Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits To Discredit 'Radicalizers' (huffingtonpost.com)
217 points by joshfraser 1002 days ago | hide | past | web | 51 comments | favorite

This reminds me of a link I found while browsing Woz's tweets several months ago. https://twitter.com/stevewoz/status/364464427736633344

It was a video about a possible attempted 'setup' of someone named Luke Rudkowski who runs an investigative/dissenter/truthseeker blog.

Someone claiming to be a whistleblower had emailed Rudkowski's personal account from an anonymous Tor address supposedly having information that might interest him but attached were graphic images of CP. He was overseas at the time so if he had happened to get detained in customs while reentering the US and had his browser cache searched he'd be in some serious shit. Apparently he'd been detained in the past and had his computer searched.

A nefarious organization could use this method and tip off customs or local law enforcement to discredit a 'radicalizer.' Very scary stuff.

This reminds me of the German, so called "State Trojan", a Trojan used by the German domestic state police to search targets computers, that has the capabilities to alter the and upload to the targets computer in a way, that the messing with this computer cannot (in reasonable time) be found in court.

So the police could plant evidence, it then uses. This was the reason our supreme court forbid the usage of these tools, as contra to our constitution.

Non the less, the police and right-wing politicians lobby very hard for the use of these tools.

They just added to the list of legal defenses that can protect "bothersome" people [0]. We basically now have evidence that can be used to claim reasonable doubt whenever a bothersome person is in court defending themselves. Since the state is likely to rely on state secrets laws to prevent this information from being subpoenaed in a trial, the possibility that the state used this tactic against a bothersome person can no longer be ruled out and that should constitute reasonable doubt.

It would be supremely ironic if all these NSA surveillance shenanigans resulted in a broad invalidation of any digital evidence in a court of law when bothersome people are involved.

[0] http://martinfowler.com/articles/bothersome-privacy.html

Remember the unfortunately named us congressman Anthony Weiner?


Ever wonder if maybe he didn't accidentally post that dick pic to his political twitter feed? That maybe someone else who knew he had another private twitter account which he used to perv out with women online was responsible for putting that pic out on the public twitter feed?

Weiner lost his congressional seat in the fallout and his replacement, Robert Turner, is a republican. The first republican to hold that seat in roughly 80 years.


Yeah I'm afraid that doesn't make any sense. Why would he admit to it? And then admit to it again.... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Weiner_sexting_scandal...

Because oftentimes denying it just makes people think you did the act all the more.

I don't follow, Weiner admitted he posted the pics.

I think what OP is trying to get at is that pretty much everyone does or has done something or other which is embarrassing and potentially career-destroying.

In Weiner's case, it's conceivable that the first dick pic was posted by a bad actor. Once it's out, and it's clear what's happening, the "well, I didn't mean to post it!" excuse simply doesn't fly. There's really no choice but to admit it and say sorry, and hope your career isn't ruined.

I think a better example would be Elliot Spitzer. He was going to post an op-ed in the wa-po that was critical of the administration with in days of when the information about his sex scandal was released. The scandal instantly sucked away any credibility he would have had. Threat neutralized.

Everyone should remember how the FBI tried to blackmail Martin Luther King.


And that's what they do. They are supposed to be guarding us against threats but then they start to preceive everything as a threat, including lawful political activitism.

I think it's even more mundane and evil than perceiving us as threats.

They perceive us as a resource of arrests and prosecutions, for good job performance evaluations.

They are supposed to guard the people but job security and mission creep means their priority becomes guarding themselves. This should come as a shock, unfortunately it does not.

Let's examine who they're targeting:

One that stands out has the cause of targeting as "The U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself", a view Ron Paul holds - I'd hardly call this appropriate targeting of terrorists.

The second one that is perhaps more inappropriate than the first: "The US perpetrated the 9/11 attacks." Who said this? A "well-known media celebrity". There are many far right-wing media celebrities who espouse this view. While it's an absurd view, I'd hardly call labeling them as terrorists and targeting them (with intent to discredit) an appropriate reaction.

Pretty disgusting behaviour from the NSA.

