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Section 215 Expires For Now (eff.org)
471 points by DiabloD3 on June 1, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 158 comments



>The law that the NSA used to authorize its collection of vast amounts of information about the telephone calls of ordinary Americans is no more.

But the US can still snoop on my internet traffic if it happens to parse through the US, because I'm not an American. For the majority of the world the issue was never that the NSA spied on US citizens, but that they pretty spy on everyone else as well.

Don't get me wrong, I think it should be illegal for the US, or any other nation, to spy on its citizens, but it still only half the problem.


In fact I have seen several articles in major european newspapers claiming that big countries are going around restrictions on spying on their own citizens by letting friendly countries do it, then exploit the data. I don't know if there is any substance in these allegations but they seem plausible.


If you have a proper Data Protection Act(s) passed, it should be illegal for people in a country to obtain or use data stolen against the country's laws elsewhere. Not ideal, but it would make illegal the circle of spying you describe.

(not that the authorities, particularly here in the UK, give a flying F about whether they're breaking existing laws...)


I hate playing devil's advocate on this topic, but here goes.

There are _real_ terrorists out there, and also agents of other states. These folks need observation for a free country to be able to do the various things it has to do. (Or, if they don't, it remains to be shown how such a setup would effectively work).

I am completely against maintaining files on your own citizens which can then be "mined" to find illegalities or improprieties later on. However -- that doesn't mean that some folks shouldn't be watched. Heck, in a country with 250M people, the odds are that there are a heckuva lot of borderline crazy people who should be monitored. I seriously hope the local constable has a good idea of the top people in his area that he should keep an eye on.

I think we make a mistake when we focus on the NSA exclusively and talk as if all data collection is wrong. We need a principle that allows for nuanced collection -- not one-size-fits-all slogans.

So sure, I hope the other agencies are collecting info on folks in my country, and I hope they share that information with my own country's security services -- under the right circumstances and with the right protections in place. What I don't want to see happen is the creation of a data pool where crimes can be "discovered" that normally wouldn't matter.

(Really hated writing that, but somebody had to do it)


I don't know anyone who is claiming that having a police force is bad, or that all investigations should be illegal. That's a strawman. Unless you can point us to people saying that?

The debate has always been about (a) the effective destruction of the warrant system and (b) the pathological levels of lying that have accompanied it.

Luckily, there exists a design for a system that allows for nuanced collection, as you put it: warrants authorised by skeptical judges who filter out fishing expeditions, combined with punishments for law enforcement workers who try and game the system. It's actually just the old system we thought we had and was fairly uncontroversial.

However the intelligence agencies are not in the business of doing such work. If the old system was rigorously enforced then we'd be left only with the question of foreign spying. Arguably that should just be scrapped in the modern world: the most valuable commercial secrets are all in the 5 Eyes countries to start with anyway, spying on allies makes them less likely to be allies in future, and if you subtract out the foreign wars started by the west you're left with things that seem to produce little real world impact (watching North Korea for instance: what are we gonna do about it, exactly?).


> We need a principle that allows for nuanced collection

In fact, that's exactly what the Fourth Amendment demands. If the government has probable cause to suspect someone of wrongdoing, they can a search warrant particularized to that one person. Authority to spy on everybody's communications is exactly the type of 'general warrant' that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit.


I don't think that the issue is that people are opposed to a police force to gather and use using data effectively to protect it's own citizens. It's when they use a foreign agency to make and end-run around their own laws that is at issue. There are some fundamental differences between domestic and foreign surveillance.

Domestic intelligence has to comply with the country's own laws, ultimately created and supervised by a democracy (ideally). If the populace wants to error on the side of less safe and less surveillance, that's their decision.

Foreign intelligence is pretty much by definition 'criminal' in nature. As a theoretical example... a CIA agent using fake identities in foreign countries tapping phone lines is a criminal in the place where he is acting. Even when intercepting German <-> German communications on his own soil where it is technically 'legal' goes against the spirit of due process in Germany and may be illegal there. Should they be prosecuted? Can they? The answer is interesting but certainly tough to answer. Ideally friendly governments would understand this problem and try to protect their own citizens from spying by other 'friendly' governments through treaties... don't spy on my citizens and I won't spy on yours.

Unfortunately they do the exact opposite and transfer 'foreign intelligence' gathered by one country on a foreign citizen to the 'domestic intelligence' services where that citizen lives. This is a dance around the due process rules. You can't just contract out your law breaking to some foreign government or company.


You know they interpret this to be nuanced collection, don't you? They capture all the data and then when there is a lead, they inspect it and they consider it collection at that time. The bulk capturing of the data is to make nuanced collection available, otherwise the data might no longer exist.

The myth is that it has anything to do with terrorists, the definition they are using (and its hyper political, the president won't just say something is terrorism) pretty much excludes Americans. Now if they expanded it to include the Sandy Hook shooter, the Batman shooter, Fort Hood, etc... Then at the very least you could make a case that they are collecting the right data when they capture American data.


> These folks need observation for a free country to be able to do the various things it has to do.

Do you have any evidence for that?

I would argue the exact opposite: in order for a free country to exist, the amount of spying done by the country on its citizens and even outsiders must be pretty small at most. Each unit of "watching" applied to the public reduces "freedom" by the exact same amount. It isn't clear whether there's any increase in security at all. The watching may be 100% destructive, with no benefits whatsoever.


It was never the case that all collection was wrong.

However it is still wrong to just collect all the data you can on everyone, even if everyone now doesn't include your own citizens.

>> So sure, I hope the other agencies are collecting info on folks in my country, and I hope they share that information with my own country's security services -- under the right circumstances and with the right protections in place.

This is no different from having your own guys do it. Possibly it's worse.


I think, perhaps, the way out of this is a universal moratorium on the commercial collection and retention of data, along with safeguards for data mining by government agencies for criminal (not intelligence) purposes.

We must remember that as far as I can tell, governments have always wanted to collect whatever they could about anybody -- citizen or not. I do not agree with this, but the tendency is not limited to one government or another. What's new in the equation is the vast numbers of commercial applications/services that also want to track your every move online in order to keep you as a customer. It's this collection/retention of data that governments are now tapping into. If nobody had kept anything past 2 or 3 days, there wouldn't be much to mine.


The distinction you are looking for does not exist. The primary justification for what the NSA is doing is crime: namely terrorism. The entire purpose of the NSA is to find criminals, which is a problem, because the definition of criminal can be anything the people in power want it to be.

For instance in the UK they're busy trying to crack down on "extremism". The Prime Minister has given a speech about extremism where he actually said words to the effect of "For too long we have been a passively tolerant society where if you follow the law, we leave you alone". GCHQ is absolutely being mandated to find extremists. It's merely the next chunk of the slippery slope that started the moment the law changed to try and fight terrorists.


>The primary justification for what the NSA is doing is crime: namely terrorism. The entire purpose of the NSA is to find criminals

Is it? My understanding is that NSA was founded for intelligence and counter-intelligence purposes. Cold war. SIGINT. And that is what it still does, although the capabilities of international terrorist/criminal organisations have become comparable to the capabilities of many nation states.

CIA is also an intelligence agency, but human intelligence (HUMINT), not signals intelligence. FBI, on the other hand, has a primary justification of fighting crime. DEA is quite similar but focuses on drug crime, and ATF on alcohol, tobacco and firearms. CSI conducts mass campaigns against people with some intelligence in all countries, with sub-offices in CSI (NY) and CSI (Miami).

(I'm not American, but have learned this much about the American three-letter things, mostly from popular fiction.)


It could be interpreted that the NSA exists to catch criminals. Spying on the US government is a crime in the eyes of the US government, no matter where you conduct said spying. Counter-intelligence is an effort to catch those that spy on the US government, despite the fact that is likely illegal in the country of the person being spied upon. Although, what they do in terms of counter-intelligence doesn't always turn into criminal proceedings.


