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Since the disclosure of the PRISM program by Edward Snowden, debates on what, why and how the NSA does what it does, and the appropriateness of it, have cranked-up the volume across the internet including here.

As an IT industry worker bee that holds these issues near and dear, I've found myself increasingly distressed at the content of many arguments on this site I find to be either ill-informed, aiming to deny facts or mis-direct from them, or simply off-track of essential issues.

My purpose here is to share information I think would help to re-frame the debate with facts about what the NSA (and their ilk in the US and elsewhere) now do to collect, analyze and act on information, and to pose some basic questions for consideration.

If you think it's possible that:

- countries, including the USA, spy on other countries and their own citizens
- the internet and other digital communications facilitate data collection & analysis
- people have become conditioned to accept increasing surveillance and less privacy
- that cyber warfare has become a core mission of the (global) MIC
- that governments use fear to manipulate public opinion and gain acceptance of intrusion

... see you after the fold.

What the NSA does

The NSA was founded in 1952 as a secret organization under the DoD to acquire, analyze and report foreign intelligence, for the use of, primarily, the Executive Branch and DoD under it, and to develop technology to execute its mission including hardware and software. For the first 2 decades of it's existence, it was largely unknown to outsiders in government and the public, and largely stuck to it knitting, mission-wise.

Gradually, as data processing and electronic eavesdropping technology became more sophisticated and important to intelligence, the size and budget of the organization grew to the point it became more visible as an entity if not transparent as an organization, eventually becoming a larger organization then the CIA (today an estimated 40,000 employees verses 20,000 employees, respectively) and developing mission creep.

As an organization with a secret budget and little oversight, it's impossible to provide much accountable detail but Wikipedia, the ultimate authority on all things, provides some basics.

However, in the past 30 years, diligent investigative journalism and disclosures by current and former members of the organization present a more complete picture for our purposes and I will link various articles you should read to understand, particularly the more recent work of James Bamford available on the internet and disclosures by William Binney and Thomas Drake.

How the NSA acquires information

From it's founding the NSA has leveraged various means to acquire intelligence but particularly focused on electronic eavesdropping by tapping into communications networks including telephone, satellite and data networks from the US, listening posts abroad and through the use of various surveillance assets including friendly foreign governments, some of the foundation programs being MINARET, SIGINT, MASINT, ECHELON and the like, which involved various branches but leveraged by NSA.

Then, the internet changed everything, turning a well-monitored trickle of data into a high pressure firehose surveillance organizations rushed to capitalize on but found overwhelming in volume, rapidly falling behind both in technology, capacity and funding.

Again, 9/11 changed everything, when failing in their basic mission to intercept a threat, the organization got the argument and unquestioning compliance of the Executive and Congressional branches to fund an unprecedented expansion, including the justification to expand surveillance domestically.

Sucking From The Hose

As telephone systems including mobile became all digital and traffic merged with the internet, the means to tap into the data stream and store records became a more simple and automated if larger scale and more daunting task, but an irresistible one to those convinced more is better, and empowered by the Patriot Act, the wheels turned.

Starting in 2001, the NSA initiated various programs to tap into landlines, cellular and internet data streams including Stellar Wind, Trailblazer, PSP and the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which quickly blurred the lines between foreign surveillance authorized for the agency and domestic that is not.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue, we should recognize the fundamental problem digital communications, particularly internet, pose in filtering data and also the opportunity to do so if massive data is acquired and stored for later use, which is exactly the path chosen and the present situation.

The NSA did and does tap into primary data streams to acquire and store data for future use and is raising the level of sophistication from the early methods such as Room 641A to it's current expansion of resources in both Fort Meade, Maryland (HQ) and Bluffdale, Utah (see The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center).

While you, I and Webster's might define this activity as "acquisition" since it involves accumulation, filtering and categorization (analysis), and storage, the NSA does not consider it "acquired" until it is used, presumably with a FISA order if needed. We might question "How do you know what to request a FISA ruling on if you haven't got it?" but that could be foolish.

Eventually, the programs came to light and faced both Congressional enquiries and lawsuits, but the work proceeded undeterred and spawned such programs as Turbulence, Boundless Informant and the now infamous PRISM.

How Is It Done?

Fans of spy movies know you can pull this stuff right out of the air, and while that is true, the difficulty, bandwidth and capacity is pretty poor, so the sensible thing to do is to tap into Central Office Switches, Fiber Optic Land Lines and Trans-Oceanic Cables and Satellite Communications Base Stations, which the PRISM Powerpoint shows as a map with a startling resemblance to that shown in NSA's Lucky Break: How the U.S. Became Switchboard to the World.

It went public with Room 641A when whistle blower Mark Klein disclosed the existence of an NSA tap on an AT&T Switch in San Francisco complete with photos. The EFF filed suit, but Hepting vs AT&T was eventually dismissed based on Congress granting retroactive immunity, a case covered in the NOVA episode The Spy Factory. So much for accountability and oversight.

Since then, NSA has pursued the infrastructure to realize to its objective of Total Information Awareness which is best described as a smart storage tank for the contents of a fire hose, with the critical point that data streams are collected. Please read:

Connecting the Dots on PRISM, Phone Surveillance, and the NSA’s Massive Spy Center
Secret To PRISM Program: Even Bigger Data Seizure
The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)
What the NSA can do with “big data”
Big Brother on a budget: How Internet surveillance got so cheap

And then, perhaps most importantly, Bamford's latest article for Wired, The Secret War, an expose on how General Keith Alexander has accumulated unprecedented resources and power, including crossing the line from surveillance to command and control. Supporting evidence can be found in  Inside the NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group (no comments yet from the flies on the wall during Obama & Xi's weekend retreat but I'm sure it was interesting).

Leaks Below Deck

By the mid 00s, dissatisfied with the direction of domestic surveillance and corruption in procurement, several NSA members of long standing left the organization and attempted to rally DoD and Congressional support for investigation, becoming whistleblowers.

First, and most significantly, William Binney, a long serving and highly placed technology officer resigned in 2001 and spend years working the halls of Congress and various agencies before going public after the New York Times published an expose in 2005, and was ultimately the target of a 2007 FBI investigation. Binney, who warns the US is on the road to a totalitarian state, has continued to work with investigative journalists and supporting other whistleblowers while continuing to speak out, often in contradiction to standing officials. He will not shut-up and has much to say.

Another significant case was that of Thomas Andrews Drake, administrator turned whistleblower, who disenchanted with the direction and the financial waste he witnessed on the ill-fated "Trailblazer" program while the NSA scaled-up in the mid-00s, took the case public and was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, recounted in Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?

Defended by fellow kossack Jesselyn Radack, charges were eventually dropped when it was demonstrated the information disclosed by Drake was, in fact, in the public domain as it had been released before in filings by the NSA. Drake has continued to speak out, most recently supporting Snowden in the article Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution. I can recommend Radack's recent diaries here.

So Where Does It Lead Us?

Does this information help to re-frame the picture? Can we distinguish between the dangers of massive data acquisition put to what future use we don't know and splitting hair about how exactly NSA gets data from Google or Facebook for analysis by PRISM (just an app, folks)?

Can the commentary by these whistleblowers help us to focus here? Does their direct approach to the implications for society ring some bells?

Living in a society less free than the USA, my personal comment is people need to get focused on where this can lead, the message it sends the world and the down-line implications.

This is not setting the example for the world to follow. Or as one Chinese critic recently put it, NSA surveillance: the US is behaving like China, only in a sense, I think it is worse because it is more secretive and less transparent than the heavy-handed censorship and surveillance we must tolerate daily and so severe criticized by Clinton and Obama is their infinite wisdom (ouch, but we can now say that without hesitation).

Make your own sense of this. Please.

I don't think the issue is Google this or Microsoft that.

It is what is being done in your name and done to your future, we are told for your safety. Do you buy that?  Has the "right balance" been struck as Mr. Obama suggests?

How can you know that if you don't have the basic facts?

Thanks for reading & thinking.

Update 2013.06.17 CST 19:18

I just wanted to add a link to these excellent USA Today interviews with Binney, Drake, Wiebe and Radack discussing the Snowden disclosures.

Originally posted to koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by DFH Local No 420.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for Reporters and Whistle Blowers (145+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, Claudius Bombarnac, blueoasis, indubitably, Hammerhand, Deward Hastings, Davui, Joieau, middleagedhousewife, DRo, Victor Ward, smiley7, ctsteve, Roadbed Guy, One Pissed Off Liberal, triv33, Kristina40, Zinman, gulfgal98, allenjo, susakinovember, kamarvt, emal, some other george, Demeter Rising, jamess, Keone Michaels, BlueDragon, just another vet, Trendar, FishOutofWater, Wolf10, TealTerror, truong son traveler, blueoregon, jguzman17, tbirchard, where4art, Radiowalla, serendipityisabitch, ladybug53, zerelda, cybersaur, I Lurked For Years, ask, Meteor Blades, FG, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, fixxit, CroneWit, Sun Tzu, Indiana Bob, northsylvania, wayoutinthestix, xxdr zombiexx, fou, sceptical observer, Ozymandius, radical simplicity, Publius2008, Youffraita, Brooke In Seattle, la58, coldwynn, on the cusp, jadt65, rivercard, Lady Libertine, also mom of 5, side pocket, Onomastic, Shockwave, Karl Rover, Siri, Lurker in the Dark, SteelerGrrl, The Free Agent, cosette, vahana, Yasuragi, martini, PeterHug, KenBee, LeftOverAmerica, kck, NYFM, Jim P, Kentucky Kid, Rhysling, dadadata, wonmug, erratic, Pluto, TheMomCat, devis1, Dallasdoc, native, out of left field, Flyswatterbanjo, Pithy Cherub, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, AoT, kbman, Wonton Tom, Burned, petulans, ban nock, mskitty, DeadHead, Zwoof, WisePiper, Involuntary Exile, dicentra, cosmic debris, Mimikatz, goodpractice, run around, Lost Left Coaster, cwsmoke, KateCrashes, chrississippi, Glen The Plumber, nailbender, Mary Mike, boran2, bmaples, catilinus, shari, zett, Notreadytobenice, Simplify, kirbybruno, deep info, QuoVadis, MindRayge, markthshark, Tony Situ, Kitsap River, Dumbo, JVolvo, Funkygal, J M F, duhban, caul, Rosaura

    Be informed. And thank those who do the heavy lifting and the dirty work.

