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Keith Alexander's Statement to the NSA Workforce (nsa.gov)
167 points by mikemoka 1606 days ago | hide | past | web | 171 comments | favorite


Besides, I don't care how "legal" they make it or how much oversight and checks they put in place.

At the end of the day, they're still collecting everything. And I don't want that to happen. Is that too much to ask for? Google got in so much trouble over collecting Wi-fi data, but if the governments do it, and a lot more, it's fine? Surely there have been, and will continue to be alternative solutions to stopping terrorists besides collecting everyone's information en-masse.

Also, what about the foreigners? Politicians, judges, activists, everyone is fair game for spying? I don't want to live in such a world. That's can't be the future.

Obama tries to make it seem like this is the "balance" between privacy and security. This nowhere close to a "balance". They're getting everything. How is that a "balance" for privacy? If that's the balance, I don't think I want to know what they have in mind for when they really only care about security.

Have you forgotten yes we can...this is the guy, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard no less, that accepted the peace prize, while running two wars and with a 'kill list' in his pocket, so don't worry Obama can balance anything.

I hope they give him another Nobel for just being so awesome.

They look like bigger fools now for giving him the Nobel than they did when he hadn't accomplished anything.

The 'Nobel' as you put it encompasses multiple fields, most of which are based in sciences proven by empirical analysis. The 'Peace' prize has historically been controversial as contributions to peace are inherently political in nature.

Please don't disregard the other prizes: they represent real, quantifiable achievements. Peace is a simple result from political policies, but chemistry, physics, and medicine have a rich history of research and application.

Nobel Prize categories:

* Physics

* Chemistry

* Literature

* Peace

* Physiology

* Medicine

* Economic Sciences

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is actually distinct from the "real" Nobels. It is also even more of a joke than the Peace Prize, often.

I would rather not argue about 'economic sciences' at this time, that subject is usually far more politicized than 'peace.'

The Prize in Literature's never free of the usual political recriminations either - there's a fine line between endorsing a message and acknowledging execution (and the fact that the ends an author sets plays an important role as well) that's never been fully articulated.

There is always the Nobel of Literature... Do not despair. They are really putting a lot of effort into it.

UofC not Harvard

The grand "balance" has been under our nose the entire time, as laid out by prof Lessig, also of Harvard.


I think it is ignorance that is causing this. Specifically, ignorance of the nature of information, and maybe a propensity of lawyers to attempt to "balance" security with law, and thereby destroy security.

Read my other comment here about Palantir's marketing material, how they advertise "immutable audit trails", and how that's supposed to provide transparency and whatever... and a link to a paper that says it doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work.


I don't blog, so somebody else should compile this and publish it.

> And I don't want that to happen. Is that too much to ask for?

civilization and government are way more nuanced than this. the answer to your question is yes, yes it is too much to ask for. you probably don't want to pay taxes, receive speeding tickets, or be subject to laws but you are...

I always find it funny that taxes are only for the poor as far as I'm aware. In reality speeding tickets aren't for reckless driving they are for funding police departments. The laws we have are and have always been designed to require whole teams of specialised people at great expense to debate whether, in fact you are or aren't in contradiction of them (insert campaign for plain terms legal messaging that is binding). In fact the law is so complex now that if you can pay for the smartest people to get you off the hook on technicalities.

We didn't get onto corporate power and influence in this thread (yet) but you get the idea. Is shut up and take it an option anymore when it's looking increasingly likely that governments corrupt and subvert real public debate (infiltrating organisations like Greenpeace with trouble makers), monitor everything you do on the internet and can trace it all back to you, and should the policies change under, say a Nixon, McCarthy or worse you could find the apparatus on your doorstep for a making everyone a suspected terrorist fairly soon. Turnkey Tyranny is exactly the correct terminology.

The truth is you can't trust the NSA to do the right thing and anyone with any common sense can see even in very very recent American history the powers of the state were massively abused. Freedom, democracy, these always have just been words to sugar coats a system by the rich for the rich. I the more you look at the system the more you realise that Chomsky is right about power and that you and me all need a fairer slice of the cake (both monetarily and in terms of our say in how government happens). What is good is that the means of production is coming back to the people; I can see the rich and powerful being very scared indeed by this.

How are the means of production coming back to the people? I'd like to know, because that's where the hope is.

Within 20 years 3d printing and Open Ecology will have given _you_ the means to pretty much never need to buy anything from the man again. Real communities that live off the grid can happen within our life times (and it not be the most tiresome back breaking work in the world) and maybe we can find a bit of happiness in the joy of being human rather than the endless procession of churning out ever more so that the rich above us can steal it from us.

How will people in those communities pay their taxes?

Presumably through voluntary subscription to private services, or flat taxation of alternative currencies controlled by and tied to local communities where usage of the currency is voluntary.

The way we're taxed federally right now with corporate loopholes and crazy income tax laws is bad.

The people who operate the current tax system probably won't take kindly to an alternative system just being 'declared'. And they have lots of guns.

Why would these communities need money? On what basis would they be taxed with no income?

Tax is assessed on exchanges of value - not money itself.

Otherwise, corporations would be able to just pay people in kind by providing them with accommodation, transport, clothing, etc, and save a giant tax bill.

If a significant sized community creates a moneyless economy, the tax man authorities will take an interest, and just start assessing transactions based on financial equivalences.

Yes, and I hope you do see that taxing this self-sufficient community (assuming it did not require the benefits from the govt like highways and whatnot) would be akin to theft if it were compulsory.

Of course all communities require something from the global external economy, but I see no reason why a community's internal transactions would have to be assessed by an external entity. Alas that is not the way of the world today.

I agree with you about the ethics of this. I'm just pointing out that the technology for self sufficiency isn't the major barrier. It's the politics that are the problem.

2013.06.30 Your monthly privacy balance calculated by NSA: ZERO.

This condescending mollifying paternal tone is a case study of an arrogant recklessly dangerous fool equating the vast resources he directs as equivalent to his own intelligence and competence. An intelligent reflective director would be humbled and pained by this awful responsibility, contrast Alexander with leader models we do respect: iconic Dwight Eisenhower, Abe Lincoln, or General George Washington.

Well, the beauty of a democratic society is that if a majority agree with you, then you can change the system. Personally, I disagree with you, but it's a free country.

Your comment about the military is so rude, though, that it was difficult to write a temperate response. You ought to feel ashamed of yourself.

There's certainly nothing rude about pointing out a relevant and possibly non-obvious truth: military life is so distinct from civilian life that it may result in drastically different perspectives about what it means to be free. If merely being exposed to a hypothesis you disagree with offends you, then I don't understand how you can ever hope to have a meaningful debate.

Moreover, this isn't a new idea, it led to the opposition many founding fathers had to "Standing Armies".

Soldiers are, in a sense, slaves. A standing army is a vast apparatus under direct control of an executive.

