in common with skyscrapers, etc., etc., etc.

OTOH, I was a firefighter for a decade or so in the 1990's, and we spent a lot of time studying building collapse, because collapsing buildings are one of the biggest threats to firefighter health & safety on the fireground... and everything I saw on TV on the morning of 9/11 was 100% consistent with what we were taught about how and why buildings collapse.

So color me extremely skeptical of any of this "9/11 conspiracy" stuff, at least as far as the details about the tower collapse.

Here is a list of all of Architects/Engineers. They each include credentials, license numbers, etc. The list if overwhelming. Graduates (and professors) from top schools in the country are included. http://www2.ae911truth.org/signpetition.php

I am not an expert and I have no idea what actually happened on 9/11. It is up to each of us to form an opinion using the evidence that we have available.

"It is up to each of us to form an opinion using the evidence that we have available."

This sounds noble, but in fact it is the way of madness.

Information does not stand on its own. Without the right background knowledge and experience you cannot assign any level of certainty to a deduction you make from a piece of information.

Just because you are capable of interpreting some of the information and forming reasonable deductions from those pieces does not mean you have an accurate holistic assessment. Your ignorance of the entire picture, while unintentional, will invariably lead you to make incorrect assumptions about the pieces you have not considered or do not understand.

An informed populace is, on the whole, a good thing, but the adage "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" still rings true. You simply have to accept that you will not, in your lifetime, be able to understand absolutely everything that anybody knows (never mind all that there is to know), and that you must cede your opinions about such matters to those who do, and if there is reasonable dissent, then you will have to reserve judgment altogether.

Ceding your opinions to those who "know" requires first identifying them as such. So yeah, it may sound smart to the layman, but that was just a bunch of pointless sophistry and FUD. Moving on...

Pointless sophistry? To which your counterargument is "moving on..."?

Yes, of course you have to identify the "experts" in order to know what their perspective is. In this case, the vast majority of knowledgeable people have settled around the consensus that the "official" explanation (two planes crashed into the WTC) is indeed plausible.

But you ignored my second point entirely: if there is (reasonable) dissent, then you can't just pick one side and say they're correct. In fact, by not knowing the underlying science, you can't even participate in the debate. So there's no point in saying "a bunch of engineers and architects have signed their names to this paper saying it's all a conspiracy" when you have no idea why that's the truth (if it were).

Finally, spreading uncertainty and doubt (what about what I said is spreading fear?) is a good thing where false certainty and false wisdom prevail.

"Yes, of course you have to identify the "experts" in order to know what their perspective is. In this case, the vast majority of knowledgeable people have settled around the consensus that the "official" explanation (two planes crashed into the WTC) is indeed plausible."

See? That's sophistry. Instead of explaining (or rather, thinking about) how one would identify knowledgeable people, you skip to what they are allegedly saying. Also, citation needed.

"In fact, by not knowing the underlying science, you can't even participate in the debate."

But here's the thing, I do, and I do have eyes. So I'm all up for the debate, but it's mostly hand-waving like you just did. 9/11 was stonewalled and swept under the rug. I payed attention back then and nothing new came up since then, you didn't post anything either.

"what about what I said is spreading fear?"

You cannot possibly know everything, better ask the experts. (Who are the experts? Ask the expert experts?)

I am not a qualified (knowledgeable in relevant disciplines, formally tested, fairly competent) engineer. I can:

1. Defer to the majority opinion of qualified engineers, if one exists.

2. Hold no opinion whatsoever.

3. Become a qualified engineer.

I am currently doing (1) because I believe a majority opinion exists and that opinion is "airplanes hit the WTC on 9/11". If that is not true, then I would accept evidence to the contrary (high statistical confidence, random sample, repeated by multiple sources).

I could do (2), which would be perfectly legitimate, but I do not feel it is necessary (I am not aware of any dispute among even a sizable minority--I define sizable here to be at least a third who either disagree or are uncertain).

In order for me to do (3), I would need to take a few years off work and study engineering full time. Even then, I may not have what it takes to become a qualified engineer. Unless you are willing to pay for this option, you can't fault me for it. I am not pretending to be an engineer.

We live in a world of finite possibilities. I am no more demanding that you should understand advanced mathematics (what I know most about) than you should demand I understand civil engineering and materials science. I would expect you to accept a consensus of mathematicians on such matters, just as I've accepted (what I believe to be) the consensus of engineers.

That's what I like to call living in the realities of an imperfect world.

1500 is a meaningless number without knowing how many are on the otherside. If 1500 represents 1% of qualified expert opinion, then it's not very convincing.

> I won't ask for extraordinary evidence, just reasonable evidence.

You may want to start with the part 2 of the very questionable zeitgeist movie, not claiming anything. It may be fruitful to assume that what you believe in is not true (no matter what) and try to look at it with a different angle.

> If this is true doesn't it mean that Bin Laden won the war on terror?

Not exactly: http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/wcpls/this_i_my_friends...

It was pretty quickly concluded that that guy was straight out bullshitting.

