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Misinformation on NSA programs includes statements by senior U.S. officials (washingtonpost.com)
112 points by molecule 1487 days ago | hide | past | web | 25 comments | favorite

I think it says a lot that the defense of these programs relies on what amounts to the redefinition of words, sometimes redefinitions with practically the opposite meaning - like how "collect" has been changed to mean access already collected data.

If they can't defend the programs with straightforward language it means they simply aren't being straightforward with us.

A week earlier, President Obama, in a television interview, asserted that oversight of the surveillance programs was "transparent" because of the involvement of a special court, even though that court’s sessions and decisions are sealed from the public.

I just don't even know what to say to this. There is no way to have a discussion if they are going to redefine words arbitrarily.

one definition of transparent is, "cannot be seen."

Another real & interesting source: "The Language of the Third Reich," by Victor Klemperer (philologist, brother of the renowned conductor, he flew away from Nazi Germany). This is more relevant than 1984 because it is the real thing.

Clapper admitted on national TV that he responded in the “least most untruthful manner”. I've been trying to understand exactly what that means. Doublespeak indeed.

Thanks for sharing that. Absolutely fascinating and chilling.

Can you please (please!) tell me where there's proof that their definition of 'collect' has changed to mean that in their usage. I have suspected that is what Feinstein and others have used as its meaning, but I can't prove it. I have enough proof to satisfy myself they have redefined 'acquire' here, but 'collect' would be nice too, if you would oblige!

"Well, as James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told Andrea Mitchell of NBC, the N.S.A. uses the word “acquire” only when it pulls information out of its gigantic database of communications and not when it first intercepts and stores the information." [1]

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/opinion/the-criminal-nsa....

I don't remember where I first saw it, but it is mentioned on this list of NSA word redefinitions that the EFF is keeping track of:


That's spot on. Their biggest concern would seem to be to re-word things in a way that later they can't be accused of having lied. Clapper lead the charge on that one at the very beginning.

No attempts to actually clarify what they are up to.

I would place some part of blame on the journalists for not asking specific enough questions. All the discussion around "direct access" was a typical example where more precise questions would say more than hundred pages of discussion.

For example, do Google allow NSA to run computer code on google's servers? More specific, do NSA supply database queries when demanding data? Do NSA ever provide Google with tracking code like JS or links to NSA webbugs (1px imgs) that Google later put in targeted ads? Do Google ever provide physical (or remote) access to servers, hard drives (like backups) or network devices to NSA?

Either of those would to me be equivalent with "direct access", while I can perfectly see how Google would not define it as such.

I can imagine that the current state of affairs is that the private tracking networks sell the data to NSA. It's not just the problem if the private company or the government institution does something, the bigger problem is if the whole system which includes the private companies is outside of checks and balances and prone to misuse. The honest and not hidden laws should regulate both private and government uses of citizens' data.

It's unfortunate that the rule of law bifurcating in this country - swat teams and militaristic police for us common folk and the ability to lie to congress, etc not being punished for the rulers. Hopefully a committee will be started to investigate these crimes and people will involved will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

As I said at almost every article where the "NSA officials" were defending the programs in some way - Do not trust them! They can't be trusted.

We need a real external investigation done into this (and even that needs to be done by very credible people), and then we'll see how it all goes. You can't be naive enough to trust anything the NSA or the administration is saying now.

Who should investigate this? The same government guys? Will you trust this investigation?

Private investigators? Will multi-layered bureaucracy let any outsider to just go in and look into papers? Or you suggest going to congress and mr. president to ask permission to let you investigate? (Basically, asking the same gov. guys you never trust.)

Here's suggestion: I don't want to play this game. Let NSA do whatever they want to do, but I don't want to pay for this. Let me not pay my taxes and use different currency, so they cannot tax me by inflating it. Then we'll see if they'll have enough funds to continue doing what they are up to.

The real fix is total removal of any moral justification for the government. Give voluntarily to those who deserve it (in your view) and expose violence when they try to extract money from you by force (explicitly via taxation or implicitly via inflation). When people see the "gun in the room", they'll be more informed about how shit like NSA happens to them and how to actually prevent it.

However, if you in favor of some government policy, I respect you decision and will never violently prevent you from sponsoring it. But will you give me the same respect if I disagree with you and not violently prevent me from withdrawing my participation? In other words, will you blame or at least not justify a violent action against me if I decide to not pay for some government programs I dislike?

You're welcome to withdraw from our social compact, but in doing so you can't be allowed to stay on U.S. soil because as a practical matter we can't help but defend you from invasion if you do. I'm sure there are lots of other countries that would love to have you, though.