But, the opposition to standing armies is long forgotten. We also forgot the reason why only congress was given the authority to declare war, which has become dead letter, and these ideas considered quaint and outdated. But 1776 wasn't that long ago in the history of human governments, and the history of human governments is the history of abusing power.

"Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever." - Cicero

> Soldiers are, in a sense, slaves. A standing army is a vast apparatus under direct control of an executive.

The U.S. military's only oath is to the Constitution of the U.S., not the executive. They are to follow the orders of the executive to the point that they are in keeping with upholding the defense of the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Officers don't even take an oath to zealously follow orders, only to properly discharge the duties of their position.

While I'll grant that it's true that there is a lot of leeway and deference to the executive branch in what counts as a 'lawful order', it's incredibly concerning to me that so many people here have so little understanding of the U.S. military that they can claim with a straight face that the standing army is Obama's personal political tool.

Please see http://terminallance.com/2013/05/17/terminal-lance-president... for a description of how little reverence there is for the President within the military.

This is true in theory, but soldiers the world over a trained simply to follow orders without question. How many soldiers when given an order, stop and think to debate the Constitutional issues, if any?

Mind you, there are good reasons for training soldiers this way - In the heat of combat, the Platoon Commander can't put everything to a vote. But this way of life does have its negatives.

Generally, in the US military, officers (which include virtually all pilots) and senior enlisted actually do take into account legal (constitutional, other laws, and rules of engagement) concerns in making decisions. Even in combat, decisions about what weapons can be used do have legal input (i.e. can we blow up a mosque? What if it's actively being used to fire on us? Or what if it just has a spotter in it relaying fire missions to a mortar team elsewhere in a crowded village square?).

Junior enlisted, yes, generally just follow orders from their immediate superiors.

Speaking of oaths, the President's oath is to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," not to protect the health or safety of Americans in general. Do NSA officials take an oath like the President's?

Every NSA employee knows they're violating the constitution. Keith Alexander's statement in an embarrassment, which only calls attention to the corruption or ignorance at the top.

Edit: spelling

"Soldiers are, in a sense, slaves"

Except that in the US, military service is voluntary.


(1) Completed or attempted desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years.

(2) Other cases of completed or attempted desertion.

(a) Terminated by apprehension. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 3 years.

(b) Terminated otherwise. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years.

(3) In time of war. Death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.

Yes. That applies after you have volunteered to be bound by it in the current military.

The draft register is still around but the draft itself was eliminated in 1973 (or thereabouts). So, that U.S. military force propping up NATO and facing down the U.S.S.R. during Reagan's saber-rattling in the 1980s? ALL VOLUNTEER, believe it or not.

Also interesting is that Milton Friedman considered his role in ending the draft his proudest achievement.

Friedman had no qualms about describing himself as a libertarian and not a conservative, and his influence in the Reagan administration was considerable, even outside of economics.

I find it strange that so many conservatives admire Reagan as their ultimate hero, but ignore any libertarian influence in his administration.

You could (and still can) voluntarily sell yourself into slavery, it's still slavery.

It's surprisingly easy to get back out of the military, if you really want to. You just have to be willing to deal with a general or other-than-honorable discharge.

Indentured servant is probably a better term to describe what the OP was intending. They agree to enter into a period of service, during which they give up control of most aspects of their lives that civilians take for granted, e.g., they face jail time if they leave.

Slavery could, historically, be entered into voluntarily. John Stuart Mill wrote some interesting things about this.

But clearly, this isn't the basis of my comparison. A soldier is completely subject to the arbitrary will of his superiors, without any real legal protections.

See also: Ratio of reported rapes vs. prosecuted rapes, scandals of enforcement agents.

Except that WWII and the Vietnam War both involved mandatory drafts in the US, and as a result, almost all US citizens of our age are barely two generations descended from a veteran of the US military. Even if your father didn't serve, your father's father probably did, taught him with a perspective colored by having been a slave in the military, and he likely raised you with a perspective colored thereby also.

Heard of wage slavery ?

Recruiting standards have been too high since 2007 actually. You're actually more likely to get in the military as a descendant of a middle-class family than from a poor family. And if you exclude the Army, that has been true since 2001 or so.

And post-2009 when active operations in Iraq were ending and the economy really went to shit it's gotten even harder to join. You essentially can't even get into the various Officer Candidate Schools without being either in peak physical shape (Army/Marines) and having good grades, or having a GPA of 3.4+ with good physical scores (Navy/Air Force).

Correct, but that is why it is in a sense. I think if you expand this thought it is similar to how many people buy into their own company's bullshit while you stand on the outside and just shake your head.

Well, the beauty of a democratic society is that if a majority agree with you, then you can change the system.

This is technically true, but ignores the fact that it's a totally rigged game. You have a news media that's intent on dividing people over relatively small issues and pushing certain narratives. You have contractors who are paid to do the same online. You have a system of surveillance that could be used to discredit (or worse) promising political figures, and intimidate journalists. You have a large part of your government that operates in secret, under secret laws, preventing any kind of meaningful debate beyond "we need more transparency." All of this makes it incredibly difficult to get a majority to agree with anything that established powers don't approve of. It can be done (like we're seeing with marijuana legalization), but it requires a Herculean effort.

People who disagree with this comment and say it's false would do well to read this book http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104810/ Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky. It is very well researched, carefully documented. At least look at the information and think about it. The people don't have nearly as much control as it seems.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

This is such arrogant bullshit. You're basically saying that if only everyone else were as enlightened as you, they'd care about the objectively important issues like NSA spying, instead of "relatively small issues" like abortion or gay rights, etc. Among my group of friends, DOMA generated far more interest than the NSA news. Are they just misled by the media?

What utter self aggrandizing tripe.

Among my group of friends, DOMA generated far more interest than the NSA news. Are they just misled by the media?

I wouldn't blame anyone for taking more interest in gay rights than the NSA. The emerging widespread acceptance of gays as fellow human beings is probably unique to human history. It is hard to overstate the significance of that. But at the same time, I wouldn't give too much credit to the news media. It was a convenient wedge issue, but I suspect established powers were largely indifferent as to the outcome.

Among my friends, gay rights, abortion, the environment, wrongful convictions (of poor black kids in the inner city, not "patriots" like Snowden), taxes, social security, and healthcare all outrank "privacy" in terms of importance. Are they just brainwashed into this by the "established powers"?

Brainwashed is a strong word, and I've never met your friends. But I would argue that the NSA story is vastly more important than the issues you mentioned, except possibly the environment (and see my comment above about gay rights). My reasoning has more to do with the potential for abuse than the abuse that has already come to light. I think it is best summed up by this NY Times excerpt on Frank Church, the first senator to investigate the NSA:

He added that if a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. "could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."


You think the NSA story is "vastly more important" based on your calculus of how it might be abused and how likely it is to be abused. Don't you think people are entitled to come to differing conclusions about that without accusations that they are brainwashed by the media? Because that's basically what you're doing when you reject the impact of the democratic process in all this: people can't be trusted to hold their own opinions because they're guided to opinions by the media.

