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The executive order that led to mass spying, as told by NSA alumni (arstechnica.com)
218 points by ra on Aug 28, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 89 comments

You can't make this stuff up. According to TFA:

1. CIA created black propaganda in USSR linking Soviets and international terrorists to foment dissent in Russia.

2. Somebody picked it up from outside and wrote a book about Soviet-terrorism links.

3. CIA director read the book, took it seriously, freaked out, lobbied for more powers.

4. CIA and NSA got more powers.

It's clearly not the first time in history that an intelligence organisation engineered a privilege escalation from fraudulent circumstances, but doing it by accident seems almost funny.

As retold by Adam Curtis in the excellent BBC three-parter "The Power of Nightmares":

3a. CIA people told new director, "er, boss, that was actually us".

3b. CIA director does not believe his own people.

And of course the whole "Team B" episode (Rumsfeld etc.), where the complete lack of evidence that the Soviets had <weapon-of-choice> was reinterpreted to mean they MUST OBVIOUSLY HAVE <even-worse-than-weapon-of-choice-even-if-physically-impossible> and perfect secrecy, otherwise how could we not have found any evidence?




Curtis wrote also wrote a great piece about the role incompetence played in the formation of intelligence agencies, titled "BUGGER: Maybe the Real State Secret Is That Spies Aren't Very Good At Their Jobs And Don't Know Very Much About the World".


Yep, that was also excellent. Some confirmation from the highest places:

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt recounts that he never read the BND reports, because anything they wrote was tainted. He just asked other world leaders directly instead.


That was wonderful documentary. I will watch it. Thanks

The Reagan era was so bizarre that even late-model le Carré can't do it justice. Claire Sterling's work (referenced in the article) was basically hackwork hearsay that came in via two key sources: a right-wing journalist closely linked to the Moonies, and a Tory speechwriter-turned-novelist who believes that he is in contact with Native American shamans via his dreams.

These are not, I should stress, the strangest people who held influence over the intelligence community in those days.

The official CIA judgement on the matter was more qualified, pointing out that the USSR supported "national insurgencies and some separatist-irredentist groups," but did not directly support terror groups (although they did support states like Libya that, in turn, supported and directed terror operations): "[T]he terrorist activities of these groups are not coordinated by the Soviets. The Soviets have on occasion privately characterized certain nihilistic terrorism as 'criminal,' and have urged other revolutionary groups to cease and desist from terrorist acts the Soviets considered 'self-defeating.'"

One certainly could point out that US support for groups like the Afghan mujahideen and the Pakistani government, the Central American Contras and their narco-trafficking allies, and right-wing "Gladio" networks in Europe would have, from the banks of the Moskva, looked a lot like US support for terrorism as well.

But CIA's considered analysis was basically ignored by senior political leadership, including CIA director Bill Casey, and a pervasive and almost hysterical suspicion of the Soviet leadership overshadowed US foreign policy for most of the 1980s, resulting in lost diplomatic opportunities and a few close calls with general war.

It all seems logical to me: if (3) and (4) didn't happen (because the CIA knew it was the source of the material in the book), then it would have sent a strong signal to the Soviets confirming that the CIA was behind the propaganda. That may have bought extra KGB attention to bear on in-country CIA assets responsible for spreading it. The corollary being that a CIA reaction of (3) and (4) further bolsters the apparent legitimacy of the propaganda.

And, of course, what spy agency wouldn't want (4)?

Lessons are here for groups outside intelligence as well: political, corporations, not-for-profits, universities, etc.

If you create enough propaganda, repeat it long enough, and put great effort in to suppressing the debunking of that propaganda eventually your own people will fall victim to that propaganda and believe that it is unquestionably true. At that point any remaining success is not the result of good decision making but of either randomness or some very dominant advantage over all other parties.

Politics is particularly sensitive to this weakness. While the original group of propaganda producers understand what the bullshit in the message is, and understand the actual purpose of the action being justified is, even the brightest outside of this group will struggle to figure it out.