So you can point out legitimate owners of the soil? Was there a contract among some folks? Maybe you have some theory of property rights. I'd be very interested to hear it and see how consistent it is.

Btw, slavery once was legal too. It must be covered by your theory of justice.

Nobody "owns" the soil, not really. "Ownership" is a fiction--nothing more than an implied agreement between you and a big enough group of other people that if someone tries to displace you from a particular patch of soil, the group will forcibly remove that person. The U.S. governments (the federal and states) don't "own" the soil within the borders of the U.S., but have exclusive jurisdiction to enforce ownership agreements on U.S. soil for no greater or lesser reason other than the fact that they can defend those borders against outsiders.

It is interesting that you mention slavery. No amount of bleeting about "natural rights" will keep armed people from enslaving you, as has happened countless times throughout history. Your "right" to freedom is nothing more or less than your agreement with a sufficiently large group of other people that they will defend you against people trying to enslave you. The history of slavery in the U.S. actually exemplifies this. The 13th amendment didn't end slavery. Constitutional recognition of peoples' inherent right to freedom didn't end slavery. Union soldiers burning down southern cities ended slavery.

See my comment below. I don't advocate any definition of "ownership". Call it however you want. It is you, not me who is using those concepts when you tell me that some group of people have some sort of agreement by which I must pay taxes, use certain paper bills as a legal tender etc. I am only saying that if I don't hurt anyone and do not want to participate in certain activities, what is the justification for violent action against me?

So please explain what you meant by your original comment.

The justification is that you are on soil that was staked out and is defended by those other people. You're welcome to leave, but you're not welcome to stay without abiding by the rules of the group.

You are advocating a particular definition of ownership: ownership that gives you the right to occupy soil independent of any compact with some other group of people.

> So you can point out legitimate owners of the soil? Was there a contract among some folks? Maybe you have some theory of property rights. ... Btw, slavery once was legal too. It must be covered by your theory of justice.

[EDITED:] Your questions aren't especially helpful. "Legitimate" is merely a label. It's meaningful only insofar as it influences human behavior.

No doubt some so-called Native Americans still view the current "ownership" of the North American landmass as illegitimate and unjust. But you'd be hard-pressed to find many others whose behavior has been (or will be) the least bit affected by that view.

As to a theory of property rights, and for that matter a theory of justice, try this:

* A right is no more and no less than a personal desire that -- in a time period that's meaningful to you -- you can effectively cause to be enforced, either alone or in collaboration with others whom you can persuade to share that particular desire; and

* Justice should be regarded as consisting of scalable, sustainable happiness -- but unfortunately (1) many people regard justice as more or less identically equal to what they want at any given moment, and (2) we operate in a not-inconsiderable amount of ignorance as to what scalable, sustainable happiness entails. (In that regard, John Rawls's famous "veil of ignorance," from his A Theory of Justice, can be a useful decision-making tool.)

Just to make it clear: I am not advocating any definition of justice or theory of property rights.

What is "legitimate" in one place can very well be illegitimate in another. And it has nothing to do with mine or yours personal ethics.

My one and only argument is a response to a justification of violence. When a man comes to me and says "You must serve in russian army or I will kick into a jail", it's usually covered with some theory that must justify violence in the eyes of people around. Normally, people wouldn't like any government activity if it was openly violent without any justification. My entire point of debates here on HN is to uncover that violence. When people really see the gun, they may take more informed decisions about their own ethical views.

I will not debate with a person who openly tells me "I will kill you because I can". I'll just run away or call for help. But if the person tries to bullshit me why he has a right to do so, I'd love to see if he can prove his wonderful theory (and I can be as sarcastic as I like because I am the last person here who could hurt anyone because of disagreement because I consistently advocate peace and voluntarism over violent coercion).

Example: NSA does something that people do not like. I try to point out that government forces you to pay for those activities and uses the same force to limit your ability to control these things. It does not matter if you like or dislike the government. You should realise what is it and how it works. My humble suggestion is to consider withdrawing your participation and pay only for something you like. Then, you'd either have to openly advocate for violent extraction of money from everyone including me, into my face, or reconsider your political views.

Fair enough. Political discourse might be more productive if it could be framed as you do. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening any time soon.

I hope that in the future states of the Earth, they teach disinformation and doublespeak detection/eradication techniques to the teenagers of the tomorrow. It sure would help to know thats going to happen..

> I assume most people are acting in good faith

He's talking about himself of course, the NSA is premised upon the exact opposite.

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