This is not a moral gray area. The NSA is the government breaking its laws, throwing off its checks, and establishing tyranny. The other issues that have been brought up in this thread (gay rights, abortion) are pittances as a people we humbly request of the government.

Or, the NSA program is a targeted intelligence system designed to stay within the wide latitude afforded by the law and the 4th amendment? Not the establishment of tyranny, but a mundane apparatus that ultimately will have little real impact on the lives of ordinary Americans.

I think reasonable minds can differ about which characterization is appropriate.

Granted. However, the actions of the however-characterized NSA is where there is little moral gray area.

Someone who sacrifices everything he's got, exposes a bunch of bad things his government is doing at great personal risk to himself has definitely earned the patriot label, Snowden is doing a lot more to improve America than most of the flag waving bumper sticker crowd that happily affix that label onto themselves.

Taxes, social security and healthcare are important, but they are not more or less important than privacy on an absolute scale and they are not on the same axis to begin with. You can have a perfect police state with social security, healthcare and low taxes and 0 privacy.

Perhaps your friends are not able to prioritise?

Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

What good is it to have the right to abortion, gay marriage, immigration amnesty etc. if tomorrow you can be taken away and locked up for the rest of your life, without any due process, all because of an email you wrote?

The UN Declaration of Human Rights is not law in the United States and recognizes many things that are not recognized as fundamental rights in the United States: right to international travel, right to social security, right to "desirable work" and to join trade unions, right to "rest and leisure", right to education, etc.

Also, your hypothetical is disingenuous. It wraps violations of due process in with monitoring of e-mail. I'd imagine most people would consider the real outrage in your hypothetical to be the "without any due process" part, not the "because of an e-mail" part.

> Well, the beauty of a democratic society is that if a majority agree with you, then you can change the system. Personally, I disagree with you, but it's a free country.

The majority are disengaged, disinterested and apathetic.

Furthermore, the particularly abhorrent feature of these programs is that their existence was kept secret. Secret courts issuing secret orders to secret services to work in secret violating citizens' right to privacy.

Without these leaks, citizens lacked the capacity to change this system, because they had no idea this system even existed.

Excellent arguments.

Total surveillance is one of the many tools, that the political elite uses to prevent the majority from changing the system.

> the beauty of a democratic society is that if a majority agree with you, then you can change the system.

This is false. The NSA considers itself outside the realm of law:

> "NSA does not have a statutory charter; its operational responsibilities are set forth exclusively in executive directives first issued in the 1950s. One of the questions which the Senate asked the Committee to consider was the "need for specific legislative authority to govern the operations of...the National Security Agency."

> According to NSA's General Counsel, no existing statutes control, limit, or define the signals intelligence activities of NSA. Further, the General Counsel asserts that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to NSA's interception of Americans' international communications for foreign intelligence purposes."

> http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book3/pdf/C...

We'd have to overthrow the "government" as it's existed for the past 50 years or so to get rid of the NSA.

I served in the military. I have nothing but respect and admiration for our service members and their sacrifice. But when it comes to liberty, a military life isn't one filled with it. I don't see what is rude about making this statement. Obviously this officer doesn't understand the meaning of the word, at least now how I understand it.

I admit I regret my phrasing. Instead of "but it is not surprising that officers in the military do not understand what liberty means since they have not lived a life of liberty" I should have said "but it is not surprising that an officer in the military may not understand what liberty means since they have not lived a life of liberty"

I regret phrasing my response that strongly. I still disagree, but I see where you're coming from. Thank you for your service.

That's mob rule you're describing, not democracy. And mobs love trampling over the freedoms of minorities.

What a lovely sound-bite.

What was it, aside from "mob rule" of the majority, that passed amendments 14, 15, 19, 24, and 26 to the Constitution? Those would be the amendments that specifically expanded the freedoms of minorities (on the basic of race, sex, wealth, and age)

EDIT: oh, and I mean the supermajority & state level process required to amend the Constitution.

A lot of pain, blood, terror, injustice, tenacity and bravery as far as I understand it.

In the upper ranks of the officer class, this is certainly true. I met many LT's and Captains that I enjoyed working with, but once they reached beyond those early grades, they became part of the officer's elite/gentleman's club, where they became further detached from their subordinates and more interested in appealing to their masters.

That's only true if the voters have visibility of what they're voting for. That's wht is so bad about this situation, the secracy negates the foundation of democracy

Am I dreaming? The USA is not a democratic society. The will of the people is not only unrepresented in the government, but the legal means by which the will of the people would be imposed are totally dismantled. Furthermore, it's not a free country by a long shot. Do you know anyone that does not have to live relying on centrally distributed energy and food?

I know people who are fully on solar/wind power and grow their own food.

Solar/wind account for a fraction of US energy usage, and such people are unfortunately the extreme exception.

It's almost impossible for a human alive today to truthfully live free from oil - even if they are exceptional. How much harder would it be for an ordinary person who actually lives in US society?

The military comment strikes me as uninformed. Military officers [1] I know tend to be above average in understanding our rights, liberties, freedoms, and responsibilities.

[1] Edit: And enlisted men and women!

> Your comment about the military is so rude, though, that it was difficult to write a temperate response. You ought to feel ashamed of yourself.

Sadly, I suspect one day you'll have to recall this statement.

> Well, the beauty of a democratic society is that if a majority agree with you, then you can change the system.

That may be a reasonable response to the PRISM/FAA702 disclosures. But in relation to the blanket domestic phone-metadata surveillance? The program which was based on an very expansive interpretation of the FAA business-records provision? The program which was kept secret from not only the US electorate but most of the US Congress? As was the legal interpretation justifying it? The program which even the US Congressmen who had heard about it and found it objectionable were not permitted to inform anyone about? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=HNm...

I would have thought that going on a catch-all-you-can fishing expedition with the world as your pool is pretty rude as well.

You're right. Soldiers are ignorant sheeple unlike us here on reddit and HN who actually understand things.

It would be much better to have someone from reddit or HN in charge of the NSA. It could be decided by upvotes. Does anyone want to start a poll?

No, you're right. It's so much better to have old, ugly military guys take all the important decision, spy on, detain and torture people they don't like, without any courts. This is why North Korea is the engine of the world progress.

China is arguably the current engine of world progress, and there, state surveillance is ubiquitous and lawful, and a policeman can send you to jail without trial.

Of course it is, if for some weird reason you think that assembly = R&D ...

> "Through four years of oversight, the committee has not identified a single case in which a government official engaged in willful effort to circumvent or violate the law."

I'm getting really tired of hearing this defense from U.S. officials. Just because something's legal doesn't mean it's constitutional and/or morally right. I don't think anyone's still arguing the legality of these programs - we're saying that they shouldn't be there because they violate the spirit (and arguably, the letter) of the 4th Amendment.