The quotes are from OBL's videos that he made and leaked out to mainly Al Jazeera. They were made after all of this made happened, and OBL obviously knew to read the papers and know how to make good propaganda.

Be sceptics, fokes!

Actually those quotes reflect the same sentiments that I recall were expressed in an interview with OBL that either Time or Newsweek published prior to 9/11. I wish I could find a definite pointer to that issue, to check my recollection.

As a rule, most of history's bad actors -- Hitler, Lenin, bin Laden, G. W. Bush (via PNAC), and others -- have telegraphed exactly what they intend to do, years beforehand. Is it really their fault when nobody cares?

Hardly. Bin Laden's aim was to end the "corrupting influence" of the western world on the Islamic world, and to achieve that by getting the US and other western powers to withdraw from military, economic, and cultural interaction with the Islamic world.

As far as what happened within the western world, whether it destroyed itself or continued on in some aspect, he didn't much care (at least in the short-term, in the long-term I'm sure he believed that the whole world would be under the power of a new Caliphate).

What I think it actually means is this:

It has given the United States an excuse to do that they are doing to its people.

The whole system is based upon fear, which is exactly what the so called "terrorists" wanted to do.

The government(s) of this world don't particularly enjoy the thought of its population having to ability to think for themselves. How can they (temporarily) suspend this? Fear.

The U.S (or the West) did not change its politics in the Middle-East and is still not an Islamic country so I don't think Bin Laden won.

Now maybe the U.S citizens lost ...

It's true that the US hasn't changed its Middle-East policies (although I'd argue that's the only way to eradicate Islamic terrorism), but it's important to note that bin Laden did not target the US due to its secularism, but for its foreign policy. He even said that if he wanted to attack a country just for being secular, he'd have attacked Sweden.

I don't think Bin Laden ever wanted to "convert" his "enemies", but rather to destroy or frighten them.

Considering the amount of money thrown into the Afghan pit (which still is a factor affecting the ability of Western countries to sustain periods of economic turmoil, and even to replenish their own arsenals -- see UK defence cuts) and the hysteric approach to public spaces since 2001, I'd say he's been fairly successful in his endeavours.

Which is not that surprising, to be fair. After all, he was originally trained by the CIA, and was backed by Saudi money and the Pakistani military.

Why do you think that the ultimate goal of Bin Laden was to increase surveillance in the US and to annoy travelers at airports?

This and the other comments refer to "battles" in the war on terror, if you will.

I'm not sure it's how OBL planned but it does kind of look like he might have been happy with our trajectory.

Only if you buy into "because they hate our freedom". In reality OBL couldn't care less about US domestic civil rights and liberties. He cared about US presence in the middle east and support for Israel.

The "the terrorists have won"-notion is based on the viewpoint that terrorists are just evil and want "bad things" to happen to their enemies. So whatever unpleasant consequence for you means that the terrorists have won. In reality, terrorists have specific agendas and goals. None of OBL's goals have been achieved, so he didn't win. If anybody won it was the NSA, DHS etc.

If you believe that the US spending isn't infinite, then spending on this helps aid his cause. Eventually, the spending shuts off and the US pulls out, right? We're talking about healthcare spending vs. military spending at some point. Other than shipping lanes and some oil supplies, all other middle east presence seems optional.

This NSA database has to cost a lot and a) they aren't supposed to admit it to the American people and b) they aren't supposed to even use it. Under what circumstances does it become useful?

If US pulls out of Iraq and Afganistan (not even leaving bases), then we are just back to pre-9/11 status. Only if US furthermore pulls fully out of the middle east, including cutting support to Israel, then OBL have achieved a goal. This is very unlikely to happen.

Sure, NSA is expensive, but come on, it is not going to bankrupt the US to the extend they have to give up strategic influence in the middle east!

Again, OBL does not care about US healthcare spending. That something is bad for ordinary americans does not mean that it further the terrorists agenda.

I read most "the terrorists have won" arguments as in-kind rebuttals of the silly "because they hate our freedom" rhetoric used to defend the War on Terror. In other words, I see those arguments like this: if terrorists really are exactly as we're told, and they just hate us and want to hurt us, then they've accomplished that goal.

Bin Laden's aim was to push the US into a war that would bankrupt them. I'd call that mission accomplished.

Importantly, to remove their presence out of the middle east and change their foreign policy. This is not happening though so not accomplished.

According to the document referenced on the al-qaeda wikipedia page (which, you know, may or may not be accurate), their goals stretched all the way out to 2020. They didn't intend for the US to change its policies or willingly withdraw, they intended for it to slowly destroy its own economy to the point of collapsing entirely (like the USSR).

Well, they are backing out of the middle east now that the popularity of the wars has plummeted. (Albeit withdrawing the army and leaving private contractors in place, but they are still slowly withdrawing)

there was an interesting discussion on this on reddit -

"technically Osama bin Laden himself stated that 9/11 was to wake up the american people, to commit an act so harsh towards actual Americans, that they would say "why me" and then research the situation.."