I think that the role of counter-intelligence is most of the time not really catch anyone, but to 1) get information from an adversary, and 2) develop methods which allow to protect own information against adversaries.


Hence, my last sentence.

But I've always understood a part of counter-intelligence is to counter the intelligence gathering of an adversary, or I suppose ally as well depending on circumstances. Which is what you are saying with your second point. Therefore, there is someone to catch doing it, just in a broad definition of the term.


Spying on the U.S. is not a crime, and doesn't need to be. Between sovereign entities there is no rule of law, and sovereign entities have an inherent right to do whatever they need to protect their interests. It's a very different situation from the domestic criminal justice system.


As I said earlier, spying on the US government is a crime in the eyes of the US government. I think many a caught spy that was convicted for espionage would disagree with your statement that it is not a crime.


Yeah I'm having trouble with that argument too. How do you reconcile "countries interact in the lawless state of nature" with high-profile espionage prosecutions of non-citizens?


And there's the rub: I don't think most free citizens consider the murdering of thousands of people to be a crime. An attack, an act of war? Sure. But some weird version of a spree killing? Not so much. Especially when we're seeing large NGOs with missions to destroy/incapacitate existing nation-states.

So to argue that "it's all the same" really does a disservice to the analysis here. It's not. In the past, we had clear lines of civilization: pirates and others who operated without being part of a nation-state were executed on the spot. Now, however, we want to treat anybody we meet as being all the same. That's a nice sentiment, but it ends up classifying ISIL as some weird kind of criminal organization, and it is most certainly not that kind of thing at all.


I think the problem here is the idea of allowing those that execute pirates on the spot to also be the group that identifies the pirates. Just because someone has the P brand on the back of their hand doesn't mean they started out as a pirate.

Besides, one country's buccaneer is another country's privateer. I don't think those lines were as clear as you seem to think.


Terrorism is not crime. It's war. It is a grave threat to the criminal justice system to try and conflate the role of the military and the role of the police by treating (foreign) terrorists as criminals and not combatants.


Counterargument: war is a conflict between sovereign states. Terrorism is violence utilized by political pressure groups, not sovereign states. Terrorists are no more at "war" with the US than the Al Capone gang was, or Zetas gang in Mexico.

The Taliban was a sovereign state that, for a basket of reasons, actively supported terrorist attacks on the US. The invasion of Afghanistan was a war.

Al Qaeda is not a sovereign state; they're a criminal organization.

What makes it difficult to prosecute Al Qaeda using US criminal procedure is the fact that they're mostly non-citizens, mostly operating out of the US, mostly in countries that are not especially cooperative with the FBI.

In fact, I think my counterargument says that the "grave problem" is the opposite of the one you pose. It's not that prosecuting Al Qaeda criminally risks corrupting the criminal justice system. It's that prosecuting them as a sovereign who we're at war with has demonstrably corrupted the military.


Historically, we have dealt with belligerent non-sovereigns (e.g. pirates) via the military. How do you think treating Al Qaeda as a military threat has corrupted the military? My great worry is that if terrorism is treated as a crime, then the protections available to all accused criminals will be watered down to accommodate the needs of prosecuting terrorists. That's what, e.g., has happened in the drug war. There are a lot of bad doctrines (e.g. no-knock warrants) that were motivated by the drug war (specifically the ease of concealing or destroying evidence of drugs).


By blurring the line between law enforcement and military actions we've made it much to easy to deploy military force (most notably airstrikes) as a means to expediently solve problems. Where does that slippery slope end? When do we start carpet bombing drug cartels? We've already been invited to do that.


War doesn't have to between sovereign states. War against non-state actors is accepted as valid.

The US constitution even has provisions for it: Congress can call forth the militia to suppress insurrection.


I think, with all due respect, that that's a load of bollocks. Commercial data collection is abhorrent for a variety of reasons, but large-scale, secret government collection of data is a threat to democracy regardless of safeguards.

When I said all collection was not wrong I meant targeted collection, with a warrant and some oversight.

Anyone having access to a database containing the information for large proportions of the population is being handed more power than humans should have over each other, more than enough to blackmail a few key politicians and keep things looking rosy for themselves.


No, nobody had to do it.

"We" don't need anything. In this matter, you do not speak for me. And that is all that truly needs to be said.

Having expressed your opinion that surveillance is permissible based solely on one's mental state differing from the modal pattern, you have implicitly permitted the state to use medical diagnosis as a weapon against dissent, and thereby discouraged any such borderline cases from admitting their weaknesses to seek treatment voluntarily.

Congratulations. You have increased the number of crazies out there, many of whom are now taking steps to conceal their condition, which necessarily includes avoiding doctors and therapists that keep records.

Furthermore, you resort to such weasel words as "right circumstances" and "right protections". The right circumstances are fabricated for the sake of appearances. The right protections are bypassed for the sake of expediency. Surely, you are not so naive as to not realize this would occur?

The local constable can keep an eye on those people who have outstanding warrants, those who are on parole or probation, and those under investigation pursuant to actual complaints and accusations, rather than statistical profiles. Everyone else should be left alone.

If this practice makes it more difficult to intervene in certain types of crime, that is an irreparable structural weakness in all free societies. You cannot close that gap without making your society much less free, and I might add that the attempt does not appear to be making the formerly free societies any less dangerous.


You are proposing a secret police. That's an insult in the face of history.


What justification is there for nuanced collection? Relevant people said (something along the lines of) nothing was only known via NSA, either it wasn't known or the other agencies found out.


The problem is that most terror organisations have been sponsored or are still secretly supported by the US government or its allies with approval from the US.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes

Might be what you are referring to... at least for the English speaking world.


Richard Marchinko stated the same, although in his fiction books. It was in the early nineties. I would not be surprised at all.


This has been done and openly acknowledged by GCHQ against American citizens and NSA against British citizens since the 1980s.


Indeed that is still a huge problem, but let's take some time now to celebrate the progress that has been made before doubling down and focusing on the other things. It's been a long time coming but we're actually seeing progress now. Let's take some time to pat ourselves on the back.


>> but it still only half the problem.

agreed, but not half the problem: 4.43% of the problem :-)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependen...


Although I sympathize, I think domestic surveillance by any country is the most insidious, because it undermines the democratic process. Without that, there's no hope of keeping this stuff in check. What's most important in your country is whether your own government is spying on you (either directly, or indirectly by getting feeds from the NSA).


All too often, US groups that should be allies in the fight against state survelliance show their true colours and only really campaign when American privacy is under threat.


That this is the top comment shows how unrealistic opinions on some subjects are on HN. Spies should not be spying, soldiers should not be fighting, there should be no countries. Might as well ask for unicorns.


Soldiers aren't asked to shoot every single foreigner traveling through your country, just in case they may want to hurt you.

There's nothing wrong in having an intelligence agency that spy on people you may suspect of wanting to hurt you or your country. What the US does, other countries do this as well, is spying on people that aren't suspected of anything, even people living in their own or allied countries. Even worse is that in the process of ensuring that they are able to do this surveillance they actively harm people legitimate ability to have anonymous or secret conversations.

As someone living in a country that views it self, even prides it self on being a close ally of the US, I find the US behavior reprehensible. "Yeah, let's be friend, trade and support each other, but just to be sure I'll also go through your mail", that's no way for a civilized country to behave.

I know this may read like a tirade against the US and that unfortunate, because other countries are just as bad. I'm equally disappointed by my own country and our politicians, it's just their actions have yet to be fully revealed.


You made the unfortunate jump to the other extreme from the GP: nowhere did the GP say or imply that "spies should not be spying, soldiers should not be fighting." There's room for nuance between "dragnet surveillance" and "no covert operations," but you seem to have missed that.


If they are not supposed to spy on Americans or foreigners what exactly are they supposed to do?


No one (in this thread at least) has said that they are not supposed to "spy" completely. What people are concerned with is dragnet surveillance. The way you are framing the issue is a classic case of a false dilemma.