This is one place where I feel your constitution holds you USA types back. Those rights had to exist before the constitution for it to be written, and even the constitution itself doesn't try to be a closed set. But it has largely been judicially interpreted as one. And it is entirely possible the NSA would pass constitutional muster, with this Supreme Court.

But it is possible for a thing to be legal - and constitutional - and in breach of rights which don't need to be named on any paper to still be rights. Like the right to privacy.

I think that's where constitutional "scholars" go wrong. The "rights" do not exist in the absence of a secular social contract.

What they mean is that there's no reasonable, fair social contract they can imagine that lacks those rights. It's perfectly possible for a social contract to lack certain "inalienable" rights, though. All you need is a pure, unconstrained democracy to see that.

Unfortunately, interpreting the Constitution as a living document and reading new rights (like the "right to privacy") into the Bill of Rights and/or the 14th Amendment -- "because of course the founders would ideologically agree with us that individuals have new rights A B and C" -- leaves the door open not only to good interpretations of rights, but bad interpretations of rights dictated by the majority against minorities, or dictated by powerful minorities against a disinterested majority.

The 9th amendment seems to me to protect rights not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution by the Constitution itself. It also gives judicial power of the courts to all cases arising under the Constitution (Article 3, Section 2). These seem to give the courts the responsibility to protect rights retained by the people that aren't explicitly enumerated by the Constitution. Of course, many people do what I see as Scalian mental contortions to arrive at a different conclusion.

There certainly have been cases where "rights" conflicted. One would be the "property rights" of slave owners (slaves being the property in question) vs. the innate rights of the slaves themselves. However, I see this problem of "bad rights" as having been solved by the 14th amendment. What bad interpretations of rights could you see that do not conflict with an existing amendment?

When a flexible, "living" interpretation is allowed, a religious majority could view civil liberties and rights through the lens of their religion, particularly when there is some connection (which they love to exaggerate) between their religion and the country's founding principles. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Yeah, I think that that is prevented pretty clearly by the first amendment. And the 14th amendment wouldn't allow for granting one class of citizens rights over/at the expense of another.

As for the bigger picture, in my mind the debate over whether or not the Constitution is "living" is silly. Of course it is living. Unless you can send every case back to 1787 you'll never know what the founders intended. You interpret the meaning of what they wrote through the context of your modern life. Trying to use their writings of the time for context just exponentially increases the text that can be construed for any purpose, and you still end up reading the context through the context of modern life. And the founders almost certainly had different and unique interpretations of the constitution that they all voted for.

If a religious majority took over all three branches of government, then what can you do? The constitution won't save you. The constitution grants them the power to look at it through their own lens. No other lens is possible. The constitution is "living" then whether you want it to be or not.

Indeed these rights were acknowledged before the constitution and Madison, along with some of the other framers, worried that a Bill Of Rights might create the negative pregnant[1][2] that we see being born out today. The largely ignored 9th amendment was a compromise between not having a bill of rights or somehow exhaustively enumerating all of them.

It's ignorance of history that holds us back.

[1] http://www.library.okstate.edu/constitution/previous.html#ad...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_pregnant

The ninth and tenth amendments have yet to see their full application. With 'strict constructionists' in the supreme court, it may occur sooner than later.

The enumeration of rights was practical. Without a concise list of important ones to point at, I think we would have been worse off.

Even if you agree that rights exist independently from any written record of those rights, there is still the fact that the public's concept of rights tends to change as culture changes. Despite the efforts of philosophers to connect rights to something more permanent than public opinion, the fact is that the key reason why we have rights is that we believe we have them. If we ceased to believe surely our rights would also go away.

In that sense, it is extremely helpful to have a document that attempts to make a permanent record of what are rights are and what we should expect from our government. The fact that such a document is (necessarily) incomplete does not make it any less valuable.

> But it is possible for a thing to be legal - and constitutional - and in breach of rights which don't need to be named on any paper to still be rights. Like the right to privacy.

Well, much of our current conception of "right to privacy" was invented by the Supreme Court itself so it is true that the Constitution can be interpreted to mean different things as time goes by.

But as you point out, I don't see that happening with this Supreme Court. And to get such a right enshrined there would need to be a case to be brought to the Supreme Court in the first place.

> Well, much of our current conception of "right to privacy" was invented by the Supreme Court

The court doesn't invent rights. Rights are not listed, enumerated, ordered, or limited. It says so right in the part of the US federal constitution that was feared could be mistaken for a list of rights.

Yet we have from those enumerated rights strong protections that the rest of the first world does not have. There is a disincentive to conduct illegal searches, for instance, without a warrant or one of the cases where a warrant is not necessary: the evidence obtained in that search is generally suppressed. If the government wants to win their case, then they need to play by the rules. Britain, as one example, has no such protection.

Not to mention, these claims are uninvestigatable. They can say anything, and not only can we not investigate, but even if someone knew the truth and wanted to set the record straight, they would be considered a traitor and a criminal.

Sadly, the true brilliance of secret laws and classified programs is that they place incredible barriers in front of anyone attempting to prove they have standing to sue, making constitutional challenges difficult, at best.

“Assuming you don’t know exactly what the government did, how could you possibly have a lawsuit that provides any sort of relief and provides and effective remedy?” Samp asks, “How could the plaintiff know what remedy to ask for when he doesn’t even know what’s happened?” --Richard Samp of the Washington Legal Foundation

SOURCE: http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/10/suing-over-surveillance-se...

> One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed to neither him nor the reader.


As if I'd trust the NSA boss to tell the truth about this. Bring in a Church committee, and then we see.

The Church committee never went away. Whatever else you might claim about these NSA programs, the difference between now and then is that now the Senate was in the loop the whole way this time.

I am always saying the same thing but...

This is the same tone the CPSU/NKVD/KGB would use to defend their tactics, their manipulation, their ultimate power.

The "heroes" are the ordinary citizens. It is their ordinary lives the NSA is commited to defend: especially their ORDINARINESS, more and above their lives.

You do not want to live: you want to be free. This is what motivated the independence war, you know? People preferred dying to living under the Crown.

Nowadays nobody in the whole world is free from the NSA.

This has to end. As soon as possible.

Sorry to say but Goebbels, Beria and so on come to mind. And of course, Mayakovski...

I once received a pamphlet from a "friendship committee" with North Korea. It contained a series of translated speeches by Kim Il Sung. Unsurprisingly Kim Il Sung in his speeches likewise insisted everything was for the best of the people, and their happiness and security. Likewise, you'll find Mao said a lot of stuff about freedom and democracy and defending the people.

The only people who uncritically buy statements like these are people that want to buy them because they are already invested in believing...

Such as having a job that depends on them being able to justify what they are doing to themselves.

I'd add, Words like "Homeland" are also familiar. And not from the lexicon of traditional Democratic-Republicanism.

   This has to end. As soon as possible.
And be replaced by what?