Poster then links to the source quotes from Osama where he explains his motives and reasons. Interesting read, if only for the direct quotes, which are pretty essential for this discussion. Until he linked it, I never realized how strange it was that these discussions happen all the time, without many people actually being able to pull up the source material.

Link to source: http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/wcpls/this_i_my_friends...

Bin Laden said he wanted to bankrupt the US by drawing them into quagmires, I think he won on that front as well.

Incorrect, you can take drinks on the plane. I call them "Freedom Cokes" and "Freedom Water." As long as you buy them on the other side of the TSA, you can take Cokes on planes. Sure, the Cokes probably came from the same truck as your local gas station, but that doesn't matter.

> If this is true doesn't it mean that Bin Laden won the war on terror?

in all fairness, it's not like the American people put up much of a fight ...

About ten years ago, the NSA got direct access to every phone call, text and email sent via AT&T from the west coast to asia. Every. Single. Message. Set up shop next to the servers and just copied all of the data coming across.

I think that by "dossiers" this guy meant "social network information from communication logs". They can start with your number (any number) and see who communicates with it. And then see who communicates with those people, and so on until they find a link to a terrorist or whatever.

If you're doing something that the government doesn't want you to do, use a burner phone. And drive 30 minutes from your home, and use a proxy server to connect to the internet. Any federal agent can get a record of every call you make with a boilerplate warrant. The NSA can dig up the full text of all of your conversations with a tech support ticket. Welcome to 2012.

If it makes you feel any better, facebook has a similar level of information about you and they haven't done much harm with it.

And drive 30 minutes from your home, and use a proxy server to connect to the internet

I'd love to hear some details of what you are proposing here. Because right now it doesn't sound like you know what you are talking about.

If it makes you feel any better, facebook has a similar level of information about you and they haven't done much harm with it.

Um. No they don't.

Your location can be triangulated even if you don't use a cell phone registered to yourself.

Using a VPN, you reduce the chances that your internet use will be traced back to you.

Facebook has a staggering amount of personal information about most of their users. While not necessarily on the same level as personal phone calls, it should still be a concern of anyone that uses social networks.

Try to actually make a case next time you post. Saying "Nuh uh, nuh uh" over and over makes you look like an ass.

Your location can be triangulated even if you don't use a cell phone registered to yourself.

My point exactly.

Using a VPN, you reduce the chances that your internet use will be traced back to you.

That has some truth in it, but isn't what the OP is proposing.

Try to actually make a case next time you post.

Fair enough. It's worth noting that when I wrote this, the OP was the highest voted comment on this thread.

The NSA has complete financial history of everyone who submits tax returns or uses a credit card, logs of every phone call and email message, and it seems likely they have location data from cell phone providers as well. In the UK their agencies track car movements via registration plates, and it would be surprising if the NSA didn't have similar capabilities.

Saying that is the same as what Facebook has is misleading - it makes the NSA seem like they aren't doing anything extraordinary, and it makes Facebook seem like they are doing things they don't have the right to do.

On your second point, here's incomplete list of data that facebook stores about its users. Note that they keep all wall posts, messages, tags, and photos even after the user deletes it from his profile


Of course, they won't have any of your data if you don't have an account, which might be what you're trying to get at.

> Of course, they won't have any of your data if you don't have an account

Facebook can indeed. Your name even without an account can be tagged into photos and status updates by other users. Those photos contain location data. And of course the accounts of other users in the same photo as you contain a wealth of data about their locations and interests and one-degree-further friends, statistically speaking much of which will also apply to you.

Whether Facebook has the ability to automatically aggregate such sparse data into something useful is an open question, but the data does exist. Unless you somehow never let yourself get photographed or mentioned by anybody else who does use Facebook.

Facebook's data is extensive, but nothing at all like what the NSA collects. I responded in detail here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4260143

Of course, they won't have any of your data if you don't have an account, which might be what you're trying to get at.

It wasn't my point, but is valid too.

>facebook has a similar level of information about you and they haven't done much harm with it.

Facebook does not have anywhere near the level of surveillance that the NSA possesses. Please read the article again and do some research on the case. That being said, Facebook does have a lot of information about you. It will remain confidential until CISPA passes, at which point it will be legally beneficial for them to hand over this information to the government.

> If it makes you feel any better, facebook has a similar level of information about you and they haven't done much harm with it.

How do you know?

Because they say so. Ain't that enough?

Let them. I still believe in the justice system enough to be willing to put this sort of thing to a legal test.

Speaking as a youngin' who grew up with the internet (US citizen and just now 24), I've never expected any privacy for as long as I can remember. Of any sort. Only an odd sense of my insignificance providing a minor smokescreen. I accept that if I ever obtained any real notoriety, all would be laid bare in due course.

When I read articles like this, I don't wonder if anyone is surprised by these things anymore. I would hope it's understood. My mind instead turns to these questions:

"Who out there expects some eventual return of privacy?" and "What degree of effort do they expect it to require, relative to what they gain?" Surely at some point it is not worth the time/effort to reform "the system", and personal mitigation strategies are more feasible.