    James Bamford on Democracy Now 2013.06.14

    Includes video and transcript.

    James Bamford Wired Podcast on Bluffdale, Utah NSA Datacenter

    James Bamford on reddit - give him some love.

    400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:19:00 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for this. It's the most complex... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JVolvo, caul, koNko

      yet understandable explanation of what the NSA is doing I've read to date.

      And I think you're right. We wave the flag. We extoll the virtues of the bible yet use war and hegemony as a cudgel against others. We talk the talk of democracy and freedom. Yet our citizens are subtly conditioned from birth through jingoism and propaganda to believe we are always right... and free. And the rest of the world is wrong.

      I think it is worse because it is more secretive and less transparent than the heavy-handed censorship and surveillance we must tolerate daily and so severe criticized by Clinton and Obama is their infinite wisdom (ouch, but we can now say that without hesitation).
      In other words: we do not walk the walk. And if we indeed lived up to our ideals; we would quickly come to despise who and what we are.

      Man, we've got some work to do.

      "Anyone with an aquarium knows that if you change the temperature and chemistry of the water, you're asking for trouble... big trouble." -- Oceanographer David Gallo

      by markthshark on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:06:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I will be around a little while (34+ / 0-)

    It's after 22:00 here and I work tomorrow so go to bed sometime in the next couple of hours, but come back in the morning to respond.

    Please hit the links and read, it's much more than I have to say.

    400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:12:21 AM PDT

  •  A very good job (33+ / 0-)

    of putting some complex issues in perspective. It is certainly true that the technology involved in spying on people has gotten a lot more complicated since J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Toland were steaming open letters and tapping mechanical phone switches.

    With the revelation that the government is tapping directly into the internet backbone, it becomes clear that they have direct access to everything, It isn't about which servers at Google they are accessing. What is not clear is what they are doing with all this data. The effort to cloak all of their activities in sanctified secrecy makes it very difficult to sort that out. What we have had is enough information to establish that at least some of the statements coming from government officials (e.g. Clapper) are simply not the truth.

    •  It is not a simple situation (34+ / 0-)

      This is 2013, not 1913.

      So I just want people to get the information and think for themselves or other will do it for them and they won't like the result.

      I think this essay is worth considering:

      Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance

      It's surprising how clever some of these security researchers are.

      My own job is to make servers run faster and cheaper so the world can have more information and do more computation, just that narrow task.

      It's just a tool, like a knife or an axe. Depends who's hands use it and for what purpose, and sometimes keeps me awake thinking about misuse.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:43:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not "everything" (12+ / 0-)

      Merely "everything" that people transmit, knowingly or not, or have stored beyond and outside their personal devices, also knowingly or not. To truly be "everything", it would also have to include data that people have stored on their devices that they haven't transmitted or copied beyond them, knowingly or not. E.g. a photo you took on your phone and maybe copied to your PC, but never forwarded to anyone, posted on FB, or had automatically backed up to Picassa. Or a journal entry you made on your laptop, or sketch you made on your tablet, or a scan of an old letter that your grandfather wrote to his then-sweetheart and now your grandmother in WWII, that you've never sent anyone or set up to be auto-backed up to the "cloud". For us geezers who don't yet (and hopefully never will) live on FB or the "cloud", this is a distinction with a difference (whether or not we have anything to hide blah blah blah).

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:17:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i'm not so sure (11+ / 0-)

        if they are scanning cell phones in some way, surely they can 'see' all the things you mentioned if they want to.  they can do so when they look at a computer connected to the innertubes.  i'm sure they can do so if they want to.  the only thing they need is a space to store the info and they are getting that.

        •  Obviously they CAN do this (7+ / 0-)

          The question is if they are doing it, en masse. There's a difference between grabbing what you're transmitting (knowingly or not), or which is already out there on some server (again knowingly or not), and grabbing what's in your possession and ONLY in your possession, even if it's in purely digital form.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:00:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  why not if they are getting everything else? (6+ / 0-)

            why wouldn't they?   what is that 2 billion dollar facility in utah going to do?  i think you are trying to find a line to hide behind and i don't think there is any.  why would they stop anywhere when the philosophy and approach is to collect everything?

            •  Please don't put words in my mouth (5+ / 0-)

              or thoughts in my head. The only line I'm trying to draw is between what we know and what we suspect, which is a HUGE line for those of us still in the reality-based world. And please don't lazily lump me in with those who deny or try to justify the former because it makes you feel all warm inside.

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:44:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well-done diary. Thanks for the info. (6+ / 0-)

                As to the difference between "know" and "suspect" I think it prudent to assume that power-seekers will seek to gain all the power they possibly can. (Hence, we have the Bill of Rights.)

                Surely our various secret agencies have been helmed by people who tend to the right wing, authoritarian model. And authoritarians have dreamed of the panopticon since the Year Dog. Certainly the 20th C taught us that authoritarians, first thing they do, is collect all the data they can on the citizenry.

                I feel if you suspect the worst from power-seekers, and assume it is either in place or will be in place at the first opportunity, this is entirely reasonable and prudent.

                What we know at this point would tend to confirm what we suspect, but whether it does or doesn't, it's already a very bad thing.


                Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

                by Jim P on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:49:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not my diary, but, um, thanks? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Jim P, Tony Situ, koNko

                  Also, what I suspect, however justifiably, does not constitute evidence. I want to hear this from someone in the know. Preferably, from several somebodies.

                  "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                  by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 01:34:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Oops. I guess the "ko" at the beginning (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    kovie, koNko

                    of each name confused me.

                    But your comments have been excellent as well, so take that compliment.

                    And I appreciate the necessity of separating the known, from suspected, which understanding I think this diary helps.

                    Still knowledge is power, and power corrupts.


                    Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

                    by Jim P on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:43:54 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  NSA captures signals as they pass through (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            koNko, Notreadytobenice, deep info

            the telecommunications companies.  It's on the NSA's public website, for Pete's sake.  And it's what Binney told the world in 2005.

            Every electron that passes through the phone/internet lines.  Every electron.

            •  For god's sake (4+ / 0-)

              will people PLEASE read my actual comments? I'm talking about data that is NOT transmitted or otherwise put on the internet or "cloud" and sits on one's devices and ONLY on those devices. Does literally everyone under the age of 40 not realize that you don't HAVE to put all your data out there?

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:54:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  If you buy a computer with cash (5+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                native, jabney, koNko, deep info, JVolvo

                and do not give the store any personal information, then (as far I can see) the track of all those numbered parts in your computer stops at the store.  If you never connect that computer to the internet, and use it only for non-internet work, then (based on my current level of understanding of the still-limited info available), then the info on that computer would not be on the NSA'a system.  (or so it seems to me; any hardware people out there?)  But this is just my best guess, I have no specialized knowledge in this area.

                But I can't see why this 'non-internet-computer' issue matters in this discussion.  (Don't mean to be rude, just puzzled.)  The issue is (as I see it) NSA capture of all electronic 'SIGINT'.  It seems self-evident to me that a government surveillance program that is based on the capture of electronic signals from fiber-optics cables would not capture info from devices that never connected to a Telcom connection.

                So if that's your question, you'd be better off (imo) taking it to a hardware person with specialized knowledge, or reading some of the tech-type mags linked or mentioned in this diary/thread. (On a different computer, or course! :-) ).

                I've been reading your comments (before I found your comment above) thinking that you were somehow thinking that if you kept some items in a non-internet computer, that those items would not be captured by NSA and you would be 'off the grid' relative to those items, and your Fourth Amendment rights would protect the information in that computer.  As far as I know now, it looks to me as though that would be the case.

                But even a person who has never gone online in his/her life would still have online records in the NSA database; see the list at --
                http://www.dailykos.com/...

                And the NSA is all about finding 'networks'.  So let's imagine that you don't have a phone (no no call records) and you have somehow miraculously managed to never do anything that's on that (public) list of actions that NSA tracks.  But let's say that your neighbor has is has a 'normal' online life (I'll even throw in that she doesn't do 'social media').  Her printed is broken, and she asks you if you could printout out some fliers about the XL Pipeline protest she's helping organize (and yes, such citizens qualify as track-worthy potential 'eco-terrorists').  You say yeah, and print them out.  You neighbor emails the committee chair to make arrangements about their plans, and she mentions how grateful she is for your help, mentioning 'her neighbor Bob'.  Her email enters the NSA system and is tagged and analyzed by the software as 'potential eco-terror'.  Even if you don't have a phone or bank records, you have educational records somewhere.  The NSA now has a record of you assisting a flagged group, and could potentially be investigated for assisting that group, which could lead to an FBI agent entering your home to download your non-internet computer's hard drive.

                I don't do social media, and I'm well past forty.  The Federal Government has been capturing, analyzing, and storing my communications for years, and I'm appalled.

                •  Sigh (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  koNko

                  You're making this way too complicated. I'm talking about internet-connected devices like PCs, laptops, tablets, phones, etc., (which most such devices are these days), on which some data is stored but never transmitted beyond one's phone, because it doesn't need to be, or you don't want it to be.

                  E.g. scans of old family photos, personal diary entries, software you're developing for personal use, etc., that you don't back up to the "cloud".

                  The ONLY way for the NSA to get such data is to hack into your device, either electronically, via spyware and such--or perhaps inductive taps and such--or physically, by getting physical access to your device and copying this data. Otherwise, they can't get it, because it never leaves that device.

                  And I see a big difference between both methods of data acquisition, even if both might be unconstitutional. One is unconstitutional acquisition, while the other is unconstitutional breaking and/or intruding AND acquisition.

                  It's like the difference between secretly recording a confidential conversation you have in a cafe via a ceiling-mounted mic-equipped security camera, and installing a bug in your home to record your private conversations. We've somehow become nonplussed about the former, but the latter, I suspect, would still upset most people.

                  "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                  by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 01:50:32 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If you already knew the answer, (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    koNko

                    why did you ask the question?  And your 'one question I'm asking' keeps changing in different comments (which can happen, I know).  Then, whatever answer you get, you say 'that's not the question I'm asking, my real question is . . ..'

                    Several other people, beside myself are apparently answering questions you haven't asked.  But that's to the community's advantage, because each reply to you contains good information, and more links, for the rest of us can continue to learn.