Few things can replace suspicionless mass surveillance of everybody on the face of the planet, and personally I'd rather we live in a world where that doesn't get replaced with anything -- it's put to an end in the same spirit that slavery is.

Yes I'm aware everybody doesn't use the internet, and yes I'm aware slavery is still quite prevalent, however my point stands -- slavery is an affront to self-determination and so is suspicionless surveillance.

Well said. However the grandparent comment speaks as though this is unique to the US, rather than something that most governments are doing or would like to do.

How do we get to a state where an actual value is ever given serious political weight? Ending slavery took a major war.

It needed a war in the US, man, not elsewhere...

That seems like just a distraction from actually answering the question into anti-us sentiment.

Yeah, he is employing logical deception. He is equating "willful effort to circumvent or violate the law" with "willful failures in the protection of civil liberties" which aren't the same, before we even get to the point of discussion how people could be incidentally or inadvertently violating rights.

It's almost like he WANTS us to read between the lines and realize the laws are too permissive.

This statement indicates real progress and is a fantastic step in the right direction. While I thoroughly disagree with what Keith is saying (I'll get to that in a minute), his acknowledgement and down-to-earth tone show that Snowden's purpose of igniting a national debate on privacy is working.

Now on to what he actually said.

>we provided over 50 cases to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that show the specific contribution of these programs

>The challenge of these leaks is exacerbated by ... little awareness of the outcomes that our authorities yield

We see on full display the "ends justify the means" attitude that the NSA argues. It is not an invalid argument, but it is one that I'm sure the vast majority of the HN audience would disagree with. Hopefully this attitude is debated in the national spotlight alongside the validity of the programs themselves.

>Through four years of oversight, the committee has not identified a single case in which a government official engaged in willful effort to circumvent or violate the law

Again, there's that "willful" keyword we've heard so much. That's a loophole you could drive a train through! If Keith is so confident in his mens rea defense [1], I'm sure he welcomes the spotlight being shined on his organization's workings.

>Leadership ... is now engaged in a public dialogue to make sure the American public gets the rest of the story

Like I said, it is fantastic that this - the goal Snowden described - is being acknowledged. I look forward to Greenwald's continued leaks (such as the imminent release describing the NSA's collecting of the contents of 1 Billion cell phone calls every day [2]).

> We need you to focus on our primary mission of defending our nation and our allies

Keith seems to be worried that these leaks are taking a toll on his organization's morale. I sincerely hope that this does not impact national security - I doubt it will - but, reading between the lines, I think he's petrified that Snowden's heroic leadership in this area will inspire more leaks. One can only hope.

[1] http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/mens_rea

[2] http://businessinsider.com/greenwald-nsa-store-calls-every-d...

This statement indicates real progress and is a fantastic step in the right direction

It read, to me, like nothing but a blowhard spouting hot-air and empty rhetoric, while desperately hoping to spike morale and discourage the next Edward Snowden from doing The Right Thing.

I mean, it's already well established that the NSA operates with almost zero effective oversight: given that the FISA courts are nothing but a rubber-stamp, Congress is lied to and accepts the lies - or engages in willful ignorance - about this whole situation (well, up until it breaks to the public thanks to Snowden), and the NSA operate under their own interpretation of the law anyway.

There's no real judicial oversight of the NSA, there's no Congressional oversight, so that leaves the Executive branch... and does anybody trust them to exercise restraint???

I think he's petrified that Snowden's heroic leadership in this area will inspire more leaks. One can only hope.

No doubt.

I agree with what you're saying, but the mere existence of this letter is indicative of the fear gripping those in power whom would rather their illegitimate authorities remain a secret.

   ...given that the FISA courts are nothing but a rubber-stamp
How is this 'given'? Do we have any evidence of this whatsoever?

It's been publicly revealed that they only deny something like .03% of all requests.[1] If that isn't a "rubber stamp" then I don't know what is. Of course they have a response to that "Well, the requests are so well done that there are very few that there is any reason to deny them" but that doesn't pass the "smell test" as far as I'm concerned.

[1]: https://www.google.com/search?q=fisa+.03%25

   but that doesn't pass the "smell test" as far as I'm concerned.
So it's gone from a 'given' to 'in your opinion'.

It's easy to explain the 0.03 figure if there are a large number of routine boilerplate small scale requests. It seems highly plausible that this is the case.

The fact that the figure is plausible doesn't rule out the possibility that abuses might be being rubberstamped, but the truth is that we don't know, not that it's a 'given'.

Anything can be argued... I take it as a given that we aren't living inside a computer generated simulation known as The Matrix. But somebody, somewhere, could make a case that we might be. But for all practical purposes, it is a given that we don't.

For all practical purposes, it is a given that the FISA courts are a rubber stamp. Just because there is some amazingly-low-probability and unlikely scenario to explain that away, is no reason not to accept the utter and obvious truth.

So obvious to you that it would seem that you need no evidence at all, other than your preconceptions.

.03% is a disturbingly small number. I don't agree that it constitutes "no evidence at all".

Without knowing anything about the nature of the requests it doesn't tell us anything.

Imagine there are something like 800 actual terrorist suspects - people who have been identified via human intelligence, e.g. Known to have met with terrorist cells, visited training camps, etc.

Of 10,000 requests, it's easily possible that the vast majority could be simply following up on the immediate network surrounding those people - e.g. 'Suspect X called person Y, person Y is new to us, let us check whether person Y is linked to other suspects by phone or email'.

Requests like that would be made using a boilerplate form, and would be correctly rubber-stamped as long as they were closely connected to suspects identified by other means. We should expect many of those kinds of requests to be being generated every day by analysts.

The .03 needs to be put in the context of the number of non-routine requests that are being approved. It doesn't seem at all unreasonable that for every 10,000 boilerplate followups generated by desk clerk analysts, there are 10 more speculative ones generated as a result of more specific investigations, and of these 30% are deemed overreaching.

The vast majority of requests are likely to be boring inquiries generated by bureaucrats following procedure, rather than Jack Bauer like rogues constantly overstepping their authority.

I agree that more context is needed to really know what this number means, and I agree that mindcrime is overstating the case by claiming that it is sufficient to let us conclude absolutely that the FISA court is not doing its job.

But I still think the number probably indicates that there is a serious problem. Further investigation is certainly warranted.

Definitely. My guess is that the system is much less corrupt than people think in practice, although no less fundamentally dangerous.

The secrecy of the process is definitely harming the government's image here, but I can also see that if the exact limits of what could be approved were public, terrorists would be able to develop communications strategies to counter them.

Ironically if his happened, the government would probably react by escalating to broader approvals. So the secrecy might actually be helping to limit the scope of the surveillance.

We see on full display the "ends justify the means" attitude that the NSA argues. It is not an invalid argument, but it is one that I'm sure the vast majority of the HN audience would disagree with. Hopefully this attitude is debated in the national spotlight alongside the validity of the programs themselves.