I rarely find myself in the role of doomsayer, but I've never lived in a world where the word "privacy" didn't already have an implicit asterisk following it. So my stance doesn't feel apocalyptic, it just feels like the way the world has always been.

I'm probably about a year and a half older than you, a US citizen, and I don't feel that way at all. The government used to not be spying on me. Then, in the last decade, the chance that it would started to rise. In the last 5 years, it became likely. Now, with this story, if it's true, we know that it's almost certainly spying on me. (And to clarify, I'm not a criminal or anything remotely criminal in any way, shape or form.)

Right now, spying on me.

Now, it may just be recording the info and looking for triggers. Wonder if this post will be a trigger. It's definitely possible.

So there has been a massive ramp-up in unethical electronic spying, and unlike you, I have (for some reason) been alert to it.

The government used to not be spying on me... In the last 5 years, it became likely.

I'm going to pick on the 5 years & 10 years estimate, if you don't mind.

If no one was spying on you then, it was because you were a child or teenager, and presumably not very interesting. If you were someone of major consequence five years ago (2007, to keep things in perspective), or even a decade ago (2002), you'd surely have at least a minor notation, blurb or profile somewhere. If our government wasted time and money tracking John Lennon in the 60's, it's hard to imagine that by 2007 there wasn't at least cursory analysis available about anyone with a job and credit card. Never mind anyone who attended college/university, purchased car insurance or signed up for a grocery store rewards card.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying the government is specifically tracking on your grocery bill. Instead, you're letting someone else do so, and the data is simply available upon request from most reasonable actors.

Further temporal perspective: Google had long gone public by 2007, and people were long crying foul on privacy with respect to it. So the government may not have even been the first to open some unbeknownst profile on you. It may have just been some data aggregator who put your SSN, DoB and address up for sale after your general practitioner's secretary got some malware (I'm being hypothetical of course, but hopefully you understand the premise).

A counterpoint to my argument is that this is the government, not corporation X or shady data reseller Y. I concede that there is a different feeling associated with the government spying on you (with the assumption of legality), and some third-party actor who maybe, some day, could be brought to trial (we hope?).

Yet the practical result is the same: there are people building profiles of us which we will never see, and judging how best to relate to us based on them. They have been doing it for a lot longer than five years, and I don't see the trend reversing any time soon. It doesn't really freak me out, either. In a way, it just makes sense.

A counterpoint to my argument is that this is the government

I think this is a much bigger deal than you do. Any government is always a threat to you, because governments weild force, and the actors within government can change rapidly.

A company that has your data is not a physical threat to you. (Unless the government isn't doing its job - in which case disfunctional government is the more fundamental problem.)

So, in summary, it is utterly unjustifiable for the NSA to spy on every average American, whlie it is utterly justifiable for companies to collect what data on you they manage to get their hands on.

By the way, it's not that nobody was spying on me 5 years ago because I was a teenager. Nobody was spying on me then because the government was not as evil. If I was a teenager now, or even a child, the government would be spying on me today.

Math is fun!

You can buy a 2 TB HD for $99.99 right now.

The population of the United States is 311,591,917.

That's 7057 bytes per citizen, for a penny under a Franklin.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg in EPUB format, in 2.3 MB.

Therefore, if you wanted to have William Shakespeare write as much text about every single citizen in the United States, as he wrote in all of his Complete Works, you would need 341.74 of those HDs.

Therefore, the raw storage would cost you $34,196.58.

The NSA's annual budget is around $3.6 billion.

Every year, the NSA could buy enough hard drive space to store 105,273 times as much text as the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, on every single U.S. citizen.

Storing the text is easy - deciding what text is relevant enough to store is hard.

If you had the NSA's budget, you probably wouldn't need to decide what text is relevant to store.

Deciding what to store is highly correlated with what information are we most likely going to find useful.

When I finally bought an iPod, it had 60 GB of storage. I thought, "Which albums of mine should I upload to it?" Then I remembered, "Oh right - all of them!"

My point is that deciding what to store is expensive and error-prone, with false-positives and false-negatives. Storage is so cheap, that there's an argument to be made that they can just store everything they want to.

While you make a good point, your end number is wildly inaccurate.

1) I highly doubt the NSA is buying $100 dollar low grade hard drives. I bet this data is backed up at least twice per site, at multiple sites.

2) The data is not unstructured, it will be structured in some sort of database. Storing your facebook photos alone will be potentially hundreds of megabytes.

3) I doubt NSA is spending it's entire budget every year on hard drives.

Yes, that's why I quite carefully said, "Every year, the NSA COULD..."

Emphasis on the COULD. It's to emphasize how cheap storage is, and how relatively few U.S. Citizens there are. In our day-to-day lives, we think 311 Million is an enormous number. But in the scale of computing, it's actually quite small.

My real point is: storing the data is no longer a challenge. If you want someone (businesses, governments, etc.) to not store data about every citizen of the U.S., you need laws, regulations, and checks and balances.