Without naming names, you can watch politicians and political groups trip and choke on their own propaganda all of the time. The simple explanation stuff sounds farcical, while incredible complex propaganda can often only be identified by someone with a deep understanding on the topic. Sometimes it is more dangerous to the producing group than the intended target.

You just described the war on drugs. Generations of leaders who were brainwashed in grade school now perpetuate the exact same hysteria and junk science. Just goes to show how long-lasting this process can be.

Bingo, it applies to a wide range of areas. Sometimes it is better to exclude examples when explaining a concept and let people think about it for themselves a while.

This quote struck me:

"After the United States faced another existential threat in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks...."

I'm amazed at how accepting the media is of the threat of terrorism. That statement implicitly compares al Qaeda to the Soviets. The Soviets who, if they had had a bad day and decided to say "screw it" and wipe out capitalism for good could have done so within an hour. A country which, at any moment, could have pressed a button and killed a billion people. (And to be fair, the US of course had/has the same ability.)

This is being compared to a loose organization of fanatics where the worst-case scenario was pretty much, "What if they crashed the fourth plane into the White House and killed the President!"

I think we need an enemy. The country is built on it. After four decades of the Cold War, we needed something to put in the "USSR" slot. Terrorists are a terrible fit, but it's the best we could find.

Any given couple of days more Americans die from heart diseases than those who died by the 911 attacks, I have yet to see someone call those "an existential thread for America".

But we never learn. The best thing that could happen right now for the NSA and the military in the mist of this criticism is another attack on US land, the former will say " see! This is why we need to spy today more than ever! " and the military would get another major money injection for decades to come and it gets to invade any country where they think the enemy might be.

I am so tired of this specious argument. Committing suicide is not the same as being murdered.

I'm not talking about suicide. If you eat for sake of pleasure and NOT in order to die, it may be stupidity but it is not suicide.

Where'd "suicide" come from?

I do not think the country needs an enemy, but I believe leaders want one. Perhaps they imagine themselves as a Winston Churchill or other great military leader. Or, it could simply be the need to call great attention to one area so that they can re-organize things in another without political opposition.

This. Islamic terrorists (or any other variety) have never presented an existential threat to the United States. Moreover, we aggrandize those very terrorists by making the claim.

The same offensive narrative repeats itself.

- The government is bulk collecting data on foreigners.

- Meh...

- They're also incidentally spying on US citizens in the processs.


If the USA could try to acknowledge the human rights of non-US citizens, that would be really nice.

And your same indignant stance will get largely ignored by me, because it ignores a core fact: The US doesn't have imminent jurisdiction over you. You likely aren't ever going to run for political office in the United States. The US probably doesn't share data with local Japanese law enforcement.

In short, the practical threat is much lower for you than it is for an American. The CIA spied on the Intelligence committee charged with the agency's oversight. The NSA and CIA and FBI all likely have dossiers on every state and federal politician in the country. That means a heck of a lot more than them doing legit SIGINT on adversaries across the world.

And frankly, even if I completely agree with you, we're still talking about the U.S. Constitution being blatantly ignored. I know canonical legal documents of a country aren't as big a thing in other places, but here, it tends to mean something.

That is a good point! But the same attitude does not stop at surveillance. Detaining people (or, should I say folks? lol), or executing them by drones, without any trial, are also things that don't cause too much fuss in the US public, because the targets are not US citizens... Granted, the scope of these issues is minute compared to the scope of NSA surveillance.

But all of this together makes the famous words "all men are created equal" sound hollow.

You also stated their abuses against your government, and I agree that those are the truly worst offences they made, completely undermining your democracy. But that is off topic from my comment. US media react strongly to any US citizen being spied on, not just politicians, while implicitly condoning bulk collection of data on ALL non-citizens, not just adversaries. I presume adversaries are most targeted, but nobody really raises that issue or asks for that kind of oversight. Non-citizens are just not created equal.