I do think that the "ends justifying the means" will resonate with most of the US population. And I think that's one reason it won't be a big deal in this country over the long haul. As it is, even among my less technically sophisticated senior-citizen in-laws the attitude is really, "Why is this news? Of course we're doing this!"

I think there is a bit of naivete with a lot of the HN crowd. It's sort of the same naivete that the RIAA has. You can't stop the flow of information. The information will find its way into the hands of the determined. You can't transmit data over virtually public networks and not expect it to be observed.

This all goes together with the discussion between on-site and cloud storage. If you want your data to be private, don't hand it to a 3rd party. That 3rd party includes Google, Verizon, ATT, or Comcast. Once you hand your data to a 3rd party, all bets are off.

This needs to be the way we think about data. We should learn the lesson from the RIAA that fighting a losing battle, just puts us in worse shape when we come to our senses. We should start teaching people that their data over these networks isn't private. Even if the gov't didn't look at it, someone from Google/Facebook/Verizon can do the same -- and is potentially more likely to sell to foreign nations.

This battle is over. Most Americans know this. The tech sector ironically seems to be the ones who are having the most trouble seeing how this plays out.

I disagree. What we need, and what we can really achieve if we put enough pressure on congress, is sweeping legislation that protects our privacy. I believe there's a tipping point beyond which even the least privacy-conscious of citizens becomes angry. Once that happens - hopefully within the span of these leaks - we have the opportunity to force congress's hand in making explicit our privacy protection in the digital age.

It is very depressing to me, knowing that computers, which I grew to love as a child are now the driving force behind enabling the new surveillance/police state (formerly thought of as science-fiction).

Everything we do is tracked, recorded. Our information is sold without our consent. Zero privacy and it only gets worse.

Just because there are two sides to an argument does not mean they are both equally valid, and that the argument itself is debatable.

Stupid false choice BS spread by modern media. You can have safety, privacy and security all at the same time.

   You can have safety, privacy and security all at the same time.
Is there a single explanation anywhere of how this can be achieved? If it is so straightforward that anyone who thinks otherwise is 'stupid', I would love to know.

Total surveillance has nothing to do with the security of the average citizen and all to do with keeping and extending the current elite powers. We're slowly transforming from a democracy to a totalitarian state.

   Total surveillance has nothing to do with the security of the average citizen...
If you really mean this, you are beyond reason. I don't disagree about the slow transformation you describe, but it's hard to believe that no NSA operatives are working towards preventing terrorism.

One of the problems is that surveillance can be used for both purposes.

However neither of your statements are an actual attempt to answer my question.

I agree with most of what you said. I want to nitpick one thing though. I don't agree that "the ends justify the means" is a valid argument. It's not an argument at all, it's a premise in the argument at hand.

And, as you alluded to, the majority of us here seem to disagree with the premise, making the overall argument invalid. Probably not the case for the rest of the country th ough. I'd like to think that we represent the "thoughtful minority", but doesn't everyone.

It's interesting you pointed that out. I wanted to explore the workings of that argument a little more (I choose my words carefully when constructing posts on this site) using "validity" and "soundness", but I was in a bit of a hurry as I have a lot of work to do today. Thank you for your response.

>we will remain committed to the defense of the Nation and all that it stands for - security and liberty.

>security and liberty.

Since when did the USA stand for security? Job security? Nope. Home security? Nope. It' supposed to be a free nation, not a secure nation.

I believe that the USA always thought of itself as very secure. The richest, most powerful democracy ever.

911 was a very nasty wakeup call and to me the government reaction following that just shows how badly shaken the USA was to that.

Who would have thought before 911 that the USA would use torture, or surveillance of US citizens, or assassinate USA citizens - all government approved?

Unless the USA can step away from this precipice I don't think it would be a big stretch to say that the terrorists won and USA lost.

The word order speaks volumes as well.

The official response to these leaks has been almost as embarrassing as the leaks themselves, and this statement is a continuation of that trend.

Could you describe what you find to be specifically "embarrassing" about the response?

The context is embarrassing. A contractor who worked with the NSA became so disenchanted with the work they were conducting that he gave up everything he had to bring it to the attention of the public. Now a US Army General has been forced to justify the actions of the agency to the staff that remain, to suck up to them, and implore them not to revolt as Snowden did.

The content is embarrassing. The constant references to 9/11 and to terrorism more generally. People have for years poked fun at this particular proclivity of officials, and the statement reads like a parody.

The references to "foreign intelligence" are embarrassing. To those of us who are foreign to the United States, having widespread violations of our right to privacy justified by the fact we are "foreigners" is despicable. It might placate some US citizens, but this episode is a diplomatic catastrophe for the US, and rightly so.

The very fact gross human rights violations are being justified in the name of "security" is embarrassing. The fact officials are not in damage control mode, acknowledging the gross misconduct they have presided over and seeking to rectify matters, but are instead seeking to continue business as usual.

Everything about this statement is embarrassing.

> and implore them not to revolt as Snowden did.

I don't have any evidence to support this, but I bet most NSA employees would rather see Snowden brought up on charges vs. using him as a lightning rod for revolt. The majority agree with what they are doing on a day to day basis, not the opposite.

> I don't have any evidence to support this, but I bet most NSA employees would rather see Snowden brought up on charges vs. using him as a lightning rod for revolt. The majority agree with what they are doing on a day to day basis, not the opposite.

On the contrary, I suspect a great many recognize, as Snowden did, that the work they are doing is morally questionable, but would rather turn a blind eye, keep doing what they're doing and taking home fat paychecks than express dissent and face the wrath of the state, knowing better than most the capacity it has to destroy their lives.

Maybe it could be the less of either extreme and they just quit and go work somewhere else? If there has been a mass exodus of NSA employees the last 5 years I'd believe it, but I don't believe that is the case.

Granted. I suspect most NSA employees put up with it because their salaries are considerably higher than they could hope to achieve in the private sector, and they would rather be the spies than the ones being spied upon.

Snowden, a fairly unremarkable sysadmin, was allegedly taking home compensation of around $200k pa.

To be honest, even I'd probably turn a blind eye if I were being paid that much.

This seems like a pre-emptive move to appeal to their "loyalty" to the agency (and not necessarily to the country) to stop further whistleblowers from coming out with more secrets.

I'm hoping the smart ones will see through this, and if they do know of other illegalities/wrong doings, they come forward. If it's ever the time to do this, it's now, when the government is most vulnerable. It would help if they were in higher positions inside the agency.

Maybe I missed it before but this looks like the first official NSA statement I heard of about the programs:

"To address this shortfall and protect the nation from future terrorist attacks like 9/11, we made several changes to our intelligence efforts and added a number of capabilities. Two of these capabilities are the programs in the news. They were approved by the Administration, Congress, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court"

"Two of these capabilities are the programs in the news."

Sounds suspiciously like an official admission that the information available in public is both correct and reasonably complete, at least as far as those two programs go.