1) If he's three or four orders of magnitude off, his point still stands.

2) Also, the data could be almost completely unstructured. You mine the data that you have to create structure. If you toss anything, or prematurely optimize things, you're missing out on what the algorithms that you come up with 10 years from now will give you.

3) If you're using enough redundancy to multiply $35,000 into $3,000,000,000, you're insane.

Why does this matter?

I live in the Southern Hemisphere and like most 40 something year olds I follow whats happening in the States from a distance. I've been reading and watching a fair bit of Jacob Appelbaum and reading Glenn Greenwald's posts which seem to be fair and well written. Democracy Now also does some interesting interviews with Jacob and William Binney.

Some stuff I recommend to have a look at... in no particular order.

Challenging the Surveillance State - Pt. 1 to Pt.4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VCTvs7UXa4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueDTOfEqey8&feature=relmf... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwm6VeYFdKM&feature=relmf... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fao4Z8JooxY&feature=relmf...


Jacob Appelbaum (Part 1 & 2) Digital Anti-Repression Workshop - April 26 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHoJ9pQ0cn8&feature=relmf... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9fByRmAHgU&feature=relmf...

Glenn's Salon Posts http://www.salon.com/writer/glenn_greenwald/

Might I suggest having some fun with one's dossier?

Like randomly doing the exact opposite of what you would ordinarily do on a daily basis. Here are some ideas...

1. Take the bus instead of driving your car.

2. Buy a pack of cigarettes if you're not a smoker.

3. Buy magazines you would never normally buy.

4. Attend a political meeting of the party you typically oppose.

5. Buy vegetarian food for a week if you're a meat eater.


If the dossier is dry and not a useful tool for profiling you then you don't have anything to worry about. If on the other hand the dossier is more sinister in nature you can dilute its usefulness by being a different person every now and then to throw it off track.

Or you could just do all those things anyway, because it will improve your life. Maybe not the cigarettes.

I wonder if the wiping techniques used to securely erase data from government HDDs would count as prior art here.

You would have to do this enough for it to be statistically significant otherwise it probably just averaged away.

OTOH....once might be seen as smoke-screening, making you more suspicious.

Ethics, morality and legality aside, I'd be really curious to see what information is actually stored in these "dossiers", besides (presumably) one's name, address, and other details that other branches of the government legitimately have.

I'm guessing that it's a timeline with some useful visualizations that allow the viewer to see patterns based on all the available data.

They'd have income/employment/tax data, your "network" as defined by google, facebook, the phones #s you dial, the phone #s that call you, family, classmates, etc.

They'd also have information about (and tools to easily search for) internet community involvement, travel history, banking history, credit score, and TONS of clickstream data.

The challenge for the government is that there is so much data on each person (available already or available with a few automated warrants) that creating tools to facilitate automated and human pattern recognition are crucial.

There are likely lots of metrics (formulated similarly to something like a credit score or a life insurance policy quote) that are updated automatically and indicate the chances that you'll do various things.

While it's very unlikely that most of us are of any interest whatsoever to authorities, the power of this information is when it can be used on someone else connected to you who is a target. Suppose the system flags 500 individuals as potential domestic terrorists. There is humint needed to rule these out as quacks, which the intel in your dossier might be useful for.

I think that what we have to keep in mind is that the state having these powers is tolerable now only b/c we are still in the infancy of this kind of technology and those in power haven't really developed a clear path toward totalitarianism yet, though now and then they start to come close.

Oh, don't worry: ethics, morality and legality are being very much set aside.

Well, yes, I know that. ;) I meant that ethically, morally, and legally, I wouldn't want to know what they have (the NSA knowing is enough; better to destroy it than make it all public, probably), but I'm curious nonetheless.

Is that the sort of thing you can ask for with a FOIA request?

If you have some spare time it might be worth trying--it certainly couldn't hurt. I'm not familiar enough with the actual procedure to say if it would be particularly difficult or not.

Not really, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, if one is speaking practically and not philosophically, since I'd rather terrorists not know what intelligence agencies have on them).

FOIA has an extensive list of exemptions, and pretty much anything relating to do with national security is exempt from FOIA requests. And well, it's called the National Security Agency for a reason; even though the information probably isn't legitimately related to national security, can you prove that it isn't, keeping in mind that you can't see it until you've proven that it's not?

If you try you will get a form letter basically saying that spying on Americans is not in the NSA charter, so they don't have any info on you. Tried it in 2005-ish myself.

I doubt Congress can even effectively subpoena for that kind of information.

I'd be quite positive that these "dossiers" are compiled specifically to correlate HUMAN->SN->DL|Criminal Record|[ONLINE WEDSITE]USER_NAME

I am positive that the NSAs current charter is to associate the real people to the virtual AMONG MANY OTHER THINGS.

So, with all that said - I have met and talked with a range of NSA personalities and they are the blackest of the black hats. DO NOT TRUST.

This would have lacked any credibility whatsoever if it weren't for the caps.

