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The danger with this very good article is that it underplays the danger inherent in this system of surveillance. The spooks who put the thing together are the hard-working idiots described here:

> I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.

(often misattributed to Rommel, but actually by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord )

What we have here is a band of diligent idiots who, with their persistent, hard-working little hands, are building an apparatus of oppression that will be the wet dream of whatever future tyrant emerges (as inevitably one must, if history is any guide). They form a powerful, hidden, well-funded department of our government, and they are, from the looks of it, largely incompetent, diligent idiots.

This article/documentary is very good, but don't think these guys are harmless fools. They are very, very dangerous fools - a danger well above their competence.

The movement to undermine US freedom and privacy has been focussed and well-funded since 9/11, under both Bush and Obama and involving more than just the NSA. If it's the work of idiots, they are very hard-working, successful idiots as they've managed to wrest considerable power from a nation of hundreds of millions, assuming control of the world's foremost superpower.

The movement to undermine US freedom and privacy has been focussed and well-funded since 9/11, under both Bush and Obama and involving more than just the NSA.

If that's true, then why don't they just, you know, end privacy? Tptacek was right when he said:

Obama could give a speech in the Rose Garden this week carefully explaining that NSA requires access to American communications, all of them, in order to defend the country against terrorist attacks, and that while privacy is "important", the expectation of perfect privacy in your cell phone and Internet communications isn't reasonable because it helps terrorist cells without providing much benefit.

I would recoil from such a speech, but the public probably would not.

The American public currently has a weak expectation of privacy in their electronic communications. But they make virtually no meaningful demand for that privacy. Thwarting terror attacks are a much higher priority to them. Want evidence of that? Well, the body-conscious, vain, generally out-of-shape American public routinely submits to electronic strip searches to get onto airplanes. You think they care if someone's screening their calls to catch Abu Shahid? They would accept that argument. And with that acceptance, the expectations of privacy and the notion of what "reasonable" searches are would be, in short order, redefined --- those rights being explicitly predicated on contemporary mores by the Constitution.

When I look at it from this angle, it becomes apparent that while privacy is inconvenient to the USG, and something they feel they have to work around, it's not something they're intent on eliminating. Despite the rhetoric from the tech punditry, the USG has not stated that it's reasonable for them to surveil US citizens; their defense has instead been that they are not surveilling them. I too think that's a falsehood, but it's truth or falsity is not the only thing that matters about it.

>If that's true, then why don't they just, you know, end privacy?

By covertly erecting systems that end privacy (and attacking privacy tools like Tor), they are, in effect, ending privacy (without hurting the "US is a champion of freedom" brand to the same degree that explicitly ending privacy would do).

I wonder if Americans know how long it's been since the US started taking photographs and fingerprints of every non-citizen entering the US?

That feels a bit privacy invading, but there wasn't much fuss over it when it was introduced.

This is a surprise. I've never been fingerprinted at a US port. Perhaps it's because I have a biometric passport. Still, such a practice can't be universal.

> Still, such a practice can't be universal.

What do you mean by "not universal"?


> The U.S. government has been collecting digital fingerprints and photographs of nearly all non-citizens aged 14 and up entering the country since 2004, officials said, in a Homeland Security program called US-VISIT, at a cost of $1.7 billion.

If they could "end privacy" like that and not have a revolt at their hands, why are they lying about it?

Where's the fun in that? From the article, it sounds like these guys really enjoy being part of this cloak-and-daggers world...

But then the terrorists would know too!

According to this article, in the UK they've been at work since 1914.

They are very hard-working, of course: they're on a mission to save the world!

Sounds like they fit in the "stupid and diligent" category and have successfully caused mischief.

Brilliant quote.

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