P.S. Constitutions are a big thing in many other places, not just in the US. I hope your phrasing was just an accidental mistake, because you sounded as if you think no other country respects it's constitution...

I feel offended by the way US-media approaches this matter and by my country's stance on the matter (not even a comment about it).

Civilisation (broadly speaking) doesn't evolves hand-in-hand with technology. It is the major danger of our future.

Because for non-US countries nothing has changed. It's been a publicly known fact that the US spies on non-US citizens by monitoring internet traffic for over 20 years. Ask any hacker aged over 24. There's simply hardly anything worth being surprised about as a foreign national.

If you asked anyone in The Netherlands 10 years ago if they thought their e-mail on Hotmail or GMail was monitored by authorities in the U.S. I am sure their answer would have been yes.

Hacker aged over 24 here. Sure, we all knew. But it's one thing to "know", it's another entirely to have tangible proof. Whenever I spoke about this to people 10 years ago the reaction was "there's no proof, you're paranoid, you're a conspiracy theorist". Now we have proof the reaction is "so what, everyone knows that, I have nothing to hide". There's some serious goalpost shifting happening here.

Isn't that one of the worst things to come of the Snowden leaks so far? There aren't many conspiracy theories I can, with full conviction, point at and laugh anymore.

Maybe reptile people in government. But otherwise...

What's your definition of 'reptile'? Just asking...for no particular reason...

Maybe not reptile, but certainly invertebrate.

Pretty much a universal phenomenon.

I agree, I find it way more shocking that my government (the Netherlands) is so laid back about all this than the "revelation" that Americans care about America spying on Americans. Yes, the dutch government announced a Dropbox alternative that is open source (http://tweakers.net/nieuws/97793/overheid-werkt-aan-opensour...) but I believe it is the wrong approach. They should publicly denounce NSA spying and swear to not cooperate with them (!when it comes to Dutch civilians at least!). All they do is empty gesturing. It annoys me to no end that my government is so afraid. It also annoys me that they are so adamant in pleasing the US in the sanctions against Russia, they only damage our economy, not to mention Russia's (hey, the Russians love their children too!) We are so the US' lap dog.

It's not that they are afraid, it's that they are in bed together. Dutch intelligence relies on US intelligence and visa versa for 'the war on terror'. The situation in Germany is similar, the German government was only offended when it turned out that they tapped Merkel's phone. When it were regular citizens, most politicians shrugged their shoulders, some put on a small show for their electorate.

One of the few institutions that stuck their neck out for their citizens is the European Parliament. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of the EU is now so enamoured with nationalism that they want to reduce the power of the EU or even leave the EU.

I think Merkel deserves at least a little credit for speaking out in public, even if some of it was for the elections. When visiting Germany it was amazing how much news coverage there was about Snowden & how aware everyone was... you couldn't avoid it, his face was even on digital billboards in train stations.

It was markedly different to Australia, where the politicians almost all support it, it was a minor TV news story (certainly not the lead headline like in Germany), and most people just don't care or understand. Germans are understandably cynical, but I wish Germans would have more pride in their country, there are some things that Germany does so much better than other countries right now.

>I think Merkel deserves at least a little credit for speaking out in public, even if some of it was for the elections.

She doesn't deserve any credit. As soon as she paid a visit to Obama, Germany went back to bending over for the U.S. All of the investigations in Germany were immediately shut down and they abandoned plans to have Snowden testify in court.

The Merkel thing was just a political show for the up-coming elections IIRC. Anyway, we (the citizens) suffer the same fate no matter where we are, since we're using their services.

Well the narrative that "the entire West works together on intel" doesn't work very well does it. What are people supposed to do, hate the entire West?

The Dutch secret service is at least as bad as the NSA. They just lack the scale, the budget and the opportunity.