It shows that, like its British equivalents, the NSA is not an intelligence service who purpose is to protect American people, its a propaganda tool of the sitting government used against its people.

Never forget, the one single thing governments are afraid of is the electorate. No terrorist group has toppled a western government as far as I know, but voters do it all the time.

> Never forget, the one single thing governments are afraid of is the electorate. No terrorist group has toppled a western government as far as I know, but voters do it all the time.

For a certain definition of "government", sure. The elected leadership may change, but think of the (hundreds of) thousands of civil servants who survive in their jobs in the executives and legislatures over the lifetime of many governments...

Its the 21st century compliment to "bread and circuses"...

I agree, but it is worth noting that these single phrase labelling isn't all that the NSA knows about these people.

For example, the first one you mentioned ("The U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself") has also had "writings appear on a number of jihadi websites".

Even combining those two things doesn't make that person a terrorist. OTOH I do think it is reasonable that the NSA has a file on a person like that.

Also, note that the NSA does not label them as terrorists - they use the word "Radicalizers".

Finally, the NSA doesn't actually seem to intend to discredit them - these are merely documented plans for how it could be done if required.

> Finally, the NSA doesn't actually seem to intend to discredit them - these are merely documented plans for how it could be done if required.

He wasn't transporting any contraband or illegal drugs in that illegal secret compartment, but it's a good thing we got him, since we're pretty sure he did it once before and he was probably on his way to do it again!

Hu? That analogy doesn't make sense at all. "We" didn't "get" anyone.

This is more like a security guard outside a bank watching someone who turns up at the same time as the cash delivery van every day, stands there watching the cash delivery, and then leaves.

They aren't doing anything wrong, but it would be prudent for the guard to think about some kind of plan if in case that person decides to do more than watch the cash delivered.

I was referencing an article from the other day where someone was arrested for the first time in Ohio for the relatively new law prohibiting (makes a felony) after-market modifications to vehicles, where the modification creates a "secret" or secure stash space. I think the condition on the law was that it was only illegal if it was used or kept "knowingly and with the intent" to transport contraband.

From the article, the car reeked of raw marijuana, but they didn't find any in the compartment. The police said it was a good thing they were able to get him, under the illegal modification law, because he probably was transporting. In the context I hope you can see why I made the reference! :)

A written plan to discredit is evidence of intent, but those NSA creeps won't get any jail time. But by the time any lab gets around to analyzing the Ohio arrested person's car for smells, there's a good chance all of the evidence will have "wafted away." And in the case of NSA, it's just like your analogy, only porn instead of bank vault (and internet instead of guard.)

If someone would've said this before, they would've definitely been seen as paranoid/conspiracy type people. I mean it's ridiculous to even think that a government agency would concern itself with stuff like this - and here we are. It's like you can think of the worst stuff NSA could do to blackmail/discredit someone - and now you can bet they are already doing it.

I can see why this is a useful tool but this has such potential to be part of the slippery slope. After reading this I thought I would Google the NSA wiki page. I was surprised that illegal domestic wiretapping issue is not new but going back to the 60's.


Back in the 20's, and probably earlier: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Chamber

The American Cipher Bureau was just another government agency doing then what the NSA does today.

Note that the page describes the Bureau as spying on negotiating partners: "Its most notable known success was during the Washington Naval Conference during which it aided American negotiators considerably by providing them with the decrypted traffic of many of the Conference delegations, most notably the Japanese."

Sound familiar? I see no reason to think that they weren't doing everything else that today's NSA has been caught doing.

So, this made the first page even with the word 'NSA' in it. Let's see what happens when it reaches 40 comments.

Well, it didnt take too long.

Interesting that now "controversial" means "popular".

I find it funny that the comment police seems to think the NSA scandal is over, when it is in fact very much alive and kicking over here in Europe.

Mainstream press is reporting and new things come to light every day. On top of that, the scandal is completely devouring any trust people had in US cloud companies.

> I find it funny that the comment police seems to think the NSA scandal is over

It's pretty obnoxious that a scandal that is projected to cost the US tech industry $180 billion by 2016 is treated this way on HN.

The NSA poisoned the tech well in America, and it could mean the end of telecom infrastructure companies in the US and it could prevent the overseas expansion of telecom service providers.

I suspect that the comment was more a critique on hn ranking algorithm. NSA seems one of the headline trigger words that makes a story decay a lot faster than other stories.

Correct, this was the first story to pop up after the hn ranking algorithm article yesterday.

My first thoughts on reading this:

1) Looks like (perhaps) one step short of where we all said it was going - "collect what we can now, never knowing when & how we might need to use it against someone later"

2) Wouldn't it be easier/cheaper/better/whatever to simply fake the data & frame someone?

As far as #2, they are still people, no matter how authoritarian/establishmentarian, so they still need to convince themselves (and each-other) that what they're doing is right (even though, seemingly, the bar for achieving that may be lower than for a typical person).

At the risk of violating some internet law, the people (they were still people) of Nazi Germany convinced themselves and each other to commit mass evil, or at least to go with the flow and not rise up against it.

The people of Nazi Germany were not special, they were no different than any other group of people.

We are all our own worst danger. When we restrain our government through laws and constitutions, it's not to protect ourselves from some "other," it's to protect ourselves from ourselves.

You could always not bring up Nazi and just use the Milgram experiment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

Besides the Milgram experiment, Soloman Asch's conformity experiments, Zombardo's Stanford Prison study, the innocent bystander and the fundamental attribution error should all be required for politicians writing laws, police enforcing them, prosecutors bringing charges against people using them and judges meting out the final judgement. Possibly even jurors should be required to learn about those basic psychological principles before sitting in on a trial. You could cover all of them for the jurors in 2 days I reckon.

Or better yet, mention both.

Rendering certain segments of history taboo is a great way to fail to learn from them.

I read this story and I couldn't help but think about the actual extent of the pressure that was brought to bear on Aaron Swartz and whether or not there's a lot more to that story than we've been made aware of.

TBH, even though these details aren't used to prosecute, I wouldn't be surprised if they are used to intimidate during an interrogation in an effect to force cooperation via a plea bargain. I reckon its very valuable info when trying to get people to rat each other out (or fabricate information about each other).

The entire interrogation process AFAICT is infected by detectives and other LEOs committing the fundamental attribution error [0].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

Okay, so you're someone that doesn't want them tracking your every move. How much would a VPN, scripts like Ghostly/NoScript and encripted mail help?

If they have identified you as a target, and they really want to get you, have time and the resources - probably not much, e.g. they could break into your house, and install a hardware keylogger in your machine - a VPN wouldn't help much!

But isn't their method of operation: Collect Everything and see if we've got something on someone later if they're going 'rogue'? (E.g. against the establishment)

Yes, but that would be worthless without the next step of targeting an individual identified by the dragnet. I imagine all you need to be a person of interest is to have communicated with someone who is a small number of hops away from some other person of interest. Or later, when they really get going on their data mining, all you'll need to have done is to have said something particularly interesting and negative about the NSA or the government; they'll have to start doing that, because they'll run out of actual terrorists and they'll have to find a way to keep racking up "successes."

Wasn't there a story that they 'found' smut in OBL's hideout?

That is indeed what anonymous US officials have claimed.


Finally, something about NSA that I can hear without disgust and horror. This is actually the kind of job I was expecting them to do. Unlike dragnet surveillance, breaking internet protocols, etc.

Although the problem remains: the same methods can be used to silence dissidents...

Do you think that jihadis will trust a press release from NSA? "Oh, The Great Devil (US) says you're browsing kinky pictures, so we're not gonna trust you anymore and we're gonna take whoever The Great Devil recommends us instead"

Obviously it wouldn't work that way. They would arrange to have the incriminating information show up in a way that wasn't obviously linked to the great satan. Then they would have a double-agent positioned to take control once the main guy was discredited. It isn't like the great satan would be publicly endorsing the double-agent.

Cool. So how can the double-agent prove that the guy is browsing porn?

American and allied lap dogs will. And that helps demonise the "enemy", thus justifying the over reaches and so on.

> Although the problem remains: the same methods can be used to silence dissidents

But you and the NSA know which is which, right?

We are all doomed.

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