Are you familiar with nothing?

ATT carnivor room on folsom street in SF?

NSA Datacenter (I know the bidders to build it)?

History of the US over the last 10 year?

There are lots of things I would never detail on HN, but know this - you are watched, every single bit.

There is no need to guess—look at the screenshots and screencasts at:


I think the great majority of the dossiers states only 'mostly harmless'.

"Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing."

A plot for a novel: NSA operative comes across an identity with no links to any other identity, no social network history. Just an isolated node... curious, she starts investigating and finds all avenues blocked, and her boss asks her to stop. Intrigued, Agent Hernandez continues on her own time...

Surprise ending, it is a "Forever Alone" guy.

Mulder, is this another X file?

The NSA probably has "dossiers" on the whole world.

For example, in order to get an US Visa from the embassy they take your fingerprints. Your visa form also has a lot of data. At least that has to be centralized somewhere.

Add your online accounts to the mix and it's safe to say they have enough info about everybody.

Where's little bobby tables when you need him?

I'm sure these would never be used for political gain.

TL;DR - The Committee is outraged that the NSA is developing expensive software in house, rather than from Google or Oracle. But no one raises an eyebrow at what that software is being used for domestically.

they had to demonstrate, that they "gave up" in-house dev


I wonder if MLK would exist if this were around 50 years ago.

the FBI collected a lot of dirt on MLK - Hoover was obsesed

Remember people, its you who are the real enemy of the state. Its you they fear more than anything else.

I think soon people will realize that the only defense against this kind of data collection (and it's subsequent uses - which grow more powerful everyday) is to record your own life and know the same (if not more than) what governments and corporations know about you.

How will that work as a defense?

Record your entire life (everything). Encrypt and store the data. Workout some way for data scientists to anonymously and securely experiment on the data such that privacy is maintained and the data remains in your control and ownership.

The idea is that there are big companies out there now (including the government) that have huge databases of information on you, and they've been working hard for many years now in the background to find useful patterns in the data in order to sell-to/manipulate/control you.

If you can do the same research with your own data, you can know in advance (or catch-up to) what those companies already know about you. With that knowledge, you could perhaps develop something like an anti-malware application for "you".

So if sometime in the future, you begin seeing very targeted ads that begin manipulating your purchasing behaviour or even manipulating your opinions and thoughts... then the system could notice these attacks and warn you (because it knows your data, your interests and your weaknesses).

The end-game of what these companies are doing is to have so much data on individuals (and the distribution channels), that they are able to subtly manipulate and program their minds without the individual even noticing.

If you know the algorithms they've discovered within your data, you can protect your mind.

Anyway, that's just one advantage. I'm working on a startup now that does this.

Out of curiosity, how many other people had the gut reaction of, "Awesome! I have a dossier!"

I would like to ask them my hair color, because it's a weird color and I honestly don't know what it is.

Are my eyes really brown?

This is going to be embarasing the next time there is a major terror attack (hopefully it won't happen, but statistically it is likely eventually) when it turns out that they had the data on everybody but somehow didn't act on it.

It's far easier, after you know what happened, to go back to the data and "connect the dots" to claim it should have been foreseen and acted upon. But beforehand, the dots could have been connected in any number of permutations and paths, so it becomes impossible to act on every possibility that can be forecast in advance.

Which will properly be their excuse too. Won't stop them from being flayed in the media.

Just lifting the curtain will hopefully be enough, if you really need to say anything after doing that...

We are sitting in the theater and the curtains are closed, we are reading the program. The program says "It's okay, nothing is happening behind the curtain." After everyone read their program 99% of the crowd leaves because they think they know enough. Then that 1% is eagerly waiting to see the show. And there are a few people trying to sabotage the place and open the curtains so that the people can see the show. Those curtains are not going to open themselves.

Why is this a surprise to anyone? Governments will always want to have as much info as possible on anyone, especially their own citizens, and the US has been number 1 for a long time.

With Facebook, Twitter and face recognition, privacy is truly dead. Heck, even from public records you can get a lot of information about anyone, and if you have their SSN, you can increase that to a metric sheet ton. Any database and method of communication can be easily tapped for surveillance, too, so if they really want you, they're gonna get you.

If this is true, the NSA knows which of every cop is dirty in the country because they have full access to financial, voice and email records.

And doesn't do anything about it.

I really fucking hate the right wing and its authoritarian ideology. It's like there are two separate and distinct species of people on this planet: those with empathy and compassion for their fellow man, and these kinds of assholes who just want nothing but control.

It's one of the reasons I got out of the US. My worry is I won't be allowed to return one day.

This isn't about the left wing or the right wing, it's the authoritarian wing. Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Justin Amish, Gary Johnson, Rand Paul are all right wing and don't want to see you under the eye or chain.

On the authoritarian left, we have Obama:

- Ordered the killing of US citizens with no due process.

- Signed the National Defence Authorization Act, so now any American, at home or abroad, can be locked up with no trial at Guantanamo.