Think about it. You're saying that the USA spies on all non-US internet traffic. Does that make any sense? Is there any evidence? No and no.

I'm from Belgium and he is right - i do think that USA spies on everyone, it makes sense and USA had admitted it multiple times.

They are just worried that US citizens think the USA spies on them.

PS. The USA doesn't only spy on non-US traffic, they just hide the spying inside the US more secretive :)

PS2. Every country tries to spy though, not only the US :)

"Yes[1,3] and yes[2]. Have you been in a cave for the past two years?"

Yes, the NSA can monitor specific targets. Do they monitor all Internet traffic worldwide? No, such a task is absurd and technically impossible. However I have learned that people's opinions about the NSA are faith-based, and not open to reasoned arguments.

So, let's at least try to do this in good faith...what makes you think it's technically impossible?

Sorry, but "absurd" - yes it is absurd - THAT THEY DO IT.

And, also: "technically impossible" - also: NOPE. Technically possible! In fact so technically possible it is a done deal. You cannot turn off the NSA, for to do so would be to turn off the entire Internet.. we get the copy, NSA gets the originals.

This approach makes perfect sense in a democratic country where people are the sovereign. That's like an intelligence service spying on their own king. It subverts the whole system in ways that spying on foreigners doesn't.

It's not about human rights.

It is about human rights. "All men are created equal."

Of course the US government must only bow to its own people, and only US citizens can lead its policy, that is perfectly understandable. But we all deserve basic human rights and a country that is one of their biggest champions should, for the sake of its credibility, not ignore that!

It would be ideal if some oversight existed for ALL such surveillance. With allied countries, the US should try to work with their governments. With adversaries, it's reasonable to have more relaxed rules. But just bulk collecting data of all non-citizens, treating us all with the same lack of respect of our human rights, is not cool.

Perhaps the US government actually does do all this as I described, and cooperates with allied governments. Then it is just the US media and public that leave the impression like they don't give a fuck about the human rights of anyone other than US citizens... Not cool.

I pay my government to spy on people in other countries to make sure they are not going to hurt me. And, more to the point, they aren't going to put in motion things that are could conceivably hurt me or those I care about.

I hate the security state, but I'm okay with that. We've got hundred of millions of people here. There are billions of people in the world. It makes sense to me to spy on all the folks in other countries. I don't see how else you would honestly do a good job of governing.

Spying or digging into the affairs of the people who are voting to make choices in a democratic society? Screw that.

There is a really good reason we separate foreign intelligence from domestic intelligence. The moves the U.S. made after 9-11 to tear down the walls were extremely bad.

> "It makes sense to me to spy on all the folks in other countries. I don't see how else you would honestly do a good job of governing."

You've equated spying on me with good governance. This is fallacious (as well as offensive). I am not a threat to you or your country. Targeted surveillance is one thing but collating data on everyone just because you can is wrong. In some sense it flips the 'innocent until proven guilty' the other way around (I'm foreign, therefore I'm guilty of being foreign and should be watched).

What you've advocated for is simply a digital arms race where states vacuum up whatever data they can, as fast as they can, on everyone they can. If the states are friendly, then they can simply share all that information with each other. Everyone is 'foreign' to someone else so ultimately, everyone loses.

There's a very practical issue as well--you can't just say "Oh, well, this machine only hoovers up packets from foreign nationals coming across the wire". It's far, far simpler just to grab everything, and so the practical tendency is to do that. And once the machinery is into place, and the invoices paid, and the appropriations made...well, you're not going to turn it off so easily.

I'd like to add the emphasis:

> It makes sense to me to spy on all the folks in other countries.

I'm not American, but I do live in a Five Eyes nation. I've had to come to terms that all my online correspondence for over a decade is stored in some data farm somewhere, for the sole purpose of incriminating me or someone I know.

I'm not at all a terrorist, I don't infringe on the privacy or comfort of others, and yet I am targeted under the banner "Not American". I'm at a loss of words to explain how violated and helpless I feel, and how deplorable such an act is.