                    •  But I DON'T know the answer (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      deep info, koNko

                      I'm just speculating on what it might be. I ask because I genuinely want to know if there's been any credible reporting that this is happening. To my knowledge there has not, but I'm hardly able to scan the entire internet.

                      I'm not the NSA, you know. :-)

                      And I believe I've asked the same question, and it hasn't changed, except in wording. I think that some may simply not have understood it, perhaps not realizing that there is a difference between one's data and the internet.

                      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                      by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:15:21 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  sorry, but technically it could be (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  jabney, blueoasis, koNko, JVolvo

                  your computer actually broadcasts even if it is not connected to the internet.  

                  Once this was demonstrated to the government, several decades ago, secure computers were required to the meet the standards of TEMPEST, which can be expensive.

                  NSA decided it was cheaper to TEMPEST their building, which is why the new structure going up has copper mesh in the walls and copper wires/mesh in in the windows.

                  It would not be an efficient way of gathering information, but in theory it used to be possible to watch what someone was typing on a computer in a word processing document with the computer not connected to the outside.

                  "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

                  by teacherken on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 04:30:40 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  I doubt it, at this point (8+ / 0-)

            It's certainly do-able, but with all the info we pump at them via the internet, email, and phone calls, it's unlikely that they'd feel the need to bother.

            I assume (as in: pure conjecture on my part), that if other data they've collected from information in the cloud makes them decide to take a closer look at you, then all bets are off regarding whether they decide to pull data, rather than waiting for you to push it.

            •  But at that point they'd probably have (6+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Onomastic, indubitably, Jim P, AoT, deep info, koNko

              probable cause to request and obtain a warrant. I'm talking about mass intrusion without probable cause or specific warrants.

              Also, I'm guessing that wrt the sorts of people they should be targeting, i.e. terrorists, spies and criminals, there's a lot of data that's locally stored and not transmitted, at least not over public channels, at most via thumb drives, DVDs, HDs, etc. Hopefully, they are intruding on their devices, provided that they have probable cause and warrants, of course, including physical seizure if needed, because they'd have no other way to get at that data.

              If they're not doing this en masse, it's not because they can't or don't want to, but for legal or PR reasons, because such a thing coming out would be much more legally and politically damaging to them than the revelations that have come out already. Something about being intruded or trespassed upon in one's own home and possessions still creeps out most people that being monitored online apparently no longer does.

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:41:57 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And what of the new tvs and computers (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                blueoasis, koNko

                and whatnot with cameras and microphones automatically turned on? The drive to invade our homes is certainly present with TPTB, both in business and government.


                Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

                by Jim P on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:53:45 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Again, capabilities vs. actualities (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  koNko

                  That they CAN do this isn't in dispute, via an exponentially growing list of devices and technologies (my next bike computer will effectively be internet-enabled, and likely my next car, watch, fridge, etc.). What is in question is whether they're doing this, in what ways, and to what extent. We know that they've been doing this to what we transmit and is known about us on 3rd party servers. We don't know yet if they're going into our actual devices and getting the data first-hand and not wasting time waiting for us to transmit it.

                  "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                  by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 01:39:28 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It might be years before we hear (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    blueoasis, koNko

                    from a whistleblower, if ever; if there's even any such thing going on.

                    I can't see why product manufacturers would put surveillance capability into products without a wish to surveil. Ostensibly for better advertising-pitching, but these devices send pictures/sounds of you in your home!

                    Were people who desire wealth and power the kind of people you could trust, there'd be no problem. But who is there to trust in Business and Government?


                    Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

                    by Jim P on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:47:31 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Not sure what you mean (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      deep info, Tony Situ, koNko

                      What does Windows 7 or MS Word have to do with surveillance? If I use both to compose a short story on my PC that I never send anyone, how is it within the legal mandate of either product, or of any other SW or HW I have installed on my PC, to transmit it elsewhere without my knowledge and consent?

                      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                      by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:50:33 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  "Authorization" and "capability" (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        koNko

                        are not the same thing.

                        People in power do things they don't have "legal mandates" for all the time. Surely, our memories aren't that short.


                        Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

                        by Jim P on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 04:36:12 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

        •  Not scanning cell phone contents (9+ / 0-)

          Scanning a cell phone would require an active network connection (or some installed malware that would phone home). That sort of activity, if done on a large scale basis, would have attracted the attention of people that monitor the network activity of their cell phones.

          +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

          by cybersaur on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:16:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I have an opinion on that (9+ / 0-)

        Full Disclosure: I am not a FB user and never will be.

        I find the amount of information some people disclose on social media to be a dangerous thing that will come back to haunt millennials as much as drug use came back to haunt their grandparents.  Or worse.

        I'm advised I am mistaken about this and too old to understand; probably true.

        But I think Aldous Huxley covered this way before my time in Brave New World.

        Facebook = Soma?

        400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:12:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have a FB account but very, very rarely use it (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          indubitably, Onomastic, CroneWit, koNko, caul

          I find the idea of "living your life out loud" to be bizarre and creepy, but if that's what younger people want to do, then that's their choice, even if many will come to regret it someday. But this isn't the sort of data I'm talking about.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:48:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  If your device is connected to the internet (8+ / 0-)

        there is the possibility that local hard drives can be accessed.

      •  The NSA's public website - images & text (6+ / 0-)

        have been put into this diary by PrescottPatriot:

        http://www.dailykos.com/...

        The screenshots from NSA's public website include a list of what they capture. (I was surprised to learn that they know which cable shows I watch.)  One graphic shows 'All Internet traffic' routed to the Telecom companies through the NSA's Fiber-Optic Splitter and into NSA's data center.  

        A quote says that NSA has Oak Ridge working on cracking the AES encryption -- your computer's encryption of the signals it sends (look in your computer's setting for your internet connection for 'encryption'; AES will be in there as an option).

        Another screenshot lists some of NSA's partner agencies.  Heere's what the CIA guy has to say:

        CIA - The Central Intelligence Agency has publicly committed to increasing its data collection efforts. CIA Chief Technology Officer Gus Hunt explains why: "The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time. Since you can't connect dots you don't have, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever."
        "collect everything and hang on to it forever"

        The Wired article on the Utah Data Center cited in the diary is a great source for understanding the NSA's technical capacity.  Take a look at PrescottPatriot's diary, then go read Wired.

        And if you think they can't get inside your computer to capture or destroy your stuff, think again.  Ordinary hackers have been able to do that for years.

        •  read the diary agaiun..not an NSA site. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CroneWit, koNko

          but not quite a spoof either...

          This machine kills Fascists.

          by KenBee on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 01:32:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Update at the link (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KenBee, koNko, deep info, caul

            Well, yes, I missed the Snark tag.  But the diary  now has an update:

            7:56PT Update :

            It has been pointed out the links are to an NSA parody site.  However, most of the info displayed is referred to by official DHS web sites

            http://www.dhs.gov/...

          •  And actually the original source (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KenBee, koNko, deep info, caul

            of the diaried info looks pretty interesting.  Apparently it's a citizens' effort that I didn't know about.

            The mission of the Domestic Surveillance Directorate is simple: Collect, process, and store U.S. citizen data for the good of the Nation. We cope with the overload of information in our environment and turn that overload to our strategic advantage. We provide the ability for ubiquitous, secure collaboration both within our agency and through its interactions with various partners. We penetrate into the "hard" targets that threaten our nation wherever, whenever, or whomever they may be.
            http://nsa.gov1.info/...
            So thanks for pointing out my error, which pointed me to an interesting website.
    •  Data collection (8+ / 0-)

      The NSA is storing all intercepted data and mining it for social connections to "bad guys".  
      With the thousands of private contractors involved that have such easy access to this data, no doubt there are abuses taking place that simply are not coming to light. I'm sure there are a number of celebrities and prominent politicians that have had their private communications and pictures viewed well outside of any official scope.

      +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

      by cybersaur on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:21:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Whatever they ARE doing with all this (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw, native, koNko, deep info, JVolvo

      data, and maybe it's a pure as the driven snow, the question is what can and will be done with it.

      For instance, at this moment we stand two heartbeats and one tragic day from having President Boehner.

      In short, the question is not "will a tyrant or a lunatic faction use this," but "when will a tyrant or a lunatic faction use this?"

      Which brings us around to how we get rid of the Stalker State, this entity formed by both government and business working in tandem and separately.


      Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

      by Jim P on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:41:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's all in how it is defined and phrased (24+ / 0-)

    I would like the following clarified by the WH:

    While you, I and Webster's might define this activity as "acquisition" since it involves accumulation, filtering and categorization (analysis), and storage, the NSA does not consider it "acquired" until it is used, presumably with a FISA order if needed.
    Obama: "nobody is listening to your phone calls." sounds like weasel words to me. I want a more precise answer.

    The newest NSA data farm in Utah can hold 5 zettabytes of data (that's 168 DVD's worth of data for every man, woman and child in the world). An even larger one is being planned. More than "metadata" is being stored here.

  •  nice summary . . . (14+ / 0-)

    It probably understates the underlying malice, and the ease to which this stuff can be (already has been) subverted to other purposes, but anyone with the slightest understanding of human nature will figure that out (and what a joke it is to call America "the land of the free").

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:41:11 AM PDT

  •  Fear of the unknown. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, Gary Norton, CroneWit, caul

    My phone bill is accessed with my phone number and a four digit pin. So I've always assumed that anybody who wanted to could look at who I've talked to. Apparently a lot of people didn't realize that. People make fun of me for using cloud storage. As if we were not all part of the cloud. We need people like you to tell us how it actually works.  

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:52:47 AM PDT

    •  PINs and passwords (14+ / 0-)

      PINs and passwords only confer the facade of security in so many cases. In just about all cases, if a technically knowledgeable person has physical access to the "secured" system, it is often trivial to access the data without bothering with trying to compromise the password. The NSA has physical access across the board and the best crypto-busting capabilities  on the planet.
      With email, you don't need to even know the person's password if you just intercept all SMTP traffic!
      You don't need to know PINs if the telecoms export their billing data at least daily!
      SSL connections mean nothing when you have servers co-located in all major ISPs and the data streams are copied to those NSA servers. Hell, SSL security can be broken by script kiddies due to known vulnerabilities.
      I intercept and store email all the time at work. Don't need to know any passwords at all. I have a device that I divert SMTP traffic to and it stores all of the incoming emails before it passes that data to the mail server. I can read anyone's email that I want to no matter what the passwords are or how often they change.