Also, that there are other "capabilities".

That's exactly what I thought. Just last week they put out a warning to US service members stating that confirming the leaks is against the law. Now we have the guy at the top saying the stuff in the news is accurate.

> Just last week they put out a warning to US service members stating that confirming the leaks is against the law. Now we have the guy at the top saying the stuff in the news is accurate.

The decision to declassify would come from the top.

So if it's declassified, can we see the whole slideshow now?


Confirming the accuracy of classified information is what would be against the law. the Director of National Intelligence declassified parts of what were leaked but unless Sgt. Snuffy happened to be able to remember exactly which parts those were when discussing in public then he would have a difficult time being able to (legally) talk about which is which.

The statement from the 'guy at the top', on the other hand, would have been routed through his boss and the NSA General Counsel to ensure that it's only referring to declassified programs.

"The challenge of these leaks is exacerbated by a lack of public understanding of the safeguards in place and little awareness of the outcomes that our authorities yield."

This is a self inflicted wound that they are refusing to accept responsibility for. While I am against domestic data collection without cause period, when it happens there should be informed consent, not blind trust that they won't abuse the privilege. Furthermore, the handling of any of this data, whether domestic or foreign by defense/security contractors should be banned. Add any other entity that would have an economic incentive to secretly abuse said access to that information to the list.

The thing about trust is once you lose it, it's very difficult to get back. These days every time I read something from the NSA, Congress or the White House, about spying on the public (most of it pathetically self congratulatory) I think bullshit.

The NSA needs to be cleaned out and the White House does as well.

Yeah, let's replace them with someone we know can be trusted with technology. How about Google.

Almost entirely off topic, but I was caught off guard by the following line:

> Your dedication is unsurpassed, your patriotism unquestioned, and your skills are the envy of the world.

Your patriotism unquestioned! I wonder, is there any democratic country outside the US where patriotism is so much a thing? What does it mean, really? I love my country, so I'll do.. what? What would I do that I wouldn't do if I didn't love my country? Are those things actually always the right thing to do?

I'm not really getting to a point here. I'm just surprised that a term as strong as "patriotism" is used to casually. Do common people in the US really identify with being a patriot? Or is this just army-speak?

> Do common people in the US really identify with being a patriot?

Patriotism originally meant you were willing to sacrifice something for your country. Presumably the smallest measure of that sacrifice would be spending your time developing well-founded opinions about how the country should operate. (Just take a look at the federalist papers: 85 long, dense articles arguing in favor of the minutest details of the constitution. And the expectation was that people would actually read them!)

Unfortunately patriotism doesn't mean sacrifice anymore. It means something akin to a fingers-in-the-ear, uncritical fanboyism. Just plaster everything with flags and soaring eagles and call it good. It's not sacrificing everything (like Snowden did), it's something you do instead of sacrificing _anything_, even the time it would take to educate yourself on what your country is doing. And as a bonus you get to flaunt that very ignorance as an additional point of pride.

And yeah, common people here in the US definitely do embrace it to a nauseating degree.

> Patriotism originally meant you were willing to sacrifice something for your country

Yes. That's why Snowden is a patriot, not fat bald men sitting around in a climate-controlled building in Utah, listening to mp3s of private conversations (and posting them to Youtube -- we're certainly not very far from this).

Those NSA characters don't sacrifice anything. They probably look like Newman of Seinfeld fame. Calling them "heroes" is hilarious (as well as Orwellian, but we're used to that).

> They probably look like Newman of Seinfeld fame.

So it is not possible to be fat and bald and still be willing to sacrifice for your country?

Benjamin Franklin's vision of "A Republic, if you can keep it" requires questioning in a desire to preserve what can, in fact, be lost.

What Keith is going for here, is , "My Country, right or wrong", blind following.

Well when the job is literally "National Security" then no, it's not weird that you would refer to the patriotism (a nationalistic term) of the workers.

Maybe they want to make the PATRIOT Act look like a good thing?

"...we will remain committed to the defense of the Nation and all that it stands for - security and liberty."

That's the ENTIRE issue here: security is being placed before liberty.

This document just confirms that.

The words of a liar... He lied about NSA capabilities, instead of simply saying "No comment." Now we're supposed to just overlook the past lies?

They knew that what they've been doing is wrong and this is in no way believable when one considers the amount of lies coming out of the US government these days.

Secret judges. Secret courts. Secret police. Extrajudicial assassinations. Torture.

Sounds like a Nazi regime.


Like "we burnt the Constitution, 100.000.000 copies of it, but nobody was injured. We also used flags to enhance the bonfire. And what a fire it was!

We did no harm to anybody."

EDIT: The parent has vanished... It was in the same vein as my comment: "no harm done, what a (dirty) joke."

> "We need you to focus on our primary mission of spying on our nation and our allies."

Any statement that begins with the equivalent of "We're at war" completely destroys credibility.

If you have to pretend we are at war to make a convincing argument, you've already lost (war is obvious).

German ally here. Note to Keith Alexander: we are prepared to defend ourselves and to decide ourselves how we want to be defended.

Best Regards,


What is unclear is what qualifies as a "national security" issue, and what doesn't. It would be nice to see its scope clearly defined.

9/11 without question hurt America as a nation. But in the case of the Boston marathon event -- was national security threatened in that instance? If so, was national security threatened by the various mass shootings that happened in the year preceding the Boston marathon?

Similarly, perhaps one could argue that Bradley Manning, because of his disclosures, threatened national security. But does Julian Assange?

A foreign enemy shooting you on the battlefield: sure. But a guy recording himself making pro-Jihad speeches?

Russian moles probably count. But sympathizing free thinkers?

>NSA's staunch commitment to protecting and upholding the privacy and civil liberties of the American people

yup, no problem at all violating the data from foreign people. No problem at all. This will help american based business.

Welcome to the balkanisation of the web.

Those allies he talks about in the last paragraph are pretty miffed with him right now by the look of things...

    I like to think
        (it has to be!)
    of a cybernetic ecology
    where we are free of our labors
    and joined back to nature,
    returned to our mammal
    brothers and sisters,
    and all watched over
    by machines of loving grace.
Excerpt from All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (1967) by Richard Brautigan

About the BBC TV series by the same name: "The Californian Ideology, a techno-utopian belief that computer networks could measure, control and self-stabilise societies, without hierarchical political control, and that people could become 'Randian heroes', only working for their own happiness, became widespread in Silicon Valley...but that the Californian Ideology had also been unable to stabilise it; indeed the ideology has not led to people being Randian heroes but in fact trapped them into a rigid system of control from which they are unable to escape."


The tone sounds slightly panicked. I wonder what's going on over there; especially with the way he bolded the fact that people should keep working. I wonder if that's just his writing style (military folk love urgency), if it betrays a growing rift within the organization, or both.