>for the sole purpose of incriminating me

Right, do you actually believe it has nothing to do with national security? Also it is funny how the home countries who have made intelligence deals with the US get a free pass. This is self fulfilling. Why don't you change your own country? Because you could actually do something, you know instead of just complaining. Maybe that is why?

We are making progress in our own country, but it's slow. Our prime minister ignores rallies with tens of thousands of citizens in every capital city decrying new policies similar to the US's, the debate on metadata collection is fierce, polls show 97% of citizens want an emergency federal election called immediately.

I'm leveraging my skills to create a website to inform voters exactly the consequence of their vote, since many people can't believe their vote ends up in the hands of a party contrary to their beliefs; apart from that, I feel like I've exhausted most reasonable options available to me. Reasonable debate is only one small part in instigating change.

Whether it makes sense isn't the issue. The question is whether it's morally right.

For the safety of myself and my family, it probably makes sense for me to shoot anyone who comes near my house (at least in the short term - but I think your logic also only works in the short term, as current world affairs shows). But I think we'll all agree that I shouldn't do this.

To ensure my own lifestyle I should also cheat on my taxes, sneak items out of the grocery store in the bottom of my cart, take credit for other people's ideas at work, and plenty of other things for which the chances of, or cost of, getting caught is low. Nevertheless, these are things that I ought not to do.

The sentence "Screw that" is actually the core of your argument. Why not spy on "folks" (are you a politician? :D) at home? Their power of voting and free motion within your whole country actually makes them much more dangerous to your safety than any foreigner can be.

The reason why they won't be so easily spied on is not "screw that", it's because they are voters. Not because spying on voters is wrong - but simply because they can change the government when they get annoyed! So, as it is meant to, voting protects the human rights of a population.

But it would be nice if that population would actually believe in human rights. Particularly if they want to portray themselves champions of the matter. But if your attitude is an example, "screw that", huh?

Extending rights to non citizens? What are you, some sort of communist? Next you'll be asking them to dip their flag to a host nation, or measure something in meters, or some other outrage.

edit - though admittedly here in the UK we are currently borrowing our citizenship and rights law direct from the pages of 2000AD http://usvsth3m.com/post/75158899178/the-uk-government-is-no...

This narrative openly stretches to the top. See: every Presidential speech on the matter.

But the worst part isn't that it's offensive to foreigners (which nobody cares about), it's that people so easily ignore that history knows no such thing as a unidirectional spy camera.

Non-US citizens are considered less than humans. To be fair, the same holds to some degree also for lots of kinds of US citizens/residents (blacks, latinos, native americans, etc).

The race card isn't playable here. The computers collecting the data don't know what race the people being monitored belong to.

You don't think this stuff gets cross-referenced with databases that contain racial classifications, and that this influences decisions farther down the line?

It probably does happen. We know about the "parallel construction" thing, telling us that regular law enforcement is seeing some of the gathered data. And they may be acting prejudicially.

But this isn't related to the surveillance thing as such. Criticism of this racism, if it exists, should be targeted at some combination of the prejudice in the police agencies, the leaking of the data that's supposed to be locked in a vault, and at a stretch, the lopsided impact of the laws on various racial groups.

The computers are created and operated by people. Computers don't decide anything.

In aggregate I'd say that's true. They just collect everything for everybody.

Still it's trivial to have algorithms to identify the race of the people they have data (heck, even just "call metadata" for). To give an obvious (if slightly non-PC example, if you're from a specific part of Baltimore and you're called Jermaine, you're in all probability Black). And Jesus Mandolito in Southern California is probably latino. And of course they can cross-corellate with databases, like social security info, police records, birth certificates, and the like.

Plus, not every population / race is targeted equally. Consider Middle-easterns vs Icelandish people for example. And not everyone is them is an equal target for later data use.