EDIT: My apologies, it looks like the top comment does drop that in at the end. That is indeed an unfortunate generalization. I do think that a more moderate and "middle-of-the-HN-crowd" approach would actually entail something short of dragnet surveillance though.


"permit authorities to target "lone wolf" suspects with no connection to specific terrorist groups, and make it easier to seize personal and business records of suspects and their associates"

If I search lots of technology and military related topics, or do any system-admin work, or use any privacy-enabling services (VPN / TOR), then my friends/family/associates and myself would likely fall under those categories.

My concern is there should be a data-retention policy due to constantly changing laws.

If 20 years from now I want to run for president, then all it would take is to search for records in one of the many caches of NSA collected data that other agency, state, local, and even foreign law-enforcement have collected over the years. That would allow a large number of people to have the power to easily find something that would distract me enough to pull me out of the race, such as inappropriate text-messages/emails that a cheating spouse sent in the past.


Even when the president was an outright crook and used some of the machinery of state (and some other outright crooks) to dig for dirt on his opponents, he wasn't able to accomplish this through the national security services. Oh and he got caught and forced to resign.

There are many good reasons to be concerned about surveillance, privacy, data gathering, etc. Your future presidential campaign is almost certainly not among them.


Deliberately missing the issue. Forget his future presidential campaign.

How about every future presidential candidate? The existence of a panopticon corpus of information on them which is only accessible to a certain group, grants power over them to that group. In the Internet age, the NSA's policy of tracking everyone is functionally vetting and accumulating blackmail material not just on presidential candidates (where our scrutiny veers towards the ridiculous), but on anyone who ever wants to enter into any position of power. No human being, much less human organizations, could remain uncorrupted by that level of influence over power for any duration of time.

If these policies are not changed, eventually it takes almost negligible amounts of misuse before the NSA or parties within the NSA are quite literally running the country & the world. It takes perhaps a solitary bad actor in the organization with this level of information to merely tip the balance in favor of bureaucratic survival, shift one election or pop an adultery scandal in the way of one board member on one telco. It would require a fanatical level of self-scrutiny and belief in the norms of liberal democracy to self-police against these durable incentives, and obviously that doesn't exist.

Maybe having access to everyone's Instagram account and Google search history doesn't immediately sway the balance of power in 2001, but every year that our country doesn't cut out this brain tumor, it gains more power over us; Our odds of retaining some semblance of control over this organization drop. Quite soon, there won't be any technology-phobic individuals left in our positions of leadership. That day, control over this corpus of information will become a fulcrum that can move mountains.

In writing _1984_, contra to many interpretations, Orwell wasn't afraid of the concept of tyranny. We have had many tyrannical governments before, and documented their rise and fall. He was terrified of the singular notion that the novel power of technology and panopticon surveillance, might create a powerbase which was functionally immortal, a tyranny that could never fall to dissenting calls for change; That maybe technology had made the power of 'dissent' obsolete. If that comes true, we lose the power of self-determination forever.


Is it still considered too tinfoily to believe that presidential (and indeed party primary) candidates are already thoroughly vetted by powerful people long before any ostensibly democratic process is allowed to take place?


Uhhh, What about, for example, Sarah Palin?


What about Sarah Palin?


Nah, that's a fact - the two parties' leaderships determine who gets to run for president. Same with every other political party everywhere really.


All I can say is that Dubya Bush is lucky he went to school before Facebook and Twitter existed. Even so, some of those party photos still made it out to the public.

The same goes for Bill "didn't inhale" Clinton.

My imaginary black-hat that hangs out on my shoulder whispers into my ear that part of the political vetting process is now either finding and securing the existing blackmail material or manufacturing some via tricks and traps. Anyone who does not have a readily-pulled lever is prevented from appearing in the news cycle, or simply libeled and slandered.

My imaginary white-hat says that virtuous folk simply choose not to dirty their hands with politics. A person who does not compromise his principles cannot compromise enough to be effective in the halls of power.

I think they may both be right.


Calling the issue misinformed, ahistorical and overwrought is not missing the issue, it's just calling it that. Instead of reading and citing Orwell, read Bamford. You'll find a history of US security and law-enforcement agencies engaging in things far more illegal than anything that's come to light in Snowden's disclosures.

You'd be hard-pressed to find among them illegal activity directed at suppressing mainstream political opposition. That would be the kiss of death for any such service.

It isn't that these things are not terrible or worthy of scrutiny, opprobrium, or if you prefer, outrage. Suggesting that Western liberal democracy is somehow in unique peril because of them or 'because internet' is, and I'll say it again, silly. Western liberal democracy has easily survived a lot worse.


> Suggesting that Western liberal democracy is somehow in unique peril because of them or 'because internet' is, and I'll say it again, silly.

Wrong. Nothing in history has approached the ubiquity and scale of control that the currently forming surveillance machine is capable of. And yes, all of this 'because internet'. Your comparisons are moot against this distinction.


I would press Bamford into service as a proof, not a disproof, of my point.

How far do you think COINTELPRO might have gone if the FBI had been able to record every piece of mail, every conversation, had been able to lean on members of the press or members of the Church Committee with pre-recorded leverage, knowledge of every single questionable thing they'd done or said in 'private' all the way back to their childhood?

----

On August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC's Meet the Press without mentioning the name of the NSA about this agency:

“ In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.[9][10] "

----

The power we have handed these people is becoming orders of magnitude more extreme than the power it was technologically practical for an organization to attain in that era. That power is going to grow as time goes on.

The danger is not that the NSA deploys hundreds of thousands of spies to inform on and suppress mainstream political opposition, the danger is that they don't have to, to exert effective control. We're going to need something stronger, not weaker, than the reforms implemented then, to be a durable deterrent to more severe abuses in the future.

"Information wants to be free", said they. But that's not the case. The core of the idea is that information provides an incentive to everyone with access to that information, to use it. The greater the pile of information, the stronger the draw becomes. Eventually the amount of power concentrated in that information will corrupt whatever organizational structure we surround it with, so long as we permit it to be gathered in one place.


What about J.E. Hoover?

Outside the US, the examples of these abuse are numerous. Probably the most spectacular was Francois Mitterrand in France, who was wire tapping his political opponents and some other "persons of interest" (famous actress). And by using anti-terrorist powers by the way!

And having this power is not only open for abuse from the President. Lots of people in the chain of command will probably abuse it. It will also be open for abuse by law. You don't know what is OK today but will be inappropriate or illegal in 20 years.

All of this has nothing to do with the US but with human nature. The reality of any large society is that you have a portion of the population who are crooks, bullies, rapists, egomaniacs, corrupt, etc. Designing a system that relies on everyone now and forever to be honest is bound to fail. This is why the US constitution introduced so many checks and balances. And one fundamental check and balance is to limit the power of the state. And the state having so much information on its citizens, on everything anyone says to anyone, on where anyone is at any given time, on who talks to who, on who reads what is way way too much power.


We're talking about the US, right? And what, specifically, about J.E. Hoover? We're probably not going to argue that he was a bad guy. Whose presidential nomination or campaign did J.E. Hoover derail? And again, let's stipulate that this was a terrible, autocratic person who abused his decades-long position in office.


Not a presidential campaign, but Hoover was really not keen on MLK and spent a lot of effort attacking the civil rights campaign: http://time.com/3582004/fbi-letter-hoover-mlk/


He was also known for having files on every politicians and blackmailing them if we believe his biopics!


You're kidding right? Are you actually implying the scale of information gathered in the Nixon era is anywhere comparable to what is possible now?


Are you actually implying that information gathered by security services has been used to derail someone's presidential campaign, even in the era of the worst of such abuses? Because that's what the OP is worried about, ostensibly. And it's silly.


These sorts of comments absolutely infuriate me. Just because we can't point to an instance where we know someone's presidential campaign has been thwarted doesn't mean we should ignore the possibility. If you wait for proof of malfeasance before taking a stand you are by definition always playing catch-up and praying for the next Snowden to bring you up to speed.