      +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

      by cybersaur on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:37:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thank you! (11+ / 0-)

    I will include this a s a reference for my piece at 4 pm later today... which isn't on this.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:03:01 AM PDT

  •  I disagree with this statement (8+ / 0-)

    "Again, 9/11 changed everything, when failing in their basic mission to intercept a threat, the organization got the argument and unquestioning compliance of the Executive and Congressional branches to fund an unprecedented expansion, including the justification to expand surveillance domestically."

    Often, intelligence has the information, but senior leaders, civilian (think Bush) or military, don't want to believe it.  You don't hear about this, because most of it is still classified. Bush removed the executive order that prohibited collecting intelligence on Americans. I believe that if we had anybody, but Bush as president in the months leading up to 9/11, the attack would have been stopped.

    •  What I meant by that (12+ / 0-)

      Was, specifically, the failure to intercept by the NSA (as recounted by Binny, who might know) was thrown back to them from the top and then precipitated a watershed moment in terms of redefining the mission and getting the money to recast the NSA.

      I'm sure than on any given day, useful information is reported and sometimes disregarded, filtered or ignored.

      And this is a point that James Bamford, a knowledgeable and astute critic of the NSA focuses on in some of his writing and comment about the present trajectory of the NSA as an organization obsessed with the accumulation of ever greater amounts of data, but without the means (as yet) to fully utilize it.

      But here are the caveats:

      - eventually they will get better and better capability to filter, analyze and decrypt information
      - with so much store on virtually everyone, the possibility for misuse and abuse is enormous

      So Bamford makes the case for better analysts, not ever more surveillance and data mining.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:15:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think the danger to everyday citizens is the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zett, deep info

        Fusion Centers relaying info back to local security services, public pd and private security for jobs, protests, dissent and politics.

        I am not as scared of the Fed snooping in the very biug pond as I am the local Taliban for whatever reason they can have..even legal activities thru corruption, extortion, and bribery.

        That WILL happen.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 01:40:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You hit the nail. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee

          Your local assessor's board will want to learn that you posted on Facebook about a remodeled bathroom so they can increase your real estate assessment. Your local police department will want to tap the black box data from your car so they can send speeding tickets. Your community association will want your email bragging about the new purebred puppies your dog gave birth to and you plan to sell, circumventing association rules about home businesses.

          It's not if but when.

          A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

          by edg on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:04:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Say that there is a planet far out (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anna M, Lefty Ladig, NYFM, sebastianguy99

    in space, and on this planet there are millions of intelligent creatures that do nothing but monitor all of the electronic signals emanating from Earth. They listen to every one of our phone calls, read our texts, know our prescriptions, etc. Would this matter? Would this change any of our lives one iota?

    The NSA does not do this. But if they did, what difference would it make? They do not have the ability to arrest any of us, and if they turn data over to the FBI that information is not admissible in a court of law. So (unless you are a terrorist) whatever the NSA is doing is a lot like what the imaginary spies from outer space are doing - which does not affect any of us directly.

    •  there are millions of intelligent creatures (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko, maryabein, Dburn, blueoasis

      but sadly none of them are working in our government......;)

      "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

      by allenjo on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:16:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is just not true. (6+ / 0-)

        I used to know a few NSA analysts, and today I know a senior CIA official. These are good people, honest people, people I get along well with and who are (every one of them) what I'd describe as liberal Democrats. They are devoting their lives to protecting America from foreign enemies, and whether or not the NSA is doing anything that President Obama is going to have to change, it is just wrong to assume that the people working for us in our intelligence services are any less freedom-loving than ourselves. It may be easier to criticize them if first we demonize them, but that is not for me.

        •  I did not limit my comment to CIA, NSA, spooks or (6+ / 0-)

          spys, but to all in government today.

          On Bill Moyers show this am, I heard that congressional "approval" is down to 6%.

          Who are those reality challenged 6% is my question.

          Anyone paying attention to what is happening today could not possibly say they approve of what congress is doing and what they are not doing.

          Government is failing us on so many levels.

          "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

          by allenjo on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:54:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  What part of "out sourcing" do you not (5+ / 0-)

          understand?

          The NSA contracts with tens of thousands of individuals, employed by hundreds of corporations, to conduct the data collection, collation and analysis.

          Are you willing to vouch for all these many thousands of people in the private sector, whose Top Secret clearances give them access to, and the theoretical ability to profit from, all of this data?

          "These are good people, honest people, people I get along well with and who are (every one of them) what I'd describe as liberal Democrats." Your anecdotal observation of the few NSA employees you personally know does not begin to address the immense danger of the nation's communication data being accessible to and exploitable by a huge class of privately employed techo geeks who are not accountable to the American people.

          WTFWJD? LOTE? I sincerely doubt that.

          by WisePiper on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 03:07:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  "Good people, honest people." Some of them (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          are capable of self-introspection & realize they are involved in an enterprise that will result in the demonization of free thought as the price to pay for what exactly...?

          The Americas greatest political dynasty...the Kaan

          by catilinus on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 06:25:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Your mileage may vary. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JVolvo, koNko

          I worked at the Department of Energy for a while. The place conservatives love to hate. You know, the 3rd agency that Rick Perry forgot he wanted to eliminate. More than 1/2 the people working there were conservative Republicans.

          I'd be very surprised to learn that NSA was staffed with very many liberal Democrats.

          A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

          by edg on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:26:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The day could come, (14+ / 0-)

      that terrorism is defined as making a negative comment about the Honorable Most Republican President For Life.

      elect Elizabeth Warren to the presidency, 2016

      by Wood Gas on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:20:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Suggest you read this (20+ / 0-)

      Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance

      Now, to directly reply:

      I live in a country (China) with a lot more direct censorship and some forms of surveillance than the USA. In fact, we live with it and push back in a game of cat and mouse daily.

      It doesn't stop 600 million + Chinese from using the internet or 400 million + from bogging or microblogging, and often expressing our opinions with the full knowledge what we write will disappear very soon.

      So it's not the end of life.

      And I can even say, from some perspective, it is better than the sort of surveillance the US is doing because it is so obvious that people understand it is a fact and have to deal with it.

      Some people would say people living in ignorance or denial of the truth are less fortunate.

      Maybe you can ask the people from that other planet what they think and report back, I'd be curious on an alien perspective.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:25:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, so, so agree (8+ / 0-)
        I live in a country (China) with a lot more direct censorship and some forms of surveillance than the USA. In fact, we live with it and push back in a game of cat and mouse daily.
        I work at a small college where we're under constant surveillance by idiots, law and order wannabes, poorly trained lawyers, perverts (yes, one or two are perverts, and those pervs are related to a sysadmin ... for real), etc.

        I know it, we know it, and we screw with them endlessly. Endlessly, leaving them notes in stacks of our most intriguing papers, passing false rumors and information, etc.

        It's a horrible situation, but I love my work, so I had to find a way to adapt. And I did, as did others.

        Oddly, it's ended up being a useful experience for me in all of this. I'm not entirely hair on fire about it, and I find myself really deeply interested in what's really going on and why.

      •  " people understand it is a fact and have to deal (11+ / 0-)

        with it"

        I think that touches on a very important point.  Because the government's total surveillance of every American has been shrouded in secrecy (with those who breach that secrecy severely punished), we have been able to deny (in our own minds) or only partially recognize that total government surveillance is a fact of our digital  lives.

        We are, in a metaphorical way, like the spouse of a man who has successfully lived two lives, just now learning about the other spouse in a distant city whose kids also call him Daddy.  Or like the family and community who has to recognize that the friendly husband and father who lives across the street from the grade school and became a school bus driver after he retired sexually molested every girl-child in his extended family.  The one who was always so nice to your daughter before she started putting on all that weight and began wearing those baggy clothes all the time and became so damn moody.

        Or, to bring it closer to home with a real-world example, the national community is going through the same kind of emotional upheaval that the dKos community went through recently when a user was banned for plagiarism.  In that instance, one big part of the outcry was about the fact that a trusted writer was not who she had presented herself as being ('if she could lie about that, how can we trust anything she says?').  The emotional turmoil caused by betrayal of trust split the community into three camps -- those who accepted the new evidence and changed their view of the person, those who denied the importance of the revelations ('it's no big deal') and those who just stayed out of it and wished everybody would shut up.

        I can't apply percentages to the dKos community response to the plagiarist, but the Guardian this morning had a quick-poll of a small sample of Brits about the NSA revelations and Snowden.  I noticed that, for each question, the sample group split into something pretty close to even thirds:  one third 'NSA bad/Snowden good', one third 'NSA OK/Snowden evil', and one third 'I don't know and I don't care'.

        I dislike the phrase 'in denial', but I grudgingly admit it may have some usefulness here.  But I think the concept of Cognitive Dissonance is more useful.  When new facts contradict previously-known reality, people go one of three ways:  Accept the new facts and acknowledge the new reality (enduring emotional upheaval to get there), deny or minimize the new facts so they can retain the comfort of the previous reality, or (try to) ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist.  When this kind of Cognitive Dissonance affects a group, people in all groups will feel the need to explain and defend their positions, and people in each group will feel attacked by the expression of the people in the other two groups.

        It's very important for this kind of community transformation that all members continue to learn the facts of the newly-exposed changed reality.  This is what you are doing in this diary -- providing access to facts for those who can use them.  Thanks for your work.

      •  YES. Police states are more NORMAL than Americans (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko

        think they are.  Americans think police states are like something out of a sci-fi novel, or like Germany during World War II.  And they aren't, at least most of the time (if there's an actual world war going on, they might be a bit more like that).

        I've been to several police states, including China (when it was even more repressive than it is now) and the USSR and some South American dictatorships.

        Life goes on.  Really normally.

        Occasionally the police come, in military gear, in the middle of the night, and smash someone's door in, and shoot their dog, and drag them off.  

        But that happens in the US too, so what's the diff? (Look up "no-knock raids" and "wrong address raids").

        The rest of the time, it's just, well, normal life.