Figures that the cause for one of the biggest government abuses in history is the extension of the president's power. It's like humans never learn. Never give a single man too much power.

AUMF is just as bad, too. Did you know US is effectively still in a "state of emergency", today? - and will probably continue to be for long, long, LONG time, if nobody does anything about it.


What's interesting is that the "office" of president has grown into countless agencies and sub-agencies, each with their own motives, political will, and desire for survival. It's like Daenerys with her dragons: completely under command, yet good luck ordering them not to eat the local children.

I recommend that anyone interested in the topic watch this film: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/united-states-of-sec...

It's incredibly detailed, though focusing primarily on executive action post 2011.

That two part documentary should be required viewing. For everyone.

That page has full of very important documentaries.

The real issue here is that the public has no control over the spying. Imho, many would probably be fine with other people listening in on their phone calls, or going over their browsing history, if the only effect of that would be terrorists getting caught.

The problem is that currently there is too much potential for the surveilance data to be comercialized or abused for trivial legal matters.

I think much of the debate could be settled by alowing the public to scrutinize the surveillance process, and putting any abuse of the data (i.e. its usage in non-terror-related situations) under extordinarily humiliating punishments (like denationalization).

End to end encryption for everything. Anonymizing technology especially when you need it. Governments always tap everything.

Reminds me of the spy novels that led the British to create MI5.


There is no room in a supposedly democracy (republic) for law by fiat. Either the people are ultimately in charge or we live in a dictatorship. The Constitution is not an option.

This is the real problem, you cannot have secret laws. Period. Wasting time wishing nations would just not spy is foolish.

Interesting article, but it's a pity they chose to lead with weasel words.

"One thing sits at the heart of what many consider a surveillance state within the US today."

If you're wondering why you are being downvoted...

The readership at Hacker News firmly believes that the US is a surveillance state. Stories are chosen and upvoted which confirm this worldview. Dissenting opinions are downvoted. If you're looking for a reasoned evidence-based discussion of the NSA, then choose a different website.

That was actually my point - it is a surveillance state, but the author of the piece lacked the balls to say it directly.


Come at me bro!

Another top-voted article about the NSA on Hacker News that is thin on evidence to say the least. It appears to be hearsay from a disgruntled ex-employee.

However I understand that the story fits the political narrative of the forums here, and will therefore be upvoted despite any lack of sense or evidence.

> "... despite any lack of sense or evidence."

With secret courts, secret interpretations of laws, gag orders etc. How does one obtain hard 'evidence' of anything (beyond whistleblowers)?

And what exactly do you mean by lack of sense? That we apply our limited knowledge to the scenarios described and then discard anything that doesn't neatly fit? That leads to cargo cult thinking.

How would you find any information on the internals of the NSA that isn't hearsay from a disgruntled ex-employee?

Current employees who are happy and fulfilled in their work in the security services don't tend to say all that much to the press.

The structure of every single one of these stories is a single slide or page or quote, containing maybe less then 50 words maximum.

From there, wild speculation then goes on to breathlessly exclaim about what this really proves, while failing to actually support any of the assertions.

For good measure toss in some wilful blindness about the point of surveillance, mechanics of law enforcement, collective action problems or the fundamental differences between one's own government and a foreign government (hint: foreign governments don't have a monopoly of violence over the citizens of foreign countries).

The people who keep yelling about how nobody cares enough need to consider that just maybe they're not very good at arguing their point.

Cue downvotes.

Nice story.

This story however has quotes and documents from many different people, including John Tye, Edward Snowden, Jesselyn Radack, William Binney, Melvin Goodman, Loch Johnson, Kenneth Mayer, Christopher Dodd, Ed Loomis and Thomas Drake.

Were you perhaps reading a different article?

edit - I am all for encouraging critical thinking, but you are hardly going to achieve that through complete misrepresentation.

The very article linked to here directly contradicts your claim that "The structure of every single one of these stories is a single slide or page or quote, containing maybe less then 50 words maximum."