Many other examples. Not all the right is authoritarian and not all authoritarians are right.

I consider Obama right-wing. He's only left-wing compared to other American politicians, and he's really not all that left-wing even then.

If you really think this is the result of the right wing politicians you're kidding yourself.

I'd even claim that the left wing has a greater propensity to engage in this conduct, albeit more subtly. For example, one side effect of the Affordable Care Act is the federal government knowing which Americans have health insurance. While this doesn't prove they have access to your health records, it's nevertheless troubling that they have direct evidence of whether you're insured (and whether it's ``Cadillac'' insurance) simply by examining tax returns.

Sheesh, really? You're going to bring the Affordable Care Act into this? If wanting every citizen to have access to affordable health care and insurance and spreading the costs is some subtle way of intruding into their privacy, then I guess all they want to do is spy on you...

I spoke precisely, yet you managed to contort my statement into something that it's not: an expression of my opinion on universal health care. What I said was that other approaches exist that do not require marking tax returns in a way that reveals the existence of health insurance...

They also know what car insurance I have and if it's a "Cadillac." Heaven forbid!

Not the federal government...

You may be (roughly) correct about the two kinds of people, another way of saying that people are either "normal" or "sociopathic." But they don't cleave politically right and left on that basis. And there is plenty of empathy and compassion for one's fellow man on the political right, though there is a difference in philosophy about what helps him and what doesn't.

Worse, there a difference in philosophy about what is or isn't a problem, which is where most of the issues lie.

From the article: "In the short video interview, Binney explained a bit more about the NSA spying on Americans: "Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it's a very dangerous process.""

I imagine this is where Palantir is being used. About building the connections through large data sets on the science of ontology.

Bishop: Ah. You're the guys I hear breathing on the other end of my phone. Dick Gordon: No, that's the FBI. We're not chartered for domestic surveillance. Bishop: Oh, I see. You just overthrow governments. Set up friendly dictators. Dick Gordon: No, that's the CIA. We protect our government's communications, we try to break the other fella's codes. We're the good guys, Marty. Bishop: Gee, I can't tell you what a relief that is...Dick.

When I was in school, there was a girl in one of my classes who highlighted every line of every page in the textbook. I told her that highlighting every page was the same as highlighting no pages. You end up with undifferentiated information. You're no further ahead than when you started.

In the same way, the NSA having a dossier on everyone is the same as them having a dossier on no one.

I've always assumed when talking online, over the phone, wherever, that even if they (this is ambiguously referencing the government as a whole) weren't at that moment: someone could listen in if they wanted to. It's surprising to think that people still believe in the existence of total privacy (albeit any form of privacy).

Yeah it's called Facebook

CIA's Facebook Program Dramatically Cuts Agency's Costs [The Onion]:


You're probably not too far from the truth:


If they have records for every US citizen, they'd probably have records also for anyone visiting the country.

If this were true, we wouldn't really need to conduct the census (http://www.census.gov/), right?

Perhaps the NSA has tools like pipl or spokeo to build dossiers, but not that it has every person on file, right now.

I suppose a Facebook profile could correspond to 'dossier' in most senses of the word.

I'm beginning to believe that all governments and their security/intelligence forces tend toward a Stazi mean.


In-Q-Tel was one of the first investors in Google anyways

My Binney delivered a keynote at Hope9 too recently


For the record, I'd be surprised if mine is less than five years old.

Everyone in this thread seems to miss the fact that if the NSA were deliberately keeping files on communications between Americans in America that would be a really big deal. But AFAIK, no one in a position to know anything has even alleged this.

Anyone surprised?

Well of course they do. I would be really surprised if they didn't.

That's why we should ENCRYPT EVERYTHING possible. Use HTTPS as much as you can.

I have a question about this -- maybe I'm ignorant. But using https without self-signed keys actually allows the government to peer into your communications, doesn't it? We are worried about third parties stealing your data between you and your bank for example. A bank might be a bad example as they probably already have access to their databases for compliance reasons. Can't the US government ask for the keys of these US based certificate authorities?

My point being is that https is probably equivalent to plain text when it comes to government surveillance.

They don't even need to ask for the keys.

Pretty much every OS/browser comes with root CAs belonging to the U.S. government (on OS X I see "DoD Root CA 2" and "DoD CLASS 3 Root CA", see also http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4415). As I understand it, if they wanted to, they could MITM any HTTPS connection by forging a certificate using their root CAs.

This is why people were upset when a root CA for some Chinese government agency was added to certain browsers. We don't trust the Chinese government, but we do trust the US government, I guess.

Of course, if they regularly forged certificates someone would notice. Right?

Which begs the question, how would we notice? If you diligently check certificates for sites you visit you might happen to notice facebook.com's CA suddenly changes from Verisign to the U.S. DoD.

Is there a better way? How can we automatically check that the certificates we get are legitimate?