Too many secrets. Why they don't operate in the open? This might be additional deterrent to terrorist plots if would be terrorists were aware of how much surveillance they are exposed to.

The true fact of the matter is that any secret kept by the US military, which must not be revealed to the public in order to maintain public order, and which nevertheless does induce Terror in the receiver of the secret .. well folks: this is Terrorism being used on your Government by infiltrating agents whose true purpose is the destruction of the US, itself, and the establishment of a new world order. Of people, governments, corporations, armed with psychological processes designed with specific purposes, weaponized.

The Terror Meme is A Weapon, Gone Loose.

Anyone alive today, who is making a daily business of the commitment to ideas such as that populations must serve Terror, must be immediately taken off their positions of power.

The only possible hope is that the American people realize just how much responsibility they have to take in order to de-Throne their new masters. If you are not willing to burn the curtain, not just look behind it, then you must take responsibility until you are willing, citizen.

The right of the true enemy to keep secrets must be revoked. The absolutely certain result will be more peace, because Peace happens when people reveal secrets to each other with the intention of making Peace. To Make Peace, Communication: and destroy all barriers to doing so.

The US has to have a serious look at its secrecy policies, and there must be a serious attempt, by the People, to demonstrate to the world that Peace itself, has still yet a chance to prevail. Make no mistake: on the other side of US Military Secrets is a reason for the US Military to be removed from post. Always.

And if you do start doubting our mission, keep your mouth shut, because we'll ruin your life no matter who you are (that's why they're going after a retired four star general right now over leaks).

That's also why Obama administration has been so hard on leakers and whistleblowers in general. To serve as a clear message to those who would talk about what's been happening at the NSA: we will punish you. The reason for clamping down so hard is because the scope, both in the amount of surveillance and in the sheer number of people who knew (in the military, government employees, contractors, and private companies NSA is collecting data from) had gotten so out of control.

The questions in my mind are:

How much of a systemic change has this program caused to the federal government already (e.g. clamping down on whistleblowers)?

How often have the capabilities of NSA been used to track down whistleblowers of any kind already (ironically employing what's causing the problem in the first place as part of a "solution")?

Have these capabilities been used to settle political scores already? I'm thinking of Petraeus. Interesting how those dots were connected. Interesting also that by then both Obama and Hillary Clinton had reason to be upset with him.

> Another cause of dullness is imitation. You are made to imitate by tradition. The weight of the past drives you to conform, toe the line, and through conformity the mind feels safe, secure; it establishes itself in a well-oiled groove so that it can run smoothly without disturbance, without a quiver of doubt. Watch the grown-up people about you and you will see that their minds do not want to be disturbed. They want peace, even though it is the peace of death; but real peace is something entirely different.

> When the mind establishes itself in a groove, in a pattern, haven't you noticed that it is always prompted by the desire to be secure? That is why it follows an ideal, an example, a guru. It wants to be safe, undisturbed, therefore it imitates. When you read in your history books about great leaders, saints, warriors, don't you find yourself wanting to copy them? Not that there aren't great people in the world; but the instinct is to imitate great people, to try to become like them, and that is one of the factors of deterioration because the mind then sets itself in a mould.

> Furthermore, society does not want individuals who are alert, keen, revolutionary, because such individuals will not fit into the established social pattern and they may break it up. That is why society seeks to hold your mind in its pattern, and why your so-called education encourages you to imitate, to follow, to conform.

> Now, can the mind stop imitating? That is, can it cease to form habits? And can the mind, which is already caught in habit, be free of habit?

— Jiddu Krishnamurti, Think on These Things (This Matter of Culture), Chapter 16, Renewing the Mind - http://books.google.it/books?id=IsldnzHkxpsC&printsec=frontc...

Maybe I'm a little more trusting than I should be, but I can totally understand how a program like this would be justified in the minds of agents and agencies trying to do better at their jobs. They probably truly believe that this program is for the greater good of the nation and that it WILL save lives. I can get all of that, and I sympathize.

But power granted is not easily revoked. I'm not as worried about the current administration and their motives. However, the future can be predicted by no man, and where this nation is in 10-30 years, no one knows. This power can easily be used for not just subjugation of this nation, but possibly the world. In the wrong hands, this could be a tool of unfathomable power. And that is something I'm absolutely NOT okay with.

If revoking these programs, we open truly open ourselves to more attacks, so be it. That is the price to be paid for limiting of government power.

People need to stop trying to turn this into a cartoon. This isn't some good vs. evil, heroes vs. villains BS, and continuing to present it in that manner ends up making your opponents look way smarter than they have any right to be. This is absolutely something people should be up in arms about; I've been deeply disturbed by the weakening of the concept of civil liberties going back to Patriot Act. This isn't anything new, this stuff has been going on for a long, long time. This is the consequence of people buying into the War on Terror, among other things.

All of this stuff happened for a reason, and that reason was not that the NSA chief or Obama or Bush or anyone else was an evil person drunk on power who just couldn't help themselves because they're just that bad (or stupid, or whatever). This stuff happened because the electorate and the media and politicians went apeshit after 9/11 trying to point fingers and figure out why none of the intelligence services were able to "connect the dots" and prevent 9/11 from happening. Absolutely everyone was convinced that it was such an eminently preventable catastrophe, and everyone was blaming everyone else to deflect blame from themselves or make it look like they're on the ball.

The electorate demanded it, ate it up, and demanded more. This is why we have Gitmo. This is why we have torture. This is why we have the Patriot Act and why we have to take our shoes off at the airport and why we've had so much more domestic wiretapping in the past 12 years. None of this stuff is news, and if it is news to anyone they haven't been paying attention. Like, at all, on any level. If any of the Snowden stuff is revelatory to you, you have been woefully oblivious to current events for like the past 12 years and are part of the problem.

The thing is, none of this stuff is the product of individuals so much as it's the product of the system and the electorate. If people were half as vocal about civil liberties as they've been about perceived security then we wouldn't be in this situation. Demonizing the people in charge is a natural response, but for the most part they're just people trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The real problem is the system itself (meaning, pressures within the government and between the government, the media, and the electorate) and the general lack of focus on, or understanding of, the importance of civil liberties among the population.

If the outcome of this is nothing more than a bunch of people get pilloried or lose their jobs, but the core legal framework that allowed this to happen remains in place, then all of this will have been a huge waste of time. It doesn't bother me that the NSA exercised powers that they were given and were instructed to use, it bothers me that all of the lawyers who went over this stuff with a fine-toothed comb concluded that this was all perfectly OK given current interpretation of constitutional law.

Looks like the NSA sympathizers on HN flagged this story. It's sitting on page 2 despite having 152 votes.

This all a bunch of newspeak.

"People who sacrifice essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither."

Wow this is basically an excerpt from Mein Kampf.

The head of the NSA should consult with us here on reddit and HN before doing anything since we actually understand geopolitical realities.

Could you explain the similarity you see between this message and "Mein Kampf"?

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