The article cites statements from and interviews with 9-10 separate sources, quoting several of them at length, and combines that with additional quotes from government source materials.

Pray, share it if you have anything that can disprove the wild speculation.

Hysterical speculation is to be expected when dealing with the doings of an arm of the government that is willfully shrouded in secrecy. The leaks so far have only confirmed what was being called "tin-foil hattery" until pre-Snowden.

If you are so concerned about subduing rampant speculation, how about showing up with proofs to the contrary instead of ad hominems and downvote baiting?

Because if you don't tow the party line on HN you'll be downvoted no matter what. Frankly, go check my post history on the matter if you want. The only topic on which I manage to accumulate downvotes is Snowden/NSA related.

Doesn't much matter what the content or argument or tone is or was.

Though I do chuckle at "disprove the speculation".

I had a look at what you had greyed out, lets see...

not trusting aspects of textsecure

keeping encryption on all the time

argument about billing bad reviews on yelp

not liking lighttable

ok, whether there is a need to hide political speech from the NSA.

I don't think your claim stands up of it being the only topic.

edit - why are you bothering making claims like this in a medium where the source material is immediately available?

This kind of tactic may work in spoken discussion, but here it just seems absurd.

Of 5 examples you managed to get 3/5 having something to do with the NSA or related matters (encryption, which got explicitly tied to the NSA in that exact comment).

I would question why you think this is a "gotcha" given that I know how far back my post history goes (further then the initial Snowden disclosures for example), and more or less gave up on these topic-threads for exactly this reason.

Which circles around to my original point: these threads turn into echo chambers because who wants to spend karma on that?

People are instead ironically aggressive in silencing dissent.

So I was being somehow unfair in checking your post history, when you explicitly said to check your post history?

Next five before that are:

turning off power in nuclear plant

bitcoin funds transfer

advice on drinking water

theories on OSS

encryption of metadata

This isn't a 'gotcha', just pointing out that you are repeatedly bullshitting about things that are easily verifiable.

And idly wondering why.

edit - Hang on.

After all your fucking winging about how fucking oppressed you feel, on the two things you cited (NSA/Snowden) you get far more upvotes than downvotes on your comments.



I call Shenanigans.

XorNot's being downvoted a lot, and if it's for having an unpopular opinion, one gets to be a victimized martyr screaming out truth in a sea of groupthink. If it's because a lack of reasoning or justification within arguments completely based in innuendo and sarcasm, then the downvotes are deserved.

Which would you choose, if you were forced to rationalize yourself rather than change your behavior?

If they were easily verifiable you'd have gone back to the threads in the Snowden era rather then played pedant with what you can dig up on the first couple of pages of my comment history.

It isn't and you know it.

EDIT: And that search engine definitely isn't fully indexed. But a search for me and points<0 gives nothing but NSA threads. <1 less so, but it's still a sizable portion.

EDIT 2: Though to spin this around for a moment, that is handy utility - thanks!

You are welcome, but it is only the search box at the bottom of the page. It wasn't especially difficult to find.

"The only topic on which I manage to accumulate downvotes is Snowden/NSA related."

Indeed, I got -40 karma on this story. Dissenting opinions are not tolerated on NSA stories.

Therefore people who do not agree with the HN consensus "self-censor", and a vicious circle is created, with only a single narrative displayed.

>Dissenting opinions are not tolerated on NSA stories.

Tell me about it. Plus all my proofs for perpetual motion machines and the flat earth get downvoted too.

I dunno, I have got a fair amount of imaginary internet points on here before for suggesting that there is a good chance that Snowden is still working for the NSA, which isn't exactly the popular opinion.

edit - well ok, 4 :) but it didn't get hammered down

>Another top-voted article about the NSA on Hacker News that is thin on evidence to say the least.

Yeah, we should all wait until they hand over the evidence in a golden plate, like secret agencies usually do.

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