The only way to prevent tragic abuses of power is to be proactive. We cannot wait for abuses to occur, we must be constantly vigilant in recognizing potential abuses and stopping them before they occur (just imagine how effective network security would be if it were entirely reactive instead of proactive).

The world got a wake-up call with the Snowden revelations. But anyone with some technical know-how and foresight knew much of what he revealed was happening already (although I'm sure even the most forward thinking technologist was surprised at some of the revelations). I would hope the era of "but where's the proof" would be over when it comes to protecting ourselves from oppressive surveillance powers.

The only way to secure this country from domestic enemies in perpetuity is to make sure such detrimental abuses cannot occur, ever. Waiting until proof is revealed is far too late. And absolutely never trust anyone with unchecked power.

Your argument is also brain-dead in that the amount of information available was minuscule compared to now (thus avenues for abuse and relevant information was proportionately minuscule). The fact that it didn't happen in the era of the largest (known) abuses says absolutely nothing about the likelihood of it happening going forward.


If you wait for proof of malfeasance before taking a stand you are by definition always playing catch-up

And if you string together conspiracies without a shred of evidence to support them, you are by definition making shit up whole cloth. This puts you in the same irrational company as Alex Jones, Art Bell, etc , etc.

The existence of bad actors absolutely does not mean that we abandon all critical thinking and logic and rationality. There is precisely as much evidence that the NSA is blackmailing presidential candidates as there is evidence that there is a camera in my underwear drawer or that chemtrails exist.


>The existence of bad actors absolutely does not mean that we abandon all critical thinking and logic and rationality.

Rationality is not equivalent to empiricism, as you seem to be implying.

>There is precisely as much evidence that the NSA is blackmailing presidential candidates as there is evidence that there is a camera in my underwear drawer or that chemtrails exist.

But the plausibility of the two are incomparable. Given what we know about human nature and the information available, and the abuses already made public, it is a legitimate fear. This combined with the immense gravity of such abuses, a rational consideration of the facts indicates that we take proactive measures to prevent it.


Let's take this out to its logical conclusion.

You say chemtrails are implausible? We already know that the TLA's have experimented with mind control agents, ala MKULTRA (though under different circumstances) and probably other still-secret programs, so using the rubric you just described, chemtrails are also a legitimate fear.


Not really. Think of it in terms of the number of assumptions necessary for each scenario to be true. For the case of spying, the only assumption necessary is that there will eventually be a confluence of opportunity for malfeasance and someone inclined towards unethical behavior. What is the probability that these two events occur simultaneously eventually? Very high indeed. A highly plausible scenario would be simply an analyst looking up information against a political candidate they don't like and leaking personal information they find to sink a campaign. The fact that analysts have spied on romantic interests shows that opportunity and disposition has already occurred. The plausible scenarios only get more sinister from there.

When it comes to chemtrails, a whole string of highly improbable assumptions are necessary for it to be true. The probability of these two cases are not comparable.


Technically we do release silver iodine (and other stuff) into clouds for weather modification. So there is some fact in the idea, but passenger aircraft are not actively spreading anything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_seeding

The only reason the US doesn't use weather modification in war is because of signed international treaties.


These sorts of comments absolutely infuriate me

Clearly, but the fact they infuriate you doesn't change my rebuttal of the OP's point. Which you still haven't addressed, short of telling me how it infuriates you. I understand you're infuriated.


Eliot Spitzer absolutely had Presidential ambitions, and certainly had ambitions for other elected office for positions other than the Presidency. He resigned as governor, and likely derailed any hope for future political office.

"The investigation of Spitzer was reportedly initiated after North Fork Bank reported suspicious transactions to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as required by the Bank Secrecy Act, which was enhanced by Patriot Act provisions, enacted to combat terrorist activity such as money-laundering."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliot_Spitzer_prostitution_scan...


"enhanced", now there's a flag word.

When the law was "enacted to combat terrorist activity", how do you prevent it from being turned on any crime?


Replace "president" with any political position, even ones outside of the US.

I'm not actually worried about MY presidential campaign. But if there is a close race, there is always the "we have the candidates ebay/amazon browsing history from 2009" or "those text messages he/she sent to their secretary" option that could dramatically change history.

The potential for abuse is too great to not have limits on data-retention.


If a sperm tainted dress stored on a closet for a couple years can do a lot of damage, imagine a full-take database stored for a couple decades or maybe even a couple centuries.


How would anyone know if they had done so? The point is they CAN exercise this kind of power, and they can do so in ways that can't be traced back to them. So who knows if they've done it? Who knows if they will? The fact that they could is the problem. Even that shadowy hypothetical threat gives them enormous (anti-democratic) power.


In fact, the very possibility will presumably weight upon anyone considering a political career, and as such these powers will likely have an effect whether or not they are actually used.


You speak as if the problem is that it could be the security apparatus has been abused, but we don't have any evidence this has happened.

The problem is we cannot be sure exactly when it has been abused. It's only fair to presume our our corrupt system does not use the NSA ethically.


Keeping a log for 20 years for each and every person is practically impossible at the moment, regardless of how advanced you think to seem technology is. Storage is not free and i think its stupid to keep tracking everything without a reason. If you keep logging on everything in the hopes that you may find a connection or something of that sort in the future, you'll need a lot more people to go through that sort of stuff to begin with.


Don't underestimate how deep the pockets are of government defense funds. The NSA has a gigantic datacenter in Utah that's estimated to be storing data on the exabyte order of magnitude (thousands of petabytes). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Data_Center

edit: Even if they only have 1 exabyte of storage, that's enough to keep 3.3 gigabytes of data for every single person in America (~300 million). I would wager that's more than enough to store the text from everyone's email for many years.


In fact, 3.3GB is also enough to store about 4 hours worth of speech recordings per day for a year for every single person using the best available compression. Double that since you don't need both sides of the call, and consider that the average amount of time spent on the phone is substantially less than 8h, and they can already store full voice for all US calls for many years in an exabyte.

Given that the 1 exabyte is a low order estimate given the size of the Utah data centre, you have to wonder just exactly what they are actually storing or planning to store there. If someone had access to it (and I'm not saying I think the NSA do), the site is physically big enough that you could fit sufficient storage to keep years worth of voice recordings of the total global phone call volume.


It is also known that NSA uses speech-recognition software, making voice recordings easily searchable.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/05/05/nsa-speech-rec...


IBM offers 5.5 PB of storage in a 10 square-foot space.

http://www.ibm.com/systems/storage/tape/ts4500/index.html

The Utah Data Center has at least 100,000 square-feet of data center space. If just half of that space was used for storage then it would be over 27 exabytes worth of storage assuming a density similar to what IBM offers.

Backblaze on the other hand has their Storage Pod 4.5 which can hold up to 270 GB of storage for less than $20,000. https://www.backblaze.com/blog/storage-pod-4-5-tweaking-a-pr...


I'm not sure where you got 270 GB. The article you reference states 180 TB.

Which, according to the article runs less than $10000 (180 TB * 1000 GB/TB * .048 $/GB = $8640 )


180 TB is using 4 TB drives.

270 TB is using 6 TB drives.

Backblaze uses 4 TB drives because of the increased costs and failure rates of the 6 TB drives.

https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/bl...

(270 TB * 1000 GB/TB * .051 $/GB = $13770 )

My original estimate of $20,000 was just a rough estimate that added some padding for overhead and accessories.


That makes sense (180 vs 270) and then GB was just a typo. Thanks for clarifying.


> Storage is not free

No, but you're paying the bill for your own tracking. Much easier to spend other people's money.


You're wrong, storage is cheap and reliable; every electronic communication and signal you generated was recorded and indexed on your true name, even the stuff you thought was anonymous.

Right now, that recorder is temporarily paused for the most part.

Which one of us is right?


An 8TB hard drive costs about $300. I wouldn't be surprised if the log of all the phone calls (metadata) of the US over a year would fit on one or two of these drives.


Ha…

"All of this political drama neglects a reality which has been pointed out by an earlier CounterPunch essay.[0] The majority of the NSA’s mass interception is sanctioned by other laws. To be precise Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Executive Order 12333. It’s likely that congress is fixated on Section 215 because politicians view it as an “easy win” that both panders to voters and winks at spies. Flanked by a blitz of press coverage lawmakers can brag to voters about fighting Big Brother without really altering the surveillance apparatus itself."[1]

[0] http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/05/the-usa-freedom-act-d...

[1] http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/08/will-appeals-court-ru...


At least section 702 is set to eventually sunset, in 2017. Section 214 was made permanent. http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/Section213.html#214 https://w2.eff.org/patriot/sunset/214.php

http://www.lawfareblog.com/2015/05/without-the-usa-freedom-a...

"The section 215 phone records program was modeled on an earlier, Internet metadata bulk collection program that began after September 11. The FISC approved the Internet metadata program under the pen register/trap and trace (PR/TT) provisions of FISA – as amended by section 214 of the Patriot Act. The Internet metadata program – known as the PR/TT program – had serious compliance problems because it was difficult for the NSA reliably to segregate Internet metadata from Internet content. Still, the FISC continued to approve the PR/TT program, with modifications, until the NSA itself chose to end the program in 2011.

As a result, the FISC’s orders approving bulk metadata collection remain a viable interpretation of the PR/TT provisions of FISA and would have precedential value in any effort to resume bulk collection, whether of Internet or telephony metadata. The PR/TT provisions of FISA are not limited to Internet metadata. If anything, they apply more naturally to traditional telephony metadata, as they cover “dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling” information. Section 214, unlike section 215, is not going to expire tomorrow – it was made permanent in 2005."


We should work to sunset these earlier.


> The majority of the NSA’s mass interception is sanctioned by other laws

That's far from clear (its far from clear that the mass interception is authorized at all). It may be that there is more that the government would claim is authorized by other laws than 215, but then its worth keeping in mind that with the metadata collection they've claimed is authorized by 215, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has found that it was not authorized by 215.


"On The Media" did a special on the PATRIOT Act, with some history, analysis, and predictions. They do mention the same thing: That many of the things we don't like are authorized by other measures.

One part of me is similarly cynical, and that if it was allowed to expire, they "let" it expire. But the hopeful part of me realizes that change happens in increments. Maybe reforms will continue to come, because there will NEVER be a "fix all civil liberties violations" bill.

http://www.onthemedia.org/story/on-the-media-2015-05-29/


Yeah, and even by some miracle it vanished completely, the rubber stamp NSL process provides the same level of access on a [very short] delay.

The fact is, the government is going to do what it wants and throw out the occasional figleaf to pretend it cares for political reasons.


Another way of viewing it is that they went after an easier target as a sort of test case, to demonstrate and build the political backbone for surveillance reform. This will hopefully make future attempts at more serious reforms easier.


Don't forget why it happened either. Rand Paul fought to make sure it didn't pass.


Not a single mention of Rand Paul by EFF. Is EFF stingy with credit, or do they just whitewash any mention of Paul out of Patriot Act subversion stories because he's not a Democrat?

EDIT: No, really. Serious question.


He's mentioned (and quoted) a ton on the @EFFLive Twitter feed from today (operated by EFF staff to provide live coverage of events).

https://twitter.com/EFFLive

Also mentioned and quoted repeatedly by @EFF Twitter feed during last week's Senate debate prior to the recess.

https://twitter.com/EFF


Still a Twitter mention is hardly the same as mentioning it prominently in the announcement. If it were Rand Paul fighting the EFF, it's almost certain that he would be mentioned above the fold. I am also interested in why Hillary's pro-NSA position hasn't been discussed more by EFF. Have they ever criticized a prominent Democrat? Hillary has been a big NSA supporter as well as a customer during her time as Secretary of State. Obama is obviously a huge NSA advocate given he signed Patriot Act extensions.. Not a single word from the Hillary campaign about privacy. Of course, privacy and transparency aren't exactly Clintonian. What's sad is that large numbers of the tech community are still going to raise money and vote for her, regardless of the issues.


Rand Paul is a declared candidate for President, and the EFF does not make political endorsements, so they're probably trying to avoid discussing Rand Paul too much.


Even if that candidate directly helped to accomplish an EFF goal and the other candidates didn't? The EFF has a long history of calling out Republicans that oppose them, thus providing a tacit endorsement of Democrats.

Also EFF Executive Directory Cindy Cohn is a Democrat campaign contributor, supporting John Kerry in 2004. This there is no way they'll do anything to support a Republican. The EFF claims to be non partisan, but when their leadership financially supports political candidates, the logic of being non-partisan is somewhat thin.

If you invested $500 in a company, wouldn't you want that company to succeed? Thus it's impossible to be Jon partisan when you are actually partisan.

http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg/?25971221998


Perhaps the EFF is critical of the Republican party because by and large the Republican party has a far worse record on technological freedoms than the Democratic party, whose record is also abysmal.

And I think you must have a very short and selective memory if you think the EFF has not been taking Democrat leadership (especially Obama) to task over mass surveillance.

Additionally, I believe it is possible for individuals within organizations to hold personal opinions and not use those personal opinions to drive organizational policy. Thinking that everyone must subvert their own honest efforts with some sort of underlying agenda is cynical at best and paranoid at worst.


Well, when you're a political organization that doesn't make political endorsements as a matter of policy, there are all kinds of judgment calls that you make that reasonable people can disagree with.


Since the EFF is "neutral" towards the "FREEDOM Act", why should they be giving him props?

Then again, I'm still dumbfounded that the EFF is taking a neutral stance on this act. It really, really looks like a trojan horse at this point, "reforms" dressed up to keep the status quo chugging along for another five years.


There are a lot of liberal Democrats on the EFF's staff but they also have a lot of libertarians. Many libertarians support Rand Paul so I'd guess there are people on staff who support him. That said, they may not be the ones writing blog articles.


That's actually pretty sad. The bill didn't get renewed because one politician talked for hours, not because a majority think it's wrong to spy on your own citizens. Now the politicians that didn't get to vote to renew the bill can blame Rand Paul next time there's a terrorist attack in the US and not take any responsibility themselves.


I'm sure the US government is already working hard on organising an incident.


If you work for a telco, and you are currently cooperating with NSA by providing them data, you probably just lost legal authorization to do so. NSA connections should be disabled unless your corporate general counsel instructs you otherwise in writing and takes responsibility for that act.


Why do people think that surveillance is going to thwart real terrorist attacks? Terrorists are not stupid. Bin Laden stopped using his satellite phone in 1999 and the NSA did not intercept a single piece of audio intercept data from Bin Laden ever again. The 9/11 hijackers were mostly engineers and barely even touched technology. HUMINT is the only way to catch real terrorists IMO.


Hypothetically speaking enough surveillance plus really advanced compute could find criminals indirectly. As a totally fictional example for illustrative purposes, recall Batman's "cell phone sonar" device.

You don't have to touch technology to leave a footprint. Your footprints are just harder to find.

Edit: I'm not saying it's a good idea, I'm just saying "you can't track terrorists who don't use technology" is false.


It also indirectly enables criminality by eliminating people's ability to be anonymous sources to police or the press. Along the same lines, it grants anybody with privileged (or unauthorized) access to surveillance data the opportunity for any number of truly maniacal illegal acts.


But that is because 9/11 didn'really happen.


How so?


Section 215 concerns both foreign and domestic signals, allowing for the collection of metadata. Section 702 focuses on the content of foreign intelligence. While 215 is debatable, 702 serves a distinctly different purpose. IF your concern is domestic surveillance, particularly sharing metadata that originates in the US with law enforcement, than this can be considered a win. IF you think collection of foreign intelligence should be limited, which of course is in the US's interest, then you are out of luck.

Considering the majority of people say faulty intelligence is to blame for the Iraq war, it's difficult for me to encourage less intelligence surrounding foreign intelligence gathering. But I'm partial, as an American who prefers to know who and what and why we are actually fighting. It's not like we can take everyone's word for it.


> faulty intelligence is to blame for the Iraq war, it's difficult for me to encourage less intelligence surrounding foreign intelligence gathering

How about - how would you rather spend your money, spying on foreigners living in destitution, or fixing our roads? The international spy network the US maintains is probably a paltry drop in the bucket of the preposterous defense budget in this country, but honestly anything to curtail that black hole of taxpayer dollars is a win in my book.

If we weren't destroying the lives of millions around the globe with our imperialism, we wouldn't have enemies to suicide bomb us with planes to require massive spy networks to try to catch American dissenters planning to commit jihad against us. The military industrial complex only exists insofar as the American people are complacent to being global police forcing their will upon anyone who does not fall in line with what the US wants. And that is after we already have trade sanctions that can decimate countries overnight.

This isn't 1970 anymore. We don't need to have a dick waving contest with the next largest nuclear arsenal trying to ruin the lives of billions of people in a juvenile game to show who is the coolest kid, whose god is the best, or whose economic model should rule the world. Maybe its time to just back the fuck off and take our tendrils out of every nation on Earth for once and maybe try to be good to our fellow man.


how would you rather spend your money, spying on foreigners living in destitution, or fixing our roads?

Oh good, binary arguments.

If we weren't destroying the lives of millions around the globe with our imperialism, we wouldn't have enemies to suicide bomb us...

So what about every country in Europe being suicide bombed? Are they just complicit?

Your notion that if we play nice and mind our own business, we will be left alone, is not really borne out by history.

I'm not saying there are enemies around every corner, but you can never please everyone so we will always have enemies.


* So what about every country in Europe being suicide bombed? Are they just complicit?*

The countries with the worst problems with Islamic extremism are the ones most closely allied with the US war machine. The UK and France, for example. Consider the smaller eastern states, Scandinavian countries etc: much less of an issue for them.

Usually when you dig into the motives of Islamic people engaging in political murders it's triggered by western wars. E.g. the Charlie Hebdo attackers went after cartoonists, probably because they were easy targets. But interviews with them showed their path to radicalisation started with seeing what was going on at Abu Ghraib.



From the first article,

About ten minutes before the explosions, a threatening email was sent to the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT).[9] It referred to the presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan and Swedish artist Lars Vilks' drawings of Muhammad as a roundabout dog:[3] "Now your children, daughters and sisters will die in the same way our brothers and sisters die. Our actions will speak for themselves.

.... so less of an issue but not zero of an issue.

For the second article, I concede that it doesn't mention any political motivation (I don't count purely religious motivation like "i hate cartoons" as political). Although, as the suspects ended up dead, it may be that there was one and we would never know.


"how would you rather spend your money, spying on foreigners living in destitution, or fixing our roads? "

This is in logical terms a wrong dichotomy, but anyway a couple of points:

1) having information about foreigners living in destitution is also called "awareness of the world", and it would be a great help e.g. in development aid. A lot of aid money is wasted simply because those who want and try to send help do not understand at all the people (often in destitution) they try to help. This is not the point of foreign intelligence, of course, I just say that if intelligence agencies could contribute to an understanding about the life in destitution, they would serve all humanity.

2) I don't think the US spy agencies spend any real effort on foreigners living in destitution. You maybe have an incorrect perception of life in poor countries. A vast majority of people may be poor, but there are still also middle class and wealthy people. Targeted intelligence operations usually concentrate on individuals of political or economical significance. Osama bin Laden, for instance, lived in relative abundance. Mass surveillance on the other hand mostly targets middle class people: those who access the Internet, use Facebook, use a credit card to purchase things. Not the poor people in destitution (even though mobile phones also have become important for them).


As someone who takes the train, I'd absolutely rather see money being used to maintain Americas military and political superiority over funding another highway to schlep people around the 'burbs.


So we stop spying on people?

Let me ask you: do you think it is better or worse that we _know_ about ISIS?

Mind you, Obama knows enough about ISIS that he is confident to keep troops out of the Middle East. Would he have that confidence if it weren't for the spy network?

Or would it be closer to a George Bush ordeal with Iraq War. George Bush was working off of a CIA that was cut by 20% to 30% by Clinton. He was practically flying blind. (Yes, when you lose 25% of your _workers_ between 1990 and 2000, the CIA will begin to make some pretty crappy decisions)

Here's another question. Do you think Israel would have continued to stand down against Iran if it weren't for the intelligence sharing programs between US and Israel? Intelligence stops wars. Intelligence tempers decisions. When leaders fly blind, they instead make hasty decisions and over-react to threats. Lets say the US stops spying on Iran... what do you think Israel will do without any information?

Hell, there's a reason why the US spies on Israel, and Israel spies on us. Even allies spy on each other: its the most reliable source of information. Even _with_ information sharing agreements, countries will spy on each other behind each other's backs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Pollard

Frankly, I'd want to know what Israel's plans are if we stopped giving them information. Don't you? I mean, yeah, we support them and all... but lets hope they're not gonna do anything crazy (like... use their nukes, or something).

Or do you think Israel will actually tell us these details, even if they are our Allies? Nah man, the only way you make decisions as a leader is to spy on other leaders, figure out what they're thinking, and then make plans based on that.


Intelligence also overthrows societies and destroys lives for raw material gain in the hands of those who would use it for such.

Can we assume white knights are in charge here?


Intelligence does jack diddly crap. If a spy spies on you, you'll never know your entire life.

CIA moves a bit beyond "intelligence" work with Seal Team 6 and the trigger on drone strikes. CIA is closer to "Paramilitary". But the pure HUMINT work that the CIA does is extremely important to understanding the world.

    Can we assume white knights are in charge here?
Elect a good president in 2016. Lets keep the white knights in charge. Warmongerers are definitely vying for power.

With the presidency comes command and control of the largest, strongest, most advanced nuclear missile stock on the planet. And control of the largest navy. And control of the largest army.

Believe me, intelligence is needed to keep those guys pointing their guns at the right targets.


> Elect a good president in 2016

Isn't that the problem? Good by the definition of the individual voting? Good by the definition of a particular belief system? Good by being marginally "better" than the opponents?

"Good" isn't explicit enough to actually provide information to make a decision. (Also, it's a pretty limited palette of "goodness" to select from).

> Lets keep the white knights in charge

Are the White Knights in charge right now? They all seem to be embracing war by action, if not by word.

> intelligence is needed to keep those guys pointing their guns at the right targets.

Once again, who are the "right targets". Is it ISIS, is it Al Qaeda, is it the next disillusioned group of malcontents who are sold on the propaganda of their leaders?

Do you not realize that the flip-side of this argument justifies the behavior of the "enemy" as well as it justifies the behavior of the US?

How about we try to look to a solution where we stop pointing guns at "targets"? (I presume by "targets" you mean "humans").


My ballot choices will almost certainly be between "perpetual warmonger" and "reduced-calories perpetual warmonger".

The wars will continue until the economy improves.


The intelligence wasn't faulty, it was cooked to reach the desired conclusion -- that Iraq needed to be invaded. Raw intelligence that supported this conclusion was cherry-picked. Other inconvenient facts were ignored.


In the past few weeks there's been a concerted effort to rewrite the history leading up the Iraq war as a big "whoopsies!" Now that the whole process has come to light, with all of it's incompetence and misdeeds, it's hard for me to believe anyone would buy this. The only possible reason I can imagine is that those who supported the war want to soothe their egos rather than own up to their mistakes. They're manufacturing their own excuse so they can say to themselves, "How could I have know any better? No one could have known." But I seriously doubt this will gain any traction outside of the die hard circles. No 13-year-old will grow up to think the brazenly contrived and wildly inaccurate intelligence was just some unlucky accident.


? Was there something in geophile's comment implying it was an "accident"?


Anyone with an Internet connection can now see from Congressional-level reports that Saudi hijackers received embassy-level support from the Saudi government for their actions, or that the Iraqi 'Yellow Cake' fairy tales were exactly that. At the advice of our intelligence agencies, we invaded, and continue to 'advise' ... Afghanistan and Iraq, even as the logistical and air conditioning bills alone for such actions constitute the world's largest military expenditures. I might even be willing to entertain Sec 702 if I could see for one moment how it helps in such light (ie, when the 'intelligence agencies' manufacture politically expedient fiction instead of honest SIGINT and HUMINT).


Between Generation Kill[1], See No Evil[2] and The Afghan Nightmare[3] (and other sources, other wars, other regions), it's hard to see how intelligence is working at all.

In particular [3], which deals with a NATO commander in Afghanistan is telling: Considering the British have been involved in the area for hundreds of years, the US has been involved for decades -- one wonders how one could possibly construct mission parameters that are clearly pure fantasy.

I'm still not sure if it is the result of gross incompetence, or stems from ulterior motives (or a more likely; a combination) -- either way the idea that the intelligence services help prevent wars (at least the parts concerned with sigint) -- is hard to take at face value.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Kill

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_No_Evil_(book)

[3] http://www.riff.it/scheda-film/?id=7515


This. Anybody saying US-Israel intelligence sharing is the major factor in preventing a war is blind. Whenever Netanyahu and his ilk want to get reelected they run to the UN and wave 10 Minutes to Midnight infographics about Iran, completely ignoring real issues like inequality and cost of living. It's the sanity of the Israeli intelligence community preventing a war, not the intelligence sharing.


Faulty intelligence was the scape goat for the war in Iraq. The reality is that the CIA was asked to find reasons to justify a war. And like every good administration it obliged.

I think another example where we will observe this sort of forced bias imposed on what should be an impartial community is climate change research. Scientists are asked and given budget to prove that there is a climate change, and that it is man made, and that it will have disastrous consequences. Any study who challenges this is attacked as motivated by financial interests or as conspiracy theorist and is starved of budgets and discredited. And I am sure that we will find that this political pressure will result in completely biased conclusions. And who will be blamed in 20 years for this? The scientific community of course!


> Considering the majority of people say faulty intelligence is to blame for the Iraq war

Am I the only one that remembers that the Iraq war was not based on "faulty" intelligence but outright fabrications? This was pointed out at the time and so well-known international politicians quickly backed down from using the US intelligence as justification for the war (going back to handwaving and talking about solidarity).


Now you can see why Orwell was so keen on exploring the mutability of the past in 1984.


> Considering the majority of people say faulty intelligence is to blame for the Iraq war

You're kidding right? "Faulty intelligence" was not responsible for the Iraq war. A lie was. More or "better" intelligence wouldn't have changed that (and didn't).

Also FISA is already used in a "reverse" way to spy on Americans. If you "communicate" (as little as liking on Facebook) to a "foreigner" (anyone who either is located on a non-American IP or uses encryption), then FISA can be used to spy on you.


While agreeing faulty intelligence was probably responsible for the Iraq war I don't think it was the spy agency kind.


This statement, "Considering the majority of people say faulty intelligence is to blame for the Iraq war, it's difficult for me to encourage less intelligence surrounding foreign intelligence gathering." is incomplete/incorrect/missing the point/whatever you want to call a polite way of saying "wrong" for a number of reasons, I will state them, in no particular order below.

First, you are confusing data collection and data analysis. It doesn't matter how much and what type of "intelligence" (a misnomer if there ever was one) if you're simply talking about raw data collected from a variety of sources. The data must be parsed and made sense of. In the CIA/NSA/FBI of the 1990's and 2000's, there was a very obvious failure (again, for a number of reasons, some due to simple mistakes, some due to bureaucratic incompetence, some due to political reasons.) to correctly interpret this data. Oops, but hey, it's only a few billion dollars and few tens of thousands of lives.

Second, post-9/11, given the amount of resources spent on intelligence collecting in the Middle East, it's hard to believe that there was anything more that could have been done in terms of signal collections than going full on Big Brother and installing a data collecting device in every person's bunghole in the entire region.

Third, note I said "signal collections," because one of the things people say isn't that it was simply faulty intelligence gathering (or analysis as I discussed above) but also an over reliance on the exact type of data we were gathering, ie, things that float through the ether. We didn't have enough of the old school, human intelligence of the early cold war, that could have helped in making a better determination of whether or not Saddam actually had WMD's (or was building them, whatever). The Human Intelligence they did have, was from special interests that had their own reasons to get rid of Saddam, and there was very little (at least seemingly from the outside) checking on these human sources. So, too few human resources, as well as resources who had their own agendas. That's never going to work out well.

Finally, none of that mattered. The data we had, through the political will of the Administration of the time, was massaged to fit the story, not the other way around. They had a narrative ("Saddam has WMD's"), and then they cherry picked data to support that "conclusion." Only after the fact did the whole "faulty intelligence" story come out, because, you know, it's easier to blame that than saying "yeah, we had a hard on for the guy and we wanted to take him out regardless of what the real story was." But you said it yourself: "It's not like we can take everyone's word for it."

I had a few more points to make, but I'm tired, it's late, I've written enough.

But now Saddam and his WMD's are gone, we have ISIS taking over Iraq, so I guess it all worked out in the end. So the NSA should keep hoovering up all that data, what could go wrong?


"Faulty" intelligence was not the cause of the Iraq war. Our leaders knew they were starting a war of aggression.


It is all theatre. We've moved from bulk collection to bulk receiving that collection.

Think about it, it won't ever end. It is like a regular person going back to before Google/search engines. The way we think now includes that path.

So in the intelligence agencies, it has been a way of life for 15 years. The have an internal "google" if you will, that has all of our information at any time. It has become the way they work and 'investigate'. It is forever part of their path.

In another 5 years, which the USA Freedom Act extends section 215 to 2019[1], the intel agencies will forget how to investigate in real, old school judicial warrant driven surveillance with oversight. Judges have been worked out of the system and it is too easy to investigate with these tools for it to end.

This is also not for terrorism, nearly 99% of all inquires for Patriot Act sneak and peeks have been used for domestic crime [2]. I am sure 215 is being abused in ways we won't know for years because there is lack of oversight and NSA directors openly lied to Congress before for national security.

This is a domestic crime tool, not only for terrorism. It would be nice if people in power were just honest about this but they shroud it in terrorism, 'Patriot' Acts, bills called 'USA Freedom' and more disrespectful ways to the US brand. We should require all bills be named by number or by what they are, these would be 'Domestic & Foreign Surveillance Act I and II' or SB/HB 2015[some number]. That way we can debate on merit not some doublespeak name.

These tools will eventually be used for corporate espionage and market manipulation, it is too useful not to. Local police will be able to get all your records, maybe even connected businessmen and bankers.

If you want change, politics is not the way, it is cooked. The country runs on money and markets. If you want to change something, come up with a market solution that can get to the point where it is big enough to cause change.

[1] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr2048/text/ih#li...

[2] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/10/peekaboo-i-see-you-gov...


"This is a domestic crime tool, not only for terrorism."

Indeed, the primary realpolitik answer that you wont hear from anybody in the beltway till theyve had a few and have a cigar in their hand is that technology has so changed the landscape of threats and potential threats that actions that used to require nation state financial, logistal, etc support can now be accomplished by a single non-state actor, hence, we really "need" to collect it all.