At a minimum it would be nice if there was a warning when a cert doesn't match a previously seen one (similar to SSH)

I feel like a "web of trust" needs to be layered on top of the certificate authorities to really solve this problem. If 10 of my friends have seen the same certificate for a given website I'm inclined to believe it's legitimate. I'm also likely to trust certain organizations (EFF, etc)

Of course it's also a user interface issue. The average user wouldn't understand a single sentence I wrote above.

Thanks. Is anyone aware of something like this for Chrome?

+1 for cert patrol

Just remove DoD certs from your trust list if you don't want to accept them.

This might not be a laymen solution, but it's a very simple procedure in most browsers.

Why would the DoD want to do a MITM on Facebook when Facebook just hands it over when told to do so?

Google is using certificate pinning for Chrome/Gmail, though it's targeted to fix their particular case and not a good general solution.


No, it's not equivalent to plain text. If they had access to certificate authority keys (or the ability to compel CAs to issue certificates on demand), they would still need to pull off an active man-in-the-middle attack to be able to decrypt communications. Practically speaking, it seems like this would be harder to accomplish on an Internet scale than simply intercepting communications. So using HTTPS as much as possible probably helps, though you're correct that if you want to be completely certain your communications are secure you should not trust the certificate authorities.

It's not quite that bad. Even with a compromised certificate authority, it's not an invisible attack to do a man in the middle and inject their own certificate. Someone knowledgable could notice this discrepancy and raise a stink.

Furthermore, Chrome (and soon Firefox) ships some known certificates for privacy important widely used sites (e.g. the major webmail services, torproject, etc) which prevents even this attack. This defense has already caught Iran using a compromised CA.

(I'm not a cryptographer though, so please correct me if I'm wrong.)

I think it's only a handful of certificats that are pinned (they call it "HSTS preloading" here: http://www.imperialviolet.org/2011/05/04/pinning.html). While this does include gmail and some other Google properties, it doesn't seem to include any other major webmail services.

Check out http://src.chromium.org/viewvc/chrome/trunk/src/net/base/tra... for the list of what's in there (linked to indirectly from http://dev.chromium.org/sts).

Ah dang, for some reason I thought that hotmail and y!mail were in there too. It looks like there's a commitment (which CAs you'll allow to sign your cert) that's needed from the site owner for HSTS to work. I hope they get in there one way or another soon.

Having the Certificate Authority private keys would allow an attacker to sign certificates allowing the impersonation of any entity... but it does not make other sessions, boostrapped from other legitimate certificates, transparent to passive eavesdropping.

So no, government pressure on CAs wouldn't make all https like plaintext, but it does make active impersonation possible. Some initiatives like the 'SSL Observatory' or the EFF's 'Sovereign Keys' proposal could make it possible for clients to notice when a fishy new certificate is introduced for a previously-known identity -- much like the 'key has changed' warnings you may have seen when SSHing to a host whose keys have changed since your last session.

That's bringing a knife to a tank fight, my man.

Better, IMO, to just assume they read and listen to everything digital, and work around it.

The problem with encryption is that the data still have to be in the clear at the endpoints to be useful. That's where it'll be nabbed, by surreptitious keyloggers, screen scrapers, filesystem scanners, etc. Decrypting data in transit is still a very difficult if not impossible proposition as far as I know.

Depends what you mean by dossier I am sure the NSA has a definative list of all Us residents names and SSN's but thats not a dossier in the same way That the FBI under hover had about anyone even sligtly progressive.

Id be more worried by the fact the in the USA its common practice to register with the govenment what political party you support.

Registering your political party is a state thing, not federal. Nor does every state require it. My state, Texas, does not.

You can see all the information asked for when registering to vote here:


So I am registering with "local" govenment FFS that is even worse at least at the national level there is some oversight and Journalists holding teh executive to account.

I have a pretty dim outlook on the state of civil rights in this country but I think you're going too far. States which ask for this information do so in order to give you your party's ballot during primary elections.

I think you're reading too much into this one. The fact that not every state asks should also point to a lack of any grand conspiriacy here.

Statistically speaking, you give up your right to vote anonymously by registering your political party with the state in return for the convenience of getting one of two ballots instead of both.

"There are two ballots here which one am I interested in again? Better ask the State which one I registered for.." Seems like a stretch.

Sure, they have all data about someone. But, what is the use? It is like searching a needle in a haystack.

Until you piss off or catch the eye of someone with access to it. Then you'll find out just how quickly your particular needle can be found in that haystack.

""If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."

- Cardinal Richelieu

I think my ex-girlfriend studied under this Richelieu guy.

What if every sentence began with - "Hypothetically speaking"

Hypothetically speaking, I think the good Cardinal would say "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Or like searching for a web page on the internet!

Not to mention all the fun machine learning and analysis that could be done.

This attitude got plenty of usenet posters in trouble. [0]

[0]: Exhibit A; http://groups.google.com/groups/dir?hl=en&lr=&safe=o...

The NSA likely has more advanced tech than we do.

Ever play "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon"? Doubtless that they are building a comprehensive social/activity/location/finance graph of as many people as possible so that when someone pisses off the wrong people they can be dealt with completely.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact