Put aside the question of data on U.S. citizens: I don't understand how in an era of burner phones and widespread encryption any intelligence agency can do without some bulk foreign surveillance. Say HUMINT gets its hands on a foreign bad guy's contact list. Odds are the most relevant information you'd be able to extract is in the past, especially if the target knows you captured his list.
Is it really an "overreach" if the NSA can acquire the mobile phone records of Yemen "indiscriminately" and use the data to build social graphs for current and future (currently unknown) targets of interest?
EDIT: I don't mean to cast Schneier's argument uncharitably. He may very well make a distinction between "acceptable" and "overreaching" bulk surveillance, but if so he doesn't seem to outline it in this piece.
Yes. You can not commit act of violence indiscriminately just-in-case.
The US army could place a bomb under every house in Yemen, just in case that they would need to bomb it later. Would that be an overreach? If they don't activate them, how can it be harmful?
Surveillance is violence. It is that simple.
Doesn't your own argument indicate that they are separate concepts? It doesn't seem simple at all.
Edit: Just to be clear so you can't try to weasel out of what you said, troops need to be fed so food is violence. Is that clear to you?
Lets hypothetically provide the full mobile phone records of US army personal located in Yemen, and lets count the bodies. Do you think a conventional bomb will result in few'er dead people? How many innocent friends and family would die?
Oh, you game. You so game.
I admit I was having a little tongue-in-cheek fun. It's plausible that I'm wrong (and likely); perhaps lucian1900 was genuinely stating an honest opinion. If so, that's fine. Everyone's entitled to such things.
I guess what bothers me the most is how arguments on the Internet quickly escalate to arguments from extremes. Suggesting simple eavesdropping (even if it can't be helped, some people are loud) is committing an act of violence is so absurd, it almost hurts me to even entertain it. Yet look how little time it took to reach that conclusion.
I suppose that's what I get for being optimistic. Instead of rational debate, you have extremist, absurd language arguing from a stance no reasonable person would believe. Hence, I'd rather give someone the benefit of the doubt, believing that their motives were mostly humor and sarcasm. I have my doubts, especially since the argument itself seems so prevalent and so many other people in this thread are arguing the same thing.
Maybe I need to go back to bed. It's almost like a live play from the theater of the absurd.
The lines are not that silly. Yes, you can defend yourself against someone pointing a gun at you. No, you can not use a nuke, or release biological weapons that kill indiscriminately everyone in the whole nation. Reactions should be appropriate to the threat, and indiscriminately violence is rarely if ever appropriate.
That's not his line of argument. He says that bulk collection of data will not remain confined to the Yemen - there will be mission and scope creep, to include indiscriminate data collection on US citizens and the whole world. That way lies the "Deep State".
Or are you discussing something else he has written?
"This is where the NSA overreaches: collecting data on innocent Americans either incidentally or deliberately, and data on foreign citizens indiscriminately. It doesn't make us any safer, and it is liable to be abused."
We know that politicians like to keep dirt on their opponents to protect their fiefdoms, and we have seen the phenomenon of sudden, unexplained resignations. We also know that government oversight of the secret agencies is lax. Some say effective oversight is not possible.
I admit to bias here - Germans of a certain generation are intimately familiar with the abuses of the Stasi.
Suppose Yemen (sorry to pick on Yemen) becomes a secure base for bad guys who manage to bomb an airplane, a subway, or a major sporting event somewhere in the world "merely" half a dozen times a year. You can argue all you want about how you'd still be more likely to die from a traffic accident, but that won't change the political pressure for action. Frankly, a lot of that pressure would be rational: The costs of disruptive attacks of course go way beyond the mere casualties, even if everyone involved is perfectly stoic.
Now you're looking at the potential for a military incursion, dramatically escalated security at transportation hubs and public events, and/or a bunch of other responses that you might find a whole lot more distasteful than the intelligence agency of a democratic government keeping tabs on phone calls in an unstable country.
 Though if we keep our heads - which is what I've advocated consistently - it can be small. Sadly, I don't think that's likely, but we should continue to push for it. Fear of terrorism is how democracies fall - anyone saying "you need to be freaking out about terrorism" is the enemy.
[A]nyone saying "you need to be freaking out about terrorism" is the enemy.
I am unaware of anyone in a serious position to affect public opinion or policy who is saying this. Which is good, because I don't think it's helpful in a democracy to brand anyone who's participating non-violently as an "enemy".
It was a paraphrase, of course, but the meme is not uncommon - particularly amongst those who stand to profit from security contracts or wish to attack political opponents suggesting saner courses of action. Its prevalence has certainly decreased since 2002.
I stand by my use of the term; the force is well deserved, for a substantial threat to our freedom. And, for clarity, it has certainly included politicians and media personalities. I would note, however, that 1) "enemy" status is transient, and 2) violence (or even other exercise of power, like surveillance) is not always the appropriate way to respond to an enemy - almost never so if they aren't acting violently themselves.
You're assuming those things are inevitable. The argument seems to be that we are bound to act irrationally so let's just give in to it and do something harmful and ineffective. The right answer is to keep our heads in all cases.
Let's suppose you're right and the predominant cost of terrorist attacks is our overreaction to them. Isn't it then obvious that the solution is to prohibit the overreaction? Amend the constitution. Make it much more difficult for the government to engage the military in a foreign excursion. Prohibit all of this TSA security theater entirely. Take away from Congress the ability to self-inflict damage -- that's the actual problem so that's what the solution has to fix.
Can I inquire as to how you know that? American security planners haven't exactly been forthcoming about their motivations and rationalizations.
Is it an overreach if the Yemeni government "indiscriminately" collects the mobile phone records of US citizens? Or, more realistically, China, Russia, UK, Germany, etc...? It seems to me, when you carry out that kind of surveillance (really any sort of wide reaching security/military tactics) you can only expect reciprocity. And at that point why even be bothered if the NSA can collect American data? Even if they cannot legally capture it on their own, they know exactly where they need to go to get it...
I guess my point really boils down to "Do unto others...".
By my thinking, no, not at all. It's life in the modern world of sovereign states and power politics. And of course one of the NSA's jobs is to make that kind of surveillance harder. (I'm less sanguine about the kinds of intelligence sharing operations with allies that are indeed end-runs around the Fourth Amendment.)
In practice (a decade or more of NSA collecting phone records), this doesn't seem to be the case. Multiple terrorist events have happened, but apparently NSA was not able to use all that data to detect or prevent them.
Where the data has been most useful has been in persecuting journalists and political rivals and whistle blowers and circumventing due process in courts.
I'd bet on NSA destroying our democracy long before a terrorist could.
If all they do is foreign activity like that, then no, probably.
That they routinely and indiscriminantly collect mine and other Americans' data, yes. You can't put aside US collection, because it's a huge part of their activity. They are arguably routing around the Constitution.
But that's not what Schneier wrote. He specifically calls out indiscriminate bulk surveillance of foreign citizens as "overreach", even without making a distinction between U.S. allies and adversaries.
Again, I'm not interested in having yet another discussion about exactly which data the NSA is or isn't allowed to collect accidentally or deliberately on U.S. citizens. If you think there have been a paucity of discussion threads about that, feel free to start another one.
people have a right to not be indiscriminately surveilled by every country that they don't live in.
> No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
> Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
What does this even mean?
> Article 25.
> (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Sounds pretty cushy.
> Article 27.
> (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
You're literally violating peoples' human rights when you torrent that music!
> Article 29.
> (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
The UDHR is a supremely silly document. It takes a grab bag of things that are desirable within a particular society, and elevates them to the status of human rights.
As a variety of libertarian fond of endless arguments with multiple other varieties of libertarian, I know from many long and pointless discussion threads that the UDHR is not even consistent with itself. Article 25 implies that someone, a person not mentioned directly, would be violating "everyone's" human rights by failing to provide them with scarce resources at his own expense. It authorizes slavery and/or theft in the name of social security. As a human right.
It's fine as an aspirational declaration of principles, but as a foundational legal document, it sucks.
I also know from the aforementioned pointless libertarian arguments that a "universal declaration" of anything is doomed from the start. You're going to have a hard time even getting 7 billion freewilled humans to even agree that we all live on the same planet.
It's a more verbose way to express the right to "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that appears in the American Declaration of Independence.
So, rather than moving the goalposts: 'rayiner was rebutting the proposition that the UDHR demonstrates a right for people around the world to be free from any surveillance. Do you disagree with him? If so, how do you square it with this site's overwhelming support for piracy?
First, my response wasn't meant as argument, it was meant as inquiry. With his "citation needed" rayiner questioned the notion that privacy against foreign governments was a right, someone pointed at UDHR, rayiner gave some grounds UDHR shouldn't be used for that. My question was accepting that premise (here); it was not intended as a statement that we have to use UDHR if he failed to come up with something better.
Second, you should be entirely aware that not every participant on this site is obligated to hold the views of the majority.
The question about Article 27 is interesting. It's poor to focus only on the second part of it, though. The entirety reads:
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the
cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and
to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the
moral and material interests resulting from any
scientific, literary or artistic production of which he
is the author.
Edited to add:
You really think arguing about arbitrary other clauses of the UDHR would be less of a rabbit hole than trying to pin down what the participants in the discussion mean when they say people do or don't have rights?
After sufficient analysis, I reached the conclusion that arbitrary capriciousness is worse than deliberate cruelty. It is worse to allow someone else to die as a consequence of your actions without ever considering what his life is worth than it is to murder him after deciding that his death is worth more to you. That seems a little out of step with traditional morality, but then again, that is what created the world in which we live now.
The important thing about the structure is that humans are not automatically considered people with rights. The defining characteristic is the moral capability. If you cannot or will not support the common-law structure, it will not support you in return. That creates a significant burden on the civilization for identifying its predators and parasites, and deciding what to do with them, but we do this all the time anyway, in the form of criminal investigations and jury trials.
But in order to keep everything from collapsing on itself in the current system, you really do have to assume that all humans are people with rights until they have proven otherwise beyond all doubt, because even if they are not upholding the fabric of civilization today, they could start tomorrow. Species groups like great apes, pachyderms, corvids, and cetaceans show potential, but so long as you have to keep the crows off your crops with force rather than a politely-worded notice, they won't have any standing to complain when they get shot.
The primary case for a framework not specific to humans is AI, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of an extraordinary mutant bonobo or business school graduate somehow qualifying as a person.
Ultimately, a right is more than an aspiration. Its a social norm so established that other people will defend it on your behalf. At the global scale, pretty much the only thing that meets that standard is the right of groups of people not to be exterminated by genocide. That's the only thing that will get the international community to take up arms.
Right, my intend had been to grant that (at least for this thread).
"Ultimately, a right is more than an aspiration. Its a social norm so established that other people will defend it on your behalf. At the global scale, pretty much the only thing that meets that standard is the right of groups of people not to be exterminated by genocide. That's the only thing that will get the international community to take up arms."
It strikes me that there is a tremendous gulf between use of "human rights" in the sense of prosecuting people for violations or using force to prevent them, where we need broad agreement to exist and want it made explicit; and use of "human rights" in the sense of "I believe these are things all humans are entitled to", which one would like to see elevated to the former level but might not be there yet. When we're talking about what our government's behavior should be the latter is relevant, as abiding by norms strengthens them.
Moreover, talking about "rights" which are mere aspirations makes the argument of "we shouldn't do X because it violates peoples' rights" utterly impotent. "We shouldn't spy on other people because I believe that people are entitled to privacy." Okay, and your beliefs are special because? If you can't cite some concrete basis, either in law or broad and deep social consensus, you're just expressing your opinion, but trying to make it seem more authoritative than an opinion.
Some rights stand on their own. In another, more civilized age, they were termed "God given".
If you really are an American, you will stop with the whole "Americans have rights, foreigners don't" argument.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
You brought up a specific question about torture, I assume because you see it as an innate right to not be tortured. It's no such thing though, it's a right clearly defined by the 8th Amendment (in the US at least).
You can stomp your foot and declare over and over again as much as you want that there are innate rights, but just look around at the actual evidence in the real world and you will see that there is no such thing. The rights you have are the ones defined and enforced by society.
Now, maybe there are other things that you think we should agree to, but the fact is we haven't. So I don't know why you say that this concept is "intuitive for everyone else" when everyone else, quite obviously, hasn't agreed to your world view.
The difference in practice stems from the difficulties foreigners have suing for civil rights violations in American courts. State and federal district courts do not have personal or territorial jurisdiction over the plaintiff. The Supreme Court is reluctant to hear cases that have not already been decided by those lower courts.
So a foreigner has to file directly with the Supreme Court, and they, unsurprisingly, refuse to hear the case. As a result, the ability of the executive to violate the civil rights of nonresident noncitizens is effectively unchecked. Arms of the executive routinely break American law while abroad, utterly without fear of reprisal.
It would be naive in the extreme to think that mere laws could curtail military and industrial espionage, but when it comes to massive, Stasi-like domestic surveillance, you'd think that the law would at least make a dent.
The law is clear: no searches without specific warrants based on reasonable articulable suspicion. Forget who should be doing the legwork. Who the hell would be reading and signing all those warrants?
The mere fact that Bruce Schneier can be tricked into making a distinction between foreign and domestic is telling, because warrantless, suspicionless surveillance of foreigners is still an illegal infringement upon their civil rights to privacy and due process!
Put another way, if you're characterizing the debate as merely about "acquir[ing] the mobile phone records of Yemen," you haven't been following the debate.
I'm not sure what about that claim indicates I'm not following the debate.
It's of course possible and perhaps reasonable to argue that Yemen has a far higher percentage of AQ leaders than, say, Canada, so vacuuming up all of Yemen's phone records is not "indiscriminate."
But the point I was making is that it's especially alarming when the NSA's giant electronic ear is turned inward, and the spy agency uses these vast powers granted for overseas surveillance for domestic surveillance. The Yemeni government can't order the NSA to hand over information gathered on Yemeni citizens. The U.S. government, on the other hand, can order the NSA to hand over information gathered on U.S. citizens.
That is what a good portion -- certainly not all, but a good portion -- of the NSA debate is about. (Also see: "DEA use of NSA intercepts for domestic criminal prosecutions.")
I can't find it straight away, but the problem is that militaristic rhetoric presents mass-surveillance as straightforward and productive, while in reality - the way Schneier presents it - it's not.
A very serious problem is also that indiscriminate collection tends to be related to indiscriminate action; there have been some examples in HN in the last times.
Now we realize that machinery has put us in a panopticon. To keep us from creating any fundamental change in government or society. That will cost us more than trillions of dollars.
(EDIT: I meant "it re-inflated back to peak size; it's not like it's remained at that size since the Cold War" -- which is almost worse, since it means it was a semi-conscious choice vs. just inertia.)
Here's a graph: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2012/11/M...
It's barely below the peak spending, including Star Wars and all that, of the height of the Cold War.
Cutting it in half would be a good start, along with Homeland Security.
More was spent on the recent wars than the whole Cold War. That's your grandchildrens' debt slavery right there. People should be very very angry about that.
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004598.html is a decent graph of headcount. Reductions in force lag 4-8 years, though.
We did have a massive ramp-up post-9/11 -- not arguing that. I'm arguing that in the 1990s the military was on a downward trajectory, which was good, and it was cut substantially and in-line with previous cuts.
Personnel count is a more inflation-insensitive way to measure defense spending, IMO. Part of that is due to increased contractor use, but that really didn't kick off until ~2001. The US military in the 1990s was objectively declining in size, capabilities, and mission, as it usually did after a war, until they developed the "perpetual war on a tactic" innovation.
The IC was the area which was cut a lot, though. CIA under Clinton was basically dumping ground for incompetent liberal artists starting their careers, with political motivations -- sort of like a third-string law school -- which was fine since there was ~no mission. The Cold War era people were essentially either of retirement age, or shifted to the commercial world. NSA wasn't growing much, either. NRO, I believe, was in sustainment mode. The problem is they ramped up the IC post-9/11 and did it with those people, and then bringing in trigger-puller types, including lots of "crusaders" (super-religious, relatively uninformed, un-nuanced understanding of any of the issues) people. It's kind of amazing we didn't end up actually invading Iran or whatever.
This sounds like a great idea in theory, but in the current age of global communications I'm concerned that it's impossible to separate surveillance into "American" and "foreign". This gray area is what the NSA currently uses to circumvent the US Constitution, and I don't see how any other agency would handle it differently.
I've got an even better idea: No surveillance at all!
What do Americans gain from the all-encompassing, algorithmic surveillance? -Why precisely nothing, of course. On the contrary, they suffer massive losses in privacy.
So why is it done, then? -Not for the people's benefit, that's for sure.
You don't need to monitor everyone everywhere to solve crimes. You know that, so you shouldn't be confused about what I was referring to.
I'm a fan of the principle of charity, but it only extends so far if we're to actually engage in meaningful discussion. If I always take what you wrote and assume you mean something I agree with, I might not actually be engaging with the ideas you are trying to convey. This wasn't a case of ambiguity, but (apparently) of hyperbole that I failed to recognize as such. Even recognizing it, I'm still not entirely sure how far you intend it backed off.