The reason this scares the intel community so much is because generally, with some exceptions, if a foreign country sends actors over we tend to know about it due to how deep our tendrils are and the fact that we are setting ourselves up as the main repository of data for even foreign govs to access. (The point being we know what they access and look at), but if all of a sudden we feel like it could be anybody then you get an intel community thats in hypervigilante mode and that mode will wear you out fast, its a mentally degraded state for anything other than actual fighting.

im guessing some modifications to the way threats are quantitavely measured is in order, but no one really wants to do that these days. Ive heard rumors over the past few years of an increasing trend to get rid of all the salty old greybeards who tell truth to power... What we will end up with is a beltway full of people who are either too naive to know better and just tout the line, or a bunch of kissass mortage-payers who would condone genocide if it made sure their kids go to a ivy league college. Which essentially what William Binneys says happened when they scrapped his lower cost program designed to at least attempt to protect privacy in favor of a billion dollar blank check for another less effective solution.

The bottom line is that by attempting to collect it all before they fully understand how to parse the data, they actually weakened American security in all its various forma.

I am curious though when you say come up with a market solution. The problem is that markets simply dont work like you were taught in college economics. For example, the market profitted from the weakening of American security because the more expensive program put more dollars into a few VA counties. I would like some sort of example of how the markets will ever be anything other than opposed to actual progress if it makes them less money.

Therein lies the problem, weve allowed our own "representative governemnt" to become completely detached from the people due to their attachment to "markets".

Does anybody in DC even remember what their oaths were anymore? to protect and defend THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC...

Id say our real enemies, the ones threatening the Constitution (as opposed to safety) are domestic, and they wear suits and ties and not burkahs, and quantifiably so.


>Does anybody in DC even remember what their oaths were anymore? to protect and defend THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC...

Every time I hear Obama say "my number one job as president is to keep Americans safe" I can't help but cringe and wonder what the hell happened to us. These oaths truly don't mean anything anymore, if they ever did.


To be fair, the whole reason we got rid of the Articles of Confederation and instituted a strong central government with strong President was the previous federal government's inability to put down domestic insurrection.

People talk about Thomas Jefferson and the tree of liberty but the fact is that TJ lost the ideological debate of his time.


Actually, though Jefferson may have lost the debate, I think that history has proven him correct.

https://www.gilderlehrman.org/sites/default/files/content-im...

"I learn with pleasure that republican principles are predominant in your state, because I conscientiously believe that governments founded in them are most friendly to the happiness of the people at large; and especially of a people so capable of self government as ours. I have been ever opposed to the party, so falsely called federalists, because I believe them desirous of introducing, into our government, authorities hereditary or otherwise independant [sic] of the national will. these always consume the public contributions and oppress the people with labour & poverty."

Indeed, the very issue that we are discussing is the fact that the authorities have become independent of the national will (or have otherwise subverted the national will).

Also, there is much debate about why the Articles were replaced, and I don't really like your simplistic view of the matter, it was a very complex time and arguments for and against were extremely varied, but your point is taken.

I would also venture to say that it is the lack of accountability for those who violate the Constitution in all three branches that has further encouraged a slide down the slippery path where far too many people want to imagine the Constitution as a "living document" instead of a static reference only modifiable my amendment, as it truly should be.

I would also point out that I consider the SCOTUS compromised now too.

“On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” - Thomas Jefferson

Also a side note is that the only oath I have ever sworn was to the defence of the Constitution, so I am biased. (I think in a good way)


> Actually, though Jefferson may have lost the debate, I think that history has proven him correct.

The original point was about Obama saying his top priority is keeping America safe. Whether or not TJ was right goes to what should be his top priority, not what it is under the document that defines the scope of his responsibilities.

> I would also venture to say that it is the lack of accountability for those who violate the Constitution in all three branches that has further encouraged a slide down the slippery path where far too many people want to imagine the Constitution as a "living document" instead of a static reference only modifiable my amendment, as it truly should be.

That's a double-edged sword, because a strict textual interpretation of the 4th amendment doesn't get you where you need to be re: surveillance. Remember, the whole "expectation of privacy" is a "living Constitution" bolt-on. What the 4th amendment's text actually lays out is basically a protection against what would be trespass if done by a private person: http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/amendments/4/essays/.... All of the things explicitly mentioned in the amendment are things in which people have property interests. You have no property interests in the records AT&T keeps about what you do online--extending the 4th amendment to that requires reliance on the whole "expectation of privacy" framework that simply did not exist when the Constitution was written.

> “On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

You're begging the question. What is the "spirit manifested in the debates?" 55 delegates debated the provisions of the document, and they had 55 points of view. Whose "spirit" should we give credit to? The literal text is the best evidence of the compromise that actually came out of that process.


Thank you, Edward Snowden.


Thank you, Edward Snowden and Rand Paul. FTFY.


I guess now that it ran out something very bad will happen and after that the section or something worse will be active again and will run forever. ("we can't cancel it, remember the time we didnt have it and something bad happenend?")


The Nuclear Age is over. When the major powers have strong trade and business agreements, leverage is applied incrementally rather than explosively. That said, welcome to the Software Wars era. When country A can receive significant financial leverage with a small hack of country B's market, they will. The US needs a world class software defense 'army'. However, you don't point that gun at your own people. Neither should spying be done on allies if it threatens existing partnerships. The hacking 'arms race' is just getting started.


The Nuclear Age is far from over. If anything, we've just gone from the "only big players can afford them" to the "we don't really know who has them" stage.

There were reports of the Russian Mafia having control over nuclear material. [1] The collapse of the iron curtain caused a wonderful climate for well funded criminal elements to get their hands on all sorts of nasty stuff. This is documented, but not really discussed that much. I've read that many governments are actually a lot less worried about the Russian mafia having this material than they are about North Korea having these weapons, as organised crime doesn't really stand to profit very much from a nuclear stand-off. Apparently Mossad even purchased some of it to "stop it falling into the hands of Islamic and other terror groups" [2]

You can't put that genie back in it's bottle. The Nuclear Age won't be over for a while yet, it's just in a quiet phase.

[1]: https://www.law.upenn.edu/journals/jil/articles/volume16/iss...

[2]: http://www.rense.com/general44/maf.htm


When the major powers have strong trade and business agreements, leverage is applied incrementally rather than explosively.

You do realize Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because we were waging economic war ("leverage") on them? Such as the oil embargo?


I think it would be great if the threat of nuclear exchanges was gone, however I don't know that I believe that.


Indeed the whole culture of intentional weaknesses in security is something we will pay for in losses in the kind of war you describe. Security or surveillance. Pick one.


This is like the one brief beautiful moment above the clouds in The Matrix (Revolutions).

One political event from the past fourteen years that I can look at and go "something fundamental changed for the better". Finally one representative actually declaring that this system is bullshit and holding firm with spite, instead of the constant compromise and corruption. Finally laws are simply removed instead of augmented with "fixes" that just rearrange deck chairs to make a different group profit even more.

Not that I have much hope of it staying this way for long. Even the EFF here is preemptively giving in and saying "USA Freedom" will be passed, because anything else would be too wild against the status quo (there's that corrupromise again!).

But at least there's this one brief beautiful moment to enjoy before going back to writing code, the only way for freedom to survive the infopocalypse.


They will replace it with something far worse when the "news reporters" and the general public aren't paying attention.

We know to look for and hate the "patriot act" they will come up with a "puppies and kittens" name that you will look like an idiot to say you hate.


I can understand eff celebrating this entirely symbolical event, but cannot understand celebration in the comments. "Aren't allowed to do (for now)", "cannot do" and "won't do" are different things, and only the last two do matter.


Let me say it explicitly:

Ending collection does not change anything.

So they can't connect? So what? So GCHQ (Britain's NSA) does the collection and then shares it with the NSA. Problem solved.

It's the storage of this information which should be stopped.


"Senate rules allow a final vote, which only needs a simple majority of 51, to occur early Tuesday morning" I am not certain it'll go through. What do you think ?


Hoooray! Now, the real fight begins!


The EFF felt it needed to mention it's fighting this since 2006 but they left out the name of one Edward Snowden. I feel this is a dick move.




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