    •  chilling effect. (13+ / 0-)

      Yes, it would. If your eavesdropping aliens were the subject of my wrath on an internet post or an email exchange, and they had both the capability and authority to get me back in all manner of ways, and furthermore, those aliens had a history of not only doing those things, but also using their intercepts as fodder for masturbatory fantasies, and going well beyond any rational interpretation of the purpose of all of this intrusion...
      then yes, it matters. Yes, it changes my life more than an iota; it makes me self censor my thoughts out of fear of retribution.

      Oh, and there isn't any actual threat from those mythical aliens. There are real human beings doing something much this right now, in actual reality, and in diametric opposition to the instruction manual for this country.

      That is a Big. Fucking. Problem.
      .
      I have done nothing wrong*, but i have plenty to fear because i have to a more or less degree spoken my political mind during a very upsetting period of history.

      * According to the Constitution.

      Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

      by kamarvt on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:28:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But they don't. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lefty Ladig, Onomastic, koNko
        had both the capability and authority to get me back in all manner of ways,
        That was the point of the thought experiment - they can listen but they can't affect us in any way. Which is how I feel about the NSA having in some huge database this very comment and my real name associated with it (if indeed they cared enough to capture this), or anything else they know about me. It's out of sight and out of mind.

        What I am concerned about is the rise of the right wing in this country, and the scary shift within the GOP to being a Party of theocrats and anti-science assholes who DO represent a real threat to my way of life and those of my children. That is the tie that binds us here, not the anti-government CT stuff that has so enraptured this community over the past weeks.

        •  Somewhat off topic but.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          doc2, koNko

          Wine of the Dreamers by John D MacDonald
          had a plot where people far away eavesdropped into Earth thoughts and did not realize they were actually affecting real lives when they manipulated events.

        •  I value my privacy (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CroneWit, Mary Mike, koNko

          whether it be wanting to protect it from your fictional aliens or government snoops. Do my day to day interactions matter to them? Probably not but I don't want to share my personal life with them anyway. Even if they dont care what's there I dont want them to have it. You may not care if your life is laid bare in a server somewhere but many of us do. Privacy is our right. It's worth fighting for. This is my line in the sand.

          Yes fighting the right wingers is a priority but it doesn't necessarily exclude caring about anything else nor does it excuse those in our party who seem to so cavalierly accept tossing away our rights. It matters. It matters a great deal.

          "Compassion is the radicalism of our time." ~ Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama -7.88, -6.21

          by Siri on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:23:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If you're concerned about the rise of the right (4+ / 0-)

          Then you should be really concerned about this. Really, realy concerned. Why do you think so many of us are worried about this? The right isn't going to be out of power forever.

          What I am concerned about is the rise of the right wing in this country, and the scary shift within the GOP to being a Party of theocrats and anti-science assholes who DO represent a real threat to my way of life and those of my children. That is the tie that binds us here, not the anti-government CT stuff that has so enraptured this community over the past weeks.
          And you're defending a program that they will be able to use to injure you and your family when they get back into power. Do you really not see that?

          If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

          by AoT on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:20:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Prove it (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lost Left Coaster, deep info, koNko
          they can listen but they can't affect us in any way.
          You can't. I'll say it one more time
          Chilling.Effect.

          I'm done trying.
          Good day.

          Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

          by kamarvt on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:34:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Your assumption (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chrississippi, kamarvt, koNko

          that the NSA will not use its data that it has collected on you is: 1) a huge assumption that is not necessarily warranted by the facts, 2) an expression of privilege, because you are not, presumably, Muslim, or associated with any peace or environmental organizations.

          Many other people have plenty of reason to worry. If you're not worried for yourself, then, well, have a cookie.

          "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

          by Lost Left Coaster on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 03:53:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The NSA,FBI,etc. absolutely can ruin your life. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kamarvt, koNko

          Please look up what they've done to whistleblowers.  Please look up what the FBI has done to peaceful protestors before any number of corporate events.  And please look up assassination orders.

          They can do it to you.  They may even do it to you based on bad information.  Please look up no-knock wrong-address raids.

        •  The anti-government CT stuff ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          is basically about the machine the theocrats and anti-science assholes will use to hang you and your children. Today's Darwinist is tomorrow's Terrorist.

          A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

          by edg on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:13:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  This is so wrong (13+ / 0-)

      One non-theoretical example:  Occupy was designated as a terrorist organization.  Were they really terrorists?

      "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

      by gulfgal98 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:50:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is not a good example (for you). (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lefty Ladig, Onomastic

        You are talking about the FBI, not the NSA. It is a totally separate issue from the electronic surveillance of Americans. And while the vast majority of Occupy kids were peaceful granola types, those who wore the Guy Fawkes masks, who were emulating a movie about terrorism and/or a terrorist who attempted to blow up the British parliament, should not have been surprised at the reaction of the anti-terror police. Let's face it, those masks were intended to put fear into the hearts of government loyalists, and it worked.

    •  Yes, the government does nothing, ever (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      deep info, koNko

      Which is why they are recording all of these things. So they can do nothing. Are you really this divorced from reality?

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:16:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Snowden acted acted against NSA rules in his (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      doc2

      handling of the data, so if he could do it then any other private contractor can do the same, for good or ill.

      As I said in another comment (implicitly), I worry more about the likes of Snowden having access to my data than an actual NSA analyst.  The former is far more likely to act irresponsibly with the data than the latter.  But the fact that the private contractors are involved is a problem.  Though I don't know how to solve it; lots of government work is contracted out, and those private contractors' employees must go through background checks to get security clearances.  Snowden passed his check, then violated his clearance rules.

      So other contractors in government (not just NSA) can also act against the rules, but there's no solution that I can see.  We're not about to pass a law that there can be no government work that is contracted out, so that all government work must be done in house.  That would mean, for example, that rather than Boeing building jet fighters according to top secret plans, the government would have to open its own aircraft plant and do it.  That's just one example.  We're not going to pass any law mandating that kind of thing.

  •  Active vs. passive data collection? (15+ / 0-)

    So far everything I've heard or read about the NSA's data collection, storage and analysis and review efforts appear to deal with what I'd call "passively" collected data. That is, data that's already out there in the "public" domain for it to get, either because it's being transmitted over the internet or some other communications method (e.g. cellular, landline, cable, etc.), or because it sits on "public" servers (i.e. ones outside one's computer and other devices, e.g. in your doctor's office PC, on phone company servers, etc.), and which in either case the NSA can just go and get, without having to hack into anything, armed with either a targeted warrant or blanket FISA order.

    What I want to know is whether the NSA is also actually engaged in "active" data collection, meaning they're going into (i.e. hacking) peoples', companies' and organizations' devices and extracting data from them, on a mass scale, without their targets knowing about it, with or without a warrant or FISA order. I've no doubt that they're doing this on at least a small scale, as this is what they've done since the NSA's founding. What I want to know is whether they're now doing this on a MASS scale, the same way they appear to be doing with "public" data. I.e. are they also going into pretty much EVERYONE's devices (e.g. computers, hard drives, laptops, tablets, phones, GPS devices, etc.) and grabbing data from them, in ADDITION to grabbing what people transmit on the internet or over the phone, have stored on the "cloud", or which is stored on them by companies such as cell carriers and hospitals?

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:10:35 AM PDT

    •  Good Questions (10+ / 0-)

      And I think you will find if you read deeper, this question gets asked fairly frequently.

      The Executive Branch and NSA argues it is passive; they just have all this stuff and won't touch it unless they get some sort of trigger. And so they do not consider the data "acquired" because, in theory, no human is reading it.

      But Bamford points out the fact that the data is acquired, analyzed and classified (by machines), listed and stored, and in some cases keywords would automatically prompt analysts to read it and/or put people on watch lists (which themselves have implications for the individuals).

      So where do you want to draw the line?

      Suggest you listen to the Podcast and watch the videos linked in the tip jar, where Bamford elaborates some of these points.

      Why I have relied on his work so much here is (a) he's one of the few experts on the NSA for about 30 years; (b) he is actually quite objective and nuanced about the role, necessity and methods used by NSA, not some crackpot CT as some people here seem to assume (without reading his work).

      I also don't think we can over-simplify the situation, but we do need to think clearly and ask questions, and a good place to start is information, not opinion.

      So thanks for reading and questioning.

      As for the GPS data and such, I think the answer is yes, if it is not encrypted, it is immediately available if an analyst locks on to it.

      What I read described is that analysts can watch you typing or follow your position if they like, and given the capability of the US Drone program, I find this credible.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:41:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If it's moving through the air or wires or optic (7+ / 0-)

        or sitting on some company's servers, then yes, they appear to be capturing or getting it and maybe analyzing it. But what if it's sitting on your device, as yet untransmitted by any means to some external device not in your possession? To me, the distinction is between the sanctity of your information, the sanctity of you communications, and the sanctity of your home. So far, we only know that the first two appear to be violated, en masse, but we don't yet know if the third one is. I wouldn't be surprised if it is, but we just don't know yet.

        Also, I'm familiar with Bamford and his expertise and credibility.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:58:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, it's what's called "air space" (7+ / 0-)

          Meaning, if you isolate a system from connectivity beyond a local machine or local secured network, then you have a reasonable expectation the data is private and secured.

          And the usual expectation is that if you are using strong, 256 bit encryption with private keys, it will be very hard to decrypt without some pretty heavy computing resources and kick-ass decrypt, but the NSA has both.

          I think for little folk like us, if you use complex passwords and a keychain, and encrypt what you really don't want read, and don't use Java plug ins on your browser, you will have a satisfactory illusion of security unless a bad guy hacks you.

          I say illusion, because anyone who runs a public facing sever will log thousands of attempted intrusion per month and that is just from the kiddies and credit card thieves with their keystroke loggers and stuff.

          But if someone, even the government wants to copy your data, all they need is for you to be connected to the internet or to use a thumb drive.

          Refer to Stuxnet and Flame:

          How digital detectives deciphered Stuxnet, the most menacing malware in history

          Confirmed: US and Israel created Stuxnet, lost control of it

          Crypto breakthrough shows Flame was designed by world-class scientists

          There are viruses that take control and effectively allow a third party to control by remote without detection, kind of like a super zombie bot.

          400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:56:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree that no amount of encryption or hiding (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GDbot, koNko, sebastianguy99, deep info

            other than physically removing a device from the internet and making it all but impossible to get at it through other means like inductive taps and such can protect one from the NSA's intrusion if it wants to intrude.

            Two points, though.

            One, this doesn't mean that they ARE doing this, to everyone or a very large portion of everyone, at least, and there's been no reporting to the effect that they are. And this is the question I'm asking. I'm not saying that they're not, just that there have been no reports to my knowledge that they are.

            And two, while they might well be able to decrypt anything by now, or will soon be able to, the computing power required to do this will likely mean that it can and will only be used for very selective data, because it likely can't be done on everyone's data, and never will be able to.

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:17:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kovie, goodpractice

              It's virtually impossible and of no practical value to listen to or decrypt everything, which results in an information overload that is self defeating.

              But the danger is as these capabilities improve, particularly with filtering and decrypting on the input side, it enables a higher level of brute force analytics that can be put to misuse, and not just by humans but by machines with certain programmed goals.

              If you want to see something scary, check out Planitar Research's Graph tool. This, I understand, is one of the tools used by NSA analysts (and other government and corporate users in different versions) and it is a very powerful tool.

              I think there is still a demo site up using open data to show what can be done although this site is now blocked (from US side) to China so I can't verify it. But I tried the demo once and was really impressed in a "lasting" way by the power.

              Plug that into a massive database and you start to play God or at least Masters of the Universe.

              Cool, but not cool.

              400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

              by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 11:46:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  There are certain unresolvable computing (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Garrett, deep info, koNko

                challenges that prevent them from doing this on a large scale that barring some major new discoveries may never be resolvable even by the NSA. To do that, they'd need more computing resources than even they could ever afford. There is a point where even the NSA reaches certain physical, financial and computing limits that simply can't be overcome (and the NSA knows this better than most). Plus, even if they could do this, it would be detected by hackers eventually, leading to some serious PR, political and even legal problems. So I'm guessing that they're limiting such intrusions for now, and are not doing it en masse. But who knows, they just might be paranoid, arrogant and stupid enough to try. I wouldn't put it past them. Even smart people can be stupid.

                "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:05:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's an amusing part of it (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  kovie, deep info, koNko

                  Presumably, NSA hires very good mathematicians. Who have the job of proving, at a formal level, what the bounds on NSA abilities are.

                  •  Having a comp sci degree myself (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Garrett, deep info, koNko

                    I'm somewhat familiar with such limitations, although I've never worked in that aspect of computing, having only a BS. You really need a masters or PhD to be truly useful in this field. It was called NP-complete back then, referring to a set of problems that can't be solved in the real world due to the complexity involved and time and resources that would be required to solve them.

                    It would be interesting to sit in on meetings where the computational experts try to convince the less technical brass that something either can't be done, or is a waste of effort. Probably lots of slings and arrows.

                    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                    by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 01:26:18 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  0ver 400 BILLION emails analyzed/day (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko

                http://www.salon.com/...

                One of NSA’s most important contractors may be Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing that makes a key telecommunications software that allows government agencies and corporations to monitor huge amounts of data flowing over fiber-optic cables. According to Bill Binney, one of four NSA whistle-blowers who’ve been warning about NSA’s immense powers, one Narus device can analyze 1,250,000 1,000-character emails every second. That comes to over 100 billion emails a day.

                “Narus is the one thing that makes it all possible,” Binney told me over the weekend, of the Verizon surveillance program unveiled by the Guardian. “They probably pick up 60 to 80 percent of the data going over the [U.S.] network.” The Narus technology, he added, “reconstructs everything on the line and then passes it off to NSA for storage” and later analysis. That includes everything, he said, including email, cellphone calls, and voice over Internet protocol calls such as those made on Skype.

        •  First and Fourth Amendment protect all (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, deep info, koNko

          the categories you mention.

          But what if it's sitting on your device, as yet untransmitted by any means to some external device not in your possession? To me, the distinction is between the sanctity of your information, the sanctity of you communications, and the sanctity of your home.
          To respond to the 'sanctity of your home' point: Yesterday, LaFeminista put up a diary linking to a current article by Gail Collins about the family of the American man who was suspected of involvement in the Bombay bombings because the FBI had mis-read one fingerprint on a plastic bag.  The family did not know the man was under suspicion.  Then they began to notice that, when they would come home after w ork, little things around the house would be slightly different -- objects out of position, that kind of thing.  Then one day their daughter came home from school to find that her bedroom had obviously been searched.  Her computer was not only out of position, but had been broken into, with the hard drive not put all the way back in.

          When 'government security agencies' are allowed to act in secrecy, your 'privacy' is a convenient fiction if they decide you are 'of interest'.

          •  If the feds had a warrant to do this (4+ / 0-)

            then as regrettable and mistaken as this was, it was lawful. If they didn't have a warrant, it was illegal. If they're doing it to all or most of us, it's immoral and unnecessary. If they're doing so unconstitutionally, it's unlawful as well.

            I'm just asking about yet another POTENTIAL facet of all this surveillance, that we've yet to get evidence is happening on a mass scale.

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 11:22:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What number would satisfy you? (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chuckvw, goodpractice, deep info, koNko

              Does 'wrongness' depend on a particular number of affected parties?  Is there some kind of critical-mass threshold of violation of Constutional rights that must be met?  (And if so, please tell the rest of us what that threshold is, and your basis for arriving at it.)

              If you're asking me, here's my position.  First, go look at the graphics from NSA's public website, found here--

              http://www.dailykos.com/...

              Back with me?  You see on that first graphic, where the NSA diverts the Telecoms' electron-packets from through their own Fiber-Optic Splitter into their Data Centers?

              I did not send my First-Amendment-protected communications to the NSA.  They copied it in transit, without my knowledge or consent, and they have analyzed my communication before storing it indefinitely at taxpayer's expense.

              The electron-packets they have gathered from my transmission are communication, even if all I've done is check the weather.  As communication, and as a record of my thoughts and intention, it my e-packets are protected under the First Amendment.  As my 'papers' and as my 'effects', they are protected under the Fourth Amendment.  And if at some point I become a 'person of interest' to any of the agencies (or state/local law enforcement, which can also access these records) because either (1) the analytic tools found a 'pattern' or (2) a (human) analyst was accessing my records out of boredom/curiosity or (3)  I attended a rally or signed a petition or ottherwise acted in such a way that a local cop thought might fit the ever-changing definition of 'potential terrorist', or for any other reason, then my e-packets could be used to violate my Fifth Amendment rights.  

              For example, if a darker future comes and National Security law is written to codify the current practice, so that the new legal standard becomes 'all communication by every person is potentially evidence of possible terrorist or criminal activity, therefore every e-packet must be analyzed and stored (1) so that networks of potential terrorist/criminals can be found and (2) the previous thought-and communication patterns of individuals can stand in court as evidence of state of mind or other participation in criminal/terrorist acts.  If that were to become the law (as it is now the practice), this comment and many others be used to incriminate me, thus violating my Fifth Amendment rights.  (And surely someone other than me has pointed you to the Occupy people by now, as evidence of 'current practice.')

              So here's my position:  At the moment my electron-packet is diverted into the Government's fiber-optic cable, my First and Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, and that violation continues every second my e-packet is in in the Government's possession or available to the Government without a valid warrant based in legitimate probable cause.  The current 'law' and Government practice also uses these violations of my First and fourth Amendment rights to put my Fifth Amendment rights at risk.

              And let's not forget that the reason Thomas Drake got the screws put to him was because, when the current program -- build the technology to suck up, analyze and store everything -- was being considered along with another program design that (1) would not violate the First & Fourth Amendments and (2) was much, much cheaper, he opposed the current program in favor of the Constitutional, less costly system.  And then he kept talking about it.

              So what the Drake case tells me is that when the Intelligence Community had the opportunity to build a much less costly system that would do the job without violating the Constitution, a certain sub-group chose to build the system that would violate the Constitution while enriching themselves and their industry colleagues at the taxpayers enormous expense.  

              Well, I'd have to check my legal dictionary for definitions, but that sure sounds to me like subversion of the Constitution.

              Thanks for your 'threshold' question.  It gave me an opportunity to put my developing thoughts into words.

              •  "Deprivation of rights under color of law" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko

                is the name of the crime committed by the people who built the constitution-violating spying operation.  Oh, and conspiracy to do so, of course.

                I've been arguing that it's also treason, because it's been accomplishing bin Laden's goals for him, though I admit that's a pretty strained argument.

              •  I don't have a ready number (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko

                or specific criteria for determining it, but it obviously can't be too large or else it's indiscriminate. It has to have something to do with fairly specific set of criteria that have been shown to have a very high correlation with criminal activity (of which terrorism is but one). E.g. a close relative or associate of a suspected criminal, someone who buys a large amount of certain things that someone like them would normally not buy that are known to be widely used in criminal actions, e.g. a ton of fertilizer by a non-farmer, etc. But people of a certain ethnic group, or who attend a certain mosque, or who participate on a blog, well, that's bullshit and not probable clause.

                Basically, the 4th amendment and controlling case law based on it must set the standard, not some egomaniacal NSA bigwig ranting about bodily fluids.

                "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:42:17 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Remember a "general warrant" is unconstitutional (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koNko

              Now, in the case of the man who was suspected becasue the FBI mis-read a fingerprint, that would have been a specific warrant based on probable cause, which actually is legal.

              When they're spying on EVERYONE, then that is illegal, even if a judge like Roger Vinson on the FISA Court grants a phony warrant.  The 4th amendment is very, very clear about this.

    •  I think the "active" is through FISA, but here is (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko, CroneWit, deep info

      the catch:

      We don't really know what's in the FISA orders, or the exact number of FISA orders.

      For example, Facebook has been "authorized" to reveal that it has received "between 1 and 10,000" requests for specific data or whatever the term is.

      You can make an approximation from whoever releases some information, but you can't determine exactly what's been "actively" acted upon.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:10:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Data collection is active (6+ / 0-)

      People need to understand that the data collection is active. Email, web searches and posts are being collected in real time. Phone call metadata is collected at least daily. There is reporting that phone calls can be monitored at the press of a button. There is no need to hack servers when you vacuum up all the data going to those servers. Google searches and Facebook posts can be collected at ISPs and Internet backbone companies. Google and Facebook probably have no idea that the data is even being collected which is why they may well be telling the truth (from their perspective) when they deny it is happening.

      +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

      by cybersaur on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:48:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps I used the wrong words (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko, deep info

        I meant the difference between casting a wide net to grab up everything coming your way, and probing deep into a locked underwater cave to get something that rarely if ever comes out into the open.

        I don't know how many times or ways I can explain the crucial difference between the two, or that not everyone puts all their data on the internet.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:51:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Outstanding diary (8+ / 0-)

    By filling in the technological gaps and the history, you have given us an excellent summary of what is out there, what we can expect in the future, and why every person in this country should be alarmed.  Thank you.

    Tipped, recommended, and hotlisted.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:17:13 AM PDT

  •  two things I'd like to know . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, CroneWit

    1.  of all the requests for telecommunications information, what percentage go through FISA (and therefore require a warrant or court order) and what percentage are in the form of direct National Security Letters (which require NO warrant or court order)?

    2. Of all FISA requests, what percentage are actually denied permission by the FISA court?  Or, to be blunt, is the FISA system just a rubber-stamp that gives the security folks whatever they ask for, or isn't it. Whose interests does it actually defend in practice.

  •  Church Committee 1975 report on NSA (9+ / 0-)

    http://www.aarclibrary.org/...

    Vital reading for everyone.  it is impossible to grasp what is happening now (and what might be happening that we haven't yet learned about) without understanding what the NSA has ALREADY done in the past.

    Think it can't happen?  It already has.

  •  Thanks for the diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, Onomastic

    SOS - Save Our Sigs!

    by blueoregon on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 08:58:06 AM PDT

  •  Good summary (5+ / 0-)

    Of course a lot of paranoid people ignore the total arithmetic.  If NSA has around 40,000 employees, and many of those would be monitoring "the rest of the world", some working on protecting the US government comms from hacking, some would be admin people, HR, equipment maintenance, security, etc.  

    How many NSA people are left to listen to everyone's phone calls and read e-mails?

    311,000,000 Americans (roughly), divided by about "maybe" 20,000 NSA employees.   That's about 15,500 people per employee.  That's a hell of a lot of e-mails and phone calls to go through.

    •  And if there are over a billion pieces of data (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Anna M, koNko, Onomastic

      day--websites visited, phone calls, etc.

      No way humanly possible to monitor all that.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:11:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's why machines do it. (9+ / 0-)

        That's why NSA has acres of computers worth many billions of dollars.

        Kind of like we are not using typewriters or telegraph keys to blog, only thousands of times greater in scope.

        The new NSA storage facility in Utah will be capable to store the entire contents of the internet several times over, why would they need so much storage without analytic capability?

        400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:37:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure, but the NSA's storage and technological (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko, Anna M

          capabilities have grown largely because the internet has grown, and not because of some vast conspiracy.

          If the NSA's explicit mandate is to analyze and report foreign intelligence, they would necessarily need ample storage and computing power.

          The reason the NSA needs this kind of computing power is simple: in order to determine what person or persons a suspected foreigner may be contacting in the US, you need a snapshot of the entire corpus of phone calls made in a given period of time. Otherwise, you can't know whether or not you've identified every possible recipient. That requires A LOT of storage and computing power.

          Now please understand, I'm not arguing the Constitutionality of this. I'm just offering a technical justification for it.

          •  Who said it was a conspiracy? (8+ / 0-)

            I sure didn't and don't cite any articles making such claims.

            I hope I was pretty clear with the statement (new emphasis):

            Then, the internet changed everything, turning a well-monitored trickle of data into a high pressure firehose surveillance organizations rushed to capitalize on but found overwhelming in volume, rapidly falling behind both in technology, capacity and funding.

            Again, 9/11 changed everything, when failing in their basic mission to intercept a threat, the organization got the argument and unquestioning compliance of the Executive and Congressional branches to fund an unprecedented expansion, including the justification to expand surveillance domestically.

            Sucking From The Hose

            As telephone systems including mobile became all digital and traffic merged with the internet, the means to tap into the data stream and store records became a more simple and automated if larger scale and more daunting task, but an irresistible one to those convinced more is better, and empowered by the Patriot Act, the wheels turned.

            This describe a situation, a problem if you will, that is one factor that has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of resources, capacity and capabilities.

            Regardless of why it came into being, we are now faced with the questions of the hazards involved  and the uses it is or could be put to.

            I think the fact that some of the chief architects of NSA technology and systems have raised the alarm speaks for itself.

            In any case, my purpose here is to inform and defang the assumption that because this is questioned, it is "CT", which obviously a lot of Daily Kos members jump to with less foundation in fact than those they criticize. This is intellectual laziness I hope we can get past.

            I have been very careful here to avoid what I personally consider to be questionable assertions, and so I suggest you actually read the articles I have linked if you have not done so because the information speaks volumes more than I can.

            Don't take my word, read and decide for yourself if there are hazards here you need to be concerned with.

            400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

            by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:23:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why now? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Onomastic, deep info, koNko
              Regardless of why it came into being, we are now faced with the questions of the hazards involved  and the uses it is or could be put to.
              Why haven't we always been faced with this question?

              The NSA has existed since the fifties. The FISA court has existed since the 70s. Anybody claiming (and I know you're not) that we have just now learned of this is at best woefully ignorant.

              The fact that we have the capabilities Snowden describes doesn't bother me one bit. The thing that has always bothered me is the FISA court and the fact that the government can make legal justifications in secret. That kind of secrecy is incompatible with the increasing surveillance powers the NSA has. The head of the NSA testified that they expunge data every five years. I think that that's when classified legal briefs should be declassified. We should eventually get to know how and why the government justified its surveillance of a given target.

              Thanks for the informative diary.

              •  Because we are here now? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                fou

                Not enough people have asked the questions you raise, I hope this prompts it.

                One thing about now verses the past, is the technology which enables this on an unprecedented scale, and I do think that adds to the urgency.

                400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

                by koNko on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:27:32 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  It's all in the algorithms-- (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Onomastic, deep info, koNko

          What are the keywords, phrases, connections, and what not that they are looking for that will raise the red flags?

          "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

          by zenbassoon on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:10:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Zenbasson, they use it to harass (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko

        You're aboslutely right that there is no possible way to sift through all this data for signs of actual terrorist plots.

        The bosses just pick people they want to harass or otherwise cause trouble for, and then they use the data so that they can harrass those people.

        It means that the entire thing is evil, but it also won't stop actual plots against the government, because they are looking in the wrong places.

    •  Hence the IT resources (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fou, Onomastic, CroneWit, chuckvw, Mary Mike

      Which are actually quite remarkable. They are not thumbing through index cards.

      This is the new center to store data in Zetabytes, which could be all of the content of the internet several times over.

      And here are some neat analytical tools, your tax dollars at work.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:33:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The grunt work is done by computers (5+ / 0-)
      311,000,000 Americans (roughly), divided by about "maybe" 20,000 NSA employees.   That's about 15,500 people per employee.  That's a hell of a lot of e-mails and phone calls to go through.
      Not for a building full of servers designed to flag certain communications and bring it to the attention of NSA monitors who can then examine those communications immediately.

      +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

      by cybersaur on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:55:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  NSA contractors - hundreds of thousands (6+ / 0-)

      Read James Bamford's article in March 2013 Wired on Utah Data Center.

      Other online sources have said this week much higher numbers of analysts as contractors.  I'm recollecting something like 450,000 - 500,000.  And end-of-week NSA acknowledgement that any and all such analysts can access any record at will.  (Contractor companies are not held to the same standard of Constitutional compliance a Federal agencies and to not have to protect your First and Fourth Amendment rights.)

      The Guardian's 'NSA files' series is an excellent source of much of the available info on the situation.  Just go to guardian.co.uk.

      Wired, Foreign Policy, Business Insider, PCNet, CNet (and many other 'mainstream-but-niche' sites are also covering this, and offer many good insights.

  •  Listening? Reading? (6+ / 0-)

    What do these words mean with regard to the NSA's spying methods.  Call me ignorant, but, although I could tell from the ads that pop up that Google was monitoring the web sites I was visiting, I did not know they were reading my e-mails until my son, who is a software engineer, told me.  He told me that they weren't actually "reading" my e-mails, but their computers were learning their content by using algorithms.  So someone from the NSA could truthfully say that they are not "reading" certain e-mails while they are actually aware of the content.

    Likewise, with "listening."  Could the NSA say they are not listening, while at the same time subjecting phone calls to algorithms?

    Sorry I don't know how to express this more clearly.

    Seems important to me to know how the NSA will obfuscate what they are trying to keep secret.

    •  You express yourself fine (5+ / 0-)

      And you are correct, both Google and NSA and others will use your data, the issue is if you know it and agree.

      Just for fun, here is the opening of one of the articles I linked and how it expresses this:

      One organization's data centers hold the contents of much of the visible Internet—and much of it that isn't visible just by clicking your way around. It has satellite imagery of much of the world and ground-level photography of homes and businesses and government installations tied into a geospatial database that is cross-indexed to petabytes of information about individuals and organizations. And its analytics systems process the Web search requests, e-mail messages, and other electronic activities of hundreds of millions of people.

      No one at this organization actually "knows" everything about what individuals are doing on the Web, though there is certainly the potential for abuse. By policy, all of the "knowing" happens in software, while the organization's analysts generally handle exceptions (like violations of the law) picked from the flotsam of the seas of data that their systems process.

      I'm talking, of course, about Google. Most of us are okay with what Google does with its vast supply of "big data," because we largely benefit from it—though Google does manage to make a good deal of money off of us in the process. But if I were to backspace over Google's name and replace it with "National Security Agency," that would leave a bit of a different taste in many people's mouths.

      Hope that answers your question.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:01:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I work in It security (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    in the private sector, with no security clearance. I only work to protect confedential business information. We use, from what I understand, some of the very same tools that NSa,NRO,DHS and other's use to perform their missions.

    These tools generally collect logs, take that log info and "normalize" it, that is put it in a common readable format and then place it in a database that can then be analyzed for patterns, trends, intrusions and so on.

    Don't know what Snowden was working on, but I could guess it is much the same stuff.

    personally, I don't have much regard for Snowdon. He threw the bomb then ran right into the arms of the People's Liberation Army and their giant Cyberwarefare team. He an immature kid, too smart for his own good, who seems incapable of finishing anything. Now it looks like he closing in on treason by trading with the PLA.

    He's also just screwed a lot of good honest IT workers, who do their important jobs for the Feds, while in the employ of contractors like Booz and others. Their lives are gonna get much harder .

    Is President Obama the last moderate Republican?

    by al23 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:46:41 AM PDT

    •  Actually Snowdon is in Hong Kong (8+ / 0-)

      In the arms of The Guardian, The South China Morning Post and The Washington Post, not the PLA.

      It just happened by coincidence I was in Hong Kong the day he came out and here is a photo I snapped from a copy of the SCMP I bought that morning.

      The train was buzzing that morning.

      Sorry, but my heart does not bleed for Booz and their very profitable biz with the US government, they will do OK, and I don't see how Snowdon "screwed" any IT workers, they have some of the best prospects and highest pay of their generation and Snowdon with his GED and $122,000 salary is proof.

      If by "harder" you mean they have to follow more rigorous procedures, I suppose that is the occupational hazard they must tolerate if such a low level person can walk off with so much sensitive information, no? If Snowdon is an example of the security in Booz facilities, it's pretty lax and maybe they should be fired but doubt it would happen.

      I also work in a very secure environment - no mobile phones, no cameras, no storage devices (Snowdon used a thumb drive, absolutely not allowed in my job and will trigger a system node shutdown) and plenty of pass-locks and bio data. I wonder about Booz.

      Anyway, greetings from China, enjoy your relative freedom, I sincerely hope it lasts and trust it will survive Mr. Snowdon's intemperate actions I suspect he will come to regret.

      Spy vs Spy?  I suppose so. Advantage USA by the looks of it.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:47:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't give a shit (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko

        about Booz or any of the big IT subcontractors. I do give a shit abut the thousands of IT pros who each day handle confedential data without disclosing it due to some mood of the moment like Mr Snowdon.

        It's now been reported that Snowdon has gone from being a "whistleblower" to a fellow on the run, looking to trade his knowledge to the Chinese, who do by the way control HK, in return for help in avoiding extradition. The PLA will be all over this guy. ( if they're not they suck, and I think everyone knows the Chinese are damn good at this sort of stuff)

        Snowdon should pay the price.

        Is President Obama the last moderate Republican?

        by al23 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 11:09:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What price? (5+ / 0-)

          He probably already did.

          The Chinese government does not have to dig deep to get anything special out of Snowden, they can read everything they need to know in The Guardian or SCMP and kick back to watch the show.

          In this situation, they win by doing the exact opposite of what you suggest, i.e., they let the Hong Kong government handle the case particularly if the US makes an extradition request.

          If Hong Kong hands him back, China wins points for letting the system be (and generally they do).

          If Hong Kong grants him some sort of asylum or the process drags, China wins points for letting the system be and the US gets frustrated because what are they going to do, order China to disrespect the Hong Kong system?

          "Out of our hands".

          Checkmate.

          400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 11:57:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Im not sure (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            koNko, Onomastic, Notreadytobenice

            I suggested anything except that I would fully expect the Chinese authorities to use this situation to their full advantage. The scenario you suggest my be the outcome

            Is President Obama the last moderate Republican?

            by al23 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:32:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is a hot topic in HK political circles (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Onomastic, Notreadytobenice

              In the LEGCO and on the street, so I feel pretty confident China would keep hands off because any obvious intervention would trigger anti-government sentiment and protests, which is not worth the cost.

              As for "using" the situation, well, this is a self-inflicted injury on the part of the US and Obama Administration that has rather purposefully run a propaganda campaign against China on internet freedom and cyber spying issues, being rather self-righteous in the process, which now rings quite hollow and more than a bit hypocritical. Time to tone it down.

              Standard Chinese tactics in such cases is to remain silent and let the fool talk and talk, we are taught this from a young age and Mr. Xi is a skillful practitioner.

              Mr. Snowdon is the USA's problem, not China's.

              If the US does not file an extradition request, Snowdon could possibly face a problem when his Hong Kong visa runs out and I would not be surprised if the US let that happen just to force Hong Kong's hand a little. Could be a wise strategy.

              400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

              by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:18:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Self inflicted? (0+ / 0-)

                Snowdon inflicted.

                And please don't try to compare US policy vis-a-vis the internet with China. No comparison.

                Is President Obama the last moderate Republican?

                by al23 on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 04:27:03 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Self-inflicted (0+ / 0-)

                  By policy, by use of contractors with obviously lax security measures, by hypocritical grandstanding about the policies of other countries when the US does the same or more.

                  Snowden is a product of the system and is not alone.

                  You can debate it with me all you like but I suggest to debate it yourself with respect to the comments in the videos I linked above, who are people far more qualified to speak on first hand experience than you or I.

                  Not sure what you are getting at about US verses China. Chinese bad/American good? Or???

                  400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

                  by koNko on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:33:20 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Trading with the PLA? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko

      That's a fantasy. Or do you have a link, perhaps, to some evidence that this has actually happened?

      "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

      by Lost Left Coaster on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 04:00:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Long for the day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, Onomastic

    when information is no longer the main thing, but people and what they do actually are.

    Think what is information? Think beyond the information age.  As an age, it won't last forever.

    He who would trade liberty for security deserves great customer service.

    by Publius2008 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:59:10 AM PDT

  •  Information age (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, Onomastic, Notreadytobenice

    started a long time ago. Cheaply produced paper was a great technological  innovation, that brought knowledge to the masses.

    Is President Obama the last moderate Republican?

    by al23 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:04:51 AM PDT

  •  for perpective, and of interest (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, DRo, indubitably, CroneWit, Mary Mike

    Surveillance controversy illuminated by history

    On March 15, 2012, Wired magazine published a long article by James Bamford, who has written books about the NSA. Bamford described the agency’s new $2 billion Utah Data Center and its ability to “intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.”

    He wrote that when the center is fully running at the end of this year, “stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’ ”

    Was there any follow-up in the mainstream media to [James] Bamford’s disclosure [May 2012 in Wired about NSA], or anything close to the concerns voiced on Capitol Hill this past week? No.

    That’s because the American public at large is more accepting of the government’s involvement in their lives — along with Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple — than is Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who leaked the highly classified NSA documents. He appears to believe the public is unaware, and, as he told the Guardian, knowing “what’s happening, you [meaning the public] should decide whether we should be doing this.”

    I believe the public has decided.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:09:51 AM PDT

    •  Yes, the article he refers to is linked above (6+ / 0-)

      And one of the main articles I have referred to in comments over the past week because it raises the more basic and important questions.

      PRISM is just an app. These IT resources should be the real concern because they a very powerful tools that can be misused and are in the hands of a few.

      Bamford is actually a quite remarkable man who has spend his career reporting on the NSA in quite an objective and factual fashion, which in itself is quite an achievement.

      And his most recent 2 articles in Wired I think are excellent and important.

      Connecting the Dots on PRISM, Phone Surveillance, and the NSA’s Massive Spy Center covers the subject with a concise summary of the status quo.

      The Secret War raises essential questions about the concentration of power and mission creep that are both provocative and troubling, and something I hope people will read.

      I wonder if it is healthy for a country to put so much power under so little oversight in the hands of so few people.

      I doubt it. History suggests it's a bad idea.

      400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 11:00:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  while Pinkus has doubts about (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko, indubitably, Notreadytobenice

        the American people's protesting this, he certainly gives Bamford his due.

        "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

        by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 11:11:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Will the people protest this? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Notreadytobenice

          My study of history says that this will be latched onto if and only if the people are upset about something else and it can be linked to this.

          The people ARE upset about SEVERAL other things.  And they CAN be linked to this -- this is a multibilion dollar waste of taxpayer dollars while food stamps are being cut.

          •  Yes, it's a >$100 Billion dollar black hole... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            koNko

            and black budget with lot's of support from the military industrial intelligence complex. Diarist sayz 40K employees but the contractors more than double that.

            Has to be tied to the $500 toilets that would make the headlines a generation ago. What a friggin waste and only will get worse if it ain't stopped now.

  •  In your graf on how info is collected, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, indubitably, DRo

    you mean "listening posts," not "listing posts."

    Otherwise, an amazing collection of information.

    Tipped and rec'd.

    "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

    by Brooke In Seattle on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 10:19:55 AM PDT

  •  Thank you! (5+ / 0-)

    Being a non-tekkie, trying to wrap my mind around the technology at play has been immensely frustrating.

    Deeply appreciate all the hard work you've done to provide us with this.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

    by Onomastic on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 12:48:28 PM PDT

  •  Prism overview (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chuckvw, Notreadytobenice, koNko

    Palantir Technologies

    An organization like the CIA or FBI can have thousands of different databases, each with its own quirks: financial records, DNA samples, sound samples, video clips, maps, floor plans, human intelligence reports from all over the world. Gluing all that into a coherent whole can take years. Even if that system comes together, it will struggle to handle different types of data—sales records on a spreadsheet, say, plus video surveillance images. What Palantir (pronounced Pal-an-TEER) does, says Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner (IT), is “make it really easy to mine these big data sets.”

    Palantir, the War on Terror's Secret Weapon

    Team Themis (a group that included HBGary and the private intelligence and security firms Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and Endgame Systems) was effectively brought in to find a way to undermine the credibility of WikiLeaks and the journalist Glenn Greenwald (who recently broke the story of Edward Snowden’s leak of the N.S.A.’s Prism program),  because of Greenwald’s support for WikiLeaks.

    The Real War on Reality

    claims it is just a coincidence that they have a product called Prism.

    Though, the way their Prism works, easily setting up database connections via config files, would be just the thing for hooking up to the databases of a number of big internet companies.

    Anyways. Here is Palantir's Prism.

  •  tipped for a well informed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    and well written diary.

    I will disagree with you about China though regardless of how open China is about it's activities (and really it's not that transparent) nothing the US is doing rises to the level of China.

    I also disagree so far with the whistle blowers on Snowden. What the earlier whistle blowers called attention to was clearly in the wrong and it was rightly shut down. What we are talking about now is something new and different.

    We will see what happens next as this is ongoing but I remain skeptical of Snowden's motives and his actions.

    In the time that I have been given,
    I am what I am

    by duhban on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 12:52:52 AM PDT

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